Spacing between aircrafts

I have been playing as ATC a lot lately but I want to make it more realistic. I have looked around online for what the spacing between aircraft should be but I can’t find anything. Does anyone know what the actual spacing rules are?


I think our manual goes off real world aviation? (Maybe). when aircraft are on final I have it no less than 4nm of spacing. Ideally I like around 6nm of spacing so I can squeeze an aircraft in for take off.

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Really depends. A common rule is 3nm lateral or 1000ft vertical seperation, but that really depends on where you are, what kind of traffic and the weather.

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Per the ATC Manual

10.4 Separation

10.4.1 Terrain separation: aircraft must be provided with at least 1000ft AGL (above ground level) terrain clearance at all times.

10.4.2 Aircraft separation: aircraft must be no closer than 3nm laterally or 1000ft vertically at all times (see below).

10.4.2 is referring to IFR separation. VFR Separation is 3nm laterally or 500ft vertically.


3nm is the absolute minimum spacing on an approach. But you can’t maintain that during vectors because the leading aircraft will obviously slow down first which will close the gap and then you will need to slow everyone else down at the same time. If you do that you’ll end up with massive delays.

What tends to happen is that a spacing of about 7-10 miles is maintained by vectoring or speed control until aircraft are cleared for the approach at which point the speed is up to them. Some might slow down early some might slow down late so you need that buffer to ensure the 3nm minimum. You can, of course, ask them to maintain 160kts to 4 miles or 170 to 5 which is fairly standard at places like Heathrow and Gatwick. But bare in mind it isn’t always possible to achieve that.

Then you have to throw wake category into the mix so, for example, minimum spacing for a medium following a heavy is 5nm (if I’ve remembered that right).

Good luck.


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