Controller Tips and Tricks!

Oh… Sweet… 😅

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Guess I’ll go again lol.

When working ground, it can be very helpful to issue the “follow aircraft ahead” command. This not only keeps traffic moving in an orderly fashion but it helps prevent those pesky pilots that want to race everyone else to the runway.

Hey, Drew!

Just in case you were starting to feel forgotten, there’s no need to. Sometimes people prefer to read topics and not reply, which is okay. They may have nothing to add, either.

Regardless, I, among others, appreciate the time you give to share your advice. It doesn’t go unnoticed!

Here’s a tip of my own:

Using the built-in notification feature is great for reminding you of aircraft. I find this most helpful when I tell an aircraft to hold position or when staffing a radar frequency and need to set a time for a specific location.

I look forward to seeing more tips and tricks from community members alike!


I’ve some tips or tricks which i do while controlling.

Officer Tricks:

  • If you are an approach controller and you have given ils approach to an aircraft, make sure to reduce their speed to 200 kts or below (as per the need) before you clear them with intercept.

  • While aircrafts on downwind and you feel like the spacing is not enough and you might need to extend the aircraft on downwind then you can slow them down a little early so that even if they extend they don’t go far off.

  • Using just a good vertical seperation, bust can be avoided. While close departures coming your way, restrict the lower altitude aircraft to the next safe thousanth altitude and that will get you good seperation.

  • Imagine an aircraft on tight right downwind and has extended a bit, now i want them to turn base but i can’t turn them directly right, so i would give make a left 360°. This will make the aircraft turn left side onto making it to the right base position and then simply vector them when appropriate.

Specialist Tricks:

  • Allow pattern work as much as possible because people like to do patterns at hubs with ATC being there.

  • Line-up and wait a tad early so that the aircraft is completely lined up before takeoff clearance.

  • (Mostly single runway hubs) If you see the line is building on the departure end, try to expedite everyone. This includes a scenario i’ll mention below.

  1. Suppose arrival traffic is on 1nm final, as soon as it is about to cross threshold mark, line-up and wait the one holding short.

  2. Give expedite traffic on final to the landed aircraft at near to 80kts.

  3. As soon as the landed aircraft have cleared the runway, clear the lined-up aircraft. If there is like 3-4nm spacing between another arriving aircraft then line-up and wait one more aircraft.

  4. Clear with immediate takeoff for this lined-up aircraft and like this you can finish 2 departures if you have 6-7nm spacing.

  5. Send the deps early to the radar frequencies so that they can just seperate them.

  • For parallel departures, always use fly runway heading until XXXX altitude. Prefer using 3000 feet for buying sometime. Avoid using 1000 feet because pilots will reach that before they contact radar frequency and might turn into another parallel departures.

These are some things you only get through experience and no manual can teach this. I hope this would help you.



Aw, thanks. Lol. It’s fine, I just found it funny that I had made the comment about getting off work and reading tips. It’s no biggie, though. And thank you for your addition. It’s always great to learn something new about controlling.

I’m not as well versed with radar control as I am ground and tower. This is something I will begin doing now.

This is a great tip. It’s too often I see controllers refusing the pattern work when there’s nothing else going on. I have only declined pattern work a few times. Not only is it great for the pilot but it’s good training for you.
I would add to this, that when (let’s use LAX as an example) you have an aircraft requesting pattern work when departing 24L or 25R don’t be discouraged thinking that you’re going to have to deal with them clogging up those busy runways.
After they take off and turn downwind clear them for the option on the outermost runway (25L or 24R) and 99% of the time the pilot will be so happy that you’re going to do pattern work with them that they’ll gladly change runways for you. If I’ve got an aircraft that refuses to work with me on their pattern work and demands 25R or 24L I will only clear them to land and request them to exit the runway when able.


IFATC Recruiter, Supervisor, Trainer @Shane made two very well thought out topics with some tricks and tricks for controlling local frequencies. (Ground/Tower) I’ve personally found them to very helpful in my early controlling days. As for controlling radar frequencies, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from the best. Overall a solid plan, familiarity of stars/sids, terrain, runway lengths, runway headings, etc will go a long way.

Just remember there are plenty of tricks in these topics, that will reduce your workload. Lastly and probably the most important, don’t take more than you can handle. Take your time and enjoy your session.


One key thing that has helped me in several instances is being able to squeeze departures out between gaps in arrivals. This is especially important at single runway airports. Paying attention to the speed of arriving aircraft helps a lot.

For example, on GA day in the Carribean, I controlled TIST local. In this session I had everything from a 757 to a C172 arriving. Being able to recognize a gap was so helpful in rush hour.

Examples from TIST:

  • a 172 flies a lot slower on final compared to an airliner, meaning you can get a departure out even when the aircraft is only 1-2nm away from the airport.
  • crossing aircraft in small groups of 4-5 is more efficient than crossing them 1 by 1

Another single runway airport that taught me a lot was TNCM

TNCM is a challenge for controllers due to several reasons. The 2 main ones are that it is a single runway airport and a back taxi for arrivals
This requires more spacing than usual, so you have an arrival every 9-10nm usually

Expedite is very useful, as you have to make the most of the space you have to efficiently get out departutes.

Paying attention to the speed of the aircraft on final is imperative. This allows you to consider "is a go-around imminent? Or “do I need to slow down this aircraft to allow for a departure?”


Hey! I thought your post was very good, it helps everyone to know about other skills, not only for controllers, but also for those who intend to make IF more and more pleasant.
I’m not a controller, but I like to read everything about it so I can learn to fly better on the expert server.
thanks for your dedication. Be alright!!!

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For me, I struggled with becoming IFATC because I would make arrival sequences (lines) and clearances harder for me. You see, the first reaction of lines heading into runways was just, extending downwinds, 360’s, and base-calling. I was taught after that you can just extend upwind, which is basically just telling aircraft in the pattern that once they’re up in the air again, to fly runway heading until I tell them to turn back. And sequences? Just tell the aircraft they’ve gotta’ follow behind an aircraft or two before it’s their turn to come in contact with the runway. If they cut, you just simply eat them. Not really, but y’know, they meet their fate if they cut. Also, Hi!

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Over the years I’ve developed a list of 10 tips, which I have shared with countless practicing controllers on their Tracking Threads as my Golden Rules for controlling.
Here they are again:

  1. Watch aircrafts on your platform. Good Ground control is important. Use hold position and give way instructions. Give way instructions are sometimes given before a taxi instruction.
  2. Understand the concept of the Pattern. Know your departure, crosswind, downwind, base and final legs.
  3. every new inbound always first gets a pattern entry instruction, to inform the pilot how he should approach
  4. Every runway change always first gets a pattern entry instruction
  5. sequencing is your friend ”. Very important. It is used to tell pilots who to follow.Re-sequence if this helps to provide clarity. Extend downwind, I’ll call your base, and speed instructions are not meant for sequencing. Use sequence instructions, as many and as often as is needed.
  6. Use I’ll call your base, to delay the base turn of an inbound aircraft. Apply this to create space to allow outbound aircrafts to depart, or to avoid clashes with other aircrafts.
  7. aircrafts remaining in the pattern get a touch and go with an exit turn direction. This is needed only once. After this, the pilot will assume the same exit direction (number 1, cleared for the option, after the option make left traffic).
  8. Timely clearance for landing or for the option
  9. landed aircrafts all get a runway exit instruction . Know your exit procedures
  10. an inbound aircraft only gets one (1) landing/option clearance.

This is an amazing thread, thank you.

  1. Always, always check the plan you’re giving instruction to. I’ve issued too many corrections.

  2. Sequence. Sequence. Sequence.

  3. When controlling TWR/GND, periodically check both, always good to know what might be coming.

  4. Don’t overcontrol, trust the pilots.

I’m really still in the learning ropes with ATC too so thank you for making this thread.


One small but effective tip i’d like to share is to always be proactive, not reactive.

Some of the primary reasons for a controller to be present include organizing the airspace and ensuring expiditious clearances to all aircraft. This applies to all frequencies. Allow me share a few examples.

For the ground frequency, it is required to keep an eye on all traffic movements and issue give way/hold position where needed. Issuing these commands after a conflict already occured wouldn’t help. It is always advisable to issue these commands early. The moment a conflict is recognised, begin the procedure to resolve them immediately.

An important role of the tower frequency is to issue go around commands proactively. It isn’t recommended to wait until the last minute to issue a go around command. If you’re satisfied the spacing wouldn’t work out, issue the go around command immediately.

Radar has set spacing requirements. For example, no two IFR aircraft must come within 1,000ft and 3NM of each other. The drag and vector tool shows how far an aircraft would be positioned at their current speed in X minutes. This is one of the recommended methods to recognize and deconflict traffic. Note, most of the conflicts on radar are possible to be predicted several minutes in advance.

Hope this helped provide an insight on managing conflicts on various frequencies. Everyone’s content when a conflict is recognized and solved early.


My biggest tip as a tower controller is to always, and I mean always be safe, rather than sorry. If there’s a dilemma on whether to line up an aircraft while one’s on short final, always choose the safe option. Go-arounds inevitably happen from time to time, but always be safe when you can prevent one, because sending another aircraft back into the pattern while chaos unfolds on the runway is never fun. Being safe rather than sorry is a good practice anyways for all things ATC!

This sounds simple, but can definitely be overlooked from time to time!

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This I find handy: I call it ‘instruction pre-set’.

It allows the ATC to prepare a complex instruction for an aircraft in advance, before sending it:

A good example is the ‘Exit runway, cross…’
I prepare this when the aircraft is about to land, and I send the instruction after the aircraft has slowed down.

In the example here, I already pressed ‘exit runway’ and selected 19L. After the aircraft has slowed down, all I have to decide is whether I let him cross, or hold short.


One of the most “exhilarating” parts of controlling tower is the art of squeezing in everything to a clean smooth flowing sequence. Working departures into your arrivals is a must.

One of the more important parts of keeping flow of traffic. If you take advantage of the further options in “Exit runway” you can really make things easier on yourself. Going ahead and issuing permission to cross the next runway or to hold short can save you extra work later.

All of these, yes yes yes. Sequencing is key to smoothly running ATC operations. I believe I mentioned earlier that I really enjoy using the “Follow aircraft ahead” option. I just finished a ground session on KLAX TS and check out what I managed to accomplish. I was pretty proud, everything was running beautifully.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that pilots seeing these types of strategies being used also tend to not skip in line, go rogue, or disconnect because of the traffic level as frequently. I can only imagine that it also provides a better overall experience for them as well.

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Could you try this another way (the explanation I mean) … I’m just not getting your meaning here.

Thank you very much for the tips! That will definitely help with my controlling and IFATC practical (hopefully) this year.

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I hope you understand now.

Also i forgot to mention 2 cool tricks above. Those are as follows:-

  • For Tower, always get to know how much distance is the tower of the airport from the runway threshold. The distance shown in infinite flight to the controller is based upon the distance from tower.


  • If the distance between threshold and airport tower is 1nm, then when it shows 4nm on the map then actually the distance of the plane from threshold is only 3nm, so it can make you misjudge the spacing. So always make sure of this and work accordingly.

  • For radar, it is very important to know the runway headings.


Scenario - 1:-

  • If you are using runway of heading 09/27.

  • Runway headings are 09-90° and 27-270°.

  • In this case you can just simply use 270° for 7nm wide downwinds of 09 runway.

  • Suppose you want to bring the aircraft from 10nm wide right downwind to a little tight downwind then you can use 100° for right downwind or 80° for left downwind.

  • For making the downwind wide for runway 09, use 100° for left downwind and 80° for right downwind.

Scenario - 2:-

  • The runway headings for 09/27 runways are 95° and 275° respectively.

  • Here at right downwind 09 if you use heading 270° then it’ll make your downwind wide and if you use 280° it’ll make your downwind narrow.

  • Always try to avoid narrow downwinds.

  • For this trick is, you can give 270° on a 5nm wide right downwind so by the time they reach their base turn, the downwind would become wide to 7nm.

These are the two tricks which actually works to make your controlling efficient. I hope you all like it.


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