Ask Me Anything with Tom Hogrefe

We had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Tom Hogrefe on Saturday 14th. Lots of great questions and answers!

Tom is a Certified Flight Instructor – Glider, Commercial Glider Pilot and for Infinite Flight he is an ATC Supervisor and Trainer. Here is the some of the questions and answers from the AMA.


Question: How did you get into Infinite Flight?

I can’t remember exactly when I downloaded it first, maybe in 2013 or 2014. I played a little on solo, but Live didn’t really appeal to me and I stopped using it in favor of other apps.

Fast forward to fall 2016, I wanted to find a flight sim app to use a little in my free time. I downloaded Infinite Flight, played around, and bought a month of Live and the C-130J-30. I joined the forum shortly after and loved the community of it all. IFATC was about 6 months later, and it’s been a consistent hobby ever since!

Question: Why did you get a Commercial Glider Pilot License?

So I could get paid! My club offers commercial rides to tourists, normally via volunteers on the weekends. During the summer there’s a paid crew (tow pilot, CFIG, and commercial pilot) there during the week. Getting my commercial glider license not only allowed me to help out and fly rides on weekends, but also to have the coolest summer job I’ll ever have.

Question: What is your scariest gliding experience if you have had one?

I was flying a traffic pattern in a glider, and a tow plane coming in from the opposite pattern didn’t see me. I extended my downwind a little bit to accommodate him, and ended up flying final a bit behind and above him. There aren’t any good landing spots on near where I was flying base, so my only option was to land at the airfield. The realization that I needed to land while dodging a propeller was definitely the most scared I’ve been, but it shows the importance of thinking a few steps ahead. Having a little extra energy and being able to fly a longer pattern helped me a ton.

Question: How do you measure success with the controllers you supervise?

That’s a tough question. Whenever I fly into controlled airspace, I’m not looking for controllers to do exactly what I would do, but rather that they control their airspace, communicate with their airplanes, and avoid conflicts before they can happen. Proactivity is much better than reactivity.

The other metric is how they respond to feedback. It’s not always easy, but taking feedback as an opportunity to grow instead of criticism shows a lot.

Question: What are some traits you see in real world pilots and controllers that are separate themselves from others?

Something that makes a real life pilot, or a pilot/controller in Infinite Flight stand out is a willingness to learn. Just because you have a license or are part of IFATC doesn’t mean you know everything, just that you’re able to do things on your own. There are always new things to learn and challenge yourself with. Know your limits, push them, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Question: What do you have to do with tanks?

Back in elementary school, I had a YMCA soccer coach who would cheer me on by yelling “Tom the tank!!!” I always thought it was funny, and just picked it when I started flying here on live!

Question: What have you learned from training Infinite Flight controllers that you could use in training future glider pilots?

How easy it is to communicate the wrong idea. Whether over text here, or sitting behind someone in a glider, its easy to tell someone one thing, and have them understand something completely different.

Before a training session on Infinite Flight, and before flights in real life, I make a point to talk with students and outline, as clearly as possible, what I’m looking for them to do.

Normally I “start” the training session about 15 minutes or a half hour before. Sometimes we’ll have a guided discussion about what our lesson will cover (sequencing early on, maybe intersecting runways later in the process), other times I’ll talk about something completely different (like ATIS).

If we can’t hold a session when one is scheduled, I try to spend that time talking about things like ATIS, runway selection, progressive taxi, etc. with the trainees.

Question: How much overlap do you find between real life and Infinite Flight?

I’d find more if Infinite Flight added gliders!

To be serious, not a ton. My friends and family know I like to play an airplane game, but I don’t go into a ton of specifics with them.

There’s not a lot of overlap between gliding and Infinite Flight either. I like flying the XCub at my home airport because I’m familiar with the area and it gives me a good frame of reference, but that’s it. I can definitely understand how it would be useful for power pilots to scout out routes and practice though!


Thank you to Tom for taking the time to answer all those questions in detail!

If you’d like the opportunity to join in on these AMAs in the future, talk about controlling, flying, or simply learn more, I’d encourage you to join our ATC Education Group Workshop. You can sign up for free, we hand pick those who apply.

Departure queues and who is at fault

There’s a 11 aircraft long queue for runway 27L and 4 aircraft long queue for runway 27R. Who’s at fault?

Is tower not using the separation given to them by approach and failing to fire out departures? Are they taking anticipated separation into account, maximizing opportunities. Or is it ground’s fault for not evenly spacing out the traffic on each runway.

The problem is that it almost always ground’s issue. By focusing on one runway, whether that be due to aircraft spawning on one side of the airport or an unnecessary focus on one runway.

Then you look to Tower, then Approach.

It’s easy to fault Tower for not maximizing opportunities and gaps, or approach for giving Tower minimal spacing. If the aircraft aren’t evenly distributed and the flow is not being managed from the gate, then it has a domino effect that will effect every frequency at the airport.

References:
1. “6.2.2” of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

Mind over matter

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.'” – Unknown

You can do anything you set your mind to, have confidence in yourself.

Threshold markings and their significance

For runways built, refurbished or repainted after January 2008, the number of bars on the Threshold Markings indicates the width of the runway, as is described in Section 3 of the AIM. Older runways may still use an outdated scheme.

Runway threshold markings come in two configurations. They either consist of eight longitudinal stripes of uniform dimensions disposed symmetrically about the runway centerline, as shown in FIG 2-3-1, or the number of stripes is related to the runway width as indicated in TBL 2-3-2. A threshold marking helps identify the beginning of the runway that is available for landing. In some instances the landing threshold may be relocated or displaced.

You can see a picture here of the two configurations.

For configuration two, each stripe signifies what the width of the runway is.

  • 60 feet (18 m), 4 stripes
  • 75 feet (23 m), 6 stripes
  • 100 feet (30 m), 8 stripes
  • 150 feet (45 m), 12 stripes
  • 200 feet (60 m), 16 stripes

Resources:
1. Section 3 of the AIM

Breaking down an approach session at HEGN

I’m going to breakdown an approach session I had at HEGN during Friday Night Flight. Read the video’s description on YouTube for some context as to what’s going on before reading. Ok, here’s what I learned from the session.

First off, this won’t be clear from the video because it’s a time-lapse, but I probably should not have been accepting departures at some points. When I opened I anticipated there being a lot of traffic, but I neglected them for a little bit and that portion got a little sloppy. I still did a great job in that department overall, seeing conflicts and vectoring them out of the way, I just missed a few calls in which is not ok. I could make a bunch of excuses why I did that were out of my control, but I won’t.

Second, I think I did a pretty good job with deconfliction. I was using each leg of the S pattern to control spacing and extending legs to contain the legs I had. The S pattern is broken up into five sections. Initial, first leg, turn, second leg, turn, downwind, base, clear. Here’s a visual if you don’t understand what I mean by that.

The goal was to have the first leg’s turn be perpendicular to the base leg turn which I battled to keep that going by extending the second leg. Having the first leg be perpendicular to base controls the size of the entire approach, and makes it more efficient.

Third, my base turn was really annoying me throughout the entire session. It was later then I wanted it and I just had to stick with it to maintain the required 5nm-6nm spacing. I tried multiple times to fix it by extending the second leg before the downwind leg. I should have extended the second leg a little bit further upwind to fix that issue. The reason why I like having a “shorter” base turn then that is because I have no flexibility when it comes to spacing on the base turn, with it being longer. I can extend their downwind further, but not by much. I would have liked more room, it worked out though.

Fourth, I needed to move a bit quicker with commands. It is a lot of work to keep all of that contained and uniform, but it could have been even faster, even though I was already moving pretty quickly.

Fifth, and this kind of goes back to the third point, there were times I let some cut the line to close in spacing. I should have just stayed the course I was on because I could have shortened the base more. On the other hand though, I don’t know if that would have had a negative effect with the rest of the line I had going had I shortened the base.

Overall, I think I did a great job with spacing and fitting people in. I may or may not change things next time, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. These are all just observations.

Minimum Crossing Altitude

A MCA (Minimum Crossing Altitude) is the lowest altitude at certain fixes at which the aircraft must cross when proceeding in the direction of a higher minimum en route IFR altitude.

The symbol looks like a flag with an “X” in the middle, here’s an example.

References:
1. “Page 665” of the Pilot/Glossary in the AIM

Never forget to check if the runway heading is offset

As a radar controller, you should always check approach plates for the airport you plan on opening, before opening, or at the very least, fly the approach.

Check if the runway headings are offset from the runway number. In most cases, the runway number will match the runway heading for the runway. For example, runway 06R will most likely have a runway heading of 060, or somewhere near there.

There are some cases though as I mentioned that the runway heading will be offset. Runway heading for the ILS LOC RWY 08L at KATL is 95 degrees, so if you clear at a heading 050 for an ILS clearance, it will be a 40 degree intercept. No good, an ILS/GPS clearance must be between 30 to 10 degrees offset from runway heading.

If you never checked the approach plate, or flew the approach, you would never know for sure what the runway heading is. The runway number means nothing when it comes clearing for an ILS/GPS approach.

References:
1. “10.7.4” of the ATC Manual.

Don’t sequence too early

If you sequence too early you might as well not sequence at all. You can’t not sequence at all, so don’t waste the pilot’s time and your time.

Say there’s three aircraft in the pattern, all sequenced, cleared. All good. Then incomes a pilot 22 nautical miles away. What do you do? Do you ‘A’, issue a pattern entry with no sequence, or ‘B’, issue a pattern entry with a sequence. To sequence or not to sequence, you should not sequence.

Waiting is never a bad thing, it allows for you to assess the situation and not confuse the pilot. If you sequence too early you will likely just need to resequence again later, which adds to your workload and the pilot’s workload, unnecessarily.

You need to find that happy medium when the aircraft is close enough for the sequence to matter and make sense.

Be fully prepared before opening

If you put in the work beforehand, it won’t be a waste of time. If you aren’t fully prepared, don’t open. No one is forcing you too.

In training, testing or on the expert server. If you aren’t prepared, prepare to fail.