Overview of Initial Tower


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This overview was completed for the Initial Tower class, and is intended to provide an idea of what to expect, and additional information to help prepare for the class. Please note, while there is a great amount of specific detail provided for the scenario problems; this is one individuals personal experience, yours will be different. This information is not intended to be memorized or exploited, other than to provide a general idea of what to expect from the course.

Day 1
If you attended basics, you should have been given a sheet with information about today. You will go to CAMI at the beginning of the day and go through a whole list of things there. You go through various different apps and questionnaires. Some listening tests, where you have 3 people talking to you (through headphones) and you have to focus on 1 individual to hear what they are saying, and then answer questions. Make sure you put your headphones on properly (L for the left ear, R for the right). After that you get lunch and then head to your classroom to start initial tower cab training. This first day, you will be able to see your class schedule (days/nights) for the rest of your time at the academy. There is a list of all the aircraft callsigns that are used at the academy (attached to the bottom of the post), I highly recommend you get your hands on it and study it. You don’t have to know everything, just recognize them. When you get to TSS, the computer voices can be hard to understand at first, knowing some of the callsigns beforehand helps. You will start academics now, with LP1 – Course Overview (1 hour). After that, you will do LP 29 – ATC Human Factors (2.5 hours). Yes, for some reason LP29 comes early on, just go with it.

Day 2
You start the day with a QA briefing (30 minutes). QA are the people that will be grading you Performance Appraisal’s (PAs), which combine to form 90% of your grade. The remaining 10% is from academics (1% for each block test, 5% for the comprehensive test), you do 2 local runs at 30% a piece, and 2 ground runs at 15% a piece. QA will basically just talk to you and tell you what they are looking for (it’s all included in your handbook you got yesterday). You will get to talk to them 2 more times before you PA. After QA talks, you’ll to do an AMA-513 briefing (30 minutes). This is management basically telling you not to do stupid things and to study hard. Then you get to do your first CBI (computer based instruction) for SMS training (1 hour). After that, you get LP2 – AT Facility Training Over, Evaluation and Statistical Data (2.5 hours). Then jump into LP3 – Aircraft recognition (2.5 hours) – this is mostly review from basics. Also, LP4 – Terminal controller (1 hour) will be done today. Busy day, academics will move a lot faster in initial, with tests every other day.

Day 3
LP5 – Tower Cab Equipment (2 hours), LP 6 – Disseminating Weather (3 hours), LP7 – Introduction to ASOS (2 hours) will all be completed. You will then do the introduction to eLMS (1 hour - FAA system used for CBI). End of Block 1.

Day 4
Block 1 test (1 hour) first thing in the morning. I would recommend remembering what questions are asked on the block tests, as the comprehensive test is very similar to the block tests. Now onto LP9 – Airport Conditions, Uses and Lighting (2 hours), LP10 – Academy Airport (2.5 hours), LP 11 Academy Airspace (2 hours), and LP12 – Strip Marking [CBI] (2 hours).

Day 5
Finish LP12 today. Do LP 13 – FDIO (4 hours), LP 14 – ATIS (3 hours). End of block 2.

Day 6
Block 2 test. LP 8 - Tower Visibility [eLMS] (3 hours), LP15 – Clearance Delivery (3 hours), and LP16 – General Control (2 hours).

Day 7
Finish LP16, LP17 – Position Relief (2 hours), LP18 – Ground Control (2.5 hours), LP 19 – Taxi & Ground Movement (2.5 hours). End of block 3.

Day 8
Block 3 test. LP20 – Wind Shear, LLWAS (2 hours), LP 21 – Local Control (4 hours), LP 22 – VFR Arrivals (4.5 hours).

Day 9
Finish LP 22. Do LP 23 – VFR departures. End of block 4.

Day 10
Do the bock 4 test. LP 24 – IFR Arrivals & Departures (4 hours), LP 25 – Visual Operations (3 hours).

Day 11
LP 26 – Wake Turbulence (6 hours), LP 27 – Runway Incursions (2 hours). End of block 5.

Day 12
Take the block 5 test, and then do LP 28 – Fatigue Awareness (3 hours); it is basically the same thing from basics. You will then do an interim course critique (1 hour) to let the FAA know what you thought about the course so far and the instructors, material, classrooms, etc. You will then get orientated with the Tabletops & 3D (1.5 hours). You probably did some stuff in tabletops already (in various lessons there is time to go to tabletops and learn hands on). You finish the day with a review of the SOP, LOA, and Academy Airport (AAC) handbook (1.5 hours)

Day 13-17
Work in tabletops and 3d. You will be focusing on getting all your phraseology down. There are some PowerPoints out there that help get things done. You want to be able to say everything without stuttering or slowing down or saying um.

Day 18
Your final day in tabletops & 3d. You will be skill-checked today. On skill checks, instructors will not help you at all (unless you ask them a question). It is used to sort of simulate the PA. Make sure to study for your comprehensive test tomorrow.

Day 19
Start off with your comprehensive test, hopefully you studied past tests. It should be pretty easy. You will now do another QA briefing, so you can ask them some good questions. They will also go through the grading rubric point by point. Pay attention, it is helpful. You will get to talk to them before PA’s, so you will probably have more questions later. Any questions you do come up with, write them down so you can ask them later. You will then do some practice runs in the TSS. It will likely not understand anything you are saying at first, but it will get better in time. There will also be an RPO (remote pilot operator) briefing. These are the guys that control the TSS computer (they will fix certain things that the computer doesn’t understand when you say it). Note, they will not fix incorrect readbacks when it is a left/right issue, or no hold short instructions.

Day 20
TSS IFR briefing, TSS orientation, and IFR runs.


  • Terminal callsigns and aircraft types.xlsx
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Day 21-25
TSS scenarios 1-5. Something new each day, slowly building in complexity.

Day 26
TSS scenario 6 is a skill check day.

Day 27
Scenario 7. Utilizing Runway 28s. VFR Day problem. 52 total ops. 25 departures, 27 arrivals. Wind shift problem -> Switches to Runway 10s about 20-25 minutes in – may need to switch aircraft to the other runways (new pattern entry). Also if you had a large or heavy depart 28r, then you need a 3 minute opposite direction wake turbulence timer that cannot be waived when you switch to 10s. 5 touch and go aircraft. 2 Runway 16 departures. Helicopter overflight -> ‘Approved as requested, altimeter’. Vehicle going from the crash shack to Spartan Aviation. Intersection departures. Aircraft without the ATIS.

Day 28
Scenario 8. Runway 28s, VFR Day. Radar outage occurs 10-15 minutes into the problem and lasts about 10 minutes. I highly recommend you write down each and every callsign/aircraft type, including arrivals over Woody. Once the scope goes out, you will have no other way to remember callsigns and wake turbulence information. Once radar is out, you need to call departure and tell them, as well as request releases on all IFR flights. 52 total ops, 22 departures, 30 arrivals. 4 touch/stop and go aircraft, 2 will come from the airport, this will be your first experience with stop and go aircraft. Try to keep 2 mile buffer for that stop and go traffic. 1 runway 16 departure. 1 runway 34 arrival – you need to have them enter the pattern for 34, but you can switch them to 28L if it won’t work. Ask the runway 34 arrival where they are parking (probably falcon air), and have them turn left at hotel to make it easy on ground. 2 vehicles, both from the crash shack, one going to Spartan aviation and one to falcon air. Aircraft without the ATIS (listen to your call-ins and readbacks). Ground can tell local that the radar is out (usually can’t say much to local). You can use verbal reports in this scenario (tell aircraft to ‘report midfield downwind’ and they will tell you when they reach it). Intersection departures. Those unexpected NORDO situations that occurred in a previous scenario return (Sweeper at the radar site proceeds to crash shack via Echo, Juliet, crossing runway 28R without calling in. Aircraft taxis from the west ramp to the main ramp without a call in. Fire truck goes from the crash shack to U-Cargo via Delta, runway 28L – Crosses both runway 28R & 28L without a call in.) Make sure to alert local or ground of the situation when you notice it. You might have to send an aircraft around.

Day 29
Scenario 9 is a skill check. This your only night problem. You can see for miles (at least 15), so it is actually easy to see aircraft. Relatively light traffic. 28R/L in use. 2 runway

Day 30-31
Scenario 10. Many people state that problem 10 is the hardest one at the academy. There are scenarios with more operations, but the complexity of 10 makes it harder. Runway 28s, VFR day. 3 touch and go aircraft. 1 vehicle going from the VOR to crash shack and then back. 1 aircraft taking off and entering the pattern. 1 vehicle repositioning from west ramp to main ramp. 2 runway 16 departures. Practice safety alerts. 57 total ops. IFR aircraft will have a practice go around. 2 aircraft will do low approaches (cleared low approach), one of them is IFR and departing VFR (tell him to ‘squawk 1-2-0-0)

Day 31
Scenario 11. Runway 28s VFR Day. 61 total ops, 27 departures, 34 arrivals. 5 touch and go aircraft. 3 runway 16 departures. Vehicle goes from Spartan Aviation to the VOR then to the crash shack. Aircraft without the ATIS. Aircraft with intersection departures.

Day 32
Scenario 12 is a skill check. Runway 28R/L VFR Day operation. 61 total ops, 29 departures, 32 arrivals. 4 touch and go aircraft, one takes off and enters the pattern. 2 runway 16 departures, 1 is IFR. Vehicle – airport 1 – goes from crash shack to Spartan aviation and then back. Aircraft without the ATIS and aircraft wanting intersection departure. 1 aircraft wants to re-position from the west ramp to the main ramp.

Day 33
Scenario 13 is the final day in TSS before your PA. You will finish with another QA briefing, so get your questions ready. Also, you will get your facility list today. Runway 28R/L VFR Day. 65 total ops, 30 departures, 35 arrivals. 3 touch and go aircraft. 2 runway 16 departures (1 VFR, 1 IFR). Vehicle goes from Spartan aviation to VOR then to crash shack. Aircraft without the ATIS and intersection departures. Helicopter overflight (‘Approved, Altimeter 29.92’). Practice your traffic alerts. There will be only 6 runs today, this way everyone ends up running 30 locals, 30 grounds, and 30 monitors. After run 6, you will conduct your end of course critique that covers TSS. Following that, you will do another QA brief, so write down all your questions (you should have at least 30 between your entire class). Following this, you should get your placement list. I would recommend you personally rank every single facility on that list (you might get stuck with a mandatory, or someone else might take your top choices, so don’t just rank your top 5). Remember, for each person that does not pass, the bottom two facilities will drop off the list.

Day 34
TR brief, and PA day 1. TR any and everything you can.

Day 35
PA day 2.

Day 36
Final Day of PAs. They also do training reviews and any missed PA runs today.

Day 37
Assuming you passed, pick your facilities. After picking, you will contact the ATM and setup a start date. You will also have to stop by HR and setup your new pay schedule, and go to the travel office to do your last per diem voucher – so bring all your receipts.

Thanks to @rydotz for his great work with this write up.
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For anyone that recently passed the academy, how close is this (bel0w) to what you guys experienced during your final PA's? This excerpt below was from years ago.

With regards to the PA, they said it's somewhere between a level 9 and a level 13 problem , but it is faster then that. You will have 3 fast movers come into your pattern and overtake slow movers. You will have 5 to 6 IFR departures spaced 4-5 minutes apart so you'll never be able to get more then 2 planes off at one time from 28R between arrivals. Any time you have an intersection departure there will be a 3 minute wake turbulence timer going. You will have 2-3 touch and goes. You will have 2 runway 16 departures. Both of which you can assume there will be a heavy/B757 ready to take off runway 28R where if you're not careful you'll take them off then have to wait 2 minutes to take off your 16. Don't do this! You will have a vehicle that goes to the VOR and back as well. Basically my best advice is everything is a setup. They set up all those conflict points to make sure you know the rules. I was able to sequence everyone nicely so the run ran really smooth for me, but from talking with everyone else, most of their issues were self inflicted. For instance, everyone is suppose to call up at a certain time. If you extend a guys downwind by 1 mile when you don't need to and he's doing touch and goes, you just have to anticipate that making your life harder down the road.
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It just depends. One of my problems only had 1 fast guy but commanders senecas and twin cessnas doing touch and gos. The first time I experienced a large taking off from 16 was during the PAs which doesn't really cause any issues as I actually think it helps you. You can generally get away with only launching one of your 16 or you can just let it sit there the entire problem and eat the 5 points. My personal advice is don't extend someone x miles in the downwind as bad things can happen. Just extend downwind and turn his base. Don't make 360's because they are going to knock you 5 points every time. Work airport out and keep things moving around the airport. When a guy lands luaw your next guy traffic crossing downfield and move your guys. I utilized right on runway 34 right at bravo a lot so I could move guys at echo just make sure you close any crossings at bravo you might have approved. Get in the habit of luaw all your 16 departures early on in the TSS and issuing all your traffic. Stay on top of issuing traffic and applying the rules and you will pass!
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The first time I experienced a large taking off from 16 was during the PAs which doesn't really cause any issues as I actually think it helps you.
Interesting, that's certainly new. I never saw that while I was there. As far as new things on the PA, I don't know if they have adjusted problems 1-13, but the first time we saw a VFR Learjet inbound from the north was on the PA.
Interesting, that's certainly new. I never saw that while I was there. As far as new things on the PA, I don't know if they have adjusted problems 1-13, but the first time we saw a VFR Learjet inbound from the north was on the PA.
I'm guessing there is a fast mover from the east built in every problem. How you usually handle that is what will make or break you in a PA.
I'm guessing there is a fast mover from the east built in every problem. How you usually handle that is what will make or break you in a PA.
Absolutely. Leading up to the PA, it was always a King Air coming from Sand Springs or Chandler. On our PA's it turned into a Lear coming from Sand Springs.
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