Personal Tips for Controlling Success

Recently I’ve had lots of aspiring IFATC message me on how to better themselves as a controller, and I thought it’d be beneficial to share my thoughts in a public environment for many to see and for those that may be in search of serious advice.

As IFATC, we are expected to read and understand the user guide in full, but I believe that it’s crucial to your success to take the term that is given, and interpret it in a way that makes sense to you. The following points are my interpretation and understanding of what has been provided to me, and hopefully you can make use of it.

Some topics that I’d like to cover are, predicting the pilots that you are handling, situations to expect within your airspace, and key tips on improving awareness. Without further adieu, let’s get right into it!

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

Predicting Your Pilots

An essential part to controlling efficiently and well is predicting what people will do. If you have gained enough experience to know what is going to happen in any given situation, you can try and prepare for such instances ahead of time.

For example, if you see a Cessna 208 taking off right after a Boeing 737, it’s best to keep in mind that the Cessna 208 may have intentions of doing a tight pattern, and you can prepare for this ahead of time, just in case it happens. You may ask, how might I prepare for such a situation? My advice to you would be to take into consideration the speeds of each aircraft, and maybe extend the timing of your clearances to early downwind to ensure you are certain of each aircraft’s intentions.

Situational Expectancy

To somewhat add onto the previous point, you should be knowledgeable and aware of the types of situations you may be put into during your sessions, and how to make use of all commands given to you.

I’d like to use any ground and tower session as an example, due to it’s simplicity when taking into account things that you should expect. When controlling ground and tower, you may encounter some of the following ; pattern entries, sequences, ground conflicts, go-arounds, transitions, and runway changes are to be expected, and are your key aspects to every session.

There are obvious times when the previous aspects must be used. Assume that two aircraft are right next to each other and request pushback simultaneously. This is where those ground conflict resolution skills will come in handy, and you can do so by giving one the pushback clearance, and having the other hold their position. To further my previous point about predicting your pilots, if you notice two people are right next to each other on the ground, it should already be in the back of your mind that a pushback/taxi incursion may be imminent.

You should familiarize yourself with each of the bolded terms above if you haven’t already, but I thought it’d be good to mention so, of course, you aren’t caught off guard when it’s time to control.

All links above are found in the ATC portion of the user guide, and that should be referenced before anything else listed in this topic.

Awareness + Monitoring Your Airspace

Awareness. Arguably, one of the biggest parts of air traffic control that will make, or break, a controller. As an IFATC Tester, if we notice awareness may be lacking, it’s essential that we point that out and acknowledge it because it can possibly lead to other issues in the airspace.

It’s one of those things that really needs to be built up over time, and certainly can’t be achieved easily, but I have one big tip, from my experience, that has led to major success. When you are not sending commands to people, monitor your airspace! It never hurts to keep a bird’s eye view on everything that your pilots are doing to make sure nothing is happening out of the ordinary.

Let’s say you noticed that someone randomly slows to 0-20 knots on the runway, but someone on a 2 nautical mile final is still at 160-170 knots. That is a big giveaway that a go-around may be imminent due to a loss of arrival/arrival spacing.

Furthermore, if you notice someone may not be following the expected path, it’s part of the controller’s duty to quickly evaluate what situation is occurring, and act appropriately in a timely matter, which all ties into your awareness.

Many of these aspects that I’ve explained are heavily correlated, and are very much alike and dependent upon one another. I hope that, from this topic, you were able to further your knowledge into the wonderful world that is air traffic control. If you would like to join, 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 as ATC. Thanks!


Very informal, I hope that all ATC notes this down.

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True words of wisdom from Old man Shane, very nice post! Something I always keep close to heart is to address things calmly, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and know your limit. Nice work :)


I’ll give one bit of advice as well (even if this sort of ties into whats already mentioned):

Expect things to not work out. For example, you may want an aircraft to go ahead of them on base, but they don’t speed up to make it work. And suddenly everyone needs new commands. You have to have to have to be on your toes constantly


Definitely! No matter the situation, I’m sure there are others that are willing to help out and create teachable moments out of situations where you may not be able to handle the traffic you had expected. Thanks for the support, ŞนhคŞ. 😉


Perfect way to word it! If you’re prepared for things to go the way you may not want them to go, at least you’ll have some idea on how to handle them, rather than being lost when the time comes.

When I put this into a radar officers perspective, I simply think of it as a missed approach. Of course you’d like to think that everyone will make it down to the runway with no issue whatsoever, but in reality, it’s not the case. You should have some type of plan on how to handle missed approaches and go-arounds so that you can easily incorporate them back into the pattern and get them on their way.

Thanks for your input!

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Beautifully said, Shane! Well done! 🙌

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Thank you, @Z-Tube. 💙

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Such well explained information. Thank you, Shane!

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You’re welcome! Do you have plans of joining the IFATC team? I’d highly encourage it!

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Yep! I’m in the process of IFATC training to take my practical and your tips were really helpful !

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Glad to hear, hope to see you on the team soon. I was really hoping to target this information to those that are in the process of joining and those that are new to IFATC, glad I hit the bullseye. 😁

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Haha! Hope to see you on the team soon also!

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