Update on ATC Phone Numbers for IFR Clearances/Cancellations

At the October 2017 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, the FAA provided an update (PDF) on its efforts to provide direct telephone numbers to ATC facilities so that pilots can receive IFR clearances and cancel IFR at non-towered airports directly with ATC rather than relay those notifications through FSS or other means.

The presentation notes that:

  • ATC phone numbers for 656 airports have been entered into the national airport database and published in the Chart Supplement.
  • Over 200 additional airports will have their Chart Supplement entries updated to include a clearance delivery phone number.
  • For all other uncontrolled airports without a GCO or radio outlet linking them to ATC or Flight Service, pilots will be able to obtain a clearance by calling the overlying ARTCC through a published phone number to that Center’s Flight Data Unit (FDU).

KTTD-AFD_07DEC2017.jpg

An update to AIM 5-2-3 Taxi Clearance is also in the works. The proposed language would read as follows:

a. Pilots departing on an IFR flight plan should consult the Chart Supplement US airport/facility directory to determine the frequency or telephone number to use to contact clearance delivery. On initial contact pilots should advise the flight is IFR and state the destination airport.

b. Air traffic facilities providing clearance delivery services via telephone will have their telephone number published in the communication remarks section of that airport’s directory entry. This same remarks section may also contain a telephone number to use for cancellation of an IFR flight plan after landing. Pilots are encouraged to use these telephone numbers at uncontrolled airports when they are published. Pilots may also contact Flight Service’s dedicated clearance delivery hotline (1-888-766-8267).

FAA also plans to move telephone relay of IFR clearance from FSS to ATC:

Preliminary agreement has been reached with Air Traffic and the Bargaining Units to move the telephone relay of all remaining IFR Clearance functions from Flight Service over to Air Traffic.

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Fall 2017 Update on VOR Decommissioning

At the October 2017 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, the FAA provided an update on the program gradually to decommission about 309 VORs by 2025 as part of the switch to GNSS-based performance based navigation (PBN).

To see the full list of VORs that FAA plans to decommission, visit this post at BruceAir.

VORandMON-Overview

According to the minutes of that meeting and a presentation from an FAA representative, the switch to the mininimum operational network (MON) of about 587 VORs includes the following highlights:

Discontinued 16 VORs to date:
– [EDS] Edisto, in Orangeburg, SC – February 4, 2016
– [BUA] Buffalo, in Buffalo, SD – July 21, 2016
– [PNN] Princeton, in Princeton ME – July 21, 2016
– [PLB] Plattsburgh, in Plattsburgh, NY – September 15, 2016
– [AOH] Allen County , in Lima, OH – September 15, 2016
– [ABB] Nabb, in Nabb Indiana – January 5, 2017
– [SYO] Sayre, in Sayre Oklahoma – April 27, 2017
– [ENW] Kenosha, in Kenosha Wisconsin – June 22, 2017
– [BTL] Battle Creek, in Battle Creek, Michigan – June 22,2017
– [HRK] Horlick, in Horlick Wisconsin – June 22, 2017
– [HUW] West Plains, Missouri – August 17, 2017
– [RIS] Kansas City, Missouri – September 14, 2017
– [DDD] Port City, in Muscatine, IA – October 12, 2017
– [JKS] Jacks Creek, TN – October 12, 2017
– [MXW] Maxwell, CA – October 12, 2017
– [STE] Stevens Point, WI – October 12, 2017

Over the next six months, the following  seven VORs are scheduled to be shut down:

– [AOO] Altoona, PA
– [BRD] Brainerd, MN
– [DKK] Dunkirk, NY
– [HVN] New Haven, CT
– [PNE] North Philadelphia, PA
– [RNL] Rainelle, WV
– [RUT] Rutland, VT

You can follow the links in the list above to see the VORs on a VFR chart. Note that these navaids are not the only VORs in the vicinity. In fact, in most cases, at least one VOR is within just a few miles of the facility slated for shutdown.

HVN-VOR

Part of the switch to the MON is establishing new VOR service volumes. The FAA representative noted that upgrading and flight checking remaining VORs is one the next steps in the VOR MON program. The upgraded service volume values will be 70 nm at or above 5000 ft and 130 nm above 18,000 ft for high VORs. When the flight checks are complete, new information about VOR service volumes will be published in the Chart Supplement and the AIM.

Operations at Non-Towered Airports

The FAA has released a new edition of AC 90-66B: Non-Towered Airport Flight Operations. This is the first update of this topic in ACs since the 1990s.

The new edition of this AC mostly clarifies existing procedures and recommendations, but it adds specific examples and addresses several topics that have continued to cause confusion to pilots operating at so-called uncontrolled airports. In particular, the updated text includes several helpful, specific examples of radio communications.

For example:

9.6 Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Traffic. Pilots who wish to conduct instrument approaches should be particularly alert for other aircraft in the pattern so as to avoid interrupting the flow of traffic, and should bear in mind they do not have priority over other visual flight rules (VFR) traffic. Non-instrument-rated pilots might not understand radio calls referring to approach waypoints, depicted headings, or missed approach procedures. IFR pilots often indicate that they are on a particular approach, but that isn’t enough information for a non-IFR-rated pilot to know your location. It’s better to provide specific direction and distance from the airport, as well as the pilot’s intentions upon completion of the approach. For example, instead of saying, “PROCEDURE TURN INBOUND V-O-R APPROACH 36,” it should be “6 MILES SOUTH… INBOUND V-O-R APPROACH RUNWAY 36, LOW APPROACH ONLY” or “6 MILES SOUTH … INBOUND V-O-R APPROACH RUNWAY 36, LANDING FULL STOP.”

And section 10.3 addresses the fingernails-on-the-blackboard phrase “Any traffic in the area please advise.”

10.3 Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions. “Self-announce” is a procedure whereby pilots broadcast their position, altitude, and intended flight activity or ground operation on the designated CTAF. This procedure is used primarily at airports that do not have a control tower or an FSS on the airport. If an airport has a control tower that is either temporarily closed or operated on a part-time basis, and there is no operating FSS on the airport, pilots should use the published CTAF to self-announce position and/or intentions when entering within 8–10 miles of the airport. When referring to a specific runway, use the runway number and not the phrase “Active Runway,” because there isn’t an official active runway at a non-towered airport. To help identify one airport from another when sharing the same frequency, the airport name should be spoken at the beginning and end of each self-announce transmission.

Note: Pilots are reminded that the use of the phrase, “ANY 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. Any traffic that is present at the time of your self-announcement should reply without being prompted to do so.

Section 10.4 offers additional helpful recommendations:

10.4 Confusing Language. To avoid misunderstandings, pilots should avoid using the words “to” and “for” whenever possible. These words might be confused with runway numbers or altitudes. The use of “inbound for landing” should also be avoided. For example, instead of saying, “MIDWEST TRAFFIC, EIGHT ONE TANGO FOXTROT TEN MILES TO THE SOUTHWEST, INBOUND FOR LANDING RUNWAY TWO TWO MIDWEST,” it is more advisable to say, “MIDWEST TRAFFIC, EIGHT ONE TANGO FOXTROT TEN MILES SOUTHWEST OF THE AIRPORT, LANDING STRAIGHT IN RUNWAY TWO TWO, MIDWEST,” so it does not confuse runway 4, runway 22, or the use of an instrument approach procedure on arrival.