July 10, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
An instrument pilot was planning a flight to Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass., from an airport about 150 miles to the northeast. He thought he knew what routing to expect, and could recite the clearance from memory from having heard it being assigned, day in and day out, to regional airline flights plying the route.
The anticipated clearance was a pretty straightforward package: radar vectors, then direct to a VOR, then an airway to SCUPP, and then direct. So often was the readback heard on the local frequency that SCUPP had become a sort of aeronautical synonym for Beantown, despite being less charismatically named than the nearby SATAN, WITCH, or LBSTA (“lobstah”).
The pilot may have had the clearance nailed in memory from constant exposure to radio readbacks, but he hadn’t actually spread charts and noticed where a clearance to SCUPP would take him.
Doing so brought a surprise—and a decision not to accept any routing that would take him farther east than WIMPY. He discovered that SCUPP is a point on V137, 37 DME northeast of the Boston VOR.
That is to say, the intersection is offshore. Well offshore—requiring extended flight over cold Atlantic waters.
Is that a problem?
Depends how you view the idea of flight beyond gliding distance from shore in a single-engine airplane. In any case, it points up the need to keep from getting in over your head.
A routing to SCUPP might be unlikely for the type aircraft involved. But without a preferred routing available to study, uncertainty requires that you stand ready to examine the clearance you receive, look it over, and make a prompt decision whether to accept it or decline.
So go ahead and file your own preferred route. With luck, you’ll hear “Cleared as filed.” Possibly you will be instructed to “stand by for a full route clearance.” That might bring either good or bad news, but a routing via SATAN would keep you warm and dry.
Some pilots play the system, accepting SCUPP and then requesting amended clearance en route—clever, but a decision that could turn a destination into a destiny. “Once the clearance is accepted, a pilot is required to comply with ATC instructions,” reminds the Instrument Flying Handbook.
Bottom line: Shun shortcuts, resist ruses, keep control of the situation.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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