September 29, 2014 2 Comments
During my most recent visit to KBVU, I heard many commercial operators again using variations on the old “Any traffic in the area, please advise” phrase that has long been the bane of operations at non-towered airports. It seemed, for a while at least, that aviators had shunned that practice.
I understand that those who use the statement in its several forms think they’re being helpful and safety conscious, but in fact, the opposite is true. It doesn’t help—it clutters the frequency, leads to squeals when several pilots respond simultaneously, and gives the announcer a false sense of security if no one replies. In recognition of those facts, AIM 4-1-9 Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers proscribes its use:
g. Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions
1. General. Self-announce is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated CTAF. This procedure is used primarily at airports which do not have an FSS on the airport. The self-announce procedure should also be used if a pilot is unable to communicate with the FSS on the designated CTAF. Pilots stating, “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not a recognized Self-Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.
The authors of the AIM rarely go out of their way to disapprove of a particular practice (short of something that conflicts with one or more regulations). That this edict was added attests to the fact that the practice had become common, wasn’t helpful, and needed to be corrected through a specific mention in the AIM.
Announcing your position and intentions per the AIM and other guidance, such as ACs and the FAA training handbooks, effectively alerts other pilots to your presence. “Please advise” is redundant. Those who perceive a conflict will reply as necessary.
If you are listening and looking out as you approach and operate in the traffic pattern, you’ll get the picture of what’s going on. Traffic in the area, please advise, in any form, is counter-productive noise.
Consider the following:
Next time you’re at the airport diner with several of your flying friends, try the following experiment. Assume the winds favor runway 27 at a non-towered airport. Fred, you’re on upwind. Mary, you are at midfield on downwind. Sue, you’re about to turn from base to final. Mike, you’re six miles out planning a straight-in approach. Tom, you’re 8 miles out to the southeast. And you, tuning the CTAF from 10 miles south, announce your position and ask any traffic to advise. See what happens around the table. What do you expect everyone else to say? Who decides who talks first and who follows, in what order? What do they say that they wouldn’t otherwise say as they reach one of the recommended reporting positions? What information wouldn’t you get by following the recommended procedures, completing your pre-landing checks so you can look out the window, monitoring the frequency, and making your reports as recommended in the AIM, ACs, etc.? As for the AIM being non-regulatory…see this item.
Of course, none of this is intended to discourage pilots from using plain-language, common-sense phraseology to sort out confusion and potential conflicts. Even when talking directly to ATC, sometimes it’s necessary to depart from the official phrasebook to make sure everyone mutually understands what’s going on.
- AIM 4-1-9. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers
- AC 90-66A Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operations at Airports without Operating Control Towers
- 90-42F Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports without Operating Control Towers
- Operations at Nontowered Airports (free AOPA ASI Safety Advisor–PDF)