What is the meaning of the differing colors on the FAA seal in the upper-right corner of various types of pilot certificates?
- none whatsoever: Some pilots have “blue circles” and some have ones that are black.
- Supposedly, blue seals are awarded to instrument rated pilots.
- That, and more: Blue seals are bestowed upon instrument-rated pilots, and “Gold Seal” flight instructors have, well…gold seals!
- That would make sense, wouldn’t it? Although there is some truth to this, many non-instrument rated pilots also have blue certificates.
Answer: According to FAA Order 8700.1, titled “General Aviation Operations Inspectors Handbook”, Volume 2, Chapter 1, Section 10 (“Miscellaneous Certificate Information”, paragraph 19), the FAA began issuing “blue seal” certificates to those who have “demonstrated their ability to control an airplane by reference to instruments” back in 1961. According to this same reference, a CFI certificate is still just plain black, but can be gold as described in choice C. (Volume 2, Chapter 13 of this FAA Order discusses this.) However, even though the original intent was to serve as an incentive to other pilots to get instrument instruction, choice D is correct. Many private pilots now have blue seals on their pilot certificates. It’s D.
If a fire were to somehow erupt in your aircraft, which of the following correctly states how your fire extinguisher might save the day?
- If the fire were electrical in origin, the discharged water would safely cool the insulating material from associated wiring below its melting temperature such that the likelihood of re-ignition is greatly reduced.
- If the fire originated from combustible materials, the discharged gas only needs to lower the oxygen content of the air by about a third, rather than “smothering” it by totally displacing the oxygen in the air around it.
- For combustible metals, carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are effective agents, although they do leave quite a mess afterwards.
- For flammable liquids, the fire extinguisher does just that by fully displacing the burning gasses that have been evaporated by the heat from the fire with inert gas which does not support further combustion, as well as diluting any remaining volatile liquid with enough of a non-flammable component to prevent re-ignition.
Answer: A fire needs three things to get started: fuel, oxygen, and heat. Remove any one, and you stop the fire. Fuels are “classified” into four categories, each denoted by a letter. So-called Class A fuels include wood, paper, cloth, or plastic. Class B fuels are represented by such flammable liquids as gasoline, oil, grease, and solvents. Class C means any “energized” (as in “plugged in”) electrical equipment, and Class D fires involve combustible metals such as magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Fire extinguishers are similarly classified. Class A fire extinguishers might use water, which cools the fire by removing heat. Dry chemical or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers can be used for Class A, B, and C fires, and they smother fires by removing (or reducing) the amount of available oxygen. Dry power (such as sodium chloride) extinguishers are used to fight flammable metal fires by covering the burning metal with a crust that forms over the burning metal, smothering the fire. You might be surprised to learn that fire actually doesn’t need the 21 percent of oxygen that is contained in the atmosphere. However, it does need at least 16% of it to consist of oxygen. A standard carbon dioxide cylinder only needs to displace enough air to reduce the percent of oxygen immediately accessible to the flames by about five percent. It doesn’t actually have to smother a fire by totally displacing all of the air. That is why they work so well. So, yes, as far as which “class” of these choices is right (A, B, C, or D), the correct answer is B. Perhaps more important than that 16% stuff though, is to remember that a fire on (or inside of) an airplane is not like a fire on or within a surface structure. The type of fires that can occur in a home or business involve normal surface-use “Class A-B-C” fire extinguishers, which have excellent fire fighting capability. Just don’t use them in your airplane! Why? Some of the chemical agents melt and flow when in contact with heat. Chemicals such as mono-ammonium phosphate or methyl bromide can be highly corrosive to aluminum alloys and zinc. Once it contacts hot aluminum and flows down into the structural cracks and crevices, it cannot be washed out as other dry chemical agents are. Using an “A-B-C” extinguisher may make it necessary to totally disassemble the aircraft in order to prevent possible destruction of the aircraft by corrosion. (However, “B-C” extinguishers are usually okay.) The best bet, and the safest and least hazardous type (at least as far as you and your airplane are concerned) is to use a halon type of extinguisher. (See http://www.princeton.edu/~ehs/theater/AppendixA.html for information on how fires and fire extinguishers are classified.)
Who’s On First?
After an aircraft experiencing an emergency, what four types of aircraft or situations come next, on the pecking order of priority ATC handling?
- presidential flights, air ambulance flights, urgent situations, and search & rescue (SAR) operations
- any urgency condition, air ambulance flights, presidential flights, and SAR operations
- civilian air ambulance, SAR, presidential, flight check
- air ambulance, SAR, presidential, interceptions
Answer: As we’ve probably all been taught in ground school, next in line after an emergency condition comes an “urgent” condition. Although it’s rarely done, any pilot can theoretically say the words “pan-pan”, repeated three times, whenever he or she is doubtful about fuel endurance, weather, or anything that could adversely affect the safety of flight (and this includes being “momentarily lost” or otherwise apprehensive about knowing one’s position). However, that’s not what is specifically listed next, in the ATC Handbook. Air traffic controllers are obligated to provide service to aircraft according to duty priorities. The highest priority of ATC service, as we know, is any situation involving an aircraft when an emergency has been declared. (Pilots must abide by this rule, as well as other priorities decided by aircraft category and situations described in sections 91.113 and 91.115 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, otherwise known as the “Right-of-Way Rules”.) There is actually a hierarchy of other decreasingly dominant operational priorities in the controller’s handbook. (Although there can be many factors involved, no standard list can be guaranteed to uniformly apply in every situation, and an individual controller should exercise his or her own judgement from a safety standpoint, there is such a list.) And there’s way more than four more. According to Chapter 2, paragraph 2-1-4, these operational priorities are:
a) aircraft in distress
b) civilian air ambulance (“LIFEGUARD” flights) or military air evacuation flights
c) search and rescue (SAR) flights
d) presidential aircraft
e) Flight Check aircraft (flight inspection of navigational aids, direction DF equipment, and RADAR)
f) NIGHT WATCH (or NAOC, Natl. Assoc. of Ordnance & Explosive Waste Contractors) aircraft
g) FLYNET aircraft (nuclear, biological, or chemical accident emergency response teams)
h) Garden Plot (CARF) aircraft (military support related to domestic civil disturbances)
i) aerial sampling (SAMP) aircraft (atmospheric sampling for nuclear contamination)
j) interceptor aircraft
k) special air mission and law enforcement operations (SCOOT)
l) NOAA mission aircraft
m) IFR aircraft
n) OPEN SKIES (treaty observation or verification) SUA flights
o) aircraft operating under the National Route Program
p) diverted flights
So the “correct” answer is choice C. Incidentally there are also two additional situations besides emergencies, under which ATC is excused from the normal procedures and minima contained in the controller’s “bible”, FAA 7110.65: except when deviations are necessary to conform with ICAO documents or special agreements involving ATC service outside the US, or other procedures dictated by a military document, FAA directive, or a letter of agreement. That’s what it says.