Air Traffic Control


  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) keep pilots safe and expedite the flow of traffic
    • Air traffic control's first priority is to the separation of aircraft and to the issuance of radar safety alerts
    • Second, ATC provides support to national security and homeland defense activities to include, but not be limited to, reporting of suspicious and/or unusual aircraft/pilot activities
    • Lastly, ATC Provide additional services to the extent possible, contingent only upon higher priority duties and other factors including limitations of radar, volume of traffic, frequency congestion, and workload
  • Controllers establish the sequence of traffic, requiring them to adjust flight as necessary to achieve proper spacing
    • These adjustments can only be based on observed traffic, accurate pilot reports, and anticipated aircraft maneuvers
  • Progress of flights are tracked with the use of Flight Progress Strips
Read Back Correct
Read Back Correct

ATC Facilities:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration establishes facilities which serve to safely control the national airspace system
  • We refer to this framework as an air traffic facility
  • Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) are found in terminal areas which have sufficient operations to necessitate their services
    • These services are three fold and include: clearance delivery, ground control, and tower control
  • Busier airports require Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) to control traffic at a greater distance in order to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of traffic to the control tower
  • Everything in between these terminal, or approach/departure environments is controlled through Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) which provide enroute services, primarily to aircraft flying under instrument flight rules
  • Flight Service Stations (FSSs) are established to provide pilots with information and services which aid in flight planning and execution
    • These services include preflight, inflight, operational, emergency and special servicesATC work out of facilities to provide traffic services
  • Pilot Visits to Air Traffic Facilities:

    • Pilots are encouraged to participate in local pilot/air traffic control outreach activities in order to familiarize themselves with the ATC system
      • However, due to security and workload concerns, requests for air traffic facility visits may not always be approved
    • It is requested that pilots contact the facility with as much advance notice as possible with:
      • The number of persons in the group
      • The time and date of the proposed visit, and
      • The primary interest of the group
    • This information allows the facility to have someone available with a prepared itinerary
    • Reference FAA Order 1600.69, FAA Facility Security Management Program, for more information

ATC Services

Compliance with Air Traffic Control:

  • Clear and concise radio communications with ATC is imperative
  • When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no PIC may deviate from that clearance unless:
    • An amended clearance is obtained
    • An emergency exists
    • The deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory
    • Except in Class A airspace, a pilot may cancel an IFR flight plan if the operation is being conducted in VFR weather conditions
    • Each pilot in command who, in an emergency, or in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory, deviates from an ATC clearance or instruction shall notify ATC of that deviation as soon as possible
    • Each pilot in command who (through not deviating from a rule of this subpart) is given priority by ATC in an emergency, shall submit a detailed report of that emergency within 48 hours to the manager of that ATC facility, if requested by ATC
  • When cleared to a point not on an airway you must hit that point before you turn, because that point is your clearance
  • If the point is on an airway or a transition you have been cleared for then you can go ahead and lead it with a turn
  • When a pilot is unsure about an ATC clearance, the pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC
Air Traffic Control
ATC System

Recording and Monitoring:

  • Calls to and between air traffic control facilities may be monitored and recorded for operational uses such as accident investigations, accident prevention, search and rescue purposes, specialist training and evaluation, and technical evaluation and repair of control and communications systems
    • Additionally, private sector services such as will broadcast radio traffic

Operation Rain Check:

  • Operation Rain Check is a program designed and managed by local air traffic control facility management. Its purpose is to familiarize pilots and aspiring pilots with the ATC system, its functions, responsibilities and benefits


  • Air traffic controllers roles and responsibilities can be found in the FAA Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, and supplemental FAA directives
    • Additional and supplemental information for pilots can be found in the current Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), Notices to Airmen, Advisory Circulars and aeronautical charts. Since there are many other excellent publications produced by non-government organizations, as well as other government organizations, with various updating cycles, questions concerning the latest or most current material can be resolved by cross-checking with the above mentioned documents
  • The responsibilities of the pilot and the controller intentionally overlap in many areas providing a degree of redundancy