Friday, October 20, 2017
Transport Canada - Aviation Safety Letter The SAC Column: What Glider Pilots Should Know to Avoid Unnecessary SAR Response After a Landout

The SAC Column: What Glider Pilots Should Know to Avoid Unnecessary SAR Response After a Landout

by Dan Cook, Flight Training and Safety Committee, Soaring Association of Canada (SAC)

The e-mail and response below will be of interest to all pilots, NAV CANADA and anyone involved in search and rescue (SAR) activities. The e-mail was from a glider pilot, and was addressed to the SAC’s Flight Training and Safety Committee (FTSC). The response may help to understand how glider operations may affect us.

E-mail:
“A recent routine landout by a pilot, who was being monitored by a NAV CANADA terminal controller, resulted in the dispatch of a search helicopter from a rescue centre, when radio contact was lost. It seems that controllers do not realize that a landout (in a highly cultivated area) is routine and almost risk free.

If this becomes a regular response, then a great deal of resources will be wasted, and it could be an excuse to charge the SAC for services. Moreover, Transport Canada (TC) could demand filing of flight plans and all that rigamarole.

There seems to be a suggestion that pilots should call rescue coordination after a “landout.” Does the SAC have a position on this? Has it been discussed with NAV CANADA?”

FTSC response:
All pilots (including glider pilots) are required to file a flight plan, or flight itinerary, (with a responsible person) in accordance with Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR) 602.73 when planning to fly crosscountry. As most glider cross-country flights are done within gliding clubs, the regulation is routinely met for a flight itinerary when a glider pilot declares their turn points to the field manager (responsible person), who will notify SAR should the pilot not return and is not heard from by the end of the soaring day. This information should be recorded in the club’s operation log at the flight line, prior to departure, due to changes in personnel during the flying day. All glider pilots have been trained to notify the club—after a landout—that they are safely down, so that they can have the retrieve crew dispatched and prevent an unwanted search. Landing out is a normal and routine part of glider cross-country sport flying. We do not want to land out, but we must be prepared and plan for it because lift is not guaranteed.

As airspace is getting more complicated, many pilots are now contacting NAV CANADA air traffic control (ATC) facilities during their flights. If contact has been established, it is customary for the pilot to let ATC know when they are leaving the frequency or airspace. Should a landout occur after contact has been made, and before the pilot has notified ATC of leaving the frequency or airspace, then it would be prudent for the pilot to also notify NAV CANADA—through any ATC facility—that they have landed safely, to prevent an unwanted search. If the pilot is unable to call ATC, they can relay a message on 121.5 MHz to over-flying commercial traffic that routinely monitor the frequency.

In addition, more gliders are using an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) and the pilot should monitor 121.5 MHz after landing to ensure that their transmitter has not been activated. Regional rescue centres start a telephone search upon ELT activation, but often will commit resources when NAV CANADA reports that a radar contact has been lost and communications cannot be re-established. Failure to follow any of the above explanations could result in the pilot being financially responsible for the rescue costs. For more information, see sections RAC 3.0 (www.tc.gc.ca/CivilAviation/publications/ tp14371/RAC/3-0.htm) and SAR of the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (TC AIM).

A gliding instructor further commented on the above FTSC response:
The New Brunswick Soaring Association (NBSA) had a problem like this years ago when I flew there. The problem was that the glider pilot was communicating with ATC, ran out of lift and informed ATC that they were landing in a field. The standard protocol is for ATC to notify SAR after 30 min if contact has been lost. This sounds like a similar scenario.

SAR then did a communications search. After ATC notified SAR of the lost contact and the Halifax Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) tracked the NBSA down and contacted us in Havelock, N.B., we explained that the glider had landed safely and contacted us, so there was no emergency and it would be retrieved in due course. We were busy with students, so “due course” was much later.

It did not help that the glider landed in a large field under a busy visual flight rules (VFR) airway about 10 mi. from Moncton, N.B., or that the pilot removed the canopy, turtle-deck, cushions, etc. to expedite the eventual de-rigging. Until we finally got around to retrieving the glider, sightings of the wreckage and apparent debris were reported by passing pilots for the rest of the afternoon. The military SAR staff on duty spent the afternoon fielding the “crash” reports and making annoyed calls to our operations in Havelock.

While it is important for flight plans or itineraries to be filed with responsible persons, it may not always prevent incidents like this. Once a glider contacts a flight service station (FSS) or ATC, the “30 min lost contact protocol” is activated. Consequently, unless the radio contact is formally closed, such as “glider ABC switching to 123.4, ABC out” and/or a call is made to ATC after landing to confirm “flight plan closed,” SAR response will follow (as it should.)

In the NBSA incident, the pilot flew only gliders and was not used to dealing with ATC; working with a glider is not that common for ATC either.

Conclusion: if you talk to an FSS or to ATC, formally end the conversation before landing, and for good measure, phone them once you are on the ground to confirm that all is well.

 

 

This article was published by Transport Canada in TP 185E -. Reprinted with permission

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