ATC lining up aircraft when planes are on less than 5 miles final

Firstly, sorry if this is in the wrong category or has been repeated (But I can’t find the topic). But I need to address this annoying problem that keeps happening the scenario goes as follows: You’re following another plane on final, that plane lands and then there is a plane waiting for departure, ATC then proceeds to line the departing aircraft up tho the plane that has landed ahead of me still hasn’t vacated, you are then less than 5miles on the approach and then you have to execute a go around. Because simply ATC has kept a departing aircraft on the runway when you (the arriving aircraft) could’ve landed with ease and then that plane can depart after you. This has happened to me numerous times in the past and now twice already today I’m pretty fed up of having to go around for the same reason and I’m sure its a happened some you guys too.

Note - All of this occurs on Expert Server and I’m flying at the designated approach/landing speeds of whatever aircraft I am flying


As an IFATC, we have permission to clear an aircraft for takeoff when a plane is on a 2nm final, because the requirement is that the plane has lifted off the ground before you cross the runway threshold. So, if a plane lands, we line up immediately the next one so that when the first one gets off the runway, the second one can immediately take off and leave enough space for you to land.


Yes but this never happens lol, the plane is still waiting for the arrival aircraft to vacate or has vacated and yet is still holding for I don’t know what.

Then that’s a pilot issue, not an ATC one.

But how could it be a pilot issue when no takeoff clearance has been given?


If no takeoff clearance has been given, then maybe a plane is crosssing the runway, but I can tell we make sure no one waits longer than necessary on the runway. Also, if you are 2nm from the runway, the plane lined up has enough time to take off.

Say there is no one crossing like at Hong Kong 25R, I’m at ~2nm from the runway doing my designated approach/landing speed the plane ahead has landed fine and is performing the roll out, ATC then tells the plane holding short to L&W (Line up and Wait) how would that then be enough for me land and that he should be in theory in the air. I can understand this if we’re at a single runway airport where its likely to be more common like at Kai Tak or Gatwick but it doesn’t at a large multi-runway airport especially if I’m flying say a 747 to land. Having that ~2nm gap in my opinion doesn’t work cuz for 9 time out of 10 I’m going around because that plane thats lined up is still sitting there on the runway way after the arrival has vacated/no-one is even crossing or the arriving aircraft ahead is still on the runway but I still have the space to land until that departing aircraft has been told to line up.

2nm is good amount of spacing for takeoff, by the time you cross the threshold the plane would be airborne by 100/200 feet. ATC can LUAW at 4nm ish, if we held planes back we wouldn’t be able to get departures out making it busy and inefficent for controllers. It comes at it’s prices, sometimes you get slow pilots and i apologise for that


When ATC tells you to make a expedited takeoff they don’t want you to have any delay in getting into the air. There is that white line while controlling which shows spacing and should be monitored constantly. If the controller believes there is enough space for a plane to take off he/she will do so. Once the aircraft on the ground hits 100knts on take off it is a good rule of thumb that you can likely have a plane land behind it or take off with good spacing.


Spacing depends on the airport layout, aircraft type, winds and much more. Sometimes you can get departures out with 2NM and sometimes with 7NM spacing on final. On average, 5NM spacing is still fine to get departures out.

I don’t know if that’s allowed, but if I were you, I would continue my approach unless the ATC themselves tells me to go around.

If at one point they see a incision is possible they will probably issue the go around otherwise not.

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With HUB airport you have to remember that the traffic volumes are fairly unrealistic. So what do some controllers do? They will squeeze out a departure or arrival when ever and where ever possible. Not only do IFATC deal with the insane traffic numbers but there are also ATC supervisors watching and listening in the shadow of the ATC world. If you did have a poor experience contact the controller cause it can and will happen, no ones perfect. Remember if it’s busy most ATC controllers try and “shoot the gap”.

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If an Aircraft is on 5nm final the ATC has done the right thing in lining up an Aircraft for departure this is enough time to depart the Aircraft.

However, if the Aircraft does not vacate the runway in time we use commands such as “Please Expedite” so they know to quickly exit the Runway. If the Aircraft still doesn’t expedite then there’s nothing the Controller can do and this may result in a GA if you are on 2nm final by the time the aircraft actually vacates the Runway.

Controllers hope that the Aircraft exit the Runway quickly when told to do so, and this works most of the time.

You also need to take into account the Aircraft speeds, this varies in different situations.


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Hello! I completely understand your situation and frustration.

We are encouraged to get as many departures as possible in a short time, principally in a HUB where we have huge departure lines at most of the time. As said above, we can clear an aircraft for TO with traffic 2nm on final, I personally do 3nm because I feel safe with that spacing.

5nm for a Landing/ Take Off/ Landing situation is pretty much a amazing spacing! What maybe happened with you was:

  1. The landing aircraft didn’t clear the runway in time for the next departure. This unfortunately happens quite a lot, we tell the landing aircraft a command, “callsing XXXX, exit the runway when able and contact ground, please expedite, traffic on final”, what this means? The aircraft must find a quick way to exit the runway to help the airport flow of constant traffic, if he doesn’t exit as quick as we thought this may cause a Go around for the arriving aircraft.

  2. The departure aircraft, already lined up, starts his take off roll too late. Unfortunately this is also a common situation, when the landed aircraft already exit the runway and the departure one wait sooo long to start rolling, in most of the cases when this happen, the aircraft starts to gain speed too late and the arriving traffic have to Go Around and the departure one hav to cancel his take off and exit the runway.

I know it can be really annoying have to execute a go around, but the IFATC team is encouraged to follow as much realism as possible and we can’t just land a aircraft with one already on the runway as said in the IFATC Manual.

Hope I could help :D



I know this is annoying and I feel for you. I’ve had this happen to me multiple times. As IFATC, I also understand the perspective of ATC. Sometimes, it is difficult to judge how long it will take for a pilot to line up and take off. Trust me, we do not like making people go around! Whenever I do so, I try to learn from what happened to avoid it happening to other pilots.

Unfortunately, ATC has a double edged sword to deal with. On one side, arrivals needs to land as efficiently as possible. In most scenarios, approach will give 4-6nm spacing between each arrival.

The other side is that departures need to get out in an expedited manner. That departure line isn’t getting any shorter. It’s actually getting longer and longer the more time passes.

As said above, if approach is giving 4-6nm between each arrival, which is perfect, ATC will need to line up a departure as soon as the arrival crosses the threshold.

We rely on pilots to expedite their exit and takeoff, so that we can keep the airport running smoothly. Unfortunately, go arounds will happen. That’s inevitable. Trust me I hate when that happens too, but coming from a controller who has controlled in that scenario, I totally understand what the controller has to deal with.


I do this all the time. I will send planes for take off when someone is 2nm out. We need to get those planes out of there!

Looks like the topic died down. Great discussion all