Sunday, January 28, 2007

Port Columbus Tower Tour

Last Friday my flying club, Capital City Aviation set up a tour of Port Columbus's tower (KCMH). This was my first time seeing the operations inside the tower at an airport and it's something I definitely recommend to any pilot. The staff were very friendly, and they took extra time for the pilots, explaining everything and answering all of our questions.

The big hit for me was the radar room, Port Columbus has about ten radar terminals, each with a large screen showing the radar returns, and smaller monitors on top displaying information such as IFR enroute charts, weather, PIREPs, and NTOAMs. The radar screen itself is amazing, packing a lot of information in a very concise and surprisingly easy to read manner (once you have someone explain what some of the numbers and symbols mean).

Up top, the "tower" portion is for the ground and on airport operations. The visibility is excellent of course, I could stand in the middle of the tower and have a 360 view of both ends of CMH's runways (there are rolling lifter stands for shorter folks). In the tower, there are monitors set up also showing radar returns from aircraft around the airport. At the time we toured the airport, there were three people in the tower, one guy handled the takeoffs and landings ("tower"), another the ground operations, and finally a very nice woman was handling the departure clearances and flow control.

All in all it was a very education and interesting experience, it was great placing faces to the voices. It gave me a greater sense of appreciation that these hard-working men and women are there to help the pilot and to prevent people from losing their lives. I'd like to go back solo and spend more time just sitting around and talking more with the people who work there!

If you're a pilot, take some time to visit your local airport and tour their tower. If they're like Port Columbus, they'll be very accommodating and pilot-friendly. Port Columbus preferred we visited during the weekday, simply because they could handle a large group better when they weren't busy, and midday during the week is fairly slow.

'Til next time, clear skies!

Setting the hook

I'd like to congratulate my friend, Mark for taking his first intro flight yesterday. I still remember my first intro flight (also the first flight I've ever had in a small airplane), it was the first step in a long journey (which I'm still on), and it's a step not everyone makes. Mark wrote the following in an email to me soon after he solo'd:

"Ground school cast out the line."
"When you took me up I bit the hook....Matt just set it!"

Clear Skies Mark! Once the hook's set, you're not getting free!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What in the NOTAM - CARF

CARF stands for Central Altitude Reservation Function is the organization responsible for processing altitude reservations (ALTRVs) for military operations. These types of NOTAMs are designed to keep private air traffic clear of military operations, and to give authorization for military aircraft to conduct operations not normally allowed under standard ATC rules and regulations. Here is an example of a CARF NOTAM:


Not all altitude and airspace reservations start off with CARF, off-shore reservations or reservations where there is inadequate radar coverage may be issued as an international NOTAM like the one below:

M0493/06 - AIRSPACE RESERVATION ACTIVATED AREA OAK ALPHA 3907N 7153W 3841N 7155W 3820N 6957W 3830N 69W 37N 69W 37N 7240W 3715N 7240W 3757N 73W 3820N 7248W 3846N 7230W SFC- FL055 08 NOV 23:59 UNTIL 07 FEB 23:59 2007

These types of NOTAMs should be treated like Special Use Airspaces (SUA), you should avoid flying in the area described in the NOTAM while the area is active. Speaking of SUAs, the FAA has a great site for checking the coverage and status of SUAs
at A careful check of both the CARF NOTAMs and SUA should help you stay clear of the fast-movers!

Clear Skies!

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I'm pretty happy to announce that I've just rolled out a new feature for NOTAM Ace, unlit towers.

How many times have you called the flight briefer or checked DUATS to be told there's an unlit tower near the airport. How many times have you just ignored it, simply because the information in the NOTAM is so vague as to be completely useless? ("8 miles East - North East of the airport", yeah okay that's really specific)

Well no longer, when you do a search in NOTAM Ace if there's an unlit tower in the NOTAM, you will know exactly where its located.

I'm really pumped by this feature, simply because it illustrates the benefit of NOTAM Ace's mapping technique, and it offers something DUATS and even the FSS briefer can't match (although as always call 1800-WX-Brief to get an approved FSS flight briefing before you fly...seriously I mean it!).

Till next time, watch out for those towers! Clear Skies!

Monday, January 15, 2007

What in the NOTAM - USD & UAR

While developing NOTAM Ace, I've run across a lot of different Notices to Airmen. Understanding NOTAMs is important for conducting a safe and legal flight, however a lot of pilots have only a vague understanding of what they're actually reading. Most pilots (and I'm including myself) just do a brief skim, looking for only a few things like "Temporary Flight Restriction" or "LGTS OTS", and missing other NOTAMs that could have a critical impact on the safety of their flight. I built NOTAM Ace to help make understanding NOTAMs easier, but software can only do so much.

That's why I'm starting a segment called "What in the NOTAM?" Weekly I'll research something that is often found in NOTAMs and try to cover what it is, how its written up, and why a pilot should pay attention to it.

This week, I'm going to start off with two NOTAM contractions important to every IFR pilot (especially if they operate in and out of busy Class C or B airspaces), USD and UAR.

USD depicts changes to the published Departure Procedures (DP) for the airport, here's an example:

!USD 07/020 (KPHX A0290/05) PHX ST. JOHNS THREE DEPARTURE...DEP CTL 119.2/281.45

This example shows a change in the departure clearance frequencies for the ST. JOHNS THREE departure at PHX. If you were used to the old frequency, checking this NOTAM could prevent a couple of seconds confusion when the tower gives you 119.2.

UAR is the NOTAM code for changes to the published Standard Terminal Procedures (STAR) for the airport. Here's what one of these may look like:


This UAR shows that for the LENDY FIVE arrival at JFK, there are some changes to the published route of the arrival. Knowing this in advance is essential if ATC happens to assign you this arrival.

Remember ATC can assign you a DP or STAR if available while you're on an IFR flight plan. Knowing in advance any changes to the published DPs or STARs is essential if you are planning an IFR flight.

That's it for this week in What in the NOTAM, if I've made any errors or omissions please feel free to leave a comment, I'll correct it ASAP.

Till next time, clear skies!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The past year in review

Wow, its been nearly a year since I last posted! A lot has happened to me aviation-related in the past year. Here's a brief summary:

1. IFR Certification - I went for and received my IFR rating, passing my checkride on 11/22. Its been a challenging and rewarding experience, even more so than the private pilot certification. I own my thanks to my flight instructor Matt F at Capital City, who showed infinite patience and guidance during my training, especially when I "gave bad radio."

2. Preflight Pro - I did some work on my visual NOTAMs tool, Preflight Pro and relaunched it as NOTAM Ace. Its more polished and offers a better UI experience. You can see the new version at

3. Mentoring - People who know me quickly realize its hard for me NOT to talk about flying. One of those people Mark, who I worked with during the first half of the year, figured since I talk about it so much there must be something to this whole flying business. He's now pursuing his private pilot certificate as well! He'll be training at Capital City ( and I look forward to seeing him around OSU!

This year - 2007

What's a blog post for the new year without a list of goals? Well here are several of my goals for the new year as a pilot.

1. Keep IFR currency - a requirement and responsibility that comes with having the rating, still it'll be pretty challenging as a "casual" pilot

2. More training - I've been bitten by the aerobatic bug, ever since I the flying club outing to Red Stewart field. I recently found out that Marysville (MRT) has a flight school for aerobatics, I want to check it out and see about getting some aerobatic training. Maybe even compete as an amateur in a few competitions.

3. Getting non-pilots involved - I love sharing my passion for flight with others, it was great taking Mark up in the air and just cruising around. Another friend, Will is pretty interested in flying too, so during a nice weekend (a rarity in Ohio this time of year) I'd like to take him up in the Warrior as well. I believe strongly in aviation being a shared experience, and I want to show as many people as possible what I experience in a small airplane 3000 feet up.