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Tue, Oct 10, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (10.10.06): Head-Down Taxi

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 10.10.06

I just got back from annual Convention duty with my "day job" as manager of education and technical programs for the American Bonanza Society (www.bonanza.org). Well over 100 member airplanes were tied down in tight rows on the Colorado Jet Center ramp at Colorado Springs, CO. As is customary after the ABS Convention, the majority of pilots left early on Sunday morning immediately after the four-day event.

"Departure day" this year coincided with the morning after the Air Force Academy/Naval Academy football game in "the Springs." In addition to Beechcraft the ramp was crowded with biz jets and military T-1 Jayhawk transports (retired and active-duty generals and admirals, no doubt), and a large collection of assorted other airplanes from Falcon jets on down to Cessnas and Pipers.  The tiedowns were already populated with local airplanes. In all, the ramp was packed.

And most of the Beech pilots would take off before dawn.

KCOS' air traffic control did a superb job of sorting this all out and getting our members on their way. In fact, three controllers came to our convention hall the day before and gave a detailed departure briefing, so every pilot knew beforehand what clearance to expect whether under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), Visual Flight Rules (VFR) with flight following, or a simple VFR routing out of the Class C airspace. Discussion centered on GPS waypoint procedures, given that virtually all pilots in the room raised their hand when the controllers asked who has GPS in the cockpit.

I asked if I could interject a point and was given the floor. I reminded the group that it would be crowded and dark, with pilots, passengers and ground vehicles on the ramp, and asked them to:

Input all your GPS data and set up your communications radios before you push the throttle forward and taxi out of the tiedowns.

I don't have any specific data (yet; give me time), but it sure seems to me there's been an increase in reported taxi mishaps, ground collisions and propeller strikes that roughly coincide with the introduction of GPS-driven flight management systems in lightplane cockpits. I regularly caution my students to program the GPS before taxi or when stopped in the run-up area, but to concentrate outside the airplane when in motion. This goes for listening to ATIS, copying a clearance, and any other head-down chores. You don't want to run into something-or somebody.

Aero-tip of the day: Crowded ramp or empty, dark sky or light, do cockpit chores when you're stopped, and keep your eyes outside the cockpit while taxiing.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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