August 31, 2017

Good VFR Position Reports Are Good Airmanship


By JC Audet, Manager of Operations

Proper communications in flight are a critical element of flight safety. In the IFR environment, communications are very well defined, are compulsory, and tightly controlled. Communications in the VFR environment are much less rigid, but nonetheless very important. AIM RAC 5.1 states that when not communicating on an MF, or an ATF, or VFR on an airway, VFR pilots in uncontrolled airspace should continuously monitor 126.7 MHz. It also recommends that VFR pilots broadcast on 126.7 to alert other VFR or IFR traffic of their presence. These ‘’Position Reports’’ are very simple, easy, and quick to do. Their content addresses who you are talking to, identification, position, altitude, and intentions. A practical example would be: “Traffic information South-West of Winnipeg, CESSNA 172 GABC, OVER LaSalle at 4500FT, DIRECTION Carman”. Very quick, clear, easily understood.

There is absolutely no need to end the conversation with: “Any conflicting traffic please advise….” This sentence does not contribute anything useful to the situational environment, is unnecessary and simply adds to the duration of the transmission.

A properly broadcast position report achieves the intent. Those who heard it are now in the know of your whereabouts and intentions. They will, in turn, broadcast their intentions. And if they do not do so, or have not heard you, this additional sentence will not improve on that situation.

The recurring issue with VFR communications is that many pilots initiate their transmission by keying the PTT first, then trying to figure out what they want to say. We suggest it would be more efficient to first decide what you need to say, rehearse it once or twice in your mind, then key the PTT and talk.

In reduced air traffic, a lengthy, or chatty, position report may not be much of an issue. When arriving at a fly-in breakfast, the traffic density increases significantly and chatty transmissions may prevent pilots from doing a timely position report. This can very quickly become a real flight safety issue.

Do not report every five minutes, five miles, five lakes.

Do report when you change general region, when you have made a frequency change and then come back to 126.7

We should all endeavour to exercise disciplined communications at all times. We never know when it will prevent an accident.