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Complete lack of understanding of the euro sectors has really put me off. Can anyone offer any encouragement?


Robert Timothy
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Hi there,

I don't have much time in vatsim despite having about a thousand hours in the sim. I was flying EGNX - EDDF in the A321 and the controller at EGNX was great, I was off to a great start, but that's where it ended, after being handed off to unicom.

I'm not looking for blaming or excuses, but some pointers and encouragement because here's why I just quit my flight half way - I honestly didn't have a clue what to do anymore. I am looking at 2-3 different charts and I'll paste in just one to make my point...

vatsimradartemp.thumb.jpg.b47e344a6239f1d66945570f9b07e034.jpg

 

Maybe I am just not reading it right - and I can't be, but for the novice vatsimmer as myself, this live ATC map view, looks like I have wall to wall sector coverage from EGNX all the way to EDDF. Not so, every time I crossed a border, I would see the freq I needed to be on, hear a ton of radio chatter, hit up the controller, only to be told "you are outside my airspace, monitor unicom." and the chatter continues. So me entire flight flight towards EDDF was like this, 4 times i contact a sector, london north, centre, mastrict and finally I get into the star at EDDF and contacting Langen, what I believed was the final sector and yet i'm told the same thing, outside my airspace.

I was needing to descend outta FL350 into EDDF.

I felt at a total loss, I had planned my route and had a couple of charts up, I was searching and reading for help with regards the airspace the entire way, and mostly just finding more confused posts in forums, and debates on if the controller should contact the pilot or not, if the pilot flies into controller airspace without proper comms. All in all, I felt like an idiot.

I include the live screenshot of the situation, and actually for all the good it did me, it might as well have been completely blank, because other than EGNX tower itself, it was unicom.

 

Perhaps I have conveyed how lost and frustrated I feel, maybe I should have waited a couple hours before making this post, but maybe it's important to capture my sheer frustration and confusion over all this. Someone please help, where did i go wrong, are the maps wrong? why did nobody contact me, or was I just not understanding what these sectors even are. thanks

 

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I'm not sure why you were not in anyone's airspace but what I can say is it's not worth getting so upset about and certainly not worth quitting the flight! If you want guaranteed ATC, aim for events; at other times, just fly where you want and if ATC comes online, take it as a cherry on the top. Better luck next time!

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Unfortunately, a lot of the map tools don't accurately reflect the airspace.   Often, the German sectors show up larger than is actually online, same with the UK sectors.

I can only speak for the UK sectors as I'm not 100% knowledgable on the Euro sectors I'm afraid - looking at the UK leg of your routing:

DTY M605 BENSU Q70 BIG UL9 KONAN

...none of that is in London North's airspace.  East Midlands sits under LON_C_CTR, not North, and as you're turning south, you won't speak to LON_N.   The image you posted seems to indicate LON_C was online - was that at the time you were in UK airspace or was that after as you don't mention them at all?  Looking at the UK airspace division map:

egttsectors-lon.png

 

You can see where you routed here - you headed down into the LON_S sector, slightly east of CPT before turning in more or less a straight line to KONAN so LON_N rightly didn't need to speak to you.

Anyone from EUR or German controllers able to shed light on the rest of the routing?

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Trevor Hannant

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29 minutes ago, Trevor Hannant said:

Anyone from EUR or German controllers able to shed light on the rest of the routing?

Absolutely. EURM has recently been split into two sectors (EURM_W and EURM_E, c.f. https://forums.vatsim.net/topic/32187-splits-eurocontrol-maastricht-uac-operational-from-airac-2112/). The VatSpy Data Project (SimAware's source for sector ownership) hasn't been updated to reflect the split yet, though there is a pending pull request (https://github.com/vatsimnetwork/vatspy-data-project/pull/490)

EURM_Splits.jpg.ed7348e548002fd5eebb9040

I assume that EURM_E_CTR was the sector that was online, though there is no way to tell from the screenshot. That would explain why you didn't have to talk to them. Finally for EDGG the sector online was EDGG_P_CTR which, as you can see in that "brighter" area in the EDGG region, does not cover EDDF (and were passing south of their airspace). In general it is good advice to not trust any online map too much. They often times do not reflect sector ownership and responsibilities accurately. Unfortunately both the UK and Germany are sort of infamous for having somewhat complicated responsibilities and sometimes waiting for a contact me is the best (albeit not supported by CoC) way of figuring out who you need to talk to in flight.

Edited by Lars Bergmann
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Vatsim Germany used to have a sector map for pilots on their web page which they removed for some reason? Figuring out which of the sectors are relevant for your flight these days is infuriating. It's almost never included in the controller info either, in my experience.

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@Magnus Meese: No, the explicit sectors covered by a controller is not included in the controller info. I think it is fairly easy to explain why - 1. Rarely pilots are aware of sector borders, only FIR borders, so unless they really dig deep into the documentation for RW sectors, they won't know, so of little help. 2. Sectors change during an atc session, as controllers come and go due to VATSIMs topdown policy. This would mean that atc should update their info every time a adjacent controller logged on/of and pilots would need to look into this too. 

 

Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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4 hours ago, Torben Andersen said:

@Magnus Meese: No, the explicit sectors covered by a controller is not included in the controller info. I think it is fairly easy to explain why - 1. Rarely pilots are aware of sector borders, only FIR borders, so unless they really dig deep into the documentation for RW sectors, they won't know, so of little help. 2. Sectors change during an atc session, as controllers come and go due to VATSIMs topdown policy. This would mean that atc should update their info every time a adjacent controller logged on/of and pilots would need to look into this too. 

 

Doesn't have to be "sectors", but something to aid pilot situational awareness. For example, When I log on to ENOR_S_CTR, a sector I know vatSpy and others display wrongly due to software limitations, I always add something like "Covering Norway from ENVA and South", which very clearly illustrates when you are supposed to talk to me or not. It's not rocket science. I hate approaching FIRs like Bremen and having no clue whether I should call them or not. AoRs "A" and "B" are clearly marked on vatSpy (though you have to look closer as the coloring doesn't conform), so of course I mostly see other letters used nowhere to be found. Helpfull.

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I have been flying on VATSIM for quite sometime,  and I have found that more often that not its just best to wait for a "contact me" especially if there are several controllers covering the same air space,  because more often than not,  I will end up contacting the wrong one.  There have been a few exceptions to this rule,  for example on a flight from EGTE to LEMG the other day,  the whole of Spain was covered by just one controller so it was clear who I had to contact.

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  • Board of Governors

The "contact me" has been written about a million (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there 😉 ) times. 

Many pilots rely on and/or expect the crutch known as the "contact me."  However, it is always the pilot's responsibility to contact the correct ATC, not the other way around.  I concede that most of the time, I would wager more than 94% of the time, the controller is not so busy that they cannot reach out to pilots, even when they are not required to.  However, consider the controller that is working 20-25 aircraft into or out of 5-7 different airports at one time (I, and many of our controllers, do this routinely).  Or consider the controller that simply appreciates and wants to follow the rules 🙂 .   The controller may not have time to reach out to someone who has violated our Code of Conduct and ignored their responsibility to contact ATC.  It becomes worse if that pilot then becomes a conflict with traffic that is following the rules.  The pilot who ignores the Code of Conduct is subject to disciplinary action. 

So my advice, always, is, if you're not sure, reach out to the "most likely" ATC.  They will either radar identify you and provide you ATC, or if you are not in (or likely to soon enter) their airspace, should kindly inform you of that fact and make a recommendation of who to contact or to monitor Unicom.  

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it reasonable with respect to a bunch of volunteer hobbyists trying to simulate the real world as best as reasonable respecting the constraints associated with the fact that we are a bunch of volunteer hobbyists?  In my opinion, yes.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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13 minutes ago, Don Desfosse said:

The "contact me" has been written about a million (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there 😉 ) times. 

Many pilots rely on and/or expect the crutch known as the "contact me."  However, it is always the pilot's responsibility to contact the correct ATC, not the other way around.  I concede that most of the time, I would wager more than 94% of the time, the controller is not so busy that they cannot reach out to pilots, even when they are not required to.  However, consider the controller that is working 20-25 aircraft into or out of 5-7 different airports at one time (I, and many of our controllers, do this routinely).  Or consider the controller that simply appreciates and wants to follow the rules 🙂 .   The controller may not have time to reach out to someone who has violated our Code of Conduct and ignored their responsibility to contact ATC.  It becomes worse if that pilot then becomes a conflict with traffic that is following the rules.  The pilot who ignores the Code of Conduct is subject to disciplinary action. 

So my advice, always, is, if you're not sure, reach out to the "most likely" ATC.  They will either radar identify you and provide you ATC, or if you are not in (or likely to soon enter) their airspace, should kindly inform you of that fact and make a recommendation of who to contact or to monitor Unicom.  

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it reasonable with respect to a bunch of volunteer hobbyists trying to simulate the real world as best as reasonable respecting the constraints associated with the fact that we are a bunch of volunteer hobbyists?  In my opinion, yes.

During busy times contacting the wrong controller is way worse than just waiting for a "contact me". It takes considerable effort for a busy enroute controller to figure out who some random pilot 500nm from your sector should contact. Even worse are people that can't or won't tell you where they are and after looking up their position you see that they are on the ground at a different country entirely, taking away valuable time from the aircraft you are actually responsible for. Imho, if you are too busy to send out a "contact me" for all inbounds from uncontrolled airspace then you are too busy to cover that airspace.

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Christian Kovanen
Director of VATSIM Scandinavia
Membership Department - Data Audit Team Leader

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  • Board of Governors

Respectfully, appreciate the position, but a few additional thoughts:

- If they can't or won't tell you their position, they are pretty low on your priority list.  I might respond "if you can't tell me your position, expect a [ten minute/thirty minute/one hour/two hour delay until I can help you."  That may provide the pilot enough motivation and/or time for them to research where they really are and/or how to report their position.

- If they are so far outside your airspace and you are so busy that you can't help them figure out who to contact, I would think it reasonable to respectfully reply, "Sorry, I don't know where you are, and I'm too busy to help right now, feel free to try me again in [five minutes/ten minutes/twenty minutes]", etc.

- Many times, if you get too busy to cover that airspace, that "too busy" has been creeping up for a long time, and you may have missed how bad it's about to get because you are very helpfully trying to stretch your very limits to help as many people as possible.  I respect that.  Do the best you can, and shed workload the best you can, to provide the best service you can to as many as you can.  First to go (be shed) is people outside your airspace.  Next are things like detailed taxi instructions at a non-major airport and/or the airport you have the most traffic for, etc.  Most people are reasonable, and understand that 80% perfect service is better than zero service because you logged off once you reached a breaking point because of how busy it is.

That "sweet spot in the middle" is so hard to find, yet so amazing once you've found it (and everyone around you recognizes it).  🙂

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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Right now there are 4 German sectors online, each one of them has their covered airports in the controller info.

EDWW_B_CTR
COVERING EDDB,EDAH,ETNL,ETSH,EDAY,EDAZ,EDBH,EDBM,EDBN

EDGG_D_CTR
Covering EDDF/EDDS/EDFM

EDGG_G_CTR
Covering EDDF/EDFH/EDDR

EDMM_O_CTR
COVERING NORTHERN EDMM FIR - EDDN EDDP EDDE EDDC and some minors

Now the only confusion is who is covering EDDF.

There's also EDUU_A_CTR: COVERING NORTHERN EDMM FIR above FL315 only!

and EDUU_H_CTR: Covering above FL315/FL285 ONLY!
Responsible for northeastern part of Rhein UIR (approximately above LEIPZIG up to the Baltic coast)

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2 hours ago, Don Desfosse said:

Respectfully, appreciate the position, but a few additional thoughts:

- If they can't or won't tell you their position, they are pretty low on your priority list.  I might respond "if you can't tell me your position, expect a [ten minute/thirty minute/one hour/two hour delay until I can help you."  That may provide the pilot enough motivation and/or time for them to research where they really are and/or how to report their position.

- If they are so far outside your airspace and you are so busy that you can't help them figure out who to contact, I would think it reasonable to respectfully reply, "Sorry, I don't know where you are, and I'm too busy to help right now, feel free to try me again in [five minutes/ten minutes/twenty minutes]", etc.

- Many times, if you get too busy to cover that airspace, that "too busy" has been creeping up for a long time, and you may have missed how bad it's about to get because you are very helpfully trying to stretch your very limits to help as many people as possible.  I respect that.  Do the best you can, and shed workload the best you can, to provide the best service you can to as many as you can.  First to go (be shed) is people outside your airspace.  Next are things like detailed taxi instructions at a non-major airport and/or the airport you have the most traffic for, etc.  Most people are reasonable, and understand that 80% perfect service is better than zero service because you logged off once you reached a breaking point because of how busy it is.

That "sweet spot in the middle" is so hard to find, yet so amazing once you've found it (and everyone around you recognizes it).  🙂

On this topic, it'd be great if there were training (and IMHO it would be mandatory/required) for pilots to demonstrate how to check in from uncontrolled airspace into controlled airspace (things like reporting your position, maybe squawk code too, and verifying that your transponder is indeed turned on). More often than not I get pilots checking in with nothing but their callsign, or "approaching your airspace" which is equally unhelpful. The CoC puts the onus on pilots to contact controllers. It'd be good if we gave them the tools and resources to do that with minimal fuss for the controller.

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Instructor // ZNY/ZWY Facility Coordinator

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17 hours ago, Don Desfosse said:

Or consider the controller that simply appreciates and wants to follow the rules 🙂 .   The controller may not have time to reach out to someone who has violated our Code of Conduct and ignored their responsibility to contact ATC.  It becomes worse if that pilot then becomes a conflict with traffic that is following the rules.  The pilot who ignores the Code of Conduct is subject to disciplinary action.

With all due respect I think this was really needlessly aggressive. It can be really complicated to work out who to contact. I was flying the other day through German airspace, and the sector I was in went offline so I was handed off to unicom, then despite the atc maps showing I was in a place with no atc, I got a message from an ATC asking me to contact them. I did so instantly. I wasn't trying to break the rules and implying that I should be subject to disciplinary action is going to turn off people from bothering with VATSIM. I try my best to work out who I'm going to need to contact next, but with just around 24 hours flying on vatsim, I'm often wrong when it comes to unfamiliar airspace.

If you're going to go down this route of enforcing the CoC so strictly in this case, you better make sure there's an accurate ATC map available to make this possible without expecting hobbist pilots to study all the nuances of German and British airspace before dare flying on the network. Like you correctly said, this is a hobby, so maybe give your hobbyist pilots a bit of a break and don't imply that people are knowingly breaking the code of conduct when not able to work out who to contact when transitioning through airspace. Personally I WANT to fly places with ATC, that's the point of the network after all, so I'm not ignoring ATC on purpose in these cases.

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The rule, saying that the responsibility to contact ATC, lies with the pilot, originates from the days when VATSIM's airspace and sectorization was much more simple, like 15+ years ago.

These days it is often not possible for pilots to understand all the different sectors, when several of them are active. Yes: I am writing this from a European perspective! Those of you who are calling for pilots to be hit with disciplinary action for such a thing, should not do so until you have operated in busy European airspace yourselves. Until then, you are simply not qualified to make such statements, sorry for being so blunt. Fly from London to Frankfurt, for example. And tell me exactly who you will have to contact when. It's often impossible, simple as that.

On the other hand, and this is the encouraging part, vATCOs will not cry a river over having to ping pilots who have no clue whom to call at what point in time. In conclusion: effectively, you will not see any "disciplinary action" taken against such evil violators of VATSIM regulations. Don't get scared by statements, just fly and do your best in finding out whom to contact. If you are unable, ATC will ping you. Easy.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
typing error
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I appreciate you all very much for the feedback. I am glad (perhaps relieved is a better word) to read people here with 1k + posts can also share a confusion. It seems I picked a couple of complex pieces of airspace to fly through where different sectors and controllers exist. So if the controllers don't mind, I am going to go with the following advice I have gleaned from above:

1) If I am sure who to contact, I will always initiate the contact

2) If I suspect (based on the myriad of often conflicting charts) that I may be in controllers airspace, and the controller is not that busy (based on freq chatter) I will contact them - WITH MY POSITION (thanks for that tip) and expect to be accepted, redirected, or told to go unicom.

3) If I am unsure and the controller is clearly busy (radio freq is over half full) then I will wait for a "contact me"

 

This is honestly the best way to go about this for me at this time. If someone who understands these things a little better than myself could come up with some sort of accurate and updated map, I am sure that there would be quite a few people grateful - again I do want to play by the rules and try to accurately reflect the procedures and communications in multiplayer environment as close to real as we can from the home sim. Thanks again everyone for their input, appreciated!

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On 1/25/2022 at 8:02 PM, Dace Nicmane said:

Right now there are 4 German sectors online, each one of them has their covered airports in the controller info.

That's good! However it's not an argument for anything. If you wanna log statistics on this, then over time you will have something to point to, but a sample size of one means nothing. As an example, as I write this only two out of five enroute controllers in Germany have equivalent information listed. We now have a sample size of two, but that's hardly enough to extrapolate that (4/4+2/5)/2=0.7 70% of German enroute controllers include that info 😉

Edited by Magnus Meese
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8 hours ago, Robert Timothy said:

1) If I am sure who to contact, I will always initiate the contact

2) If I suspect (based on the myriad of often conflicting charts) that I may be in controllers airspace, and the controller is not that busy (based on freq chatter) I will contact them - WITH MY POSITION (thanks for that tip) and expect to be accepted, redirected, or told to go unicom.

3) If I am unsure and the controller is clearly busy (radio freq is over half full) then I will wait for a "contact me"

Can someone please print this, embroider it, frame it, mass-produce it, distribute it, and make it both part of the CoC and the P0 exam?

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Cheers,
-R.

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2 hours ago, Robert Shearman Jr said:

Can someone please print this, embroider it, frame it, mass-produce it, distribute it, and make it both part of the CoC and the P0 exam?

I can assure you that a version of that is already in the new (under development) P0 course! :)

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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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On 1/26/2022 at 1:13 PM, Andreas Fuchs said:

The rule, saying that the responsibility to contact ATC, lies with the pilot, originates from the days when VATSIM's airspace and sectorization was much more simple, like 15+ years ago.

These days it is often not possible for pilots to understand all the different sectors, when several of them are active. Yes: I am writing this from a European perspective! Those of you who are calling for pilots to be hit with disciplinary action for such a thing, should not do so until you have operated in busy European airspace yourselves. Until then, you are simply not qualified to make such statements, sorry for being so blunt. Fly from London to Frankfurt, for example. And tell me exactly who you will have to contact when. It's often impossible, simple as that.

On the other hand, and this is the encouraging part, vATCOs will not cry a river over having to ping pilots who have no clue whom to call at what point in time. In conclusion: effectively, you will not see any "disciplinary action" taken against such evil violators of VATSIM regulations. Don't get scared by statements, just fly and do your best in finding out whom to contact. If you are unable, ATC will ping you. Easy.

That is why we clearly say everywhere, even on our website: "Our controllers will always send you a contact me if you are entering their airspace, unless you enter from uncontrolled and/or you know what are you doing".

 

BTW. I would love to make a better map (especially for europe) for pilots to know better. We will see..

Edited by Mateusz Zymla
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Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

VATSIMer since 2009, IRL pilot rated.

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On 1/28/2022 at 12:33 PM, Mateusz Zymla said:

BTW. I would love to make a better map (especially for europe) for pilots to know better. We will see..

Good luck with that.

The problem is that sectorization in Europe is a complex 3D+ issue - not simple 2D.

The lateral boundaries of a specific online controller AoR (Area of Responsibility) is for most center sectors and many approach sectors different depending on the altitude, so we're talking three dimensions. So every tool that just shows one lateral outline for a controller is in part lying to you.

To make things even more complicated, the actual AoRs also depend on which specific stations are actually online at the same time. This will result in a single controller's AoR to dynamically change (lateral and vertical) depending on surrounding controllers coming online/offline. This makes a 3D problem a 3D+ problem.

The only tool that I know of that has the whole picture of those complex interdependencies and 3D sectorization is the EuroScope ATC client, provided to it via ESE files describing all the complexities and dependencies (over here built automatically from a central metadata database). But even EuroScope can't (it doesn't have to - it's not a mapping tool) display a real 3D map, it displays a "compromise" 2D lateral boundary for the current controller's AoR. The controller still has to know in which areas in which level bands he/she/it is responsible for, and that can be quite complex, even involving things like tactical temporary delegations of airspace (in Germany often called "XYZ phase").

So, unless you have your shiny large (structurally) trivial sector with a single lateral boundary GND-UNL, all VATSIM tools fall flat telling you the truth, by design. They don't even have the required information to do better. And even if they would have, that map would become very very complex over here, trying to display complex 3D airspaces in 2D form on a display. I could show you map examples from real-world LoAs (letter of agreement between ATC facilities) which do that, I assure you they are not fun to "read", but unfortunately those are non-public.

I can only agree with Andreas Fuchs. Especially in places like central Europe, the ancient VATSIM CoC rule makes no sense and controllers want to pull vpilots coming from uncontrolled airspace via "contact me" at the vATCO's pace and timing, instead of having them call in from randomly uncovered positions.

Best regards,
Daniel

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On 1/25/2022 at 9:02 PM, Dace Nicmane said:

Right now there are 4 German sectors online, each one of them has their covered airports in the controller info.

...which come from a controller info template per station, that cannot automatically adapt to the real top-down responsibilities resulting from which other stations are only at the very moment. The "3D+" complexity problem I described in my last post. vATCOs need to manually update these "covering" lists manually over their session, depending on their neighbor's (dis)appearance. This gets forgotten at times, especially when it's busy.

The only "95-99%" solution to the problem I can see would be ATC clients to actively and automatically signal "you are in my AoR" to the pilot client, allowing the pilot client tool to give a hint to the vpilot. There are cornercases (like temporary "phases" and ellbow coordination with neighboring sectors for specific flights) where this could give false indications, but it would still be lightyears ahead of any static 2D map.

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