An open letter from the FAA administrator addressing the issue of non-towered airports.
December 2, 1996
U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of the Administrator
Washington, D.C. 20591
LETTER TO PlLOTS
Several recent occurrences at non-towered airports (either airports without
control towers or airports where control towers do not operate continually) have
given rise to concerns about operations at airports without operating control
towers. The loss of life from a November 20 collision between an air carrier and
general aviation aircraft at Quincy, Illinois, gives us all reason to renew our
commitment to vigilance when operating at non-towered airports.
As pilots you have been trained to "see and avoid," and there is no need to
remind you of that duty, We need to take stock of our traffic scanning and radio
communications technique, particularly when operating at non-towered airports.
Transmitting on UNICOM or on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency while
operating at non-towered airports particularly during busy periods of operation
or during early morning or dusk can mean the difference between a safe operation
and an accident or incident. For aircraft without radio, of course, a pilot's
scanning technique at non-towered airports is a necessity and his or her best
insurance against involvement in a collision on the ground or in the air.
Information for pilots to review on operations at non-towered airports can be
found in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), specifically, paragraph 4-1-9 on
traffic advisory practice at airports without operating control towers, and Chapter 4, Section 2,
Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques. There are also three advisory
circulars (AC) dealing with operations at non-tnwered airports and with
collision avoidance: AC-90-42F, Traffic
Advisory Practices Airports without Operating Control Towers; AC 90-48C, Pilots' Role
in Collision Avoidance; and AC 90-66A, Recommended
Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operations at Airports
without Operating Control Towers. All of these AC's are free from U.S.
Department of Transportation, Subsequent Distribution Office, Ardmore East
Business Center, 3341 Q 75th Avenue, Landover, Maryland 20785. You can fax an
order to (301) 386-5394.
Editor's Note: All of the materials referenced in the
preceding paragraph are available on-line here on AVweb.
During your next biennial flight review (BFR) or dual instruction to qualify
for the Pilot Proficiency Award Program (WINGS), we urge you to ask your
instructor to evaluate your scan technique and radio proficiency. (Instructors,
if pilots do not suggest covering these topics during dual instruction, work
them into the maneuvers you teach or evaluate.) If you attend a Pilot and
Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation (PACE) program, ask the inspector flying with you
to examine your scan pattern and radio phraseology. Check with the upcoming
programs on collision avoidance and/or operations at non-towered airports.
Contact the publishers of FAA Aviation News for back issues containing
articles on collision avoidance and operations at non-towered airports.
We also would like to remind pilots to report any safety issues to either the
Aviation Safety Reporting System or to the Aviation Safety Program's network of
Aviation Safety Counselors. With this information, FAA can design and structure
new educational programs on collision avoidance and operations at non-towered
We all know we must "see and avoid," but a review of our skills makes us
better and safer users of all aspects of the National Airspace System, including
non-towered airports. Let's work together for zero accidents at all airports.
Linda Hall Daschle