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A couple of newbie questions.


steve hedges
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These are probably stupid questions but here goes.

1. If I'm at an airport that only has a CTR controller online, do I contact that controller for taxi clearance?

2. If I'm entering an area that has a CTR controller from an area that doesn't have a controller, do I contact them or will they contact me when i enter their airspace?

Iv'e done some flying on Pilot Edge but would like to fly more on Vatsim because I can fly everywhere, and also it's free.

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Hi Steve,

 

1.) yes, CTR controllers provide "top down coverage", so you'll receive full service from them, including your IFR-clearance.

2.) this is a topic that has been discussed at length in the past. Some controllers appreciate if pilots make an effort to find out whether and when they need to contact them enroute, others prefer pilots to wait for contact-requests to reduce the number of "nuisance calls".

I personally agree with those who prefer pilots actively contact ATC when they think that they are approaching their airspace, but I do understand that this is not always possible and I don't mind sending those pilots a message to contact me.

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  • Board of Governors

On the subject of 2) -- by the strict letter of the law (reference: Code of Coduct B3(a) - "Pilots shall monitor their flights at all times. It is the responsibility of the pilot to check for, and make timely contact with appropriate air traffic controllers.") it is your responsibility as a pilot to be aware of when you are entering an area of controlled airspace or if a controller covering the airspace you are in comes online and make contact appropriately.

 

However, as Andreas says most controllers will use a function of their ATC client to prompt you (they select your aircraft, type a command and the client sends an automatically generated private message which says "Please contact me on (frequency)" if you enter their airspace/they connect up whilst you are in their airspace.).

 

My very general experience is that in the USA controllers are more likely to leave you to your own devices and expect you to call them (and some may get upset if you don't). In Europe and the rest of the world you are more likely to be prompted with a 'contact me' message.

Vice President, Pilot Training

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However, it can sometimes be a bit confusing on who to contact. It is not always obvious, e.g. which Langen Radar sector to contact, London sector unless you go to the 'local' VATSIM ARTCC and download a chart if you can find one. Much easier in the US.

I think it could be easier, if these bits of information were found on a tool like VATSPY, but VATSPY only offers a rather crude version of the sectorization, which is used.

Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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On the subject of #1: While I agree with the general notion that pilots should actively seek to contact ATC when entering controlled airspace, because that is how it works IRL too, there is always the problem of controllers coming online while you're flying.

 

IRL, you would plan to make contact on a particular frequency as you enter some airspace, and you could rely on the station being manned, but on VATSIM, it is perfectly possible that the station is unmanned when you take off, but while you're approaching the sector, a controller logs on, and with the pilot setups I am aware of, there won't be a prominent cue of this happening (i.e., your pilot client won't flash any warning messages about it), you have to actively keep a watch on vatspy or the ATC station list in whatever client you're using.

 

So what I generally do as a pilot is check out the situation before takeoff, and at the very least actively initiate contact with those controllers during the flight. When there is a low-workload moment during the flight, I will also check again and update my notes, but if I'm busy managing the aircraft while a relevant controller comes online, I very much appreciate a "contact me".

 

This is less of an issue with CTR, because entering those airspaces generally happens when workload is low, but for APP and TWR, I'm often busy flying the aircraft, so I can't be checking the ATC list all the time at the same time.

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