Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

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Chris M
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Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by Chris M » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:21 am

Whenever I’m passing close to a control zone but staying clear I’ll tune in to the tower frequency just to keep an ear open for anything relevant. If I'm crossing the extended centerline of the active runway I'll usually call in just in case there is in/outbound traffic that I might be conflicting with. From the perspective of the guys in the tower, would you prefer if traffic like me (VFR, 2-3 miles outside the zone, 3-5000’) gives you a call to let you know we’re listening, or would you rather we keep quiet?
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by A346Dude » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:49 am

As a rough rule of thumb that probably varies from airport to airport, if you're going to pass within 7 miles of the airport and 1,000' or less above the top of the zone, make a call when you're about 10 miles away from the airport with your intentions. Anything outside of that monitor the frequency and we'll call you if we need to. There is certainly a bit of a grey area, and within that grey area both options are just fine. Just don't be "that guy" right on the approach 5.5 miles out and not monitoring.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:19 am

I’m sorry - what’s the grey area? And why is it grey?
Whose rule of thumb is that, and where does it come from?
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by A346Dude » Tue Mar 27, 2018 1:18 pm

It’s my rule of thumb, based on my experience as a Tower controller. That’s why I called it a “rough rule of thumb” and did not give a CAR or AIM reference.

The grey area refers to that zone between 5 and 10 miles from the airport. It’s grey because while there is no requirement to be transponder or radio equipped, it is nevertheless good airmanship to at least be monitoring the tower frequency in that area.

Not sure if you’re trying to be snarky but it sure comes off that way. I am offering my opinion in order to assist the OP.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:06 pm

You are (were) making it sound like there's some grey area about the CARs or some ambiguity about the size of a control zone. If your opinion as a NavCanada ATCO is that it's helpful for you to hear from VFR traffic that is close to the boundary of your control zone, that's good to know.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by AirFrame » Tue Mar 27, 2018 3:16 pm

I tend to listen on ATC frequencies when i'm "near" an ATC area. I don't bother saying anything unless I hear other traffic that will be passing near me... Usually it's the controlling agency passing me as a target to someone else. If that happens, i'll break silence to say i'm monitoring the frequency, and give my intentions so they have an idea what i'm doing. None of this is required, of course, just courtesy if the frequency isn't cluttered.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by Chris M » Wed Mar 28, 2018 6:31 am

A346Dude wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:49 am
As a rough rule of thumb that probably varies from airport to airport, if you're going to pass within 7 miles of the airport and 1,000' or less above the top of the zone, make a call when you're about 10 miles away from the airport with your intentions. Anything outside of that monitor the frequency and we'll call you if we need to. There is certainly a bit of a grey area, and within that grey area both options are just fine. Just don't be "that guy" right on the approach 5.5 miles out and not monitoring.
Thanks for your input, that pretty much confirms my thinking. A few times when I've been monitoring and heard tower report me as traffic to someone else. At that point I'll chime in to let them know I'm on and give my intentions.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by RexKrammer » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:04 am

As a tower controller, if you're going to be flying near the zone laterally or vertically, I would prefer a "heads up" call from you.
The number of times I've seen someone flying around 0.25 miles from the zone or overflying 200' above the zone without establishing communication when I've had conflicting traffic is very high.
Although legally you're permitted to be there, in my opinion it is good airmanship to contact the tower to let them know your intentions.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by CL-Skadoo! » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:29 am

photofly wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:06 pm
You are (were) making it sound like there's some grey area about the CARs or some ambiguity about the size of a control zone.
How in the world did you pick that up from what this person stated?
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by Loner » Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:05 am

RexKrammer wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:04 am
As a tower controller, if you're going to be flying near the zone laterally or vertically, I would prefer a "heads up" call from you.
The number of times I've seen someone flying around 0.25 miles from the zone or overflying 200' above the zone without establishing communication when I've had conflicting traffic is very high.
Although legally you're permitted to be there, in my opinion it is good airmanship to contact the tower to let them know your intentions.
And...that’s assuming their equipment has been calibrated IAW CARs...200 feet is nothing.
There are still some GA owners who try to save money...
Common sense is to give some space, no need to “shave” zones if there is no intent to go there. But yet legal, makes others nervous not knowing the intentions (if any)
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by RexKrammer » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:11 am

Loner wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 8:05 am
Common sense is to give some space, no need to “shave” zones if there is no intent to go there. But yet legal, makes others nervous not knowing the intentions (if any)
That's the key (my bolding of Loner's comment).
If I don't know what their intentions are it makes keeping my known traffic safe from them much harder.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:08 am

CL-Skadoo! wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:29 am
photofly wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 2:06 pm
You are (were) making it sound like there's some grey area about the CARs or some ambiguity about the size of a control zone.
How in the world did you pick that up from what this person stated?
Because there are no rules of thumb and no grey areas. The actual rules are clear and consistent. Outside the control zone no contact is required. I see nothing grey, and no “rules” to the contrary, of thumb or of other fingers.

If contact within 7nm of an operating control tower were operationally required at a location then TC and NavCanada could make the control zone 7nm in radius (as in fact they do at some airports). And then someone, in their wisdom, would invent a new “rule of thumb”or suggest there’s a new grey area, that extends 2nm outside that. And pretty soon everywhere will be a control zone and nobody will be allowed to fly without a radio.

I’m in favour of good airmanship but I’m resistant to signing up for voluntary rules where real rules already exist.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by ahramin » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:02 pm

Personally, I'll always get flight following if it's available. It doesn't matter if I can legally be in a block of airspace without a radio as I have the radio and it's not hard to use, there's a little button thingy on the stick.

I am one of those that will cut 0.1 mile or 100 feet from a control zone not talking or even listening. I always assumed that the control towers around here would prefer not to talk to an aircraft transiting outside their zone. Since we have a controller here telling us that this is not the case, I'll give them a call the next few times and see what happens. If they're going to help me spot traffic, why not!
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by A346Dude » Wed Mar 28, 2018 4:53 pm

photofly wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 11:08 am

Because there are no rules of thumb and no grey areas. The actual rules are clear and consistent. Outside the control zone no contact is required. I see nothing grey, and no “rules” to the contrary, of thumb or of other fingers.
Rule of thumb: "a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on experience or practice rather than theory."

Those of us who live and work in the real world are talking about best practices for operating in the vicinity of, but not inside, a control zone. Nobody except you is talking about the actual rules that apply within and outside the published limits of control zones.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by rookiepilot » Wed Mar 28, 2018 7:29 pm

I will call up as a courtesy IF I'm transiting near a zone and not already on with Terminal, who would switch me if they wished.
In my area YHM comes to mind as having a lot of traffic transiting nearby, without necessarily entering.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by AirFrame » Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:23 am

ahramin wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:02 pm
Since we have a controller here telling us that this is not the case, I'll give them a call the next few times and see what happens. If they're going to help me spot traffic, why not!
Careful with that... If you are outside their zone, they have no obligation to pass traffic to you, and at some airports they will *not* pass traffic to you if you are outside the zone... Even if you call to say "hi, i'm here".
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by lhalliday » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:23 am

I monitor ATC if I'm nearby. The definition of "nearby" depends on the airport and local traffic. If there are any traffic issues I'll give ATC a call.

My home airport (Langley) has a "shelf" between its control zone and Vancouver Terminal's airspace above. You don't have to talk to anybody when you fly through there (e.g. Boundary Bay to Glen Valley), but the controllers appreciate a courtesy call and pass traffic on a workload-permitting basis.

In some places (e.g. England) they have listening squawks. "I'm outside your zone but I'm listening."

...laura
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by ahramin » Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:49 am

AirFrame wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 6:23 am
ahramin wrote:
Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:02 pm
Since we have a controller here telling us that this is not the case, I'll give them a call the next few times and see what happens. If they're going to help me spot traffic, why not!
Careful with that... If you are outside their zone, they have no obligation to pass traffic to you, and at some airports they will *not* pass traffic to you if you are outside the zone... Even if you call to say "hi, i'm here".
They have no obligation to pass traffic to you inside the zone either. The point is that terminal or center will provide flight following outside the vertical limits of their airspace which I usually take advantage of. We have a controller suggesting that they will provide the same service around their zones so I'm going to give it a try.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:58 am

ahramin wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:49 am
They have no obligation to pass traffic to you inside the zone either.
Yes they do. And in a class C control zone, more.
801.02 (1) Where air traffic control services are provided to aircraft operating in Class A or Class B airspace, the services shall include separation between aircraft.

(2) Where air traffic control services are provided to aircraft operating in Class C airspace, the services shall include

(a) conflict resolution between IFR aircraft and VFR aircraft;

(b) conflict resolution between VFR aircraft on request;

(c) traffic information;
and

(d) separation between IFR aircraft and between all aircraft during runway operations.

(3) Where air traffic control services are provided to aircraft operating in Class D airspace, the services shall include

(a) traffic information;
and

(b) separation between IFR aircraft, and between all aircraft during runway operations.

(4) Where air traffic control services are provided to aircraft operating in Class E airspace, the services shall include separation between IFR aircraft.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by ahramin » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:29 am

I'm not sure you're interpreting that correctly Photofly. Certainly the service includes that, but I don't think that means it is mandatory for them to do so. I'm sure they don't have to tell you about every other traffic they know about, so if there is some traffic that they must tell you about, where is the line? The only time I can think about that they need to point traffic to you is when they need you to report it in sight so that they can clear you to do something reference to that traffic.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by A346Dude » Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:12 pm

Traffic information (between you and any relevant traffic, not all aircraft in the control zone) is the bare minimum service you will receive in Class C or D airspace when VFR. In my unit, outside the control zone you will still receive traffic information, workload permitting (which means most of the time you will receive it). Traffic information and conflict resolution inside the control zone has higher priority, so if the tower is very busy you may not receive traffic when outside the control zone.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:14 pm

ahramin wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:29 am
I'm not sure you're interpreting that correctly Photofly. Certainly the service includes that, but I don't think that means it is mandatory for them to do so.
That's the law. Whether it gets obeyed or not, who knows. (Part VIII of the CARs applies to NavCanada. If it fails to provide the specified service, NavCanada gets fined by TC.)
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Last edited by photofly on Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kirk: This is a dangerous mission. Likely, one of us will die. The landing party will be me, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Ricky.
Ensign Ricky: Aw, crap.

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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by photofly » Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:15 pm

...
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Kirk: This is a dangerous mission. Likely, one of us will die. The landing party will be me, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Ricky.
Ensign Ricky: Aw, crap.

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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by AirFrame » Fri Mar 30, 2018 7:23 am

(b) conflict resolution between VFR aircraft on request;
Note the "on request". I'd hazard a guess that most VFR pilots assume they are getting conflict resolution when they fly into a control zone, and don't realize that they have to request it to be sure.

In practise, the Class C towers near me (at least in my experience) have voluntarily offered conflict resolution without me asking for it. If they do it for everyone, that reinforces the expectation that you don't have to ask for that service to get it. In the event that traffic *doesn't* get passed to you, and you have a loss of separation, they could always fall back on "well, they didn't request resolution..." if it ever came before TC.
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Re: Should VFR traffic near control zones contact ATC?

Post by linecrew » Fri Mar 30, 2018 10:17 am

For the number of control zone incursions that happen almost daily due to things like pilots not being on the right frequency or just a lack of situational awareness (source: numerous CADORS), any aircraft flying close to a control zone can be a distraction to ATC. If you call them up and say you are at XX altitude and will remain clear of the zone then you're helping them as well as your fellow aviators. It costs you nothing to click the mic and in fact may help you if ATC is able pass traffic or perhaps other information that might be of use to you.
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