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Yesterday I had a somewhat stressful flight out of a busy airport back to my local airfield.

  • After take-off the navigation "equipment" (a tablet) failed, the controller asked me for my position around a mile out, my response was incorrect as I was trying to troubleshoot the device, so he gave me a few Visual Reference Points to help out.
  • About 8 miles out, I saw a wall of fog & rain closing in from the left of my heading, it was coming in fast, went all the way to the ground and was certainly IFR (I was on VFR and am not instrument rated). I called the controller and asked about the weather, he said there had been unexpected reports of IFR conditions and not to succumb to get-there-itis. He suggested returning, which I declined for now.
  • Due to these distractions, I had stopped climbing, the controller called me to ask me to verify my altitude as there was high terrain around me, for which I was too low.
  • Shortly after this I encountered moderate turbulence.
  • The controller then called me to say we were going to lose two-way communication soon, he got weather for my arrival destination and asked me to switch to London frequency as he didn't want me not talking to anyone (I wasn't anywhere near London by the way).

At this point, my brain became overwhelmed and I was unable to think clearly, I didn't change frequency, I did land safely but after landing realized I hadn't performed some of the pre-landing checklist items and had also gone the WRONG WAY around the circuit before landing (luckily no one was around).

In these kinds of situations, should you telephone the departure tower to tell them you arrived safely, or is that just extra noise they don't need?

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    $\begingroup$ Just a note "London Information" is not London as in the city, its London Centre - goes all the way from the mid channel to the north of england, and Irish sea out to the north sea. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jan 15 at 11:51
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    $\begingroup$ High terrain... were you in the Lake District or Wales or something? $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Jan 15 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ You always close the plan, don't see why you wouldn't in a situation where tower has reason to fear the worst? $\endgroup$
    – Geir
    Jan 15 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ If you were a close and treasured friend of mine, and you told me all the above, I would have an honest talk with you about the possibility of maybe not piloting any longer, or at least without much, much more training. So many red flags. I have only admiration and great respect for people who realize that it is best for them to stop flying/driving/skydiving/etc. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say "** the navigation "equipment" (a tablet)**" is a backup navigation equipment at best; you should be able to fly without it, too. $\endgroup$
    – U. Windl
    Jan 17 at 14:16

2 Answers 2

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YES, please call and let them know. Especially because you had been instructed to change to another frequency and you did not. Even without that, it sounds like the controller knew you were "in distress" (at least mentally, if not mechanically). Letting them know you arrived safely will be a relief for them.

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    $\begingroup$ And it lets them know not to call search-and-rescue to look for your crashed airplane. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Jan 16 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ If the controller files safety reports, or even if he doesn't, it would be a good thing to call and give some details as to how you arrived safely. You may be providing some bit of information that the controller can use to help the next pilot who encounters a risky situation. $\endgroup$
    – Suncat2000
    Jan 16 at 17:48
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I don't think so; I mean, it's not necessary. You might want to phone and thank them for helping you out when you were in a stressful situation, but remember that's their actual job, not some sort of heroics.

It sounds like you had an eventful flight, and one where maybe you learned two things:

  1. You're a recreational flyer. If the weather looks suboptimal, go another day. But;
  2. Even in marginal weather conditions, you could handle it and although you may chose next time to stay put, your training took over and you dealt with things as they arose.

Don’t beat yourself up too much for forgetting some landing checks. It happens. It's best if it doesn't, but I can honestly say that I've done the same loads of times, often when it’s a clear calm day and I should not have made simple mistakes.

Don’t beat yourself up for messing up the circuit either. If nobody else was around, no harm, no foul. The important thing was you landed safely and can fly another day.

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    $\begingroup$ Even though it's part of their actual job to deal with stressful situations, the air traffic controllers are human too. They do care a lot about the safety of those flying in their airspace and feel a great personal responsibility. I am very sure they sometimes worry about the good outcome if they lose radio contact, even if that loss of contact is expected due to terrain. I'd say, give them a call. It certainly doesn't hurt. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Jan 15 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec perhaps the aircraft was still within surveillance coverage so they knew it was still flying. I am doing a (side-) project to see if I can supply a FIS unit with supplemental (non-ATC- approved) surveillance data to reduce the number of unnecessary SAR dispatches and have FIS staff less worrying about the outcome of lost flights by letting them know that the missing aircraft is still moving. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Jan 15 at 13:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec this answer makes more sense to me, but since the other one has more votes, I'll go ahead an accept that one (FYI I did give them a call and they seemed to appreciate it, although it clearly wasn't NEEDED) $\endgroup$
    – Cloud
    Jan 16 at 11:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Cloud cool. Note I didnt say you shouldn't call, just that you needn't. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jan 16 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ As someone who used to coordinate SAR activities at my facility, I would have been looking for you or your wreckage. I have talked to many spouses in the middle of the night asking if the have heard from the pilot. In the US, simultaneous unexpected loss of radar/radio contact is treated as an accident. $\endgroup$
    – RetiredATC
    Jan 16 at 20:56

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