Question for pilots from Center ATC...long!

Recently, there was an accident with fatalities due to icing…NTSB investigated, ATC not a causal factor.

The situation: an a/c was cleared for an approach to “ABC” airport and on the approach advised he was picking up a little icing, but did not indicate that it would be a problem on the approach…Moments later the a/c reported missed approach, and said that he had picked up icing on the approach…ATC asked pilot to state his intentions…the a/c advised he would like to proceed to “BCD” airport. ATC specialist cleared the a/c to requested airport, and climbed a/c to 5,000. The a/c read back clearance limit, and then moments later advised he would not be able to climb due to icing, and asked to level at 4,500. ATC cleared a/c to maintain 4,500 and coordinated with the next controller (non-cardinal IFR altitude). ATC also searched for warmer conditions. The a/c then asked to land at yet another airport close by…new coordination made with receiving controller (approach control) and ATC was advised by approach control that they would just watch the a/c go into the new destination (as this airport was just a few miles inside their airspace.)

Initially the a/c was cleared to cross the NDB AOA the MIA, but the approach controller advised the center ATC that they usually just cleared the a/c to cruise…a/c was then cleared to cruise…A/C ultimately ended up crashing beyond the runway, with 2 fatalities, and 2 survivors.

My question is this: As pilots you are trained to handle/simulate emergencies as part of your training…As ATC, we are taught and have basic simulation problems and ongoing computer based instruction (CBI) about emergencies, icing, turbulence…you name it, but are constricted by a strict set of rules as to what we can and can’t say/do beyond a certain point…Let’s say everything was done correctly by the controller to the point of approach clearance…in an emergent situation, what other information, suggested headings, inbound course information, etc…would you want? Nothing was mentioned about the Minimum safe altitude in the area, and most of the obstructions on the approach plate were west of the airport (the direction from which the aircraft were approaching.) Knowing that an a/c with icing is limited in maneuverability, control surfaces affected and all…what do you think could help?

I was not involved with this, but had a similar situation with a single engine a/c (non-dme) losing his engine (local weather within 100 miles at 500 ovc) and somehow managed to get him to a local airport after losing him on radar at 3,000…using radials off the VOR serving the airport. Ultimately based on radial position reports, I determined he was very close to the VOR (within 2-3 miles), he was losing altitude quickly, then I got a report over the VOR, (he finally broke out, and got the airport in sight, and barely crossed the threshold.)

Though my situation ended happily, I am not a pilot, and I am always wondering what else might I do in these situations, as sometimes we are left feeling helpless as to what else we can do. I am trying to get some type of training scenario set up, so we can do what-ifs, beyond what we are allowed to do by the “book”. Thanks for reading…and look forward to your responses.

18 year controller…Memphis ARTCC

If you can, I would find it helpful to know:
the MSA in the area

Dist. to the airport counted down

freq for approaches

PAR/ASR would be nice

alt airport suggestions

WX at airport

if it’s REALLY bad and you know the area (a center controller has a disadvantage here) but a good straight road

I’m sure I could come up with a few more, but I would like all those unprompted too. I know there are pilots out there that would rather not recieve all that info, but I would like it.

I’ve always been taught to climb if you incounter icing (assuming temp at the serface is below 32F) b/c you’ll have a longer glide (if you still have lift), you may break out, it might get to cold for ice. So unristricted climb would be nice too.

Ice has only scared the BEEP out of me once. I was over top of an airport with a VOR on the field. It had a VOR 6 and VOR 24. I was heading SE anyway so I requested and was cleared for a full procedure VOR 6. As I was flying the approach (scared out of my mind) I realized the FAA had published all the number 180 off. After I landed I looked again and saw I pulled the VOR 24 plate. I can see the report now, ice didn’t kill him. Not being able to read did.

Welcome to FA, PLEASE stick around I’ll have lots of questions for you.

ie what’s the proper phraseology when clearing an a/c onto an ARC and how to you phrase the expected approach? “N1234 fly hdg 180 vectors for the VOR/DME 27 10DME arc.” I’m a sim instructor and always stumble over that one.


Thanks for your response…Mostly as expected…I failed to mention, that a higher altitude was offered to the a/c with icing, but a/c advised he could not climb. Unfortunately, at least in my area of the country, oftentimes our radar coverage is iffy below 3,000 so mileage countdown is only good to a certain point, once radar is gone, we can only base it on last known position, and estimate the remaining time and distance…as far as par/asr we don’t have this as a tool…approach controllers maybe, centers no.

As for vectors for an arc…once an a/c has advised me of his request to join a dme arc…which I think will be a thing of the past with the new GPS approaches and the TAAs, which I really like, except for the unpronouncable fixes (Can I buy a vowel here?)

…I advise “N1234, roger, expect VOR/DME RWY 23 approach ABC airport, fly present heading (insert appropriate heading here…ensuring a/c intercepts between whatever radials are depicted on the approach) join the 1-0 DME ARC Southeast ABC VOR, report established.” Or if everything is setup already, and no other traffic, after I tell aircraft to fly the heading, “fly present heading, maintain at or above 3,000 until established on the 1-0 dme arc, cleared VOR/DME RWY 23 approach ABC airport.” I will then have a/c report established on the approach, scan for any known traffic, once a/c is established on approach, I will terminate radar, advise a/c “change to advisory frequency approved, report arrival time or cancelllation on this frequency if able, if unable through FSS.”

Hope this helps!

In looking at your phraseology…another acceptable phraseology could be… (if only one vor/dme arc approach published) “Lr123 fly heading 1-8-0, expect to join the 1-0 DME ARC North of the ABC VOR.”

If two approaches exist with arc, then I would specify the approach name with runway.

Once I clear a/c for the approach…I state the full approach name.

Thanks for the reply, at least I was close. I’ve no problem with the other approaches (expect clearances), but was never sure with the arcs.

How often are you clearing crew via the TAA? I can see the value and purpose in non radar , but over most of the lower 48? I agree that it’s the wave of the future and there is beauty in simplicity.

GPS approaches are faily new to us…and we are still learning…as to non-radar vs. radar…there are many centers where controllers never clear an a/c into or out of an uncontrolled airport, due to airspace design, and a lot of tower-enroute (approach control abutting approach control) airspace. Some center controllers have never worked an a/c below 15,000.

Here, I work the state of Arkansas, and we have quite a bit of airspace between approach controls, and our low-altitude airpsace is from the ground to FL230 (which means we clear a/c in/out of uncontrolled airports.) Due to terrain, and a radar mosaic (multiple radar sites blended together to form one radar), our coverage is only good to a certain point, depending on the airport location. This is also why centers use 5 miles separation vs. 3 miles in approach control (which uses a single radar…usually on site).

As far as clearing an aircraft for a GPS via the TAA, I would have to ensure that the aircraft does not intercept/join the approach with greater than 90 degree angle, then I could clear the aircraft to either 1) maintain at or above (insert altitude here) until the “unpronounceable IAF” :wink: cleared Gps18…or I could say (if a TAA was depicted on the approach) 2) maintain at or above (altitude) until the “unpronouncable” TAA, cleared GPS18 approach.

To my knowledge, this can be done with or without radar.

My question is this: Why are you leaving out details like airports and registration and aircraft type? Accident reports are public records so why are you hiding the details?

By “ATC not a casual factor,” do you mean that ATC had a lot of responsibility for the accident or had no responsibility?

I’m guessing MemphisATC is referring to this flight. The preliminary NTSB report for the N55MB accident is available here.

dcgreene is correct…and damiross, I am new here until I know certain information, details and such have been released to the public, I will not give the specifics, as l have no idea if there will be legal action in the future, and specifically because I was not involved with the flight and may not have every bit of information myself, to be honest, I did not look up the tail number or type a/c.

If I typed casual, forgive me…I meant CAUSAL. (reminder to self, be careful when typing after just climbing out of bed :blush: )

From what I was “told”, (hearsay), the NTSB initial examination (still ongoing I’m sure) indicated that the ATC(s) involved were not at fault.

Hope this satisfies your inquiries.

You don’t have to apologize, he knew what you meant, he’s jus being an ass.

I thought you meant ATC had a casual (i.e. minor) cause for the accident.

For your information, all civilian accidents/incidents are on the public
record. In fact, the FAA lists them as soon as one day after they happen:

Hee hee hee. Don’t scare the new neighbor. He has some nice tools I’d like to borrow sometime.

Heh heh! He said “tools”…cool…Heh heh! :laughing:

Don’t know about borrowing them though! :astonished:

Quick! Grab your women folk and children and run, do not walk, to the nearest air raid shelter! We have a Beavis and Butthead fan here!

MemphisATC welcome to these forums. I look forward to hearing your take on things beyond this one issue.

For other pilots, go visit your local tower and get to know the good people who work there. If you are a frequent flier, associating a friendly face and voice can work two ways. Also, try to visit your approach and center facilities. Beyond the personal aspect you gain a new appreciation for what all happens on the other end of your radio.

Welcome aboard MemphisATC.

Apologize for the tone Damiross set for you… That reply is not the norm for this great forum we have here.

Now, answering your question… In my training (both VFR and IA training) I was taught and simulated engine failure emergencies.

My VFR flight trainer, his job was to avoid clouds all together, so in that training, should I have found myself in IMC, I was tought how to do a 180.

Icing emergencies to be honest would probably be limited to simulators at best due to the severity of risk to life and limb, and having never been in a simulator myself, not so sure if this can be done or not.

Two things pounded in my head by my instrument instructor was never fly into thunderstorms and avoid icing at all costs.

I once found my self in an icing situation, but I was skimming the cloud tops. I recognized a problem when I had to sneak in some power to maintain level flight. I reported to Indy center I was picking up light ice and requested to climg to 6500 feet. It was promptly approved.

I remained that altitude and reported to center the ice subliminated off and I would like to remain that altitude to remain in VMC conditions. Further down the line I was asked if I could descend to the cardinal altitude of 6000 and I replied back unable, due to IMC conditions and possible icing. I just wasn’t going to take any chances. Inflight weather briefing, conditions rapidly improved so I knew I wouldn’t have to descend into the clouds for my initial approach.

What scared me a little was that inside IMC, while picking up the rime ice, I had no way of telling as my plane is white, and the icing was white. It was when I broke out in sunshine that I could see the ice on the temperature probe that I knew I had an icing situation.

Needless to say, that I hope will be the closest I ever encounter icing.

So in a nutshell, other then ground school training giving the grave danger of icing, no inflight icing lessons are given to my knowledge for private pilots.

Wow, you open a lot of varied responses on this question. :smiley:

For me, if I was in dire straits, the nearest airport would be fine for me. So I could fly the plane, and not have to fiddle with finding the nearest airport, vectors would reduce my workload significantly. ANYTHING you could think of to help me would be most welcomed!

Once I had an inflight engine failure. I was not squawking and talking and was level 3,500 feet VFR. I jumped on 121.5, declared an emergency and sqawked 7700 on my own. New Orleans approach came on after I spoke with guard and gave me a discrete transponder code. They did not make me change frequencies, and was a comforting feeling knowing I now had a second set of eyes should I have bought the farm. As it turned out, I was able to make it to the airport with no damage to the plane or my skin.

Had I not been intimately familiar with my location in relationship to when the engine failed, I would have asked for vectors to the nearest airport as fiddling with a GPS is not part of flying the plane…

Before getting my IA rating, I got caught on top. I fessed up to center (I was using the flight following services), and asked for their assistance in finding me a VFR airport. Based on the response of Center, it seem that I was treated as an emergency even though I didn’t declare one.

The airport offered was KLEX 100 NM away and I was headed to KOWB. Having been in the air for 3 1/2 hours, I didn’t want to cut into my fuel reserves and asked for a closer airport. I ended up going to Lawrencville IL, which had 3500 broken and I had to descend through the cloud deck.

Center was great throughout this whole process and asked me throughout if I was doing OK. Clouds were layered and broken, so I was never in IMC for any extended amount of time, and just as the weather reported, I broke out 3500 AGL. This incident made me go for my IA rating :smiley:

Hats off to all you ATC folks out there dealing with all you do and being there when that need is there!


Thanks Allen.

My goal is to “arm” myself, so to speak, so I am not caught in an awkward position, with nothing to offer the pilot other than whatever he asks for. I want to be confident in knowing I have enough information and knowledge that I could be of assistance, rather than just sit there and be an observer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve assisted many pilots over the years, no-gyro vectors, triangulation to find disoriented pilot on first cross-country, vectoring other a/c to find an a/c in distress when the a/c in distress was not on radar, and was unfamiliar with his surroundings/location…somehow that worked out…plus a myriad of various inflight emergencies with military, severe turbulence and what not…not to make those sound mundane, but every now and then I hear a situation, that I question myself saying…could I have handled that situation any better, would it have been worse? It is a good thing, in that it keeps me thinking about why I do this job…yeah, spacing arrivals to various airports, maintaining separation is all the required stuff, and can be quite challenging…but being able to handle these other situations defines you as a controller, I believe.

By the way, years ago, I was one of the center controllers (the other was my trainee) who worked FDX705 that was hijacked by Auburn Callaway…I always seem to have the luck!

No kidding, holy crap. We were just talking about that today at work. I read the book years ago. What an amazing story.

Along those lines, when I flew “Starcheck” we had a guy “borrow” an Aerostar and land gear up in Morgantown, WV. They brought him back to KCMH…(long story shorter)…he ended up flying with the Feds and lost his Multi, Comm, and Inst. all in one night. They put him on my a/c to fly him back to KBUF where he was based. They didn’t tell me until the next day that he was SOL. I can’t believe he didn’t go “Postal.”

The book was a little “sensationalized” by the author, but what that crew endured and managed to accomplish is incredible…The author is a writer for the Commercial Appeal newspaper here, and I honestly think he was hoping for a movie deal somewhere down the road.

I did not read the entire book, but I have read transcripts which tell me all I need to know.

I got to meet the pilots and their families at a ceremony FEDEX had for them about a year or so after the hijacking…great guys, I am so glad they survived the attacks…and I hope Auburn Calloway rots in his cell.


Have you ever been on the otherside of the mike (besides commercial)? That for sure will give you insight on what’s happening outside.

If you are near KOLV, I’d be more then happy to come up and show you what’s up on the other side of the mic. ANYTHING for an excuse to fly :smiley:

I know it was an eye opeining experience for me when I got the opportunity to tour KJAN approach 5 years ago as part of my training.

I now want to go back and put a face to the voice I talk to time over time :slight_smile: