Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

5 Answers

What is the difference between RAPCON and TRACON?

Asked by: 12144 views ,
Airspace, General Aviation

What is the difference between RAPCON and TRACON?

Don't both handle approach and departure (as well as number of other services)? 

Is approach and departure ever handled by an actual airport tower...or does TRACON and/or RAPCON exclusively handle this?

Ace Any FAA Written Test!
Actual FAA Questions / Free Lifetime Updates
The best explanations in the business
Fast, efficient study.
Pass Your Checkride With Confidence!
FAA Practical Test prep that reflects actual checkrides.
Any checkride: Airplane, Helicopter, Glider, etc.
Written and maintained by actual pilot examiners and master CFIs.
The World's Most Trusted eLogbook
Be Organized, Current, Professional, and Safe.
Highly customizable - for student pilots through pros.
Free Transition Service for users of other eLogs.
Our sincere thanks to pilots such as yourself who support AskACFI while helping themselves by using the awesome PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android aviation apps of our sponsors.

5 Answers

  1. Matthew Hammer on Dec 23, 2010

    As I understand it there really is no functional difference. I believe RAPCON is a joint FAA/Air Force service, whereas TRACON is strictly FAA. As a reference I’d draw your attention to the pilot/controller glossary entry in the FAR/AIM for “Radar Approach Control Facility.”

    0 Votes Thumb up 1 Votes Thumb down 1 Votes

  2. Matthew Waugh on Dec 23, 2010

    I agree with Matthew (the other Matthew).
    There are some locations where the approach control is located within the tower, but they are separate facilities, even if some controllers go back and forth between the positions.
    Late at night you may find that approach control services are being provided by an appropriately certified tower controller with a radar repeater in the tower cab. If you contact approach control and in the reply they tell you radar contact, clear you for the visual, clear you to land and clear you to taxi to the ramp, you’ve found an approach control being provided by the tower.

    +1 Votes Thumb up 1 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

  3. Jim Foley on Dec 27, 2010

    As for the differences, I cannot comment, but yes, sometimes the app/dep are in the tower.  One concrete example were I fly every few days is near Whiteman Air Force Base, KSZL (where the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is based).  On several occasions doing practice ILS at Whiteman, the app controller says, “XXXXX plase go to my tower frequency 132.4.”  When I switch and call, it is the same person.  This happens quite often, at least there.

    -1 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 1 Votes

  4. Heather McNevin on Jan 30, 2011

    RAPCON = Military
    They can be located in a tower (called an up / down since upstairs is the tower and downstairs is the radar room) or in a separate facility that may or may not be located at that airport.

    +2 Votes Thumb up 3 Votes Thumb down 1 Votes

  5. Rich on Sep 07, 2015

    Bottom Line: Different acronyms correspond to which agency (or agencies) operate them:

    ARAC — Army Radar Approach Control (Army)
    RATCF — Radar ATC Facility (Navy/FAA)
    RAPCON — Radar Approach Control (Air Force/FAA)
    TRACON — Terminal Radar Approach Control (FAA)
    ATCT — Tower/Airport Traffic Control Tower (FAA)

    See below, from DoD Flight Information Publication (FLIP), General Planning (GP)
    2-36 TERMS

    Control facility that uses radar and non-radar capabilities to
    provide Approach Control service to aircraft arriving, departing, or
    transiting airspace controlled by the facility (see Approach Control
    Service). Provides radar Air Traffic Control service to aircraft
    operating in the vicinity of one or more civil and/or military airports
    in a terminal area. The facility may provide services of a Ground
    Control Approach (GCA); i.e., Airport Surveillance Radar and
    Precision Approach Radar approaches. A radar Approach Control
    facility may be operated by Federal Aviation Administration, US Air
    Force, US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, or jointly by Federal
    Aviation Administration and a military service. Specific facility
    nomenclatures are used for administrative purposes only and are
    related to the physical location of the facility and the operating
    service generally as follows:

    Army Radar Approach Control/ARAC (Army)
    Radar ATC
    Facility/RATCF (Navy/Federal Aviation Administration)
    Radar Approach Control/RAPCON (Air Force/Federal
    Aviation Administration)
    Terminal Radar Approach Control/TRACON
    (Federal Aviation Administration)
    Tower/Airport Traffic Control Tower/ATCT (Federal Aviation
    (Only those towers delegated approach control authority).

    +3 Votes Thumb up 3 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes

Answer Question

Our sincere thanks to all who contribute constructively to this forum in answering flight training questions. If you are a flight instructor or represent a flight school / FBO offering flight instruction, you are welcome to include links to your site and related contact information as it pertains to offering local flight instruction in a specific geographic area. Additionally, direct links to FAA and related official government sources of information are welcome. However we thank you for your understanding that links to other sites or text that may be construed as explicit or implicit advertising of other business, sites, or goods/services are not permitted even if such links nominally are relevant to the question asked.