Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Getting Lost, Part 2

Continued from yesterday...

Another thing that pleases me from both a piloting standpoint, but especially from an ATC standpoint, is just how many low-time pilots who do get themselves in such bad spots, such as becoming lost, are smart enough to know who to call. Or in fact, smart enough to call anyone. Sometimes "bravery" (in quotes for a reason) overrules a man's brain and he calls nobody, hoping that he can get himself out of a bind without having to ask for directions. But most lost pilots I've dealt with as a controller, or simply heard or read about, were willing to call someone and ask for help. An FSS or FIC, a control tower, or a terminal control unit or ACC. The latter two are probably the best resource, since radar can go a long way to help find you and direct you home.

Maybe my groundschool was limited in this regard, but during my disorientation story from yesterday, the thought of calling someone didn't even cross my mind. Even if it did, I honestly believe at the time that I would have had no idea who to call. I was never introduced to an IFR ATC unit. I hope I would have been smart enough to call someone if I needed help, but I honestly don't know. In my experience, the lost VFR pilots have called an FIC, who either sent the aircraft to me on the ACC frequency, or have tried to relay messages from me (since I don't have frequencies useable in all areas that an FIC may have). Most have called the ACC directly, which means they must have been taught something I wasn't. I pay a lot of attention in class, and I missed this element of how to find the right someone to call for help. And I'm no stranger to asking for or accepting help. My biggest fear is not needing help, but not knowing who to turn to when it's needed.

Anyway, it seems pilots are better trained these days, being given better direction than I was on where to look for information on getting help, and who to talk to. Thank goodness, too, since I've seen at least 6 incidents that could have turned out very different, possibly pretty ugly, if the pilots didn't call for some navigation assistance. Not to mention the others that would have resolved themselves, probably in a reasonable fashion. And that's just my experience alone.

Would you know who to call if you were to get lost? Would you know where to find their contact information, be it a radio frequency or telephone number? This really should be part of the basics, if it isn't already.