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IFR Flight Radio Show – IFR Flight Radio

Your go-to source for IFR communication procedures and techniques

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Enroute ATC: Traffic and Radar Handoffs

If your IFR training was like mine, you spent a lot of time taking radar vectors to instrument approaches using approach control service. Less time was spent working with enroute center controllers. Communicating with an enroute controller at an air route traffic control center (ARTCC) is its own special skill. In today’s show, we’ll look at ARTCC communication during traffic avoidance vectors and during radar handoffs. Show Notes and Resources: AIM 5−3−1. ARTCC Communications 2. An ARTCC is divided into sectors. Each sector is handled by one or a team of controllers and has its own sector discrete frequency. As a flight progresses from one sector to another, the pilot is requested to change to the appropriate sector discrete frequency. Notice how the following statement in the AIM has no requirement to repeat the numbers of an assigned radio frequency. AIM 4−2−3. Contact Procedures d. Acknowledgement of Frequency Changes. 1. When advised by ATC to change frequencies, acknowledge the instruction. If you select the new frequency without an acknowledgement, the controller’s workload is increased because there is no way of knowing whether you received the instruction or have had radio communications failure. More info about: Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots Everything you need to know to talk to Air Traffic Control while flying IFR Trying to decide which radio headset to buy? Check out my Headset Buyer’s Guide at ATCcommunication.com.


13 Dec 2015

Rank #1

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Flying an Approach Into an Uncontrolled Pattern

You are flying an ILS approach into an uncontrolled pattern. The weather in the pattern permits VFR. There are other pilots buzzing around the airport. As you change from ATC’s frequency to the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency, what are you thinking about? Completing that ILS? Sure. If you are like me, you are thinking about whether another plane established in the pattern is going conflict with you as you arrive on short approach. Here’s what you can do to avoid turning your single-wing airplane into a biplane at the point where your ILS straight-in crosses paths with VFR aircraft on base-to-final. Show Notes: Aeronautical Information Manual 4-1-9 4−1−9. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers TBL 4−1−1 Summary of Recommended Communication Procedures Under “Practice Instrument Approaches”, “No Tower, FSS, UNICOM”–Make a position report: “Departing final approach fix (name) or final approach segment inbound.” Coincident with VFR procedures, inbound to the airport: “Report 10 miles out. Report leaving the runway.” My Techniques 15 miles or more out, with time, workload, and radio traffic permitting, either request off frequency with ATC or quickly switch to UNICOM on Radio 2 and announce: Example– “Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, 15 miles northwest, inbound ILS Runway 15, full stop, Fenway.” After ATC says, “Radar service terminated. Frequency change approved,” make another position report, time and workload permitting: Example– “Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, 10 miles northwest, 5,500, ILS Runway 15 inbound, full stop, Fenway.” At 2 to 3 miles from landing, make a last chance report: Example– “Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta 2-mile final, Runway 15, full stop, Fenway.” Report leaving the runway: Example– “Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, exiting Runway 15, Fenway.”


1 Sep 2016

Rank #2

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Cannot Comply with an ATC Clearance: Unable

Unable.When you cannot comply with an ATC clearance, the magic word to use is “unable”. Simply saying “unable”, and nothing else, might not get you completely off the hook with ATC. I’ll explain why, and what to do about in this month’s edition of IFR Flight Radio. Show Resources From the Aeronautical Information Manual’s Pilot/Controller Glossary: UNABLE− Indicates inability to comply with a specific instruction, request, or clearance. § 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. (Ed. Note: More follows but is irrelevant to this discussion.) § 91.185 IFR operations: Two-way radio communications failure. (c) IFR conditions. If the failure occurs in IFR conditions, or if paragraph (b) of this section cannot be complied with, each pilot shall continue the flight according to the following: (1) Route. (i) By the route assigned in the last ATC clearance received; (ii) If being radar vectored, by the direct route from the point of radio failure to the fix, route, or airway specified in the vector clearance; (iii) In the absence of an assigned route, by the route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance; or (iv) In the absence of an assigned route or a route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance, by the route filed in the flight plan. -Or- AVEF Assigned Vectored Expect Filed I have examples of how to apply AVEF in my book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots available at Amazon.com Your Question of the Week: If you have ever departed IFR from an uncontrolled airport, ATC probably gave you a Clearance Void Time. The controller said to you, for example, “Void if not off by 10:15, time now 10:01 and one half. Basically, this meant ATC had approved your takeoff any time before the Clearance Void Time on 10:15 Zulu. Here’s your question. What is a “Release Time” and how might ATC use it for your flight? I’ll have the answer to that question, along with more topics to help you work with ATC while flying IFR, in the next edition of the IFR Flight Radio Show.


7 Apr 2016

Rank #3

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Full Route Clearances

“Cessna 9130 Delta, Ardmore Clearance, I have a full route clearance. Advise when ready to copy.” Uh oh. A fire hose of information is about to come across the radio. Are you ready to take it all in and write it down? I would argue, copying a full route IFR clearance is one of the hardest communication skills pilots face. The problem boils down to: Can you listen, comprehend and translate the clearance to paper at the same pace as the controller gives it to you? In this show, I’m going to reveal how to completely circumvent the problem and get your clearance copied correctly. I’ll show you how to do this no matter how complicated the clearance. Show Resources (FRC = Full Route Clearance) J.O. 7110.65 Air Traffic Control (Manual) 4−3−3. ABBREVIATED DEPARTURE CLEARANCE e. When a filed route will require revisions, the controller responsible for initiating the clearance to the aircraft must either: 1. Issue a FRC/FRC until a fix; or 2. If it reduces verbiage, state the phrase: “Cleared to (destination) airport, or cleared NAVAID, intersection, or waypoint (type if known), (SID name and number and SID transition, as appropriate), then as filed, except …” Specify the necessary revision. Your Filed Route SZW        OTK Your Cleared Route Or Your Filed Route CEW     V241      RSS Your Cleared Route Clearance Magic: Copy IFR clearances with ease and accuracy every time. Clearance Magic at http://IFRclearance.com Your Question of the Week: You are flying northeast on Victor Airway 17 between the San Antonio Vortac and the Centex Vortac. The controller at Houston Center says, “Cessna 30 Delta, turn right 20 degrees, vectors for traffic.” As you turn to the right, you read back, “Cessna 30 Delta, right 20 degrees.” The controller follows up with, “Cessna 30 Delta, expect direct . . .” And then the radio goes silent. Since that next transmission was cut off, you say, “Cessna 30 Delta, say again.” There’s no response. In fact, you hear no other transmissions from the controller or from other aircraft. You look at your radio control heads and notice the entire stack of radios and your transponder appears unpowered. You try contacting Houston Center again and not only do you not get reply, you can’t even hear a sidetone of your own voice as you transmit. You run through every procedure you can think of to revive your radios but nothing works, and you do not have a portable battery operated radio on board to act as a backup. Without question, you are radio out, or NORDO if you prefer. At this point, do you turn left to rejoin Victor 17 and continue along your previously cleared route of flight, or do you turn left and proceed from your present position direct to the Centex Vortac? I’ll have the answer to that question, along with a full explanation in the next edition of the IFR Flight Radio Show.


26 Feb 2016

Rank #4

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Cleared for the Visual Approach, Or Not

You are taking radar vectors to an ILS approach. The controller points out traffic you are following. You report the traffic in sight. ATC tells you to follow the traffic and clears you for a visual approach. Two minutes later, you lose sight of the traffic you were supposed to follow. Now what?! Also in this week’s show: We can talk all day about the correct way to use your call sign in a radio transmission. All that talk doesn’t add up to a hill of beans if pilots aren’t using their call sign at all when talking to ATC. The answer to the Question of the Week asked in your last show, plus a brand new question to ponder. Show Resources: AIM 5−5−11. Visual Approach b. Controller. 1. Do not clear an aircraft for a visual approach unless reported weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility is 3 miles or greater. 2. Issue visual approach clearance when the pilot reports sighting either the airport or a preceding aircraft which is to be followed. 3. Provide separation except when visual separation is being applied by the pilot. 4. Continue flight following and traffic in- formation until the aircraft has landed or has been instructed to change to advisory frequency. 5. Inform the pilot when the preceding aircraft is a heavy. 6. When weather is available for the destination airport, do not initiate a vector for a visual approach unless the reported ceiling at the airport is 500 feet or more above the MVA and visibility is 3 miles or more. If vectoring weather minima are not available but weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility of 3 miles or greater, visual approaches may still be conducted. a. Pilot. 5. Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight of the airport. I have a complete discussion about why using your call sign in every transmission to ATC is absolutely critical. Check out the first 10 minutes of the Radar Contact Show episode “We’d Be Thrilled if You Simply Used Your Call Sign!” Your Question of the Week: You are on a long, wide base leg, taking radar vectors to an ILS approach. The approach controller asks you if you have the airport in sight. You do have the airport in sight but due to hazy visibility you don’t see the landing runway. You know if you report the airport in sight, the controller is probably going to clear you for the visual approach. Due to your lack of orientation to the runway, you would prefer to continue with radar vectors to intercept the ILS. Do you have the option to continue with vectors to the ILS approach even if you have the airport in sight? If so, what would you say to the approach controller? I’ll have the answers to those questions, along with a full explanation, in your next edition of the IFR Flight Radio Show. If you are in the process of researching a new radio headset, check out my Headset Buyer’s Guide at ATCcommunication.com.


24 Jan 2016

Rank #5