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Another Podcast – The VOR

VOR stands for Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Radio Range. Why do we care? Like always, because we have an intense interest in how airplanes work, and the VOR is a great navigation aid. We also care because there will be a couple VOR questions on the test and they’ll be easy to get if you understand how the VOR works.

So, a VOR is a very high frequency omni-directional radio. What’s it look like? You may have seen one. You find them at some airports. There’s one at CYPK, where I normally fly out of, for example. They have a center cone/antenna surrounded by a big ring, and when I say “big” I mean that the diameter of a VOR could easily be 25 feet. Once you’ve seen one you’ll pick them out easily, and they’re easy to see from the air.

They work by sending out two VHF radio signals in a range between 108 and 117.95 mhz. The signals from a particular VOR are sent out all on the same frequency. One is a master signal, and the second is a directional second signal. The difference in direction between each of the two signals can be measured, and once measured can be assigned a direction in degrees. That means that a VOR can send out a signal on each degree of the compass and a VOR receiver in the aircraft can receive that signal and indicate exactly when the airplane is in line with it.

You can see how the VOR in your plane could tell you exactly what direction you are from the VOR on the ground at a particular airport. You wouldn’t know how far away you are, but you’d know exactly what direction you were from the airport because you’d be on the line that corresponds with one of the secondary signals.

These lines are called “radials”, and are always described as coming from the airport’s VOR. There is a radial for every direction, and the radials originate at the station. This concept of “from” is important. Be clear that a 090 radial is a line traveling due east from the station. If your airplane is on that line you could be flying west to the station, east from the station or just crossing that line going in any random direction. The radial is just a line coming from the station.

That means that radials from the VOR are exactly opposite what you fly to the station. If you’re on the 090 radial from the station you’d fly 270 to the station. If you arrived at the station and overflew it, continuing on the same heading, you’d change from being on the 90 degree radial from the station to being on its reciprocal, the 270 degree radial from the station.

Radials from the VOR are what you fly outbound on your way to another VOR or some other destination.

You can see the simple application. Assuming there are no obstacles like mountains in the way you can follow a radial from your VOR equipped airport to your destination, or at least very close to it.

You can also follow a radial from your starting point, and then somewhere along the route begin following a radial to a second VOR if your destination airport is VOR equipped.

The concept of two different VORs also allows for the idea that you can pin point your location by finding the intersection of two VOR radials from two different VORs. You get onto one radial and fly along it, either to or from. Take into account what the wind is doing and adjust your heading so that you fly a track that keeps you on the radial (heading, remember, is the compass heading you steer, and track is what you actually fly). Then, once you’re confident you’re flying on the first radial, dial in the second VOR and look for a radial from that station. The two radials from different VORs can only intersect in one place.

The idea of “from” and “to” can be confusing, so one thing to remember is “from top / to bottom”, meaning you read the “from” direction at the top of the VOR gauge and the “to” direction at the bottom. The “from” and “to” flags indicate what side of the station you are on, relative to the radial you’ve dialed in. If you’re within 90 degrees of the radial (either way) you’ll see a “from” flag. Let’s use the 30 degree radial as an example. The 30 degree radial starts at the station. If you’re anywhere within the 180 degree semi-circle starting at 300 degrees and going through 30 degrees to 120 degrees and you’ve got the 30 degree radial set at the top of the VOR, the flag will read “from”. You’re on the same side of the station as the 30 degree radial.

If you’re on the opposite side of the station as the 30 degree radial, that is, somewhere between 120 degrees and 300 degrees, for example, 270 degrees, the flag will read “to”.

In other words, if you’re looking for the 30 degree radial from the particular airport (or station) you line up 30 degrees on the VOR compass card at the top. When you center the needle the pointer will read “from” if you’re on the same side of the VOR station as the radial. You’ll see that the needle is centered, that the pointer is “from” (pointing down) and you’ll know that you are on the radial that departs the station VOR on the 30 degree radial. If the VOR reads “to” with 30 degrees centered at the top of the VOR face and the needle is centered, you know you’re on the reciprocal radial to 30, which is the 210 degree radial from the station.

Another way to look at it is that if you look at the bottom of the VOR you’ll see the reciprocal of 30 degrees (210 degrees). Its at the bottom. From top. To bottom. If you want to fly to the station you fly the heading at the bottom, or 210 degrees. In practice you dial the VOR around until 210 is at the top, and the marker will switch from “from” to “to”. In other words, find the radial that you’re on with the “from” flag showing, then set reciprocal hdg on top and if you’ve done it right the needle will be centered and say “to”. You can then fly to the VOR (obviously correcting for drift – your heading may be different in order to maintain the track).

What’s it mean when the needle is not centered? Simple. It means the radial you’re looking for is on the same side of the aircraft as the needle is. Steer that way and the needle will eventually go live and then go to the center. Just look at what side the needle is on and steer that way to center the needle.

On the test there will probably be questions that show the face of a VOR, or possibly an airplane and a radial and multiple VOR faces. You’ll need to be able to figure out either what the single VOR is telling you or which one of multiple VOR pictures accurately represents the position of the airplane and radial.

Remember first that radials are always from the station. Remember second “From bottom/to top”, and remember third that the needle will be on the side of the VOR that the radial is on relative to the airplane.

Also remember that before you can get to “from” you need to get “to” the VOR. In other words, using our 30 degree radial example again, if you have the 30 degree radial dialed in at the top of the compass card, and the needle is centered, but the flag says “to”, you are between 120 degrees and 300 degrees, or southwest of the VOR in question. You’re actually on the 210 radial from the VOR and flying a 30 degree heading (ignoring wind and drift for the moment) to the VOR along the 210 radial.

For example, if you see a diagram of an airplane on the same side of the station as a radial that’s drawn in of 300 degrees you’ll know that the radial is from the station, and so 300 should be at the top (from “top”) with the flag indicating “from”. If the reciprocal of 300 degrees (120 degrees) is at the top of the VOR compass card then the flag should read “to”. Remember, you have to get “to” the VOR before you can be “from” the VOR. Remember: figure out where the airplane in the diagram is in relation to the VOR radial. If it’s within 90 degrees either way of the radial in the drawing then you’re on the same side of the VOR station as the radial, and the flag should read “from”. If you’re more than 90 degrees away from the radial (and remember, we’re referring to a diagram), then the flag should read “to”.

They may also give you questions where you can choose between various VOR gauge faces, with the question asking which combination of faces best represents the track a plane is flying. Again, you’ll see a diagram. They’ll try to confuse you by changing the VOR compass card, and the diagram will show two airplanes with each one on opposite sides of a VOR radial (let’s use the 30 degree from radial). The question will ask which combo of VOR faces represents the diagram accurately. One face may read 30 at the top, with a “from” flag, and the needle on the correct side (the airplane would be at 50 degrees off the VOR, so the needle would be on the left hand side). That’s fine. Once the airplane crosses the 30 degree radial it could still be “From”, but the needle should switch to the right side of the gauge. However, if you dialed the compass card to the reciprocal heading (210) the needle would stay on the same side, but the flag would change to “to”. Remember, the 30 degree radial from is the same as the 210 radial “to”. Its a way to trick you. Rather than flip the needle they flip the flag.

Another trick is to put the drawing of the airplane on the opposite side of the radial (i.e., more than 90 degrees away from the “from” radial), meaning you are on the “to” side of that radial. We’ll use 30 degrees again. Say the radial is drawn in at 30 degrees and the airplane is drawn in at 230 degrees. You’d think the VOR would read 30 degrees at the top, with the flag saying “to”, and the needle on the
VOR being to the right. However, they can trick you by putting the reciprocal heading at the top, meaning the flag will say “from” and the needle will be on the opposite side, that is, the left.

An easy way to solve this problem and avoid confusion on the test is to draw the reciprocal radial in. Using the example above we’d draw in the reciprocal radial to 30 degrees, that being 210. Then, draw a line perpendicular to the 30 degree radial. If the airplane is on the same side of that perpendicular line as the 30 degree radial then the airplane is on the “from” side of the 30 degree radial, but its also on the “to” side of the 210 degree radial. Let’s assume the aircraft is roughly where the 10 degree radial would be. If the question involves choosing which VOR face represents the aircraft’s position and it offers a VOR face reading 30 degrees at the top, with a “from” flag and the needle right, great. However, they might offer a 210 heading at the top with the flag reading “to” and the needle on the left. That would also be a correct answer. Avoid the tricks by adding the reciprocal radial and a line perpendicular to both radials.

There’s another trick style question that can be asked. You’ll see a drawing of a VOR station with a radial coming off it. The airplane will be on a line about 90 degrees to the radial that’s drawn in. There will be, say, four VOR faces. Three will show the radial that’s drawn in on the sketch dialed in to the top of the VOR face, with the only difference being the flag – it will read “from” on one, “to” on the second and “off” on the third. The needle will be offset on the “from” and “to” flagged diagrams and centered in the “off” diagram. The fourth VOR face will show a centered needle and the VOR will be dialed in to a radial exactly 90 degrees to the radial that’s drawn in, or a bearing that is the reciprocal of the radial that the aircraft is drawn in on. The trick is to make you assume that the radial drawn in the sketch is the radial that should be on the VOR. What they’re doing is giving you that radial as a reference. You can see pretty easily what radial the aircraft is on.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got on the VOR. Practice using it while flying, either with an instructor or on your solo flights. You need to practice the TiTs procedure of Tune, identify and test. The hardest part at first is identifying the correct morse code. Write it down on your knee board before the flight and then tap your finger on something in sequence with the dots and dashes. Practice that.

On the test draw in the reciprocal radials as well as a line across the VOR face at 90 degrees to the radial. This will let you determine whether the aircraft in the diagram is on the from or to side of the radial on the diagram, whether the radial on the diagram or it’s reciprocal is the one they’re setting the VOR face to, or whether they’re just giving you a drawn in radial for reference but setting the VOR on a different radial (probably one perpendicular to the drawn in radial so that it’s not too tricky).

So, get out there, do some flying, fool around with the VOR. Notice how you generally have to fly a slightly different heading to stay on the VOR track. Have some fun! Any questions, comments or suggestions can be sent to Bushpilotintraining.com, where you’ll find the show notes.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

Bush Pilot in Training Podacts -Altitude to Pressure Altitude to Density Altitude

In this episode I’m going to talk about how to work from altitude to pressure altitude to density altitude. We do this calculation in order to predict the airplane’s performance under different air pressure and temperature scenarios.

Altitude is the difference in elevation between sea level and any given point on the earth. The airport I fly out of, for example, Pitt Meadows, or CYPK, is 11 feet above mean sea level. That never changes, although you may see elevation reported as ASL or MSL.

What does change is barometric pressure and temperature, and that combination effects how an airplane performs. Higher pressure means denser air and lower pressure means less dense air. You can say that when the air pressure is lower than standard pressure the airplane “thinks” it’s flying at a higher altitude than the actual elevation, and when air pressure is higher the airplane “thinks” its flying at an elevation that is lower than it actually is flying. If you throw temperature into the mix you can figure out that a combination of high pressure and lower than standard temperature can improve performance, and high temperatures with low pressure can reduce performance, especially when it comes to taking off and climbing. Taking off on a hot summer day in mountainous terrain could be fatal if the airplane does not perform as you expect.

The elevation that the airplane thinks its flying at is “density altitude”, but to get density altitude we first need pressure altitude.

We adjust the altimeter for pressure every time we fly by setting it to either the reported pressure or setting it to a known altitude. For example, at CYPK we know that the altitude is 11 feet above sea level. If the actual air pressure is lower than standard on a given day the altimeter will read higher than 11 feet ASL even when the airplane is on the ground. If we set the altimeter sub-scale to the actual pressure the altitude will read 11 feet ASL. If we don’t know the actual pressure but we adjust the sub-scale until the elevation reads 11 feet ASL the altimeter sub-scale will then read the actual air pressure.

What this does is adjust the altimeter to read the correct altitude where we are flying for a given pressure. We’ll know when to do our 200′ checks on take off, or when we’re 700′ AGL on approach. We won’t know what elevation the airplane “feels” like it’s flying at – we’ll just know how far off the ground we are. I don’t want to make this too confusing, but the altimeter sub-scale doesn’t tell us pressure altitude – it just tells us pressure and adjusts the altimeter for the current pressure so that the altimeter reads accurately. For performance calculations we have to do the math.

It’s a fairly simple math calculation to get the pressure altitude.

Start with standard pressure of 29.92.

Subtract the actual air pressure are reported (we’ll use 29.80)

29.92-29.80= .12

Multiply .12 by 1,000 and we get 120 feet.

Add 120 feet to 11 ASL and we get a pressure altitude of 131 feet.

At 29.80 inches of mercury the pressure altitude of CYPK is 131 feet.

This isn’t a big difference, but that’s because the change in pressure we used was small, and we’re still assuming no other changes. Standard pressure assumes 15 degrees centigrade temperature. Colder air is more dense and warmer air is less dense. If we take temperature into account we come to the concept of density altitude.

If pressure altitude is elevation corrected for pressure, then density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for temperature. We do this with the E6B. Density altitude is important because a light plane can easily require 25% more take off distance with every 1,000′ of elevation gain. A hot day at a high altitude airport means density altitude can be a performance challenge.

It’s not easy to explain the E6B calculation in a podcast, so you should look at webpage to get a really good handle on this, but here’s one thing to understand: at standard temperature and at sea level pressure altitude and density altitude are the same. If you assume pressure altitude is 0 and set that at 15 degrees in the pressure altitude window (that is, line up the 0 inside the pressure altitude window with 15 degrees along the scale that reads from +50 to -50) the density altitude pointer will be pointing at 0.

If you do this and get that result you know you’re reading the E6B correctly, and you can then do calculations with different pressure altitudes and temperatures.

Let’s go back to our original calculation. We decided that with a pressure of 29.80 that CYPK’s pressure altitude was 131 feet ASL. Now let’s assume that the temperature is 30 degrees centigrade. We line up 131 feet inside the window with 30 degrees along the scale that reads from +50 to -50 . We can see that the density altitude pointer points to just under 2, which means 1,800′ density altitude.

Ok, let’s review the process with some different numbers. We’ll stick with CYPK as a starting point. We know the actual elevation is 11 feet ASL. The pressure at the time of writing is 30.07. The first step is to convert actual elevation into pressure elevation:

29.92 -30.07 = -.15 x 1,000= -150 11′ ASL – 150 = -139′ pressure altitude ASL (we’re underwater at this point!)

The temperature is 21 degrees. Using the E6B we line up -139 in the pressure altitude window with 21 degrees on the +50 to -50 temperature scale and look at what the density altitude pointer says, which in this case is about halfway between the zero and the first mark (which is 1,000′). High pressure made the airplane think it was flying below sea level while a slightly higher temperature made the airplane think it was flying higher. Let’s say density altitude on the E6B is 500′.

Let’s switch aerodromes to Prince George. At the time of writing the elevation at Prince George is 2,267′ above mean sea level. That never changes. Pressure is 30.15.

29.92-30.15 = -.23 x 1,000 = -230. Pressure altitude is 2,267 – 230 = 2,037′ MSL.

Temperature is 13 degrees. If we line up 2,037′ pressure altitude in the pressure altitude window with 13 degrees on the +50 to -50 temperature scale and look at what the density altitude pointer says we see that the density altitude looks to be about 2,300-2,400′. (In fact the wx cam at CYXS says the density altitude is 2,300′)

Let’s switch again. Lytton BC is 743′ MSL. Pressure today is 29.97. Pressure altitude is 29.92-29.97 =-.05×1,000= -50′ = 693′ pressure altitude.

Temperature is 24 degrees.

Go to the E6B and line up 693′ pressure altitude in the pressure altitude window with 24 degrees on the +50 to -50 temperature scale and look at what the density altitude pointer says we see that the density altitude looks to be close to 2,000′. In fact, the weather cam tells us that the current density altitude at CWLY is 1,800′.

The marks on the E6B are small. You often have to guess exactly where the numbers you’re using would be, and then try to line them up as carefully as you can.

If we take 693 and try to correct mathematically for temperature, without the E6B, we’d use this formula: Density Altitude = Pressure Altitude + (120 x [actual temperature – standard temperature] ). We need to remember that the standard temperature at sea level is 15 degrees, but our aerodrome elevation may not be sea level. Therefore we have to use the lapse rate of 2 degrees per 1,000 to get the standard temperature corrected for elevation.

Let’s do the math with the last set of data from CWLY. Altitude is 743 and pressure is 29.97, so we subtract 29.97 from 29.92 giving us negative .05 x 1,000 for -50, or a pressure altitude of 693. That’s the first number we need for this calculation. The next is the temperature difference.

743 is roughly ¾ of 1,000′, so its roughly ¾ of 2 degrees, or 1.5 degrees. Standard temperature, therefore, at 743 feet ASL is about 15 – 1.5 or 13.5.

OAT is 24 and standard temperature at Lytton’s altitude is 13.5.
Pressure altitude was 643

Density Altitude = Pressure Altitude + (120 x [actual temperature – standard temperature] )
Density Altitude = 643 + (120 x [24 – 13.5] )
Density Altitude = 643 + (120 x 10.5)
Density Altitude = 643 + 1,260
Density Altitude= 1,903 Remember, the weather cam said 1800 ft density altitude. I’ll comment on that more later.

Let’s run through the calculation again. Back to Prince George.

The elevation at Prince George is 2,267′ above mean sea level. Pressure is 30.15.

29.92-30.15 = -.23 x 1,000 = -230. Pressure altitude is Prince George elevation 2,267 – 230 = 2,037′ ASL. Same as we got last time.

Temperature is 13 degrees. Standard temperature at sea level is 15, so standard temperature corrected for 2,267′ ASL is 10.5 degrees (15 – 4.5 = 10.5)

Density Altitude = Pressure Altitude + (120 x [actual temperature – standard temperature] )
Density Altitude = 2037 + (120 x [13 – 10.5] )
Density Altitude = 2037 + (120 x 2.5)
Density Altitude = 2037 + 300
Density Altitude= 2,337

Again, the wx cam at CYXS says the density altitude is 2,300′

Let’s go back to our original calculation at CYPK. We decided that with a pressure of 29.80 that CYPK’s pressure altitude was 131 feet ASL. We assumed that the temperature is 30 degrees centigrade. 15 degrees standard temperature corrected for 11′ ASL is close enough to 30 degrees

Density Altitude = Pressure Altitude + (120 x [actual temperature – standard temperature] )
Density Altitude = 131 + (120 x [30-15] )
Density Altitude = 131+ (120 x 15)
Density Altitude = 131 + 1800
Density Altitude= 1931

We then did CYPK with a higher pressure – 30.07 and a lower temperature, 21 degrees.
Pressure altitude is 29.92-30.07 for -.15 x 1,000 for -150. Pressure altitude becomes -150+11 for -139.

Density Altitude = Pressure Altitude + (120 x [actual temperature – standard temperature] )
Density Altitude = -139 + (120 x [21 – 15] )
Density Altitude = -139 + (120 x 6)
Density Altitude = -139 + 720
Density Altitude= 581

There you have it. Two ways of converting altitude to pressure altitude to density altitude. Now, one last comment about the formula. Some people multiply the temperature difference by 100 instead of by 120 – it works, and sometimes gets closer to weather cam readings, but its often on the low side. Since we’re doing density altitude to be safe I’m using 120 and erring on the side of caution.

Ok, that’s altitude to pressure altitude to density altitude. Remember – start with altitude and correct it for non-standard pressure to get pressure altitude.
Correct that for non-standard temperature for density altitude.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

Bush Pilot in Training Podcast – Checklists

In this episode I’m going to deal with checklists rather than study notes for things that will be on the written exam.

These are the checklists that I have to do while the aircraft is moving. The post-landing and pre-flight things I’m leaving out.

Originally when I started I just followed the checklists, but Jason Miller of The Finer Points Aviation podcast (which I highly recommend, btw) clued me into the redundancy factor of memorizing the checklists so that you do them by memory, and then use the written checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

I’ve got 10 checklists here. A lot of the things on them repeat, but its about safety through redundancy. BTW, I made these checklists from a combination of ones I encountered. I might be missing some things that should be on them, and if so, drop me an email through bushpilotintraining.com.

1) Pre-start check
Hobbs time – record
Loose articles – secure
Harnesses & doors – secure
Circuit breakers & fuses – in
Avionics & electrics – off
Controls – free & correct
Fuel – on

2) Start Check
Carb heat – cold
Throttle – set 1/4″
Mixture – rich
Prime – as required
Brakes – on
Master – on
Beacon light – on
Prop & area – clear
Magnetos – on/start
Throttle – 1,000 rpm
Oil pressure – green with 30 seconds
Alternator – charging

3) Pre-taxi check

Mixture – ground lean
Flaps – up
Radio – on
ELT – check VHF 121.5
Transponder – standby/1200
Instruments – check & set
Dead mag check – both-left-right-both
Radio – set frequency
ATIS/taxi clearance – check & obtain
Transponder – set code
Brakes – test
Instruments – check during taxi (hug indicator & compass)
Controls – wind correction

4) Run up check

Aircraft – into the wind
Nose wheel – straight
Brakes – on
Fuel – on
Mixture – rich
Oil pressure – green
Oil temperature – normal
Area – clear all quadrants
Control column – full aft
Throttle – 1700 RPM
Oil pressure – green
Oil temperature – normal
Suction 4.5-5.5
Carb heat – hot (RPM? Ice?)
Mixture – confirm function
Carb heat – cold
RPM – confirm 1700
Mags – check left/both/right/both max drop 175 rpm max dif 75 rpm)
Carb heat – hot
Throttle – idle (500-700 rpm)
Throttle – 1,000 rpm
Carb heat – cold

5) Pre-take off check
Primer – in & locked
Master – on
Mags – both
Fuses – in
Circuit breakers – in
Carb heat – cold
Mixture – as required
Oil pressure – green
Oil temperature – normal
Fuel – on and sufficient
Trim – check & set
Instruments – check and set
Doors and windows – secure
Harnesses – secure
Controls – free & correct

6) Crew Briefing
Departure procedure – discuss
Take off considerations – discuss
During take off roll I will confirm:
-full power
– gauges green
– airspeed alive
– rotate

In the event of any malfunction prior to lift off I will abort take off:
Throttle to idle
Flaps up
Apply brakes.

In the event if an engine failure after lift off:
Nose down/ best glide speed
Seat belts tight
Under 300′ land straight
Over 300′ minor turns
Over 800′ available runway if practicable

7) Runway checklist

Heading indicator – set
Lights – as required
Transponder – alt
Flaps – as required
Departure time – record
Wind sock – confirm direction
Radio – frequency set
Departure clearance – obtain

On take off I will verbally confirm:
Full power
Gauges green
Airspeed alive
Rotate

Through 200′ I will verbally confirm:
Gauges green
Positive rate of climb

8) Cruise check

Throttle – as required
Mixture – leaned as required
Lights – as required
Heading indicator – set
Engine gauges – normal
Map – orient

9) Downwind check/pre-landing check
Landing clearance -obtain
Primer – in and locked
Master – on
Mags – both
Circuit breakers/fuses – in
Carb heat – hot
Mixture – full rich
Engine gauges – normal
Fuel – on
Flaps – as required
Brakes – check
Harnesses & doors – secure
Loose articles – secure

10) Balked landing
Power – full
Carb heat – cold
Flaps – 20 degrees
Speed – minimum Vx
Altitude – safe
Flaps – retract in stages.

There you have it – 10 checklists to memorize if you’re flying my 150. Your checklists probably vary, and if you don’t have checklists, get some. If you think I need some changes in mine, drop me a line through the website, bushpilotintraining.com

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

Bush Pilot In Training Podcast – Episode #2 – Communications

Show notes:

Communications

In this episode I’m going to deal with communications

First, Radio Frequencies

There are three frequencies that need to be memorized : 121.5, 123.2, and 126.7

Use 121.5 for emergencies and military interception. If you’re calling out a Pan Pan or Mayday or if you need to contact ATSU when intercepted by the military use 121.5. 121.5 is for emergencies and military contact.

If you are using an aerodrome without a mandatory ATF frequency the default frequency is 123.2. One,two, three POINT two Simple, like 1,2,3. Some aerodromes have mandatory frequencies, but for those that don’t use 123.2

When not on a MF or communicating with someone, monitor 126.7 MHz. This is not a requirement, but a best practice.

126.7

Remember them like this: 3 frequencies, in order, from first to last:
121.5, comes before
123.2, comes before
126.7.

Emergencies/military come first, so the first number is 121.5;

Default aerodrome frequency is not an emergency, but you often need it, so it’s second, and the second number is 123.2;

monitoring uncontrolled airspace is third – 126.7.

When on 126.7 and reporting the proper info to report is Ident, position, the time, altitude ,VFR or VFR OTT, and destination. Remember:
Who you are,
and where you are (like when you are talking to tower),
then when,
what your altitude is,
what you are doing (VFR or VFR OTT)
and where you’re going.

so, W6-who,where,when,where,what,and where;

Mandatory Frequencies

When approaching an aerodrome with a MF you must contact traffic PRIOR to entering and when possible 5 minutes ahead of entering the MF area. Think TIME, not distance. Different airspeed means time changes over the same distance. Think TIME and it’s constant. 5 minutes is a good amount of time for MF traffic to react;
In an MF zone you must also report when joining the circuit, when on the downwind leg if applicable, when on final, when clear of the surface on which airplanes land. Basically the calls are the same as the ones you’d make to the tower and the clearances they’d give you – downwind call(downwind), then they tell you you’re clear to land (you announce you’re on final), then you ask for taxi clearance (you announce you’re clear of the runway);
When leaving an MF zone you have to report when you’re clear of the zone;

If you are in the circuit at a Class C aerodrome and you experience a comms failure:
Set the transponder to 7600;
land;
inform ATC ASAP of the actions taken.

The next part of communication is Light Signals

Light signals approximate the clearances you’d get from the tower. You use them if you have a radio failure
(in which case you set your transponder to 7600)

The light signals come in solid or flashing colors and have slightly different meanings depending on whether
you’re on the ground or in the air.

Solid green means cleared for take off or cleared for landing.

Flashing green means cleared for taxi or return for landing.

Solid red means stop when you’re on the ground. In the air a solid red means give way to other aircraft and keep circling.

Flashing red on the ground means taxi clear of the runway.

Flashing red in the air means airport unsafe- do not land.

Red pyrotechnics is similar, meaning “Do not land for the time being”

Flashing white lights mean return to your starting point on the airfield

Blinking runway lights mean clear the runway immediately. This applies to all vehicles, planes and pedestrians.

Remember, with light signals, the solid color means the obvious (stop/go); the flashing color means the next obvious thing (cleared for taxi/get out of here), and what it means in the air is roughly parallel to what it means on the ground.

Green means go, so on the ground solid green means cleared for take off. In the air it means cleared for landing.

Flashing green on the ground is cleared to taxi, and in the air it means return for landing. You’ll probably see it after you’ve been shown a red light and instructed to keep circling.

A solid red on the ground means stop. You can’t stop when you’re in the air, so solid red in the air means give way to other aircraft and keep circling.

Flashing red light on the ground means taxi clear of runway (if red always means
“Stop” then flashing red must mean something more, i.e. get out of here.)

Flashing red light while you’re in the air means airport unsafe for time being,
don’t land (i.e, airport unsafe – get out of here). Again, red pyrotechnics are roughly equivelant.

A flashing white light means return to your starting point on the airport.

Transponders

I’ve mentioned some of this before, but we’ll start from the top.

There are 5 transponder numbers you need to remember. 7700, 7600, 7500, 1400 and 1200.

The first number 7700, is for emergencies and military interception. If something like 911 happens again, or you stray into military airspace when you’re not supposed to, set your transponder to 7700. If you have an emergency, set the transponder to 7700.

If you have a communications failure, set the transponder to 7600. If you’re in a control zone with a tower and the radio fails the tower will know you’ve got a comms failure if you set the transponder to 7600. They may not be able to hear you or talk to you, but they will know why and take appropriate action (like break out the light signals)

If you are hijacked set the transponder to 7500. Enough said. Just memorize that number.

If you are flying at 12,500′ ASL or above and haven’t been directed otherwise by ATC set the transponder to 1400.

If you are flying below 12,500 ASL and haven’t been directed otherwise by ATC set the transponder to 1200.

Radio clarity
You or the tower can initiate a radio check. The readabilty scale runs from 1 to 5, with 1 being unreadable and 5 being perfectly readable.
1 is unreadable
2 is readable now and then
3 is readable with diffculty
4 is good
5 is excellent.

The strength scale also reads from 1 to 5, with 1 being weak and 5 being strong.

Another part of communication is the ELT

ELTs should be switched on manually as soon as possible after an emergency landing and left on.
The ELT should turn on automatically, but it may fail to do so. Turn the ELT on and leave it on after an
emergency landing

You can test an ELT in the first 5 minutes of any hour UTC

Stop

Military interception

If you are intercepted by the military they will only tell you a few things – follow me, land, or proceed.
You need to be able to tell them that you understand and will comply, that you can’t comply, or that you’re in distress. BTW, you can’t just decide you don’t feel like complying. You need a good, and obvious reason.

So, if the military intercepts you they will fly up beside you and rock their wings and drop flares. This means “Follow me”. You respond by rocking your wings and following where they lead. They will turn slowly to the left and lead you somewhere.

As that occurs set your transponder to 7700 and set your radio to 121.5 mhz. Advise ATS what’s happening.

If the military decides you can proceed they will execute an abrupt climbing turn to the left of more than 90 degrees. You can rock your wings to acknowledge. An abrupt climbing turn to the left means “You can proceed”.

If they don’t do that, follow them. They will take you someplace they want you to land. They will signal this by doing a flyover the runway with gear deployed.

When this happens, follow them look at the runway, and then return and land if safe.

If its not safe to land you flyover at 1,000-2,000 without landing. If you have retractable gear, raise them. This is not the same as “Cannot comply”. It means that you, as PIC, feel that the aerodrome is unsafe.

The military will then either release you with the abrupt climbing turn to the left of more than 90 degrees, or instruct you to follow them to another aerodrome by raising their own gear and flying away to the left slowly en route to another runway.

If you are intercepted but cannot comply you must toggle all available lights in a regular manner that is distinct from merely flashing lights. You might want to be careful about doing this. The military may then break off with the abrupt climbing turn to the left, but they might decide to shoot you down.

If you are being intercepted and you are in distress flash all available lights in an irregular manner.

These actions are the same, day or night.

Flight plans

Flight plans and itineraries are a kind of communication, so I’m including them here.

When flying VFR you must file a flight plan or itinerary when flying more than 25 nm from the aerodrome.

You also need a flight plan if you’re flying from Canada to the US, even if the flight is less than 25 nm.

You need to file a defence flight plan or itinerary if you’re going into ADIZ.

Flight plans are filed with ATCs, Flight Service Stations or a community aerodrome radio station.

Flight itineraries can be filed with a responsible person, meaning ATCs, an FSS, a community aerodrome radio station, or your mother (as long as she’s responsible).

A defense flight itinerary is the obvious exception – you can’t file that with your mum. It needs to be filed with ATC, an FSS or a community aerodrome radio station.

Changes to your route, destination or flight duration a flight plan or itinerary have to be communicated to whoever you filed it with as soon as practicable.

If its a defense flight plan or itinerary you need to do it if you’re time of entry or exit to ADIZ varies by +/- 5 minutes, or if the entry/exit point is more than 20 miles off the planned course.

The big difference between flight plans and flight itineraries is that flight plans must be closed as soon as practicable after landing but no later than the SAR time indicated on the flight plan, and if there is no SAR time, no later than one hour after the last reported ETA.

A flight itinerary has to be closed no later than the SAR time indicated in it, or 24 hours after the last reported ETA.

You close either with the people you filed them with: ATC, FSS, a community aerodrome radio station, or, if its a flight itinerary, the responsible person.

If you don’t close the plan or itinerary SAR will be initiated. If you aren’t crashed you don’t want that to happen. Close the flight plan!

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

Introducing the Bush Pilot In Training Podcast! Episode 1: Airspace Classification

I’m adding a podcast. The idea is that I’ll record my study notes so that I can review them in the truck as I’m driving around. If I’m the only one who ever hears them, fine, but I’ll share them with anyone who wants to make use of them.

The first episode deals with airspace classification in Canada.

Here are the show notes:

Airspace Division and Classification

Airspace in Canada can be divided in several ways.

There is southern and northern domestic airspace.

There is the altimeter setting region and the standard pressure region.

There is the southern control area, northern control area and Arctic control area.

There are low level air routes and low level airways.

And, of course, there are the alphabetic divisions from A through to G.

Let’s start with the alphabetic divisions. These divisions are often described, at least in part, as an inverted wedding cake, but my instructor Kate gave me a great mnemonic to help remember them:

A: Always IFR, Always need a clearance and Always 18,000′ and higher.
B: Both IFR and VFR, you need a clearance and its 12,500 to 17,999;
C: Clearance required. Terminal Control areas and associated areas;
D: Don’t need clearance. ATC doesn’t provide separation, but will offer information.
E: Everywhere else.
F: Freaky airspace, meaning, “advisory” or “restricted”
G:Good to go. This is uncontrolled airspace, with no ATC.

So, Class A is IFR, and is always Flight Level 18 and higher, or 18,000′ and higher, up to 60,000′.

Class B is airspace between 12,500 and 17,999. Clearance is required and both IFR and VFR are permitted.

Class C is Terminal Control areas, extensions and associated control zones. Clearance is required. IFR and VFR are permitted. You need a 2 way radio, Mode C transponder an altimeter sensitive to barometric pressure to enter. Although control zones are Class C and go up to 3,000′ AGL, Class C airspace can go to 12,500. NORDO aircraft can only enter with prior permission or in an emergency. Class C becomes Class E when the tower shuts down. If you don’t have a discrete transponder code from ATC you should squawk 1200.

Class D airspace doesn’t require a clearance to enter, but VFR traffic must establish 2 way radio contact with ATC prior to entering. IFR and VFR is permitted, but ATC does not provide separation. ATC can provide information about weather and traffic information, and ATC may instruct VFR traffic to avoid D airspace. Some Class D airspace requires a transponder. VFR traffic must maintain a listeinign watch on the frequency advised by ATC. The no clearance required thing is really the result of ATC not providing separation – giving you clearance kind of implies that they’re maintaining some sort of separation, which in D airspace they are not doing. Class D is used for Terminal Control areas and associated control zones.

Class E allows IFR and VFR traffic. There are no special requirements for VFR traffic. Control Zones that don’t have ATC (ie, the tower is closed) are Class E, as are low level airways. (the dif between low level airways and air routes is that airways have control for IFR traffic). Class E is also used for Control Area Extensions, which is airspace above and surrounding a busy control zone, but still below 18,000. Think of a busy airport that needs a bigger piece of the inverted wedding cake over the aerodrome to control traffic. Thats a control area extension.

Class F, for freaky, means Advisory or Restricted airspace. It is airspace used for flying that requires confinement of the activity, and so when in use airplanes not involved in that activity may have access limited. The restriction can be permanent or temporary. Class F can be controlled or uncontrolled, or both. The activities can be acrobatics, hang gliding, aircraft testing, soaring, military ops, parachuting or training. Monitor 126.7 in Class F uncontrolled airspace and the ATC assigned frequency when appropriate. Maintain extra vigilance.

Class F Restricted airspace is a no go area. It can be temporary or permanent.

Class G airspace is good to go general uncontrolled airspace. Air routes are Class G because, unlike Airways, there is no traffic control. In uncontrolled airspace you should monitor 126.7.

Since we’re on the subject, low level airways start way up – at 2,200 ft AGL, and low level air routes run right down to the ground. They both extend to 17,999, but the alphabetic designation of airways changes with altitude. Up to 12,500 low level airways are Class E. Above 12,500 to 17,999 they are Class B.

Low level air routes start at the ground, run up to 17,999, and are Class G. Air routes do not have traffic control. Airways have IFR traffic control.

Control zones occur around aerodromes to control IFR and VFR traffic. IFR traffic is almost always controlled, so control zones can be B, C, D or E airspace. Control zones start at the surface of the earth generally extend upwards to 3,000′ AGL. This can vary. If an airport is especially busy and requires prior permission to enter if may be designated F airspace.

Terminal control areas usually has a 7 mile radius, but you can also find 5 or 3 mile radius terminal control areas. Terminal control areas are the classic inverted wedding cake shape. They surround a control zone but start at 1,200 AGL with a 12 mile radius. They bump out again at 2,200′ AGL with a 35 mile radius and again at 9,500′ AGL with a 45 mile radius. Pay attention to this especially if you fly around a major airport. You may be in uncontrolled airspace at 9,000′ with a TCA only 500′ above you with heavy IFR traffic.

The Altimeter Setting Region and Standard Pressure Region are next. The Altimeter setting region makes use of altimeter information from altimeter reporting stations. You set your altimeter to the closest station along your route, unless they are more than 150 nm apart, in which case you take the reading from the nearest station, whether its en route or not. The Altimeter Setting Region therefore assumes a lot of altimeter reporting stations, which is why it is restricted to Southern Domestic Airspace up to 18,000. You set the altimeter to the airport setting when you take off, and then re-set as appropriate en route, and set it to the destination aerodrome prior to descent.

The Standard Pressure Setting assumes less altimeter information, and so relies on setting the altimeter to the standard setting of 29.92. It is Northern Domestic Airspace and all domestic airspace over 18,000.

For take off and climb you set the altimeter to airport pressure or elevation. Prior to reaching cruise altitude you set it to 29.92. For descent and landing you set the altimeter to the pressure of the destination aerodrome.

When transitioning from the Altimeter Setting Region to Standard Pressure Region you make the change inside the Standard Pressure Region unless otherwise authorized by ATC.

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.