Wednesday, January 15, 2014
ATC Q & A
The following ATC questions and answers are from the podcast and website www.atccommunications.com This is a very informative web site and gives great insight into communicating with ATC, VFR and IFR. I am posting some VFR Q & A here. Check out Jeff Kanarish's web site for more info.
You have just completed your engine run-up near the runway at an uncontrolled airport. You are holding short of the only runway for Hometown Airport. This airport has a published left traffic pattern for Runway Two and you are facing the left downwind as you prepare to enter the runway. Just as you are about to advance the throttle of your aircraft to take the runway you hear someone key his microphone and say on Unicom, “Hometown traffic, Aerostar 304 Uniform Mike, base leg, Runway Two, Hometown.” You scan the base leg and see nothing. You check the final approach path and see nothing. You check the downwind leg and see nothing. Here’s your question. Remembering there is only one runway at this airport, what would you do at this point?
Don’t move from your spot holding short of the runway for at least 2 minutes after you hear the Aerostar’s position report.
When the Aeronautical Information Manual says you should not solicit airport traffic information from other pilots using the phrase “Any aircraft in the area, please advise,” the agency is saying you should not rely on other pilots to give you information about airport operations. There is a reason you should take that warning to heart. While all pilots are required to make timely and accurate position reports in an uncontrolled pattern, not all pilots make timely and accurate position reports.
In this case, when the pilot of the Aerostar announced his position on base leg for Runway Two, he was not on the published base leg for the runway. If he is not on base leg, where exactly is he? You have visually cleared base leg, final, and the downwind, and he is not there. He is not where he thinks he is.
He could be on base leg for landing in the opposite direction, in this case, Runway 20, instead of Runway 2. You should be able to see him if that is the case. He could be so disoriented that he has wound up on base leg for a runway at another airport. Don’t laugh. It happens all of the time.
Here is what I would do in this situation. After making sure the parking brake was set on my aircraft, I’d turn around as far as possible in my seat. I would try to visually clear the right base leg for the runway even though this airport uses left traffic for Runway 2.
Even if, despite your best efforts, you cannot spot the Aerostar, that does not guarantee he isn’t about to land on your runway. He might be approaching the runway from your blind spot. I’d still wait 2 or 3 minutes until I entered the runway for departure. That would give the pilot of the Aerostar enough time to complete his approach and landing, (or go-around,) at whatever runway he thinks he is landing on. Give him ample time to get out of your way before you take the runway.
A last word on the subject: While position reports from pilots operating in an uncontrolled airport pattern should help you build situational awareness, visually clearing for traffic is always mandatory. Visual clearing works in concert with auditory clearing to produce the most reliable data about airport traffic; and remember, some pilots may be operating in your traffic pattern without an onboard radio. Clear like your life depends on it.
Update to this answer: A reader suggested this alternative. Consider contacting the pilot of the Aerostar and say something to the effect of, “Aerostar 304 Uniform Mike, this is [your callsign]. I’m holding short of Runway Two at Hometown Airport and I don’t have you in sight. Verify your runway and airport.” Your radio call to the other pilot might alert him he is attempting to land on the wrong runway or the wrong airport.
I like this suggestion because the transmission you make to the other pilot is an advisory, not a directive. The whole point of making radio transmissions on Unicom is to update other pilots with information about your flight. In this case, you make a position report, “I’m holding short of Runway 2 at Hometown,” along with an advisory, “I don’t have you in sight.”