ASA’s CFI offers insights on difficult concepts posed in FAA exams. Each post will break down an FAA question and deconstruct the answer in a way aimed to teach aviators how to more effectively prepare themselves for their FAA examinations.

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CFI Brief: Pilot Deviations, Stay Alert!

Yesterday, the FAA Safety Team distributed a newly published Fly Safe Fact Sheet, Avoiding Pilot Deviations (PDs). Now listen, if you’ve read this blog over the years you know we have discussed this topic before. However, it’s worth discussing on the regular since PDs can lead to serious consequences in the form of accidents or enforcement violations.

If you are not already familiar with what a pilot deviation is, it is defined as an action of a pilot that violates any Federal Aviation Regulation. While PDs should be avoided, the regulations do authorize deviations from a clearance in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory. Meaning, if a possible collision with another aircraft or vehicle is imminent it is OK to deviate. You must however notify ATC as soon as possible following a deviation.

Piot deviations are broken down into two separate categories, airborne and ground. Airborne deviations result when a pilot strays from an assigned heading or altitude or from an instrument procedure, or if the pilot penetrates controlled or restricted airspace without ATC clearance. Ground deviations (also called surface deviations) include taxiing, taking off, or landing without clearance, deviating from an assigned taxi route, or failing to hold short of an assigned clearance limit.

Ways to Avoid Pilot Deviations:

Plan each flight —you may have flown the flight many times before but conditions and situations can change rapidly, such as in the case of a pop-up temporary flight restriction (TFR). Take a few minutes prior to each flight to plan accordingly.

Talk and squawk —Proper communication with ATC has its benefits. Flight following often makes the controller’s job easier because they can better integrate VFR and IFR traffic.

Give yourself some room —GPS is usually more precise than ATC radar. Using your GPS to fly up to and along the line of the airspace you are trying to avoid could result in a pilot deviation because ATC radar may show you within the restricted airspace.

Stay Alert – This is often overlooked during ground operations. It’s important that whether you are in the air or on the ground you maintain focus and alertness at all times. Keep your head out of the cockpit and on a swivel.

Click the below image to access the FAA Fact Sheet and see the full text on the 4 steps to avoid pilot deviations.


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CFI Brief: What is Aeronautical Decision Making?

Aeronautical decision making (ADM) is a systematic approach to the mental process used by aircraft pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to a given set of circumstances. ADM is vital process allowing pilots to safely and efficiently manage risk. Although there is no way to eliminate the associated risks and hazards that come with aviation the proper application of ADM will allow the pilot to limit exposure to risks and hazards.

Risk Management is the part of the decision making process which relies on situational awareness, problem recognition, and good judgment to reduce risks associated with each flight.

The ADM process addresses all aspects of decision making in the cockpit and identifies the steps involved in good decision making. Steps for good decision making are:

  1. Identifying personal attitudes hazardous to safe flight.
  2. Learning behavior modification techniques.
  3. Learning how to recognize and cope with stress.
  4. Developing risk assessment skills.
  5. Using all resources in a multicrew situation.
  6. Evaluating the effectiveness of one’s ADM skills.

There are a number of classic behavioral traps into which pilots have been known to fall. Pilots, particularly those with considerable experience, as a rule always try to complete a flight as planned, please passengers, meet schedules, and generally demonstrate that they have the “right stuff.” These tendencies ultimately may lead to practices that are dangerous and often illegal, and may lead to a mishap. All experienced pilots have fallen prey to, or have been tempted by, one or more of these tendencies in their flying careers. These dangerous tendencies or behavior patterns, which must be identified and eliminated, include:

Peer Pressure. Poor decision making based upon emotional response to peers rather than evaluating a situation objectively.

Mind Set. The inability to recognize and cope with changes in the situation different from those anticipated or planned.

Get-There-Itis. This tendency, common among pilots, clouds the vision and impairs judgment by causing a fixation on the original goal or destination combined with a total disregard for any alternative course of action.

Duck-Under Syndrome. The tendency to sneak a peek by descending below minimums during an approach. Based on a belief that there is always a built-in “fudge” factor that can be used or on an unwillingness to admit defeat and shoot a missed approach.

Scud Running. Pushing the capabilities of the pilot and the aircraft to the limits by trying to maintain visual contact with the terrain while trying to avoid physical contact with it. This attitude is characterized by the old pilot’s joke: “If it’s too bad to go IFR, we’ll go VFR.”

Continuing Visual Flight Rules (VFR) into instrument conditions often leads to spatial disorientation or collision with ground/obstacles. It is even more dangerous if the pilot is not instrument qualified or current.

Getting Behind the Aircraft. Allowing events or the situation to control your actions rather than the other way around. Characterized by a constant state of surprise at what happens next.

Loss of Positional or Situation Awareness. Another case of getting behind the aircraft which results in not knowing where you are, an inability to recognize deteriorating circumstances, and/or the misjudgment of the rate of deterioration.

Operating Without Adequate Fuel Reserves. Ignoring minimum fuel reserve requirements, either VFR or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), is generally the result of overconfidence, lack of flight planning, or ignoring the regulations.

Descent Below the Minimum Enroute Altitude. The duck-under syndrome (mentioned above) manifesting itself during the enroute portion of an IFR flight.

Flying Outside the Envelope. Unjustified reliance on the (usually mistaken) belief that the aircraft’s high performance capability meets the demands imposed by the pilot’s (usually overestimated) flying skills.

Neglect of Flight Planning, Preflight Inspections, Checklists, Etc. Unjustified reliance on the pilot’s short and long term memory, regular flying skills, repetitive and familiar routes, etc.

Each ADM student should take the Self-Assessment Hazardous Attitude Inventory Test in order to gain a realistic perspective on his/her attitudes toward flying. The inventory test requires the pilot to provide a response which most accurately reflects the reasoning behind his/her decision. The pilot must choose one of the five given reasons for making that decision, even though the pilot may not consider any of the five choices acceptable. The inventory test presents extreme cases of incorrect pilot decision making in an effort to introduce the five types of hazardous attitudes.

ADM addresses the following five hazardous attitudes:

  1. Antiauthority (don’t tell me!). This attitude is found in people who do not like anyone telling them what to do. In a sense they are saying “no one can tell me what to do.” They may be resentful of having someone tell them what to do or may regard rules, regulations, and procedures as silly or unnecessary. However, it is always your prerogative to question authority if you feel it is in error. The antidote for this attitude is: Follow the rules. They are usually right.
  2. Impulsivity (do something quickly!) is the attitude of people who frequently feel the need to do something—anything—immediately. They do not stop to think about what they are about to do, they do not select the best alternative, and they do the first thing that comes to mind. The antidote for this attitude is: Not so fast. Think first.
  3. Invulnerability (it won’t happen to me). Many people feel that accidents happen to others, but never to them. They know accidents can happen, and they know that anyone can be affected. They never really feel or believe that they will be personally involved. Pilots who think this way are more likely to take chances and increase risk. The antidote for this attitude is: It could happen to me.
  4. Macho (I can do it). Pilots who are always trying to prove that they are better than anyone else are thinking “I can do it—I’ll show them.” Pilots with this type of attitude will try to prove themselves by taking risks in order to impress others. While this pattern is thought to be a male characteristic, women are equally susceptible. The antidote for this attitude is: taking chances is foolish.
  5. Resignation (what’s the use?). Pilots who think “what’s the use?” do not see themselves as being able to make a great deal of difference in what happens to them. When things go well, the pilot is apt to think that’s good luck. When things go badly, the pilot may feel that “someone is out to get me,” or attribute it to bad luck. The pilot will leave the action to others, for better or worse. Sometimes, such pilots will even go along with unreasonable requests just to be a “nice guy.” The antidote for this attitude is: I’m not helpless. I can make a difference.

Hazardous attitudes which contribute to poor pilot judgment can be effectively counteracted by redirecting that hazardous attitude so that appropriate action can be taken. Recognition of hazardous thoughts is the first step in neutralizing them in the ADM process. Pilots should become familiar with a means of counteracting hazardous attitudes with an appropriate antidote thought. When a pilot recognizes a thought as hazardous, the pilot should label that thought as hazardous, then correct that thought by stating the corresponding antidote.

If you hope to succeed at reducing stress associated with crisis management in the air or with your job, it is essential to begin by making a personal assessment of stress in all areas of your life. Good cockpit stress management begins with good life stress management. Many of the stress coping techniques practiced for life stress management are not usually practical in flight. Rather, you must condition yourself to relax and think rationally when stress appears. The following checklist outlines some thoughts on cockpit stress management.

  1. Avoid situations that distract you from flying the aircraft.
  2. Reduce your workload to reduce stress levels. This will create a proper environment in which to make good decisions.
  3. If an emergency does occur, be calm. Think for a moment, weigh the alternatives, then act.
  4. Maintain proficiency in your aircraft; proficiency builds confidence. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with your aircraft, its systems, and emergency procedures.
  5. Know and respect your own personal limits.
  6. Do not let little mistakes bother you until they build into a big thing. Wait until after you land, then “debrief” and analyze past actions.
  7. If flying is adding to your stress, either stop flying or seek professional help to manage your stress within acceptable limits.

The DECIDE Model, comprised of a six-step process, is intended to provide the pilot with a logical way of approaching decision making. The six elements of the DECIDE Model represent a continuous loop decision process which can be used to assist a pilot in the decision making process when he/she is faced with a change in a situation that requires a judgment. This DECIDE Model is primarily focused on the intellectual component, but can have an impact on the motivational component of judgment as well. If a pilot practices the DECIDE Model in all decision making, its use can become very natural and could result in better decisions being made under all types of situations.

  1. Detect. The decisionmaker detects the fact that change has occurred.
  2. Estimate. The decisionmaker estimates the need to counter or react to the change.
  3. Choose. The decisionmaker chooses a desirable outcome (in terms of success) for the flight.
  4. Identify. The decisionmaker identifies actions which could successfully control the change.
  5. Do. The decisionmaker takes the necessary action.
  6. Evaluate. The decisionmaker evaluates the effect(s) of his/her action countering the change.


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CFI Brief: Would I be a good flight instructor?

Have you ever thought about taking you’re flying career to the next level and becoming a Certified Flight Instructor?  Well, today we are going to take a quick look at some of the characteristics and responsibilities that and aviation instructor must possess. Many students view an aviation instructor as an authority, so it is important for an instructor to project a knowledgeable and professional image at all times.

One of the responsibilities of a good flight instructor is maintaining a high level of professionalism, which relates directly to the instructor’s public image. Characteristics of an instructor’s professionalism include:

  1. Sincerity. Any facade of instructor pretentiousness, whether it be real or mistakenly assumed by the student, will immediately cause the student to lose confidence in the instructor, and little learning will be accomplished. Anything less than sincere performance destroys the effectiveness of the professional instructor.
  1. Acceptance of the student. The professional relationship between the instructor and the student should be based on a mutual acknowledgment that both the student and the instructor are important to each other, and both are working toward the same objectives. Under no circumstances should an instructor do anything which implies degradation of the student.
  1. Personal appearance and habits. A flight instructor who is rude, thoughtless, and inattentive cannot hold the respect of the students, regardless of his/her piloting ability.
  1. Demeanor. The instructor should avoid erratic movements, distracting speech habits, and capricious changes in mood.
  1. Safety practices and accident prevention. A flight instructor must meticulously observe all regulations and recognized safety practices during all flight operations.
  1. Proper language. The use of profanity and obscene language leads to distrust, or at best, to a lack of complete confidence.
  1. Self-improvement. Professional flight instructors must never become complacent or satisfied with their own qualifications and ability.

As a flight instructor you will want to strive daily to practice the items in the “Instructor Do’s” list , and do your best to stay away from the “Instructor Don’ts” list. From the Aviation Instructors Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A):

CFI Do & Donts

One “don’t” to make mention of; personal hygiene goes both ways. Nothing’s worse then a couple people stuck in a small plane who haven’t showered!

An aviation instructor must also be self-aware of numerous responsibilities. There are five main responsibilities of an aviation instructor.

  1. Helping students learn.
  2. Providing adequate instruction.
  3. Demanding adequate standards of performance.
  4. Emphasizing the positive.
  5. Ensuring aviation safety.

To be an effective instructor you will need to maintain a high level of student motivation by making each lesson a pleasurable experience. It’s important to realize that people are not always attracted to something because it is easy. Most will put forth the required effort to produce rewards such as self-enhancement and personal satisfaction.

As an instructor you should make learning to fly interesting by keeping the students apprised of the course and lesson objectives. Not knowing the objectives leads the student to confusion, disinterest, and uneasiness. Instead instructors should guide their students in exploration and experimentation, to help them develop their own capabilities and self-confidence.

For instruction to produce the desired results, instructors must carefully and correctly analyze the personality, thinking, and ability of each student. Students who have been incorrectly analyzed as slow thinkers may actually be quick thinkers, but act slowly or at the wrong time because of lack of confidence. Slow students can often be helped by assigning sub goals which are more easily attainable than the normal learning goals. This allows the student to practice elements of the task as confidence and ability grows.

Apt students also create problems. Because they make less mistakes, they may assume that the correction of errors is unimportant. Such overconfidence results in faulty performance. A good instructor will constantly raise the standard of performance demanded of apt students and will demand greater effort.

Flight instructors fail to provide competent instruction when they permit their students to get by with a substandard performance, or without learning thoroughly some item of knowledge pertinent to safe piloting. The positive approach to flight instruction points out to the student the pleasurable features of aviation before the unpleasant possibilities are discussed. One example of a positive approach is to include a normal round-trip flight to a nearby airport on the first instructional flight.

Anxiety, or fear, is probably the most significant psychological factor affecting flight instruction. The responses to anxiety vary greatly, ranging from hesitancy to act, to the impulse “to do something even if it’s wrong.” Some students may freeze in place and do nothing, while others may do unusual things without rational thought or reason. Normal reaction to anxiety can be countered by reinforcing the student’s enjoyment of flying, and by teaching them to treat fear as a normal reaction rather than ignoring it. Normal individuals react to stress by responding rapidly and exactly, within the limits of their experience and training. Abnormal reactions to stress are evidenced by:

  • Autonomic responses, such as sweating, rapid heart rate, paleness, etc.
  • Inappropriate reactions, such as extreme overcooperation, painstaking self-control; inappropriate laughter or singing, very rapid changes in emotions, and motion sickness under stress
  • Marked changes in mood on different lessons, such as excellent morale followed by deep depressio
  • Severe anger at the flight instructor, service personnel, or others.

So you think you have what it takes to take the next step in your flying career? Instructing can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience for any aviator. The majority of the information discussed above is all available in the Aviation Instructors Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A). The information contained in this book will be required knowledge for anyone wishing to obtain a flight or ground instructor certificate. I would also encourage you to check out The Flight Instructor Survival Guide by Arlynn McMahon. It’s an insightful, funny at times and enjoyable read. Also a great present for your instructor (hint, hint)!

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CFI Brief: Caution for the wake turbulence from the departing 757

Today we are going to take a look at wake turbulence, which is the disturbed air left behind an airplane. Why you may ask is this important to us? This disturbed air left behind an aircraft can form tornado like vortices that are dangerous to all aircraft, particularly smaller general aviation aircraft operating behind a larger and heavier aircraft.

I’m sure you have heard of the term wake before, especially if you are a boater. A boats wake is very similar in nature to that of an aircraft. You can see from the image below as the boat motors along it displaces the water leaving behind a wake in the form of waves which spread in an outward direction.

boat wake

An aircraft’s wake is similar but differs in some characteristics and in the fact that typically wake turbulence created by an aircraft is not visible.

All aircraft leave two types of wake turbulence: Prop or jet blast, and wing-tip vortices.

Prop or jet blast is the thrust stream created by the engine. You will encounter this type of wake on the ground and is hazardous to light aircraft behind large aircraft which are either taxiing or running-up their engines. In the air, jet or prop blast dissipates rapidly.

Wing-tip vortices are a by-product of lift. As a wing produces lift, the higher static pressure area beneath the wing causes airflow around the wingtip to the lower pressure area above. To simplify the high pressure below the wing which creates lift wants to equalize with the lower pressure above the wing. The shortest point for the high pressure to move to the lower pressure area above the wing is at the wing tip. This high pressure moves outward, upward and around each wing-tip. However, because the wing and aircraft itself are moving, by the time the high pressure circulates around the tip to the top, the wing is now gone. This in turn creates vortices that trail behind each wing tip as seen in this image.


The strength of a vortex is governed by the weight, speed, and the shape of the wing of the generating aircraft. Maximum vortex strength occurs when the generating aircraft is heavy, clean, and slow.  A heavy, clean, and slow aircraft will require a greater angle of attack (AoA) to great sufficient lift, as the AoA increases so does the pressure differential. The greater the pressure differential the stronger the vortice.

Vortices generated by large aircraft in flight tend to sink below the flight path of the generating aircraft at a rate of about 500 feet per minute. A pilot should fly at or above the larger aircraft’s flight path in order to avoid the wake turbulence created by the wing-tip vortices. Over time the vortices also tend to move apart and will drift downwind of the aircraft flight path. A common rule of thumb is to fly above and upwind of the path of other aircraft.

Close to the ground, vortices tend to move laterally. A crosswind will tend to hold the upwind vortex over the landing runway, while a tailwind may move the vortices of a preceding aircraft forward into the touchdown zone. Research has also shown that as vorticies come in contact striking the gorund that have a tendency to “bounce” back up as much as 250 feet.

To avoid wake turbulence when landing, a pilot should note the point where a preceding large aircraft touched down and then land past that point.

Wake Landing


On takeoff, lift off should be accomplished prior to reaching the rotation point of a preceding departing large aircraft; the flight path should then remain upwind and above the preceding aircraft’s flight path. If departing behind a landing large aircraft delay your takeoff point to a spot past where the landing aircraft touched down.

Wake TO


1. When landing behind a large aircraft, the pilot should avoid wake turbulence by staying
A—above the large aircraft’s final approach path and landing beyond the large aircraft’s touchdown point.
B—below the large aircraft’s final approach path and landing before the large aircraft’s touchdown point.
C—above the large aircraft’s final approach path and landing before the large aircraft’s touchdown point.

2. When departing behind a heavy aircraft, the pilot should avoid wake turbulence by maneuvering the aircraft
A—below and downwind from the heavy aircraft.
B—above and upwind from the heavy aircraft.
C—below and upwind from the heavy aircraft.




1. When landing behind a large aircraft stay at or above the large aircraft’s final approach path. Note its touchdown point and land beyond it.
Answer (B) is incorrect because below the flight path, you will fly into the sinking vortices generated by the large aircraft. Answer (C) is incorrect because by landing before the large aircraft’s touchdown point, you will have to fly below the preceding aircraft’s flight path, and into the vortices.

2. When departing behind a large aircraft, note the large aircraft’s rotation point, rotate prior to it, continue to climb above it, and request permission to deviate upwind of the large aircraft’s climb path until turning clear of the aircraft’s wake.


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CFI Brief: Deciphering the METAR

Today we are going to take a look at your most common type of weather report, the Aviation Routine Weather Report, abbreviated as METAR. A METAR is an observation of current surface weather reported in a standard international format. The purpose is to provide pilots with an accurate depiction of current weather conditions at an airport. METARs are issued on a regularly scheduled basis, usually somewhere close to the top of the hour, unless significant weather changes have occurred. If this is the case then a special METAR or ‘SPECI’ will be issued at any time between routine reports.

Here is an example of a routine METAR report for a station location.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

This METAR reports contains the following typical information in sequential order which is the standard formatted coding for all METAR reports.

1. Type of report. There are two types of METAR reports. The first is the routine METAR report that is transmitted on a regular time interval. The second is the aviation selected SPECI. This is a special report that can be given at any time to update the METAR for rapidly changing weather conditions, aircraft mishaps, or other critical information.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR]

2. Station identifier. A four-letter code as established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In the 48 contiguous states, a unique three-letter identifier is preceded by the letter “K.” For example, Gregg County Airport in Longview, Texas, is identified by the letters “KGGG,” K being the country designation and GGG being the airport identifier. In other regions of the world, including Alaska and Hawaii, the first two letters of the four-letter ICAO identifier indicate the region, country, or state. Alaska identifiers always begin with the letters “PA” and Hawaii identifiers always begin with the letters “PH.” Station identifiers can be found by searching various websites such as DUATS and NOAA’s Aviation Weather Aviation Digital Data Services (ADDS).

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

3. Date and time of report. Depicted in a six-digit group (161753Z). The first two digits are the date. The last four digits are the time of the METAR/SPECI, which is always given in coordinated universal time (UTC). A “Z” is appended to the end of the time to denote the time is given in Zulu time (UTC) as opposed to local time. This METAR was issued on the 16th at 1753 Zulu.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

4. Modifier. Denotes that the METAR/SPECI came from an automated source or that the report was corrected. If the notation “AUTO” is listed in the METAR/SPECI, the report came from an automated source. It also lists “AO1” (for no precipitation discriminator) or “AO2” (with precipitation discriminator) in the “Remarks” section to indicate the type of precipitation sensors employed at the automated station. When the modifier “COR” is used, it identifies a corrected report sent out to replace an earlier report that contained an error. If this was the case for this example the word AUTO would be replaced with COR.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

5. Wind. Reported with five digits (14021KT) unless the speed is greater than 99 knots, in which case the wind is reported with six digits. The first three digits indicate the direction the true wind is blowing from in tens of degrees. If the wind is variable, it is reported as “VRB.” The last two digits indicate the speed of the wind in knots unless the wind is greater than 99 knots, in which case it is indicated by three digits. If the winds are gusting, the letter “G” follows the wind speed (G26KT). After the letter “G,” the peak gust recorded is provided. If the wind direction varies more than 60° and the wind speed is greater than six knots, a separate group of numbers, separated by a “V,” will indicate the extremes of the wind directions.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

6. Visibility. The prevailing visibility (¾ SM) is reported in statute miles as denoted by the letters “SM.” It is reported in both miles and fractions of miles. At times, runway visual range (RVR) is reported following the prevailing visibility. RVR is the distance a pilot can see down the runway in a moving aircraft. When RVR is reported, it is shown with an R, then the runway number followed by a slant, then the visual range in feet. For example, when the RVR is reported as R17L/1400FT, it translates to a visual range of 1,400 feet on runway 17 left.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

7. Weather. Can be broken down into two different categories: qualifiers and weather phenomenon (+TSRA BR). First, the qualifiers of intensity, proximity, and the descriptor of the weather are given. The intensity may be light (–), moderate ( ), or heavy (+). Proximity only depicts weather phenomena that are in the airport vicinity. The notation “VC” indicates a specific weather phenomenon is in the vicinity of five to ten miles from the airport. Descriptors are used to describe certain types of precipitation and obscurations. Weather phenomena may be reported as being precipitation, obscurations, and other phenomena, such as squalls or funnel clouds. Descriptions of weather phenomena as they begin or end and hailstone size are also listed in the “Remarks” sections of the report. The coding for qualifier and weather phenomena are shown here in this chart. The weather groups are constructed by considering columns 1–5 in this table sequence: intensity, followed by descriptor, followed by weather phenomena. As an example “heavy rain showers” is coded as +SHRA.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR


8. Sky condition. Always reported in the sequence of amount, height, and type or indefinite ceiling/height (vertical visibility) (BKN008 OVC012CB, VV003). The heights of the cloud bases are reported with a three-digit number in hundreds of feet AGL. Clouds above 12,000 feet are not detected or reported by an automated station. The types of clouds, specifically towering cumulus (TCU) or cumulonimbus (CB) clouds, are reported with their height. Contractions are used to describe the amount of cloud coverage and obscuring phenomena. The amount of sky coverage is reported in eighths of the sky from horizon to horizon as shown in this table. Less than 1/8 is abbreviated as Sky Clear, Clear, or Few. 1/8 – 2/8 Few. 3/8 – 4/8 Scattered. 5/8 – 7/8 Broken. 8/8 Overcast. For aviation purposes, the ceiling is the lowest broken or overcast layer, or vertical visibility into an obscuration.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR


9. Temperature and dew point. The air temperature and dew point are always given in degrees Celsius (C) or (18/17). Temperatures below 0 °C are preceded by the letter “M” to indicate minus. 10.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

10. Altimeter setting. Reported as inches of mercury (“Hg) in a four-digit number group (A2970). It is always preceded by the letter “A.” Rising or falling pressure may also be denoted in the “Remarks” sections as “PRESRR” or “PRESFR,” respectively.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

11. Remarks—the remarks section always begins with the letters “RMK.” Comments may or may not appear in this section of the METAR. The information contained in this section may include wind data, variable visibility, beginning and ending times of particular phenomenon, pressure information, and various other information deemed necessary. An example of a remark regarding weather phenomenon that does not fit in any other category would be: OCNL LTGICCG. This translates as occasional lightning in the clouds and from cloud to ground. Automated stations also use the remarks section to indicate the equipment needs maintenance.

METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26KT 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR

Putting it all together you would read this sample METAR as follows:

Routine METAR for Gregg County Airport for the 16th day of the month at 1753 zulu automated source. Winds are 140 at 21 knots gusting to 26 knots. Visibility is ¾ statute mile. Thunderstorms with heavy rain and mist. Ceiling is broken at 800 feet, overcast at 1,200 feet with cumulonimbus clouds. Temperature 18 °C and dew point 17 °C. Barometric pressure is 29.70″Hg and falling rapidly.


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CFI Brief: New GFA Supplement Figures

In the latest Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Instrument Rating (CT-8080-3F), the FAA has added several Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA) figures. These figures are 260 through 271 in the supplement and although the FAA has not yet added questions to the Instrument knowledge test on GFA, this weather tool is still something to become familiar with.

The GFA at the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) website is an interactive display providing continuously updated observed and forecast weather information over the continental United States (CONUS). It is intended to give users a complete picture of weather critical to aviation safety. The GFA display shows user-selected weather categories, each containing multiple fields of interest at altitudes from the surface up to FL480. Depending on the field of interest chosen, weather information is available from -6 in the past (observed) to +15 hours in the future (forecast).

The GFA is not considered a weather product but an aggregate of several existing weather products. The information and data from the various weather products are overlaid on a high-resolution basemap of the United States: The user selects flight levels and current time period for either observed or forecast weather information. Mouse-clicking or hovering over the map provides additional information in textual format, such as current METAR or TAF for a selected airport. The GFA replaces the textual area forecast (FA) for the CONUS and Hawaii with a more modern digital solution for obtaining weather information. The Aviation Surface Forecast and Aviation Cloud Forecast graphics are snapshot images derived from a subset of the aviation weather forecasts.

The Aviation Surface Forecast displays surface visibility with overlays of wind and gusts, predominant precipitation type (i.e., rain, snow, mix, ice, or thunderstorm) coincident with any cloud and predominant weather type (i.e., haze, fog, smoke, blowing dust/sand). The graphical AIRMETs (Airmen’s Meteorological Information) for instrument flight rules (IFR) and strong surface wind are overlaid. See FAA Figure 260. Forecast surface visibility is contoured for Low IFR (0 – 1 statute miles), IFR (1 – 3 statute miles), and Marginal VFR (MVFR; 3 – 5 statute miles) conditions. Visibilities in excess of 5 statute miles are not shown. Winds are depicted with a standard wind barb, in red when indicating gusts (see the figure below).


Below are some sample questions for what you could expect to see on an FAA knowledge test in the near future using those aforementioned GFA figures.

1. (Refer to Figure 261.) The precipitation type forecast to occur over southern ND (area C) is
A—Freezing rain.
B—Freezing drizzle.
C—Moderate snow.instrument_261

2. (Refer to Figure 266.) Precipitation throughout Washington and Oregon is predominantly
A—Light rain and rain showers.
B—Heavy rain showers.
C—Freezing rain.instrument_266
3.(Refer to Figure 269.) The cloud coverage around area B on the Aviation Cloud Forecast is forecast to be
A—Bases at 6,000 feet, tops at 7,000.
B—BRKN tops at 7,000 feet.
C—OVC at 7,000 feet.instrument_269

Answers and explanations

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CFI Brief: Sunset Weather

What could be better than taking your significant other on a romantic sunset flight around your local airport? I’ll tell you what, taking your significant other on a romantic sunset flight during an absolutely epic sunset! Sounds awesome right, but just how are you suppose to know when an epic sunset is going to happen? Easy… check the forecast. has come up with an algorithm to forecast the sunrise and sunset quality throughout the United States and all over the world! Take a look below at the sample sunset forecast for the United States.

Sunset Forecast

Areas of better sunset quality are denoted by warmer colors like the yellows, oranges and reds. It appears that the highest quality sunset will be visible throughout Central California according to this forecast. So if you happen to live in say Sacramento, CA it would be an excellent evening for that sunset cruise.

For the latest forecast visits and follow them on twitter @sunset_wx .

Now remember, since you will potentialy be flying prior to civil twilight, it is important to make sure your aircraft has the minimum required equipment under 14 CFR 91.205 for night flight. This is in addition to required equipment for day flight.

14 CFR 91.205

…(c) Visual flight rules (night). For VFR flight at night, the following instruments and equipment are required:

(1) Instruments and equipment specified in paragraph (b) of this section.

(2) Approved position lights.

(3) An approved aviation red or aviation white anticollision light system on all U.S.-registered civil aircraft. Anticollision light systems initially installed after August 11, 1971, on aircraft for which a type certificate was issued or applied for before August 11, 1971, must at least meet the anticollision light standards of part 23, 25, 27, or 29 of this chapter, as applicable, that were in effect on August 10, 1971, except that the color may be either aviation red or aviation white. In the event of failure of any light of the anticollision light system, operations with the aircraft may be continued to a stop where repairs or replacement can be made.

(4) If the aircraft is operated for hire, one electric landing light.

(5) An adequate source of electrical energy for all installed electrical and radio equipment.

(6) One spare set of fuses, or three spare fuses of each kind required, that are accessible to the pilot in flight.


To help you remember you can use this simple mnemonic ‘FLAPS’.

F uses (spare) or circuit breakers

L anding light (if for hire)

A nticollision lights

P osition lights

S ource of electricity


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CFI Brief: Part 107 sUAS Operating Limitations

If you plan on operating an sUAS under 14 CFR Part 107, make sure you fully understand your operating limitations.

Operating Limitations

The sUAS must be operated in accordance with the following limitations:

• Cannot be flown faster than a ground speed of 87 knots (100 miles per hour).

• Cannot be flown higher than 400 feet above ground level (AGL) unless flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure and not flown higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit. See Figure 1-1.


Figure 1-1. Flying near a tower

Crewmembers must operate within the following limitations:

• Minimum visibility, as observed from the location of the control station, must be no less than 3 statute miles.

• Minimum distance from clouds must be no less than 500 feet below a cloud and 2,000 feet horizontally from the cloud.

Note: These operating limitations are intended, among other things, to support the remote pilot’s ability to identify hazardous conditions relating to encroaching aircraft or persons on the ground, and to take the appropriate actions to maintain safety.

Below is the regulation outlined in 14 CFR Part 107.51

§107.51   Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.

A remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system must comply with all of the following operating limitations when operating a small unmanned aircraft system:

(a) The groundspeed of the small unmanned aircraft may not exceed 87 knots (100 miles per hour).

(b) The altitude of the small unmanned aircraft cannot be higher than 400 feet above ground level, unless the small unmanned aircraft:

(1) Is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure; and

(2) Does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit.

(c) The minimum flight visibility, as observed from the location of the control station must be no less than 3 statute miles. For purposes of this section, flight visibility means the average slant distance from the control station at which prominent unlighted objects may be seen and identified by day and prominent lighted objects may be seen and identified by night.

(d) The minimum distance of the small unmanned aircraft from clouds must be no less than:

(1) 500 feet below the cloud; and

(2) 2,000 feet horizontally from the cloud.


You can find all the sUAS Part 107 regulations in this years 2018 FAR|AIM available NOW!

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CFI Brief: Can you be a pilot with Diabetes?

Today we are featuring a guest editorial column by  

In this article we will explore whether or not you can become a pilot if you have diabetes. We will look at piloting for a commercial airline with diabetes and piloting for a private company with diabetes. We will also look at other jobs centered on aviation, such as being a flight instructor, or flying gliders and other small aircraft.

We will look at whether or not you can pilot an aircraft if you have Type 1Type 2, or pre-diabetes. We will look at whether or not it matters if you are taking insulin, other injections for diabetes, oral medications, or are diet and exercise controlled.

We have already been looking at some promising careers that we can have with diabetes that is well-controlled.

We have looked at being a long-distance truck driver, an EMS/Paramedic, a Firefighter, an air traffic controller, and a law enforcement officer. We have looked at whether or not you can be in the military with diabetes. Now we take on the most difficult career to date.

*Becoming a commercial airline pilot with diabetes requiring insulin is prohibited by a blanket ban in the United States. It is one of 15 conditions that can disqualify you when you go for your medical certificate with the FAA.

So what’s up? Let’s look…

You can read the article in it’s entirety by clicking on the image below.

Pilot Diabetes

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CFI Brief: Fireworks, Drones and Airplanes Don’t Mix

The ASA offices will be closed July 3rd and 4th for Independence Day. Happy 4th of July!

Now for a public service announcement from the FAA!

June 30– As people travel, purchase fireworks and fly drones over the Independence Day holiday, the FAA reminds them to know and follow the aviation safety rules.

Here are general guidelines for people flying drones:

  • Don’t fly your drone in or near fireworks
  • Don’t fly over people
  • Don’t fly near airports

To learn more about what you can and can’t do with your drone go to or download the B4UFLY app for free in the Apple and Google Play store. Also, check out the FAA’s July 4th No Drone Zone PSA video.
There are also strict rules prohibiting airline passengers from packing or carrying fireworks on domestic or international flights. Remember these simple rules:

  • Don’t pack fireworks in your carry-on bags
  • Don’t pack fireworks in your checked luggage
  • Don’t send fireworks through the mail or parcel services

Passengers violating the rules can face fines or criminal prosecution. When in Doubt…Leave it out!

For more information on the passenger rules for fireworks and other hazardous materials, please go to  Leave the fireworks at home–Fireworks Don’t Fly (PDF) (Poster)

As FAA works to ensure that passengers arrive at their destinations safely, it is important that you follow the rules while enjoying your drones as well as celebrating the July 4th holiday.

FAA 123

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