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.
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.