PIREP: IFR Clearances at Uncontrolled Airports

PIREP: IFR Clearances at Uncontrolled Airports

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There is great news coming for all IFR pilots who utilize the multitude of uncontrolled airports across the US.

From the beginning of aviation time, the process of getting an IFR clearance at an uncontrolled airport has been arduous. For airports under Center controlled airspace, you had to dial the Clearance Delivery line, which ported you to Flight Service. Then you sat on hold till someone picked up, gave them your information, then sat on hold again while they called the Center. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the briefer came back with your clearance and departure instructions.

On a busy day, this could take ten to fifteen minutes, which can be really annoying when a pilot is trying to take off and get somewhere.

In my opinion, this also led to a lot of unsafe (and probably illegal) VFR departures when conditions were either clearly IFR or unsafe if buzzing around at low altitudes and high speeds in Class G airspace.

RCO’s (Remote Communications Outlet, 2nd column, halfway down) and Clearance Delivery Frequencies are in place at some airports, but by and large, the above process was how you got your clearance.

Departing from a TRACON controlled airport usually was easier and quicker. The TRACON has a direct line that is available for pilots to call to speak directly with a controller, but not all these phone numbers are published.

As of June 20th, the FAA is implementing this at all uncontrolled airports. On the chart supplement for all IFR charts across the US (not including Alaska), the FAA will publish the Center phone numbers and remaining TRACON phone numbers for pilots to call directly to receive their IFR clearances and departure instructions, and to cancel their IFR flight plans (A lot of TRACONs already have their phone number published).

Flight Service will no longer be taking IFR flight plan cancellations. Pilots will still be able to cancel with Center or TRACON in the air, but will now need to call the number on the chart supplement on the ground for cancellation.

Now that the FAA is modernizing this process, hopefully more pilots will decide to call on the ground for their clearance on a MVFR or IFR day instead of taking off and trying to pick it up in the air.

Finding the Chart Supplement on Foreflight

Where is the Chart Supplement? I’m so glad you asked.

Before iPads, everyone carried around the green book, officially known as the Airport/Facilities Directory, or A/FD. With the advent of Foreflight & Garmin Pilot & others, all the information in the A/FD is now easily accessible in each of the Apps.

Foreflight may integrate the clearance delivery phone number for each airport into their airport information page, but in the meantime, here is how to find the Chart Supplement.

On Foreflight, go to Documents along the bottom of the App. In the Catalog on the left, tap FAA. Chart Supplement will be about 1/3 of the way down the page. Tap that, then tap the region you need and it will download into your Documents Library.

Once it is downloaded, check the Table of Contents for FAA Telephone Numbers and NWS. Go to that page and scroll through to find the Center or TRACON you are needing, then dial the number.

Happy Flying!

Guardian Seven Trauma

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First Aid Kit on Steroids

We have all seen the little first aid kits that a pilot can get to carry in an airplane. It usually has some bandaids, maybe some gauze, and some antibiotic ointment. Very helpful in the even that your paper VFR chart cuts your finger when you are unrolling it.

What happens if you crash in a harsh environment and you have some actual injuries to take care of?

Enter the Guardian Seven Trauma G7-Alpha Trauma and Egress Kit. It literally is a First Aid Kit on steroids.

Guardian Seven Trauma has put together a kit that contains just about anything you need to take care of an injury from an airplane crash. Plus, the kit only weighs less than 2 pounds. It easily mounts in an aircraft and can be opened with only one hand.

The kit contains:

  • CAT Tourniquet
  • Quick Clot Z Hold Hemostatic Gauze
  • 4″ Emergency Trauma Dressing
  • Nasal Airway
  • ARS Needle
  • HyFin Chest Seal Twin Pack
  • (4) 3″ Gauze Rolls
  • Triangle Bandage
  • Mylar Blanket
  • Leatherman Z Rex Tool (for emergency egress)
  • Trauma Shears
  • Roll of Medical Tape
  • Bear Claw Glove Kit
  • Permanent Marker
  • Multi Purpose Paracord Handle
  • Nylon Straps with Buckles (2)
  • Medical Patch

Want to upgrade your first aid kit? Visit Guardian Seven’s website to order the G7-Alpha kit.

Checking The Stall Warning Horn

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When a pilot first glances at the title of this article, the first thought that probably goes through that pilot’s head is, well that’s easy.

And it is, if you are flying a high wing Cessna. On other airplanes, there are a few tricks to checking the stall warning horn. If you get them wrong, you’re liable to get a bill from your maintenance shop for an hour of labor for a problem they couldn’t duplicate.

Cirrus SR22

Let’s start with the Cirrus. On the pre-FIKI Cirrus aircraft, there was a small little hole in the wing that contained a diaphragm. That diaphragm sensed a change in airflow at a certain angle of attack just below the critical angle of attack and set off the stall warning horn. Unfortunately, the only way to check that is to suck on the hole during pre-flight.

I don’t. I verify the hole is clear and that’s about it.

On the FIKI Cirrus aircraft, there is actually a stall warning vane. It looks like a high wing Cessna vane, but if you turn the batteries on and try and get it to come on during your light and pitot heat check, nada.

Here’s the trick, and the checklist doesn’t do a good job of describing this.

  • Turn on the Avionics Master
  • Turn on the speaker
  • Put the flaps to full
  • Then move the stall warning vane and you’ll hear the horn

The speaker and the Avionics Master are so you can actually hear the horn (if you had the headset on while you were doing this, the speaker would be unnecessary). The flaps have to be full because the pitch attitude for the critical angle of attack is lower with the flaps down, so the horn goes off when at a different angle. You then don’t have to use as much force to push the vane.

Piper PA46

The early -310P Malibus are pretty simple and straight forward. Move the vane, get the horn.

In the -350P, you can’t get the horn to come on by moving the vane. So, Piper put a stall test button that’s hidden underneath the upper left side of the instrument panel. Push that to test the horn. On the G1000 PA46, it is located directly above the PFD. On the Avidyne, it’s below and to the left of the pilot’s yoke.


Testing the stall warning horn is a very important part of pre-flight. A pilot needs to know if the aircraft is close to a stall. The advent of Angle of Attack indicators in small, GA aircraft, have added a greater awareness to the angle of attack during all phases of flight to avoid those stall spins.

If the stall warning horn goes off or the AOA shows yellow, lower that nose immediately.

Stephanie Mertz Joins Texas Top Aviation

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Texas Top Aviation has added a new member to our instructing team. Stephanie Mertz was hired in March 2019 and will be specializing in G1000 & Instrument instruction.

Stephanie graduated from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas with a degree in Aeronautical Science, earning her commercial single and multi ratings while there. She began her aviation career in Ontario, California flying a Pilatus PC-12 for charter and medical trips. While operating the PC-12, she gained valuable experience flying all over the US and Mexico.

In 2013, Stephanie moved back to East Texas with her husband where she worked as a contract pilot flying a variety of Citations as well as a Falcon 10. A few years later, she became involved in her local Ninety-Nines chapter and joined their mentorship program.

After earning her CFI, CFII, and MEI, Stephanie returned to her alma mater to pass on her flying passions to college students through flight instructing. After a year of teaching at LeTourneau, she and her husband, with their first baby in tow, moved to the Austin area. Now she is instructing with Texas Top Aviation while acting as a mentor for other women working on achieving their flying dreams.

Fly Away Destination: Lajitas Golf Resort

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Talk about star treatment.  The Lajitas Golf Resort rolled out the red carpet for the 2019 Texas Top Aviation Lajitas Fly In.  I had been to Lajitas twice before; once in July when it was hot, miserable and bumpy.  The second time was the week before our Fly In.  Both times, everyone from the airport folks to the bus drivers to the front desk and restaurant staff were top notch.  It made for a very pleasurable experience.

If you haven’t been out to Lajitas (or don’t even know where it is) and you’re a pilot (you don’t even have to play golf), you have missed a sure gem.  Lajitas is positioned on the southern tip of the Big Bend area of Texas, right on the Rio Grande river.  Lajitas has great lodging with several different room options from big to small, an excellent restaurant for 3 square a day (and even a bakery for sweets, coffee, and breakfast tacos in the mornings), and a 5 star golf course in Black Jack Crossing.

Why is this all relevant to us aviators?  Lajitas has it’s own private airport, 89TE.  Complete with a 5,500 foot asphalt runway, VFR conditions most of the year, and reasonable fuel prices, Lajitas is the pilot’s gateway to the resort and the entire Big Bend area.  If you wait until the fall, a brand new, 7,000 foot concrete runway should be completed and an IFR approach should be available.  An AWOS is in the works too.

The resort and airport are so far south, radar and radio coverage with Albuquerque Center is pretty poor below about 15,000 feet, and non-existent below 10,000 feet.  This isn’t a big concern as any airplanes in the area should be on 122.9 and the airport manager will make contact with you, give you a weather report, and assign a runway.

Once you are on the ground, there will be a resort bus waiting to whisk you and all your friends to the resort for your getaway.

The 2019 Texas Top Aviation Lajitas Fly In was a big hit.  We had 7 airplanes total:  5 Cirrus SR22s, 1 Piper Matrix, and 1 Citation M2.  There were 15 attendees total, including 13 golfers.  Everyone raved about the resort and the golf course.  The only hiccup in the weekend was the cold front that blasted through on Friday afternoon, kicking up a lot of dust.  Golfing on Saturday was windy too, but Sunday morning was absolutely perfect.

Thanks again to the folks at Lajitas for the star treatment!

Interested in participating in the next Texas Top Aviation Fly In?  Contact Us or Sign Up for Our Newsletter and we will make sure you find out about the next one so you don’t miss out!