Friday, July 27, 2012

This Might Be The Story of My Life

I'm VFR approaching a busy airport with published VFR arrivals. The controller tells me to "expect direct H (other airport) then direct another landmark." Other airport is approximately a 90 degree turn away from my destination, but okay, I'm expecting that now. I put it in the GPS, even.

And at this point I need a clearance into the airspace ahead of me, but I haven't been given one. I ask, "Did you want me to fly direct airport H now?"

I think he said, "Yes, please," which is even less standard radio language than using the past tense to form a polite question. So I turned direct airport H and descended as instructed.

Another controller than told me to expect the SomethingOrOther Arrival, which I'd already looked up. That arrival requires me to fly direct Landmark A, then on reaching it turn direct Landmark B, and at B tune the next frequency and fly direct Landmark C. It allows the controllers to create a conga line of arriving aircraft without clogging the frequency with explicit instructions to each. But when I'm told to expect something, shouldn't I wait to be given it?

In this case I don't wait. I turn direct Landmark A, with the feeling that I'm going to get yelled at, but I don't, and when told to call the next frequency, I tell them I'm direct Landmark A at altitude. That controller clears me the SomethingOrOther Arrival. Which I was expecting.

But I mean really, shouldn't there be a difference between "Fly direct A, expect direct B" and "Expect direct A then direct B"? Is this a new rule I missed? An old rule I never knew? Am I supposed to automatically behave as though I have already received what I expect? Is that why I have a blog instead of a career?


Frank Van Haste said...

Dear Trix:

I know not what passes for routine in the Frozen North, but the sequence of events you describe would, down here in Baja Canada, merit an inquiring telephone call to the ATC facility supervisor.

You are right, it seems wrong. 'Expect' is not synonymous with 'Cleared to'.



Anonymous said...

In US airspace IFR, an "expect xyz" should always be followed at some point by a "cleared xyz".

However, ATC tends to keep VFR at a lower standard. There's often a fairly blurry line between what you can do and what the controller wants you to do.

Example 1) Contacting ATC for VFR flight following in uncontrolled airspace and subsequently being given headings/altitudes to maintain. That helps traffic separation sure, but if you hadn't voluntarily asked for flight following you could fly whatever altitude you please.

On the other hand (example 2), it wouldn't surprise me to get "expect xyz" in controlled airspace and then not hear anything further from a controller whose attitude is "you're VFR, why are you asking me for permission to start your VFR approach?".

Mostly it's confusing to those of us who like the clear-cut terminology and chain of responsibility associated with IFR that doesn't carry over to VFR as well.


zb said...

Wow. Screw career, honor skills.

I thought, after the headline, that I was about to read a text reporting a near-mid-air collision. The situation seemed appropriate for such an event, but everyone is happy and safe, right?

Talking about skills, here's my story from this last week... Two days ago, three of us robot people sat in a room better described as "the thing above a garage" than as a "meeting room", talking over the phone to two of the "safety consultant people". It was awkward in that the room was plenty hot, the phone connection was bad, the topic was complicated, and the schedule was tight. I guess this is where it comes handy to have skills developed both as a tech nerd and as a host for a radio show containing interviews with touring punk and country musicians. Like, even a radio show for punk/country lasts exactly two hours, and the minute you start, you keep in mind how to work towards a good finish, two hours from now. Dudette, how I hate meetings that last longer than scheduled.

I felt like I was ready for a letter of resignation and visit to the hospital after this telco, and I concluded that it's a wise decision to screw career and focus on skills.

And getting back to your story, I guess that skills keep you in the air in such situations - and a career wouldn't.

In 2005, a co-worker told me he hated the word career. I didn't get it back then, but I get it now.

Cedarglen said...

Darn good questions, if perhaps a bit on the rhetorical side. It is a shame that you cannot just put on your blinkers and pull over to the side until you receive the 'expected' instructions. I can just imagine what the regional radar scan looks like on the controller's end!
Of note: Very nice to see you posting again and on a semi-regular basis. Thank you. -C.