“Adjust speed to follow aircraft ahead” —What does it mean, exactly?

I’m just trying to figure exactly what this ATC command meant, When the ATC said “Adjust speed to follow aircraft ahead”, I reduced my speed by 20kts to follow the aircraft ahead, which was a little too close, but then the ATC said “follow instructions please”. I apologized and rerequested vectors in case I forgot something, but again, we just went through “adjust speed” and “follow instructions, please”. What could’ve been wrong?

Hey! It basically means that you should be going slow enough that you won’t conflict with the aircraft ahead of you. If you’re already too close to an aircraft, ATC expects you to really slow down and let the aircraft in front move up ahead before you match their speed.

Examples:

You are Aircraft 2, Aircraft 1 is the aircraft in front.

  1. Aircraft 1 and 2 have 5nm of separation. Aircraft 1 is going 200kts. Aircraft 2 is going 210kts. You would slow down to 200kts or less.

  2. Aircraft 1 and 2 have 2nm of separation. Aircraft 1 is going 200kts. Aircraft 2 is going 200kts. You would decrease to around 180kts until there is at least 3nm of separation, at which point you can increase to 200kts again.

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I reduced my speed from 220 kts to 200 kts, and I was about the same distance everybody else in the pattern kept. Should I have slowed down even more?

What speed was the aircraft in front of you flying at?

8nm out at 200.

What airport and when was this at?

Mumbai International, about 30mins ago.

Hi! If you were on the approach frequency, @MannyG was the approach controller at that time. If you were on tower we might have to do a little more digging… but it would probably be best to send him a PM if you were on approach.

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Ok! Thanks!

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