A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation
so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it
all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as
representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have
heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we
might never have considered before, or something that didn't
"stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for
the practical test.
It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers
become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our
ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those
strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow
them to soar magnificently through it.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are
always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips.
Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this
"November 329PT, traffic is a Cessna, ten o'clock and two
miles opposite direction at 5000 feet."
"Approach, 329PT, traffic in sight."
What change in responsibility occurs when you tell a controller
you have called-out traffic in sight?
This interaction is an example of one type of Air Traffic Control (ATC) safety
alert. Controllers issue a safety alert when an
airplane under their control (IFR or "participating" VFR) is at an
altitude which, in the controller's judgment, places the aircraft
in unsafe proximity to (in this case) another aircraft. Safety
alerts may not always be provided and it remains the
pilot-in-command's responsibility to see and avoid other airplanes
when flying in visual meteorological conditions (VMC).
Aircraft conflict alert
As controller workload permits, ATC will issue a conflict alert
to airplanes under their control if they feel there is potential
for a collision. With the alert, controllers may offer a suggested
heading or altitude change to put more distance between conflicting
- IFR airplanes will be provided IFR separation from other IFR
and participating VFR airplanes even if no safety alert is given.
The controller may not have time to issue the report even though
he/she assures separation.
- One or both conflicting airplanes may be warned. Listen up; you
may be called out as traffic for another airplane but not get the
call yourself. Keep the "big picture" of your location relative to
other on-frequency airplanes in mind.
- Military airplanes, which usually operate on UHF frequencies
you won't hear on civilian radios, may or may not be called out as
traffic. You can often hear one side of a military conversation as
the controller transmits simultaneously on UHF and civilian VHF
- Non-participating airplanes may not be called out as traffic.
As time permits, controllers may issue safety alerts for
non-participating traffic they see on their screens, amended as
"altitude unverified" or "altitude unknown" if the other airplane
is not being "controlled".
Traffic in sight
When you report the traffic in sight ATC will discontinue safety
alerts. IFR separation may no longer be provided. Whether you're
IFR or VFR, you are now solely responsible to see and avoid the
other traffic, and any wake turbulence it may generate.
- Don't report traffic in sight until you're certain you see the
specific traffic called out in the alert.
- If you lose sight of the aircraft, tell controllers -- they'll
resume issuing alerts.
- If you don't see the conflicting aircraft but tell ATC you'll
change heading or altitude to avoid it, controllers may cease
issuing further alerts for that traffic.
- If you have onboard traffic avoidance equipment (ADS-B, TIS,
Skywatch, etc.) tell controllers when you have the traffic on your
display. Be aware that some normal situations cause a target to
disappear from onboard systems when you and they maneuver or get
Aero-tip of the day: Safety alerts help you
locate other traffic, but do not replace your need to actively scan
for and avoid other airplanes.