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Write Down Your Frequencies
When flying in busy airspace, frequency changes can happen often, sometimes every few minutes. It is good practice to write down each frequency in case you need to reference it later. The past frequencies may be helpful if for some reason you can’t reach the next controller or, more importantly, if you have a comm failure.
You may think that you don’t need to record the frequencies because you have radio equipment that provides one active and one standby frequency, which means the frequency you used last is always in the standby slot. But if you change the standby numbers you no longer have access to the previous frequency, and if the radio you are using fails you can’t get in touch with the controller you are presently communicating with.
Having the numbers written down once helped me out in a very unusual situation. I experienced a radio failure at a very inopportune time, the first day the skies opened up after the shutdown that followed the September 11 attacks. Only IFR flights were allowed and, as would be expected, the air traffic controllers and pilots were noticeably on edge.
I was working as a flight instructor at the time and was flying with a student who wanted to simulate a VFR cross country while flying under IFR rules. We decided to fly to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California. As we passed the Oceanside VOR, which was quite close to the destination airport, the number two radio we were using at the time went black.
I didn’t realize it then, but a circuit breaker for an entire bus had popped. It was located under the cowl, so there was nothing I could do to fix the problem in flight. But before I even began to investigate the problem I plugged in the frequency, which I had written down on my notepad, into the functioning radio.
Even though only a few seconds passed from when the radio failed to when I activated the functioning radio, I heard a panicked controller calling our N-number. I returned the call and told the controller of the failure. Once we were on the ground the fix was as simple as opening the cowl and activating the circuit breaker for the failed bus. Thankfully there were no issues with the electrical system during the return flight.
While these types of failures are extremely rare, they do happen. And the fact that I had written down the frequency allowed the controller and me to relax a little quicker that day.