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When to decide your own STAR and approach?


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OK, I will admit it

Most of my long haul flying online occurs at times and places where, unlike the real world, there is no ATC on duty. So I tend to watch the developing arrival weather during my flight to decide on my arrival runway. Due to some lack of a discipline, this is sometimes some distance before landing.

My problems occur if ATC comes live after I have set up my STAR and approach. Changing these after programming the CDU can present unwanted complications.

Is there a rule for deciding when it is safe to set my own STAR and approach

If ATC then come live with changes, am I entitled to say UNABLE and proceed to land on my predetermined runway if no other aircraft is in the vicinity

What rules do ATC normally follow for aircraft already approaching the airport when they come on duty

Guidance please.

Cheers, Richard

You are the music, until the music stops. T.S.Eliot
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Usually the STAR is determined by your arrival direction and should not change regardless of the runway in use (not always though). Changing STAR and runway on the fly should be relatively simple and should not interfere with your flight, not sure why this would be a big problem. You can always request a preset runway but ATC may not allow it depending on other traffic flow.

 

One thing to try is copying your route in the Secondary Flightplan (with no STAR and runway) and then if this situation comes up you can load the secondary route and program in the STAR and RWY in a clean route without the chance of messing something up. Not sure which aircraft you are using but this feature is available on PMDG and FSL aircraft.

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What runway to use is most often determined by wind direction, but some airports also have preferential runways for departures, arrivals or night and day(This can be found either on vatsim briefing docomeents or the country's AIP site). This is what ATC will consider when deciding active runway and depending on traffic he might ask you use another runway or just land on the runway you have planned. I don't think there is any rules for this, it's just about traffic flow and safety.

 

A change in runway after you have started the descent happens from time to time, and that is just something pilots most be prepared for. You should always have a plan B and C on hand, and be prepared for anything. If you think you have too little time to brief a different approach you can for example ask for a delay vector or a holding pattern somewhere.

 

Hope this helps, happy landings!

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All of the above is true and I concur that a good goal would be to become comfortable with last-minute runway [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ignment changes.

 

In the meantime, "unable to change STAR, request vectors" should be just fine. If questioned why, "I'm still learning the airplane" should be explanation enough.

Cheers,

-R.

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Thanks for your replies so far.

Is there a norm by which ATC should notify of a runway in use? Before commence descent or crossing transition level, for example?

 

Ideally as early as possible, but in reality you can get a runway change down to virtually final approach (and beyond) in some places.

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...My problems occur if ATC comes live after I have set up my STAR and approach. Changing these after programming the CDU can present unwanted complications.

When you are contacted by that ATCO make sure that you communicate that you are set up for a particular STAR. You will usually be accommodated. If not try "Unable for operational reasons"

Is there a rule for deciding when it is safe to set my own STAR and approach

No, there is no rule. You are the Captain. You set up when you feel it is necessary.

If ATC then come live with changes, am I entitled to say UNABLE and proceed to land on my predetermined runway if no other aircraft is in the vicinity

Yes. Once again try "Unable for operational reasons"

What rules do ATC normally follow for aircraft already approaching the airport when they come on duty Guidance please.

It depends on the traffic situation. If you're inside the STAR's entry point my personal preference, if I'm covering APP or CTR top down, is to ask what approach you are set up for if you flight plan does not give me that information. If at possible I'll confirm that. Later, other traffic may require me to cancel your star and commence vectoring. You should always be prepared for vectors.

Usually if the area is fully staffed you will be [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned a STAR by the CTR controller before you are directed to leave your cruise altitude. The APP controller should confirm that on the hand off from CTR. On hand off from APP to TWR. TWR may, if traffic is unusually heavy (for VATSIM) at an airfield with twinned runway, request a runway change.

Quig, C3, P1, VATPAC, CZQM (inact), CZQX (ret).

4200+ hrs of "Chaos, Panic & Disorder in your virtual skies!"

 

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I would not say a pilot is entitled to land on their predetermined runway.

 

While the pilot is in charge of one aircraft, a lone CTR controller has multiple airports and multiple aircraft. A change in arrival runways can mean unnecessary workload for the controller. And, it can mean delays for other aircraft. That’s because landing on a non-standard runway means changing sequencing and timing to ensure aircraft don’t conflict.

 

I understand that it can be difficult to reprogram the STAR once already set. It’s also a bear to redo an arrival plan for multiple planes because a pilot insists on landing opposite traffic flow. But, let’s find a happy medium.

 

Runway changes can happen at any time. I avoid them, but be ready for them. If you can accept vectors, maintain [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned altitudes and speeds, and take an ILS or visual, I can work with you. If you really want the opposite direction or non-standard arrival, expect a delay if traffic warrants it. If everything is clear, I’m happy to give you whatever arrival and approach your heart desires.

 

If you want to know what runways are in use, check the ATIS. If ATC isn’t online, use FlightAware. We usually mimic real-world operations.

 

TLDR: The more workload I already have means the less likely I’m going to accommodate non-standard flows or requests. If you really want something non-standard, expect delays. If workload is light, then sure, I’ll accommodate as much as possible.

Los Angeles ARTCC Air Traffic Manager
VATUSA Division
https://laartcc.org

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Correct. An ATC can choose to accommodate a pilot-request, but he does not have to do so. Of course, 99% of us ATCOs are service-orientated people and will try to grant those requests, within reason.

 

The bottom line is: when you fly without ATC and plan and program a STAR in your GPS/FMS and ATC suddenly shows up, try to re-plan your arrival and approach, but if you think that it will drag you past your comfort-zone, simply ask for radar vectors to final or a simple direct to a fix - this way you will at least have enough capacity to re-brief your final approach procedure and change your radio-settings. And think of it as a small challenge: we grow with challenges and next time it will happen, you'll be much quicker and feel more comfortable.

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Thanks for your replies so far.

Is there a norm by which ATC should notify of a runway in use? Before commence descent or crossing transition level, for example?

 

Ideally as early as possible, but in reality you can get a runway change down to virtually final approach (and beyond) in some places.

 

Some of this may already be predetermined by SOPs for the airport in question. Again in referring to airports that have nighttime operations (example, for noise abatement), time will be the determining factor. For example, KLAX goes into noise abatement operations starting around 9pm, in which no westbound departures can immediately turn right along their routing. Then at midnight, we go into full nighttime (read: suicide) ops, where pilots land eastward, but depart westward. That goes until 6am local time. The STARs used for those arrivals have notes there for their times of use so they can be planned accordingly. When in doubt, I would also say to check the facility's website in question, as their SOPs should always be available for perusal.

 

The point here in this case is that those runway changes may already be docomeented to prevent repetition of any changes on frequency, let alone help with flightplanning well prior to departing.

 

BL.

Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

27

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi,

 

At least in Europe some people use https://www.flightradar24.com to see real traffic and which runway is used in RL.

 

If there are no ATC online and the winds are not obviously pointing to a particular runway, I will check flightradar. Hopefully there is an arrival or departure you can track to see which runway they used.

 

Best Regards / Jan

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Ideally as early as possible, but in reality you can get a runway change down to virtually final approach (and beyond) in some places.

 

In the real world, runway [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ignments at major airports are usually made automatically by software that balances load across multiple arrival runways.

 

Since the situation is dynamic, [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ignments often fluctuate. As a result, for many airports, the software does not reveal the [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ignment to the enroute controllers until a certain distance out from the airport (usually 50 miles) to minimize the chance of changes after a runway is [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned. In the US, enroute controllers often do not have any access to this information at all. Runway [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ignments are only visible to TRACON controllers and are only issued at initial contact with the TRACON, 30 or 40 miles out. Enroute controllers may only have access to the same ATIS information as pilots.

 

I only add this as some controllers will only provide the information at similar times to what is indicated above, whether to provide a realistic experience, or because their division SOP may not permit them to.

 

All that being said, I would still agree with everything said here. Controllers will do their best to accommodate you, especially if you inform them that a runway change will be difficult (due to software limits or inexperience). Be up front and communicate what you need and why. Do it politely and concisely and controllers will do their best. We know when we log on that the pilots already had a plan and sudden changes are kind of unfair and may be challenging.

 

On the other hand, also understand that you may not be the only aircraft out there and accommodating a non conforming request may require time on our part to juggle traffic. So be patient and know how much holding time you have.

 

As advice for a pilot, don't set up and brief your approach too early. Plan to finish by top of descent. Most pilots need 15-30 mins to set up and brief, so unless you know it takes you longer, dont bother starting until 30 minutes to top of descent. Things can change. And they will...

 

Rob

Rob Nabieszko | VATCAN3

Director of Training, VATCAN

[email protected]

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Thanks for your replies so far.

Is there a norm by which ATC should notify of a runway in use? Before commence descent or crossing transition level, for example?

 

Is there a norm? Absolutely! This is where the airport's ATIS comes into play. The ATIS shouldn't just include only the weather; it should include runways in use (both arriving and departing), NOTAMs, if any certain procedures are in effect (for example, noise abatement), frequencies in use (for example if Tower or Ground control are combined on a given frequency), etc.

 

If you pick up the ATIS (if available), and ATC has done its diligence, you should have everything you're looking for prior to contacting ATC as you're approaching your destination.

 

BL.

Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

27

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I believe that my difficulties come from two areas.

Firstly, most of my flying is done during the daytime in UK time (GMT)and there are usually no ATC on duty at my worldwide destinations and therefore no ATIS. So I have become lazy in not looking for ATIS.

Secondly, as Brad suggests, I plan my arrivals too early in my flight and then do not feel comfortable making changes if ATC appear.

I shall try to leave my planning to just before TOD and learn to watch for ATIS info more actively..

Thanks for all your help, gentlemen.

Cheers, Richard

You are the music, until the music stops. T.S.Eliot
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