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Many people believe that communications, navigation, surveillance, and automation technologies are the elements of the complete ATC system when, in fact, they are simply the enabling technologies that allow the air traffic control function to perform efficiently and safely.
In reality, air traffic control is the process by which many thousands of aircraft are provided separation services as they climb, descend, and cross paths and altitudes as they travel from any one of thousands of departure airports to any one of thousands of destination airports daily. Air traffic controllers in various ATC facilities are responsible for specific airspace volumes and may be providing those ATC separation services to up to 20 - 25 aircraft at any moment in time. Core ATC concepts, procedures, and techniques have evolved to enable human air traffic controllers to safely manage that level of air traffic density and volume.
This topic goes into the various control positions within a TRACON, the airspace allocation to each position, and the role of the air traffic controllers as the streams of departure aircraft and arrival aircraft cross both paths and altitudes. It also focuses on how air traffic controllers organize sequence, merge, and ensure separation for the multiple aircraft approaching an airport to land from multiple directions.
Also discussed are the various types of approaches that are commonly used in ATC. The topic also shows how the basic concepts and procedures have been adapted to accommodate regions where there are multiple major airports in close proximity. The "bottom" line is to try to capture: (1) what a TRACON controller is trying to accomplish, (2) how he/she is doing it, and (3) what the controller is thinking while he/she is doing it. It’s that internalized notion of what it "feels like" to be a controller that is crucial to the understanding of ATC and to the development of new and advanced ATC capabilities.
Why should you Attend: If you are a technical or management person involved in developing new and/or advanced ATC technologies involving TRACON operations, it is vital that you understand the fundamental ATC operational procedures currently applied in the TRACON airspace and environment. Without such a personal understanding, it is much more difficult to develop the successful and implementable new ideas and/or technologies that will advance TRACON operational efficiency and safety.
If you are a pilot, much of your ATC exposure and experience will involve operating within TRACON airspace. Your experience will be more intuitive and less frustrating with an understanding of what the ATC system is trying to accomplish and how works. If you are simply interested in aviation, an understanding of TRACON operations is fundamental.
Areas Covered in the Session: