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Air Traffic Control and the National Airspace System (Part One)

by Flight Learnings

in Airspace

The primary purpose of the ATC system is to prevent a collision between aircraft operating in the system and to organize and expedite the flow of traffic. In addition to its primary function, the ATC system has the capability to provide (with certain limitations) additional services. The ability to provide additional services is limited by many factors, such as the volume of traffic, frequency congestion, quality of radar, controller workload, higher priority duties, and the pure physical inability to scan and detect those situations that fall in this category. It is recognized that these services cannot be provided in cases in which the provision of services is precluded by the above factors.

Consistent with the aforementioned conditions, controllers shall provide additional service procedures to the extent permitted by higher priority duties and other circumstances. The provision of additional services is not optional on the part of the controller, but rather is required when the work situation permits. Provide ATC service in accordance with the procedures and minima in this order except when:

  1. A deviation is necessary to conform with ICAO Documents, National Rules of the Air, or special agreements where the United States provides ATC service in airspace outside the country and its possessions or:
  2. Other procedures/minima are prescribed in a letter of agreement, FAA directive, or a military document, or:
  3. A deviation is necessary to assist an aircraft when an emergency has been declared.

Coordinating the Use of Airspace

ATC is responsible for ensuring that the necessary coordination has been accomplished before allowing an aircraft under their control to enter another controller’s area of jurisdiction.

Before issuing control instructions directly or relaying through another source to an aircraft which is within another controller’s area of jurisdiction that will change that aircraft’s heading, route, speed, or altitude, ATC ensures that coordination has been accomplished with each of the controllers listed below whose area of jurisdiction is affected by those instructions unless otherwise specified by a letter of agreement or a facility directive:

  1. The controller within whose area of jurisdiction the control instructions are issued.
  2. The controller receiving the transfer of control.
  3. Any intervening controller(s) through whose area of jurisdiction the aircraft will pass.

If ATC issues control instructions to an aircraft through a source other than another controller (e.g., Aeronautical Radio, Incorporated (ARINC), Automated Flight Service Station/Flight Service Station (AFSS/FSS), another pilot) they ensure that the necessary coordination has been accomplished with any controllers listed above, whose area of jurisdiction is affected by those instructions unless otherwise specified by a letter of agreement or a facility directive.

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