Under FAR Part 91 operations what course of action should a pilot take if radio communication is lost after being cleared for an instrument approach in IMC and then a missed approach becomes necessary due to inadequate visibility?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure how helpful this is, but from the AIM: "It is virtually impossible to provide regulations and procedures applicable to all possible situations associated with two-way radio communications failure. (...) Should the situation so dictate they should not be reluctant to use the emergency action contained in 14 CFR Section 91.3(b)." But since it's an IFR flight, I guess the ATC will anticipate you heading to the filed alternate airport after completing the missed approach procedure. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


91.185 doesn't say anything about missed approaches but there is some information in the AIM 5-4-21:

In the event a balked (rejected) landing occurs at a position other than the published missed approach point, the pilot should contact ATC as soon as possible to obtain an amended clearance.
If unable to contact ATC for any reason, the pilot should attempt to re−intercept a published segment of the missed approach and comply with route and altitude instructions.
If unable to contact ATC, and in the pilot’s judgment it is no longer appropriate to fly the published missed approach procedure, then consider either maintaining visual conditions if practicable and reattempt a landing, or a circle−climb over the airport.

That indicates that ATC expects you to fly the published (or instructed) missed approach procedure if possible, or climb over the airport if not.

As for what happens after going missed and climbing to a safe altitude, that's up to you. Even if you were in contact with ATC, they would ask for your intentions because they don't know why you went missed and whether you want to try the same approach again or divert. ATC also doesn't know your filed alternate airport (see the AIM p. 5-1-24) and there's no requirement to go there anyway. It's up to you as PIC to determine the best course of action; ATC will help by keeping other aircraft away from you as far as they can.

  • $\begingroup$ Why do you think that ATC will not be familiar with your filed alternate? (Does this vary by the country where you fly?). ATC can certainly find out what your filed alternate is, if you filed a flight plan. $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast It's in the AIM (as I mentioned in my answer): "Although alternate airport information filed in an FPL will be accepted by air traffic computer systems, it will not be presented to controllers". If you think a diversion is likely then the usual advice is to add it to the remarks, which controllers do see: "WX ALT KABC" or similar. I have no idea how it works outside the US. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ A filed flight plan is a lost comm plan. What controllers do you think won't be able to see the alternate information from your flight plan? $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @KorvinStarmast It's well known that controllers don't know your alternate (in the US!) and it's documented in the AIM, so I'm not sure why you doubt it. As for lost comms, the procedures in 91.185 don't mention the alternate at all so it's not relevant there (it might still be a good option, but it isn't required). This article gives a useful overview of how things work. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ I may be recalling a subtle difference here between military and civilian flying; if you file IMC you are required to file an alternate, right? (Or is that only military flying?) The question as posed is about IMC flying, but maybe I am assuming that it was intentional IMC, filed flying in IMC conditions ... which may be an error. $\endgroup$ Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:33

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