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[24th April 2021] Cross the Pond Westbound - Discussion Thread

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Cross The Pond: Westbound 2021

I am excited to open our discussion thread relating to CTP Westbound 2021.

For those not familar, Cross the Pond (almost exclusively referred to as 'CTP' throughout VATSIM) is the longest running and largest event on the VATSIM network. We run 2 events every year, flying 'Westbound' from Europe to North/Central America at the start of the year and 'Eastbound' in the other direction towards the end of the ear. We are proud to connect some of the most popular airports on VATSIM over an event easily lasting 10-12 hours.

If you interact want to interact on social media, look for #vatsimctp

The Process

The planning for CTP takes the concentration of our core planning team and many facilities around 2 months to organise. In general we announce things in this order:

  1. Date - we announce the date, this year the 24th April
  2. Airfield Applications - we allow local staff to submit their airport for consideration for the event
  3. Voting - we allow the entire VATSIM membership to tell us where they want to fly
  4. Airport announcement - we announce what airports we will be using this event
  5. Pilot slot choices - pilots are able to submit their choices for where they would like to fly
  6. Lottery - a lottery process occurs whereby event slots are allocated out to the pilots who chose slots
  7. Open slots - remaining slots are opened for pilots to select
  8. Route allocation - our teams agree and allocate you a route, flight level to cross the ocean and departure time. This usually happens within 24 hours of the event
  9. Event day
  10. Rest - my team are often very sleep deprived at this point, so they are allowed a brief period where they can have 5 hours sleep... maybe more 😛

Each year we make some small changes to the process and we like to hear what you do and don't like to help us mould this event.

This Event

We're in the middle of the process as I write this and I'll update you as we go. We have published our event airports, which are below. This year is westbound, so Europe across the North Atlantic.



  • Manchester - MAN/EGCC with some supplementary flights from London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol - AMS/EHAM
  • Brussels Airport - BRU/EBBR
  • Frankfurt Airport - FRA/EDDF
  • Dublin - DUB/EIDW
  • Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup - CPH/EKCH
  • Milan Malpensa Airport - MXP/LIMC
  • Lisbon International - LIS/LPPT
  • Oslo Airport - OSL/ENGM


  • Toronto-Pearson Intl - YYZ/CYYZ
  • Boston-Logan International - BOS/KBOS
  • John F. Kennedy International - JFK/KJFK
  • San Francisco International - SFO/KSFO
  • Washington Dulles International Airport - IAD/KIAD
  • Chicago O'Hare International Airport - ORD/KORD
  • Miami International - MIA/KMIA
  • Lynden Pindling International Airport - NAS/MYNN
  • Denver International Airport - DEN/KDE

 Keeping up to Date

You can keep up to date with us in various ways. This post will remain open up until and including the event. You can post questions,

We are incredibly fortunate that the experienced members of the VATSIM community are often able to answer most of your questions relating to the event. We'd therefore to invite you to join our discord. The Marketing & Communications team have created exclusive Cross The Pond Discord channels, where you can communicate with other event participants and receive critical information directly from the planning team. If you haven’t already, join the VATSIM Community discord. Once you're in the discord, you can sign up to the Cross the Pond channels. See the #role-selection channel for this.

While announcements are posted on the VATSIM social media, we maintain our own twitter feed where you can hear our announcements first. #vatsimctp

If you use our forum, the VATSIM team will continue an announcement thread for you to keep up to date with news and are welcome to subscribe to:


Our Ideals

We are fortunate to be run by a team of very experienced VATSIM members. Our core Planning Team commit a significant portion of our free time to this event every year. It's not uncommon for a significant proportion of us to sleep no more than 3-4 hours on the night before the event to get everything done and then get up to control until we collapse. We do this because we are comitted to a successful event and the enjoyment of hundreds to thousdans of members. If you're one of those members, then we can't wait to welcome you to our event this year. If howver you don't enjoy, or think we can do better in this event, we are also happy to hear it. You can post here. You can submit feedback after the event. We know we don't make everyone happy, but we love to try to improve year on year

From the Planning Team

Our thanks to all the VATSIM teams that make this happen. To name a few, our technical teams (web, tech, network); our Marketing Teams; our local staff.

From our Planning team: myself, Ryan, Simon, Phil, Matt, Nick, JF, Erik, Samy, Gunnar & Chris; we hope you enjoy CTP Westbound 2021.

See you in the skies, April 24th!

Edited by Layth Al-Wakil
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  • Layth Al-Wakil changed the title to [24th April 2021] Cross the Pond Westbound - Discussion Thread
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Posted (edited)

You are now able to submit your preferences to be entered into our slot lottery: https://ctp.vatsim.net/reservation. You have from now until 2300 UTC on 13th April to submit your preferences. I'm writing this post to explain what is available and how the lottery works therefore enabling you to make an informed choice as to what to select. To maximise your chance, I suggest you read my guidance on route pairs and times.

How does the lottery work?
After the 7 days are over, we will process out everyone's choices at random* and allocate out as many slots as possible. After this, we will open up the remaining "unallocated slots" at 2000 UTC on 15th April for people to book. After you have an allocated slot, you cannot select another without 'dropping' your previous, which you can do at any time.

*This iteration of the lottery will give a slight bias towards pilots that entered last year's lottery but didn't get a slot. In the next iteration of the lottery (i.e. the next event in 2021) we will also give a negative weighting to pilots who didn't turn up on the day for their slot (i.e. didn't drop it for someone else to pick up).

What if I don't get a slot?

We will be asking you not to fly across the North Atlantic (Shanwick, Gander, Santa Maria, NY and Reykjavik OCAs) in the event window if you don't get a slot. The event has become very popular over the years and it becomes difficult to make sustainable with the unpredictability of non-event traffic. If you do choose to fly despite this request, you can expect significant delay on the ground before departure as we prioritize booked traffic.

However, once the lottery is over and slots are open to bookings, there are lots of people who drop their slots as they are no longer able to fly. You can therefore check back regularly on the bookings page to see what opens up.

What airport pairs and times should I choose?

Regulars of our event will notice that not every airport pair is available and that the times extend beyond the normal event window.

Our airport selection this year has chosen some airports that depart to a limited number of locations to increase the traffic flow and slots we are able to offer. You should be aware that Heathrow has the lowest number of departures by a significant margin. You would therefore be reducing your chance of a successful slot if you select all Heathrow routes.

We are also departing earlier at certain fields and later than others. I would therefore advise you to consider the following in your selection of time windows, depending on your departure airport:

  • 1000-1030 slots are only from LIMC and EDDF
  • 1030-1100 slots are available from LIMC, EDDF, EKCH, EHAM, EBBR (i.e. not EGCC, EGLL, EIDW, LPPT)
  • 1100-1500 has routes from all airports
  • There is no LIMC traffic after 1500
  • There is no EDDF traffic after 1530
  • 1600-1630 slots are only from LPPT, EIDW, EGLL, EGCC

I just want a slot and I don't mind where/when.

If this is you, then the citypairs with the most available slots are:

  • ENGM to KDEN
  • LPPT to KMIA
  • LPPT to MYNN
  • ENGM to KSFO
  • EKCH to KDEN
Edited by Kieran Hardern
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  • 2 weeks later...

Today, pilots will receive confirmation if they received a slot in our CTP lottery - some time after 1900 UTC. At 2000 UTC remaining slots will open up for people to book - these slots are ones that didn't match with anyone's pair and time preferences.

If you didn't get a slot

Please check the bookings page and select anything still available. People will also drop slots over the next week, so occasional/regular checking of the bookings page and you might get lucky. We tend to lock all the slots on the afternoon before the event (23rd April) and allow no further changes/bookings.

If you don't have a slot, we ask that you avoid flying over the North Atlantic during the event period. We simply struggle to accomodate the volume and sporadic nature of such traffic and that unpredictability is the main factor limiting us increasing event slots each event.

If you choose to log on and fly across the ocean despite our request, you can expect a few things:

  • Significant delays for your departure - the exact amount that you will be delayed will vary depending on how many people are trying to do the same thing. It is not based on airport capacity, but instead enroute and oceanic capability.
  • A re-route - it is much more likely we will re-route you than leave you on your filed route, therefore don't start programming everything in until it's been confirmed.
  • A sub-optimal level to fly - you will almost certainly be issued FL280, 290 or 300 for your cruise through Europe and potentially all the way down the ocean. However once in the oceanic area controllers will climb you IF there is capacity to do so
  • You will not be guaranteed oceanic ATC and may spend periods on unicom

If you choose to log on and fly across the ocean despite our request, we are expecting a few things in return:

  • Patience and politeness with controllers during your delay - it might be rather frustrating, but the delay is not based on the airport's capacity
  • Planning your flight with sufficient fuel for a sub-optimal level, potentially across the entire route

If you got a slot

We hope you are able to join us on the event day! If you are not, please remember to drop the slot on the CTP website, so that someone else can pick it up. We will be weighting the lottery next year so that people who no-show on the day are less likely to get an event slot. This is not intended as a 'punishment', but instead an incentive to drop slots thereby meaning someone else can enjoy it.

By early next week each airport will have released an airfield briefing, which you are encouraged to read for both departure and arrival. It will be available on the CTP website alongside your booking. These often contain advice about scenery (both availability and scenery differences), common departure routes and some reminders of US/Canada/EU/UK controlling procedures in terminal areas.

Here are some of my "top tips" for people flying across the ocean.

All times are in UTC (Zulu). This includes the website and any times used for estimates to oceanic.

In general, we would recommend you load up on stand at least 30 minutes prior to your “slot time”. Your slot time depicted on the event website is your ideal takeoff time, and the airport will be busy, so you will need this time to get clearance and to the runway. At larger airports (e.g. Amsterdam), you might consider loading up even more in advance due to the possibility of a long taxi.

What should I cruise at?

The level you are given on the CTP website is your oceanic level. I.e. the level you should request in your oceanic clearance and expect to be at from oceanic entry to exit. When departing from your domestic airport, you should file a level suitable for your direction of flight (i.e. even levels if west through Germany/Amsterdam/Brussels/UK; odd if flying predominantly south through France, etc).

Your level may be changed in the CTP website up to the day of the event. Check it once you are issued your route as it may move up/down slightly depending on our calculations.

Whatever you end up cruising in Europe, you should still request your oceanic clearance to be at the level you were given by the CTP website. It would make sense therefore for your cruise level in Europe to be as close as possible to this level, because otherwise you might get stuck above/below other traffic when nearing the ocean.

If you are in the ocean and want to cruise higher for efficiency, you can ask the controller if that is possible. If it’s busy, the controller may not have time for lots of these requests, however if there is space they may be able to climb you. Try to make level change requests after you are substantially in the ocean (i.e. 20W or further); though it's no issue to tell them as part of your check-in that you are able higher.

Working with busy Domestic Controllers

Everywhere will be busy, some people will be stressed. Everyone will appreciate you being attentive on frequency and responding to instructions quickly.

A few “dos and don’ts” that you are hopefully already familiar with:

  • It is likely you will level off for separation or airspace restrictions, particularly in busy TMAs. Try to avoid requesting higher/lower levels straight away after reaching and trust that the controller knows you need to climb/descend. Remind them if you’ve been level for way too long.
  • When you tune to a new frequency, have a listen before calling up and try to wait for a good gap

Getting an Oceanic Clearance (Shanwick/Reykjavik)

This will be via nattrak (nattrak.vatsim.net). Log in when in the air with about 40+ minutes before you reach your oceanic entry point. Work out your estimated time for that point (in Zulu / UTC!!) and submit your clearance request with your CTP-assigned level. You should stay on your domestic controller’s frequency while you do this. Check back every now and again to see if your clearance is issued (may require a page refresh) and make sure you comply with any restrictions imposed.

If your clearance is at a level different than the one you are currently flying, you must ask your domestic controller for climb/descent and wait to be cleared by them. Nattrak clearance does not mean that you can just climb. It is your job to tell the domestic controller that you need to climb/descend and they will issue it when it's safe.

Mach number restrictions and time-based restrictions are your job to achieve. Make sure you’re at the speed you are cleared for before the oceanic entry point, not after.


Getting an Oceanic Clearance (Santa Maria)

This will be via voice, 40+ minutes before reaching your oceanic entry point. If departing LPPT, then typically around passing FL100. The relevant radar controller will give you to the appropriate frequency to request clearance, though this will likely be 127.9 for LPPT departures and 129.4 for everyone else. Ideally do this using your com2 radio so you can continue to listen to your domestic controller on com1. If unable, request to leave frequency before switching. Work out your estimated time for your entry point (in Zulu / UTC!!) and submit your clearance request with your CTP-assigned level. Once your clearance is issued, you return to the previous domestic controller’s frequency.

If your clearance is at a level different than the one you are currently flying, you must ask your domestic controller for climb/descent and wait to be cleared by them. Oceanic clearance does not mean that you can just climb. It is your job to tell the domestic controller that you need to climb/descend and they will issue it when it's safe.

Mach number restrictions and time-based restrictions are your job to achieve. Make sure you’re at the speed you are cleared for before the oceanic entry point, not after.


Getting the right Oceanic Controller

Getting the frequency right for the ocean is really important. So really try to listen carefully when you’re handed over and ideally write it down. The frequencies are all very similar to each other, as are the callsigns and you can't always work out logically who it should be.

Because of how many sectors we have going, each individual controller may not be able to see/access your data if you aren’t near their airspace. They also may not know which sector to send you to. If you end up on the wrong frequency, it’s best to go back to your domestic controller (i.e. the radar controller before the ocean) and ask for the frequency again.


Switching Oceanic Controllers

You will typically be told the next frequency and the point at which to switch. For example:

“At 30 West, contact Gander Oceanic on XXX.XXX”

This may be given to you at the start of your sector (i.e. over an hour in advance). Therefore make a note of it and make sure you know when to switch. When you’re leaving the previous frequency, just let them know:

“Switching to Gander Oceanic on XXX.XXX, BAW123”

If the Oceanic Controller disconnects

It is not uncommon to have the occasional client crash for controllers when controlling large volumes of traffic. If this happens, the best strategy is simply to wait for them to come back or be replaced - this may take 10-15 minutes in worst cases. It creates a lot of extra workload when pilots start calling up other oceanic controllers asking who to contact. 95% of the time, the same frequency will be back up and going soon and 99% of the time the oceanic controller you call up to ask what to do hasn’t a clue what the coordinator is planning anyway. If the frequency changes, you’ll likely receive a contactme message.




Edited by Kieran Hardern
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Bonjour j'aimerais savoir sur mon tableau de bord il y a écrit heure de départ : 2021-04-24 13:01:00 mais est ce en heure UTC/Zulu ou vous avez adapté en heure locale vue que j'habite en France cela fait 15 heure heure française ? Est ce possible de changer de trajet j'aurais préféré faire Lisbonne vers l' Aéroports International Lynden Pindling mais il n'est pas disponible et comme vol j'ai pris Milan Malpensa vers Aéroports International Lynden Pindling puis je changer juste le départ pour partir de Lisbonne 

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  • Board of Governors

En Anglais, Si vous plait.

Matt Bartels
VP: Marketing & Communication
## vpmkt (at) vatsim.net
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors




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Hello I would like to know on my dashboard there is written departure time: 2021-04-24 13:01:00 but is it in UTC / Zulu time or you have adapted in local time since I live in France it's been 3 p.m. French time? Is it possible to change the route I would have preferred to do Lisbon to Lynden Pindling International Airports but it is not available and as a flight I took Milan Malpensa to Lynden Pindling International Airports then I just change the departure to go from Lisbon

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Ok but can I swithc my airport departure because I prefer fly from Lisbon and when it's Zulu in France it's a departure time : 15h and it's a very late departure for a flight of 8 hours and 20 min and two hours Ahmed of Zulu time and I would like fly from Lisbon  can you switch my departure airport please and sorry for my English I'm French and I'm 14 years old and thank you on advance

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You may not have gotten exactly what you wanted, but it was not possible to give everyone their first choice.  There are many who did not get a slot at all who would be elated to be in your position right now. 

If you cannot commit to do the flight, the honorable thing to do would be to drop the slot and let someone have it who can. 

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr




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