Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Descend and Maintain

We have all heard those words. "Descend and maintain", sometimes we wonder what the heck for, I'm cruising along fat dumb and happy with no traffic threats and in the clear.

What triggered this post was the conversations I've had with pilots about ATC moving us around vertically and the next approach control moving us back to the altitude we vacated.

From a friends recent post on Facebook:

I wasn't happy with NY the other day. They typically want you at 7,000 (which I was) in that direction. McGuire descended me to 5000 just prior to handing me off. I figure NY must want me there for whatever reason, and I didn't lose any speed, so okay. Then 10-15 miles later.. climb maintain 7,000 .... Maybe those 2 don't talk.

I have documented this on multiple occasions dealing with Dover approach. Don't get me wrong, their service is excellent, but it does seem they put you into the clag more often than not.

IFR Focus #6, written by Jeff Van West touched on this very topic in the most recent issue.IFR FOCUS

Behold the Power of
Uninterrupted Descents
"Descend and maintain" is such a staple of IFR communications it might as well be a single word. Yet there are times when that's the last thing you want to do. Maybe those clouds are bumpy and you have the family on board. Maybe they're icy and you need to minimize your exposure. Maybe you just like the tailwinds where you are and want to keep them for as long as possible before you absolutely must descend to land.

For whatever reason, you don't want to descend only to level off at some intermediate point. You want to descend later, or uninterrupted to a point below the area of concern.

It Never Hurts To Ask

Sometimes, ATC volunteers this kind of freedom with a clearance of, "... descend at pilot's discretion, maintain 3000." You hear this more often in the sparely populated spaces. However, you can certainly ask for the freedom. If ATC issues a descent you'd like to delay, reply with:

"Request descent at pilot's discretion."

You may get a crossing restriction, such as, "...descend at pilot's discretion to 3000. Cross FIXIE at 3000." If that works for you, terrific. If not, it's time to negotiate.
Keep your request as clear as possible because you're asking for something out of the ordinary.

"Approach, we'd like to remain at 6000 until we can get an uninterrupted descent to 2000 to minimize our time in the turbulent/icy/scary/icky (circle one) clouds."

Be prepared to negotiate.

The article goes on to provide some negotiation scenarios and a video discussion.  I like reading about flying and IFR flight, I think it helps keep my skills sharp.

Care to add your experiences?  I'd love to compare notes, please feel free to either send me an email or post a comment.

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