Author Topic: ATC question: enroute versus ground  (Read 3757 times)

Offline attic conversion

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ATC question: enroute versus ground
« on: June 09, 2016, 08:57:35 AM »
I'm at an advanced stage of an atc recruitment programme. I have done a lot of reading and researching to familiarise myself, but haven't been able to find the answer to one thing in particular. I wonder could a current controller briefly describe the differences between the activities of enroute and ground/tower controllers. I understand the fundamental differences, but is one seen as being...more challenging, continuously busy, desirable, etc...than the other? (For instance, my vague perception would be that enroute requires more "brain power" but that there are lulls when aircraft only need procedural instructions, whereas ground, despite not requiring the same mental exertion, generally involves having a greater workload.)

Thanks in advance and hope this isn't in the wrong place.



Offline FLLflyboy

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Re: ATC question: enroute versus ground
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2016, 01:39:51 PM »
Each presents it's own set of challenges. En Route, by far, has many more rules the controller has to follow, including non-radar. That alone can make it more challenging. It is easier in the sense that, you are correct, many of the situations they encounter are very proceduralized. In most cases, at least here in the US, by the time you are speaking to a Center, you are either at your cruising altitude and on course, or climbing to your cruising altitude, with 5 mile spacing already built in.

Ground is easier in the sense that you are dealing with much less of an area. Places like DEN. ORD, JFK, LHR, etc that have a lot of taxiways are obviously much more challenging than a place like my airport of BJC. Where it get's complicated is sheer volume at one time going to and from the runway. Those going to the runway always want to be #1, those from the runway always want to be #1 to the gate. During busy pushes, the bigger airports can have 4- or 50 on their frequency, which is a lot for a ground controller.

Each has it's own set of challenges, and they are two completely different skill-sets so it is very difficult to compare one to the other.

Offline tyketto

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Re: ATC question: enroute versus ground
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2016, 01:52:53 PM »
Each presents it's own set of challenges. En Route, by far, has many more rules the controller has to follow, including non-radar. That alone can make it more challenging. It is easier in the sense that, you are correct, many of the situations they encounter are very proceduralized. In most cases, at least here in the US, by the time you are speaking to a Center, you are either at your cruising altitude and on course, or climbing to your cruising altitude, with 5 mile spacing already built in.

Ground is easier in the sense that you are dealing with much less of an area. Places like DEN. ORD, JFK, LHR, etc that have a lot of taxiways are obviously much more challenging than a place like my airport of BJC. Where it get's complicated is sheer volume at one time going to and from the runway. Those going to the runway always want to be #1, those from the runway always want to be #1 to the gate. During busy pushes, the bigger airports can have 4- or 50 on their frequency, which is a lot for a ground controller.

Each has it's own set of challenges, and they are two completely different skill-sets so it is very difficult to compare one to the other.

Great post.

I'm also going to add to this something that both positions have to deal with, but in different ways: spacing and sequencing. Specifically, in trail spacing and sequencing.

For the ground controller, the spacing that may be needed between flights on the same departure or airway could be gained at the ground/local controller level by simply sequencing a flight not on that same departure or route between the two that are. That would help in gaining the spacing needed on that departure without delaying the entire conga line of aircrafts waiting to depart.

At the En Route/Center level, you aren't going to have that luxury of putting someone in between two on the same airway. Instead, you'd have to either control it laterally with airspeed, or if possible, vertically by assigning a different altitude/flight level. I'll use the Los Angeles ARTCC and LAX and LAS as examples.

I have 4 aircraft on an airway, with #1 flying to LAX at FL360, laterally separated between aircrafts #2, #3, and #4, who are also on that same airway.

Aircraft #2 is on the same airway, at FL360, but is going to LAS. His speed is matched with aircraft #1, and is 10nm in trail of aircraft #1. The transition to the STAR for this aircraft is on the same airway they are flying on.

Aircraft #3 is also going to LAX, but is at FL380. His speed is matched with aircraft #2, and is directly above aircraft #2 (separated horizontally, which RVSM allows). This puts him also 10nm in trail of aircraft #1.

Aircraft #4 is also going to LAX, also at FL380. However, they are overtaking aircraft #3, reducing their spacing to 8nm in trail behind aircraft #3.

Now, Assume they are all the of the same weight class (large, making them a B737, A320 variant). Personally, what I would do is:

  • reduce the speed of aircraft #4 to where it matches aircraft #3. That way, he doesn't overtake aircraft #3.
  • descend aircraft #2 to where they transition to their STAR on their way into LAS. That would effectively get them off the airway, plus create a hole in your traffic flow.
  • descent aircraft #3 to the same flight level as aircraft #1. Basically #3 takes the place of #2.
  • descend aircraft #4 to the same flight level as aircraft #3.

With that, you've not only handled spacing, but sequencing in your traffic flow, and kept your separation as you needed. This couldn't be done at the ground level, as the skill sets for this is only at the En Route level. But here you have different ways to achieve the same thing, using different skill sets relative to the controller's position.

BL.