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Radar Contact

How to communicate effectively and confidently with air traffic control. For pilots of all experiences levels, flying VFR or IFR.

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How to Switch from Approach to Tower Control

“Chestnut 372 Victor Charlie, you’re six miles north of the airport. Contact Propinquity Tower on 119.6.” That is how the switch from Approach Control to Tower Control should sound. Does it always happen that way? We’ll rip it apart in this week’s show and see what the pieces tell us. Last time in our story, I asked you some important questions about how you would use the Aircraft Radio Simulator. Yeah, I’m talking about the software I’ve had in development since the Late Pleistocene Epoch. I’ve got your answers from the survey on this subject. The results are going to surprise you. Got a good question for you about how the ILS hold short line affects pilots flying VFR. That’s right, sometimes IFR approaches affect VFR. All that, plus listener emails and that twice-a-month brain cramp, Your Question of the Week. I’d tell you more but time is a-wasting and we’ve got a huge show to navigate. Roll the mp3 player! Show Notes: A listener writes: “I am 10 miles out [from the airport], usually where I am making my call to Tower to notify them that I am inbound for landing, but I am still stuck on ATC [approach control] for flight following. . . Had I not terminated Flight Following, would Longview Approach have sequenced me in, and had me contact the Tower, say 5 or so miles out?” Approach Control or ARTCC will always switch you to tower control before you enter Tower’s airspace. This applies whether you are flying VFR or IFR. You normally maintain your discrete transponder code when switching from Approach to Tower because most towers have their own radar display in the tower cab. Your discrete transponder code allows the tower control to view vital information about your aircraft on the tower’s radar display. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you believe the controller has forgotten or overlooked your flight, do speak up. You and the controller are both working for a safe flight. Help each other out. The results of a survey regarding the Aircraft Radio Simulator are in, and no, I cannot offer the final version of the simulator for free. I explain why in this segment of the show. You only need to hold short of the ILS hold short line when tower tells you to do so. There are very specific criteria Tower uses to activate the ILS hold short line. If Tower does not tell you to hold short of it, taxi like it isn’t there. The question about the ILS hold short line comes from my Twitter feed. You may follow me at twitter.com/jeff_atc for more tips and techniques when talking with ATC. Use the Twitter icon in the upper right corner of this website or use this link. Do you have experience with any of the following flight schools: ATP, Aerosim, Wayman, Dean, ADF? If so, get in touch with me at jeff@atccommunication.com. There is a listener in Venezuela who is interested in attending one of these schools and he needs more information. Your Question of the Week: You are departing VFR from a Class Charlie airport. Before you taxied out to the active runway, the clearance delivery controller in the airport tower gave you a discrete transponder code to squawk and a frequency to contact departure control. You have lifted off of the runway and you are climbing away from the airport. The last thing the tower controller said to you was: “Cleared for takeoff.” You are now 7 miles from the airport, well beyond the boundary of the tower’s airspace, and you have not heard anything further from the tower controller. What, if anything, should you say on the radio? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link atccommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


30 Jul 2013

Rank #1

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Air Traffic Control Tips, Goodies, and Presents

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or if you prefer, Seasonally Adjusted Greetings. I come bearing gifts of good cheer, ATC tips, techniques, and other goodies. Special Type 12X-mas de-icing fluid. 12-day holdover time before reapplication required. Normally, I’d tell you what’s in store for this edition of Radar Contact. Instead, slip off the ribbon, tear away the wrapping paper and look inside. Show Notes: Rudolf is fully equipped and rated for IFR. Donner and Blitzen are still working on their instrument ticket. All the other reindeer are VFR-only. Santa has logged over 55,000,000,000 flight hours, but he’s only typed in one aircraft model. The runway next to the workshop at the North Pole has a Microwave Landing System that no one knows how to use. North Pole Airport Tower was on Congress’ original sequestration list a couple of years ago. Then the D.O.T. informed them the airport was not located in the U.S. Several Congressmen insisted it was in their district. As far as anyone knows, Santa has never flunked a checkride. Rumors are, the max gross weight of Santa’s sleigh is somewhere around 4-million metric tons. We do know the sleigh’s publish VNE is Mach 11. Another rumor: Regarding flight currency, Santa said to his reindeer, “Fly what you want. Log what you need.” A link to the Headset Buyer’s Guide. Leave your own present in the form of a headset review at the Guide. Santa will mark that as a good deed on his list. Oh yeah, this show contains some good-to-know information about ATC too. AIM 4−3−2. Airports with an Operating Control Tower a. When operating at an airport where traffic control is being exercised by a control tower, pilots are required to maintain two−way radio contact with the tower while operating within the Class B, Class C, and Class D surface area unless the tower authorizes otherwise. Initial callup should be made about 15 miles from the airport. . . In the interest of reducing tower frequency congestion, pilots are reminded that it is not necessary to request permission to leave the tower frequency once outside of Class B, Class C, and Class D surface areas. We shall speak again in the new year. Until then, have a safe and pleasant holiday. Your friend, Jeff


23 Dec 2015

Rank #2

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What ATC’s ‘Make Closed Traffic’ Clearance Means

“Cessna 9130 Delta, Pensasoda Tower, make right closed traffic. Runway 11, cleared for takeoff.” What has ATC just authorized you to do? More importantly, what has ATC not authorized you to do? The answers are not as straight-forward as you would think. You have declared an emergency with ATC. Then, it occurs to you. You might not have a situation that requires emergency status. If your emergency turns out to be a false alarm, or if you resolve the emergency before landing, are you permitted to cancel your emergency with ATC? We’ll nail down the answer to that question in this week’s show. Cinch your seatbelt a little tighter because we are about to takeoff. The forecast for this show is a rough ride in moderate turbulence. Ready? Let’s go! Show Notes: Closed Traffic AIM Pilot/Controller Glossary CLOSED TRAFFIC− Successive operations involving takeoffs and landings or low approaches where the aircraft does not exit the traffic pattern. CFR 91.129 Operations in Class D airspace. (i) Takeoff, landing, taxi clearance. No person may, at any airport with an operating control tower, operate an aircraft on a runway or taxiway, or take off or land an aircraft, unless an appropriate clearance is received from ATC. Canceling an Emergency Note how there is nothing in CFR Part 91.3 (below) that requires you to declare an emergency; or prohibits you from canceling an emergency. All the reg says is, you are the final authority as to the operation of that aircraft. Note how the FAA may need a written report from you only if you deviate from Part 91 due to an emergency. 14 CFR 91.3 a. The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft. b. In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency. c. Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator. A previous show that talks about the lack of consequences for declaring an emergency can be found at this link. Your Question of the Week: You are taxiing out to the runway for a practice session of touch-and-goes and low approaches. When you called for taxi, you said, “Rapscallian Ground, Piper 405 Echo Lima, ready to taxi from the North Ramp and we’ll remain in the pattern.” The ground controller acknowledges this and gives you taxi instructions. Next, the tower controller says, “Piper 405 Echo Lima, Rapscallian Tower, make left traffic, Runway 7, cleared for takeoff.” We know from our earlier discussion that you will require a separate clearance from Tower prior to each touch and go or low approach. Here’s your question. Given your initial clearance from Tower, after your first touch and go, will you need clearance from Tower to fly another circuit around the pattern? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you’ll find a complete answer along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


28 Feb 2016

Rank #3

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Radar Contact 32: Finding Your Way to Talk to ATC

Round dial versus glass. Boeing 767-300 (top) and Boeing 767-400 (bottom). Learning to talk to air traffic control on the radios can be tough. Learning to talk to ATC on the radios while learning to fly a new airplane is even harder. Learning to talk to ATC, while learning to fly a new airplane, in a foreign country is possibly the most difficult of all. In this week’s Radar Contact Show, we are going to look at that most difficult situation. We will crack the code on how to talk to ATC even when learning to fly in a foreign country. Communication with ATC by text message? It’s already here and it may be coming to your cockpit in the near future. Find out how it works and how it will affect you in this week’s show. “November 9275 Hotel, say your aircraft type code and suffix.” Do you know how to answer that? We’ll crack the code together. May I ask you a question? Too late. I already asked one! Though it’s a matter of opinion and certainly technique-only, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to make a request with ATC. We will look at the difference. I have so much of the good stuff in this week’s show it will make your head spin. That’s okay though. We’ll throw in full rudder opposite the direction of spin and set the aircraft right again. Here we go. . . Show Notes: Upgrading from the Boeing 767-300 to the 767-400 was not that difficult. It was simply a matter of getting used to new instrument displays in the cockpit and a few differences in systems operation. What proved harder was learning the radio work for ocean-crossing and for flying in Europe. Take a look at the taxi diagram for Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain.Clicking this link opens the airport diagram in a new window. Radio work becomes easier as you practice and as you give yourself permission to make mistakes. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) is communication with ATC by text messaging. It is used everyday by aircraft crossing the ocean. CPDLC may have some good uses in your cockpit, especially for non-urgent communication with ATC. Your aircraft’s type code can be found at the FAA’s website. At the index page, click on the first letter of your aircraft’s manufacturer and then find your specific aircraft model in the list on the new page.Here is the link which opens in a new page or tab. The International Civil Aeronautical Organization (ICAO) is the originating source for aircraft type codes. Here is the link to the ICAO’s list of aircraft by manufacturer. Find your manufacturer in the list and then click on the manufacturer’s name to see the different models of aircraft and their codes. Here is the link to the ICAO listings. Sometimes ATC will ask you for your aircraft’s suffix. Development of the new Aircraft Radio Simulator, written in HTML5 and Javascript is coming along nicely. I will have a test module demonstrating the voice recognition capability of the sim available for you shortly. If you need to make a simple request of ATC, just ask. You don’t need to introduce the request unless the request will be long and complicated. If you need to ask ATC a general question, first ask the controller if he or she has time for a question. Your Question of the Week: You are flying VFR cross-country while talking to ATC for flight following. Earlier, you had filed a VFR flight plan and you listed your aircraft with a suffix of slant Alpha, meaning your aircraft has a transponder with Mode C and you also have DME in your navigation suite. About halfway to your destination, you notice the DME display on your instrument panel goes blank. You try tuning in different VORTACs in your area, and although you receive radial information off each VORTAC the DME display remains blank. You are absolutely certain your DME system has gone inoperative. Here’s your question: Given your filed flight plan and the fact that you are flying VFR, are you required to notify ATC that your DME has become inoperative? When you think you know the answer that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer to this week’s question along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.


13 Sep 2013

Rank #4

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Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies and ATC as Customer Service

This edition of the Radar Contact Show consolidates the previous 3 articles about using a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) and about ATC as customer service organization. If you would rather read about CTAF, you can find the full articles using these links. How to Select and Use the Correct Common Traffic Advisory Frequency It’s What You Don’t Hear on the Radio that Can Get You ATC is a Customer Service Organization Your Question of the Week You are preparing to depart VFR from Martha’s Vineyard Airport. It’s November 2 and the current local time is 05:30. Using the Airport Facility Directory listing of communications for Martha’s Vineyard Airport (below) describe the radio drill you would use to depart from Martha’s Vineyard, beginning from your parking position on the ramp through your departure from the traffic pattern heading northwest. When you think you have the entire radio drill figured out, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete solution for this situation, along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


10 Apr 2016

Rank #5

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We’d Be Thrilled If You Simply Used Your Call Sign!

I’ve spent a lot of time at this website talking to you about how to format your call sign when transmitting on the radio. While focusing on tiny details, I failed to recognize the bigger problem. Many pilots do not even use their call sign when talking to ATC. Time to slay that dragon. There you are, whizzing around an uncontrolled airport pattern, surrounded by who-knows-what in other aircraft. If it’s your unlucky day, someone is going to try and swap paint with you on the downwind leg. What do you do and what do you say on the common traffic advisory frequency to unravel a developing furball? I mean besides, “Oh ____, this is gonna hurt!” I have the answer in this week’s show. All that, plus Your Question of the Week. Show Notes: Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) 4−2−1. General b. The single, most important thought in pilot- controller communications is understanding. It is essential, therefore, that pilots acknowledge each radio communication with ATC by using the appropriate aircraft call sign. CFR § 91.123 Compliance with ATC clearances and instructions. (a) When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no pilot in command may deviate from that clearance unless an amended clearance is obtained, an emergency exists, or the deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory. However, except in Class A airspace, a pilot may cancel an IFR flight plan if the operation is being conducted in VFR weather conditions. When a pilot is uncertain of an ATC clearance, that pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC. (b) Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised. (c) Each pilot in command who, in an emergency, or in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory, deviates from an ATC clearance or instruction shall notify ATC of that deviation as soon as possible. (d) Each pilot in command who (though not deviating from a rule of this subpart) is given priority by ATC in an emergency, shall submit a detailed report of that emergency within 48 hours to the manager of that ATC facility, if requested by ATC. (e) Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person operating an aircraft may operate that aircraft according to any clearance or instruction that has been issued to the pilot of another aircraft for radar air traffic control purposes. AIM 4−1−9. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers g. Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions 1. General. Self-announce is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated CTAF. h. UNICOM Communications Procedures (d) Report approximately 10 miles from the airport, reporting altitude, and state your aircraft type, aircraft identification, location relative to the airport, state whether landing or overflight, and request wind information and runway in use. (e) Report on downwind, base, and final approach. (f) Report leaving the runway. Your Question of the Week You are 20 miles from an uncontrolled airport, inbound for landing. You dial up the ASOS frequency for the airport and learn the surface winds are 340 at 10 knots. The airport has 1 north-south runway with a left-hand traffic pattern, so you are obviously going to land on Runway 35. Next, you tune the airport’s Unicom frequency and request an airport advisory. There is no answer. You report your position at 10 miles from the airport, “Town and Country Traffic, Cessna 9130 Delta, 10 miles southwest, inbound for landing.” There’s no response to this. The radio is completely silent and you are certain you have the correct frequency tuned. Given this situation, what do you do next? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers.


18 Jan 2016

Rank #6

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Aviation Headsets < $400: What We Know So Far

The results of the survey about aviation headsets costing less than $400 are in. The survey asked, is there an economical headset that feels good on the head, provides good audio quality, and holds up over time? The answer in this week’s show. Questions asked in reader and listener email “Tiring of hearing “tally ho” and “no joy” on ATC [frequencies], my wife and I are on a quest to find the real word on this slang. I love that you always reference the docs –the AIM, the FARs, maybe a chart — and say when your opinion is just your opinion, and I hope that you can help us!” David T-G “I’ve noticed in the radio simulator, the books, and podcasts you say numeral 9 as the word “nine” instead of “niner”. Is there a reason for this? While I’ve not yet heard controllers refer to numeral 3 as “tree” and 5 as “fife”, it’s been common practice for years to say the 9 as “niner” as in “Cessna seven niner quebec, Hanscom tower, cleared for takeoff runway two niner”. I’m just curious in your experience the “niner” thing is overkill for private pilots.” Andrew W. These questions answered, plus one question I’ll ask you: Your Question of the Week. T-minus fife, four, tree, two, one, zero. Launch Radar Contact! Show Notes: Survey Responses (By Headset Model) ASA HS-1 (Approx. $113) Number of Responders: 4 Comfort: Great! 0; Just okay: 4; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 1; Just Okay: 2; Unacceptable: 1 Durability: Great! 2; Just Okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “I bought this headset for the backseat of my Warrior. With the mic plugged in it adds a lot of extra static noise no matter who is talking.” Gulf Coast Avionics ANR (Approx. $249) Number of Responders: 2 Comfort: Great! 0; Just okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 0; Just Okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 1; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “Pretty comfortable for awhile but once I’m over 2 hours it starts to get heavy and uncomfortable.” “This is my first headset which has been great for the money so it was excellent entry level set.” Faro G2 Passive (Approx. $170) Number of Responders: 2 Comfort: Great! 1; Just okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 1; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 2; Just Okay: 0; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “This was the headset I used during training. It is a excellent value, and performed well. ” “These are probably the most comfortable passive, wired headsets you can get. The thick gel cushion makes all the difference. The gel flows around sunglasses temple pieces and never really feel like they are ‘clamping’.” “Very clear. You have dual volume control so you can turn the volume on the radio up and turn your own headset down in case your copilot has a different impedance on his set.” “The construction is solid and the mic boom feels like it’s going to last a long time even when you fiddle with it a lot. Faro offers an excellent warranty so you really don’t have to worry about it if something does break.” Faro G2 ANR (Approx. $349) Number of Responders: 4 Comfort: Great! 3; Just okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 3; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 3; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “Mine has the gel ear cups and is very comfortable, even with my glasses on. When I first got the headset, I had to slightly bend the headband to relieve the clamping pressure on mine, but not my wife’s (guess I have a big head). It has been perfect ever since. I use this headset from below zero to 100+ temps and no problem with comfort, even on 5-6 hr flights.” “I have poor hearing and hearing loss. this headset has been a big step up from the DC h10 that I used before. The ANR is very effective and does not distort the audio at all. Everyone says that the transmit audio is perfect, with no background noise. Love the aux audio input that I plug my tablet into for audible alerts.” “I’ve had these for about 2 years and 150 hours. No sign of a problem.” Flightcom Classic ANR (Approx. $345) Number of Responders: 2 Comfort: Great! 0; Just okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 0; Just Okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 2; Just Okay: 0; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: None David Clark H10-30 (Approx. $280) Number of Responders: 8 Comfort: Great! 2; Just okay: 6; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 2; Just Okay: 6; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 7; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “This headset felt a little heavy at first, but that abated. The comfort problem I had related to my sunglasses. Specifically, the side arms and temple piece that curves around my ears did not fit well under the ear seals.” David Clark H10-13.4 or H10-13S (Approx. $320) Number of Responders: 9 Comfort: Great! 5; Just okay: 4; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 5; Just Okay: 4; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 7; Just Okay: 2; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments:”They start feeling heavy and uncomfortable after about 1.5-2 hours and progressively get more uncomfortable to a point where it’s time to take them off. (Ear/side pressure and top pad).” “The fit feels secure without being tight or clamping. The ear seals (gel ) are very comfortable and seal well. The head pad is also fine I wear them for a maximum of 2 to 3 hours at a time.” “Clarity is functionally good ,they are just not as sweet as the ANR Zulus.” [The Lightspeed Zulu.2 headset costs $800.] “My David Clark 13.4s are about 20 to 25 years old and still look like they are brand new, they still have the original ear seals and head pad.” David Clark H10-60 (Approx. $360) Number of Responders: 7 Comfort: Great! 2; Just okay: 5; Unacceptable: 0 Clarity: Great! 3; Just Okay: 4; Unacceptable: 0 Durability: Great! 6; Just Okay: 1; Unacceptable: 0 Notable Comments: “I have been using this headset for a very long time. Comfort is excellent, sound too if you consider that this headset don’t have any ANR system.” “I’ve heard David Clark headsets called ‘David Clamps’ in regards to how they feel on your head after a while. As a sport pilot, my flights aren’t terribly long, and the H10-60 only got uncomfortable around the 1.5-2.0 hour mark. Until that point, though, they’re perfectly comfy.” “Just as clear as any other set I’ve used. One of my flight instructors noticed my set and remarked that while excellent on their own, I should visit the Headsets Inc. booth at Oshkosh and get their ANR conversion for them. Quite honestly, I haven’t felt the need!” “I bought those headset 11 years ago. My total time is about 5,000 hours only helicopter. Sent to DC for a repair only once and the customer service was just amazing. Great company DC indeed.” “I could use these things as wheel chocks or gust locks and they’d still work great! While DC has a reputation for being somewhat heavy/bulky/clunky, I regard that as a positive.” No Response I received no response in the survey to the following headset models. Rugged Air RA-454 (Approx. $179) Rugged Air RA-900 (Approx. $169) SkyLite SL-900 (Approx. $170) Sigtronics S-20 (Approx. $144) If you would like me to include data about a sub-$400 headset model you’ve tried, but did not appear in the survey, please write to me at Jeff@ATCcommunication.com. I was going to add Sennheiser headsets to this survey, but this announcement recently showed up at Sennheiser’s website: “Audio specialist Sennheiser is to withdraw from the pilots’ headset business from March 2016. The company will fulfill all its obligations for servicing and spare parts throughout the full guarantee period for its headsets.” Additionally, I did not include headsets with zero or little sound reduction capability, such as the Telex Airman 750, because they are not suitable for noisy cockpits. Headsets Costing More Than $400: What Pilots Use Our focus in this survey was headsets costing less than $400. In a future show, we’ll look at headsets in the $400 and above range. I asked pilots to tell me which $400+ headset model they use. Here is the breakdown from 53 responses. Your Question of the Week: You are flying a VFR cross-country using ATC’s radar service for flight following. Your call sign is Skyhawk 9130 Delta. Your current altitude is 4,500. The air traffic controller says, “Piper 571 Romeo Charlie and Skyhawk 9130 Delta, mutual traffic, twelve o’clock and one zero miles, opposite direction, a Cessna 172 at 4,500 and a PA-28 at 5,500.” You do not see the PA-28. Here are your questions. Question 1: Should you respond as soon as the controller finishes his transmission? Question 2: When you do respond, what would you say on the radio? Question 3: What does the controller mean by “opposite direction”? Question 4: If, after reporting you do not see the traffic, are you required to advise ATC if you see the PA-28 before it passes your position. When you think you know the answers to those questions, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you’ll find complete answers along with a full explanation of how those answers were derived.


25 Nov 2015

Rank #7

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When to Make Position Reports in an Uncontrolled Airport Traffic Pattern

Radar Contact is back! In the first show after a months-long break, we’ll talk about when to make position reports in an uncontrolled pattern. You may think you already know the answer, but if you look at the confusing mess in the Aeronautical Information Manual, your confidence may be shaken. No matter. I’ll give you the definitive when, how, and why of position reports. Now that’s a wing flash. Are you in the market for an aviation headset? Do you have a headset you love, or one you hate with a passion? In this show, we are going to talk about headsets, and specifically headsets that cost less than $300. Is it possible to find a quality headset at this price? We’ll find out. My latest book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots is now available at Amazon.com. I’ll tell you what you can expect to find in the book and help you decide if it’s right for you. All this plus your Question of the Week. As Bluto said in ‘Animal House’, “Hey! What’s all this laying around stuff?” It’s time for a brand new edition of Radar Contact! “Let’s do it!” Show Notes: If you look in Table 4-1-1 of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) it says to “report entering downwind, base, and final approach” in an uncontrolled airport traffic pattern. The text in AIM 4-1-9 h. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers says “Report on downwind, base, and final approach.” Even though the table says to “report entering” and the text says to report “on”, I strongly recommend following the guidance in the table, not the text. When you roll into a turn as you enter a leg of the traffic pattern to the next leg, the roll into a bank creates “wing flash”. Wing flash happens when the tops of your wings reflect sunlight towards an observer. Wing flash draws attention to your aircraft. By transmitting your position report as you flash your wings in a turn, you give other pilots in the traffic pattern the best chance of spotting your aircraft and identifying your position. Example position reports: “Frederick Traffic, Cessna 801TF, entering downwind for Runway One Niner, touch-and-go, Frederick.” “Frederick Traffic, Cessna 801TF, entering base for Runway One Niner, touch-and-go, Frederick.” “Frederick Traffic, Cessna 801TF, entering final for Runway One Niner, touch-and-go, Frederick.” If you are entering the traffic pattern at the midfield downwind entry point I recommend, as a technique, saying, “Frederick Traffic, Cessna 801TF, entering a midfield downwind for Runway One Niner, touch-and-go, Frederick.” What You’re Missing with an ADS-B In-Only Display If you are using ADS-B In but do not have ADS-B Out installed in your aircraft, you are not getting the full display of all traffic in your area. ADS-B Out transmits a separate data package that grants access to traffic data rebroadcast by ground-based ADS-B relay stations. Systems lacking ADS-B Out will not have access to traffic relayed from these stations. An ADS-B In-only unit is limited to displaying traffic flying within 15 nautical miles and plus or minus 3,500 vertical feet of your aircraft. This envelope of range is called the “puck”. You may be able to “borrow” traffic information from another aircraft flying within your puck if that aircraft has the full ADS-B In and Out suite. Of course, your ADS-B unit will not display traffic that is not equipped with ADS-B Out. All this means you cannot rely on your ADS-B In-only unit to display all of the traffic in your area. Keep your eyes outside and clear for traffic. All About Aviation Headsets Is it possible to find a quality headset for less than $300 that provides comfort, good audio quality, and durability? I’ll need your help to answer that question. If you use a headset that cost you less than $300, please tell me about it. Use the list of questions below to guide you as you tell me about your headset. Use the comment section below these show notes to respond. Get My Latest Book My latest book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots is now available at Amazon.com. * The book’s content was vetted by pilots, certified flight instructors, and air traffic controllers. To make it compelling and easy to understand, the content is presented in real-world scenarios. It’s a you-are-there approach to learning. * I receive a small commission when you use this link to order from Amazon.com. Your Question of the Week: You are number 1, holding short of Runway 6, the active runway, at Petersburg Airport. Petersburg is an uncontrolled airport. You plan to depart VFR and your initial heading will be approximately 330 degrees. Here is your question: What would your next self-announce radio transmission be on UNICOM? Note: I’m looking for the specific words you would say, and when would you make that transmission. When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication/answers. There you will find a complete answer as well as a full explanation of how that answer was derived. Tell Me About Your Less-Than-$300 Headset Use the comment section below to answer these questions. (Click the title of this article–top of page–to reveal the comment section.): –What is the brand and model of your headset? –What did your headset cost you? –Is your headset comfortable? (If your headset is not comfortable, where does it hurt and how long after you put it on does it start hurting?) –Rate the audio quality of your headset? –Has your headset held up well, or did it seem to deteriorate/break sooner than you expected? –Does your headset have any special features–music hookup, separate audio control, etc.–that you like? Thank you for answering these questions in the comment section below. If I get enough data from this survey, I’ll make it a permanent feature of the website.


10 Nov 2015

Rank #8

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NextGen Air Traffic Control and You

In this month’s edition of the Radar Contact Show we are going to look at how the FAA’s NextGen version of air traffic control will affect you. We’ll also look at what it means to be off your assigned altitude and what to do if ATC calls you out for being off altitude. I’ll tell you the real life story of how two airliners departing from Midway Airport would have collided had ATC not intervened. The cause was not that unusual. In fact, you may be vulnerable to it the next time you fly. Advise when ready for departure by clicking the play button below. Show Notes: Question. ATC tells you to maintain 3,000 but you let your altitude drift upward. At what reading on your altimeter would ATC question you for being off your assigned altitude? Your altitude is reported to ATC by the Mode C feature of your transponder. Mode C reporting is calibrated to 29.92 regardless of what you have dialed into your altimeter. ATC adjusts your Mode C information to the barometric setting for the area in which you are flying. ATC’s radar system rounds the altitude displayed for your flight to the nearest 100-foot increment. A controller will consider you off altitude when the altitude displayed on his screen is plus or minus 300 feet off your assigned altitude. This occurs when your Mode C reports 250 feet, or greater, above or below your assigned altitude. Initially, ATC will give you the benefit of the doubt if an off-altitude alert occurs. Your controller will remind you of your assigned altitude, the current altimeter setting, and the altitude he sees on his radar display for your flight. There should be no consequences for being off an assigned altitude if the error causes no traffic conflict. As a CYA maneuver, I strongly recommend filing a report with NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) if ATC announced you were off your assigned altitude. The link to the ASRS is http://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/. File your ASRS report within 10 days of the incident to receive immunity from civil penalties by the FAA. There are specific conditions that must be met to receive immunity. The ASRS website has the details on the FAA’s immunity policy. The FAA’s NextGen version of air traffic control is in development. You will begin to see the effect on your flying in less than 5 years. Right now, it looks like the greatest impact to general aviation will be ATC’s transition to aircraft tracking via ADS-B. ADS-B will not only allow ATC to track your aircraft, using ADS-B will also allow you to track aircraft flying nearby. With a full complement of ADS-B Out and ADS-B In on board, you will be able to detect aircraft in your area that may not be in sight. By Jan 1, 2020, all general aviation aircraft that participate in air traffic control will need to have at least ADS-B Out installed. Even if you are not in contact with ATC, you will still need to have ADS-B installed by 2020 if you fly in or near the following airspace: Class A and B. (Positive control is required when operating inside these airspace classes.) Class C. Class E airspace areas at or above 10,000 ft MSL over the 48 states and District of Columbia, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 ft AGL. Airspace within 30 nautical miles (nm) at certain busy airports from the surface up to 10,000 feet MSL; airports listed in appendix D to part 91. Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of a Class B or Class C airspace area up to 10,000 feet MSL. Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico at and above 3,000 feet MSL within 12 nm of the coastline of the United States. The full details of what is coming under the FAA’s NextGen program are available at www.faa.gov/nextgen. (By the way, the FAA owns one of the few websites where you still need to add www. to the address! It figures.) A few days before the airing of this show, two airliners began takeoff rolls on intersecting runways at Chicago’s Midway Airport. One of the two airliners was not actually cleared for takeoff. ATC intervened to prevent the airliners from colliding at the intersection. The two airliners were using similar sounding call signs. It’s unclear at this point if ATC took any steps to alert the flight crews of both aircraft that they had similar sounding call signs. This incident serves as a cautionary tale. You want to do everything possible to distinguish your call sign from another call sign that sounds similar to yours. Towards this goal, be sure to always include your aircraft’s make or model when stating your call sign. Never use your abbreviated call sign unless ATC uses it first. Here’s a quote from air traffic controller Heather McNevin on the use of call signs. “Pilot tip – when talking to ATC, remember to use your callsign EVERY time. My perspective is I’m talking to 20 people at any given time.” (From her Twitter feed.)


24 Jun 2015

Rank #9

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Caution Wake Turbulence for the Departing Boeing 757

“Cessna 9130D, caution wake turbulence for the departing Boeing 757, Runway 25, cleared for takeoff.” Gulp! Never fear, ATC is here to protect you against the hazards of wake turbulence. No kidding. ATC uses very specific rules to help you remain clear of wake turbulence. We’ll look at those rules and how to work within them in today’s show. (Notice how I never mention the Boeing 777 in today’s show. I have no idea why I left it out.) Next, a short story about a pilot called Mr. Stupid. He had weird ideas about how to cope with slower moving aircraft in a controlled airport pattern. How do you respond to an ATC instruction to change frequencies? The AIM has specific guidance. Let’s see if you follow that guidance when you fly. My lastest book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots, is in the hands of a large editing task force comprised of pilots and air traffic controllers. I’ll tell you why in this week’s show. All this, plus your Question of the Week. Correction (5-4-15): I just had a tower controller point something out. There is an error in the segment on wake turbulence separation in this show. When a large aircraft takes off from an intersection ahead of a small aircraft, the small aircraft must delay 3 minutes for wake turbulence. This rule for separation only applies if the 2 aircraft are more than 500 feet apart as they sit on the runway, prior to takeoff. I said in the podcast this rule applies anytime the larger aircraft weighs more than 12,500 pounds. Actually, the AIM defines a small aircraft, for this single rule for separation, as weighing 12,500 pounds or less. It does not follow that a large aircraft is one that weighs more than 12,500 pounds as I incorrectly said in the show. The ATC Manual, J.O. 7110.65, defines a large aircraft as one that weighs more than 41,000 pounds and a small aircraft is one that weighs 41,000 pounds or less. The inconsistency between the AIM and the ATC Manual on this matter tripped me up. I’ll correct the information in the audio show when I return from vacation. (Would you believe I’m writing this from Hawaii? Yes, rather than enjoy paradise, I’m busy sweating the details of separation for wake turbulence. I gotta chill out!) Note: Due to time constraints at on the day Radar Contact was released, there are no show notes for this show. Your Question of the Week: The FAA’s NextGen program is on it’s way and it will eventually affect all pilots flying general aviation aircraft. A key feature of NextGen is the replacement of conventional air traffic control radar with equipment that monitors aircraft position, altitude and airspeed using a transmit and receive system called ADS-B. When fully implemented, almost all aircraft operating in the following airspace will be required to have ADS-B installed and operating. ADS-B Out will be required in the following airspace: Class A, B, and C Class E airspace areas at or above 10,000 ft MSL over the 48 states and DC, excluding airspace at and below 2,500 ft AGL Airspace within 30 nautical miles (nm) at certain busy airports from the surface up to 10,000 feet MSL; airports listed in appendix D to part 91. Above the ceiling and within the lateral boundaries of a Class B or Class C airspace area up to 10,000 feet MSL Class E airspace over the Gulf of Mexico at and above 3,000 feet MSL within 12 nm of the coastline of the United States. Here are your questions: By what date must almost all aircraft, operating in the airspace described above, have ADS-B Out installed and operational. What aircraft will be exempt from the requirement to have ADS-B Out. When you think you know the answer to those questions, go http://ATCcommunication.com/answers for complete answers as well as a full explanation of how those answers were derived.


2 May 2015

Rank #10