It is now official. After a long wait and much looking I finally landed a Captain’s position with an FAA Part 135 Scheduled Air Carrier.
The airline operates the venerable and tough as nails Cessna Grand Caravan C208B. I have nearly 4,000 hours in the C208, or the “short” version, as an air tour pilot and inter island charter pilot for which the Cessna Caravan is a perfect fit.
One of the big discussions during training has been about single engine IFR with passengers over water and the big Cessna’s engine out glide profile. Luckily the C208 has a fantastic 12:1 glide ratio rivaling some of the older training gliders as long as the big McCauley propeller is feathered as soon as possible (assuming restart is not possible) and best glide speed ~95 knots indicated airspeed is established (assuming no wind and near gross weight).
Back to over water commercial flights… Since this particular airline is a scheduled air carrier operating with 9 passenger seats or less they are governed by FAA FAR Part 135. More specifically, Part 135.183 which talks about single engine over water. This is where the good from the bad operators are separated. Basically, single engine passenger carrying commercial flights can not fly beyond glide of land except for that portion of a flight required for “landing or takeoff”.
Scenario 1. A flight is within glide distance of land for the entire flight, however, the initial approach fix of the approach in use is at an altitude and distance that places the aircraft outside of that glide distance for a short time for the purpose of landing. The weather requires the approach and there are no other approach/arrival alternatives. Note: if the weather is VFR and the flight can maintain VFR within glide distance of land then that option should be taken to comply with 135.183. So far this seems to be perfectly acceptable to the FAA and pilots do not have to be worried about violations.
Scenario #2. The weather is VFR or an approach/arrival consistent with conditions is available, however, for what ever reason Air Traffic Control issues a clearance that places the aircraft well beyond glide distance. If this was en route it would be completely unacceptable and the pilot had better refuse the clearance and ask for another. If this is with an approach controller the situation gets complicated because they are sequencing the aircraft for “landing” up to 20 miles away from the destination airport and there is No definition of where the “landing” portion of a flight begins and the FAA thus far has refused to clarify. It is not good to be a pilot in this situation because one FAA inspector could issue a violation and another may not. What is a pilot to do?
Logic and “CYA” should tell the pilot to assume the worst and stay within glide distance until at least the initial approach fix if in IFR conditions or maintain VFR and within glide distance for as long as possible when possible.
Here in Hawaii this is usually not a challenge and the air traffic controllers are pretty good at getting you what you need but there are currently two “hot spots” concerning gliding distance for single pilot IFR passenger flights. The first is arriving IFR or in marginal weather to Honlolulu Class B airspace (PHNL/HNL). This is due to the departing mainland bound airliners climbing up and out through the Molokai-Oahu Channel. If you arrive from Molokai direct to HNL between 6,000 and 8,000 feet you are right in the middle of that traffic and ATC will try to send you 15 miles south of HNL and drop you down to 1,500 feet over the Pacific Ocean as soon as possible. Not acceptable for obvious reasons. The Cessna Caravan glides pretty good but not that good! The answer here is to climb to 8,000 towards BAMBO intersection to the NE of Koko Head VOR and then get vectors high and inside of the departing heavy jets. This is a bit out of the way but it is well worth it for the safety of the passengers and the pilot’s certificate!
The Second “hot spot” is departing Kona International class D airspace (PHKO/KOA) heading NW to the other islands. Departing runway 17, the norm due to local winds, ATC will have you on a heading of West until at least 6,000 feet before even thinking about turning you North and closer to the islands. This is unacceptable. Luckily for us the Kona Airport has 350 days of sunshine per year making a VFR departure climbing along the shoreline until reaching a safe altitude to cross the Alinuihaha channel and pick up an IFR clearance possible most of the time. Of course, when the departure is IFR or ceilings less than 6,000 then we have to do as told as there are no other options other than not going at all and this is considered to be the takeoff phase of flight.
It is interesting flying single engine IFR with passengers in Hawaii and the pilot has his/her job cut out for them but it all boils down to good aeronautical decision making (ADM) and looking for options and alternatives to have on hand when the clearance is issued. Welcome to my “Office With A View”.
The Starving Pilot