Any Traffic, Please Advise

Written by Michael Leighton

Improper radio procedure can contribute to an unsafe traffic pattern.

May 2015-

"Spartanburg traffic, Cessna 81318 is five miles out inbound for landing; any traffic in the area, please advise."

As a flight instructor, that type of radio transmission makes me cringe!

Even though there is no requirement to have a radio, much less use one in the vast majority of uncontrolled airspace, using one is a good safety move. Improper radio procedure just jams up the frequency and can contribute to an unsafe traffic pattern.

The particular phrase above is mentioned in the Aeronautical Information Manual in chapter four, section 1, paragraph g (4-1-9) as something that should not be used. While the AIM is advisory in nature and not regulatory, the fact that it cites the phrase above as an example of what not to say is significant.

A more appropriate radio call would be, "Spartanburg traffic, Skylane five miles north, inbound for left downwind Runway 5, Spartanburg."
Why? Well most pilots will know what a Skylane looks like, while "Cessna" can mean a high- or low-wing, or even a twin. Further, using a tail number is—in my opinion—a waste of airtime since you can't see it while in flight anyway.
An azimuth and distance is useful information and gives the traffic someplace to look; calling "five miles out" doesn't help.

Advising the pattern entry further enhances situational awareness for other pilots in the pattern since they now know what you are going to do. You could make a base entry and be totally legal, and the same goes for a straight-in.
Before you argue that you have to fly a left-hand traffic pattern in accordance with FAR 91.126, go read the reg. It says, "When approaching to land... all turns shall be..."—but if you don't make any turns, a straight-in is perfectly legal. In fact, almost all instrument approaches are straight-ins unless you are executing a circle-to-land approach.

So, what my issue with announcing, "Any traffic in the area, please advise?"
Well, the regs say "see and avoid." They don't say anything about "talk and avoid." You can't delegate your responsibility by asking if there is anybody out there.
Secondly, just observe what happens when someone makes that request on the frequency of a busy training airport and three planes answer at once!
Last, if the FAA thought as much to put it in the AIM, then I would say they have good reason. In this case, they are saying "don't do that." So, don't do that!

Michael Leighton is an 8,800-hour,
three-time Master Flight Instructor, as well as an A&P mechanic. He operates an aircraft maintenance facility and
flight training company in Spartanburg, S.C. You can find him on the web at Send questions or comments to .

Further reading
Advisory Circular No. 90-66A, "Recommended Standard
Traffic Patterns and Practices
for Aeronautical Operations
at Airports without Operating
Control Towers"

Advisory Circular No. 90-42F
"Traffic Advisory Practices at
Airports without Operating
Control Towers"

AIM 4-1-9
"Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports
without Operating Control Towers"

AOPA Air Safety Institute Safety Advisor
"Operations at Nontowered Airports"

FAR 91.126
"Operating on or in the vicinity
of an airport in Class G airspace"