Maintain visual separation

December, 29, 2020 by Kyle Boas

In the real-world, ATC is able to instruct aircraft to “maintain visual separation” with other aircraft. From the AIM:

7-2-1 Visual Separation — Visual separation may be applied when other approved separation is assured before and after the application of visual separation. To ensure that other separation will exist, consider aircraft performance, wake turbulence, closure rate, routes of flight, known weather conditions, and aircraft position. Weather conditions must allow the aircraft to remain within sight until other separation exists.

Three main roles of the pilot after being cleared are.

  1. Don’t hit other aircraft, see and avoid
  2. Keep the other aircraft in sight
  3. Avoid wake turbulence

Standard radar separation no longer applies after they’ve been approved to maintain visual separation. This would allow traffic to flow more efficiently because they’d no longer be bound to the vertical separation that might have been necessary, depending on which set of flight rules they were under previously. There’s a lot of intricacies to visual separation in the real-world that are simplified in Infinite Flight.

One of the reasons why it’s simplified is because we don’t have the tools as of yet, and we may never receive these tools.? The command set isn’t implemented in-app, and if you think about it, it’s a challenging problem to solve.

In Infinite Flight before we clear for the visual the aircraft would be considered to be IFR. The radar controller would be responsible for separation.

6.12.1 — A visual approach is an approach to a runway at an aerodrome conducted under IFR but where the pilot proceeds by visual reference when cleared to do so. This means that the pilot must be visual before the Controller can clear the aircraft for the visual approach.

In that way, it is similar to the real-world. Notice the wording though, “visual reference”. That pertains to the airport. Once the aircraft is cleared for the visual, they are then considered to be VFR, seeing and avoiding other aircraft as they maintain visual of the airport. Once handed off to tower they’d receive:

  1. Sequence (if required)
  2. Landing clearance

Visual approaches expedite things but think about how much more efficient we could be if the pilot could assume control over separation earlier? One can dream.

If you’ve followed the blog enough you’d know that the main goal as a controller is to get the aircraft off your frequency as quickly as you can. Efficiency without sacrificing quality.

*Reference: 3.6.3 and 6.12.1 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual, 7-2-1 AIM

Kyle Boas is the Founder of the IFATC Education Group. He is also an IFATC Supervisor and former Trainer.