The annual surge of spring air traffic in the Anchorage, Alaska, vicinity and on popular routes to outlying destinations serves as a reminder to pilots to familiarize themselves with the area’s special air traffic rules, and to follow best practices such as using stringent see-and-avoid methods at all times. One especially helpful tool is to request VFR flight following whenever possible, AOPA said.
The high-traffic airspace of the Anchorage area is subject to a variety of airspace requirements, including Part 93 special air traffic rules (as prescribed in different airspace segments); and Class C and Class D airspace at several Anchorage-area airports, said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. There is also Class D airspace centered on the Kenai airport to the southwest of Anchorage.
Although permission to deviate from some of the special procedures has frequently been granted in the past, Anchorage air traffic controllers are reminding pilots that the waivers are not automatic. Pilots should make their requests as early as possible—for example by making the request when contacting clearance delivery while still on the ground.
“Air traffic control will approve Part 93 deviations as the situation allows, but in many cases they may not be able to accommodate requests, so be sure to have a backup plan,” Duke said.
Flight following from ATC is another tool to maintain situational awareness to surrounding air traffic. Requesting the service before takeoff is preferred because it allows the assignment of a transponder code and departure frequency when controller workload is low. However, a request for flight following can be made at any point during a flight, and is strongly recommended for traffic separation—and for more prompt assistance should an aircraft develop a problem en route.
“Pilots can receive VFR flight following from the departure airport in the Anchorage area all the way to their destination as controller workload, surveillance, and communication coverage allow,” he said.
Request flight following from Anchorage Approach when flying close to the city. Request the service from Anchorage Center when departing the area.
Anchorage’s ATC facilities are working together to encourage VFR pilots to use flight following when flying between Anchorage-area airports and the Kenai/Soldotna area, where airspace can become very congested with a mix of IFR and VFR aircraft often sharing routes at similar altitudes.
Changing frequencies will be required when transitioning from one ATC facility to the other, but pilots can continue receiving flight following service.
“If one facility terminates flight following, do not assume the other facility will not be able to provide the service. Give them a call,” Duke said.
Reducing close encounters between IFR and VFR aircraft—many of which may not be in contact with an ATC facility—is one of the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s (ATO) Top 5 system hazards targeted for action in 2017. Each year the ATO issues a Top 5 quantifiable list of hazards that contribute to the highest risk in the National Airspace System.
Pilots flying in the Mat-Su Valley should avail themselves of flight following where it is available. At other times pilots are encouraged to monitor published common traffic advisory frequencies and announce their location and intentions on the local CTAF. AOPA worked with other aviation stakeholders and the FAA to develop the area frequencies. Also note the CTAF frequency and reporting points in the Knik Glacier area.