Air Traffic Control


  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) keep pilots safe and expedite the flow of traffic
    • Air traffic control's first priority is to the separation of aircraft and to the issuance of radar safety alerts
    • Second, ATC provides support to national security and homeland defense activities to include, but not be limited to, reporting of suspicious and/or unusual aircraft/pilot activities
    • Lastly, ATC Provide additional services to the extent possible, contingent only upon higher priority duties and other factors including limitations of radar, volume of traffic, frequency congestion, and workload
  • Controllers establish the sequence of traffic, requiring them to adjust flight as necessary to achieve proper spacing
    • These adjustments can only be based on observed traffic, accurate pilot reports, and anticipated aircraft maneuvers
  • Progress of flights are tracked with the use of Flight Progress Strips
Read Back Correct
Figure 1: Read Back Correct

ATC Facilities:

ATC Services

Compliance with Air Traffic Control:

  • Clear and concise radio communications with ATC is imperative
  • When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no PIC may deviate from that clearance unless:
    • An amended clearance is obtained
    • An emergency exists
    • The deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory
    • Except in Class A airspace, a pilot may cancel an IFR flight plan if the operation is being conducted in VFR weather conditions
    • Each pilot in command who, in an emergency, or in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory, deviates from an ATC clearance or instruction shall notify ATC of that deviation as soon as possible
    • Each pilot in command who (through not deviating from a rule of this subpart) is given priority by ATC in an emergency, shall submit a detailed report of that emergency within 48 hours to the manager of that ATC facility, if requested by ATC
  • When cleared to a point not on an airway you must hit that point before you turn, because that point is your clearance
  • If the point is on an airway or a transition you have been cleared for then you can go ahead and lead it with a turn
  • When a pilot is unsure about an ATC clearance, the pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC

Air Traffic Control
Figure 2: ATC System

Recording and Monitoring:

  • Calls to air traffic control (ATC) facilities (ARTCCs, Towers, FSSs, Central Flow, and Operations Centers) over radio and ATC operational telephone lines (lines used for operational purposes such as controller instructions, briefings, opening and closing flight plans, issuance of IFR clearances and amendments, counter hijacking activities, etc.) may be monitored and recorded for operational uses such as accident investigations, accident prevention, search and rescue purposes, specialist training and evaluation, and technical evaluation and repair of control and communications systems
  • Where the public access telephone is recorded, a beeper tone is not required
    • In place of the "beep" tone the FCC has substituted a mandatory requirement that persons to be recorded be given notice they are to be recorded and give consent
    • Notice is given by the entry in AIM (4-1-4) Recording and Monitoring while consent to record is assumed by the individual placing a call to the operational facility


  • Air traffic controllers roles and responsibilities can be found 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 non-government 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
  • The responsibilities of the pilot and the controller intentionally overlap in many areas providing a degree of redundancy