Anonymous asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

IFR Loss Comms/Radio while flying?

Here is the scenario:

I am on an IFR flight plan on a victor airway and I lose all my comms. I continue and then go into VFR weather conditions. I divert to the nearest airport and while I'm diverting I get back into IMC. What should I do??

8 Answers

  • Favorite Answer

    Great question.

    Break out the handheld transceiver you have stashed in your flight bag for just this situation, (you do have one dont you?) Sans that..Squawk 7600.

    then follow the faa's guidance.

    § 91.185 says If the failure occurs in VFR conditions, or if VFR conditions are encountered after the failure, each pilot shall continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable.

    If VFR is not possible, continue the flight according to the following:

    (1) Route. (i) By the route assigned in the last ATC clearance received;

    (ii) If being radar vectored, by the direct route from the point of radio failure to the fix, route, or airway specified in the vector clearance;

    (iii) In the absence of an assigned route, by the route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance; or

    (iv) In the absence of an assigned route or a route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance, by the route filed in the flight plan.

    (2) Altitude. At the highest of the following altitudes or flight levels for the route segment being flown:

    (i) The altitude or flight level assigned in the last ATC clearance received;

    (ii) The minimum altitude (converted, if appropriate, to minimum flight level as prescribed in §91.121(c)) for IFR operations; or

    (iii) The altitude or flight level ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance.

    (3) Leave clearance limit. (i) When the clearance limit is a fix from which an approach begins, commence descent or descent and approach as close as possible to the expect-further-clearance time if one has been received, or if one has not been received, as close as possible to the estimated time of arrival as calculated from the filed or amended (with ATC) estimated time en route.

    (ii) If the clearance limit is not a fix from which an approach begins, leave the clearance limit at the expect-further-clearance time if one has been received, or if none has been received, upon arrival over the clearance limit, and proceed to a fix from which an approach begins and commence descent or descent and approach as close as possible to the estimated time of arrival as calculated from the filed or amended (with ATC) estimated time en route

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    It depends on what you mean by "actual IMC." IMC comes in many flavors. Filing IFR just so that you can fly in a straight line without dodging clouds doesn't seem too unsafe to me, even with only one engine. Sometimes it's IMC only from a regulatory standpoint. There's not much risk to that. On the other hand, hard IMC with practically no visibility between the surface and your service ceiling is risky business. I don't consider that suitable flying weather for a small aircraft with a single reciprocating engine, even though it might be perfectly legal. In particular, I prefer to have VMC plentiful enough near the surface to allow an emergency landing in VFR conditions. At altitude it doesn't really matter what the visibility is, but if you lose the engine and have to descend, it's reassuring to know that you'll break out of the clouds in time to fly towards a suitable landing spot (which may not be one that can accommodate IFR). Of course, you can't guarantee that the air below you is clear once you are in the clouds, but you can plan in advance so as to greatly increase the chances of this being the case for your flight. If it's not the case, well, you just don't go. Things get more complicated if you are also flying over mountains, bodies of water, etc. I just pile the risks on one side of the balance, and if it tips away from the huge advantage of IFR, the flight is postponed or canceled. This applies to multiengine flight, too, except that multiple engines usually go on the IFR side of the balance (unless the engine-out ceiling is too low for terrain, in which case you're actually worse off than you'd be with one engine).

  • 1 decade ago

    It's hard to say anything better than what Cherokee Flyer gave. His is pretty much straight out of the FARs and AIM.

    However, I will expand a little...

    Once you're VFR, stay VFR and land VFR, even if the only airport under you is ORD. Believe it or not, ORD tower has a light-gun, too, and, they're all trained in how to use it. They'll also be anxious to get you ON THE GROUND. (Note, if you have a less busy option, go there, but, if you're in a hole in the clouds over ORD and you have to go into the soup to get anywhere else, land ORD.)

    *ORD is Chicago O'Hare, reputedly the busiest airport in the US.

    If there's no airport within the VFR you encounter, then, you should basically treat it as non-VFR. Here's why...

    ATC knew what you were going to do IFR if you lost comms. They expected you to continue on your route as assigned/filed. (This is one of the reasons you always want to include the IAF at your destination in your filed flight plan). If you deviated from that route in VFR, then, re-enter the soup, all bets are off for terrain and separation from other aircraft. You're somewhere in the sky pretty much at Random as far as the IFR system is concerned. If you're squawking 7600, and your transponder is still working (don't count on that given your radios are on the fritz), then, as someone else said, they will clear an area the size of Iowa around you. But, you're still off-route with no ability to get vectors, no knowledge of the minimum vectoring altitude, and no good way to re-enter the IFR system. You're a wildcard to ATC and you're on your own for staying away from the cumulo-granite (and possibly the cumulo-aluminus).

    So... Don't deviate from your IFR flight plan until you're in VMC with an airport that you can reach in VMC. It's much more important that ATC can predict what you will do and that you can predict what they will do.

    Source(s): I'm a Commercial Pilot, Airplane Single Engine Land, Instrument Airplane with 900 hours total time, more than 250 in actual IMC.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Only divert upon encountering VFR conditions when you are 100% sure you can maintain VFR all the way to a landing at the nearest practical airport. If you can do that, squawk 1200 then call FSS / ATC by phone once on the ground. If you can't, stay on your flight plan.

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  • 1 decade ago

    A hole in the clouds over ORD? Not sure I'd consider that "VFR conditions", especially in a jet. We don't really spiral down through holes in the clouds--no one would expect us to---and that would probably be quite hazardous--what with all that traffic in those clouds and below.

    The hypothetical asked by the questioner is a good one and none of the answers really address it. I think it underscores the importance of remaining on the IFR clearance unless one is clearly assured a VMC diversion. The questioner did not specify a total electrical failure (in which case, the nature and extent of standby electrical power would enter into the discussion).

    Source(s): ATP bizjets
  • 1 decade ago

    AVE FAME; Assigned, Vectored, Expected, Filed (the rest is about altitude).

    Pretty bad day when you divert and get back into IMC. If VFR, you should attempt to maintain VFR and land as soon as possible (don't overfly concrete) and then call ARTCC and let them know what happened.

    If you are in a world of hurt, get to someplace, squawk and they'll give airspace about the size of Iowa to get where you're going.

  • 1 decade ago

    the rule is if your on a IFR flight plan and your in VMC conditions then land at the nearest airport that is VFR. if your in actual conditions then flly the route that was last given to you by ATC and do a full approach. if you have to do a missed a approach then you fly to your secondary airport.

    Source(s): ifr pilot
  • Joe D
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    An excellent reason to not fly IMC in an aircraft that is not equipped with redundant systems in the first place. Chances are pretty decent that if you lose all your comms, you have lost your primary navs, too. And it's not unlikely that you lost everything else that is electrically powered. A terrible place to be if you are IMC.

    One time I had this happen to me at night (VFR), including susequent loss of battery power (battery does NOT count as a redundant electrical system, BTW) after an alternator failed. The battery was only able to carry a bare minimum electrical load for 2 minutes (one comm radio and anti collision lights) before it quit and the whole panel went black. Not something I ever want to experience in hard instrument conditions.

    The first step is to consider the risk of this sort of incident occuring in the first place. Is your aircraft prepared with backup systems if a total system failure occurs? And if you think a handheld nav/com and a portable GPS qualify as backup systems, I wish you luck with using those things in the heat of an emergency while bouncing around in hard IMC. This kind of stuff really does happen, and sometimes at the least opportune times. Be prepared with independently powered backups.

    As for what to do if you were foolish enough to put yourself into a situation of comm failure with no backups to begin with, Cherokee covered the procedures adequately.

    EDIT: I can only assume that the thumbs down come from low time GA pilots who don't want to hear about why it's a bad idea to fly their light airplanes in IMC. One might well notice that the willingness to do so generally correlates to experience -- inexperienced pilots often indicate that they are willing, experienced pilots often indicate that they are not.

    Why do you suppose that is?

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