Ground should control ATIS

September, 21, 2020 by

I don’t understand why Tower is controlling ATIS so frequently, lately. It is a new phenomenon that has become the new normal within controlling on expert and was not normal at all previously.

4.1.3 — […] As a MINIMUM, the ATIS must be updated at least once an hour. In addition, a broadcast must be made on Ground/Tower/Radar to ensure pilots check the new ATIS.”

All controllers need the updated information so they can send a broadcast message to let the pilots know to tune to ATIS to get the new information. That’s not up for interpretation, it’s required.

As you may or may not know, the ATIS controller will communicate these changes to the other controllers via a text chat, then each controller will broadcast on each frequency the information change so then every pilot and controller has the same information.

Ground, out of all the frequencies, is the most important frequency for this new information to be broadcasted. Not only because the entire airport is tuned to that frequency, but also for several other reasons. The ATIS information a pilot may receive at the gate may be drastically different once they reach the hold short line for departure. Getting that information to them as quickly as possible is crucial. If you add a remark like straight out departures, no pattern work, flight plan required, severe weather, gate hold, etc. and don’t let Ground know, the pilots don’t have telekinesis, they’ll need to know so they can adjust beforehand. Plus, it will save you, Tower, headaches at the hold short line.

Without Ground in control you won’t be able to quickly perform gate holds. You can’t hold people at the gate unnecessarily without letting the pilots know there is a gate hold. Think of how completely frustrating that would be as a pilot. Gate holds are meant to be turned off and on quickly, they don’t go on for 10 minutes or more usually. You have to badger tower, who during a period where a gate hold would be needed, is normally incredibly task saturated.

With each pushback or taxi request, ground needs to ensure the pilot has the correct ATIS information. It is more work for Ground to keep track of that as a third party, pestering a busy tower controller for such information? seems unnecessary. I say that because ATIS should update every 30 minutes and will need update at minimum every 60 minutes, due to METAR changes and in quick events that require remarkable remarks (i.e. gate hold).

Tower is an extremely task saturated position in general as compared to Ground. As I mentioned, we communicate via messaging, so to think that Tower who is already quite busy will be able to effectively type out ATIS changes on demand every 30 to 60 minutes or less is asking a lot. While Ground, who is not nearly as task saturated, sits and waits. Effective and efficient communication is key.

Finally, yes, Tower and the radar frequencies need to also broadcast the latest ATIS information. But there is rarely anyone on the Tower frequencies, and for those that are, the new information provided is rarely pertinent to them specifically. The only exception really being rolling departures. Do they need to have the latest information, yes. Is it going to effect what they will be doing, it almost never will.

Why is Tower controlling ATIS the most efficient way to run an airport? Why is it something one would find productive? I’m not entirely sure. As a wise man said who also happens to be the Infinite Flight ATC Manager, and I’m paraphrasing, “if it’s working fine there’s no need to stop them”.

I’m not stopping you but I’m just trying to show you and try to make you understand why it’s not working as well as it could if it’s working at all.

Kyle Boas is the Founder of the IFATC Education Group. He is an IFATC Supervisor and Infinite Flight Appeals team member. — More