Is "Cancel IFR" Ambiguous?

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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My question: Is the request "Cancel IFR" ambiguous? How should I ask to cancel IFR? Below is the backstory:

In my quest to improve my IFR flying and communication skills I've been doing IFR flights in good weather with a safety pilot. On flight back to home airport the approach controller had his hands full with someone on his frequency with a stuck mic and told me that we would be getting a visual approach. I totally understand, that he didn't have time to give us the RNAV approach under the circumstances. Conditions were VFR and we could see the airport.

I decided to just cancel IFR so Controller would have one less aircraft to worry about. So I said something like, "Cessna 123, airport in sight, please Cancel IFR." Controller came back and told me I was cleared for the visual. I figured that he didn't hear me, so I said "Cessna 123, airport in sight, landing assured, cancel IFR, have a good day", the controller came back with the visual approach again, and told me to cancel IFR in the air on this frequency or on the ground over the phone. I looked at my safety pilot and we both shrugged. I didn't want to keep calling him since he had his hands full. I also didn't hear the magic words "frequency change approved" to contact CTAF, but we were pretty much at the airport so we switched to CTAF, and landed without incident.

After parking, we spent like 10 minutes trying to find the right number to cancel on the phone, and when I called the toll free number to cancel my IFR Flight plan there is a recording that says they no longer forward IFR Cancellations! What?! I was trying to avoid calling approach on the radio again because of their stuck mic issue, but I still hadn't gotten confirmation that my cancellation had been received.

So, I fired up the radio and called approach and told them I was on the ground and requested "Cancel IFR" and the controller asked me to confirm if I was on the ground at the airport. I said affirmative. But never got the "cancellation received" or any confirmation, but at that point I was done. Could it be that the stuck mic issue was causing more havoc on the controller end?

Is "Cancel IFR" ambiguous? Should I be using different magic language to let the controller know I want to cancel. I thought that cancelling IFR would relieve the controller.
 

NovemberEcho

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Dec 8, 2010
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Yah I have no idea what that controller was doing because when you said you cancel ifr the first time the reply should have been “cancellation of ifr received, squawk and maintain vfr frequency change approved”. Only thing I can think of is it was a trainee and/or they were so far down the shitter they weren’t thinking properly
 

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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I think it was a mess because I heard him say at one point to another aircraft, "You've had a stuck mic this whole time", but apparently the aircraft with the stuck mic couldn't hear him. I was with him for about 15 minutes before landing and he was dealing with it the whole time, so I have no idea how long it had been going on before. He seemed like a skilled controller, sounded like an older guy, but he seemed frustrated with inability to communicate with the aircraft in his sector. I must have been out of range of the aircraft with the stuck mic, because I didn't have any interference on my end, but I was way out on the outskirt and very low.

He must have been overwhelmed with the 15+ minutes of stuck mic frustration. I totally get it though. I was trying to help.
 

NovemberEcho

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Dec 8, 2010
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Long Island
I think it was a mess because I heard him say at one point to another aircraft, "You've had a stuck mic this whole time", but apparently the aircraft with the stuck mic couldn't hear him. I was with him for about 15 minutes before landing and he was dealing with it the whole time, so I have no idea how long it had been going on before. He seemed like a skilled controller, sounded like an older guy, but he seemed frustrated with inability to communicate with the aircraft in his sector. I must have been out of range of the aircraft with the stuck mic, because I didn't have any interference on my end, but I was way out on the outskirt and very low.

He must have been overwhelmed with the 15+ minutes of stuck mic frustration. I totally get it though. I was trying to help.
the stuck mic might have been on a different frequency that he was using which is why you didn’t hear it. It could also explain why maybe he only heard you say field in sight and missed the cancel ifr. Dealing with a stuck mic changes the whole dynamic of your story because there really isn’t anything more frustrating than dealing with one.