Given the constraints of the virus pandemic and the long, hot summer, it seems like the normal aviation meetings have come to a screeching halt. The realization that many aviation things really are coming to a halt was the cancelation of the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this year. This venue has been a yearly summer vacation event for many of us to meet up with friends from around the country, and perhaps for some, even from around the world. This event is always a good place to see what new products are being introduced and to find special prices on new avionics or other desired products. Hopefully, a safe immunization will be found soon, and it will be safe for the event to be held in 2021, and life can once again return to some form of long-term normalcy, whatever that may be.
Because of the pandemic coupled with the usual hot weather, not a lot seems to be happening, so this month’s report may be a bit short.
Be aware some towers may have had to adjust their hours of operation, operating on a reduced staff because some may have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Check airport NOTAMS before departure to determine if your arrival airport has adjusted their tower operating hours.
There have been some video conference and teleconference meetings happening, but I’m unaware of any airspace issues that have come up that requires action or special attention on our part.
For those of you that may be flying in the southeast corner of Arizona, and the southwestern corner of New Mexico, a block of special use airspace is being set aside for the Playas Temporary Military Operations from August 7-21, 2020. The USAF will use the airspace for Exercise RED FLAG-RESCUE 20-1. The purpose of this exercise is to allow combat air forces the opportunity to practice effective integration with ground forces, which is critical to the success of the real-world Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) mission. It is designed to provide Personnel Recovery training for both U.S. and allied foreign combat aircrews, para-rescue teams, survival specialists, intelligence personnel, air battle managers, and Joint Personnel Recovery Center personnel.
Aeronautical activities will consist of A-10, AV-8, F-15, F-16, F-18, MQ-9, HH-60G, MH-60S, HC-130J, and EC-130H aircraft conducting high speed combat maneuvering, non-standard formation flights, rescue escort, close air support, free-fall and static line parachute operations, and VRF aerial helicopter refueling missions. There will be no weapons employed, chaff/flares dispensed, or aerial refueling conducted.
Boundaries: Beginning at lat. 32°10’43”N., long. 108°42’48”W.; to lat. 32°09’20”N., long. 108°19’29”W.;
to lat. 31°49’31”N., long. 108°21’03”W.;
to lat. 31°50’49”N., long. 108°44’28”W.; to the point of beginning.
Altitudes: 300 feet AGL to, but not including, FL180.
Times of Use: August 7-21, 2020, by NOTAM. The controlling agency is FAA, Albuquerque ARTCC
Please note, we are still getting last minute notices of GPS interference testing being conducted that could impact Arizona. Remember, if you get an unexplained interruption of GPS signal lasting for a few minutes, notify the nearest FAA controlling facility and advise of the time and location of the interruption.
In April, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over objections from the General Aviation user groups, Department of Defense, and Department of Transportation, agreed to allow Ligado Networks to establish a new broadband wireless network on a thin slice of radio spectrum that is right next to the frequencies used by some of the most important providers of satellite navigation and aviation services. The fear, which the detractors say the FCC has recognized, is that the much more powerful terrestrial cell emissions will overpower the minuscule bits of energy beamed by the satellites, effectively jamming them.
Ligado tried to do the something similar eight years ago under the name LightSquared but failed to convince the FCC it was ok. In April, the commission ruled that Ligado had cleaned up the technology to the point where its cellphones and towers won’t create “harmful interference” for GPS receivers. There is much concern that the granting of the spectrum use to Ligado constitutes a dereliction of duty on the FCC’s part, and the decision imperils everything from drone operation to military and civilian aviation.
When flying cross country, as an extra level of safety, providing assistance with the avoidance of possible conflicting traffic, many of us will take advantage of FAA ATC Flight Following. Sometimes it may not work as we would like. Even with flight following, we have to stay alert, keep our eyes open, and take advantage of our ADS-B. The following example was sent to me as a reminder of what could happen.
On a recent flight returning home from Henderson in Las Vegas, I went through the normal procedures with departure clearance on the ground, and after take-off, transitioned to Las Vegas Approach Control, and after 10 minutes or so onto Los Angeles Center. Beautiful flying day with unlimited visibility, but I always like to stay on flight following when VFR for safety and having access to a helping hand if I need it. I’ve learned that this service is not a guarantee for traffic alerts even if you’re on a frequency with a squawk. Sometimes ATC is talking on another frequency, so it’s hard to estimate their workload. When I checked in with LA Center there was no response only periodic chatter with other traffic. I decided to wait until ATC acknowledged me knowing full well I was on his screen. About 5 minutes later ATC asked “Four Juliet Sierra, are you on frequency?” I acknowledged. Life was good, but I detected ATC was pretty busy. In another 10 minutes north of Laughlin my ADS-B alerted me to traffic at 12 o’clock 5 miles away opposite direction same altitude. Nothing from ATC about this. I’m flying at 9,500’ heading SE, but the oncoming traffic may be transitioning up or down. Obviously the traffic was not on an IFR plan or ATC would have vectored one of us. Usually ATC will tell the traffic climbing or descending to expedite through your altitude. Now I have my eyes peeled and sure enough within less than one minute I spot the traffic which is fortunately nudging slowly across the wind screen. The traffic passes off my right wing at my exact altitude and so close I can read the tail numbers. Still nothing from ATC. There you have it. Don’t count on ATC for separation when on VRF flight following. Use every instrument available to you. In this case the ADS-B came in very handy. Don’t always rely on flight following for traffic separation.
Aviation safety in this reporting period has again not been particularly good. We had just three accidents that had been reported in this reporting period, with one of them resulting in a fatality. This month’s report covers these three accidents, and three other accidents that have had their preliminary or factual reports released by the NTSB in this reporting period.
See my August Accident Summary for this month’s details, and please fly safe.
There are many airports around the state having construction projects in process or planned to start. Unfortunately, we don’t have the latest details on all these projects that may be coming up, so check for NOTAMs at your destination airport, and when you get there, always use extra caution. Always fly informed.
As you are aware, APA is still working with several airports around the state to update their Airport Master Plans, providing the pilot and aircraft owner’s perspective in the process. Kingman Municipal Airport (IGM), and Page Municipal Airport (PGA) have completed their planning meetings at this point, and the consultant will be submitting the final master plan updated reports later this year.
Chandler Municipal Airport (CHD), Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport (HII), Superior Municipal Airport (E81), Sedona Airport (SEZ), Flagstaff (FLG), Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP), and Grand Canyon Airport (GCN) are currently still in their Master Plan update process.
THINGS TO DO - PLACES TO FLY FOR BREAKFAST:
Because of the present virus pandemic, many of the airport restaurants have take-out service available. Call ahead.
- The fly in breakfast at Coolidge Municipal Airport (P08), normally on the first Saturday of the month, has stopped for the summer. The next Fly In Breakfast season is being scheduled to restart October 3, 2020.
- The Falcon Field EAA Warbirds Squadron fly in breakfast, and car show is normally on the third Saturday of the month. The breakfast has stopped for the summer and will resume in October.
- Please note, the Tonto National Forest is closed due to extreme fire conditions! This includes the Grapevine (88AZ) and Red Creek airstrips. Watch for re-opening dates and help us get the word out!
- The last Saturday of the month there was a fly in breakfast at Casa Grande Municipal Airport (CGZ). However, due to the Coronavirus crisis, the Foxtrot cafe was forced to close on July 18.
Check with the APA Getaway Flights program and online calendar for fun weekend places to fly.