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FNO Sacramento Feedback


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So I participated in the FNO last night and want to offer some feedback. I chose to fly the very short route (I think 74nm) from SFO in SMF. I had previously download and read the pilot brief and as requested updated the Sacramento airport scenery from the link provided. OK so far so good.

 

I set up with the Flight1 King Air and programmed in the suggested preferred routing TRUKN2 TRUKN CCR CCR2 as provided in the pilot brief. After receiving my clearance and taxiing out to intersection Echo at 28L the issues began. I sat there for a long time before the SFO Tower controller told me I was #3 for departure, then just another short delay, then telling me "I am having trouble slotting you in due to the event traffic" (which I was btw) and finally after about 20+ minutes he came over the radio and basically gave up and provided me an alternate route and after another short delay I was on my way with the rest of the event somewhat uneventful.

 

So my issue is not with the controllers on the ground, tower controller or event controllers in general, they have spacing issues to consider but is rather with the organizers. When you have an event that you know is heavy traffic, and you invite "IFR and VFR" traffic and you have very short routes you should expect some turboprops (and probably pistons) to participate and should have the prop routes figured out in advance to allow for all departures to get out in a reasonable time and improve the enjoyment for all. Thanks for reading.

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While I can understand your frustration, there are a few things to consider...

 

1) Some tools real world controllers utilize are not available to us on VATSIM. The primary being flow management software, which are not simulated primarily due to issues inherent to the network, i.e. different weather engines for each pilot client, which affect separation and therefor timing.

 

2) The level of traffic present in an FNO is much higher then VATSIM controllers are accustomed to. Effectively, they don’t get to practice techniques real world controllers do on a daily basis. Just because you fly an FNO every week, doesn’t mean the controllers particiapate in a similar level. Every ARTCC gets two slots a year typically. I believe there are 27 ARTCC in the US system. With that, they don’t get to analyze why a particular route won’t work for a slow aircraft until they are presented with it in real time.

 

3) Short length routes are much easier to meter because they are so short. An arrival time for a flight from Newyork to Sacramento is much more difficult to predict then An arrival from Sanfrancisco. Metering itself is similar to an on ramp to the highway. If you let to many cars on the highway, everything stops. Airspace isn’t much different except you can’t stop, so keeping aircraft on the ground is the only way to accomplish this.

 

4) In contrast to real world operations, an FNO will bring a level of traffic that is rivaled by the busiest airports in the world. It is not uncommon to have wheels up times that are in excess of hours for airports like San Francisco or JFK.

 

Given these factors, a 20+ minute delay and reroute is realitivly minor. If you want this virtual world to realistic, we need to accept these limitations.

 

On a side note, in the real world aircraft carry something called contingency fuel, which goes above the minimums to complete the flight. When I fly FNOs, I carry at least TWO hours extra. From a controllers standpoint, when someone declares a fuel emergency, it just adds to the chaos.

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Hi Mark,

 

Alex pretty much hit the nail on the head. We had bay area departures on "call for release", so basically tower had to get a release before you could take off. Finding you a slot in the "conga line" is difficult to do without the tools that exist in the real world, so you ended up having a delay. Allowing you to take off and then vectoring you in circles until we can fit you is no solution, and in fact may make the situation worse for you, the other traffic, and the controllers. Sometimes, non-standard, alternate routes work better, and it sounds like you got rerouted to fit the needs of the airspace. I'm sorry for the frustrating delay and I hope you'll still come fly with us again in the future.

Ryan Parry - 965346

vZOA Air Traffic Manager

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Here's my opinion, & before I proceed I will grant that I'm somewhat sadistic this way so not everyone will derive the same satisfaction out of it... but...

 

For me, the joy of flying in an event is to challenge myself to deal with flying in adverse conditions, heavy traffic, high stress, etcetera. If all I ever did was follow my pre-planned route with no unexpected curveballs, AI ATC would be more than sufficient to give me the expected instruction at the expected time. I *want* to get holds, vectors for sequencing, reroutes, restrictions, last-minute runway changes, etcetera -- to compare how I handle it to how well the REAL guys and gals of the skies would have.

 

So, maybe it's just a matter of expectation & outlook. Expect heavy traffic during events and be ready to deviate from your plan in order to help the controllers manage it as best they can. Then challenge yourself to handle the unexpected professionally while not forgetting any major steps in the "usual" routine.

Cheers,

-R.

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Yeah, but even if it gets really busy, ATC should be flexible enough to sort this kind of issue out: different altitude/level, different heading in departure etc.. Let the jets climb above the Kingair and all issues are solved.

 

In this situation ATC did sort it out. When it was realized that the filed route wasn't going to work any time soon, it was remedied by issuing an alternate departure so that the king air could be worked into the sequence. Also, "Let the jets climb above the Kingair and all issues are solved" isn't true for this airspace in particular.

Ryan Parry - 965346

vZOA Air Traffic Manager

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www.pilotcentral.org | www.oakartcc.org

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Hmmm, jets usually climb at rates in excess of 3000fpm to at least 10,000ft. A Kingair will not do this and it will be a bit slower in forward speed as well. How can it take 20 minutes to find out? I am not trying to slag anyone off, it's just part of the learning - with experience comes flexibility and operational thinking - the rules and procedures are just the foundation, no matter how complex an airspace is.

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Hmmm, jets usually climb at rates in excess of 3000fpm to at least 10,000ft. A Kingair will not do this and it will be a bit slower in forward speed as well. How can it take 20 minutes to find out? I am not trying to slag anyone off, it's just part of the learning - with experience comes flexibility and operational thinking - the rules and procedures are just the foundation, no matter how complex an airspace is.

 

At the other end is where the problem would come into play. Once you start guys down, that turboprop gets in the way as far as in trail separation goes. It can be delt with but makes the center guys job harder.

 

It’s not a function of learning, it’s traffic separation and in my opinion a reroute reduced the burden on the down line controllers.

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Hmmm, jets usually climb at rates in excess of 3000fpm to at least 10,000ft. A Kingair will not do this and it will be a bit slower in forward speed as well. How can it take 20 minutes to find out? I am not trying to slag anyone off, it's just part of the learning - with experience comes flexibility and operational thinking - the rules and procedures are just the foundation, no matter how complex an airspace is.

 

It doesn't have to do with a rate of climb, it's the airspace and route itself. We have very specific routings (that have very specific altitudes) within the Norcal airspace that allow traffic to flow efficiently from sector to sector, airport to airport, without too much, if any, conflict. For SFO-SMF, both jets and turboprops have the same route and the same altitude.

 

The issue is trying to create a hole in the m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive conga line from the south. A hole must be created by either center or approach, and the SFO departure must be launched at the right time in order for it to all meet up and work out. Take a look at this graphic (though it is based on old procedures, the new RNAV ones follow them nearly the same). As you can see, depending on what runway you depart, there are "hoops" to jump through. Off of runway 1R, you're climbing under "down the bay" SFO arrivals, but above Oakland arrivals. From runway 28L/R (OP in the Kingair was 28R at E), you're climbing under SFO arrivals, over Oakland departures, but under SFO departures from 1R. So, as you can see, simply climbing jets over him wasn't a solution, and the options for additional vectors in these high traffic events can be sp[Mod - Happy Thoughts].

 

After getting past all of this the aircraft head over a small corridor that is a shelf between Norcal and Travis AFB. Typically, we do not want our traffic in the military airspace, though some VFR traffic does go down there on their own. In this corridor there isn't a ton of space to vector, and as I said before the route has the same altitude for both jets and turboprops, so separating by altitude isn't an option in this location. Yes, we can technically climb jets up higher, but that'll certainly leave the guy in the jet too high later on, which will create more work for our final controller (who is already swamped). That leaves you with speed, which takes time to develop. You've also got to get the CCR sequenced with the SUUTR stream, or you're going to create a giant mess that potentially interferes with the departures taking off from SMF. You can take a look at this graphic that shows the traffic flows for SMF when landing south. If you look to the middle of the two purple dashed lines, that's SMF. We can't start sending aircraft left right and center into a departure corridor, so the sequencing requires a bit of coordination.

 

It is for these reasons, the complex bay airspace, the over saturated SUUTR stream, and tight restrictive airspace, that we had bay area departures on a "call for release". They weren't releasing this aircraft, so he had to wait. We did this so we could try to coordinate the traffic and avoid creating m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive issues. It's clearly a lose-lose for us controllers. If we launch every plane and create a m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive mess with aircraft going in every direction, holds, m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive delays, we gets forum posts/ feedback/ nasty emails. If we try to do it right and coordinate the traffic to ensure a smooth event for everybody with minimal delays, well as you see we still get complaints.

Ryan Parry - 965346

vZOA Air Traffic Manager

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www.pilotcentral.org | www.oakartcc.org

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It actually was not that frustrating, I have had many delays over my long history with Vatsim so I know what to expect in a big event. It was more confusion on my part as to why jet after jet was getting out on the same route but they could not slot me in in a turbo prop. Seemed the issue was the routing more than anything else and once the route was changed there was actually not that much traffic at the time I flew (early in the event).

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I'll tell you, as I was sitting on the ground at KSFO waiting for my departure slot, and looking at VATSpy, I thought the TMU was being over-protective. I, too, departed early in the event, and thought based on what I was seeing that the TMU could have pushed more tin. But looking at their timelapse (

), it's apparent to me that the TMU did a fantastic job blending the KSFO traffic into the arrival streams and not making a nightmare for the TRACON. I agree with Ryan -- no one likes waiting, but stuffing too much into a TRACON and having ATC lose control is much worse. Well done!!!!

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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