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Land And Hold Short

According to the FAA, “LAHSO is an aviation procedure that has been used safely since 1968…LAHSO have been refined through years of operational experience and cooperation among the FAA, airlines, pilots and controllers”.

The Hold Short Point beyond which a landing aircraft with a LAHSO clearance is not authorized to proceed is painted in the runway, and red and white holding position signs are located alongside the hold short point. Additionally, there are six or seven in-pavement, pulsing white lights at the LAHSO hold short point.

The minimum requirements are 2,500 feet, measured from the landing threshold to the hold short point on the hold short runway. Two planes may arrive on intersecting runways if the distance on the full-length runway from the threshold to the intersection where the hold short clearance is effective is greater than 3,000 feet.

Weather minimums required for LAHSO are a 1,500-foot ceiling and three miles visibility, though if the runway is equipped with precision approach path indicators (PAPI), then minimums can be 1,000 foot ceiling and three miles.

The minimum runway requirements are 2,500 feet, measured from the landing threshold to the hold short point on the hold short runway. Two planes may arrive on intersecting runways if the distance on the full-length runway from the threshold to the intersection where the hold short clearance is effective is greater than 3,000 feet.

Like The Weather? Take The Tour!

Any pilot wishing to have a guided tour through a Flight Service Station is welcomed, and in fact the FAA has launched an effort to get more pilots to take them up on the offer.

One of the busiest and most interesting in the country is the New York Automated Flight Service Station in Islip, NY, about an hour outside New York City. By calling the center, on 631-471-7181, any pilot can arrange a free tour.

Living Aboard A GA Airplane

I’m coming up on PREDA Intersection and 7,000 feet on my departure from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. The Tiger snaps left on Bahamas Route 70V toward Freeport, and I’m concentrating so intently that I’m startled by a squeal of delight from the backseat – Corinna thinks she just saw a dolphin.
I look down and see that we’re completely over the azure waters of the Caribbean. Within 10 minutes we’re out of sight of the Florida coast, and we can’t yet make out Bimini or Grand Bahama Island.

For three months, this kind of adventure happened to me every day.

Last year I spent about 300 hours in honest-to-goodness cross-country journeys in Cessna Skyhawks, Mooneys, Piper Cherokees, and a new Tiger, taking photos and gathering information for the Flyguides Web site. The trips took me to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting: the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Deep South. After years of traditional travel writing, I had found the perfect gig: writing about the great places I was flying to. Some of that information also finds its way into the Postcards Online that members receive in AOPA ePilot. There we deliver information about a destination in your region one Friday a month (sign up for your free copy online at www.aopa.org).

The downside about such a job? The commute was no picnic: Say what you will about the 8:17 a.m. from Poughkeepsie – I was catching the 3:55 a.m. from Munich, Germany. Every other Monday. I began to suspect my wife – who stayed at home in Germany – did not love this setup as much as United Airlines did.

So we decided to move back to the United States. We threw all our belongings into a shipping container and headed west. Rather than settle down immediately, we decided that I would take the family with me on an extended research trip, which would double as a grand tour of America, my German-born wife and son’s new homeland.

Astonishingly, some have used the word vacation when referring to a three-month family trip in a general aviation airplane, although I must admit that I was, in fact, hoping for just that. Spending uninterrupted time with Corinna and 4-year-old Spijk (rhymes with Mike) was a dream come true.

But bills needed to be paid, and for me the trip was about gathering information on great fly-in destinations. In the first year, Flyguides had laid the foundations of a pilot travel Web site by publishing detailed guides to the largest metro-area GA airports in the country; now our small squadron of freelancers and I are flying around America to get information on the mid-size and smaller places we need to include to give our Web site a truly nationwide appeal.

With five and a half thousand airports to cover, we couldn’t afford to stay on the ground long.

My mission: profiling the East, South, and Midwest United States, as well as the Bahamas. We tried to schedule stops at beaches and interesting activities for the family, but adhering to the tight production schedule didn’t leave much time for lounging.

Things did not begin well. A couple of days into the trip, our rented Skyhawk blew out its radios in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) as we approached Lexington, Kentucky. It was interesting doing the “turn-left-two-two-zero-if-you-can-hear-this-ident” thing with the excellent approach and tower controllers there, but it was not something I’d wish to repeat any time soon.

Herb, at Hortman Aviation Services at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, was great: He told us to “fix the radios, send me the bill, then get on back here,” where he would swap us out for a 2004 Tiger. That Tiger turned out to have 80 hours on the Hobbs and that new-car smell.

One of the things we had worried about while planning the trip was Spijk’s ability to roll with the punches of GA: weather-related itinerary changes, getting stuck anyplace that is not Disney World…what amazed us throughout was his nonchalance when it came to getting into the airplane. After he called out, “One, two, three…takeoff!” to begin each flight, we could almost set the altimeter to Spijk’s nodding off as we hit 600 feet.

Perhaps the biggest surprise we faced as a family essentially living in an airplane was how quickly those routines evolved. Unless you’re driving a bizjet, GA travel is far more intimate than travel by car – if only because you’re unable to toss the luggage in the trunk. For the first few days, my right-seat passenger was a 55-pound Samsonite.

But imagine flying by GA every day, and every day someplace new: Leave the hotel, return the rental car, check the weather, load up and preflight the airplane, file the flight plan, take off, land, unload the airplane, get a rental car, head to the hotel…. The complex preparation, which I relished in the days of more sporadic flying opportunities, quickly became mundane.

This repetition was also an immersion course in real-world flying: Being in the system every single day is normally the domain of airline and cargo pilots. Being a part of this airborne community was a thrill, and I noticed that after a while, controllers treated me like a pro. As a newly minted private pilot, I’d been tentative on the mic. Later I overcompensated to the point of drawling like a graybeard. After weeks in the system I was relaxed but concise, and I knew when to be cute – and when to shut up.

Throughout our journey, we benefited from that most holy of travel-writing perks, local knowledge: We learned about the bourbon business and horse training in Lexington, and why the waters of the Bahamas are so gin-clear. We learned about the Bayou and the oil industry in Louisiana, Kansas’ high-tech corridor, and the Amish and Mennonite communities of Iowa. And that the best burgers any of us have ever had were at the airport restaurant in San Marcos, Texas.

Early on, we recognized my propensity to make decisions based on comfort in addition to safety, something new to me after a couple hundred hours of solo cross-countries. There were several days during which the weather was soft IMC: no icing or convective stuff, just garden-variety soup. Operationally this spells a smooth ride. But I had to scrub the flight because “Daddy, are we there yet?” takes on new meaning inside a 200-mile-long cloud.

Time, in aviation, apparently differs from that in the real world. A major point of contention for the first week or so was the allegation that I was underestimating journey time. “How long is it to X?” I’d be asked. I’d reply, “Oh, just under an hour.” Except, where we pilots count in Hobbs time, our friends and family tend to judge time using something they call a watch. Note to self: Families judge journey time door to door, not chock to chock.

I spent the entire three months feeling I was late for an appointment. Never before have I felt like such a rat as I did when, in a hurry and down to minimum fuel requirements, I landed at Morgantown, West Virginia, in the midst of a Young Eagles Day. As I was snappily marshaled in by Civil Air Patrol volunteers, I gazed at the sea of shining, innocent faces of children eager for their dreams to take wing. Then I slammed the Skyhawk door, said, “Sorry, guys, I’m just here for a fill-up,” and stomped off to the terminal.

Flight planning now required consideration of family business as much as the business end of cold fronts. We’d planned a straight shot from Northeast Philadelphia to Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as the inaugural flight in the Tiger, so early in the morning we loaded kit, caboodle, and Spijk into the airplane and set off. As soon as we were in the air, though, Spijk had the mother of all temper tantrums. We set down at Philadelphia International Airport nine minutes after departure – and learned our first valuable lesson: The new Selby family rule is no one gets into the airplane without breakfast.

While we were getting used to the Tiger, Corinna and Spijk got an intensive course in aviation weather. As any Florida pilot knows, convective sigmets in the Sunshine State are much like the temporary flight restrictions around our commander in chief – they’re in place whenever you’re overhead. As we approached the Florida border, we began a three-hour cell dodge, which had us diverting 50 miles inland, then back to the coast, then inland again before making our way to St. Augustine.

We saw places we’d never have seen if it weren’t for the airplane: I’d never even contemplated Port Arthur, Texas, but when I arrived there for a break and fueling on our flight from New Orleans to San Antonio, the disarmingly friendly lineman at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport handed me the keys to his new truck (in lieu of a formal courtesy car). “Just make sure the gas is where it is when you got it,” he told us. And then he gave me directions to a nearby restaurant. Took me three tries to decipher his twang, but I heard something like “Sahtn.”

Forty minutes later, Corinna, Spijk, and I practically rolled away from the table at Sartin’s Seafood, where we had dazzlingly fresh, crispy, and enormous portions of fried fish for Corinna, barbecued crabs for Spijk, and broiled flounder for me. Awesome.

That kind of hospitality doesn’t, as far as I can tell, exist outside aviation circles. But within those, it’s commonplace.

The Bahamas provides pilots the best of all worlds, and the government is keenly supportive of aviation tour-ism, which is nice in itself. But the flying isn’t great there just because of the jaw-dropping clear water and dazzlingly white beaches; it’s practical, too. I could and did fly from Freeport to Walker’s Cay for a delicious lunch, then return for an afternoon on the beach at Port Lucaya; this is something the earthbound could never accomplish. There’s not enough space in this magazine to list opportunities like that in the Bahamas.

And having an airplane there was an interesting opportunity for me to show others the wonders of flight; the look on the face of the Rev. Hicks, as I let him take the controls on a flight from New Bight Airport to Hawk’s Nest on Cat Island, was of childlike wonder and bliss.

At the end of our odyssey, Corinna, Spijk, and I were, truth be told, ready to land for a while. Covering 5,099 miles, landing at 77 airfields, and moving our bags every 24 to 48 hours for three months took their toll. I knew it was time to stop when I found myself saying, “Roger,” at the Radisson check-in desk. I have to admit, during the next two months, I didn’t even sit down in an airplane.

Looking back, the journey was a lot like high school, or a stint in the Army: It was intense, I learned a lot, and we made some wonderful friends. But I wouldn’t want to do it again. In fact, it makes me wonder just how great my job really is. Maybe GA is best in smaller doses.

I think of my friend Carl, who starts planning his weekend trips on Monday and spends the week tweaking the route, researching his destination, and checking the weather. These ingredients are all part of the allure, and anticipation, of a GA flight to somewhere new.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more the whole concept of carpe nundinae – arguably Latin for seize the weekend – appeals. So next time you find yourself contemplating an hour of circles around the airport and holes in the sky, remember that no matter where you live, you’re under an hour flight from someplace great.

On The Radio

German and Czech ATC are highly competent and professional and speak English, but remember, it’s not their native language, and they’re used to speaking English with other non-native speakers. Americans, they feel, tend to speak colorfully or offhandedly, which makes it difficult for them to understand you – even if you’re saying what you feel are relatively simple things.

What they say to you can sometimes sound convoluted (and there’s the near universal German tendency to call your Cessna a “Chessna”), so be on your toes. Halfway down the runway on take-off in Augsburg, for example, the controller without preamble came back with,

“…and if you appreciate, on your way to [checkpoint] Oscar, you may continue with climb, and until passing with three thousand.”.

Ah. Don’t turn left towards Oscar till you reach 3000 feet. I appreciate!.

Speak more slowly than usual, and be as precise as possible. Remember, too, that it’s required you repeat every piece of information given: if they say, “Clear to land, runway 07, QNH1013, wind 100 at 12 knots”, that’s what you say back!

US Weather Briefing For Pilots

The average Englishman’s preoccupation with weather is surpassed, it would seem, only by the weather-obsessed American aviation community. In fact, a pilot wishing to take to the US skies has such a bewildering number of weather information options at his disposal that it’s almost self-caricature – and all, of course, with dandy American acronyms: ASOS, AWOS, ATIS, WXBRIEF, FSS, HIWAS – The list goes on and on. And it’s all as free as the air.

The pilot’s first line of defense in getting flight-related weather briefings is to dial, from any phone in the country, 1-800-992-7433. The handy mnemonic for this number is to spell out 800-WX-BRIEF on a Touch-Tone keypad. No matter where you are in the country, this number will connect you with your regional Flight Service Station (FSS) weather briefer, who is a trained professional weather observer and aviation weather reporter.

A FSS also provides many services such as opening and closing flight plans, giving out NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen), PIREPs (Pilot Reports), information on Special Use Airspaces (see accompanying story) and other details crucial to a flight. In the air, you can always contact a FSS Flight Watch (122.0) to get up to the second weather news and guidance should you run into unexpected weather. This is a potentially life-saving service.

Briefers
Some may be gruff, and some are more helpful than others but as a rule, aviation weather briefers in the US are superbly competent. “The first thing we’re going to do after we get the background of what the pilot is contemplating,” said Ron Napurano, Manager of the New York Automated Flight Service Station, “is look at an overview of weather based on the qualifications of the pilot and the intended route of flight, and make a judgment as to whether we think you should fly or not.”

If adverse conditions are present then the briefer is legally bound to inform you that based on conditions, VFR is not recommended. The briefer will state that and then give supporting reasons. Sometimes they just state it bluntly. Other times they get a bit dramatic – I remember once being told by a briefer that a route I was contemplating was looking “Mighty ominous indeed.”

The most effective strategy, unless you’re really, really sure of yourself (ATP-rated pilots with 10,000 hours and a degree in meteorology may skip the next part), is to ask for a “Standard Briefing”.

What they need from you
The briefers are indeed professional, and even if not pilots themselves, well-trained in briefing pilots. But they’re not mind readers – you have to prepare for the call and give the briefer what they need, without them asking too many basic questions. “You can tell a person who’s been getting briefings from us for a while,” said Napurano, “if the pilot is prepared, and uses the background checklist (see box), it saves the tedious pulling of information back and forth and makes the briefing go much smoother.

WXBRIEF Checklist
Before you call WXBRIEF, have the following information at hand, and when you get the briefer on the phone, give it in this order:

  • Type of Flight Planned (VFR or IFR)
  • Aircraft ID or your name (if you don’t yet know the tail number of a rental)
  • Aircraft type
  • Departure Point
  • Route of Flight
  • Destination (and alternate)
  • Altitude(s) you intend to fly
  • Estimated Time of Departure (in Zulu) and Estimated Time of Arrival

Like so:

“Hello, I’m a pilot making a VFR flight in Cherokee 8252 Zulu, that’s a Piper PA-28 161, departing from Teterboro and flying northbound, along the Hudson River to Nyack to clear the Bravo airspace, then turning right, following the Madison VOR, Providence VOR and Boston VOR to destination Bravo Oscar Sierra, Boston Logan, with an alternate of Bravo Echo Delta, Bedford. Once I clear the Bravo airspace north of Teterboro I’ll climb to seven thousand five hundred feet. I’ll be leaving Teterboro at about twelve hundred hours Zulu or seven am local, and expect the flight to take about one hour and ten minutes.”

Now, of course, the above is the perfect, somewhat anal-retentive, by-the-book way to say it, and you might get a bit breezier over time. But you really should make an effort to be as close to this model as possible..

Effective communication with the briefer can’t be stressed enough. Every time they have to ask you a stupid question, such as “State type aircraft” or “This is a VFR flight or IFR flight?” you’ve just wasted the time of yourself, your briefer and the next pilot who will cal in.

What They Give You
In exchange for your expressiveness, you’ll get a pile of information worth its weight in gold.

This includes the following information, in the following order.

Adverse Conditions This is the first order of business: the briefer will take the information he has on you and determine whether the trip is recommendable at all. Any adverse conditions will necessarily be mentioned first and foremost. If the weather is doubtful you will, by law, get a verdict of “VNR” – VFR Not Recommended, and the supporting arguments.

Adverse conditions can be anything – from plain old IMC to mountain obscuration to icing to turbulence, especially low level wind shear and other weather that could affect takeoffs and landings. “We give them the whole nine yards on adverse conditions and the potential effects,” said Napurano.

Synopsis If weather is VFR or marginal VFR, the next step in the Standard Briefing is the Synopsis, which gives a general overview of the weather as it is at the moment: this is not specific to your trip, but rather a general overview of storms, fronts, circulation, pressure systems gathered over an 18-hour period. The briefer might give you information on specific storms, strong winds or other weather phenomena as required.

Remember, this is to give you an overall feeling for the weather in general, not specifically the weather that will affect your flight. For example, the current conditions at or near your destination airport might not be valuable if you intend to leave in three hours for a two hour flight – conditions could be significantly different five hours from the time you call!

Current Conditions The current conditions at the departure airport.

Enroute Forecast This is weather that the Center is forecasting to expect along your route, culled from National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts as well as actual Pilot Reports (PIREPs) made by pilots actually flying along the route. “They’re very specific, and that’s why we ask all pilots to give us PIREPs,” said Napurano, “We get a PIREP from a pilot in a 152 saying he’s got a light chop we probably won’t tell that to a 747 pilot, but if a 747 pilot reports a light chop, we’re certainly going to let everything smaller out there know about it.”

The Enroute forecast may or may not be consistent with current conditions – remember, it’s a forecast – but what it will give you is conditions that are expected along your entire route. So if you’re flying from Islip, Long Island to Raleigh, North Carolina, you’ll get forecasts for New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, etc, all the way down to North Carolina.

Destination Forecast The forecast at your destination is based on the Terminal Area Forecasts for larger airports; if you’re flying into Charlotte, then the forecast is specifically made to cover that. But if you’re flying into Podunk, North Carolina, you’ll get the TAF for the nearest large airport. TAFs are good for five miles around the airport they’re forecasting. It’s not legally binding or anything, but it’s an idea of what’s happening now and what NWS and thinks will happen.

Winds Aloft This section is extremely important because it also covers temperatures aloft and specifically icing – whether actual or forecast – and the temperature and winds by altitude strata. “Typically a pilot saying that he’s going to be flying at 6,000 feet will be given the winds and temperatures aloft for 3,000, 6,000 and 9,000” said Napurano, “because you’re going to pass through 3,000 to get to 6,000, and who knows, you may request a different altitude once you’re up there for any number of reasons. So we try to give you the broadest range of possibilities we can.”

NOTAMs Covers any NOTAMs of any interest whatsoever.

ATC Delays Unlikely to happen to you if you’re flying between Podunk and Kischnev, more likely the larger your destination or departure airport is. At Teterboro, ATC delays are quite common, and this would be passed on to you by the briefer.

Military Training Areas These are different from MOAs, and are areas in which military aircraft may be training. MTAs are given only on the pilot’s request – request it.

What They Want From You
At the end of a standard briefing, the briefer will request of the pilot that the pilot file a PIREP – even if the conditions are exactly as forecast, but especially if they are not, you can help other pilots by making a PIREP.

You will also be requested to contact Flight Watch (122.0) for enroute weather information.