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IFR Communications the Way It Ought to Be
Your pilot competence shows through your communications. Don’t use unnecessary phrases or politeness.
--Learn the standard FAA phraseology and use it.
--Use standard phraseology for all altitudes, headings (3 digits), frequencies (point for the decimal), and call signs.
--Use telegraphic brevity. Give ALL the required information only.
--Learn to anticipate ATC requirements. Listen to what happens to other aircraft on the frequency.
--Learn when it is appropriate to supply ATC with information.
--Learn the standard procedure for an initial call-up and use it.
--Anticipate that ATC is required to make an altimeter check with you. Make the check before he asks.
--Anticipate that you will need the ATIS and have it ready before ATC gives it for you.
--Use ‘request’ as the last word of a required communication so ATC can come back to you when he’s ready.
--Acknowledge all ATC (RADAR) instructions with a readback. (It’s nice if you can correct any clearance mistakes in the readback.
--Readback all frequencies, X-ponder codes, and headings. Include the the direction of the turn to the heading just to be certain. Occasionally the turn is required to take the long-way-around for spacing. Query ATC if in doubt.

IFR Communications
What we say and the way we say it make aviation communications unique. It is precise and when correctly performed is designed for clarity and understanding. Even so it is capable of being misunderstood, hence the readback procedure as insurance. Be prepared to query if you have any doubts as to what you may have heard. The use of excess verbiage greatly reduces clarity. Say what is needed for understanding. Be aware that in some areas and below certain altitudes communications and navigation ability can be lost. Oakland Flight Watch has a dead zone in the vicinity of Modesto.

Required IFR Communications
Continuous listening watch
--Report as soon as possible on frequency
--Time & altitude at reporting point
--Un-forecast weather
--Safety information
91.183 IFR radio communications.
The pilot in command of each aircraft operated under IFR in controlled airspace shall have a continuous watch maintained on the appropriate frequency and shall report by radio as soon as possible-
(a) The time and altitude of passing each designated reporting point, or the reporting points specified by ATC, except that while the aircraft is under radar control, only the passing of those reporting points specifically requested by ATC need be reported;
(b) Any un-forecast weather conditions encountered; and
(c) Any other information relating to the safety of flight.
AIM 5-3-3. Additional Reports
a. The following reports should be made to ATC or FSS facilities without a specific ATC request:
1. At all times.
(a) When vacating any previously assigned altitude or flight level for a newly assigned altitude or flight level.
(b) When an altitude change will be made if operating on a clearance specifying VFR-on-top.
(c) When unable to climb/descend at a rate of a least 500 feet per minute.
(d) When approach has been missed. (Request clearance for specific action; i.e., to alternative airport, another approach, etc.)
(e) Change in the average true airspeed (at cruising altitude) when it varies by 5 percent or 10 knots (whichever is greater) from that filed in the flight plan.
(f) The time and altitude or flight level upon reaching a holding fix or point to which cleared.
(g) When leaving any assigned holding fix or point.

The reports in subparagraphs (f) and (g) may be omitted by pilots of aircraft involved in instrument training at military terminal area facilities when radar service is being provided.

(h) Any loss, in controlled airspace, of VOR, TACAN, ADF, low frequency navigation receiver capability, GPS anomalies while using installed IFR-certified GPS/GNSS receivers, complete or partial loss of ILS
receiver capability or impairment of air/ground communications capability. Reports should include aircraft identification, equipment affected, degree to which the capability to operate under IFR in the ATC system is impaired, and the nature and extent of assistance desired from ATC.

1. Other equipment installed in an aircraft may effectively impair safety and/or the ability to operate under IFR. If such equipment (e.g. airborne weather radar) malfunctions and in the pilot's judgment either safety or IFR capabilities are affected, reports should be made as above.
2. When reporting GPS anomalies, include the location and altitude of the anomaly. Be specific when describing the location and include duration of the anomaly if necessary.
(i) Any information relating to the safety of flight.
3. When not in radar contact.
(a) When leaving final approach fix inbound on final approach (nonprecision approach) or when leaving the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer marker inbound on final approach (precision approach).
(b) A corrected estimate at anytime it becomes apparent that an estimate as previously submitted is in error in excess of 3 minutes.
c. Pilots encountering weather conditions which have not been forecast,
or hazardous conditions which have been forecast, are expected to forward a
report of such weather to ATC.

Radar environment
Leaving an altitude
--Missed approach
--Entering/Leaving holding pattern
--10 Kt variation in speed
--Malfunction of equipment
--Weather problem

When convective turbulence makes it difficult to maintain a selected IFR altitude request a block altitude which can allow altitude excursions limited only by ATC clearance restrictions. Makes possible better airspeed control. Much turbulence is pilot induced. Because of the one second human reaction time the pilot will always be out of sync.

Malfunction Reports:
--Communication or Navigation ability
--Aircraft identification
--What happened
--Loss of capability involved
--Desired assistance

One area of IFR training that poses the most instructional difficulty is use of the radio. The VFR pilot may not have made improvement or seen the need for changes for many years and hundreds of hours of flying. When you move into the IFR world you must resolve to upgrade your radio work as well as your flying. Poor radio procedures is an embarrassment to others in the system. Old habits can be broken and your IFR performance will be improved.

Controllers can discern from the pilot radio technique the probability of a pilot's ability to comply with instructions. Much of the difficulties encountered by ATC is the integration of competent pilots with those not so competent. What you say on your initial callup will often determine your operational choices. Standard phraseology is absolutely necessary to avoid a misunderstanding. The safest, best way, to read back a clearance is exactly as given. This takes expert listening.

With experience you learn to anticipate the 90% of IFR communications that are of routine format. The standard phraseology used in the system allows the pilot to pick out the essentials of frequency, altitude, heading and traffic. Simulators do not duplicate the real ATC communications system. The pilot who has difficulty understanding the radio is most likely the one who is unfamiliar with IFR procedures.

By listening to the communications you can allow a high cost jet a departure preference before your C-172. You can often cancel an IFR approach and fly it in VFR conditions thus allowing an IFR departure to avoid a five minute wait. IFR through a TCA to an underlying airport can be canceled and you automatically get a VFR TCA clearance. See the AIM.

When used with ATC instructions, "when able", gives the pilot latitude to delay compliance until a condition or event has satisfied the pilot. On the other hand, if the pilot has a request for any deviation, it is important to make the request for deviation as soon as possible. When requesting an IFR departure from an FSS be ready for departure. ATC often has unpublished frequencies or corrections for published frequencies. Ask.


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