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When contact Center/Control?


Martin Nesuta
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Hi, 

I have question about contacting ATC on Center or Control of some area. 
When I’m flying over some area but not landing there - only crossing (for example from Prague to Athens) and I’m on Unicom, then I enter for example Hungarian Center, should I contact them immediately? Or just wait for their call?

 

Thanks for your responses. 

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Hey @Martin Nesuta

When you enter their airspace (and center wants you to contact them) they will send you a “contact me”, a private message on your pilot client saying “please contact me on xxx.xxx” (xxx.xxx is the frequency). So if they send you this message you can contact them.

I suggest you to don’t contact them on you own, If you enter an airspace and you don’t recive a contact me, it probably means that the controller is closing and doesn’t want any more aircrafts on his frequency. Rarely the controller forgets to send you a contact me.

Hope this can help!

Filippo,

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Agreed with Filippo

If you are 99% sure you are inside their airspace, and you did not receive a contact me, double check your PMs and else don't worry. 

If you are approaching their airspace, wait for their call.

 

 

 

Edited by Matisse VanWezer

Streaming Brussels Control since 2018 on MatisseRAdar - Twitch to create time lapses on YouTube and TikTok

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Sorry, but have to disagree here. According to Vatsim Code of Conduct "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. This includes making prompt contact when requested to do so."

So it is primarily the pilot's responcibility to contact the controller.

Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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1 hour ago, Torben Andersen said:

So it is primarily the pilot's responcibility to contact the controller.

Yes, but in some areas, you have to reduce the meaning of that sentences to: "Check for and make a quick response to Contact-Me-Messages."

Example: You are on a flight inbound Berlin, entering German airspace from LKAA via BEFRE T204 NUKRO, available ATC is EDUU_L_CTR, EDMM_R_CTR and EDWW_B_CTR. Who do you contact and when? A little help with the Sector-Maps for ATC provided by VATSIM Germany: https://de.wiki.vatsim-germany.org/Centersektoren (I know that this topic is about overflights, but I didn't want to search for a route for an overflight)

And we don't make it so complicated because we want to. We do it because we have to in order to have an opportunity to provide effective service to pilots. We consider it completely normal not to  expect from pilots to know our airspace as well as we do and as long as the pilot responds to our Messages within a few minutes and doesn't  argue with us about being in our airspace or not, we are fine with it.

Areas with only one CTR that has no Letter between ICAO and _CTR: Look up your route on skyvector or something like that and contact them a few miles from the FIR border fix, should be fine.

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4 hours ago, Martin Nesuta said:

Hi, 

I have question about contacting ATC on Center or Control of some area. 
When I’m flying over some area but not landing there - only crossing (for example from Prague to Athens) and I’m on Unicom, then I enter for example Hungarian Center, should I contact them immediately? Or just wait for their call?

 

Thanks for your responses. 

Dear Martin,

As C1 Controller this is my opinion:

Technically, some tracking system like VATSPY are a little bit inaccurate, so on personal experience this issue could be present some times, but luckly, not always. Sometimes, several pilots call me when I cover Milano but while they're flying between Nice and Geneva, which is a mistake because the border between Italy and France isn't managed from Milano or Marseille, with exception  of the area located from the south of Monviso mountain until the sea coastline, but from Geneva ACC due to several corridors and aiways present in that area: a small section, mainly over France, but which start from Monte Bianco until Monviso, is covered for ATC management from Swiss controllers, but this isn't visible on VATSPY.

For this reason, when you plan a flight, is always better check which will be the planned flight route, and which FIR's and ACC's will be affected. Tools like Simbrief could be helpful.

However, I think that is always a priority of the ATC check the traffic situation. I think that if you're sure about an ATC which will be the next ATC responsible for your flight in few min, well, don't wait the national border or his/her ACC border. However is our responsability check if someone has joined our controlled zone, because after all, ACC airspaces are always classified as controlled if you check local AIP's, whatever is the condition on VATSIM, if with ATC user online or not.

Sometimes things get complicated. ATC on VATSIM as Milano Radar (LIMM_N_CTR) Twitch channel https://www.twitch.tv/italianalien21

 

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On the "actively make contact or wait for ATC to initiate" discussion: it's not rocket science.

Make a best effort at knowing who to contact and when, plan to actively make contact ~5 minutes before entering controlled airspace (or when established on the approach or entering the pattern for TWR, and when vacating the runway for GND); if the airspace is too complicated, or you don't know who to contact, make a best guess based on your knowledge of the airspace and the controllers' descriptions, or ask via PM.

In practice, they will usually send you a contact-me before your planned contact, which automatically resolves the situation, and of course it happens that you guess wrong, and assume you're in unicom airspace when you're not - but you should not rely on ATC to send you a contact-me; if you think you should be talking to a controller, don't wait for the contact-me, call them up.

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  • Board of Governors

The rule is that the pilot is to always monitor for ATC and make contact. The contact me is a tool controllers have to hail pilots who drift into their airspace and fail to make contact with the controller. It is not the first cue that a pilot should contact ATC. “Wait for the contact me is absolutely the wrong advise here.”

Airspace is complex, yes. However it’s far easier to tell a pilot who calls that they are not in my airspace than it is to send multiple contact me messages, hear nothing, and eventually have to raise a now potential unattended connection to the supervisors.

Matt Bartels
VP: Marketing & Communication
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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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24 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

However it’s far easier to tell a pilot who calls that they are not in my airspace

Even if more pilots call from outside your airspace than within? Them sometimes being even outside of radio range, just the static getting through, blocking your frequency time and making it necessary that you look up who it was and sending them a text message to tell them to monitor Unicom vs. just one klick on your keyboard (at least with EuroScope) for a Contact-Me? I really do not think so.

90% of pilots respond to a CM within 60 seconds. Maybe another 8 % within 5 Minutes. Because they were following the rule, anticipating that there could be such a request by ATC and standing by for ATC who know where exactly they are responsible. 

What should be done more is to look out for the Controller Info Lines, where most ATC states which airports they are serving and not calling them accordingly on the ground. That is something pilots can do to comply with that rule.

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6 hours ago, Philipp Edlich said:

We consider it completely normal not to  expect from pilots to know our airspace as well as we do

It is part of being a pilot to know what airspace they are in. We know that it is difficult for a pilot to know the controlled area boundaries on VATSIM but you are saying that ATC knows that stuff. So why don't pilots? I can't believe that it is simply because they don't care, as evidenced by the issue being raised on a very regular basis.

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Alistair Thomson

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Definition: a gentleman is a flying instructor in a Piper Cherokee who can change tanks without getting his face slapped.

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15 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

It is part of being a pilot to know what airspace they are in. We know that it is difficult for a pilot to know the controlled area boundaries on VATSIM but you are saying that ATC knows that stuff. So why don't pilots? I can't believe that it is simply because they don't care, as evidenced by the issue being raised on a very regular basis.

No, it's not because they don't care, but because (at  least in Europe) atc sectors differs from FIR borders and vatsim atc also often combine sectors depending on who's online. An example: You really need to dig deep into documentation if you want to find out, if you should contact EKDK_B_CTR, EKDK_V_CTR etc. You might be able if you check the Danish AIP to guess that, but while the RW sectors are always manned, VATSIM sectors are not, so we combine them. And suddenly EKDK_V covers airspace above EKDK_B, which you can't see on any chart. Only atc knows the combinations in use - and I don't think it is reasonably to expect pilots to find out the combinations even if they were published. Delegation of airspace is another problem. In the North Sea a large part of UK airspace is delegated to Danish atc, as the radar coverage is better from Denmark IRL. I've often asked pilots to contact me, because they weren't aware of this and some even got a bit upset, when being asked to contact me. I must say, that things HAVE improved and it is becomming more common by pilots, who fly over the North Sea to know this and act accordingly.

What I as a controller expect from a pilot is to contact me before entering my airspace (if he/she knows/has an idea of the borders) or at the very least respond to a .callme message within a short time (1-2min). Sometimes pilots leave their cockpit even on a short trip from say EGKK to ENGM and traverse a good part of Danish controlled airspace before they react to the callme message. This p*** me of. I can understand pilots doing longhaul being away for 20 min, while eating, going to the restroom etc, but on short/mediumhaul flight - no. 

Best advise I can give a pilot is - Contact the controller in advance. atc will tell you if he/she covers that area. No harm done in asking. And as you regularily flies the same areas, you build up a knowledge on what to expect. Worst thing you can do - Ignore a controller, who asks you to contact him/her.

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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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15 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

So why don't pilots?

Several reasons.

First, ATC only need to know their own airspace, but pilots need to know all the airspaces they fly through. If you're gonna control EDDF APP, then you only need to understand the EDDF approach sector, airport operations at EDDF and a small handful of nearby airfields, and the surrounding bits of the Langen sectors. But if you fly from EDDF to, say, EHAM, a fairly short flight, you need to know these same things (minus airport operations at those other airfields), but also the enroute sectors of Langen, Bremen, and Amsterdam radar that you will be flying through, plus the EHAM approach sectors and airport procedures. And most of us fly to dozens of different airports, so there's simply an order of magnitude or so more airspaces to consider.

Second, ATC boundaries on VATSIM, and their respective staffing and positions, don't always match IRL, and the documentation isn't always easy to find. ATC get this information from their local VACC's, as part of their training, but for us pilots, it's a matter of proactively searching for it. Not every VACC makes it as easy as the UK (https://www.vatsim.uk/operations/sectors), and even when they do, it's not completely obvious where one should look, or how to interpret those charts.

Third, VATSIM is a bit different than real life here. IRL, a typical airliner flight will be controlled all the way, and once you've made your initial call (to Delivery), you're literally told who to contact and when, frequency and all (automatic handoffs are a thing, but in those cases, you're either given the departure frequency with your clearance, or it's published, and you can rely on the published freq being correct). So the situation where you have to figure out whose sub-sector you're in and when to contact them simply doesn't occur. You still need to know which airspace you're in, but it's always clear who you should be talking to.

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This is refreshing as a pilot to hear well phrased reasons for why it is difficult as a pilot to keep up with ATC sectors.

Also some if us fly using HW cockpit and do not like to have extra displays etc around.

And in the end, the airspace is controlled by the ATC. 

I think B3(a) could use some re-wording.

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7 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

These days, sectorization can be very confusing and unclear.

I know that sectorisation is an ATC convenience. I also know that, in VATSIM, it really can't be fully aligned with the real world. What I don't understand is why the information which pilots require about that sectorisation is so hard to find.

Alistair Thomson

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Definition: a gentleman is a flying instructor in a Piper Cherokee who can change tanks without getting his face slapped.

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Vatspy is reciving a lot of updates, including sector splits, but its often not usefull because of the way ATC logs in, and the lack of information being provided by ATC as to what areas they are coveing.

What would be helpfull is if a controller put in their controller info what sectors they are also covering, if you are only covering EKDK above FL250 then write that in your controller info. This is policy for us in Australia, for example.

ML-BIK_CTR covering ML-ELW 123.75 Top down YSSY 129.8 YMML and YSCB 123.75

The same can be done for Germany, EDGG_K Coveing all EDGG sectors.

Or EDGG_B covering EDGG_D and top down EDDF

Controllers putting this info in their controller info would make it easier for Pilots to follow the code of conduct.

Of course the solution is, for Europe to change their call sign log in from EDGG_D_CTR to EDGG-D_CTR and that would light up the vatspy sectors correctly, which is how we overcome it in Australia. Given there is no defined log in starndard set by VATSIM up to the first underscore, this could easily be acheived by divisional policy changes.

Multipule sector splits and VATSPY can be achieved as proven in VATPAC.

In fact if you read https://www.vatsim.net/air-traffic-control-frequency-and-information-management-policy under section 6, it is recomended that you provide this information.

Vatspy 2.JPG

Edited by Kirk Christie

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

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The info needed to be displayed is very complex and alas not as simple as Kirk's answer suggest. I'm take one page of the Letter of Agreement between Denmark FIR and Bremen FIR to illustrate the complexities. Luckily in daily opperations only few individual sectors are manned, so the choosing between available controllers is not normally a big deal. But how to communicate the sectorization to the pilots is a difficult task. 

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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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For all practical purposes I think the simples way to go is refrasing B3 in code of conduct somehow, to make the contact between pilots and atc an equal share responcibility. Using different mapping software like VatSpy is a help, but only to a certain degree, as a complite mapping is unrealistic in my eyes.  As the primary problem is banding sectors together as we do at VATSIM, one other possibility is to maintain RW sectors as is (they are found in the AIPs) and let the controllers monitor the approbiate frequencies. But that gives problems with the pilot clients, as a controller only has one frequency only displayed. This prohibits a simple solution, I'm affraid.

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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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I think the way Vatsim UK does it is pretty good. They have this thing here: https://www.vatsim.uk/operations/sectors, which does not go into full detail, but gives pilots the information that matters - which sectors are there, which ATC callsigns can I expect, which sectors do these belong to, what are the entry and exit waypoints for those sectors, and which airfields do they cover. They don't explain the airspaces in their full complexity, but they do give helpful hints, such as:

Quote

It is especially important to descend in accordance with the STAR when only these sectors are online.

...which means that as long as you stick with the published STARs, you don't need to worry about the vertical boundaries of these airspaces; or:

Quote

If Scottish airspace is split any further, it will most likely be during events when lots of ATC is online to direct you between controllers, so do not worry.

...which tells me that there may be further splits, but when there are, I won't need to know the exact details.

I also appreciate it when controllers state in their infotext which airfields they cover - this also gives me a decent idea about the airspace as a whole, and even if I don't know the exact boundaries, I have a good shot at calling in at about the right time (and if I call in 10 minutes early, I doubt a controller will get angry).

All in all, I don't think the COC needs to be reworded. It should be the pilot's responsibility to make sure they're talking to ATC when they should be; that doesn't mean we should be banning or suspending pilots for being unable to figure out who to contact, but come on, it may not always be straightforward, but it's not rocket science either. Look at the ATC list, make an educated guess, plan to make contact before entry; 9 out of 10 times, you'll get an early contact-me; and if you call up the wrong person, then you won't be sanctioned for it. As long as everyone makes a reasonable effort, things should work out fine (and IME, they usually do).

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