- His eyeballs
- His memory
- A working radio
- A pen and notepad
For instance, let's say Cessna 889PT calls in 7nm south with information Juliet, requesting full stop. I reply and tell him to enter left base, Runway 28L. He enters the pattern, and I clear him to land. Afterwards, he turns off and I switch him to ground.
When I first started, I was writing something like:
↓ C172 | 889PT | 28L | J | 7S √
Makes sense, right? He's an arriving (↓) Cessna 172, call sign 889PT, he's going into Runway 28L, he's called in ATIS Juliet, he's 7 miles south, and he's been cleared to land (√). All important information, right?
WRONG. That's a ton of extraneous information and a ton of writing. Your eyes need to be outside the windows, not inside staring at paper. The more you're scribbling, the less you're controlling.
The system I'm using now was given to me by an instructor on Friday morning. We were talking in the Tower3D lab and I mentioned that I was trying to nail a process down, and he went ahead and passed on his "tribal knowledge" that had been taught to him by a controller 30 years ago.
The principle is this: You divide your pad up into two columns, one for the runway closest to you, and one for the runway furthest to you. You then list the aircraft under whichever runway you've assigned them to. What you write on the pad is minimalist. You do not use the pad to sequence, you do not use it to control. It is just there as a reminder for critical information that you need.
So here, let's break down our runways and replay the scenario:
That's it! Three digits/letters in the correct column is all you need. Everything else is irrelevant, or can easily be drawn from memory.
- You don't need any arrival ↓ marker since it's obvious by the fact that A) you should remember talking to him and B) any departures would have their own strip handed to you by the Ground controller.
- You don't need his ATIS code; you just need to confirm he has it on initial call up.
- You've told him to enter the pattern for 28L, so you don't need his location since you'll know where he'll be coming in.
- You don't need the first two letters of his name, unless there's another aircraft in the pattern with a similar call sign.
- As for his aircraft type, you don't need to put it down so long as you can remember it as "CESSNA 9PT" or "CITATION 2BZ" However, if you get busy or need something to jog your memory, you can always use an abbreviation for it, such as "72 9PT" (with "72" being short for "C172"). Other examples include:
- 28 = P28A = Piper Cherokee
- 35 or BZ = BE35 = Beech Bonanza
- 77 = C177 = Cessna Cardinal
- 31 = C310 = Twin Cessna 310
- 58 = BE58 = Beechcraft Baron
- 60 = BE60 = Beechcraft Duke
- KA = BE90 or BE20 = King Air or Super King Air
- BJ = Beechjet
Runway 34/16: If an aircraft calls in and we put him straight in to 34 or 16, we need to think about where the first conflict lies. For instance, if you clear a guy into 34, the first intersecting runway he'll hit will be Runway 28L. If we put him into 16, it'll be Runway 28R. That dictates under which of the two columns he'll go.
So, let's say we have another aircraft (Cherokee 288PM) arriving from the south and he requests 34. We do this:
|28 8PM (34)|
We put him down just like 9PT, but now we add 34 to the right and circle it. Now we know that he's coming in to 34, and we need to make sure that 28L is clear first, followed by 28R. As you can see, it's still minimalist. Pure, essential information, placed in the right spot.
Ok, so 9Pt touches down and turns off the runway. 8PM follows right after, coming in on 34. You switch both aircraft to Ground. How do you indicate that they've successfully landed and are now on Ground frequency?
Just line them out! They're done, bam, gone, out of your hair. You can effectively forget about them once you push them over Ground.
But then, Cessna 424KB calls 7 miles east, inbound for 3 touch and goes and a full stop. You clear him to touch and go, using 28L as well. How do we format this?
|( 72 4KB )|
- You circle 4KB's callsign, indicating that he's doing touch and goes (you know, running laps around your runway). That way you can look at your pad and instantly tell who your T&G-ers are.
- He indicated that he wants 3 touch and goes. What you're going to do is, as you clear him for each T&G, you're going to draw a "\" slash below his callsign. Once he touches down, powers up, and lifts off again, you'll draw a "/" over that slash to make it an "X". This indicates that the loop has been closed and that you'll need to clear him for his next T&G.
|( 72 4KB )|
So, good ol' Cessna 4KB is done for today and wants to land. You clear him to land, he touches down, you switch him to Ground, and you're done with him. At that point, your pad should look like:
X X X
All aircraft have been landed and cleared from your frequency.
And that's it for today! As you can see, it's important to use symbols and shortcuts to keep things clean and organized. However, the most powerful tool of all is simply your own brain and your short term memory.