Monday, September 28, 2009

Position Reports

Comments on my post Most Useless Radio Calls Ever led to a discussion of the precision of calls like "Position report for Xray Yankee Zulu, currently 128 miles north of Edmonton, level at ninty five, enroute to Yellowknife. Any conflicts Xray Yankee Zulu on twenty six seven."

The part of that one that irritates me most is the "any conflicts" part, sometimes extended to as much as "any conflicting traffic please advise." The reason you made the call in the first place is so that conflicting traffic can advise you of their position and intentions. Saying it explicitly is just a waste of time on the frequency. If you're actually conflicting with my flight path I am now waiting for you to shut up so I can tell you.

A possible origin for such addenda is from a document giving advice to crews operating IFR into uncontrolled airports in VMC. I don't have a link or the text handy, but the theory is that a call like "Sumspot Traffic, Air Moose five north procedure turn inbound one nine alpha circling for zero one," may be intimidating to the three light aircraft in the circuit at Sumspot. They might not understand the IFR terminology enough to realize it's a conflict, resulting in a turboprop breaking through the 2500' bases and getting a windshield full of Cessna. The advice was to add a simpler call and specifically ask for response from traffic in the area. It's easy to see how people would hear the cool IFR pilots saying it and decide it's a good idea for them, too.

I hear and understand the fact that "128 nm north of Edmonton" covers a lot of territory, considering that "north" probably includes an arc of twenty or thirty degrees. That's why in the Yellowknife area people report on radials. In southern Saskatchewan (i.e. anything south of Saskatoon) you're probably always within 20 miles of an airport that is on the chart, so people call with reference to the nearest airport. This doesn't solve the problem for me. When someone calls 128 miles north of Edmonton en route to Yellowknife, while I'm out of Edmonton for Winnipeg, I at least know the northbound traffic isn't a conflict for me. I know that the traffic out of Calgary for Saskatoon might be an issue if they are at my altitude. But I haven't a clue whether the guy who is "overhead Oyen climbing to 6500' for Slave Lake" is an issue for me. There are way too many tiny places on the map for me to find them. The GPS lists an alphanumerical soup of identifiers for teeny airports in my vicinity. I do try to keep track of what is near me as I progress across the prairie, but I don't select every identifier that comes up on the GPS to see what it is named. My only recourse is to look out the window and to call and say where I am, hoping that someone who makes such a specific call knows the relation of his tiny airport to mine.

I sometimes try to make the best of both worlds with position reports like "60 miles west of Moose Jaw over Gopherphart Field," giving general information that allows the people in Prince Albert to ignore me while also offering specific details so others in the Lake Diefenbaker area know if I'm a conflict. But I'm sure there are pilots who hate the time I waste on the frequency telling them where Gopherphart is. They think that anyone in the neighbourhood should know. I'm sure, working up the scale, there are plenty of aircraft who pass over my head (albeit at a non-interfering flight level) who are oblivious to the existence of Regina.

Also I've been away for a bit in real time, and have returned to over a hundred e-mails, so e-mail again later if you asked me something important and I didn't reply, I tend to let things get buried in the pile.


Anonymous said...

I haven't invested in one of those "TCAS" thingies that many light planes now have. But I turn my transponder ON more frequently than I used to, even when it's not required. At least those so equipped might get a warning, see me and avoid.

Klystron said...

i agree with the "conflicting traffic please advise..."

What also grinds my gears (family guy), is when after making a pos report...someone who is 10 miles away heading in a completely opposite direction away from me, and above or below me a couple of thousand feet,...and they still call me about their position...

anyway its a minor deal..
what do you think of when people key in the mic but don't say anything just to acknowledge that they heard it...sometimes i fly with people who do it when its not necessary to acknowledge a call but do that for courtesy anyway

Rhonda said...

I seem to recall the radio operator exam materials specifically saying that keying the mic without saying anything to acknowledge is not allowed. (I remember that because I learned elsewhere that two clicks was an acknowledgement - trucker convention adopted by CB I believe.)

SwL_Wildcat said...

I am guilty offender of "Please advise", just from years of habit. It's like smoking, once you start it's just tough to stop.
If I am flying up north and I am not departing to or landing at Edmonton I usually do not have Edmonton up on my GPS. I have a vague idea in my mind how far from Edmonton I am, but I might be out 10 or 20 miles. Traffic might as well say they are 1500 NM NW of Toronto because I probably won't have that up on my GPS either.

Aviatrix said...

Klystron, next time someone who is no conflict at all position reports in response to yours, imagine the call to be prefixed with "I missed your altitude and have no idea where that place you reported relative to is." And then you can feel smug about your superior knowledge of geography.

I like a position report to start with a vague position, "traffic north of Regina" or "Peace traffic," so that if the guy is half a province away I can ignore the call right there. Then I want a more specific position, then the altitude, then direction of flight.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought that people repeated their call sign at the end of a position report in casw others missed it the first time. If you're hearing a lot of position reports, most of which are nowhere near you, you might only really start paying attention when you realize that the other aircraft may be a conflict, by which time you aren't sure of its call sign. Repeating that at the end of the message makes it easier for someone like that to call you. Its similar to the practice of repeating the airport name at the end of a call to an ATF. Some would probably see it as clutter, but it can be helpful to pilots when transmissions for several fields can be heard and particularly when transmissions for other fields come though a bit garbled.

Anonymous said...

I simplify things like this by making as few calls as possible. In my experience no one listens to me anyhow so why waste the time?

I had one time where my line took me right over a given location. Another pilot called after me to say he was practicing steep turns 100' above my altitude right at the named location. I tried to clear the conflict with him but it was like I was RONLY. Despite five direct calls the idiot wouldn't respond. I missed him by a good margin and then almost got hit by an aircraft doing a spin above me. He wasn't responding to my direct calls on frequency or announcing his intentions at all.

After that day I pretty much gave up on position reports. Now I listen and respond where needed only. The rest of the time I just do my thing in silence.

Buzzoff said...

Logic, a passion for conciseness, with a dash of pedantry...sigh...will you marry me? :)

Anoynmous said...

Buzzoff, take a number.