Good Operating Practices for TRACON

Daniel Everman

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Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« on: February 13, 2019, 10:22:52 pm »
Hi all,

While writing an SOP for my facility I came across an appendix in the real world version that I thought would be a good read for those looking to get their S3 on the network entitled "Good Operating practices." Without further ado, here's the entire thing basically copied and pasted for all to read and hopefully learn something new from:

1. Relief Briefings:

A.) Relieving controller: Be sure you know the situations (have the picture) and have a plan of action before accepting responsibility. If particularly busy traffic, have your first three or four transmissions planned out and ready to go.

B.) Briefing controller: Always use the checklist. Plan ahead for briefing by “cleaning up” the position. (I.E. - switch frequencies for clean aircraft, terminate applicable VFR’s, take care of any coordination’s, etc.) When splitting off another
sector hand over the strip as you change their frequency to make things less confusing.

2. General Operating Techniques:

A.) Prioritize your duties effectively. (I.E. – A vector for traffic is more important than a vector for final. Turn to final is more important than getting a departure on course, etc.)

B.) Scan constantly. Try not set up any anticipated separation situations when busy. Use positive control when possible to limit this. If in doubt, point it out. That is one more thing you don’t have to repeatedly watch over.

C.) Issue Traffic early enough so that the pilot can use it effectively. If possible use more than minimum separation (I.E. – 1,500 instead of 500, 2,000 instead of 1,000 etc.) to avoid having to issue traffic.

D.) Know aircraft characteristics. (I.E. - Climb and descend rates, speeds, rate of turns etc.) If you don’t know, ask or error on the side of caution.

E.) Keep your position space clean. A clean scope will reduce your scan. Drop data tags when they have left your protected airspace. File an airplanes strip when you’re done with them, to avoid searching for a strip in a sea of “deadwood.”

F.) Be aware of your own limits. Ask for help, or an extra set of eyes to help you scan if your feeling “pushed”. If necessary don’t be afraid to tell a pilot, “unable”. Use hand off’s instead of point outs, or allow another controller to coordinate for you, to lessen your workload.

G.)Go with your instinct and don’t over think a situation. If something feel’s wrong there is generally a good reason why. Your first thought is usually the best option, and when in doubt use common sense and remember that the simplest option is usually the easiest and best option.

H.) Be flexible and always have a plan B, and C etc. Think outside the box. (I.E. – Could take an inbound over the airport for a downwind instead of running them on a base for a 20 mile final etc.)

I.) Use all tools available to help ease the workload. (I.E. – Automation, “headlights, *T, etc” to predict flight paths. Strip marking to minimize coordination’s. IDS-4 to observe pertinent weather information, Pirep’s, and NOTAM’s. etc)

3. Communications:

A.) Use standard phraseology and use a moderate speech rate to avoid unnecessary “say again?”

B.) Be alert for similar sounding call signs, inform those involved, and be particularly diligent listening to read backs in these situations.

C.) Combine transmissions whenever possible, but be cautious that you don’t overload a pilot with too many instructions at one time. If you’re hearing a lot of, “Let me see if I got all of that.” you’re probably combining too much. For student/low time general aviation pilots, combine less, use slower speech rate, and be concise.

D.) When particularly busy it is just as important to “control the frequencies” as it is to control the planes. Be confident, concise, and quick with transmissions. As you’re making one transmission, prepare the next one and go right to it before another pilot can break in.

E.) Make use of the STAR’s to gain some extra flying miles when needed. Set up standard flight traffic patterns when particularly busy, and make use of a set type of procedure’s to ensure safety. (I.E – Downwind aircraft at five thousand and speed 210, Base aircraft four thousand and speed 190, Turning final descending to three thousand and speed 170. etc.)

F.) Speed doesn’t always win the day. Air Carriers and Taxi’s are not always number one. Many times it could be better to run a slower prop aircraft first. (in and out of the way) This can avoid having to deal with an even bigger delay later, for faster inbounds yet to come. It is much easier to sequence behind a slow prop aircraft on a 5 mile final than one that is on a 10 mile final.

G.)On initial contact with an overflight, think about the projected flight path and altitude to foresee any potential future “problem areas” or conflicts. Don’t be afraid to vector overflights around arrival or departure corridors if you feel the
need to.

H.) Itinerant traffic has priority over pilots practicing approaches. Keep the training pilots informed of possible delays as soon as you can, and use box patterns or delay vectors to avoid long, slow, finals. Use altitudes to your advantage. A slower VFR aircraft at 035 can be vectored right behind a large jet at 030. Then you can use speed, or visual separation, to build the required spacing before descending and clearing the practice approach.

I.) Ensure aircraft on the base leg are separated vertically from aircraft on the opposite side of the final should they miss a turn to final (I.E. Aircraft on base leg at 4000 MSL and aircraft on downwind at 5000 MSL).

J.) To the extent the operations allow try to keep aircraft from descending/transitioning thru the departure corridor .
Daniel Everman
ZMP Facility Engineer/Instructor
VATSIM Network Supervisor

Jackson Gilliam

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Re: Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2019, 11:31:22 pm »
Thank you Dan, very cool!

Jeremy Peterson

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Re: Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2019, 06:52:19 am »
Wow excellent source! Do you have a citation for this particular document in case others would like to use it in the future? (And to credit the author/s)
Jeremy Peterson
ZNY Events Coordinator
events@nyartcc.org

Dhruv Kalra

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Re: Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2019, 10:04:07 am »
Wow excellent source! Do you have a citation for this particular document in case others would like to use it in the future? (And to credit the author/s)

Originally published as an Appendix in an FAA facility SOP, so presumably created by their airspace/procedures specialist with input from their training department and OJTIs.
Dhruv Kalra
ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor

Shane VanHoven

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Re: Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2019, 12:58:06 am »
I.) Ensure aircraft on the base leg are separated vertically from aircraft on the opposite side of the final should they miss a turn to final (I.E. Aircraft on base leg at 4000 MSL and aircraft on downwind at 5000 MSL).

This means *you* VATSIM!

Good post Daniel, although I can say with some certainty that this particular real world facility disregards some of these points  ;D
Shane VanHoven
Minneapolis ARTCC, VATUSA ACE Team | Instructor
Private pilot, Instrument, ASEL
FAA Air Traffic Developmental, Terminal

James Hiscoe

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Re: Good Operating Practices for TRACON
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2019, 02:34:02 am »
F.) Be aware of your own limits. Ask for help, or an extra set of eyes to help you scan if your feeling “pushed”. If necessary don’t be afraid to tell a pilot, “unable”. Use hand off’s instead of point outs, or allow another controller to coordinate for you, to lessen your workload.

Quote
D.) When particularly busy it is just as important to “control the frequencies” as it is to control the planes. Be confident, concise, and quick with transmissions. As you’re making one transmission, prepare the next one and go right to it before another pilot can break in.

These two things are so important to me on VATSIM when it gets busy. Hitting that personal growth moment when you realize no matter how adept you think you are sometimes you need to get some extra eyes or split off an entire sector to make you do a better job. And controlling the freq with VATSIM pilots especially is key. I find myself anticipating the delay due to the codec by keying up a half second before the readback is done.
James Hiscoe
Minneapolis ARTCC | Instructor | Cynic