I accidentally deviated from an ATC instruction as a student pilot. How bad was it?

user2207
  • I accidentally deviated from an ATC instruction as a student pilot. How bad was it? user2207

    Here's the scenario: I was a student pilot on inbound for landing at my home airport on my final solo cross country flight I needed before doing a checkride.

    At roughly 8 miles out to the north west, I established contact with the tower and was told to "enter left base, runway 7, report 3 miles out." I interpreted the "report 3 miles out" as to give the tower a call when I was 3 miles away from the field, ie, when my GPS indicated I was 3 miles from the field.

    Now, it was the most windy day I had flown solo in so far (15kt gusts) so I wanted to make sure I had ample time to line up with the runway on final and get a feeling for how the winds were blowing since the ATIS reported them as being variable in direction.

    That said, what I ended up doing was making a wide base, except apparently I made it a little too wide because the GPS did not indicate I was 3 miles from the field until I was on final. At this point, I called the tower, reported I was on a 3 mile final and was given clearance to land. After landing, I still had no idea I had done anything incorrectly as the controller made no indication to me.

    A few hours after I landed, my CFI sent me a text message asking me how "report a 3 mile base" meant "report a 3 mile final and fly a straight in approach." I'm not sure if he was on the frequency when it happened or if the tower controller called him after the fact and told him about it because I was told to "report 3 miles out", not "report 3 mile base."

    I completely understand that I made my base leg too wide and that caused me to deviate from an ATC instruction. What I'm wondering is how bad of a screw up is this? My CFI's reaction was one of legitimate anger and it makes me want to stay on the ground for a while.

  • Well, you screwed up, but nobody got hurt, no metal was bent, and since the tower didn't yell at you presumably you didn't obviously endanger anyone's safety (though there's always some level of risk when an aircraft isn't where the tower expects it to be).

    As far as deviations go, that's not good, but it's not terrible. The tower was probably expecting you to report 3 miles out, continuing in to about a mile from the field for your downwind.

    Schedule an extra half hour of ground time with your CFI before your next flight to talk about what happened. Also take the time to fill out an ASRS report explaining what happened and why (It's probably unnecessary in this case, as a student the tower will almost certainly be satisfied with you getting "a good talking-to" from your instructor, but it's a good way to learn how that system works.)


    There are a couple of other things you might want to do on your next few training flights:

    1. Spend some time getting comfortable in the pattern on windy days.
      You should be comfortable in a tighter pattern than 3 miles, even on a windy day (see my next item for why). This takes practice, and fortunately for you it's spring (at least in the USA) so there are plenty of windy days in most of the country!

    2. Practice some engine-out approaches to get a feel for your plane's glide performance.
      A base leg 3 miles out in a typical GA trainer is very wide -- Remember you generally want to be able to make some spot on the runway if your engine quits on downwind, and you probably can't do that from 1000 feet AGL at 3 miles out.
      Take a few laps around the pattern and have your instructor pull the power at various points so you have a feeling for how the energy management works out - this will give you a good feel for how wide your pattern should be.

    3. Turn the GPS off and practice flying visually.
      The GPS is one link link in your error chain, but I think it's a big one: If you were flying visually and relying on landmarks to judge your distance rather than the 3 mile alert from your GPS you might have realized "Hey, I'm entering downwind - I should tell the tower!"

Related questions and answers
  • and told him about it because I was told to "report 3 miles out", not "report 3 mile base." I completely understand that I made my base leg too wide and that caused me to deviate from an ATC instruction... apparently I made it a little too wide because the GPS did not indicate I was 3 miles from the field until I was on final. At this point, I called the tower, reported I was on a 3 mile final and was given... the field, ie, when my GPS indicated I was 3 miles from the field. Now, it was the most windy day I had flown solo in so far (15kt gusts) so I wanted to make sure I had ample time to line up

  • I frequently hear the tower instruction Report a two mile base for runway 5 What is the intention of that instruction? I realize that under these circumstances that we're not looking for pinpoint precision, but still it would be nice to know. For the record, I'm not asking what a base is (or the fact that "left" is implicit), but what two miles are we talking about? Two miles straight line distance from the threshold? A base to a two mile final? On the base leg, two miles from the centerline? (I'm pretty sure the last one isn't it, but hey, I've been wrong before)

  • (b) Authorization to perform certain solo flights and cross-country flights. A student pilot must obtain an endorsement from an authorized instructor to make solo flights from the airport where the student pilot normally receives training to another location. A student pilot who receives this endorsement must comply with the requirements of this paragraph. (1) Solo flights may be made to another airport that is within 25 nautical miles from the airport where the student pilot normally receives training The student must be endorsed with something along the lines of: I certify

  • I'm a student pursuing a US Private Pilot License, and recently scheduled my checkride. I've been training in a 1981 Piper Warrior (PA-28-161), but if its annual goes sour I may have to take my club's 1980 Piper Archer (PA-28-181). I have well over §61.109's 40 hours in the Warrior alone, and only ~10 hours in the Archer. I have a separate club checkout and CFI solo endorsement for each... application...."): A mistake in the applicant's information cannot be corrected after it has been signed by the Recommending Instructor. My prospective DPE explicitly told me that the backup

  • I recently had the opportunity to fly a PAR approach into B├╝chel Airbase in Germany. It was a ton of fun and I'll definitely try it again when I get the chance. However, as we were getting set up for the approach I received the following call (callsign) request heading It caught me off guard, and it took a while but I eventually interpreted it as "say heading" and gave him my current heading. He didn't complain, but I'm still not sure if that's what he wanted. A bit later I got a similar call (callsign) request QNE However, I was unfamiliar with that Q-code (as a private pilot

  • the dreaded phone number, made the call after landing, had a friendly enough discussion, and he said it would probably lead to a counseling session. My question is what is that? I'm familiar with the remedial training option the FAA may offer, but what did he mean by "counseling session"? The controller implied it would be handled by phone. I'm not freaking yet, just concerned. I told everything..., and while I eventually found the proper frequency (I'd planned to request flight following) I had crossed over the outer ring. When I contacted Approach, the Approach Controller explained I

  • Primary target: An aircraft not reporting mode-C, the only thing the controller has is the return on the radar. When a controller reports a primary target as traffic to other aircraft, the controller does not have the altitude of the target. Given this, I conclude that ATC radar does not have the altitude (angle-up) to the target, and only provides azimuth. So then without the altitude, how does the radar-system know where to put the target laterally on the screen? Example, a radar picks up a target that is 10 miles from the station. If the target is 0 AGL, the proper position would be 10

  • flaps down. After the wheels were on the runway he relaxed, never realizing that a plane is not landed until the switches are cut. Because he still had airspeed and because full flaps lowered the take-off speed, a small gust of wind was all that he needed to begin flying again. The additional lift was enough to raise him 10 feet from the runway, and at that point he ran out of gust, a condition aptly described as dis-gusted. He would have dropped back on the runway, had not an alert co-pilot opened the throttles and saved both the day and the landing gear. He goes

  • I have not even an idea about how I would search for that on Google, that is why I'm trying my chance here. As electrical engineer I have no clue about fluid mechanics. We all now that when water is pumped very fast into firefighters tube, it gets very rigid and tends to be straight. What is this effect called, I'm interested in doing some research about the forces applied by such a tube from its initial folded position to the final position. Thanks

  • by the pilots per this question however on more than one occasion I don't hear read back on critical vector info on departure, despite the visual confirmation of instruction (pilot making proper vector... and that's why I don't hear reply, however on approach side much bigger distances are heard in my area) Thank you I did verify that indeed the aircraft that I don't hear read back from receives... out in the question for some reason mostly it is "big" aircraft that gets this preferential treatment, but I am not 100% sure why.

Data information