What to Tell ATC When You Spot Traffic on ADS-B

What is the correct response on the radio for this situation?

ATC: “Cherokee 7 Kilo Mike, traffic eleven o’clock and one zero miles, opposite direction, a Lear Thirty-Five at niner thousand.”

You see the Learjet’s target on the screen of your ADS-B screen.

What you say in reply to ATC depends on whether or not you see the Learjet through the windscreen of your aircraft. If you visually acquire the traffic at your eleven o’clock, you should reply, “Traffic in sight”. If you don’t spot the traffic visually, you should say, “Negative contact”.

Wait a Minute. What About the ADS-B Pickup?

For operational purposes, ATC couldn’t care less whether you have the traffic ID-ed on your ADS-B set. The only way a controller may modify his traffic separation procedures is if you report the traffic in sight. If you announce, “Cherokee 7 Kilo Mike has the traffic on ADS-B”, it means absolutely nothing to ATC. There’s no point in making the report to ATC because it’s irrelevant.

Got Em on the Fishfinder

You may have heard airline pilots respond, “We’ve got the traffic on the fishfinder.” This is slang and it means the pilot has ID-ed the traffic his Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). It sounds cool, but for ATC’s operational procedures, it means absolutely nothing.

What’s ADS-B’s Traffic Information Service Worth

The real value in having the Traffic Information Service (TIS-B) on your ADS-B equipment is it helps you develop situational awareness of traffic around you. It may assist you in visually spotting traffic after ATC points it out to you. It may also help you spot traffic when ATC is too busy to issue a traffic advisory.

As of right now, the full value of TIS-B belongs entirely to you. Until the FAA incorporates TIS-B identification into its procedures, there’s no point in reporting traffic you’ve identified on your screen.

Questions? Comments? Write your thoughts below in the comments section or write to me directly at Jeff@ATCcommunication.com.


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