Philly Int'l tower tour (field trip report)

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by RotaryWingBob, Mar 3, 2005.

  1. RotaryWingBob

    RotaryWingBob En-Route Gone West

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    The Brandywine Airport Pilots Association arranged a tour of the KPHL tower last Saturday (I know, I'm going to join the procrastinators club one of these days).

    This was the first time I've been to a pretty busy tower, and we spent about four hours there split between TRACON and the tower.

    At TRACON I asked whether they were able to bring up the mode S id. The answer was, interestingly, no -- that the only data they can display is the same as from a mode C xponder -- squawk code and altitude. Philly has the STARS radar system.

    Having a curious mind I asked whether the military had special squawk codes that told them not to pay attention. The controller said that the military normally operates under their own controllers, but that he had had a conversation with a military jet one time, and the pilot asked if he could see him on STARS. He said he responded yes, and the pilot said watch this, and promptly disappeared from his screen.

    The tower had two goodies which I had never seen before. First was the runway surveillence radar, which was really pretty cool. The display shows an airport diagram including all intersections. When it detects a departing aircraft it draws "gates" over the intersections ahead of the aircraft to tell ground not to allow anyone past the hold short line at those intersections. As the plane passes a gate, it is automatically removed from the display. For incoming aircraft, all the gates go up when the radar detects the plane, and they open as the plane passes. This is a separate radar system.

    In the snow storm the week before, the RSR helped to prevent an accident when a snow plow tipped over on a runway on which a departing flight had been cleared. The RSR detected the incusion and the controller was able to get the departing a/c to abort.


    They also have a short range radar used for sequencing. The day I was there, they were landing on 27R, departing on 27L, and landing on both 26 and 35 as well. The potential problem is for an aircraft landing on 35 to interfere with traffic inbound for 27R.

    The example I saw was a stream of aircraft inbound for 27R and occasional aircraft for 35. The radar displays a ghost target in the path of the plane lined up on 35. It's a little like a video game, the controller wants the a/c inbound for 35 to be on the ghost target -- when this is the case, the traffic is not a factor (the ghost really represents a "safe" position).

    One interesting fact. US Airways owns the deicing station and the two small towers which control ground traffic inside the taxiway parallel to 27R. Southwest and other airlines are complaining the US Airways is using their control to give preferential treatment to their own flights.

    This was definitely a worthwhile visit!

    End of field trip report :)
     
  2. Anthony

    Anthony Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nice field trip report. You get an A+! Did thye talk about the runway extension? Its 17/35, the one that GA traffic uses that's getting extended, right? (that's for extra credit)
     
  3. RotaryWingBob

    RotaryWingBob En-Route Gone West

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    Yes, they did. They also talked about long term expansion which would build new runways where the terminal and parking areas are, tunnel I-95 under the airport. The whole deal would double or triple the current footprint of the airport.