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Manchester ATC Visit

IMG_1095_1.jpgLast week I was fortunate enough to visit Manchester Airport’s Air Traffic Control centre. This was part of a reciprocal arrangement made to take Air Traffic Controllers on a trip around the Zone so that they have an appreciation of the pilot’s world and the pilots, in turn, have an appreciation of the controllers world. We initially met at Barton and then after tripping the Manchester Zone 3 times in EWAW, we transferred across to EGCC to visit ATC.  On arrival we were met by Ian Revell who was the acting Z watch manager and he guided us through the strict security procedures and up to the tower, which as you would expect, has stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

IMG_1092.JPGWe were fortunate that the weather on the day was perfect with bright sunshine, stunning visibility and a very high cloud base. Manchester has two runways 23L and 23R but these are not always both in operation. When they are, one is used for departures, and one for arrivals with a dedicated controller for each runway. They are situated at the very front of the tower for obvious reasons.  The Tower also houses the clearance controller and the ground controller. Aircraft initially call for clearance and are then passed onto a ground controller for taxiing instructions.The ground controller has the advantage of ground based radar if required to assist him/her if required or in poor visibility.IMG_1120_1

All flights are recorded on a flight strip and they are passed to the appropriate controller as each phase of their journey from the stand to departure is reached. ​The tower handles up to 450 aircraft per day and the pace of arriving and departing aircraft can be quite rapid. The Tower controller is responsible for managing the inbound and outbounds using the approach radar which allows them to see the progress of incoming aircraft and balance this with departing traffic. ​Once the aircraft are on the ground, tower passes them onto the ground frequency for instructions on what stand they will be on and the route they should take to get there. This is not such an easy task at peak times with taxiways and parking spaces  limited, and aircraft may find themselves unable to move because of the volume of aircraft trying to get on and off their designated parking areas.IMG_1125.JPG

IMG_1134Below decks, underneath the airy, well lit,  tower with stunning views of the city is where the remaining approach controllers are housed. This is a sizeable area with about 20 radar stations located all around the room. At the end of the room are two stations specific to Manchester namely the Approach controller (118.575) and Director (121.35) The approach controller is typically the frequency used for initial contact with Manchester ATC and usually the only one that VFR traffic looking for a transit through their zone and/or a transit down the Manchester Low Level corridor.IMG_1131

Controllers tend to work in shifts of no longer than 90 minutes and are then relieved by a another controller whilst they spend 30 minutes away from the screens, This ensures that they are appropriately rested and are able to concentrate properly on their duties. It can be a very delicate and pressurised task at busy periods and the ability to remain clear headed is vital.

We spent approximately 2 hours with Z watch and it was absolutely fascinating. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality.

Cheers Z watch!!!!

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