Closed Traffic

Cessna 9130D, traffic 12 o’clock and 5 miles, opposite direction, climbing through 5,000 unverified.

Hello. Remember me? I’m that guy who used to run a bi-monthly show called Radar Contact. If you are keeping score, it’s been 2 1/2 months since you and I last talked. The reason? I’ve been working on a new book for you. You’ll hear about that in this week’s show.

Also in this show, what the clearance “Make closed traffic” means; and, for IFR pilots, why a clearance to fly a standard terminal arrival route (STAR) is not the clearance you may think it is. There’s a big gotcha in that clearance that can bite you in the ass.

Of course, we’ll have our fan favorite, the question of the week. Ready? Let’s fire it up and see where the show takes us.

Show Notes:

1. How many sections of Part 91 are devoted to radio communication? (A section is a portion of a federal regulation that covers one particular subject.) It’s a trivia question but the answer, and its implications are anything but trivial. Here’s the link to 91.123.

Audio Lesson 6: Being Dead Wrong on the Aircraft Radio

2. My new book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots is now available at and at

3. “Make closed traffic” is an airport tower clearance that authorizes you to fly continuous circuits around the traffic pattern. If there is no published direction of travel for the runway in use, you are free to make either left closed or right closed traffic.

4. A standard terminal arrival route (STAR) into an airport provides a path, altitudes to fly, and in some cases, airspeeds to maintain as you descend from cruising altitude down to an arrival gate at an airport. Clearance to fly a STAR is not clearance to descend on that STAR, even if the STAR has published altitudes to maintain. Click here to examine the BUNNI 2 STAR.

Question of the Week:

You are flying a VFR cross-country. There are numerous puffy clouds at your cruising altitude of 5,500, but they are widely spaced. Maintaining VFR cloud clearances between these puffies only takes an occasional small heading change. You are currently under radar contact with Minneapolis Center for VFR flight following. The air traffic controller says to you, “Cessna 9130 Delta, VFR traffic 12 o’clock and 10 miles, opposite direction, Mode C indicates climbing through 4,000, unverified.”

You look straight ahead and slightly low and see nothing. You reply, “Cessna 9130 Delta, searching.” After a minute, the controller says, “Cessna 9130 Delta, previous traffic now 12 o’clock and 5 miles, opposite direction, climbing through 5,000 unverified.” You still don’t see anything so you say, “Cessna 9130 Delta, negative contact.” To which the controller says, “Cessna 9130 Delta, for traffic avoidance, suggest you turn right, heading zero four zero.” You look right and see a large puffy cloud at your 2 o’clock position and a half-mile. You figure the heading ATC just gave you will put your aircraft within 1,000 feet of that cloud. But you also consider you have traffic heading directly towards you at possibly your altitude. What do you do in response to ATC’s traffic avoidance heading?

When you think you know the answer to that question, click this link: Answer to Question Asked in Radar Contact for the complete answer and explanation.

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