Identify aircraft following in sequence

I was watching an aviation (Steveo1Kinevo in honor of the upcoming TBM release!) and paying attention to the tower sequencing aircraft handed off from approach. The controller sequenced Steveo behind another AC with something like “#3 behind an A320 5nm to the east”.

It would super helpful in really busy patterns to be able to ID the AC to follow for the pilot. As a pilot when there are multiple AC on on a pattern leg it isn’t always obvious which AC I am following. It would also be fun to hear the additional detail.

I could imagine there being an additional option as part of the ATC sequencing command to select a specific AC vs. just a sequence #2 and pattern leg. Aside from the sequence number which the controller would still assign, the message Steveo received could be generated automatically based on the selection of a second AC.

Unfortunately this is probably a decent amount of work since no other command I am aware of works like this. I can dream however. :)


This would be cool, however it would be quite annoying for us controllers to have to scroll through a massive list of different aircraft types.

Maybe the options for aircraft type would only be the types of aircraft that are presently on the frequency?

I have done quite a bit of controlling (3,800 ops) so I tried to consider the controller workflow and efficiency carefully. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m right! :)

My idea was that after determining the sequence number, the controller could either just pick the pattern leg like today (forget if this is before or after the seq nbr) or choose an option to ID a specific AC. If the latter they would pick from an aircraft on the ATC map (the map vs. the flight strips). At least for me I already have the map zoomed appropriately and can see the preceding AC when sequencing so I believe this would be easy to accomplish for the controller.

IF knows the AC type, relative heading and distance of the preceding AC so the entire message (aside from seq nbr) would automated.

Completely agree that picking from a list of AC types would be terrible!


I’ve thought about this, but using something similar to the drag-and-vector feature that approach has now. You could start by clicking and dragging from one plane to whichever it is supposed to follow, then select “sequencing” or “clear for land/option” the number, and where the traffic ahead is.

1 Like

That would work as well. You would lose the traffic type and but it could certainly work. It would have the advantage of being similar to the vectoring gesture already used by approach / departure.

1 Like

I mean, when you drag over the other plane, the game would ideally recognize the type and say “number two, traffic to follow is boeing 737 on final”.

1 Like

Fair enough. If you end the drag on another plane then you would have all the info needed. At that point though I would skip the drag / vector gesture and just tap the other aircraft directly (my original thought). More efficient for the controller.

1 Like

I was just thinking about this and I’ve had an idea -
What if, to identify the aircraft, it only showed aircraft already in the pattern?
Let me explain.
Let’s just say you have one active runway. On that runway, you’ve got a C172 doing patterns, an A320 on a 10nm final, sequenced behind the C172, and an A340 inbound, which has yet to be sequenced. What if you could give the A340 an inbound as follows?

A340, enter left downwind runway xx, number 3, behind the Cessna on final.

We know that the A340 isn’t on final yet, and I’ll just put in that he just turned to downwind. If you said number 3, that would put him behind the A320. He is number three, but he’s behind the C172 because the Cessna will have time to do another touch and go before the A340 is on final.

Instead of showing a whole list of aircraft, it only shows the aircraft that are established in the pattern.

If I’m completely overthinking this, let me know. Just my idea. If you see any errors, feel free to let me know.


Love the discussions re. the request. This is an interesting idea and picking from a list is certainly a valid alternative. For me I think it would be harder because I have to match the AC on the map to the one on the list (or vice versa) so there are extra steps vs. just tapping / vectoring on the map.

If IF were to consider this feature they might do some usability testing to validate the best approach.

I do get a bit stuck re. your specific scenario. When I am controlling I want to make it clear who people are following. In this scenario when you first sequence the 340 it is behind the 320. Presuming the 172 does a T&G then I would just resequence the 340 behind it as #2. Otherwise the 340 has to realize that 172 is inbound for a T&G (what if they just joined the freq) and then remember to follow them on a the subsequent pattern.

When I am a pilot in the pattern when I am sequenced I just find the preceding AC and make sure I maintain appropriate separation. I would rather be resequenced than give up the clarity.

This looks cool! But yeah usually IRL (USA at least) they don’t say the callsign of the aircraft, usually just location, intentions, and type. (I know this was discussed above)

Cool request!

1 Like

This would be nice, but it would also be slightly annoying to handel as an controller

1 Like

Definitely would help controllers and pilots on both sides. Pilots now see more what specific aircraft they’ll be following. Great request Chris!

1 Like

I like the thought, but the options displayed above sound like they would be detrimental. Our workload is already quite high.

Curious why you think that @Trio. Maybe I’m missing something.

For me as the controller since I already have to visually identify the aircraft to follow so I can sequence behind it, tapping it is a small incremental effort.

Certainly less than the effort associated with resequencing because pilots are confused re who they are following.

Are you concerned about avoiding any incremental effort?

I could see a scenario where the system could automatically recognize who is following who without the controller inputing anything extra or new then they are already inputing today. That I would support. :)

Tough because there can be multiple aircraft on a given pattern leg with no obvious mean to determine which one since speed, distance, aircraft type, etc all play into sequencing (I know you know this!).

Perhaps if the system maintained the sequence number for us then we would drop that step plus the associated counting.

Being explicit about the aircraft being followed would also allow us to potentially color code that aircraft for pilots to make it more clear who they are following. Would need to really think though UI though.