Invovled in major incident.....need advice regarading NASA ASRS


Well-Known Member
I had probably the worst aviation related experience so far in my life last night. I made a serious lapse in judgement in a situation regarding lost comms. I don't want to go into the details at this time, but I can say that I have a newfound respect for controllers and will never speak ill of one again.

Long story short, I got chewed on a quite bit by the controller over the freq. when I regained comms and got the dreaded "call me at this number after you park" when I landed. They had an airport ops car following me. After I shutdown, the extremely helpful and friendly man in the car dialed the tower number for me on his cellphone and let me talk to the controller.

On the phone he gave me more chewing, I apologized as much as I could and did everything I could to explain what led to my judgement lapse. The controller told me this was his first time in 17 years of working that he ever had to call a pilot *yikes*. Also told me that he never made a pilot fill out paper work and wasn't about to start with me. "What happened stays between you and me and ends right here" is about what he said.

I was tempted not to post and ask advice about this, and bury it in the "never happened" file, but I'm concerned about other pilots that were affected by my actions possibly reporting me. I can get no sort of assurance from them as I did from the Controller. Would you fill at a NASA ASRS form, or leave it alone? Assume that what I did was horrible and there's really no way I could put a positive spin on it, however no damage to aircraft or property or injuries occured as a result.



New Member
Wow.. Really isn't your week.. Sorry to hear... Hope things work out...

That's all I can say, sorry for sticking my nose in


Well-Known Member
Yes, not to sound like an over-dramatic, whining, sympathy craving pessimist but it has been a pretty bad week for me. First a car accident and now this. Perhaps the fist event in some subconscious way led to the second. I honestly do not know if they could be linked, but I felt okay mentally and physically when I went up to fly last night.

I sat in the airplane for about an hour by myself in the dark after it was all over, thinking about how close I came to screwing up this whole "aviation" plan (and also to avoid seeing anyone in the FBO who might've been up at the same time is me, I was not in the mood to answer questions from random people). This really drives home for me Doug's constant emphasis on a backup career; one bad decision and it could be all over.....

I also really need to get one of those handhelds.....


New Member
eh, well the good news is nobody/nothing was hurt.. Lots of bad decisions lead to lots of bad things.


New Member
Don't let this worry you too much. I don't how severe this was but it doesn't sound as though it would be that big of a deal even if it was written up. I would not recommend filling out anything unless told to do so by the administrator. If this makes you feel any better I know one very successful pilot who was involved in a mid-air. He survived obviously and it has not ruined his career.


Well-Known Member
Yeah, file an ASRS report. Doesn't take too long, and, if nothing else, people can learn from it. If you're planning on using it to bar violations, send it within 10 days, and make sure you send it registered mail, so you can prove that. Keep your chin up...everybody makes mistakes.


Resident Knucklehead
Id go ahead and file the NASA form. Far as I can tell, the Administrator cannot use the NASA form against you in any way.

Besides this.. I've been thinking... Yes, the controller did say to keep it between you and him, but also remember that most, if not all, ATCTs have their lines and radios recorded and archived. So, technically, it's NOT quite as "buried" as the controller may have indicated. The possibility of anyone pulling those tapes and investigating further is remote (after all, the controller told you he didn't report it), but not eliminated.

Either way, don't fret too much over this. You've done what almost every pilot somewhere in his career has done... Ask any airline pilot on the line and they're sure to have at least one "aw cripe" moment to tell about. File the report, and put it behind ya. You'll laugh about this in ten years when you're on that 4 hour layover and BSing with your FO.



New Member

A ASRS Report is evidence of a compliant attitude and MUST be considered when the Feds are reviewing the case.

It is not a "get out of jail free" form.
It does not prevent the FAA from questioning basic pilot qualifications and doing a reexamination ride.

It does let many pilots into the Remedial Training Program when they would have otherwise faced suspension or revocation of their pilot certificates. The local FAAs state if a pilot is considered for remedial training and has already pursued training after an incident and before they make a final decision, that training will be considered. In two local cases last year, the FAA deemed no further action to be taken on two pilots because both had completed checkrides since their incidents. Another case further north, the pilot had completed an informal refresher course with an instructor after the incident, specifically because of the incident. The instructor was willing to sign off the pilot as not going to make whatever mistake again, and the case was closed on the signoff.

I don't have a "magic 8" ball that will tell me what the FAA will choose to pursue. Many times the controller is asked about the incident. They can report having chewed on the pilot sufficiently enough to have prevented such things in the future. They can also report the guy was an idiot and needs to have his wings clipped. Or they can say the guy didn't call back (IMHO, this is the WORST option).

Call up a flight instructor friend or one of your mentors, invite 'im out for coffee, and talk. Do it Monday (if not today). If those aren't available, call one of the ASCs in your area, invite them out to coffee, and talk. Most of the folks listed know how to listen.

Think back to the events of yesterday's flight. *REALLY* think back. What was going on when you should have been talking to ATC? How'd you lose comms? What were the decision points leading up to that flight? At which points could a different decision have changed the outcome of the flight? What resources did you need that were not available to you (including a handheld with fresh batteries)?

When you're done, ask how to proceed from where you are at.

It might be time to take a day off, or even a couple of days off. I don't care when the checkride is scheduled. Maybe flying needs to be dropped for finals (ours are already over out here), then resumed when the caffeine wears off.

You might have fatigue from studying (brain tired), left over shock (known as post-traumatic stress), or spent too much time wondering about your career. Posting at midnight when your last posts are usually around 9 PM flag lack of sleep. You might be missing a tidbit of aeronautical knowledge that'll save your bacon next time.

The folks mentioned will also help you put the week in perspective. A physical person you trust telling you to simmer down or panic means a lot more than "some idiot on the internet" saying the same thing. What's the worst thing that could happen? Someone you love could die because of your actions. What's the best? You take this as a signal from above to PAY ATTENTION to ....

Finally, handhelds are great. The only time in the last three years that I didn't take the handheld along, I had a complete electrical failure. Seven other times the handheld proved its worth. On one of those occasions, I was in an area without cell coverage, so the handheld was my only choice.

Glad you're back on the ground safe.

Take care,
Jedi Nein


Yeah, file the NASA report. The only way it could possibly hurt you is if you intended to do something wrong (like buzzing a house).

It will also give you a chance to reflect on what happened some more, and it will contribuite to safety by filling other pilots in on how mistakes can be made and what to do in certain situations.

As for the car accident; let me just say that sometimes things affect people much more than they're willing to awknowledge. When I had my accident I thought everything was fine about 5 min after it happened. Wrong! I didn't fully get over it for a few months. We're all human, and big events like that make an impression that stays with us for a while.

To use myself as an example, I went flying a few days before surgery (this was about 8 months ago). I was in the Katana, a really fast single with a Vfe of only 78 (I believe; it's been awhile). Well I was doing maneuvers and decided to put the flaps down for some stalls. For some reason I didn't catch the fact that I was still doing around 130kts indicated.... Thankfully, Iain was there with me and caught the error before the flaps could come out. I believe that mistake was attributed to the fact that I was stressed out. Now I really think about what is going on in my life before I make the 'go' decision. For your next few flights, I'd do good VFR practice work and even bring a pilot buddy or instructor.

Regarding the handheld, from personal experience I believe they are way overrated. I've used two, and both have been pretty dissapointing. If you want any kind of reliable transmissions at all, you'll need an external antenna connector to wire the transciever into the airplane's comm antennas. This is impossible to do in rentals (the connector is permanant). If I do ever go lost comm, I believe I'd try the transciever (I always keep it ready to go during flight), but I'd probably end up calling the FSS on my cell phone from the air, or land at an uncontrolled airport and arrange the no radio flight back home by phone from the ground.

Finally, if you ever do decide to fill us in on what happened, you'll be allowing us to learn from your experience.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for all the replies so far.

Two factors that may or may not matter that I neglected to mention last night:

1. ATC/airport ops never got my name, never looked at my certificate on the ground, nor was I ever in anyway asked to identify myself other than my a/c call sign. In other words, I don't believe they considered it serious enough to even get my name, but of course they could look up the owner of the plane, call them and ask "who rented NXXXX on saturday night?".

2. The ATC tower was not FAA operated. It's owned by the city and operated by "Midwest ATC services". I don't know if this makes a difference at all.


New Member
fill out the form just to be safe. from what i unerstand the faa can in no way shape or form use it against you unless you were involved in an accident or criminal activity. cover your ass!


Antisocial Monster
I'd also say fill out the form. As other's have stated, you are not going to get violated.

I had a lost comms once before also. We didn't do the right thing; we simply transmitted in the blind that we lost our radio and left the class D airspace to our home airport (which is 7.8 miles from the class D airport). We got on the ground and called them, they told us they had heard us and cleared the traffic that was around out of our way. If they had not heard us, they should have cleared the traffic out anyways. When it comes down to it, and it's an emergency; you can violate every FAR in the book to get the airplane down safely. No one can fault you for what you do in the plane when something goes wrong and you need to get yourself back on the ground safely.

And who's to say you did not try to declare an emergency while transmitting in the blind? You couldn't have known that you were not transmitting...


John Herreshoff


Well-Known Member
After thinking it over today, I think I'm safe to tell the story of what happened. I'll also fill out a NASA form and send it in.

I went out to the airport at about 10:30 PM planning to do three stop and go landings for night currency and also to complete the 10 solo night landings at a controlled field requirement for the commercial. [CFR 61.129 (a)(4)(iii)] The airport is Class C, however it's not usually very busy at night, particularly weekend nights, and ATIS was giving the Clearance Deliv. frequency on what is usually an approach freq. I called clnc and gave them my request for three stop and go landings in the pattern, which they approved. They also informed me that "everything is on this frequency" (gnd, twr, appch, clnc).

I taxied out about 11PM, everything completely normal, radios working fine. Not much going on on the comms at all, despite the integrated frequency. I got to the end of the runway, called ready to which the controller responded "clear for takeoff, make close pattern".

Takeoff is normal. Avionics and radios all looked fine. I turned crosswind, then downwind. Abeam the approach end of the runway on my downind leg I start to get ancy. I haven't heard anything on the frequency for a few minutes. I remember thinking "shouldn't the controller have given me my landing clearnace by now?". Crap.....I depressed the nav selector that allowed me listen to the #2 comm which I had also tuned to the common frequency. Still silent on the #2 comm. At this point I'm turning base, and still have no idea what's wrong. My immediate instict is to look for light gun signals. I looked at the tower but could only make out a steady white light. I remembered that steady white is pretty much meaningless in the air, so I had to assume that what I was seeing was NOT a tower light gun signal, but probably a light from the city. It really wasn't that bright either. Now it's time to turn final and I start doing radio checks (should've done this MUCH sooner). I don't get any sidetone in my headset, and I can't hear any response from the tower. At this point all I can think about is landing......I'm on final, I realize I don't have a clearance, but given the circumstances I felt it would be best to go ahead and land anyway.

After I landed, I continued troubleshooting in everyway I could think of and finally found the culprit...Apparantly my headset was not plugged in well enough, and after turning it a little bit and pushing it in a little further, I got a reply to my "radio check". The controller was quite irate. He not-so-calmly informed me that I had landed without a clearance and that I had made a Northwest DC9 execute a go-around. At this point I get the phone number to call tower, taxied back to parking and talked to the guy in the airport ops car after I shutdown.

He was still pretty upset on the phone. Although I tried to be as respectfully and humbly apologetic as I could. He told me I was lucky that the northwest guys didn't sound too pissed off and that they could report me if they wanted, but that he wasn't going to do it himself. He also mentioned to me that they HAD been sending me light gun signals. I didn't see anything but the white light I discussed earlier.

That's about it. Morals of the story-

Don't hesitate to do radio checks. For some reason I didn't do a radio check until much later than I should've.

Always make sure your headset is plugged in ALL THE WAY. I had not flown this particular airplane in a few months, and the radio jacks were set up a little differently than the other planes I had been flying. I honestly don't know if I didn't hook them up well enough to begin with, or if they got knocked loose somehow during my takeoff. I would guess the latter since everything was working fine during taxi.

Don't land at a controlled field unless you have a light gun clearance, verbal clearance, or an extreme emergency in which you absolutely must do so. I should've turned away from the airport, avoided the approach traffic and continued circling until I got a positive steady green light signal and/or regained comms.

Squawk 7600. I didn't do this. Probably because I was hoping that I could regain comms using my troubleshooting. In the same situation again, I would squawk 7600 after the first two radio checks.

There are probably many many more lessons to be learned from the incident. I hope this helps anyone whoever encounters a similair situation.


Well-Known Member
I had a total electrical failure while holding short of the runway a few months ago, just after my runup. I was looking as best I could for a light gun signla from the tower, and so was my student. We couldn't see anything. We then managed to reduce the electrical load enough to get one of the comm radios working (could receive, not enough power to transmit). We heard tower clearing us back to the ramp and letting us know that he was flashing the light gun. I looked back up at the tower, still couldn't see a thing!
I think the light guns they have in the control towers are totally ineffective, and considering how much trouble we can into for not being able to see and comply with the signals, something ought to be done about them. Anyone else had a similar experience?


New Member
The light guns in CA have almost always worked for me. Sometimes it takes awhile for the controller to realize there is a radio failure in the aircraft they are working. Then they have to read the instructions that are printed on the card next to the light gun. Other times, it's ground that asks local, "why is an airplane is landing on the runway" local just cleared an airliner to land on opposite direction. The controller never saw me.

Squawking 7600 does no good when the electrical system fails.

At night, the light is usually quite brilliant and fills the cab window. During the day one has to look carefully for the light, but it also quite distinct. And sometimes the light gun fails. One tower, when asked to show off their light gun for a student pilot, flashed red, white, nothing. The green had burned out.

Besides, making airline pilots do a go around keeps 'em on their toes...

Jedi Nein


New Member
Shouldof couldof wouldof. Maybe you shouldof squaked 7600. Maybe you couldof left the pattern to trouble shoot the radios, No harm was done and you learned a valuable lesson. File the form and go on.

Try entering downwind on a very busy tower day GOING THE WRONG WAY... I didn't make any friends either but I have no black marks on my record and I'm still flying. I learned a very valuable lesson that day also..

Hope this helps



Well-Known Member
You did good to file the ASRS with Nasa. Don't worry about it. You were subject to ATC intimidation after you landed. Some controllers like to do this. You would have been perfectly within your rights to hang up on him. You had a comm failure and didn't see a red light to go around. Did you ask him why he thought you didn't see the red light? All you have to say is you decided the safest course of action was to land. Getting all offensive with the controller isn't going to help matters but, at the same time, I personally wouldn't take a lot of crap from one. When I was a low time pilot I would have been shaking in my boots like you were. Now, after flying for so long and having worked for the FAA, I feel pretty good about telling you not to worry about it.


Antisocial Monster
After reading that, I think the controller was out of line. YOU are the one that has YOUR BUTT on the line in the airplane for the SAFTEY of the flight, and you need to do what YOU need to do so that things work our safley when trying to get on the ground. I would not fault you at all for this one, and the controller was being out of line. For all you know, you might have had a complete comm failure. I don't know how the airspace around you is setup, but you might not have been able to just leave the Class C and figure things out. The safest place to be is on the ground and quick at that. What if you had first lost the comm's, then your nav radio and you left the area? What if you lost the airport after that. Now you can't talk with anyone AND you are loosing comm and nav radio's. What's next? The lights?

You did the right thing. The controller is not the one up in the air trying to figure out what's going on all the while worrying about the saftey of yourself and anyone that might get smacked on the ground if for some reason the plane falls outta the sky.


John Herreshoff