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4 Answers

ATC Directions

Asked by: 1959 views Airspace, Flight Instructor


I'm a fairly new flight instructor, recently hired at a flight school which conducts heavy training. As such, operations at are our airport are generally very busy, and the local traffic pattern can often become saturated. Due do the complexity, I'm still learning the ins and outs of the operation.

The other day, I was conducting traffic patterns with a student. We were using runway 25L, and runway 25R was also in use. When I was number two for landing, the aircraft ahead of me became immobilized on the runway. With this runway now unusable, aircraft were forced to land solely on the parallel runway, and the traffic pattern quickly became jammed. Until airport operations could remove the aircraft, the tower told most aircraft not to descent below pattern altitude, and were telling us when to turn crosswind, downwind, base, etc.

Since I was on final behind the immobilized aircraft, I was told to go-around and extend the upwind. I was then cleared onto a left crosswind and left downwind. Then tower issued me an instruction which I found confusing. They stated "Aircraft XXX, turn base, do not descend, and do not overfly the runway." Unsure of exactly what they wanted me to do, I remained on base and asked for clarification. By the time they responded, I had begun entering the approach path for the other parallel runway, 25R. They responded by telling me to actually join final for runway 25L, which was now clear of the immobilized aircraft. Once on the ground, they came over the frequency and accused me of trying to switch runways.

Ultimately, I suppose my questions boils down to two or three things. Were the instructions that tower issued vague when they stated to enter base but don't overly the runway, or am I missing something? They accused me of trying to switch runways on them, given that I had strayed into the approach path for the other runway, but that in no way was my intention. I flat out didn’t know what they wanted me to do. And as a new instructor, I feel like a complete idiot when I have to "bother" tower with clarification instructions when they are saturated with so much traffic, and everyone else seems to understand their directions just fine.

 Is there anything I can do to prevent this confusion in the future, and also, would it be beneficial to fill out an ASRS’s report? Apologies for the long post.


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4 Answers

  1. John D. Collins on May 23, 2013

    Definitely fill out the ASRS NASA report and then contact the tower and request the tapes be reviewed and then discuss it with the tower quality person and explain why their instructions were confusing.

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  2. Mark Kolber on May 23, 2013

    I can’t think of a situation in which it would be a bad idea to file a NASA report, with the possible exception of admitting to a crime.

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  3. Lucas on May 23, 2013

    KDAB International airport?
    If so controllers have a tendency to get grumpy at times and also remember that DAB is not only heavy on training pilots but it is also the number 1 training tower in the world. Most controllers in the busiest airports went through that tower.

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  4. Earl Kessler on May 25, 2013

    Bear in mind that we as CFIs are human. I begin my instruction relationship by explaining to my students that I make mistakes too and ask the student to feel free to point out my errors as I will point out his or hers. The same applies to questionable ATC instructions, I never hesitate to ask for clarification, and usually ATC is grateful to comply. The other option for both us and ATC is the time consuming possibility of filling out NASA forms or meeting with an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector. I still stop from time to time on the taxiway and ask for progressive instructions.

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