Words are important

I received the following from Neil Cosentino over the weekend. Interesting food for thought…

Dear Friends of Flying,

As a proud, long time member of AOPA, I am disappointed that no one at HQ/AOPA/ASF has explained to me the merits or demerits of my terminology recommendations to AOPA, the FAA and the industry.

The recommendation is to change the term Uncontrolled Airports [one w/out a tower or an airport with a tower that is closed] to read PILOT CONTROLLED Airports .

And change Uncontrolled Airspace [Class G airspace] from Uncontrolled Airspace to PILOT CONTROLLED airspace.

Please notice, all I have asked for – is why the terms “Uncontrolled Airport and Uncontrolled Air Space” are better than what I believe is more correct and better terminology, i.e., “PILOT CONTROLLED”

The words we use in aviation are important and should best represent what we are about…


Neil Cosentino, AOPA #00707100
Director of Communications
Florida Aviation Historical Society [FAHS]
FAHS Program Manager for www.Flight2014.org
Tampa, Florida


  1. neil cosentino says

    Thanks for the positive feedback.
    Getting the terms – right is important – using “pilot controlled” is the best one as we start flying more ADS-B IFR approaches to small pilot controlled airports.
    For example –
    Do we call the airport “Black Box Control Airspace/Airports” or ADS-B Controlled Airspace/airports? dont think so…
    Another example in NON-TOWER Airport… Pilots using the FARS/ROW rules CONTROL the flow or Airport Traffic – on the ground, traffic pattern and in the surround Airspace…

    The worse thing we can do is use the term uncontrolled airports and airspace…

    If is simple inaccurate and does not best represent who is in controls when there is not radar and no tower and no controlling agency…

    Here is my response to an email – same subject:

    Hello Dennis

    Thanks for weighing in on this important issue.

    The fact is that pilots – like captains of a ship are the only one who are ultimately responsible a.k.a. IN CONTROL at all times on the ground and in the air for all flights.

    A pilot[s] in a very real sense never give up CONTROL of the flight – they only follow the directions from a controlling agency for the safe and efficient flow of traffic, through a segment of air space or to and from an airport or on the airport…

    And that is why I believe Pilot Control is a more effective and accurate terminology.
    Remember Positive Control Airspace – not all responsibility/control was given to the controllers… it could not be – it was shared because there where areas without radar control.

    best regards,


    Begin forwarded message:

    From: Dennis Douglas
    Date: March 2, 2009 12:32:06 PM EST
    To: Neil.Cosentino@verizon.net
    Cc: news@generalaviationnews.com
    Subject: Your Letter in GA News
    Reply-To: ddouglas@coastside.net

    Mr. Cosentino,

    I read your letter in today’s GA News and I want to comment on it.

    Your suggestion to call Class G airports “pilot controlled” airports is simply not correct.

    Pilots don’t “control” a non-towered airport, they merely do their best (most of them, anyway) to keep others informed of their position and intentions.

    For many years the FAA has referred to, and has encouraged others to refer to, Class G airports as “non-towered airports”.

    This terminology is correct and eliminates the stigma of the word “uncontrolled”.

    The use of the FAA term “non-towered airport” is thus correct and does not mislead, as your suggestion would.

    Similarly, Class G airspace is not “pilot controlled” and is, in fact, uncontrolled airspace (with certain weather and population clearance requirements).

    So while I agree that “uncontrolled” is not a good term for Class G from a public perception point-of-view, “pilot controlled” is incorrect and misleading.

    “Non-directed airspace” might be a suitable term for Class G but calling it pilot-controlled is incorrect.

    Dennis Douglas
    Bend, Oregon

  2. says

    Great idea. Why don’t we all just start using the term “pilot controlled” and take over the terminology. Don’t we alredy have “pilot controlled” lighting? Don’t ask permission from the FAA or anybody. I’ll start using it immediately.

  3. says


    You hit it on the nose cone.

    As a current 182 driver;

    * 4 year enlisted Coast Guardsman
    * 10 year civil service ( navy )
    * 3 year high school / jr college instructor
    * 25 year Self employed Materials Engineer

    I have direct experience that government management & employees are setup to GUARD their TURF and BUDGET.

    Your flying privilages are being eroded and my cease to exist if you do not continue to educate the non-flyers, the TSA in particular.


    Change the terms to PILOT CONTROLLED.


  4. Jim Newman says

    I would not mind betting that Mr. Cosentino is a former government employee, judging by his tongue twisting terminology.

    Why not say it like it is….NON-TOWER AIRPORT or…if you wish to join the alphabet soup gang…an NTA?


  5. Dennis Rouleau says


    I agree with you on this point. As an Airport Manager its hard to explain to the general public that it’s not a dangerous thing when the tower closes at night and becomes “uncontrolled”. I always though it could be called something more appropriate and less offensive.



  6. says

    We agree that words are important, but perhaps more important is the ‘perspective’ from which their use is viewed.

    Government entities and FAA view the world from the perspective that they, and no one else can solve a problem properly. Indeed, ATC DOES NOT recognize their function to be an assist to the pilot a function existing only because the pilot is there. Many of them believe that they operate a system that exists so that pilots can fly airplanes, and that without their service, no air transportation could exist because there is no other alternative to the services ATC provides. ( there are many electronic aids such as TCA, ADS B and other technologies that could replace much of the ground based system- but that would gore a government ox.

    Instead, ATC personnel believe that their function is to exercise control, and create ‘safety’ where none would exist otherwise. Many of their operating philosophies and procedures clearly define the ATC function with the same descriptions and adjectives used to define the responsibilities of a Pilot In Command, despite the obvious difference that the controller controls little, and his mistake is unlikly to result in his death or maiming along with the deaths of the aircraft occupants.

    Because your government and contract servants in aviation are impacted by such unrealistic and self serving importance about their jobs (and because their study groups write the rules), it would be counter intuitive to recognize, define, and codify the airspace as “pilot controlled”, because to do so would in their minds diminish the function and responsibility of government services to deliver all to those in need, since those who need the services have no other options available to them, (and they believe safety can be served in no other manner).

    I would like to suggest that this ‘government service” mindset is confined to our ATC system, BUT IT IS NOT. In EACH and every government office there is a group of determined turf protectors, service expanders, and system expansionists that believe their function is the best and finest use of your taxpayer money for some ‘public benefit’ that private eneterprise or private service organizations have not supported. This government singleness of purpose is pursued even to the exclusion of individualized solutions, or private sector responses to similar problems when they are available. (ADS B for example).

    Until you fully understand the pervasiveness of this ‘government creep’ problem, you will never be a steward of change, and a citizen properly into the protection mode of your rights and freedoms. As a result, you will loose them, one at a time, as in eastern Europe, then western europe, and other ‘civilized’ areas of the world.

    While your perspective on the issue is accurate, real, and shared by most pilots, it would be perceived to be a dis-service to the ATC profession and its image, and therefore unacceptable as a technical change to the description you propose.

    Do NOT EXPECT any acknowledgment or change from such a reasonable proposal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *