Re: Bygone era of information available to passengers...

Date:         30 Mar 99 01:53:54 
From:         Larry Stone <>
References:   1
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On 17 Mar 1999, Stuart Feigin wrote:

> Just to throw in my 2 cents, I was once on a United flight heading west
> out of Denver when I wished I wasn't listening to the cockpit radio.
> There was moderate turbulence being reported over the Rockies, and my
> pilot apparently chose to fly much lower than normal to avoid it.  He
> was right, we did have a smnooth ride, but the radio traffic was
> disconcerting.  The controller kept telling him he neded to climb, and
> the pilot kept trying to stay low.  Eventually, the controller said
> something like "radar service terminated" as if to avoid liability for
> the impending crash.  I was a bit nervous, but the non-listening
> pasengers just enjoyed the smooth ride.

All "radar service terminated" means is you're leaving an area where ATC
has radar coverage. There is lots of legal for IFR (instrument flight
rules) airspace which does not have radar coverage. In a non-radar area,
separation rules change. One significant aspect of the words is it
notifies the pilot that normal position reports need to be made (most
position reporting is not required when the flight is being radar
monitored). It is the opposite of the "radar contact" you hear usually on
first call after take-off to the departure ATC facility. You will
routinely hear "radar service terminated" when being cleared for an
instrument approach to an airport that does not have radar to the surface
(it is implied in any clearance for a visual approach). Airports served by
major carriers without radar monitoring to the ground are relatively few
but they do exist (some mountain airports, also I know Kona, Hawaii, which
routinely sees scheduled 747 service, does not have radar to the surface).

There is no way that ATC would let him fly at an illegal for IFR altitude
without a lot stronger words being used. More likely, ATC's request for
him to climb were based on trying to accomodate his filed altitude and/or
because his current altitude did not fit in to the controller's plan as
well as the higher altitude. But the Captain is in command and if you
can't do what ATC wants, then they have to work something else out.

-- Larry Stone