New Non-Tower AC: Perfect Spring Tune-up

By Scott Spangler on April 9th, 2018

imageAh, springtime. Any day now it should finally stop snowing. As the snow melts, puddles, and sublimates from airport operation areas, airplanes will emerge from their T-hangar hibernations and start sniffing the sky on sunny weekends. In preparation for these first flights of 2018, on March 13, 2018, the FAA conveniently published the perfect spring tune-up for pilots, Advisory Circular 90-66B. Non-Towered Flight Operations.

This should be required reading for all pilots. According the the March 2018 Administrator’s Fact Book, the United States has 5,116 public-use airports. Only 521 of them have control towers. That makes all the rest non-towered. And non-towered is what the 254 airports with contract control towers become when their controllers call it an operational day. Add to this number the 14,168 private airports, and the reason pilots should refresh their data banks on non-tower ops should be clear.

The new AC does an excellent job of it, and the authors deserved high praise for their concise and clear prose. It starts with the title. What would be more clear and concise than Non-Towered Flight Operations? Or consider that the new AC replaces these two: AC 90-66A, Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operating Control Towers, dated August 26, 1993; and AC 90-24F, Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers, dated May 21, 1990.

imageIf I may be blunt, regardless of what you fly—jet, engine, bug smasher, glider, anything lighter-than-air, or yourself after leaving some winged confines—read this AC because it covers the operational and communication aspects of all of them at non-towered airports. If you’re feeling all smug about your aeronautical knowledge, draw me a picture of the recommended traffic pattern that safely combines any two aviation activities at a non-towered airport.

Then answer me this: Does the non-towered airport you call home (or visit often) combine two or more aviation activities? The two most common combinations are fixed-wing flyers with either gliders or sky divers. And often ultralights are part of the fixed-wing flyers. What’s their pattern look like? If you don’t know or are unsure, click the link at the head of this story. It’s not a long read, just 18 pages with the appendixes. Do it now, in the privacy of your own screen. I’ll never tell. –Scott Spangler, Editor

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One Response to “New Non-Tower AC: Perfect Spring Tune-up”

  1. Les Briggs Says:

    Absolute nightmare for the descending and turning in traffic pattern. I have had three NMAC this year, entering pattern in a jet aircraft where recommended entry for jet aircraft is 500′ above piston traffic. I have been head on to aircraft conducting this maneuver. The alternative traffic pattern entry is a great method of entry. Aircraft have wing low making much harder to see aircraft entering on a 45-degree pattern entry when making this reverse descending entry in a turn. Also much easier to see aircraft at your altitude if maintaining pattern altitude published in Chart Supplement. Little consideration was given to turbine powered pattern when making this change.

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