How are Flights Directed?

Ever wonder how your flight is guided? There are hundreds of planes in the sky at any given moment and each one is closely monitored throughout its flight to ensure safety.  

PHL Airport Ramp Control TowerOnce a flight has boarded and the airplane’s doors are closed, pilots communicate with the Airport Ramp Control Tower, run by American Airlines at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), to confirm that they are ready for departure. Next, they`ll be given permission to "push off" the gate and taxi to a "ramp spot". Once at the ramp spot, the flight crew will contact FAA Ground Control, located in the FAA Control Tower, for taxi instructions to the correct runway. Here at PHL, the Airport Ramp Control Tower is located between Terminals A-East and B and the FAA Control Tower is located on the far side of the airport where it is able to see the entire field with no obstructions.  

As the plane reaches the runway, FAA Ground Control hands off to FAA Tower Control. Both Ground Control and Tower Control are FAA Air Traffic Controllers that assist pilots from the moment their  airplane leaves the Ramp Area and takes off until it lands at another airports and enters that airport’s Ramp Area.  Air Traffic Controllers are clearing planes for take-offs, climb to cruising altitude, cruise, descending, approaching and landing. 

Each segment of the sky is assigned to a remote Air Route Control Center or Enroute Controller. These centers are located throughout the world and are monitoring the skies 24/7. Their responsibilities include monitoring the flight trajectory, aircraft altitude, speed and assist pilots during the emergency situations. 

FAA Tower OperationsDuring an aircraft’s approach to its destination, FAA Tower Traffic Controllers navigate aircraft to their final approach fix and clear flights for landing. After the plane touches down and clears the runway, it is guided to the ramp by the FAA Tower or Ground Controller. The Airport Ramp Controller then directs aircraft to the assigned gate. The process then starts all over again when the aircraft is re-boarded and ready to go to its next destination. 


Media Contacts

Christine Ottow
Director of Strategic Communications
[email protected]
Heather Redfern
Public Affairs Manager
[email protected]

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