Aviation In Canada

Thursday, January 13, 2005

IFR and Visual Passage

You're cruising along and want to get lower. When asked, ATC says "traffic 12 o'clock, 10 NM, opposite direction Dash 8 1,000 feet below. Expect lower once you pass." With radar, it's not all that inefficient, since as soon as we can see black screen between your targets, we can drop you. Non-radar (mind you, the traffic statement above would have been different, since he can't point out the traffic to you without radar) visual passage can be quite the help, since ATC has to prove you have passed with position reports. There is one key to using this effectively, though, from a pilotting perspective -- the pilot in your opposing aircraft.

To use this, both pilots have to report visual passage. More often than not, one pilot is keener than the other, and reports passage (often in advance of the passage itself). As ATC, I normally wait for a few seconds, hoping the other pilot reports same. By the time I were to ask the other pilot to confirm it, passage has taken place on radar and there would be little point. Non-radar, it can be much quicker to have both call, so I will solicit a passage report in that situation. "Aicraft123, a Dash 8 just reported passing you 1,000 feet above. Did you see him go by?"

So if you ever find yourself in a situation trying to use it, and ATC doesn't seem to act on your call, it may not be because he doesn't trust you -- he may be waiting for the other guy to make the same report.