If you are like most pilots, Air Traffic Control (ATC), sounded like a foreign language to you the first few times you heard it. Like most pilots, you were probably a little nervous of talking to ATC, maybe they still make you a little nervous.
FEAR of ATC, and not understanding the RADIO environment, which, as a Student Pilot, you learn in your Restricted Radio Course, can cause pilot distress and has possibly contributed to aircraft accidents.
Air Traffic Control have FIVE main objectives:
1. To prevent collisions between aircraft.
2. To prevent collisions between aircraft on the manoeuvring area and obstructions.
3. To maintain an orderly flow of traffic.
4. To provide advice and information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flight.
5. To notify appropriate organisations regarding aircraft in need of Search and Rescue, and to assist these organisations as required.
You noticed that too? That there is no objective to prevent collisions between aircraft and the ground? Scary.
ATC are not gods and sometimes they get it wrong. The thing is that when the ATC messes up, the pilot dies, and when the pilot messes up, the pilot dies. So the pilot must BE ASSERTIVE when necessary, and not be afraid to voice their own requests, and COMMUNICATE their situation. ATC does not know the pilots skill level, personal circumstances, or fatigue level.
Watch the events unfolding below and ask yourself, if this pilot had been assertive early on, would the outcome have been different?
If you were the pilot, what would you have done?
She had been flying three hours, was tired, and stressed about her relative, the cancer patient. A long delay to land was what, in my opinion, caused the accident. She lost concentration, and failed to "fly the airplane", setting herself up for one of the most frequent killers of the inexperienced/ fatigued/ distracted pilot: insufficient airspeed.
When she was high on Rwy 35, why not ask for a teardrop for runway 17? That would have put them with a small headwind component and out of the way of the incessant traffic, much earlier on in the flight. It is quick and easy to check your crosswind, simply place a pencil or finger across the DI to judge if it is a big one, if you are too tired to compute it mentally.
TIP: Check your destination airfield Met reports before you leave, so you can anticipate the runway in use, and possible alternatives, especially if the airport is unfamiliar to you. PPPPPP.
Pilots CAN REQUEST things from ATC in Controlled airspace. Also, if you are busy, use the magic words "standby" if ATC is being demanding and you are busy flying.
TAKE CHARGE. As the pilot, you are responsible for the aircraft and the lives on it. BE ASSERTIVE when it matters.
Have you watched "American Made"- the movie with Tom Cruise acting as Barry Seal?(Based on true events - what a tale!) If the Pilot had not been assertive with the drug lords on that first take-off when loaded so heavily with cocaine, and kicked the big guy off the plane, there would have been no story to tell besides dying in the jungle. (That's a story about mass and balance and all-up weight).
The pilot is the ultimate guardian of the flight. YOU MUST TAKE CHARGE.