Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Plaridel Tower Experience

Plaridel, Bulacan
Ramp of RPUX

We're almost done with our first OJT rotation and for our fifth facility, our group went all the way to Plaridel Airport in Bulacan. I still can't believe that we controlled LIVE air traffic and talked to REAL pilots through radio. I was really looking forward for this week to come. According to the previous groups, their Plaridel Tower experience was one-of-a-kind and exciting.

We left CATC at around half past eight in the morning. 45 minutes later, we were still at West Service Road, trying to squeeze in to the morning rush hour traffic. Traffic was really terrible especially along EDSA but it didn't hamper our excitement. After passing Boni Avenue MRT station, the traffic flow eventually got smoother and we finally arrived at our destination after two grueling hours (and to think Plaridel is like 45 or 50 kms away from Metro Manila?! Jisas!).

Plaridel, Bulacan

The weather was really fine when we got there (see also: CAVOK - Ceiling and Visibility OK). On our first day at Plaridel Airport we were bombarded with lectures, orientations about the local air traffic procedures, and even reviewed the aerodrome phraseologies. The next few days got even more exciting.

The Alpha and the Coordinator

We started the day early at around 5 AM. As part of our training program, we were required to jog at least one round at the airport's main runway. We were always greeted with light fog. Well, it was fun because I got the chance to see the beautiful Bulacan sunrise.

Plaridel, Bulacan
Jogging, more fun in RPUX
Plaridel, Bulacan

By 7:45, we went inside the tower cab for the first time. Air traffic at Plaridel Airport was more than I expected. Plaridel Airport served as a training ground for student pilots, thus it was expected that there would be an air traffic congestion in both ground and air. I remember during my shift, there were six Cessnas lined up at the main taxiway while there are already four aircraft at the traffic pattern (upwind, crosswind, downwind, baseleg/final).

Plaridel, Bulacan
Alpha and Coordinator

Everyone of us were given a chance to work as a coordinator and an alpha controller. The coordinator's job includes coordinating with the flight plans submitted by the pilots, and relaying the departure and arrival time of a particular flight coming from a controlled airspace and sending significant aeronautical messages to the Manila FSS (Flight Service Station).

Plaridel, Bulacan

Meanwhile, the Alpha Controller is the one responsible for clearing an aircraft to land or take-off, and is also responsible for giving taxi instructions to the aircraft. It may sound easy to some, but it's really tough and challenging. It gets worse once you can't picture your traffic. It felt surreal because we are now talking to real human voices from the other side of the frequency. It felt great, knowing that they will follow your clearances most especially if you deliver it with conviction. Exciting yet scary at the same time. We all know that we can't afford to commit a single mistake in controlling air traffic - the consequences are deadly.

Of Requesting Priorities and a Goat on the Runway

Sometimes, a controller experiences emergency situations. This kind of situation is obviously unplanned thus the controller must know all emergency procedures by mind and heart and must be quick in giving instructions to ensure the safety of the priority aircraft.

One Thursday morning, I was the coordinator for that particular shift and my classmate, Tom, was the alpha controller. It was just a routine shift until something happened unexpectedly. Shortly after the Manila-bound Cessna plane took off from Plaridel Airport's runway 35, the pilot-in-command immediately requested for priority. The pilot did not specify the nature of his emergency. Our supervisor immediately contacted other aircraft on the air within the vicinity to hold at a designated reporting point to give way to an aircraft requesting for priority. He also alerted the CFR. Inside the tower cab, the atmosphere got heavy and tense. All of us stood up and one of us even cursed under his breath.

Its first landing attempt was very unstable thus it executed a missed approach procedure. The second one was scarier. It did land, however it almost veered off the runway, narrowly hitting the weather instrument beside the runway. The pilot then informed us that he had a negative reading on its air speed indicator. It was later found out that the pilot forgot to remove the cover of the pitot tubes prior take-off. Those tubes are located outside the aircraft and serve as an essential instrument to determine the indicated airspeed of an aircraft.

True enough, it was the highlight of my OJT at Plaridel Airport.

Plaridel, Bulacan

The following day, we received a phone call from the terminal. Apparently, a goat escaped from the hands of its abusive owner (loljk). The goat stayed near the taxiway and disrupted the aircraft operations for at least 20 minutes. Everything went well after this minor incident.

At least may pulutan na kami. Loljklangpoez!

Worthwhile Experience

We definitely enjoyed our OJT at Plaridel Tower. We had the chance to apply what we have learned from our Aerodrome Control class a few months ago. The gods and godesses must have heard our prayers - the weather was fine within a week and it only rained hard every night. We did not experience suspension of VFR traffic due to bad weather. Tankyoubirimatzzz! I have never been this happy because I am slowly reaching my dream of becoming an ATC. Just. One. Step. Closer.

We'd definitely be back here after graduation to continue with our facility rotation. Woohoo!

Plaridel, Bulacan
With the pink cessna!
Plaridel, Bulacan
Jumper and Bomber
Plaridel, Bulacan
Fierce sunset
Plaridel, Bulacan
Meet my girlfriend!

PS: All photos were taken from my iPhone. :-)



  1. Hi. Kakainggit naman. Kudos to you!

    I'm hoping to pass the interview too para kami na ang susunod sa inyo. :)

  2. Good luck on your interview dear! Break a leg!

  3. Interesting article I enjoyed reading. I love the pictures especially the sunrise one it simply awesome.

  4. Nice reading, I love your content. This is really a fantastic and informative post. Keep it up and if you are looking for Antidrone airports then visit Droneshield.


Comments are highly appreciated. Spread love, not hate! :)