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General Aviation Industry and Air Traffic Control Towers Research Paper


The management of airline operations is often very complex and requires a high level of commitment from those involved. This paper looks at general aspects of the aviation industry and also provides a discussion on air traffic control towers.

General Aviation Industry

General aviation is a term used to denote the different aspects of the aviation. Apparently, this does not include planned military flying as well as scheduled operations that cover the transportation of both passengers and cargo (Seidenman & Spanovich, 2009). To a large extent, general aviation factors in those businesses that cater for unscheduled passenger or cargo flights. It also incorporates flight departments, personal aircraft operations, schools that deal with flight matters and storage as well as maintenance.

As pointed out by Seidenman and Spanovich (2009), some general aviation businesses focus on providing services such as fueling, cabin maintenance, catering and other ground related aircraft activities. Statistically, the general aviation industry greatly supports the economy of the United States and employs a huge number of American citizens. Evidently, the industry contributes more than USD 150 billion to the economy of the United States (GAMA, 2014).

General aviation aircraft are aircrafts used to transport people privately (Benny, 2012). General aviation aircrafts may be owned by private individuals or may be rented when required from a general aviation airport. General aviation aircraft also comprises different aircrafts that are used by corporate organizations to ferry executives, employees, or even customers.

Non-military federal government agencies make use of general aviation aircraft to transport staff and to accomplish various missions in an organization. Among such missions are intelligence operations and law enforcement. General aviation may be used for law enforcement patrols, fighting fires, providing emergency medical air ambulance services, and rescue operations. There are other uses of general aviation which include agricultural crop dusting.

To a large extent, this helps to improve food security by ensuring that crops are properly sprayed with pesticides while still in the farm. They are also very useful for controlling insects along rivers, lakes and other waterways that are located close to densely populated areas. Apparently, aircrafts that are used for flight instruction are also classified under general aviation.

As pointed out by GAMA (2014), general aviation industry comprises more than 360,000 aircraft scattered across the world and includes all sorts of airplanes. Statistics indicate that this number is bound to increase with time due to increased aviation activities. The general aviation industry also serves as a good training ground for a majority of commercial airline pilots. Based on the study undertaken by Seidenman and Spanovich (2009), the general aviation fleet in the United States will continue to swell over the years.

Arguably, the growth of the general aviation fleet is a direct indication of the fact that the number of flight hours will equally increase. An important contribution associated with general aviation is the provision of on demand transport services for freight as well as passengers. In the United States, operators who intend to make use of general aviation aircraft through hire services have o be certified by the Federal Aviation Regulators.

By and large, the general aviation industry supports many operations in and outside the United States. However, there are major security concerns that are linked to general aviation. After the September 2011 attack on the United States by terrorists, there have been increased efforts to ensure the safety of general aviation aircrafts. Considering that the attackers were trained at flight schools in the United States, efforts to reinforce security had to be extended to cover flights schools in the United States as well.

Air Traffic Control Towers

Ordinarily, there will be thousands of aircrafts moving from one point to another across the sky on any given day. The ability of these aircrafts to leave and enter different airports and to stay away from any collisions is a complex issue that often requires concerted efforts by various stakeholders. Air traffic control towers are generally responsible for the operational security of both commercial and private aircrafts.

Ostensibly, the control tower is one of the most critical air traffic control facilities and it comes in different shapes and sizes. Drawing from a study by Reisman and Brown (2006), control towers are extremely essential for providing the flight crew with important information that is meant to guarantee the safety of the pilot and those aboard an aircraft.

Different approaches, including the use of computer graphics, have been utilized over the years by key players in the aviation sector to enhance the general security of airplanes as well as passengers and cargos transported from one location to another via the sky. Any displays that are designed to be worn on the head must be very clear in order to ensure that the vision of a tower controller is not impaired.

It is imperative to check that displays do not contain any form of impairment that could hinder clarity. Generally, air traffic controllers ensure that thousands of airplanes that move across the sky from time to time move smoothly from one point to another.

Air traffic controllers are responsible for guiding the take off of airplanes and making sure that problems are not encountered during landing. Controllers also play a very crucial role of ensuring that airplanes are properly guided in bad weather and that their motion is not hampered by unbearable climatic conditions.

Air traffic control services are generally offered by controllers who are mainly based on the ground. Among other responsibilities, air traffic controllers are in charge of directing the flow of aircrafts as they land and leave airports. Controllers also ensure that all aircrafts are advised accordingly in order to guarantee their safety both within the airport and in the airspace. To a large extent, the main goal of control towers is to see to it that aircrafts are able to travel smoothly and that collisions are avoided.

The task of ensuring that pilots are fully informed before, during and even after flight is, however, extremely important. In most countries across the world, air traffic control towers offer their services to the military, to private individuals operating their own aircrafts, and to commercial airlines making use of the nearby airspace.

Ostensibly, air traffic controllers may give out instructions to pilots based on the type of flight being operated and the category of the airspace. To manage the immediate environment around the airport, air traffic controllers mainly rely on visual observation via the airport control tower.

Typically, towers are tall structures that are built around the airport and fitted with windows that help to provide visibility. This makes it possible to effectively detect any motion in the surrounding airspace and to efficiently control the movement of aircrafts and vehicles on the runways and taxiways. Proper management of control tower services thus helps to ensure safety at the airport and the surrounding environment.

Drawing from a study by Nolan (2010), air traffic control towers are operated by both federal and non-federal agencies in order to provide separation services to all aircrafts flying into and out of a given airport. Apparently, the main goal of the control tower is to see to it that sufficient runway separation does exist between landing and takeoff.

Other important services include issuing clearance information, giving instructions to taxis at the airport, and offering support to airplanes in the airspace around the neighborhood of an airport. Ordinarily, these services are undertaken with the help of two-way radio equipment that are used to instruct the pilot when landing or taking off from an airport or to alter the flight pattern of an aircraft. Nolan (2010) identifies three categories of control towers.

These are the VFR towers, non-radar-approach control towers, and radar-approach control towers. Radar and non-radar-approach categories are delegated the responsibility of separation. Non-radar approach controllers are usually placed within the tower cab and help with the separation of aircrafts using non-radar procedures. Radar-approach controllers on the other hand are located inside a separate room that is normally placed near the base of the tower.

They separate aircrafts using radar-based procedures. Although all the three categories of control towers are responsible for the separation of arrivals and departures, VFR towers generally do not have an elaborate separation responsibility. VFR towers are delegated limited responsibility for initially separating aircraft arrivals from departures but most of the separation is around VFR towers and mainly handled by the air route traffic control center.

Air traffic control towers are responsible for directing aircrafts as they move guided by visual flight rules located on the ground as well as near airports. Among other services, the towers offer both ground control and local control services.

While ground controls provides instructions to airplanes and vehicles moving through an airport’s runways and taxiways, local controls ensure that aircraft receive weather related information as well as landing and takeoff clearances as airplanes arrive and takeoff from an airport. Air traffic control towers make use of different equipment among them radars, communication networks as well as landing and navigation aids.

Largely, the air traffic control system is very complicated and brings together various players each with a very important supporting role. Airspaces in different parts of the world are organized into different centers that may be referred to as zones. For ease of administration, the zones are further split into sectors. Zones also consist of small segments known as terminal radar approach control (TRACON) airspaces.

Every TRACON segment is made up of several airports assigned to their own unique airspaces. In the United States, the development of the air traffic control system is associated with airspace segments. The control system consists of various divisions that include air traffic control system command center, air route traffic control centers, terminal radar approach control, air traffic control tower and flight service station.

The air traffic control system command center is designed to oversee all aspects of air traffic control. This division is also responsible for dealing with bad weather or any other problems encountered during flight operations. Apart from challenging weather conditions, the division is also expected to deal with traffic overloads as well as runways that fail to operate as envisioned.

Air route traffic control centers are controllers that are located en-route and are responsible for taking care of traffic that exists within the centers but not for the TRACON. They mainly direct the movement of airplanes outside the terminal space. The main reason for having these en-route centers is to ensure the availability of a safe and smooth traffic flow with minimal or no distractions.

The services that are offered by air route traffic control centers include but are not limited to the separation of aircrafts that are meant to operate under instrument flight rules, closely monitoring the flow of traffic, issuing traffic and weather advisories, and making sure that effective traffic management initiatives are implemented. For effectiveness to be realized, each center has its own air traffic control point.

In some situations, however, air route traffic control center services are provided less efficiently in the absence of radar surveillance and direct communication between pilots and controllers. The terminal radar approach control division is in charge of ensuring that all departures and landings happen smoothly within the assigned airspace. Usually, terminal radar approach control division facilities are located at or outside an airport.

The services provided include traffic advisories, traffic alerts, weather information, and sequencing arrivals as well as departures. Every single airport that handles scheduled flights is required to have a terminal radar control section responsible for dealing with all takeoffs and landings.

The flight service station provides important information to assist pilots when landing and taking off. It also offers assistance to pilots during emergency situations. In addition, this division handles cases of missing aircrafts through coordinated rescue operations when necessary.

During the movement of an airplane across a particular airspace, so much is done to avert any unwelcome situations. Traffic controllers are expected to closely monitor aircrafts to alleviate any problems. Usually, control and monitoring is passed from one division to another as the aircraft leaves one division to another. While the use of air traffic control towers may prove to be costly for very huge airfields, it is less costly and quite beneficial when it comes to smaller ones.

The tasks undertaken by those assigned to a control tower may be split into four categories including flight data, clearance delivery, ground control, and local control. For a busy control tower, it is prudent to assign the duties to four or even more control personnel. The duties may, however, be combined into a smaller number of positions when dealing with a less busy control facility.

In the event of an emergency, the pilot in command has the freedom to decide on the best logical action at the time for his own safety and that of the passenger on board an aircraft. Air traffic control towers mainly help air traffic controllers to monitor three key areas including the local air control, ground control, and flight data delivery.

While ground control is concerned with movement areas around the airport such as along the taxiways and inactive runways, local air control takes cares of active runways and ensures that aircrafts enter and leave an airport smoothly. Flight data delivery mainly provides pilots with clearance information which may include the suitability of the route to be taken by a particular aircraft. Also considered are possible stops or any form of delay that may be encountered by the aircraft along the way to its scheduled destination.


Certainly, general aviation industry plays an important role in many economies. However, success depends on factors such as government support and security enforcement. Air traffic control towers on the other hand are critical for guaranteeing the security and smooth flow of aircrafts on the ground and in the airspace


Benny, D. J. (2012). . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). (2014). 2013 General Aviation Statistical Databook & 2014 Industry Outlook.

Nolan, M. (2010). . Clifton Park, NY: Cengage Learning.

Reisman, R. J. & Brown, D. M. (2006). .

Seidenman, P. & Spanovich, D. J. (2009). 2009 General Aviation Businesses & Services.

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