Yesterday was my first very busy tower session on the Expert Server in about 4 months, and it was an intense time. I’m gong to share some tips for how to be as efficient as possible when you’re controlling a busy tower frequency. The main point of this topic is that you can get departures out very quickly if you are constantly aware of runway exits, speeds of different types of planes, and separation between aircraft on final. Without further ado…
In this first image, we can see I had a line of 9 aircraft waiting to depart. Delta 1120, the aircraft that is about to cross the threshold, and the next aircraft, a TBM, had 8 miles of spacing. Prior to this, I asked my approach controller for more spacing because the line was building. He delivered with this 8 mile gap, and I had to get multiple departures out.
I gave the line up and wait command to Speedbird 007VA as soon as Delta crossed the threshold - this was because I needed him to be ready to take off as soon as Delta exited the runway.
The first command circled in this image was me telling Delta 1120 to expedite his runway exit. Normally, aircraft will only be instructed to expedite if there is another one coming in right behind them. However, I needed the runway to be clear as soon as possible to get my departures out, so I told Delta to expedite. I then cleared Speedbird for an immediate takeoff to, again, maximize the spacing I had.
I then cleared the next aircraft in line, Delta 2123, for an immediate takeoff once the prior departure reached about 100kts. You can (and should!) issue takeoff clearances while another plane is still rolling - the only rule is the first aircraft must be airborne before the next starts rolling. By the time Delta 2123 started rolling, Speedbird was already well into the air.
Here, you can see I cleared N2842E for takeoff when Delta 2123 was only at 24kts. Why so early? Simply because Cessnas are very slow compared to jets. They take longer to taxi, to line up, and fly much slower. Knowing this, I was sure the Cessna would not start rolling until Delta was airborne. Additionally, the Cessna would not have a chance of catching up to Delta in the air, so departure spacing was not an issue in this instance.
Finally, I told the next plane (United 200) to hold short even though the TBM was still 2-3 miles from the threshold. United could’ve taken off without forcing a go around, but needed to hold short because it would’ve caught up to N2842E within seconds of rotating. This is where being aware of the capabilities of different aircraft comes in handy.
At a busy airport, do whatever you can to get departures out, which includes clearing for immediate takeoff (not wasting time saying line up and wait followed by cleared for takeoff).
Be aware of how fast (or slow) aircraft can go, and determine how quickly you can clear based on those capabilities.
Coordinate with your radar controller whenever you need more spacing to clear a departure line.
If you made it to the end, thank you! Hopefully this topic helps all aspiring controllers and maybe even some already in IFATC!