Section 5. Pilot/Controller Roles and Responsibilities
a. The roles and responsibilities of the pilot and
controller for effective participation in the ATC
system are contained in several documents. Pilot
responsibilities are in the CFRs and the air traffic
controllers' are 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 nongovernment 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.
b. The pilot-in-command of an aircraft is directly
responsible for, and is the final authority as to the safe
operation of that aircraft. In an emergency requiring
immediate action, the pilot-in-command may
deviate from any rule in the General Subpart A and
Flight Rules Subpart B in accordance with 14 CFR
c. The air traffic controller is responsible to give
first priority to the separation of aircraft and to the
issuance of radar safety alerts, second priority to other
services that are required, but do not involve
separation of aircraft and third priority to additional
services to the extent possible.
d. In order to maintain a safe and efficient air
traffic system, it is necessary that each party fulfill
their responsibilities to the fullest.
e. The responsibilities of the pilot and the
controller intentionally overlap in many areas
providing a degree of redundancy. Should one or the
other fail in any manner, this overlapping responsibility is expected to compensate, in many cases, for
failures that may affect safety.
f. The following, while not intended to be all
inclusive, is a brief listing of pilot and controller
responsibilities for some commonly used procedures
or phases of flight. More detailed explanations are
contained in other portions of this publication, the
appropriate CFRs, ACs and similar publications. The
information provided is an overview of the principles
involved and is not meant as an interpretation of the
rules nor is it intended to extend or diminish
5-5-2. Air Traffic Clearance
1. Acknowledges receipt and understanding of
an ATC clearance.
2. Reads back any hold short of runway
instructions issued by ATC.
3. Requests clarification or amendment, as
appropriate, any time a clearance is not fully
understood or considered unacceptable from a safety
4. Promptly complies with an air traffic
clearance upon receipt except as necessary to cope
with an emergency. Advises ATC as soon as possible
and obtains an amended clearance, if deviation is
A clearance to land means that appropriate separation on
the landing runway will be ensured. A landing clearance
does not relieve the pilot from compliance with any
previously issued altitude crossing restriction.
1. Issues appropriate clearances for the operation to be conducted, or being conducted, in
accordance with established criteria.
2. Assigns altitudes in IFR clearances that are at
or above the minimum IFR altitudes in controlled
3. Ensures acknowledgement by the pilot for
issued information, clearances, or instructions.
4. Ensures that readbacks by the pilot of
altitude, heading, or other items are correct. If
incorrect, distorted, or incomplete, makes corrections
5-5-3. Contact Approach
1. Must request a contact approach and makes it
in lieu of a standard or special instrument approach.
2. By requesting the contact approach, indicates
that the flight is operating clear of clouds, has at least
one mile flight visibility, and reasonably expects to
continue to the destination airport in those conditions.
3. Assumes responsibility for obstruction clearance while conducting a contact approach.
4. Advises ATC immediately if unable to
continue the contact approach or if encounters less
than 1 mile flight visibility.
5. Is aware that if radar service is being received,
it may be automatically terminated when told to
contact the tower.
Pilot/Controller Glossary Term- Radar Service Terminated.
1. Issues clearance for a contact approach only
when requested by the pilot. Does not solicit the use
of this procedure.
2. Before issuing the clearance, ascertains that
reported ground visibility at destination airport is at
least 1 mile.
3. Provides approved separation between the
aircraft cleared for a contact approach and other IFR
or special VFR aircraft. When using vertical
separation, does not assign a fixed altitude, but clears
the aircraft at or below an altitude which is at least
1,000 feet below any IFR traffic but not below
Minimum Safe Altitudes prescribed in 14 CFR
4. Issues alternative instructions if, in their
judgment, weather conditions may make completion
of the approach impracticable.
5-5-4. Instrument Approach
1. Be aware that the controller issues clearance
for approach based only on known traffic.
2. Follows the procedure as shown on the IAP,
including all restrictive notations, such as:
(a) Procedure not authorized at night;
(b) Approach not authorized when local area
altimeter not available;
(c) Procedure not authorized when control
tower not in operation;
(d) Procedure not authorized when glide
slope not used;
(e) Straight-in minimums not authorized at
(f) Radar required; or
(g) The circling minimums published on the
instrument approach chart provide adequate obstruction clearance and pilots should not descend below
the circling altitude until the aircraft is in a position
to make final descent for landing. Sound judgment
and knowledge of the pilot's and the aircraft's
capabilities are the criteria for determining the exact
maneuver in each instance since airport design and
the aircraft position, altitude and airspeed must all be
AIM, Approach and Landing Minimums, Paragraph 5-4-20.
3. Upon receipt of an approach clearance while
on an unpublished route or being radar vectored:
(a) Complies with the minimum altitude for
(b) Maintains the last assigned altitude until
established on a segment of a published route or IAP,
at which time published altitudes apply.
1. Issues an approach clearance based on known
2. Issues an IFR approach clearance only after
the aircraft is established on a segment of published
route or IAP, or assigns an appropriate altitude for the
aircraft to maintain until so established.
5-5-5. Missed Approach
1. Executes a missed approach when one of the
following conditions exist:
(a) Arrival at the Missed Approach
Point (MAP) or the Decision Height (DH) and visual
reference to the runway environment is insufficient to
complete the landing.
(b) Determines that a safe approach or
landing is not possible (see subparagraph
(c) Instructed to do so by ATC.
2. Advises ATC that a missed approach will be
made. Include the reason for the missed approach
unless the missed approach is initiated by ATC.
3. Complies with the missed approach instructions for the IAP being executed from the MAP,
unless other missed approach instructions are
specified by ATC.
4. If executing a missed approach prior to
reaching the MAP, fly the lateral navigation path of
the instrument procedure to the MAP. Climb to the
altitude specified in the missed approach procedure,
except when a maximum altitude is specified
between the final approach fix (FAF) and the MAP. In
that case, comply with the maximum altitude
restriction. Note, this may require a continued
descent on the final approach.
5. Following a missed approach, requests
clearance for specific action; i.e., another approach,
hold for improved conditions, proceed to an alternate
1. Issues an approved alternate missed approach
procedure if it is desired that the pilot execute a
procedure other than as depicted on the instrument
2. May vector a radar identified aircraft
executing a missed approach when operationally
advantageous to the pilot or the controller.
3. In response to the pilot's stated intentions,
issues a clearance to an alternate airport, to a holding
fix, or for reentry into the approach sequence, as
traffic conditions permit.
5-5-6. Radar Vectors
1. Promptly complies with headings and
altitudes assigned to you by the controller.
2. Questions any assigned heading or altitude
believed to be incorrect.
3. If operating VFR and compliance with any
radar vector or altitude would cause a violation of any
CFR, advises ATC and obtains a revised clearance or
1. Vectors aircraft in Class A, Class B, Class C,
Class D, and Class E airspace:
(a) For separation.
(b) For noise abatement.
(c) To obtain an operational advantage for the
pilot or controller.
2. Vectors aircraft in Class A, Class B, Class C,
Class D, Class E, and Class G airspace when
requested by the pilot.
3. Vectors IFR aircraft at or above minimum
4. May vector VFR aircraft, not at an ATC
assigned altitude, at any altitude. In these cases,
terrain separation is the pilot's responsibility.
5-5-7. Safety Alert
1. Initiates appropriate action if a safety alert is
received from ATC.
2. Be aware that this service is not always
available and that many factors affect the ability of
the controller to be aware of a situation in which
unsafe proximity to terrain, obstructions, or another
aircraft may be developing.
1. Issues a safety alert if aware an aircraft under
their control is at an altitude which, in the controller's
judgment, places the aircraft in unsafe proximity to
terrain, obstructions or another aircraft. Types of
safety alerts are:
(a) Terrain or Obstruction Alert. Immediately issued to an aircraft under their control if aware
the aircraft is at an altitude believed to place the
aircraft in unsafe proximity to terrain or obstructions.
(b) Aircraft Conflict Alert. Immediately
issued to an aircraft under their control if aware of an
aircraft not under their control at an altitude believed
to place the aircraft in unsafe proximity to each other.
With the alert, they offer the pilot an alternative, if
2. Discontinue further alerts if informed by the
pilot action is being taken to correct the situation or
that the other aircraft is in sight.
5-5-8. See and Avoid
a. Pilot. When meteorological conditions permit,
regardless of type of flight plan or whether or not
under control of a radar facility, the pilot is
responsible to see and avoid other traffic, terrain, or
1. Provides radar traffic information to radar
identified aircraft operating outside positive control
airspace on a workload permitting basis.
2. Issues safety alerts to aircraft under their
control if aware the aircraft is at an altitude believed
to place the aircraft in unsafe proximity to terrain,
obstructions, or other aircraft.
5-5-9. Speed Adjustments
1. Advises ATC any time cruising airspeed
varies plus or minus 5 percent or 10 knots, whichever
is greater, from that given in the flight plan.
2. Complies with speed adjustments from ATC
(a) The minimum or maximum safe airspeed
for any particular operation is greater or less than the
requested airspeed. In such cases, advises ATC.
It is the pilot's responsibility and prerogative to refuse
speed adjustments considered excessive or contrary to the
aircraft's operating specifications.
(b) Operating at or above 10,000 feet MSL on
an ATC assigned SPEED ADJUSTMENT of more
than 250 knots IAS and subsequent clearance is
received for descent below 10,000 feet MSL. In such
cases, pilots are expected to comply with 14 CFR
3. When complying with speed adjustment
assignments, maintains an indicated airspeed within
plus or minus 10 knots or 0.02 Mach number of the
speed adjustments to aircraft when necessary but not as a substitute for good
to the restrictions published in the FAAO JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, as to
when speed adjustment procedures may be applied.
speed adjustments requiring alternate decreases and increases.
speed adjustments to a specified IAS (KNOTS)/Mach number or to increase or
decrease speed using increments of 10 knots or multiples thereof.
ATC-assigned speed adjustments when no longer required by issuing further
instructions to pilots in the following manner:
pilots to "resume normal speed" when the aircraft is on a heading, random
routing, charted procedure, or route without published speed restrictions.
pilots to "comply with speed restrictions" when the aircraft is joining or
resuming a charted procedure or route with published speed restrictions.
The phraseology "comply with restrictions" requires compliance with all altitude
and/or speed restrictions depicted on the procedure.
pilots to "resume published speed" when aircraft are cleared via a charted
instrument flight procedure that contains published speed restrictions.
aircraft to "delete speed restrictions" when ATC assigned or published speed
restrictions on a charted procedure are no longer required.
pilots for approach without restating previously issued speed adjustments.
PCG, Resume Normal Speed, Resume Published Speed
due consideration to aircraft capabilities to reduce speed while descending.
not assign speed adjustments to aircraft at or above FL 390 without pilot
5-5-10. Traffic Advisories (Traffic
1. Acknowledges receipt of traffic advisories.
2. Informs controller if traffic in sight.
3. Advises ATC if a vector to avoid traffic is
4. Does not expect to receive radar traffic
advisories on all traffic. Some aircraft may not appear
on the radar display. Be aware that the controller may
be occupied with higher priority duties and unable to
issue traffic information for a variety of reasons.
5. Advises controller if service is not desired.
1. Issues radar traffic to the maximum extent
consistent with higher priority duties except in
Class A airspace.
2. Provides vectors to assist aircraft to avoid
observed traffic when requested by the pilot.
3. Issues traffic information to aircraft in the
Class B, Class C, and Class D surface areas for
4. Controllers are required to issue to each
aircraft operating on intersecting or nonintersecting
converging runways where projected flight paths
5-5-11. Visual Approach
1. If a visual approach is not desired, advises
2. Complies with controller's instructions for
vectors toward the airport of intended landing or to a
visual position behind a preceding aircraft.
3. The pilot must, at all times, have either the
airport or the preceding aircraft in sight. After being
cleared for a visual approach, proceed to the airport
in a normal manner or follow the preceding aircraft.
Remain clear of clouds while conducting a visual
4. If the pilot accepts a visual approach
clearance to visually follow a preceding aircraft, you
are required to establish a safe landing interval behind
the aircraft you were instructed to follow. You are
responsible for wake turbulence separation.
5. Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable
to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot
remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight
of the airport.
6. Be aware that radar service is automatically
terminated, without being advised by ATC, when the
pilot is instructed to change to advisory frequency.
7. Be aware that there may be other traffic in the
traffic pattern and the landing sequence may differ
from the traffic sequence assigned by approach
control or ARTCC.
1. Do not clear an aircraft for a visual approach
unless reported weather at the airport is ceiling at or
above 1,000 feet and visibility is 3 miles or greater.
When weather is not available for the destination
airport, inform the pilot and do not initiate a visual
approach to that airport unless there is reasonable
assurance that descent and flight to the airport can be
2. Issue visual approach clearance when the
pilot reports sighting either the airport or a preceding
aircraft which is to be followed.
3. Provide separation except when visual
separation is being applied by the pilot.
4. Continue flight following and traffic information until the aircraft has landed or has been
instructed to change to advisory frequency.
5. Inform the pilot when the preceding aircraft
is a heavy.
6. When weather is available for the destination
airport, do not initiate a vector for a visual approach
unless the reported ceiling at the airport is 500 feet or
more above the MVA and visibility is 3 miles or more.
If vectoring weather minima are not available but
weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet
and visibility of 3 miles or greater, visual approaches
may still be conducted.
7. Informs the pilot conducting the visual
approach of the aircraft class when pertinent traffic is
known to be a heavy aircraft.
5-5-12. Visual Separation
1. Acceptance of instructions to follow another
aircraft or to provide visual separation from it is an
acknowledgment that the pilot will maneuver the
aircraft as necessary to avoid the other aircraft or to
maintain in-trail separation. Pilots are responsible to
maintain visual separation until flight paths (altitudes
and/or courses) diverge.
2. If instructed by ATC to follow another aircraft
or to provide visual separation from it, promptly
notify the controller if you lose sight of that aircraft,
are unable to maintain continued visual contact with
it, or cannot accept the responsibility for your own
separation for any reason.
3. The pilot also accepts responsibility for wake
turbulence separation under these conditions.
b. Controller. Applies visual separation only:
1. Within the terminal area when a controller
has both aircraft in sight or by instructing a pilot who
sees the other aircraft to maintain visual separation
2. Pilots are responsible to maintain visual
separation until flight paths (altitudes and/or courses)
3. Within en route airspace when aircraft are on
opposite courses and one pilot reports having seen the
other aircraft and that the aircraft have passed each
1. This clearance must be requested by the pilot
on an IFR flight plan, and if approved, allows the pilot
the choice (subject to any ATC restrictions) to select
an altitude or flight level in lieu of an assigned
VFR-on-top is not permitted in certain airspace areas,
such as Class A airspace, certain restricted areas, etc.
Consequently, IFR flights operating VFR-on-top will
avoid such airspace.
AIM, IFR Clearance VFR-on-top, Paragraph 4-4-8.
AIM, IFR Separation Standards, Paragraph 4-4-11.
AIM, Position Reporting, Paragraph 5-3-2.
AIM, Additional Reports, Paragraph 5-3-3.
2. By requesting a VFR‐on‐top clearance, the
pilot assumes the sole responsibility to be vigilant so
as to see and avoid other aircraft and to:
(a) Fly at the appropriate VFR altitude as
prescribed in 14 CFR Section 91.159.
(b) Comply with the VFR visibility and
distance from clouds criteria in 14 CFR Section 91.155, Basic VFR weather minimums.
(c) Comply with instrument flight rules that
are applicable to this flight; i.e., minimum IFR
altitudes, position reporting, radio communications,
course to be flown, adherence to ATC clearance, etc.
3. Should advise ATC prior to any altitude
change to ensure the exchange of accurate traffic
1. May clear an aircraft to maintain VFR-on-top
if the pilot of an aircraft on an IFR flight plan requests
2. Informs the pilot of an aircraft cleared to
climb to VFR-on-top the reported height of the tops
or that no top report is available; issues an alternate
clearance if necessary; and once the aircraft reports
reaching VFR-on-top, reclears the aircraft to
3. Before issuing clearance, ascertain that the
aircraft is not in or will not enter Class A airspace.
5-5-14. Instrument Departures
1. Prior to departure considers the type of terrain
and other obstructions on or in the vicinity of the
2. Determines if obstruction avoidance can be
maintained visually or that the departure procedure
should be followed.
3. Determines whether a departure procedure
and/or DP is available for obstruction avoidance.
4. At airports where IAPs have not been
published, hence no published departure procedure,
determines what action will be necessary and takes
such action that will assure a safe departure.
1. At locations with airport traffic control
service, when necessary, specifies direction of
takeoff, turn, or initial heading to be flown after
2. At locations without airport traffic control
service but within Class E surface area when
necessary to specify direction of takeoff, turn, or
initial heading to be flown, obtains pilot's concurrence that the procedure will allow the pilot to comply
with local traffic patterns, terrain, and obstruction
3. Includes established departure procedures as
part of the ATC clearance when pilot compliance is
necessary to ensure separation.
5-5-15. Minimum Fuel Advisory
1. Advise ATC of your minimum fuel status
when your fuel supply has reached a state where,
upon reaching destination, you cannot accept any
2. Be aware this is not an emergency situation,
but merely an advisory that indicates an emergency
situation is possible should any undue delay occur.
3. On initial contact the term
should be used after stating call sign.
Salt Lake Approach, United 621, "minimum fuel."
4. Be aware a minimum fuel advisory does not
imply a need for traffic priority.
5. If the remaining usable fuel supply suggests
the need for traffic priority to ensure a safe landing,
you should declare an emergency due to low fuel and
report fuel remaining in minutes.
Pilot/Controller Glossary Item- Fuel Remaining.
1. When an aircraft declares a state of minimum
fuel, relay this information to the facility to whom
control jurisdiction is transferred.
2. Be alert for any occurrence which might
delay the aircraft.
5-5-16. RNAV and RNP Operations
1. If unable to comply with the requirements of
an RNAV or RNP procedure, pilots must advise air
traffic control as soon as possible. For example,
"N1234, failure of GPS system, unable RNAV, request amended clearance."
2. Pilots are not authorized to fly a published
RNAV or RNP procedure (instrument approach,
departure, or arrival procedure) unless it is retrievable
by the procedure name from the current aircraft
navigation database and conforms to the charted
procedure. The system must be able to retrieve the
procedure by name from the aircraft navigation
database, not just as a manually entered series of
3. Whenever possible, RNAV routes (Q- or
T-route) should be extracted from the database in
their entirety, rather than loading RNAV route
waypoints from the database into the flight plan
individually. However, selecting and inserting
individual, named fixes from the database is
permitted, provided all fixes along the published
route to be flown are inserted.
4. Pilots must not change any database
waypoint type from a fly-by to fly-over, or vice
versa. No other modification of database waypoints
or the creation of user-defined waypoints on
published RNAV or RNP procedures is permitted,
(a) Change altitude and/or airspeed waypoint
constraints to comply with an ATC clearance/instruction.
(b) Insert a waypoint along the published
route to assist in complying with ATC instruction,
example, "Descend via the WILMS arrival except
cross 30 north of BRUCE at/or below FL 210." This
is limited only to systems that allow along-track
5. Pilots of FMS-equipped aircraft, who are
assigned an RNAV DP or STAR procedure and
subsequently receive a change of runway, transition
or procedure, must verify that the appropriate
changes are loaded and available for navigation.
6. For RNAV 1 DPs and STARs, pilots must use
a CDI, flight director and/or autopilot, in lateral
navigation mode. Other methods providing an
equivalent level of performance may also be
7. For RNAV 1 DPs and STARs, pilots of
aircraft without GPS, using DME/DME/IRU, must
ensure the aircraft navigation system position is
confirmed, within 1,000 feet, at the start point of
take-off roll. The use of an automatic or manual
runway update is an acceptable means of compliance
with this requirement. Other methods providing an
equivalent level of performance may also be
8. For procedures or routes requiring the use of
GPS, if the navigation system does not automatically
alert the flight crew of a loss of GPS, the operator
must develop procedures to verify correct GPS
9. RNAV terminal procedures (DP and STAR)
may be amended by ATC issuing radar vectors and/or
clearances direct to a waypoint. Pilots should avoid
premature manual deletion of waypoints from their
active "legs" page to allow for rejoining procedures.
10. RAIM Prediction: If TSO-C129 equipment
is used to solely satisfy the RNAV and RNP
requirement, GPS RAIM availability must be
confirmed for the intended route of flight (route and
time). If RAIM is not available, pilots need an
approved alternate means of navigation.
AIM, RNAV and RNP Operations, Paragraph 5-1-16
11. Definition of "established" for RNAV and
RNP operations. An aircraft is considered to be
established on-course during RNAV and RNP
operations anytime it is within 1 times the required
accuracy for the segment being flown. For example,
while operating on a Q-Route (RNAV 2), the aircraft
is considered to be established on-course when it is
within 2 nm of the course centerline.
Pilots must be aware of how their navigation system
operates, along with any AFM limitations, and confirm
that the aircraft's lateral deviation display (or map display
if being used as an allowed alternate means) is suitable for
the accuracy of the segment being flown. Automatic scaling
and alerting changes are appropriate for some operations.
For example, TSO-C129 systems change within 30 miles of
destination and within 2 miles of FAF to support approach
operations. For some navigation systems and operations,
manual selection of scaling will be necessary.
(a) Pilots flying FMS equipped aircraft with barometric
vertical navigation (Baro-VNAV) may descend when the
aircraft is established on-course following FMS leg
transition to the next segment. Leg transition normally
occurs at the turn bisector for a fly-by waypoint (reference
paragraph 1-2-1 for more on waypoints). When using full
automation, pilots should monitor the aircraft to ensure the
aircraft is turning at appropriate lead times and
descending once established on-course.
(b) Pilots flying TSO-C129 navigation system equipped
aircraft without full automation should use normal lead
points to begin the turn. Pilots may descend when
established on-course on the next segment of the approach.