December 21, 2018

Paving the way to enhanced aerodrome safety with our first Ground Traffic Phraseology Guide

We recently announced the release of our Ground Traffic Phraseology Guide, a reference tool and learning aid on the use of standard language. The second in a series of phraseology guides, this free publication is aimed at ground vehicle operators and aircraft maintenance engineers who interact with air traffic services.

From fuel tankers to fire trucks, runway inspection to maintenance fleet, and snow plows to bird control vehicles, ground traffic has the potential to be less visible than aircraft, especially at night and during low visibility weather conditions. In the vast majority of runway incursions, minimal or no risk was present (meaning there was little or no chance of collision). Nevertheless, ongoing prudence and good communication is essential to runway safety. Indeed, the Transportation Safety Board identified runway safety as a priority item in 2014, and it remains as such today.

With voice communications being key in maneuvering safely about an airport, and many incident and occurrence reports citing communication errors as a primary cause, a common foundation of standard phraseology helps reduce mistakes and misinterpretation. NAV CANADA saw an opportunity here to reinforce the importance of clear, concise and consistent language on the airfield. As part of our Safety Management System, NAV CANADA is proactively managing risk associated with runway incursions, and best practices such as these play an important role in the process.

The need for a standard reference

The Ground Traffic Phraseology Guide provides a comprehensive guide to standardized communication between air traffic services, such as control towers and Flight Service Stations, and the operators of vehicles driving throughout an aerodrome. This allows for fast and effective communication to keep frequencies free from congestion, while ensuring that all messages are understood. Whether it’s an instruction to hold short of a runway, or a driver indicating that their vehicle is leading a group of three slow-moving snow plows, clarity is key.

The guide brings together content from aeronautical publications such as the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (TC AIM) and Glossary for Pilots and Air Traffic Services Personnel, as well as input from air traffic controllers, flight service specialists, flight information centres and commercial aviation leaders from across the country. In addition to serving as a convenient one-stop reference point for phraseology, the guide – available in both official languages – is easy to use and presents realistic scenarios and examples of communication exchanges. It also provides other helpful information pertinent to driving around an airfield:

  • The role of various ATS units and how to expect interactions with them
  • Best practices for radio operation, such as taking slight pause after pressing the push-to-talk button to avoid getting cut off, and transmitting no more than 3 ideas at once
  • Additional items that may not be immediately obvious, like notifying ATS if you’ll be out of vehicle for any length of time, and being aware of identified hot spots, which are locations on an aerodrome movement area with a history of, or potential risk for collisions or runways incursions

Part of a series

The Ground Traffic Phraseology Guide is the second of three phraseology guides created by NAV CANADA, developed in collaboration with aviation partners such as Transport Canada and CASOP. The first of the series was the VFR Phraseology Guide, a reference piece to improve safety and efficiency by supporting standardized pilot-controller-specialist communications in Canadian airspace. The third document will be an IFR Phraseology Guide, available in 2019.



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