Air Traffic Control Serves You

At your service.

There is a restaurant group in Atlanta that operates under the flagship name of Here to Serve. I like that. It’s a name and a mission statement rolled into one. Sometimes we pilots, (and air traffic controllers, I might add,) forget that air traffic control is a service. How do I know ATC is here to serve? The FAA says so in the very first paragraph of the description of the ATC system in their operating manual:

J.O. 7110.65T Feb. 10, 2010


The primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system and to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide support for National Security and Homeland Defense. In addition to its primary function, the ATC system has the capability to provide (with certain limitations) additional services. . . The provision of additional services is not optional on the part of the controller, but rather is required when the work situation permits.

Hey, New Guy!

What does this mean for new pilots? If you are new to aviation, please don’t be intimidated by air traffic controllers. Yeah, I know. You are the new kid in the club. You don’t know all the lingo yet. You might not know everyone’s name and what they do, but you will, in time.

Just know that air traffic control is here to serve and support you. Sure, they want you to try hard and learn the ropes as quickly as possible, but it’s also okay to take baby steps. No one expects you to have the system wired the moment you step into the clubhouse.

Lawyer’s Caution

I’m not saying you should get in your airplane and flail around with total disregard for the regulations just because you are new to the game. Not at all. What I am saying is, I know what it means to be new to a system that might seem a little intimidating right now. Fly safe. Fly within the rules, and you will get the support you need from air traffic control, regardless of your experience level.

Next time, let’s talk about the last 5 words of paragraph 2-1-1 of the Joint Order: “when the work situation permits.”

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