Small Traffic Collapse in Manchester!

Background info on the Incident

This incident happened on January 17th, 2023. On this day, there happened to be a group flight from Manchester to Athens, so Manchester Airport was crowded with inbound and outbound flights from all places in Europe. I decided to join in on the fun and fly on a Thomas Cook 767 to Corfu. Everything was routine until the taxi.


ATC was using Runway 23R for arrivals and both 23R and 23L for departures. This created a lot of congestion around the yellow circle as departing flights taxiing to the runway met arriving flight taxiing to the terminal. Having been assigned Runway 23R, I continued my taxi until I spotted traffic in front of me which appeared to be holding. As I looked around, I saw even more aircraft holding around what seemed to be a roundabout. None of the aircraft could move as they would risk getting too close to another. We held position for about 2 minutes while Ground tried to solve the problem! It was indeed a small traffic collapse. However, with skillful management from ground and a few close calls, an even bigger clog-up was averted and traffic resumed. Here’s how ATC solved this!

At first, this image may not look like anything out of the ordinary. I mean, it’s just a few aircraft on the taxiway, am I right? Take a closer look. You’ll notice that each aircraft has no way to go without risking a chance of a collision with another aircraft. Here’s another view over the situation, and below is how ATC solved this problem, aircraft by aircraft.

This is an aerial view of the incident before ATC solved it. As you can see, all aircraft had limited space to move and none wanted to risk getting to close to another aircraft. Also, note that I will be referring to aircraft by their airline and not by their callsign as it is not allowed.

Step 1: ATC realizes that the Ryanair plane stuck on the roundabout was an arriving flight taxiing to a terminal. ATC assigns this Ryanair plane to park at the nearest gate, which was luckily unoccupied. Despite this, the taxi to the gate would bring the Ryanair plane dangerously close to the EasyJet A320 (when considering wingspan). However the Ryanair pilot skillfully maneuvered to the gate without colliding with the EasyJet plane.

Step 2: Once the arriving Ryanair jet had parked at the gate, ATC assigned an outbound Ryanair flight (top left of the image) to taxi to Runway 23L as its position was blocking outbound traffic taxiing to 23R. This completely freed up the taxiway to 23R, and traffic was now able to taxi to that Runway. Still, the terminal was congested and space needed to be freed up.

Step 3: ATC authorizes the Thomas Cook 767 (me) to continue taxi to 23R. I had been holding up traffic to 23R as well as inbound aircraft taxiing to the terminal during the collapse, and my expedition was key to solving this issue as traffic could now flow to all runways safely.
Step 4: After I expedited from my position, ATC orders the WizzAir A321 to taxi to Runway 23L just as the outbound Ryanair flight had done. This cleared inbound and outbound traffic to the left wing of the terminal (left side of the image).

Step 5: The last few issues were promptly solved. ATC directs the inbound Swiss A220 (right of the screenshot) to a parking position on the left wing of the terminal. At the time, the Swiss jet hadn’t been holding up any traffic, but it could have caused congestion had it remained longer as it was located in an important taxiway linking the terminals. Needless to say, this freed up trans-terminal traffic and aircraft could now taxi from one terminal to another.
Step 6: The final problem was the outbound EasyJet A320 which had been blocking access to the right wing of the terminal (not very visible on the image). As all the traffic had been freed, it was now simply a matter of which runway to assign to this flight. ATC directed the EasyJet plane to Runway 23L, which was a quick and efficient taxi.

And just like that, the problem was solved! This topic goes to show that air traffic problems can be solved even in the most adverse situations, with proper ATC management, skillful piloting and a bit of luck (because if the gate where the original arriving Ryanair plane parked had been occupied by another plane, then there would have been a total collapse!). Needless to say, all credit is due to the amazing Ground staff as well as the pilots, and if you think you saw the collapse yourself, took part in it or see yourself in the images, then I’d love to know in the comments!

I’m also interested in knowing how you would have solved this collapse had you been in charge of the Ground traffic. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment showing what steps you would have taken to solve this!

Thank you for reading this post and have a good day!

Side note: I don’t mean to create any unnecessary drama by calling this incident a “traffic collapse” as I know this wasn’t that big of a deal, I just found it funny and interesting and wanted to share it with you guys :)

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Interesting - well done to whoever was ATC for sorting that out in a very efficient way.

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I would just order to pushback that red circled plane back to gate temporarily,

Then ask those 2 planes to follow the path way marked as Blue and Green,

Then ask planes that are going runway to follow the Black path way.

🙂

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That makes sense, although it might be a bit time-consuming for the red plane it’s a good idea :)

Interesting

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Nice one but the green plane (upper left) doesn’t have to taxi to a Runway 🤔

I think the plane you’re referring to was a departing flight so it was a win-win anyways

I would ask for a “FOLLOW ME” car, so it’s not my responsibility 🤭

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Found a better way.

I was the Ryanair in the top left. I had no idea what to do. ATC sent me taxi instructions and i just stopped as soon as i noticed the taxiway i need was blocked 😂😂

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Quite an unusual experience, right 😂

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I was literally having a stare down with you to see who buckles under pressure first 😂

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