Yesterday I brought along five students for a VIP private tour of the Air Traffic Control center and tower at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
It is extremely helpful for those drone pilots who have not had any or much exposure to the airspace issues faced by controllers, to do a tour like this. We started in the dark radar room and ended in the 20 stories high control tower.
One of the students was already a manned aircraft pilot but had not had an opportunity before to get behind the secure doors and see what really goes on inside the ATC system.
Thomas, an FAA controller, was our gracious guide and an excellent instructor. He spent about three hours with us and answered all the student’s questions.
Ken, a manned aircraft and UAS pilot on the tour said, “It was great to talk with the local controllers and was especially insightful for me as a general aviation pilot.” He also said, “I liked the fact that we could actually see their work area and systems that they use. It was surprising to hear that they haven’t heard much about the details of LAANC yet.”
Harold, another tour member said, “The science, technology and the processes of managing the flow of aircraft traffic in and around the airport has a methodology that is very stressful. Today, gave me a first-hand look at how throwing a drone into controlled airspace without clear directions would be a recipe for trouble. Even with the new LAANC coming onboard, without education for all operators, UAS, and air traffic controllers, safety could be at risk.”
I would encourage anyone who flies near controlled airspace to get a group of five people together and contact the local ATC facility for a tour.
All UAS pilots will leave with a greater understanding of what controllers do and have to deal with and have a better idea of how drone pilots can be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Thanks to Thomas and the guys for being such a great opportunity to learn from each other.