I studied 3 years about railway signal boxes, I worked 5 years as a movement agent but I've never been in a tower at the Airport. Some how I felt, it must be similar to the railway system. The only difference is the fact that the planes are in the air.

Due to the limited available space in the tower of San Francisco we were a small group at the tour. The tour guide explained us what the duties of the 6 persons at the tower are.

The duties of the tower

The arrival agent is responsible for the "OK to land". He also has to decide in which order the planes get this permission. The most important is his communication with the ground agents, because he has to be sure, that no other aircraft is crossing the runway during the landing.

As soon the aircraft is on the ground the ground agents takes over.

They give direction to the pilot. Either he gets a gate or he has to pull over for a "hold". Which means the aircraft has to wait some where in a secure area until the gate is open.

An other agent is responsible for the flight planing and preparation. He makes sure that his co-workers have all the information they need for a successful operation.

And like everywhere there is a supervisor, how has the whole responsibility. If there is any irregularity or incident he has to react and give the right orders.

The weather in San Francisco

San Francisco is a very special place for the air traffic. Due to the always-changing weather condition the tower has to be very flexible and good organized. A lot of times the fog is so bad that the tower can use only one runway instead of two. This means for a lot of airplane delay, misconnection and unhappy passengers. The tower has to be always aware of the passenger.

However the decision of the order the airplane get the OK for takeoff depends on other facts. The highest priorities have the Asian airlines. Because if they can't take off on time the next possible slot over the pacific can be after one hour. All other international airlines have a high priority. This means for the national airlines and the several shuttle services: They have to cancel many flights.

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