Clarifying the Top-Down ATC figure - New Member Orientation

Hello everyone,
the other day I took the orientation test and gave a wrong answer to a question regarding the top-down ATC strategy.
Unfortunately, I relied too much on the figure given below question:

As we can see, the Delivery rectangle is next to Ground and this made me believe that the tower controller doesn’t give clearances when they are the only ATC online at that time.
(Never mind the fact that there was no “Tower & Ground” option, only three for each and an “All of the above”. These set of options could have led me to the correct “all above” answer, but still, I think it also contradicts the graphic.)

This same image is shown in the New Member Orientation Course. The video there gives a great overview although it doesn’t cover every ATC position.

Maybe I take it too literally but I think that it would be clearer if Delivery was under the Ground rectangle.
Something like this, is what I had in mind:

Attributions and licensing

Parts of this image is adapted from File:Runway landing designator marking-Numbers.svg - Wikimedia Commons (digits 1 and 3 on the runway) and File:DEN Air Traffic Control Tower.jpg - Wikimedia Commons (shape of the aircraft and its shadow), both used under CC BY 4.0. The image is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Péter Fodor.

(Okay, I got carried away with this image; had more fun than expected putting it together :slightly_smiling_face:)

What do you think?


The first image is crazy confusing in my opinion. Why are there two arrows? Why is Delivery level with Ground? Why are there several yellow boxes divided by lines?

Top down means just that, a controller may provide service for any area below them.


They should simply refer to this interactive webpage: ATC on VATSIM (


I like your image :+1:

Your version looks great and is definitely better than the current standard picture!
Where did you get the background image from? Is that stock footage that can be obtained somewhere or did you create that yourself?

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Thanks, I’m pleased about the positive feedback, from everyone.

I created it myself except for the runway digits and the plane’s shape. (I just added attributions to the original post which was missing actually.)

Perhaps this post has missed showing on the Vatsim radar as there doesn’t seem to be any official comment or response. Sadly your excellent suggestion may go through to the keeper……

Oh, it hasn’t been missed. There has been repeated discussion on the VATSIM Discord and VATGOV13 has already looked into it, but if I remember correctly, there were some licensing concerns and also a wish for a bit more clarity (using the VATSIM station suffixes instead of callsigns, e.g.).

I guess five months is too soon to hear about it. :wink:

Whilst I do scan the forums periodically and hang out in the Discord server regularly, I don’t always see (or remember) everything and I am glad that I was pointed toward this thread recently.

Since then I have been in touch with Peter to confirm he would be happy for us to use his image and have updated the New Member Orientation Course accordingly.

My emails, forum DMs etc are always open if you wish to contribute something or bring something to my attention that you think might be helpful…