The following stories from the June 11, 2010, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.
When legal isn’t safe
There are some days when the weather is legal for visual flight rules, but you still wouldn’t consider flying in it. Winds may be gusting, with crosswind component far in excess of any you have experienced. Even without clouds present, haze can marginalize visibility. You may opt to stay on the ground, even if the flight service briefer doesn’t say, “VFR not recommended.” Know that phrase. It is “an advisory provided by a flight service station to a pilot during a preflight or inflight weather briefing that flight under visual flight rules is not recommended. To be given when the current and/or forecast weather conditions are at or below VFR minimums,” explains the FAA’s Pilot/Controller Glossary.
Before the first solo, such weather decisions are always made by the flight instructor. But at a certain point after you solo under direct supervision, you will start making those judgments yourself before flights, guided by limitations your CFI enters in your logbook. Now “solo” isn’t just a description of a flight that you make alone; solo becomes a phase of your training. “Then your instructor will allow you to practice by yourself at your home airport, perhaps specifying certain weather conditions or areas in which you're allowed to fly. You'll need to master operations in the airport traffic pattern, understand winds, and learn to recognize when conditions are beyond your capabilities,” explains the Flight Training website on solo resources.
A further word about logbook limitations: You should participate in the process of setting parameters that are safe and practical. As the AOPA Air Safety Foundation advocates in the Instructor’s Guide to the Presolo Written Test : “Introduce the concept of ‘legal is not always safe.’ While the FARs define visual meteorological conditions (VMC) as greater than three miles visibility and a ceiling greater than one thousand feet, few (if any) student pilots could fly safely in these conditions. The parameters set for the student should include visibility, ceiling, and surface winds. The discussion of personal minimums can also be expanded to include runway lengths and surfaces, fuel reserves, and recent flying experience.”
As you gain experience, your CFI can amend or remove limitations to keep you on track.
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Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: I have heard about the Aviation Safety Reporting System. However, I am not sure when and why I should file a report. Can you tell me more about the program?
Answer: The FAA established the voluntary program to encourage pilots, controllers, flight attendants, maintenance personnel, and other users of the aviation system to report “deficiencies and discrepancies” within the National Airspace System. The intent is to identify and correct unsafe conditions before they result in incidents or accidents. NASA acts as the independent collecting agency to ensure confidentiality and encourage the free flow of information. The program covers, but is not limited to, operations such as landing and departure, en route legs, air traffic procedures, communications, ground movements, and near midair collisions. The FAA also provides for the waiver of certain disciplinary actions so long as the reports are filed within 10 days of the incident. Read more about the Aviation Safety Reporting System online.
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