Seems like an odd scenario, however I have experienced this a few times now. A non-towered airport will have someone on the radio directing traffic and reading out weather info like barometric pressure.

I find this to be extremely dangerous and unwanted as the times I have encountered this, the person on the radio has no reason or training to do this (among other things).

Question: If faced with this scenario what would you do? Would you report the airport? Am I looking too much into this and should just let it go?

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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like a UNICOM operator on shared CTAF frequency. This is usually considered a service to pilots but it can also cause conflicts as evidenced by this article from Flight Training magazine. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2016 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ There was recently a push to introduce this in Australia, and I'm pretty sure they relented and it's on a trial somewhere. Personally I am uneasy about the prospect of someone acting like an ATC without any ATC training! I think it is easy enough to deduce the conditions and traffic flow without this 'service'. $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Mar 12, 2016 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ It's probably on the late side now, but a good addition to this question would have been a specific example of the phraseology used by the operator. For example, there's a huge difference between, say, "cleared to land runway 19" and "runway in use is 19". $\endgroup$
    – user
    Feb 16, 2019 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ The UNICOM operator appears to be doing his/her job. You can always not fly to that airport and go somewhere else where there is only CTAF. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2019 at 16:26

2 Answers 2


You're almost certainly talking about a UNICOM operator, who is just an airport (FBO) employee who gives information to pilots on their request. The FAA's Pilot Handbook says:

UNICOM is a nongovernment air/ground radio communication station which may provide airport information at public use airports where there is no tower or FSS. On pilot request, UNICOM stations may provide pilots with weather information, wind direction, the recommended runway, or other necessary information. If the UNICOM frequency is designated as the CTAF, it will be identified in appropriate aeronautical publications.

The important point is that UNICOM is not ATC. A UNICOM operator cannot give you instructions, clearances or require you to do anything. He can only give you information, and as PIC it's up to you to decide how to use that information.

The article that Porcupine911 mentioned is a great example of that. A student pilot thought that UNICOM was telling him which runway to land on, whereas in fact the operator was only recommending a runway (presumably based on the prevailing wind or whatever). Unfortunately, the operator recommended the opposite runway to the one that was actually in use by other pilots.

Like pilots, UNICOM operators vary in their experience and competence. A good UNICOM operator (in my opinion) will give you the local wind and altimeter information, tell you if there are other aircraft in the pattern or nearby, tell you which runway is in use by those aircraft, and give you any essential safety information (like a closed runway). But as PIC, I'm still going to listen to CTAF and AWOS and look for other traffic before choosing a runway and joining the pattern. It's also common for no one to reply to a UNICOM call (because the operator is out fueling aircraft in his other role as lineman, for example), in which case you're going to have to sort things out without it anyway.

So there's no need to "report" anything: UNICOM operators are a well-known and official service, but you have to know how to use them and what their limitations are.

  • $\begingroup$ Wonderful information and very appreciative for the followup. $\endgroup$
    – Yogwhatup
    Mar 12, 2016 at 18:10

Reference 47 CFR 87.213. Attempting to direct air traffic via Unicom is illegal, I would report that.

(c) Unicoms must not be used for air traffic control (ATC) purposes other than to relay ATC information between the pilot and air traffic controller. Relaying of ATC information is limited to the following:

  1. Revisions of proposed departure time;
  2. Takeoff, arrival or flight plan cancellation time;
  3. ATC clearances, provided a letter of agreement is obtained from the FAA by the licensee of the unicom.

47 CFR 87.213 is an FCC regulation, so this should be reported to the FCC, not the FAA.

  • $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Feb 16, 2019 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean I beg to differ. It cites the appropriate regulation and states the recommended action. It could be improved by adding a link to the regulation and formatting a bit but I’ve seen far worse first posts. So welcome to Aviation.SE Spencer! $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    Feb 16, 2019 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ I feel like this answer is missing an important piece of information, though: who should this be reported to? The FAA, the FCC, or someone else? $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2019 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @tanner swett, I agree this could be helpful to include, but it wasn’t asked in the original question. And most pilots would know that a violation of the CFRs would be reported to the FAA. The FCC would only have jurisdiction if the UNICOM station does not have a radio station license. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2019 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @sean, I disagree. This was a perfectly succinct answer to the original question as asked. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2019 at 18:24

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