How often do pilots interact with air traffic control?

This article educates you on the interaction between pilots and air traffic control (ATC) and, in doing so, helps you feel more comfortable with the idea of flying.
The life of a senior technology executive can be taxing. Alisa, however, is up for the challenge. Her work involved a lot of overseas and domestic travel, but one issue stands in her way.
Alisa cannot handle flying. She suffers from aviophobia (fear of flying)—and the mere thought of careening 35,000 feet above ground in an enclosed metal tube? It sends chills down her spine.
Because of this, she has let go of many opportunities that could have launched her career.
Is a Life Without Flight the Solution?
Knowledge is power…or in this case, it leads to bravery. Like Alisa, nearly suffer from aviophobia.

But it’s possible to overcome such fear with knowledge. For instance, if turbulence bothers you, learning about the safety and science behind those midair bumps may very well calm you down.
The answer could even be in the palm of your hand. Take SimpliFly, an app where you can find valuable information, explanations, lectures, video courses, and (starting next month for premium users!) receive real-time assistance from trained pilots during your journey. Passengers on EL AL Airlines are enjoying this benefit onboard already, with other commercial airlines to follow.
How do pilots keep you safe despite adverse weather conditions and unforeseen mechanical issues?
Let’s talk about the communication side of things…
The United States’ Airspace and Role of Air Traffic Control
The U.S. airspace is segmented into 21 zones (or centers). Within each zone, there are 50-mile-wide portions of airspace called TRACON airspaces, short for Terminal Radar Approach Control. Each TRACON has airports with a five-mile radius of their own airspace.
The ATC, run by FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), manages these airspace divisions. During peak travel times, nearly 50,000 aircraft operate in the U.S. airspace every single day.
The role of air traffic control is a big one: to coordinate their movements from takeoff to landing, re-route them around bad weather, and ensure safe operations overall.

How Do Pilots Communicate?

Pilot on the work talking with air traffic control. Preparing for takeoff.
During the early days of aviation, light signals and flags were used for communication. However, modern aviation has evolved from rudimentary HF radios to today’s sophisticated satellite-based systems.
Pilots are required to maintain vigilance in observing ATC radio communication frequencies, especially while landing or operating on a runway. The communication is especially intense on the ground when an aircraft is about to take off.
Alon Pereg, a 787 airline captain and CEO of SimpliFly, stresses the importance of the role of air traffic control. “All the actions of the airplane from starting the pushback until the end of the flight should be approved by air traffic control,” he said. “On the ground, the ATC directs us regarding how to navigate between the gate and the end of the runway.”

 

He goes on to explain, “In the air, it depends…sometimes, we can spend an hour without with an agency.” Challenging circumstances might require near-constant communication.
So, what does the exchange look like during international flights? “The world is divided into flight information regions (FIRs),” Pereg said. “Every country has an FIR that includes, of course, air as well as portions of the sea. When you’re flying inside certain FIRs, you must get clearance of your flight plan and then report as needed.”
Technology is becoming more prominent in the pilot-to-ATC relationship as well. “Like every aspect of aviation, communication with ATC is being done more and more automatically, both to reduce workload and in order to eliminate the possibility of any human error.”
And whenever there is any ambiguity, the ATC or pilots request clarification as both parties must always be in agreement.