View Full Version : Cross-familiarisation between ATC and Pilots

9th Sep 2005, 07:41
I had a read of the ATC thread
where I learned a bit more as to why ATC does things the way they do.
That, coupled with the ATC articles by Don Brown at
makes me ask the question.

Do RPT operators allow ATC staff to fly and see what's involved at the pointy end ?,
does ATC allow pilots to see what's goes on behind the microphone ?

From my perspective it seems that such tours would be a cost effective education for everybody in the industry.

9th Sep 2005, 07:47
In my experience, ATC are normally quite happy to have pilots come in for a look-see.

Roger Standby
9th Sep 2005, 07:53
Familiarisation flights for ATC's are just starting to happen again. They were knocked on the head after 911. A lot of controllers have never done one and many not for years. I believe that ASA would like all controllers to do one flight (2 legs) once a year, but rostering and beauracracy(sp?) will never let it happen. The old dogs when asked recently if they wanted to do one responded with "and have to do a convaluted report on what I learned? No thanks." Most, however, jump at the opportunty.

As for pilots going into the main centres... pretty rare. I reckon we get a lot more GA tours, particularly flying schools, come through than RPT. A shame really. I would encourage any pilot to talk to their company and make the call. Our PR people love this stuff and it would be great for them to see how it works from the other side of the fence.



9th Sep 2005, 08:17
I have had some great famil flights with a number of airlines over the past 35 years. The discussion was usually amicable and related to current issues. I have retired recently but I am pretty sure the arrangements are still in place albeit a little more complicated now due to security and the fact that a written report is required to be submitted by the ATC to his supervisor.

Occasionally a pilot would bore you with a litany of personal gripes (usually related to what happened when he went in to Sydney and wasn't allowed to be No 1).

Occasionally ATCs would stuff it up by taking their surf board along for a bit of R &R at the destination.

Visits to centres and towers by pilots are fairly common and always welcomed. I know that QANTAS has a procedure for this to happen.

Probably the best way for a pilot to understand the controller's job is for a proper briefing to be given to him on the functions and responsibilities and then for the pilot to plug in and listen for a decent period of time (several hours). This rarely happens and the visits are somewhat superficial as a result.

Likewise when an ATC is on the flight deck he has little chance of understanding the complex processes going through the pilot's mind, let alone the skills required to operate the machine. All the ATC can do is focus on the RT and nod wisely in agreement with the captain.

I think that the best way for issues to be worked through is to have a good relationship with management on both sides. Regular meetings should occur. This happens more easily in small stations than large ones. Unfortunately most of the gripes relate to the larger ones.

I think you will find that there is a considerable amount of information exchange at each centre via the "Customer Relations Managers". Unfortuately most of this is associated with incident investigation following both formal and informal reports.

I am not sure if the good oil always filters through to all levels of ATC and Pilots.

This forum helps of course.

9th Sep 2005, 14:30
I have to make comment here about the last famil flight I took. It was in the last days of Ansett, the captain's initials were GD, and I'm convinced his middle name must have been Owen. His instruction after I strapped myself in to the jumpseat was "We have a high cockpit workload until we're out of ten thousand, so sit there and shut up, basically." Hardly a novice controller at that stage, I couldn't believe what I was hearing, and wondered at his reaction should I have said something similar to him on a visit to the tower.

That isolated incident aside, the Binos philosophy has always been to absorb and impart information in an informal setting; preferably in the aero club over a beer.

No doubt we are required these days to submit a report on our famil flight lest it be seen as a private junket, and therefore subject to FBT. Yeah, right, as my kids would say; a day return flight. :rolleyes: I'm one of the old dogs who says no thanks, yet there is much to be achieved, especially as technology increases its sway in the cockpit and in front of the radar.

Let's hope commonsense can return to the point where we realise that the only possible results of increased famil visits to each other's work environments are positive. Once we acknowledge that, it becomes a lot easier to overcome the few antagonistic egos on both sides and work in harmony as we self-evidently should.

9th Sep 2005, 14:50
ATC tours are great!!! Tagged along with a pilot mate of mine back in 2000,got a first hand look @ TAATS (pretty nifty). It was pretty relaxed back then, NO ID checks or detector gizmos.

The Voice
9th Sep 2005, 21:48
for my two cents worth ...

I had the very great pleasure of travelling up front with a Skywest crew some years back and I was very impressed by the info exchange. We all learnt a lot that day, including the fact that the crew when they party, they party (outside of work hours obviously) and when they're working, they are the epitome of professionalism.

The one thing that usually happens with visits through the centres', is that it will nearly always occur well outside of the high workload times .. hence a false impression is usually left with the visitor - and this always happened when a small statured man, wearing glasses and hell bent on some sort of reform or other came through ...

9th Sep 2005, 23:04
Just to get some facts out there.

Pilot visits to ATC Centres and Towers:

- pilots are always welcome to visit any ATC tower or centre
- BN and ML Centre tours/famil visits are usually arranged by the local PR representative and that person is the best person to call.
- call the centre or tower during business hours (number in phone book) to arrange a visit

In general, outstation towers usually welcome ad hoc visits by pilots. Just give the tower a ring. I know Binos works in Mackay and loves talking to pilots and showing what goes on.

Centre visits are fairly easy to arrange as well, but because they are secure installations you will have to phone before visiting, get a security visitors pass (not a big deal) and have the Duty Ops Manager approval to enter the ops room. This is normally arranged by the PR rep.

BN Centre regularly gets visitors but it seems that it's only the local flying schools that seem to come in. Rarely do we see tech crew from Qantas, Virgin, or Jetstar.

As for famil flights for ATCs. It is such a hazzle to get a flight. It must be return same day, it is always at the captain's discretion whether you even fly, and you have to write a report afterward.

Up until about 2000, famil flights were great. For instance, when working the TOPS Group of sectors I did a BN-DN-BN famil. Flew up to Darwin in the jump seat, discussed different issues with the crew. In Darwin went to DN ATC and DN CRU in the afternoon for a famil visit. Then next day drove down to Tindall for a famil visit. Overnighted in Tindal after being with TN ATC for 24 hours. Drove back to Darwin for a jump seat ride back to BN with a different crew. Learnt heaps about Topend air traffic, RAAF ops, and the issues with aircraft operations in that unique environment.

In the past I've had similar famil flights/visits to Melbourne where I've overnighted in ML to spend time at ML centre as well as with different crews.

The current famil program doesn't allow for this sort of famil flight.

Duff Man
10th Sep 2005, 01:42
The PR and management organised visits can be a little brief and superficial.

Here's a tip, go to the ATC Association forum http://www.civilair.asn.au/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=gendis and make an "ATC visit" post. Get in contact with a specific controller and they can do the legwork, recommend the best time/day for the visit, etc. Allow a few hours.

10th Sep 2005, 02:17
preferably in the aero club over a beer.

Sadly not enough of this happening these days. Is there such a venue near Tulla that has cheap brewski's, decent music and a few laughs that we could re-start such a tradition?