handoffs during flight following cat-6

handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby JMieras » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:24 am

Hello,

Looking for help on CAT6.

start at kbfl, contact atis, get weather. Contact ground get flight following, and taxi to rwy. Tower at hold short for takeoff. Takeoff, switch to departure, navigate to destination, patiently wait for hand-off to KMHV tower which doesnt come. 3rd time I attempted CAT6, Im less than 10miles from destination (kmhv) still on departure, freaking out because I need to descend, Maneuver in pattern for what runway? I DONT KNOW if I cant talk to tower, and I need to be talking to someone to give me a runway, right? without a rwy, what pattern? lh or rh? which rwy? how close are you going to let me get without handing me off????

4th attempt, I think I got disconnected, or your ATC was very distracted because I just quit the sim out of frustration at the 3rd mile of the extended downwind for the active WITHOUT A FREAKING HAND OFF.

So, finally comes the question.....when should a vfr pilot with radar service expect the handoff to the tower? how many miles away? Do I maneuver to the published pattern without talking to tower? Is the active runway listed in awos or atis ALWAYS the runway tower will assign? should I start decent and pattern entry planning based JUST on atis info, without establishing contact with tower? Just how close to touchdown should I be getting without contacting tower (since I can NOT switch freq without permission). As a controller, how close will you let a flight get to the destination before handing off to tower? Should I even enter the pattern without establishing contact with the tower? what exactly are controllers waiting for???? when do I need to start worrying that ive been forgotten or overlooked?

If this email seems harsh I apologize, its my fourth attempt at writing it trying to scrub the white hot frustration I felt not being able to turn to final on the last attempt waiting for a call that never came...IRL, what would a pilot do when they suspect atc has forgotten about them or isnt giving them an expected instruction or hand-off?

edit: passed cat6 on 4th attempt, have no idea what I did differently, if anything, but 4th time Joshua approach asked me if I had visual on a/p at FOURTEEN miles out, and yes....yes I did have visual, same as the 1st and 2nd and 3rd time, but for SOME reason, this time ATC ASKED me if I had visual, then handed me off to tower, instead of just letting me get closer and closer and closer and closer...without asking me anything...Am I suppose to tell approach I have visual without being asked? CAT6 instruction page refers you to other, completed CAT ratings (specifically, cat5) for the "transcript" slash script which clearly says (Ill copy and paste) "When 10NM From KBFL expect approach to hand you off to tower" I assume that this procedure applies to all airports, not JUST KBFL, amirite? If this statement is true, please allow me to tell the controller who Kennedy Steve'ed me when I switched freq on the 3rd cat6 attempt without permission, that had HE been doing his job, I wouldnt have been WANTING/NEEDING to switch, I would have been handed off before I was IN THE PATTERN (exaggeration, closer to 5-7 miles out) , wondering which runway to land at, so the obnoxious "FAILED" he so passionately exclaimed over the radio was partially his fault, yes?

Good day to you sir...I SAID GOOD DAY!

(This edit is written with tongue firmly in cheek)
with love
Last edited by JMieras on Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
John Mieras, USN Ret.
R/W Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.
N1343F-C172(Carenado) N6092U(JFPA-28-181)
RSG GTN750, GCU47, GFC700 i7 4.3 8something GTX1060
JMieras
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:35 pm

Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby Scott Medeiros » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:07 pm

John,
I understand your frustration with the repeated failures on your CAT6. I wasn't the controller at the time, so I can't speak to what exactly happened. PE controllers work a vast amount of airspace, and frequency changes sometimes occur late due to their attention being drawn elsewhere. However, I'm not sure this is the case here. Another realistic feature of PE's radio system is that it is line of sight, and distance based, just like real world VHF radios. Due to the high terrain and sparsely populated area around Tehachapi (lack of radio relay stations), it's possible that your aircraft altitude may have been below radio reception altitude for that area.

The rating objectives leave you a few different options for you to consider as you approach MHV.
Things to consider...
1. How long MUST you receive flight following? What do the rating description and tasks say?
2. What must you have prior to entering MHV airspace (Class D)? Does flight following meet the requirements for transitioning the same class of airspace?

Since you're VFR, altitude is your discretion, and you may begin your descent to pattern altitude whenever you feel it's appropriate. A call to ATC may be appreciated, but it isn't required unless otherwise specified. Routing is also up to you, so if you've already received the AWOS (which doesn't include the runway in use, so how will you set up for the pattern?), you may begin manuevering as you see fit, respecting airspace. Expect a handoff to tower, and possible "radar services terminated" from the radar controller about 5-10nm from your destination. If you're getting antsy, go ahead and request a freq change to tower or cancel flight following. What you absolutely do not want to do, is just make the frequency change on your own without first informing the controller. This may be treated by the controller as a radio failure, or other emergency assistance required. The tower will assign you a runway and pattern entry instructions. Since this occurs about 3-5nm from the airport, that should leave you ample room to get set up on your entry.

Stay ahead of your airplane and constantly be thinking "what next?". If you're expecting a radio call or turn/climb/descent and think you may have been forgotten, please speak up. Remember, it's you and your family's simulated butts up there at risk, not the controllers, so if you need something, say something. ATC would much rather you say something vs. waiting quietly and patiently as you drill into the side of a mountain.

I hope this has answered some of your questions, and that you'll give the rating another shot with this in mind.

Scott
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Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby Marcus Becker » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:39 pm

Just mirroring a portion of what Scott said. If you are VFR and you know you have to talk to tower before entering into Class D airspace, why wouldn't you tell the approach controller you had the airport in sight so you could then initiate contact? I don't think you should assume that the controller would know when you see the field. A simple heads up to ATC that you have the weather and the airport in sight and I'm pretty certain you would have completed that rating on your first attempt.

Now that you know, do the flight again but do it to different airports to test your new found understanding.
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Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby JMieras » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:48 pm

Bless you Scott, I actually went back and listened to the audio of that 4th attempt, the controller tried 3 time to contact me, which I didnt hear at the time, i was listening intently, so...i dunno, radio line of sight issues maybe, but I did get a radar service terminated on the transcript that I KNOW I did not catch while airborne, so Im thinking I disconnected prior to entering the pattern and didnt realize, either way I have a better understanding this afternoon that I did not have this morning, and as is almost always the case, I learned so much more from my few failures, than my many, many successes, aint that a bitch???

On the plus side, and in all seriousness, my cat6 attempts remind me of learning to taxi at kmke r/w. I had the left seat mastered, and was comfortable on ground freq all day long, then one day, out of the blue I get told to use the active runway to taxi to the gate in the morning, with the only parallel taxi way filled with out bound a/c waiting for the active, I got instructed to use the runway to taxi on, I was not expecting this, and found upon switching to tower I had lost or forgotten everything I had ever learned about communicating, exacerbated by tower telling me to expedite as a/c was on final. It was the EXACT same feeling, half panic, half embarrassment, followed by anger at everyone. Unreasonable sure, but certainly very very realistic.

much love
John Mieras, USN Ret.
R/W Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.
N1343F-C172(Carenado) N6092U(JFPA-28-181)
RSG GTN750, GCU47, GFC700 i7 4.3 8something GTX1060
JMieras
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:35 pm

Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby JMieras » Mon Oct 07, 2019 1:24 pm

"If you are VFR and you know you have to talk to tower before entering into Class D airspace, why wouldn't you tell the approach controller you had the airport in sight so you could then initiate contact?"

Didn't know that was an option. Never occurred to me, nor was it clearly spelled out in the CAT instructions, that under radar control it is the responsibility of the pilot to inform/prompt atc for the hand-off. In fact, it CLEARLY says the opposite. ((Copy and Paste)"When 10NM From KBFL expect approach to hand you off to tower.") You see sir, I did not understand that ATC is waiting for me to say the magic words "airport in sight". I have been unable to find the phase "airport in sight" or anything like it in the cat ratings I have attempted. Seems like adding that to the rating instruction or making it much clearer might not be wasted time.

To be crystal clear I did not ask for the handoff because I am new and learning and did not know that was a possibilty, and the play book (CAT rating instruction)I was laboriously following said nothing about prompting atc for the handoff, so I did not ask. I am hoping that my membership payment includes a safe environment to make mistakes in and learn. Pardon me if I have fallen below some arbitrary level of competence. Is PE not a safe place to learn?
John Mieras, USN Ret.
R/W Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.
N1343F-C172(Carenado) N6092U(JFPA-28-181)
RSG GTN750, GCU47, GFC700 i7 4.3 8something GTX1060
JMieras
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:35 pm

Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby Keith Smith » Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:16 pm

John,

The biggest thing to learn from this is that there is nothing wrong with prompting the controller if you believe you have past the point where a transfer of communication would've taken place. If you listen to a real world final approach frequency...where one controller is working a TINY piece of busy airspace (not a 400nm x 400nm grid, like our ZLA controllers have to work), you will likely hear, "over to tower for <callsign>?" SEVERAL times per hour.

Pilots don't let situations develop to the point where it's causing an issue...they speak up.

Try to relax a little bit, learn from it and adjust for next time. If something feels off, then say something, it's not a big deal.

And yes, it's true that you will likely encounter more missed handoffs on PE than the real world because of the volume of airspace being worked. It's not an exaggeration to say the ZLA PE controllers are doing the job of several HUNDRED controllers at once.
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Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby Marcus Becker » Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:16 pm

Don't consider that the information in ratings is absolute. It's merely a guide to help you complete a task. You presented a problem which I can only assume you are looking for guidance. Have you heard of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)? If not and you want to take this seriously, consider snagging it for free from the FAA. If you want the FAA's recommendation on your scenario, have a look at 4-1-15 b.2. There's more, but its a start. Just keep in mind that this is not regulations but recommendations.
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Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby JMieras » Mon Oct 07, 2019 5:37 pm

Much to learn, its fascinating to me the fundamentally different mind sets between mechanics and pilots when It comes to ATC, in the R/W I would never presume to prompt ATC for anything while maneuvering around the a/p unless it was life or death serious, a tactic that apparently doesn't work as well for pilots in flight.

"Pilots don't let situations develop to the point where it's causing an issue...they speak up" <-- makes sense. Go figure. In the R/W if ground instructed me to taxi unto the grass, or unto the active, and any of 100 other bad ideas, I would ask why AS I WAS COMPLYING. Not kidding, I would assume the controller knows something I dont and would just do it, and during the post incident investigation, its the controllers ass, not mine who gets the phone number to call. Guess that does not apply when you are PIC, huh? There is no real world Mechanic in Command, yeah? Honestly, its eye opening.

Thank you to all who replied, and the useful informative advice given. It is appreciated!
John Mieras, USN Ret.
R/W Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic.
N1343F-C172(Carenado) N6092U(JFPA-28-181)
RSG GTN750, GCU47, GFC700 i7 4.3 8something GTX1060
JMieras
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 12:35 pm

Re: handoffs during flight following cat-6

Postby Keith Smith » Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:57 pm

John, there's a famous saying about ATC that you might appreciate:
"If the pilots messes up, the pilot dies. If ATC messes up.....the pilot dies."

Hence, if you see something, say something. In time, you'll build experience to know when to give it a bit longer vs when to speak up. Examples of when to ping ATC would be on a vector through the localizer, if tower doesn't hand you off to departure within a couple of miles after takeoff, if you're not handed to tower when arriving at an airport, and after you clear the runway at a towered airport.
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