runway1Here’s your challenge. Where does the Aeronautical Information Manual, or the J.O. 7110.65 (Air Traffic Control) specifically say you must receive a “cleared to land” from Tower before landing? I’ll have a complete discussion of the topic, including words from air traffic controllers in the next edition of the Radar Contact Show.

On a related note, what exactly does the clearance, “Make closed traffic” mean? Does it imply a clearance to land, or do you need a separate landing clearance to touch the runway? We’ll consider the possibilities in the next Radar Contact Show.

Is ATC Going to be Privatized?

Press Release 2/3/16

WASHINGTON, DC – Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) today introduced H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, legislation that establishes an independent, not-for-profit corporation, outside of the federal government, to modernize and provide U.S. air traffic control (ATC) services.

In an upcoming Radar Contact Show we’ll talk about how this change, if it happens, may affect you.

See you soon.



I’ve spent a lot of time at this website talking to you about how to format your call sign when transmitting on the radio. While focusing on tiny details, I failed to recognize the bigger problem. Many pilots do not even use their call sign when talking to ATC. Time to slay that dragon.


There you are, whizzing around an uncontrolled airport pattern, surrounded by who-knows-what in other aircraft. If it’s your unlucky day, someone is going to try and swap paint with you on the downwind leg. What do you do and what do you say on the common traffic advisory frequency to unravel a developing furball? I mean besides, “Oh ____, this is gonna hurt!” I have the answer in this week’s show.

All that, plus Your Question of the Week.

Show Notes:

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) 4−2−1. General

b. The single, most important thought in pilot- controller communications is understanding. It is essential, therefore, that pilots acknowledge each radio communication with ATC by using the appropriate aircraft call sign.

CFR § 91.123 Compliance with ATC clearances and instructions.
(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 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.

AIM 4−1−9. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers

g. Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions

1. General. Self-announce is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated CTAF.

h. UNICOM Communications Procedures

(d) Report approximately 10 miles from the airport, reporting altitude, and state your aircraft type, aircraft identification, location relative to the airport, state whether landing or overflight, and request wind information and runway in use.

(e) Report on downwind, base, and final approach.

(f) Report leaving the runway.

Your Question of the Week

You are 20 miles from an uncontrolled airport, inbound for landing. You dial up the ASOS frequency for the airport and learn the surface winds are 340 at 10 knots. The airport has 1 north-south runway with a left-hand traffic pattern, so you are obviously going to land on Runway 35.

Next, you tune the airport’s Unicom frequency and request an airport advisory. There is no answer. You report your position at 10 miles from the airport, “Town and Country Traffic, Cessna 9130 Delta, 10 miles southwest, inbound for landing.” There’s no response to this. The radio is completely silent and you are certain you have the correct frequency tuned.

Given this situation, what do you do next? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to


Air Traffic Control Tips, Goodies, and Presents

December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or if you prefer, Seasonally Adjusted Greetings. I come bearing gifts of good cheer, ATC tips, techniques, and other goodies. Normally, I’d tell you what’s in store for this edition of Radar Contact. Instead, slip off the ribbon, tear away the wrapping paper and look inside. Show Notes: Rudolf is fully […]

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Six Reasons Why You Should Use a Radio Headset

December 3, 2015

Are you still talking to ATC using a handheld microphone? If so, you might as well fly with one hand tied behind your back. Here are 6 reasons to drop that microphone and start using a radio headset. A radio headset frees one hand from holding a microphone. Let’s face it, flying is a hands-on […]

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Aviation Headsets < $400: What We Know So Far

November 25, 2015

The results of the survey about aviation headsets costing less than $400 are in. The survey asked, is there an economical headset that feels good on the head, provides good audio quality, and holds up over time? The answer in this week’s show. Questions asked in reader and listener email   “Tiring of hearing “tally […]

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When to Make Position Reports in an Uncontrolled Airport Traffic Pattern

November 10, 2015

Radar Contact is back! In the first show after a months-long break, we’ll talk about when to make position reports in an uncontrolled pattern. You may think you already know the answer, but if you look at the confusing mess in the Aeronautical Information Manual, your confidence may be shaken. No matter. I’ll give you […]

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Monitor the Tower

October 29, 2015

Recently, someone asked me, “What should I do when the ground controller says, ‘Monitor the Tower?’” This individual thought it meant, continue to communicate with Ground on one radio and listen to Tower’s frequency on a second radio. This makes sense when you think about how the Aeronautical Information Manual recommends monitoring the guard frequency […]

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Speed Kills–On the Radio

October 21, 2015

It’s not so much speed that kills a good radio transmission. It’s the side effects of speed-talking that destroy a perfectly good radio transmission. I have a case in point. Two nights ago, I was flying into JFK. This was at an extremely busy time at an airport that is already one of the busiest […]

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Look Out for VFR Pop-Up Traffic

October 18, 2015

Explain this to me. I was on the cockpit jumpseat as we were descending into San Francisco International yesterday. Inflight visibility was good, though the sun was blinding as it sank towards the western horizon. Suddenly, Norcal Approach said, “Airliner 521 Heavy*, expedite a right turn, heading 280.” The Pilot Flying complied. A second and […]

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St. Maarten Tower, You’re Driving Me Crazy!

October 12, 2015

It happened again this week. I bring it up so you’ll know you are not alone with this problem. This was at St. Maarten International–yes, that St. Maarten. The place where everyone hangs onto the fence, and their swim shorts, as the KLM 747 comes screaming overhead at 50 feet. “Didja get it? Didja get the […]

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