ATIS broadcasts: The good, the bad and the ugly

Ron, the blogger behind the House of Rapp blog, has written a lengthy post outlining the good, the bad and the ugly about ATIS or Automatic Terminal Information Service. Ron began by first noting that ATIS was originally conceived as a time-saving method to disseminate critical and usually weather-related information to aircraft who are interested in arriving or departing from a particular airport. He then noted that ATIS makes since in theory but then he quickly added that as with most things the government involves itself in, ATIS broadcasts have tended to become overly bloated with extraneous information. He then transcribed the latest ATIS broadcast, a very lengthy paragraph, from his home field of John Wayne Airport and noted:

Anyway, imagine a slow, computerized voice reading all that. Now imagine that it’s happening while you’re operating an aircraft like a spiffy new turbo-normalized Cirrus SR-22 which rents for $350 an hour. The ATIS at John Wayne is currently one minute and thirty seconds long, which means every time you listen to it, it costs $8.75 if the engine is idling.

Oh — did you miss part of it? Then listen to it again. Now the tab is up to $17.50. I’ve had students who had to listen to it three or four times in order to get all the information. And we wonder why flying is so expensive!

Ron also noted that its even worst when you are flying as your time and attention are both being heavily taxed. Moreover and if you are flying in instrument conditions, ATIS is usually an even bigger obstacle.

However, Ron then noted the following techniques to avoid having to much of your time wasted by ATIS broadcasts:

    • Listen via phone before engine start
    • Listen via handheld radio before engine start
    • Listen to only part of the ATIS
    • Don’t listen to it at all
    • Don’t listen to it, but tell the controller you did
    • Ask the controller to read you the weather portion
    • Listen to two frequencies at the same time

At the end of his post, Ron wrote that if you think that ATIS is too long at your airport, you should try and do something about it because it’s actually a safety hazard – an extremely valid point.

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