When planning a flight in marginal visual flight conditions, one thing we helicopter pilots realize is that the only weather reports we get in a briefing are Aviation Routine Weather Reports (METARs) and Terminal Area Forecasts (TAFs) from airports, or Area Forecasts (FA) and Weather Synopses covering larger areas. We then have to visualize the ceilings and visibilities between those ground reporting stations. If we are going to or launching from an off-airport site, that complicates our decision-making. While Weather Depiction graphics can help, another great tool in our flight planning toolbox is the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) Tool from the National Weather Service.
It never ceases to amaze me how frequently two aircraft, with so much airspace available, can converge and require a course/altitude adjustment to prevent collision. As pilots we have to maintain vigilance in scanning for traffic. While Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) and verbal traffic alerts from controllers help, they don’t replace the need to visually scan. At uncontrolled/non-towered airports this becomes even more vital as there are no controllers to help you, and inexperienced and/or poorly-trained pilots are drawn to these locations.
You recently received your Commercial Pilot Certificate for Rotorcraft-Helicopter and have arrived via taxicab at Thief River Falls Regional Airport (KTVF). It’s 1300Z and you’re going to pickup and ferry a helicopter to another airport about 300nm away. Looking at the Sectional Chart, you see that the airport is not towered.
A Gold Seal on a Certified Flight Instructor’s (CFI) certificate indicates that they have a high level of personal qualifications and good records as an active CFI. There are also plenty of great instructors without a Gold Seal, either because they never applied for one or simply don’t have enough students taking check rides within the specified time period. No special privileges come with this added seal, but it does renew your CFI certificate for an additional two years when obtained.