When to clear for landing/the option?

Hello everyone,

I am practicing to become an Air Traffic Controller and I have a confusion about when exactly to clear for landing/the option versus simple sequencing or saying “continue inbound” without yet giving clearance.

For example, When do you say:
“Delta 219 Heavy, Number 2, cleared for the option”
“Delta 219 Heavy, Number 2, traffic to follow on is final”

The public ATC manual does not specify the difference, or maybe I missed it. Just to clear any confusion, I am NOT asking about the difference between cleared for landing and cleared for the option as many members have on the forum. I am asking about when to clear. Because I also know that the runway doesn’t have to actually be vacant at the moment of clearing for the aircraft to be cleared.

Edit: The only part in the manual that talks about this is in the image bellow, but it doesn’t specify at what stage exactly do you clear (aka conditions that need to be met before clearing) and what are the conditions behind “If Required”:

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When an aircraft request inbound for landing you will have the option to sequence them as normal and then clear then to land
Versus for touch and go they will either request inbound for touch and goes or when they are departing they will request takeoff in the pattern

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Sequencing is in all types of landing wheter its landing full stop or touch and go. You can have a couple aircraft bound to land and one for touch and goes and itl be the same sequence as if it was for landing except you can clear him for the option. Now clear for the option allows ability to land full stop and continue in the pattern

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Very good explanation, but what I am still personally struggling to understand is when exactly do you clear versus choosing not to clear and wait a bit. Based on your explanation, I understood that I can, for example, sequence Aircraft B to follow Aircraft A. But afterwards, when should I clear for landing? Can I always do it right away, or do I have to wait a bit for specific conditions to be met?

If you are in tower and approach is not online, you have to give a pattern entry and necessary sequence for all inbound aircraft (doesn’t apply to aircraft in the pattern, read bellow). After that you can give a clearance to land or for the option, depending on what they request. If approach isn’t online, the best time to give landing clearance is as early as possible, as in downwind if possible. This should be possible, as by sequencing you leave separation responsibility on pilots, and the pilots know which aircraft to follow, so saying even saying “number 5 cleared to land” shouldn’t be an issue.

If approach is online, most of the time they will be turning final or on final already, and therefore you only need to give landing clearance, for example “N123AB, number 3, runway 36 cleared to land”.

If an aircraft is in the pattern already (doing touch and goes or departing from the runway they will do the pattern), you don’t need to give them a pattern entry, rather a sequence if other aircraft will land on the runway before them and a clear for option will do. If they are alone or first, no sequencing is needed and cleared for option can be given directly. If they change runways however, you need to give a new pattern entry with appropriate sequencing.

I hope this helps! I know it can be kind of confusing, I passed my written exam yesterday and this is one of the hardest topics for becoming IFATC. Also check out the ATC tutorial on YouTube called Sequencing (https://youtu.be/GJopdq9gz70), it goes through what I have covered. Also review all the other appropriate tutorials, they are really helpful!

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This is very helpful and fully answered my question, thank you for taking the time to type out all that. Any moderator can close the post now.

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