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5 preflight features to try out in Garmin Pilot

Today’s aviation apps are so capable that it can be easy to fall in the habit of using only their core features, like checking METARs on the ground, viewing the moving map sectional in the air, or reviewing digital instrument approach procedures before landing. Heck, if that’s all these apps offered, most pilots would still be pretty happy with the investment in the iPad and an annual subscription to the app.

The reality is these apps can do so much more, and it’s worth taking the time to sit down on a rainy day on the couch and explore their hidden features. It’ll help you break out of your iPad routine and improve your preflight planning and in-flight situational awareness. To get you started, here are 5 lesser-known features in the Garmin Pilot app to check out before the next flight.

1) Icing forecast: severity or probability?

When viewing the main map screen on the ground before a flight, tap the settings button in the lower left corner to view weather and overlay options. Select Icing (Internet) from the list of options on the far right. The catch here is that there is another submenu option on the bottom right of the map to select the type of icing forecast displayed, either Severity or Probability.

Severity indicates how quickly ice is likely to accumulate on your airplane, while probability displays the likelihood that any type of icing threat will exist in that area. A forecast of a high probability of a trace of icing requires a completely different approach than a 25% chance of severe icing with supercooled large droplets present.

2) Set personal pilot weather minimums

There’s a safeguard in Garmin Pilot that will get your attention when planning a flight if the forecast ceiling height, visibility or wind speed exceeds your personal limits. To enable this feature, head over to the main Settings screen, select Pilot Info from the left-hand menu and select your name from the list of Pilot Profiles (or add a new Pilot Profile if you haven’t already). There the 3 options under Personal Minimums for VFR, IFR, and Winds, where you can specify your minimum ceiling, visibility, wind speed and gust factor for the departure and destination airport enterted in your flight plan.

Then, when on the Trip Planning screen, if the TAF calls for a condition outside your set minimums, a yellow alert triangle will be displayed by the airport ID with a message explaining the condition.

3) Alternate airport selection guide

To help IFR pilots with the task of finding a suitable alternate airport during flight planning, Garmin Pilot includes a useful tool called the Alternate Airport Selection Guide. To use this, first enter a new route in the Trip Planning section of the app. If the forecast ceiling or visibility dictates that an alternate airport will be required, the app will display a yellow triangle next to the flight plan in the list.

This is your cue to scroll down further on the Trip Planning page, where you’ll see Alternate Destination highlighted with a yellow border. Tap the “Alternate Selection Guide” just above it to view a list of nearby airports, along with the ceiling and visibility forecast for your ETA. There are also quick links next to each airport to view the specific alternate minimums for that airport.

4) Set minimum runway length for Nearest Airport and Emergency features

Garmin’s nearest airport function is by far the best of any EFB app on the market. To make it even more useful, go to the General Settings page, and find the Nearest Airport Criteria settings. This allows you to specify a minimum runway length and surface type for the nearest airports function. These criteria will also be used to filter nearby public-use airports when using Garmin Pilot’s Emergency feature. Both the NRST and EMER buttons are always accessible at the top of the screen.

5) Minimum altitude warning

When in the Flight Plan section of the app, Garmin Pilot provides a subtle alert if your planned altitude doesn’t provide enough clearance above the highest terrain feature or obstacle along your route. When a conflict is detected, both the planned altitude and highest point will be colored yellow or red, and the conflicting part of the route will be highlighted in yellow or red on the map.

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FAA Highlights Changes for Recreational Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is implementing changes for recreational drone flyers mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

While recreational flyers may continue to fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace without specific certification or operating authority from the FAA, they are now required to obtain prior authorization from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace around airports. Furthermore, they must comply with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions when flying in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

The new requirement to obtain an airspace authorization prior to flying a drone in controlled airspace replaces the old requirement to notify the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower prior to flying within five miles of an airport.

Until further notice, air traffic control facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational drones in controlled airspace on a case-by-case basis. Instead, to enable operations under the congressionally-mandated exception for limited recreational drone operations, the FAA is granting temporary airspace authorizations to fly in certain fixed sites in controlled airspace throughout the country. The fixed sites are listed online and will be routinely updated.

The sites are also shown as blue dots on Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Maps. The maps depict the maximum altitude above ground level at which a drone may be flown safely for each location in controlled airspace.

In the future, recreational flyers will be able to obtain authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace. The FAA currently has a system called the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which is available to non-recreational pilots who operate under the FAAs small drone rule (Part 107). The FAA is upgrading LAANC to allow recreational flyers to use the system. For now, however, recreational flyers who want to operate in controlled airspace may only do so at the fixed sites.

Another new provision in the 2018 Act requires recreational flyers to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. They must maintain proof that they passed, and make it available to the FAA or law enforcement upon request. The FAA is currently developing a training module and test in coordination with the drone community. The test will ensure that recreational flyers have the basic aeronautical knowledge needed to fly safely.

Some requirements have not changed significantly. In addition to being able to fly without FAA authorization below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace, recreational users must still register their drones, fly within visual line-of-sight, avoid other aircraft at all times, and be responsible for complying with all FAA airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

Additionally, recreational flyers can continue to fly without obtaining a remote pilot certificate provided they meet the eight statutory conditions of Section 349 of the Act, which are described in a Federal Register notice.

If recreational flyers do not meet any of the conditions, they could choose to operate under Part 107 with a remote pilot certification. Drone operators who fail to comply with the appropriate operating authority may be subject to FAA enforcement action.

Furthermore, flying a drone carelessly or recklessly may also result in FAA enforcement action.

The FAA will help recreational flyers learn and understand the changes by posting updates and additional guidance, including regulatory changes, on the FAA website.

If you are thinking about buying a drone, the FAA can help you get started with registration and important safety information.

Source: FAAFAA Highlights Changes for Recreational Drones

New study aims to improve NOTAMs – here’s how you can help

Here’s the reality of general aviation flying in 2019 – touchscreen avionics are the new norm, subscription-free in-flight datalink weather is available nationwide, and we will soon have electric powerplants. Want to find about a runway closure or ILS status before you depart? You’ll have to step into the time machine of technology to retrieve that data and use your secret decoder ring to make sense of the shorthand text. That’s the expectation if you rely on FAA or Flight Service websites for your preflight information.

If you use an aviation EFB app on an iPad for your preflight briefings and digital charts, then you’re already ahead of the game. iOS apps like ForeFlight do a great job at increasing the visibility of important NOTAMs throughout the app. You’ll find NOTAMs pertaining to the taxiways, runways and instrument approach procedures in a red box right on the respective chart, and runway closures are highlighted with a bold red banner when viewing airport information.

There is still plenty of room for improvement though, and ForeFlight is looking for feedback from pilots to make the system even better. They recently launched a NOTAM Rater website that displays a random FAA NOTAM in its native coded text, followed by a series of questions. You can review as many NOTAMs as you’d like, and ForeFlight plans to use the data collected from pilots to improve the location and presentation of this data in the ForeFlight app.

ForeFlight NOTAM Rater Survey



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