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Procedures and Airport Operations: Pilot Deviations

Today on the Learn to Blog, we’ll take a look again at safety in and around the airport. This post is excerpted from the new edition of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.

A pilot deviation (PD) is an action of a pilot that violates any Federal Aviation Regulation. While PDs should be avoided, the regulations do authorize deviations from a clearance in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory. You must notify ATC as soon as possible following a deviation.

Pilot deviations can occur in several different ways. Airborne deviations result when a pilot strays from an assigned heading or altitude or from an instrument procedure, or if the pilot penetrates controlled or restricted airspace without ATC clearance.

To prevent airborne deviations, follow these steps:

  • Plan each flight—you may have flown the flight many times before but conditions and situations can change rapidly, such as in the case of a pop-up temporary flight restriction (TFR). Take a few minutes prior to each flight to plan accordingly.
  • Talk and squawk—Proper communication with ATC has its benefits. Flight following often makes the controller’s job easier because they can better integrate VFR and IFR traffic.
  • Give yourself some room—GPS is usually more precise than ATC radar. Using your GPS to fly up to and along the line of the airspace you are trying to avoid could result in a pilot deviation because ATC radar may show you within the restricted airspace.

Ground deviations (also called surface deviations) include taxiing, taking off, or landing without clearance, deviating from an assigned taxi route, or failing to hold short of an assigned clearance limit. To prevent ground deviations, stay alert during ground operations. Pilot deviations can and frequently do occur on the ground. Many strategies and tactics pilots use to avoid airborne deviations also work on the ground.

Pilots should also remain vigilant about vehicle/pedestrian deviations (V/PDs). A vehicle or pedestrian deviation includes pedestrians, vehicles or other objects interfering with aircraft operations by entering or moving on the runway movement area without authorization from air traffic control.

In serious instances, any ground deviation (PD or VPD) can result in a runway incursion. Best practices in preventing ground deviations can be found in the following section under runway incursion avoidance.

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