Air Traffic Control Dictionary

  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) – I made a whole page about this, feel free to check it out. :)
  • Approach – An Air Traffic Control unit responsible for taking airplanes from their routes, directing them towards the airport to a position from where they can actually land. In Germany, this unit is usually addressed as “Arrival”. In the U.S., it would be known as a TRACON
  • Area Control – An Air Traffic Control unit responsible for controlling enroute air traffic within a specific airspace (called a sector)
  • Clearance – Basically, Air Traffic Control’s way to tell an airplane what it is supposed to do. If the pilot is lucky, that may even be (remotely) based on what he actually wanted to do in the first place. An example would be an enroute clearance (“You may go to where you want via the route you want to fly along – unless we have a better idea”).
  • Coach – An instructor in the simulator
  • Donau-Low – A sector within our simulation airspace, roughly sitting between Munich in the south and Nuernberg in the north, extending about 50 nautical miles from east to west
  • Executive – The “radar controller”, the one who is actually talking to the airplanes, trying to keep them separated
  • Feeder – A position within an Approach unit, taking airplanes from the Pick-Up, usually on a downwind, “feeding” them towards the runway so they can land
  • Feet per minute (fpm) – A unit for vertical speed, i.e. “how many feet per minute does he climb/descend”
  • Flight Level – In simple terms, a unit for the height of an aircraft, expressed in hundreds of feet. i.e. Flight Level 100 would be 10.000 feet height.
  • Foot – A unit of length used in air traffic (usually for vertical distances), equalling 30,48cm
  • Formation – Two or more airplanes keeping close to each other, usually military jets
  • Hold, holding – Basically, letting airplanes fly in circles to delay them (due to weather or problems at their destination aerodrome, for example)
  • Knot – A unit of speed used in air traffic, equalling 1 nautical mile per hour
  • Langen – In reality, the city our training facilities are situated in, in the simulator, our fantasy airport designed to closely resemble Frankfurt International airport
  • Langen Arrival – The Approach unit serving our fantasy airport
  • Nautical Mile – A unit of length used in air traffic, equalling 1,852km
  • o’clock – In air traffic, not the time, as this would be too logical, but the direction. To summarize, 12 o’clock is right on front, 3 o’clock just to your right, 6 o’clock right behind and 9 o’clock to your left.
  • Pick-Up – A position within an Approach unit, either doing all the approach work or initially taking airplanes off their routes, turning (and descending) them towards the airport, handing them over to the Feeder
  • Planner – Also known as “coordinator”, supports the Executive by planning ahead and coordinating with other air traffic control units how they shall send their traffic to us/how we shall send our traffic to them, aiming to keep conflicts at a minimum
  • QNH – A local air pressure value, required for airplanes to set their altimeter correctly so they can find out their correct altitude
  • Run – Our term for the individual simulation exercises we are doing, usually ranging from one to two hours duration
  • Sector – See “Area Control”
  • Separation – What we do. Basically, keep airplanes apart from each other, at least certain minimum prescribed distances
  • Squawk – Instruction to an airplane to set a specific transponder code (i.e. “Squawk 1234”)
  • Transponder – A device installed in most airplanes aiding ATC with their identification by sending out specific information if interrogated by Radar (information usually includes at least either a four-digit code and/or the aircraft identification and the flight level of the airplane)
  • Vector – Another term for headings Air Traffic Control can instruct airplanes to follow
  • Wuerzburg-Low – A sector within our simulation airspace, roughly sitting between Langen (Frankfurt) in the west and Nuernberg in the east, extending about 50 nautical miles from north to south
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