Approach - How do they do it?

I’m always amazed how some of the ATC controllers who are in control of approach can guide you in to the final so precisely and react so fast to your requests. How do they know which exact HDG I have to take and when. why can they do that so fast?

PM me tomorrow eve 6-9PM Irish standard time and I will show you step by step!

It’s actually not that hard if the planes are spaced out and sequenced correctly
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!


Okay looking forward to it :)

Have a play in the playground - the easiest way to vector headings - use your finger to slide the screen around and you’ll notice there’s a large circle compass displayed on your screen. Slide it around so the aircraft you’re about to vector is in the centre, and look at the compass heading for where you want to aircraft to fly… The trick, plan and think ahead. Always think a step or two ahead of each aircraft and where it needs to go.

It is easy until you start getting all the ‘unable’ messages ;-)


Made this experience myself already :p

I’ll do you one better… These tips I use constantly:

  • Click on the aircraft you want to vector to see their current altitude (you can see a snapshot of it above them while they’re flying, but in a busy airspace that can be hard to read
  • Press and hold on the aircraft and slide your finger in the direction you want them to turn (best tip of them all). When you let go, you can send that vector, or you can add an altitude or clear for the ILS (if that’s what they initially requested).
  • You don’t have to vector them to their turn to final. The pilot is responsible for that. But you MUST not clear them to the ILS on a turn that’s more than 30°. For example, if you are about to clear someone for the ILS approach to runway 20R and they’re coming at the runway making right traffic, you must vector them in at either 190, 180, or 170 degrees. Conversely, if they’re making left traffic, the clearance to the ILS approach must be either 210, 220, or 230 degrees.

General Tips:

  • Your control tower will want some good spacing so he/she can get departing aircraft out, especially at an airport with only one active runway. Spacing them out more than 8nm apart will give your tower controller room to get departures out in between arrivals.
  • It really helps if you are in communication with your tower controller somehow (facebook, skype, zello, etc). On the advanced server, we’re always talking to each other so we can ask for more spacing, or say things like, “hey, keep your pattern traffic on your tower frequency”, etc.
  • Don’t forget to assign speeds if you see someone coming in way too quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to vector someone away from the airfield if they’re way too high when they contact you.

The challenge with practicing on the playground server is you’ll get lots of “unable” communications or people just not following instruction. Ignore those pilots and try to focus on the ones that do listen. This will be great practice for you!

Good luck and happy controlling!


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Just added a third point about ILS approach clearance.

By the way folks, I knew almost NOTHING about approach controlling except for listening to what other controllers told me when flying and making notes. @John_Preston21 trained me and I LISTENED to what he said and PRACTICED! It’s amazing what those two things will do for you.

Practice, practice, practice!

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Thank you very much. I practiced this for a good hour and I really seem to get the hang of it. Unfortunately there are some pilots/trolls that come in with 500GS and stuff but hey thats playground… thanks again jason!