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Unable to contact ATC over Africa

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Unable to contact ATC over Africa

Old 8th Apr 2007, 19:54
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Shades of Brazil....

Can any ppruners with African experience comment on when in this situation they would follow ICAO lost com procedures? And I'm thinking here of the 20 minutes outside of radar then climb to flight plan altitude portion of the procedure. Or would you basically never adhere to the altitude change part of the lost com proc?

Hawk
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 08:23
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CPDLC in Africa

At present it's only JNB and NDJ that are active with Algiers under test.. How much longer before others see the light???
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 09:34
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I always treat africa the same as overwater flights,except with less radio. If you have a problem you are on your own. At night even worse very few lighted airports. Nav aids inop,poor radar if any, poor notams etc. A few airports meet icao requirements.
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 13:33
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Sounds like little has changed in 40 years, other than the introduction of 126.9 and SSB. In the Africa Corps, getting climb "clearance" was always a nightmare, particularly if dawn was on the way (with or without the horn), particularly in HF-AM (pre-USB) days. It was a case of listening for the next point-to-point ATC transmission ("Adees, Adees, Adees; Azmurra on eight-nine...") and hoping they might relay your request to Tripoli or Khartoum. They never did, though.

Then there is the basic problem of various semi-Anglophone pilots, of divers levels of ability and experience
ATC: "Beadvize the veeseeten now in your three o'clock, call when you hev it in sight."
Military jet pilot: "Iz thet localtime, or GMT?"

Happy days...
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 13:39
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Niamey asked us the other day to try to log on to their CPDLC. In this case it didn't work (from their corner), but I guess it should be on the way soon.
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 14:01
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Chris,

That's why Navs were still carried on the BUA 10s through East Af. Where is 'Drunken Duncan'?
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 14:30
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Yes, merlinxx,

In the sixties, with the introduction of Doppler "navigation", BOAC decided to sack all its specialist navs; to be replaced by bright young third-pilots from Hamble, who would spend much of their time practising astro for their Nav Licences. Maybe Rainboe can confirm? Some excellent redundant BOAC navigators found their way to BUA and Caledonian. BUA (later Caledonian-BUA/BCAL) realised that Doppler is useless over smooth desert or smooth water, so we copilots were full-time P2s.

But no specialist navigator would ever have stooped to working HF, if he could possibly avoid it! 'Drunken Duncan' was, I think, ex-merchant navy? Sadly, I can't confirm his whereabouts...

Niamey never used to be in the forefront of technology, Bora Bora. Promise not to laugh: what is CPDLC?
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 15:42
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I'll stay out of actual discussion and only offer a small quip since I'm an SLF.

Seeing that noone seem to know that you overlfy various parts of Africa, and that noone gives any service, would it not be a good idea to tell your bean counters that there's likely money to be saved in overfllight fees, since noone can prove you were there in the first place?

-A
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 15:44
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AFI Standards

Hi Chris - not much has changed except "authorities" insisting on the implementation of RVSM in this deficient region. ICAO guidelines are published for this, however, not too many of these are ever met! Efficient/reliable two-way comms being just one of them - how often are carriers unable to raise Kinshasa on HF for a few hours and this region lies within the ITCZ! Turbulence will/is going to cause unnecessary RA/TA's with no one aware that should suspend RVSM until it subsides. Just what percentage of over-flight charges are ever put back into the necessary resources???
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 16:49
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Sir George Cayley
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Question

And ICAO's take on this dismal inability to meet their SARP's?

How long should I hold my breath?

Sir George Cayley
 
Old 22nd Nov 2008, 19:43
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Still holding your breath, Sir George?

There is one very large problem with "lost comms": It will often be the case that your flight plan details have not been passed to the next FIR!

The normal "lost comm" procedure assumes that the ATC facility has your flight plan details. Not usually so over Africa, I am afraid. This is why you are required to call ten minutes before entering the Lagos FIR, for instance; they need to get your details. Essentially, you are air-filing your flight plan then and there and never mind what you did before departure!

I had a trip from Gao, Mali to Marrakesh, Morocco where we were out of contact on all frequencies for most of the trip, and don't ask me why. It was a quiet time of day so that we couldn't get a relay on VHF, no one was answering our calls on HF... we just went motoring along at F350 or whatever it was until we finally managed to make contact on some odd frequency I picked off the chart, with another aircraft way off towards Dakar, nothing for our route of flight at all, when they were kind enough to pass our details.

The other aircraft told us to call on some VHF frequency that wasn't listed, when we were using current charts of course, and then we were back in business. It is just... Africa. Relay stations don't work, frequency changes aren't notified, "everybody" knows to call on XXX, well, everybody but you!

One thing I would always try to do is get cleared to my cruising altitude as soon as possible so that if I did lose comms at least I was up there getting good fuel consumption. Being stuck down low is double trouble with poor line-of-sight and lousy fuel consumption. That can feel like torture.

Another thing is that if you are communicating with a basically non-Anglophone ground facility make your calls slowly and clearly. I had one FO who just had to rap everything out at a rapid pace speaking to Libreville when he would get... nothing. I often had to give him the airplane and put on my friendliest voice to get them to reply in English. They were there all along; they just didn't want to answer! Hey, it is just human nature; no one likes to be made to look stupid.

It is a big, empty sky over Africa but it sure does pay to call on 126.9 and to keep a look-out. That much we can do for ourselves, when the rest can be problematic, yes indeedy.
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 20:13
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<< bright young third-pilots from Hamble, who would spend much of their time practising astro for their Nav Licences. >>

As one of those bright young pilots from Hamble - I am tempted to ask just what, other than astro, would one have used? I don't recall much Loran over the Eastern Sahara - NDB's were almost non-existent and those that were available were bugger all use - the wx radar would paint up Nassar's corner - but only then when we could overfly Libya - after that it was over Egypt and that was a beacon crawl using the famed NDB's and occasional VOR's

Ah the memory of circum-zenith fixes over the desert!

And by the time I crossed the Western Sahara for the first time - it was all triple IRS's
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 21:12
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It seems we all bellyache on here to no effect apart from feeling elated that we have shared our concerns.

Wouldn't taking up the issue with IFALPA be more productive or is that organisation ineffective too?bb
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 21:17
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Question for you, Mr. Chuks. Or anyone with Africa experience. Being out of coms (HF and VHF) for such a long portion of your flight, and had your filed flight plan included a climb to FL 370 at some waypoint in a FIR, would you have done so without atc clearance, and if so would it have been at that waypoint? Or remained at last assigned altitude, and perhaps requested the altitude change some time later when coms established? Just trying to understand icao procedures, if anyone at PPRUNE has some thoughts.
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 21:39
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Sir George must be turning purple....

As far as Nigeria goes there was a big push to get SATCOM for ATC. Huge white antennae sprouted alongside the AIS facilities, meant to keep everyone in touch with everyone else. Nothing much really seemed to change, though.

I have been flying in Africa for over 25 years now and I get the definite idea that many folks just don't give a damn. That might just be me though.

The odd thing is that some of the really poor countries give really good service. You get to Bamako and the man takes pride in handing you a complete sheaf of weather information, satellite imagery even, something that I seldom saw in relatively wealthy Nigeria.

Visit AIS at DNMM, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos and see what sort of weather information is available. Maybe it has changed but I doubt that and it should be an eye-opener to see this AIS in a major airport.

The sort of stuff we were up against, just for one example: We would call Abuja on the telephone from Lagos to get the weather, when we could get them to answer. For a little while we could get a weather report, one that was mysteriously unavailable in Lagos. Then they refused to give weather over the phone. We had to appear in person. So we sent our Abuja service representative in person to get the weather. That worked for a few days. Then came the order that only a pilot could get the weather in person. We ended up just getting our service rep to give us a good guess at the weather, the best we could do! You found out what the official weather report was when you got line-of-sight. Note: You did not find out what the actual weather was, you just got the official weather report! You found out what the weather was when you shot the approach. "Are you feeling lucky, punk?"

Another good one: In Port Harcourt we couldn't get a special Met report for love or money, when rainstorms could sweep through and cause rapid changes. I looked into this to find that the Met man had 24 little slips of paper, one per hour, to pass his official reports to the Tower. If he gave specials then he was one little slip short per special! And, no, only the official little slips from the government Met Office were acceptable: no making duplicates and giving them to him so that we could get specials!

Just a story because I know nothing: Radar: they bought clapped-out, discontinued radars for the price of new ones and then took big kick-backs. When the radars broke down the manufacturer told them to get lost; that model had been discontinued.

At every turn you found some daft obstructionism meant to build some shaky little African mini-empire for some little toad tucked away in a sweaty little office somewhere out of sight. Grand initiatives from ICAO would sweep overhead and promises of reform would be trumpeted in the papers but down where it mattered things did not change because people did not WANT them to change.

Algeria is an oasis of sanity by comparison so that I feel as if I am on holiday here. It's still Africa but the daftness is within proportion.

To answer the question above: If I were still in the same FIR then I would follow the lost com procedures to the letter. (I used to review them faithfully. There were some things I might have been a bit vague on but I was the Ace of the Base when it came to Lost Comms! That stuff can get you killed!) That said, the Dornier 328Jet was a good climber so that we would be able to go to F350 if appropriate right away. We didn't need to step-climb so that we could try to get cleared as high as we wanted right away. I don't know why but once I was up there I felt as if the odds were now on my side.

We would often get a climb enroute and then find that the level change had not been transmitted to the next controller. No problem with our comms, just some guy not passing the word down on the ground.

I really don't have a good answer to that question because it depends. I guess you would have to ask yourself, "What does that guy on the ground expect me to do?" and try to match that expectation rather than follow the rules necessarily.

For instance one day we had Lagos lose their comms when we were inbound to the VOR. I did exactly what the rules said, holding until my ETA and then descending for the approach in use. The comms came back and the controller LOST HIS MIND! I was doing WHAT!? I never did figure out what he wanted me to do; hold for a however long it took while they sorted themselves out? Just don't do what the rules said to do, okay?

Last edited by chuks; 22nd Nov 2008 at 22:01.
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Old 22nd Nov 2008, 23:34
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Ah Chucks,

You descibe the place so well - brings me back years.

I remember climbing out of Enugu late one night, heading back to Lagos. Ahead of us, coming over the ridge towards us we see the lights of another aircraft.? Shouldn't be anyone else around here at this time.

Next thing, on Benin Frequency pipes up: "This is WT001 inbound for ILS training".

Controller asks him to repeat.

"WT001, inbound to you for ILS training, estimating your field in five minutes."

The controller replied "That is Negative. I have been here since early this morning and I am now going home."

With that, the VOR went off the air!

Class.

Last edited by tonyryan; 22nd Nov 2008 at 23:47.
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Old 23rd Nov 2008, 08:34
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CS

"the sixties, with the introduction of Doppler "navigation", BOAC decided to sack all its specialist navs; to be replaced by bright young third-pilots from Hamble, who would spend much of their time practising astro for their Nav Licences. Maybe Rainboe can confirm? Some excellent redundant BOAC navigators found their way to BUA and Caledonian. BUA (later Caledonian-BUA/BCAL) realised that Doppler is useless over smooth desert or smooth water, so we copilots were full-time P2s."

That might have been your perception but it is incorrect.

Africa was a mandatory Nav Area, so the third pilot was in the RHS co-piloting whilst the Flight Nav qualified P2 was navigating (using all resources he had - including Astro and the wx radar to locate "Nasser's Corner"). In those days, pre INS, to be a P2 in BOAC you had to hold a Flight Nav Licence as well as your ATPL. The Third Pilot had a frozen ATPL with a full P2 rating on the aircraft. The only place a "bright young third-pilot from Hamble, would spend much of their time practising astro for their Nav Licences." would be a non Nav Area.
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Old 23rd Nov 2008, 12:28
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Go offset for a mile ( or 2) ( fms/gps capable aircraft)
Just like remote/oceanic s.l.o.p.
Might save your/our lives.
They won't notice/mind.
I swear by it.
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Old 23rd Nov 2008, 14:03
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arem and beerdrinker (mine's a Tusker),

You refer to the 'Seventies, as I was. Sounds as if you guys had it even tougher than we thought: a rookie co-pilot in the right-hand seat; and an inexperienced pilot-navigator trying to anticipate the drift and GS changes that were occasionally available from Doppler. Particularly interesting over SE Libya in January, I imagine?

We had it easy. No wonder we didn't always hear (or raise) you on 126.9.


.86
,

Definitely. Can't remember exactly when we first started flying offsets almost as an unofficial SOP. Possibly on INS-retrofitted 707s in 1976; definitely on the FMS/IRS-equipped A310 in 1984.

The trouble with (DME-DME-updated) FMS/IRS was that, once many had it, opposite-direction collisions became all the more likely on advisory-routes; particularly near the coast where 2 DME stations might (rarely) be simultaneously available. With GPS updating, it applies everywhere, I guess.

Safe flying, guys,
Chris

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Old 23rd Nov 2008, 21:32
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I know... I know... "It doesn't protect you from crossing traffic" (just to save someone the effort of posting).

However, if there's someone out there who flys in African airspace in an IRS/GPS-equipped aircraft who doesn't fly offset, he/she has an extraordinary amount of faith - or a similarly extraordinary lack of imagination.

However, judging by the many aircraft I pass in African airspace that are quite obviously NOT flying offset, it would appear that we have a very large number of pilots amongst us who have "an extraordinary amount of faith - or a similarly extraordinary lack of imagination".
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