Bad IFR approach can teach others

kojc-loc-rwy-36If you were near Kansas City yesterday, it was a perfect day to get some “actual” IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) time logged. We had a cold front slide Southeast in the morning leaving us with temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (10-15 C). The front left a low level cloud deck from about 1000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) to 3500 feet AGL (several broken layers above) and there was light rain/mist. Below the overcast, the visibility was 7-10 SM (Statute Miles). A great IMC day for doing some approaches.

Late this afternoon, I was listening to the KOJC feed over at LiveATC.net, and I overheard a pilot struggling with an approach into Johnson County Executive Airport (KOJC). As I listened and thought about it, there were several things (good and bad) that could be shared from his experience.

I have downloaded the archived audio and put together a time-lapse (edited out other aircraft transmissions and removed dead air time). This all took place over about a 15-20 minute period, but it is edited down to 3:23. I do not personally know this pilot/aircraft and it is NOT my intent to place blame or ridicule this pilot; however, there are several things that can serve as a reminders to all of us pilots regardless of if we are Instrument Rated or not. I think even the pilot would agree that he had a bad day, and I bet he is very thankful that ATC was there to help him out when he needed it. Take a listen…

Flash Plug-in Required (or download it here [MP3])

Here was the METAR observation from the period of the transmission:

KOJC 271953Z 32009KT 7SM OVC013 16/13 A2981 RMK AO2 SLP090 T01610133=

What questions do you have after listening? What do you think the pilot did correctly? What do you think the pilot needed to improve on?  Here are my thoughts…

The first question that popped into my mind was: Did the pilot have the ATIS information? I believe he did. He indicated to ATC that he was setup for Runway 36, but he thought he heard that he was cleared for the approach to Runway 18. Second, why did the pilot not read-back the whole approach clearance? ATC could have helped fix his issue much sooner had he read back the full approach clearance. To me, his read-back of the approach clearance was the first indication of a problem (0:20 into the recording, if you want to listen again). Approach clearances are usually always given in this order: Heading, Altitude, and the specific Approach you are cleared for. You need to read all this back to ATC to make sure you both are on the same page.

Now what did the pilot do correctly. First of all, the pilot did the right thing by asking for help and declaring the missed approach. He knew something was wrong, and he asked for help. Ego is probably the biggest problem with us pilots. In my opinion, there is no shame in asking for help/clarification if something looks wrong. I’d rather look like an idiot temporally then to not live to tell about it.

What could have been improved on. In my opinion, the pilot should have: 1, read-back all of the approach clearance; 2, followed turning instructions from ATC; 3, flown the plane. I believe he was behind the plane this whole time. Even on final approach, the Tower gave him an altitude alert (3:10 into the recording, if you want to listen again). On the approach end of 36, there is nothing but trees/fields waiting for you.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments below, or contact me here.

Additional Information:
The LOC RWY 36 at KOJC (.pdf) – kojc-loc-rwy-36-05687l36

Author: Michael Whaley

I am a Private, Instrument Rated, pilot living in the Kansas City Metro area with my family and Siberian Husky. I work as a Network Engineer supporting data and voice infrastructure components here in Kansas City. In my spare time I fly.

1 thought on “Bad IFR approach can teach others”

  1. I agree, not his best day for sure. I also agree that he did the right thing in asking for help and declaring the missed approach. Great learning experience for all of us. Thanks for posting!

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