Six weeks ago, roughly, a Corsair charter flight landed at Lamezia Terme International Airport (SUF), in Southern Italy. It was a Boeing 747-422, registration F-HSEA. It carried 500 tourists from Liege Airport (LGG), Belgium.

My question: when a flight like this is headed to an airport which is not an usual landing spot for wide-bodies, how does the ATC figure out a wide-body is coming? Do they figure this out by just communicating with the pilots when airborne or do they receive an official note beforehand?

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, doesn't the ATC receive the flight plan ? $\endgroup$
    – kebs
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ The flight would've filed a flight plan which has data about the aircraft type. $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ If ATC didn't handle this flight, who would? $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 22:51

2 Answers 2


No, ATC does not handle these flights differently from regularly scheduled ops

ATC isn't concerned with why an airplane wants to go to an airport or whether they regularly operate there or even if there are ground services available for them at the destination.

Whether the flight is regularly scheduled or not may fall under different regulations but ATC services do not vary. The charter flight will be operated under instrument flight rules (IFR) and will have a flight plan filed with ATC prior to departure. The controllers at the departure airport will receive information about the flight prior to that planes departure and will service the flight to its filed destination. This works exactly the same way as normal scheduled service by that same (or any other) airline.

  • $\begingroup$ To add to this: If by any chance some airplane is flying under VFR without any flight and they want to enter an airport (let's say, as a diversion because they couldn't land at their destination), the ATC/Approach controller can easily ask "(callsign), say type aircraft". $\endgroup$
    – RaajTram
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:48

Flight plan aside (if you are going VFR) here in the US you identify your make/type when hailing the tower. For example if you enter the Delta Airspace around an airport your hail may be

Northeast tower; Piper N347G4 At 3000 with information Mike requesting clearance to land.

In this case the tower will know you are a piper and may (if available) assign you to a smaller runway if they have say two parallel runways of differing lengths or ask if Land And Hold Short is possible for you. I have even had the tower ask what type I was ("Arrow", "Cherokee", "Warrior" etc.). This will allow the tower to sequence traffic with any special needs as may be required. If a large jumbo is coming in followed by a small Cherokee 140 they may have the Cherokee extend its downwind to help avoid wake turbulence (they will also warn the Cherokee of possible wake turbulence).

  • $\begingroup$ Just to add to this: Small airports under Delta airspace usually don't have radar service, and hence they "look" for you using binoculars and advise you if you're not in their sight. Just the other day, it was marginal VFR conditions and I was told by the tower of a Delta Airspace that "Nxyz, not in sight, cleared to land RW 04, number two - behind the Citation on a 2 mile final, report traffic in sight" $\endgroup$
    – RaajTram
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ On the other end of the scale, heavy (most airliners are heavy) and super (A380 and An225) aircraft add the HEAVY and SUPER to their callsign so that the controller (and any other pilot on the frequency) are reminded of the required separation for wake avoidance. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 9:17

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