Instrument Checkride Prep: Reading and Interpreting the METAR

I’m taking the instrument check ride next month and I’m going to be blogging nightly on different topic in preparation for all of the stuff I think will come up on the oral part. I am preparing for lots of aviation weather talk, so at least the next week will be over those topics. I will have to explain things like the difference between a stable and an unstable atmosphere, what standard temperature and pressure values are, and the two basic ways that fog may form. 


One very basic thing I will have to do is hop on and read and interpret a METAR. The first thing I will do is going to and click on METAR – it’s in the upper left hand corner of the website. Then I will scroll down to near the bottom of the page – on the right, where it says “Request Metar Data”, and I’ll type in the identifier of my airport – in this case KCRQ. 

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The METAR reads: Data at: 0358 UTC 23 Mar 2016 KCRQ 230353Z AUTO VRB03KT 10SM CLR 15/10 A3004 RMK AO2 SLP169 T01500100

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 Here’s how I’d read this: Airport is KCRQ, Carlsbad, CA Time – 23nd of March at 03:58 Zulu Time. I convert the time and it’s the 22nd of march at 20:58 Pacific Daylight time. The AUTO, when it appears just after the time group, means that the observation is from an automated station. Winds are light and variable at 3 knots, visibility is 10 or more statute miles, sky is clear, Temperature is 15 degrees, Dew Point is 10 degrees. Remarks: A02 means the station has a precipitation discriminator. SLP stands for Sea Level Pressure, which is another measure of atmospheric pressure. The Last digits that start with a “T” are the he hourly air and dewpoint temperatures to the nearest 1/10 C degree.

Tomorrow night I think I will review the Winds and Temperature aloft chart, and what valuable information can be determined on there, like the most favorable altitude, areas of possible icing, temperature inversions, and turbulence.

What is WAAS (in Aviation)? Explaining it for the Instrument Checkride

In the instrument checkride (next month – eeeek!) I know I’m going to have to talk about instrument approaches, GPS approaches and will be prepared to explain how a GPS works.  And I’ll probably be asked about WAAS. What the heck is it? I know what WAAS is because I’ve been eyeing a ForeFlight Stratus for Echo Sierra – and it has WAAS!  

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 WAAS stands for Wide Area Augmentation System, and it’s a nice system of satellites and ground stations that give GPS signal corrections in a timely manner (every 5 seconds or better), to give better accuracy. Garmin says WAAS capable receiver can give position accuracy of better than 3 meters, 95% of the time. Foreflight says you frequently see 1 meter accuracy or better. Essentially, WAAS is intended to enable aircraft to rely on GPS for all phases of flight, including precision approaches to any airport within its coverage area. 

Another great thing about WAAS is almost around the clock availability. If you want to get technical, availability is the probability that a navigation system meets the accuracy and integrity requirements.  The WAAS specification mandates availability as 99.999% throughout the service area. This is equivalent to a downtime of just 5 minutes a year. That’s pretty awesome, especially considering before WAAS, GPS specs allowed system unavailability for as much as a total time of four days per year. 

IFR Checkride Prep: Alternate Airports and the 1-2-3 Rule

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.49.08 PMNext month I will be taking my Instrument Rating checkride! I am very excited, not because I have any desire to fly straight into some big puffy clouds, but because it is an important step in my progress of being a more experienced and qualified pilot. I’ve finished two big hurdles already, I have gotten my 50 hours cross country PIC time, including a few solo cross country flights, and I’ve passed the FAA written exam. I’m also about half way through the commercial ground school. I was planning on taking that written exam before the Instrument checkered, but I’m not sure if that will happen yet. In any event, I will be studying aviation every night. 

One question that I anticipate coming up on the checkered is “How do you know if you’ll need to list an alternate airport on your IFR flight plan?” And no, it’s not acceptable to just say, “I’ll list one anyway, just to be safe.” The examiner is going to give me a weather forecast at an airport and I’ll have to tell him whether or not I need an alternate. I will refer to the 1-2-3 rule of IFR flying. It’s pretty simple. 

From ONE hour before to ONE hour after your planned ETA at the destination airport, the forecast has to be at least 2,000 foot ceiling and 3 mile visibilities. If those weather minimums are met, than no alternate airport is required. But if the ceiling or visibility is less than TWO thousand feet and THREE miles, then you need an alternate. And there are some rules about your alternate, depending on the available instrument approaches. 

If an IAP is published for that airport, you must be able to land at the alternate minimums specified in the procedure, or if none are specified: 

(1) for a precision approach procedure: ceiling 600 feet and visibility 2 statue miles. 

(2) for a non precision approach procedure, ceiling 800 feet and visibility 2 statute miles. 

(3) If there is no instrument approach procedure published for your alternate airport, the ceiling and visibility minimums are those allowing descent from the MEA, approach, and landing, under basic VFR. In class Echo airspace below 10,000 feet MSL, basic VFR is 3 statute miles visibility and cloud clearance of 500 feet below, 1,000 feet above, and 2,000 feet horizontal. 

Subscribe to Birchbox This Month and We Both Could Win!

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I have been a loyal Birchbox subscriber for many years because it is awesome! My makeup bag is filled with goodies that are great – that I otherwise wouldn’t think to buy or try. If you’re not subscribing, you’re missing out. Here is your chance! Birchbox is having a promotion, if you join and subscribe by February 14th, we will both be entered to win a beautyblender royals blender sponge.  So cool! Just use this link to subscribe and you can thank me later! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!

Olivia Caridi of the Bachelor :: “I Wanna Talk Smart Things”

I love watching the Bachelor on Monday night, and I especially love some of the great quotes that come from these smart, beautiful women. You can’t make some of this stuff up! This week was no disappointment, it picked up right where the drama left off last week. Olivia Caridi is a news anchor / reporter, and when Bachelor Ben Higgins pulls her aside, she tells Ben she wants to talk smart things. Then they all head to Exuma Island of the Bahamas, where Ben takes Caila deep sea fishing. If you are a fan of the Bachelor, check out my friend Andrea’s Bachelor Recaps, every Tuesday over on

San Diego Safari Park Fun with Ava

In January, Ava and I got a membership at the San Diego Zoo / San Diego Safari Park. So far, we have twice gone to the Safari Park, including yesterday. Ava is the perfect age and loves to see all the animals. We haven’t gone to the zoo yet but I think we will in the next couple of weeks. We got a Curator’s Club membership, which means I can bring any adult guest any time I go – it’s great. So yesterday my sister Caroline came. We only stayed for about 3 hours, but went on the Tiger Trail, visited the bats, watched the cheetahs, and enjoyed the Africa Tram. Can’t wait to go back soon.


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Instrument Checkride Oral Portion Prep: Explaining Wind Shear and How to Handle It

I’ve been busy preparing for the instrument checkride. I did well on my private pilot checkride, but this time I want to be even more prepared, so I will be less nervous. I’m going to start tackling subjects that I anticipate will be on the instrument checkride. Here is a video I made about wind shear, what it is, and what I will do if I encounter it.

New Year’s Day Flight to Catalina

Happy New Year!  Thought it would be fun to do a lyric video and since it was New Year’s Day, I tried to pick a fun song! Hope everyone had an amazing day yesterday and isn’t letting the newness of 2016 wear off. Today is Day 2 of book of 366 days! Can’t wait to see what is in store for 2016!! 

This video is yesterday’s flight out of Oceanside to Catalina! Weather couldn’t have been better and we saw a couple of whales out swimming around.  Rather than overflying the airport and doing a sort of circle back / teardrop entry on the 45 at KAVX , we flew over Two Harbors and came around the back and entered  on a 45 for right downwind for Runway 22.  Fun flight, and such a treat that Catalina is a short 55 mile hop from Oceanside! 

Government Accountability Office to Review Power Morcellators

powermorcellatorThe US Government Accountability Office announced yesterday it would be investigating the use of laparoscopic power morcellators, at the request of 12 members of congress, who cited the deaths of “hundreds, if not thousands of women in America” who have died from uterine cancer or other gynecological cancer.

Back in November of 2014, the FDA issued a black box warning to ensure physicians and their patients know about the risks of power morcellators. If you are unfamiliar, power morcellation is used in a non-invasive hysterectomy or myomectomy surgeries.  In a laparoscopic hysterectomy surgery, the uterus is minced up, (morcellated), into smaller pieces inside the woman’s belly cavity in order to be extracted from the abdomen. It can consist of a hollow cylinder that penetrates the abdominal wall, ending with sharp edges or cutting jaws, through which a grasper can be inserted to pull the mass into the cylinder to cut out an extractable piece.

But was the less invasive surgery really worth the risk? The advantage of using a morcellator device is of course, a smaller incision and quicker recovery. However, if the woman has undetected cancer such as uterine sarcoma, the breaking up of tissue can increase the risk of cancerous tissue being spread throughout the woman’s abdomen and pelvis. And this has happened a lot. Read much more on There have been dozens of reported incidents, and so far about 45 lawsuits have been filed in federal or state court.  The US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has consolidated more than 20 lawsuits into an MDL (number 2652) which was approved in October.  Fortunately, the use of morcellators has largely been abandoned.

The companies being sued in power morcellation lawsuits include Johnson & Johnson, which makes the Ethicon Gynecare Morcellex Tissue Morcellator.

Ava Meets Olaf (the inflatable version)

Ava was gone for a few days in Oklahoma for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I missed her so much!! I had some time to do a little Christmas decorating, and while I was at Lowes shopping around, I saw an inflatable “Olaf” snowman from Frozen, our favorite movie. I knew she would just love it him, so I brought him home. When Ava got out of the car, she spotted the deflated snowman and immediately had to investigate. I went and plugged in his little fan, and whipped out my phone to capture the magic. She was so excited!