ATC - rookie question

I enjoy listening to Live ATC at times, but the controllers’ commands are so quick and short that it’s hard to decipher most of them.
I just flew ATL-SFO, and as the plane’s descent approached the East Bay cities, it performed a couple of, to me, really sharp S-curves. I assume this was a form of vectoring, to delay the landing time.
My question is: What would ATC likely say to the pilot to get him to perform this maneuver. Maybe there is a code word for this??

Make a series of “S” turns for spacing, etc.

If the aircraft was close to the airport, than S turns for spacing, etc, would work. This is really not what the pilots or the tower controllers really want to do…but rather than send an aircraft around, you do what you need to do.

Further away from the airport, with plenty of airspace and altitude to drive planes around, the radar (approach control or Center) controller could give “vectors for spacing”. A fifteen degree turn off the current heading for a certain amount of time, then a turn back to intercept the original flight path. Controllers build space between aircraft this way, by varying the amount of time the aircraft is kept on the new heading.

The rules and phraseology are in the 7110.65: … c0506.html

Loud and clear. Thanks.

Another thing that will happen to us poor slow planes is we’ll be asked to ‘orbit’. It basically means turn in a 360 circle so that something can slip in front of us.

I get this during glider season since our home airport is an Air Cadet training field. I’ll be on final and ATC will say “GABC orbit 360 your choice left or right” and I’ll respond with “Roger Tower starting immediate left orbit for GABC”. (I never turn right unless instructed to, because what can you see?).

We’ll usually get half way through the orbit and they’ll tell us we can return to straight in.

Adraenyse, what country do you fly in?

In the US, the maneuver you describe is called a “360”, as in, “make a three sixty for spacing” or whatever reason.

I’d also be interested to learn more about your airport and the traffic mix. Must be interesting to combine gliders with conventional aircraft.

I fly out of CZVL in Alberta, Canada.

Interesting is not the word for it. You have spurred me to make a post in Notable Activity. :wink:

Have a read…

And sometimes you’ll run across a controller with a sense of humor. This actually happened to me while flying a light twin into KATL – yes, THAT Atlanta airport, back in the 80’s. I was number three for landing, sandwiched in between two rather large airliners. Kept my speed up to 140K which was about 40K over usual approach speed. Thought I was doing great until ATC asked me to “keep my speed up unless I wanted to be a hood ornament on the L1011 behind me!” I did – landed rather long, and even got a “nice job” from the L1011. :wink:

I tend to get the opposite … “can you slow down please, you’re encroaching on the A/C in front of you”

“Maybe the A/C in front of me shouldn’t have dumped 40 flap at three miles final but alright…”