Semana Santa Sunday (Easter) flying experience

The Sunday of Semana Santa might be one of the busiest, maybe the busiest day of the year on the streets and in the air in Guatemala. It was so busy that it was hard to place a call on the radio. On my first flight coming into Guatemala City I circled outside the 10NM class C airspace at least 3 times before being able to establish 2-way communication with La Aurora Tower (118.10). La Aurora is a class C airspace and you cannot fly within the 10NM before the tower has repeated your call sign. I wish pilots would be more professional in these situations, stop complaining about waiting times, instead remember the correct phraseology and only say what is needed. This was a very challenging day for air traffic controllers and surely at limit of what the frequency can handle at times.
The second flight was even more interesting. Flying back into Guatemala City from Chiquimula, there was a lot of traffic from and to Rio Dulce. We established initial contact with Guatemala Radio (126.90), but Guatemala Radio must have some technical issues and they were not able to respond (or provide a transponder code). This created a lot of confusion on the frequency. We decided to deviate towards the south to be away from the Rio Dulce route. We also started to do Unicom type position reports, assuming Guatemala Radio and all other aircrafts would at least hear us.

Then someone on the frequency “instructed” to change to 121.50 until Guatemala Frequency radio would be fixed. We did that, but when did initial contact where asked if we had an emergency. Obviously this is the emergency frequency and should be used for that. Not sure where that suggestion came from at the first place. Very questionable…

We switched back to Guatemala Radio with no success. Then decided to enter the Guatemala airspace from the south east (runway 02 was the active). We tuned the transponder to 1200 in ALT mode, this is the North America standard VFR code and would allow them to see us on the radar, without knowing who exactly we were. We switched to Guatemala Tower frequency and tried to communicate with them but only at around 12NM we were able to establish 2-way contact. Everything from there on was normal and event-less.

I would love to hear the perspective from Guatemala ATC. What happened that day and what they would have recommended the pilots to do. Generally, on very busy days, what would ATC recommend?
The one thing we could have done differently, we could have tried to connect with La Aurora Control (the radar and IFR frequency). Any other suggestions?

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Trim Check

There are many items on the checklists, that simply state “CHECK”. Some of these are probably pretty straight forward, but do we really know what we are looking for? Elevator trim was one of those that I didn’t really know what to look for other than the position when set to neutral or check for movement. A new article explains the basic workings of the elevator trim and what checks can be added to the preflight check.

Preflight Trim Check

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Filing a Flight Plan with AIS

When flying out of Guatemala City, you have to file a flight plan. Usually I file my flight plans through the Aeroclub. I know that most of the pilots file through the Aeroclub or the Circulo Aereo. But what if you want to file a flight plan after office hours. Before my instrument rating that never has never occurred to me (night VFR flight in Guatemala is not possible and sunset is around 6:00 PM all year around). But last week I wanted to file a night flight with a fellow pilot friend and I called just after office hours and everyone was gone. I asked around and was told that I should be able to file my flight plan directly with AIS. So there we went at 8:30 PM to the DGAC in Guatemala, next to the terminals. Most pilots will know the building for the yearly license renewal. At first I wasn’t let through the entrance gate. This must be a very rare occasion for someone to actually file a flight plan with AIS at night. After calling AIS, they arranged for us to be let in. The flight plan filing was quick, the staff was friendly and everything went perfectly fine. All in all it took us around 15 minutes. There you have it… there is an alternative way of flying a file plan, even after the Aeroclub and the Circulo Aereo are closed.

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Pictures from night flight over Guatemala

Check out the Guatemala Skies Picture Gallery for new pictures added from the last night flight over Guatemala City!

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Video added to Gallery – Flight from Roatan to Tegucigalpa

A new video was added to the Guatemala Skies Video Gallery. This video was shot in January 2015. The flight was conducted under simulated instrument conditions (wearing foggles) with an CFII on-board. After an instrument takeoff from Roatan the flight is in and out of clouds to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Jeppesen charts are shown along the way, including taxi diagram of Roatan, the Roatan SID and an approach plate for Toncontin International airport. The flight finishes in Toncontin airport with a circle-to-land approach.

IFR route MHRO MHTG

Click on the picture to see the route within SkyVector.

Hope you enjoy the video!

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Roatan Trip Pictures published

Click on the picture below and go check out Guatemala Skies Picture.

Pinterest Roatan Trip

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New Article on IFR Holding Patterns

A new article was published about IFR Holding Patterns. At least in my mind, it seems relatively simple to fly a holding pattern, but still I found several ways of doing it wrong, so I came up with 5 ways NOT to fly a holding pattern.

Let me know you comments!

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A new article about IFR equipment

A new article was posted under the Articles tab. Check it out…

IFR Equipment Considerations

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Webcam live again

Hello All,

The webcam with view to the south of Guatemala City is live again! Every minute a new picture will be uploaded to Guatemala Skies.

The camera has a new location. Special thanks to MJ, who allows the camera to be installed in his appartment! The view is very similar to the previous and we will make minor adjustments over time to provide both views on Palin and East of Pacaya.

Enjoy!

Webcam Description with Horizon Line

Happy watching!

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Runway Hold Short Markings

The hold short line is something all pilots are familiar with. Something we also vaguely remember for the ground school class with all other airport markings. In Guatemala we only get to see a subset of airport markings and the hold short line is definitely part of it. As straight forward as it seems, I have had “doubts” about the hold-short line and I have observed other pilots probably having similar thoughts. I had the opportunity to discuss this with other pilots and have done some lookup to make sure my comments here are as educated as possible. Let’s get started…

The hold short markings are four lines that separate the runway from the taxiway or another runway. These yellow lines consist of two solid lines and two dotted lines, where the solid lines always can be found on the side of the taxiway.

Hold Short Markings

When taxing from the parking position two the holding position for takeoff, all pilots will stop before that line so that no component of the airplane is over the line, making sure the aircraft is clear of the runway. You can only cross this line with authorization from ATC. Let’s have a look at the runway 02 in La Aurora. It’s hard to make out the markings, but you will notice the holding area is big enough for a smaller plane to make run-ups while a commercial aircraft can still taxi to the runway for takeoff.

Holding Area Runway 02

The situation is a little different at other runway crossings. As an example, have a look at the taxiway N off the runway that leads directly to the fuel bombs of the “Aeroclub”.

Holding Area Aeroclub

A plane holding correctly at that hold short marking is essentially in the middle of the runway and blocking the runway for other traffic. Surely this is the reason that pilots would go over the line into the taxiway to clear the taxiway. It sounds very kind, but technically is a runway incursion.

This situation should be fairly straight forward I have only seen this couple of times. Here is another situation that I am seeing all the time. As I had mentioned in the introduction, I had thoughts about the correct action around the hold-short markings also. Imagine the following scenario. You just landed on runway 02 and you roll on the runway towards the “Aeroclub”. La Aurora Tower requests you leaving the runway to your left. A commercial plane is taxing down the runway and you realize that if you clear the runway, you will be blocking that traffic as you will be right in front of that aircraft. What makes this situation a little more complex is that you will be changing radio frequencies from La Aurora Tower to Ground Control. This means that you are not in the same frequency as the closing traffic. I understand the urge to leave the taxiway clear and stay on the little path. Again, if a plane is landing on runway 02, this is technically a runway incursion.

Here is an abstract from the FAA AIM.

[…]
Runway Holding Position Markings on Taxiways. These markings identify the locations on a taxiway where an aircraft is supposed to stop when it does not have clearance to proceed onto the runway.
[…]
When instructed by ATC to, “Hold short of (runway “xx”),” the pilot must stop so that no part of the aircraft extends beyond the runway holding position marking. When approaching the runway, a pilot should not cross the runway holding position marking without ATC clearance at a controlled airport, or without making sure of adequate separation from other aircraft at uncontrolled airports. An aircraft exiting a runway is not clear of the runway until all parts of the aircraft have crossed the applicable holding position marking.
[…]

In summary stay entirely clear of the runway before takeoff and after landing, ensuring that no part of your aircraft crosses the line. This places you in the middle of the taxiway. This not only is your right, but obligation. The only exception to this is, when ATC requests you to stop before continuing to the taxiway.

Please let me know your comments!
Happy Taxiing!

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