Responsibilities of Ground Control

Jason spent 24 years as an air traffic controller at Los Angeles Center, and recently moved east to work in DC in the Airspace office as an air traffic subject matter expert. He is a Sport Pilot, owns a Rans S12XL E-LSA, and got his >87 knot endorsement so he can rent a C162. He's here to answer your questions about ATC procedures and rules, in a strictly unofficial capacity.

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Wm.Ince
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Wm.Ince » Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:41 pm

TimTaylor wrote:In my many years of flying I have never experienced or had reason to believe a ground controller was any less responsible than a tower controller or any other ATC professional.

Outside of honest mistakes, that has also been my experience.
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Jim Hardin
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Jim Hardin » Fri Sep 29, 2017 3:06 pm

OK, let's try it this way...

It all started with the Tenerife disaster. Now that one had little or nothing to do with ground control. However, since then the FAA has gone out of thier way to "educate" pilots about runway incursions backed up by punishment incentives.

So here we are 40 years later and incursions still occur at about the same number every year. From that I conclude that the FAA's Solution has been about as effective as facing into the wind while trying to relive oneself.

So do we continue to pound pilots into the ground or do we pull our head out the box and look elsewhere? In most companies a failed solution as well as the author of it would be standing at the curb with their belongings, and a lot sooner than 40 years :P

What else can be done?

In the 70's at Bowman Field, KY they used colored lines to help locate the taxiways. Taxi to Rwy 33 via Hotel, Juliet and Echo, following the red marking line. (color vision a must)

Ground Surveillance Radar - I have been give taxi headings in some places until established on the taxiway.

ADS-B seems to hold a possibility. Couple that with an automated computer ground controller...

But in all cases SOMEONE has to be looking at it. So why not have the Ground Controller tasked to look out the window until something better comes along? Again, 'workload' is an excuse not an answer.

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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby drseti » Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:55 pm

TimTaylor wrote:I disagree with your premise.


Don't leave us hanging, Tim; please elaborate.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby TimTaylor » Fri Sep 29, 2017 6:38 pm

Jim Hardin wrote:A question, NOT an argument :roll:

With the years of concern over runway incursions, why haven't the responsibilities of the ground controller been held to a higher standard of prevention?

The tower controller watches the skies with eyes and radar, in spite of the fact that they are not responsible for VFR traffic.

Why isn't the ground controller watching their charges with equal concern?

Before someone tries to excuse it with "workload", may I remind that a single pilot has a lot of workload as well.

Paul, there is nothing to elaborate. I disagree with this.

EDIT: So Paul can understand, I disagree with the premise that ground controllers are somehow held to a lower standard than other controllers and they have less concern than other controllers.
Last edited by TimTaylor on Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Wm.Ince » Fri Sep 29, 2017 9:15 pm

Jim Hardin wrote: . . . “Why isn't the ground controller watching their charges with equal concern?” . . .

What proof do you have that supports that presumption?
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby drseti » Fri Sep 29, 2017 10:24 pm

TimTaylor wrote:Paul, there is nothing to elaborate. I disagree with this.


Well, Tim, it was a longish post, and your response was rather terse. Thanks for highlighting the part you disagree with.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby TimTaylor » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:50 pm

Paul, my response was not terse. The OP expressed a premise and I said I disagreed with his premise.

EDIT: So Paul can understand, I disagree with the premise that ground controllers are somehow held to a lower standard than other controllers and they have less concern than other controllers.
Last edited by TimTaylor on Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby TimTaylor » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:53 pm

TimTaylor wrote:
Jim Hardin wrote:A question, NOT an argument :roll:

With the years of concern over runway incursions, why haven't the responsibilities of the ground controller been held to a higher standard of prevention?

The tower controller watches the skies with eyes and radar, in spite of the fact that they are not responsible for VFR traffic.

Why isn't the ground controller watching their charges with equal concern?

Before someone tries to excuse it with "workload", may I remind that a single pilot has a lot of workload as well.

I disagree with your premise.

So Paul can understand, I disagree with the premise that ground controllers are somehow held to a lower standard than other controllers and they have less concern than other controllers.
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Jim Hardin » Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:02 am

Would it be better if I just start a New Topic one this and you good folks can use this on to continue your back biting and unrelated bickering???

Maybe I should go to another forum altogether.

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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby FastEddieB » Sat Sep 30, 2017 7:08 am

Jim Hardin wrote:Would it be better if I just start a New Topic one this and you good folks can use this on to continue your back biting and unrelated bickering???

Maybe I should go to another forum altogether.


Are you looking for one where no one disagrees with you?

Good luck!
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby drseti » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:05 am

TimTaylor wrote:So Paul can understand, I disagree with the premise that ground controllers are somehow held to a lower standard than other controllers and they have less concern than other controllers.


Thank you, Tim. That is very clear. The OP had covered a lot of ground, so your initial response did not make it clear to me which premise you disagreed with. This was much more specific.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Jim Hardin » Sun Oct 22, 2017 9:52 am

Some updated information. I was not aware that the NTSB held a 2 day discussion on runway incursions about a week before I stated this topic. There were representatives from the FAA, airlines contract controller company, AOPA, NBAA, BWI airport (Baltimore), ORD airport (O’Hare), European Aviation, Canada MOT, Stockholm Airport, equipment suppliers/contractors and I have likely missed one or two more.
They have recorded video of the meeting so if you are interested in viewing them you will find them http://www.capitolconnection.net/capcon/ntsb/ntsb.htm (Note that they consist of 2 recordings lasting 13 hours)

I did note that with all those people over the course of 13 hours, not a single one ever quoted a regulation by number! 91, 121 & 135 were mentioned but only to denote a class of operations.

Some of the number breakdowns were interesting. You have likely heard that General Aviation represent 80% of all categories. But they went beyond that into the Categories of deviations.

Accident (obvious definition)
A = Serious incident collision narrowly avoided (less than 200 feet separation)
B= Incident of significant potential for a collision (200 to 400 feet separation) and may include critical corrective/evasive response to avoid.
C= Incident characterized by ample time/distance to avoid collision.
D= Meets definition of runway incursions but with no immediate safety consequences.

Also of note is that not all the GA’s 80% are runway incursions but that does not detract for the glaring 80%.

When you break down into deviation categories thing flip flop. In the A & B (serious) suddenly 60% are caused by ATC and GA is rarely in there. The most common incident is ATC clearing an aircraft to land while another aircraft in on the same runway.

The European numbers were about the same, only GA aircraft don’t operate at large airports so they really don't figure into the numbers there. Canada was also similar to these numbers.

These numbers also include un-controlled airports… Not sure who is recording these incidents.

I am always wary of Percentages. They are often used to hide numbers that don’t really support the conclusion that the author wants to tell… If there were 10 incidents, 1 baggage cart, 1 airliner radar dome over a hold line and 8 GA’s you still get 80% for GA.
I am not saying this to dismiss GA’s role and need to address this but I think the 80% was thrown out there for its shock value.

Causes were discussed, solutions were offered. A lot was said about automation and ADS-B out was mentioned in there along with other surveillance equipment.

Obviously training was high on the list. To that end, I have been rethinking my approach to it and will have a discussion about it at our next CFI meeting.

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Re: Responsibilities of Ground Control

Postby Nomore767 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:39 am

Jim Hardin wrote:A question, NOT an argument :roll:

With the years of concern over runway incursions, why haven't the responsibilities of the ground controller been held to a higher standard of prevention?

The tower controller watches the skies with eyes and radar, in spite of the fact that they are not responsible for VFR traffic.

Why isn't the ground controller watching their charges with equal concern?

Before someone tries to excuse it with "workload", may I remind that a single pilot has a lot of workload as well.


When I worked for the airline, one night at KEWR as FO on a DC-10 we were taxiing for departure. The departures were on 4R and landings on 4L. For weight we required 4L and as such were told to hold short at an intersection a couple down from the end of 4R. After holding we were told to cross 4R and turn left down the taxiway between the runways towards 4L. As we begin to move I looked left and saw a DC-9 put its lights on and begin its take-off roll. I jammed on the brakes and as the Capt was saying WTF the DC-9 sped in front of us.
I enquired that we had been cleared across. Another voice (later found out it was a supervisor) replied you were and to standby were talking to him.
I later called the tower in my own time and had a productive discussion. They just missed it and these folks were standing next to each other in the cab.
I believe the controller received extra training.

Later, another day, another airport, after landing we were told to hold short of left side runway. As Captain I complied and then after being cleared across and to contact ground once clear I glanced left just as a DC-9 (same airline as in above incident) who was holding in position suddenly put his lights on. I abruptly stopped and asked again if we were still clear to cross and tower replies yes, why? I said well the in position plane put his lights on as if to start take-off roll. To which the captain of that flight rudely replied you stick to your procedures and well stick to ours. I just replied "Nice" and proceeded to cross.

Points I'm making are that were all actually responsible to comply, think and react.WE have to work with the controllers and they have to understand it all from our viewpoint, which is why we often had ATC riding the jumpseat to observe. The other captain needn't have been so rude but as Ive described I'd seen the consequences of a similar action before and we avoided a potential collision. Even so I erred on the side of caution.

AS we used to say...fly today like you'll be explaining all your actions tomorrow at an FAA hearing.


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