Flight Operations

Flight Operations

Now What Am I Going To Do?

by Bill Payn, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, ANS Standards, Aerodromes and Air Navigation Services, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

“Lima Victor Mike, Centre, I have lost your radar target. Reset your transponder, code 2421, please.”
You check and the code is correct, so you switch the transponder to “STBY” and then return it to “ALT”.
“Centre, Lima Victor Mike, I reset the transponder. Do you have a target now?”
Several seconds pass.
“Lima Victor Mike, Centre, negative target. Do you have another transponder?”
Now you sit up a little straighter. “Darn, this thing was just fixed,” you think to yourself.
“Negative, Centre. We have only one transponder,” you reply.

Now the controller is sitting up a little straighter. It has gotten a wee bit more complicated than just watching you on radar and separating you from other radar-controlled traffic. The controller will terminate radar service, revert to applying non-radar separation for your flight, and plan for your arrival at Thunder Bay, Ont.

You are a private aircraft on an IFR clearance. You departed Toronto, Ont., on a flight to Calgary, Alta., with fuel stops planned for Thunder Bay and Saskatoon, Sask., and you are presently passing Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. The descent and approach into Thunder Bay is normal, but ATC asks for what seems like a hundred altitude reports, a multitude of distance measuring equipment (DME) reports with beacon outbound, a procedure turn, and inbound reports too.

But you’re on the ground now and wondering how you are going to get to Calgary without a functioning transponder.

Well, let’s look at Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR) 605.35, which covers transponders and automatic pressure-altitude reporting equipment. We’ll leave the pressure-altitude part of it alone, even though the same regulations apply. Remember also that transponder airspace is specified in the Designated Airspace Handbook (DAH) and includes all Class A, B, and C airspace. It also includes any Class D or E airspace specified as transponder airspace.

Transponders are pretty valuable pieces of equipment and
assist ATC in providing a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow
of air traffic. Pictured above is a basic transponder set at the
VFR code of 1200, and mounted directly under a typical
VHF communication radio.
(Photo: Adam Hunt)

If you are operating an aircraft in transponder airspace, the aircraft must be equipped with a transponder. Easy so far. But you may operate that aircraft without a serviceable transponder (subsection 2 of the regulation) as long as you have a minimum equipment list (MEL) approved by the Minister and you operate in accordance with it. When you don’t have an MEL approved by the Minister, as in this scenario, you can operate the aircraft to the next aerodrome of intended landing (Thunder Bay, in our case) and then complete a planned flight schedule or proceed to a maintenance facility. If Thunder Bay has the facilities to fix the transponder, there is no problem. If the next maintenance facility is located at Saskatoon, again, a problem does not exist. If no facilities exist in Saskatoon, the regulation allows you to continue on to Calgary. That is what completing a planned flight schedule means. It is not meant to allow you to fly your aircraft for an extended time period without a serviceable transponder but only to get you safely to a maintenance base at the first opportunity so that the transponder equipment can be repaired. You could even decide to file a new flight plan and proceed to Winnipeg, Man., to get to a maintenance facility. All this has to be done, of course, with an ATC clearance.

CAR 605.35(3) provides an ATC unit with the option of authorizing a person to operate an aircraft not equipped with a serviceable transponder, provided that they receive a request from that person to operate in the airspace before the aircraft enters it and that aviation safety will not likely be affected. The ATC unit’s ability under this subsection is limited in that it is intended only to support the requirements of subsections 1 and 2. This means that an ATC unit is not able to approve aircraft to operate without a serviceable transponder for any other reason, when the serviceable transponder is required under 605.35.

Now let’s look at VFR operations. CAR 605.35 also applies to VFR aircraft approaching a Class C control zone without a serviceable transponder. The tower may authorize the VFR aircraft to enter the control zone if it is the next aerodrome of intended landing and may also authorize a departure to complete a flight schedule or proceed to a maintenance facility. As in the IFR example, the regulation is not intended to permit this VFR aircraft to continue operating in transponder airspace for an extended period of time. An ATC unit may provide an authorization in the same manner as for an IFR aircraft. The regulation is not intended to permit an ATC unit to authorize a VFR aircraft to enter or leave the transponder-airspace control zone to circumvent the requirement to have a serviceable transponder. An example of this could include a Cessna 152 from the local flying club that doesn’t have a serviceable transponder but wants to fly circuits for several hours that day. It might also include a helicopter that has never carried a transponder but is temporarily assigned to operate from the airport in a Class C control zone for a week or so and that wishes to do so without installing a transponder.

Transponders are pretty valuable pieces of equipment and assist ATC in providing a safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic. Hopefully, yours is and will remain working because an ATC unit cannot authorize your flight to operate without a serviceable transponder in airspace where it is required unless it supports an operation conducted under CAR 605.35. 

Advanced Qualification Program (AQP)—An Alternate Way of Training and Checking

by François Collins, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Airlines, National Operations, Transport Canada

For years, Canadian air operators have been training and checking their pilots under the traditional regulatory requirements of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). However, unknown to many, there is an alternative, voluntary training program available to these air operators called the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP). Under this program, Transport Canada (TC) is authorized to approve significant departures from traditional requirements, subject to justification of an equivalent or better level of safety.

The program entails a systematic front-end analysis of training requirements from which explicit proficiency objectives for all facets of pilot training are derived. It seeks to integrate the training and evaluation of cognitive skills at each stage of a curriculum. For pass/fail purposes, pilots must demonstrate proficiency in scenarios that test both technical and crew resource management (CRM) skills together. An air operator that participates in an AQP must design and implement data collection strategies which are diagnostic of cognitive and technical skills. In addition, they must implement procedures for refining curricula content based on quality control data.

The overall goals of the AQP are to increase aviation safety through improved training and evaluation and to be responsive to changes in aircraft technology, operations, and training methodologies. In general, an AQP differs from traditional regulatory requirements in terms of the following characteristics. First, participation is voluntary. Second, an AQP may employ innovative training and qualification concepts, provided the air operator can demonstrate to TC’s satisfaction that the resulting pilot proficiency will meet or exceed that obtainable through a traditional program. Last, but not least, an AQP entails proficiency-based qualification. That is, if pilots are trained to a standard of proficiency on all objectives within an approved AQP curriculum, it is not necessary to verify proficiency by virtue of a formal pilot proficiency check (PPC) on those items. Rather, the proficiency evaluation may consist of a sample of such items in order to validate that the training-to-proficiency strategy has in fact achieved its objectives. Terminal proficiency objectives (TPO), together with associated performance standards, replace TC’s traditional event-driven compliance requirements. Each air operator, rather than TC, develops its own TPOs on the basis of an instructional systems development (ISD) process outlined in TC’s Policy Letter 169—Development and Implementation of an AQP. Once approved by TC, these TPOs become regulatory requirements for the individual air operator. An AQP provides an approved means for the air operator to propose TPO additions, deletions, or changes as needed to maintain a high degree of crew proficiency tailored to the operator’s line requirements.

In order to ensure that the increased flexibility inherent in AQP does not come at the cost of reduced safety, certain mandatory criteria have been established. Thus, an AQP must be aircraft-specific, provide qualification and continuing qualification curriculums for every duty position, as well as training and evaluation that is conducted to the maximum extent possible in a full cockpit crew environment. It must also integrate training and evaluation of CRM where the evaluation of CRM proficiency is mandatory, and substandard performance on CRM factors must be corrected by additional training. In AQP, demonstration of proficiency in manoeuvre-oriented technical skills is a necessary but insufficient condition for pilot qualification. For pass/fail purposes, pilots must also demonstrate proficiency in a line operational evaluation (LOE), which tests both technical and CRM skills together.

The program must provide AQP-specific training for instructors and evaluators, and integrate the use of advanced flight training equipment, including full flight simulators. AQP encourages air operators to utilize a suite of equipment matched on the basis of analysis to the training requirements at any given stage of a curriculum. Judicious analysis of these requirements can enable an AQP operator to significantly reduce the need for use of a full flight simulator, but only when the operator reaches Phase V, its final level of implementation. Finally the program must collect performance proficiency data on candidates, instructors, and evaluators and conduct internal analyses of such information for the purpose of curriculum refinement and validation. Air operators are also required to forward certain data to TC for independent analysis and measurement of the program.

In Canada, there is currently only one air operator that has chosen to take advantage of an AQP, but there are dozens more in other countries—especially in the U.S.—that have implemented their own AQP or are busy applying to join the program. Seeing that a well-managed AQP can provide air operators with advantages they could not otherwise benefit from, is the AQP the future of pilot training and checking? 

Nav Canada

Tailwinds on Approach

by the Safety Management Planning and Analysis Division, NAV CANADA

A question was recently forwarded to NAV CANADA through an operator’s safety management system (SMS) regarding the timely provision of wind information during the approach phase of flight. The pilot related several experiences of being surprised by a tailwind, noting that the provision of information with respect to winds aloft appeared to be haphazard.

The pilot inquired about the information that air traffic services (ATS) could provide to notify flight crews of such tailwinds prior to commencing an approach, as tailwinds are a significant contributor to unstable approaches and preparation is the key to managing the situation. The earlier a flight crew is aware of such tailwinds, the more likely the crew will be able to mitigate their impact by configuring the aircraft for landing early.

The aim of this article, therefore, is to provide some details about the information available to ATS and to outline how pilots can help.

What information can ATS provide with respect to winds on approach?
Pilots have the most timely and accurate information with respect to winds on approach. ATS does not have access to real-time information about winds aloft and the wind information that is available to ATS is of limited use in predicting the winds on approach.

  • Surface weather observations (such as aviation routine weather reports [METAR] and aviation selected special weather reports [SPECI]), aerodrome forecasts (TAF), and graphic area forecasts (GFA) all provide either a report or forecast of surface wind conditions which may be, but usually are not, representative of wind direction or speeds aloft in the approach phase of flight.
  • Given that wind instruments (anemometers) are normally positioned atop a 10-m tower, the wind measurements derived from them are not usually representative of the conditions aloft. A number of factors, such as local topography and atmospheric conditions (e.g. temperature inversion), may contribute to a significant difference between surface winds and the winds a pilot may encounter during approach.
  • Alphanumeric upper level wind and temperature forecasts (FD) may not be representative of approach wind conditions either. These forecasts are produced by a supercomputer model of the atmosphere (without human intervention) and this model purposely does not consider weather data from near the surface of the earth (the boundary layer) for fear of its perturbations skewing the forecast of the vertical atmospheric profile. That is why the FD does not provide a temperature forecast for the 3 000-ft level.

Unfortunately, at this time there is no operational means of accurately measuring and reporting low-level winds. The use of wind profiler technology (vertically oriented sonar) is a possibility, but in Canada this type of equipment is currently only employed in a research and development capacity and, in any case, the means to disseminate minute-by-minute wind velocity information does not currently exist in the Canadian Air Navigation System.

In the longer term, it may be possible to broadcast near-real-time wind velocity data obtained from aircraft, for example as part of a wake vortex monitoring and prediction system, but such a capability does not currently exist.

Therefore, at this time, pilots with on-board wind readouts have the most accurate, up-to-date information available with respect to winds on approach.

Pilot weather reports (PIREP) are an essential source of information with respect to wind velocities in the approach phase of flight. In fact, most of the time, the reporting and forecasting of low-level wind shear—which occurs from the surface to 1 500 ft—is predicated on it being first reported by a pilot.

Sharing information—Everyone has a responsibility for continuing the loop
As stated above, the best available source of information about winds in the approach phase of flight is on board the aircraft, and PIREPs are an important part of keeping everybody in the loop.

From an ATS point of view, flight information service (which includes sharing PIREPs) will be provided to all aircraft subject to limitations of controller workload and frequency congestion (see Air Traffic Control Manual of Operations [ATC MANOPS] 161.1). At the same time, severe weather information must be provided to all aircraft entering the affected area (ATC MANOPS 162). This includes urgent PIREPs dealing with low-level wind shear, but would not extend to a PIREP relating to a tailwind on approach.

Pertinent significant meteorological information (SIGMET), air reports (AIREP) and PIREPs will be included in an automatic terminal information service (ATIS) broadcast (ATC MANOPS 172.3), although some discretion is required with respect to what is “pertinent”. Evidently, reports of severe weather would be included, while reports of tailwinds may be included since, as pilots will appreciate, ATIS messages are already too long at many airports.

Similarly, Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (TC AIM) section MET 2.3 outlines the procedures for providing PIREPs, and provides a specific format for reporting wind shear (i.e. report wind above and below shear or impact on performance). There is no specific information relating to reporting tailwinds on approach, so pilots need to use discretion.

If you believe winds aloft are sufficiently different from those advertised at the surface so as to impact flight safety and should be passed on to other aircraft, provide a PIREP! 

Runway Selection

NAV CANADA frequently receives questions about how runways are selected. The following should shed some light on the subject.

ATC is required to assign the operationally suitable runway most aligned into the wind. However, there are circumstances where this may not be the case:

  • If the surface wind speed is less than 5 kt, ATC may assign the “calm wind runway” which offers operational advantages such as greater length, shorter taxi times, avoidance of noise-sensitive areas, or better approaches.
  • Additionally, at airports where preferential runways have been established, ATC may assign runways which are not most aligned into the wind according to the preferential runway agreements in place, provided the criteria for the use of these runways is met.1 Specifically, the use of preferential runways is limited by a maximum crosswind component, which varies according to runway surface condition.

The use of calm wind runways or preferential runways offers customers significant operational advantages and improves airport capacity. However, it remains the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the assigned runway is operationally suitable.

Both pilots and controllers should be aware that the selection of runways that are not most aligned into wind can exacerbate the impact of changing winds aloft on aircraft performance, and should plan accordingly.

Decorative line

TC AIM section RAC 4.1.3 provides more information on preferential runway assignments and the criteria for selecting active runways (http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp14371-rac-4-0-5385.htm).

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