Federal Aviation Administration Radar Services



Automated – Flight Service Station (AFSS):

  • Transitioned from a government service to a contractor, Lockheed Martin
  • 122.2/255.4 “radio
    • If in doubt use 122.2 for any FSS/Supplemental Weather Service as a generic frequency
  • Does not perform ATC control functions only relay and issues
  • Provides pilot briefings regarding current weather and possible hazards along a route of flight
  • Provides pre-flight, in-flight, and operational services, 24-7
    • 1-800-WX-BRIEF (992-7433) in the US
    • 1-866-WX-BRIEF (992-7433) in Canada
  • Frequencies can be located in the Airport/Facility Directory (A/FD) or on IFR en-route charts and sectionals
  • Since a flight service station may be covering a large area of land, there may be one or more Remote Communications Outlet (RCO) which it monitors through landlines
  • Stores flight plans
  • Initiates search and rescue (SAR) if flight plan is not terminated 30 minutes beyond the ETA
  • Flight plan processing (opening/closing)
  • Most automated FSS have direction-finding (DF) steering capabilities
  • En-Route communications
  • Provides weather updates
    • HIWAS
      • Hazardous In-Flight Weather Advisory Service
      • Broadcasted on selected VORs, recognized by a black circle with a white H
  • Solicits PIREPs
  • Provide En Route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS aka flight watch) on 122.0

Albuquerque, NM (ABQ)
Altoona, PA (AOO)
Anderson, SC (AND)
Anniston, AL (ANB)
Bangor, ME (BGR)
Boise, ID (BOI)
Bridgeport, CT (BDR)
Buffalo, NY (BUF)
Burlington, VT (BTV)
Casper, WY (CPR)
Cedar City, UT (CDC)
Cleveland, OH (CLE)
Columbia, MO (COU)
Columbus, NE (OLU)
Conroe, TX (CXO)
Dayton, OH (DAY)
Denver, CO (DEN)
Deridder, LA (DRI)
Elkins, WV (EKN)
Fairbanks, AK (FAI)
Great Falls, MT (GTF)
Green Bay, WI (GRB)
Greenwood, MS (GWO)
Hawthrone, CA (HHR)
Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Huron, SD (HON)
Fort Dodge, IA (FOD)
Ft. Worth, TC (FTW)
Gainesville, FL (GNV)
Grand Forks, ND (GFK)
Islip, NY (ISP)
Jackson, TN (MKL)
Jonesboro, AR (JBR)
Juneau, AK (JNU)
Kankakee, IL (IKK)
Kenai, AK (ENA)
Lansing, MI (LAN)
Leesburg, VA (DCA)
Louisville, KY (LOU)
Macon, GA (MCN)
McAlester, OK (MLC)
McMinnville, OR (MMV)
Miami, FL (MIA)
Millville, NJ (MIV)
Nashville, TN (BNA)
Oakland, CA (OAK)
Prescott, AZ (PRC)
Princeton, MN (PMN)
Raleigh, NC (RDU)
Rancho Murrieta, CA (RIU)
Reno, NV (RNO)
Riverside, CA (RAL)
San Angelo, TX (STJ)
San Diego, CA (SAN)
San Juan, PR (SJJU)
Seattle, WA (SEA)
St. Louis, MO (STL)
St. Petersburg, FL (PIE)
Terre Haute, IN (HUF)
Wichita, KS (ICT)
Williamsport, PA (IPT)


Flight Following:

  • Provided by controllers to give traffic advisories to IFR and participating VFR traffic
  • This is a secondary task for ATC and will be provided workload permitting
    • Radar/nonradar traffic advisories do not relieve the pilot of his/her responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft
  • You may contact the controlling agency (approach/center) yourself airborne, or if you intend to use flight following from takeoff, you should mention it with your initial request to ground
  • Example:[Agency] [Callsign], [Location], request advisories

Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC):

  • In air traffic control, an Area Control Center (ACC), also known as a Center
  • Is a facility responsible for controlling instrument flight rules aircraft en route in a particular volume of airspace (a Flight Information Region) at high altitudes between airport approaches and departures


Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON):

  • It is usually located within the vicinity of an airport
  • Typically, the TRACON controls aircraft approaching and departing between 5 and 50 miles of the airport
  • Radar equipment allows an air traffic controller to “see” the aircraft even at that distance


Radar Traffic Information Service:

  • Pilots receiving this service are advised of any radar target observed on the radar display which may be in such proximity to the position of their aircraft or its intended route of flight that it warrants their attention
  • Traffic Information Service is not intended to relieve the pilot of the responsibility for continual vigilance to see and avoid other aircraft
  • Purpose of the Service:

    • The issuance of traffic information as observed on a radar display is based on the principle of assisting and advising a pilot that a particular radar target’s position and track indicates it may intersect or pass in such proximity to that pilot’s intended flight path that it warrants attention
    • This is to alert the pilot to the traffic, to be on the lookout for it, and thereby be in a better position to take appropriate action should the need arise
    • Pilots are reminded that the surveillance radar used by ATC does not provide altitude information unless the aircraft is equipped with Mode C and the radar facility is capable of displaying altitude information
  • Provisions of the Service:

    • Many factors, such as limitations of the radar, volume of traffic, controller workload and communications frequency congestion, could prevent the controller from providing this service
    • Controllers possess complete discretion for determining whether they are able to provide or continue to provide this service in a specific case
    • The controller’s reason against providing or continuing to provide the service in a particular case is not subject to question nor need it be communicated to the pilot
      • In other words, the provision of this service is entirely dependent upon whether controllers believe they are in a position to provide it
    • Traffic information is routinely provided to all aircraft operating on IFR flight plans except when the pilot declines the service, or the pilot is operating within Class A airspace
    • Traffic information may be provided to flights not operating on IFR flight plans when requested by pilots of such flights

Radar ATC facilities normally display and monitor both primary and secondary radar when it is available, except that secondary radar may be used as the sole display source in Class A airspace, and under some circumstances outside of Class A airspace (beyond primary coverage and in en route areas where only secondary is available). Secondary radar may also be used outside Class A airspace as the sole display source when the primary radar is temporarily unusable or out of service. Pilots in contact with the affected ATC facility are normally advised when a temporary outage occurs; i.e., “primary radar out of service; traffic advisories available on transponder aircraft only.” This means simply that only the aircraft which have transponders installed and in use will be depicted on ATC radar indicators when the primary radar is temporarily out of service

    • When receiving VFR radar advisory service, pilots should monitor the assigned frequency at all times
    • This is to preclude controllers’ concern for radio failure or emergency assistance to aircraft under the controller’s jurisdiction
    • VFR radar advisory service does not include vectors away from conflicting traffic unless requested by the pilot
    • When advisory service is no longer desired, advise the controller before changing frequencies and then change your transponder code to 1200, if applicable
    • Pilots should also inform the controller when changing VFR cruising altitude
    • Except in programs where radar service is automatically terminated, the controller will advise the aircraft when radar is terminated

Participation by VFR pilots in formal programs implemented at certain terminal locations constitutes pilot request. This also applies to participating pilots at those locations where arriving VFR flights are encouraged to make their first contact with the tower on the approach control frequency

  • Issuance of Traffic Information:

    • Traffic information will include the following concerning a target which may constitute traffic for an aircraft that is:
      • Radar identified:

        • Azimuth from the aircraft in terms of the 12 hour clock, or
        • When rapidly maneuvering civil test or military aircraft prevent accurate issuance of traffic as in (a) above, specify the direction from an aircraft’s position in terms of the eight cardinal compass points (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW). This method must be terminated at the pilot’s request
        • Distance from the aircraft in nautical miles;
        • Direction in which the target is proceeding; and
        • Type of aircraft and altitude if known
        • Example: Traffic 10 o’clock, 3 miles, west-bound (type aircraft and altitude, if known, of the observed traffic). The altitude may be known, by means of Mode C, but not verified with the pilot for accuracy. (To be valid for separation purposes by ATC, the accuracy of Mode C readouts must be verified. This is usually accomplished upon initial entry into the radar system by a comparison of the readout to pilot stated altitude, or the field elevation in the case of continuous readout being received from an aircraft on the airport.) When necessary to issue traffic advisories containing unverified altitude information, the controller will issue the advisory in the same manner as if it were verified due to the accuracy of these readouts. The pilot may upon receipt of traffic information, request a vector (heading) to avoid such traffic. The vector will be provided to the extent possible as determined by the controller provided the aircraft to be vectored is within the airspace under the jurisdiction of the controller
      • Not radar identified:

        • Distance and direction with respect to a fix;
        • Direction in which the target is proceeding; and
        • Type of aircraft and altitude if known
        • Example: Traffic 8 miles south of the airport northeast bound, (type aircraft and altitude if known)
  • The examples depicted in the following figures [Figure 1/2]point out the possible error in the position of this traffic when it is necessary for a pilot to apply drift correction to maintain this track. This error could also occur in the event a change in course is made at the time radar traffic information is issued
Induced Error in Position of Traffic
Figure 1: Induced Error in Position of Traffic
    • Example: In Figure 1 traffic information would be issued to the pilot of aircraft “A” as 12 o’clock. The actual position of the traffic as seen by the pilot of aircraft “A” would be 2 o’clock. Traffic information issued to aircraft “B” would also be given as 12 o’clock, but in this case, the pilot of “B” would see the traffic at 10 o’clock
Induced Error in Position of Traffic
Figure 2: Induced Error in Position of Traffic
      • Example:
      • In

Figure 2

      traffic information would be issued to the pilot of aircraft “C” as 2 o’clock. The actual position of the traffic as seen by the pilot of aircraft “C” would be 3 o’clock. Traffic information issued to aircraft “D” would be at an 11 o’clock position. Since it is not necessary for the pilot of aircraft “D” to apply wind correction (crab) to remain on track, the actual position of the traffic issued would be correct. Since the radar controller can only observe aircraft track (course) on the radar display, traffic advisories are issued accordingly, and pilots should give due consideration to this fact when looking for reported traffic

Approach Control Service for VFR Arriving Aircraft

  • Numerous approach control facilities have established programs for arriving VFR aircraft to contact approach control for landing information. This information includes: wind, runway, and altimeter setting at the airport of intended landing. This information may be omitted if contained in the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) broadcast and the pilot states the appropriate ATIS code
    • Pilot use of “have numbers” does not indicate receipt of the ATIS broadcast. In addition, the controller will provide traffic advisories on a workload permitting basis
  • Such information will be furnished upon initial contact with concerned approach control facility. The pilot will be requested to change to the tower frequency at a predetermined time or point, to receive further landing information
  • Where available, use of this procedure will not hinder the operation of VFR flights by requiring excessive spacing between aircraft or devious routing
  • Compliance with this procedure is not mandatory but pilot participation is encouraged
    • Approach control services for VFR aircraft are normally dependent on ATC radar. These services are not available during periods of a radar outage. Approach control services for VFR aircraft are limited when CENRAP is in use