Lost Comm

dahhcon

Well-Known Member
During my instrument oral awhile ago, I was asked what I was supposed to do if I lost comm while IFR. I told the examiner the correct items, which included holding if arriving early at the IAF. He said that that was a great book answer but asked me if that was a good practical answer. He went on to explain that controllers probably want you to just shoot the approach when you arrive and not hold if early. He said since they already cleared the airspace for you, the last thing that want is you to hold. Would this be true? I think it would make it easier.
 

n9088d

New Member
During my instrument oral awhile ago, I was asked what I was supposed to do if I lost comm while IFR. I told the examiner the correct items, which included holding if arriving early at the IAF. He said that that was a great book answer but asked me if that was a good practical answer. He went on to explain that controllers probably want you to just shoot the approach when you arrive and not hold if early. He said since they already cleared the airspace for you, the last thing that want is you to hold. Would this be true? I think it would make it easier.
Then I suggest this DPE submit his ideas to the FAA so the appropriate sections can be revised in the AIM. Everything that's in there is in there for good reason, whether we understand it or not. Just follow recommended procedures. Some experienced pilots (such as DPEs) have terrible ideas even though they're experienced. In this case the terrible idea being to tell an instrument applicant to go against published procedures in the AIM. Arguing whether it's best to hold or not if you're early is an entirely different conversation and isn't up to us.

Think of it this way.. If you did lose comm and shot an approach early and it caused some kind of traffic conflict (I know just as well as the next guy that this is darn near impossible and highly unlikely), do you think the FAA would decide not to bring enforcement action against you when you tell them "my DPE told me it was okay to make my own policies that seem better that are contrary to the AIM"?
 

n9088d

New Member
Also wanted to mention this...

I believe the reason you must leave the IAF inbound at your ETA is so that ATC can clear traffic for you in the event they lose radar contact. Comm failure is usually associated with electrical failure, which would render your transponder inop and ATC would have to revert to non-radar procedures to keep you separated from other traffic. If ATC had no idea what time you'd be commencing your approach (i.e. if you shot the approach way early how would they know?) the only option they'd have would be to shut down your destination airport for the entire rest of your flight, thereby creating a major hassle/inconvenience for other pilots. The system would suffer. And even if your transponder was still operating, how would you know if you were still in radar contact? There are still plenty of areas where radar coverage is not available, so ATC might not be able to see you for long periods of time. And since you can't make position reports because you've lost comm, how do they know when to clear traffic for you so you can begin your approach at the destination? Controllers -- please correct any of this that is incorrect.
 

wjmiller3

Well-Known Member
Not that I disagree. But the other side of the argument could be that if I am in IMC and I lose coms, I dont know what caused it or what will fail next. That could be consided an emergency, so I am landing as soon as possible, early or not.
 

twdeckard

New Member
I would agree with your DE. You are hanging by a shoestring if you've lost comm (especially if its somehow compromised the x-ponder). Exercise your emergency authority under 91.3 accomplish the approach and land.

I would be very eager for folks on the 7110.65 side of the fence to chime in. I cannot believe if they have lost a primary target they continue to sequence airplanes into your likely destination up until your filed ETA. They cannot be certain what time your Big Pilot Watch really reads, nor that your situation doesn't deteriorate further while you are flying laps at one of the IAFs -- motivating an earlier approach for safety sake.

They would almost certainly be keeping a big chuck of airspace sterile until you land, regardless of your ETA. Again I would be curious to hear other opinions. I did submit a lengthy proposal to this effect during an FAA open NPRM comments period however it was really intended to prune superfluous regulations and I doubt my essay was considered.
 

JulietBravo

On Call, On Demand
So if I lost my comms, I could just declare an emergency (to myself obviously) and land when I want?? If that is true, then why do I have to teach lost comm procedures? Why do I tell my students to hold at the IAF and execute the approach at your ETA? Why do I even read the AIM?
 

SFCC/UND

Well-Known Member
So if I lost my comms, I could just declare an emergency (to myself obviously) and land when I want?? If that is true, then why do I have to teach lost comm procedures? Why do I tell my students to hold at the IAF and execute the approach at your ETA? Why do I even read the AIM?

I would also scream outside, I'm sure someone can hear me shouting outside going 100 mph. If you had a banner that could come in handy. But in an emergency you shouldn't be thinking about what the FAA wants you too do.
 

JimmyK

Well-Known Member
Comm failure is usually associated with electrical failure, which would render your transponder inop and ATC would have to revert to non-radar procedures to keep you separated from other traffic.
Just because you loose secondary radar does not mean that ATC has to use non-radar to separate you from other traffic. It is perfectly safe, legal and in some cases more expeditions to separate from primary targets only.
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
So if I lost my comms, I could just declare an emergency (to myself obviously) and land when I want?? If that is true, then why do I have to teach lost comm procedures? Why do I tell my students to hold at the IAF and execute the approach at your ETA? Why do I even read the AIM?
I don't have the experience to really chime in here authoritatively, but if you wanted to declare emergency while lost comms/nordo, there is another handy little separate piece of avionics with 4 knobs on it which might be of use with the right combo of numbers dialed in :p I'll give you 4,096 guesses
 

clestudentpilot

Well-Known Member
I'm doing my training currently at a VFR tower, so I cannot say what others would say in the TRACON/ARTCC world, but even if you have no transponder, you will still be a primary target on radar, you just won't have a secondary target. Primary targets are not dependent on transponders, all they are is an object in the air. Now, at the same time, a primary target is not always an airplane, it can be a flock of birds, or even ice. Like I said, I am not in any shoes to render an opinion other than to do what the FAR's and AIM says, I'm just chiming in that no matter what, you will still have a primary target on radar
 

///AMG

Well-Known Member
Very true, although the point of my x-ponder comment was that he could squawk 7700/emergency, or even more conveniently/correctly 7600 for lost comms which would give the controller an immediate heads-up about what is amiss....

Major point being that simply losing your radio does not mean that you have some much more serious electrical failure in progress which should cause you to abandon all procedures and do something non-standard to rectify an emergency which you have not yet diagnosed. I have lost several radios in the time I have been flying (VHF and UHF) and have yet to have a transponder fail with them. Not saying it couldn't happen, but I would personally take any emergency of this nature one step at a time until my equipment proves that the situation really is more severe. Especially with radio/comm failures, there is a lot of troubleshooting that you can do in many cases before you just throw in the towel and unnecessarily deviate from what the controller is expecting you to do.
 

Sunburn

Well-Known Member
I am sort of on the .65 part of the house, as I am in training to become an ATC, so I don't have any practical experience to speak from when I tell you the wait a pain in the neck it would be if a lost comm in IFR/IMC conditions would be if the pilot decided for no other reason that they were going to land ASAP, come on people, you can't see out the window, how do you know that there isn't any traffic that is short behind you? Stick to the clearance giving to you if you are in IFR conditions (As far as I have been taught this means even in VMC in Class A airspace). However, if the pilot goes lost comm while VFR, MAINTAIN VFR and land as soon as pracitical. I'll see if I can dig up the .65 section dealing with loss comm.

As far as the electical failure with radio, that is the thing, you don't know if your transponder is working, if you have a complete radio failure, but I have seen transmitters go out, and not the recievers. Also, sometimes our primary radar is down and we are just running on secondary (I'm told this isn't likily anymore, but it happens) so yeah, your 4096 quits, you have become non-radar and we need to you stick to your ETA/EFC times, unless you can maintain VFR and land ASAP.

If there are any other controllers reading this, please if I missed something/mislead the pilots, please let me know.
 

jtrain609

Anarcho-Bidenist
Also wanted to mention this...

I believe the reason you must leave the IAF inbound at your ETA is so that ATC can clear traffic for you in the event they lose radar contact. Comm failure is usually associated with electrical failure, which would render your transponder inop and ATC would have to revert to non-radar procedures to keep you separated from other traffic. If ATC had no idea what time you'd be commencing your approach (i.e. if you shot the approach way early how would they know?) the only option they'd have would be to shut down your destination airport for the entire rest of your flight, thereby creating a major hassle/inconvenience for other pilots. The system would suffer. And even if your transponder was still operating, how would you know if you were still in radar contact? There are still plenty of areas where radar coverage is not available, so ATC might not be able to see you for long periods of time. And since you can't make position reports because you've lost comm, how do they know when to clear traffic for you so you can begin your approach at the destination? Controllers -- please correct any of this that is incorrect.
A few things.

The idea that is being brought forth here isn't just being brought forward by this DPE, it's been told to me by every DPE, check airman and training department I've been a part of/been through.

Second of all, the quoted text above is inaccurate; you'll still have a primary target and ATC will see you starting the approach. I'm also willing to bet that the controllers will keep aircraft WELL away from where you're at and will go ahead and declare an emergency for you.
 

jtrain609

Anarcho-Bidenist
Actually it's more like if you know where the VFR weather is, and you've gone lost comms and you've got the rest of your airplane dying, I think the most prudent decision you can make is to go to where that VFR weather is. I'm of the opinion that you should ALWAYS know where the weather is better when you're in the soup, and how you can get out of it if it hits the fan.

I mean you MIGHT be able to shoot a partial panel approach using your handheld GPS after all your electrical equipment has died, but I wouldn't want to bet my life on it.
 

davolijj

New Member
Second of all, the quoted text above is inaccurate; you'll still have a primary target and ATC will see you starting the approach. I'm also willing to bet that the controllers will keep aircraft WELL away from where you're at and will go ahead and declare an emergency for you.
Not to nit-pick but you're completely wrong. Seems to be a common theme among your posts lately. There are very large areas of limited radar coverage throughout the united states, that includes primary and secondary. So there's a good chance ATC wouldn't still have a primary when the aircraft nears the airport, especially if they were cleared down to a lower intermmediate altitude in anticipation for the approach before the lights went out. Any pilot who spent even a small amount of time flying in these nonradar enviroments would know that. I could have swore we had a nonradar flying expert somewhere on these forums:

jtrain609 said:
Quite well, actually. I learned how to fly in a non radar environment doing full procedure approaches. Guess what we'd do? Depart, without talking to ATC, get on an airway, without talking with ATC, get to the IAF, without talking to ATC, fly whatever procedure was required, without ATC, go missed, without ATC, hold, without ATC, and do it again.

There isn't much radar coverage north of MBS and below 8,000 in Michigan, and I learned how to fly beat up 172's in the clouds there WITHOUT ATC and WITHOUT a GPS.
Interesting.
 

jtrain609

Anarcho-Bidenist
Not to nit-pick but you're completely wrong. Seems to be a common theme among your posts lately. There are very large areas of limited radar coverage throughout the united states, that includes primary and secondary. So there's a good chance ATC wouldn't still have a primary when the aircraft nears the airport, especially if they were cleared down to a lower intermmediate altitude in anticipation for the approach before the lights went out. Any pilot who spent even a small amount of time flying in these nonradar enviroments would know that. I could have swore we had a nonradar flying expert somewhere on these forums:



Interesting.
So you're saying that the majority of class B, C and D airports don't have radar dishes on site, and couldn't see a primary target from 5-30 miles out (where the FAF/IAF would be)? That seems interesting, being that I've commonly had traffic called out to me by approach control facilities that was actually a flock of birds.

You'd think if radar can see a flock of birds, it could see an airplane.
 

jtrain609

Anarcho-Bidenist
Oh and BTW if an airport is in such a remote area, such as where I did a good chunk of my training, aircraft seperation doesn't matter; there's nobody else out there to run into. If you really think that traffic seperation in a lost comms situation on an IMC day when going into a place like Caro, MI is a real threat, you've gotta get yourself back out here to reality land because there's nothing to hit out that way.
 

n9088d

New Member
Oh and BTW if an airport is in such a remote area, such as where I did a good chunk of my training, aircraft seperation doesn't matter; there's nobody else out there to run into. If you really think that traffic seperation in a lost comms situation on an IMC day when going into a place like Caro, MI is a real threat, you've gotta get yourself back out here to reality land because there's nothing to hit out that way.
Just let him keep embarrassing himself. Call me psychic, but I'll bet this kid only has a couple hundred hours in his logbook. His thoughts and opinions are underdeveloped, boring, and yield no contribution to this forum or aviation in general. What a joke.

davolijj: thanks for putting that out there. I've flown all over the United States and am here to testify that there are areas all throughout the mountainous west (and even in the midwest) with NO radar coverage (primary or secondary). I guess I should've mentioned that in my original post, but I figured it was such a basic fact that everyone already knew it (I was giving people like jtrain too much credit!). :D
 

n9088d

New Member
So if I lost my comms, I could just declare an emergency (to myself obviously) and land when I want?? If that is true, then why do I have to teach lost comm procedures? Why do I tell my students to hold at the IAF and execute the approach at your ETA? Why do I even read the AIM?
Bravo, my friend! [standing ovation]

Also.. I know this was mentioned in a proceeding post by someone else, but I'd like to reiterate that losing communications is NOT necessarily an emergency situation. I think we've got some folks posting in this forum that have little or no flying experience, particularly with abnormal procedures or emergencies. You can lose your radios and still have a perfectly capable airplane to fly on to the destination (and that's why the system is designed to accomodate that). The loss of all electrical power is more serious in IMC, but you've still got a perfectly controllable airplane and functioning powerplant. The loss of all electrical power makes it difficult to navigate, so that would be the only situation in which I would probably declare an emergency and land as soon as practical. Losing radios isn't a big deal. Just follow published procedures and fly on.
 

wjmiller3

Well-Known Member
Bravo, my friend! [standing ovation]

Also.. I know this was mentioned in a proceeding post by someone else, but I'd like to reiterate that losing communications is NOT necessarily an emergency situation. I think we've got some folks posting in this forum that have little or no flying experience, particularly with abnormal procedures or emergencies. You can lose your radios and still have a perfectly capable airplane to fly on to the destination (and that's why the system is designed to accomodate that). The loss of all electrical power is more serious in IMC, but you've still got a perfectly controllable airplane and functioning powerplant. The loss of all electrical power makes it difficult to navigate, so that would be the only situation in which I would probably declare an emergency and land as soon as practical. Losing radios isn't a big deal. Just follow published procedures and fly on.[/quote]


How are you going to navigate if you lose radios in IMC? How are you going to shoot an approach? I consider that a huge emergency. Unless you have a GPS not associated with the nav/coms.

I am guessing you meant coms?
 
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