Issue # 2001 - 5
Determination, Scanning, and Coordination
Position determination, scanning, and coordination often seem
to generate the majority of comments during on-the-job
training (OJT) sessions in an air traffic control tower (ATCT).
Errors associated with position determination, scanning, and
coordination probably contribute to most of the delays in ATCT
position certifications for developmental controllers.
Errors in these three items are most likely causal or
contributory in most controller errors in an ATCT.
While it is obvious that position determination, scanning, and
proper coordination are essential for local and ground controllers,
others in an ATCT can assist in these areas; everyone in the ATCT
should assist. Every ATCT
team member should try to maintain some situational awareness and
overview of what is happening on nearby positions, especially during
light traffic periods.
determination and scanning are fundamental for controllers.
Most controllers have experienced that horrible feeling during
OJT when an aircraft is not where we may expect it to be.
Most OJT instructors have seen a developmental controller look
out of the wrong window or toward the wrong fixed base operator or
taxiway when an aircraft calls. Every
developmental local controller has probably lost sight of an aircraft
that they should have been able to see easily. It
is embarrassing to have to ask a pilot to “say position” when we
know that we should be able to see the aircraft.
It is far more embarrassing to guess the position, or give
operating instructions without position verification and find out that
we were wrong.
can save some of those embarrassing situations; however, when any
doubt exists, ask the question and positively verify the position.
FAAO 7110.65, Paragraph 3‑1‑7, Position
Determination, requires that air traffic control determine the
position of an aircraft before issuing taxi instructions or takeoff
clearance. Although an
aircraft’s position may be determined visually by the controller, by
questioning pilots, or through the use of the airport surface
detection equipment, most controllers will agree that there is no
substitute for visual observation.
Looking out of the window is a required ATCT controller skill.
determination and scanning are duties best shared by everyone in an
ATCT. Most experienced
controllers have, at some time during their career, either warned
another controller or have been warned when aircraft or equipment were
not where they should be. FAAO
7110.65, Paragraph 3-1-12, Visually Scanning Runways, states, “Local
controllers shall visually scan runways to the maximum extent
possible” and “Ground control shall assist local control in
visually scanning runways, especially when runways are in close
proximity to other movement areas.”
These are the requirements, however, everyone in an ATCT should
assist with position determination and scanning as they are able.
delivery (CD), flight data (FD), and other controllers can often keep
track of ground control (GC) or local control (LC) traffic by scanning
and listening. Alerts
from a controller working FD or CD have prevented many errors and
incidents; a controller working a noncontrol position should be a real
asset during a busy session on LC/GC.
A controller working the FD/CD position can sometimes see
overtakes, cutoffs in the pattern and lost aircraft on taxiways,
especially when a LC/GC is busy giving progressive or corrective
instructions to other pilots.
coordination is another of those required controller skills.
This is another area where an ATCT team with good operational
teamwork can reduce the chance for error.
Effective LC and GC coordination between positions
significantly reduces the chance of movement area incursions.
Coordination is not accomplished until all requirements of the
FAA directives (national and local) are complete.
FD/CD controllers can point out the fact that the LC/GC
coordination was not complete or has not been accomplished when
traffic control is a difficult job.
Position determination, scanning, and coordination are items
that can be satisfactorily accomplished by individual controllers, but
are more easily accomplished and ensured by an effective controller
operational teamwork in these three areas can be the difference
between an individual controller struggling to separate observed
traffic and a professional team ensuring a safe, efficient, and
effective flow of aircraft and vehicles.
An effective operational team can significantly reduce some of
the stress and difficulties of a difficult job. (ATP-120)