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IFR lost comms and currently on a vector

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Commercial Pilot, FAA Regulations, Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Instrument Rating

Instrument flight plan and IFR and lost comms while on a 'vector for traffic' or 'vector for spacing'....how long do you fly on this heading until resuming on course? Applying the AVE-F rules and lost comms and lets say was given a vector that wasnt a helpful vector getting me on a route, but lets say a vector for traffic.... If lost comms, I am assuming "fly the vectored heading until reasonable clear of their traffic concern and resume on course"? How long do we sit on that vector that is taking us off course until doing something different (lost comms).

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2 Answers



  1. David Vancina on Oct 22, 2015

    (Disclaimer: I’m not a CFI, but I’m going to be, so take this for what it’s worth)

    91.185(c)(1) gives the route rules, in order of precedence. In the scenario you described, paragraphs (ii) and (iv) seem to apply:

    (ii) If being radar vectored, by the direct route from the point of radio failure to the fix, route, or airway specified in the vector clearance; …

    (iv) In the absence of an assigned route or a route that ATC has advised may be expected in a further clearance, by the route filed in the flight plan.”

    So the way I read this is when you determine you have lost two-way comms, you head direct for a fix, either the one given in your clearance or the one you filed. You might have to improvise if between your lost comms point and your fix is a mountain you can’t get over, but that doesn’t appear to be addressed in the regs!

    I’ll watch to see if someone more qualified has a better answer…

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  2. Skyfox on Mar 16, 2016

    I asked this exact same question to a flight instructor some years ago. The short answer was, “Squawk 7600, return to [assigned] route immediately.”

    For a more summarized answer based on the regs, when you lose comms in IFR the route you should go with is the first of the assigned, vectored, expected, or filed. So, even if ATC gives you a traffic routing vector and says to expect to return to the assigned route after X minutes, if you lose communications the first in the order of what route to use would be the assigned route, not maintain the vector for that X minutes until expecting to return to the assigned route.

    The altitude you go with should be the highest of the MEA, expected, or assigned, per route segment, not to include the filed flight plan altitude. So, if you have an expected altitude X minutes after departure and then lose comms, regardless of when comms is lost you should maintain the currently assigned altitude for those X minutes before changing to the new expected altitude.

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