Controlling Tower at KSFO

May, 7, 2020 by

San Fransisco International is definitely not an airfield to be trifled with. Preparation is key, on the approach side of things as well as controlling tower.

What makes San Francisco such an interesting airport to control is it’s intersecting runways. Handled incorrectly, this airport can quickly become a nightmare, but if it’s handled correctly this airport is one of the most efficient out there!

Let’s say the 01’s and 28’s are active. The key point here is that no matter what, somewhere something must be happening on either of your 4 runways. Whether it’s aircraft departing, crossing or landing. You want to work with two runways at a time, but at the same time the four works together.

When there are aircraft arriving on the 28’s, don’t just sit around. Use this time! While the 28’s are being used, this means that the 01’s will be available for crossings. Use this time to cross as many aircraft as possible that are holding short taxiing to the 28’s. At the same time, make sure that the departing aircraft on runway 01 is lined up and ready to go. As soon as the arrivals on runway 28 are past the runway threshold, issue a line up and wait command to the aircraft waiting to depart runway 28 and when the arrivals are past the runway intersection, immediately clear the aircraft waiting on runway 01 for take off. Then as soon as the aircraft departing runway 01 has passed the runway intersection you can go ahead and clear the aircraft that are waiting for departure on runway 28 for take off.

This cycle should easily be able to happen once if approach is giving 5 nautical mile spacing between arrivals. This is what makes KSFO an amazing airport to control! With 5 nautical mile spacing you can have two arrival aircraft land safely and you are able to depart four aircraft.

I recommend that when you control KSFO, you only manage one frequency at a time. As you can see, managing tower here is quite a handful, you will need an enormous amount of concentration.

So just a recap. Always have aircraft lined up and ready to go (if arriving aircraft isn’t on short final) Cross on the runways that aren’t in immediate use. And as soon as the arrival or departing aircraft are clear of the intersection clear the others that are waiting.

Have fun controlling!

Juan Oosthuizen is a contributor for the IFATC Education Group. He is an IFATC Supervisor and real-world PPL student pilot.