Tune 121.5 for Intercept You Say?

Lately I have been asking fellow pilots and applicants on practical tests an interesting question. One that hopefully they never need to know the answer to, but one that if they do need, can make a situation much better.

The question is prompted by a conversation with a friend who is an Aviation Safety Inspector for the FAA who not too long ago got to work with pilots who had “busted a TFR” during the election season at a specific travel event for one of the candidates. In that conversation, he noted that of the six unlucky individuals who strayed into the TFR at that time who ended up getting intercepted, not a single one of them tuned to the universal emergency frequency to attempt contact with anyone who might be attempting to communicate with them, namely the military aircraft that was approaching them.

That kind of surprised me.

I know, intercept procedures can seem a little daunting and most of us don’t commit them to memory because we hope we will never need them.

Some of us keep them on our kneeboards as pilots, but that number isn’t as many as it probably should be either.

So I started asking fellow pilots and practical test applicants a question.

“Imagine you are flying along, and an F16 pulls up alongside your wing. What is the first thing you would do?”

The majority of pilots fumble the answer. A few practical test applicants and pilots start talking about digging through the FAR/AIM or documents in Foreflight on their iPad to figure out what to do.

Can you imagine the F16 pilot watching this from their cockpit as you fly along digging through the FAR/AIM trying to figure out what to do? How long might that take? It might be kind of humorous for them actually.

Only a very few I have asked have answered, the first thing they would do is turn to 121.5 and follow directions being given to them.

I blame us as instructors, DPEs, and fellow pilots for not drilling this into each other.

A TFR bust isn’t always the fault of the pilot. It can happen to anyone. Sure, TFRs that are published and can be learned about prior to flight shouldn’t be something pilots encounter if they are properly briefed and planning is done correctly. But in some cases, TFRs do pop up after you have already started a flight. A downed aircraft, an emergency situation on the ground, or a security situation developing can make these pop up even while you are in the air and it is possible to encounter one even with proper planning having been done.

In a case like this, an intercept handled properly could end up being a no-harm, no-foul situation for a pilot who responds properly to an intercepting aircraft and/or directions from ATC.

So, remember if nothing else from this quick tip.

Tuning to 121.5 for intercept is a good starting point if you happen to get intercepted. Continue reading

Activating the Navigation Frequency Critical for Safety, and Passing a Checkride

Flying an approach will typically take a pilot along a specific path that keeps them clear of obstacles and aligns them with an intended landing point. When things work correctly or are properly conducted. When that isn’t the case, a pilot may find themselves flying somewhere aht isn’t exactly “on the approach”.

On a recent practical test I conducted, the tracking my charting software shows a fairly straight track of a path along an approach, but it is obviously not along the approach path of the ILS we were intending to conduct. Hmm. What might cause that you might ask?

Continue reading

Charlie for Some [Cold] Flights!

After much work from some great friends who worked the maintenance hiccups, I have now had three successful, albeit cold, flight with Charlie and I in the last week. Phew!

Time for us to start venturing out again and sharing adventures on practical tests, for lunch [probably in Indiana for a while yet since Michigan still is a Gestapo state], or just for some fun local flying.

We even managed to get night-tailwheel current together not long after this picture was taken on a chilly Michigan evening after I flew over to another airport for some instrument currency with a friend.

I will say the next project though, will be to add a little form door sealing to make these flights just a bit drafty.

Looking forward to getting back in the air again with frequency in Charlie!

A Busy Pilot Training Sector – What FAA Checkride Volume May Indicate During COVID Effects – Updated Data

Involved in flight training in the United States and feel like it has been a super busy summer? You aren’t alone.

This year has felt very busy for many flight training providers, instructors, and pilot examiners around the country.

There is a reason for that. It’s because it has been very busy. For those of you who know me and read my blog, I like to find data points that help us give indicators about what is happening in our industry. One of those data points is the volume of FAA practical tests that has been given over time for pilot certification.

In some recent data shared with me, I have been able to continue the comparison of this year in 15-day increments compared with last year.

While one might initially think 2020 would have a reduced number of FAA pilot certification events with the effects of COVID-19 in the United States, what we are seeing is actually certification activity that over the period of time is largely on par with 2019 events.

In the following table, we can see an initial decrease in certification events during April and May, but from that point, events have actually been increased compared with the previous year.

What we see from this data is that on a year-to-year basis for this period we are actually only down 3.87% for total pilot certification events. Continue reading