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Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports (2016)

Chapter: Chapter One - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter One - Introduction ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter One - Introduction ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

3 Aircraft pilots are required to obtain certain information to make informed decisions regarding the safety of flight. According to 14 CFR Part 91.103: Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include— (a) For a flight under IFR [instrument flight rules] or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by ATC [air traffic control]; (b) For any flight, runway lengths at airports of intended use, and the following takeoff and landing distance information; (1) For civil aircraft for which an approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual containing takeoff and landing distance data are required, the takeoff and landing distance data contained therein; and (2) For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, other reliable infor- mation appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature (FAA 2014a). Prior to a flight, pilots can contact Flight Service to obtain a weather briefing and current Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and to file flight plans. Even after a briefing is obtained, changes may occur: weather conditions may change, new NOTAMs may be issued, airport runways in use may change, and en route hazards may develop. It is critical for pilots to continue to have access to weather information, even during the en route phase. This can be obtained from a number of sources, including Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS), Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), ATC, or in-cockpit datalink and weather avoidance equipment. Flight Watch, which was used by pilots in the past, was discontinued October 1, 2015 [Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2015]. Compliance with 14 CFR Part 91.103 is possible whether pilots plan to operate into or out of towered or non-towered airports. In other words, the presence or lack of an air traffic control tower (ATCT) generally has no impact on pilot compliance with 14 CFR Part 91.103: In addition to 14 CFR Part 91.103, pilots must comply with 14 CFR Part 91.123: (a) When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no pilot in command may deviate from that clearance unless an amended clearance is obtained, an emergency exists, or the deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory. However, except in Class A airspace, a pilot may cancel an IFR flight plan if the operation is being conducted in VFR [visual flight rules] weather conditions. When a pilot is uncertain of an ATC clearance, that pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC. (b) Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised. (c) Each pilot in command who, in an emergency, or in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory, deviates from an ATC clearance or instruction shall notify ATC of that deviation as soon as possible. (d) Each pilot in command who (though not deviating from a rule of this subpart) is given priority by ATC in an emergency, shall submit a detailed report of that emergency within 48 hours to the manager of that ATC facility, if requested by ATC. (e) Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, no person operating an aircraft may operate that aircraft according to any clearance or instruction that has been issued to the pilot of another aircraft for radar air traffic control purposes (FAA 2014a). However, not all public-use airports are equipped with ATC. Most of the general aviation (GA) public-use airports in this country are not equipped with ATCTs. Of the 13,112 airports in the United States, only 123 have FAA ATCTs, whereas 252 have contract ATCTs (Curry 2015; U.S. Department of Transportation 2014). In addition, many of these airports may not be attended—at all or during certain time periods. As a result, pilots often operate into and out of non-towered airports without (1) ATC- provided information upon which to make decisions affecting safety of flight and (2) ATC instructions. chapter one INTRODUCTION

4 According to the AOPA (2003, p. 4): The basic difference between operating at a tower-controlled airport and one without an operating control tower is the difference between instructions and advisories. Tower controllers issue taxi, departure, and arrival instructions for pilots to follow on specific air traffic control frequencies. At non-towered airports, you will hear [pilot] advi- sories on a CTAF [and possibly airport advisories on UNICOM], but the responsibility for collision avoidance, sequencing, and knowing the local procedures lies solely with the pilot. The advisories referenced at non-towered airports generally are in the form of pilot advisories, with pilots self-announcing their call sign, location, and intention. Yet safety is enhanced at non-towered airports with the addition of airport advisories. Generally broadcast by airport personnel, fixed-base operator (FBO) personnel, or other personnel upon request, airport advisories provide pertinent infor- mation, including winds, altimeter settings, and active runways in use to inbound and outbound pilots. A practice that further benefits pilots is broadcasting information affecting runways and airport safety, such as construction, wildlife, noise abatement, and unmanned aerial systems (drones). As explained by the FAA (FAA 2014a, p. 4-1-2) in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), 4-1-9, Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers, “There are three ways for pilots to communicate their intention and obtain airport/traffic information when operating at an airport that does not have an operating tower: by communicating with a FSS, a UNICOM operator, or by making a self-announce broadcast.” Within the previous quotation, the FAA is referencing two pilot actions: (1) communicating intentions and (2) obtaining airport/traffic information. For the purposes of this synthesis report, “communicating intentions” is referred to as “pilot advisories,” which is not the subject of this report. “Obtaining airport/traffic information” is referred to as “airport advisories,” which is the subject of this report. Pilots operating at non-towered airports are required to obtain current airport information and use the information to determine which runway to utilize. Without the benefit of ATC to provide airport information (either verbally or through ATIS) and takeoff or landing instructions, pilots must use a number of means to obtain this information and act upon it. Because of the myriad ways in which pilots obtain this information, including the differences among non-towered airports in making this information available, this synthesis focuses on airport advisories at non-towered airports. This report presents findings on the manner in which airports (whether airport, FBO, or other personnel) provide advisories to pilots in the form of winds, traffic, runways in use, and so forth. Unlike pilot advisories, there is little guidance available for airport operators in providing airport advisories. This report attempts to aggregate available guidance on this topic. Specifically, this synthesis considers the type of information pilots need to operate safely into and out of non-towered airports and the manner by which pilots obtain this information, with special emphasis on the manner by which airports provide this information in the form of airport advisories. All manner of equipment and facilities in use at these airports to convey such practical informa- tion as wind direction and velocity, favored or designated runway, altimeter setting, known airborne and ground traffic NOTAMs, airport taxi routes, airport traffic pattern information, and instrument approach in use were considered for this project. The synthesis includes a thorough review of the litera- ture on the topic of airport advisories, findings from a telephone survey and follow-up interviews with management of non-towered airports with at least 50,000 annual aircraft operations [currently num- bering 204 airports nationwide, according to GCR (GCR n.d.)], and a sampling of case examples of successful airport advisory programs in place at these airports. This study examined the users of airport advisories (including pilots and ground vehicle opera- tors); the current state of practice, including types of airport advisory programs in existence (includ- ing the entity responsible for providing airport advisories, the protocol for issuing advisories, training provided for those issuing advisories, frequency used, hours of advisories, and practices when advi- sories are not available); practices at airports without airport advisory programs; other facilities/ visual aids/recordings in use at airports that may be used by pilots to obtain a form of airport advi- sory (AWOS/ASOS, segmented circle, wind sock, pilot reports); Aviation Safety Reporting System Reports related to UNICOM or airport advisory at the airport for the airports included in the study; lessons learned; and the future of airport advisories at non-towered airports.

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 75: Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports documents the manner in which non-towered airports provide advisories to pilots regarding winds, traffic, and runways in use. Unlike with pilot advisories, there is little guidance available for airport operators in providing airport advisories. The objective of this report is to aggregate available guidance on this topic and document information from non-towered airports with at least 50,000 annual aircraft operations. The report includes a literature review and a telephone interview survey of 165 non-towered airports. Six case examples are included, documenting effective airport advisory programs in place at airports.

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