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Use of historical airline callsigns


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Man, I haven't posted here since 2011. It's been a minute.

Anywho, I'm looking for some input on historical callsigns, two in particular:

  • PAI - Piedmont Airlines (1948–1989)
  • USA - USAir/US Airways (1979–2008)

In both cases, operators existed later under both names with different ICAO codes -- PDT is the current incarnation of Piedmont, formerly Henson, that now serves as a commuter carrier for American, and of course US Airways became AWE/Cactus in 2008.

I've flown on the network recently as both PAI and USA with a "Callsign: Piedmont" or "Callsign: USAir" in the remarks, but have been called Papa Alpha India about half the time instead of Piedmont, and have been called Cactus instead of USAir without using AWE.

Here in 2020, I'm curious about controllers' input on the best way to handle historical flights for Piedmont and USAir. I'd prefer to keep PAI/Piedmont and USA/USAir for historical accuracy, but I also don't want to be a headache for others on the network and cause confusion. Is it generally still considered acceptable to run flights under something like this with a remark in the comments, or is it now generally preferred to conform with the more modern and less accurate options (PDT/AWE)? In the case of the former, should I just send a PM to controllers along the way pointing out my callsign in the remarks section?

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It brings a tear to my eye when called "Papa Alpha Alpha" instead of "Clipper."  But, not everyone you'll encounter on the other end of the scope will share our knowledge and love for aviation history.  Add a note in your remarks as suggested, but, be ready to respond to other variations if you hear them. 

Cheers,

-R.

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Case in point; the VATSIM network and its clients are clearly designed to reflect the current state of the aviation world, and while there aren't any rules that forbid the use of historical callsigns (or even historical aircraft, like, say, Concorde), you will have to accept that not everything is prepared to handle those.

The software has to map ICAO codes to aircraft models and airlines, and if at any point any of those gets reused, as a programmer / administrator, you have to decide whether you want to use the current assignment or the historical one.

I've actually run into a case recently where a tool (vatstats, specifically) incorrectly picked the historical option: the "AXY" code is currently assigne to AirX, a Maltese charter / bizjet operator focusing on the executive market, callsign "LEGEND"; until 2009, the code had been used by Axis Airways / New Axis Airways, callsign "AXIS". I put "CALLSIG: LEGEND" in the remarks just to be sure, and had no problems with that, but on vatstats, it appears as "Axis".

Given the current state of commercial aviation, I'm pretty sure we're going to run into this issue a lot more in the near future...

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I sometimes fly online with a fantasy livery:

sceenshot_07162020_215616.thumb.jpg.f8308e1249940f448837d55dd763ba73.jpg

My standard flightplan remarks line for this livery look like this: RTF/FLYIKEA /V/ NAV/GPSRNAV COM/CPDLC SEL/AFGH LIVE STREAM twitch.tv/...

When I make an initial call with this callsign, I got used to about 5 seconds of silence (ATC checking my FPL-remarks...) and then a reply, quite often laughing about the callsign. But it does work consistently.

 

If you are using an existing ICAO callsign code that has been re-assigned to a new airline, you better expect some controllers to read the database entry presented in Euroscope, if they cannot understand the airline callsign mentioned during your initial call. For example, the official database entry for "CXA" is

CXA	XIAMEN AIRLINES	XIAMEN AIR	CHINA

and we all know that most pilots who are connecting to VATSIM as "CXA____" will be using it for their VA "Canadian Express". ATCOs will see "XIAMEN AIR" in their controller clients.

Best practice is therefore to mention the requested RTF-callsign in your remarks as demonstrated above. And, yes, if an ATCO does not get it, insist a little bit, refer to your FPL-remarks so they learn something new.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
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On 7/13/2020 at 3:47 PM, Michael Gold said:

Man, I haven't posted here since 2011. It's been a minute.

Anywho, I'm looking for some input on historical callsigns, two in particular:

  • PAI - Piedmont Airlines (1948–1989)
  • USA - USAir/US Airways (1979–2008)

In both cases, operators existed later under both names with different ICAO codes -- PDT is the current incarnation of Piedmont, formerly Henson, that now serves as a commuter carrier for American, and of course US Airways became AWE/Cactus in 2008.

I've flown on the network recently as both PAI and USA with a "Callsign: Piedmont" or "Callsign: USAir" in the remarks, but have been called Papa Alpha India about half the time instead of Piedmont, and have been called Cactus instead of USAir without using AWE.

Here in 2020, I'm curious about controllers' input on the best way to handle historical flights for Piedmont and USAir. I'd prefer to keep PAI/Piedmont and USA/USAir for historical accuracy, but I also don't want to be a headache for others on the network and cause confusion. Is it generally still considered acceptable to run flights under something like this with a remark in the comments, or is it now generally preferred to conform with the more modern and less accurate options (PDT/AWE)? In the case of the former, should I just send a PM to controllers along the way pointing out my callsign in the remarks section?

As a controller, I take the Kennedy Steve approach, and would call  you "USAir in disguise." 😁

On 7/13/2020 at 3:54 PM, Mats Edvin Aaro said:

Best thing you can do is to have "CALLSIGN//Piedmont" in your remarks 🙂

Seriously, this is the best you really can do here. Not every controller, especially those that are new to the network (read: past 4-5 years) that hadn't caught on to the the happenings going on in HolyMergerville. Technically, even if they called you Cactus, they would have had it wrong, because the correct callsign they should have given you was "American." 😉

But seriously, either try to be the one to initiate the contact, or stress what your callsign should be in the comments for your flight plan. The same thing happens to me: Most to all of my flights I make are with the ICAO code ROK, for National Airlines. Either I

  1. get assumed to be the current National Airlines (which is a freight/military operation) which uses "Murray" as its callsign, or
  2. the controller looks up "National Airlines" and sees the original one, and calls me "National" or "Sunwing", or
  3. simply sees the ICAO code and must think I'm trying to be Virgin America, and calls me "Redwood".

My callsign is Redrock, for Redrock Canyon, which is 10 miles west of Las Vegas, where ROK is based. So I feel your pain.

BL.

Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

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I fly for vUS Army Aviation and we use the real world current “Rxxxx” which can be seen almost every day 24/7 on any aircraft tracking system.

In my remarks I always have as standard: STS/STATE NAV/GPS REG/980023 RTF/ARMY COPTER OPR/WWW.VUSAA.ORG

The majority of CONUS controllers will insist on say “Romeo xxxx” even when I continually use “Army Copter xxxx”.  I have sometimes thought of addressing them phonetically.......

So saying we are focused on current callsigns isn’t true.  If controllers can’t listen to the RTF the pilot uses, its like “no you can’t use that, you must say ........”

Sean

C1/O P3

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Sean, it sounds like you're almost taking that personally.  I don't think it's anything more than lack of awareness.  VRC does not do ANY automatic translation of callsigns, and military ops are sufficiently rare on VATSIM that I'd venture a guess that the majority of S1 and S2 controllers in the US have never seen an "R{xxx}" callsign.  I know I sure haven't, and I've been doing ATC over two years now.

And if you call up as "Army Copter {xxx}" the controller may well not put two and two together if they don't immediately see which target on their scope that corresponds to -- you know as well as anyone that understanding things over the radio is one part hearing and two parts expectation.

Just keep doing what you're doing, and the more people get familiar with it, the more often you'll be answered properly.  That's my opinion of it, anyway. 

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Cheers,

-R.

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RTF would be the official code. But 99% of our controllers will understand if you use a format like CS/, CALL/ or CALLSIGN/, we are happy if people included unusual or historic callsigns at all.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
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On 7/17/2020 at 11:57 PM, Sean Harrison said:

In my remarks I always have as standard: STS/STATE NAV/GPS REG/980023 RTF/ARMY COPTER OPR/WWW.VUSAA.ORG

Try placing the information about your radio telephony callsign at the beginning of your RMK-field. That's the quickest and easiest way for busy ATCOs to find the information: RTF/ARMY COPTER STS/STATE NAV/GPS REG/980023 OPR/WWW.VUSAA.ORG

You also may want to leave out non-essential information such as your aircraft registration, unless your VA/operation needs it for statistical purposes.

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