This is the first presentation of the Airspace module at Cedars on August 1, 2015.
- I did some hood time for the PPL and it was fun.
- To be a safer pilot overall.
- It’s part of the natural progression of knowledge in aviation.
- I want to learn as much as possible.
I added, “So you can see skies like this!” But I was very pleased that every response involved learning. Safety and fun follow from learning.
IFR airspace is the surveyed and charted volume where we know it is safe to fly (with the right equipment and training) without being able to see out the windows. In some of it the pilot is talking to a controller on the ground. In some – mostly up north – the pilot is on his own, talking only to other pilots. There are many varieties of controlled airspace: Classes A through E are all controlled. (ref. AIM RAC 2.8). This is the first hint that you might find a question on this topic in the INRAT. The hints *** will have asterisks like this *** and be in yellow.
We navigate and maintain separation form other airplanes in this IFR airspace both laterally (navigation) and vertically (altimetry). Determining safe altitudes begins with VNC charts and their Maximum Elevation Figures (MEF). On the Enroute Low Altitude IFR Charts the equivalent is the Area Minimum Altitude (AMA), although the latter is a safe altitude, the former must have 1000 feet added to it, or 2000 feet in mountainous areas. (ref. CAR 602.124 and AIM RAC 2.13).
The Enroute Low Altitude IFR Charts show airways: both Victor Airways (based on VORs and VORTACs) and T-Routes (based on RNAV/GPS navigation). Airways have associated altitudes on each segment:
- Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA)
- Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude (MOCA)
- Minimum Reception Altitude (MRA) if different from MEA
Note that all these altitudes are defined by pressure altimetry. We measure atmospheric pressure, sometimes correcting for non-standard atmosphere, and reference it to Mean Sea Level, which we used to think was a sphere.
GPS has put an end to it being that simple. We now know that even the surface of the oceans has peaks and valleys. (ref. www.esri.com). The article “GPS Versus Barometric Altitude: the Definitive Answer” goes into the question in more detail than you need to know. But you have asked the question, and it is a fascinating subject.
Still, though, the bottom line is that for IFR flying is that we maintain separation from aluminum and granite with barometric altimetry, which in itself is a whole subject, and *** one you have to know ***. Start with The RCAF Weather Manual Chapter 13, and From the Ground Up pp. 40-43 and pp. 127-131.
I have added this as a name for a subset of IFR airspace, one limited by weather, fuel, and aircraft and pilot limitations.
The analogy is driving a car on the 401 or an interstate highway. In the slow lane, you arrive behind an 18-wheeler. Your cone of vision – and your sight lines – are diminished. Frustrated, you look in the mirror. There is a line of cars in the passing lane. You have a choice: join the lineup in the passing lane, or stay where you are and wait it out.
The second option is often the best choice. You leave a gap behind the truck. Enough to open up your vision a bit, and to let someone from the passing lane slip in if he gets in trouble. Sure, you might lose a minute. But most of your time is spent with full access to the right shoulder, instead of being caught in a small box limited by the slowest of the passing cars.
Just so with safe airspace. You know you have a five-hour airplane, fuel-wise. You write down your takeoff time. You know that 4:15 after takeoff you must be on the ground at your alternate airport. (ref. AIM RAC 3.13.2)
Fuel is not the only limitation. You, the pilot, may be getting tired. The weather may be changing in a way that was not forecast. You don’t want to get caught between layers of icing or in a cul de sac between thunderstorms. You always want to have plans A through D or E. If you feel that your options are narrowing, it is time to do something about it. Better still, don’t get hemmed in (like in that line of passing cars) in the first place.
- Pass the INRAT
- Get your instrument training (and a recommendation)
- Pass the Flight Test
There is a substantial amount of material to be absorbed. The other goal of this course is to make that easier for you by showing how that material is related and why it is important. Then learning stuff is easier because you have hooks to hang things on.
Here is another difficulty: we are in changing times.
When I was flying for the airline and the weather was bad at a major hub, we would tune in the ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service, ref. AIM RAC 1.3) and hear, “due to rapidly changing conditions, weather will be issued by Approach Control.” We knew the weather was low and we would prepare for a challenge.
I last wrote the INRAT in 2010. At that time there were 7 LPV approaches in Canada. (Think of an LPV as the new ILS. We’ll get to that later.) Now LPVs are everywhere. The Back Course is history in Canada. VOR and ADF approaches will disappear in 2019.
That’s change. To learn more, Google NavCanada ANS.
This is page 6 of the document you will find. And to see more of what is coming down the pipe, Google WestJet RNP. The article is a short read, and well worth the time. I found it when I was researching what approaches were available for Halifax Runway 05, after the Air Canada 624 incident.
You can’t fly IFR in controlled airspace without a clearance. Why? Because, as we will see, the pilot and controller are in partnership to maintain your separation from other aircraft. For that, there has to be communication, and the controller has to know where you’re going. That is achieved (we hope) by giving you, the pilot, a clearance. It contains where you are going and how, and at what altitude. It includes what to expect, to cover the possibility of loss of communication. And it gives you a discrete code to put in the transponder, so that you will be uniquely identified on the controller’s radar.
CRAFT is a way to remember the standard order. (Can’t Remember A F***ing Thing. ref. AIM RAC 1.7)
A clearance at a busy airport might contain a Standard Instrument Departure (SID). At an uncontrolled airport you might get a clearance via your cell phone, and it would probably contain a valid time, e.g.: “Void if not off by 1427Z”.
Should we go direct? Maybe. But that’s not what I planned. Why not?
Oh, oh. Class F airspace! CYA524(S)! This is the Hawkesbury Glider Area. If you look at AIM RAC 2.8.5, you’ll see that A is for Advisory and (S) is for Soaring. You will also see that Air Traffic Control (ATC) will not clear an IFR aircraft through a CYA. That’s why I filed via SAVEX, the RNAV waypoint at the end of the magenta (active route segment) line. Sometimes the controller will get it and clear me as filed. Sometimes he won’t and he’ll say, “Turn left heading 190, vectors to VERTI.” Oh, well.
The Hawkesbury Glider Area is pretty bossy. It seizes a substantial and strategic chunk of airspace for way more time than it actually uses. To be fair, it seems the glider people would rather it be activated by NOTAM. Ask Nav Canada.
What is that gear wheel that defines 528’s southeast edge?
Right! The Ottawa TCA. *** What’s a TCA? *** (ref. AIM RAC 2.7.6)Here is a section of Enroute Low Altitude Chart 6 southwest of Ottawa. Find the airways mentioned in the slide. Notice that good old V300 is kind of lonely. The Victor airways are based on VHF (and UHF) ground stations. They are being replaced by T Routes, which are based on imaginary points in space defined (mostly) by GPS.
Find the Minimum Enroute Altitude and the Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude for some segments of these airways. (Symbols and definitions can be found on the Legend flap of the chart.) As we will see, finding these altitudes quickly is one advantage of flying on airways.
But let’s say I decide to ask for SAVEX (the end of the magenta line) direct to destination, CYPQ. What altitude would I have to fly? Well, looking around quickly, I come up with the Area Mininum Altitude for the Lat/Long square we are in: 7500. Westbound and IFR, I would have to climb to 8000 feet.
Looking at CAR 602.124, Minimum Altitudes to Ensure Obstacle Clearance, we see first that the Pilot In Command is responsible (except when being radar vectored by an Air Traffic Control Unit) for maintaining a safe altitude. The AMA we just found (7500 feet) qualifies. But reading further, into 602.124 (2), we find we can reduce our safe radius to 5NM around our estimated position. Could we use WEF (from the VNC Chart) +1000 feet? Yes. In Newfoundland or the Rockies? No. Why not? ref. AIM RAC 2.13
Speaking of the Rockies, here we are at the south end of the range, flying between Fort Union (Las Vegas, NM) and Santa Fe. The range is known in this area as the Sangre de Christo. We can see that the WEF (or USA equivalent) is 13,500 feet. It is a mountainous area, so we have to add 2000 feet – 15,500 feet, rounded up to our westbound IFR altitude: 16,000 feet. Can your airplane do it today? Can you? It is definitely oxygen territory.
Why is she happy? Because staying on the airway in this mountainous area is politeness on our part. It is acknowledgement of our responsibility as Pilot in Command. Requesting direct somewhere, or even a deviation for weather, effectively puts us on radar vectors, passing the responsibility for our obstacle clearance to the controller. She has more work to do, because we are passing the buck. And would we even want to deviate north of track? Heck no. How do we know? Because, as PIC, we have studied the route. We know that the Santa Fe ski area, with granite peaks up to 11,500 feet, is very close.
Just before we leave this slide, notice the latency of the NexRad information: eight minutes in this example.
I know you all have studied and memorized much of CAR 602.19 – Right of Way – General. Perhaps you have even made up some new provisions, like how an aircraft in the circuit has the right of way. Now is a good time to read and consider the first section of CAR 602.19, beginning Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, where is says: right of way or no, the PIC must give way to avoid a collision.
Here is the equivalent in the USA, FAR 91.113(b): When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under IFR or VFR, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft.
This slide is part of CAR 421.13. You can see that you have to have proof you have completed at least 20 hours of instrument flight or ground (simulator) time.
The other good news is that there are only three major sources for the people who write the test: the AIM, the CAP Gen, and the Royal Canadian Air Force Weather Manual (B-GA-007-001/PT-D01). These are listed on the Instrument Flying Seminars page on the site. If you check that page you will see I recommend a few additional publications and provide links to other study material.
I last took the INRAT in 2010. As I mentioned above I will *** include yellow asterisks *** when mentioning subjects that are question material for the INRAT. I also include a few slides of my notes from the course I took 2010 to prepare for the INRAT. Notice, on the above slide: you will have to know what Group 1, 2, and 3 are.
ATIS and tower winds are magnetic. All other winds are true.
Look up your NOTAMS for the flight at AWWS. You can check the box to the left of each NOTAM you want to print.
IFR brings a new world: the pilot and controller are jointly responsible for the safety of the flight. You are a team. As with any team, you must know and carry out your responsibilities and respect your teammates. Your responsibilities can change depending on the level of control in force at the time.
Most of the time, you will be in communication with the controller and in radar contact, which means that you will be navigating in accordance with a clearance, as we discussed earlier.
One *** subject you will have to know well *** is Communication Failure Procedures. ref. AIM RAC 6.3.2
Notice that it is always your responsibility to fly the airplane. Also, don’t get drawn in to the fiction that the controller tells you what to do. Yes, he does, because his work is to keep you separated from other aircraft. But you are responsible for the command decisions. Controllers formally remain open to that by asking, “What are your intentions?” And you always have the right to refuse a clearance you can’t comply with. The buck stops with you. But since you are a team and you are relying on the controller for a lot of help, a little politeness can go a long way.
We will cover Flight Planning in two later seminars. For today we’ll just pretend we are airborne, flying the Lachute to Peterborough flight. We have an iPad running ForeFlight, receiving both GPS position and Sirius XM weather.
We call up the CYPQ METAR. South wind. Scattered cloud. No sweat. But what about that PRESFR? That’s Pressure falling rapidly. Rapid change in the weather, of any kind, is something that should get our attention.
But for the moment, we’ll call up the approach we want to do, the RNAV (GNSS) Rwy 27. The wind is south now, but it is varying from 170-250, so runway 27 is the call. Also, I have a feeling about those intensifying cells to our north . . .
I zoom in on the approach vertical profile. I find our MDA, 1140, and set it in the Aspen PFD. I look at the crossing altitudes at each waypoint. Since VIXAG is the FAWP (Final Approach WayPoint, formerly known as the FAF, or Final Approach Fix), I know that my Garmin GTN650 will give me LNAV+V when I pass URLIM and VIXAG becomes the TO waypoint. (Or, to put it another way, URLIM-VIXAG becomes the active (magenta) leg.)
ATC has already cleared us to 3000 feet. I can see that’s OK because we are within 25 miles of VIXAG, and the quadrantal MSA is 2900 feet. Where am I going to intercept the advisory glideslope? Well, under URLIM I see 3860. That is the height of the glideslope at URLIM. So my plan is to pass URLIM at 3000 (or a little higher, no need to get any lower than 3800), slowing to gear speed. I’ll expect the glideslope to be active after URLIM and to come down sometime before VIXAG. At that point I’ll put the gear down and descend on the (advisory) glideslope.
Back to the VNC chart. 7 minutes old, but we’re inside URLIM and I can see the runway. I am prepared for outflow from those cells, and/or a wind shift with the cold front. That will mean a gusty, right crosswind on short final.
This is the most important skill in IFR flying. (Or in any flying, for that matter.)
The following slides are taken from the American Bonanza Society Magazine, and describe an unfortunate crash where the pilot got overloaded and lost situational awareness. He borrowed a Baron for this flight instead of taking his Bonanza, because he was convinced that “a twin is safer in IFR.”