“Any other traffic, please advise.” Probably few radio communications that pilots make incur such wrath as that request, which many pilots still make at the conclusion of an initial call to a unicom frequency when approaching a nontowered airport. And it was just one of the topics covered by a panel of experienced GA pilots, controllers, and instructors hosted by FAA representatives during a webinar on June 16.
The General Aviation Runway Safety Town Hall seminar focused attention on a wide range of safety concerns centered around airport operations, and it was positioned to help pilots understand and discuss best practices as recommended by both the experts involved and the FAA.
The town hall was organized by the FAA for these reasons and more. “Lowering the risk of runway accidents is a collective effort that encompasses pilots, air traffic controllers and airport vehicle drivers. With airport operations expected to increase post-COVID, the FAA is redoubling its effort to offer guidance, resources and expertise that can preempt any increases in surface errors by general aviation pilots.”
A trio of panelists representing controllers, pilots, and instructors took questions from the FAA and those in the audience, including controller Karl Grundmann, instructor Veronica Cote, and Flying’s senior editor Rob Mark, an instructor and former air traffic controller. A few gems from the discussion: Google Earth is a resource noted by Mark and Cote, used to augment a pilot’s review of airport diagrams, and to supplement each other. Other preflight tools include EFB apps, such as ForeFlight and JeppView; a new issuance of AC 91-92: Pilot’s Guide to a Preflight Briefing; and the FAA’s new From the Flight Deck videos. The series uses cameras from the pilot’s point of view to capture runway and taxiway footage, combining them with diagrams and visual graphics to clearly identify hot spots and other safety-sensitive items. Cote also noted the importance of using human resources as well, to help with awareness of hazards such as snow banks, which can be piled high making the runway narrower than you are used to, covering taxiway and runway lights. She recommended calling the airport manager before departure so that pilots know the specific conditions.
Following their discussion, a second trio, representatives from the FAA, picked up the threads from the previous panel, including Michael Meyers, Giovanni Dipierro, and Nick DeLotell. Meyers emphasized the confusion created by odd angles between taxiways and runways, also noted by Mark—and said this is a leading cause of runway incursions. “A lot of GA airports are old WWII bases,” he added, and sometimes these wide expanses of pavement can be disorienting; you may not see the signage from the centerline.
Another point raised by Dipierro: Have the courage to say, “I need help.” If you are disoriented or unsure, ask for progressive taxi instructions. “Don’t taxi on assumptions,” added Meyers. Always make sure you announce where you are regularly at nontowered airports to help other pilots build situational awareness.
A final round gave tips from each contributor on best practices for flying into Oshkosh—starting with the most critical one: Read the notam.
The town hall reached nearly 2,300 pilots on two of the FAA’s social media platforms during the 90-minute event, with 484 pilots participating on Zoom and 1,814 pilots watching on the FAA’s YouTube channel.