How would ATC instruct you to reverse direction after the communications failure?
The pilot would see the only light gun signal
that applies just to aircraft on the ground—a flashing white light that means, “Return to starting point on airport.”
Why might ATC send you back to the ramp?
If it is a busy time at the airport, having a no-radio aircraft in
the traffic pattern might not be prudent, and would raise ATC’s
workload. Or the controllers might recognize that a student pilot is in
command, making it wise to send the trainer back to its base to discuss
the situation by phone.
What if it is the student pilot who wants to return to the ramp, but
gets green lights instead? How would you decline taxi and takeoff
clearances, and call off the flight? Have you discussed this scenario
with your instructor?
Communicating that message would be easier said than done without
preparation. Having a cell phone on board, and knowing the control
tower’s number (or being able to relay your intentions through the FBO)
would help tremendously. Do you know that number?
If not, you’d have to improvise, perhaps flashing the aircraft’s
lights at the tower—without moving the aircraft—to express your need for
If the tower is radar-equipped, a more last-resort means of
communicating your needs might be to change your squawk code from code
7600 to 7700. That would raise a straightforward lost-comm scenario to
the level of an emergency. But in making a safety judgment, you would be
exercising your “final authority”
as pilot in command as to the safe operation of the aircraft.
Do other, less drastic remedies come to mind?
Given the complexity of such a scenario, it’s clear that having the
tower’s phone number at hand, and a way to use it, beats most