Welcome to PhantomPilots.com

Sign up for a weekly email of the latest drone news & information

Dealing With Airport Managers

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Gary M, Mar 21, 2016.

  1. Gary M

    Jan 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    I'm sure many of us in this forum have already ran into circumstances where we need to contact an airport and/or tower before we fly. So far I have had to twice. I thought I would share a few thoughts on how these encounters went and some things I think would make a positive difference in how these discussions take place, and how that will reflect on our hobby (Or industry, as it may be...)

    In full disclosure, where I live and fly, I have only had to deal with very small, almost no traffic airports and have no real knowledge of how things go down when dealing with a large airport and their towers. But so far I feel like my interactions with the managers of these airports have been very positive. Both gentlemen have acted like they were both impressed and encouraged to hear from a drone pilot asking how to safely operate in "His airspace." They actually spend time with you on the phone describing the patterns and approaches to their airport and how you can safely avoid them. They even sound slightly interested in this "New Thing" in the aviation world, and have almost talked to me like I was part of the club or something. But mostly I think these guys have been RELIEVED to actually hear someone from this still widely unknown hobby of ours calling to make sure they are flying safe and stressing that we want to not only cooperate but guarantee the safety of those around us as well.

    A few thoughts I've had on how to go about these interactions: 1) Know what you're talking about. If you are planning to fly close to "X" airport and know you will have to speak to them first, spend time looking at maps (Satellite AND topo) to get the lay of the land. Learn their runways, which are most used, the approaches, approach altitudes, etc. Know the difference between AGL and MSL and how they apply. When you are talking to an old pilot and can actually spout some facts and know some of the lingo, they are VERY impressed. 2) Have your flight plan ready to explain to them or show them upon request. That way, they will know that you are familiar with their airspace and how it operates and that you have obviously already planned to avoid the potential dangers. 3) DON'T just call them and inform them that you're flying close to there. Actually take the time to discuss with them some of the things mentioned above. This is THEIR airport. Nobody knows the safest way to operate there better than them. Make sure you are clear, by their explanation, of the flight patterns, etc. Then, make sure you keep this info in mind while flying your mission. 4)This shouldn't have to be said, but be VERY polite. I know, technically they can't stop us from flying in proximity of their airport, we just have to call and inform them. But showing an attitude of wanting to get along, go through a new hurdle with the least grief as possible and the desire to show our hobby in a positive light goes a long way.

    I guess the biggest thing for me has been that when we first learned that we would actually have to contact airports and discuss these matters with them, I was a bit leery. I guess I pictured some grisly old fart on the other end of the line, growling that he didn't want me or my stupid drone within 20 miles of his airspace. So far the exact opposite has been true for me so far. I hope we can all have cool transactions with these folks and safely move forward.
    JTC and bunkphenomenon like this.
  2. DrJoe

    Apr 13, 2014
    Likes Received:
    When you call, call with your FAA registration number, the bearing from the airport and distance away, your intended altitude, and time/duration of flight. Atlantic City tower, McGuire AFB, Lakehurst NAS have all been professional and cool with no denials. AC and McGuire requested I remain below 300 feet. Nothing to it. I have read reports that some areas, such as Salt Lake City, deny right away and have very specific rules for their airspace. If you have any trouble, ask to go meet the tower crew or airport operator in person and bring your Phantom. You'll get immediate authorization to fly right outside their tower, as everyone wants to see what these things can do!
    Gary M likes this.
  3. Synicle_1

    Mar 17, 2016
    Likes Received:
    SLC has not been friendly?? How much of a radius to they consider their airspace?? I am flying out in Wendover for now but have some plans to fly in slc area...

    Sent from my iPhone using PhantomPilots mobile app
  4. WetDog

    Oct 18, 2015
    Likes Received:
    According to my local airport manager, the FAA is just now starting to send out some guidance on how to handle this. When I first contacted my local tower about six months ago all I got was some pleasant confusion. Now they've got what amounts to a white paper on how to handle things. Hopefully it will make it a bit easier on everyone.

    Of course, the FAA could actually finalize the mythical '107' rules but then again, I want a pony.
    Gary M likes this.
  5. DesignFlaw06

    Jan 8, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Muskegon, MI
    My interactions have been pleasant. I've only had to call twice. The first guy I talked to seemed less informed, but appreciated the call. He knew about the registration, asked for my number, and then asked me to call back when I was done.

    The second guy talked my ear off. We got in to a great conversation that was very positive. I'm pretty sure if this guy wasn't working at the tower, he would have come watched me fly.

    I did have to make a few phone calls to find the number of the ATC. I made a call to the airport during the week so I made sure I got someone in the office and made sure I had the correct number to call if I wanted to fly during the weekends or after business hours. That interaction was also pleasant. I had to get transferred a time or two to get to the right person and there was some pleasant confusion. But almost everyone thanked me for calling and trying to do things on the up and up. It was far less awkward than I imagined it to be.
Similar Threads - Dealing Airport Managers Forum Date
How one airport is dealing with bird strikes General Discussion Oct 17, 2014
Dealing with people Standard/4k Discussion Apr 29, 2017
P4P CRASH: tips for dealing with DJI Care Refresh... Phantom 4 Pro Help Apr 25, 2017
Dealing with DJI Phantom 4 Help Aug 23, 2016
Dealing with compression artifacts and yucky image quality in LOG color space? Pro/Adv Discussion May 14, 2016