Newsflash: A Powerful Radio Won't Shoo Away Traffic

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I don't spend much time placing people into little boxes so, what hell, let's spend some time placing people into little boxes. There are various ways to sort pilots by their experience and predilections and one binary category consists of those pilots who get little uncontrolled country airports and those who don't. I think I encountered one of the former yesterday.

I was out sticking landings in the Cub, trying to refine my power-off wheelies to perfection. The Cub has no electrical system and thus no radio, although we do have an Icom portable VHF with an external antenna. I usually carry this in the airplane and maintain a listening watch on the UNICOM frequency. But I don't transmit because the Icom's output is so execrable—it puts out an unintelligible garbled hash that causes more confusion than position clarity. So I keep it zip lip, listen closely and watch carefully. Much as some pilots who fly in suits hate the concept, we can still fly without radios at uncontrolled airports. (But not for much longer, I'm sure.)

Fifteen minutes into my pattern grind, I hear an inbound aircraft self-announce with what many of us agree is fingernails on the chalkboard: "Is there any traffic in the Venice area? Please report." Now if the Cub's Icom had a range of more than 50 feet, I'd be tempted to say something like, "Yeah, this is a yellow Cub in the pattern. I've been flying in #$%#@!& stealth mode but you reminded me to speak up. So here I am." Of course, if I had no radio at all, I would be in stealth mode and our jet jockey—he was flying an Embraer—would have to deal with it.

He called a 13-mile left base for runway 22 and again asked about traffic in the area. At this point, an R22 showed up in the pattern, announced, and the jet asked if there was other traffic in the pattern. The R22, which I took to be flown by a student and instructor, told the jet there was some little yellow thing somewhere on the downwind. This caused quite a bit of consternation in the jet, apparently, culminating in a series of queries from the jet to the helo concerning my whereabouts.

The jet pilot's tone suggested a combination of nervousness and frustration that he was dealing with a ragwing relic that wouldn't show up on his TCAS. After the fifth such exchange, I decided to just get the hell away from the airport until this guy landed. His nervousness was contagious. The R22 pilot duly reported my plodding pattern exit, despite the fact that he and his student kept saying they were at Charlotte County airport, not Venice. Sometimes they corrected this, sometimes not. But hey, they're within 20 miles of each other. Close enough.

In the Embraer pilot's defense, the light conditions were horrible—late afternoon raking light and he was flying right into it for a straight in to 22. But wait a minute. He was doing that by choice. And here's the don't-get-it part. Pilots flying faster aircraft often assume that it's their right to make a long straight-in approach—and they're right. But some seem to assume that they can't, when conditions dictate, fly a standard pattern. Numbed in the womb of flying IFR flightplans with constant comm and flickering TCAS symbology, they are worse than fish out of water when entering the pattern at an uncontrolled field. The radio becomes a blunt instrument that's supposed to ward traffic away as if by magic.

My observation would be this: If you're that nervous about traffic you can't see because of poor lighting conditions, fly a standard pattern. If you're that nervous about traffic you can't see because of poor lighting conditions, never approach an uncontrolled airport from down sun assuming that your radio calls will protect you. Had the Embraer driver altered his course to the left 2 degrees on that 13-mile base, he would have entered the downwind from up sun and the Yellow Peril would have been incandescently obvious.

This is Survival Skills 101. Radios and TCAS are just part of it. Eyeballs still do the heavy lifting.

Comments (105)

Yes, you are right and you had the right of way and you don't have to talk on the radio and the Embraer pilot should have seen and avoided - easier said than done - especially when arriving from above. I don't see your pattern argument, as the Embraer would have likely had to fly a 2 mile pattern and you simply move the collision hazard from final to the downwind - base turn, and force an unstabilized approach for the jet pilot. You can be legal and legally have your cub plastered to the radome of a bizjet. I'd respectfully suggest that you spend a little money and get a headset connector so you can talk on that little Icom. Unless the radio is broken, you should get 5 to 10 miles out of it easily (been there, done that with a cheap Sportys radio) In today's world and the recent midairs in the news, not carrying and using at least a portable is unforgivable.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 5, 2010 8:37 AM    Report this comment

Have a headset connector. The antenna just doesn't radiate well. As for the pattern, you're looking for the lowest risk option. Had he be up sun, the jet pilot would have had a fully illuminated view of all the traffic, including me. I would know where to look for him, too.

Picking the straight-in into the sun is the least safe option because you're shifting dependency to ears, not eyes, when the down sun option allows both. Lots of pilots fly around sans radio. That's the reality.

I don't consider unforgivable. I consider it a choice.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 5, 2010 9:11 AM    Report this comment

I'm with you Paul. I recently finished my primary training at a small, untowered grass field, and switched to the busy towered field that's nearby my house. I'm glad I got some experience around NORDO aircraft before making the switch.

Now, whenever I approach an untowered field (there are a grand total of seven towered fields in MN), I know that listening doesn't always cut it. And I too hate that annoying, "Traffic in the area please advise" call.

Posted by: Brad Koehn | May 5, 2010 9:57 AM    Report this comment

This does get me thinking about how to improve the radiation of the external antenna. I have run into this before in fabric airplanes. I think it needs a metal groundplane under the antenna. Might explore that.

I would transmit if it didn't cause more confusion than not.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 5, 2010 10:01 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Paul, I guess I'm in the box of an anal flight instructor, commercial pilot that drills into students to use their radios! : ) There's no doubt the jet pilot took a risk - in my mind he traded the risk of a midair for the benefit of a stabilized approach - not sure which was better. As for my experience, I previously had a job flying checks out of little airports into big ones in the evening, so I've had more than my fair share of times getting cut off by some guy in a single that is NORDO. I'd fly a pattern where I felt it appropriate, however dirty with flaps down, a 310 doesn't like to go much slower than 120kts anyhow - quite a closure rate on your yellow cub doing 80kts flat out. Not to mention at that point I'm busy which would limit my ability to watch for traffic, although not relieving me of that responsibility. If I run you over on downwind or final - what does it matter? For the record, I learned to fly, and still fly from an uncontrolled field. Your radio is a collision avoidance tool, just like TCAS, or an eyeball. I think a person is foolish not to use all their tools if at all possible. And we all need to be vigilant to see and avoid those who choose not to. You're right - you made a choice. So did the jet pilot. There is no regulation that requires him to fly a pattern. You were both within your rights.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 5, 2010 11:11 AM    Report this comment

My concern is that if a midair results from such behavior, you may no longer get the opportunity to fly NORDO and be trying to figure out how to install a TSO'd panel mount in a cub. Regulators love mandating such things.As to your antenna install, you'll find lots of info in AC43-13 on ground planes and so on. I wish we could get a couple of the avionics techs over from the board on ADS-B to tell how to do it right. Now let's all be safe out there!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 5, 2010 11:11 AM    Report this comment

"he’d of [sic] entered the downwind"

OK, pal, what have you done with the real Berto?

Posted by: Steven Brecher | May 5, 2010 11:19 AM    Report this comment

He's out playing chicken with an RJ! Just kidding! Happy flying everyone!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 5, 2010 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Usually pattern altitude for turbine aircraft is 1500' AGL. I fail to see the collision hazard from 500' above and going faster. A standard pattern even if wider and longer, would provide more time to see other traffic and be seen by that traffic. I've encountered jets at uncontrolled fields plenty of times, some fly patterns some don't. As far as the demands over the radios for taffic to please advise are not just from jets. I've been at airports with my students and heard student pilots from other schools pleading over CTAF for traffic to please advise the runway in use and then enter the pattern incorrectly. Perhaps education and practice not equipment would be a cheaper solution. I teach all of my students to use the radios but also too be on the lookout because not everyone has a radio and doesn't have to.

Posted by: Whitney | May 5, 2010 1:34 PM    Report this comment

The way I see it, the system in this case it worked - the pilots in the area worked together to avoid bending metal, although it could have been smoother. Yes, I too find it frustrating when a jet jock forgets his primary training and flubs around on the radio, but having him fly a standard pattern probably wouldn't have solved anything. Of course, I have little patience for single/light twin pilots who barge in with no attempt to fit in with traffic in the pattern - fixing that WOULD solve a lot of problems. Paul, I'd suggest improving your comm capabilities because that would have ended the confusion a lot earlier - and you could have stayed in the pattern instead of burning avgas outside the pattern. If the Embraer pilot is reading, I'd suggest he pick up any of the dozen or so good guides on nontowered airport communications. If there had been an accident, the NTSB would have happily called both of you culpable for failing to avoid the collision.

Posted by: Donald Harper | May 5, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

Paul, please get the antenna fixed, it isn't rocket surgery. My son's clipped cub has a great old Escort 110 that works well, yes you need a ground plane. I too love to spend peaceful evenings puttering about without using the radio, but when some guy comes barreling ass into the pattern without looking I sure want to be able to tell him where I am. Some of these guys scare me. I would hate to be dead right.

Posted by: Richard Montague | May 5, 2010 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Uncontrolled fields are stop signed 4-way intersection of the sky. As long as people follow the rules and watch each other things work out just fine. But every now and then there's that random driver who will enter the intersection out of turn assuming everyone else will see him and let him cut through. Can it be done safely? Sure. Is it right or wrong? Well, who's going to stop him? He's obviously anticipating that the other drivers will see him and keep their vehicles safely apart (or hoping that he'll be through so fast that no one will notice anyway). This happens every day on roads all over the country...with absolutely NO radio communication between the drivers.

Using a radio at an uncontrolled field is a great tool to use -- as long as it doesn't become a crutch.

Posted by: Mariano Rosales | May 5, 2010 6:25 PM    Report this comment

Whitney - one of the worst things you can do is to descend into the pattern - it is nearly impossible to see other aircraft in the ground clutter below you. No matter what is done, sooner or later the turbine aircraft will descend through your altitude causing the potential for a collision. The system works pretty good, but a person has to be conscious of the performance differences when operating around an airport with mixed traffic. Honestly, when I was a student and even a 200 hour private pilot I was clueless to this fact. If you are consciously choosing to throw away one of your tools for collision avoidance, by all means feel free to. As for me, I'll keep my eyes peeled and ears open for traffic (even jet pilots who evidently haven't read the section in the AIM about proper radio procedures for uncontrolled fields) If you want to know what's really scary, how about the jets or high performance aircraft that do a straight in and aren't talking to anyone!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 5, 2010 8:05 PM    Report this comment

I fly a faster airplane and often fly into small fields. I can live with the periodic radio-less Cub. This morning I made repeated calls on CTAF asking if there was any traffic and announcing my intentions to make a straight-in approach to runway 23 (wind was calm). As I was descending through 700 feet, an Archer made his first announcement that he was departing runway 5. Power up, pitch up, wheels up, flaps up and around I go. Thanks Archer.

Last week, I approached a busy small airport, timed my arrival carefully to blend into the down wind, made all the pre-arrival calls, and downwind call, then base. Just as I was turning that base leg, a Cessna turned base inside of me and then final... I bingo'd out again.

Ok, the guy in the Cub has an excuse...the rest of us...

Posted by: Kingsley Hill | May 5, 2010 8:36 PM    Report this comment

I have just one thing to say....handhelds have range decent enough for me to talk to my students ten miles out. If your radio doesnt do this, then its time to use a radio that is not as old as your plane. Safety is everyone's responsibility, and radios enhance safety. This to me is a no brainer. If I was in that jet, I would be worried to! I see how some of those ole cub "pilots" fly! You are but a yellow bug on their windshield after all. Instead of complaining about other people, id be fixing the situation with a new radio for a couple hundred dolalrs, thats where id go with it. My life, and others lives...or two hundred bux, Rez Ipsa Loquitar! In this day and age, if you dont have an electrical system in your old cubs, you should at least have a radio capable of transmission beyond 50 feet. You cannot argue the safety benefits of this. And you shoulding be putting down pilots who are concerned with safety either!

Posted by: rob haschat | May 5, 2010 9:02 PM    Report this comment

I agree that descending in the pattern is unwise, but is a straight in less risky than a high wide pattern?

Posted by: Whitney | May 5, 2010 9:39 PM    Report this comment

Nothing wrong with a straight in for any aircraft, traffic permitting. That means being able to fit into the flow with disruption. In this case, the straight in was directly into the sun. A downwind entry and wider pattern would not have been.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 4:36 AM    Report this comment

As a professional pilot that flies both turbine and NORDO aircraft, I agree with Paul. The radio is one small piece of the puzzle, and often used a crutch and a view limiting device. As an instructor, it drove me crazy to see someone stop flying the airplane while they tried to squeeze a radio call into a crowded CTAF. Use the microphone sparingly, and ever as a blinder.

Posted by: Paul Tollini | May 6, 2010 6:04 AM    Report this comment

Attitude and mid air collisions are not compatible. Your attitude is not acceptable for your prominence in the aviation world. No working radio....unforgivable! (I don't care if it's lawful, it's just stupid---in my opinion)

Posted by: Robert Brown | May 6, 2010 6:04 AM    Report this comment

An edit to my previous post fixing my typos-

As a professional pilot that flies both turbine and NORDO aircraft, I agree with Paul. The radio is one small piece of the puzzle, and often used a crutch and as a view limiting device. As an instructor, it drove me crazy to see someone stop flying the airplane while they tried to squeeze a radio call into a crowded CTAF. Use the microphone sparingly, and NEVER as a blinder.

Posted by: Paul Tollini | May 6, 2010 6:06 AM    Report this comment

I always let the faster aircraft have the pattern and get out of their way. I'm old school but I do prefer a cub driver to have a workable radio if they are staying in the pattern. And I absolutely can't stand over use of the radio which seems to be the norm these days.

Posted by: CHARLES COTTEN | May 6, 2010 6:27 AM    Report this comment

Would a different handheld help? Maybe practicing touch & go's at an airport near you that doesn't have jet traffic?

Posted by: Randall Wilhite | May 6, 2010 6:29 AM    Report this comment

I spend hours in the patterns at uncontrolled fields with my students, and we do use the radio. I was taught that our eyes are our PRIMARY means of collision avoidance and the radio is an aid to safety. In my experience many pilots seem to feel that if they use the radio they no longer have to "see and avoid". I hate the request "any traffic in the pattern please advise" because if the pilot making the request had been monitoring the CTAF, he or she would not have to ask!

Posted by: Bill Walker | May 6, 2010 6:35 AM    Report this comment

There are three principles of collision avoidance:
The radio is a tool to assist with the above.
Auto Land is not coupled to the mic.
At some time you must release your death grip on the mic and fly the A/C.

Posted by: Peter Weiskopf | May 6, 2010 6:58 AM    Report this comment

Given the recent discussion suggesting terminology that confuses those unfamiliar with aviation, I'd like to suggest we stick with the AIM-preferred reference to 'non-towered' airports, rather than 'uncontrolled' airports. If everyone follows the rules at a non-towered airport the pattern is perfectly under control, just not the control of ATC.

I can't tell you the number of times I've slipped up with an inexperienced passenger and used the 'uncontrolled' word only to see the fear and apprehension followed by the inevitable question: "You mean anyone can fly in or out of this airport anytime they want?"

The answer to that question is technically yes, but it is not the answer to the fear.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 6, 2010 7:15 AM    Report this comment

Paul, this has long been a pet-peeve of mine. Thousands of hours around the US in radio-free a/c and many thousands in Turbine a/c have not altered my opinions. Currently flying a CL60 in Russia, Europe, the Mideast and the UK, I still use uncontrolled fields sometimes. As always, even in controlled environments, it is see and be seen. Years ago I saw an admonition on the wall of the shack at Porterville, Ca that said, "Remember, it was Bernoulli who taught us to fly, not Marconi" Cheers

Posted by: Barry Triplett | May 6, 2010 7:23 AM    Report this comment

Some posters needs to understand the real world. It matters not what they finds unacceptable. The rules allow NORDO, and therefore there WILL BE NORDO aircraft. Asking if there is any traffic in the area is not proper radio procedure, partially for that very reason. A NORDO aircraft isn't going to hear your inquiry, and therefore will suprise the pilot that's relying on the radio and has got his eyes in the cockpit. LISTEN, make concise reports of your own position, and LOOK OUT. That's the way to enter an airport traffic area. BTW you're whole N-number isn't really of interest for a call on CTAF. Knowing there is Cessna on crosswind is more important than knowing its Cessna November 12345 and it uses less bandwidth. If we're close enough that I can identify you by N-number, we're way to close.

Posted by: William Boggs | May 6, 2010 7:27 AM    Report this comment

Is "any traffic in the pattern, please advise" an approved AIM call?

Posted by: WILLIAM REYER | May 6, 2010 7:40 AM    Report this comment

You can't control what the other pilot does, but you can modify your own behavior in the interest of safety. Get the blasted radio fixed and when someone asks for traffic, grit your teeth and answer. The life you save may be your own.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | May 6, 2010 7:43 AM    Report this comment

Interesting dichotomy of opinion. I'm getting e-mail in the background that's about evenly split. I actually can't argue the point that making the radio calls enhances safety; better to have it than not. Listening only splits the difference.

But radio or not, the larger point is opting for the up sun straight in rather than a down sun pattern entry. Having a good down sun view of everything in the pattern is a full house; relying on the radio is three of a kind. Both? Gotta concede, it's a Royal flush.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 8:06 AM    Report this comment

We need more of the 'Bertorelli' Basics. Keep it comin'Paul!

Posted by: Patrick Kelly | May 6, 2010 8:11 AM    Report this comment

The anonymous poster suggests we should, '...grit [our] teeth and answer...' in the interest of safety.

I suppose he's given no thought to the idea garbaging the frequency with unnecessary discussion makes it less available for those who are using it properly.

The 'any-traffic-please-advise' call is the aviation equivalent of Pascal's wager. French philosopher Blaise Pascal suggested that since the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved via reason, one should assume his existence because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

Many pilots seem to believe they have much to gain and little to lose by making these calls. They may be right: Should any pilots already in the pattern comply with such a request the inbound pilot gets a better idea of the status of the pattern sooner -- although simply paying attention during the three or four minutes you are inbound from 10 miles (you did make your first call at 10 miles didn't you) gets you the same information.

The problem is while you believe you are reducing your own risk by making such a request (while ten miles outside the pattern), by garbaging up the frequency you add to the risk of those actually in the pattern.

The best way to 'save your own life' is to keep your head on a swivel, follow established procedures and be prepared to deviate from established procedures when required (such as when dimbulbs make the pattern frequency unusable).

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 6, 2010 8:17 AM    Report this comment

Another unnecessary phrase I've heard at uncontrolled fields is "any traffic on final please advise" by airplanes about to take the runway for departure. That, to me, is a very dangerous call because it tells me and the other pilots in the area that you are only using the radio for separation and not visually scanning the pattern.

Posted by: Mariano Rosales | May 6, 2010 8:37 AM    Report this comment

I'm the anonymous poster. Sorry ,I thought my user name would be blown in automatically.

Garbaging the frequncy? If the other pilot is asking for traffic multiple times, who's garbaging the freq.? I always have my head on a swivel, always listen, never make the "traffic please advise" call, and am aware of possible NORDO's. As I see it answering the call with a position report enhances safety and ultimately reduces freq. congestion.

As for Pascal, I don't think he was a pilot. The existence of God will be proven soon enough when two planes try to occupy the same airspace at the same time.

Roger Mullins

Posted by: Roger Mullins | May 6, 2010 8:46 AM    Report this comment

New PPL holder here - my interpretation is that it's a 'position announcement', you're supposed to be telling everybody else where you are and then you listen - if radio-capable traffic is present they make themselves known. Quizzing for traffic on the radio at an uncontrolled airport is a redundant call for the very reason Paul suggests, but nonetheless I think flying without a transmitting radio at a mixed-use airport is kind of like riding a bike on the highway at night with no lights. The cars will see you, but only when they're right on you, so the safest option is to get some little bicycle lamps, not as powerful as the car's headlights but they still help the car avoid you. The equivalent in the cub is of course to use that little low-powered radio for transmitting as well as recieving, even if only to calm the paranoid jet dweebs like those in the ERJ Paul mentions - they should see you, but only when they're right on you, going 50-100kts faster. Not so much of a problem if you operate your airplane from an appropriate airfield where you won't get mixed up with bigger, faster traffic.

Posted by: Peter Sharpe | May 6, 2010 8:50 AM    Report this comment

Now that we have veered off into religion, there is a parallel here. Once belief has been established and acknowledged, there is a tendency to, shall we say, over indulge. The next thing you know, the believers are loping off the heads of those not deemed sufficiently devout.

In pattern radio, the equivalent is the radio fascist who feels it necessary to chide others for their poor behavior. (Sort of like blogs...) Being able to listen but not transmit, I am sometimes amused by what my fellow pilots have to say about that moron in the Cub with no radio.

Pascal had it easy.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 8:57 AM    Report this comment

This brings up another sore point for me, pilots who give lousy position reports. How many times have you heard someone report 5 miles out when they are actually 10 miles or only 2?
Please, learn to read a chart and if you are going to talk on the radio give correct information.

Posted by: Ric Lee | May 6, 2010 9:22 AM    Report this comment

It seems like the standard pattern entry and the jets 500 feet higher on the downwind would keep things organized. However I never have liked the idea of a jet above my head on the downwind with me in his blind-spot. How and where will he transition through my altitude - ahead, behind, from the outside? If the jet makes a long straight-in with lights on, it's a piece of cake to see him and follow him in. Good move to get out of the way.

Thanks Paul for emphasizing that vision is number one. Even if radios were required there still would be errors and emergencies and only consistently good scanning practices will keep us safe.

Posted by: Warren Webb Jr | May 6, 2010 9:27 AM    Report this comment

Enough already.

Posted by: Barry Triplett | May 6, 2010 9:29 AM    Report this comment


Years ago after a thief stole all the radios out of my Bonanza, I temporarily used an ICOM portable connected to one of my two remaining comm antennas and a David Clark headset. I was surprised at the range that this setup offered. I believe your yellow Cub to probably have metal fairings covering the root area of both wings. A comm antenna mounted to the top of one of those fairings should provide enough of a ground plane for your ICOM to work a distance of many miles.

Posted by: WILLIAM HEMME | May 6, 2010 9:31 AM    Report this comment

Copied for AIM p. 4-1-4-g
g. Self‐Announce Position and/or Intentions
1. General. Self‐announce is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated
CTAF. This procedure is used primarily at airports
which do not have an FSS on the airport. The
self‐announce procedure should also be used if a pilot is unable to communicate with the FSS on the
designated CTAF. Pilots stating, “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not a recognized Self-Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.

I emphasize "should not be used under any condition." I don't know how often I've been irritated by that phrase from aircraft approaching airports 50 miles away or more, sometimes multiple aircraft at multiple airports simultaneously. When I hear that phrase and I'm in a cranky mood, I've been accused of replying "My advice is listen to your radio, read the AIM, and quit saying that."
I know, it's petty. But it's amusing to hear their response...silence. I'm with Paul on this one - if you can announce your own position, do so, but don't ask others to do it. It doesn't increase safety one whit.

Posted by: warford johnson 11 | May 6, 2010 9:32 AM    Report this comment

An interesting and timely discussion. I often fly in and out of a private, non-towered airport, and we're having much the same discussion about what the rules should be about radio usage. I can confirm the unscientific conclusion that opinion is equally split between those who believe using a radio should be required of everyone, all the time, and those who believe 'see and avoid' should govern.

One thing our discussion brought out that hasn't been mentioned here is that there are other hazards that relying on a radio won't mitigate. Consider a vehicle (or pedestrian) on the runway. Or consider a parachutist arriving from above. As an arriving pilot, you're unlikely to get a radio call in these situations, yet a collision would certainly ruin your whole day (not to mention the other party).

While using a radio in every circumstance enhances safety, relying on the fact that everyone else will do so, reduces your own safety.

Posted by: Norm Smith | May 6, 2010 9:54 AM    Report this comment

I am surprised at some of these comments making a NORDO airplane the problem instead of making a jet jockey unable to adapt to the unexpected the problem. Everyone should remember, a NORDO is not always an airplane with no radio installed, it can be an airplane with failed radios or electrical system. Although not a full blown emergency, I believe that it is more important for the NORDO to be able to get on the ground first rather than to unsure than a jet jockey avoids maneuvering the airplane. Safety is not achieved by everything done the expected way all the time, safety is achieved by alert pilots who can adapt the circumstances thrown at them. That trait comes from having enough knowledge and skill training to be able to achieve tasks in a variety of ways.

Posted by: Flying Bug | May 6, 2010 10:08 AM    Report this comment

*Embraer would have likely had to fly a 2 mile pattern and you simply move the collision hazard from final to the downwind - base turn, and force an unstabilized approach for the jet pilot.

Are you telling me that a JET PILOT cannot fly a stabilized approach if they have to fly a traffic pattern? That a stabilized approach in a jet can only be made from a straight in approach. Sounds like the individual needs remedial flight instruction. Maybe a little cub time would help. What do you think about it Paul?

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 6, 2010 10:48 AM    Report this comment

If nothing else, think of it this way. If the worst happens, how is it going to sound in court? The guy's flying a jet..Hell yes it's going to court. How do you think the plaintiff's lawyer is going to make it sound?

Posted by: Richard Montague | May 6, 2010 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I dunno...I see some of the jets fly patterns, some not. Evidently, it can be done. Last year, I demo'd the Cessna Mustang and flew a normal turbine pattern into busy Tampa Exec. Basically a no-brainer at 120 knots. A straight in would have been less desirable for sure.

Guess I'm not at the stage in my flying career where I'm not making flight judgments based on plaintiff's attorneys. I might yet get there, though.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 11:35 AM    Report this comment

Part of the reason bizjets crash from time to time is due to an unstabilized approach. There are a number of people who have the idea that these aircraft can be flown just like a cub and should be able to mesh in the pattern. They're just not the same animal. The only way to handle mixed operations like this is for everyone to be cooperative. Paul was not cooperative in that he insisted it's his right to fly NORDO, the jet pilot was wrong, and he was right. I'm not trying to justify that the jet pilot was right, but you need to understand that having a 600kt kerosene burner mixing it in with a cub at a local airport is becoming the norm. If you guys think you can fly around NORDO just for the heck of it, keep it up! Couple of crashes and radios will be mandatory. Think about it! I'd rather avoid a regulation mandating radios, but we all have to get along. That means getting out of the way of these guys. I'm not talking about who's legally right or wrong, but common sense guys! Flying is a privilege - not a right.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 6, 2010 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Regardless of what's legal, AIM recommended, etc. my vote is for safety, and if it was my butt, I'd be putting a ground plane on that antenna (even with the rubber duckie, you should get 5-10 miles though). Like my driving instructor used to say, "you can be dead right - is that what you want to be?".

Bravo to TCAS, TIS, transponders, and yes the lowly radio - and any other reasonably priced technology that can reduce the risk of swapping paint, no matter how "right" the pilots were or weren't.

See and avoid is terribly imperfect, and at 200, 300, even 700 kts closure in 3 dimensions, it's just not enough.

And am I the only one who caught the "former" (vs. latter) goof? Funny how you can be looking right at something...or past it...and it doesn't register!

Posted by: Mike Pflueger | May 6, 2010 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Actually, I didn't say the jet pilot was wrong. I implied that the approach into the airport was sub-optimal, given the lighting. A higher order of survival skill is available.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but are you saying it's a good thing to allow people to operate at non-towered airports without radios as long as no one does it? want to require radios? That would be a pity.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 11:54 AM    Report this comment

I've had instances years ago flying at NT airports where a guy behind me turned inside of me on base cutting me off. When I took it up with him on the ground (calmly) his response was "I never heard you". My response was "You should have seen me - I was in front of you, and you don't need a radio to fly in here". Seems to me he was overly reliant on the radio for traffic separation.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 6, 2010 11:57 AM    Report this comment

This thread reminded me of a funny occurence a few years ago when I worked in operations at an airport in CT. I was up in the tower talking with my controller pal when a Saratoga called in 10 to the east and was told to report a 5 mile final for 24. A few minutes later a Cessna called in from the southwest and was given a left downwind entry. After the Cessna joined the downwind he asked the tower where the Saratoga was as he couldn't see him. My friend responded the Piper was 5 miles out and to continue on the downwind. As the Cessna gets closer to his base turn he still can't see the Saratoga and is now getting nervous, and asks for it's position again. This time the Saratoga pilot chimes in saying he's on a three mile final and can't see the Cessna. (not helping the situation) The Cessna pilot is now getting really antsy and the Saratoga pilot suggests that he can do a 360 for spacing (even though he's on final and doesn't have traffic in sight). At this point my controller pal is looking at me and shaking his head and said "I guess these guys forgot there's a tower here?". He told the Cessna to maintain on the downwind until he had the Saratoga in sight and he cleared the Piper to land. These two guys were going back & forth, getting all riled up over a simple pattern. I can just imagine what could have happened if there wasn't a controller there to sort things out. That radio exchange was something else, though.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 6, 2010 11:58 AM    Report this comment

I don't feel that having a radio guarantees safety. Sure it helps, but the reality is that aircraft can legally operate at over 80% of the airports in the country without one. Therefore, I feel that see-and-avoid should be the primary tool for separation at an uncontrolled field with the radio assisting.

Posted by: Mariano Rosales | May 6, 2010 12:05 PM    Report this comment


I use an Icom hand held radio on my U/L, and my transmissions are crystal clear, and can be received up to 50 miles away. It took some work to achieve that.

It turned out that the "unintelligible garbled hash" is cockpit noise entering your mic... so much that it saturates the mic. If you wrap the mic with several layers of cloth chafe tape, followed by 1 layer of cloth athletic tape, then the black foam muff, the overall sound entering the mic is a tiny fraction.

Then you put the mic against your lower lip and talk loud to fully modulate. Your transmissions can come out loud and clear. In the setup mode of your radio, you can adjust its input gain. Try the different settings. The problem is not the radio, it's the mic.

Posted by: Mark Stull | May 6, 2010 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Actually, I didn't say the jet pilot was wrong. I implied that the approach into the airport was sub-optimal, given the lighting. A higher order of survival skill is available. I second guessed his judgment; you're second guessing mine.

And correct me if I'm wrong, but are you saying it's a good that pilots are allowed to operate at non-towered airports without radios as long as no one does it? want to require radios? That would be a pity.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 12:11 PM    Report this comment

*Part of the reason bizjets crash from time to time is due to an unstabilized approach. There are a number of people who have the idea that these aircraft can be flown just like a cub and should be able to mesh in the pattern. They're just not the same animal.

You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT; they are not the same animal. You need to learn basic stick and rudder skills (cub) and then it makes flying the big and fast stuff easier. Then when things go south, it is not so scary. Been there, done that and have the T-shirt.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 6, 2010 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Common sense is precisely the point, isn't it.
If the jet pilot used some, he would have flown as Paul suggests, out of the sun's path, had awareness of possible NORDO aircraft at the non-towered field, among other considerations. I don't see a right and wrong from Paul's blog, he made observations and defended both viewpoints. M. Goyer put it well that the ability to adapt (as Paul did by exiting the pattern) is a primary safety tool along with eyes, radios, and passengers. NORDO may be a choice or an emergency, and if the latter, get out of the jet jockey's way? Nope. He should have adjusted his straight in and flew the pattern due to the circumstances of a possible emergency/student/other newly presented condition or got the heck out of the airspace. A no brainer.

Posted by: David Miller | May 6, 2010 1:02 PM    Report this comment

Mark, Bill...on the radio.

The reason I think it's the antenna is that it doesn't work well on the ground with the engine stopped, either. Radio is an Icom A6--new--with a BNC and coax to the antenna.

I'll try the mic muff. The cockpit is noisy in flight, that's for sure. Of course, if I wind up on the windhshield of a jet, I can just lean around to the side window and talk directly to the pilot to advise him of my position.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 2:10 PM    Report this comment

Most of the airports in Colorado are non-towered, except for the biggies down the Front Range. Agreed, if everyone followed "the rules", it would be easier--but they don't.

The mix at one of our local non-tower airports (FNL) includes NORDO experimentals through Allegiant Air's MD80s. There's a lot of student traffic, both primary and advanced, as well. So it can be thrilling at times.

Allegiant probably cause as many problems for the rest of us as anything else. They often make the forbidden call "Anyone in the area, please advise", they often make a 20 mile straight in downwind against traffic, and when they rarely fly a pattern, it appears to be more at a 2000' TPA with 5 mile legs, with little regard for the rest of us (or the AIM). They'll pull out for take off against traffic, and without regard to traffic on final or short base. They've also slipped off the runways and taxiways in the winter, which always gets some local publicity and a "you deserved that" giggle from some.

But they are the biggest bear in the forest, so it's my practice to stay out of their way, no matter how wrong (or inconsiderate of others) they might be.

Similarly, if I were flying your Cub, Paul, I'd take the position that other bears are bigger, faster, more dangerous, and I'd get out of their way, too. But I would make the radio work if it were mine--it just adds to the ways you and your airplane will be a safer member of your local non-towered airport.


Posted by: Cary Alburn | May 6, 2010 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you're missing my point. What I'm saying is you continue to abuse the privilege of going NORDO and some legislator is going to MAKE you have a radio. Going NORDO out of the local grass strip is one thing, even to your local low-traffic-density airport. Going NORDO somewhere, mixing it up with jets, then being upset cause he can't see you demonstrates a lack of judgment (especially because I know a lot of jet jocks who also show a lack of judgment!) FAA 101, break a link in the accident chain and it doesn't happen. Intentionally flying NORDO into a moderately busy uncontrolled field and mixing it up with jets just because you can borders on insanity to me. Kind of like taking a 172 into O'hare - can you, yes. Should you be allowed to, I think so. Is it a good idea - probably not.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 6, 2010 2:19 PM    Report this comment

Cary, my point exactly. Allegiant might be supposed to give you the right of way, but they're gonna win, both in physics and court. Someone hits them NORDO and we're all going to be mandated to carry radios, even on a back country farm strip. May not be fair, but it's the way it is.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 6, 2010 2:27 PM    Report this comment

Sorry. I'm not gonna cop to "abuse." I will concede using the radio is the better way. But in listening and watching--and exiting, if necessary--I don't see that I'm trashing the freedom of the commons and endangering anyone to a greater degree that the jet pilot did when he used a less than optimal pattern entry.

We just disagree by degree. It's not black and white.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 2:47 PM    Report this comment


The mic on your ICOM is definitely not noise canceling. Get a headset adapter for the ICOM and use a David Clark or similar headset that has a noise canceling mic on it and you will see a huge reduction in the noise level in the transmitted audio.

Posted by: WILLIAM HEMME | May 6, 2010 2:48 PM    Report this comment

If we are really concerned about safety, how about painting our aircraft a hue that is easily seen instead of the white that blends in with the clouds and all the white houses. And yes, I know all about plastic airplanes and paint. We could also require strobe lights on all aircraft and high intensity discharge landing and taxi lights in the wigwag mode. I believe it mentions something about lights in the AIM’s.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 6, 2010 3:05 PM    Report this comment

Bill--am using a DC headset with the headset adapter and the external antenna.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 6, 2010 3:49 PM    Report this comment

I like Cary's and Josh's comments. When were the guidelines written - when everything in the pattern was at 50 to 80 knots? I don't understand how anyone would expect a jet to follow a single-engine trainer. Just like we wave someone into the traffic lane during rush hour, we need to adjust and make room for big and fast arriving aircraft.

Posted by: Warren Webb Jr | May 6, 2010 3:56 PM    Report this comment

Paul was right in leaving the traffic pattern and letting the jet in.
I find that being courteous (which seems to be in short supply) is more important than being boorish. Another person’s ill behavior does not give me license to be obnoxious.

I try to teach my students that there is no place for road rage while flying. Give way, and let the others have their way, and it really is mind over matter. I do not mind and they do not matter. At least I live to fly another day. Of course, none of us has done something unintentional that appeared to be rude to others. As for those who are boorish and arrogant, they are self-made and there is nothing that anyone can say to them will change their behavior.

One thing that doctors have found that is common to those who live to be 100 years plus, is they all have type B personalities.

I am sure Paul will take all of your suggestions under advisement and see what he can do to fix his radio. We have enough rules and regulations as it is, and if you do not like someone flying around without a radio then petition the FAA to change the regulation. As long as the regulation is like it is, we have to live with it and its short comings. It is not a perfect world and if it were, none of us would be welcome.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 6, 2010 4:50 PM    Report this comment

I learned to fly long enough ago that radios were unreliable, and as a raw private pilot I'd get all worried that nobody could hear my 30-minute position reports in the mountains. Years later, when I bought a share in a plane with zero electrical system (apart from two mag switches) the flying became much more relaxed, although flights into controlled airspace required landing somewhere short and phoning ahead. When our home airfield went radio mandatory we used a handheld with a range approximately to the wingtips, which sort of kept us legal.

I still spend some of my airborne time with pilots comfortable with NORDO, and one of them recently recounted the story of having to do a BFR in a spamcan because no local instructor was rated in his Tiger Moth. Said instructor, when another aircraft appeared unexpectedly, said, "I didn't hear him!" which says something about using the radio as a crutch. I'm all for relaxed flying in appropriate circumstances.

Posted by: JOHN KING | May 6, 2010 4:51 PM    Report this comment

Paul - sounds fair enough to me. I do think there's some middle ground here and in your case shared responsibility between you and the jet pilot. Our responsibility is to all come home alive. We might have to get out of the way save some jet pilot's bacon who wasn't paying attention, and we can only hope that he or she returns the favor some day. Made for a good discussion and there were valid points from all involved.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 6, 2010 6:17 PM    Report this comment

I fly out of a towered airport and often use an untowered airport for touch and goes. I have been taught to fly my pattern, keep my head on a swivel and listen, listen, listen. It seems to work well here. There will always be pilots of high performance a/c who are inconsiderate. When I was sailing we called it the big boat, little boat rule. Fly the a/c, navigate, communicate.


Posted by: Donald Dinwiddie | May 6, 2010 7:14 PM    Report this comment

Well said on all counts Josh Johnson.

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 6, 2010 7:31 PM    Report this comment

Shame on Josh J and Mike Wills for trashing Paul, when Paul is 100% right on the money. Donald is right: "There will always be pilots of high performance a/c who are inconsiderate." One such inconsiderate pilot (without ever seeing me) decided (while flaring) to go around, and missed my AC on landing rollout by just 3 feet (according to many witnesses). After the fact, he chastised me for not making position reports, even though I pointed out to him that I had made position reports. Truth is: others heard and understood my position reports. Question: What good do position reports do when some inconsiderate pilots don't even tune to the CTAF until on short final?

But enough about NORDO. Paul’s suggestion, that one not fly a straight-in approach to a non-towered airport when the sun is in your eyes, is a perfectly reasonable suggestion we can all adopt.

I’m frankly fed up with all the bigotry and class warfare. Instead of requiring radios in all aircraft, I suggest that we restrict pilots, who are unable (high-performance biplanes) and/or who are otherwise unwilling to see and avoid, to class B and C airports only.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | May 7, 2010 12:13 PM    Report this comment

There also are inconsiderate pilots (I admittedly was hard on Paul) who since it is legal to operate without radios will do so in situations where it may not be appropriate, e.g., an airport with lots of mixed traffic. Even a Bonanza and a Cub can make for an interesting and potentially deadly mix if someone is not paying attention. In Europe there is an answer to the class warfare - you are not allowed to operate a small aircraft into busy airspace, period. It isn't going to go the other way, either. Do you really think that all the arguments that AOPA, EAA, and other groups are making that GA supports the economy really applies to your Piper Cub or Cessna 140 that is only flown for an occasional $100 hamburger. Like it or not, the reason we have public use airports is to support business, industry, and public safety - not so much for recreation. Those of us who fly for enjoyment are simply the beneficiaries of the business activity - so I'd really think twice about telling off a business or corporate aircraft. You restrict high performance aircraft to B & C airports, you'll be soon seeing your local airport close!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 7, 2010 12:40 PM    Report this comment

Keep in mind that the disparity in speed between aircraft in the pattern is nowhere near as great as this discussion makes it out to be. A Cessna Sovereign can have ref speeds of under 100kts. A J3 is capable of flying the pattern 65kts. It really is up to the pilot to operate the aircraft in a safe manner for any given situation. Timely, accurate position reports are a good idea, they help see and avoid. Frantic, repeated or inaccurate reports hinder the process and increase stress needlessly. The radio is just one tool in a pilots tool bag, it is important to use and understand them all. However, in VMC conditions, see and avoid is the prime objective. Anything that detracts or distracts from that task should be limited. In simple terms don't let the radio get you behind the airplane.

Posted by: Paul Tollini | May 7, 2010 5:01 PM    Report this comment

I think some practice operating aircraft at non-standard pattern airspeeds is a great idea. I like to expose student pilots to operations at a large airport. One night when flying a Cessna 150 into IND, we timed it badly and ended up arriving during the nighly Fedex push. We were able to give the controller 120kts on our descent till a 3 mile final and make the first turnoff which prevented causing sequencing problems with the heavy freighters. The controller was quite surprised and thanked us for making his job easier. On a side note, if you live near a night-freight operation, ask if you can ride along with them sometime. You will likely have to sign a liability waiver, which seems fair to me. Often, especially in the light twin operations, they are flown single pilot and some of the pilots enjoy some company. Sitting in the cockpit with the guys flying every night will give a new appreciation for the other side of things when you're out flying the pattern.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 7, 2010 5:35 PM    Report this comment

I think some practice operating aircraft at non-standard pattern airspeeds is a great idea. I like to expose student pilots to operations at a large airport. One night when flying a Cessna 150 into IND, we timed it badly and ended up arriving during the nighly Fedex push. We were able to give the controller 120kts on our descent till a 3 mile final and make the first turnoff which prevented causing sequencing problems with the heavy freighters. The controller was quite surprised and thanked us for making his job easier. On a side note, if you live near a night-freight operation, ask if you can ride along with them sometime. You will likely have to sign a liability waiver, which seems fair to me. Often, especially in the light twin operations, they are flown single pilot and some of the pilots enjoy some company. Sitting in the cockpit with the guys flying every night will give a new appreciation for the other side of things when you're out flying the pattern.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 7, 2010 5:45 PM    Report this comment

Let me join in the chorus singing: Paul, fix your handheld radio antenna setup. I fly a Champ with a handheld Icom A22, using an external antenna and headset, from a grass strip. I can converse clearly with with other aircraft 20+ miles away.

Posted by: JEAN F REAT | May 7, 2010 11:01 PM    Report this comment

The radio in your cub doesn't transmit: 1x hole

The jet pilot doesn't make the correct broadcasts: 2 x holes.

The jet pilot can't see, due sun: 3x holes.

The jet pilot is still determined to join a long base: 4 x holes.

The heli pilot is broadcasting that he's at another airport (!): 5 x holes.

The jet's TCAS doesn't work with ragwings: 6x holes.

Cub pilot decides to vacate the circuit to allow jet to land: hole closed.

Almost all the holes in the cheese lined up in this event. Only the actions of one pilot saved this from being much worse. It doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong. If all the defences (holes in the cheese) are breached, then an accident will result.

If you don't know what the heck I am talking about - Google for 'reason model'.

Posted by: Darren Edwards | May 8, 2010 1:25 AM    Report this comment

Only the actions of one pilot saved this from being much worse.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 8, 2010 4:59 AM    Report this comment

"I am satisfied that a NORDO aircraft can operate with acceptable risk in a low-traffic, mixed use pattern."

Hehehe. I agree Paul! During my first solo, I found myself in the pattern, in a C150, at a non-towered airfield, with a 737.

Also agree about risk assesment. How could I have missed the fundamental risk in this story?! After all, that's what you wrote about isn't it (see the title)? If the players also chose to not participate in see-and-avoid, then the only thing left to prevent an accident is pure chance. Ie: the big sky theory.

Proper see-and-avoid technique manages the risk of a midair - to an acceptable level - in non-controlled airspace.

Posted by: Darren Edwards | May 8, 2010 12:00 PM    Report this comment

Josh! Shame again! I never said high performance aircraft should be restricted. I said perhaps we should restrict pilots, who are unable and/or who are otherwise unwilling to see and avoid, to class B and C airports only.

Yes, I know where the money comes from. I also know Airport Development Grants require access to ALL categories of aircraft. BizJets don't own the skies. Get a life!

Banning recreational flying is NOT the answer. Neither is the darned RADIO. A spirit of cooperation is the answer, even if it is wishful thinking.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | May 8, 2010 5:59 PM    Report this comment

Bruce, now how on earth do you exactly plan on banning pilots, not aircraft from certain airports! You might understand the AIP concept, but are ignorant of politics. And yes, I think you'll find in the political game the food chain goes like this, airlines, business flights (how do you think the politicians get around), commercial GA, and then recreational flying. Don't believe me, fly into a large airport and see if the FBO gives a rip that you're there - some do, most don't. Try the same thing at a board meeting - most of these I've been to consist of extending the runway - I doubt for your local flying club. I think not biting the hand that feeds you would be very wise.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 8, 2010 6:31 PM    Report this comment

It's easy, Josh! You give your tail number in Class E and say "any traffic please advise" on the radio: BUSTED. You have human bug-splat on your leading edges and you tell the FAA "I didn't hear anyone": BUSTED. You have a problem being rational when the threat is against your style of piloting.

You know nothing about what I'm ignorant about. You're merely being obnoxious and judgmental because you think you have more hours than me, and you think that makes it OK.

I'm not biting anyone's hand. I think not being a flaming bully would be very wise.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | May 8, 2010 7:44 PM    Report this comment

Bruce, I think you are taking this from a rational discussion into a personal grudge match. Sorry, play that with someone else.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 8, 2010 8:25 PM    Report this comment

Guys, let's turn the thermostat down a little, please.


Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 9, 2010 12:26 PM    Report this comment

I learned to fly in radio-less planes and later would fly my 210 with full flaps in the pattern of a sport-plane airport so I'd fit in better. That said, I see no good reason for any plane to operate without a fully-working comm radio to announce its position (and of course listen to others announce theirs), and I'm one who thinks that should be in the regs. The cost is minimal compared to other costs of flying and I see no reason that it would be a "pity". Can't transmit? Get it fixed.

Posted by: Malcolm Ruthven | May 10, 2010 7:03 AM    Report this comment

I'm a new pilot (less than 200 hours) flying frequently out of an uncontrolled airport that has several NORDO pilots. (Notice, I didn't say "NORDO aircraft".) I don't understand (a) why they can't purchase a hand-held, (b) want to risk themselves and passengers by flying NORDO, and (c) think it's okay to endanger me with their silence. Paul, I found the logic of blaming your radio silence on the ICOM output illogical and unacceptable. Who cares if the distant pilot didn't follow the AIM, or made calls from to far out, or used a 13 mile base? He was trying to fly safely and benefit both you and himself; and, you ignored him. I have two suggestions. First, fix whatever in your airplane keeps you from using your radio. Second, talk with the pilot on the apron, in the FBO, or in the air (with your radio!) to help him become a better pilot. As a new pilot, I'm in a very steep learning curve. That's the treatment that I'd want if you had been writing about me.

Posted by: Ellie Jo | May 10, 2010 10:26 AM    Report this comment

First, let me gently correct you: I didn't blame the pilot in the Embraer. I merely pointed out that he had an option to reconfigure his approach to a standard pattern that would have given him down sun visibility. That is the salient point, not blaming anyone.

I'm not in the habit of lecturing other pilots on the frequency and unless our paths crossed, I wouldn't hunt him down to make the suggestion. It takes great diplomacy to pull that off and, frankly, I'm not very good at it, as you can plainly see. I wrote about it merely as a discussion point.

Your comments on the radio are noted. But the larger issue you need to keep in mind is that you will encounter NORDO aircraft if you fly little airports much. They will be NORDO for various reasons and you can huff all you want about that, but it won't change it.

What will change the equation is if you rely on intensive see and avoid, as I do. If you ever find yourself saying "but I didn't hear that traffic," you may not be paying attention.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 10, 2010 10:53 AM    Report this comment

From my perspective, the discussion misses the point to the extent that it centers on whether he or anyone else should fly with or without a working transceiver. Under optimal conditions (engine off, on the ground), my transceiver works just fine. In the windy environment of my open cockpit, not so much, which leaves me only somewhat better off than Paul. But anyone with a perfectly working radio has likely encountered situations very similar to the one he described by simply substituting his no com capability with stepped on calls, forgotten calls, inaccurate calls, calls of students working hard to corral both an aircraft and the English language, etc. What I took from Paul's post is a reminder to assume imperfect or nonexistent radio communication in making decisions about how to conduct operations at uncontrolled airports.

Posted by: Robert Davison | May 10, 2010 11:22 AM    Report this comment

I like Paul's approach in a rural area with lots of little airports close together on the same unicom freq. Add several nervous norvis pilots reporting every foot of progress around the pattern and it becomes one huge commjam event. In such an environment one might get a clue and minimize radio calls but no, hearing the squeal seems to increase the urge to squeeze the mike button. I'm sure it's my military upbringing where we trained for a jammer blocking us, but less is more and none is nirvana. I do however ask that owners install and turn on a decent strobe system for day use and turn on the landing light so I can see you and do some wing rock if I say I'm looking for you. That really seems to help.

For those obliged to use the radio how about making the calls useful? I don't care that you are at WIDGET inbound because I don't know where it is. How about a cardinal bearing from the airport and - since I don't know your ground speed - how much time it will take as displayed on your GPS? A call like "Allegan Cessna 5 west straight in to 9 be there in two minutes full stop taxiback Allegan' is useful and allows me to plan for you're arrival. Such consideration might put me in the mood to let you know that that will be a tailwind landing into a herd of deer at the east end with the rising sun in your eyes. Your call.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 10, 2010 11:40 AM    Report this comment

As pilots we would all be better off if we could just look out and listen up. Remember, most radios have two functions, transmit and receive. Tune in CTAF early and LISTEN for a while before you transmit. Keep your transmissions brief. Only what's necessary, your position and your intentions. Then shut off the "fish finder" and all the other fancy electronic gadgetry, look out the window and listen up. I'm sure you're proud of all that technology you wrote that big check for. Personally, I'll take my 50 year old eyes and ears over anything you got in your panel.

Now, for some reason a lot of pilots like to hear themselves talk. The problem is you're ruining it for Paul and me. If you want to sound like a real amateur, say "traffic in the area please advize." This little phrase seems to make some pilots feel really important but all it does is contribute to frequency congestion.

When my students start getting a little long winded I like to say, "shut up and fly".

Take care . . . Rick G.

Posted by: Rick G. | May 10, 2010 11:58 AM    Report this comment

My standard answer for "any traffic in the area please advise" is "Only the guys with no radios". It's seems to get the point across.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | May 10, 2010 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I'll also add that there's all kinds of nordo traffic in addition to the rag wingers and ultra lights. Transmitting on the wrong frequency or wrong radio is potentially more dangerous than not having a radio at all. I've made position reports on the pilot controlled lighting freq a time or 2 after switching radios to light the airport up on an approach.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | May 10, 2010 12:07 PM    Report this comment

Bruce L, not at all clear to me what your problem is with Josh's input or my concurrence? So to clarify my position:
1) Use (or non-use) of a radio does not abdicate a pilot of the responsibility to use his eyes.
2) If the Embrear pilot was really concerned about the NORDO Cub he should have flown a standard pattern.
3) Paul made the safe call, temporarily exiting the pattern.
3) None of the above changes my opinion that given the relatively low cost, these days there isnt a valid excuse for operating NORDO.
Paul points out in his blog that the toher pilot made a conscious choice to fly a non-standard pattern in spite of his apparent discomfort. But Paul also made a choice to fly NORDO.

Its difficult to influence others behaviors (i.e. proper radio etiquette, standard patterns, etc...) but each individual has complete control over their own performance. Installation and proper use of a radio is relatively easy and not overly burdensome. I cant think of a single justifiable excuse for not having one not only for your own situational awareness as well as that of other pilots operating around you. So far the only excuse I have heard here is, "I dont have to and you cant make me". Not a reasonable excuse in my book.

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 10, 2010 2:23 PM    Report this comment

Mike, your first three clarified points are just fine. If you regulate that tens of thousands of NORDO aircraft get radios, and that pilots use them, for the sake of the few hundreds of instrument-fixated jet-jocks who occasionally visit non-towered airports, then these cocky high-time egotistical types will come to rely even more on what they hear, instead of what they could see just by looking outside. It's the tail wagging the dog. As already pointed out, radios fail, batteries fail, generators fail, people fail, get wrong freq., etc. Little airports are no place to fly with your eyes closed! Having been almost hit by someone, even WHEN I USED THE RADIO, yes I feel very strongly. Sure, use a radio if you have one, and can do so without saturating the frequency. But, never ever rely on the radio!

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | May 10, 2010 4:57 PM    Report this comment

Tens of thousands??? Where?

You miss the point. I thought I was very clear. Do not rely on a radio. The eyeball is the primary tool in a VFR environment.

But a radio is a very useful tool in aiding situational awareness, both your own and everyone else's around you. Are you honestly saying that you and everyone else would be better off without radios because then nobody would use them as a crutch?

I've seen a number of comments here including yours with examples given of collisions that almost happened in spite of (or because of) radio usage. I'd be willing to bet that the converse is actually the more prevalent case. That is a pilot (NORDO or not) entering the pattern, scanning, and failing to see the other guy who was there, and being surprised when the other guy piped up and announced his position on the radio. Of course you'd never know about him because you never saw him and obstinately refused to take advantage of all the tools available to you.

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 10, 2010 5:17 PM    Report this comment

Amen Mike! Just to set the record straight - I am in no way stating that corporate pilots do not have the responsibility to see and avoid. The point I do want to make is that the operation of high performance aircraft in the trafffic pattern is a little different from a light single engine aircraft (speeds are different, transition from IFR to VFR environment, larger traffic pattern, etc) and that operations of high performance and jet aircraft definitely seem to be increasing at uncontrolled fields - especially around my local airport. I get the feeling that there are those in this blog that are taking the attitude "It's my right to fly without a radio, so damn the consequences I'm going to do it! - It's that stupid part 141 school trained jet jock's fault if he hits me!" I'd ask you to re-think this. Obviously, the radio is just a part in the safety equation, but I'm afraid that failing to use it might be unforgivable in the eyes of the public and result in more regulation if a major accident occurs because of a cub without a radio. We've already lost enough freedoms to fly this last decade - there ain't no NORDO in the ADIZ. (For the record, I haven't flown professionally for a few years, and most of my flights are in a 172 for pleasure - I'd like to keep it that way!)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 10, 2010 6:40 PM    Report this comment

Also, I don't think anyone is proposing mandating the install of radios in aircraft. I just think you are being a good, responsible, safety conscious pilot by using one voluntarily where traffic conditions merit it (in my opinion - probably not the local grass strip, but a good idea at the local 4000 or 5000 ft municipal airport)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 10, 2010 6:58 PM    Report this comment

My input is probably a bit biased by where I fly. Not a lot of grass strips in SoCal and on a decent weather weekend there can be quite a bit of traffic pretty much everywhere. I'm not a big fan of mandating anything to anyone, but in this environment I think it borders on irresponsible to operate without a radio. If cost were an argument maybe I could see it, but in a world where gas is over $4 and a decent Cub is over $35K, you can buy a radio for around $1000 (cheaper still if you go with a handheld). I simply dont see any excuse other than the one you pointed out - it's my right....

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 10, 2010 7:11 PM    Report this comment

I actually was quite surprised at what happens without a transponder. A couple of years ago my old Narco AT-50 died on me and I went a month or so without it. After a number of near-misses by other traffic I decided to have it replaced, and, almost magically the traffic disappeared. I know it was everyone's responsibility to see and avoid, and it needs emphasized, but just ain't happening - especially when the other guy is IFR, squawking and talking to ATC. Again, I don't want to mandate transponders either, it's just an observation.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 11, 2010 5:59 AM    Report this comment

I think that if you choose to fly without a radio, then you are the odd man out in the pattern. It is legal, and can be safe, but you need to be aware that regardless of regulations or AIM procedures it is more up to you, as the odd man out, to make it safe.
I agree that"traffic please advise" is finger nails on the chalkborard. However, it is not typically practical for the jet guys to listen to 122.8 from 15 or 20 miles out because they are typically high enough to hear traffic calls from every non towered airport in a 150 mile radius. Try picking out traffic calls from your destination in all that mess while still listening to ATC and working through checklists. It is not practical. It sounds to me like the jet pilot had concern in his voice because there was a risk in the pattern that he was having a hard time mitigating. What was the situation outside the bubble of the pattern? Was there someone showing up on the TCAS in the way of the pattern that you think he should have flown? Did ATC have him on some kind of restriction like flying to a final approach fix because he could not see the airport due to the sun? I don't think that we have the information to judge the jet pilot as incompitent in the traffic pattern just because he did not fly extra pattern legs in a $2000/hr airplane. I bet he learned to fly in a Cessna or Piper at a non towered airport too.

Posted by: Barrett Roessler | May 15, 2010 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Interesting set of comments and points of view. I have noted pilots who were antsy and even terrified in a nontowered environment, and pilots who dread flying in Class C or B airspace. It depends on what you're used to, and the way you overcome the nervousness is to familiarize yourself with the "foreign" environment. Neither the stouthearted Cub wrangler nor the scientific jet autopilot-twiddler is a different species of human being, they just have different experiences (at least, currently. You'd be surprised how many Cub drivers had 12,000 hours and they didn't get it all going 65 kts with the door open).

You know, the first time I flew into the DC ADIZ/FRZ environment I was not comfortable with it, so I used the resources available to get smart on it. Same thing anyone can do in an airspace/airfield environment that's not their norm.

There's also a local or regional bias in effect here. I see some of the commenters seem to think that flying in their area is what's "normal," and it is -- for them. There are places in this country where you hop from one place to another under one Class B veil or another (the Northeast Corridor, SoCal) and places where you can go 300 nm in any direction without having to talk to anybody -- or having anybody to talk to. Horses for courses.

Paul's original post was thoughtful and moderate, IMHO. Seems to have animated a lot of would-be air traffic mall cops. Let go of your inner junior policeman and read what he actually said!

Posted by: KEVIN O'BRIEN | May 20, 2010 12:06 PM    Report this comment

Hello Kevin,

Well said, and a big AMEN to your posting!!

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 20, 2010 12:50 PM    Report this comment

I dont really see where comfort with a given environment is relevant here. Yes some of us fly in higher traffic environments than others. So what?

The point is that a radio can be a valuable situational awareness tool. Not the only tool, and not the primary tool, but a valuable tool none the less.

So what's the valid excuse for not having one and using it properly for your benefit as well as everyone else around you?

I took your advice and went back and re-read Paul's original post. Paul's opening point was that there are those pilot's who "get" small airports and those who dont. This definition implies that if you dont "get" NORDO operations then you get lumped in with the group that doesnt "get" small airports. I dont "get" that attitude. I fly into a lot of small airports in both my plane and my glider. I watch for traffic. And I announce on the radio at uncontrolled airports for my own benefit and that of other pilots in the area. To me its common sense. I dont "get" why anyone would choose to ignore a useful situational awareness tool.

Posted by: Mike Wills | May 20, 2010 1:39 PM    Report this comment

The subject has been beaten to death. I think everyone would agree a radio is the best answer. The fact remains; law does not require it. As I said before, with all do respect, if you do not like it then petition the FAA to change the regulation. People do things that I consider foolhardy, but I do not get my shorts in a bunch or set fire to my hair. I wish everyone would try to comply with the AIM’s recommendation on how to enter a traffic pattern or depart a traffic pattern for a multitude of reasons. I know it aren’t never a gona happen so I live with it. The most dangerous people are the ones you trust the most. Therefore, I have the attitude everyone is out to kill me, be it driving or flying and therefore I drive and fly defensively. I have been doing this for over 50 years and there is not one continent that I have not flown over or on other than the Antarctic.

I would like to see the statistics on midair collisions. I wonder how many iterations there have been between none radio equipped aircraft. I bet I would be hard pressed to find one or two in the last ten years.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 20, 2010 2:38 PM    Report this comment

One last comment – Every man is right in his own eyes.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 20, 2010 2:50 PM    Report this comment

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