Working With ATC, Aircraft Icing & Type Specific Training

by Michael Kaufman

I have received an email message from one of our readers with some interesting items I would like to share with you. Fellow pilot, Marty Coddington of Prior Lake, Minnesota, also opened the door for another discussion, which is of concern to all pilots, especially GA pilots this time of the year – icing! I also want to share with you some of my thoughts on getting “type-specific” flight training.

In the last issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, I shared an experience that fellow pilot, Galen Maternack of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, had while getting vectors for an approach, and his request of Air Traffic Control (ATC) for a lower altitude. Marty Coddington had some great comments to share on the subject as an air traffic controller and controller supervisor for 26 years, and an airline pilot and captain for 13 years.

MARTY: “Being placed in a position above the glideslope is often the result of ‘Letters of Agreement’ between ATC facilities. You and I might rename them ‘Letters of Bureaucracy.’ Your description that ‘he should ask the next controller’ is almost guaranteed to be the result of that.” Marty went on to cite an example of this, which he experienced as an airline pilot.

“I flew a leg from Milwaukee (MKE) to Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), sometimes a half-dozen times a week. Things always went well if we would be landing west, but if GRR was using the ILS to 8R, we were well above the GP before we got on to GRR Approach Control, despite our request for lower. After much hassling and investigation, it was learned that Muskegon (MKG) Approach Control owned the airspace below us, GRR had a shelf over the top of MKG’s grass, and neither Chicago Center nor GRR Approach Control wanted to pick up the phone and get approval for us to start down. It’s a disgusting fact of life, but that does not prohibit pilots from rocking the boat, nor does it demand that pilots put themselves in an unstable situation. YES, pilots must ‘show command authority when communicating with ATC.’ Failure to do so could kill you.”

One thing I failed to comment on in the previous article that Marty noticed was the term “stabilized approach.” It is so important that we practice proper approach procedures and get the proper training, so we can recognize situations that can lead to an unstable approach and sometimes an accident.

Marty mentions an airline accident that you may want to read about at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Express_Flight_2415. This accident involved:

1. An excessively steep and unstabilized ILS approach.

2. Improper air traffic control.

3. Airframe icing.

All are contributing factors in this accident and worth reading about.

“Airframe Icing” is the next topic, and I was inspired by the email I received from Marty.

“Icing is like a box of chocolates…You never know what you are going to get.”

This famous quote fits airframe icing perfectly.

We can read many books and articles, and draw conclusions and write about the subject of airframe icing, but to experience it in the real world as I have, really gets your attention.

From the preceding quote on icing, I will need to emphasize one thing – if you fly in visible moisture at a temperature below freezing, you will get ice. The question is, how much? It could be a half-inch in several minutes, or a few thousands of an inch in an hour, but there will be ice.

In my early days of flying, I had a great fear of both thunderstorms and icing. Today with weather in the cockpit and knowing where thunderstorms are and avoiding them by a large margin, it has lessened my fear of flying when thunderstorms are forecasted. Icing is different because we do not know precisely where the heavy ice will appear and how fast it will accumulate. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has an excellent video presentation on an icing story in the Midwest. It can be found at http://flash.aopa.org/asf/pilotstories/iceambush/iceambush.cfm.

I have a personal story to share with you that happened in the mid 1980s.

One winter day, I planned on flying a Piper Turbo Arrow on an instrument flight plan from Tri-County Regional Airport near Lone Rock, Wisconsin (KLNR) to Saint Paul Downtown Airport (KSTP) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Checking the weather, cloud bases were running 1500 to 2000 feet along the entire route of flight, and tops were reported between 5000 to 5500 feet. There were no icing reports available, but knowing there would be ice in the clouds, I filed for 8000 to be on top. I departed Lone Rock VFR and picked up my clearance once airborne and was cleared as filed, but with my initial climb to 4000.

Hmm…but I don’t want 4000 as ice will be there. How right I was. I was accumulating ice rapidly once level at 4000, so I called ATC and requested higher.

“Unable higher at this time due to traffic” was the reply from ATC. I was patient for several minutes, then called ATC again with my request stating I was in heavy icing. The reply was, I could expect higher in 10 miles.

This was not going to work as the ice was accumulating rapidly, so I exercised pilot-in-command authority stating I needed higher immediately due to icing and was leaving 4000 for 8000 at this time. I was acknowledged by ATC and cleared to 8000.

Too late, too much ice. I made it up to about 4500 feet, and the airplane was stalling and unable to climb higher. I now must descend to keep my airspeed. I called ATC to tell them I was descending and asked for an approach into La Crosse, Wisconsin (KLSE), due to icing and used the “E-word.” I was cleared for the approach and broke out of the cloud bases at about 1500 feet, kept cruise speed-plus until touchdown, and used the entire length of the 8700-foot runway.

When I taxied to the FBO and got out and looked at the airplane, I was amazed that it still flew. The lineman – never seeing that much ice on an airplane before – had the entire FBO staff come out to inspect the aircraft. I did not know if I should be proud of my accomplishment of keeping this aircraft in the air, or feel really stupid for my poor judgment in letting this happen.

I was lucky to have survived this incident, but there are many who have not. Icing cannot be covered by just a few words, but I would like to share a few observations I have on in-flight airframe ice.

If you are on top of a cloud deck and the temp is near, but a few degrees above freezing, the temperature can drop rapidly once in the tops of the clouds and there will be ice. If you are flying in bright sunshine above a cloud deck and the sun is casting the shadow of the airplane on the cloud tops, and it is encompassed with a rainbow colored halo, there will be ice. The more defined the colored halo, the higher the moisture content in the tops of the clouds and the more severe the icing.

I would like to share some words about “frost” in this issue before shifting to my last topic.

Most pilots do not take frost seriously, but I sure do. I lost a very close friend from Madison, Wisconsin on January 1, 2009, while he was taking off from Joliet Regional Airport (KJOT) in Illinois with an accumulation of frost on his homebuilt aircraft. He had landed earlier in the evening to get fuel, and while the aircraft was sitting on the ground for several hours on a clear, calm night, it accumulated frost on the airframe. Immediately after takeoff, the aircraft stalled, went inverted, crashed, then caught fire, killing both occupants.

In the early 1970s, I was flying a daily route carrying blood and pathology specimens for a laboratory in Wisconsin. One night I failed to put the Piper PA12 I was flying into the hangar and found it covered with frost in the morning. Being a non-believer at that time that frost severely inhibited aircraft performance, I cleaned the windshield and loaded my cargo – 5 lbs max – and myself weighing 120 lbs at that time into the aircraft and attempted to take off. I became airborne in a slightly longer take off roll, but could not climb without stalling. It was necessary to stay in ground effect and accelerate to cruise speed before being able to attain a 50-foot per minute climb without stalling. Sublimation dissipated the frost after 15 to 20 minutes of flight, and I became a firm believer that frost is a killer.

The FAA has within the last several years changed the frost removal rules effective on January 30, 2010. The previous statement was to polish the frost until smooth. The new statement is that no amount of frost is permissible! The FAA in this statement recommends the following:

1. Using wing covers to prevent frost accumulation on wings.

2. Waiting for frost to melt.

3. Storing aircraft in a heated hangar.

4. Deicing the wing surface.

A thought to remember when flying or thinking of flying on that beautiful cold, clear, calm night is, once you land and stop moving, the frost will accumulate so rapidly that you cannot remove it fast enough. As soon as you push the airplane from the hangar and it is exposed to the clear night air, frost will start to build, making that flight a challenge.

Type-Specific Training

In our modern society, we have found that all things are more complicated, and we are finding more and more specialists in most fields. Doctors and lawyers are now specializing in specific areas of their practice, and so are flight instructors.

Two decades ago, I was invited to join a team of Beechcraft flight and ground instructors in a type-specific training group, then known as the Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program (BPPP). Today, about 90% of that original group now known as Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training (BPT) is still giving specialized flight and ground training with some of the instructors celebrating three decades specializing in Beechcraft training. This has been the longest running program of its kind and the model that other type-specific groups have modeled their program after.

Cirrus owners have an organization – Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA) – that also offers owners type-specific flight training.

One of my close friends, Dennis Carew, is now leading a group of Piper Comanche instructors in a similar program called the Comanche Pilot Training Program (CPTP). Dennis and I worked together for many years in the Beechcraft training program before he founded the program for Piper Comanches.

After 20 years of involvement in a type-specific training program, and 8 years as the manager of flight operations, I highly recommend this type of training to all owners of high-performance and complex aircraft.

When I began instructing in the Beechcraft program, there was a small core group of instructors and the program would travel to different locations around the country (12 flight clinics a year), and hire a group of local CFIs. This saved transportation cost and kept program cost low, but the pilot would not get consistent, quality instruction.

One pilot customer noted on his evaluation sheet that his instructor commented, “This is really a cool airplane, but how do you latch the door?” This brought about the changes in the program that we have today with each instructor being an expert, then having gone through rigorous initial training and standards evaluation and is retrained on a biennial basis.

The benefits of having a real professional instructor in your aircraft far overshadow the additional amount charged for this service. I would like to share a short quote from one of the pilots – John Slavik of Newport Coast, California – that attended a Beechcraft Proficiency Training (BPT) program that was posted on the “Beechtalk” website: “Shopping for the cheapest flight training, makes as much sense as shopping for the cheapest surgeon. A cheap surgeon might shorten your personal longevity, but cheap flight training might take a few family, friends and neighbors with you.”

I stated several times in previous columns about the importance of knowing your aircraft and equipment well, and the importance of getting good instruction on that equipment. This is another reason for selecting specialized training and keeping current.

When pilots register for training, they are asked to list the equipment installed in their aircraft and any variations to the original certification. Knowing in advanced what aircraft will be coming, I – as program manager – invite instructors who know this equipment well. We do not try to learn the equipment as on-the-job training. There are so many different variations in avionics that no one instructor can claim to be an expert on all of them.

The Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training Program (BPT) does eight (8) clinics in the U.S. every year, and Dennis Carew informed me that the Comanche Pilot Training Program (CPTP) does six (6) clinics in the U.S. The Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association (COPA) also shows six (6) training sessions on their 2013 calendar. The Beechcraft group has held a program in Brazil and the Comanche group has held a program in France, so pilots in other countries recognize the value of type-specific training, as well. Both of these programs were well attended and will be repeated in the future.

I am sure there are other type-specific training groups offering flight clinics and which are working to keep pilots safe. Please contact me with the details of your group, and I will be happy to mention your program with details in my next column.

Below is contact information for pilots interested in registering for one of the type-specific training programs mentioned in this issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine:

Comanche Pilot Training Program (CPTP) provides Comanche-specific flight training for owners and operators of all Piper Comanche airplanes. This includes the entire Comanche family of aircraft: PA24-180, PA24-250, PA24-260, PA24-400 and the twin Comanches PA30, PA30T, and PA39CR.

Approximately six (6) flight clinics are offered throughout the U.S. and Europe each year. CPTP also offers two (2) annual Comanche-specific maintenance clinics. For additional information email Dennis R. Carew, Director/Program Manager at capt.carew@gmail.com or call 920-749-9558. ATW Wisconsin-based. George Richmond, Chief Flight Instructor/Maintenance Manager. Email I49fe@cox.net. Call 402-894-2917. FET Nebraska-based.

Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training (BPT) provides type-specific training for all Bonanza, Baron Duke and Travel Air aircraft. BPT currently provides eight (8) in-person flight clinics yearly throughout the U.S.

First-time pilots receive two days of classroom and a 4-hour flight in their own aircraft with a Beechcraft-specific flight instructor. Recurrent pilots receive one and a half days of classroom and 4 hours of flight training. Each aircraft receives a safety inspection with one of our maintenance inspectors prior to flight, and a one-on-one detailed safety inspection with the owner. Simulator training is available at some locations. For additional program information, email Michael J. “Mick” Kaufman, BPT Program Manager/Flight Operations at captmick@me.com, or call

920-267-6973 (Office) or

817-988-0174 (Cell). LNR Wisconsin-based.

To register for Bonanza/Baron Pilot Training, email Pam Bailey at registrar@pbpt.org or call

970-206-0182.

Cirrus Pilot Proficiency Program (CPPP) has scheduled seven (7)

in-person weekend events for Cirrus owners and their partners in 2013. The program focuses on Cirrus-specific knowledge and flying proficiency.

CPPP has some of the most experienced flight instructors who regularly teach in all models of Cirrus aircraft, flown for all kinds of missions. Participants that choose Flight plus Ground will receive

10 hours of ground instruction and 6 hours of flight instruction.

Email the Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association at cppp@cirruspilots.org or call 702-920-2108. The Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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