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General Control — Wake Turbulence Last updated: 2017-07-10

Much like boats, all airplanes create a wake in the air as they pass through it. This wake is called “wake turbulence.” Generally, the heavier an aircraft, the more severe its wake will be. There are three classes of aircraft for wake turbulence considerations:

  • Heavy aircraft are those with a maximum takeoff weight greater than 255,000 pounds.
  • Large aircraft are those with a maximum takeoff weight between 41,000 and 255,000 pounds.
  • Small aircraft are those with a maximum takeoff weight of 41,000 pounds or less.

Heavy aircraft and Boeing 757s are considered particular hazards due to the intensity of their wake. All aircraft following B757s/heavy aircraft must be issued wake turbulence advisories. In addition, when an IFR aircraft accepts visual separation from a heavy aircraft/B757, issue a wake turbulence advisory. Additionally, a wake turbulence advisory should be issued anytime you believe that it could create a hazard.

The phraseology for a wake turbulence advisory is “Caution wake turbulence <details>.” For example:

  • “Caution wake turbulence, you are six miles in trail of a heavy Boeing 767.”
  • For a small aircraft you might issue, “Caution wake turbulence, Airbus 320 on a two mile final.”

The 7110.65 specifies additional separation for aircraft arriving/departing behind an aircraft in a larger wake turbulence class, that information will be covered in later lessons.

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 2-1-19 & 20}