Topic Author
Posts: 1001
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 1999 1:11 am

No ATC. What To Do?

Sat Jan 15, 2000 10:41 pm

I don't know if this can actually happen. What would a pilot do if he/she was flying a plane and when they were airborne they lost contact? I mean they could not talk OR hear the ATC. Now, the problem would be that if they wanted to land, they have a big risk of colliding. And what if the NAV systems go out, its a foggy day, and there is no ATC contact. Are the pilots pretty much doomed? I know this might be going a bit over board in terms of realism but i am just curious about it. Looking forward to hearing answers.


RE: No ATC. What To Do?

Sat Jan 15, 2000 10:58 pm

The possibility of losing contact with ATC is not as remote as it may seem. It's extremely unusual on large airliners because of the redundancy but it can happen to light aircraft. There are some very clear 'loss of contact' procedures to follow and each pilot should be aware of them.
In general there are two conditions: Loss of contact in visual metereological conditions (VMC) and loss of contact in Instrument metereological conditions (IMC).
In VMC you simply proceed visually to the closest airport maintaining good lookout and remaining clear of published IFR routes and altitudes. Once in the vicinity of an airfield, if it is a controlled one, the tower will shine a red or green light depending on what they want you to do.
In IMC conditions the situation is more tricky. As a general rule you must strictly adhere to the original flight plan cleared by Air traffic control (or any reclearences issued by them). That way ATC know where you are going and when you will be there. If at any point you break into VMC conditions then you proceed as per VMC loss of contact procedures.
A total failure of COM/NAV/Transponder equipment is extremely unlikely so ATC will usually still see your transponder return even if they can't talk to you and keep other aircraft clear.
You will find that every operational aspect of commercial flying is carefully thought out and there are procedures to follow for almost any situation, that's what makes aviation the safest way to travel!

Did we land or were we shot down?
Posts: 540
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 1999 12:10 am

RE: No ATC. What To Do?

Sat Jan 15, 2000 11:23 pm

Same thought American 4275! Just take a look at my post titled "Radio failure and then" just one day ago. You'll find another pretty good answer to this problem too.
Posts: 7865
Joined: Thu Jul 29, 1999 3:50 am

RE: No ATC. What To Do?

Sun Jan 16, 2000 6:41 am

ATC would clear the approach path. Then, inform the aircraft on what to do with a series of light gun signals. They would know the a/c had no comm. if he didn't respond.

Posts: 2276
Joined: Thu Aug 05, 1999 1:42 pm

More In-Depth

Sun Jan 16, 2000 8:38 am

I'm going to go more in-depth about radio failures during IFR conditions.

If you have ever read transcripts of or heard flight clearences, you'd always see/hear (example only) "United 2868, you are cleared as filed via the Gunnis2 departure... fly the runway heading until 3,000' then turn left heading 240. Expect flight level 130, one-zero minutes after departure..."

By giving the pilot that clearence, the controller knows what to expect if that pilot's radio fails. Especially when he told the pilot to "expect flight level 130, one-zero minutes after departure." If the radio fails that pilot knows to climb to 13,000' 10 minutes after departure.

How does the controller know when the aircraft's radio has failed?? Simple really.
First, he gets no response. Second, the pilot squawks 7600 on his transponder. This puts a flashing four letter word under the respective blip that says "RDOF".

If the radio fails while en route, then the pilot still squawks 7600 and flys his assigned flight plan. Then as he approaches the airport there are certain special published flight routes that he must fly to make his approach and landings. With the combination of these special flight routes and the 7600 squawk code, the controller can resequence aircraft accordingly to give you priority.

Each Jeppesen approach/depature plate has a little box in the lower right hand corner with instructors on how to fly that approach/departure if your radio has failed.

I hope this has answered your questions.

- Neil Harrison

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