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Radar handoff to Tower or Ground control


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Hi! I'd like to know what are your thoughts on do a radar handoff to a tower controller or a ground controller and vice versa. I think it's not necessary because those are non-radar positions and using flight strips is more useful (my opinion) but I heard opinions saying it's a good way to coordinate between ground positions. What do you think?

Thank you!

Radar service terminated

Mexico ATC|Gander Radio Operator

 

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Well, this seems to be a common discussion around many VACCs. In some of them, students are taught NOT to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the tags when connected as TWR or below; while on the other hand, some VACCs don't ever talk to them about what they should do or even tell them to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume them whenever they are the ones in charge of the traffic. I personally see both sides of the story ok. Why?

 

  • Not [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming the TAGS: It is argued that this is the most 'real' option, as "GND/TWR don't have radar to work with" (I personally don't think it is like this. Even if they don't use it as their primary source of information, many DO actually have radar as an aid to their operations). Another typical argument for this is that "there's no need for them to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the TAGS and due to their low visibility ranges, if they don't release or handoff the traffic, they'll keep the TAG and future controllers won't be able to modify it".
     
     
  • [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming the TAGS: When you [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the TAGS, you are the only person who can modify their items. This means that whenever the TAG is handed off to the next controller, you can be sure that the data is still what it was and nobody has accidentally (or purposely) modified it. Another reason for TWR to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume traffics is that with departures, APP can request TWR to give a direct to that aircraft, meaning that TWR will hear and see the request, and can tell the aircraft to "proceed direct ABCDE and contact APP...". Last but not least, when you [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume a TAG other controllers can see who is the "owner" at that moment; making it easier and faster to coordinate without having to figure who is the person controlling a certain area.

 

I would like to hear what others think about this too.

 

Cheers,

Néstor Pérez
A Random Platypus
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I personally don't think tower/ground should be picking up tags. From my experience when a tower controller picks up a tag it makes it difficult to work with on departure when a tower controller doesn't release it. In Australia our systems (TAAATS/INTAS) make it difficult to do this anyway so we outright don't allow TWR to pick up tags. I guess it's a division/vACC preference.

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In Thailand, we don't [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume tags when aircraft are physically located on the ground because it's not uncommon for pilots to update or modify their flight plan before departure (altitude, remarks, etc.) and if they do, the controllers do not get the new flight plan and the pilot will think the controller will receive the new update. A further problem is when tracked pilots go out of range of controllers they are occasionally owned by "???" and no one can do anything to the flight plan unless the pilot reconnects.

Tony Koskinen

S2 Controller | VTBS

CPT Pilot | VATSIM

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Never needed to, even through busy events.

 

Why?, because the people I control with have the common sense to know who is with who...no need for anyone to 'own' a tag on the ground.

 

Also, we communicate via TS/Discord.

 

Why run the risk of not correctly handing off, picking up or drop tracking the tag? And slowing things down..."GND: Sorry for the delay, hold for departure, just waiting on the tower to accept your tag handoff".

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But there you go, Johnny: that's a bad habit, a bad procedure - waiting for the next station to accept the tag. We finally adopted a procedure called "silent handoff", where the next station only accepts a tag once the pilot in question has checked in. I personally have never waited for the next sector to accept a tag anyway, I just sent them over. If the next sector is full, he or she will tell me on Teamspeak. Simples!

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But there you go, Johnny: that's a bad habit, a bad procedure - waiting for the next station to accept the tag. We finally adopted a procedure called "silent handoff", where the next station only accepts a tag once the pilot in question has checked in. I personally have never waited for the next sector to accept a tag anyway, I just sent them over. If the next sector is full, he or she will tell me on Teamspeak. Simples!

 

This is a terrible procedure in my opinion. The whole point of not accepting handoffs sometimes is to not have the plane come on frequency. Maybe you are task saturated and don't want to add another aircraft to deal with. Plus, you haven't completed the very definition of a handoff, which is transfer of radar identification.

 

By constantly sending someone who's down the tubes more planes, how do you think they will have time to tell you to stop?

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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We do have several untis/countries around Germany who have been using this procedure for a long time and I am not aware of any problems. If ones sector fills up and you want to have less aircraft coming in, just give a shout to the neighbouring controller. Just not accepting a tag would not solve the problem, since your neighbour still would need a quick chat message with more information.

 

So, you call it "terrible", lots of other people call it "brilliant". We need to be open to changes and to new procedures, life and procedures are not static.

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We do have several untis/countries around Germany who have been using this procedure for a long time and I am not aware of any problems. If ones sector fills up and you want to have less aircraft coming in, just give a shout to the neighbouring controller. Just not accepting a tag would not solve the problem, since your neighbour still would need a quick chat message with more information.

 

So, you call it "terrible", lots of other people call it "brilliant". We need to be open to changes and to new procedures, life and procedures are not static.

 

It's also called illegal in the US, but to each their own, I suppose.

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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Hey Ryan,

 

let's jump to the real world, ignoring whether it is the US, Europe, Africa or Antarctica: do you think that all systems there make you transfer a tag at all? As an ATCO you have a plane on your screen, you control it and when it gets closer to your sector boundary (horizontally or vertically) you just send it over to the next controller. There's no F3 or F4. There may be a few exceptions, but realistically you just send them over by voice or CPDLC and that's it.

 

And what I forgot to mention in my previous answer: at VATSIM, how often have you been in or have you witnessed a situation where a controller is not able to accept any further pilots in his sector? In my 17 of being here I cannot remember too many situations where this was true, maybe 5 or 6 times. And as an ATCO you always have time to tell the other by voice or text that you need a break, because your airspace is saturated. So, this argument does not really count.

 

 

What I find frustrating in VATSIM is that many are clinging on old procedures, "because it has always been done like this", without even carefully listening to others who tell that it can be done differently and that they have had good results with it. Let's please stop shooting down people who are trying to improve processes until you have seen and tried it yourself. I can attest that this "silent handoff" does work very smoothly and that is very efficient, because you don't need to wait for an approval that you will get anyway. It's a success, I like it, many others like it. It's just different. Please don't judge things before you have observed or tried them out yourself. I also would not dare to say that the American way of clearing and executing visual approaches is "terrible", "illegal" or unsafe. It's just different, it works.

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Hey Ryan,

 

let's jump to the real world, ignoring whether it is the US, Europe, Africa or Antarctica: do you think that all systems there make you transfer a tag at all? As an ATCO you have a plane on your screen, you control it and when it gets closer to your sector boundary (horizontally or vertically) you just send it over to the next controller. There's no F3 or F4. There may be a few exceptions, but realistically you just send them over by voice or CPDLC and that's it.

 

I can only speak for the US - our systems will automatically flash the track, but there is no automatic acceptance of a track. They may be places that do it, but the US it not one of them.

 

And what I forgot to mention in my previous answer: at VATSIM, how often have you been in or have you witnessed a situation where a controller is not able to accept any further pilots in his sector? In my 17 of being here I cannot remember too many situations where this was true, maybe 5 or 6 times. And as an ATCO you always have time to tell the other by voice or text that you need a break, because your airspace is saturated. So, this argument does not really count.

 

This situation occurs with me at least 5-6 times a year. I hold planes for very busy events on the regular, be it into NY, DC, Miami, or even Minneapolis. There's been times where I am literally too busy keeping planes apart to tell other controllers to stop sending me planes. I just don't take the handoff. Simple as that. They cannot enter my airspace without me accepting it.

 

What I find frustrating in VATSIM is that many are clinging on old procedures, "because it has always been done like this", without even carefully listening to others who tell that it can be done differently and that they have had good results with it. Let's please stop shooting down people who are trying to improve processes until you have seen and tried it yourself. I can attest that this "silent handoff" does work very smoothly and that is very efficient, because you don't need to wait for an approval that you will get anyway. It's a success, I like it, many others like it. It's just different. Please don't judge things before you have observed or tried them out yourself. I also would not dare to say that the American way of clearing and executing visual approaches is "terrible", "illegal" or unsafe. It's just different, it works.

 

To each their own. I will not be trying or advocating for this method.

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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We are not the real world. In our environment we hardly encounter these situations. Maybe you guys in the US are doing things differently, but here we just put pilots onto arrival and approach transitions to give them more miles = more aircraft inside the airspace without a need to talk to them.

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Hi Andreas,

 

We are not the real world. In our environment we hardly encounter these situations.

 

I have to say I beg to differ: from a pilot's point of view, I routinely come across controllers (particularly those controlling a CTR sector much larger than the real world one would be, with top-down responsibilities as well) and frequencies which are m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ively overloaded, to a far greater extent than would ever be permitted in real life. It's not a lot of fun to fly in to!

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Hi Simon,

 

ok, that's how the perspective differs and it may also be a difference between ATCOs how they cope with the load. Sometimes we miss the point where we need to pull our safety-pins and ask people on the ground to continue on own discretion and call only when airborne. As you may know I normally control Centers in EDGG (Langen, Germany), EURM (Maastricht, m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive sector, but only >FL240) and EURI (Eurocontrol Islands, UK, Ireland, Iceland, also m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive and complex around London) and I hardly get to the limit of capacity. People who are new to these positions may reach their limits, that's obvious, they need to practice. But I still would not reject handoffs from other sectors, because most of those pilots will just check-in and cruise along. In the real world we would have more controllers, more sectors etc., they handle much more traffic than us in our neat little game here

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Here in the US, if I have aircraft on approach, I'll send them to tower without before any tag handoffs. I'll usually do it as a courtesy, but it's not required and I'm fairly certain that doesn't happen IRL. Sometimes the tower controllers also pick up the tag then immediately drop it, or just never pick it up. No big deal.

 

As for entering another airspace before picking up a tag, that is, like Ryan said, not allowed in the US. The issue is not the size of the total area of control, but particular subsectors getting overloaded. I'll keep taking handoffs into EWR and LGA but reject JFK arrivals if I'm holding in the sequencing airspace. Regularly happens on FNOs where an airport will get 1.5-2x the arrival rate the airspace is designed for. You MUST wait for tag acceptance otherwise you need to spin your aircraft. Holding fixes get filled up, approach airspace runs out of vectoring room, and of course, the VATSIMisms of differing weather or XPlane users with low frame rates all cause a sector to become overloaded. It sometimes has to do with controller skill, but not always. Sometimes, there are just too many planes.

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Alright.

 

It still is a local procedure. There are many ways to announce that you cannot accept further aircraft. We have changed ours and it works, more efficiently. If you want to hold on to your procedures, fine. Otherwise give it a shot, it speeds up the process, that is our experience.

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  • Not [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming the TAGS: It is argued that this is the most 'real' option, as "GND/TWR don't have radar to work with" (I personally don't think it is like this. Even if they don't use it as their primary source of information, many DO actually have radar as an aid to their operations). Another typical argument for this is that "there's no need for them to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the TAGS and due to their low visibility ranges, if they don't release or handoff the traffic, they'll keep the TAG and future controllers won't be able to modify it".

Cheers,

 

You are right in saying that TWR's do have Radar displays in them, however they are generally used for situational awareness, and cannot be used for control, and quite possibly have no interaction with them.

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

956763

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