Re: Multicom


My brother John and I just returned from a cross country trip that started in Kelowna thru Crow's Nest pass in the Rockies, the prairies to Quebec City and back home via the northern U.S. states and Roger's pass in B.C. This trip was made safe and well-planned with the use of my Garmin 296 and John's weather enabled Garmin 496.
The technology is so compelling that we were tempted to keep the CFS on the back seat of our Piper Cherokee 140.

The Jeppesen database included in both GPS receivers allowed us to skirt around restricted zones easily and effortlessly and most of the information was easily accessible in a timely manner. Life is good.
As we all know, the old idiom "time to spare, go by air" proved to be true and we had a lot of time to explore the information available in our GPS receivers. One issue came up time and time again. In the United States, the term MULTICOM is used to designate the Canadian equivalent of an ATF (aerodrome traffic frequency), meaning that there is no one on the airport grounds to respond to an initial inquiry like a UNICOM, therefore all communication is directed to "traffic."

The Garmin GPSMAPG 296/496 series recognizes frequencies for: ATIS, pre-taxi, clearance, ground, tower, Unicom, Multicom, approach, departure, arrival, class B, class C, TMA, CTA, TRSA. However, it does not recognize the frequencies assigned to Radio, FSS and RCO and these last three are listed as "Other" in the Comm tab.
Relying on the GPS for information caught us at airports such as Penticton (CYYF) and Lethbridge (CYQL) where we directed our communications to "traffic," thinking that these were MULTICOM airports when in fact the calls should have been directed to "radio" since they have FSS aerodrome traffic services. So, we decided to take the time, while we were on the premises of these airports facilities to dig into this "MULTICOM" thing.

It turns out that term MULTICOM does not exist in Canada and when we called Garmin to try to understand their use of the word, they emphatically declared, "that's the way it is and there is no plan to change that." I then asked if this was also the case in other countries such as England and China - they responded affirmatively.
I then called Jeppesen and briefed the customer service agent. I was able to awake her curiosity about this issue. After looking into the database information she discovered that the file Jeppesen sends to Garmin every month does, in fact, include specific information that identifies the missing Comm protocols.

I'm relatively educated and I'm able to mentally translate "MULTICOM" into "ATF" when I look up a Canadian airport in the Garmin database. However, it seems little effort is spent at Garmin in order to translate the current label "Other" into the proper description of the frequencies as found in the CFS.

Bottom line is: If your Garmin indicates "Other" in the Comm tab of your destination airport, zip out your CFS, because that airport Comm information is incomplete. We learned from this experience that the GPS is truly only an aid to navigation. Use of the Canada Flight Supplement and charts is the only way to "be familiar with the available information that is appropriate to the intended flight," just as they say in the regulations.




ed. Even though GPS has become the primary navigational tool for many VFR pilots, there remain some significant bombs in the database, especially when it comes to data outside of the US, and that is why the CFS remains a reliable source of information. I fly extensively IFR using a certified GPS but I always fly the airways and have the VORs tuned in. At some point in the future, TC will wake up and force suppliers to do a better job of managing their databases but we are not there yet. - Kevin Psutka