StuckMic, Interference, or Something Else?

Devil07

New member
Jul 14, 2018
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On an IFR flight I countered the following, I could barely understand any of the words the controller was saying. It sounded like someone was covering his mouth. Additionally, there was extremely loud background noise between transmissions, but I couldn't lower the volume because I could barely make out what the controller was saying. It was loud when no one was transmitting, but when the controller transmitted, the background noise went silent, but his voice was very muffled. At first I thought it was me, but then I thought about the fact that I didn't have any problems with Ground, Tower, and two approach facilities before I got on with Houston center.

QUESTION: Could these symptoms have been the result of a stuck mic on my frequency, interference, or something with Center's relay transmitter? I usually assume its my equipment since I rent old aircraft, but in this case I didn't have trouble on other frequencies before or after and then there was the issue of the loud background noise going silent when the controller transmitted.

I was able to locate and download the recordings for the earlier part of the flight from LiveATC, but the area where I was in contact with Houston is not one that is covered by them since its in the middle of nowhere (KHEZ).

Luckily I was just under the ceiling in VMC when this happened, and I could have just cancelled IFR and flown home VFR, but I eventually figured out what he was saying. I just repeated the parts that I thought I heard, but I could tell I was missing some important information because the controller kept repeating himself; this went on like 3 or 4 times (i.e. "did you say you want me to descend and maintain 3000?", etc.) Very embarrassing.

Luckily this was in a remote location with not a lot of traffic in the area, but it got me thinking about what if this happened while I was in IMC and/or in busier airspace.

Short of performing Lost Comm Procedures, how could I have handled this better?

Should I have said something like, "I'm having trouble understanding your transmissions" then state what I'm doing?
 
Last edited:

Stinger

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May 24, 2009
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Yeah, it'd be helpful if you said something like "your transmission is coming in very muffled...is there another transmitter you can try?" Or, if you had another radio, try that and see if it changes.
 

Devil07

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Jul 14, 2018
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Thats good advice, I never really thought about them having access to different transmitters in same area.

Also, regarding my attempt to clarify the instructions, if I say something like "Cessna 123, did you say descend and maintain 3000?" is the controller allowed to say "Cessna 123, Affirmative" or does the controller have to repeat the whole instruction?

Along the same line, what do you do as a controller when the pilot only reads back a portion of the instructions. For example, if controller said "Cessna 123 descend and maintain 3000, hold as published at WAYPT", and the pilot says "123 Descend and Maintain 3000." Do you keep repeating the whole instruction including the altitude, or just repeat the missing portion (i.e. "123 hold at WAYPT")?