Let's say I'm flying a cross country flight and I wanted to land in a Class D or enter Class C towered airport, but I lost my two-way communications radio but have my transponder squawking 7600. Should I blindly continue in and receive light gun signals to land or should I steer out the Class C and D and divert to a non-towered airport? In worst case scenario, what if my transponder is also out?


1 Answer 1


should I blindly continue in

First, never do anything "blindly".

The FAR and the AIM address the Class D question, so this part is the most easily answerable:

FAR 91.129 (d) Communications failure. Each person who operates an aircraft in a Class D airspace area must maintain two-way radio communications with the ATC facility having jurisdiction over that area.

(1) If the aircraft radio fails in flight under IFR, the pilot must comply with §91.185 of the part.

(2) If the aircraft radio fails in flight under VFR, the pilot in command may operate that aircraft and land if—

(i) Weather conditions are at or above basic VFR weather minimums;

(ii) Visual contact with the tower is maintained; and

(iii) A clearance to land is received.

AIM 4-2-13 (3). Transmitter and receiver inoperative. Remain outside or above the Class D surface area until the direction and flow of traffic has been determined; then, join the airport traffic pattern and maintain visual contact with the tower to receive light signals. Acknowledge light signals as noted above.

After that, 6−4−1 addresses more two-way comms failure actions:

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).

Since "best judgement" is very situational dependent, the rest of this is subjective: I would not enter Class C, if there was another alternative. If you're already in Class C, and there are Class D/E/G airports available, divert. If you're already in Class C,and there are no other options, continue with the utmost caution (following the advice of the Class D procedures if able), using your own light signals to attempt to alert the tower.

Some "armchair lawyers" might even say that lost-comms (VFR) operations in Class C and even Class B could be conducted in the same manner as Class D, because each section starts with: "each aircraft operation in Class B/C airspace must be conducted in compliance with this section and 91.129."

I'd personally avoid B and C like the plague if I was VFR lost comms.

  • $\begingroup$ But isn't it so that if you have a flight plan, ATC will expect you to stick to it and therefore you should (and thus not divert)? $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Mar 20, 2017 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ The OP asked with reference to VFR flight (not the conditions, or weather, but the rules themselves). There is no technical requirement for a VFR flight to file a flight plan, and even if one was filed with Flight Service, ATC is not involved and is not tracking the flight. Therefore, there is nothing that ATC is expecting the flight to "stick to". $\endgroup$
    – Jimmy
    Mar 20, 2017 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmy 100% Agree, ATC don't always keep track of VFR flight plans until they are needed. Everyday I have a pile of VFR flight plans that are never needed as they never called up. Flight Service knew about them not me. $\endgroup$
    – Bullfrog
    Mar 26, 2017 at 5:39
  • $\begingroup$ Even with an activated VFR flight plan, if you were not on flight following then you just show up as another 1200 and they really can't know which 1200 is which flight plan. Squawking 7600 is better in that they know this radar dot has lost radio but again it started as just another 1200 and they don't know which. $\endgroup$
    – Max Power
    Mar 15, 2020 at 23:47

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