Three years ago the first version of this book introduced pilots to the world of Air Traffic Control as it is seen from behind the microphones and radar scopes. In that short period of time things have changed dramatically.
Air Traffic Controllers are still distant authoritative disembodied voices whose main purpose in life is to keep pilots from killing themselves and others by telling them where to go, but as of 2020 the methods used to perform that invaluable function are morphing dramatically.
Towers, Approach Controls, and Centers have been upgraded with new equipment and procedures to handle the changeover from a Radar based monitoring system to satellite technology. The Flight Service division has been reduced to only two privatized facilities in the lower 49 states, with only Alaska still using the old style briefing and flight planning and radio procedures.
New pilots are all excited about learning how to fly – a daunting task in and of itself, yet in the midst of trying to remember how many degrees of flap are needed to take off, he suddenly has to juggle a microphone and recall not only what he has to tell a tower or Unicom, but how to say it correctly.
With rapid changes to technology, even veterans of the flying community are finding they need a little help understanding their options. When must they comply with ADS-B requirements? What kinds of TFR’s are mandatory versus optional? What are the preflight briefing options available these days? What is the difference between VFR and IFR and how do I file an ICAO flight plan?
These are some of the questions I have answered through the articles I’ve written for pilots over the last 20 years. This book is a compilation of those articles with extra information added to fill in the holes creating a comprehensive look at the ATC system as it exists today. Like the first edition it goes over the basic information about the Air Traffic Control system as needed by any new pilot, mostly focusing on the Tower, Center and Approach Control facilities. Since the duties of the Flight Service division of Air Traffic have been changed to the point that they no longer serve directly as controllers, much of the specific information on how to interpret preflight weather briefings has been removed and set into a separate book.
This book is not an official publication of the Federal Aviation Administration and not officially approved by them or any other company working with them…it is mostly my observations and insights from working within the system for 34 years. I do cite references to other sources that are sanctioned, some of which are noted in the articles and some are listed in the appendix.
I have truly enjoyed working with pilots, for every one of you that has had me tearing my hair out, there has been one that made me laugh. Keep your nose up!
Rose Marie Kern