July 2021 Aviation Articles

5 More Things ATC Wants You to Know

2 weeks ago we discussed the topic of tips from ATC. After surveying some air traffic controllers, they provided advice for talking on the radios and things they really dislike that pilots do.

Well, the feedback on this was so good I mentioned doing part two. So here it is! 

cockpit

1) Emergency

If you're ever in distress for any reason, tell your controller. They can't help if they don't know what's going on. Maybe you have an electrical issue and are having to pop some circuit breakers before you get to the next assigned task or it's as drastic as losing an engine. But whatever the reason, even if it's not yet a full-blown emergency and you need some assistance from ATC, don't be afraid to just let them know.

Sky

2) Pop Up IFR

If you need a pop-up IFR, also sometimes referred to as a local IFR request, just ask for it. Some pilots will advise never to do that because it adds extra workload to controllers having to take that information from you, put it in the system then give you clearance. Sure, it does take a little extra time to do that work, but if you think it'll jeopardize safety, then do it. ATC would rather take the time to give you that clearance than you try and stay VFR and get into trouble. It truly only takes a few extra steps and if they aren't busy it isn't that big of a deal. Just have required information ready to read off such as name, phone number, the color of your aircraft, souls on board, fuel remaining, etc.

3) Request on Check In

When you're en-route and have a switch off between frequencies, most pilots' first instinct is to check in and advise of any requests they want then and there. "Center N224JW flight level 320 requesting direct destination."

Believe it or not, in most cases on that first initial check in with the new frequency, you're likely still in the last sector's airspace. This means for your new controller, most requests have to be called in and coordinated before authorizing it. So if you check in, it's busy, and you want to help ATC out, wait a minute or two before calling back if the request isn't urgent and you're more likely to get it off the bat.

4) Approach Check In

Another check in tip! When you're checking in with approach, try and give them all the required information you know they'll ask for so they don't have to play 20 questions. "Approach, N10JM 17,000 descending via the GESSNER4 arrival, information foxtrot for ILS 13R." 

Here they don't need to ask if you've gotten the ATIS and they know what approach you're wanting so they can be ready for it. 

5) Expedite

If a controller asks you to expedite through an altitude and report your current level, they actually needed that like 5 seconds ago. Don't delay on the expedite or reading it back to them. Seems simple but the issue occurs pretty commonly and this is where both teams need to work together.

This concludes just about all of the main talking points that were sent in. If you have any questions for ATC, things you as a controller would like to add, or questions/comments in general, comment below or send it in to us! 

 

Scuba Skies—The Precautions to a Safer Experience

I was talking to a close friend a couple weeks ago and she was telling me all about her scuba diving certificates and the places she has dove. She has gone to the Keys of Florida and even some quarry sites in a few other states! This summer she has decided to take on a whole new course and pursue certifications beyond her Advanced Open Water (AOW) with Professional Diving Instructors (PADI) training. I definitely admire her drive for adventure and bravery to swim with sharks but shipwreck snorkeling might be the deepest I ever desire to go. If you are also someone who loves the thrills of scuba diving yet all things flying, let’s quickly review some safety rules before you mix these two hobbies. 

If you are the pilot or the passenger, both should allow sufficient time before flying after a scuba dive to allow the body enough time to rid itself of excess nitrogen absorbed during a dive. Not taking heed to these rules may result in decompression sickness due to evolving gases during altitude exposure.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Flight altitudes up to 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 12 hours after diving without a controlled ascent
  • Wait at least 24 hours after diving with a controlled ascent

Flight altitudes above 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 24 hours after any dive (controlled or uncontrolled ascent)

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the topic. According to AC 61-107B:

“Scuba diving requires breathing air under high pressure”. There is a considerable increase in the amount of nitrogen dissolved into the body under these conditions. In other words, the body is nitrogen saturated. The greater the depth of the scuba dive, the more the body is saturated in nitrogen. Nitrogen is distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. The AC continues to state that “as atmospheric pressure is reduced as a result of ascent, the equilibrium is upset. This results in nitrogen leaving the body by passing from the cells, to the blood, and then out through the respiratory system. If the nitrogen is forced to leave too rapidly because of a large partial pressure difference, bubbles may form, causing a variety of signs and symptoms”. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, pain in the ears, toothache, and severe sinuses if the person is unable to equalize the pressure changes. Yikes!

Let’s take the proper precautions for a safer scuba dive experience if you decide to fly soon after. Have you ever gone or plan to go scuba diving? Leave a comment below!

5 Things ATC Wants You to Know

Recently I conducted a survey of air traffic controllers from all over the U.S. to find what they want from pilots, instead of what pilots want from them for once. Some well-deserved attention finally! Their input was well…overwhelming. There’s a lot we could be doing better.

radar

1) Stop saying “blooooocked”

This is exactly how they worded it! When pilots key up to say this on frequency, it just clogs up the frequency. If you’re going to advise them they were blocked, make it short and quick. But most of the time there’s no need to say it. They already know. Controllers sometimes work multiple frequencies and when they say they’re on a landline, 90% of the time it means they were on the line with another controller trying to coordinate. So just be patient and key back up when they’ve had enough time to talk to them.

2) Nobody Likes Bad Weather

On bad weather days, good routes turn to bad routes quickly and things have to change to accommodate that. Neither controllers nor pilots like bad weather. Just because someone was able to make it through 5 minutes before you doesn’t mean it’s a good idea now, so just keep working with the reroutes and be patient. A lot goes on behind the scenes that we don’t see. When a controller is trying to work these reroutes as well, there are usually 3-4 coworkers talking to them at the same time and likely even a supervisor/manager behind them all trying to control the sector -- meaning it gets hectic.

3) VFR Flight Following

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone doing this on the radio before: requesting flight following and taking 30 minutes to do so. Check-in with your altitude and not just your call sign if you already have flight following from a previous controller. If you need it, the format should be a simple “center, N240MT with a VFR request” then later followed by your current location from an airport or VOR station and destination. Don't forget to acknowledge traffic calls as well! They may be often and annoying but try to acknowledge every few so ATC knows you're receiving them.

4) Speak Up

If you need a different clearance than you were given or aren’t sure about a clearance, let them know (again in a professional manner). We all make mistakes and controllers sometimes do too so it doesn’t hurt their feelings to question it. They also can’t see weather like we can so if a route assigned doesn’t work that well, you can advise and describe the weather to them too (approximate bases, altitude, diameter, etc.) so they can use that for future use.

5) Don't Lie About NOTAM's

It's understandable that sometimes you forget to listen to the latest ATIS and check the latest NOTAM's, but if you need them and don't have them, just ask. Most of the time controllers can just read them off to you. What can be an issue is saying you have them, then asking for an approach that's not in service (like an ILS localizer) or for a closed runway. 

I heard a controller playing a joke to catch pilots calling for a taxi without it recently telling them "and advise you have information Charlie" then following with "information November is actually current call me when you have it." The absolute best ground controller prank I've heard yet!

There will likely be a part 2 to this in the future because the survey had such good feedback, but these were the most discussed topics on there that needed to be touched on. Keep in mind we all want to work together for the same goal each day: to see every flight land safely. 

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