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Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports (2016)

Chapter: Chapter Five - Case Examples

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Case Examples ." 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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Page 33
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Case Examples ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
×
Page 33
Page 34
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Case Examples ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
×
Page 34
Page 35
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Case Examples ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
×
Page 35
Page 36
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Case Examples ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23628.
×
Page 36

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32 chapter five CASE EXAMPLES To understand better how specific airports provide airport advisories through the UNICOM or com- bined CTAF/UNICOM frequency, including staffing the UNICOM station, training required of personnel, and degree of airport advisory requests, 13 airports from this study were selected and respondents contacted for a follow-up telephone conversation. A case example was developed for six of these airports. Table 7 presents a summary of these case examples. CASE EXAMPLE 1: SHELBYVILLE MUNICIPAL AIRPORT, SHELBYVILLE, TENNESSEE 59 Based Aircraft, 141 Daily Operations, UNICOM Operated by FBO Shelbyville Municipal Airport (SYI) is owned and operated by the city of Shelbyville, in middle Tennessee. The airport has a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency, with the UNICOM station oper- ated by the FBO. The line service personnel usually staff the UNICOM station. The FBO provides on-the-job training for line personnel, including instruction in the operation of the UNICOM sta- tion. As a result of the airport’s location, a plentiful supply of potential employees is available at the nearby university, which has a collegiate aviation program. Most of these students are student pilots or private/commercial pilots, which the FBO values, because when these students are hired as employees, they already understand radio techniques and proper phraseology. Many of them have requested airport advisories as pilots. Additional instructions are placed next to the UNICOM station. According to the airport manager, less than 5% of pilots actually request an airport advisory, although 60% of aircraft operations are transient. When asked to pinpoint why there were so few requests for airport advisories, the airport manager pointed to the on-field AWOS and CTAF frequency. The airport manager said the airport UNICOM station enhances airport safety. Even for seem- ingly insignificant radio check requests, especially in the morning, the UNICOM station contrib- utes positively to airport safety and provides additional services to pilots, the airport manager said. Ultimately, as the airport manager explained, “UNICOM helps us monitor the airport environment and see situations as they develop.” The airport manager encourages more pilots to request airport advisories. “UNICOM station personnel are here to help,” he explained. CASE EXAMPLE 2: CARSON AIRPORT, CARSON CITY, NEVADA 201 Based Aircraft, 229 Daily Operations, CTAF/UNICOM Operated by Two FBOs Located in Carson City, Nevada, the Carson Airport (CXP) is owned by Carson City and operated by the Carson City Airport Authority. The airport has a single runway (9-27). AWOS is available on the field and at another airport 12 nm south of Carson City. ASOS is available at another airport 18 nm north of Carson City. The airport has a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency. The airport currently has two FBOs on the field—Sterling Air and Mountain West Aviation. Historically, Sterling Air was the UNICOM operator but only until early afternoon because the FBO was only staffed part time. Now that Moun- tain West Aviation is on the field, this FBO has agreed to take responsibility for UNICOM in the afternoons. Thus, the airport has a unique situation in which the UNICOM station is handled by two different FBOs, the responsibility for which varies by time of day.

33 Training for personnel at both FBOs consists of on-the-job training. Emphasis is placed on expe- rienced pilots, although such experience is not required. The airport manager and the owners of both FBOs are pilots. Although the airport is equipped with an AWOS station, which is used quite commonly among pilots, a larger percentage of pilots also request airport advisories by the com- bined CTAF/UNICOM frequency. The airport manager explains that about 40% of operations are by transient pilots. As expected, a much higher percentage of transient pilots request airport advisories. CXP is focused on safety and recently hosted an FAA Safety Team seminar on communications at non-towered airports. Based on this and other safety efforts, the airport manager will soon be bringing forth a recommended policy to enhance safety for consideration by the Airport Authority. The policy will include (a) recommended aircraft reporting points, (b) recommended departure pro- cedures, (c) arrival communications and two separate pattern altitudes, with the higher altitude used by faster jet aircraft. The airport manager recommends that all non-towered airports “get on the same page” to avoid midair collisions and ensure a safe operating environment with well-informed pilots. UNICOM can play a key role with this initiative. CASE EXAMPLE 3: BREMERTON NATIONAL AIRPORT, BREMERTON, WASHINGTON 168 Based Aircraft, 181 Daily Operations, UNICOM Operated by FBO Bremerton National Airport (PWT) is owned and operated by the Port of Bremerton. This airport has one runway (2-20). AWOS is available on the field and at three nearby airports located 15 nm southeast, 19 nm east, and 19 nm east, respectively. PWT has a separate UNICOM frequency. The airport’s FBO, Avian Flight Service, has entered into an agreement with the Port of Bremerton to operate the UNICOM station. According to both the airport manager and the FBO manager, on-the-job training is provided to personnel responsible for staffing the UNICOM station. Although most of these personnel are pilots or student pilots, they are not required to have pilot training. Phraseology, as well as typical pilot requests, are part of the Airport ID Airport City, State Based Aircraft Daily Operations Ground Station UNICOM Operator AWOS/ ASOS on Field? Case Example 1 SYI Shelbyville Municipal Airport— Bomar Field Shelbyville, Tennessee 59 141 CTAF/ UNICOM combined FBO Yes Case Example 2 CXP Carson Airport Carson City, Nevada 201 229 CTAF/ UNICOM combined FBOs (2) Yes Case Example 3 PWT Bremerton National Airport Bremerton, Washington 168 181 UNICOM FBO Yes Case Example 4 IWS West Houston Airport Houston, Texas 400 282 CTAF/ UNICOM combined FBO No Case Example 5 EUL Caldwell Industrial Airport Caldwell, Idaho 352 403 CTAF/ UNICOM combined Airport Yes Case Example 6 FLY Meadow Lake Airport Colorado Springs, Colorado 421 162 CTAF/ UNICOM combined Airport Yes TABLE 7 CASE EXAMPLES

34 training. Employees are taught that “we can’t fly the airplane for them from the ground.” Adviso- ries are limited to winds (by means of an AWOS readout at the UNICOM station desk) and use of the phrase “winds are favoring,” rather than specifying a runway that must be used. In this way, the FBO avoids liability in case current traffic is using a runway not favorable to current winds. It is the pilot’s responsibility to verify active runway by means of the CTAF. According to the FBO manager, only about 20% of pilots request an airport advisory through the UNICOM. With AWOS on the field and a separate CTAF frequency, most pilots are able to obtain the information needed, thus negating the need for an airport advisory. Most pilot calls are about the location of transient parking or to request a radio check, according to the FBO manager. According to the airport manager, the AWOS at PWT allows for augmentation, which is con- venient for adding advisories (such as airfield maintenance, pavement closures, etc.) to the AWOS broadcast. Although the UNICOM frequency can provide the most up-to-date information, this use of AWOS has enhanced airport safety, the airport manager said. In addition, especially on a calm day with little traffic in the pattern, the UNICOM frequency can provide information to help a pilot use the preferred runway according to current winds. In essence, if there is no traffic in the pattern, CTAF is not effectively used by a pilot to “hear” other traffic intentions. However, UNICOM can serve as a current source of on-field information. UNICOM also benefits the airport because person- nel can respond verbally to an operational issue. In the past, UNICOM personnel have served as a “tie-breaker” among two pilots arguing on which runway to use. In these instances, the UNICOM operator can respond, “Traffic is using . . . ,” or “The preferred calm wind runway is. . . .” CASE EXAMPLE 4: WEST HOUSTON AIRPORT, HOUSTON, TEXAS 400 Based Aircraft, 282 Daily Operations, CTAF/UNICOM Operated by FBO West Houston Airport (IWS) in Houston, Texas, is a family-owned and operated, public-use airport. The airport has been in operation since 1962, with the current family taking ownership in 1973. The airport currently has 400 based aircraft. The airport operates all airport businesses, except for a few small businesses. This airport has a single runway (15-33). The airport does not have an AWOS or ASOS on the field, but AWOS is available at another airport 12 nm west of West Houston, and ASOS is available at three nearby airports located 12 nm south, 16 nm northeast, and 20 nm northeast of West Houston, respectively. The airport has a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency, which is operated by the airport-owned FBO. FBO personnel, either customer service or line service, respond to calls for airport advisory on the combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency. On-the-job training is required for personnel. An air- port advisory would include wind direction and velocity and runway in use. Personnel are taught that they serve in an advisory capacity only. The CTAF/UNICOM station does not include control authority. The airport does have an on-field AWOS with a readout screen at the FBO for UNICOM personnel use. The airport manager estimates that 50% of pilots request airport advisories through the UNICOM frequency. The manager said that UNICOM is helpful for pilots in avoiding confusion as to which runway to use. The manager also said that the NOTAM system is complex and confus- ing. However, UNICOM allows the airport to provide current and easy access to field conditions for pilots, especially for field conditions that have changed since the pilot last received a flight briefing. CASE EXAMPLE 5: CALDWELL INDUSTRIAL AIRPORT, CALDWELL, IDAHO 352 Based Aircraft, 403 Daily Operations, CTAF/UNICOM Operated by Airport The city of Caldwell, Idaho, owns and operates the Caldwell Industrial Airport (EUL). This airport is the busiest airport in the state of Idaho, with 400 aircraft operations daily. This airport has one runway (12-30). AWOS is available on the field. In addition, AWOS is available at another airport 6 nm southeast of Caldwell, and ASOS is available at another airport 19 nm east of Caldwell. This airport has a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency. Although the airport has several FBOs, the airport operates the UNICOM base station. Specifically, the airport manager operates

35 the UNICOM station during most hours; he even has an aeronautical radio in his personal car. The airport manager is a commercial, instrument-rated helicopter pilot. This is appropriate because aircraft operations are 65% helicopter. The airport manager said it helps if UNICOM operators are pilots because it lends “a huge amount to credibility,” although it can also serve as a liability. He acknowledged that fixed-wing pilots sometimes believe he favors helicopter operators. The airport is fortunate to have an on-field AWOS. The AWOS provides most information that pilots need, including information on winds. According to the airport manager, between the CTAF and AWOS, pilots are able to determine the runway in use (direction of landing), thus negating the need for an airport advisory. At this airport, a pilot request for an airport advisory is a “rare occur- rence.” The UNICOM is used “strictly as needed,” according to the airport manager, and with the majority of operations consisting of based aircraft, there is rarely a request for an airport advisory. However, the airport manager uses the UNICOM to provide needed information to pilots, includ- ing unusual circumstances, such as disabled aircraft, NOTAM, and airfield maintenance. When asked what advice he might have for managers of non-towered airports without a UNICOM fre- quency, the airport manager explained that not having a UNICOM can be a “crippling weakness.” He recommended that such airports apply for an FCC frequency authorization. He said at a minimum he encourages pilots to listen to UNICOM, which at this combined CTAF/UNICOM airport, naturally occurs if pilots monitor CTAF. CASE EXAMPLE 6: MEADOW LAKE AIRPORT, COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO 421 Based Aircraft, 162 Daily Operations, CTAF/UNICOM Operated by Airport Meadow Lake Airport (FLY), located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was established about 50 years ago by Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) members displaced from Colorado Springs Air- port. Today, the airport is a public-use airport that is privately owned and operated by the Meadow Lake Airport Association (MLAA). This airport has three runways (15-33, 8-26, and a decommis- sioned 1,800-ft N-S asphalt/turf runway). In place of the 1,800 N-S asphalt/turf runway, the airport offers a 200-ft × 5,000-ft turf area primarily used by gliders and some occasional tailwheel training. There is an AWOS located 17 nm northwest of the field and another AWOS located 12 nm west of the field. An ATIS is available 10 nm southwest at Colorado Springs and 19 nm southwest at Fort Carson. The airport has a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency and an on-field AWOS. According to the MLAA president, the airport does not generally issue airport advisories but can convey hazards to pilots. In general, UNICOM is simply monitored. The two flight schools on airport teach student pilots to think and keep their eyes and ears open. Students are taught to expect the unexpected. In general, pilots are encouraged to talk to each other. The culture at Meadow Lake, according to the MLAA president, is that the pilot is in charge. Pilots coordinate their intentions with each other. This is attributable in large part to the FAA’s stance that the pilot in command is solely responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft. At an uncontrolled airport, such as Meadow Lake, staff can only advise the pilot of hazards, such as runway closures for maintenance or personnel or equipment on the airfield. No clearances are issued to pilots. Other challenges include accommodating gliders, paragliders, aircraft, and helicopters. Even so, the airport has not experienced an in-air collision in 50 years. SUMMARY OF CASE EXAMPLE FINDINGS Although airports may have a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency or a separate UNICOM fre- quency handled by the airport or the FBO, there are some general themes that appear in these six case examples. A summary of airport manager and FBO manager comments includes the following: • Being a pilot is beneficial. Many airports prefer pilots to operate UNICOM. • Prepare accordingly. Expect that pilots may not know standard procedures at non-towered airports.

36 • UNICOM is for advisories, not commands. For example, the pilot in command determines which runway to use. • The priority on UNICOM is for airport advisories. Operational business requests (fuel, cars, parking, etc.) should not take priority—except in an emergency situation. • Proper training including phraseology for UNICOM personnel is imperative. Otherwise, the UNICOM operator may lose credibility with pilots (and the airport if UNICOM is operated by the FBO). • Having an on-field AWOS/ASOS is effective at enhancing safety at non-towered airports. • A separate UNICOM frequency necessitates the need to educate pilots about two separate frequencies—CTAF and UNICOM—to avoid inadvertent use by pilots of the wrong frequency.

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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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