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Genesis of the Approach
The flight time alone to make an ILS costs $1,800,000. The pilots of the airplanes are rated as airspace system inspection pilots. They were specialists in making new procedures as needed that are then sent to the Flight Procedures Section. The computerized airport information is obtained from Oklahoma City and is reviewed by the specialists to select the type of procedure that will best fit into the terrain and obstructions. The selected procedure is then fitted into the arrival structure and existing en route structure. Last, the specialist comes up with a missed approach procedure.

In 1970 I had an occasion to fly with the FAA specialists in a DC-3 while they put in the ILS at Salinas, CA. We flew from Oakland and flew for four hours around and out from the Salinas airport never above 1200 feet. We landed for lunch and flew another four hours doing the approach over and over in its entirety. A month later I discovered that there was something wrong with the procedure and they were going to do the entire flight all over again.

Apparently there was something that the flight inspection aircrew that followed on to flight check the procedure found did not fit in the TERPS requirements. When finished the procedure is sent to the FAA Flight Procedures Branch in Oklahoma City. Finally, the National Flight Data Center reviews the procedure, checks all the numbers and sends it to a cartographer. The procedure is produced as a NOS chart as accurate as possible in every TERPS requirement and specification.

ATC at Work
The VFR conditions responsibility to see and avoid rests with you, the pilot. ATC’s responsibility, authority and accountability for separation exists only under IFR conditions for IFR vs. IFR flights. A controller who ‘violates’ minimum separation standards is under zero- tolerance standards of performance. All other ATC services are subordinate to IFR vs. IFR separation. Because of this responsibility and accountability the controller has the authority to assign IFR aircraft altitudes, headings, routes, and clearances. Under the same VFR circumstances the controller can ignore VFR flights but he cannot order or command. For VFR aircraft the controller is limited to advisories and suggestions. As a VFR PIC you can reject any ATC advisories or suggestions.

A computer detected non-collision bust of 500' or less will be addressed by administrative action. (Warning letter) A loss of separation reported by the computer can require re-certification of the controller. Reading back ATC clearances as you have heard them is a good practice in the event of ATC's failure to correct the read-back. If you are directed to call a particular number by ATC reply "Roger" but you do not "have" to make the call. Instead fill out the NASA form to protect your behind.

If an approach has "radar required" as a note, the approach cannot be flown except under a radar watch. On any approach it is good procedure for you to request a "call" for any fix even though you may be able to determine the fix with your equipment. Some radar fixes do not appear on the charts. You can request that ATC call the FAF for you if you wish.

On an approach the radar vector approach gate is normally a mile outside the marker or the FAF. Radar normally tries to vector you well outside the gate but can on request give you a close in or far out vector. Don't let ATC vector you in so close to the marker that you don't have time to stabilize the approach. Don't accept vectors to the marker.

You are asked to maintain a speed to match that of the following jet. ATC has three techniques to place you into this situation: the tight vector to the FAF, the high speed final, and the slam dunk. All of these are contrary to what you would use in training. I have, on occasion, requested a vector 360 so as not to be pressed by following traffic. ATC may request that you maintain speed up to a certain point, even the threshold. If ATC asks for a higher approach speed than you can handle...just say "unable". You are PIC. Ask for another option. If ATC gives you a too steep/fast arrival from above the glide slope, miss the approach and ask for another vector. It is important that both ATC and you have an understanding as to when you will slow down.

The next problem is being held well above approach altitude. Years ago at Las Vegas I heard an airliner being so held and then told to descend for the approach. The pilot complained throughout the descent and finally had to execute a missed. I later found out over coffee and doughnuts with a neighbor that he had been the Captain involved. Getting down for the small aircraft involves getting the aircraft as dirty as possible and keeping the engine warm. You could try to do this after a high speed descent but you risk engine damage. It is wise to pre-plan your procedure selection before it happens and advise ATC of your intentions. Don't promise ATC anything you can't deliver. Call upon controllers for help during emergency situations, but as PIC you must make and stand behind your decisions.

Who's In Charge?
ATC exists to ensure enough safe separation between IFR traffic in controlled airspace. Additionally ATC will provide control tower airport services, route control for IFR aircraft, and weather/traffic information. The advent of radar dramatically changes many of the ATC functions giving ATC the ability, but not the responsibility, to control and navigate aircraft. ATC is not primarily responsible for obstacle clearance as written and diagramed in approach plates and charts. The pilot who expects ATC to take over these latter responsibility is not using a full deck of FARs. However, anytime ATC issues an off-airway clearance or vector, ATC is responsible for terrain clearance. It is up to the pilot to know if an ATC vector or other instruction is correct or incorrect. If doubt exists, the pilot should get a clarification. If safety is not a problem do as ATC directs, but if something seems wrong and cannot be adjusted to your satisfaction, declare an emergency and take the safest option.

Student and I had requested IFR to Oakland and received routing to San Francisco. We waited for new clearance flew it and made full stop. Requested Napa and received routing to Livermore; waited for new clearance flew it only to be put into a 25 minute holding pattern. Flew the hold three times and then canceled clearance. Requested IFR to Concord. (Home) It was an excellent lesson in how the system works.

Using the System
Knowing what to expect is when the pilot holds the winning hand. Then the pilot is prepared to question any change of direction or altitude. He is also prepared to follow any ATC directive because it is within expectations.

ATC is regulated by rules not readily available to the pilot. The antenna system available and in use may limit ATC to requiring aircraft to fly the full procedure instead of getting vectors. With vectors there will be no procedure turns. A ceiling 500' above minimum vectoring altitude or minimum instrument altitude allows the controller to vector for a visual approach so long as visibility is three miles. Once the airport is in sight and reported so to ATC you can get a visual approach clearance. At larger airports you must report a specific runway before being able to get your clearance. An alternative to this procedure is for you to identify and acknowledge that you see a specific aircraft to follow as specified by ATC. By doing so you relieve ATC of any avoidance accountability. A visual approach is not an IFR procedure even when on an IFR flight plan.

Each radar screen station usually has two specialists: a radar controller and a flight data controller.

There must be an instrument approach procedure before you can get a visual approach. A contact approach does not require that there be an instrument approach procedure.

When weather is variable about vectoring minimums the controller may bring you in for a look. This means he will bring you into the final approach course in the hopes that conditions will break for a visual approach. This vector will take you into the vector 'gate'. The 'gate' is a point that radar uses one mile before the FAF. The vector clearance includes your distance from the marker, altitude to maintain until established and the "cleared for the (type & runway) approach". Any vector inside the 'gate' must be approved and accepted by the pilot since there will be little time to make adjustments.

Just today had the specialist called the outer marker by the name of the marker for another airport, nearby. Completely confused the pilot flying. It took several communications to get things straight. First we had to confirm that the clearance was for our aircraft. Then we had to clarify the name of the fix, especially after the controller used it incorrectly a second time.

When on an approach, momentary 'radio problems' may make you miss the tower giving you RVR minimums that preclude you from making the approach. Should the radio problems persist until you have passed the FAF, you can shoot the approach.

There are several ways to get an IFR clearance. The easiest is at a controlled airport and entering the Tower En route program. The second easiest is where the Tower En route clearance may not be available. You just ask for a Tower En route to an approved destination and as soon as you get into the system ask for an amendment.

Pre-filing is always an adventure since it is very unlikely you will get what you filed for unless you use the AF/D and get a 'preferred route'. Even with the preferred route filed and given as a clearance, you will probably be vectored across the corners. Telling ATC that you have LORAN or GPS capability makes cutting corners all the more likely. It does little good to ask for short-cuts from an approach or departure control. Wait until you get handed off to the next facility and begin negotiating there.

I often get the feeling that the way you perform on the radio and in following instructions makes a great difference in how ATC accepts your negotiating requests. Sometimes a delay in getting a short-cut seems to depend on letting conflicting traffic to clear first.

The most interesting of system entries is from an uncontrolled airport when you use a phone to get a void time clearance. Most of the AIM references to this system entry has not been changed since the advent of the cellular phone. My recommendation would be to get all loaded and ready to go and then phone the FSS for your clearance. If you tell them that you are ready, they can get a very short 'time off' for you. ATC likes this since it does not tie up so much airspace. A ten-minute time/altitude block on an airway or radar sector can cause quite a traffic back-up.

The 'pop-up' entry is the easiest if you can set yourself up properly. This means that you can position yourself over a 'known' location or intersection, have the correct contact frequency, and say what you need to say to get into the system. You should have the proper charts and plates available and perhaps even studied.

The 'pop-up' can be a bit dicey if you make radio contact but are below an altitude where ATC cannot issue a clearance until they have radar contact. I faced this situation on a May, 2000 light between Salina KS, and Kansas City, MO. I had no charts or plates, but with the help of ATC was able to complete the flight safely. ATC has two major levels of operation. Flying and working by the book until no one is watching that then doing whatever works is good-to-go.


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