To the Letter

Use of current documents by pilots
Dear Editor,

Very few of my recreational flying acquaintances use a current copy of the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS). Current VFR charts seem to be even more rare. I fear the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (TC AIM) is in the same situation. It would be very revealing to know what percentage of pilots do have current copies of these documents. I am involved in various general aviation activities, including ultralight flying and instructing, part-ownership of a Cessna 172 and air show management.

It is difficult to convince people to voluntarily part with several hundred dollars each year for current documents. Perhaps we should consider the inclusion of document subscriptions with the cost of our licence renewals. Landing fees bug me, but I understand they are an appropriate form of user-pay. Shouldn’t it be the same for charts and the CFS?

Aird Flavelle
Abbotsford, B.C.

Thank you for writing. I can only urge your flying acquaintances to get access to current and adequate pre-flight and in-flight information. Documents are indeed expensive, but they are part of the costs of flying. On your suggestion to include an automatic subscription to the CFS as part of the licence renewal fee, this would certainly not be an acceptable solution economically, and would result in higher fees and an enormous waste of CFS copies. -Ed.

Early crosswind turn got me too close for comfort
Dear Editor,

I would like to share with the readers, especially newer pilots, an experience I encountered, as it is one that can happen anytime there is more than one aircraft in the circuit. I was a student pilot on a solo flight, doing circuits on a beautiful clear day in Hamilton, Ont. I had completed my run-up and was holding short of Runway 30, which uses right hand circuits. I called the tower to advise ready for takeoff, as the other traffic in the circuit had just called turning on final.

The controller gave me the following instructions: "[Alpha Bravo Charlie], you’ll be following company traffic now on short final for a touch-and-go." Shortly after they cleared the runway, I was given my take-off clearance. Of course, I was going through the safety items inside the cockpit...full power, airspeed is alive, rotation speed...and shortly thereafter, found myself at 500 ft. Checking fuel pressure and raising flaps, I was ready to start my crosswind. I turned right and looked downwind to see if I could spot the traffic ahead. I could not. This puzzled me somewhat, but I felt that once I turned downwind they would either come into view, or I’d hear their call turning on base.

As I began my turn downwind, which I had kept in tight until I could locate the traffic ahead, the tower advised that my traffic was at 12 o’clock at 1/2 mi. I looked downwind but could not see anything, and then came to realize that when the radio call came, I was still in the crosswind. As I looked to my present 9 o’clock position, I found the traffic 1/2 mi. away. We were flying side by side in a circuit, and for a moment, this made very little sense to me.

At that time, the tower radioed the following message "[Alpha Bravo Charlie] I cannot impress strongly enough how important it is for you to follow company traffic." I recognized his firm but calm message, and in the following instant realized that he was awaiting me to correct the situation. I requested a "right 360" to get back in line and I was cleared to do it. I got back in place and completed two circuits before returning to the hangar. By that time, I had put the pieces together of what had happened.

As I had progressed along my takeoff, I had in place a mental picture of the poster of the circuit that is seen in every airport-a perfect sharp rectangle centered on the runway. I had assumed that the other aircraft would be in this perfect geometric figure, just ahead of me, since they had passed me by just one minute sooner, on the active.

Since we had identical airplanes, and since the other plane was on a take-off roll further down the runway (due to his touch-and-go), and of course there were two people in that aircraft, I assumed it would not have been possible for the traffic in front of me to have achieved 500 ft as quickly as I did. Their crosswind would have been much further upwind than mine was, meaning that, when I was ready to turn crosswind, they would be on my left, not my right!

A couple of things worked to my advantage on that day. First, I was at a controlled airport and had another set of eyes working for me. Next, I found out later that the instructor had seen my mistake and took his plane further out to avoid conflict. If I had been at an uncontrolled airport, and had the traffic in the circuit not been aware, it could have been a very tragic mistake.

From this event, I learned that the circuit pattern is quite dynamic. I also decided that, uncontrolled or not, I would not ever turn from the departure path without knowing where the other leading traffic was. ATC would definitely favour a radio call that I had lost sight of the traffic and could have cleared my turn to crosswind, or otherwise extended my outbound leg.

This was a very easy lesson that was learned early in my flying days. It reinforced the competence and professionalism of our air traffic controllers, and certainly gave me a clearer appreciation of the dangers in circuit flight.

Pat Turcotte
Caledonia, Ont.

Thank you for sharing this interesting account. Indeed ATC would have led you safely behind your traffic had you asked; if this had been an uncontrolled aerodrome, the traffic itself would have gladly informed you of its location. This is unfortunately a common mistake made by many in the circuit. Situational awareness is paramount, even if only two aircraft are present in the circuit. Also, don’t be shy to use the radios to ask where the traffic actually is. Too many pilots shun the radios for fear of embarrassment. -Ed.

Drowning still a grave concern in water-related occurrences
Dear Editor,

After reading Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) 1/2007, I felt compelled to write regarding water-related occurrences. In this quarter alone, I noted six separate incidents that ended in water, with a total of 13 persons on board. Four people died on impact, three drowned in the airframes, unable to egress, and six escaped with minor injuries.

Each year in Canada there are numerous aviation waterrelated injuries and fatalities involving light recreational and commercial aircraft, as well as helicopters. At the flight controls of each of these machines was a qualified pilot, trained for emergencies such as stalls, engine failures, and other in-flight situations. While egress issues are discussed in training, many are still unwilling to practice a forced-landing scenario that would result in a true water-upset experience. Several years of instructing underwater egress to students have shown me that a very small percentage do well the first time out in a warm pool environment; now imagine a real event in a cold lake or river. Even when mentally-prepared and coached on the effects of disorientation, few were able to contain their emotions without panic on the first staged dunking. However, by the end of the day, all students had experienced several inversions in water and felt better prepared to handle themselves effectively, and even assist others, given the option.

The natural (and wrong) response to a dunking is to immediately release the seat belt, which is holding the individual inverted; this results in righting the body, which is now upside down relative to the airframe. Once this has happened, the reality of being trapped in a box creates fear, followed by panic and frenzied search for the elusive door handles. Finding exits can be very difficult, and then to open them once inversion is complete often exceeds the person’s ability to hold their breath. Door handles can be torn off while attempting to rotate the device backwards to its design, sealing both cockpit and cabin from exit. In a panic situation, and strengthened by adrenalin, a person’s thought process may not recognize that the handle is inverted and must be rotated the opposite way than for normal operation. Many door handles are unguarded from reverse rotation, which makes them vulnerable to breaking or jamming if forcefully moved the wrong way.

Without training, and with the limited vision available in the best underwater conditions, the exits are very hard to find by the unexpected accident victims. Underwater egress training provides not only personal life-saving skills, but also the ability and know-how to assist other occupants, who could well be our loved ones. A detailed pre-flight briefing on location and operation of door handles and exits does help a lot, but nothing beats having taken and practiced the plunge in a controlled environment.

Bryan Webster
Victoria, B.C.

Looking for AIP Canada (ICAO) Supplements and Aeronautical Information Circulars (AIC)?

As a reminder to all pilots and operators, the AIP Canada (ICAO) supplements as well as the AIP Canada (ICAO) AICs are found online on the NAV CANADA Web site. Pilots and operators are strongly encouraged to stay up-to-date with these documents by visiting the NAV CANADA Web site at, and following the link to "Aeronautical Information Products". This will take you directly to the site of the current AIP Canada (ICAO).

Date modified: