Instrument Training Experience 

GAARMS Report: March 2018  

fred-gibbsFred Gibbs 

(Your guy in Flagstaff)


The seventh annual APA General Aviation Accident Reduction and Mitigation Symposium – GAARMS VII – will be held across the state this year: Phoenix, Prescott, Yuma, Tucson

March 31st—The safety program will be held at the AeroGuard Flight Training Center (the old TRANSPAC facility), 530 W Deer Valley Rd, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85027, courtesy of Matt Lindberg, Safety Manager at AeroGuard. The safety program will start at 0900 and finish up by noon. Watch for the FAASAFETY.GOV notice in early March for registration (although not required) and WINGS credit.

This year we plan to present the GAARMS VII program at 3 other locations: YUMA on March 24th, PRESCOTT on April 7th and at Tucson-Ryan on April 14th. The announcement will come out through the FAASAFETY.GOV notice process for registering. Stay tuned…




2018 was off to a good start, with NO fatal accidents reported in January. Unfortunately, we were not so fortunate in February.

It's still not clear what caused the tour helicopter, an EC130 built by Airbus, to crash with 5 fatalities and 2 critically injured. The preliminary report offers no explanation for the cause of the crash and does not speculate on possible causes. The helicopter dipped into the Grand Canyon, heading for a designated landing area below the rim. It approached on a flight path that appeared standard for the area's countless tourist flights. As it approached the landing pad, it drifted aft, leveled out, then spun 360 degrees twice and hit the ground. The fire that began after impact consumed most of the wreckage.






Courtesy of a good friend of mine, here is a picture of his outstanding home-made flight simulator, comfy chair and beer holder!! Say What?? Anyway, before he takes off in his Bonanza for parts unknown, he practices and familiarizes himself with the airport and the approaches. Now that is a culture of safety I wish everyone had…




The other day I was out flying with a former student of mine who is now instrument rated and a very astute, cautious and conscientious pilot, who often calls me to go flying for continued instruction and experience. This particular day we filed an IFR flight plan out of Flagstaff (KFLG) up to the Grand Canyon airport (KGCN). He filed KFLG direct to KACEE intersection direct to BISOP intersection direct to KGCN with the expectation (and anticipation) of flying the ILS approach to runway 3 at KGCN. He had the flight plan already loaded into his Garmin 530 when we called for clearance. Well, ATC threw him a curve ball – his clearance was “cleared to the KGCN airport via the Flagstaff One departure to the OATES intersection then direct KACEE intersection then as filed, climb and maintain 11 thousand, expect filed altitude 5 minutes after departure, contact Phoenix approach on 126.375 and squawk 4132.” Obviously, that was NOT what he had filed, so he had to re-program the 530, insert the Flagstaff One departure and then determine how to actually fly that departure. He just wanted to fly KFLG direct to OATES. He rationalized that that was close enough to the departure procedure, but I made him fly the procedure as published, NOT just close enough! That, plus now having to fly the wrong direction for where he wanted to go, started the ball rolling. Unfortunately, it was downhill. A teaching and learning moment ensued. 

Ok, now having sorted that out, and starting the first of many stressors to follow, we departed, fortunately, into VFR conditions. Out of 8000 feet (which at Flagstaff is only 1000AGL), tower had not yet turned us over to approach control. That started the second stressor. I suggested to him that maybe we should take charge and initiate that action by simply asking tower if they want us to go over to approach control now. We did not hear the “OOPS” before the tower keyed the mic and told us to go over to Approach and “have a nice flight.” We said “Thanks, going over to approach, see you later,” and switched frequencies.


And this started the third stressor – NO RESPONSE from approach control. I explained approach was probably busy and to just wait a minute and call again. We did, and NO RESPONSE AGAIN! Three more tries and still NO RESPONSES! Now my friend was rattled – “Oh, what to do?” Another teaching and learning moment ensued. I suggested he return to the tower frequency and advise them “No joy with approach on 126.375”. The tower said “stand by”, and in about 30 seconds they advised “try again, approach had a problem, but it’s now fixed.” Back to 126.375 we go, and our call to them is answered immediately along with an apology. Problem solved! And to be nice to us, they cleared us present position direct to the KACEE intersection. Oh no, ATC being nice to us created another programming change for the 530!! It was becoming very apparent to my friend that actually knowing how to operate the Garmin 530 is really, really important when getting bounced around by ATC. (I called it a normal day flying IFR, with ATC trying to expedite our flight.) The rest of the flight was uneventful, until LA center refused our request to fly the ILS to runway 3 because the active runway was 21 and that constituted opposing operations. However, after talking to, and coordinating with, Canyon Tower, LA center did approve our approach and turned us over to tower, who again cleared us for the approach. However, we were told to break off the approach at 5 miles and circle east for landing on 21, which was what we wanted to do anyway – practice circle-to-land at minimums (600AGL). Then, of course, came another stressor – we were circling to land at 600 AGL (circle-to-land minimums) when the tower advised “helicopter traffic 12 to 1 o’clock, 300 feet AGL southbound.” YUP, there he was, right where the helicopter traffic at the canyon airport is supposed to be, but my friend thought that was way too close.



IMPORTANT NOTE TO ANYONE FLYING INTO GRAND CANYON AIRPORT: When you fly into the Grand Canyon airport, tower will always keep you above 600 feet AGL until turning final because of the extensive Grand Canyon helicopter tour operations at and below 300 feet AGL.)

OK, mission accomplished; we were safely on the ground at the Grand Canyon airport. And now another stressor – we were, or at least I was, running late now for my next student back at Flagstaff, and that caused my friend more stress. We called for clearance back to Flagstaff, and WHAMMO – another huge stressor! (Notice how they just kept coming!) This was a totally alien routing from what he had filed and expected. “You are cleared to the Flagstaff airport via the Parks One departure Peach Springs direct to the FRISY intersection direct Flagstaff, climb and maintain 11 thousand, LA Center 124.85 and squawk 5503.” “What the heck?” my friend said, “That will add almost another hour onto our flight and get you back way late.” “Well maybe” I said, but to relieve that stressor, I called back to my office to advise them I would be late and to let the student know. And that was that – pressure gone. Now we had to deal with the new stressor – flying a new, strange departure procedure, one he had not planned for or ever seen before, and like the Flagstaff departure, taking him way out of the way and direction that he had planned.


AHA! Another teaching and learning moment was upon us. We had a 10-minute discussion on departure procedures, the crazy routings, the lost comm procedures associated with departing an airport, the required route to fly if the lost comm situation occurs, and how ATC will almost always give us expeditious routing once communications and radar contact are established – which is exactly what happened. Once airborne and in contact with LA Center, they cleared us back to Flag on the same route we came up on.

But now my friend introduced a self-inflicted stressor. OMG! While attempting to invert (reverse) the original flight plan to Grand Canyon that had all the intersections we needed, he accidently DELETED the flight plan! POW! That did it! That was the straw that broke the camel’s back – he lost it. He was now task over-saturated, and he knew it. It was now time for me to step in, to change roles from friendly flight instructor/safety pilot to Pilot-in Command, but I chose to just become his co-pilot, Number 2, helping him manage the airplane. I suggested he just fly the airplane while I re-program the GPS unit and do the talking to ATC. I completed those tasks for him, made sure he was up to speed with the inputs and changes, and he was back in the game. At that point, I relinquished and he re-assumed PIC responsibilities. WHEW! Another great learning experience – when the workload gets too great, delegate responsibilities if able, split the workload, prioritize tasks, and work through them one at a time.


Before he could sit back, relax, and savor the learning experience, a new (OMG, another?) external stressor entered the scenario. Whoa, we were now solid IMC, in the clouds, and the engine sounded rough. I called his attention to the outside air temperature. It was minus 10 and we were in the clouds (visible moisture) and I suggested it might be a good idea to turn on pitot heat, which he did immediately. Then I directed his attention to the carburetor inlet air temperature gauge. It was solidly in the red zone, so I suggested maybe he should pull on carburetor heat, which he did immediately. Then I pointed out that his mixture was still full rich from takeoff. During the flurry of activity going on, he had forgotten to adjust it when he set the power at altitude. I directed his attention to the fuel flow and EGTs. “Oh crap,” he said, as he started leaning the mixture, which immediately smoothed out the engine. A follow-up look at the carburetor inlet air temperature confirmed the carb heat resolved that problem. A quick look outside confirmed no structural icing, and after all that, we popped out of the clouds into the clear the rest of the way home to Flagstaff. WHEW, another series of learning experiences stored in his memory bank. I did inject a reminder to turn off the pitot heat and the carb heat. JEEZ, seems like there is always something else to remember! Then ATC made life easy for us. They cleared us direct to the Flagstaff airport and cleared us for a visual approach to runway 21, told us to contact the tower on 134.55 and closed out with “Y’all have a nice day.” The rest of the flight was totally uneventful.


Now that was a very, very productive 2 and 1/2 hour instrument training flight, with more “gotchas” than a newly minted instrument rated private pilot wants or needs. But it was a very real world instrument flight. Single pilot instrument flying is not for the faint of heart nor the “Nervous Nelly.” It is multi-tasking in all its glory, and it requires you to master the systems in the airplane, especially the automation. A lack of understanding of the automation can lead you right down the primrose path to task saturation. Instrument flying also requires you to pay attention to many other things besides just the flight instruments, such as engine gauges, OAT, carb inlet temperatures, the outside environment, escape routes, plan C, etc. Having ATC as a partner during your flight is much preferred versus thinking that ATC is an adversary trying to complicate your life or your flight. ATC has procedures that work in your favor almost all the time. They want to get you to your destination ASAP, keep you as safe as possible within their rules, and get you off their scope ASAP so they do not have to work so hard. (I am NOT bad-mouthing ATC here at all). Hey, we equip our airplanes with all kinds of fancy equipment and we file direct routes to accomplish the same thing (to get ‘er done!) so we don’t have to work hard either! But we do need to work smart...

In the end, this was a flight – and experience – that my friend will long remember. It will make him a much better pilot. Every flight should be a learning experience.

There are a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months all around the state, so go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV and click on “Seminars” and check them out. You might find one that interests you. Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting, like the BasicMed program or our “Winter Wonderland” snow season special, simply contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me at 410-206-3753. The Arizona Pilots Association provides these safety programs at no charge. We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like.

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