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AOPA teams with NATCA, FAA for safetyAOPA teams with NATCA, FAA for safety

Pilots don’t always respond to VFR traffic advisories, but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking, and grateful.

Pilots and controllers are urged to more frequently use VFR flight following (the less literal kind, using radar and radios) for traffic awareness and increased safety. Photo by Mike Fizer.

That’s part of the message conveyed by AOPA staff, air traffic controllers, and others who participated in a video production collaboration that produced a series of six short videos in a series titled “Let Us Know” created to help raise awareness among air traffic control staff and pilots about the value of collaboration.

This collaboration between the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and AOPA was driven by the fact that increasing the volume of traffic advisories remains a priority for the FAA Air Traffic Organization, which held its annual Top 5 Summit in September.

AOPA Senior Director of Government Affairs Rune Duke attended, participated, and provided in advance AOPA’s recommendations for addressing all five of the highlighted issues. Since you must be curious about the other four, they are: compliance with altitude assignments, pirep dissemination, wrong-surface landings, and operational risk management. (Duke had lots to say about four of the five topics, though the “operational risk management” piece is more about system resource management and information sharing, and not really a pilot thing, per se.)

On the matter of advisories, however, Duke said it’s very much AOPA’s mission to support the ongoing effort to improve safety by sharing important information, such as the presence of another aircraft at three o’clock and five miles away.

“After given an initial traffic advisory, pilots report to air traffic control that they have other traffic in sight only 25 percent of the time. It can be difficult to see other traffic, which is why air traffic control is there to provide additional traffic calls and to take action to keep everyone safe,” Duke said. “Pilots should take advantage of this service and request flight following when flying VFR.”

AOPA routinely hears from members who believe flight following services could have been provided more effectively. ATC personnel do not always provide flight following on request, and there can be good reasons that boil down to a controller’s workload at that moment, particularly in busy airspace. While the FAA encourages controllers to provide flight following when workload permits, some pilots and controllers alike may share a perception that it’s more of an afterthought, and not important enough to spend the time and make the effort amid other priorities. There’s anecdotal evidence that some controllers feel that VFR pilots don’t want to be bothered.

AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden said the point of the videos is well-taken, and encouraged VFR pilots to request flight following routinely. Safety never suffers from an extra pair of eyes.

“Safety in the National Airspace System involves utilizing the potential of all available resources,” McSpadden said. “This series helps emphasize the teamwork between pilot and controller that is so critical.”

The "Let Us Know" videos are available for your perusal.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Advocacy, Training and Safety, Situational Awareness

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