Plane & Pilot
Sunday, February 1, 2004

Faces Behind The Microphone

Twenty-six tips to help you get more from air traffic control

atcPilots and air traffic controllers share a unique relationship, a mutual trust and understanding that supports the modern system of flight. Virtually every time a pilot climbs into the cockpit of an airplane, he or she engages in some sort of verbal exchange with the ATC environment.
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7 Don’t get locked into a particular forecast, but utilize an array of weather resources to get the big picture. Know when each forecast is updated to receive the most pertinent information.

8 Wait until five minutes after the hour for a weather briefing. It will be far less crowded than on the hour and you’ll have the most current information.

9 Use pilot reports—provide them and consult them.

10 Ask a specialist to slow down. You may even want to claim “student pilot” or “new pilot” status during a telephone briefing to automatically alert the specialist to slow down and simplify the information. Even veteran pilots can employ this tactic to gain a better grasp of weather conditions.

11 Provide a cell phone number as a destination contact or list a destination hotel phone number so authorities will be able to contact you and reach you if necessary. Additionally, you can list a relative’s or friend’s number.

12 Close flight plans. Although this is continually stressed, between six and 12 flight plans per AFSS are not closed on a daily basis.

Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities
Pat Moran is an air traffic controller and vice president of the Southern California TRACON facility. He’s also a representative of the ATC union, NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association). As a pilot and controller, Moran is passionate about aviation and the services his facility provides. Here are some of his tips for pilots in a busy TRACON environment.

13 When receiving VFR flight following, listen for traffic reports and respond to the advisories. Failing to respond leaves ATC wondering if the transmission was ever received.

14 Don’t hesitate to say “Slow down” or to ask a controller to repeat an instruction. Controllers want to make sure that pilots understand their directions, and if slowing the pace or repeating a phrase will help, then by all means, ask.

15 Distinguish between requesting IFR clearances and asking for IFR practice approaches (in VFR conditions) so the controller knows what the pilot is requesting and can offer proper instructions. Utilize the following phraseology: “We would like a practice ILS approach in VFR conditions.” Or: “We would like an IFR clearance to XYZ airport, requesting the ILS.”


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