Author Topic: Pilot deviation or controller error???  (Read 973 times)

Timothy Propst

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Pilot deviation or controller error???
« on: December 31, 2009, 02:43:08 AM »
Here's the scenario.  GA aircraft inbound to the airport IFR(Class D Tower with center providing approach control.)  Pilot says he has the airport in sight (aircraft is 8-10 miles NE of airport.)  Controller says "Maintain 3000, I have a Citation coming off (cleared to 2000) and I need to get him out of the way."  Pilot reads it back.  Less than a minute later the controller tells the GA aircraft "Enter a left downwind for runway 4"  The GA aircraft leaves 3000 descending. The citation and the GA aircraft get less than 5 miles from each other.  The FAA says it's the controllers fault.  I say it is a pilot deviation.  Can't find anything in the AIM or FAR's that covers this except where it says that an aircraft must maintain his last assigned altitude until a point where altitude information is available and the part where it says that a visual approach for IFR aircraft is an "IFR procedure conducted under IFR in VMC"  The aircraft was never cleared for a visual approach.Timothy Propst2010-01-01 00:11:21

Paul Lilly

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Pilot deviation or controller error???
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2009, 05:01:32 AM »
Hi Tim,

This is a good discussion question. Thanks for posting it.

I look at this question as if I was flying and given those clearances, in the same situation, in fact I have several times.

One thing missing from your scenario is what airspace the airport is in, and what airspace you are in at 3000 feet.

I agree in this scenario, it would be a pilot deviation. My action would have been to stay at 3000 feet, for one simple reason, the controller did not clear the pilot to leave 3000 feet. This tells me that the controller is not done with the pilot yet, and needs to keep him to insure separation.

This happens to me coming into Martin State Airport in Maryland. If I am arriving on an IFR plan in VMC from the southeast, I frequently get cleared direct to the airport from 20+ miles out, but told to maintain 3000. After reporting the airport from 12 miles out, occasionally I am still held at 3000 and direct, eventually I am overflying the class D for Martin State, then when nearly directly over the airport I am given a visual approach and handed over to the tower. One time I think I was told to enter a downwind. I know they do this because of the jet traffic coming out of Martin State that would be headed right at me as I was approaching,  I appreciate them keeping me separated. Thanks to Speed Brakes on my Bonanza, (which turns the V35B into an elevator), I have no trouble making the approach to land.

In regards to someone saying it was a controller error, I expect that comes from the controller telling the pilot to enter a downwind, which is not usually given by the controller unless he is handing him off. So that may have confused the pilot, but even so the pilot was not given a clearance to leave 3000, and he should stay there, or ask for lower.

That is how I see it, but I am sure there are many good opposing arguments too.

Thanks for the great question, and the opportunity to discuss it.

Have a Happy New Year,

Paul

 

Timothy Propst

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Pilot deviation or controller error???
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2009, 05:14:19 AM »
Thanks for your response.  Aircraft was landing in a Class D airport.  In hindsight the center controller should have issued a heading but there never was a clearance to leave 3000..

Tom Pelz

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Pilot deviation or controller error???
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2009, 08:25:58 AM »
Tim,

That circumstance has occurred to me.  I was at 4000 MSL into a landing at Lansing, Michigan.  The controller cleared me to enter the downwind to runway 27, from the West.   He did not mention that I was cleared below my prior altitude of 4000 MSL.  So, I asked him.  He said that I was to maintain 4000.   

The point is, I have found it best be be clear about any approach rather than assume something.  

On the other hand, if I am cleared for the approach, then I believe that I am cleared to descend to the appropriate altitudes listed on the approach, including procedure turns as depicted on the approach plate.  

On the other hand, if I am cleared for the visual approach then I believe that I am now free to land and do not have to follow an approach path and I am able to descend whenever I want.

Tom