Who Controls Your Aircraft?

The Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Florida.

Who is in control of your airplane when you are working with ATC? Is ATC in control, or are you in control? If that seems like a straight-forward question to you, tune in to the show. I’m about to chomp down on your notion of aircraft control and shake it until it cries for mercy. Plus, an excerpt from Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots you cannot read in the preview at Amazon.com or at BarnesandNoble.com. Of course, our question of the week, or, perhaps this week we should call it our dirty rotten mind game of the week.

Show Notes:

1. It was a great weekend. I got to fly in my friend Robin’s Air Cam. With 2 100-horsepower Rotax engines pushing this plane around 80 knots, we flew low and slow in the open-air cockpit. Great fun!

Air Cam

Robin in his homebuilt Air Cam (foreground).
A friend in his floatplane version of the Air Cam (background).


That’s me up front and Robin in back.


2. When you link up with ATC, the whole concept of aircraft control gets shaken up. ATC has control, and you are pilot-in-command. Are you fighting for control of your aircraft, giving up control of your aircraft to ATC, or are you sharing control? Furthermore, what do you do when ATC makes a mistake with your aircraft? The question can be answered with a question: Query the controller.

3. My new book, Radio Mastery for VFR pilots is on sale at Amazon.com and at BarnesandNoble.com as a downloadable ebook. A print version should be out at Amazon.com this week. In the meantime, I’ll read an excerpt from the book that you cannot get from the “Look Inside the Book” feature at either website. By the way, although my reading is set to some decent blues music, music is not included with the book!

Question of the Week:

You are flying in your aircraft on downwind at a tower-controlled airport. Another airplane checks in on the radio with tower and reports a 5-mile final for the runway on which you will be landing. Tower clears that aircraft to land, and then says to you, “Continue on the downwind. I’ll call your base.” Put on your air traffic controllers caps and try to think like ATC. Does Tower need you to fly a longer distance on downwind, or does Tower want you to spend more time on downwind? Obviously, the problem with this trick question is, if you spend more time on downwind, you will fly a longer distance. Thinking about what the Tower controller needs, should you maintain your normal downwind leg airspeed and fly a longer distance, or should you slow to your slowest practical airspeed and try to fly as little distance as possible as you extend your time on downwind?

After declaring me a dirty rotten bastard for asking a trick question; and, when you think you know the answer, go to this link: http://ATCcommunication.com/answers for a complete answer as well as an explanation about how that answer was derived.


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