Why doesn't ATC know where I'm going?

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by bluesky74656, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. bluesky74656

    bluesky74656 Line Up and Wait

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    This has happened to me twice, so I figured I'd ask and see if it's a problem, and if so how I can help fix it.

    It seems that if I file IFR between two airports on a non-direct routing, a controller midway between my origin and destination doesn't know about the routing.

    The first instance happened to me on a flight between my home base (KCGF, Cleveland OH) and 3CK (Lake in the Hills, Chicago IL). The plane I was flying had a GPS that was placarded as VFR-only, so I dutifully filed airways. Somewhere over Indiana I was asked if I was direct my destination. I responded that no, I was V228, OBK, 3CK. The controller accepted that response without further comment, but I'm assuming he should have seen that without having to ask.

    The second, more recently, was on a flight from KCGF to KUMP (Indianapolis, IN). There was a line of storms on the direct path that I could circumnavigate by going south, so I filed KCGF, SGH, KUMP which took me down toward Columbus and Dayton before turning west. The Columbus approach controller called me to say there was weather between me and my destination and advised that heading south to about Newark would get me around it. I looked at my ADS-B radar to make sure nothing had changed significantly, looked at the route he offered, and replied that I was already direct to the SGH VOR. His response was to confirm that I was indeed direct the Springfield VOR, then told me that should be sufficient and to advise of deviations.

    In the first case to Chicago the airway routing and the direct routing were close enough that it probably didn't make much difference in terms of separation over the route. But on the way to Indianapolis there was a pretty significant difference between the route I was flying and the route the controller thought I was flying. It seems to me that could easily cause problems down the line.

    I'd be interested to see what comments any of the controllers on the board have.
     
  2. B Johnson

    B Johnson Filing Flight Plan

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    I have this happen a lot and am interested in the answer too.
     
  3. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    My guess would be they're just confirming what route you're flying. What's the big deal? They may even have your route in front of them (flt progress strip) but if it's another ATC sector that particular controller may want confirmation. Relax, no one has forgotten you. ;)
     
  4. bluesky74656

    bluesky74656 Line Up and Wait

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    In the second case they were offering me a reroute on to the route I was already flying. Definitely not just confirming.

    And I'm sure they didn't forget about me. It just caused some brief confusion and I'm wondering how I can help prevent that. Or, alternatively, if everyone just assumes I'm flying direct then I can stop actually filing a route.
     
  5. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Once more then I'm out. I'm guessing there was a handoff from one controller to another and the receiving controller just wanted confirmation of what you were flying, or maybe he/she thought you were flying some other route. When they're busy it happens.Why didn't you ask him/her, even if he were busy? Just transmit "center xxx has a question" or something to that effect. They'll answer honestly.
     
  6. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Now offering reverse discounts.
    Related question: since more and more these days have an IFR approved navigator and on a direct routing, are the controllers more used to that? Such that when they have someone operating the way the OP was, it is now the "out of the ordinary" activity and not what the controller was expecting?
     
  7. roncachamp

    roncachamp Final Approach

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    The controller is provided with the departure airport and the route from a fix prior to that controller's sector to the destination airport. A controller who doesn't know your route is not using what's been provided.
     
  8. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 En-Route

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    :biggrin:

    I used to brief at the military pilots' instrument refresher course. I would give them any new pertinent information regarding all things ATC at my air patch including things pilots were doing that screwed up the pattern for anyone else. The amount of "there I was" stories that I was expected to explain "well, I wasn't working that day but what could have happened was this.." were astounding. I finally gave up.
     
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  9. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I had to do a brief at an Aero Club safety meeting, and this female PP asked why she was given a 360 on base, then sequenced behind another Aero Club on base, and I just happened to have been working local that day that issued the 360. Tried to explain that, well there were 4 F-4s, smoke billowing out the pipes, still on the runway. Guess she didn't see 'em! :rolleyes:
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
  10. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    In the second case you were offered a route even farther around the weather via Newark than SGH which you were already on.

    There is nothing you can, or should do to prevent these kinds of things from happening. There is nothing wrong with your filing. There are all kinds of reasons why it sometimes seems the controller doesn't know, at that moment, what your last assigned clearance was. Sometimes when they ask it's because the airplane is a little off course and doesn't seem to be flying it. Both of your cases were with Approach and not Center. What I'm about to say is based on experience about 14 years old but some of it probably still applies. Center controllers could always call up at a touch of a button the aircraft's route. They also had full size flight progress strips that were there next to the scope. Approach controllers could not push a button and get that info. They'd have to yell across the room to a flight data position and say "get me this guys route." Sometimes it better to just verify with the pilot. They also used "short" strips that had very little route information on them, usually just the destination airport or the next fix if passing through.
    Often the aircrafts last assigned route was something different than what was "in the system." Letters of Agreement would specify how aircraft would be routed into the next Approach's airspace. Usually it was to the destination airport. Things like "aircraft landing Kaaa shall be [on heading, direct to, south of, between etc etc]. There would be no need to revise the stored route in the "system" in these cases. Even aircraft passing through would get "rerouted" verbally from the controller but that might not be revised in the "system" because the airplane would exit their airspace into the next controllers airspace back on the "stored" route.
    Getting questions that make it seem like they don't know what you are doing will usually happen with the first controller in a facilities airspace. Controllers "verifying" your route doesn't mean they don't know whats going on. Some do do it more often than is really necessary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
  11. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Now ya know, ya coulda just said "for controller amusement" lol
     
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  12. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 En-Route

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    Or for noise abatement because when she prangs into the F-4s it would be pretty loud.
     
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  13. bluesky74656

    bluesky74656 Line Up and Wait

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    That makes a lot of sense and answers my question. I could understand if most of the Bonanzas you have transiting the airspace are direct and you have to call out to someone to find the full files route that it would be easier to assume direct and confirm with the pilot. I don't think it was this controller, but the next one I talked to was complaining about his 50s era technology when we were comparing what we were seeing.
     
  14. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    On a late handoff from Center to tower the tower controller made a snide comment along the lines of "that's why they're called 'enroute' controllers."

    The real annoying one was I was coming in IFR into my home field. I overflew the field on a vector (happens from time to time). After a bit I inquired when I could turn back towards my destination and it was then that I realized the controller had no clue where my destination was.
     
  15. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Thats bad. What was the purpose of the vector? Or did he just say "fly heading" without a "vector to/for.........
     
  16. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    I don't think it is a fault on the controller's side.
    I think he is just making sure you know where you're going. ;)
     
  17. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I've had that type of thing happen often enough with DEN that I just provide the instruction I'm on on initial checkin. "Cessna 1279M, level eight-thousand, assigned heading 260."

    More often than not, the reply is, "Cessna 79M, radar contact, Denver altimeter XX.XX, resume own navigation."

    After I started doing it, it was a surprise how often that was the response.

    Another way to pre-empt that not going to the airport thing is to state that you have Information X also... Even if it's a repeat and you told the previous controller. Big hint that your landing somewhere close by without being rude about it. Suddenly the vectors toward the airport start when you say you have their ATIS. Heh.

    I'm normally not doing it for assigned altitudes, those usually don't seem to get lost as much as TRACON heading assignments in handoffs. I'll wait a while and then ask, and those are about a one in ten sort of thing for an instant change in assigned altitude, and I only have to ask maybe a few flights per year, so it's not as often that it appears to be useful.

    But the heading thing... Happens constantly. I don't know why. Adding three words garners at least a 50% chance of "resume own navigation" or a better vector toward the airport. And I don't say it in any particular tone like I'm annoyed or anything. It just works way more than I think it should, statistically speaking.
     
  18. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    We were in the CLT class B at that point (our airport underlies the class B). This was right after the class B was expanded and our airport went from being handled by ZTL to CLT. It was just a vector without a reason.
     
  19. silver-eagle

    silver-eagle En-Route

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    I've found that many times when they ask, I'm a "bit" off my route. VFR isn't a problem, IFR is. I had this question many time during my IFR training. It's more like WTF? WAKEUP!!!
     
  20. Jmcmanna

    Jmcmanna Pre-takeoff checklist

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    To the OP: what was the equipment suffix on your flight plan? That may or may not have something to do with it.

    My best guess as an approach controller: There are a lot of canned routes and procedures dependent on different flows as bigger airports. Because of that, what's on the flight strip isn't always the route you get assigned. In the first scenario (I'm guessing you were taking to SBN approach), you probably appeared on the scope to be more-or-less direct to 3CK, and they wanted to be sure they knew what you were doing...just a confirmation. In the second scenario, again, there is probably a PDR or canned procedure and it wasn't communicated that you weren't doing it.

    Additional info: The approach control that overlies the airport you're landing doesn't have your routing immediately available. If you are landing 3CK, Chicago approach doesn't see your route unless they call the flight data desk and have them print it and bring it over. That may not be a factor here, but it's good to know information.
     
  21. CharlieFoxtrot

    CharlieFoxtrot Filing Flight Plan

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    Haven't seen the complete correct answer posted yet so figured I would help out. Jmcmanna was partially correct, this is a little more detailed. There are two reasons.

    1. If you are enroute, the reason is preferential routes/LOAs. The computer system can type a "pref route" on a strip and print it out to an approach control because it thinks that aircraft needs a new route, or a "Full Route Clearance". These are pre-programmed for any aircraft flying at a specific altitude and over a specific fix or route. Sometimes they are issued, but sometimes there is an LOA (letter of agreement) between two facilities that says an aircraft needs to be on a certain route regardless what the strip says. In this case, the controller will not issue the pref route. The controller should tell the data guy to change it back to the original route so the next controller is aware, but occasionally this doesn't happen (human error, too busy, forgot, typo, etc). If this doesn't get done, the aircraft will be flying one route and the strip will say something different. In that case, the new receiving controller will ask the pilot which route he or she is on (suspecting controller error from the previous sector/controller) and make any necessary corrections in the system.

    2. If the approach that asks you the routing question is also the same approach that owns that airport (the one that would clear you for the approach), then the answer is much simpler. That approach control gets a different type of strip. Overflights get an "enroute strip", where as inbounds to an airport that approach owns gets an "inbound strip". These strips only have the destination airport written on them, no routing info. This leaves more room on the strip to write for the controller. Most aircraft are direct the airport by that time. If the controller suspects the aircraft is not direct the airport, they have two options. Call the data guy to type into a computer and get full route strip printed and then brought over, or the easier and quicker way, just ask the pilot if they're direct. If they are heading to a VOR that is in that approach control airspace first, and then direct the airport, the controller will usually just notice that or ask to verify.

    Hope this clears things up!
     
  22. TheGolfPilot

    TheGolfPilot Line Up and Wait

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    This happens a lot in the SF Bay Area. Especially when I depart with a TEC clearance because I didn't file. I remedied the questions by announcing my destination and sometimes even the routing if something drastic changed (direct to or am on a heading).
     
  23. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    1. Seems utterly stupid to have controllers do that over and over and over. Why isn't there a simple way to just change the preferential routing to what the LoA says permanently? Does that eventually ever happen?

    2. Explains why when /A everyone assumes you're /G direct when you're really required to fly a transition route. Then they ask when you're not headed for the airport.