It’s a beautiful day in the tower

Fred Rogers was asked in an interview with Charlie Rose, “How many kids do you think are out there, over the 30 years you’ve influenced, who you’ve made a difference, made them feel something special”. His answer, “I don’t care how many, even if it’s just one.”

There’s multiple ways you could apply this to controlling, but here’s one. Treat every pilot like they are important, and your work will reflect that treatment on the rest of the pilots you service. Treat everyone equal and don’t worry about the numbers.

References:
1. “The Best of Mr. Rogers” video.

August 18, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Sequencing too early

It may seem like a simple concept, but for most sequencing becomes unnecessarily complex.

Simply sequence when it makes sense to. You want it to be clear to the pilot who they are following. Due to a lack of specific commands to identify aircraft types, you need to make it super clear to the pilot who they are following.

Too early and you’ll confuse the pilot, they may get the wrong information and need to be resequenced. Too late and the pilot will be scrambling. Find the happy medium.

August 17, 2019 by Kyle Boas

What is a crosscheck?

Crosscheck is a generic term used by pilots and flight attendants meaning that one person has verified the task of another. In the cabin, flight attendants crosscheck one another’s stations to make sure the doors are armed or disarmed as necessary.

References:
1. “How to Speak Airline: A Glossary for Travelers” on Ask the Pilot

August 16, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Good way to tell if an aircraft has touched down

If you pay close attention to the aircraft trail, you’ll notice that it will suddenly disappear when the aircraft makes contact with the ground.

The aircraft trail is the dots seen behind an aircraft. It represents 100 seconds, 5 seconds for each dot shown, 20 dots.

Trails are awesome for radar you just have to give it a try and stick to it for a few sessions. You’ll hate at first but then you start to appreciate it. They can be toggled on and off by clicking the gear icon then click ‘Hide Aircraft Trails’.

August 15, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Why do controllers change the ATIS letter?

At any time, if the current ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) does not reflect the current situation (including changes in weather), controllers must change the ATIS without delay and relay this to the other controllers involved. The following is the reasons why a controller may change the ATIS phonetic letter:

  • Upon recipient of any new official weather regardless of whether there is or is not a change in valued
  • A runway is removed or added
  • A REMARK or NOTAM is added or removed
  • The addition or removal of new or different frequency instructions
  • If any of the following are changed then the controller would publish a new ATIS with a new phonetic letter, then ensure all pilots and controllers are operating under the same information by broadcasting that a change has been made on all active frequencies.

References:
1. 2-9-2 of FAA Order JO 7110.65Y.
2. Section 7 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

August 14, 2019 by Kyle Boas

How do you determine which ATIS letter to use?

ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) is a continuous broadcast of recorded aeronautical information. The ATIS enables the controller to broadcast the current weather as well as remarks and NOTAMs for pilots to be aware of, so both the pilots and controllers are assured that they are operating under the same airfield information.

A letter of the Phonetic Alphabet is used to identify an ATIS transmission, this letter is then relayed between pilots and controllers to ensure everyone is operating under the same airfield information.

At minimum, the ATIS is updated at least once an hour. Each alphabet letter phonetic word must be used sequentially.

When the first controller opens the phonetic word used will be ‘Alpha’. While the controller is open they’ll update and publish new ATIS broadcasts, thus changing the ATIS information and phonetic letter. Then say for example, that first controller wants close and is currently using information Echo. They will then handoff to the next controller and that controller will then resume from where the last controller ended off as long as there is no change in the ATIS information.

In the real world, the same procedure is followed and the ATIS phonetic letter will continue to cycle through the entire phonetic alphabet until there is a broadcast interruption of
more then 12 hours. Once there is a broadcast interruption of more then 12 hours, the ATIS letter will then be ‘Alpha’, and then the cycle continues again.

References:
1. 2-9-1 of FAA Order JO 7110.65Y.
2. Section 7 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

August 13, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Resume own navigation, only horizontal navigation

Does resume own navigation refer to your horizontal navigation, or horizontal and lateral navigation?

According to John D. Collins, a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor);

RESUME OWN NAVIGATION – Used by ATC to advise a pilot to resume his/her own navigational responsibility. It is issued after completion of a radar vector or when radar contact is lost while the aircraft is being radar vectored.

Resume own navigation can be issued to a VFR aircraft that is being vectored after the vector, in which case it is not a clearance to fly a specific route, but rather an indication to the pilot that they may navigate by their chosen route.

Notice the word vectors, vectors refers to heading but does not refer to an assigned altitude. It’s not related to an altitude instruction. It becomes very complicated and mucky though if you try to apply what is used in the real world, because it is very varies from group to group in different areas of the world.

To simplify things and create uniformity, Infinite Flight has described it in the following, this from the the ATC Manual:

10.8.3 If you do issue a vector or altitude assignment, once the risk of conflict is no longer present, you should let the pilot know by sending ‘resume own navigation’ and/or ‘altitude at your discretion’ as appropriate (see 10.8.5 below for exceptions).

So, if issued an altitude and heading instruction, the controller must issue an ‘altitude at your discretion’ along with a ‘resume own navigation’, so that the pilot can climb to their intended altitude.

If only a ‘resume own navigation’ is issued, then the pilot must continue to follow the altitude issued until they receive an ‘altitude at your discretion.

References:
1. “Resume own navigation vs proceed on course” answered by John D. Collins on askacfi.com
2. 10.8.3 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

August 12, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Send expect progressive taxi in the pushback

One thing to note with the new progressive taxi instructions is the fact that you need to send “expect progressive taxi” before you send any progressive taxi instructions.

Per the Infinite Flight ATC Manual, “Before it’s used, controllers should send ‘Expect Progressive Taxi Instructions’ to the aircraft in question (although this
may not always be possible)”.

In order to get ahead of this, a good way to be proactive is by sending the ‘expect progressive taxi” command after telling the aircraft to pushback, if you know you will need to send progressive taxi instructions to that aircraft.

If you were to wait till you needed to send them taxi instructions, you’d need to send potentially in some cases, three commands. ‘Expect progressive taxi’, ‘Taxi to runway X’ and a progressive taxi instruction ‘turn left next taxiway’, for example. By sending it in the pushback you cut those commands down to only two, the taxi instruction ‘taxi to runway x’ and the eventual progressive taxi instructions ‘turn left next taxiway’. This speeds up the process.

Use progressive taxi sparingly, but if it’s needed, be proactive not reactive.

Resources:
1. 5.2.2 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual.

August 11, 2019 by Kyle Boas

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August 10, 2019 by Kyle Boas

Use the separation given to you, trust your pilots

I learned a new thing that may interest you regarding holding patterns.

Holding patterns can be a great way to tame down and control high traffic areas without having to use huge swooping lines. You issue each aircraft a holding instruction on initial contact, which includes an altitude to maintain while flying in the pattern. Done.

Holding pattern altitude instructions in Infinite Flight can be issued for 3,000ft to 18,000ft MSL. No higher, no lower. I usually use in most scenarios, 7,000ft to 18,000ft MSL. You’d normally stack these holding patterns, meaning you’d have multiple aircraft in one holding pattern.

In the past, I didn’t have enough trust in the pilots. As you know or may not know, on Infinite Flight, aircraft must have 3nm of horizontal or 1000ft of vertical separation at all times. So, I would have one aircraft at every level of the stack. One aircraft at 4,000ft, one at 5,000ft, one at 6,000ft, and so on. By doing that, the max amount of aircraft I could hold would be 15. That’s not very scaleable, as more traffic comes that strategy will become unusable. I didn’t trust the pilots to maintain separation within the hold.

Just recently though, I tried out holding two aircraft at each altitude, maintaining the minimum 3nm horizontal spacing. To my surprise, it worked. I can now hold twice the amount of aircraft in the hold now! Then I tried out three, then four, still worked. I was amazed, why did I never try this before?

Now I can condense the holding pattern down. Instead of having this huge stack usually from 6,000ft to 18,000ft MSL, only holding 12 aircraft. Now I can hold the same amount of aircraft in a stacked hold from 6,000ft to 9,000ft MSL.

This change will drastically improve the time required to stay within the hold, and allow me to use holding patterns more in high traffic.

The main thing to take away is that I need to not overthink things, trust the pilots, and use the separation given to me.

References:
1. 10.3.2 of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual.

August 9, 2019 by Kyle Boas