Airports with multiple ATC Towers

Sebass van Boxel
  • Airports with multiple ATC Towers Sebass van Boxel

    I know there are airports with more than one ATC Tower, though I only know it from my own country (SCHIPHOL - EHAM). This airport has two towers called Tower-Center and Tower-West. Tower-West is built because of a sixth runway (18R - 36L), that wasn't clearly visible from Tower-Center. (They found this out after completion of the sixth runway.)

    How common is it an airport decides to built a second tower, and are there a certain rules or limitations before the decision can be made?

    Next to that; what are the practical consequences for pilots and ATC's? Do they not only switch between startup- and ground-controllers but also between several ground controllers?

  • At larger airports it is fairly common to have more than one tower, but it all comes down to how well the tower controllers can see airplanes. Sometimes they have different towers for ground control frequencies and tower control frequencies, and the position of the tower is optimized for the appropriate task. For very large airports, they may need towers in different areas of the airport to properly see airplanes at each runway.

    As far as practical consequences it doesn't matter much whether they have one or more towers. At very busy airports they split up the tower/ground controllers/frequencies because one person can only control so many airplanes at a time. For instance, there may be one controller for the North runway and one for the South runway. In this case, there could be only one ground controller, or there may be two or even more, depending on the complexity of the ground operations. With multiple ground frequencies, if you need to taxi from one controlled area to another, the controller that you are talking to will tell you to hold short of a particular point and contact ground on the other frequency. Once you contact the second controller, they will clear you to continue taxiing.

    In short, it is very specific to the local conditions, and they do what they have to in order to properly control the traffic.

  • How common is it an airport decides to built a second tower, and are there a certain rules or limitations before the decision can be made?

    It's fairly common where there's more than one runway, and it has a lot to do with visibility from the ATC Tower cab. Under optimal conditions, ATC would need to be able to see all airfield paved areas with a minimum Line of Sight angle which varies from regulator to regulator.

    This can sometimes prove difficult for runway thresholds if their elevation and distance to the tower location make this angle too low. Big terminal buildings (or any other building for that matter) can also be an obstacle to visibility, especially on apron areas.

    The decision to go for more than one tower, from an operational point of view, comes down basically to the need to have control of all airfield areas. Building an additional control tower is not only very costly, but also adds complexity to ground operations which is always an undesirable (albeit inevitable) effect. In some airports apron control is transferred not to another tower, but to follow me personnel under the supervision of ATC, for example.

    As for the practical consequences for pilots and ATC, Lnafziger has done a better job answering your question than I could have hoped to achieve.

Related questions and answers
  • I know there are airports with more than one ATC Tower, though I only know it from my own country (SCHIPHOL - EHAM). This airport has two towers called Tower-Center and Tower-West. Tower-West is built because of a sixth runway (18R - 36L), that wasn't clearly visible from Tower-Center. (They found this out after completion of the sixth runway.) How common is it an airport decides to built a second tower, and are there a certain rules or limitations before the decision can be made? Next to that; what are the practical consequences for pilots and ATC's? Do they not only switch between startup

  • I'm very interested to learn if there are (m)any (major) (commercial) airports that have runways further away from the terminal(s) than Schiphol's Polderbaan. Which airport is "in the lead" in this respect? The northern end of the Polderbaan, the last runway to be constructed, is 7 km (4.3 mi) north of the control tower, causing taxi times of up to 20 minutes to the terminal. [...] Newest runway, opened 2003. Located to reduce the noise impact on the surrounding population; aircraft have a lengthy 15-minute taxi to and from the Terminal. Wikipedia

  • Here's the scenario: I was a student pilot on inbound for landing at my home airport on my final solo cross country flight I needed before doing a checkride. At roughly 8 miles out to the north west, I established contact with the tower and was told to "enter left base, runway 7, report 3 miles out." I interpreted the "report 3 miles out" as to give the tower a call when I was 3 miles away from... apparently I made it a little too wide because the GPS did not indicate I was 3 miles from the field until I was on final. At this point, I called the tower, reported I was on a 3 mile final and was given

  • I know some uncontrolled airports can have more operations per day than many controlled airports. That got me wondering what the process is for the change to a towered, controlled airport. I know a control tower was recently built (2005) at Provo, UT (KPVU) which is the second busiest airport in Utah. Is there simply a threshold of average operations/day? Do the number of accidents... is located pay? Are there any US airports where towers are being built or considered? Given the recent sequestration and how close we came to having over 100 towers shut down, I'm guessing any current

  • As a private pilot, I am familiar with tower, ground, approach and departure, but I am aware that there are other entities like clearance, pushback and center. If I were flying a commercial airliner, what is a complete, ordered list of entities (and a brief description of roles) I might talk with over a flight between two class B airports?

  • So the answer in my mind is "of course pilots can fly circling approaches at non-towered airports" (seriously, I could swear that I've done it before, but then again I can't think of any specific examples....). That is, until I ran across this little tidbit in the Air Traffic Control Order while researching another question: 4-8-6. CIRCLING APPROACH a. Circling approach instructions may only be given for aircraft landing at airports with operational control towers. So then the question becomes, why do they have circling minimums at non-towered airports?? No tower here. ATC

  • While asking the question in chat How do we get controllers on the site? @egid suggested there may be FAA or union restrictions on participating in Q&A. That would be sad since pilots and controllers communicating with each other improves safety and efficiency... but certainly doesn't mean it isn't true. Does anyone know of specific restrictions placed on controllers by the FAA or NATCA (National Air Traffic Controllers Association) which would prevent them from answering questions on this site? I realize this blurs the line slightly between the main site and meta, but I'm asking about

  • Air Force One is obviously a big deal. We close terminals and implement other seemingly crazy safeguards against terrorist attacks while the president is en-route to an airport. How does ATC protect the president whilst in the air? I have heard of TFRs for "VIP in the area" reasons — is that for AF1? I am guessing that the aircraft identification is blocked, but wouldn't they still need... jet was close to Air Force One and was unresponsive to calls. "As we got over Gainesville, Fla., we got the word from Jacksonville Center. They said, 'Air Force One you have traffic behind you

  • to switch to ground frequency with this clearance (assume I just landed)? N12345, right on E, cross 27 R, contact ground .9 Should I call ground (or switch frequency, so I no longer hear the tower) before or after crossing 27 R? My by-the-book assumption would be immediately, as there's no "then" or "after crossing" or similar, but somehow that feels wrong. I suppose normally it doesn't... wait a bit longer, but knowing myself, if I hadn't thought about it ahead of time I'd probably switch right away. The only reason I can think of for saying it this way is if 27 R is not an active

  • I'm from Brazil, and here we use the West/East rule, so we use an odd flight level when we fly between 0/360 - 179, and when we fly between 180 - 359 we fly in an even flight level. But what should you do in other countries? Where I can find those rules? I've heard that in Europe it's totally different, and that in some countries in Asia they use meters, instead of feet. Where can I find this information?

Data information