U.S. Department

of Transportation


Federal Aviation



Air Traffic


A Communication from the  Director of Air Traffic                        



Issue # 2001 - 6

September 2001                                                                                             

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In this Issue:


Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) Associated With Presidential Aircraft


Bird Hazard Information on the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS)


Parachute Jumping on the ATIS


Altitude as a Traffic Management Initiative (TMI)


Handling Aircraft that Encounter Weather



What is the Point?



Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) Associated With Presidential Aircraft


/*TEFR/ In the past several months, situations have occurred involving pilots entering restricted airspace. In each incident, the airspace was restricted for Presidential movement. Pilots not receiving the TFR briefing was the cause of each violation. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the importance of all specialists doing their part in disseminating this critical information to pilots under their jurisdiction.


Title14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 91, Section 91.141, Flight restrictions in the proximity of the Presidential and other parties, states, "No person may operate an aircraft over or in the vicinity of any area to be visited or traveled by the President, the Vice President, or other public figures contrary to the restrictions established by the Administrator and published in a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM)."


FAAO 2100.6B, Flight Restrictions in the Proximity of the President and Other Parties, and FAAO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, Chapter 5, Special Flight Handling, Section 1, Presidential Aircraft, both address the responsibilities and procedures for all FAA personnel. New FAAO 2100.6C, currently under development, will be expanded to more clearly define all roles, responsibilities, and procedures.


We must remember that each of us is an important link in the information chain. Supervisors and specialists alike must ensure that NOTAM's are disseminated in a timely manner. (ATP-120)


Bird Hazard Information on the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS)


/*T/ FAAO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, Paragraph 2-9-3e, Content, states, "Include available information of known bird activity" on the ATIS broadcast. Just as with other perishable information, controllers must exercise their judgement when determining what is appropriate information. Balanced with the need to have brief, utilitarian ATIS messages, controllers must determine what is necessary information and what is not. In the case of bird activity, consistent activity by large flocks of birds in and around the airport environment might well meet the need for including an advisory on the ATIS, while occasional transient activities may not. By the same token, even occasional activities by a few birds on or near a runway threshold might constitute a hazard, therefore, prompting an ATIS advisory, while a large flock of nesting birds located away from the traffic pattern may not.


There is a trend here, and it comes down to your judgement. The only common thread is safety, and the controller's determination of what type of bird activity creates a hazard should dictate what is put on, or left off, of the ATIS broadcast. FAAO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, Paragraph 2-9-3e may be interpreted by some as overly broad in its guidance regarding bird activities. As with many paragraphs in our handbooks, it is this way on purpose, to allow you, the controller, the latitude to exercise your judgement. (ATP-120)


Parachute Jumping on the ATIS


/*T/ Some time ago, it was suggested that ATIS broadcasts include pertinent information about local parachute jumping activities affecting the facility operation. Though there has been a concern in recent months about the length of our ATIS broadcasts, a majority of regions concurred with this proposal, and felt that the additional information would not unduly impact the ATIS broadcast. Just like Dorothy returning from Oz, the ability to include this information on the ATIS has existed all along. FAAO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, Paragraph 2-9-3g authorizes it to be included on the ATIS:


"Other optional information as local conditions dictate in coordination with ATC. This may include such items as VFR arrival frequencies, temporary airport conditions, LAHSO operations being conducted, or other perishable items that may appear only for a matter of hours or a few days on the ATIS message."


Certainly parachute jumping operations qualify as perishable information, and therefore can be included on the ATIS. Just as with many areas of air traffic control, your judgement will determine what can and cannot be included, but remember, keep it short and simple. (ATP-100)


Altitude as a Traffic Management Initiative (TMI)


/*TE/ Altitude is considered a control methodology for separating aircraft. Altitude may also be utilized as a TMI. FAAO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, Paragraph 17-8-3 states,

"To maintain the integrity of the AT system, TM personnel, in conjunction with the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) shall employ the least restrictive methods available to minimize delays.

a.       Altitude "


Recently, questions have arisen regarding the terms used to describe the use of altitude as a TMI. The following terms are utilized in discussing altitude initiatives between controllers, pilots, and dispatchers:


Low Altitude Arrival and Departure Route (LAADR)

LAADR is a formal program developed under the auspices of Collaborative Decision Making (CDM). A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the FAA and National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). The MOU outlines specific coordination and training requirements between the users and the FAA. Additionally, an MOU is required between the "user" and the ATC facility. The following facilities/organizations have LAADR Programs:


  • Lambert-St. Louis International Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT)/St. Louis Approach Control/Kansas City Center/Trans World Airlines.


  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International ATCT/Minneapolis Approach/Minneapolis Center/Northwest Airlines.


LAADR is designed to enhance the efficiency of the NAS by enabling aircraft to operate in altitude strata (and sectors) that are not routine. For example, if the high altitude structure is impacted by severe weather or turbulence, the aircraft could depart and remain at lower altitudes until clear of the situation. At a pre-coordinated point, the aircraft would expect clearance to a higher altitude. This ensures pilots do not ask for higher as they depart, thereby reducing frequency congestion and helping to ensure a safe operation.


The strategy could be applied in reverse. When aircraft are holding for a specific airport in the en route environment, aircraft could be descended early to remain clear of the traffic and continue to their destination. Both of these processes would ensure a safe and efficient operation while providing users access to the NAS.



"Capping" is commonly used to refer to Air Traffic's intent to restrict an aircraft's altitude below the requested altitude for the entire flight, or for a segment of the flight in the departure phase. Capping is done dynamically, on an "as needed" basis, but may have strategic implications. There is no specific guidance nor pre-coordinated procedure, other than those identified as TMI.



"Tunneling" is used to refer to descending an aircraft early to avoid en route congestion in the higher altitude strata. The distance from the arrival airport is determined dynamically based on system constraints. Aircraft operators are reluctant to use the term "tunneling" due to the negative implication for aircraft.


Tower En Route Control Service (TEC)

TEC is defined in the Aeronautical Information Manual as "the control of IFR en route traffic within delegated airspace between two or more adjacent approach control facilities. This service is designed to expedite traffic and reduce control and pilot communication requirements." The altitude assigned will depend on the delegated airspace to the approach control.


Tactical Altitude Assignment Program (TAAP)

TAAP is limited to specific city-pairs, times, and altitudes. Aircraft voluntarily participate in the TAAP procedure by entering "TAAP" in the remarks section of the flight plan. TAAP was designed to enable users to avoid delays into the high altitude stratum by flying at lower altitude. It was in effect between April 22, and June 20, 2001.


It is important to let the aircraft operator know if Air Traffic intends to change the requested altitude to enable the aircraft operator to determine if the aircraft is fueled to reach the final destination. In some cases it may be necessary for the aircraft to land at an alternate point and refuel. This aircraft is then referred to as a "diversion" and given priority handling to reach the original destination. The ATCSCC issues an advisory when diversion recovery procedures are in effect.


All of the programs identified above are designed to enable a safe, orderly, efficient flow of traffic. Facilities may also develop local procedures that provide additional flexibility in the NAS by developing procedures with their primary users through a Letter of Agreement or MOU. Additionally, they may have developed their own terminology in referring to the programs. These are negotiated locally and do not fall into any of the previously mentioned programs.


None of the programs or initiatives identified above override the controller's prerogative to assign an altitude to ensure safety and standard separation. The use of "altitude" as TMI enhances the ability of Air Traffic to respond effectively to changing conditions in the NAS. (ATT-1)


Handling Aircraft that Encounter Weather


/*ET/ Controlling aircraft during times of unusual weather phenomena is an everyday occurrence for air traffic controllers. Whether it is a line of thunderstorms during the spring and summer months or icing and snow during the winter months, controllers are constantly faced with changing weather situations.


One challenge that occasionally presents itself is an aircraft that encounters a weather situation that the pilot was not expecting or is not equipped to handle. This is when controllers must provide especially attentive service to the pilot. There are several things that controllers might consider when they are working an aircraft that requires special handling due to weather phenomena:


  • Provide the aircraft with all pertinent weather information (e.g., PIREPS, SIGMETS, Connective SIGMETS, etc.)
  • Solicit additional PIREPS, from nearby aircraft, that might give the pilot assistance in finding airspace that is more navigable.
  • Depending on the type of weather the aircraft is encountering an altitude or course change may be advisable. Consideration of a course reversal, if the aircraft in question was just in better flight conditions, might be an alternative.


While working the aircraft, keep in mind the pilot is probably a lot more anxious than normal. A calm, reassuring voice and a positive, professional demeanor can go a long way to helping resolve the situation.


On occasion pilots encounter weather they do not want to be in or should not be in. It is at those times that controllers should provide the pilot with the type of useful information and assistance that will enable them to get out of that weather as soon as possible. (ATP-110)





What Is The Point?


Controller errors occur for a number of reasons. Inexperience, poor judgement, inattention, misunderstandings, or being just too busy to keep it all together. Each of the listed causal factors can be corrected using different approaches whether it be skill enhancement training, practice, or personal discipline. The errors which seem to confound controller and management the most, are those that seem to have no cure. Examples of the occasional "brain burp" are when a person:


  • Says one thing when they mean another.
  • Overlooks an aircraft and climbs or descends another one into its path.
  • Approves a runway crossing and then almost immediately thereafter, issues takeoff clearance to an aircraft.


Nationally, we see these types of errors on a daily basis. These are not stupid or incompetent people who are having these errors. They are usually excellent controllers with sterling records of performance. Why do they have any errors at all, especially the kind that seem to be anomalies?


There may be people in this world whose brains short-circuit occasionally and cease functioning momentarily, but we doubt that they are controllers! Research has shown that mistakes that we think of as "brain burps," are caused by the individual being overloaded by information or thought processes at a particular moment. That may explain why many brilliant people often are described as "having no common sense," or being "absent minded." Their brilliant minds are so taken up with complex thoughts, that the mundane, everyday world intrudes and overloads the system. When a controller makes a "dumb" mistake, the cause may be that the person is being overwhelmed at the moment with mental tasks, or is thinking of things other than the traffic, which is another form of mental overload. In many instances, the individual may not be aware that the overload is occurring.


So, what's the point? How do we prevent "brain burp" errors? Today's traffic has increased exponentially in the years since deregulation was introduced in 1979. Airborne navigation is far more sophisticated, and aircraft can fly off airways more than in the past. The hub and spoke system of airline management has also put high demand on certain geographical areas of the air traffic system. All of these changes challenge the controller more than ever before.


We can help ourselves by approaching the sector or position as a team effort. That is, realizing that the days of the single controller sector or position are fast departing. We are now faced with a complexity that requires a two or three person crew to run it efficiently. New equipment, such as URET/CCLD can be a boon to the control crew, but only if it is staffed effectively.

Is it asking too much for an R controller to use URET/CCLD as a conflict probe and still accomplish the duties of the R and D side positions as well?


Teams working together can alleviate information/mental tasking overload by effectively dividing the work. Busy R controllers may benefit from a tracker who helps keep track of the aircraft and specifically looks for developing conflicts; a D side that keeps up with the coordination needs, handoffs, pointouts and conflict probe updates, for example. As new equipment becomes available, such as PFAST, AMASS, etc., some of the brain drain effects will be lessened on one hand, however, on the other hand the new equipment is no panacea and may introduce different drains on the controller's ability to concentrate on all of the aspects of the job.


This phenomena is reversed in the pilot's world. Initially, aircraft were complex enough that a crew of three to four persons was necessary. Now new production aircraft require only a crew of two thanks to the advent of automation wizardry. We have not reached the point yet where automation can take over what the controller can do. That is, it doesn't mean that more folks can be in the break room! Perhaps it is time we take a long look at how we are doing business and take steps to help each other operate at our peak performance. Let's consider crewing our positions/sectors to help prevent fellow controllers from having operational errors or deviations. (AAT-20)


Questions/comments about content should be addressed to ATP-100