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Pilot/Controller Roles and Responsibilities

Section 5. Pilot/Controller Roles and Responsibilities

5−5−1. General

a. The roles and responsibilities of the pilot and

controller for effective participation in the ATC

system are contained in several documents. Pilot

responsibilities are in the CFRs and the air traffic

controllers’ are in the FAA Order JO 7110.65,

Air Traffic Control, and supplemental FAA direc-

tives. Additional and supplemental information for

pilots can be found in the current Aeronautical

Information Manual (AIM), Notices to Airmen,

Advisory Circulars and aeronautical charts. Since

there are many other excellent publications produced

by nongovernment organizations, as well as other

government organizations, with various updating

cycles, questions concerning the latest or most

current material can be resolved by cross-checking

with the above mentioned documents.

b. The pilot−in−command of an aircraft is directly

responsible for, and is the final authority as to the safe

operation of that aircraft. In an emergency requiring

immediate action, the pilot−in−command may

deviate from any rule in the General Subpart A and

Flight Rules Subpart B in accordance with 14 CFR

Section 91.3.

c. The air traffic controller is responsible to give

first priority to the separation of aircraft and to the

issuance of radar safety alerts, second priority to other

services that are required, but do not involve

separation of aircraft and third priority to additional

services to the extent possible.

d. In order to maintain a safe and efficient air

traffic system, it is necessary that each party fulfill

their responsibilities to the fullest.

e. The responsibilities of the pilot and the

controller intentionally overlap in many areas

providing a degree of redundancy. Should one or the

other fail in any manner, this overlapping responsi-

bility is expected to compensate, in many cases, for

failures that may affect safety.

f. The following, while not intended to be all

inclusive, is a brief listing of pilot and controller

responsibilities for some commonly used procedures

or phases of flight. More detailed explanations are

contained in other portions of this publication, the

appropriate CFRs, ACs and similar publications. The

information provided is an overview of the principles

involved and is not meant as an interpretation of the

rules nor is it intended to extend or diminish


5−5−2. Air Traffic Clearance

a. Pilot.

1. Acknowledges receipt and understanding of

an ATC clearance.

2. Reads back any hold short of runway

instructions issued by ATC.

3. Requests clarification or amendment, as

appropriate, any time a clearance is not fully

understood or considered unacceptable from a safety


4. Promptly complies with an air traffic

clearance upon receipt except as necessary to cope

with an emergency. Advises ATC as soon as possible

and obtains an amended clearance, if deviation is



A clearance to land means that appropriate separation on

the landing runway will be ensured. A landing clearance

does not relieve the pilot from compliance with any

previously issued altitude crossing restriction.

b. Controller.

1. Issues appropriate clearances for the opera-

tion to be conducted, or being conducted, in

accordance with established criteria.

2. Assigns altitudes in IFR clearances that are at

or above the minimum IFR altitudes in controlled


3. Ensures acknowledgement by the pilot for

issued information, clearances, or instructions.

4. Ensures that readbacks by the pilot of

altitude, heading, or other items are correct. If

incorrect, distorted, or incomplete, makes corrections

as appropriate.