VFR Traffic Advisories

Traffic 12 o'clock, 1 mile, 1,000 feet below you.

Traffic 12 o’clock, 1 mile, opposite direction, 1,000 feet below you.

Here’s a free gift from ATC! VFR traffic advisories: all of the goodness with none of the fat of regular air traffic control. Look for it, by name, at your nearest air traffic control center.

In this show you and I will talk all about VFR traffic advisories–what to expect and how to respond to ATC. It’s a show packed full of techniques and procedures you can use on your next flight.

Also in this show, a new twist on questions and answers. I’ll have an opportunity for you to get in touch with me and talk, one-on-one, about your radio questions and concerns. We’ll also consider another question–your question of the week. Look out! Literally, it’s a question about looking out; and the question is not easy.

Before we get started, a heads up for this edition of Radar Contact. We’ll be talking primarily about VFR traffic advisories while using ATC’s flight following services. Flight following does not restrict your freedom to climb, descend, or turn at your own discretion. When you participate in radar sequencing and separation services in Class C and Class B airspace, you might not have as much freedom to maneuver as you would in the scenarios I cover in this show. Never fear, though. I’ll go over your options in Class C and B in another show.

Show Notes:

  1. When ATC calls out traffic, you will get clock position, distance to traffic, aircraft type or model (if known), direction of travel, altitude of the traffic (if known).


  3. Your response to the traffic callout depends on whether you see the traffic.

  5. See the traffic? “Traffic in sight.” Don’t see the traffic? “Negative contact.”

  7. Some pilots use the military terms: No joy (traffic not in sight); or, Tally Ho (traffic in sight). These are not intended for civilian use.

  9. Many pilots use the non-standard term for traffic not in sight: “Looking,” or, “Searching.” ATC accepts these, but they are not terms used in the Aeronautical Information Manual.

  11. If you don’t see the traffic and ATC believes it might be a conflict, ATC will suggest a heading to avoid the traffic.

  13. Although you are not required to follow ATC’s heading to avoid traffic, I recommend flying the heading unless you have a compelling reason to avoid the traffic by some other action.

  15. When traffic is no longer in conflict with your flight path, you will hear ATC say, “Traffic no factor.”

  17. If you email a question to me about radio procedure or technique, I will answer you. If your question is really good, I’ll invite you to talk it over by Skype or by phone and record that discussion for airing on a future edition of Radar Contact. If your question is chosen, you’ll also win a free 30-minute coaching session with me on radio work, VFR or IFR!

  19. If you have been thinking about writing a review of Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, now is as good a time as any to head on over to the book review area at Amazon.com (convenient link!) and write that review. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. A few words to help your fellow pilots would be greatly appreciated.

Errata: In the show, I give an example in which you are flying on V-234, towards the Hutchinson VOR. The first time I mention it in the show, I misspeak and incorrectly call the airway V-132.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying in the traffic pattern at a tower-controlled airport. As you turn to crosswind the tower controller says to you, Grumman 6 Hotel Mike, “As you roll out of your turn, traffic will be a Cessna 172 at your 11 o’clock and 3 miles, entering the downwind. Report that traffic in sight.” As you roll wings level on the crosswind leg, you see a Cessna 172 at your 1:30 position at a distance that appears to be greater than 3 miles. The wind at your altitude is calm. Here’s the question: “What do you say to Tower?”

When you think you know the answer to that question go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer, along with an explanation of how that answer was derived.


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