ATC’s Workload Permitting Basis

Enroute to Kissimmee.

Heard this a few weeks ago while departing out of Miami International (MIA) on the Manatee One departure. All of the call signs are fictitious with the exception of Miami Departure; and the conversations are an approximation, based upon my questionable memory:

“Miami Departure, Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo, off Tamiami. Request traffic advisories to Kissimmee.”

“American 721, climb and maintain 12,000.”

“Climbing to 12,000, American 721.”

“Miami Departure Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo, off Tamiami. Request traffic advisories to Kissimmee.”

“Cactus 663, contact Miami Center 132.15.”

“32.15, Cactus 663.”

“Miami Departure, Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo?”

“Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo, Miami Departure. Go ahead.”

“Miami Departure Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo, a Cessna 172 off Tamiami. VFR to Kissimmee, climbing to 4,500. Request traffic advisories.”

“Cessna 456 Alpha Bravo, did Tamiami give you a squawk code and tell you to contact me on this frequency?”

“Cessna 6 Alpha Bravo, negative.”

“Cessna 6 Alpha Bravo. You’re supposed to get a VFR clearance from Tamiami and then you can pretty much do what you want as long as you maintain VFR clear of Class Bravo airspace. We’re really busy here.”

“Uh . . . sorry. I didn’t know that.”

“Cessna 6 Alpha Bravo, squawk 0465, remain clear of Class Bravo, and standby. Break, break, Delta 2527, cleared direct Orlando. Climb and maintain 12,000.”

Three take-aways from this.

1. The very first paragraph of the FAA’s description of ATC Service says controllers will provide additional services, (VFR flight following, for example,) as the work load permits. When a chunk of airspace fills up with radar targets, VFR aircraft are way down a controller’s priority list. You can check my math in  Chapter 2 of the Air Traffic Controller’s Manual: J.O. 7110.65T.

2. In this case, the controller used up more of his limited time to explain the procedure to the Cessna pilot than if he had simply:

a. Given the guy a squawk code and pressed on.

b. Or, denied the guy VFR flight following due to a high workload.

3. If you are going to fly in one of the busy air traffic areas in the United States, learn and use the local procedures. We can talk about where to find out about local air traffic procedures next time.

Did I miss anything? You tell me.

Photo courtesy of


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