Listen up out there

November 7, 2009

During AOPA Aviation Summit, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has been holding presentations and question-and-answer sessions at the exhibit hall’s “Controller’s Corner.” The Nov. 7 forum, titled “From Takeoff to Touchdown,” emphasized some new procedures, pet peeves, a few reminders, and a review of common goofs. Here are some notable samples involving IFR operations at towered airports.

  • Controllers have no idea where you filed your flight plan, so if you call up for an IFR clearance and it’s not on their computers, be prepared to call Flight Service and refile.
  • Prior to taxi at busy airports, have the airport diagram out and ready for action.
  • Controllers are now required to give detailed taxi instructions. For example, you won’t hear a simple “taxi to Runway 30” clearance any more. Instead, you’ll receive “Cleared to Runway 30, turn left on Taxiway B, turn right on Taxiway C” sorts of specific instructions. Also, at busy airports with multiple runways—such as Long Beach, Calif.—you will no longer be told simply to taxi to a runway. Rather, you’ll be told to hold short before crossing each runway you encounter along the way. With so many arrivals and departures, a simple, traditional clearance to a runway can take so long that there’s an increased risk of a runway incursion.
  • At the final approach fix, if you’re still on the approach control frequency, ask to be switched over to the tower frequency.
  • Wait to be told to change from tower to the ground control frequency; the switch from tower to ground is not automatic, and can cause confusion in ground operations.
  • If you miss an approach, fly the published missed approach procedure (unless advised otherwise). That’s the only way you’ll have protected airspace.

Dale Wright, NATCA’s sirector of safety and technology, wound up the session by referring pilots to www.natca.com for answers to any questions that pilots may have about air traffic control procedures and related issues.