Pilot's tip of the week

Report on the CTAF?

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Subscriber question:

"Sometimes when approaching a non-towered airport, I hear pilots announce on the CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency) that they are maneuvering over a landmark. Should I do this when practicing maneuvers at my home airport?"
-Scott S.

Wally:

“Blind announcements of airplanes practicing maneuvers near an airport are not recommended by any authoritative aviation publication I am aware of.

This has become the practice of some flight instructors and I know that their intent is to improve safety, but I am not sure it accomplishes that purpose. The intent, of course, is to have aircraft that are transiting the area alerted to the fact that you are out there and to be watchful.

Here is the problem, if I am not a local pilot I don’t know where the factory or Joe’s farm is. So you have actually not communicated anything to me. Further, if I am transiting your area on a cross-country flight, I will most likely be talking to ATC on the flight following frequency and not your CTAF frequency.

Then there is the frequency congestion issue. Since many airports use the same CTAF frequency, your announcement at maneuvering altitude gets heard by lots of airports many miles from your location. Remember when you are talking, no one else can and you could be blocking an important announcement at another airport. This, of course, detracts from safety rather than enhance it.

My suggestion, communicate with local ATC and request traffic advisories. Now you will get call outs for any traffic that looks like a conflict and you leave the CTAF frequency available for the guys in the pattern.

Sometimes a flight school may have more than one airplane in the air and often those pilots use the CTAF to communicate. Yes, this does help the pilots maintain situational awareness but it also can block important traffic calls at many other airports. A better plan in this situation is to use one of the air to air communication frequencies available. In addition, a flight school can get a designated flight school frequency if they demonstrate a need.

The AIM does suggest we monitor/communicate on the CTAF when within 10 miles of the airport. Notice it says communicate, not broadcast in the blind. So keep the blind broadcasts to those recommended in the AIM and that will help keep the frequency clear for real communication between those that have a need.”

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