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How to/help spread the world about a callsign?


Michael Gold
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Hi all,

I'm an admin for a virtual airline that is based around the pre-merger Piedmont Airlines (https://www.piedmont-virtual.com/).

There is, of course, an airline currently flying that is also called Piedmont and operates under American Eagle. Their ICAO/IATA codes are PDT/PT. Before the merger, however, they were Henson Airlines and they were the main partner of Piedmont's commuter system. The pre-merger Piedmont's ICAO/IATA codes were PAI/PI and not PDT/PT and we ask our members to use PAI/PI.

It is very, very common for our pilots when flying online to have the controller challenge them on this and try to convince them to change their callsign to PDT. We recommend our members put "callsign: Piedmont" in their remarks but this doesn't usually help. Some controllers are cool about this but others are sometimes rather insistent.

When we opened the VA earlier in December I sent an email out to all the US ARTCC ATMs asking what we could do about this to smooth the experience for our members and to ask them to communicate the concern out to their controllers. I only heard back from I think 4 ARTCCs and we still have members being challenged about this. It's not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things but it's not uncommon for our members to come back to us to tell us about it and ask us about it and I don't want our members to think they're doing something wrong when they go on the network with the correct callsign.

Can anyone think of anything else additional that we can do on behalf of our members to smooth things over with controllers? I guess my main concern is that even though our people are using the correct callsign it feels like controllers are just relenting out of exasperation with an unspoken assumption that our people are idiots and doing something wrong and they're just going to tolerate it, and I don't want that perception, real or perceived, to take root.

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  • Board of Governors

Hi Michael,

Wow!  Thanks for the post and the historical perspective!

I think this post will help get the word out.  I don't think it will solve the problem completely, but it certainly helps.  It helped me just now!

Just last night, I was controlling a PAI calling himself Piedmont and did indeed assume, not that the pilot was an idiot, but that he just got the callsign wrong.  I even said, responding to his initial check in, something along the lines of, "I'm used to seeing Piedmont as PDT, but no problem, descend via ...."   Although ATC is never *required* to go into a flight plan for additional information, many on VATSIM do.  I did look at the flight plan for clarification last night.  If I had seen a remark in the remarks section of the flight plan something like "PAI = Legacy Piedmont identifier, callsign Piedmont", or "historical" instead of "legacy", I would have immediately understood and had a better appreciation. 

Putting a remark in the flight plan something along the lines of the above may, although not completely solve the problem, also help.

One other thought, maybe just to let your pilots know for awareness, the current ICAO callsign for PAI is Sea Ray (Paradise Airways, Smyrna, TN - not sure if they are still active or not but although they still legally hold the callsign, I believe they may be now defunct).  So on the wild chance that anyone actually knows that and calls your guys Sea Ray, tell them to buy a lottery ticket ( 😉 ) and not take offense! 🙂

Thanks for posting, for the information, and I wish you the best of luck with your virtual airline!

 

 

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Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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Thanks for the reply, Don. We do in fact ask our pilots to put their callsign in their remarks -- our platform even automatically populates that for them if they dispatch through SimBrief via us and then send that flight plan to the VATSIM pre-filer. Not everyone plans their flights that way, but we do have a permanent notice up in the website platform and in our ACARS program asking them to put that in their remarks. Unfortunately, we see people get challenged even when we have that in there. We're going to play around a little bit with the wording of the remark to possibly help. We're limited in space so there's not much we can say, but it seems like "Callsign: Piedmont" is only helping solve half of the equation.

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If I see a callsign I haven't encountered before, or have forgotten about, the first place I look is the FP remarks. SimBrief, while a handy tool, populates the remarks section with lots and lots of information that is largely unnecessary for a controller, making it even more difficult to find anything resembling the callsign.

Oddly enough, I remember when Continental merged with United and would put something like "Continental paint scheme" in the remarks to help out the guys in the tower cab because they'd see the Continental plane but have to call them "United." At the ARTCC, one of my coworkers told me that if a pilot in one of those birds isn't responding, try calling them "Continental." Sometimes that worked. Other times they were simply not paying attention.

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1 hour ago, Dustin Rider said:

If I see a callsign I haven't encountered before, or have forgotten about, the first place I look is the FP remarks.

I think something that I've conveyed poorly thus far is that, as far as I am aware, people are putting the callsign in the remarks -- controllers are then telling them that they're using the wrong 3LD for that Callsign. Our troubles aren't getting people to call us Piedmont, it's getting people to understand that Piedmont = PAI.

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Gotcha.  I think that's a good strategy, and will help.  And I imagine that posting here will help, some, also.  However, since you are intentionally doing something non-standard, not aligned with the real world, coupled with the fact that ATC are not required to review flight plan remarks (though, luckily, many do!), you and your pilots will simply have to be patient and educate on a case-by-case basis.  It's a cross you will have to bear to a certain extent by doing something non-standard, though I appreciate your efforts to try to minimize the size and weight of the cross. 

Hopefully this outreach coupled with the flight plan remarks helps, and your outreach to the ATC facilities (if it's been a little while, you may want to try again, and send the email to ALL of the ARTCC staff to cast the net more widely) will all help.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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