Weather Getting Worse?

Just occasionally, the forecast, or the pilot’s interpretation of it, proves optimistic. We may then be presented with a dilemma when in-flight weather deterioration approaches safe limits. Of course, turning along a clearer route is the preferred option, and we should have turned back into the better weather behind us as soon as we noticed the deterioration starting. However, distractions and terrain may mean we notice the deterioration late, and the weather may be closing in behind us as well. Rather than continue into worsening weather, we need to make a positive decision to make a landing in a field before that becomes impossible. Aeroplane pilots need to make that decision early enough to select and check a suitable field then fly a circuit and land; helicopter pilots are in the fortunate situation of being able to land almost anywhere with the minimum of preparation, although we do still need to be able to control the aircraft visually. Unfortunately, human beings are not perfect. Despite all good advice, we might have been pushing our luck by flying over terrain which does not provide a safe landing area. Even over terrain which is suitable for landing, a little hesitation may take the safe areas out of our reach. Having flown ourselves into an extremely hazardous situation, and with no safe options remaining, we have little time to make a risk assessment and judge which of the available unsafe options is the least dangerous. Rather than hit the ground, a climb under control through a gap may be the relatively safer option if it can bring us into clear air above cloud. It is not unknown for pilots to climb above some low cloud in the belief that was just a patch and in the expectation that a clear area is in front of them. Once, hopefully, above cloud we are faced with the problem of returning to the surface again safely. While PPL holders are expected to be able to use radio-navigation aids, the stress of recent events is almost certainly going to affect our flying. Rather than run out of fuel searching in vain for a hole through which to descend, if you have not already done so, call for help on 121.5 MHz as soon as you have the spare capacity. Source: GASIL...
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Hot-Air Balloon Awareness

The CAA have published Information Notice 2012/093 which intends to raise awareness of hot-air balloon operations. Included in the notice is information on their size, common locations and timings of flights as well as methods of...
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Communications Failure?

Incidents continue to occur of pilots being reportedly unable to make R/T contact with an Air Traffic Service Unit when they make their initial call after engine start, or after changing frequency. Sometimes, the pilot has believed incorrectly that a lack of response means that the ATSU is closed. The reason for the lack of response may be that the selected frequency is incorrect. Pilots have misread published information, and on occasion have omitted to check published updates in NOTAMs and chart updates on the AIS web site www.ais.org.uk. Others have just made an error when selecting, and transmitting on ‘box2’ when the correct frequency is set only on ‘box1’ has also been known. However, another possibility, especially when a pilot is making the initial call on a radio which has not been successfully used during recent communications on other frequencies, is a volume control set too low. Most pilots’ headsets have volume controls. There is a variety of VHF radio selectors available for GA use, and many of these are integrated into communications integration devices which have their own volume and squelch controls. There are many possibilities for a volume or squelch selector being turned too far and the pilot unable to hear. Setting up the radios correctly is an important part of pre-flight preparation, and should avoid such a situation. Most instructors recommend setting all volume controls to the 1 o’clock position until established communications allow refinement. However, mistakes can easily be made, especially where communications pass through more than one communications device, so when we hear nothing after our initial call on a frequency we should seek out possible causes before assuming we can continue safely. If we can hear other transmissions, it could be our transmitter at fault, but if we hear nothing we should check the frequency set, then check all volume controls. If all is correctly set, after another attempt at an initial call we also ought to consider the possibility that our transmitter is stuck ON, and try listening on another frequency. These checks take time which we should be prepared to take. Initiate calls early, and remain in a safe place until the problem is resolved, or if it cannot be resolved, follow the communications failure procedure as published for the airspace or aerodrome, making blind calls in the correct places. CAA Safety Notice 2012/002 reminds us of where to finds...
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New Listening Squawks

Information below correct at time of publishing. For the latest information on listening squawks please visit www.flyontrack.co.uk New Codes For Leeds Bradford & East Midlands Frequency Monitoring Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) codes (often referred to as ‘listening out’ squawks) are soon to be allocated for use in the vicinity of Leeds Bradford and East Midlands airports, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced. The codes will become effective from 28 May 2012 for Leeds Bradford, and 30 June 2012 for East Midlands.  The two new codes will take the total number of frequency monitoring codes across the UK to nine. The code for Leeds Bradford will be 2677 and the radio frequency to monitor is 133.125 MHz, while for East Midlands the code will be 4572 and the radio frequency 134.175 MHz.  An Information Notice (2012/082) with more details has been published by the CAA. How To Use Listening Squawks Frequency monitoring codes have played a vital role in reducing infringements of controlled airspace (CAS) by enabling air traffic controllers to alert pilots if their aircraft appears to be going to infringe CAS. Any aircraft fitted with a Mode A/C or Mode S SSR transponder can use these codes. The listening squawks are designed to enable pilots flying near the boundary of controlled airspace, who are not in two-way communication with an ATSU, to listen out on the controlling frequency of the airspace. By entering the relevant four-digit SSR code into the transponder and listening to the published radio frequency, a pilot signifies to air traffic control that he/she is actively monitoring radio transmissions. If it looks likely an aircraft will infringe controlled airspace, ATC know that they can contact the pilot on the relevant frequency and pass further information as appropriate to the pilot. The Current List Belfast Aldergrove / 7045 / 128.500 MHz Leeds Bradford / 2672 / 133.125 MHz Doncaster Sheffield / 6170 / 126.225 MHz Manchester / 7366 / 118.575 MHz East Midlands / 4572 / 134.175 MHz Birmingham / 0010 / 118.050 MHz Luton & Stansted / 0013 / 129.550 MHz (LTN) & 120.635 MHz (STD) Gatwick & London City / 0012 / 126.825 MHz (LGW) & 132.700 MHz (LCY) Southampton & Bournemouth / 0011 / 120.225 MHz (SOU) & 119.475 MHz (BOH) Olympic Squawk For Farnborough The CAA also announced that a code is being introduced for use by Farnborough Airport for the duration of the London 2012 Olympics.  From...
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Laser Attacks On The Rise

With Liverpool John Lennon airport alone reporting 93 incidents in the last 12 months, the shining of lasers into the flight decks of aircraft on final approach is alarmingly on the increase. Schemes have been redoubled in an attempt to catch the offenders which have been warned by the police to expect the full force of the law as a result of endangering passengers lives. With the offence being illegal in the UK since 2010, there have already been several successful prosecutions - for which the maximum possible sentence is 5 years imprisonment. One of the main contributory factors to the increase is the low cost and wide availability of the lasers, available from as little £8 and easily obtainable in shops or online. A spokesman from BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association) said: "Pilots can easily be temporarily blinded by laser attacks. Being blinded or dazzled by these incredibly bright lasers puts everyone's life on board that aircraft at risk. People who do this maliciously are playing Russian roulette with people's lives. The police are taking this matter more and more seriously, but we would like to see custodial sentences being the norm. A longer term way of dealing with this problem is by having stronger regulation over the sale, import and licensing of strong laser devices which BALPA supports." If subject to a laser attack, flight crews are to report the incident to ATC and also file an MOR (Mandatory Occurrence Report) after flight. The CAA has also released a self-assessment tool for flight crew to determine the likelihood of having sustained eye damage following a laser attack. The Aviation Laser Exposure Self-Assessment (ALESA) card is available online from the...
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Too Rich?

The AAIB’s Bulletin 10 of 2011 includes a report of an accident to a EV-97 Eurostar. It seems the pilot had difficulty starting the engine, and was experiencing canopy misting which was undoubtedly a distraction. Having used the choke during the start procedure, he apparently decided he had over-fuelled the engine so, to weaken the mixture for a further attempt, he selected the fuel cock OFF. When he did line up for takeoff, the engine failed at about 10 feet, and he was unable to prevent the aircraft over-running the strip end and striking obstacles. GASIL (General Aviation Safety Information Leaflets) articles in the past have highlighted the fact that the fuel systems in many aircraft will provide enough fuel for a short taxi and take-off, even if the fuel cock is selected OFF. However, the extra fuel required at full power rapidly empties the lines, and the engine is likely to stop at a critical phase of flight. Whatever the distractions or hurry, pre-take-off vital actions are intended to identify and resolve any previous incorrect selections. They must be carried out carefully, and with the expectation that we shall find something wrong during them. *The following article has been taken from GASIL Issue 2 of 2012. Available for download from...
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