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Tuesday
Feb082011

Safe Landings - February 2011

It has been said that the only voluntary act in aviation is the decision to take-off.  Every action after take-off involves the skillful management of risk, the enjoyment of flight and a continuous stream of decisions that result in a safe landing.

In 1974, NASA created the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) to allow aviation professionals to share experiences in a frank, non-punitive manner. The ASRS structure allows pilots and other aviation professionals to file an anonymous report of an incident, error or occurrence that the contributor feels might be of value to others.  These reports are gathered, analyzed and data based by NASA experts and made available to all interested parties as a tool for creating pro-active aviation safety programs.  Additionally, NASA distributes an electronic publication, “CALLBACK,” which contains selected, de-identified, reports on a free subscription basis.  In Flight USA is proud to reprint selected reports, exerted from “CALLBACK,” for our readers to read, study, occasional laugh at and always, learn from.  Visit http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/ to learn how you can participate in the ASRS program.

Paperless Flying

The day of the paperless cockpit has dawned, and with that, ASRS is hearing more about incidents involving Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs), as these electronic display systems are known.

EFB displays may be portable (Class 1), attached to a cockpit mounting device (Class 2), or built into the cockpit (Class 3). There is no doubt EFB devices are powerful and versatile. With display screens often the size of a laptop computer or approach plate, EFBs can display a variety of aviation data, including electronic manuals and documents, performance and planning data, moving maps and GPS, logs and checklists, spreadsheets, real-time weather, TCAS, terrain avoidance, email, and even the internet.

But as pilots transition to the use of these electronic marvels, there are challenges to consider. In this ASRS report we take a look at a problem reported to ASRS.

It should be noted that because there is tremendous variability in EFB hardware, software and the way applications are integrated, the example presented, while representative of EFB issues, may not apply to all EFBs. For example, EFBs differ greatly in terms of physical size, location in the cockpit, and whether a one or two-person crew is operating it (them). These and other human factors can greatly influence general usability.

“A Real Gotcha”

A pilot of a light twin on a VFR test flight was using a low altitude airway chart stored in a panel-mounted GPS for orientation and airspace avoidance. The pilot had not looked at a paper sectional chart before departure.

• I decided to intercept the [last leg of route]…to save time. When I made the turn, I realized on both the moving map on my panel GPS as well as the commercial chart software that I had running on a tablet PC as a back-up moving map, that the leg would cut across the southern edge of ZZZ’s Class D airspace. In HDG mode on the autopilot, I proceeded to fly south of ZZZ’s airspace, which on both moving maps was indicated to be a 5 nm radius from the ZZZ airport from the surface to 3,200 MSL. Even though I was at 3,500 MSL, I didn’t want to get near ZZZ’s airspace. I passed approximately 8 nm south of ZZZ airport according to both moving maps.

As I got past ZZZ, for some odd reason I decided to look at my sectional to make sure I was clear of the Class D airspace, and to my horror, I found that what was depicted on both commercial databases was WRONG!

The Class D airspace for ZZZ on the current database is depicted as a 5 nm radius from the ZZZ airport with a top of 3,200 feet MSL. When I look at the current sectional, it is depicted as a 5 nm radius from the surface to 8,000 feet MSL, and a 10 nm ring from 2,000 to 8,000 feet MSL [actually the ZZZ TRSA]. I had unintentionally incurred upon this outer ring by 2 nm and 1,300 feet above the floor. This was the third flight I made in the past week along this similar route! Each time, I relied on the data from three commercial sources along with the airspace depicted in the panel GPS from a commercial chart maker to help me avoid airspace along my route!

 Can you imagine my horror as I write this? The lesson that I learned was that this kind of thing is a real “gotcha.” I relied on electronic charts instead of the good old sectional map and it burned me badly. I will never fly VFR without first referring to the sectional and continually referring to the sectional to make sure it is consistent with the electronic charts…..

Even though this pilot had taken the precaution of using a back-up EFB, both the GPS and EFB databases were inaccurate in that the TRSA was not depicted.



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