Questions tagged [air-traffic-control]

Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a service of ground-based controllers that directs and coordinates aircraft to improve safety and efficiency.

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41 votes
5 answers
90k views

How much is the minimum safe distance between two planes in-flight?

According to FAA regulations, how far should a commercial jet be away from another plane in-flight? How about military planes? They get really close when in formations... Is there a minimum distance?
31 votes
4 answers
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Why do aircraft on Flight Radar 24 jump around randomly sometimes?

I use Flight Radar 24 on my iPad to track friends/families flights when they are traveling (not paranoia, just curious). I've noticed that, quite often, their plane will jump from one location to ...
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Why do pilots use airways instead of just "flying direct" every time?

These days, on larger/newer aircraft at least, GPS navigation is ubiquitous. So VORs and Non-directional Beacons (NDBs) are used less. Wasn't the reason for airways because they were the connection ...
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24 votes
3 answers
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What is a TRACON?

What is a TRACON or Terminal Control? When do pilots need to be helped by a TRACON? Where is it usually located and what is the difference between TRACON, En Route and Tower?
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27 votes
5 answers
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Which ATC instructions should be repeated back by the pilot?

AIM 4-4-7 (b) says: Pilots of airborne aircraft should read back those parts of ATC clearances and instructions containing altitude assignments, vectors, or runway assignments as a means of ...
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23 votes
4 answers
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Is a pilot allowed to sleep during a flight?

While in a flight, a pilot wants to sleep. Given that the aircraft has an autopilot facility, are they allowed to sleep for a while (e.g., half an hour)? What would happen if it's not allowed, but ...
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34 votes
5 answers
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Is it illegal for Joe Public to listen to ATC in the UK?

I recall that in the UK (unlike in the rest of the world) we have a law forbidding the listening to of air traffic control, dating back a century, to the days of paranoia over spies! What is this law,...
17 votes
2 answers
23k views

How do you request a "pop up" IFR clearance?

If you are flying VFR into deterioration weather conditions and would like to continue the flight under IFR, or you would like to climb to a better altitude but are restricted by a cloud layer, what ...
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36 votes
1 answer
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How are duplicate call signs dealt with?

Many airlines (at least here in the U.S.) have flight numbers that use different aircraft for different legs of the flight. For example, Delta 158 uses a 747-400 from Incheon International in Seoul to ...
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1 answer
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In the US, in actual practice, workload permitting, will ARTC facilities grant SVFR clearance for surface-level Class E "extensions" (E4 airspace)?

In the US, in actual practice, workload permitting, will ARTC Centers and Approach Control facilities grant clearance for Special VFR operations in surface-level Class E "extensions" (E4 ...
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33 votes
6 answers
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How can pilots fly inside a cloud?

I heard that sometime an aircraft fly inside a cloud, and I'm wondering how that works - how clearly can the pilot see while inside the cloud? What if a cloud is "too large"? (Is there a maximum size ...
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12 votes
3 answers
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What ATC entities does a commercial airliner communicate with?

As a private pilot, I am familiar with tower, ground, approach and departure control, but I am aware that there are other entities like clearance, pushback and center. If I were flying a commercial ...
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15 votes
4 answers
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Where can the airspace boundary coordinates for Fayetteville TRACON be found?

I would like a map depicting the airspace owned by Fayetteville TRACON that includes lat/long coordinates (i.e. not just a cartoon-y outline with no information). Ideally, I'd like to find a site ...
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15 votes
1 answer
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Who manages International Airspace Traffic?

For example, if a plane is flying from Amsterdam to Miami and is in the middle of the ocean, who manages that traffic? The ARTCC? Or the airplane just flies without communicating for some hours until ...
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16 votes
3 answers
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What is the security policy for getting into a Control Tower in the US?

Are there any regulations the FAA has ruled to get into a Control Tower? Do people need any special kind of security clearance? Are there forbidden items or other special rules? I'd also want to know ...
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27 votes
5 answers
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When should the term "pan-pan" be used instead of "Mayday"?

FAAO JO 7110.65, §10-1-1 states that "pan-pan" can be used to indicate a state of urgency: a. An emergency can be either a Distress or an Urgency condition as defined in the "Pilot/...
17 votes
5 answers
11k views

Why are some ATC call signs different than the flight number?

When listening to air control traffic, or watching flights on flightradar24.com, some flights show up with ATC call signs (as transmitted on ADS-B) that do not match the flight number as they usually ...
17 votes
1 answer
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Do pilots who have color deficient eyesight see light gun signals differently?

Can pilots with color deficient eyesight expect to see the red, green, and white light-gun signals as such? In other words, if the controller is giving them a green light, will they see green? If they ...
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8 votes
1 answer
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How is an airline call sign assigned?

Commercial aircraft are identified on the radio with an airline call sign and their flight number. The answer on this related question mentions: the telephony designator of the aircraft operating ...
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113 votes
3 answers
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Why did this plane fly in a zigzag pattern?

I was tracking flight NKS739 from LAX to SEA this morning and saw that it made some some odd turns. If you look at the track from FlightRadar24.com you can see that it was heading toward SEA then it ...
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14 votes
4 answers
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Where can I find real-time flight tracking with the least amount of delay?

I am an aviation fan, relatively new to the industry. While I thoroughly enjoy plane spotting at my local KORD airport, at times I tune to LiveATC and Flightaware to get my fix. Unfortunately, my ...
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20 votes
3 answers
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Does Flight Following automatically include permission to fly through class C or D airspace?

The situation is as following - I requested flight following at approach, got a squawk and instructed to maintain VFR with heading and altitude at my discretion. My route is through class D and class ...
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31 votes
4 answers
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How is wind direction reported (blowing from or blowing to)?

When the tower controller, the ATIS or a METAR says Wind 270, 15 knots does it mean the wind is blowing in the westward or in the eastward direction? Is there a single convention used to express the ...
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19 votes
1 answer
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What is a two- or three-mile base exactly?

I frequently hear the tower instruction Report a two mile base for runway 5 What is the intention of that instruction? I realize that under these circumstances that we're not looking for pinpoint ...
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19 votes
4 answers
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How are aircraft separated in a non-radar environment?

In remote areas that have no radar (oceanic airspace, etc.) how is aircraft separation maintained so that airplanes don't get too close? What do areas that normally have radar do when there is a ...
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18 votes
3 answers
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What is the maximum number of planes a controller can control?

In a small and un-busy airport, the same controller can be the ground and tower at the same time. If the sector is un-busy (e.g. late at night), he may also be a sector, ground and tower all at the ...
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2 answers
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What are some examples of warning areas and restricted areas?

Can you please give me some examples of warning and restricted areas? How can an aircraft enter these areas? What are the procedures you have to follow before entering them?
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Does the NTSB provide CVR audio recordings alongside transcripts in accident reports?

Reading the NTSB's accident report on US1549, there is a transcript of the CVR from page 149 onwards in the PDF (marked as page 130 on hardcopy). Small clips of the ATC/crew communications exist, but ...
29 votes
4 answers
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When can I request flight following?

I'm a student pilot doing all VFR flying and making flight plans for training. I've heard that most people don't file a flight plan for VFR outside of training though, and instead request "flight ...
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19 votes
2 answers
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What are the differences between ACARS and CPDLC?

What are the differences between Aircraft Communication, Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), and Controller Pilot Data Link Communication (CPDLC)? Can anyone please let me know in short, what is ...
37 votes
4 answers
71k views

What does "Information <letter>" in ATC transmissions mean?

When listening to ATC broadcasting (at least for ULLI), phrase "Information <Charlie|India|whiskey|etc.> on board" may be heard. Charlie, India, Whiskey, etc. ...
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29 votes
2 answers
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What does ATC mean when they refer to "company"?

Listening to LiveATC there are references by various ATC entities (towers, approach, etc) to "company". To what does this refer?
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5 votes
1 answer
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How can shifting to TCP/IP make current aviation systems more delay-tolerant?

I've recently been reading a number of articles on the current aviation systems. Many of them say that the current aviation infrastructure is 'inefficient' since it is based on OSI model and, so, ...
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34 votes
1 answer
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Why is there a strip of uncontrolled airspace between Russia and Norway?

The airspace between Russia and Norway over the Barents Sea is an uncontrolled air space; no FIR is set. Illustration taken from this document. This area is like a corridor from the Scandinavian ...
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27 votes
5 answers
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When is an aircraft cleared to land?

In Is there a minimum separation between a landing aircraft and another crossing its runway? it was explained that once an aircraft has clearance to land, that runway is reserved for the exclusive use ...
12 votes
4 answers
34k views

How can I find telephone numbers for FAA ATC facilities?

It is often desirable to call an FAA air traffic control (ATC) facility on the telephone: To ask a question about a "mark-the-tape" incident To request a tour To notify the facility of unregulated ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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Why are the transition altitudes/levels different around the World?

I got tasked by my instructor pilot to find out why each country has a different transition altitudes / levels. For example in the US it's FL180 and in Saudi Arabia it's FL150. Can someone help me ...
3 votes
5 answers
3k views

Why can’t air traffic control radars determine the altitudes of primary targets?

There are two types of returns that show up on an air traffic controller’s radar screen: Secondary returns are not, strictly-speaking, radar “returns” at all, but, rather, signals automatically ...
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16 votes
1 answer
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Why are speed restrictions imposed for flights flying below 10,000 ft?

I know that restrictions do not always apply and ATC can cancel them or pilots can request for speed restriction being canceled. But why is there such a speed restriction in first place? Are there any ...
13 votes
3 answers
5k views

What is the procedure when being vectored for an approach and ATC allows you to pass through the final approach course?

If you are on a heading, being vectored to intercept final on an instrument approach, and it appears that you will fly through the final approach without being cleared to intercept it, what should you ...
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13 votes
1 answer
921 views

Why might a passenger jet fly at altitudes in a strong headwind when the winds are more favorable at a different altitude?

I was a passenger on an east to west flight recently. During the flight I was playing with Garmin Pilot's new "Flight profile" feature that nicely shows the wind speeds at various altitudes, and I ...
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8 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is it ATC's responsibility to ensure read backs are correct?

I have experienced this a few times in the last couple of months. When the ATC assigns me a squawk code and I enter it in the transponder, a few minutes later when I try to reconfirm the squawk code, ...
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4 votes
1 answer
557 views

Is Ground Direction Finding commonly used?

I've recently come across the concept of Ground Direction Finding. My (limited) understanding of it is that it is a system that allows you to see where a VHF transmission is coming from. I gather it ...
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70 votes
4 answers
87k views

Why do English-speaking pilots and ATC say "Niner" instead of "Nine"?

Besides the fact that it's now a standard, why do American-English-speaking pilots and ATC say "Niner" instead of "Nine"? None of the other numerals are pronounced in an atypical fashion. For what ...
78 votes
4 answers
14k views

How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

I am interested in authentication - how identity is verified - in civilian aviation radio transmissions. I know that when someone is speaking on the radio he tells his call sign. But is there any ...
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34 votes
5 answers
12k views

Why are visual approaches (in the US) preferred by US pilots, but not European pilots?

I listen to ATC a lot and often hear airliners cleared for visual approaches in the USA. Interestingly, if it's European airliner pilots they deny the visual approach and request ILS even if they are ...
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28 votes
2 answers
40k views

Are “Kennedy Steve’s” various jokes allowed in ATC communications?

Forgive me if there is an obvious answer to this, but I was just listening to this “Kennedy Steve” playlist, and he seems to joke a lot more than most ground controllers I’ve listened to. I have ...
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25 votes
5 answers
6k views

May an emergency aircraft land on a closed runway?

Let's say that you're on approach to a remote airport to refuel (for arguments sake, Funafuti International Airport, Tuvalu), with 1-2 hours of fuel remaining in your aircraft. Contacting ATC to ...
22 votes
4 answers
12k views

Can you bust a TFR while operating under IFR?

Is it possible for the pilot to be held responsible for violating a Temporary Flight Restriction if the controller makes a mistake while you are operating under an Instrument flight plan (ie: does not ...
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22 votes
6 answers
20k views

Is there a dedicated emergency frequency?

Coast patrol has a dedicated frequency for emergency that must be watched at almost all hours, and even if I recall, it had a "dead silent period" to prioritise whatever emergency might be reported. ...
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