ATC: “do you have the departing aircraft in sight?”
- Jared VanLue
Wake Turbulence – KLAS
On a recent 110 degree day in KLAS (Las Vegas, NV), I was faced with an interesting wake turbulence situation. We were next in line for takeoff at 25R behind a Boeing 737. The tower controller cleared the 737 for takeoff, cleared us to Line Up and Wait, and then asked us if we “had the departing aircraft in sight” maybe two seconds after the 737 had powered up.
The controller was trying to speed up departures off that runway. I had a controller tell me it increases departures by almost 3 times the normal rate. Guess who is now responsible for not just separation, but also wake turbulence avoidance in this situation. That's right, it’s you – if you report that departing aircraft in sight.
It’s decision time: Report or don't report? If you do report the departing aircraft in sight, you are immediately cleared for takeoff before that aircraft is even 1000 feet into the takeoff roll. Most of us wait until the departing aircraft has rotated before we power up, and that gives about three miles of separation once you get rolling. It’s so hot that most aircraft rotate at about the same point, so that’s my own internal procedure for avoiding wake turbulence for this airport.
As far as I know, KLAS is the only airport departing aircraft this way, but expect it to happen in more parts of the country as NextGen squeezes more airplanes in the same amount of airspace.
Do you know the wake turbulence separation criteria for your aircraft type behind a category A, B, C, D, E, or F aircraft? Do you remember what those letter categories represent? If not, maybe it’s time for a wake turbulence refresher.
Advanced Aircrew Academy offers an online Wake Turbulence course that reviews these latest changes to wake turbulence categories.