Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby N55211 » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:13 am

Hello everyone. Quick question.

Was flying in the Western expansion today, IFR from KDEN to KGJT. I was at FL280 and was issued an instruction to "descend at pilot's discretion" to FL240. I continued at FL280 and determined my point I wanted to start my descent. Upon reaching that point I started my descent. The controller came on told me that anytime I am leaving an altitude for another altitude even on a pilot's discretion instruction that I must "report starting my descent" to the controller. I acknowledged the feedback.

However, this confused me a bit. I've had many, many instructions before to descend at pilot's discretion and fly them all the same. I usually determine if I need to start my descent immediately or if I have some time to stay at current altitude before starting my descent and then descend. But I've never had anyone say anything when I start my descent without notifying the controller. Today was the first time it was mentioned to me. Hence my confusion.

I Googled the topic and there seemed to be no clear answer to this as there were just a bunch of opinions for and against reporting.

Looking at the AIM 4−4−10. Adherence to Clearance - it states:

c. The term “AT PILOT’S DISCRETION”
included in the altitude information of an ATC
clearance means that ATC has offered the pilot the
option to start climb or descent when the pilot wishes,
is authorized to conduct the climb or descent at any
rate, and to temporarily level off at any intermediate
altitude as desired. However, once the aircraft has
vacated an altitude, it may not return to that altitude.

So this helps a little, but doesn't mention if any report to the controller must be made once the climb/descent is actually started.

The controller today was very professional about it and I took it as useful information to improve my communication skills, but like I mentioned earlier, it confused me as it has never been mentioned to me on previous flights.

I'm hoping someone can shed some definitive light on this as I want to comply with the proper regulation.

Thank you (sorry for the long post)
Eric
N55211
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2018 11:17 pm

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby Marcus Becker » Tue Jan 01, 2019 9:18 am

AIM 5-3-3
a. The following reports should be made to ATC or FSS facilities without a specific ATC request:
1. At all times.
(a). When vacating any previously assigned altitude or flight level for a newly assigned altitude or flight level.

Note that it's a "should" so you should.
Image
Marcus Becker
 
Posts: 860
Joined: Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:12 pm

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby RogerW » Tue Jan 01, 2019 10:06 am

Beings the controller had already given the clearance to descend, why must the pilot report the moment he pushes the nose down? Isn't the controller already expecting the descent?
Roger W.
Home: Valkaria, Fl (X59)(but lost in SoCal)
PE Rating: CAT-11, I-2
Experience: IRL 7 hrs, Virtual 2500+ hrs
FSX
Aircraft: A2A Cessna 182 Skylane
Tail Number: N7365W
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6yhuZoBdnAH8NMuZfj9umA
RogerW
 
Posts: 76
Joined: Sun Mar 25, 2018 5:47 pm
Location: Valkaria, Fla (X59) USA

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby Scott Medeiros » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:27 pm

RogerW wrote:Beings the controller had already given the clearance to descend, why must the pilot report the moment he pushes the nose down? Isn't the controller already expecting the descent?


The controller is expecting it, and has already protected all altitudes between your current and descent clearance altitude.

While the AIM is not regulatory, and uses the would "should", I personally try to inform the controller when beginning my descent. It's true that controllers can see your altitude on their radar, but I think it's still best practice, in the interest of safety, to communicate your actions so that we're all situational aware. I've also found that many times after I report starting down, the controller almost immediately issues my handoff to the low enroute controller. Behind the scope, coordination and digital handoff has already occured, and the controller is just waiting for me to begin the descent towards the bottom of their sector before issuing the radio handoff.
Scott Medeiros
 
Posts: 149
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:49 am
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby Mr H » Tue Jan 01, 2019 2:03 pm

It would seem, as courtesy, that if you are flying with radar services, unless the controller is covered up with work, that you could give him a heads up on a descent. Situational awareness, safety, yada, yada...”At your discretion” seems kinda contradictive, tho. I guess a heads up is still in order
Gary H
N503AM KSPA
Mr H
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:45 am
Location: KSPA

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby kevin meyers » Tue Jan 01, 2019 7:30 pm

Mr H wrote:It would seem, as courtesy, that if you are flying with radar services, unless the controller is covered up with work, that you could give him a heads up on a descent. Situational awareness, safety, yada, yada...”At your discretion” seems kinda contradictive, tho. I guess a heads up is still in order


For VFR? Don’t bother unless the controller has told you to do so.
Kevin Meyers
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Dallas, Texas
kevin meyers
 
Posts: 1691
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby Mr H » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:06 pm

If I am using FF, and I’ve told ATC what my altitude was prior to departure, on a VFR flight, does he not bother with my altitude in flight? If I descend, due to clouds or more favorable winds, a couple thousand feet, is that not something I should let ATC know?
Gary H
N503AM KSPA
Mr H
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:45 am
Location: KSPA

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby kevin meyers » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:09 pm

Mr H wrote:If I am using FF, and I’ve told ATC what my altitude was prior to departure, on a VFR flight, does he not bother with my altitude in flight? If I descend, due to clouds or more favorable winds, a couple thousand feet, is that not something I should let ATC know?


It’s up to interpretation, but the controllers hardly care about IFRs informing about leaving altitudes let alone a VFR. If there is potential traffic out there, ATC should let you know about it. And if it really matters that much, ATC should tell you to advise prior to any VFR altitude changes. When a VFR tells me they’re about to start a descent (or even worse requests to descend/climb) I never really know what to respond other than a confused “roger.”
Kevin Meyers
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Dallas, Texas
kevin meyers
 
Posts: 1691
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby rtataryn » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:55 pm

kevin meyers wrote:
Mr H wrote:If I am using FF, and I’ve told ATC what my altitude was prior to departure, on a VFR flight, does he not bother with my altitude in flight? If I descend, due to clouds or more favorable winds, a couple thousand feet, is that not something I should let ATC know?


It’s up to interpretation, but the controllers hardly care about IFRs informing about leaving altitudes let alone a VFR. If there is potential traffic out there, ATC should let you know about it. And if it really matters that much, ATC should tell you to advise prior to any VFR altitude changes. When a VFR tells me they’re about to start a descent (or even worse requests to descend/climb) I never really know what to respond other than a confused “roger.”


I'll occasionally hear RW VFR aircraft notify or request an altitude change from ATC. The response is nearly always: "Altitude your discretion, maintain VFR". Often said in a tone that implies they don't need that information.
Rod
PPL, Instrument rated, ASEL, ASES
2013 Cirrus SR22T N877MS
2018 Icon A5 N509BA
rtataryn
 
Posts: 338
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:19 pm
Location: Spokane, WA

Re: Descend at Pilot's Discretion

Postby kevin meyers » Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:34 pm

rtataryn wrote:Often said in a tone that implies they don't need that information.


precisely!
Kevin Meyers
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Dallas, Texas
kevin meyers
 
Posts: 1691
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:01 pm

Next

Return to General

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests