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Recently heard the phrase "traffic in position..." issued by controller to one of the pilots, just wondering, what could it mean?

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the context? Where did you hear this? $\endgroup$ – Simon Jan 26 '15 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon, I was listening very busy hour on LiveATC of my local airport (LVK), where tower had many departure and arrival aircrafts at the time. I just caught the phrase, but did not get the pilot intention :(, that is where my question come from. $\endgroup$ – barmatat Jan 26 '15 at 8:13
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"Traffic in position" is a phrase to let the next aircraft inbound to a runway know that another aircraft is in lined up and waiting for departure on that runway. This procedure is used to line an aircraft up on the runway (usually right after the previous arrival crosses the runway threshold, or previous departure begins their takeoff roll), to have them ready to go, when the previous arrival/departure clears the runway. At airports (in the US), without ASDE-X (a system to track airplanes on the ground), the tower controller isn't supposed to clear the next aircraft to land, until they have issued the takeoff clearance to the aircraft holding on the runway. ASDE-X locations can clear aircraft to land, as long as certain conditions in the ASDE-X equipment are working properly.

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  • $\begingroup$ This all sounds very ambiguous and dangerous. Do you have any citations? Is this a US only thing? $\endgroup$ – Simon Jan 26 '15 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ All honesty, no it's not dangerous. If you have ~6 miles between arriving aircraft you can usually get one aircraft out in between each arrival(experience), but only if you're getting the departure on the runway ready to go as soon as the first arrival clears, the next arrival should be ~2-3 miles out, and you have perfectly good separation in they go around. For the rules, check 7110.65, 3-10-5 b faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/atpubs/ATC/…. $\endgroup$ – slookabill Jan 26 '15 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Got it, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Simon Jan 26 '15 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure you can't issue a landing clearance unless the aircraft lined up on the same runway has actually taken off, not just been issued a takeoff clearance. $\endgroup$ – DJClayworth Jan 26 '15 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ the actual criterion for issuing a landing clearance is that separation is assured. $\endgroup$ – rbp Jan 28 '15 at 14:16
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The phraseology in the question is incorrect.

If the planes on on the same runway without ASDE-X, the aircraft departing will be given:

DELTA 2-7, RUNWAY 1, LINE UP AND WAIT, BOEING 7-2 6-MILE FINAL

The arriving aircraft will not be given a landing clearance until the holding aircraft has departed, but it will be told:

AMERICAN 4-2-9, RUNWAY 1, CONTINUE, TRAFFIC HOLDING IN POSITION

If the planes are on different runways, it would be:

DELTA 2-7, RUNWAY 1, LINE UP AND WAIT, TRAFFIC LANDING RUNWAY 19

and the other

AMERICAN 4-2-9, RUNWAY 1-9, CLEARED TO LAND, TRAFFIC HOLDING IN POSTION RUNWAY 1

Source: Air Traffic Conrollers Handbook, Section 3−9−4. LINE UP AND WAIT (LUAW)

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