Tower and ground opening checklist

There are a number of things that a tower or tower & ground controller needs to have in mind when opening an airport, particularly if it’s new to them. This is the checklist I’ve developed for my own controlling, and you might find it helpful to adopt something similar.

If the altitudes are unusual (i.e. aerodrome is not ~0ft) then I have a notebook to jot them down in so I can refer to them quickly and accurately.


Altitude Calculation Worked example
Aerodrome Used for other calculations Example: 1220’
Prop pattern 1000’ AAL 2220’
Jet pattern 1500’ AAL 2720’
Transition min 1000’ above jet pattern, < airspace ceiling, round 500 4000’
Airspace ceiling 5000’ AAL 6200’
On-guard altitude 10000’ AAL 11220’

Airport layout

Open the airport up and take a look around from the tower.

Pattern and runways

  • Is there any terrain which will prevent a standard pattern being flown? Don’t forget to consider extended upwind and downwind legs in case they are needed.
  • Single runway: which direction pattern will avoid terrain and airport buildings being overflown?
  • Multiple runways: is there room between them for aircraft to wait or will they need to cross immediately on exit?
  • Where are the runway exits and which are high-speed?


  • Taxiways: do any common taxi movements require runway crossings? Look for traps like extended thresholds bounded by hold-short bars.
  • Will landing aircraft need to cross another runway to get to a parking position? If so consider use of exit and cross or exit and hold short commands.
  • Which gates need push-backs and which can be exited forwards?
  • What is the maximum size aircraft at this airport?

For my convenience, I also disable aircraft trails and hide >10,000’ on the ground scope, and show trails only on frequency and hide above a suitable altitude on the tower scope. But that’s more of a personal preference.



Thanks for this checklist, it will be great help for me

This looks great and will certainly help a lot of people, especially those with ATC tracking threads. Thanks for sharing!

I added a check for the maximum aircraft size too, it’s the one I always forget until an A380 shows up and I have to check…


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