Uncontrolled Airports

There are over 20,000 airports in the United States, but only about 500 have a control tower. Think of it.  97% of the U S airports depend on smart, courteous pilots. Many of those uncontrolled airports are sleepy, but some are beehives of activity.

In addition, it is not unusual for several uncontrolled airports to  share the same frequency. So, to make sure other pilots understand where you are, AIM 4-1-9 suggests that pilots state the airport name at the beginning and at the end of their transmission. For example, “Eloy traffic, Mooney 7KW turning right downwind Runway 20, Eloy.”

What You Shouldn’t Do

According to AIM 4-1-9, transmitting, “Traffic in the area, please advise”, is inappropriate and just plain stupid. Well, AIM didn’t quite word it like that, but you get the idea. So what should you do? If you want to know what runway the pilots are using, you should monitor the Common Taffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). If the pilots are starting and ending their transmission with the name of the airport, then you’ll get the idea.

The FAA’s Role

The FAA doesn’t regulate traffic pattern entry techniques, but they do insist that all turns at non-towered airports should be made to the left, unless of course, right turns are indicated, like Show Low’s runways 3 and 24.

Entry on the 45 to the downwind leg is considered a standard approach from the downwind side of the traffic pattern., but it’s not mandated.

If you are entering from the Downwind Side, enter the pattern at 45 degrees from the downwind heading at pattern altitude.

If You are Entering from the Upwind Side

You should first fly midfield over the airport at a minimum of 500 feet above the pattern altitude.

As you fly over the airport, pay special attention to any traffic in the airport pattern. Once clear of the pattern, you can begin your descent to pattern altitude, turn back towards the airport and enter the traffic pattern on the downwind leg at the 45 degree entry point.












Are Straight-In Approaches Legal?

In 1978, I flew for the State of Utah’s Division of Aeronautics. We flew a Baron and a King Air, so we considered ourselves bigger and badder than anything that might be in the pattern. Using our superior reasoning, we felt that if we wanted to fly a straight in approach, we would just do it, and if the local guys didn’t like it, that was just too bad. Most of the airports were a bit sleepy, so a straight-in approach didn’t bother anyone. Provo (KPVU) was the exception. It had two flight schools that kept the pattern pretty busy. It really should have had a control tower in those days, but the FAA didn’t see it that way. If we were flying to Provo (KPVU), we were not welcome because of our attitude.

We would make the obligatory radio calls on Provo’s Unicom frequency, announcing that we were on a ten mile final for landing. Hearing our voices made the Provo pilots bristle and I swear I heard a few guns cock. The Provo pilots would chastise us on the frequency, but we didn’t care. Hey, we were going to do what we were going to do. Besides, that traffic entry stuff is too hard and we’re much too important.

Straight-in approaches are perfectly legal, but only if they don’t interfere with other aircraft in the pattern.

If you want to know if a straight-in is safe, you should make your decision from a courteous and common sense angle. If there is little to no traffic, then it probably will pass the safe and courteous test. By all means have at it. Just  broadcast your intentions well ahead of time and coordinate your entry with the other traffic in the pattern.

 Pattern Radio Calls

To help avoid a conflict, announce your position just prior to beginning the turn from one pattern leg to another. Because of the “wing flash”, it is much easier to locate an aircraft in a turn.

Crosswind Turns

Unless noise abatement procedures dictate otherwise, you should delay your crosswind turn until you have reached the departure end of the runway and you’re within 300 feet of the pattern altitude (AIM 4-3-3). Why? This prevents departing aircraft from climbing into the downwind traffic that may be flying at pattern altitude.


After takeoff, climb on the extended runway centerline beyond the departure end of the runway up to pattern altitude. At this point, you can continue straight ahead or make a 45-degree turn to the left (see Figure 8), or to the right if the airport has a right-hand pattern.
If you will be departing against the flow of the pattern, wait until you are at least at pattern altitude plus 500 feet before making a turn, and be sure to advise on the CTAF “Westco traffic, Arrow Four-Seven Romeo, departing the pattern Runway One-Eight, right turn westbound, Westco.”


You’ve lost your engine. Now what?

You’ve lost your Engine

First, AVIATE. Establish your best glide speed.


Try to let ATC know you’re having an emergency. First, squawk 7700. If you’re in radar contact, that will light up ATC’s radar scopes. At that point, they’ll start tracking you and getting emergency response ready.

Also, you want to talk to ATC if you can. So what frequency should you use?

There are a couple you can start with. If you don’t know what Center or Flight service frequencies are available where you are, start with a radio call on the universal emergency guard frequency of 121.5. 121.5 is meant for aircraft in distress, and most ATC facilities monitor the frequency.

If you’re within range of ATC, they’ll hopefully hear you. Many airline and corporate jets monitor guard frequency as well, so if you can’t reach ATC, there’s a good chance you can reach a jet flying above you, and they can relay information back and forth to ATC.

And if none of that works, you can always try the universal Flight Service frequency of 122.2.

 Selecting A Landing Site: Airport

Once you have established your best glide indicated airspeed, you need to find a place to land.

You really have two choices, and the first choice of the two is to land at an airport if you can. The last choice of the two is to land somewhere else.

If have GPS on board, whether it’s panel mounted or an EFB like ForeFlight, the “Nearest Airport” function gives you a quick list of nearby airports.

Once you pick an airport and go “direct to” it, you’ll know your distance to the runway. The next question is: can you get there? That’s where some quick mental math comes in.

Mooneys have a great wing and typically glide about 2 nautical miles per thousand feet. So, if you’re 4,000 feet above the ground, you’ll be able to glide 8 nautical miles before touching the ground.

You should always look at your POH maximum glide chart to make sure of your glide ratio

If you have ForeFlight’s new “Glide Advisor” feature, that can tell you even faster what you’re within gliding distance of.

When you set up “Glide Advisor in ForeFlight, bear in mind that Mooneys are typically 11 to 1.


Get one, please.

Approaching The Airport

As you get close to the airport, you need to plan your landing, and that’s going to start by choosing a runway. There are a few ways you can do it. If you know the ASOS frequency, you can dial it in and pick up the winds. And if you’re in a position where you’re circling over the airport at altitude, you can look at the wind sock.

If you’re talking with ATC, they can be a great help.

Getting Ready For a Runway Touchdown

As you approach the airport, if you have enough altitude, you want to circle down over top of the airport. That keeps you close to the runway, and lets you set up for a normal landing.

At about 1,000′ AGL, you want to enter downwind for the runway, and you want to keep your pattern tight, because you only have one shot to make the runway.

You also need to pick an aiming point for touchdown, so you know when to turn your base leg.

 A good way to pick an aiming point is to visually split the runway into thirds, and aim for the point where the first and second thirds meet. That will help you make sure you don’t end up short of the runway, but that you still have plenty of room to stop.

As you’re abeam your aiming point, you’ll turn base. At this point, you also want to start flying you normal pattern speeds. As long as the runway is assured, you’ll add partial flaps as well.

As you turn final, you want to figure out how you’re looking for a glide path to the runway. Keep in mind that you’ll be higher than a normal 3-degree glide path, but you’re also descending much faster because you don’t have power.

At this point, you want to aim for your touchdown point, one-third down the runway.

If the point is moving down in the windshield, it means you’re high, and it’s probably time to add more flaps or slip to lose altitude. But you want to keep in mind that you need to be absolutely sure you’ll make the runway before you add flaps.

And if your aim point is moving up in the windshield, it means you’re getting low on glide path, and you shouldn’t add any more flaps until you’re sure you’ll make the runway.

As you cross the threshold, you need to focus your attention on a safe touchdown. You’re still aiming for the touchdown point, but if you’re high and fast, it’s better to land a few hundred feet beyond the touchdown point, than it is to force the airplane on the landing spot.

 Selecting A Landing Site: Off Airport

If you can’t glide to an airport, you need to pick the next best thing. And most of the time, you have quite a few options.

When you’re preparing for a power-off landing, there are two things you need to consider to make your landing survivable.

First, you need to keep the cockpit and cabin as intact as possible by using dispensable parts of the plane, like the wings, landing gear and bottom of the fuselage to slow you down during landing.

And second, you need to prevent your body from hitting the inside of the cockpit during touchdown, by making sure your seat belt is tight.

Most GA airplanes are designed to protect you at up to 9 Gs of forward acceleration.

Look at these examples: if you’re flying at 50 MPH, the required stopping distance at a 9 G deceleration is about 9.4 feet.

And if you’re flying at 100 MPH, the required stopping distance at a 9 G deceleration is about 37.6 feet.

Think about that for a minute: 37 feet isn’t a lot of required stopping distance in a survivable crash. In fact, it’s just a little bit longer than the fuselage length of your plane.


Paper Charts – Who Needs ’em?

by Jim Price

Everywhere we go, we seem to be surrounded by information technology. It’s staggering to think that in your little iPhone/SmartPhone, there’s more computing power than that which was available when NASA sent Neil Armstrong to the moon. It seems that every six months, the aviation apps you can load on your iPad or Tablet, become more powerful, with incredible features that boggle the mind.  All this causes one to wonder, “How did I ever aviate back in the old days”?

Yet, many pilots remain skeptical, and some are downright adamant, contending that paper charts and plates are much safer than those powered by an iPad/Tablet.

When I was an airline pilot, in addition to my suitcase, I carried a flight bag. This monster contained all the US IFR charts, approach plates, SIDs and STARs that I could ever need when flying to the airports that we served, plus all the approved alternates. Before the days of the Rollaboard, after three or four days of multiple airports and airplanes, my arms felt as if they reached the ground. Boy, I am so jealous of today’s pilots, who simply travel with a suitcase and an iPad,  loaded with all they need. Long live the Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

With an EFB, if you pay attention to your app’s promptings, there should be no doubt that you have the most up to date charts. You can fly across several states with confidence, knowing that you have everything you need for your cross country. Plus, it’s all available with the click of a button.

You can be super flexible, too. Let’s say that you’re flying from the L A Basin to Boise, ID. If , during the flight planning, you see that weather will force you into Utah, or if you need an alternate in Utah, with just the click of a button and in a matter of a few minutes, you’ll be downloading all of the charts needed to fly through Utah.

If you’re flying with paper, you will have enroute charts, approach charts, SID and STAR charts. That’s a lot of paper to manage. And, if you don’t have a chart handy, you’ll be twisting yourself around, digging through your flight bag in the back seat.

With electronic charts, everything is contained in one app, and with a few clicks, you’re switching between enroute charts and approach charts, and you’re even ready for that approach change that ATC might give you.


The downside of electronic charts is the massive amount of information you have in front of you. If you aren’t able to navigate your app efficiently, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

If you’re going to fly paperless, spend some time on the ground becoming familiar with your app; learning how to quickly perform all the tasks you need to do in flight.

ForeFlight and Sporty’s offer training courses. ForeFlight’s is free and Sporty’s will cost a bit. Your local FAASTeam might, throughout the year, sponsor FREE iPad workshops with great hands on training. The Phoenix area FAASTeam offers these, but only when the temperatures are below 90.

Of course, you just need to explore you app and discover its features.

What If Your Battery Runs Out?

Apple claims that the iPad has a 10 hour battery. But, when you’re using the GPS location services, the battery life is more like 4 to 6 hours. The iPad mini has more battery life.

If your battery dies, are you out of luck? Not if you’re prepared with backup battery power. You can get a Jackery Giant Plus for only $23 (Amazon). It stores enough power to charge an iPad battery from 0% to 100%. The more powerful Mophie Powerstation costs around $100. You can also power your iPad with a Dual USB charger that plugs into your cigarette lighter. It works with 12 and 24 Volt systems and each USB port supplies 2.4 amps.

If you’ve got one or more backups in the cockpit, along with a charging cable, your chances of running out of power in-flight are zero.

What If You Drop your iPad and Break Your Screen?

I’ll admit, that wouldn’t be good, but if you’re carrying a iPhone/Smart phone in your pocket, all is not lost. Using your smartphone for your backup charts might not be ideal, but it works just fine.

Another thing you should be prepared for is a charging cable failure. Cables are typically the weakest link for any electronic flight kit, and if you don’t have a spare, you could be out of luck. Fortunately, you can get extras for less than $10.

I Heard that an iPad Exploded While Using it Above 10,000 Feet MSL

Apple has established a maximum altitude for the iPad, and yes, it’s 10,000 feet. However, it won’t explode if you fly higher. Because the air is less dense above 10,000 feet, the iPad becomes more susceptible to overheating, especially when it’s exposed to direct sunlight.

What if Your iPad Overheats?

The iPad has a maximum operating temperature of 95oF. When it gets too hot, it will shut down to protect the internal battery. In the summer, you should keep our iPad away from direct sunlight and keep it bathed in cool air. If your iPad overheats, remove it from the sunlight and put some cool air on it. It will cool down in a matter of minutes and automatically restore normal operations.

Paper Charts Don’t Crash

Yup, you’ve got me there. But wait a minute. If you know how to restart your electronic app, it’s not that much of a problem.

Will a TFR Draw Itself on a Paper Chart?

Nope! But if you have an iPad equipped with an aviation app like ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, WingX or FlyQ, you’re in luck. TFRs, NEXRAD weather, SIGMETs, AIRMETs and much more, can be displayed on your iPad. That is, if you have an ADS-B receiver like a Stratus, Garmin GDL-39, etc., These receivers can turn your electronic chart into a living, constantly updated chart. Try that with a paper chart.

Are Your Paper Charts Updated?

Who doesn’t love chart revisions? Updates come every 56 days, with interim updates at the mid-point of that cycle. That’s not my idea of fun. When I flew with paper, I knew that chart updates were one of the worst realities of flying. At any time, an airline check pilot or the FAA, could check my charts. I was always up to date, but I know others that failed. Some guys hated it so much, that they paid company secretaries to update their Jeppesen charts.

What If You Need To Fly Somewhere and You don’t Have the Necessary Charts?

Good luck tracking them down. You might be able to order them, and have them shipped. Hopefully, they’ll arrive in time for your flight.

What’s Your Best Option?

While paper is still an option, it’s not nearly as practical and reliable as electronic charts, especially when you’re flying long distances.

Instant chart revisions, access to the entire US airspace system, and easy backup plans are just a few reasons why electronic charts win – hands down.

Yes, I carry some “just in case” paper charts, but I keep them in my flight bag in the back seat. I’ve been using an EFB for many years and so far, I’ve never needed the paper.