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What do you do if...

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What do you do if...

Old 8th Jan 2015, 10:09
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Glasgow
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What do you do if...

So i'm about half way through my PPL, having only just gone solo about a month ago. I haven't flown since and i'm keeping the withdrawal symptoms at bay by "mentally flying"!

Anyway, i was just wondering what people would do in certain circumstances.

You're flying circuits and you just turned downwind, ready to give your downwind call, but you can't get a word in as the radio (tower) is really busy. Before you know it, you're ready to turn final and still can't get talking to ATC.
Do you continue with your approach? Potentially without permission to land/Touch and Go? Or do you abort and go around? At which point should you have made the decision to go around due to no contact with ATC?

Another one being total radio failure... You're coming back to your airfield and are about to request rejoin when you realise comms are dead. Obviously there are the no radio procedures, flying triangles etc. But my understanding (it even says in the textbooks) is that these sometimes (usually) don't work.

So at which point do you give up trying to get ATCs attention by drawing pretty shapes on their screen? And at that point, what do you do? Carry on regardless? Divert?

Sorry if these are silly straight forward questions! You can probably tell, the thought of a radio failure or landing without permission bothers me a bit!

Thanks!
Amblikai is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2015, 10:33
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Join Date: May 2008
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You're flying circuits and you just turned downwind, ready to give your downwind call, but you can't get a word in as the radio (tower) is really busy. Before you know it, you're ready to turn final and still can't get talking to ATC.
Do you continue with your approach? Potentially without permission to land/Touch and Go? Or do you abort and go around? At which point should you have made the decision to go around due to no contact with ATC?
Aviate, navigate, communicate, that's the order of priority. Keep flying the plane and get a position call in when you can. Tower will have you in sight if you're in the circuit so will be well aware what you're doing, and if they haven't issued instructions to orbit or hold on the downwind I would continue to base can call as soon as I can. Often the radio gets very busy, just get the confidence to jump in with a short position call when you can. If on finals no clearance is coming, then it's a go around.

Another one being total radio failure... You're coming back to your airfield and are about to request rejoin when you realise comms are dead. Obviously there are the no radio procedures, flying triangles etc. But my understanding (it even says in the textbooks) is that these sometimes (usually) don't work.
Often each airport has it's own specific policy which can be found in the AIP, for example I learnt at Bournemouth which is inside class D, I seem to remember it was 3 orbits at the boundary, then enter and proceed to land.

If in doubt, one low approach and go around followed by a circuit to land would be sensible. These days I have most tower frequencies in my mobile phone, so would try that, I've even heard of someone getting a text from the controller saying cleared to land when their radio had packed up.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 10:52
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Thanks, that's along the lines i was thinking but i didn't know that certain airfields had different procedures, i'm off to read the AIP more closely!

Strangely, the thought of an engine failure doesn't bother me nearly as much as a radio failure. I'd hate to be flying along, thinking i'm still in contact with ATC only to miss some vital bit of traffic info. (Obviously i'd be looking out as normal but it sure is helpful when ATC tells you theres a helicopter operating in the area for example.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 11:32
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If you have a transponder squawk 7600 when you have a radio failure. ATC will then know you have a problem and will expect you to complete your flight as planned. Once you can see the Tower, don't then forget to look for the appropriate light signals and any other visual aids such as the landing T and windsock.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 11:37
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Join Date: Feb 2000
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Probably because you've trained for an engine failure, but not for a radio failure.


I've had several radio failures, and so far failed to annoy anybody with my behaviour, so I'll offer some thoughts.


If you have a comms failure, above all else, fly really really predictably. So, for example, if you are on a planned route and expected at a particular airfield at a particular time - follow that route, join by a method that is obvious and gives everybody a chance to see you (so absolutely no straight in approaches - deadside, downwind or overhead, depending upon local rules: overhead would always be my preference, given a choice - overhead as it gives the airfield more time to see me, and me a chance to see the signal square).

Don't forget that if you have a transponder, and you have time (and still have power!), squawk 7600. If it's working, that means there's a fighting chance of light or flare signals being used for you at your destination.

In any variation on the above case, then go straight to ATC and explain yourself ! That way, the potential for any genuine upset should be minimal.


With regard to inability to get a word in in the circuit, it will depend upon the airport. If it is a controlled airport such that you should normally require a clearance to land, then fly a normal circuit, but go-around early, fly another circuit and hopefully you'll actually manage to talk to them next time. That said, a good controller will know where you are, recognise the problem, and give you clearance and/or instruction when you are on final, even if you didn't ask for it.

If a clearance to land is not required, which is the case at "information" or "radio" airfields such as Popham or White Waltham, then you are well within your rights (subject to normal airmanship) to simply carry on and land, or even do a touch and go.

G
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 12:04
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"when you have apparent radio failure"


Sometimes the radio is still transmitting but something has gone wrong somewhere along receiving and letting you hear what is received, so use the transmitting blind protocol. This is the NZ site but it looks to have plenty of useful information:


CAA Flight Instructor Guide ? Circuit Training: Radio Failure
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 12:54
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On the subject of apparent radio failure, when you transmit but hear nothing back, but are certain your radio is on and you have the correct frequency selected, don't forget to check that you have the volume turned up on both the radio and your headset.
I've actually managed to make this mistake more than once, but then I do suffer from imbecility from time to time.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 13:10
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Actually funnily enough there have been two times during my training so far where i've thought i had a radio failure only to realise that on one occasion i'd caught the headset lead on my kneeboard and pulled it out, and on the other i had the volume on my headset all the way down. The last one actually being on my solo check out. The instructor/examiner made all the radio calls for me, so i had an easy time!

With regards to light signals and flares, would all controlled airfields carry flares etc? I've never seen it happen so i'm not sure i'd know where to look for the light signals (obviously at the tower, but are they noticable/easy to see?). Do you think ATC would be open to me requesting a pretend radio failure circuit?
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 13:54
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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Amblikai,

I had this exact thought not too long ago during my training and actually wanted to ask the opinions of those who have to deal with us. We were on the downwind as you mentioned and the radio was packed! This was very early training for me, so I didn't really take in the instructors response, hence going straight to the tower in the hope it would sink it straight away! This was what they emailed me;

--------

"Thank you for your email. Generally I would expect the pilot to make as many attempts as possible to get an acknowledgement of their Downwind call. In a busy environment it’s hard to pinpoint the reason as to why you didn’t get a response (perhaps you where part of a multi transmission and where not heard).

In any scenario the key is always to maintain a good look out and keep good radio awareness (to help you identify your position in the circuit), fly the circuit as you would normally and if your downwind call is still not acknowledged, make the base leg turn as normal (following whoever is ahead) and try again to let ATC know your position. ATC will be aware of you and would rather you maintain the circuit pattern than extend as this could cause other issues (conflict with instrument approach or transiting traffic outside the ATZ not talking to *******).

Please remember that every scenario is different and it’s hard to give an exact outline on how to act, the above is merely a basic outline on what ATC would expect. Lastly PLEASE NEVER orbit in the circuit without express permission from ATC, there will likely be aircraft behind you and this will cause a dangerous conflict.

The views expressed in this email are those of 2 members of the ATC team at *******. Where we all act on the same laws and procedures however opinion can change throughout.

I hope this answers your question and maybe on a future visit you can pop up the tower for a chat. We are all very friendly.

Happy flying"

-------

Taught me from the start and have never had to think about it during the crowded circuit anymore
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 14:24
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Join Date: Nov 2000
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You're flying circuits and you just turned downwind, ready to give your downwind call, but you can't get a word in as the radio (tower) is really busy. Before you know it, you're ready to turn final and still can't get talking to ATC.



Do you continue with your approach? Potentially without permission to land/Touch and Go? Or do you abort and go around? At which point should you have made the decision to go around due to no contact with ATC?
I would continue to the flare and go around then if I hadn't had a landing clearance. At Cambridge if you can't get a word in it's usual for ATC to call you with "clear land" even though you haven't got a "final" call in.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 16:24
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Another one being total radio failure... You're coming back to your airfield and are about to request rejoin when you realise comms are dead. Obviously there are the no radio procedures, flying triangles etc.
I am surprised no one has pointed out that really the "fly triangles" procedure is really for someone caught above cloud so that someone can come and find you and shepherd you down, unlikely to be used much these days with modern aids, though with a transponder on 7500 it would probably be more noticeable than it would have been when first thought of!
I would also point out that if you are outside CAS and trying to get back in without being cleared to do so ideally you should remain clear and find somewhere else to land, how practical and safe this is depending on the weather and safety being overriding.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 16:33
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the "fly triangles" procedure is really for someone caught above cloud so that someone can come and find you and shepherd you down
Interesting, the books talk as though that is "the" procedure. Good to know!

Thanks for all the responses. I feel much better about it now. Maybe i'll just turn my radio off next time for practice!
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 16:37
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Originally Posted by Foxmoth
..........unlikely to be used much these days with modern aids, though with a transponder on 7500 it would probably be more noticeable than it would have been when first thought of!
Very noticeable, and the Tornado on each wingtip would make the perfect "Shepherd".

(I think you mean 7600)
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 16:39
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It might be worth mentioning that, if you squawk 7600 for what turns out to be only a transmitter failure, ATC will probably use small changes to the squawk code in order to establish that you are hearing them. They may well request further adjustments to the code in order to learn more about you, e.g. whether you have any other problems or not.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 16:42
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Very noticeable, and the Tornado on each wingtip would make the perfect "Shepherd".
I always wondered, how slow can a tornado fly? If i'm bimbling along in a C152 with flaps out at 70Kts, is it going to be more "repeated fly-bys" than "shepherd"?
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 17:05
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I would continue to the flare and go around then if I hadn't had a landing clearance.
If I'd got to flare position, I'd land and clear runway as quickly as possible. Going around would just occupy runway space for longer - and give a problem for a faster aircraft going around because of your unexpected appearance.
I've had one radio failure in the circuit at night. I discovered it when I was unable to get a response to my Final calls. I landed, and cleared runway, making blind transmissions, and phoned the tower.
You should have the ATC number on your phone - you'll have difficulty hearing them with engine noise unless you have an earphone, but they'll hear you.
As a student, the most important thing is to fly your aircraft, and not worry about inconviencing others - don't lose control while trying to phone, or crash trying to land somewhere else.
I'd go to a farm strip and phone if I had an enroute radio failure, and my handheld also failed.
PS Check radio volume: Check headset volume:Check radio frequency - you can accidentaly flip the channel: Check headset plugs fully in: try other side sockets, using other ptt. If there's another headset, try it (If fitted, check anunciator panel switches.)

Last edited by Maoraigh1; 8th Jan 2015 at 17:06. Reason: Add space
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 17:38
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Another one being total radio failure... You're coming back to your airfield and are about to request rejoin when you realise comms are dead. Obviously there are the no radio procedures, flying triangles etc. But my understanding (it even says in the textbooks) is that these sometimes (usually) don't work.
I'm hardly the voice of experience (just over 200 hours TT) but did experience radio failure last year routing Lydd to North Weald). I was flying with a friend who (thankfully ) was p1 for this leg. We departed Lydd, dropped them off and were about to call southend radar when the radio died - the box went completely blank. We immediately squawked 7600 and were considering returning to Lydd (full ATC versus air-to-ground at north weald).

Five minutes later the radio flickered back into life so we immediately called Southend and explained the situation. They advised us to retain squawk 7600 and continue to north weald as planned. They were extremely helpful and called north weald to co-ordinate our arrival. Sure enough the radio cut out a few more times during the flight but in the end we were able to a normal join and landing at north weald. A hairy experience but my friend coped admirably and we have both learned from it.

In the scenario you describe, radio failure when I about to request joining info I'd probably use the same thought process and weigh up the facilities at the field I was intending to join versus other local airfields.

I wouldn't fancy popping up unannounced in the circuit at a busy a/g field with a failed radio. They have no radar facilities to see a squawk code and no authority to co-ordinate other circuit traffic around you. Fuel permitting I would prefer to squawk 7600 and fly to an ATC airfield that would see me coming and could take appropriate action. Obviously others with more experience may have a different view.

Above all remember your training, "aviate, navigate, communicate". The experience I outlined above highlighted to me how quickly panic sets in and you can become fixated a problem in the cockpit while forgetting to keep a good lookout or monitor your airspeed. The priority is to keep the aircraft flying safely. Once this is done you can think of a plan.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 17:41
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Possibly not a recommendation, but this is what I did once in the case of apparent radio failure...

I was flying back from Paris to Le Touquet in an R22 helicopter, as a PPL(H), with another low hours helicopter pilot. We were party of a large group who'd gone to Paris for the weekend, but we were the first helicopter approaching Le Touquet. I called them...no response. I tried several times as we got closer and closer. I could hear everyone else on the radio, so it made little sense. Thinking I had transmission failure, but aware that I might not, I called again and gave my position, and said I intended to come in and land, but would approach low level so as to keep well out of the way of their fixed-wing traffic.

I did this safely, landed and paid the landing fee, and no-one asked to see me so I didn't ask to see them. It turned out that earlier in the day the Tower had called a Brit pilot who was over the Channel and asked him to return to the field as there was a problem with his flight plan, and been told to **** off. So he'd refused to talk to any more Brits!!! After I called, he started talking to Brits, so the rest of the group had no problems.

The CFI told me that what I did was safe, but actually illegal in Class D airspace. Since I was in a helicopter, I probably should have landed in a field and phoned the Tower. But I got no official reprimands.

No moral to this story, except maybe to say that a wrong decision is not a disaster so long as it's a safe one.
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 17:49
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Join Date: Dec 2014
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Here in Norway, usually, if you are cleared for an touch and go, you have permission to fly the circuit, land, take off, turn crosswind and turn downwind.

If I was on downwind and the tower was busy, I would just continue on an extended downwind, and turn base and then a long final when I was cleared for another touch and go.

If extended downwind is not possible due to terrain or other traffic, I think I would have started orbiting on downwind and waited for contact..
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Old 8th Jan 2015, 17:59
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the two times its happened to me I phoned the tower on my mobile.

Both cases it was due to a dead alternator.

Even got cleared into class D via mobile.
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