‘Any traffic in the area, please advise…’

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.

KBVU-01

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.

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2 Responses to ‘Any traffic in the area, please advise…’

  1. airbrett says:

    I would like your take on the following scenario. You are in a jet IFR into an uncontrolled field that is, let’s say, 1500 OVC. After being cleared for a non-precision step down approach, you are handed over to CTAF. At 145 knots straight in, there isn’t much time to react to traffic that doesn’t advise after your initial call. Obviously, if it’s a busy field you would need to expect to mix in either way. This scenario is what I faced a few times in a CRJ at a regional. It was usually at night so if there was any traffic at all in the area, it would likely be one lone aircraft. In those cases I would ask traffic to advise so as to give that extra prodding in case they weren’t situationally aware listening to the call that I was a fast jet on a straight in.

    • bruceair says:

      That’s the scenario most often advanced by advocates of “any traffic…please advise.” I’m not persuaded that the call is an improvement over making the regular, recommended self-announcements. As I noted in the post, the FAA went out of its way in the AIM to declare the “any traffic…” call ill-advised (as close to prohibited as the FAA gets in such matters in the AIM). It’s far from clear that the call alerts pilots who aren’t paying attention and responding per the recommendations. And, of course, there’s no requirement for an aircraft to have an use a radio a non-towered airport in the first place.

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