Plane & Pilot
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Weather-Avoidance Assistance

You can’t always rely on air traffic control for climate briefings

At 1:45, the Lansing controller used the interphone system to ask a controller at Grand Rapids Approach Control to see if he could provide further information on the extent and intensity of the precipitation. The Grand Rapids controller was unable to assist at that moment due to workload, but said that he would call back. The Lansing controller then issued the pilot a 270-degree heading to avoid the weather depicted on the Lansing Approach displays.

During this period, the aircraft climbed above its assigned altitude of 10,000 feet twice, at one point, reaching 10,800 feet. At 1:49, the pilot requested to climb to 11,000 feet because it was “pretty bumpy” in the clouds. The Lansing controller told the pilot to expect 12,000 feet, but to remain at 10,000 feet pending coordination with other controllers.

At 1:50, the Lansing controller completed an automated handoff to the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center. The Lansing controller advised the Cleveland Center controller that the airplane was on a 270-degree heading to avoid weather and relayed the pilot’s request for 12,000 feet. At 1:51, the Cleveland Center controller cleared the pilot to climb to 12,000 feet and instructed the pilot to proceed direct to Milwaukee when he was able, but did not provide any information about radar-observed weather ahead of the aircraft.

Data showed that the accident aircraft turned from the previously assigned 270-degree heading about 20 to 30 degrees to the right, putting it on a direct course toward MKE. At 1:51:41, the Cleveland Center controller advised a Chicago Center controller that the airplane was proceeding direct to MKE and had not requested any weather deviations. The Cleveland Center controller also told the Chicago Center controller that the Chicago Center would have control for any weather deviations and that the pilot had been having trouble holding altitude while at 10,000 feet MSL. The flight was handed off to Chicago.

At 1:54:06, the Chicago Center controller radioed to see if the pilot was on frequency and asked the pilot to verify his altitude. The pilot stated that he was at 11,900 feet. At 1:54:55, the Chicago Center controller told the pilot to report reaching 12,000 feet, which the pilot complied with at 1:55:02.

At 1:58:34, the pilot transmitted, “Center, what do you show us in up here?” The Chicago Center controller twice asked the pilot to repeat his message, with no immediate response.


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