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Jan. 13, 2017 // FAA, NATCA Work to Resolve IFR/VFR Conflicts


This month, the FAA and NATCA kicked off the second phase of the Take a Stand for Safety campaign, addressing myths around instrument flight rule/visual flight rule operations and encouraging controllers to call traffic, issue safety alerts, and work with pilots to avoid conflicts.

“We’re focusing on IFR/VFR conflicts because there are misunderstandings about what you can and can’t do, and we want to make sure they are debunked,” explained Steve Hansen, chairman of the National Safety Committee for NATCA.

FAA Vice President of Safety and Technical Training Terry Biggio agrees: “It’s been on our radar for a long time. The data is clearly pointing us in the direction that we have an issue in the NAS, and we’re trying to make sure we highlight it for our workforce in the field.”

Close-proximity events occur in all air traffic environments, and there is a national focus on addressing this issue. The initiatives include the 2017 Top 5, January 2017 Recurrent Training and Take a Stand for Safety.

“If you look back as far as 2013, IFR/VFR has been a joint NATCA-management effort, and everyone has been all in,” Biggio said.

One myth that Take a Stand for Safety is addressing surrounds the idea that VFR aircraft, which operate under visual rules commonly known as “see and avoid,” don’t need or want service from air traffic control.

“VFR aircraft are ‘see and avoid’; however, we also have a job as controllers to help them by issuing traffic, issuing safety alerts and helping them to avoid collisions,” Hansen explained. “So it’s not just that they are see and avoid and we don’t have to do anything with them; it’s a team effort and we need to work together to make sure they get through the system safely.”

Call out box:

7210.65 2-1-1: The primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system.

7110.65 2-1-2: Give first priority to separating aircraft and issuing safety alerts as required in this order. Good judgment must be used in prioritizing all other provisions of this order based on the on the requirements of the situation at hand.

“The primary purpose of the air traffic system is to prevent collisions between aircraft operating in the system,” Hansen said. “It doesn’t say between IFR aircraft; it says between aircraft. So it can be two VFR, two IFR. It can be a VFR and an IFR. Our job is to help avoid collisions between those aircraft.”

Take a Stand for Safety has a new website on the FAA employee site and NATCA members’ site, with additional information and handouts about IFR/VFR operations and a new infographic.

View a message from FAA ATO Chief Operating Officer Teri Bristol.

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