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Knowing Your Airplane

Featuring Bob Nardiello

aircraft capabilites

terrain considerations


"How do aircraft capabilities factor into your flight planning?"


"Fuel capacity and limitations regarding weight and balance are important. Known icing capability is important if the aircraft is equipped. Radar availability is a consideration. Oxygen availability is important if you're intending to fly above 8,000 feet or more than four hours. Many people are affected by the thinner air, and fatigue can be a factor. Long periods at high altitudes even though they're legal altitudes can be fatiguing. So oxygen availability or pressurization are likewise considerations in terms of the choice of altitudes."


"What about terrain considerations? How do they affect your flight planning?"


"Those enter the picture in a couple of different areas. Regarding IFR flight they affect the MEAs or minimum enroute altitudes that you can select.

Terrain considerations also affect the route of flight. For instance, on a flight from Hartford to Gary, Indiana, a likely route across central Pennsylvania crosses some wilderness areas, and availability of emergency landing sites is relatively limited. So that may affect your route in terms of your route planning so that you may choose a route that crosses more hospitable terrain or crosses areas where airports are available.

In the case of flights out West, it may be that your aircraft is unable to fly at the MEAs that are required for an IFR flight. In fact, I picked up a Skyhawk, a Cessna 172, in Palo Alto, California, and flew it back to Connecticut. In that particular case the aircraft was not capable of flying IFR in certain parts of the route because it was unable to maintain MEA. So in that case the flight was restricted to VFR weather only where we flew VFR.

So you need to be looking at whether your aircraft is capable of flight at the MEAs for the route of flight that you are selecting. If not, you need to either modify the route or choose a VFR route on a VFR day."

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