How to read an instrument approach chart (video tip)

Instrument approaches are designed to guide pilots to the runway in IFR conditions when the visibility and/or ceilings are low. In this video, we’ll review the different types of instrument approaches and the information you’ll find in each section of an instrument approach chart.

Check out Sporty’s 2023 Instrument Rating Course for everything you need to know to prepare for your instrument training and pass the Instrument knowledge test.

Wake turbulence avoidance

If you are like most students in the country, you are likely training at a smaller, pilot controlled (non-towered) airport. There are many benefits to training at these smaller airports such as reduced large aircraft traffic, but this benefit can also be a drawback when you consider the lack of wake turbulence avoidance practice.

When pilots think about wake turbulence avoidance procedures, they tend to focus on very large jet aircraft like a fully loaded 747 or large Airbus; however, when you are flying a Cessna 172 or Cherokee, “large” aircraft come in many sizes smaller than a 747.  Those larger aircraft still represent an issue to smaller training aircraft like the ones you are flying.  As a result, it is important to practice wake turbulence procedures anytime you are landing or taking off after a larger aircraft than what you’re flying.

Wake Turbulence Avoidance Procedures

While en route or flying near a large airplane in the terminal environment, avoid flying under the flight path as the wake vortices will sink below the flight path at a rate of 400-500 FPM:

Taking off behind a large airplane – rotate prior to the point at which the preceding aircraft rotated and make a turn into the wind if possible:

Landing behind a larger airplane – approach the runway above the preceding airplane’s path and touch down aft of the point where the other airplane’s wheels contacted the runway:

Landing behind a departing airplane –  touch down before the point where the other airplane lifted off:

Taking off or landing on an intersecting runway – plan to lift off or touchdown before the intersection of the departing plane rotates before the intersection:

Helicopter vortices should be avoided due to possible strong wake turbulence. Avoid flying closer than three diameters of a helicopter’s rotors when the helicopter is hovering.

If you are not following a larger aircraft, you can still practice these procedures to stay proficient when landing or taking off after another Cessna 172.  By staying proficient with wake turbulence avoidance, the next time you fly to a Class D or Class C airport and follow a Gulfstream or Airbus on takeoff/landing, you can feel confident that you will be taking the right steps to stay safe.


Learn more from Sporty’s 2023 Learn to Fly Course – Video Training and Test Prep:

Airspace operations at Class C and D airports (video tip)

Class C and D airspace will surround airports that can handle a moderate amount of air traffic. This means there are some important restrictions to remember any time you’re operating within – or underneath this airspace. In this week’s video tip, we review how Class C and D airspace works, what you need to do to fly legally in it and how to stay safe.

Learn more from Sporty’s 2023 Learn to Fly Course – Video Training and Test Prep

Nothing brings together the aviation community like an AOG event

“AOG (Aircraft on Ground)” is the term used in aviation to indicated the aircraft is grounded or unairworthy. While it could be for technical reasons, it’s more often referencing a mechanical issue of some variety. In my case, after taxiing on to the ramp at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (KBZN), the capable line service technician at Yellowstone Jetcenter discovered a screw in one of our nose tires.

In my 25+ years of flying, I had never experienced, or even heard of an aircraft tire picking up an errant screw.  After all, the aviation environment should be generally steril. But, believe it or not, this is the second screw this year. The first came just a few months ago at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport (KOPF) in Miami – in this case, a main tire.

Suffice it to say, a compromised tire is a grounding item and yes, given our modern supply chain issues, a new tire is not easy to procure. In both screw incidents, the tire remained inflated, but aircraft tires are subjected to extreme pressures and temperature during takeoffs and landings which can occur multiple times per day while supporting the full weight of our 40,000 lb. airplane. A much worse scenario would have been a high-speed blowout which would have resulted in controllability issues, damage to other aircraft parts or structure, fire, or even worse.

While fortunate to not have experienced the worst-case scenario, here we were thousands of miles from home base in an AOG situation with a scheduled departure looming. The team at Yellowstone Jetcenter were quick to offer assistance in changing our wheel and tire assembly, but also acknowledged the difficulty in obtaining replacement parts quickly.

Because of the complexity of aircraft wheel and tire design, many operators maintain spare parts on hand and even full wheel and tire assemblies that can be changed quickly. Our aircraft wheel design features an inboard half and an outboard half which do not function identically. The inboard wheel half accepts the rotors of aircraft brakes and also include thermal plugs to deflate the tire during excess temperatures before an explosion can occur. The outboard half of the wheel bolts to the inboard half to finish mounting the wheel onto the tire. The outboard wheel half also has a valve stem for inflation. Needless to say, building a wheel and tire assembly takes time and specialty equipment.

We actually maintain a spare assembly for the main wheel and tire, but not for our nose. After a call to maintenance at the home office, we were in luck. Surprisingly, in short order, maintenance was able to locate a full nose wheel and tire assembly that could be shipped to our location and the onsite maintenance could so the quick swap. Or so we thought.

After much anticipation, two days later our package arrived, but missing the actual tire. The supplier, either mistakenly or purposely, only sent wheel halves and no tire. Back to square one. And time to involve our greater aviation community to keep our on-time departure.

After several calls to friends in the community who operate identical aircraft, we were connected to an operator in Missoula, MT (only a few hours drive) who had a full assembly for our aircraft on its shelf – exactly what we needed. Thankfully, our mutual friend vouched for our ability to return a new wheel and tire assembly at some future point to the good Samaritan operator. And, after no more than a virtual handshake, a technician from Missoula, MT began a drive toward Bozeman and us, a drive toward Missoula for an exchange of our vital part in halfway in Anaconda, MT.

We were back to the FBO by the close of business with a new wheel and tire installed the same day and made our scheduled departure the following morning after a check of tire pressure and signed maintenance release. Nothing brings together the generosity and kindness of the aviation community quite like an AOG event away from home!

Avoiding adverse drug interactions

Impairment from medication, particularly over-the-counter (OTC) medication, has been cited in a number of accidents in general aviation (GA). In a 2011 study from the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute’s Toxicology Lab, drugs/medications were found in 570 pilots (42%) from 1,353 total fatal pilots tested. Of the pilots with positive drug results, 90%, were flying under Part 91.

Learn more in this recent “Fly Safe” topic from the FAASTeam.

Introduction to airplane flight instruments (video tip)

The flight deck of every airplane includes a collection of flight instruments that display important information, like airspeed, altitude, heading and turn information. In this video we’ll go over the standard 6 instruments you’ll find in a Cessna 172 and how to interpret their indications.

Learn more from Sporty’s 2023 Learn to Fly Course – Video Training and Test Prep