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From Your Friendly Neighborhood
Air Traffic Controller

By MR. TIMOTHY GRAVELLE, HQ AMC Airfield Operations

I recently received a phone call from a tanker pilot raising a concern over Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearances into Air Traffic Control Assigned Airspace (ATCAA). The issue arose when ATC, while clearing the tanker into scheduled aerial refueling (AR) Anchors, also cleared the tanker into a named airspace unfamiliar to the crew. In both cases, check rides wouldn’t you know, the crews had to scramble to try and find out what airspace the centers were talking about, which led to a bit of confusion and several radio calls to ATC to sort things out.

As it turns out, the two AR Anchors in question were contained within ATCAAs that were listed by coordinates in the area planning AP/1B, but did not have a name listed. Both centers have Letters of Agreement with the owning and scheduling units that detail Anchor and ATCAA coordinates, altitudes, names, etc., but when the Anchors were published in the Flight Information Publication (FLIP) they did not list the ATCAAs’ names. Since the Anchors in question belonged to units from two other MAJCOMs, I contacted my airspace counterparts asking them to look into this. Within 24 hours of receiving the initial report, both MAJCOMs had their units initiate updates to these Anchors in the AP/1B to include the name of associated ATCAA. As the wheels of FLIP publication sometimes turn slowly—it will take one or two cycles before the corrections are made official—I was impressed by the rapid response from both MAJCOMs.

As I continued to look at other Anchors with associated ATCAAs in the AP/1B, I saw quite a few others that only listed ATCAA coordinates. It may be that those ATCAAs are not named or their names are not published—as found in these two instances. There are examples in the FLIP that simply have a remark along the lines of this one found under AR640A and B: “The anchor area is located within Sheboygan West and Sheboygan East ATC Assigned Airspace.” Others just insert the name before the ATCAA coordinates, like this example from AR722: “ATC ASSIGNED AIRSPACE: SANDPOINT ATCAA: N55°43.00’ W161°33.00’ to N56°56.00’ W159°28.00’ to N56°05.00’ W158°10.00’ to N55°05.00’ W160°34.00’ to beginning.”

The takeaway I would like to leave you with is this: if you find yourself in a similar situation with ATC, ask for clarification to make sure you are all on the same page. Then, when you are on the ground, take a minute to contact the scheduling unit for that Anchor and ask them to publish the name of the associated ATCAA in the AP/1B. I know you already have plenty to do after landing, but making a one-time call or sending an e-mail to the scheduling unit asking to get these ATCAA names published should help avoid confusion and excess radio calls when entering Anchor airspace in the future.