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9 Answers

Reasonable to ask for radar service while doing maneuvers?

Asked by: 1846 views General Aviation

Is it reasonable to ask for radar service while doing Maneuvers like stalls, steep turns, etc?

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9 Answers

  1. Bob Watson on Jul 29, 2013

    It can’t hurt to ask. The worst that could happen is they say, “unable.”

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  2. Jim F. on Jul 30, 2013

    Why not? Can’t planes hit each other even when they’re not in cruise or near an airport? You pay for ATC services which can/will make flights safer, so why not use them?

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  3. rizwan on Jul 30, 2013

    well they are bound to give you they why to hesitate

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  4. Mark Kolber on Jul 31, 2013

    rizwan, not sure exactly what you are saying but if you are suggesting ATC is required to give VFR pilots radar advisories, you are incorrect.

    Yes, as others said, it’s completely reasonable to ask. I think that whether it’s regularly requested or given tends to be geographic. For example, an airport I used to fly out of had a large practice area but it also served a number of flight schools, so it would get very busy. The practice was to self-announce during maneuvers. AFAIK ATC was never used since the information given by a pilot about what he or she is doing (“steep turns at XXX msl over [location]”) is far more valuable than anything ATC can give you looking at a radar blip, especially when there are multiple targets.

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  5. Todd on Aug 01, 2013

    Mark, I’m thinking that a pilot that is haplessly transitioning the area where you happen to be doing maneuvers would not be on the frequency where everyone was self-announcing. ATC could be a big help in that case.

    Maneuvers are done at a fairly high altitude where you could find anybody. Also, it’s difficult to scan well for traffic when doing steep turns. All that with rapid altitude changes seems to add up to a potentially dangerous situation.

    I’ll at least ask ATC for radar service next time and see what happens.

    Thanks all for your kind response.

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  6. Mark Kolber on Aug 01, 2013

    Todd, the haplessly transitioning pilot is in a different situation that the locals in the practice area. Chances are he or she has no idea of the local self-announce frequency and would probably use Flight Following. Based on what I’ve heard advisories would generally be of “multiple maneuvering targets,” perhaps even identifying the are as “the KXXX practice area.”

    But you are correct; why not ask? Which way gives the best risk/benefit equation is going to depend on where you are. In the practice area I’m thinking of there are 4 flight schools and on a typical Saturday, there may be 6-10 aircraft in the practice area. Add to that busy surrounding airspace, VFR flights, IFR routings, and IFR practice all, as you describe, going through the same area. I don’t know this but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone a long time ago spoke to the TRACON which replied that they would not be able to provide practice area service.

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  7. Brian on Aug 01, 2013

    Where I attended college we had a similar environment to what Mark explains. With sometimes upwards of 20 aircraft operating in a 10×10 NM box flight following cannot do much to help you. Granted some aircraft pass through during this time, but not nearly as many conflicts like that occur as conflicts with other maneuvering aircraft in the area.

    Keep in mind, we also had 3 aerobatic boxes in this practice area and multiple locals would also go to this frequency should they be out practicing. A few other things to think about:

    1) What would ATC do if all 20 of us called for flight following instead?

    2) The pilot community being as small and tight knit as it is, wouldn’t it be possible, possibly likely, that many of those who trained in that area will later fly over in larger aircraft, know of the frequency, and pass it along? Perhaps not in other areas, but in my area this was the case. Most of our larger traffic conflicts were of the Pilatus/King air category. I’d venture to say half of them were graduates of our school and, through word of mouth, 80+ percent of their coworkers would routinely make call outs as they transitioned our area.

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  8. Todd on Aug 02, 2013

    You guys make a good point, it depends heavily on your situation. In my situation, I’m most likely the only guy doing maneuvers so I might have a better chance of getting radar service and radar service in my case would make more sense than in a training area with 20 planes.

    I’d like to minimize risk by doing everything “I” can and not depend on the transitioning guys being on flight following or making local calls.

    I appreciate all your perspectives. It’s really invaluable!

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  9. Brian on Aug 05, 2013

    FWIW the designated air to air frequency for fixed wing aircraft is 122.75. It is my contention that if pilots worked within their regions to persuade flight schools to start using this frequency we could make a serious leap in practice area safety. For one there would always be those callous, which currently in my area I don’t get. And two any aircraft transitioning a practice area would know the most likely frequency to make a position report themselves.

    Just my two cents though. I figure it’ll never happen, but I do wish it would.

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