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.") It's part of what makes aviation
so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it
all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.
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, and as
representatives of the flying community. 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.
It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers
become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our
ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those
strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow
them to soar magnificently through it.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
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always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips.
Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this
A recent, tragic mid-air
collision between two Cessnas flying visually
over Alaska prompted a few questions about Visual Flight Rules
(VFR) cruising altitudes.
Short answer: The Cessnas that collided were flying low enough
that the "hemisphere rule" that spells out VFR cruising altitudes
did not apply.
So what is the hemisphere rule?
FAR 91.159 tells us:
- Except while holding in a holding pattern of 2 minutes or
- or while turning,
- an aircraft under VFR in level cruising flight more than 3,000
feet above the surface shall maintain the appropriate altitude or
flight level prescribed below, unless otherwise authorized by
The intent is to provide at least 1000 feet of separation
between VFR airplanes approaching head-on (or from roughly opposing
directions). Flying prescribed altitudes also provides 500 feet of
separation between VFR and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) airplanes
operating in visual conditions.
Note that the Rule:
- is based on your ground track, not your magnetic
- does not always apply, since airplanes may be turning, holding,
climbing or descending through the "wrong" altitude
- only applies at 3000 feet above ground level and
Aero-tip of the day: Adhere to the "hemisphere
rule" for VFR cruising altitude whenever possible... but the "rule"
alone does not replace the need for an active visual scan.