Chaos on approach - How to improve

I just (~ 15:00Z) landed in Frankfurt… and I’m speechless. I’m speechless because of this:

So I don’t want to blame the actual controllers here. As a pilot, I just want to point out some things which bothered me and didn’t make sense to me.
However, of course, the first excuse is going to be traffic numbers.
Well, today, this excuse won’t count. Frankfurt is capable of conducting 96 flight movements per hour. Originally EDDF was designed for a whopping count of 126 movements. When I touched down it was about 50 inbound and 30 outbound - so not even on the limits.
Frankfurt is a very capable airport, equipped with numerous STARS and Approaches to choose from while being able to use !4 runways simultaneously. And somehow, the staff still managed to cause a bit of a chaos. So I have a few questions:

  1. Why has RWY 18 not been used for takeoffs? (apart from like 4 to 5 aircraft around 15:00Z?) It’s been built there for a reason - favourable winds and independently from the other 3 (landing-)rwys. That’s also the reason why it’s not equipped with an ILS system at all. It’s the main runway for takeoffs.
  2. Why directing aircraft to 25L and 25R? 25C and 07C are used during busy hours, so while it’s not efficient to use the Centerrwy for takeoffs, it’s not entirely wrong. However, 25L and 25R are mainly landing runways.
  3. Landing Quadjets and other Superheavys on 25R is a big nono, in general, it’s rare to see 777’s on 25R, this runway is reserved for the 737 and A320 family and smaller jets.

So that was the trouble on the ground. Not good, but maybe understandable. The real trouble was in the sky. At this point, I will refrain from posting a timelapse and stick to my experience.

  1. Why haven’t there been any prefered SIDs & STARs at all? I mean that’s why they have been implemented in the first place? Planes were coming in from every direction, and there would’ve been numerous STARs to choose from - a big mistake in my opinion as that would’ve really helped to organise traffic efficiently in the first place.
  2. As you’ve seen in the screenshot above, I filed for the KER25N STAR. It contains the descent and approach including a big up- and downwind to have enough time for spacing. Well, after contacting approach I was cleared to continue as filed but extended my initial downwind to clear another aircraft which was already on downwind. After that approach took over and vectored me straight into the approach path of another aircraft cleared for 25R. Ok, happens, he wasn’t aware of the situation. I declared a missed approach and was about to join downwind again as usually planned. Approach had different plans and vectored me Westbound - into !parallel oncoming traffic on downwind. This time, he realised his mistake and vectored me - not back onto the up- nor downwind - but across other traffic on a southeast heading to clear me for Approach 25R. Then I got cleared not once, not twice, but three times in a row for the ILS approach. Coming in hot with 5 other planes we all managed to keep our separation on final with none having to perform a go-around - that was great.

But I feel like my story and all of that chaos could’ve been avoided.

  1. Why were there only 3 IFATC staff @EDDF with a total of over 100 planes inbound, but the same amount of staff at Moscow with only 30 planes inbound? Why not shifting staff from one airport to the other?
  2. Why was Langen Center not opened to assist the Approach, but in the meantime not only Munich Center but also Praha Center was maned simultaneously? Langen Center could have been opened to reduce the number of inbound flights to reorganise the approach pattern.

I was really looking forward to flying into Frankfurt today. But in conclusion, I feel like there was just a huge lack of organisation and preparation today afternoon. A quick look at the charts can give vital information for the proper setup of a capable airport like Frankfurt. I also feel like the staff could’ve been allocated much better.

But that’s why I opened this topic.

I don’t want to offend anyone. I really hope that this topic doesn’t get closed so that below this thread ATC staff and pilots can debate together on how to improve procedures in busy regions.

39 Likes

IFATC works their hardest to create a smooth and efficient traffic flow. If that means a slight delay, then ok, it happens all the time at HUB airports. The controllers are doing their very best, and creating a smooth and professional traffic flow. As for lack of organization and preparation, IFATC controllers spend a lot of time planning approach paths and traffic flow plans. ATC controlling is voluntary and IFATC controllers control for the pilots, so I think we should be thankful instead of asking why there weren’t more controllers. Maybe Frankfurt can handle a ton of aircraft IRL, but I’ll bet they also have more controllers and more frequencies, in addition to being very familiar with the airport and it’s procedures. As I stated before, IFATC controllers work their very hardest trying to get every pilot where they want to go. Sometimes, that means delays, or slightly compromising real world procedures, but at the end of the day, we should just be thankful for our great controllers.

3 Likes

You must understand that the IFATC control is based on the volunteer spirit. If a guy choosed UUEE Approach it is entirely because he proposes a service to enjoy there and maybe simply doesnt wants to open harder airspace.
If Center is not open, it is simply due to nobody wanting to open it. There is to know the limits and we do not have specific rules that obligates anyone to open anytime.

2 Likes

I just read the whole thing. I am not an IFATC nor an EDDF expert, but some good reasons you got there.

1 Like

Hey there! First of all if you’d like to help us get in contact with your controller, then let me know and I’ll be happy to help. 🙂

I just landed in Frankfurt (at about 1700z), a couple of hours later than your experience.


Most pilots seem to use 25C as it is the closest runway to them. As IFATC, we are advised to get aircraft to the closest runway to provide the quickest service. 18 is in use, but not many users are being sent there due to it not being a close runway to most. IFATC don’t have to follow realistic procedures.


How I see it, is 25L and 25R as the initial runways, as they can easily be split for arrivals from the north and arrivals from the south. 25C is in the middle and easiest to access from the terminal.


I just landed an A330-300 on here realistically as it used this runway IRL. Personally I’m aware of this but since the runway is about 9200ft, it can easily accommodate a large aircraft to land on.


This most likely would’ve come in helpful, correct. All aircraft when I was on North Approach were being vectored.


For point 5, it would be worth contacting your controller regarding your satisfaction with their controlling.


IFATC are free to control wherever they want, plus the 1 hour minimum time controlling may have played a factor. Generally Ground and Tower may split apart to 2 controllers, and the same with Approach. 3 IFATC, being Ground, Tower and ATIS, and Approach is a pretty good coverage. It also depends on traffic in the area since all those arrivals may not be at the airport in the next few hours.


This is all to do with controller decision, and plus what they might not feel comfortable with.


I don’t mean to be a guy who is right with IFATC. You clearly had an issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Chatting with the controller and discussing what went wrong, and how it could generally be improved on your view in the air is the best thing to do.

11 Likes

Not surprised and I’m happy that you are speaking out about this! IFATC often just says “well we try our best” or another excuse instead of saying, “this pattern got out of my hands, I’m sorry” or “I was overwhelmed, and I’ll do better”. I’ve had many of these same experiences with massive and incorrect patterns that add 30+ minutes of flight time when the flight was supposed to only be 30 minutes.

4 Likes

Hey, I was the controller who was opened these FIRs. I am a new IFATC Officer (2 Days) so I would’ve loved to open Langen FIR but because I aren’t as experienced, I decided to leave it for another experienced controller to handle the high traffic. I understand what you’re trying to say and if I could’ve opened i would. I hope you understand - Kyle.

5 Likes

The reason there are 30 minute delays is because all pilots choose to fly to one airport creating crazy traffic levels. IFATC controllers work very hard, and I think it is a little rude to be insulting controllers like this. Also, you could at least spell IFATC correctly.

2 Likes

Hey @Olic99!

I was your ground controller and I’d like to point a few things out that caught my eye in this post.

I was sending multiple aircraft to 18, I’d say I sent probably around 4-7, but as for the ground traffic itself, it really wasn’t that busy at all, so there wasn’t a need to send to 18 if all of the aircraft were spawning right next to the beginning of 25C.

Just more arrivals than departures today, so what’s the hurt in sending most people to 25C? And before you comment on that, we don’t work by realistic procedures all the time, only if it will benefit the flow of things, and not having people taxi all the way across the airport.


You actually make a very good point on this one, I do agree, there probably should’ve been some, but at the end of the day, it is the radar controller’s discretion on what he wants to use for STARs, and it looks like he did a lot of manual vectoring today since the STARs aren’t the best.


This is pretty standard, and that’s not actually true. There was a ground controller, me, a tower controller, and two people working radar, just for some clarification.


Again, it just really wasn’t that busy, but my question to you is, why is it an issue to staff airports that are featured that aren’t busy compared to the hub that is already well staffed? Another big point I want to bring up is that some controllers aren’t comfortable with the high amounts of traffic that are flowing through the hub, therefore, sometimes smaller airports will be fully staffed according to what the controllers can handle.


This was opened by @Kyle0705, an officer that was promoted just 2 days ago, so it’s irrelevant to say someone just enjoying a fun center session should open a center that they 100% will not be able to handle.


This is where your opinion isn’t appreciated. If you look at some of my recent screenshot and video topics, you will see that there is an IMMENSE amount of preparation that goes into sessions. You wouldn’t even imagine the amounts of hours and the time that goes into servicing pilots that don’t respect our work and bash on us when we’re trying our best, it’s really disheartening.


Feel free to respectfully comment on my reply, but please, don’t call out controllers for messing up something and maybe not controlling the way you like. We try our best, some of us just have bad sessions, and some plans just don’t work out the way we expected to, that’s okay. We as controllers just have to gain from our experience and move on to provide a better service the next session.

20 Likes

We have to remember this is a mobile simulator so things might take longer than usual. People are still learning & there are way more things going on right now to be speechless about than having to hold for 30 minutes.

When flying to an ATC controlled airport it’s common knowledge to expect delays as everyone will want to fly there. My tip is if you just want an easy flight then fly to a non controlled airport.

3 Likes

@Olic99 I kinda have to agree with you. I don’t agree with ATC doing things unrealistically (especially when traffic cooperates, I think its fine if its way over the limit). Also I think the controllers maybe should try and utilize the STAR features more? What I see in your picture is a little outrageous… If he needed spacing he could have:

A) Requested that you slow or speed to space
B) Put you in a short pattern

Overall its a good learning experience and I hope controllers can take the feedback :)

1 Like

Yes, we always try our best whenever we control. However, do understand that there will always be sessions where we make mistakes, which we learn from. We always appreciate feedback, so if you ever do have feedback, feel free to message your controller.

You can’t entirely blame IFATC for this. If there wasn’t a “massive” pattern, the airspace would be in chaos and you would probably have to wait longer to get on the ground. You chose to fly to a hub, so you have to deal with the waiting time due to the high traffic that flies in there. If you can’t wait, then don’t fly into the hub.

5 Likes

From what I see you have to do a 360. This is very common, especially considering most aircraft were lining up for a 25R. Due to this, we may see that a bust is impending. A bust is (less than 3nm separation or under 1000 ft) because of this, you had to do a 360. If this was the case, that was a good move from the controller.

You see, the majority of pilots don’t listen. Sure, if everyone did what they were supposed to do, it would be HEAVEN. But, guess what, it’s not, and as a result, we have aircraft on top of each other, 737s going 290 knots on base, etc. Welcome to our world. It’s frustrating, stressful, and unwelcoming.

This is the “realistic procedures” we deal with, go figure. Aircraft on top of each other is “realistic”.

6 Likes

All valid points that should be considered by anyone involved, in the original post. Especially bullet point #4.

6 Likes

What really annoys me is when I request taxi to a runway but ATC sends me to another runway simply because it is closer. Okay, I get it. Realistic procedures can’t always be used. But please let pilots who want realism have it. If someone wants to taxi to runway 18, why not give it to them? You’ll make them happy.

2 Likes

That’s going to be highly dependent on many factors. We do try to provide the runway requested but sometimes it makes more sense to send them to a different runway :) For example 10 aircraft at that runway or intersecting deps. Also provide specific feedback if possible.

Is this a personal account? If so, didn’t you say you weren’t going to get involved with any hubs? We would be much appreciative if you could provide any feedback that you have (from your experiences, specifically the example you provided).

I plan my taxi route based on real flights. If I’m sent to another runway I don’t have a taxi route. Yes, this is relating to personal experience @Thunderbolt, though not today at Frankfurt. I would enjoy hubs if controllers would let me be realistic. I’m posting this as this issue was mentioned in the original post.

4 Likes

Yet, you don’t have any examples of this not being possible?

1 Like