Screaming “Fire!” at someone

“Screaming fire at someone doesn’t help them find the exit” – Adam Bandt

Recently, this quote was presented to me in the context of climate change. Upon hearing it, I loved it and so wrote it down. At first, it appeared as something that was relevant specific to the topic I was at this summit for, but it later came to me how much this quote can be applied to our everyday life and Infinite Flight.

Take ATC for example. You’re controlling approach and an A320 is approaching a 777. A Traffic Alert may work, but if the pilot is unaware, they may not see the conflict. On the other hand, if you tell one or both of the aircraft to change heading, you’ve shown them the exit, and not just screamed fire.

New IFATC Directory on fpltoif.com

Chris Shaffer, Infinite Flight Moderator and creator of fpltoif.com, has come out with a new update which includes a Infinite Flight ATC controller directory.

It only displays the controllers that have been active in the last 90 days.

One of the best ways to learn how to communicate to ATC is by asking questions and asking for feedback from the controllers directly. You’ll learn things you may have never known when you message the controller.

So if you need or want to contact a controller, go there. Click the controller’s IFC link and message them on the forum. All of the controllers are active on the forum and answer their messages.

Advantages of assigning altitudes for each leg

When controlling approach, we set up with specific strategies in mind, such as this strategy from yesterday.

One extra thing that some controllers do is that we assign an altitude for each leg. So say you have a simple four legs setup, visual example.

Airport elevation is 0ft AAL and the altitude I need to clear at is 3000ft MSL. If it were me, I’d have leg one at 6000ft, leg two at 5000ft, leg three at 4000ft, and leg four at 3000ft.

Reason behind the 1000ft incremental.

  1. It ensures 1000ft of vertical separation between each leg, so if I wanted to or had to move an aircraft to another leg, I could easily do so without having to worry about horizontal separation.
  2. It gives you a visual queue as to what leg the aircraft is on, so if they stray off the line or you lose connection, you know what the sequence is.

The main goal is to send the least amount of commands to the pilot, but this added strategy is scaleable, meaning it can be used when the traffic is very high. It definitely can reduce the mental workload.

I’ve also have pilots remark that they love this approach because even they can understand where they are in the sequence with minimal effort.

The Door

“The Door” is the name I like to use for a strategy I and many other controllers use at airports that can utilize only one runway. Here is a visual representation of what it looks like and an example of it in use, live.

At max capacity when the traffic is very high, it has eight legs. You don’t need to use all eight legs, they are just there as an option. As the traffic builds you’d add a leg, then another, then another, etc. The strategy keeps all aircraft within about 25nm of the airport at all times.

The most important part is uniformity. First thing I do when I open is measure 10nm from the end of the approach cone, with the drag and vector feature. Once I get the measurement, that’s where I’ll place leg four that parallels the final leg. Then I’ll measure out 10nm from the downwind legs for legs one and five. The downwind legs three and seven are placed 12nm away, on the edge of the third airspace ring at a class Bravo airport for example.

It’s important to have that uniformity because it helps you stay consistent and having everything even makes it easier to remember where things should be. Your goal should be that you have everything so uniform, you could walk away from your device for 30 seconds and know exactly where everything will be when you come back.

Second important thing is to make sure legs two and six turn so that legs three and seven are the same length. Draw a line between legs two and six, if it’s on an angle then you are not doing it right. You need to be able to have the option extend those legs if you need to make room for an emergency, spacing, a slower performance aircraft, etc. Without that uniformity then you run the risk of it becoming out of hand and loosing control over the airspace, stretching out spacing overall, taking aircraft further from final and the airport.

So I’m both constantly checking to see if, one, legs two and six turn at the same spot, and two, maintain 10nm spacing between the final leg and fourth leg.

It looks like it’s a lot of work, but it’s not once you get used to using it and it can greatly reduce your workload.

Duck!

You know the common phrase one yells when they see something flying towards someone else, “Duck!”, which lets the other person know they need to move under something or to avoid being hit by whatever is coming there way.

Your friend, let’s call him Bob, sees that you are about to get pelted with a ball. Bob yells “Duck!”, you move and the ball avoids hitting you. Thank? you, Bob.

So you’re flying, under the control of approach maintaining an assigned of 11,000ft. There’s a mountain peak directly ahead at 11,500ft, 7nm, 6nm, Bob your co-pilot sees the aircraft and alerts you to move, 5nm away now. Do you, A, immediately move out of the way of the mountain then request an altitude change or, B, request an altitude change and maintain heading and altitude.

Common sense says, Duck, move out the way, Bob knows what he’s talking about. You wouldn’t fly your 135 passengers into the hill, you’d move. Bob wouldn’t need clearance to warn you about the ball that’s about to whack you in the dome either, he just yells “Duck!” and you move

You don’t need clearance from approach to move from a terrain conflict like that. Check your surroundings and avoid the conflict, request an altitude change, live another day.

Putzing in from South America

A good tip for radar is to figure out a safe MVA (Minimum Vectoring Altitude) for any part of your area you aren’t planning to use. If MMMX and KMIA are the two big airports for the day, and you’re at MMMX, you’re obviously gonna figure out the route to get traffic from the northeast down through the mountains to final.

But what about when you get someone putzing in from South America? If you don’t have a whole arrival route in from the south, fly them over anything down there at that safe MVA, and then descend them where you know it’s safe.

There shouldn’t be any part of your airspace where you don’t feel confident flying someone over.

AMA with Gary Hamann

This Saturday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Gary Hamann where the members in our Workshop got a chance to ask him questions.

He is an Infinite Flight ATC (IFATC) Supervisor, former Recruiter and Trainer, with over 575,000 operations as a controller. One of the most experienced controllers.


What is the number one feature, excluding a terrain map, that you’d like to see come to IFATC?

I think we can do a lot with holds, but the UI needs a few commands to support them efficiently. I’d like to be able to click any aircraft in a hold, and get a drop down list of everyone in the hold sorted by altitude. That alone would make them much easier to manage.

What has been your main motivation to be so dedicated to IFATC? Seeing you have over 575,000 ops you must have a huge something to be motivating you to be this dedicated.

I’m retired, so I’ve got a few hours every day I can devote to IF. Most of all, you have to keep learning and at my ripe old age, it’s important to keep the grey matter churning. There’s nothing like a session where you’re operating at maximum capacity to keep you engaged. There’s hardly a session where I don’t learn something new. Just now I had a tough start on approach with very strange winds, I found that keeping the base short helped out.

So I’m in Radar Training. What tips would you give me that would help me in this process?

I mentioned earlier, but preparation, especially for approach is critical! You should have an idea of how you will bring people in when it’s not very busy, and a strategy to migrate to a plan when it’s busier. It should be easy to go from one case to another.

Personally, I like the minimum number of vectors to bring someone in when it’s not busy. As traffic picks up i’ll add a downwind leg, but I won’t let it grow beyond 20 miles. If it does, I’ll feed the downwind with an upwind leg.

Do you prefer controlling approach versus tower/ground? Would you say that there is something about controlling radar that makes it more entertaining than ground and tower? What airports are your most and least favorite to control approach?

My brain works best with processes, and it’s terrible when something requires memorization. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I’ll go with it anyway. Approach is a process based task. You have a plan and you implement it. I don’t have to remember where everyone is, my plan takes care of that for me. The most important vector is the first one. If you make the correct first vector, everything else falls into place.

Tower requires that memory, as you move around from ground and tower, you have to remember who’s pushed back, and who’s lined up and waiting on the runway. Much more stressful for me than approach.

Single runway airports are the most fun for me.

How does it feel to control when you are grandfather?

Feels good to be grandfather! Controlling keeps me young, well, kayaking, fishing, hiking in the forest, all help with that.

Would you like to go flying sometime this spring?

Sounds good to me! A friend of mine just bought a 170B, and I’m chomping at the bit to go up with him.

How did you get introduced to Infinite Flight?

I’ve always been interested in online gaming. I started out many many years ago with Nascar Racing online with a 9600 baud modem. I played around with various flight simulators, but I tired of them after a few months.

A few years ago I decided to look into flight simulators again, and when I saw Infinite Flight, I couldn’t resist. The fact that you could fly with other people was the hook for me.

Then when I realized you could also get into the ATC side of it, it was all over.

You have a background that many of us don’t — a whole career as an electrical engineer. What advice do you have for us younger folk who are looking for a career to go into?

As far as a career, find something you enjoy doing. For me it was math, and electronics. Electrical Engineering was always my first choice.

How does your engineering background play into your strategies for controlling?

Engineering is all about research and planning. It’s part of my nature now, and plays perfectly with Infinite Flight.

What are some changes (both positive and/or negative) you have seen within IFATC in the time between when you first joined and now?

IFATC has constantly moved ahead in my mind, from the processes to the detailed manual we can all reference.

The biggest change I’ve seen is in the quality of the controllers we have. There are so many high quality controllers now, It’s so nice to see people handle radar and tower with a lot of traffic like it’s nothing.

As someone with as much as experience as yourself, what do you find to be the most important quality needed in being a leader?

People learn at different rates. It’s important to realize that and work with people accordingly. I don’t care if you’re working with an engineer taking on a new project or someone learning a new position in IFATC. Understanding that and adjusting how you interact with people will go a long way toward making you and him successful.

Don’t stifle creativity. The new guy may have a better idea than you do!

What was the thing that made you want to become an ATC recruiter?

What I enjoyed about the recruiter position was as I mentioned previously, bringing people up to speed, and seeing them grow.

I had to take a step back from recruiting when scheduling people for tests was starting to interfere with my home life. There were too many times when I’d tell my wife, no I can’t do something because I have a test scheduled in 2 hrs.

I’m glad we have a great batch of recruiters now.

What made you create your YouTube channel? Also, are you planning to improve it in the future with more controlling sessions and tutorials?

I keep telling myself I’m going to make it a more professional site, but I limit my IF to a few hours a day, and most of that time is spent controlling, helping out in tests or training, or doing QA flights Doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Some day I’ll make it a more useful site.

Do you have any advice to me as a new IFATC Officer to not get stressed when I get many aircraft tuning in and requesting approach at once?

The best advice I can give is have a plan, and prioritize your time. People out 60mi don’t need immediate attention. The guy that’s about to run through your downwind line or the guy not turning when he should do required your attention.

When you’ve got the close in planes situated, look further out. When It get’s busy, I typically setup a number of straight legs that feed into other straight legs. As a result, the only thing I have to do is manage the turns and watch for someone doing something he shouldn’t be doing. After that, look for those people 50-60mi out and give that all important first vector, which is probably the most important vector you’ll give. Make the correct first vector, and you won’t have to touch him for many minutes.

Do you have any words of encouragement for those of us enjoying doing ATC on training server, but that are hesitant to make the dive into testing and training for expert server?

Everyone starts on training server. When I started, I would find airports that were less busy, and found pilots more receptive to following instructions. It’s also more fun when half the pilots aren’t ignoring you.

As you get more familiar with the UI, you’ll naturally want to jump into IFATC.

Gary, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? Also, you always help other radar controllers to create a plan for the approaches. How do you do that, have these ideas that really work?

I’ll be 69 in a few days! I feel and act like I’m 20, so I’m grateful for that.

I share what works for me and suggest people give it a try. I also listen to what they’re saying, and many times I incorporate their ideas into my controlling.

Most of my controlling was influenced by my mentors, but I’ve tweaked what they did to suit my style. That’s why I’ll never TELL someone how he or she should be controlling. Everyone is different.

In your age what words of wisdom do you have about Infinite Flight or life in general that have helped you? Also, do you prefer trash haulers or a peaceful GA flight?

Most important, do what you love, and never give up on your dreams.

My father was always interested in racing, or should I say in putting me in machines that could do bodily harm.

I’ve raced go karts, motorcycles, slot cars, and lastly boats. Boat racing was the most fun as we traveled all over the country. We moved up the ranks to a point where we were competitive nationally. We were western US champions more times than I can remember. Our goal was national champion, which we finally accomplished after 8 years. That was our dream and we made it happen with a lot of hard work.

We qualified for 4 nationals, came up short in 3 but won the final one. So never give up on your dream.


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

Leave yourself room on base

As a radar controller working approach, the set up for your final vector is just as important if not more important then your final vector.

For an aircraft on an ILS approach, you’re going to clear, then want that aircraft to be on one clear heading not turning for one nautical mile or more. So clear, turn to final, stop their turn, capture the localizer, intercept.

By giving yourself room you increase your chances of a perfect intercept. So if you notice you are clearing to early or late, either clear the aircraft further down the localizer or extend downwind a bit more to compensate.

Importance of continue taxi at your discretion

Once the Progressive Taxi Instructions are no longer required, the controller must send ‘Continue Taxi at your discretion’.

I see it too often for it not to be addressed. It’s important that you never forget to send this command. The controller must send this because it is assumed that the pilot will need to continue to follow the direction given previously.

It leaves a little bit of doubt for the pilot as to what the next step will be. “What will I need to do next?” Right after that final progressive taxi instruction, send it and be done so you don’t forget.

References: 5.2.2 of the ATC Manual

State your emergency fuel early

You can but there really is no sense in declaring an emergency with 2 minutes of fuel remaining. You need to stay on top of your fuel situation and report earlier with say 30 or 20 minutes of fuel remaining.

The response on the controller’s side is, please divert to the nearest airport, frequency change approved.

We, ATC, try to accommodate to the best of our ability fuel emergencies but you always need to remain aware of your situation. How much fuel is remaining and do you have a backup plan to land safely. You are not bothering us by giving us advanced warning.

We will and have landed aircraft on inactive runways, just check out Wideroe 1 at 6:52 of this time-lapse. It is highly satisfying when that works out, by the way. In that case all departures were stopped to allow for the aircraft to safely land.