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IFR Lost comms approach altitude

Asked by: 595 views FAA Regulations, Instrument Rating

I know this topic has been utterly beaten to death and the AIM even states its impossible to cover all lost comms scenarios, but something like this example has me puzzled on how to proceed with the altitude. On an approach to KVGT either GPS approach, but specifically GPS 12R (or any mountainous airport with high IFR altitudes). Flying any piston aircraft we can't reach the MSA of 13,000 ft. and the OROCA is 14,300 ft, as we don't have oxygen. Leaving the clearance limit and proceeding to the airport prior to returning to the IAF to begin the approach as in 91.185C3ii, what altitude would one fly? The last assigned or expected and hope it provides obstacle clearance? Or proceed on the MEA of the last airway we were on? 

5 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Jan 23, 2018

    I think you are not getting an answer because your question makes no sense. That’s not a flame. It happens quite often. People come up with lost comm scenarios seemingly based on having been rendered unconscious and awoken to find themselvesin the middle of a chart in an area they have never been to before. That’s not the real world. You arrived there somehow and before losing comm, we’re on a route with a destination, a route, a clearance limit (or EFC time if you were holding somewhere) that was the airport. You have been on an airway or off-airway in Radar contact. The likelihood that the MSA would be a factor in what you do in this busy airspace with airways all over is almost negligible.

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  2. Brett on Jan 23, 2018

    I apologize if this question makes no sense, however this is literally a scenario a local DPE loves to ask. He will pull out random approach plates to airports of high elevation, with high MSA and OROCAs and ask what altitude would you fly at for lost comms. Fellow students who have answered fly at the MSA have failed due to it being above the altitude where oxygen is needed. Thats why I was wondering what other altitude is usable for something like that, or if the question, like you mention Mark is just not a fair/realistic question.

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  3. Russ Roslewski on Jan 23, 2018

    Any student posed with that question as you have stated it, should not immediately try to answer. Instead, a litany of questions should follow – Where am I? At what altitude? What is my clearance? Am I on a vector? Have I been told to “expect” anything? What’s the weather? You can’t say what you’ll do, without the scenario being completely set up.

    Do you know what answer the DPE is looking for in this situation? Or is he trying to set up a trap?

    Really, in a lost comm situation you do what you need to do to get on to an approach.

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  4. Russ Roslewski on Jan 23, 2018

    (Having now read through my response again, I realize I basically said the exact same thing as Mark…)

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  5. Brett on Jan 23, 2018

    Well thats what I believe the the situation is, a loaded/trick kind of question that was lacking details, its what my instructor also said, however I just wanted to clarify to make sure I wasn’t missing or not understanding something that I should be in regards to the question.

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