U.S. Department

of Transportation


Federal Aviation



Air Traffic


A Communication from the  Director of Air Traffic                        



Issue # 2003-1

May 2003                                                                                             

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In this Issue:


Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR)
Issuing a Safety Alert
Mixing ILS and Visual Approaches to Parallel
                 Runways¾No Surprises

Taxi Instructions at the Right Time
ASOS or AWOS/ATIS Interface - Closing Message 


Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR)

/*TERF/ Requests for TFRs have increased significantly since September 11, 2001, mostly due to a heightened sense of security. TFR requests have been generated by the United States Secret Service and other federal security and intelligence gathering agencies as a result of varying degrees of terrorist threats. It is sufficient to say that any area that is actually or perceived to be sensitive seems to generate a request for a TFR. These sensitive areas can encompass nuclear power plants, disaster relief aircraft,  or Presidential movements. Other circumstances that may generate a TFR could include weather conditions such as earthquakes and tornadoes, and unsafe congestions in the area surrounding aircraft accidents and chemical spills. TFRs appearing, disappearing, and changing dimensions almost daily can create a problem. So how are controllers and pilots supposed to be aware of the daily changes and work together to avoid these sensitive areas? Working together to provide timely notice and dissemination of TFRs will result in more efficient utilization of the National Airspace System and lessen the potential for pilot incursion into restricted airspace.

Review the references. 14 CFR Section 91.137, Temporary Flight Restrictions, provides guidance for issuing TFRs for disaster/hazard areas. Section 91.139 provides guidance for issuing TFRs for emergency air traffic rules in response to emergency situations. Section 91.141 provides guidance for issuing a TFR for the protection of the President, Vice President, or other public figures. Section 91.145 provides guidance for issuing a TFR in the event of military or civilian aerial demonstrations or certain major sporting events of limited duration. Section 99.7 provides guidance for issuing a TFR for national security purposes. Additionally, FAAO 7210.3, Facility Operations and Administration, Section 18-4, provides, among other things, the Air Traffic responsibilities when a TFR is in effect.  Paragraph 18-4-4 e. requires all air traffic facilities to "disseminate TFR information to all affected pilots in the area by all possible means."

A TFR is a flight restriction which restricts air traffic operations due to a real or perceived hazard or condition. TFRs are transmitted via Notices to Airmen (NOTAM).  Pilots can receive NOTAM information from numerous sources; however, the NOTAM system is not exactly user friendly.  For example, imagine a TFR NOTAM disseminated just after a pilot receives his/her preflight briefing, or after he/she has read all the TFR NOTAMs for his/her route of flight on a website. The pilot would then have to ask for updates while in flight to keep up with the changing picture.  As a result, pilots may be missing TFR information through no fault of their own.  It is still up to the responsible controller to provide the most recent information to the pilots about TFRs because, after all, the controllers working the airspace have the most recent information.  

Ultimately, it is the pilot's responsibility to avoid flight in TFRs, but let us look at some real life scenarios fresh off the press from a flight standards district office and the Enforcement Division; i.e., what really happens to the pilot deviation report after you fill it out.

There have been a number of cases where pilots felt they had been misled by controllers when pilots have inadvertently entered a TFR. For example, a pilot flying under visual flight rules (VFR) was receiving flight following service from a radar controller.  The pilot was on  a heading that would eventually violate a TFR.  The controller terminated service to the pilot without providing advisories about the TFR.  Leaving a pilot on a heading that did not avoid the TFR and then terminating radar services resulted in the pilot's violation of the TFR and a suspension of his pilot certificate.  To pilots, this is worse than having your drivers license suspended.  These situations can be resolved if we all work together.

Because of the daily changes in TFRs, it is difficult to keep track of their current status.  In one situation, a pilot queried the controller about a certain TFR.  The controller stated that the TFR was no longer valid, and had expired about 2 hours ago.  The controller then asked his supervisor for verification; it turned out that the TFR was still valid.  The systems of checks and balances worked and the pilot was told to avoid the TFR.

Our interest is to provide clearances and advisories that will help pilots avoid TFRs as much as possible. These sensitive areas may expand, shrink, or disappear as needed, sometimes all in the same day - 14 CFR Section 91.141 dictates the restrictions for Presidential movements. This, as well as Section 91.137,  can be reviewed as supplemental training.

As controllers, the assistance we provide is invaluable to pilots.  We can help to keep pilots out of harm's way. It is very important to note that the Director of Air Traffic, AAT-1, is encouraging pilots to contact air traffic controllers, so they can profide assistance to pilots in avoiding TFRs.  (ATP-120)


Issuing a Safety Alert

/*TER/ As a result of three recent operational deviations involving minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW), all appropriate air traffic personnel shall review FAAO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, and FAAO 7210.3, Facility Management, pertaining to MSAW and safety alerts. If training is deemed necessary, Terminal Course 57020, Altitude Assignment, is available through the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. E-11-8 Radar Separation and Safety Alerts is also available as an en route stage III training lesson.

Issue a safety alert to an aircraft if you are aware the aircraft is in a position/attitude which, in your judgment, places it in unsafe proximity to terrain, obstructions, or other aircraft. Once the pilot informs you action is being taken to resolve the situation, you may discontinue the issuance of further alerts. Do not assume that because someone else has responsibility for the aircraft that the unsafe situation has been observed and the safety alert issued: inform the appropriate controller.

·         Terrain/Obstruction Alert. Immediately issue/initiate an alert to an aircraft if you are aware the aircraft is at an altitude which, in your judgment, places it in unsafe proximity to terrain/obstructions.

·         Aircraft Conflict/Mode C Intruder Alert. Immediately issue/initiate an alert to an aircraft if you are aware of another aircraft at an altitude which you believe places them in unsafe proximity. If feasible, offer the pilot an alternate course of action.

·         When an alternate course of action is given, end the transmission with the word "immediately." (ATP-100)


Mixing ILS and Visual Approaches to Parallel Runways¾No Surprises

/*TRE/ The use of visual approaches greatly enhances capacity at many busy airports. When the weather minimums allow, visual approaches are mixed right in with the usual instrument landing system (ILS) traffic for multiple or parallel runways; controllers use the provisions of FAAO 7110.65, paragraphs 7-4-2 through 7-4-4, to make it all run smoothly.

After the visual approach clearance has been issued, the pilot gets to the runway on his/her own. The controller sets the aircraft up toward the airport, ensures the pilot has any traffic in sight, and the pilot takes it from there.

As with most things, everything does go smoothly most of the time. However, some evaluators have observed situations recently at several major airports that are cause for concern. From the perspective of the pilot on the ILS approach, it looks something like this— Imagine that you've been cleared for an ILS approach, and are turning onto final, left wing up; when you roll out you are surprised to see the underside of a large aircraft turning to final for the parallel runway just off your left! The controller did not tell you he was vectoring anyone for a visual approach that would make such a sharp turn and appear suddenly in your windshield. This could be a disturbing sight.

The guidance that would prevent such a surprise is in FAAO 7110.65, paragraphs 7-4-3 and 7-4-4.

·         Paragraph 7-4-3, Clearance for Visual Approach, states in part that before controllers clear an aircraft for a visual approach they must "resolve potential conflicts with all other aircraft."

·         Paragraph 7-4-4 a., Approaches to Multiple Runways, states, "All aircraft must be informed that approaches are being conducted to parallel/intersecting/converging runways. This may be accomplished through use of the ATIS."

·         Paragraph 7-4-4 b. states, "When conducting visual approaches to multiple runways, ensure the following:
 - Do not permit the respective aircrafts' primary radar returns to merge unless visual separation is being applied.
 - When the aircraft flightpaths intersect, ensure standard separation is maintained until visual separation is provided."

To alleviate aircraft on visual approaches from flying through their extended centerlines, the provisions in paragraph 7-4-4 c. must be followed, which details separation and heading criteria depending upon the distance between runways.

·         For parallel runways separated by less than 2,500 feet, an aircraft cleared for a visual approach must report sighting a preceding aircraft making an approach (instrument or visual) to the adjacent parallel runway, unless standard separation is provided by air traffic control.

·         For parallel runways separated by at least 2,500 feet but less than 4,300 feet, visual approaches may be conducted to one runway while visual or instrument approaches are conducted simultaneously to the other runway provided standard separation exists until the aircraft are established on a heading which will intercept the extended centerline of the runway at an angle not greater than 30 degrees, and each aircraft has been issued and the pilot has acknowledged receipt of the visual approach clearance.

The explanatory note after this subparagraph speaks directly to the scenario previously described:

"NOTE- The intent of the 30-degree intercept angle is to reduce the potential for overshoots of the final, and preclude side-by-side operations with one or both aircraft in a 'belly-up' configuration during the turn. Aircraft performance, speed, and the number of degrees of the turn to the final are factors to be considered by the controller when vectoring aircraft to parallel runways.

·         For parallel runways separated by 4,300 feet or more, visual approaches may be conducted to one runway while visual or instrument approaches are conducted simultaneously to the other runway, provided flightpaths do not intersect and standard separation is maintained until one of the aircraft has been issued and the pilot has acknowledged receipt of the visual approach clearance."

Who knew there would be so many elements involved in issuing simple visual approach clearances? Read over these paragraphs, check to make sure you have the weather minimums, remember to visualize yourself in the pilot's seat, then plug in and issue visual approach clearances that will ensure smooth operations—with no surprises! (ATP-120)


Taxi Instructions at the Right Time

/*T/ It should go without saying that the best time to issue taxi instructions to an aircraft is not just prior to or during landing. FAAO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, explicitly tells us so. The note in paragraph 3-10-9, Runway Exiting, states, "Runway exiting or taxi instructions should not normally be issued to an aircraft prior to, or immediately after, touchdown."

Yet, according to the pilot community, this happens all too often. In each instance, with the aircraft on final approach inside the outer marker, and the aircrew running its checklists and focused on a safe landing, the pilot received a landing clearance that included gate status and instructions for taxi after landing.

There was no emergency or extenuating circumstance involved so was it merely a busy controller trying to pass information as quickly as possible? Or maybe complacency creeping into repetitious operations? Whatever the case, it is unlikely the controller was not already aware of the need to limit transmissions to an aircraft in a critical phase of flight. By giving nonessential information and direction regarding the gate status and taxi instructions, the controller simply distracted and possibly confused the aircrew.

The pilot community also noted frequent use of local slang from controllers. This, too, is distracting and confusing. Slang equals equivocation and may lead to pilots believing they are approved for a request that is actually denied, or following procedure "Y" when the controller intended procedure "X." We do not have phraseology for every conceivable situation, but it is there for most of what we do. A controller who adheres to phraseology gives the pilot understandable, familiar, and concise instruction and eliminates doubt.

We all know our phraseology; we just need to review it regularly, use it at the right time, and stick to it for safety's sake. (ATP-120)

ASOS or AWOS/ATIS Interface - Closing Message

/*T/ (Part-time locations with ATIS and ASOS/AWOS only)

According to FAAO 7210.3, Facility Operation and Administration, paragraph 10-4-1, when the part-time air traffic control tower is open and equipped with an automatic terminal information service (ATIS), ATIS capabilities and automated surface observing system (ASOS)/automatic weather observing/reporting system (AWOS) ground to air broadcast capability, ATIS only shall be used to broadcast the current hourly or METAR/SPECI weather, and AWOS/ASOS shall be inhibited. At a part-time facility, when closing, the ASOS/AWOS must be reactivated and when the facility reopens, the ASOS/AWOS must be inhibited. ASOS/AWOS shall not be activated to broadcast weather concurrent with an ATIS.

Additionally, during the hours of nonoperation, part-time towers that have ATIS capabilities should record, for continuous broadcast, the following information: the local tower hours of operation; ASOS/AWOS frequency; the appropriate common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF); the frequency for operating radio controlled approach lights; and the FAA facility and frequency for additional information. (ATP-120)

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