Reciprocal runway operations are available at a number of aerodromes, including Brisbane, Cairns and Sydney (Curfew Operations) designed to be used during low traffic periods, and in some cases for a bit of fun during events.

The following should be used as a guide when operating Reciprocal runway operations on-line, and reference should always be made to the relevant local instructions on the VATPAC website.

Controller Positions  
During Curfew Ops at Sydney (late at night), departures combines with Approach, therefore do not use Curfew Ops with both APP and DEP online.

Auto Release
During all reciprocal runway operations, Auto release shall be suspended, all Departures must be coordinated with Approach with a "NEXT" call 2 minuets prior to departure.

Prior to issuing departure instructions and until the departing aircraft is airborne and another method of separation is applied (e.g. radar), APP shall ensure that the arriving aircraft is:

a) Greater than 10 NM to touchdown on straight-in approach and assigned a level above and vertically separated from the level assigned to the departing aircraft; or
b) Confined to the downwind leg of the circuit; or
c) Confined to a square base leg to join not less than 10 NM final.

You have an Aircraft turning base for 34L assigned 4000.  
TWR: "NEXT QFA123 Curfew 5 Departure."  
APP: "QFA123 maintain 3000."
TWR: "QFA123 maintain 3000, contact departures airborne, cleared for takeoff."

Once the departing aircraft has been identified, normal TMA separation standards can be applied.

"Runway Heading"


You are controlling ML_APP and runway 34 is the active departure runway.

Tower calls you up on Approach with a coordination "NEXT" call:

"Approach, Tower: Next QLK121D."

You refer to the flight plan for QLK121D and determine the aircraft to be a Dash8 departing to Mildura (NW).  You reply:

"Tower, Approach g'day, QLK121D, Runway heading."

With that little challenge sorted out, you relax and enjoy the scenery.  But was "Runway heading" such a good idea?

We must always be mindful of what happens next.  Two minutes after QLK121D takes off, tower releases VOZ887, an IFR Boeing 737-800 on the DOSEL8 departure.  

During this two minutes the Dash8 has traveled a maximum of 6nm (assuming 200kts GS on climb out).  This 6nm will quickly evaporate and you will find yourself needing to solve a tricky separation conflict.

What must we consider?

  • The B737 is soon going to be significantly faster than the Dash8 and climbing through the same level.
  • The B737 or the Dash8 will take up to 30sec to establish a turn.
  • Either aircraft must be established above MVA/MSA to be taken off their departure track on a radar vector. 

The approach controller will need to act quickly to resolve the conflict and relies heavily on the pilots of both aircraft to carry out instructions promptly.

Assign an Offset Heading

To resolve this conflict before it occurs, all that is needed is a simple thought process when assigning the initial heading for the leading aircraft.

"Tower, Approach g'day, QLK121D, Left heading 310."

This avoids putting a slower aircraft on the extended runway centreline and provides for a larger margin when dealing with subsequent departures.

Co-ordination, Tower-Approach

Communication between controllers becomes very important during major events when there are many aircraft movements and broad ATC coverage. During other times it is very important to practice these procedures so that when the time comes, you are properly prepared. What to say and when to say it should become second nature to reduce frequency congestion and controller workload.

For Tower Controllers, the usual run of the mill auto-release jet traffic doesn't require much work. Add to the mix VFR, IFR departures not following a SID or following a radar vectored SID, or the cancellation of auto-release and things get a whole lot more complicated. Below are some general rules and examples of when co-ordination between Tower and Approach should occur and the correct phraseology to use.


Definition: Auto-Release

Auto-release can be defined as a local condition where the Tower at a (usually major) controlled aerodrome may release departing traffic into the surrounding (usually Class C) airspace without prior co-ordination with Approach/Departures. Auto-Release is subject to certain conditions such as standard assignable levels and may only be applied to aircraft departing on a published, procedural SID. Aircraft departing on a radar vectored or visual departure MUST be co-ordinated with Approach/Departures using the "NEXT" call.

Example 1:

Aircraft is on a Radar Departure such as the Melbourne 3 Departure:

TWR-APP: "NEXT {off runway 27} TGW5596."

APP-TWR: "TGW5596, Turn Right 290."

TWR- APP: "TGW5596, Right 290."

When Go-Cat 5596 is ready for takeoff:

TWR-TGW5596: "TGW5596, assigned heading right 290, contact departures airborne, cleared for takeoff."

Example 2:

A VFR Departure with the aircraft tracking via Sunbury, still taxiing and expected to be ready in 4 minutes:

TWR-APP: "NEXT in 4min, HUT."

APP-TWR: "HUT left turn direct Sunbury not above 2000."

TWR-APP: "HUT left direct Sunbury, 2000ft."

Example 3:

IFR aircraft departing via a procedural SID but Auto-Release has been tempoarily suspended.


APP-TWR: "QFA324 unrestricted."

TWR-APP: "QFA324 unrestricted."

Note: The phrase "unrestricted" means the aircraft may depart on their expected track and climb to their current cleared level. It does not mean they can do what they like!

These are just a few examples and as usual there are many variations. As long as you identify when co-ordination is required and passed generally the correct information, the exact phraseology is no biggy. For more information on co-ordination as a Tower Controller, review the material in the Moodle Tower Course.

Happy Tin Pushin'

A UIR Enroute control sector consists of multiple standard CTR sectors joined to form one super sector where an Upper Information Region (Above FL245) is then established. The UIR Enroute controller must release standard CTR sectors from the UIR sector as they are opened by additional controllers or pick up standard CTR that is vacated. Where traffic levels are such that the UIR Enroute controller cannot provide adequate service to the entire UIR, the UIR controller should close the UIR Enroute service and open an appropriate standard CTR position.


  • Any ENR rated controller may open an Upper Information Region (FSS) Enroute control.
  • This Controller position is only available for flights Above FL245. Any aircraft below this level not already being covered by a Sector Centre or Approach Controller will be Outside Controlled Airspace and Unicom procedures apply.
  • Unlike a normal ENR position providing services in Class G airspace, a UIR controller cannot provide any ATC service to any aircraft below FL245.
  • UIR Enroute control should continue to provide CTR services to aircraft on descent into a TMA where APP is active. Otherwise, a UIR Enroute controller must not provide coverage below the UIR position (FL245).
  • UIR Enroute control positions must not extend coverage to an adjacent UIR sector.
  • If any "normal" _CTR position opens, within the airspace of YMMM_FSS or YBBB_FSS, the super sector controller relinquishes that airspace, and any associated airspace to the _CTR position in order to ensure the maximum effectiveness use of airspace (i.e., a _CTR can continue to "extend" coverage as per normal in order to facilitate services to a pilot.
  • The ATC client Visibility Centre (.vis1)  MUST be fixed to the corresponding locations listed below.  You MUST NOT use different or extra vis centres while operating a UIR due to server bandwidth usage.


Melbourne Upper Information Region

Callsign: YMMM_FSS
Flight Service Station
Radio Callsign: 
Melbourne Centre
Sectors: Pilbara (PIL), Kalgoorlie (KLG), Nullabor (NUL), Canty (CAN), Snowy (SNO), Bourke (BKE), Bindook (BIK), Tasmania (TAS)
Vertical Limits: FL245-FL600
Radio Range:  This is hard set to 1200nm 
Visibility Centre Location: .vis1 YCBP or .vis1 CBP

Brisbane Upper Information Region

Callsign: YBBB_FSS
Flight Service Station
Radio Callsign: 
Brisbane Centre
Sectors: Territory (TRT), Cape (CAH), Isa (ISA),Tabletop (TBP), Keppel (KPL), Downs (DOS), Armidale (ARL)
Vertical Limits: FL245-FL600
Radio Range:  This is hard set to 1200nm 
Visibility Centre Location: .vis1 YBAS or .vis1 AS


  • Pilots that expect to transition into an active UIR Enroute control service (climbing above FL245) should make contact with the UIR Enroute control service prior to reaching FL245 or when directed to by private message from the UIR Enroute controller.
  • If an aircraft calls the UIR Controller from outside their Airspace the Controller can simply say:
    • “QFA123, Contact me approaching FL245 for Clearance” or 
    • “QFA123, Contact me approaching waypoint XYZ for clearance”.
  • If an aircrafts cruise level is below FL245 then the UIR Controller will be unable to assist them and the flight should be conducted on UNICOM/CTAF procedures.
  • In the event that there is no Approach or Centre controller available, pilots can expect to have all services terminated prior to leaving the UIR Enroute control area. This will take the following format:
    •  "QFA123, cleared to leave control area descending, control and identification services terminated, frequency change approved."
  • Upon termination of services pilots should switch to UNICOM on 122.8 and provide reports to other traffic to aid situational awareness.
  • Sector Files for the UIR controller position can be located in the Controller Downloads - Sector Files page: 

For further information, please contact VATPAC Training.