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How NOT to depart IFR...

Yes; in Germany, at all IFR airports, all aircraft >5,7 tons MTOW must always depart and arrive along the published instrument procedures (except for certain training Scenario), irrespective of flight rules.

Frankfurt (EDFZ, EDFE), Germany

Same here in Switzerland. And most operators don’t allow VFR ops unless absolutely necessary.

LSZH, Switzerland

I think something was definitely discussed beforehand. The normal traffic pattern for 32L is left, but the controller already has an idea that they want to go to the right; the controller asks to “verify… and understand you are right traffic pattern”. This is a non-standard pattern and I think it would have been unlikely to be phrased to the pilot that way unless the controller had ‘some’ prior knowledge of their plans for departure.

The pilot responds, “Right traffic pattern and affirm, squawking VFR”. The pilot (foreign??) misses the cue for the local phraseology and confirms that they want to stay in the ‘pattern’ (rather than departing).

This seems like a foreign pilot did not know the nuances of the US phraseology. The controller thought they were staying in the pattern and the pilot thought they were leaving.

With this in mind I think there are at least two holes in the Swiss cheese. If the controller actually knew nothing about their departure plans, he would have asked and it would have been clarified before they left the ground. Because the controller knew ‘something’ about them going to the right, the pilots mistakenly thought the controller had full knowledge of their intentions and mistakenly confirmed they were staying in the pattern.

Of course, this would all have been alleviated with an instrument departure (eg. CBAIN, NEEDLE ONE). Alternatively, the crew probably should have been more up to date on the phraseology and how to depart VFR and pick up the clearance later.

I have flown into Boeing field and would commonly use Bellingham for customs coming from Canada. Being in the UK/Europe now, I can say that you don’t know how good it is in the States. VFR traffic will be slotted into all the commercial traffic without any fuss. A 737 will wait for you take off (if you were there first), and you wont get stuffed doing orbits waiting whilst a jet is 10 minutes away. The controllers are really good at planning for both ends of the aircraft spectrum. Both light GA and airline traffic are almost seamlessly accommodated.

For reference, where I learned to fly at Boundary Bay (south of Vancouver) there are 175,000 aircraft movements a year. Bellingham has 85,000, Boeing field has 502 operations a day (183,000/year). The controllers at these fields do a great job getting everyone in and out with a minimum of fuss and delay. I wouldn’t really recommend any changes as the system works very well.

For reference the two bigger ones qualify as the third busiest in the UK, only eclipsed by Heathrow at 457,00 and Gatwick at 243,000. Can you imagine GA being seamlessly accomodated at Birmingham, Stansted, and Manchester… if only.

In relation to the comments above, I don’t know if I see any need to force jets into unnecessary IFR departures if they don’t need or want them.

Last Edited by Canuck at 11 Jul 09:42
Sans aircraft at the moment :-(, United Kingdom

Canuck wrote:

I don’t know if I see any need to force jets into unnecessary IFR departures if they don’t need or want them.

The trouble there is that VFR patterns are hardly designed for heavy jets but for small GA normally, so based on 100 kts maybe, not 250. So if someone departs VFR like these guys did, they can not follow the prescribed flight path to start with. Let alone they will mix between much smaller airplanes. Seeing that in some places I’ve visited even a faster single will mess up the very tight traffic circuit to the point where it gets outright dangerous, I shudder at the thought of a Glex trying to negotiate it’s way through a filled pattern at 1500 ft in a very busy area.

I reckon was was planned here was totally different to what came out of it from what was told by people who listened to the ground exchange. So he was supposed to take off, fly the downwind part of the pattern and from there get his IFR pick up. Why was it necessary to go VFR here in the first place? He had a valid IFR plan and all it took was to sort out the first 3 minutes of the flight? How about an ammended clearance via runway 32L visual right turn out to depart north, for IFR contact whatever frequency he wanted. That is not forcing them into an IFR dep they don’t want, they did want to depart IFR very much but apparently could not due to opposite traffic.

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

The trouble there is that VFR patterns are hardly designed for heavy jets but for small GA normally, so based on 100 kts maybe, not 250.

First, the maximum speed in the Class D (within 4 NM and 2500 AGL) or anywhere under the B airspace is 200 knots. Pilots are regularly violating for exceeding the 200 Kt limit under the class B. Also, for turbojet aircraft, the standard pattern is flown at 1500 AGL verses 1000 AGL for piston aircraft. Most turbo jets can be flown in the pattern as category C (max 140 knots) or category D (Max 165 Kts). At 140 Kts, 20 degrees bank, the radius of turn is 0.79 NM and at 165 Kts, it is 1.09 NM. But the issue in this case was the pilot did not understand that he was flying the pattern, but rather that he was departing (ideally to the North) for an IFR pickup enroute and he used inappropriate phraseology. The pilot flew the pattern at a GS of 210 knots and IMHO clearly did not understand he was flying the pattern or he would not have overshot the final, nor would he have maintained such a high airspeed.

So the VFR pattern is designed for both Piston and Turbojet, but flying the pattern at the maximum permissible speed will require more airspace. A prudent turbojet pilot will fly the pattern at a speed closer to the appropriate category circling speed.


Canuck wrote:

This seems like a foreign pilot did not know the nuances of the US phraseology. The controller thought they were staying in the pattern and the pilot thought they were leaving.

I agree with this and the rest of your analysis.


loco wrote:

This is difficult to discuss on the Internet. I guess we’re talking about different turns. If you look at the pic below, I was talking about the turn that happens next. From downwind to final on 32L. Instruction was to stay west of the lake on the downwind and next they crossed the centerline and got into first conflict at Seatac. I believe the distance I measured is relevant.

Yes we were talking about different turns. The base turn and base to final turn would only have been appropriate if the pilot understood what he was doing. The original instruction from the tower was to “start that right turn now and keep your downwind inside the lake at 1500”. Inside the lake means anywhere over the lake.boundaries.Later when the pilot was not complying, the tower amended the instruction using an urgent tone to “make it a hard turn . pause. remain uh, west of the lake”. This IMHO was clearly for emphasis. Then the tower indicated “plan about a 4 mile base, I will call your base”. A 4 mile base puts the aircraft past the lake. The pilot responds “Extending 4 miles”. The jet ground speed varies between 190 Knots and 230 Knots, the latter even with a tail wind is a speed violation. From the radar return, the pilot did not fly a parallel downwind and crowded the turn to base almost on an extended final to KBFI and abeam KSEA, still at 220 knots GS. GS in the turn varied between 210 and 240 knots.The surface winds were 190 at 6 Knots. To me that is poor airmanship and at least a violation of 91.117 (Airspeed) as the direction in the turn was 180+ degrees and would have cancelled any wind effect. Note that airspeeds inside the Class B airspace, where the maximum permitted IAS is 250 Knots, but under the Class B is 200 Knots.


Clarification from YouTube exonerates pilot. Good to remind oneself not to jump to conclusions (and I say this to myself mainly):

The facts are available by listening to the feed from Ground. An IFR clearance to Athens was given and flight plan filed. Vistajet 868 asked to depart via the opposite runway due to the aircraft being too heavy for the active runway (obstacles on departure flight path). Ground agreed this could be done only as a VFR departure. When transferred to the Tower frequency the ground controlled did not pass on the details to them correctly. Consequently, the Tower thought they intended to reland. The aircraft was then asked to manoeuvre in an area too small for it due to it’s heavy weight and minimum speed.

That explains why he got that IFR clearance at the end? (as he had one ready already)

ESSEX, United Kingdom

A misunderstanding. That is all. Shouldn’t have happened but seems like a breakdown in comms between ground and tower and the pilots not realising what was going on.

EGTK Oxford
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