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Airport Advisories at Non-Towered Airports (2016)

Chapter: Chapter Six - Conclusions and Future Research

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Six - Conclusions and Future Research ." 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 Six - Conclusions and Future Research ." 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 39
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Six - Conclusions and Future Research ." 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 39
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Six - Conclusions and Future Research ." 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 40

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37 chapter six CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH This report is intended to present a synthesis of current practice. In addition, conclusions can be drawn from the data gathered to arrive at a state of current practice. These conclusions are the topic of this chapter and are summarized in Table 8. CONCLUSION 1 Based on discussions with managers of 165 non-towered airports nationwide, there is a general assump- tion that non-towered airports benefit from having either a combined common traffic advisory fre- quency (CTAF)/UNICOM frequency or a separate UNICOM frequency. Although there are pros and cons associated with having combined and separate CTAF/UNICOM frequencies, the UNICOM is useful in issuing airport advisories upon pilot request. If a UNICOM frequency is advertised, pilots expect that airport advisories are available upon request. Although there is variation among airports that provide advisory services, even airports that do not provide advisories say they are beneficial. The vast majority of participants (96%) said that audible airport advisories are necessary at non-towered airports. CONCLUSION 2 Some airports report minimal use of UNICOM for issuing airport advisories. In general, non-towered airports equipped with an on-field Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) or Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) receive fewer requests for airport advisories. Having an AWOS or ASOS on the field appears to reduce the need for audible airport advisories because pilots can obtain current winds and use the appropriate runway based on that information. Some airports have the ability to append AWOS/ASOS broadcasts with advisory information. At airports with an on-field AWOS or ASOS, airport and fixed-base operator (FBO) managers report that pilots rely on other pilot transmissions on the CTAF frequency and the on-field AWOS or ASOS broadcast to obtain the necessary information to safely operate at the airport. In reality, pilots benefit from receiving current field information and rely on numerous sources of information to ensure safety of flight. For airports with low utilization of UNICOM or few requests for airport advisories, airport managers may think a UNICOM is unnecessary. However, as one airport manager explained, even if UNICOM is used only for radio checks, it provides value to airport users and enhances airport safety. In addition, for the one pilot requesting and subsequently receiving an airport advisory, the UNICOM station is important. Airport managers are encouraged to consider the value of UNICOM from the pilot’s perspective, rather than only from the airport operator’s perspective. CONCLUSION 3 Discussions with airport and FBO managers clarified that airport advisories are only advisory in nature; they are not required instructions that convey control. The pilot in command remains in command and has the final authority with regard to the operation of the aircraft. Even so, UNICOM operators can monitor CTAF and issue advisories if they observe an aircraft in an unsafe situation, such as attempting to land on a closed runway.

38 Conclusion 1 Non-towered airports benefit from having a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency or separate UNICOM frequency upon which airport advisories may be transmitted. Conclusion 2 Non-towered airports equipped with an on-field AWOS or ASOS receive fewer requests for airport advisories. Having an AWOS or ASOS on the field appears to reduce the need for audible airport advisories because pilots can obtain current winds and select the appropriate runway based on that information. Conclusion 3 Airport advisories are only advisory in nature; they are not required instructions that convey control. The pilot in command remains in command of the aircraft. Conclusion 4 Although a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency has been known to cause confusion with pilots, airports with separate CTAF/UNICOM frequencies also reported confusion on the part of pilots. It is important to inform pilots fully about frequencies in use. Conclusion 5 To enhance the use of UNICOM and ensure pilots benefit from available airport advisory services, more education of pilots, ground vehicle operators, and UNICOM operators is warranted. Conclusion 6 Airports may enhance safety by minimizing vehicle/pedestrian traffic on the movement area and ensuring that vehicle operators communicate on the appropriate frequency to announce intentions. Conclusion 7 The low rate of airports issuing audible airport advisories may be the result of a lack of formal training of personnel and an underlying fear of liability by airports. In addition, airports offering ASOS/AWOS (whether appended or not) and/or wind sock/segmented circle generally consider these to be advisories. Conclusion 8 It is beneficial to provide on-the-job training for UNICOM operation and proper phraseology to personnel staffing the UNICOM station. Conclusion 9 There is limited guidance available and little innovation on the delivery of airport advisories at non-towered airports. Conclusion 10 Everyone at the airport can contribute to airport safety, including pilots, UNICOM operators, airport operators, FBOs, and flight schools. All stakeholders have a vested interest in ensuring airport safety. TABLE 8 CONCLUSIONS

39 CONCLUSION 4 Although a combined CTAF/UNICOM frequency has been known to cause confusion with pilots, airports with separate CTAF/UNICOM frequencies also reported confusion on the part of pilots. In essence, it is important to inform pilots fully about frequencies in use at the airport and to ensure that the personnel issuing advisories are properly trained and issuing appropriate advisories on the appropriate frequency. If frequency congestion is an issue, the airport operator and FAA can work cooperatively to minimize congestion and avoid duplication of frequencies at neighboring airports. CONCLUSION 5 To enhance the use of UNICOM and ensure pilots benefit from available airport advisory services, more education of pilots, ground vehicle operators, and UNICOM operators is warranted. Pilots aware of the option to request airport advisories through UNICOM maintain a more robust toolkit of resources to operate safely at the airport. Ground vehicle operators, who often are airport maintenance or operations staff, benefit from maintaining situational awareness on the airfield and giving the right- of-way to aircraft. Training of personnel who staff the UNICOM, with the possibility of requiring pilot experience, was identified as beneficial. In reality, redundant systems are in place to support airport safety, such as notices to airmen (NOTAMs), lighted X to indicate closures, AWOS/ASOS, and airport advisories. CONCLUSION 6 Minimizing vehicle/pedestrian traffic on the movement area enhances airport safety. Airport safety is enhanced when only personnel with a need for access to the movement area, such as airport opera- tions, maintenance, and aircraft rescue firefighting (ARFF) personnel, are granted access to the move- ment area and only after thorough training. Airport safety also is enhanced when airports ensure that vehicle operators communicate on the appropriate frequency to announce their intentions to pilots. CONCLUSION 7 The low rate of airports issuing audible airport advisories may be the result of a lack of formal train- ing of personnel and an underlying fear of liability by airports. Less qualified personnel are hesitant to issue airport advisories proactively. In addition, some airports have a UNICOM but prefer not to use it to issue advisories because of the potential liability of transmitting erroneous information or complete reliance on the advisory by the pilot, who may treat it as an air traffic control (ATC) instruc- tion that must be followed. CONCLUSION 8 Personnel staffing the UNICOM station are often pilots, and if not, they have received on-the-job training on UNICOM operation, proper phraseology, and so forth. In fact, many of the airports contacted as part of this study prefer hiring pilots to staff the UNICOM station. Managers of these airports think that by having a “pilot’s point of view,” the UNICOM operator can generate more use- ful airport advisories. Providing on-the-job training is standard and more effective for the non-pilots hired to staff the UNICOM station. CONCLUSION 9 An additional finding is that limited guidance is available to airport staff and UNICOM operators regarding training and the method by which to issue advisories and staff a UNICOM station. Most airports train, staff, and operate their UNICOM frequency in the manner the managers think is best, but there is little guidance in this area, so there is variation at non-towered airports across the country. Likewise, there is little innovation at airports in the area of airport advisories. Other than the adoption

40 of AWOS and ASOS and the ability to append broadcasts, airport advisories have been issued with the same means for decades. CONCLUSION 10 Possibly the most important finding of this synthesis is that everyone at the airport can contribute to airport safety, including pilots, UNICOM operators, airport operators, FBOs, and flight schools. All stakeholders have a vested interest in ensuring airport safety, whether or not a UNICOM exists. Airport advisories are beneficial to pilots but are not the sole means of ensuring safety at non-towered airports. As staff of non-towered airports do their part to ensure a safe and efficient airport, it is ben- eficial to consider the airport issuing airport advisories and how that task is accomplished. FUTURE RESEARCH To enhance the safety of non-towered airports, several areas are suggested for research. First, because the United States lacks standards and official guidance associated with operating a UNICOM station—including staffing the UNICOM and training personnel operating it—future research on this topic could benefit the development of guidance for UNICOM operators. Second, research into the reasons more airports have not adopted additional technologies, such as automated UNICOM and Super AWOS, would be helpful. As these more-advanced technologies are introduced, if airport adoption is lackluster, it is important to understand why. Third, this study found that although 95% of participating airports agree that audible airport advisories are necessary, only 35% actually provide these advisories. Research into the reasons more non-towered airports do not provide audible airport advisories would be beneficial. Fourth, research that focuses on pilot perspectives would be beneficial. This research could focus on pilot needs for airport advisories and the roles of CTAF, UNICOM, and AWOS/ASOS in obtain- ing needed information to ensure safety of flight.

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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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