I was looking through a replay of my NY approach session yesterday, and it became painfully obvious that unnecessary requests were adversly affecting my response time between clears. Here’s what happens when it’s as busy as it was yesterday.
I was utilizing 4L and 4R, and was trying to pump aircraft in with 3-5mi spacing. Let’s say 4mi for the sake of discussion. If the speed is 180kts (unfortunately most pilots fly faster), they’re making 3+mi/min, so considering both runways, you’ve got roughly 30s between clears. When you’re working parallel runways, you need to guarantee spacing, so altitude and the accuracy of the final clear is critical. As a result, you may have to Camp on people for 5-10s before issuing the clear. Now you’re down to 20s. Another 5s is eaten up as you watch to see if the pilot will intercept. If not, you’ll need to issue a go around. Now you’ve got 15s left for ebpveryone else. In that 15s you need to scan the rest of the airspace, and make whatever adjustments are necessary to keep aircraft arriving such that you can fill the final approach line. You also need to watch the arrivals for separation issues caused by pilots flying at radically different speeds, and give initial vectors to new aircraft on frequency such that they don’t collide with other aircraft.
Even though that work is a blast when it’s going well, it is rather demanding, and requires a machine like approach to all those tasks in order to pull it off such that for the individual pilot, he has no clue he’s in the middle of a frenzy of activity. You actually get in a rhythm, clear someone, jump to your action points, the points in your arrival plan where you turn and/or make altitude adjustments, scan the field for separation issues, and give initial vectors to new arrivals on frequency. Rinse repeat.
What brings this process down to its knees are constant superfluous requests by people asking for the following…
Unless you’re flying straight for a mountain, just maintain altitude. We’ll bring you down in line with our plan.
We put you on a runway for a reason. It may not be clear to you why, but just go with it. Tower may have a queue on ground so approach may be avoiding a runway(s). We also balance the load between runways, so you may not get the one you want.
We know you’re on frequency, no need to check in after you get the initial vector
Approach service changes (Flight Following, Radar Vectors, Visuals, VFR)
Once you’ve been given a service, go with it. More than likely we won’t change it even if you ask.
Stay with approach until we tell you to switch to someone else or freq change ok.
Every time we get one of these requests, we’re taken away from the process we have in place to manage the airspace effectively. First we have to look at your situation and try to determine why you’re calling in again, then in most cases we have to repeat something to keep your tag accurate, or tell you to be patient. You’ve just eaten into the precious little time we have to manage the airspace.
Unfortunately, you can frequently have multiple requests like this pending, which can impact the quality of service everyone is receiving.
So, to make a long story short, be patient, we have a plan. Sometimes we do lose track of people. For those cases, if you are 50mi away from everyone else heading to the airport and flying away (use your map) go ahead and checkin. When that happens, I feel like an idiot, apologize, and get you back on track.
One final note, if you want out of an arrival line, create a flightplan to a different airport and ask for flight following to that airport. Don’t ask for frequency change. We see that as you trying to get around the plan we have in place.