Av Hazard publicizes safety and operational concerns to help prevent accidents but it works only if we hear from you. Use the postage-free Av Hazard card to describe the hazard and return it to Pro Pilot. To obtain an official FAA review send NASA an ASRS form. For immediate action, call the airport, FBO, ATC, FSDO or the 24-hour FAA Safety Hotline at 800-255-1111. Note: Telephone numbers for all US Towers and ARTCCs are published in Ac-U-Kwik and Pilots Express Airport/Heliport/FBO directories. To report safety concerns outside the US, contact ICAO HQ at 514-954-8219 or via fax at 514-954-6077. ICAO has worldwide telephone and fax numbers to expedite Av Hazard reports to civil aviation authorities.
Last-minute runway closure
We use this small New Jersey airport often and get good service. We check Notams, of course, and on this 10:00 AM passenger pickup with evening return there were no runway Notams. The FBO cautioned that runway work would be starting during the next 3 weeks and to be watchful.
At approximately 3:00 PM that same day, a new Notam was issued, closing the only runway for heavier aircraft as of 5:00 PM that evening, and for all aircraft as of 8:00 PM. Severe weather was in the NYC area that evening, so this added greatly to our stress. In the end our passenger was greatly inconvenienced.
Two to 6 hours on the same day is not nearly enough notice, and it is inevitable that this could impact safety as many aircraft have a range of 7-plus hours and may be arriving from the other side of the country. The airport system is there for aircraft—and in this case we were ill served. There had been a meeting at the airport the previous week setting the plan. After our trip we watched every subsequent day that started with no Notams, and as of 3:00 PM a Notam was entered to close the airport as of 9:00 PM. This could definitely lead to a safety issue. This affects the FBO as well, as we have since changed to another local airport that is the same distance to the actual destination and we would have used it that day had we known our airport was to be closed.
__ATP, Challenger 601
- Airport managers and authorities must realize the impact of aviation safety when giving short-notice Notams like the one covered above. Aircraft departing prior to the Notam being issued and hoping to arrive with an open runway, like the Av Hazard reporter states, could be surprised when arriving at their destination if this occurs. Great job for the pilot sharing this hazard with the FSDO, NASA/ ARSA, company, fltplan.com, airnav.com and this column to get the word out.
OSU beacon in line with other lights
The airport beacon at OSU (Ohio State University, Columbus, OH) is low, in line with area spotlights and difficult to see at night. I have flown into OSU several times and usually have difficulty spotting the airport even within a few miles.
__Unreported, Shorts C23
- Many airport beacons are difficult to pick out of surrounding lights, especially airports surrounded by larger city areas. At night it is recommended to shoot an instrument approach or a visual approach found in many GPS or FMS navigation systems to ensure adequate terrain clearance and proper directional guidance to assist the pilot in finding the airport and landing on the correct runway.
Min fuel vs emergency fuel
A recent issue of Callback from NASA (May 2010) had examples of different fuel conditions pilots may find themselves in while encountering unforeseen delays due to weather or traffic. There continues to be a little confusion on the correct terms to use with ATC when fuel becomes an issue.
- "Minimum fuel" advisory, according to the AIM, is not an emergency situation and does not gain any priority handling by ATC. The glossary found in the AIM states, "Minimum fuel indicates that an aircraft's fuel supply has reached a state where, upon reaching the destination, it can accept little or no delay. This is not an emergency situation but merely indicates an emergency situation is possible should any undue delay occur."
The ATC Controller's Handbook (ATP 7110. 65P: 2-1-8) adds, concerning minimum fuel advisories, "A minimum fuel advisory does not imply a need for traffic priority. Common sense and good judgment will determine the extent of assistance to be given in a minimum fuel situation. If at any time the remaining usable fuel supply suggests the need for traffic priority to ensure a safe landing, the pilot should declare an emergency and report fuel remaining in minutes."
On the other hand, a "fuel emergency" advisory gains priority handling with ATC and expedites the aircraft to the destination. A definition for fuel emergency cannot be found in the AIM. However, a bulletin put out by FAA in Feb 2008, InFO 08004, Comparison of Minimum Fuel, Emergency Fuel and Reserve Fuel, explains the industry accepted expectation for a fuel emergency is "the point at which, in the judgment of the pilot-in-command, it is necessary to proceed directly to the airport of intended landing due to low fuel. Declaration of a fuel emergency is an explicit statement that priority handling by ATC is both required and expected."
According to the May 2010 Callback, ATC has the ability, in accordance with its handbook, to upgrade a minimum fuel advisory to an emergency if they feel it is necessary to get the aircraft on the ground safely.
Bottom line for pilots is that if you need priority handling to reach your destination safely due to a low fuel situation, declare an emergency. Don't wait until it's too late.