Common Mistakes: How to Fix Them!

Do you find that, when controlling, your airspace is crowded and confusing, and doesn’t feel like it’s as efficient as it could be? Fret not, there is probably a way to improve that!

Within this topic, I’d like to cover some things such as departure sequencing, upwind incursions, and ground conflicts, with an example based approach to all situations to ensure that understanding is met. Let’s get started!

  • Please note, these tips are opinion based. If you have questions about the logic behind the advice, then feel free to quote it and reply in a respectful manner.

Departure Sequencing

To be crystal clear, in this section, I am not referring to the actual departure sequencing command itself, but the sequence in which departures are cleared for takeoff (who is sent first, etc).

For our first example, I’ve decided to use this situation in which N21AD has decided execute an intersection departure, and 5H-ANE is performing a regular takeoff. In this example, we will assume no one is on final for runway 28L.

Common Mistake: Sometimes a controller may think that the best course of action is to give 5H-ANE a “Hold Short, runway 28L,” instruction, while allowing N21AD to takeoff. I’ve also seen some instances where N21AD would be given a “Hold Short, runway 28L,” while 5H-ANE is allowed to takeoff.

Solution: Although the above situation isn’t incorrect, it just isn’t quite as efficient as it could be. Assuming both aircraft, N21AD and 5H-ANE call in at the same time for takeoff, the best/most efficient way to handle such a situation would be to clear N21AD for takeoff, and issue 5H-ANE a line up and wait.

This way, N21AD does not have to wait for 5H-ANE to takeoff, and increase his time on the ground, when both aircraft can get moving, therefore expediting departures. If 5H-ANE is already fully lined up by the time N21AD is airborne, you can clear the aircraft lined up as soon as the first departure is airborne, therefore satisfying departure/departure spacing, and wasting no time while doing so.

Upwind Incursions

In this instance, let’s assume that OMG-YAY was doing tower patterns and making right traffic for 14R, and Z7 was doing tower patterns, making left traffic for 14L. Let’s also assume that Z7 is on upwind for 14L, requesting a runway change to 14R with OMG-YAY already on upwind for 14R.

Common Mistake: In some cases, controllers will send Z7 an, “Enter left downwind, runway 14R,” but there is a few things that could result from that, such as a mess up of sequencing, trying to differentiate between aircraft on different runways, and further incursions with base turns.

Solution: To maximize efficiency and still eliminate that incursion would be sending Z7 the following command, “Z7, extend upwind, I’ll call your crosswind,” which can be found in the pattern instructions menu. By doing this, he will continue to fly straight out, while OMG-YAY will turn right and continue doing his patterns on 14R, and after he is on crosswind (or free of any incursion with Z7), you can give Z7 an, “Enter right downwind, runway 14R, number __, traffic to follow is on ____.”

Upwind Extension Result

Opposite Downwind Result

By doing this, you’ve eliminated the incursion, as well as any sequencing mishaps that would’ve occurred, had you sent him on the left downwind, instead of the right.

Ground Conflicts

For this scenario, we have 5H-ANE and N5HW both taxiing to 18R, at speeds in which they will incur head on.

Common Mistake: More times than often, when a controller notices that a ground incursion is imminent, it is too late to flip through tons of menus and options, so they resort to the first command that will get the incursion settled in a way that isn’t quite correct. This being the use of, “hold position,” given to one of the aircraft. In the picture above, we can assume that 5H-ANE received a hold position, while N5HW continued to the runway as normal.

Solution: As for the timing part of the situation, that is totally dependent on the controller’s awareness, but instead of using the hold position command to mitigate a ground incursion, it’s best to use the “give way to aircraft on your ____” to sort who will have the right of way. Ideally, the correct way to handle the situation given would be to send the command, “give way to aircraft on your right,” to 5H-ANE, since N5HW is already a bit ahead, though the incursion is still fully there.

As a result of using give way, compared to hold position, you will not have to let the aircraft know to “continue taxi”, they will do it on their own. Additionally, the aircraft will not have to come to a complete stop either, just slow enough to the point where the person who has the right of way is completely past by the time the person giving way is continuing.

If you would like to join IFATC, please do so here! We love taking on new recruits, and like to expand our ever growing team.

Feel free to add onto and engage in meaningful discussion on this topic, or mention what you have noticed, and provide a solution. Thanks!


Nice topic Shane, this will really help us!


Enter left downwind 14R*

Great thread!


I hope so! Thanks, Andy.

Thanks for catching that! ❤️


Awesome job, Shane. IFATC Recruits, read up!


Excellent Topic Shane As Usual ;)

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Very nicely done! Beyond detailed, and gives a clear understanding to those who may be confused. Super job, Shane! 💙

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Good stuff! Perhaps you can make a Part 2 in the future to help out more and more aspiring controllers!

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I definitely will if there is more to elaborate on. I’m sure things will change, as they always do, and from that point I can keep educating. I love writing these up so as long as there is content, I’m game to write up a topic on it!

Bookmarked. Hope this will come in handy during my practical test!


Definitely learned to things there!..super thread


Nice one as usual

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Means a lot knowing that this will help someone, that was the entire focus! And rest assured that these mistakes were not chosen out of the blue. As an IFATC tester, these are some of the mistakes we see when performing a practical, so I’ve made this in hope of teaching proper ATC techniques, and ideally getting more people onto the IFATC team!

Thanks guys!


Always great seeing instances that can help clear some confusion and to help future IFATC controllers hear from an actual IFATC controller!

Minus a couple brownie points for using yourself in the scenarios ;)

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Agreed, I wish other IFATC would be as willing to share their knowledge with newcomers and aspiring controllers. Someone has to do it!

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This is very well made, congrats, Shane.

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A great guide for aspiring IFATC Controllers and great topic indeed !!! Well done Shane . 👏😀

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Amazing guide, well done. I wished I had this when I was joining IFATC. :)

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Impressive work Shane, great job!!

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Thanks guys, much appreciated.

Exactly, I wish I did as well. Fortunately, I had people who went out of their way to help me understand these things, but hopefully this topic will suffice for those that should pick up on these tactics.