Pilot Workshops VFR Communication Scenario: Request taxi to a runway at a towered (Class D) airport

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Editor’s Note: The following scenario is from the VFR Communications Manual from Pilot Workshops.

vfr communications

To taxi from the ramp to the runway at a towered airport, (across the “movement area”), you need to receive a taxi clearance from the Ground controller. First, listen to the current ATIS broadcast (weather). Then call Ground with your request, mentioning the phonetic alphabet code of the ATIS you heard. The format is:

[Airport name] Ground, [Full call sign], [Location on the airport] with Information [Current ATIS letter] VFR [Destination or direction of flight]. [Special requests].

Be sure to state both your location on the airport and your destination or direction of flight. This makes it easy for the controller to quickly plan how to get you from your current location to the active runway that’s most aligned with where you’re going. If you don’t know what locals call the area where you’re parked, give the best (short) description you can.

Add any special requests to the end of your transmission. Examples include requesting a different runway than most aircraft are using, or requesting an intersection departure because you don’t need the whole runway (see ).

The simplest response from Ground will be instructions to taxi to your departure runway via taxiways, without crossing any runways, taxiing on any runways, or having to hold anywhere along the way.

Watch out for runway hotspots

hotspotsCertain airport designs just lead to trouble, and by “trouble” we mean runway incursions, which is FAA speak for taxiing onto a runway without permission. Taxiways that cross narrow runways or runways that meet at odd angles are common culprits. Runways with land-and-hold-short operations (LAHSO) can also cause problems.

In an effort to curb these runway incursions, the FAA collects reports of pilots crossing into places where they weren’t cleared and look for fixes. That might be better signage, repainting of hold-short markings, or changes in airport procedures.

They also label problem areas as “hot spots” on airport diagrams. These are marked in brown on runway charts with “HS” with a number. Note where these hot spots are in relation to your taxi route. If other pilots missed the memo on where to stop, so might you.

How to address a Controller

Radio calls at non-towered airports fall into one of two categories: Either you’re speaking on CTAF, “[Airport name] traffic …” or you’re speaking to UNICOM, “[Airport name] Unicom …”

With controllers, there are more options. The key to addressing a controller is to use the name of the job he or she is performing at that moment.

Tower. The tower controller controls operations inside the airport’s Class D airspace. That’s ideally a cylinder around the airport with a 4 NM radius and extending to 2500 feet AGL, however, local variations are probably more the rule than the exception. Tower also controls all runway operations, and might control some taxiway sections. The person speaking is usually in a control tower with a view of the airport. That controller answers to “[Airport name] Tower.

Ground. The ground controller owns most or all of the taxiways and other movement areas that aren’t runways. Ground issues taxi instructions, including any airport personnel in trucks you see driving around the movement area. At most Class D airports, the ground controller also delivers IFR clearances to IFR departures. The actual person is usually in the control tower, sipping coffee next to the tower controller. The ground controller answers to “[Airport name] Ground.”

At quiet airports, Tower and Ground are often the same person. Don’t let that bother you. When you’re talking to someone in their role as Ground, address them as Ground. When you’re talking to them in their role as Tower, call them Tower. Usually, these two roles are being conducted on separate frequencies, so it’s pretty easy. Just don’t be surprised if you hear the same voice in both roles. – Some other roles include Clearance, Approach, Departure, and Center.

Flight Training Central Staff
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