VFR minimums in Class G Airspace

In Class G, regardless of MSL altitude, when you are 1,200 feet AGL or lower during the day, your weather minimums are 1SM visibility and clear of clouds.

References:
1. FAA

October 20, 2019 by Kyle Boas

You can do it

You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can. – Jimmy Carter

October 17, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Paying attention

It’s important to always be aware of your surroundings in a phases of flight, but especially during critical phases of flight.

The critical phases of flight are defined as all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff, and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 ft., except cruise flight.

References:
1. Accident Board Recommendations, Lessons Learned by the FAA.

October 16, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Calculating passenger cargo for your flight

If you have 300 passengers on a flight, how much cargo does that equal.

This simple answer is that it varies depending on the airline, season, ect. In American Airline’s case for example, “ All checked bags must adhere to a max weight of 23kg for Economy & Premium Economy; 32kg for Business & First Class fares […]”, according to this article. There are of course added fees for extra baggage.

So times that by the amount of passengers and you can get a rough estimate of how much baggage there would be.

References:
1. “American Airlines Baggage Fees & Tips to Cover the Expenses” by UpgradedPoints.

October 14, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Ask Me Anything with Julien Lim

We had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Julien Lim this Saturday in the ATC Education Group Workshop. Here’s the best questions and answers.

Julien is a real world Toronto Center Controller and Infinite Flight ATC Specialist.

Why Air Traffic Control?

I have been interested in aviation since I was young. Originally wanted to be a pilot but after working as a flight attendant for Air Canada, I found out I was not made for the lifestyle of an aircrew member. I prefer to be home everynight. I was introduced to ATC whilst playing FS98. Always had it in the back of my mind, but was not ready to take the leap till 2015 when I applied to become ATC.

What was it like training and testing to become IFATC as someone with your experience?

Being a center controller, working Tower and Ground on Infinite Flight was a little bit of a learning curve. Took me a few sessions to learn the commands. As far as training for IFATC, I simply got in contact with a recruiter and started a tracking thread on the community to get some practice going. I did some serious practice for about a month before I did the IFATC practical. I believe the IFATC testers threw everything they got at me, I ran intersecting runways operation with traffic for both runways, which was a first for me. But managed to do well and became an ATC Specialist for IFATC.

How did you get into Air Traffic Control and what was the real world recruitment/training process like?

I had knowledge of ATC since playing flight simulators from back in 1998. I don’t remember when exactly, but I started paying attention to the automated ATC that Microsoft had at the time. However originally I wanted to become a pilot, but as mentioned above, I didn’t like the lifestyle of an aircrew member (working as a flight attendant).

One day I was bored working airport security and I applied. The application process itself can take up to 18 months. Once one gets through all the testing and interviews, the training is long and stressful. Once you have been accepted for training, you start generic training (this is split between IFR and VFR). once you pass generic you either start the VFR speciality or IFR speciality courses. The speciality courses can take up to 24 months to complete prior to earning your ATC license.

How long did it take for you to be at your position right now?

From day one of training to getting my license, 18 months total. If you include from the day I applied, over 24 months

Do you have any advice for somebody that would be looking into becoming an ATC in the future? Airspace? From what airline?

Biggest tips for success in ATC: work hard, be able to take criticism, always strive to do better, open to learning everyday, and always try to maintain a relaxed demeanor.

What is the your biggest pet peeve that pilots request or do improperly?

Biggest pet peeves so far has been when a pilot is told to standby and they do not. When ATC says standby it is for a good reason. Just because the frequency seems to be quiet doesn’t mean the controller isn’t busy, There are many things that are done off frequency.

How long do you typically control at a time, and what can you do on your breaks?

On a regular shift we work hours on and hours off usually. If we have enough stafff sometimes we get 1.5hrs-2hr breaks. Legally we can work a maximum of 2hrs15mins without a break. On our breaks we can do lots. We have a gym, a lounge and a games room.

As an ATC controller, your job is known for being one of the most stressful in the world. How do you cope with your daily work on a mental level?

Honestly I personally do not find it stressful. I enjoy being in high pressure environment and find that I perform better in those situations. I do believe however that if you find yourself stressed in this profession, that it might not be the best profession for you.

How much of your time is active on channel vs. trainings and simulators?

Once a year at least we have proficiency checks where we must score more that 80% to stay current. Once a year we do emergencies training. All simulators work is done while in training.

How do ATC rotations work? From person to person or channel to channel.

In my airspace we have two sectors so usually after we work one sector we go on break and come back to the other sector

What are ways you have found you can really earn respect from pilots based on how you control?

As a controller to earn trust and respect from the pilots; you have to be assertive in your voice and confident in your clearances and instructions

Did you get to pick whether to go IFR or VFR specialization, and do you see yourself switching to VFR at a later date?

You do not get to pick where you end up. The company usually will assign to a stream based on your scores. I do not plan to go VFR for a while. Maybe CYOW tower before I retire in 23 years or more.

What is the strangest thing that has occured in your airspace?

Strangest thing; I’ve seen targets that move very very fast….ufo? maybe?

How is it determined who does ground/tower/approach/departure/clearance, Ect.

The tower supervisor would be the one who decides the rotation between Clearnace/Ground/Tower – also known as VFR controllers, Approach and Departure are IFR Terminal controllers – they usually start on either position then go to the other position after their break.

For me as centre controller, we work one sector then move to another sector after our breaks

How do you communicate with other sectors/controllers/app/dep. Are they in close proximity so you can just talk to them? Or do you call/message them in another way?

We have a little box that we call the voice switch communication system. From this device we can connect to all the sectors within the control centre as well as other adjacent centres. We sometimes yell over to the units we are physically close to, to coordinate. For the most part it is done via hotlines or telephone calls. we also have a feature on your screens to communicate via messages (however this has a limit of 20 characters I believe – so we really have to be short and concise).

We are actually in a little building a few hundred feet from the Toronto tower. For example, every IFR controller in YYZ is in the same big room.


Really fascinating AMA with Julien, I’d like to thank him again for coming in and answering all of our questions.

If you’d like to join in discussions such as this with like-minded people like yourself and learn, I’d encourage you to sign up for our Workshop.

October 13, 2019 by Kyle Boas

METAR cloud heights messured in hundreds

You are presented with the following METAR reading. KCLS 31008KT 280V350 8SM FEW 55 22/11. It’s seems rather unremarkable, but notice the ‘55’. That leaves you puzzled.

Cloud measurments are always measured in hundreds of feet, so the 55 is not being displayed in the correct format. Why is it not in hundreds?

It is supposed to be showing the clouds at FEW 055, not FEW 55. The National Weather Service uses the 55 format in an example on their for Aviation Weather Products, as seen here. An incorrect format according to the FAA.

Sky condition group is used to report height of cloud bases, tops, and cloud cover. The height of the base of a layer of clouds is coded in hundreds of feet MSL. The top of a layer is entered in hundreds of feet MSL.

Resources:
1. Reference AC 00-45H Aviation Weather Services page 3-15, especially 3.2.1.6.
2. ”Pilot’s Guide for Aviation Weather” from the National Weather Service.

October 12, 2019 by Kyle Boas

China RVSM at work

It’s always weird slash interesting to watch and listen to the Chinese unique implementation of RVSM. Here’s a video of the Sichuan flight 3U8633, the windshield in the cockpit broke and partly sucked the pilot out. Listen to the controllers issuing altitudes like FL101.

October 11, 2019 by Kyle Boas

ATIS winds are magnetic

If you read it, it’s true. If you hear it, it’s magnetic.

All charts and textual sources such as the METAR, TAF, winds aloft, surface analysis charts, etc. use true north as the reference.

ATIS broadcasts, or any information a controller gives you over the radio, is magnetic. From the AIM, “Wind direction broadcast over FAA radios is in reference to magnetic north.”

References:
1. AIM Section 7-1-11 page 7-1-26 in the 5/26/16 edition.

October 10, 2019 by Kyle Boas