IFR Clearance miscommuncation

Discussion in 'Lessons Learned' started by genna, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    So, seems like I busted Class B a few days ago. No phone number was given and I don't think anything will come out of it, but i did file the ASRS just in case. Following is my report.

    Thursday morning around 7am local I flew to Tipton airport(KFME) from Carroll County to pick up a passenger on the way south. Since this airport is in Washington SFRA, I filed an IFR plan(KDMW - EMI - KFME @3000ft) via Foreflight and received an acknowledgment from the ATC via the same application before departing. I have never been to Tipton. It is located inside 1500ft ring of BWI Class B airspace just on the edge of the surface Class B ring. Besides filing IFR plan for the purpose of the SFRA rules, my intent was to be able to fly at higher altitude through class B airspace on an IFR clearance.

    The weather was perfect VMC and departing from uncontrolled DMW we took off VFR with the intend to pick up the clearance in the air. I contacted Potomac Approach a few minutes into the flight as I was climbing past 1500ft to 3000. They were busy, but not overly so. The ATC acknowledged me, gave me the altimeter setting and transponder code immediately, and told me to stay clear of Class B airspace. I was not yet within any of its selves. I acknowledged this and continued on expecting my IFR clearance any minute. As I passed EMI and entered below the 3500ft self of Class B, just as I was about to query ATC about my clearance, the controller fires up a serious if instructions to me that sounded to me like not quite an IFR clearance, but a reasonable clearance to continue:
    “Continue to your destination, remain VFR, Cleared though Class Bravo “

    This was a bit odd to me, but I read back the instructions:
    “Cleared to destination, cleared though Class Bravo” and continued on at my present altitude of 3000ft direct to KFME without any other immediate communication to or from ATC.

    As I entered the 2500ft shelf of Class B, the controller comes back on the radio and proceeds to tell me that I deviated from my instructions which were to remain clear of Class B and entered Class B unauthorized. I apologized for misunderstanding, told him that I read back his “cleared though B” instruction(evidently I heard it incorrectly) for which I was not corrected and also mentioned that I have an IFR flight plan. The controller simply tells me(not happily) to descend below 2500 and continue. I descend quickly to 1450ft since I was about to enter 1500ft shelf and continue. A few minutes later, ATC again tells me that I have entered Class B airspace. I respond with my altimeter at 1450 and this conversation ends. I then continue to my destination without any further problems, asking for advisory freq a few minutes later.

    I’m not really sure what the lesson is here. We clearly miscommunicated. I heard an incorrect set of instructions(evidently), but the ATC should have listened and noted that what I read back was not what he told me to do. From my side, I have never before have not been given IFR clearance when picking up my plan in VFR departure. My expectation of the immediate clearance probably played the role in me hearing something that was similar to a clearance rather than expecting to be refused IFR services. Best I can take from here is to expect the unexpected and pay close attention. If something does not feel quite right, ask specifically. Do not rely just on the read-back
     
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  2. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Only way to know if you or ATC screwed up is to hear the recording.
     
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  3. RussR

    RussR Cleared for Takeoff

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    Is that frequency accessible on http://liveatc.net? If so, you could bring up the archive of it and find your actual conversation.
     
  4. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What he said.

    But if the base of the Bravo is 1500, I wouldn't play the 1450 game, I'd stay 200 below just to keep things clear.
     
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  5. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I agree with @Velocity173' observation.

    When you contacted Patomac, did you say you wanted to pick up you IFR clearance? Seems you were far enough away to pick up in the air with plenty of time.

    Without the "Brasher warning," "possible pilot deviation" and a phone number, not likely you will hear anything, although still possible.
     
  6. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Call the Potomac Tracon (540 349 7500), ask for the QA person. Tell them you had a miscommunication on whatever date/time/frequency and you'd like to review it. It will not be adversarial, at least not to you.

    It's not unheard of to NOT be given an IFR air pickup at times in the DC (and other busy) terminal areas.
     
  7. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah, I wouldn't go poking around like that, not sure what your time and blood pressure is worth, but no harm was done, not worth the risk of hassle of doing down that path IMHO.
     
  8. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    "Continue to your destination" is not an IFR clearance. Furthermore, "Remain VFR, Cleared though Class Bravo" is not consistent with being IFR, because once you have an IFR clearance, they won't be telling you to remain VFR, and no further clearance is needed to enter class B airspace.

    In order for it to be an IFR clearance, the first words need to be "cleared to," followed by the actual name of your destination or clearance limit, and then either a route and altitude or else "cleared as filed."
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
  9. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    The RCO at DMW works just fine. Any time I'm going toward the sfra, I always get my clearance on the ground, just to avoid situations like yours. If I'm heading another direction, I'll activate in the air.

    Did you hear "radar contact" and have a squawk? Never mind, I see in the OP you did. You should have heard "cleared to" as well, probably via vectors in that direction from DMW.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
  10. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    I'm not pocking around :)... I've flown to other SFRA airports (KGAI) without any issues picking up clearance in the air. Also have flown through BWI Class B this way. I didn't get a chance to tell them i have IFR on file before i got the "clearance". ATC clearly had my IFR plan since he knew my destination. I think he just didn't want to deal with vectoring me around. I understand. It's just that i misheard what he said and he never corrected me resulting in deviation.

    @Palmpilot . Yes, I know I never got IFR clearance. I knew that immediately.
     
  11. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nevertheless, the real issue appears to be confusion over whether clearance into B was given.

    There is one other possibility, perhaps. Could you have left Class B and re-entered? That would require a second clearance.

    Having had a transponder that read 200 feet high at 1400 under a 1500 B shelf, I'd think twice about short margins, too. It's only 17 miles to Oakland, but I responded to half a dozen "say altitude"s.
     
  12. RotorDude

    RotorDude Pattern Altitude

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    This.
    A couple of years ago, I had a somewhat similar situation with ATC on an IFR approach in IMC to near minimums where there was apparent miscommunication regarding whether I got the intercept vector or not. I ended up calling the regional ATC QA person, who was extremely nice and helpful. I was very impressed with that experience, which turned my frustration with the original episode into a net positive.
     
  13. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    I didn't re-enter and i never got "cleared to Class Bravo". I'm pretty sure(in retrospect) that i got "remain clear of Class Bravo"... As far as 1400/1500... yes. normally i give wider birth to Class B shelves, but my wife really didn't appreciate me dropping from 3000 to under 1500 quite quickly and we were around very builtup area with high obstruction all around...
     
  14. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah, those two phrases are a bit closer than I'd like, given they have opposite meaning. The word "clear" really should be used only in a clearance.
     
  15. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Which is bad phraseology. Should never use "clear" in that instance. "Remain outside bravo airspace" is what you should've heard.
     
  16. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    Looks like I can find it on liveatc. I'm gonna find my conversation and see.
     
  17. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

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    Nothing you posted indicates to me you ever received an IFR clearance and you may have busted the SFRA as well.
     
  18. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    Alright.. I found it. Unfortunately, only the ATC part of the conversation. My response is not recorded. I remembered it somewhat wrong, but that's not surprising since obviously i didn't hear him correctly.

    After my initial call
    46:20: ATC: N12345 Squawk XXXX, remain outside SFRA
    47:50: ATC: N12345 transponder received, proceed on course, remain outside of Bravo (This is what i misheard)
    53:10: ATC: N12345 Your instructions were.....

    TRACON did track me at 1500 in the later part.. so either my altimeter setting was wrong or transponder reporting is a little off
     
  19. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Well, you filled out an ASRS and they didn't tell you to call. I'd say you're good. Generally, if they didn't lose sep with another aircraft, they don't care about writing up Class B violators.

    The whole "not corrected" by ATC does work well in your behalf though.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2017
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  20. DeckardTrinity

    DeckardTrinity Pre-Flight

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    1450 could easily have been rounded up to 1500. Around here (NYC Class B), I've heard from the Tracon guys directly that they much prefer to see VFR traffic that they're not talking to at least 500 feet below the shelves. Makes sense from a "live to fly another day" perspective.
     
  21. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    That's exactly what I was thinking at first - that the lesson learned is, when close to a Bravo and heading toward it, get the IFR clearance on the ground. Then I looked at the chart and figured, well, "it was perfect VMC" and his departure airport allowed plenty of time for an in flight pickup. Thete are still reasons to wait, such as an intent to remain VFR through the Bravo (which happens in some areas). But unless that's the case, if there's a convenient RCO, it really should be done on the ground.

    What I am wondering after reading the other posts is, @genna, did you think you were actually operating under IFR at any point? Nothing in your original post would give any reason to think you were.
     
  22. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    No. I did not think I was operating under IFR.

    RCO is great, but it's a slower process. In questionable conditions, I use it always. But in CAVU picking up clearance in the air has never been an issue before. We are far enough from B/SFRA to do it.

    The sort of questionable thing here is that my plan was IFR, not SFRA. So I'm not even 100% sure that without IFR clearance, the SFRA was not busted technically. Although, as long as you have descrete code and talking you are ok usually

    Few things could have been done differently had I thought this could be a problem
     
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  23. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    My route took me directly over 650msl towers and right near 1000msl tower. All over heavily populated Balto-DC corridor. 500 below 1500 might be a bit low
     
  24. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    I would suggest, when operating in and around busy terminal airspace, that you receive your IFR clearance and release on the ground prior to departure if you want the airspace assurance off the ground.

    I'm about as accommodating as humanly possible to GA but when someone pops off the ground VFR looking to pick up their IFR in the air during a bad time in our busy/complex airspace, there is only so much I can do. Reading a squawk code with remain outside is typically all I can do initially. A few of the reasons are: there is conflicting IFR traffic that precludes a clearance, your slant G direct filed route (while awesome to you) may not be allowed because of airspace/LOA issues and needs to be fixed prior to giving you your clearance, you are too close to an adjacent sectors airspace and I have to coordinate/receive approval to issue you the clearance, I'm waiting for you to get to the MVA because I don't have time to verify you can maintain your own terrain and obstruction clearance, I'm simply too busy with already existing IFR traffic and considering you didn't take the time to get your clearance and release on the ground, I will get to you as soon as I'm able (this is pretty rare), etc.

    With this all said, I do at times depart VFR with an IFR filed and call airborne to pick it up. I just know there are many reasons why I may not get it timely and I don't do it around busy terminal airspace.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the bust. As mentioned earlier, without a brasher warning you are probably not going to hear about this again.

    I also would suggest NOT calling the QA department at the facility in this particular case. It sounds like you for sure busted the airspace. There is a chance the controller had a hear back/read back error but that won't save you from a PD. The controller let it slide by not issuing you a brasher warning and QA has no knowledge of the event. If you call and make them aware, they can and may file on you.

    Reference you mentioning 1450 ft on your altimeter and ATC "tracking" you at 1500. Your transponder and altimeter were probably fine. Our equipment only shows hundreds of feet not the one's or ten's group.
     
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  25. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Agree with RC. If approach swept it under the rug then you go and call QA, there's a chance they'll file on you.

    You've got your ASRS and no brasher, you're good.
     
  26. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    Not to sound stupid, but what's a brasher warning?
     
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  27. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    "Cessna 345, possible pilot deviation, advise you call (facility) at (number)."
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  28. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Yeah, that's why I tied them together in my post.

    It's called a "Brasher" warning for the same reason as a "Miranda warning." Named after the person in the first case in which it was discussed.

    In this case, though, it has it roots, not in the US Constitution but in the ATC Handbook.
     
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  29. genna

    genna Line Up and Wait

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    Thanks RC.. Good info that makes sense. I did not think about the busy time at that time.
     
  30. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Line Up and Wait

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    To pick up an IFR airborne try phraseology along these lines...

    "Washington Approach, [Callsign], [Position], IFR to [Destination]."
     
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  31. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    Who you are, where you are, what you want.

    Pretty much the keys to the kingdom.
     
  32. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    A couple more reasons why I don't like to skirt the floor of class B too closely:

    1. My instructor recommended staying at least 500 feet below it for wake turbulence avoidance; and

    2. Altimeters and transponders are not required to be perfectly accurate (nor would it be physically possible).
     
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  33. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    Perhaps one of the controllers can weigh in on this, but a few years back a controller told me they cannot rely on mode c read outs to determine a bust. They must ask your altitude and what you say is the ultimate truth.
     
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  34. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    They routinely "bust" controllers at my facility with the mode C readout. If at that exact moment you queried a pilot and they said a different altitude on the tapes and it was an altitude related bust, that would supersede the mode C and is rare to be able to use it in that way. Where the report was helpful was in the tower when they tried to give a controller a runway separation deal based on the ASDE and the pilot reported clear.
     
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  35. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    "Potomac Approach."
     
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  36. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    If the altitude has already been verified, it's a bust. You'd almost never have any pilot deviations or controller operational errors if you couldn't use mode C for determining appropriate separation.

    What the OP has in his favor is that the computer doesn't report an airspace bust. If he were to encroach upon the required sep with another IFR / VFR during that bust, there's a good chance the report would automatically be sent up. At that point, it's out of the controller's hands.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  37. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Line Up and Wait

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    Right. Started to type "Washington Center" then realised he was probably with approach and only change the "center" to "approach".
     
  38. Salty

    Salty Pattern Altitude

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    Thank you for sharing this experience. It's very valuable for us newbies to understand real life scenarios.
     
  39. arnoha

    arnoha Cleared for Takeoff

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    Since no one else has mentioned it, it's actually worse than the controller equipment rounding to the 100's. The transponder itself does that, so the controller's equipment is displaying all the precision that's available. For data size savings, the original Mode C protocol only transmits the the altitude in 100's of feet. 1450' is almost certainly going to be sent as either 1400' or 1500'.

    Worse, since that's a pressure altitude reported by the transponder, the correction applied by your altimeter is based on the full analog value of the altitude, but the controller's correction is applied to the number rounded to 100's of feet. But, of course, that corrected MSL altitude then really is rounded to be displayed to only 100' precision to the controller. That means that what the controller sees and what you see could easily be 100'-200' apart, even if the equipment is 100% accurate.

    Add to that the legality of flying with an altimeter 200' VFR, and the tolerances stack up to where the 500' margin suddenly makes a lot of sense.
     
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  40. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

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    But it's pretty tough to verify an altitude while climbing I would guess..?? Never been on your side of the scope, but some airplanes i flew would climb nearly 10,000 fpm if I wanted to. I had one controller tell me the mode c actually "blacks out" at those types of climb rates.