Av Hazard publicizes safety and operational concerns to help prevent accidents but it works only if we hear from you. Use the postage-free Av Hazard card to describe the hazard and return it to Pro Pilot. To obtain an official FAA review send NASA an ASRS form. For immediate action, call the airport, FBO, ATC, FSDO or the 24-hour FAA Safety Hotline at 800-255-1111. Note: Telephone numbers for all US Towers and ARTCCs are published in Ac-U-Kwik and Pilots Express Airport/Heliport/FBO directories. To report safety concerns outside the US, contact ICAO HQ at 514-954-8219 or via fax at 514-954-6077. ICAO has worldwide telephone and fax numbers to expedite Av Hazard reports to civil aviation authorities.
Frustration with ATC tempo
Sunday Jan 3 was a miserably frustrating day at EGE (Eagle CO). Dozens of aircraft without reservations had diverted there when ASE (Aspen CO) shut down. There were 50–60 aircraft waiting for departure. What regulatory basis does the airport manager have to prohibit VFR departures? Tower claimed it was the airport manager (not ATC Center limitation) who prohibited VFR departures and allowed only 1 takeoff or landing every 4 minutes! Tens of crews exceeded their duty day or were grounded after sunset.
__ATP, Challenger 604
- Professional Pilot contacted the EGE airport manager and ATC tower for a response to this pilot’s comments. The response is provided here. On Jan 3, I was in the tower for most of the day (8 am to 6 pm) and I answered all phone calls from pilots wanting to know if they could depart VFR. At no time did I state that delays were being caused by airport management. Instead, what was said over the phone and several times over the radio was for the pilot to call the tower manager (myself), who would explain the reason for the delays. EGE Tower handled a total of 263 operations on Jan 3. Between 8 am and 7 pm the tower handled 212 operations with an average of 21.2 ops per hour. Weather was VFR, with no cloud or visibility restrictions.
Due to the amount of aircraft operations, the tower implemented “gate hold procedures” at 9:40 am and remained under these until 6:15 pm. During gate hold procedures all aircraft were required to obtain an engine start time from EGE ground control in order to establish a reasonable outbound traffic flow. Otherwise, all 200-plus aircraft would be asking to taxi at the same time, and EGE Tower would be unable to accommodate the traffic volume. FAA Order 7210.3W (Facility Operation and Administration) para 10-4-3 describes the procedure as follows: “The objective of gate hold procedures is to restrict departure delays to 15 minutes or less after engine start and taxi time.
Facility air traffic managers shall ensure gate hold procedures and departure delay information are made available to all pilots prior to engine startup. Implement gate hold procedures when departure delays exceed or are expected to exceed 15 minutes.” In addition, AIM para 4-3-15 describes the procedures as follows: “Pilots should contact ground control or clearance delivery prior to starting engines as gate hold procedures will be in effect whenever departure delays exceed or are anticipated to exceed 15 minutes.
The sequence for departure will be maintained in accordance with initial callup unless modified by flow control restrictions. Pilots should monitor the ground control or clearance delivery frequency for engine startup advisories or new proposed start time if the delay changes.” There were a few pilots flying under the provisions of FAR Part 91 who requested a VFR departure that day. They were informed by me over the phone, and by ground control over the frequency, that a VFR departure would not be a problem, although they were still restricted by the gate hold procedures.
The procedure is applicable to all aircraft, not only to IFR departures, as the intent of the procedure is to control the traffic volume at the runway hold short line. During the time gate hold procedures were in effect, EGE Tower had 54 delays with an average of 21.6 min per aircraft, compared with an average of 122 min per aircraft during the previous ski season.
Avoiding airborne pilot deviations
FAA issued a Safety Tip concerning airborne pilot deviation avoidance on Mar 26, 2010. According to the notice, it is important for pilots to know and understand the obstacles to maintaining proper situational awareness (SA) Fatigue was cited as a large causal factor in many accidents and pilots need to be aware of the hazards of inadequate rest and nap/work periods.
It should be no surprise that distractions were listed as a causal factor in numerous aviation accidents. Many distractions can be very small and insignificant yet build into a pilot deviation or, even worse, an accident. Take the Eastern Air Lines L1011 which crashed into the Florida Everglades on Dec 29, 1972 due to a burned-out gear indicator light bulb. Pilots flying new glass cockpit systems can easily be distracted or confused with displays, systems and automation and quickly lose SA. For the full notice, visit faasafety.gov and search for Safety Tip—Pilot Deviations, Notice Number: NOTC2195.