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VFR requesting IFR pick-up below MSA

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VFR requesting IFR pick-up below MSA

Old 26th Sep 2019, 11:22
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VFR requesting IFR pick-up below MSA

Hi all

I have a question regarding how the procedure for IFR pick-up from low levels is done by ATC in your countries.

Example, a light aircraft flying VFR at 500ft AGL experience low cloudbase and therefore suddenly request IFR pick-up by ATC and vectors to the nearby local airport for the ILS. If the MSA (or ATC minimum vectoring altitude) is 3000ft in the area, and the pilot is not able to climb to that altitude VFR, what is your experience on how this is done?

If ATC issues the pilot vectors from low level at 500ft, ATC is not adhering to the minimum vector altitude and will take the pilot into IMC on a heading instructed by ATC and with the pilot possibly believing they are under safe radar control even below 3000ft.
If ATC ask the pilot to climb VFR to 3000ft before they are cleared IFR vectors, the pilot will not be able to do so without going into IMC.
And if ATC instructs the pilot to climb IFR to 3.0ft but to maintain own obstacle clearence and hence let the naviation and heading be up to the pilot, ATC risk that they have an IFR aircraft suddenly showing up at 3000ft not on a specific heading which can be critical in a busy TMA environment due to possible loss of seperation to other aircrafts in vicinity.

So i'm curious, how other experience is in dealing with IFR pickup and if they have any specific procedures they follow in these cases? Also haven't found any written information on this subject in ICAO/SERA documents, but maybe I missed something. If anyone know of written documents describing the matter in their local country, that would also be appreciated.
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Old 26th Sep 2019, 11:39
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Manouvering below the MSA in climb is the responsibility of the pilot.... much like when we give a departure clearance.... we don't turn aircraft until they're at the minimum vectoring altitude... what pilots do, their business... we do, if the weather is really poor, use the phrase "at safe altitude left/right turn....", if feeling the pilots may not know the area we may even draw the attention to the MSA.

We, as you state, do not have complete radarcoverage, and an aircraft comming in via the fiord with mountains on both sides cannot be seen at 500' until 10 miles out. If such an aircraft is given 5300' (MSA) we make sure we have procedural (non radar) separation to all other flights, until he shows up on radar. That could mean stop departures, and stop descends at 6300'...

If the situation for the VFR fligth is not critical, we'll wait until there is room, if it is critical, we'll MAKE room

It's generally not rocket science, but do understand your own responsibility in this matter, we have had too many accidents over the years where a crew thought ATC had responsibility.

EDIT: I just forgot something: "Clearances are issued solely for expediting and separating air traffic and are based on known traffic conditions
which affect safety in aircraft operation".... straight out of DOC4444

Last edited by jmmoric; 26th Sep 2019 at 11:57. Reason: Forgot
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Old 26th Sep 2019, 18:35
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Thanks for the input jmmoric. Good points.
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Old 27th Sep 2019, 12:26
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ďReport level at altitude 3000í, QNH 1013Ē.

I would warn the pilot about any obstacles Iím aware of in their vicinity, but how they get to 3000í is up to them, and I wonít be vectoring them until they are.

If thereís traffic in the way, Iíll be asking if they are able to continue VFR until I can arrange lateral separation. If they report that they are already in IMC, Iíll probably be climbing the conflicting traffic (using avoiding action if necessary) so that they can climb to MSA immediately.
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Old 10th Oct 2019, 16:21
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the aircfaft can be only cleared as an IFR flight once at or above the MRVA or MFA (if estabilished on ATS route)...so in your case...the aircraft should climb to that altitude and then pickup IFR or if not able...its still a VFR flight (even is in IMC)
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Old 10th Oct 2019, 18:11
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Originally Posted by Ross182
...its still a VFR flight (even is in IMC)
An interesting, but not very helpful approach.

Different States have different rules about IFR flight outside controlled airspace. In some, it is simply not permitted, in others it is permitted in accordance with Annex 2 IFR or a local version thereof, in at least one (being the UK) in some circumstances you can fly IFR outside CAS and receive an air traffic control service in all but name. I think that last bit is still true but am happy to be corrected by someone currently operational in the UK.

But to answer the original question, in most situations an IFR clearance can only be issued to flights whilst inside CAS. Using the vanilla, ICAO rules, what happens outside CAS, by definition, is not under the control of ATC. If a VFR flight finds itself unable to maintain VMC and looks to join the ATC system I would expect a procedural clearance to be issued to enable the aircraft to join CAS, at the CAS boundary, under IFR climbing to the lowest available level (moving other aircraft out of the way, if necessary). How the aircraft gets to the base of the CAS is the pilot's responsibility, and whilst it may be quite obvious that the pilot will have to breaks some rules to do so, the controller is a controller, not a policeman.

If the controller is aware of obstacles or other hazards that the pilot may encounter on the way to the base of CAS, he/she will, ideally, provide all information that they can to avoid the pilot failing to have the opportunity to take advantage of the IFR clearance. Again, rules differ on how much a controller can help a pilot in this situation.

My last thought on the topic is that the art of issuing procedural clearances appears to be dying, so maybe my answer is getting outdated. As ever, I'm happy to be corrected by someone doing the job today.
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 08:26
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Smile

Dont think regulations are helpful. Its the controllers experience and inteligence what can in these situation help and also often save lifes. I have experienced several of these situations in my ATCO careers.
So back to the quesstion: of course in certain parts of world IFR in uncotrolled airspace is a daily life..flying IFR in G class airspace is allowed for example in the UK, Poland etc....hower nothing change regarding my previous post...you can be cleared as an IFR flight...but you HAVE to maintain or be above certain altitude (MRVA,MEA,MFA,....)
Providing a help to VFR flight entering IMC Is a slightly different topic then ....ATCO in that case follow the checklist and giving the pilot aid by describing the close enviroment ( basically giving a MFA/MRVA etc...)...Then if the ACFT and pilot is allowed for IFR..And at/above the MFA/MRVA etc..he is cleared for IFR flight.
​​​
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 08:27
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If you're VFR with no clearance to start with its fair to assume you're not in CAS and can see where you're going. So point yourself in a safe direction, climb into it and don't stop until you get to MSA. Now you're IFR it's a good idea to get some kind of radar service, and if you need to go into CAS get a clearance.
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 11:46
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Originally Posted by Ross182
Dont think regulations are helpful. Its the controllers experience and inteligence what can in these situation help and also often save lifes. I have experienced several of these situations in my ATCO careers.
So back to the quesstion: of course in certain parts of world IFR in uncotrolled airspace is a daily life..flying IFR in G class airspace is allowed for example in the UK, Poland etc....hower nothing change regarding my previous post...you can be cleared as an IFR flight...but you HAVE to maintain or be above certain altitude (MRVA,MEA,MFA,....)
Regulations set out what is 'normal' for the environment. It's important for a controller (or pilot, or anything else) to know when they are going outside normal, and how far outside they are prepared to go because of the circumstances. Experience - and intelligence, which I hope would be a given - can help save lives; mainly by knowing the risks associated with different courses of action. I, and many controllers, have been faced with unusual situations which don't fit 'normal', which is where experience and knowledge can be of help.

You also say 'Providing a help to VFR flight entering IMC Is a slightly different topic then ....ATCO in that case follow the checklist and giving the pilot aid by describing the close enviroment ( basically giving a MFA/MRVA etc...)...Then if the ACFT and pilot is allowed for IFR..And at/above the MFA/MRVA etc..he is cleared for IFR flight'. Which appears to say pretty much what all the answers in this thread say. Puzzling, however, that you talk about following a checklist because that's exactly where a controllers experience and knowledge might be useful...especially if 'describing the close enviroment' (sic) to you means telling the pilot the MVA/MSA or whatever - a controller working in that situation will ideally know a lot more about the terrain and obstacle that exist in the area, or indeed, where it may be possible for the pilot to get back to VMC, or what the weather is like in the surrounding area.
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 14:01
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climb to whatever, IFR starts at XXX
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 14:07
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Originally Posted by LookingForAJob
Regulations set out what is 'normal' for the environment. It's important for a controller (or pilot, or anything else) to know when they are going outside normal, and how far outside they are prepared to go because of the circumstances. Experience - and intelligence, which I hope would be a given - can help save lives; mainly by knowing the risks associated with different courses of action. I, and many controllers, have been faced with unusual situations which don't fit 'normal', which is where experience and knowledge can be of help.

You also say 'Providing a help to VFR flight entering IMC Is a slightly different topic then ....ATCO in that case follow the checklist and giving the pilot aid by describing the close enviroment ( basically giving a MFA/MRVA etc...)...Then if the ACFT and pilot is allowed for IFR..And at/above the MFA/MRVA etc..he is cleared for IFR flight'. Which appears to say pretty much what all the answers in this thread say. Puzzling, however, that you talk about following a checklist because that's exactly where a controllers experience and knowledge might be useful...especially if 'describing the close enviroment' (sic) to you means telling the pilot the MVA/MSA or whatever - a controller working in that situation will ideally know a lot more about the terrain and obstacle that exist in the area, or indeed, where it may be possible for the pilot to get back to VMC, or what the weather is like in the surrounding area.
you think so? In todays world...the radar centers could be houndreds miles Away from the pilot...how the ATCO can help? You think he have to know by heat every single obstacle in his AoR?))
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Old 11th Oct 2019, 19:04
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Originally Posted by Ross182
you think so? In todays world...the radar centers could be houndreds miles Away from the pilot...how the ATCO can help? You think he have to know by heat every single obstacle in his AoR?))
Maybe I'm out of date. Back in my day, I would have expected a controller to know the main obstacles in their AoR, ideally with a video map on the radar showing key spot heights and major geographical features, hills, coastlines and the like. If all you will do for a pilot who is running out of options in IMC below MSA is tell him/her what the MSA is, I think you're kidding yourself if you think you're doing much to help save lives.
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Old 19th Oct 2019, 20:23
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Im sorry, this Is a todays world. The only information about obstacles we have Is the MRVA/MFA.
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Old 20th Oct 2019, 10:53
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Originally Posted by Ross182
Im sorry, this Is a todays world. The only information about obstacles we have Is the MRVA/MFA.
Safety management at it's best!
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Old 20th Oct 2019, 11:01
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Originally Posted by rudestuff
If you're VFR with no clearance to start with its fair to assume you're not in CAS and can see where you're going.
Unless you're in Class E airspace.
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Old 23rd Oct 2019, 12:56
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I think some are blending the responsibility of ATC and the pilot here.

From an ATC point of view, it's pretty clear... according to DOC 4444 item 4.10.3.2 note 3:

"The objectives of the air traffic control service as prescribed in Annex 11 do not include prevention of collision with terrain. The procedures prescribed in this document do not relieve pilots of their responsibility to ensure that any clearances issued by air traffic control units are safe in this respect."

And item 4.10.3.1

"Except when specifically authorized by the appropriate authority, cruising levels below the minimum flight altitudes established by the State shall not be assigned."

According to this, ATC give an IFR clearance at the lowest available (safe) level, how the pilot gets there, from below the MSA, IFR or VFR, that one is on the pilot, not ATC.

As a pilot myself, if caught below MSA and have to go IFR, I'd look at my chart, point my aircraft in a safe direction, and use best rate of climb to get up to the MSA.... I really cannot see any other way of doing it...
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Old 28th Oct 2019, 06:37
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I think it's not been said, but IFR can be picked up (with an ATC clearance, of course) also at any point/altitude within a SID, and then follow the instrumental procedure, no need of radar vectoring. The pilot can reach the waypoint & altitude at its own discretion. Take into account that SIDs waypoint altitudes can be well below MVA during the initial phases of the departure procedure.
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Old 28th Oct 2019, 19:48
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Originally Posted by chevvron
Unless you're in Class E airspace.
Fair comment, but if you're in class E then going IFR and getting a clearance shouldn't be a problem anyway. My point was that if you can see where you're going you can point yourself away from terrain and climb to MSA. Or shuttle climb.
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