When are you obligated to go to your filed alternate

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by asicer, Jan 16, 2019.

  1. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    So I promised to contact King Schools for clarification about this question in another thread. However, that other thread got a bit tangled with multiple topics so I'll post the followup here for easier reading.

    To recap...
    In the King video Martha said yes, you are required to fly to your filed alternate. However, the response here was:

    So one of the course creators (I'm slightly disappointed it wasn't Martha herself) emailed me back and cited FAR 91.185(c) and 91.185(c)(1)(iv) which says:
    "If the failure occurs in IFR conditions, or if paragraph (b) of this section cannot be complied with, each pilot shall continue the flight according to the following:
    <list of things>
    ...by the route filed in the flight plan."
    And apparently they take that to include the filed alternate.

    However, he did give the caveat that if your alternate is also below minimums and you are running low on fuel then you could and should invoke FAR 91.3 by declaring an emergency and go where you need to go.

    But it sounds like in a lost comms situation you can't deviate from your filed alternate (assuming it's legally and safely flyable) simply because someplace else is better.
     
  2. mkosmo

    mkosmo Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Would it make much of a difference to a controller? I didn't think anything on your strip or on the screen would show them your filed alternate anyhow.

    And even then, it's not like you file a route to the alternate... so wouldn't you be forced to deviate from "filed" if /A and diverting without the ability to do direct? Lost-comms diversion just screams 91.3 everywhere.
     
  3. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    The email from King also said they have a recently retired controller on staff and according to him the first thing he would do in a lost comms situation is call FSS to get the filed alternate.
     
  4. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

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    In a lost comm situation, he must have really good hearing and be able to yell really loud.

    The reg sets forth an shared expectation for both the controller and the pilot what should be occurring. I agree that the filed alternate is appropriate answer to a written test scenario.

    But the reality is an ILS or RNAV / LPV can get you to the runway in an emergency.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
  5. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    Here’s a real life scenario my real life answer (having nothing to do with the book answer).

    I fly Pittsburgh to home often(8NC8 10nm north of KRDU). I’m ‘required’ to file an alternate independent of weather conditions because there are no approaches at home. I always file KRDU unless weather dictates something else.

    If I lost comm and 8NC8 is not available to me VFR, I would squawk 7600 (or 7700 if I have a memory lapse). I would then proceed to either KTDF or KHNZ if weather allowed. Knowing that I would be observed on radar, I’d be confident that any other IFR traffic to either airport would be rerouted as I descended and intercepted an IAF. This would avoid screwing up traffic at RDU and I’m guessing would result in a whole lot less post landing scrutiny. A 91.3 based explanation would be formulated if needed.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
     
  6. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I guess I'll have to disagree and stick with my statement that there is no regulation, rule, or FAA guidance I know of saying you are required to go to the one you filed to show you thought about fuel reserves if another location is a better option. If you have something from the FAA rather than the Kings, I'd definitely like to be corrected.

    I absolutely agree about "managed expectations" with ATC. Plus, you have (at least in theory) really looked at your alternate choices and made a reasoned decision when you filed, and not just ticked off a box. The result is, regulations aside, unless you have a good reason, you "should" go to the alternate you thought about and planned rather than making up something else on the fly while flying around a missed approach holding pattern. Heck, in theory, if you are enroute and the weather at your alternate seems to be getting worse, you should "manage expectations" by advising AC you have changed your alternate while you still have coms (although there is a bit of a catch 22 since they don't see it anyway - an of our controller folks know what ATC would do in that situation?). But that's a completely different analysis than "have to go to a poor choice if there is a better one unless there is an emergency."

    But I do have a question: exactly what is the "route filed in the flight plan" to your alternate? The only route in the flight plan is the one to the destination, so what are you required to do?
     
  7. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    I'm just a messenger. Please don't shoot me. :)

    I can't speak for Martha and crew, but I'll bet if you email them at support@kingschools.com they might answer your questions.
     
  8. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    That's what I did. Many years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if at some facilities with the latest whiz bang computer stuff they could get it with a few button pushes and not have to make the phone call. It is nice to know to information and can give the controller an expectation. Does the pilot HAVE TO go there? No. But if he doesn't and it causes a problem he better be prepared to justify his decision.
     
  9. John Collins

    John Collins Pattern Altitude

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    The issue with this is that FSS does not necessarily have a copy of your flightplan if you did not file thru FSS. There are many alternative filing systems that use the AFTN network to file your flightplan and only center gets a copy of your flightplan.
     
  10. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I wasn't shooting :D

    I've been in discussions with programs like Kings before. It's really just a battle of opinions, which is why a mention regulatory guidance. The closest I ever got to a concession was on a Flight Instructor Review Course where (on a different subject) the answer was, "Well, yeah, but the FAA approves our course and that's the answer they wanted."

    It's mostly academic anyway. There's a lot of different things which have to take place to get to the point of post-destination lost comm. To start with, the lost comm itself has non-emergency. To me that means, it's my radio and comm is the only thing that went out and the failure is not a symptom of an impending overall electrical problem (I've had three radio failures and only one involved only lost comm with no collateral issues - that was on my first solo cross country flight in 1990.

    Then, of course, there has to be no segment of the flight after you lose comms where you encounter visual conditions. And you are unable to land at your destination.
     
  11. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I highly doubt that. The controller would simply say, "N1234 say intentions" and would coordinate for whatever the pilot wanted to do.
     
  12. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    How do you do that lost comm? It would be an interesting conversation :D
     
  13. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    My comment was in reference to the original post where comms wasn't mentioned as an issue. But to comment on your response (and the smiley is duly noted: That's why I carry a back up radio with fresh batteries on IFR flights. ;)
     
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  14. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

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    All valid points. The reg does not assume a missed at the destination. And if you need to go missed at the alternate then what?

    That is why airport selection becomes so important in preflight planning in IFR and why ALS is your friend.
     
  15. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I only said it because the post you actually quoted in your comment was talking about lost comms. I don't think anyone thought a controller who was talking to a pilot would have a reason to call FSS for the filed flight plan.
     
  16. Walboy

    Walboy Line Up and Wait

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    I have always considered filing an alternate contingency planning for lost comms...and I have never really thought about doing anything other than proceeding to the alternate in a lost comms situation. Assuming no VMC is encountered and comms are not reestablished.

    That said, you're way more experienced than me and a lawyer...so now I'm scratching my head and thinking about your statement.

    I think a lot of folks assume that ATC is going to see what you're doing on radar and clear conflicting traffic accordingly, but out here in the mountain west a lot of times flight paths can be below radar coverage and no one really knows what you're doing. So why not stick to the plan? For that reason, I would follow what the Kings teach.
     
  17. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I didn't catch that. Disregard.
     
  18. sonopoa

    sonopoa Pre-Flight

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    I think the King Schools reply is reasonable. Fly to your destination if it is below minimums go to your alternate (you filed it for a good reason..) and in the event of an emergency do whatever you need to do.
     
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  19. ahypnoz

    ahypnoz Pre-Flight

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    While flying to my destination airport in IMC, If I lost communications and I had to go missed at my original airport, the first thing I would do would check my alternate vs any other airport that had any better weather conditions (especially VFR weather conditions) within my fuel reserves and put that airport at the top of the “next” destination list.
    If the weather is all the same everywhere, I would go to my planned alternate, which probably has the lowest minimums of all the airports in he region. But if the weather was significantly better at an airport showing VFR conditions, that is where I would be going. At the point of going missed your odds of having something really bad has just gone up significantly, even if you try to shoot the same approach again.
     
  20. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Don't hold that against me or think it gives me any special insight when I say I've seen no official guidance and am coming to my own conclusions. I'm expressing a personal opinion not a legal one.
     
  21. Walboy

    Walboy Line Up and Wait

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    People like you make me think, that's a good thing!
     
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  22. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    I don't feel "obligated" to do anything in an emergency or an urgent situation other than survive, hopefully with an intact aircraft. Seriously, the last thing on my mind if this happens, lost comm, would be: "damn, I have to go to my alternate or ATC will be mad." In the end I probably would go to my listed alternate as I've hopefully researched it and picked the best place to end up at, but if for some reason I decide that I want another airport, the last thing on my mind will be "but I filed something else as an alternate".
     
  23. tspear

    tspear Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    This has been debated a few times on BT. It seems like the majority of pilots state, per the regs you should fly to primary, if unable to land go to the alternate. No choice per the regs.
    However, the few controllers who joined the discussion, agreed that they want you on the ground ASAP. When you lose comms, they have to keep a much larger block of space around you empty. Therefore, get on the ground, and get out of the way was the semi polite message. :D
    Further considering how electrical dependent modern aircraft air; if I lose comms, I am getting on the ground ASAP, preferably in VMC.

    Tim
     
  24. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Which reg says that?
     
  25. tspear

    tspear Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    The same one the OP stated King's school points too. 91.185 loft comms. Continue the filed plan. The filed plan, is from primary to alternate.

    Tim
     
  26. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    When you filed your alternate, the only thing you had to go on was forecasts. Once you get to your destination, there is a possibility of getting more up-to-date information. (I recognize that you may not be able to get weather information at possible alternates once you have lost comm, but you might have been monitoring weather reports and forecasts before the comm failure, and you also might be able to get weather information through other sources, such as ForeFlight.)
     
  27. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There is no filed or assigned route from the primary to the alternate. In fact, 91.185 doesn't even mention the alternate, so if I'm ever in this situation, I'm going to do whatever I judge to be safest.

    One of my favorite parts of the aim is the following:

    6−4−1. Two-way Radio Communications Failure

    a. It is virtually impossible to provide regulations
    and procedures applicable to all possible situations
    associated with two-way radio communications
    failure. During two-way radio communications
    failure, when confronted by a situation not covered in
    the regulation, pilots are expected to exercise good
    judgment in whatever action they elect to take.
    Should the situation so dictate they should not be
    reluctant to use the emergency action contained in
    14 CFR Section 91.3(b).

    b. Whether two-way communications failure
    constitutes an emergency depends on the circumstances,
    and in any event, it is a determination made
    by the pilot. 14 CFR Section 91.3(b) authorizes a
    pilot to deviate from any rule in Subparts A and B to
    the extent required to meet an emergency.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
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  28. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    So my same question. If the alternate is a "destination" in the flight plan, what's the route?

    I'll add one more. The weather has dropped at the alternate (after all, you expected to get in at the original destination, right?) So you don''t get in there either. Now what?

    You've been monitoring your ADS-B or XM weather (after all, it's only coms out, right?). Your filed alternate is east of your destination. The bad weather is headed there. It's now clear to the west.

    I think @Palmpilot has it right. As the AIM says, the lost com reg does not account for all situations and we have to use our best judgment.

    So you are saying, 91.185 requires us to go to the filed alternate even though, based on current conditions (not the ones forecast 6 hours earlier), there is a much better choice? It requires us to head to the bad weather, tap into our fuel reserves by wasting our time at the filed alternate when we could have been safely on the ground, and have a real emergency?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2019
  29. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    I won't pretend to get involved in what the book answer is in the OP. I would like to make a couple general comments about things brought up here. ATC does not show your filed alternate anywhere. I have had/seen several NORDO aircraft and I've never heard of a controller attempting to contact FSS to find out what the aircrafts alternate is. Not saying it would never happen...just don't think it's likely. The primary reason is, we are going to block a rather large chunk of airspace all around you as you make your flight until you are down. Knowing what your alternate is won't change anything. What if you're alternate is worse than forecast and you found out XYZ is better than forecast so you changed your mind.

    As a pilot, if I'm NORDO then that means I've lost 2 separate NAV/COM's or just the COM portion for some reason. If I'm IMC and the weather is low IFR all around then I'm more than likely an emergency (we could go through all the different scenarios on what is working and what isn't but I don't think that is the point) and will do whatever I think is best for me until I am safely on the ground. ATC will do a good job of dealing with it and when I get on the ground it will all be explained.
     
  30. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    The alternate has nothing to do with lost commo. It’s not a filed route of flight. What’s on the flight progress strip is your route of flight. At the destination, that ends. After that, it’s anyones guess where the aircraft will go. It’s possible that will be the alternate but there’s nothing regulatory that requires it.

    The alternate is nothing more than a fuel planning requirement in the FARs. It’s there to give the pilot options if they can’t get into their destination while IFR. It’s not even a required entry (123 WX) on the FP anyway.

    If the FAA wanted the alternate to be mandatory for lost comms at the destination, then they would specifically list as such in the FARs and have it taught to controllers via the .65. The only thing mentioned in the .65 is reestablishing comms and clearing the aircraft to proceed to its filed alternate , “if the aircraft operator concurs.” It’s not mandatory.

    Even with comms, when an aircraft can’t get into their destination for wx, there’s no requirement to go to your filed alternate. And yes, ATC has no clue of your alternate as well. If you go missed (with comms), it’s a simple route amendment into flight data computer based on what you tell them and not necessarily what’s listed on your flight plan. They don’t care what you may or may not have listed on your filed flight plan.
     
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  31. tspear

    tspear Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Go back and read post 23. I already answered this.

    Sent from my SM-J737T using Tapatalk
     
  32. Witmo

    Witmo Pattern Altitude

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    Personnally, if I'm NORDO and go missed and decide to go elsewhere, I'll go anywhere I think is best, not limiting myself to the filed alternate.
     
  33. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I guess I can't see it. I don't see anything in 23 (or in the flight plan) about the route to take from the destination to the alternate.
     
  34. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    That is an extraordinarily nice thing to say. Thank you.
     
  35. SbestCFII

    SbestCFII Line Up and Wait

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    A filed alternate that has better expected weather than your destination is the best choice. If you are a lazy planner and filed something that was close to your destination, then if your chance of landing there isn't any better that at the destination. Your flight plan provides ATC with the expectation that you'll go to the filed alternate. If you planned well...that's fine. If not, and you decide to change the plan and strike out someplace else, I'd advise squawking 7700.
     
  36. mtuomi

    mtuomi En-Route

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    So, you're flying to KMTN, and you file KDCA as your alternate. You lose comms, and you would just fly direct to KDCA from MTN? :D
     
  37. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Never. If you divert during a lost comm scenario they will look for you there but I wouldn’t feel obligated to be there when they came looking.
     
  38. IK04

    IK04 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The only IFR lost comms I have had were enroute, and eventually, the radios came back to life. I simply continued along my planned route.

    I have, however had a complete electrical failure at night, IFR in IMC with a student. Since there was no way to communicate or navigate by radio, we climbed, flew a heading that would probably get us into VFR conditions and headed back to our home base. We eventually broke out into broken clouds and navigated by lights and landmarks back to our home airport, landed and got on the phone with ATC to let them know what happened.

    They had primary RADAR on us, so they figured out where we were going. Things get weird when you can't use any airport for an alternate unless it is VFR or close enough to VFR to get on the ground...
     
  39. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    I had the exact same problem in a 182 but I wasn’t within range of visual conditions. Quite the learning experience
     
  40. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    I had something similar IMC, but only lost TX, not RX. ATC would ask and issue clearances, and I would acknowledge using the ident. Questions were one push for yes, two for no. They pretty much ciphered out my plan. It was clear they'd done this before.
     
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