By Fred Gibbs


Just to be clear, the opinions and statements made within my articles are strictly mine and may not necessarily reflect any policy or position of the Arizona Pilots Association.


Please, keep safety on your mind at all times, and remember, “Safety is no accident.” Weather briefings are essential to that safety mantra. You have heard me say many times that the short, easy flight from the valley up to northern Arizona, and particularly into Flag, can catch you by surprise. The weather can be significantly different in that 100-mile, 45-minute flight. The wind conditions up here can be, um, challenging, including velocities, cross winds, and Low-Level Wind Shear (LLWS) on the approach.

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If you plan to come up to Flagstaff, please, please check NOTAMs! The tower is currently suffering through a staffing shortage, that often times during the day, closes down tower operations for short durations (usually 30 or so minutes) turning us into a non-towered, non-radar, class G airspace operation. This requires you to pay very close attention to traffic pattern operations, possible practice instrument approaches, helicopter operations and, of course, the commuter jet traffic. For those short periods of non-towered airport operations, extra special vigilance is required! More radio and self-announcements may be, and should be, required to keep everyone informed of where you are and what your intentions are, but good radio technique and phraseology is also required so as to NOT be confusing or tying up radio time for other aircraft.

First tidbit – Flight Following is NOT available from Flagstaff tower. They DO NOT have radar. Before, during, or after departure, tower will suggest you go over to Phoenix Approach on 126.375 and request Flight Following from them. They own the airspace around and above the Flagstaff class D (Delta) airspace surface to 15,000.

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Another tidbit – As mentioned above, the Flagstaff area is a non-radar environment, especially below 9000 feet (for a variety of reasons not covered here), so position reporting is very important when checking in with the tower. We strongly recommend you contact the tower at least 10 miles out with your position reference the airport, i.e., “10 miles south,” and to include your altitude, i.e., “at 9,500 feet.” For your edification, the tower does not need your altitude, but other aircraft coming to, or leaving from, Flagstaff will certainly appreciate it. If you don’t give the tower all that information on your initial call, it most likely will necessitate ANOTHER radio call from the tower to get that information, further tying up the frequency. On that initial call, a precise position report can alleviate a lot of extraneous radio chatter and significantly improve services at the airport. An initial call to the tower saying, “N12345 is with you on the visual,” will generate at least two more radio calls from the tower that you will need to respond to, certainly tying up the frequency much longer than one precise initial call!

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Also, with the FAA now putting very high emphasis on runway incursions because of the many incursions and near misses that have occurred over the past couple of months, you may see more delayed departure (takeoff) clearances. Towers will be watching very closely the spacing issue for arrivals, and here at Flag, for example, once the commuter jet reports their 5-mile final position report, you will most likely have to wait until they land, roll to the end of the runway, and are clear of the runway before getting your ”cleared for takeoff” clearance. That is just the way it is…. And you will NEVER get a “Taxi into position and hold” or a “Line up and wait” clearance here at Flagstaff, ever!

On a related subject, when in the pattern to land here at Flag, I would suggest you tell the tower early (like on your downwind call) that you are going into Wiseman Aviation, so the tower knows you need to go way down the runway to turn off, usually at Alpha 6 (or Alpha 7 if you request that). The tower almost always will let you, or tell you to, do that. Why? Well, with only a single parallel taxiway (taxiway Alpha), if you just decide to turn off at Alpha 4 with the intention of taxiing the rest of the way to Wiseman on taxiway Alpha, you may well end up nose to nose with an aircraft coming the other way down taxiway Alpha to the runway! So, a little communication prior to landing can make life a whole lot easier for both you and the tower.



QUIZ of the MONTH:

    1. I am ready to taxi. I call ground, using the correct phraseology, and tell them I am ready to taxi. Ground clears me to taxi to runway 22 via Alpha. I pull off into the runup area and do my run up check list. When I switch to the left mag, I get no drop in RPM. That indicates –
    2. My engine timing is perfect.
    3. My mixture is perfect.
    4. My right mag is dead.
  1. My left mag is dead.
    1. Alrighty now!! My airport has a published Obstacle Departure Procedure (ODP) that says I need a climb gradient of 395 feet per nautical mile. My normal rate of climb, Vy (90 miles per hour), at my field elevation is 400 feet per minute, am I good to go??
    2. NOPE, I have to climb at a faster speed.
    3. NOPE, I have to climb at a faster rate of climb.
    4. It is impossible to fly that gradient!!!
    5. Yes.
  2. For you instructors. A new student wants to start flying with you. You know (s)he must provide proof of U.S. citizenship, and they give you a copy of their US passport, which just happens to have expired last month. Is it legal to use that passport as proof of US citizenship to start flight training??
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Maybe, if they are applying for a new one now
    4. Never thought about it…..
  3. OK, you think you have finally memorized all of the FAA acronyms, right?? Well, what the heck is FDIO???
    1. Future Data Interrogator Operational system.
    2. Flight Data Automation System.
    3. Facilaty Director of Information Operations System
    4. You say, “Sure, I know this, but I’m not gonna tell ya!!!
    5. “Flight Data Input Output device.
  4. When conducting closely spaced PRM approaches, the secondary monitor frequency is:
    1. always used by the pilot to transmit to ATC.
    2. sometimes used by the pilot to transmit to ATC.
    3. never used by the pilot to transmit to ATC.
  5. Pilots may fly a PRM approach:
    1. using the Autopilot or Flight Director throughout
    2. using the Autopilot or Flight Director, but a “breakout” must be hand flown
    3. only by precision hand flying throughout with FO callouts

(Answers at the bottom of the Safety Program section.)


Simply log on to the Internet and go to  WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV, click on “Seminars” and start checking for any other upcoming seminars. Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting in the future, such as the BasicMed program, our “Winter Wonderland” snow season special, ”The Aging Pilot”, Radio Phraseology,  or my newest one on LIFR approaches, which  discusses the how’s, why’s, and pitfalls of shooting an approach all the way down to minimums and missed approaches, simply call or text me at 410-206-3753 or email me at either This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Arizona Pilots Association provides the 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. There are also a lot of great webinars online, each about an hour long, and worth credits towards your WINGS participation.  You might find one that is right up your alley or really “tickles yer fancy”!! 


  1. c. The right mag is dead, and the engine is only running on the left mag. If you go to the right mag, the engine will quit!!!
  2. b. The climb rate is per nautical mile. If you are going 90 kts, you are covering that one mile in only 40 seconds and will not meet the climb rate of 395 feet by 1 NM. You would need to increase your climb rate to 1.5 times the published climb rate, or 545 feet per minute.
  3. b. Homeland Security specifically states that the passport must be valid at the time of application or start of training. Any foreign borne individual must go thru the AFTP vetting process prior to starting any flight training. Should TSA spot check you and any foreign borne student has not done this, or you have started training before completing the process, you may be in very deep doo-doo!!! If you are not familiar with the AFTP program and may encounter foreign born students, you need to get some training, and any FAASTeam Rep should be able to help you get smart.
  4. e. The FDIO is a piece of equipment in the tower or TRACON where the IFR flight strips print out. When you file a IFR flight plan, it goes into the appropriate Center’s computer system, and is delivered via the FDIO device to the appropriate sector, approach control and tower. When you call ground or Clearance Delivery, they will have a printed-out strip on the FDIO if you call within 30 minutes of your departure time. If you call too early, ground or Clearance Delivery can query the ARTCC computer system to pull it up. Ground or Clearance Delivery usually holds them up to an hour or more if you are late, but you should advise them if that is going to be the case so they can hold it longer or simply amend the time.
  5. c. PRM approaches are independent, simultaneous operations to runways spaced between 2500 and less than 4300 feet apart. The approach courses are normally parallel but may be offset by between 2.5 and 3.0 degrees depending on the runway separation. Pilots never transmit on the monitor frequency; they only receive transmissions on it from ATC who is closely monitoring the dual closely spaced approach paths.
  6. c. The approach itself is to be flown using the flight director or the autopilot, but a “breakout” must always be hand flown. With regard to PRM approaches, i.e., simultaneous closely spaced parallel approaches, a “breakout” is, in simple terms, a very specific, directed go-around by the controller on the monitor frequency watching the spacing and any deviations on the approach path of the aircraft. (Search PRM Approaches on Google if you want to learn more about PRM approaches.)

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