IFR Lost Communications Example Scenario – Video Transcript
Hi, everyone and thanks for watching our training video presented by AeroGuard Flight Training Center. My name is Beth Brown and I’m a check instructor here out of Phoenix, Arizona at our Deer Valley location.
Today, I want to teach you about lost communication and IMC. There are a few components we’re going to discuss today. First is going to be your clearance. When you file an IFR flight plan you’re going to get a clearance limit when you depart and there’s five main points in that, and that’s summarized in an acronym we call CRAFT. So, we have the Clearance limit, Route, Altitude, Frequency, and your Transponder code. If you were to lose radios or loss of communication in actual IMC conditions, we’re going to follow the regulation 91.185 charlie and that has three main points in it. You’re going to have: 1. What route do you fly, and that’s another acronym we follow and that’s AREA. 2. What altitude are you going to fly, and that acronym is MEA, and then the third is when do you leave that clearance limit? When are you going to go and shoot the approach? We’ll talk about that with the real-life scenario in just a bit.
Imagine you’re cruised out, flying in the clouds, it’s total IMC. It’s a little bit turbulent, but things are going pretty well. You’re flying by your instruments on your IFR flight plan and you realize the radio’s a bit quiet for some time. You call for a radio check and nothing. The realization sets in that this may be an actual loss of communication situation, but it’s okay, you’ve trained for it. So, what is it you need to do?
Well first thing’s first, we need to follow the checklist and troubleshoot. Perhaps your loss of communications is due to a wrong frequency. Maybe you turned the volume down or maybe you unpulled your headset jack. So, you want to try to fix these things and correct the issue. You did, and nothing happened so now you realize you’re in an actual radio failure or loss of communication situation. So, we need to let ATC know somehow why we’re unresponsive to their radio calls. One way we can do that is to squawk 7600. This is our code for lost comms.
At this point you are what is known as NORDO, no radio, and no one wants this situation, so we need to figure out how to get down safely. So, then we need to determine, are you in VMC conditions or IMC conditions, because that’s going to determine your next course of action. If you’re in VMC, you can see traffic, you can see terrain, you just need to get down and land as soon as practical. However, if you’re in IMC conditions, the situation is much more complex.
So you’ve squawked 7600 to let ATC know that you can’t respond to them, and you know you can’t see because you’re in IMC conditions, so what do you need to do? You need to fly the route, you need to pick an altitude, and you need to know where to fly to to shoot the approach from. So, how do you know what route to fly? That depends, and it all starts from your clearance you received. Prior to departure, you’re going to file an IFR flight plan as you see best fits the needs of your flight. ATC may or may not clear you on that route based on their needs. One aspect of flying IFR is calling the clearance delivery frequency prior to departure to pick up your clearance here.
So, the clearance is made up of five parts and we remember it with that acronym we said, CRAFT. First thing is your clearance limit and so this is your long-range clearance, or authorization by ATC. It’s usually to an airport, or a nav aid at the airport. This is really important because when you lose radio communication, this is going to be the first point you fly to before you shoot the approach, as close to possible as your estimated time of arrival or EFC time. Now, the route. This may or may be the route you filed. The route may contain radar vectors to a fix or a direct to a fix or after instructions to a certain point “as filed”. And then, the A. The A stands for your altitude. Now sometimes they’ll give you an initial altitude and an expected altitude like they did in this case. The F is for the frequency. That’s going to be your next frequency after you depart from tower or the CTAF channel. And then T’s going be your transponder code. That’s a discreet code that’s going to identify you on the radar. ATC will be able to track you and attach your clearance and instructions to this code. And so that’s what makes up a CRAFT clearance, and we’ll get into this scenario in just a little bit.
So, we’re going to fly the route now, and so we’re going to prioritize the route like we said by this AREA acronym. And you’re going to fly first, off the assigned route. Now, you’re assigned route can be either from your clearance, the route they gave you, or maybe they gave you some different directions during the flight. If during your flight you are being radar vectored, for us we do the Deer Valley one and they fly when you’re cleared to PXR VOR. Well that’s right by Phoenix Airport, and they really don’t want us going there, so generally they give us a radar vector to some other segment on our flight.
So, if we were being radar vectored at the time we lost communication, we would continue on that heading until we reach the next fix which maybe is the Blythe VOR (BLH) here. At that point, we would go back to the assigned route and we’d continue as they told us to do. If weren’t being radar vectored and we did not have an assigned route for some reason, we would do what was expected. They would maybe say expect this in X amount of time, so then you would fly that. If for some reason you are missing all of these, then you would resort to the “as filed” and that’s what you’ve filed in your foreflight or with the weather briefer before you took off. And again, remember it’s not going to exactly be the route they assigned to you. It may or may not. These can be, your assigned and your clearance route, can be two different things.
So, it’s important to know what you filed, what you were cleared to, always write down radar vectors as you’re being given them, your current heading, your last heading and position, and also what’s to be expected, because you just never know what could happen in flight.
So, you’ve chosen your route now. Now, you need to figure out what altitude you’re going to fly to be safe. You’re in the clouds, you want to make sure that you have obstacle clearance of any terrain, because you can’t see it. So, you’re going to choose that this acronym MEA, and you’re going to pick the highest of these altitude on that segment of flight.
So, you’re going to constantly be reviewing these as you continue on, if you have to stay in IMC for a long time. So, first you’re going to pick (the highest of) minimum IFR altitude. So, this could be your MEA if you’re along a victor airway, but maybe you were being radar vectored and you’re off route. Well, now you need to choose the OROCA because that might be higher. You need to look at your expected altitude. So, in this case, we were 4,000 and if you lost comms there but you’re expected 8,000, you’re going to choose that because it’s higher. And then, your assigned is an option as well. Maybe they assigned you something highest. So, you want to have all the clearance you can so you’re going to choose the highest of those three.
Leave Clearance Limit
So, at this point you’ve determined your altitude and your route, and you’ve been flying that, and you’re getting close to your airport you’re ready to land. So, once you fly to the clearance limit, what are you going to do? If your clearance limit is an initial approach fix, you’re going to hold there until either your EFC time or your ETA, and then you’re going to shoot the approach. If the limit is not an initial approach fix, such as an airport in this situation, then you’re going to fly to the limit, the airport, and then you’re going to proceed to the initial approach fix of the desired approach you want to shoot. Now, you’re going to hold over that initial approach fix, if you have time, and you’re going to shoot the approach as close as possible to the EFC or ETA time. If you’re running late, you’re just going to go straight to shooting the approach without holding.
So, here’s your situation, you filed you IFR flight plan, you’ve picked up your clearance here, so you’re flying the deer valley one departure procedure to the Phoenix VOR (DVT1), Victor one six (V16), Blythe VOR (BLH), Victor one three five (V135), to the Bard VOR (BZA). Your clearance limit is Yuma, you’re going to climb to 4,000 feet and expect 8,000 in 10 minutes.
So, while you’re in the Deer Valley one departure procedure, ATC comes on and they give you instructions – radar vectors heading two three zero to the Buckeye VOR. So, you start flying those directions and that’s when you realize you have lost your radios. So, you’ve gone through your troubleshoot checklist, you don’t have the radios, so now you can squawk 7600 and you need to determine your route. So, you’re being radar vectored, you’re going to continue on this h230, but you can’t just fly h230 until you do a rotation around the earth! You have to get to the Buckeye VOR. So, from h230, you’re going to go direct to Buckeye. Buckeye’s part of the Victor one six (V16) airway. So, once you’ve intercepted Victor one six (V16), you’re going to continue on with this assigned route to your clearance limit.
So, now what altitude are you going to fly? Well you were told 4,000. That’s the departure procedure and it’s also your assigned altitude, but it expects 8,000 in 10 minutes. So, now you need to climb to 8,000 feet. You’re also off route, so you have to consider your OROCA. Well, your OROCA’s 8300, so now you need to climb to 8300, it’s going to be your ultimate altitude, it’s the highest.
Once you’ve reached Buckeye VOR, you’re now on the victor one six (V16) airway. That MEA is 6,000, but remember you were assigned 8,000. That’s higher, so we’re going to fly 8,000 feet along this route, until we reach our clearance limit. So, now we’ve reached our clearance limit, Yuma. So then, you need to get to your initial approach fix. So from Yuma, you’re now going to fly to CAZZI. It’s the approach fix for the ILS into Yuma. The reason we want the ILS is it’s going to have the lowest weather minimums. It’s going to give us the best chance of landing. So, if you’re early, you’re going to hold as published to arrive as close to possible to your ETA or your EFC. We don’t have an EFC in this situation, so we’re going to hold it until we can get down to land. You’re probably not going to be early though, because you’ve just flown to Yuma and then back to the initial approach fix, so you’re just going to shoot the approach from CAZZI as close to that time as possible.
I really hope this helped. Thanks for watching our video. Please like and subscribe below and we’ll see you next time.