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3 Answers

No Contact VFR Traffic

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Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Light Sport Aircraft, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

I was departing a class C airport VFR the other day and while still in radar contact I got a traffic advisory from ATC. The traffic was about 10 miles out at my 12 o'clock, at my altitude, and headed toward me. I told ATC I was looking but didn't see anything. I got another call at about 6 miles and I requested a climb. ATC advised that the traffic was now 200 feet above me. I was going to ask to descend but then I saw a helicopter maybe a mile to my left at my altitude so I advised ATC and continued on course.

My question is what is the best practice when VFR and you can't locate traffic that is converging on you. Should you climb, descend, turn, ask ATC for a vector, or just keep going with your eyes open?

I'd appreciate hearing any and all responses.



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3 Answers

  1. Koehn on Nov 22, 2012

    The proper phraseology according to the AIM when you cannot see the traffic is “negative contact,” although you’ll hear “looking” quite a bit. If the traffic is getting uncomfortably close and I still don’t have them in sight, I take whatever action will best avoid a collision, advising ATC (and hopefully the traffic is listening on the same frequency) of what I’m doing. I also turn on all the lights to make it easier for the traffic to see me.

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  2. Nathan Parker on Nov 23, 2012

    Maneuvering the airplane when you can’t see what you’re trying to avoid seems imprudent to me. Request an “avoidance vector” from ATC if you’re uncomfortable.

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  3. Best Answer

    Heather McNevin on Dec 05, 2012

    Vectoring around or issuing climbs or descents to an aircraft to avoid another aircraft that I’m not in control of can be tricky. Ive had situations where I advised the traffic and asked the pilot if they’d like to climb to avoid only to have the VFR I’m not talking to begin a climb as well. The Mode C of the VFR is unverified, so treat that information as such. Remember the other pilot is a total wild card and can do what they want. As a controller, I usually leave it up to the pilot and say something like “suggest you turn 30* right for traffic, deviations right of course are approved, traffic now 12 oclock, 4 miles, westbound, altitude indicating 6000 unverified, type unknown”. Whatever your request, dont worry too much about making it sound like “pilot talk”. Sometimes plain English is clearest and if time is of the essence just say it! If possible, talk it over with the controller before you make any changes in flight, that might not be the only traffic out there to worry about. You can also ask for a block altitude. This would allow you freedom to move up and down at your discretion without getting permission each time.

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