You Make The Call

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I'll admit to having a love-hate relationship with control towers. I love them when they sort out a hairball on the runway when departures and arrivals otherwise step all over each other. I hate it when a quiet airport that was doing just fine with a CTAF gets a tower and all of sudden you need federal assistance to find the runway.

But from the this-is-just-puzzling file comes something that happened to me on Friday. I'll use it as an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of ATC procedures and FARs.

I was flying with U.S. Aviation, which has a busy flight school in Denton, Texas. As we tried to depart, a Seneca had blown a tire on the runway and bollixed up everything. In a Remos G3, we were able to launch in front of the disabled airplane and go about our business. Returning 40 minutes later, the Seneca was gone, but the mess wasn't, so the tower controller pointed us west of the field and asked us to hold for awhile. He also gave us an altitude not to exceed. (This is technically a directive, not a clearance, since he isn't providing anything but runway separation.)

The pilot I was flying with pointed out that this directive would give us some terrain clearance issues because of high buildings west of the airport so we would need to do something else. The tower controller immediately replied with something like this: "No it won't. I can clear you. That's the good thing about being in Class D airspace."

Using all the power of the Web, you make the call. Was the controller right or wrong? Could he legally do what he did?

This is Progress?
For this trip, I flew out of DFW, one of my least favorite airports. I've been going back and forth on using the electronic boarding passes you can put into a smartphone. These are supposed to save time.

They don't. At least not always. On the trip out, the gate agent couldn't get the scanner to see the smartphone QR tag of the guy in front of me. Six or seven tries later, it finally worked. My paper pass scanned fine. On the return trip, I used the smartphone boarding pass myself.

At Dallas, it appears that TSA is using some kind of new scanner to scan the tag. Heretofore, in my experience, the agents just looked at the tag, looked at my ID and passed me through in an exercise of appropriate human technology. Wasn't that good enough? Oh, noooooo.

This new scanner gives the word kludge a bad name. It's about the size of a small copying machine and has some kind of rotatable head on it. It looks like something out of a Soviet design bureau. The phone has to be placed face down on the thing and, of course, it promptly goes dark so the scanner can't see the tag. It took three or four tries to make it work.

I think I'll go back to paper. At least it doesn't need batteries and it never asks me if I'm sure when I want to throw it away.

Comments (85)

Paul, I agree with you on the altitude "Clearance" issue with the Class D tower. If it were me, I would do one of two things or both. First, I would tell the tower controller I was unable to do as he asked because of altitude issues with the obstacles. Second (maybe) I would ask him to confiscate the tapes and file a formal complaint. I might just call the shift supervisor on landing or just ignore the stupid "Clearance" from the controller and move on.

My understanding of the purpose of a tower controller is to inform the PIC that the runway is clear so he can land without hitting another plane. That is what a clearance from a tower controller means. If the runway is not clear you can't land anyway. It is not up to this controller to allocate airspace and provide separation over housing developments for planes trying to land on his runway.

There was a time (when I was younger and more respectful of the government) when I thought the government controller had control of my aircraft. Now I don't believe that at all. Rather he is a traffic cop with a radio who is responsible ONLY for sequencing aircraft on and off the runway.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 5, 2012 4:51 AM    Report this comment

Paul, that's what the very official aviation vernacular "unable" was meant for. One word. Says it all. When a controller gives me a clearance I simply cannot follow I say it—all the time. Maybe that's why some of them don't like me so much but, it keeps me out of nasty black clouds, away from ground obstacles and miscellaneous other bad stuff that happens to overly compliant pilots. You are always the pilot-in-command and no controller can take that away, ever.

Sure, we have to comply with all reasonable requests, it's a sophisticated game juggling traffic at a busy Class B, C or D airport and we have to play. But putting yourself or your passengers into peril is not a part of the game, ever.

Posted by: Amy Laboda | March 5, 2012 5:31 AM    Report this comment

At no time does a pilot relinquish the responsibility for safety, regardless of airspace considerations. This is the “see-and-avoid” precept.

The ATC Handbook, 3-1-1, states the purpose of ATC terminal services is to—

“Provide airport traffic control service based only upon observed or known traffic and airport conditions”. However, it is the responsibility of the pilot to “operate in accordance with CFRs” ... and ... “it is the responsibility of the pilot to avoid collision ...”

One more thing: if ATC administers control instruction to aircraft (i.e., “N1CE, remain west of the airport”), unless safety is a factor, pilots are expected to respond to comply—or declare an emergency. The pilot that attempts to “nuance” the difference between “directive” and control instruction will have to defend his interpretation to an AL judge.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | March 5, 2012 5:50 AM    Report this comment

I can see the clearance covering the legal aspects under the "except as necessary for approach and landing" clause. But if the pilot deems it unsafe or even uncomfortable he/she has the right to say "unable."

Posted by: Unknown | March 5, 2012 7:32 AM    Report this comment

If the controller was trying to tell you that he can authorize a violation of FAR 91.119, no, he can't. What he might have been thinking was that the controller handbook has specific references limiting VFR altitude assignments to at-or-above FAR 91.119 MSAs in the sections applicable to special VFR, TRSA, and class B/C airspace, but there is no similar restriction addressing plain class D operations. That kind of makes sense since the more typical tower altitude instruction in class D surface areas would likely fall under the "Except when necessary for takeoff or landing..." language in 91.119, but in the situation you describe that would not seem to apply as you were specifically NOT landing!

There are many FARs that include language like "...unless otherwise authorized by ATC..." where controllers can approve one thing or another, but 91.119 isn't one of them.

Posted by: Scott Dunham | March 5, 2012 7:35 AM    Report this comment

From the FAA 7110.65T: "3−1−3. USE OF ACTIVE RUNWAYS The local controller has primary responsibility for operations conducted on the active runway and must control the use of those runways. Positive coordination and control is required as follows:..."

No where does it say he has control of the entire class D airspace.

Posted by: Al Secen | March 5, 2012 7:38 AM    Report this comment

I guess the question had enough nuance in it to require the expertise of a former controller, which Scott, above, is. That's the analysis I was fishing for here.

The controller seemed to suggest he had the authorization to waive 91.119 and that he similarly had altitude authority in a Class D which, according to my reading of 7110.65, he does not. (See Al's citation of the 7110.65)

We angled away from the high buildings to avoid a safety issue, but if we hadn't, we would have been within 300 feet of them. Sometimes you get the sense when working with some controllers that saying "unable" will result in a directive worse than the last one. My sense of it is that this was one of those.

I didn't feel like arguing, since I wasn't PIC.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2012 7:57 AM    Report this comment

"He also gave us an altitude not to exceed."

Climb to 2501', squawk 1200, and circle the field. A tower can't deny your leaving class D. Listen on frequency till the runway is available and then re-establish dialog. It's simple.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 5, 2012 8:41 AM    Report this comment

"I'll admit to having a love-hate relationship with control towers. I love them when they sort out a hairball on the runway when departures and arrivals otherwise step all over each other. I hate it when a quiet airport that was doing just fine with a CTAF gets a tower and all of sudden you need federal assistance to find the runway."

I've done all of my flight training (and probably 80+% of all my flying) at towered airports, so I guess my view of them is a little different. My first few times to a non-towered airport felt probably about as unusual as a pilot flying mostly out of non-towered airports does when flying to a towered airport. Of course, all of my flying has only been since 2006 in the northeast, so controlled airspace is just what I'm familiar with.

I've never actually had the above situation happen to me with _tower_ controllers, but I have had _en-route_ controllers (tracon, center) have me overfly areas that would otherwise be considered "restricted" (think the downtown D.C. area) or too lower per the charts I have, but (presumably) not the MVA. Though in those cases (or at least the latter one), I know the controllers do specifically have that authority.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 5, 2012 8:53 AM    Report this comment

Somehow my earlier post got deleted : ( Anyhow, AIM 4-4-1 states the following in all caps - their emphasis, not mine regarding ATC clearances: IT IS NOT AUTHORIZATION FOR A PILOT TO DEVIATE FROM ANY RULE, REGULATION, OR MINIMUM ALTITUDE NOR TO CONDUCT UNSAFE OPERATION OF THE AIRCRAFT.

I would think deviating from the minimum altitude for congested areas would place you, as well as the controller, in jeopardy of an enforcement action. I will be interested to see what other commenters come up with though.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | March 5, 2012 9:02 AM    Report this comment

The PIC is responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft, period!!!!! I've been flying for 59 years and a few(not all) controllers seem to think that you are up there because they are down there. Its the other way around. Just refuse to do anything you deem unsafe and tell them we'll talk about it when I get on the ground.

Posted by: Richard Warner | March 5, 2012 9:31 AM    Report this comment

So Paul...Did you call the Tower and have a little chat with them?

Posted by: dan kriston | March 5, 2012 9:41 AM    Report this comment

Here’s a similar situation: There has from time to time been discussion of low passes at our uncontrolled airport, with it being pointed out that the low pass is not “necessary to land” and therefore a violation of 91.119.

In connection with these discussions someone produced an email from the VNY FSDO that pointed out that a pilot could be written up for a low pass at a tower airport “even though the tower approves” because “by asking for a low pass you’ve clearly indicated you intend to go below 1,000’ AGL and not land.”

Posted by: John Wilson | March 5, 2012 9:57 AM    Report this comment

On the smartphone follies: This morning's local paper had a mention of a (California) proposal to authorize use of smartphone-displayed copies of proof-of-insurance, and possibly vehicle registration docs also. So this is only going to spread.

Sounds like your actual problem is the technology simply isn't yet up to it. I know my crappy iPhone camera is very marginal with both on-line check deposit photos and the bar-code scanning apps.

Posted by: John Wilson | March 5, 2012 10:09 AM    Report this comment

John, Making a low pass can be a valuable training exercise that doesn't have any more risk to it than a touch-and-go. I could be wrong (I'd have to look it up), but I thought being cleared "for the option" also included low passes, so it seems strange that the FSDO would deem that a pilot could be in violation of 91.119 for performing a low pass. I guess you'd just have to make it a "touch-and-go" with just barely touching one wheel down and then remaining in ground-effect for an extended period for it to be legal?

AIM-4-4-1 suggests clearances don't relieve the PIC of having to follow the rules, but there are also times when it seems legitimate clearances do actually put us in violation of other rules (but as far as I know, are actually legal).

Is this one of those cases where it's "no harm, no foul"?

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 5, 2012 10:19 AM    Report this comment

"So Paul...Did you call the Tower and have a little chat with them?"

LOL! There was a time in my life when I would have FOIA'd the tapes and called the facility. But you can't budge that culture much, so I try to educate pilots to be savvy to the fine points.

The more you understand this stuff, the better you are at executing the command part of PIC.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 5, 2012 10:28 AM    Report this comment

Gary,

There is a long distance between doing something against the rules and getting written up by a FSDO employee.

The best I have been able to determine, FSDO "Safety Inspectors" are largely made up of CFIs who couldn't make it in the real world. They don't hold any monopoly on understanding of the regulations. Rather they are heavily schooled and proficient in filling out FAA forms.

My point is it is not really important if one of these "Inspectors" writes you up for some sort of deviation or violation. They are just as likely to be completely wrong as air traffic controllers or any other government bureaucrats.

The way you (and others) formulated the "Low Pass" issue might be interpreted to mean if you abort a landing and go around it is an FAR violation. That is simply nonsense.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 5, 2012 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Paul Mulwitz, I have to disagree with your assertion that safety inspectors are largely made up of CFIs who couldnt make it in the real world, and they dont hold a monopoly on understanding the regulations....I have actually dealt with more than on inspector, and different kinds...pmis, pois. They are a mix of people from all sectors of aviation, they could make it in the real world, but have decided the steady job, and benefits beats the instability of aviation as a whole, whats more they perform a needed job function, whether you agree with it or not. They are wrong from time to time, but the FAA sees to it that they know a heck of alot more about "the regulations" than you do. These guys know what they are doing, and what they are talking about....I would trust their interpretation of a regulation above yours...since they know about a the chief legal counsel, what a letter of interpretation is, and regulation numbers youve never heard of in your life, and they can quote common regs, mucj like many of those CFIs your demeaning. I take issue with your lack of knowlege about ASIs and CFIs, and what they know, and using this lack of knowlege as a position of authority on the matter..The best you have been able to determine, is not good enough...if you do not know enough about a topic, then dont speak to it.

Posted by: rob haschat | March 5, 2012 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Is a "simulated go-around" a violation of FAR 91.119? No intent to land, and also below 500 or 1000 feet AGL, maybe within 500 feet laterally of structures or vehicles...

Posted by: A Richie | March 5, 2012 11:17 AM    Report this comment

Paul M. there is not a long distance between running afoul of the regulations, and being written up by a FSDO employee. A FSDO employee cannot write you up, an ASI can open an investigation into the circumstances of the flight in question. If you are in violation of a regulation, you may be investigated, if you have not been violating regulations, you will not be investigated...its a short line I promise! Those inspectors are heavily schooled in many regulations, what they mean, and the determinations made by the chief legal counsel, and the NTSB. They cannot write you up, they open an investigation, send you a letter of investigation, conduct the investigation, and either drop the case, or pursue action in the form of a civil penalty, certificate action, or remedial training. They are likely to be completely right, as they know what they are talking about. Everyone should know, that Paul M's portrayal of these people couldnt be farther from the truth, and should not be taken as such. I find it offensive there are people out there that actually think this, and if any of my former students ever told me anything like what he just said, I would break my jaw as it dropped to the floor....I expect a level of understanding and intelligence from myt students and the pilot population as a whole.....

Posted by: rob haschat | March 5, 2012 11:26 AM    Report this comment

What you call a directive is a "Control instruction". You are the pilot in command and do have the right to say unable and ask for alternate instructions. Absent that request you are expected to follow control instructions. If you don't and it results in a problem for the controller you may be asked to "call the tower." If the controller thinks what you did was unsafe they will file a report which will be investigated. If you did violate a control instruction, or any other FAR it would be filed as a pilot deviation and you would get a call from your friendly FSDO inspector.

Local control's responsibility is the runway environment and the entire Class D airspace. Local control does have other separation responsibilities beyond the runway. Those responsibilities are determined by a Letter of Agreement with the overlying Radar Facility. Generally that includes separating arriving and departing IFR aircraft using Radar or non-radar rules. Local control is also responsible for issuing traffic (workload permitting) to aircraft in the class D.

Posted by: Steven Dale | March 5, 2012 9:46 PM    Report this comment

I'm was hung up on the "we were able to launch in front of the disabled aircraft." Was a little worried until I looked it up at 7,000 feet long (KDTO)! Crisis averted, continue to discuss...

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | March 6, 2012 3:13 PM    Report this comment

i guess this didn't post the first time around... man, that was taken way outta text all around... here's the situation from above... seneca blew nose gear tire and was stuck on the runway for almost 45 minutes... not only were there 15 other a/c ready for departure, but by the time the Remos checked in (initial call was less than a mile from my airspace, inside of 5SM NNE, forgot to say thanks for that btw)they were the 6th aircraft in the air inbound to land... the other 5 were either already heading to/or holding at other points and altitudes (at/below 015 or at/above 020)... the remos was sent to the TWU Towers (a local VFR checkpoint used literally hundreds of times per month) while a c172 was inbound 3 miles NE from the same point at/above 020... the entire Class D is the jurisdiction of the ATC, not just the runway and deviations are allowed for control and separation (part 91 under class D ops, if ur really bored)... saying the 1000 rule is hardlined in D airspace would make everything east of DTO's runway unusable below 017 (it only goes to <025) and that's ridiculous, there are no TERP'd MVA/MSA DTO ATC has to worry about in the VFR environment, that's D10's job w/ IFR a/c... had the word UNABLE been used, another checkpoint could have been found w/ easy for the remaining 10-15 minutes it took to remove the disabled a/c from the runway...

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 6, 2012 4:35 PM    Report this comment

seeing as u never held at the Towers (3.5SM NE) and entered a wide downwind unknown (3SM SE) to tower, u were sequenced direct to the base leg anyways... ok, venting done... lol... next time u get the chance to fly a light sport into a single runway Class D that pushes over 150,000 ops/yr, let me know... have a great day!

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 6, 2012 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Zack, Your rant of 3 and 4 letter codes reminds me of typical first contact with ATC speedtalkers. I have no clue what most of those letters represent. (and I'm sure I've been flying a lot longer than you've been speed talking at microphones.)

Also, if you have a problem with LSA you might want to find a new occupation. They are getting very popular and the last time I heard they are not restricted from controlled airports. Indeed, many of them outperform many of the "GA" aircraft you used to see at small airports like yours when aviation was more popular and less expensive.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 6, 2012 5:48 PM    Report this comment

LSA's are great... we welcome all air frames, but if ur initial check-in w/ any controlled airspace consists of less than a mile to fly, my occupation isn't the problem... ;-) even the AIM recommends 15sm for the initial call, but the phrase "10 to get in" is perfect... i appreciate all responses to what i have posted, but unless you have actually logged more than 20-25,000 hours (which is very possible) of flight time, i'm pretty sure i've got more experience on frequency and observed traffic scenarios in only 15 years of ATC.

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 6, 2012 6:07 PM    Report this comment

Zack, Actually I've got closer to 250 than 25,000 hours, but they were accumulated over 40 years.

I agree with you completely about checking in 10 miles from your destination. Even if it is not required it just makes good sense. As I understand it, you must check in before entering the control zone (class D) or you are violating the air space.

For what it's worth I have seen a wide variety of controller quality over the years. My first controlled airport was an Air Force base where the controllers were all fresh out of tech school. They did a reasonably good job but were very green. Of course the amount of traffic was very light compared to civil airports. In the years between then and the fiasco with president Reagan I found civilian controllers to be excellent. Since the complete replacement of controllers in the 80's I feel the overall quality of controllers never has reached the level it had before then.

I must ask you what exactly you mean asking for a hold in a VFR environment. I understand IFR holding patterns, but in VFR this seems to be undefined to me.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 6, 2012 6:39 PM    Report this comment

trust me, we've all seen a wide variety of controller qualities!.. i was just trying to find the actually height of the Dorms over at the university, wait a min, just got a text telling me... the tallest tower is just under 271 feet tall... add that to the estimated field elevation in the area of 650 and the altitude was just over 920'... i was trying to figure out w/ the remos said it needed to dodge the building in an earlier post... the obstruction clearance for the towers horizontally is only 2000'...

hold in vfr? there's not an exact phrase for every scenario in air traffic when it comes to a Class D... worse case scenario, plain English works best when safety is involved... i want an aircraft at a certain point to keep track of who's who and where... throw in the altitudes to keep it safe and when normal ops resumed everything comes out smooth... especially at Denton, we have at least 7 VFR checkpoints we use locally (locations around the airspace easy to describe and see for a pilot)...

FYI, once the runway was clear and checked for FOD, we were able to depart all 15 and land the 6-7 waiting a/c in about 8-10 mins... if everything was set in stone and orderly in the skies, i wouldn't have a job... yet because everything changes literally every minute, i do what i do and love it... hope that clears a lil up... thanks

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 6, 2012 7:00 PM    Report this comment

i need to spell check more often, the laptop doesn't spoil me like my Droid phone... just a side note, lol

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 6, 2012 7:04 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Zack. Obviously the Remos piddling around for just over 1/2 hr should have expected "delays" on returning so quickly. He needed to have PREPARE to take-a-number and wait or at least have been prepared to land elsewhere when departing in that situation.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 6, 2012 10:57 PM    Report this comment

saying the 1000 rule is hardlined in D airspace would make everything east of DTO's runway unusable below 017 (it only goes to <025) and that's ridiculous,

I don't think so. Your control authority doesn't obviate a pilot observing 91.119--that one's on the the pilot. Review the phraseology on the tape and you'll hear the clear implication--the pilot said he would have a terrain clearance problem, the controller says no you won't because you're in Class D. Class D has nothing to do with it.

I seem to recall we were are 1700 indicated, or a little less, in an elevation area of about 640. The 270-foot tower busts FAR 91.119 and the pilot told the controller that.

Tell me what authority you are using for arguing otherwise.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 7, 2012 2:38 AM    Report this comment

And while I'm at it, I'll FOIA the tape and run it by ATO. Perhaps we'll both learning something...

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 7, 2012 2:55 AM    Report this comment

>>> plain English works best when safety is involved... <<<

Zack,

I must disagree with you on this point. "Plain English" is subject to two problems when it is created by an air traffic controller. First, the pilot in question often has a hard time understanding what is said. Pilots live in a very difficult audio environment (at least in small planes with little insulation). That means they can understand controllers when they say what is expected but have a hard time understanding "Creative" transmissions.

Secondly, "Plain English" is subject to interpretation. This is particularly difficult when an aviation jargon term like "Hold" is used in the wrong context.

I am not, and never will be, a controller. However, my advice for you in the future if you are faced with a similar need is to hand off the problem traffic to the TRACON so they can provide proper separation rather than trying to do it yourself from the tower.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 5:38 AM    Report this comment

Having dealt with many different Controllers in various parts of the world I would like to put my two cents worth in here. The phraseology used is very important, I was once told by very broad Scottish accent Controller in Inverness: “Enter the runway zero five and when cleared for take-off execute a left hand circuit.” My response “Cleared for take-off runway zero five left hand circuit“ and proceeded to move onto the runway 05. The controller flashed back very quickly and loudly “I SAID WHEN Cleared you are not cleared yet” ?? The correct wording from the controller should have been “Enter runway zero five and hold” no misunderstand then and I would have replied “Enter runway zero five and hold.” This is not the first misunderstanding I encountered and too all accounts and purposes won’t be the last.

The other gripe I have is when controllers start giving you flight information just when you are starting to enter the runway and then get bent out of shape when you stop to carry out those instructions. Sorry I know this doesn’t happen in the states it only happens in England

Thank you Paul for such a good article

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 7, 2012 6:12 AM    Report this comment

Interesting. For the controllers watching this, let me add a comment. As a very new pilot with less than 70 hours in the book, about 2/3 of them at a Class D airport, if I was in this situation I'd be working very hard to manage the workload and would probably comply with any tower instructions w/o considering if they were appropriate. Please don't put me in an unsafe situation. While 300' clearance may not be unsafe, it's getting close. That said, if the inbound a/c actually did bust the airspace and failed to make contact until 1 mi. out, I'd consider that a much bigger problem than a questionable directive from the tower. It sounds like the freq. was probably busy and I've seen more than one pilot continue on course while waiting for his chance to speak, but I consider that unsafe and rude to the controllers. I find ways to delay my entry into the Class D until I can make contact, for my own good so I can adjust my approach to the tower's initial information and to help an already busy tower cleanly add me to their workload. If I'm in the air for an extra 3 minutes while the tower sorts out a medical helicopter, a couple departing PC-12's, an arriving CRJ and a handful of C172's and the like, I'll enjoy the scenery and marvel at the ability of the controller to juggle all that in their head, and I figure if I'm holding 8 - 10 miles out I can do it on my terms out where traffic should be spread out enough to provide an extra margin of safety.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | March 7, 2012 9:54 AM    Report this comment

Paul M., I could be wrong, but my understanding is that Tower can't just hand any old traffic over to TRACON, especially if the traffic is still within the Class-D airspace.

Bruce S., When calling up Ground for taxi and to also get Flight Following, there have been a number of times when the controller starts reading back my squawk code, etc while I'm already taxiing. I can't recall an instance where the controller got annoyed that I told them "standby for read-back", because I was busy taxiing and didn't want to have my head down in the cockpit.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 7, 2012 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Mark C., It's not just "rude to the controllers", but entering the Class D without first establishing contact violates the airspace rules. So, your decision to remain outside until you can contact the tower is not only good practice, but also required practice. But you're correct, a lot of pilots do enter the airspace before establishing contact, and that's a good way to get the phone number to the tower.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 7, 2012 10:02 AM    Report this comment

Okay, if the tower controller does NOT control the class D airspace why is a pilot required to establish contact with the tower BEFORE entering the class D airspace?

Having said that no pilot should blindly follow ATC intructions that put them in violation of the rules or even their own comfort levels. Any professional controller will offer alternate choices in such situations.

If the referenced incident would cause the pilot to violate FARs it should be reported to prevent future problems, if it was just a case of a low level of comfort when considering the posibility of an engine failure then the pilots request should have been honored or the pilot could just exit the airspace.

Question, was this an FAA tower or an FAA contract tower?

Ray (25+ years retired ATC)

Posted by: Ray Laughinghouse | March 7, 2012 10:06 AM    Report this comment

Paul B, i'm all in on pulling the tapes and i'm pretty sure it's in the process anyways... never once did howard say anything about terrain avoidance or unable, also the avoidance zone of an obstacle is only 2000 feet horizontally (think of a large coke can 4000 feet wide coming outta the top of the towers) and then u can throw out the 1000 feet in vertical seperation... again, that was all on the pilot to advise (we have literally nothing to do w/ the understanding of CFR's) i'd never known half of this CFR stuff until this came up and researched and have already talked to a few FAA examiners about the scenario... also, if ur a pilot, how were u on a "FAM RIDE"? sounds more like Part 135 ops, just saying...

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 10:23 AM    Report this comment

Paul M... at DTO, in case u didn't know, we have a large number of international student pilots... avg 100-130 Chinese plus many others, throw in all other civil and jet traffic at an average pace of 550-800 operations per day... not saying that proper phraseology useless, but on a case by case basis, if any pilot has a problem understanding an ATC command, would it be wise to keep saying the same thing over and over, or use simple and easy to understand words and phrases and accomplish the mission of a safe flight? also, if there are any questions always ASK... finally, we have a certified radar display in the tower and are easily able to give traffic information to known traffic... giving all 6-7 VFR aircraft to TRACON would have been a waste... there are NO separation services provided to VFR aicraft by a radar facility...

Bruce... yeah, that's a tough one...never have i seen the terms "enter and hold"... sounds like he should have said "runway 05, line up and wait, expect left closed traffic"... the word CLEARED should NEVER be used in a situation like that... also, once the a/c enters the RY it should be considered a critical phase of flight... all pertinent info should have been given prior...

anything else?

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 10:24 AM    Report this comment

Gary B,

I don't see why a controller can't hand off traffic to the TRACON. They do this routinely on nearly every departing flight. I guess you are saying they can't do this if the flight isn't departing?

I understand this situation was unusual because of the extra heavy traffic and the dirty runway. It seems to me that any controller would be faced with unusual decisions in this case. I have no idea what the controller's training suggests for such a situation, but "Plain English" VFR hold instructions over a tall construction with a restriction from climbing to a safe altitude seems like a really poor choice.

Whether it is common practice or not, I think getting the TRACON (approach/departure control) involved to help with the congestion would be a much better choice.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 10:32 AM    Report this comment

Gary/ Mark... to clarify, it was about a mile or less OUTSIDE the airspace on initial call... even though it's legal, i'd still consider it rude and possibly dangerous coming into a high congestion environment...

Ray, thanks for the input, there were many other options available, yet since there were the last to check in and the slowest of the group in the air, i'm considered them my last priority... we're FCT by the way

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 10:34 AM    Report this comment

Zack,

Perhaps I misunderstood the situation. I thought it was one aircraft that was given the VFR hold instructions with the altitude restriction. That is the one I thought might be better handed off. If that same instruction were given to 6-7 planes at the same time then I am surprised there wasn't a mid-air collision to go along with the flat tire on the runway.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 10:39 AM    Report this comment

wow, i really dislike typing... sorry for the amazingly, horrible grammatical posts...

PAUL, c post above, but TRACON isn't a save all for VFR A/C... sitting under the Bravo Airspace shelf our sector works inbound a/c to DFW... y would i have hindered their workload and frequency w/ 7 pop-up a/c that they can do absolutely nothing about... again, NO SEPARATION SERVICES PROVIDED TO VFR by a radar facility.

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Paul M., I don't know for sure either. I was basing that assumption that TRACON is for arrivals and departures, but it's Tower's responsibility for their own airspace. Also, I would think TRACON would be busier than Tower anyway.

Zack, So the aircraft was told to "hold" outside the Class D? I know I've heard that at my home base once, where Tower had a fairly new controller who was overwhelmed with the traffic, but if I recall in that case, Tower just told the aircraft to remain outside the Class D.

I agree with Bruce S.: this is an interesting topic, and nice to have both "sides" (pilots and controllers) commenting on this. I've certainly learned a lot.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 7, 2012 10:44 AM    Report this comment

>>> there are NO separation services provided to VFR aicraft by a radar facility... <<<

Huh? Where did you get that notion? I suppose you think Approach Control tries to fly VFR traffic into each other so they can enjoy the explosions?

I don't claim expertise in the latest and greatest rule changes for ATC, but TRACONs have been providing separation and traffic sequencing for a mix of VFR and IFR traffic for a very long time. This is required in Class B and C and optional in Class D airspace and vicinity.

It seems to me the harder you try to defend your actions in this situation the deeper you dig the hole.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Paul, no worries... w/ the amount of training at this facility, we're used to the more than occassional flat on the runway, but rarely does it take 45 minutes (avg 10 mins) so when pilots check in the situation is explained and 95% of them are locally owned and know the drill... if they don't wanna wait, there's AFW 12 miles SW they could divert to... TRACON did know about the closure btw and had to hold out a few IFR inbounds that were still enroute...

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 10:51 AM    Report this comment

separation services are not the same as traffic advisories... when have u ever been under VFR flight following and were assigned a hard altitude (maintain six thousand) or heading (fly heading 270)??? not to knock it, but w/ less than 250 hrs of flight time over a 40 year period, armchair piloting isn't the best of experience to be able to imagine 1/3 of any situation listed above...

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Gary, i could have told them to remain outside the Class D, but our job relies heavily on turn unknowns into knowns... knowing that i have an aircraft intending to land and his position allow us to formulate a clearer picture of the flow and a reliable gameplan when ops were finally able to resume... does that help?

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 11:12 AM    Report this comment

Zack,

I hope you are having fun trying to make fun of me. I hope you survive the game. You are really annoying besides being really wrong. I have more than 250 hours. I merely told you I had closer to 250 than the 25,000 you suggested were needed to be likely to be correct over your comments. I guess your attitude is common for recently trained ATC folks. I don't consider your 15 years to be impressive. If you are so good why are you still working at a country airport instead of a major hub?

Indeed, I have experienced flying firm vectors many times while flying VFR. I did instrument training while flying an aircraft based at Dulles (IAD) back when it was a group 2 TCA. That is roughly equivalent to a Class B in today's airspace. Most of the times I landed at Dulles it was a practice ILS which was treated exactly the same as an IFR operation - except for the warning to stay in VMC.

I think you are confusing the notion that TRACONs are not "Required" to provide VFR separation rather than they "Don't" do that. Indeed they do on request and under common situations.

Your constant defensive comments sound a lot to me like a pilot who is in trouble and refuses to declare an emergency.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 11:15 AM    Report this comment

we're not even gonna get into the difference of FAA/ FCT here... we'll just say this is my 5th facility to work at, including time in the USMC, Nebraska, Illinois, Afghanistan and Texas.. my "country" airport is the busiest single runway in nation... i apologize for the jab and we'll leave it at that

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 11:31 AM    Report this comment

OK, Zack. I accept your apology.

Now I understand a little bit more of where you are coming from. The USMC says it all.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 11:37 AM    Report this comment

i'll take that as a compliment... lol

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 11:41 AM    Report this comment

Zack,

You might want to update AirNav on your estimate of 550-800 operations per day. According to them your average is: Aircraft operations: avg 288/day. They also pointed out your tower is part time - closed over night. This doesn't sound like a super-busy airport to me.

Obviously, somebody has some wrong data here.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 7, 2012 11:56 AM    Report this comment

airnav has nothing to do w ops accuracy... it's good for fuel prices and that's about it... of course we don't run those numbers w/ IFR, inclement weather, high crosswinds, ect... we are a 16 hour tower, i believe that's the same as ADS (Addison) if u want a facility that's comparable... the last 3 years, we've been right around the 150k mark... a true daily 'average' would be 410... but on any given day we could run 20 ops all day in IMC conditions up to our daily record of 854 in VMC clear/million... let's see if i can find that link under the faa.gov website about operations...

# Facility Total

1 DFW 648,359 2 IAH 530,396 3 HOU 200,308 4 DWH 179,626 5 DAL 179,540 6 SAT 178,168 7 AUS 176,617 8 DTO 148,429 9 SSF 127,170 10 AFW 119,616

there's ur top 10 towers in 2011

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Here is some info on Visual holding. I always had good luck talking to DTO tower with any question on the ground. P/CG AIM VISUAL HOLDING− The holding of aircraft at selected, prominent geographical fixes which can be easily recognized from the air. (See HOLDING FIX.) HOLD PROCEDURE− A predetermined maneuver which keeps aircraft within a specified airspace while awaiting further clearance from air traffic control. Also used during ground operations to keep aircraft within a specified area or at a specified point while awaiting further clearance from air traffic control. (See HOLDING FIX.) (Refer to AIM.) HOLDING FIX− A specified fix identifiable to a pilot by NAVAIDs or visual reference to the ground used as a reference point in establishing and maintaining the position of an aircraft while holding. (See FIX.) (See VISUAL HOLDING.) (Refer to AIM.) HOLDING POINT [ICAO]− A specified location, identified by visual or other means, in the vicinity of which the position of an aircraft in flight is maintained in accordance with air traffic control clearances. HOLDING PROCEDURE−

Posted by: Nick Richardson | March 7, 2012 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Here is some info on Visual holding. I always had good luck talking to DTO tower with any question on the ground. P/CG AIM VISUAL HOLDING− The holding of aircraft at selected, prominent geographical fixes which can be easily recognized from the air. (See HOLDING FIX.) HOLD PROCEDURE− A predetermined maneuver which keeps aircraft within a specified airspace while awaiting further clearance from air traffic control. Also used during ground operations to keep aircraft within a specified area or at a specified point while awaiting further clearance from air traffic control. (See HOLDING FIX.) (Refer to AIM.) HOLDING FIX− A specified fix identifiable to a pilot by NAVAIDs or visual reference to the ground used as a reference point in establishing and maintaining the position of an aircraft while holding. (See FIX.) (See VISUAL HOLDING.) (Refer to AIM.) HOLDING POINT [ICAO]− A specified location, identified by visual or other means, in the vicinity of which the position of an aircraft in flight is maintained in accordance with air traffic control clearances. HOLDING PROCEDURE−

Posted by: Nick Richardson | March 7, 2012 12:22 PM    Report this comment

http://aspm.faa.gov/opsnet/sys/Airport.asp

u can filter all ops there... here's a number crunching comparison for u... on a day we run 700 ops, dfw runs a consistent 1800... that airport has 7 landing surfaces, 2 separate control towers and staffing is around 15-20 per shift total... not to mention everything is already on final when inbound... on the otherhand, we staff 2-3 during any given time and only one runway... rarely is any a/c on final when we talk to them... THAT's one reason i never felt the need to go FAA... we have way more fun

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:24 PM    Report this comment

info from 7110.65U 4-6-5. VISUAL HOLDING POINTS You may use as a holding fix a location which the pilot can determine by visual reference to the surface if he/she is familiar with it. PHRASEOLOGY- HOLD AT (location) UNTIL (time or other condition.) REFERENCE- FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 7-1-4, Visual Holding of VFR Aircraft. 7-1-4. VISUAL HOLDING OF VFR AIRCRAFT TERMINAL When it becomes necessary to hold VFR aircraft at visual holding fixes, take the following actions: a. Clear aircraft to hold at selected, prominent geographical fixes which can be easily recognized from the air, preferably those depicted on sectional charts. NOTE- At some locations, VFR checkpoints are depicted on Sectional Aeronautical and Terminal Area Charts. In selecting geographical fixes, depicted VFR checkpoints are preferred unless the pilot exhibits a familiarity with the local area. REFERENCE- FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 4-6-5, Visual Holding Points. b. Issue traffic information to aircraft cleared to hold at the same fix. PHRASEOLOGY- HOLD AT (location) UNTIL (time or other condition),

TRAFFIC (description) HOLDING AT (fix, altitude if known),

or

PROCEEDING TO (fix) FROM (direction or fix). 7-6-5. HOLDING Hold VFR aircraft over the initial reporting fix or a fix near the airport when holding is required to establish an approach sequence. REFERENCE- FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 7-1-4, Visual Holding of VFR Aircraft

Posted by: Nick Richardson | March 7, 2012 12:24 PM    Report this comment

http://aspm.faa.gov/opsnet/sys/Airport.asp

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:25 PM    Report this comment

it wouldn't let me post the link to the traffic count website... should be found under faa.gov/opsnet

thanks for the references Nick

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:27 PM    Report this comment

Gary B and Zack R. Yes normally I don't have a problem with controllers and flight instructions (Squawk etc.) but occasionally I can find myself at an airport (I know of two) where Military, commercial and helicopter rescue service are and to stop moving while taking in the information is a no no. Invariably there will be a mil. jet jockey saying his is out of fuel and needs to land urgently (this happened regularly at a place called Lansaira South Africa not so much in England). When I took a check ride out of Filton in Bristol some time ago I waited for the controller to read out the instructions but he waited for me to more onto the runway before issuing the instructions. The CFI with me was on the radio immediately giving the controller uphill about what he did. Here were two retired old gentlemen having fun at my expense and don't worry I got used to it and would wait until I was lined up before asking the controller to repeat. Take my hat off he did every time without a problem.

I always thought these blogs were a fun outlet seems to me this particular blog has become a little heated so my suggestion is to cool it man life is great, if you don't weaken (said the Bishop to the Actress in the parlour eating bread and honey).

Posted by: Bruce Savage | March 7, 2012 12:30 PM    Report this comment

Bruce... good call

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:35 PM    Report this comment

i'm not sure if this was mentioned earlier, but the ONLY reason the Remos was given at/below 015 was for the C172 3 miles to his NE heading to the same point and restricted at/above 020...

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 12:45 PM    Report this comment

". also, if ur a pilot, how were u on a "FAM RIDE"? sounds more like Part 135 ops, just saying..."

You might wanna brush up on the pilot FAR side of the house, Zack. This was a plain vanilla Part 91 VFR flight. Not sure where you got the idea that it was a FAM ride. In any case, further research will reveal LSAs can't fly under 135.

Let's not let things spin out of control here. The salient point is this: In the tape, you'll hear the pilot say something to the effect that "we'll have a terrain problem here." The controller then replied with words to the effect of, "no you won't. You're in the Class D" or something like that.

The altitude restriction, 1500 or blo, put us under the 1000 feet required of aircraft operating over congested areas, which that area definitely is. The high dorm tower complicated that further.

The goal here is not to bash you, ATC or controllers in general, but to make pilots aware that control instructions can conflict with their requirements to adhere to Part 91. And I believe this instruction did. So we all benefit from having the dissection.

By the way, if you don't mind, can you give the relevant times and N-number? It'll save time when I get back to the U.S. (In Europe now.)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 7, 2012 6:10 PM    Report this comment

I'm off work today, but will be back tomorrow to cover for the ATM and will pull the tapes then. Considering that the ROC already knows about this blog, I'll more than likely be doing paperwork for the investigation.

We're still looking for the definition of congested areas. Considering its rural and open north of hwy 380 and in comparison to a truly congested area like downtown Dallas, there lies our problem. Oh well, I guess we'll see.

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 7, 2012 6:28 PM    Report this comment

OK. Don't get caught in the middle here. I'll get the data and do the formal FOIA. For the purposes of following up this blog, I want to be sure I am not in error. (Not that it would be the first time...)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 7, 2012 6:43 PM    Report this comment

Problems as I see them: The TWU tower(s) in question is/are outside DTO class D. They are about 1000' MSL, and in a congested area according to the charts, so anything below 2000' would be a potential bust. The OP mentions they were sent west of the field, and the towers are NE of DTO. The instruction/clearance/directive while VFR has been somewhat gray area for a while now. Surely, an instruction from ATC once inside a class B/C/TRSA must be followed even for VFR. However, once outside of a class B/C/TRSA, things get more sketchy. If you get a instruction/directive to 'turn right 050 for traffic avoidance', I suppose you could call back and cancel radar service and proceed as you see fit, but there is history where this has resulted in a bust, and subsequent remedial training. Which I find rather funny, because the controller is within his/her rights to terminate you at any time and squawk you 1200 with no issues at all.

'Unable, altitude restriction' will solve all problems here. If I were sent to TWU at anything below 2000' I would just say unable and let them sort it out. It may result in a 'remain clear', maybe they will pick a different altitude or location, maybe they will hand of ONE plane to approach for a while, it's not for me to say while I'm up there tootling around. All I can tell them is unable, and let them sort through the options. If that means I have to remain clear and call back in 5 or 10, so be it.

Posted by: Doc Mirror | March 7, 2012 8:59 PM    Report this comment

Doc, the dorms are actually just over 1/2 a mile inside the class D. All of our vfr checkpoints, including the towers, are represented from GPS coordinates on our radar. I was curious as to which chart shows the congested area? And what does it look like? We had thought it was the highlighted yellow areas on the VFR sectional, but was told that represents the lighted footprint of the area at night. Is it the same thing? Thanks for the input.

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 8, 2012 12:05 AM    Report this comment

Zack,

I don't know of a formal definition of congested area, but I've always thought it meant any sort of construction at all. This is, I think, the way any pilot would interpret this concept.

The notion is if your plane falls out of the sky will it hit babies and family pets or barren landscape. The fact that there is a high rise building in the area in question makes it abundantly clear to me that this is a built up area.

I had not heard the "Lights" definition for the yellow chart indication, but it sounds about right. I always thought it represented towns, cities, and the like. These would certainly be built up areas, but not the only ones.

If you go up in an aircraft for a normal cross country flight you will see that most of America is just barren land or agricultural land. Any sort of construction is the exception rather than the rule. Those of us who fly experimental aircraft are particularly sensitive to this issue. We are prohibited from flying over populated areas except as required takeoff and landing operations. That rule has been relaxed recently, but it is still clear in the mind of experimental pilots.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | March 8, 2012 12:25 AM    Report this comment

"I was curious as to which chart shows the congested area? "

Probably the part that the tower represents a UNIVERSITY. Reasonable people would assume that a University to be densely populated. Reasonable people would also know that Texas university towers are probably not a good thing to buzz...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | March 8, 2012 7:17 AM    Report this comment

Zack, I’m curious as to why you were attempting to apply vertical separation between two VFR aircraft in Class D airspace? There is no requirement in the 7110.65U to provide anything other than traffic advisories; exchange known traffic.

In Class C or B airspace, a RADAR controller is required to provide certain specified separation minima between VFR - VFR and IFR -VFR aircraft. What is the minima between two VFRs in a Class D? And , what would happen if it decreased to less than that? Would you have had an Operational Error?

It sounded like a very challenging situation with the runway partially blocked and traffic waiting to depart. Plus, all the phone calls and coordination involved. I know. I have been there and done that. I have 27 years ATC experience as an FPL, Quality Assurance Specialist, Evaluations Branch, Regional Office and Headquarters details, Front Line Manager and Air Traffic Manager. I’m also an ATP rated CFI/CFII with several years flying as Captain on a scheduled Part 135 Commuter.

And pretty much any area that has more than a few houses will be considered a congested area for 91.119 purposes by an ALJ. You can look up the FAA Legal Interpretations here http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/pol_adjudication/agc200/Interpretations/

The FARs and 7110.65 provide all the guidance you need. Bottom line is that you can’t make up the rules as you go along.

Thanks John Krug

Posted by: John Krug | March 8, 2012 7:45 AM    Report this comment

The URL to the FAA Legal Interpretations was stripped out but you can Google it.

John

Posted by: John Krug | March 8, 2012 7:47 AM    Report this comment

Thanks John. W the congestion of traffic it has become common practice to give altitude restrictions to almost all inbound aircraft. At any given time we will have 2-4 fixwings in the western pattern and 1-3 helos in the eastern landing at certain points on the movement area. W the TPA at 015, its simple to keep the inbound higher until its close enough to form ur sequence, point out traffic and then descend to follow. It is a very effective tool that allows a safe flow.

Yeah, the link was removed but I googled and saw that that has to be the most non black and white subject I have ever seen in my life. By the examples, u could say that anything east of our runway is a congested area. Yet w our published TPA, our eastern pattern is in violation. Which should be impossible.

Posted by: Zack Roland | March 8, 2012 8:37 AM    Report this comment

The irregularly-shaped yellow highlights on the sectional and WAC charts represent the approximate lighting of the towns at night. There are obviously more towns than there are yellow highlights, so it's mainly for the more congested towns. Therefore, it would be reasonable to consider these areas "congested". But the absence of the yellow highlight doesn't mean it's not a congested area either.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | March 8, 2012 8:49 AM    Report this comment

No matter what anyone says about requirements, pilots get REALLY upset (rightfully so) if controllers (myself included) let two airplanes get too close in class D airspace.

The controller DOES have the ability to tell a pilot to remain 'at or above' or 'at or below' an altitude within the D airspace. If you cannot comply, they can ask you to clear the airspace.

That said, there are a lot of inexperienced controllers out there right now. Lots of turnover in the system. It is frustrating, but should be getting better in the next 10 years or so.

Posted by: Stephen Samuelian | March 8, 2012 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Well, I for one, appreciate Zack jumping in here. It is good to hear from the other side of the headsets. These people do a good job, sometimes under stressfull conditions.

I've been flying from LGB for 50 years or so. The tower is sometimes used as a training facility for controllers. LGB also used to be a large training facility for many overseas pilots.

There have been many times when conditions required some creative thinking, and both sides did well.

As for "remain 'at or above' or 'at or below' I've heard a lot of that over the years, and never thought to look up the Regs for correctness. Someone is trying to help you out. Why argue with that?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | March 8, 2012 12:29 PM    Report this comment

This is the nearest thing to definition i can find “General Aviation Operations Inspector’s Handbook, Order 8700.1″. 2) Congested areas vs. densely populated areas. These two terms are used in reference to rotorcraft external-load operations. Although the terms describe similar areas, the meanings are different. a) Congested area. The congested nature of an area is defined by what exists on the surface, not the size of the area. While the presence of the nonparticipating public is the most important determination of congested, the area may also be congested with structures or objects. If an airplane flying over a congested area at less than 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL) is in violation of 14 CFR part 91, § 91.119(b), b) Densely populated area. Part 91, § 91.313 and part 133, § 133.45(d) use the term “densely populated” area. Those areas of a city, town, or settlement that contain a large number of occupied homes, factories, stores, schools, and other structures are considered densely populated. Additionally, a densely populated area may not contain any buildings but could consist of a large gathering of persons on a beach, at an airshow, at a ball game, or at a fairground. NOTE: While the presence of the nonparticipating public is the most important determination of congested, this definition also applies to structures, buildings and personal property. The congested nature of an area is defined by what exists on the surface, not the size of the area.

Posted by: Nick Richardson | March 8, 2012 5:33 PM    Report this comment

I understand I cannot know what they were actually thinking but here is my take on the issue. It was a stressful situation with many links in the chain and with communication being the most important. The controller issued a clearance that he thought the pilot would be able to comply with. The pilot thought it was clearance that he could not comply with. The controller thought the aircraft could maintain the required horizontal and vertical clearance needed. (CFR 91-119) As pilots we know that we must comply with the CFR and AIM. CFR 91-123 compliance with ATC clearance and instructions, CFR91-129 operation in class D air space (a), CFR91-126 (d), CFR91-127(c). As controllers 7110.65U plus all supplements and local interpretation. A lot of the time they can contradict each other. The pilot did what they needed to for the safety of flight. The controller did what was needed to for the safety of all aircraft they were working at that specific time. I know all pilots think controllers are ATC GODS (just kidding) but always remember TRUST BUT VERIFY. If any one can please point me to what a directive is when an ATC clearance is issued in a class D surface area it will be greatly appreciated. Paul you did well; a lot of people got into the books to make wiser Pilots and Controllers and most of all get us all on the same page. I know for sure of at least one person that got into the books.

Posted by: Nick Richardson | March 8, 2012 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Zack Kudos to you for hanging in on this issue for so long. It would appear there is room for interpretation on both sides of this. Paul has guaranteed a nice increase in subscribers for his underwriters as well.

Thank you for your views from inside the tower. So often these things are one sided rants full of nothing but conjecture. Keep up the good work and thank you for the efforts on behalf of us who are yankin on the yokes.

Scott Stevens .

Posted by: Scott Stevens | March 10, 2012 5:34 PM    Report this comment

Zack Kudos to you for hanging in on this issue for so long. It would appear there is room for interpretation on both sides of this. Paul has guaranteed a nice increase in subscribers for his underwriters as well.

Thank you for your views from inside the tower. So often these things are one sided rants full of nothing but conjecture. Keep up the good work and thank you for the efforts on behalf of us who are yankin on the yokes.

Scott Stevens .

Posted by: Scott Stevens | March 10, 2012 5:35 PM    Report this comment

I always look forward to Bertorelli’s writings and videos on Avweb. They are almost uniformly excellent, but the comments on the DTO tower are off base. He claims to …”love them when they sort out a hairball on the runway…” and “hate it when a quiet airport that was doing just fine with a CTAF gets a tower and all of a sudden you need federal assistance to find the runway.”

He then goes on to criticize the DTO tower for doing exactly what he said he loves; sorting out a hairball. He should have been praising them for handling a difficult situation (hairball) in a safe, legal, prompt, pragmatic, and highly professional manner.

Bertorelli’s crisis was contrived by Bertorelli, not by the DTO tower. When you are VFR and assigned a landmark, you can see it and there is absolutely no need to fly directly over it, so the altitude and proximity issues do not need to take place. If the pilot doesn’t like it, he can decline the instructions or exit the airspace, in this case that was half a mile. It really is as simple as that. By the way, Denton was a “quiet little airport that was doing just fine” when we had 20,000 movements a year. With 148,429 movements a year the hairballs Bertorelli mentioned would occur hourly without a tower. We installed the tower when we were having too many simultaneous approaches to a single runway.

Posted by: Don Smith | March 11, 2012 10:18 AM    Report this comment

"Bertorelli’s crisis was contrived by Bertorelli, not by the DTO tower."

This wasn't described as a crisis but was presented as a pilot judgment call on whether a control instruction was legal and proper.

The point is to get pilots to think about these things and to have enough knowledge to act accordingly. In no way was it presented as a crisis or even much of a safety issue. Read it again and you might notice that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 15, 2012 5:58 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I, for one, thank you for bringing this up. As I said earlier, as a relatively new pilot, I'd tend to doing what the tower suggested without much thought. Now, I'll give it a second of thought and ask myself if there's any reason not to.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | March 15, 2012 3:47 PM    Report this comment

I'm curious about a couple of issues. What was the status of the runway at the time of departure? How was the aircraft allowed to depart what should have been a closed or unsafe runway? Is the tower display a Certified Tower Display or Uncertified? Was traffic exchanged between the aircraft holding in the same geographical location?

Posted by: Unknown | April 16, 2012 7:30 PM    Report this comment

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