IMC Club

Last Spring, a pilot friend flew down to Centennial Airport to attend an “IMC Club” meeting put on by Independence Aviation.  He enjoyed it very much, and told me he thought it would be great if we could create such a club at FNL.

The idea of the IMC Club is to present a scenario of something going awry during an IFR flight, and then to discuss amongst the attendees what they would do in that situation.  There are no canned answers provided, and so there are no wrong answers.  Each attendee can contribute to the conversation, whether an aspiring instrument pilot or a Master CFI; having zero hours of experience or thousands.  The attendees can learn from each other during the course of the meeting.

As a result of the conversation, I did some research on IMC Clubs.  I discovered that about a year ago the independent IMC Club non-profit merged into EAA, and the club’s new model is to sponsor local clubs through local EAA chapters.  I also found that they have a large library of scenarios already created, making it very simple to run a meeting.

So I got agreement to form a club from our FNL EAA chapter President, attended a web-based training from EAA, and hosted our inaugural FNL IMC Club meeting on May 18.  We’ve held meetings the third Wednesday of each month since.  Attendance gets you a WINGS Knowledge credit.

We have a regular group of attendees, along with other pilots that drop in from time to time.  Because the meetings are advertised on the FAASafety website, we’ve also had pilots fly up from the airports to our south (LMO, BDU, BJC, APA) to attend.

My pilot friend recently told me that he’s changed some of his piloting and decision making practices as a direct result of the discussions during our IMC Club meetings.  That’s what these meetings are for: to challenge the way you fly and make decisions, and to make you a better pilot as a result.  He made my day!

If you are an instrument pilot, or thinking of getting the rating, feel free to join us in the jetCenter hangar each month.

View from the right seat

So I’m perusing the internet looking for something for my next article when I see something pop up about a skydiving record being set in Longmont. Odd that I hadn’t heard anything about it.

Once I clicked on it, it all made sense. Seems the record was set in 2011. Sixty nine sky jumpers from all over the world linked in mid air above Vance Brand Municipal Airport. It was their second attempt of the day which turned out to be successful. They formed a snowflake just long enough to have a photo taken.

I did that once, sky diving. Well all but the jumping out of the plane part.

In 1981 there was a terrible mid-air collision between a commuter plane and a sky diving plane over the skies in Loveland. One of the survivors was a young man who had lost his leg to cancer. Hoping it would make a good human interest story that I could sell,  I contacted him for an interview. He invited me along on one of their jumps.

We met at FNL where he hooked me up with a parachute. Holy cow those things are not light!!! After a brief set of instructions on how to pull the rip cord and where the back up cord was located, they loaded me into the plane. The pilot smiled at me and assured me I wouldn’t need to use it, then pointed to a space on the floor and indicated I should sit there.

The rest of the jumpers then climbed aboard and sat along the side of the plane also on the floor. I waited for someone to close the door. The plane started rolling and I was sure that everyone was so busy chatting that they forgot to close the door. Nope. It stayed open. My interviewee explained that when we reached a certain altitude they would each take turns jumping out the door. They would sink quickly so I needed to be quick about watching them.

The pilot would call out various altitudes until he must have announced the right one as the jumpers all stood up and waited along the wall of the plane. The plane seemed to slow down and the divers made their way to the door, my guy being last.

“You’ll have to get closer to the door if you want to see us.” he stated. Then one by one they dropped out of sight.

I sat on the floor with the door wide open.

“You can’t see anything that way.” the pilot said as he rolled the plane so I could get a better look. A better look?? My feet were pointing straight at the ground with an open door in front of me and a heavy parachute on my back. “Can you see them now?” he asked.

“Yep.” I answered meekly.

He invited me to sit in the co-pilots seat.

“This is my time.” he said. “First time in a small plane?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“Watch this.” he said as he sat his coffee down and proceeded to do a complete barrel roll. Not a drop spilled. It didn’t even move in fact.

He didn’t stop at that. He buzzed a field near the Flat Irons in Boulder. I hardly breathed as I thought about how low to the ground he was and what if his wheels caught on an odd piece of fencing that you couldn’t see in time.

He regained altitude and we headed back to Loveland landing safe and sound. I thanked him for a very enjoyable flight as he helped me remove my parachute.

I finished up my interview with a promise to show my subject my completed story. Unfortunately it was never published. Upon advice of his attorney the story was nixed.

Looking back at it now I wish I would have relaxed and enjoyed the ride. I’m sure it’s not every day that some one gets to ride with a stunt pilot.




Meet our members: Jason Licon

Jason Licon

jason-licon-closeupJason grew up next to the Greater Kankakee Airport in Kankakee, Illinois. His mother was a flight attendant for Continental airlines so he has been flying since he was about six months old. On the weekends his family always tried to find things to do. One day they noticed a pancake breakfast at the airport so they went. They were offering $10.00 airplane rides and that, he says, was his point of no return.

After that he would ride his bike over to the airport to watch airplanes and talk with pilots. He and his mother joined the local EAA chapter. If there was an airplane ride he could get involved with, he took it.

He got to know the airport manager. When he turned 16 they offered him a job just doing odd jobs here and there. The airport had just bought out the FBO so he started fueling airplanes, cleaning hanger floors, and mowing lawns. Basically anything that needed to be done at a small airport.

From that point on he was in high school and worked part time during school hours and full time during summers and breaks.

He went to college at Southern Illinois University for engineering but switched to aviation. He worked at Southern Illinois Airport whenever his hours would allow.

Summers and breaks he would go home and work at the KIKK. Three days after graduation he was hired at his home town airport. They knew the airport manager was planning on leaving in a few months, so they created an assistant manager position for him which made for a seamless transition from the retiring airport manager to him.

It was while he was at an airport executive conference that he became acquainted with a recruiter that was recruiting for the job here at FNL.  Although he and his wife were happy where they were, they were open to the idea of going someplace else.

The area of Illinois that he and his family lived in has never really recovered from the recession in 2007. His wife’s family lives in Texas, so Colorado was a good midway point and a great place to raise his family. It also was seen as having tremendous potential to advance his career as FNL was a commercial service airport with more traffic and a higher level of activity.

He loves his job. As he says, “With a small staff there is always something different and challenging to do every day.”

He has owned an airplane, but that was one of the point to point planes. He wants a plane where he can take people up for rides and enjoy the scenery and the act of flying rather than just go fast and get there.

At this point of his life he needs to think about all the costs and time needed to raise a growing family. His wife is staying home raising the kids, which has recently grown to three, so he reluctantly “traded his plane in for a minivan.”

Some day he would like to get back into aircraft ownership but for now he has friends that he can fly with and aircraft he can rent.

How FNL handles dignitaries

I sat down with Jason Licon this month and asked him what it was like when he got the call that Mr. Trump would be coming in.

He very calmly explained he didn’t receive “a call”. He said there is a county wide system for when dignitaries and the like fly in. Usually the visit is venue specific with the Budweiser Event Center, Larimer County Fairgrounds, Moby Arena or CSU being the ones to get a call to inquire about availability. Once the venue has been confirmed the advance team for the dignitary will start including a lot of the emergency services personal on planning the event.

Secret Service, in this instance, provided the lead on safety and security with the local law enforcement agencies providing support. Colorado State Patrol, Fort Collins and Loveland Police Departments as well as Larimer County, Thompson Valley EMS and Loveland Fire and Rescue Authority were included. Each agency is an expert in their field. Then it was just a matter of figuring out who would handle the motorcade, who has traffic control, who has perimeter security and so on.

Situations like this create a lot of interest; therefore, it creates a lot of additional tasks for the agencies involved.

Line of sight is a big issue for Secret Service and since they had limited staff and were unable to stand shoulder to shoulder, it was arranged by local SWAT to bring out public works trucks to provide a line of security. That is when Jason put his foot down.

“No. I don’t want trash trucks on my ramp.” He said. “It’s gonna look terrible and stink.” So he asked Green Ride if they would be able to park their buses on the ramp and they were more than happy to do so. He then filled in the holes with available trucks.

Jason has been airport manager for about 5 ½ years and has been through a visit from Obama and a couple of times with Paul Ryan so this stop was a well-oiled machine.

The airport staff had about a fifteen minute ramp stop, meaning all ground personal remained where they were until Mr. Trump exited his plane and the motorcade left the airport, but everything else was business as usual with no other impact to airport operations.

I think, after talking to Jason, our airport is in very capable hands.


Appareo representative Geremy Kornreich simplifies ADS-B

Here is a summary of Geremy’s presentation to our Association on September 22.

ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast and it is part of FAA’s NexGen revamping of the air traffic control system. It provides better information to the air traffic control system and pilots. The FAA mandate for ADS-B Out in Class B and C airspace is December 31, 2019 at midnight.

For example, a typical transponder, when it is interrogated by radar, says “Here I am. Here is my altitude, here’s my squawk code.”

An ADS-B Out system will automatically send out “Here I am, here is my latitude and longitude”, every second. By that the ATC system can calculate your speed and direction. It also tells the system what kind of plane you have, which tells it your performance capabilities and size. Some think ADS-B is the entry way to user fees.

There are two main data sets in ADS-B world. ADS-B Out makes you legal. ADS-B In makes you safe.

It broadcasts on two frequencies, 978 megahertz known as UAT (Universal Access Transceiver) and 1090 megahertz known as ES (Extended Squitter). ES is what you need if you are flying above 18,000 feet and/or out of the U.S.

UAT is only good in the US below 18,000 feet, and you will still need your existing transponder. The rule of thumb is that if you don’t need a transponder for the flying you currently do, you won’t need ADS-B post-2020 either.  But if you ever want to sell your plane, you will probably need ADS-B.

ADS-B In provides two services, FIS-B and TIS-B.  Your ADS-B In receiver doesn’t have to be permanently installed in the aircraft (such as the Stratus), and isn’t required for the 2020 mandate.

FIS-B stands for Flight Information Services Broadcast.  It includes textual weather (METAR and TAF), winds aloft, NEXRAD weather radar, TFRs,  AIRMETs, SIGMETs, and PIREPs, all of which can be displayed on your device (iPad, GPS, multifunction display, etc., depending on your equipment). The FIS-B data is continuously being broadcast by ADS-B towers, which are laid out in a ground-based network. There are about 600 of them around the country (usually installed on cell phone towers) with more being added to improve coverage. The closest tower to FNL is near Johnstown.

TIS-B stands for Traffic Information Services. This is not broadcast to all traffic. It is a custom report that only responds to an ADS-B out trigger.  A nearby ADS-B tower responds with all known traffic in your “hockey puck”, a chunk of airspace centered on your aircraft that is about 3,500′ tall (1,750′ below you and 1,750′ above you) and 30nm in diameter (aircraft within 15nm of you).

If you are not ADS-B Out equipped, your ADS-B In receiver can see this hockey puck data as well, but unless you are co-located with the aircraft that is generating the data (and I hope you aren’t), you can be missing out on a substantial amount of information.  For example, if you are 15nm east of an ADS-B Out aircraft, your receiver will see traffic to your west but not to your east.

ADS-B In receivers also receive direct air-to-air traffic information — UAT if they receive that band and ES if they receive that band.  Many receivers these days are dual-band.  So you can see ADS-B Out equipped traffic that is outside your hockey puck.

The more congested the area is, and the more aircraft there are with ADS-B Out, you’re probably always in someone’s hockey puck. The farther east you go from here, away from the metropolitan area, you won’t benefit much from TIS-B if you don’t have ADS-B Out.  But you will still get the FIS-B weather.

ADS-B ground stations are one of three types: low (local information), medium (regional information), and high (national information).  They are laid out in a honeycomb pattern:


The theory is that the higher you are (and thus the more towers you can receive), the more likely you have a more capable, faster cruising aircraft that benefits from longer range data.

All the weather is at least ten minutes old by the time it is broadcast, and usually closer to twenty minutes. So if you are using Foreflight or something to try to fly around weather, please don’t. Weather can move quickly.  Use the weather for big-picture weather trends, not to sneak through a hole between cells.

XM weather works better than ADS-B, but ADS-B is free. It’s all about the granularity.

ADS-B out will be required in 2020 where Mode C transponders are required today. In order to be compliant you will need a WAAS GPS source for your ADS-B Out device.  Some devices come with built-in WAAS GPS (at a higher cost).  ADS-B Out must be panel mounted and permanent due to the fact of the information about your plane.

If you choose to use UAT for ADS-B out, you are going to retain your existing transponder, and the UAT device must synchronize to it.  Various methods are used by different vendors, from a “head” device on your panel where you enter or verify your squawk code, to devices that clamp to your transponder’s coax, to antennas mounted near your transponder antenna.

At the moment the ES installs are leading the UAT  installs by about 3 or 4 to 1. Because of the piggy back nature, remote mounting, and old tired transponders that have to be replaced with new ones, installation costs for UAT are usually substantially more than the cost of an ES solution.

Previously in order to have a TSO piece of equipment, a manufacturer had to prove that it works on one particular aircraft (generating an STC) and then provide data to add other aircraft to the list (generating an AML). So, for example, you could install an Appareo ADS-B Transponder on a Cessna 182 but not on a Cessna 210.  In May, FAA came out with a memo with updated information stating that you don’t need an AML for a transponder, particularly an ADS-B transponder upgrade. So now there is a little paperwork that needs to be done by your installer, but any certified ADS-B device can be installed on any aircraft.