Any Traffic Please Advise? CTAF Pet Peeves


Any Traffic Please Advise? CTAF Pet Peeves ~Guest Blogger Bob Meder NAFI Chairman Emeritus

I'm going to, once again, give voice to one of my pet peeves: Radio calls at non-towered airports. The importance of the use of the radio at an airport cannot be overstated. Obviously, it helps everyone sort out how best to use the airspace and the airport itself. The proper use of the radio is also reassuring when it confirms where everyone is, although that doesn't relieve us or our students of being vigilant. Finally, it's one more way to avoid traffic conflicts or worse at a non-towered airport.

What brought this to mind is that I recently conducted a flight review at a non-towered airport. In general, I was happy with my student's use of the radio. He made the appropriate calls when taxiing across runways, departing, arriving, and so on. No, it wasn't letter perfect to the AIM, but, then I don't think anyone is, including myself.

There were two radio calls we received that got my attention while we were flying. One that wasn't too egregious and one that really got our attention. The one that wasn't too bad was the call on CTAF where a pilot in "November XYZ" was about five miles to the west landing on a particular runway. No airport identifier, no type of aircraft, none of that. Since we weren't that close and not west of the airport, it didn't bother me much, except that I thought about an airport with a runway that was the same heading on the same CTAF frequency. My student and I both remarked about how that could potentially be very confusing. Remember that nearby airports may share the same CTAF frequency as the airport where you're landing.

In the meantime, my student had announced that we were about 10 miles out from the airport, inbound for landing. A few minutes later, he made the call (I'm deliberately hiding some information here): "[Airport traffic] Cessna [xyz] five north, two thousand, five hundred, inbound landing [runway], [Airport]." Right on top of that we received "[Airport], [Tail number] five north, landing."

This got our attention. Based on what we heard, there were potentially two aircraft in the same geographical space heading for the same airport and runway. It then turned into a game of 20 questions, the most important on my part being "[Tail number] what altitude are you at right now?" The response was "twenty-five hundred." Well, this is special - my student and I immediately started climbing and turning away from the airport. Since the wind for the longer runway at this airport was a light, direct crosswind, there were three directions in which the other aircraft could land, so my next question was "[Tail number], what runway are you going to use?" This is so we wouldn't end up in a stand-off when we did turn in. The other aircraft's response was the same runway we intended to use.

I know this all may seem petty, but consider the situation: two aircraft that initially couldn't see each other were occupying the same chunk of air. Yes, we got all the information, eventually, but at the expense of a congested frequency, which fortunately wasn't busy, but more importantly, a fair amount of time was wasted before we could take a course of action. And, in fairness to the other pilot, he did see us as we climbed and turned away - we never did see him until he was on the runway, so I have no idea how close we really were.

Thanks for reading this and please ask your students, regardless of level of experience, to bone up on non -towered radio procedures so we can all help each other be safe.


 Robert Meder Chairman headshotBob Meder
NAFI Chairman Emeritus
NAFI #18567






Blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace independent, professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinions or position of the National Association of Flight Instructors. NAFI does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. Readers should note content may appear in various media, including print, email, enews without further notice.
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