Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON)

Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) is an air traffic control facility. It’s near airports and run by controllers. They use radar and other tech to keep aircraft separate and land safely.

This article talks about the TRACON facility. We’ll look at its overview and why it’s important:

Definition of a Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility

A Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON) is found at bigger airports. Its purpose? To manage aircraft nearby. The largest type of TRACON is known as an En-Route center. It covers 15-50 miles around the airport with radar. Smaller TRACONs control arrivals and departures within 5-15 miles.

TRACONs provide services such as:

  • instruction of standard instrument approach procedures (SIAPs).
  • vectoring aircraft onto final approach courses.
  • monitoring and altitude restrictions for aircraft transitioning from the enroute environment into an approach phase.
  • coordinating arrivals and departures so their paths don’t conflict.

Functions of a Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility

A Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility is a key part of the air traffic control system. It’s responsible for managing and directing aircraft within a certain airspace, usually near airports and air traffic control facilities. The TRACON helps pilots navigate their flight plans more efficiently and provides safety guidance.

ATC controllers use the TRACON to:

  • sequence IFR landings
  • issue take-off clearances
  • give route advisories
  • vector approaching aircraft
  • identify hazards in the vicinity of airports
  • monitor emergencies and hazardous atmospheric conditions

The TRACON also provides support functions like ARTS/RADAR, FDP, EDAS data sharing with enroute center facilities, and LAAS services. Plus, they verify and monitor the FAA automated broadcast system.


Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities provide air traffic control services to aircraft in a specific radius. They monitor and control aircraft in both high and low altitudes.

Now, let’s talk about the different types of airspace. The role of these facilities is to manage and control the airspace. When using the airspace, some considerations must be taken into account:

  • The type of airspace.
  • The aircraft’s altitude.
  • The aircraft’s speed.
  • The aircraft’s direction.
  • The weather conditions.

Types of Airspace

Airspace is a unique human-made environment. It is made up of regulated or prohibited areas in the sky. There are four different categories: Class A, B, C, and G. As a pilot, it’s important to understand these differences. This helps you follow the rules when flying in different airspaces.

  • Class A airspace is controlled by the TRACON. It is around major metropolitan areas and usually goes up to 18,000 feet MSL. Pilots must have a two-way radio and transponder. They must also contact air traffic control before continuing.
  • Class B airspace is highly regulated. Pilots must follow certain procedures. It usually goes up to 10,000 feet MSL or 7,500 feet at airports with higher altitudes.
  • Class C airspace has less stringent regulations. It has ground-based radar. Pilots must have a two-way radio and altitude-reporting transponder. This must be within 25 NM of the VORs/NDBs.
  • Class G airspace is uncontrolled. It goes up to unlimited altitudes. Special equipment is not needed. Pilots do not have to notify anyone if there is enough space. But it is not recommended due to hazardous weather.

Classifications of Airspace

Airspace is divided into seven categories, labelled A to G. Each category has unique features regarding use, protection, and complexity.

  • Class A airspace is from 18,000 ft mean sea level (MSL) up to and including Flight Level (FL) 600. Pilots in Class A airspace must have an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating and be in two-way communication with air traffic control (ATC).
  • Class B airspace is mainly around major airports. It extends from the surface upwards, usually 10 nautical miles, up to but not including 18,000 ft MSL. Pilots in Class B airspace must have a VFR or IFR rating, depending on their flight plans, and be in two-way radio contact with ATC.
  • Class C airspace is slightly less restrictive than Class B. It usually extends 3 nautical miles outward from an airport’s primary surface area, up to but not including 18,000 ft MSL. Pilots must have a VFR or IFR rating, as per their flight plan, and establish two-way communication with ATC before entering this airspace according to United Airlines Flying Together Employee Intranet.
  • Class D airspace is typically around smaller non-towered airports. Procedures for operating within it are similar to that for Class C areas, but extend only 2nm outward from the airport boundary. ATC clearance is required for IFR flights, but two-way radio communications need not be firmly established before entering the area, if another aircraft is not seen within 4 nm of the airport boundary. When possible, avoid crossing above 2500 ft MSL while operating within 5 nm radius.
  • Class E airspace extends upwards from either 700ft Above Ground Level (AGL) or 1200ft MSL, whichever altitude is higher, outwards up to 10 nm. Then usually cloud craft or higher between 10 nm – 20 nm. Laterally beyond as well as vertically downwards, from 700 ft AGL / 1200 ft MSL, the altitude is lower than other classes of airspace, egressing at 700 ft AGL / 1200 ft MSL whichever altitude is higher. This can include 71mn inside class E. Please note, overlying class G airspace needs to be maintained according to local regulations when operating within these boundaries. IFR operations require prior clearance, but VFR operations do not always require communication with ATC.

Air Traffic Control

Air Traffic Control covers many services, like Command and Control, plus the Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON). This article is about TRACON, which looks after aircrafts entering and leaving the airport. It serves pilots with advice, route navigation, altitude, speed and direction control.

Let’s dive deeper into the role of TRACON in the Air Traffic Control system.

Air Traffic Control Procedures

Air Traffic Control has different rules for different types of airspace and facilities. For instance, in a TRACON, the controller is responsible for guiding and separating incoming and outgoing aircraft. This is done with: radar vectors, altitude orders, time/distance-based methods, speed control, holding patterns or other methods.

Other parts of air traffic control involve:

  • giving permission to land/takeoff
  • assigning altitudes that keep planes apart
  • allowing planes in restricted space
  • ensuring registrations are correct
  • transferring control between facilities
  • giving out weather info.

Due to the level of expertise needed and the safety-critical decisions made, air traffic control is a professional occupation.

Air Traffic Control Equipment

Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities are the go-to places of the National Airspace System. They serve as a link between en route flights, air traffic control centers, and aircraft flying in the Terminal Area. Understanding the equipment and personnel involved in TRACON is necessary for safe operations.

The main equipment used at TRACON includes:

  • Radar systems. These provide controllers with an electronic view of airspace. Components like antennas, displays, and processors are used to store and interpret radar signals from equipped aircraft.
  • Communications systems. They provide air-to-ground and ground-to-air conversations between pilots and controllers. Radiofrequency modems, headsets, noise suppressors, amplifiers and other components are used.
  • Airport lighting guidance systems. These give control towers info on airport surface movement. Lights show if a runway or taxiway can be used for takeoffs, landings, or ground operations. They also inform pilots of potential hazards like wind shear, low clouds/haze, or contamination from rain, snow, slush, or ice.
  • Weather sensors. These measure wind speed/direction for controllers to make tactical decisions about aircraft. This helps optimize efficiency and safety during IFR conditions.

In addition to this tech, there are trained personnel. Air traffic controllers handle flight activity in their sectors. Supervisors evaluate controller performance and provide mentorship when needed. Shift Managers oversee staffing within the facility.


Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Facilities have radar. It monitors, separates, and offers traffic control services to aircraft in the area of airports. Controllers can observe aircraft on the ground and in the air with this equipment. Additionally, it gives heading and altitude info to pilots.

Let’s take a look at the Flying Together at United.Com for different kinds of radar used in TRACON Facilities and the advantages they offer:

Types of Radar

TRACON is an air traffic control facility that utilizes various types of radar. These range from ground-based systems to advanced tracking tech. It monitors and guides aircraft up to 10,000 feet. The controller must use different radars for different altitudes.

These include:

  • Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR): Uses signals from an aircraft’s transponder to detect its position and identify it.
  • Primary Surveillance Radar (PSR): Reflected signals from antenna on the ground reveal the aircraft’s location relative to other objects.
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B): GPS tech enables controllers to see altitude and position data of each aircraft.
  • Mode S Transponder: Adds pressure altitude info for conflict detection and resolution when frequency is jammed.

TRACON is highly efficient in managing multiple flights simultaneously.

Radar Range

Radar Range is the distance that aircraft, vehicles, and other items can be spotted by a ground-based radar system. Air Traffic Control use radar to detect and trace objects, stopping collisions and controlling flight paths. Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) has radar systems to manage air traffic between a terminal area and its nearby uncontrolled airspace.

Radar range depends on the output power of the radar’s transmitter, its antennas, frequency, pulse type, and hardware. The long range allows for greater flexibility in air traffic control. Generally, current ground-based radars reach up to 150 nautical miles, but this range can be larger or smaller because of physical environment factors like terrain or obstacles near airports. Beamsharpening or amplitude monopulse techniques improve radar performance and enable controllers to take accurate measurements of multiple targets in a large area. Modern radars offer a lot of power, enabling controllers to provide reliable air traffic control service over a large distance and keep planes flying safely apart Flyingtogether Intranet.

Radar Display

Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) radar ensures aircraft near it stay separated and provides info for safe operations. The display system is named “Mode C”, showing altitude data of monitored planes. It has a map view of past, present and predictive flight paths, with an altitude readout and evidence tags.

Mode C design aims to keep airspace safe, and improve controllers’ situational awareness.


TRACON – the Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility – is responsible for aircraft safety and orderly flow in and around airports. To ensure accuracy and efficiency, reliable communication between aircraft, other air traffic control facilities, and agencies is essential Flyingtogether Intranet.

Let’s explore the different types of communications used in TRACON:

Types of Communications

A Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON) is located near multiple airports. These facilities give area controllers the ability to manage aircraft arrivals, departures and overflights without contacting other area control centers. TRACON controllers make sure aircraft don’t come too close by giving traffic advisories, navigation help, airborne weather clearances, route changes and radar services inside the terminal control area (TCA).

Communications at a TRACON facility are done via radar and voice. Radar communication has controllers monitoring aircraft information on the radar screen to spot any conflicts between aircraft. With voice communication, controllers give instructions about altitude assignment changes or new course routings.

Pilots stay in contact with the TRACON controller throughout the flight by talking directly if they are within range, or through a Remote Transmitter Receiver (RTR) for farther distances. Depending on the type of approach to look at the Flying Together at United.Com, aircraft may use Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS–B) systems for real-time updates from aircraft GPS units, instead of relying on ground-based systems that require ATC manual updating.

Communications Protocols

TRACON is responsible for air traffic control near airports. Controllers use various protocols when handling aircrafts. They exchange info and avoid delays or problems.

Common types of communication are:

  1. Voice: Radio transmissions to give simple instructions, like altitude changes.
  2. Data link: Cockpit data terminals to transfer flight plans and input navigational data.
  3. Visual: Strobes and morse code to give instructions during manoeuvres.
  4. Automated systems: Handling mundane tasks without manual input from controllers. This reduces stress and increases safety.

Radio Frequency Allocations

TRACON facilities use designated radio frequencies for aircraft communication. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigns frequency bands for operations and various rules and regulations to keep operations safe as on United Airlines Flying Together Employee Intranet. There are six UHF/VHF frequency ranges. VHF range is the most commonly used, covering 118 MHz – 137 MHz. It’s split into ‘High’ region (121.5 – 123.95 MHz & 124.50 – 127.00 MHz) and ‘Low’ region (118 – 119.95 MHz & 120 – 121.45 MHz & 127 to 128 MHz).

The channels in each region are then sub-divided into:

  • High power (more than 10nm away);
  • Medium power (within 10nm of the frequency’s geographic centre);
  • Low power (5 nm);
  • Tactical operations/military only (30nm);
  • Ground noise/non-baseline environment; and
  • Airport advisory frequencies (airspace boundaries near certain metropolitan areas/flight information services for small airports without a control tower).

The mix of services depends on factors such as geography, flight volume, terrain features, non-baseline environments, etc. By using different radio frequencies at different locations, TRACON ensures maximum safety and optimises efficiency.