ATC Survey Results It's a Lovefest!

9:48 PM

After asking a number of pilots to take my ATC survey and examining the results, a pattern has emerged that do not find surprising. The vast majority of pilots give our Air Traffic Controllers high marks, with 77.7% assigning a grade of A- or better. In fact, nobody that took the survey gave ATC a grade lower than a B.

Let's take a stroll through results land, shall we? So who actually took the survey:

While 11% of those surveyed were student pilots, a full 55.5% are seasoned sticks, having flown between five and ten years. Just over 59% are private pilots, with 48.1% holding an instrument rating, 33.3 flying commercially, and 25.9% flying multi-engined ships. The results were split between the 51.8% that flies once a week or more, and the 40.7% that fly only occasionally.
So when these pilots launch, exactly what are they doing:
Just over 19% fly VFR and try to talk to ATC as little as they can get away with. But another group of VFR pilots makes up 46.2% of those surveyed, these are pilots who stay in close contact with ATC and request flight following on all flights. That leaves 34.6% that fly IFR, and obviously must be talking to ATC wheels up to wheels down.
Are the pilots who took the time to take the survey happy campers? You betcha:
The numbers are overwhelming here. A full 92.5% of the pilots are happy with ATC, and only 3.7% think ATC blames them for every mistake, no matter of the cause of the situation. A whopping 44.4% say ATC's service when VFR flight following is requested is "very good", and only 3.7% say that service is "poor". When a pilot needs assistance from ATC in finding the airport in low visibility conditions, 69.2 rate ATC's service as "good" to "very good". And when a pilot hears a garbled call from ATC and needs a "say again", 81.5% say they get what they want quickly and easily, with 11.1 calling service in this area "poor".
When asked how hard they think the job of ATC really is, the results were clear:
Just over 11% say that the job is incredibly hard, with one wrong move meaning people might die. But 81.5% say this is not a job for the faint of heart, and can only be learned after extensive training. And luckily (for the controllers), nobody selected the answer saying that "pushing tin is like flipping burgers, nothing to it." I am elated to read these particular results...they show a high level of respect for the job of Air Traffic Controller...and by relation an equal respect for the people doing that job.
If the pilots taking this survey were in charge of ATC personnel for a day, what exactly would they want to change:
I'm very happy that 81.5% of the pilots who took this survey say that negotiating a fair labor deal with FAA and hiring more controllers would be their first decision. And 40.7% have enough respect for Team ATC to say they would double their pay. But 29.6% say they would teach ATC to talk slower and be more compassionate to student pilots. One pilot said maybe ATC should reserve/assign a particular code or range of transponder codes to student pilots so controllers could be cued visually on their scopes that the aircraft is a student so they might speak more slowly when handling radio calls to those aircraft. Now that's an idea that might have legs.
Last, I asked the pilots to elaborate on what they'd like to see changed in ATC Land, and tell us anything they wanted ATC to see. Here is a sampling of some replies...and a few were LONG rants, that sort of went all over the map:
I was working on my instrument rating a few years ago, and I never once talked with ATC where they weren't wonderful. VFR, IFR it doesn't matter, they are the greatest!

Make Norcal Approach teach Chicago Approach how it's done. The rest of you are doing an absolutely fabulous job.

In case I haven't mentioned it - Chicago TRACON needs to get with the program. Every other facility I've dealt with has been professional, efficient, and abundantly helpful.

Frankly I think more pilots could use training on the services ATC is obligated to provide, versus what they "may" provide, workload permitting.

I think they are an amazing group of people and I would not want their job at any price.

My only problem has been understanding controllers who seem muffled and are talking quickly. I've only found this to happen at night.

The controllers do a great job. We face a very serious brain drain right now. The older controllers must stay to train their replacements. There should be incentives to maintain the controller workforce. A contract would be a good beginning.

I wish more ATC were pilots so they could have our perspective of different situations too.
So there it is, a report that ATC should be proud of. What I see here is lots of kudos for ATC, without any flames, with the exception being Chicago TRACON. They got mentioned many times in the comments of this survey...none of it good. But in such a complex system – one that has been under extreme duress of late – reading that we pilots generally are very happy with ATC is great news.

Now just imagine what love will be shared when these guys and gals get a new contract with FAA. Man, that would indeed be some seriously Friendly Skies.

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