Inside of an ATC Control Tower

Most of us recognised the tall building at the airport at least once while we travel by plane. Yes I am talking about Air Traffic Control Tower. Who works in it ? and what do they do ?

If you wonder these questions continue reading the article. We are going to look at the Air Traffic Control Tower and the different positions in it.

control tower

In the image above you can see the Air Traffic Controller positions inside of a Control Tower. I must indicate that due to unique needs of units these positions may vary in terms of numbers and duties. For example, in a very busy airport like Hartsfield Atlanta International, there can be more than one Tower Controller and Ground Controller. On the other hand, in a domestic and relatively less busy aerodrome the positions of Tower Controller and Ground controller may be combined.

Now lets look at our first position.

Clearance – Delivery position

•Issues route clearances to aircraft according to CTOT time (Calculated Take Of Time) typically before they start up and commence taxi.

•These clearances contain details of the route that the aircraft is expected to fly after departure.

•Coordination with AIM (Aeronautical Information Management) Office for flight plan related issues.

flight strip example
Flight Plan Strip Sample

Lets continue with Second Position

Ground Controller

•Startup and Push back clearances.

•Taxi instructions.

•Safe and efficient move of the aircrafts (Seperation, Sequencing in  apron and taxiways (Excluding Runways!)).

•Coordination with related professionals for clear apron and taxiways.

•Provide necessary information to flight crew.

Ground control example

Please look at the chart above for a while. It is a simple aerodrome chart and it has a ground controller seperation. Both Craft1 and Craft2 have to reach green point and it is easy to recognise that the way between E and A is critical way and controller must decide the priority and seperation between aircrafts. Now please look at the chart below which belongs to John F.Kennedy airport and think about the possible seperations and number of aircrafts. Believe me it is somtimes harder than a giant puzzle.

JFK layout apron taxiways

And now we are at the third position.

Tower Controller

•Control the aircrafts in the vicinity of Aerodrome ( CTR )

•Control Aircrafts in the Traffic Pattern

•Issue line up, take off and landing instructions

•Coordination with related professionals for clear operational runway

•Choose the active runway

Tower control CTR

Please think three dimensional!

Traffic Pattern sample
Traffic Pattern

On the chart above you see a traffic pattern sample and near to the blue arrows you can see the positions of the aircraft in relation with active runway.


Supervisor Controller

•Monitor the shifts operation.

•Organize and manage the team performance.

•Organize the working positions for best efficency.

• Handle, support, supervise emergencies.

•Decide when to merge / split sectors are major duties of a Supervisor Controller.

At the end please consider that different authorities may call a position in different name and number of positions may vary according to needs of the unit.

Amsterdam Schipol Airport Air Traffic Control Tower Documentary

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