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Radar Contact Lost! - 8/4/07 0000-0230z


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Imagine what it would be like for a dog to herd a flock of sheep blindfolded. Imagine what it would be like to land an F-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier in ¼ mile visibility. Now imagine what it would be like to vector 100 aircraft into Pittsburgh without knowing who they are, what altitude they’re at, how fast they’re going, and their exact heading. I don’t know about you... but its time to find out.

 

On Saturday August 4th from 8:00pm – 10:30pm EDT (0000-0230z) Cleveland (ZOB) ARTCC proudly presents…

 

RADAR CONTACT LOST!!

 

Our top controllers have trained for this day, when all radar hell breaks loose and the system completely fails. Aircraft flying into Pittsburgh basically enter into a non-operational radar system, departures take off into an unknown sky, and satellite airports produce aircraft at who knows what altitudes, headings, and speeds, and the TRACON controllers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have no idea who is who, where they really are and what they’re really doing. All they can do is rely on readbacks, a handy pen and paper, and the little yellow dot slowly moving east across the screen. That dot, [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umed to be an Citation, is supposedly descending from 6,000 to 3,000 while another dot flying west is supposed to be level at 5,000 awaiting higher. Is that dot AAL1556 or is that N2313M? Is the American really level at 5,000? Did 13M understand to descend to 3,000?

 

These questions and more will be answered in a sweatfest of pure skill, lightning fast reflexes, and swift, precise radio communication.

 

Do you know what it takes to make a controller sweat bullets? Can they handle it? The pressure? The stress? Fly to Pittsburgh on Saturday August 4th from 8:00pm – 10:30pm EDT (0000-0230z) and find out as we simulate a non-radar environment. For more information on this unique event, please visit www.zobartcc.org.

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So are you saying its true non radar or simply primary radar only? You state two different scenarios in the same description. Which one is it?

 

From the description, sounds like it'll be primary radar only ... an SSR (secondary surveillance radar) or "beacon" failure. So it won't be true non-radar procedures like you'd get over parts of the ocean, but it will of course require some skills you don't often see exercised on VATSIM, with pilots reporting altitudes much more often and such.

 

I personally don't know the specifics of how real controllers deal with beacon failures, and how it changes separation requirements, etc., but I bet the ZOB guys know all about it, in preparation for this event.

 

And I wouldn't promote an event with so many instances of "don't know". ATC is all about knowing...knowing who is who and who is doing what.

 

Why not promote it? It'll be a unique challenge for the controllers, and a unique experience for the pilots as well, since the types of communications won't be what they're used to. I personally can't wait.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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Just as Ross says, yes its truly not a complete "non-radar" experience because in order to do that we would have to turn the radar tags black and then we'd never get anywhere, and with VATSIM pilots of all skills and abilities, it would not be a pretty sight for the virtual people on the ground looking to the sky in western PA. So, again, its basically "becaon failure" which, like Ross says again, requires the use of different skills to operate.

 

I want to promote this event for a few reasons that I think will be beneficial...

 

1). It's unique -- I can't say I've seen something like this before and I honestly didn't even think it up. It was brought to my attention by a colleague.

 

2). It's Challenging -- I've already had one of my controllers suggest that we go compelte non-radar. I vetoed it only because I'm afraid of the results. Even with a beacon failure type of radar, we will still need to be extra cautious, using new means of separation, implementing more holds, vectors, clearing turns to confirm or at least support radar identification, precise readbacks, altitude callouts, speed callouts, and such. Even if there are not many aircraft in the area, the frequency will still be hopping with all the different information that needs to be communicated rather than being right in front of your eyes.

 

3). It's tempting -- Travis said that ATC is all about knowing and that is absoultely true, especially in situations like non-radar or beacon failure. If you were a pilot, wouldn't you then want to test the skills of the controller by participating in an event such as this? If the controller truly knows his stuff, he should be able to do his job regardless if the controller is sitting in front of a radar screen or sitting in a closet blindfolded. Technology is only good if it works. If the radars went out, the controllers would have to be able to handle it. I'm just using this event idea as a way to lure in curious pilots and test my controllers.

 

 

I hope your questions invite you to try it out on Saturday. It's bound to be quite a hoot!

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Why not promote it? It'll be a unique challenge for the controllers, and a unique experience for the pilots as well, since the types of communications won't be what they're used to. I personally can't wait.

 

I'm not saying to not promote it. I'm simply saying that I would have used a more appealing description than "the TRACON controllers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have no idea who is who, where they really are and what they’re really doing". By that description, it doesn't sound like the event has a chance in the world of being successful if there is so much "not knowing" going on at the scopes.

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Why not promote it? It'll be a unique challenge for the controllers, and a unique experience for the pilots as well, since the types of communications won't be what they're used to. I personally can't wait.

 

I'm not saying to not promote it. I'm simply saying that I would have used a more appealing description than "the TRACON controllers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have no idea who is who, where they really are and what they’re really doing". By that description, it doesn't sound like the event has a chance in the world of being successful if there is so much "not knowing" going on at the scopes.

 

Ahh, okay, I see what you mean. Your first post said "I wouldn't promote ..." so it sure sounded like you were suggesting they not promote it. I guess you are actually suggesting a change in the way it's promoted. I agree, but I don't think the way it's worded here is really going to cause fewer pilots to show up.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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I'm game.

 

Sounds like fun. Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. I'll whirl my bird through those skies anytime. There comes a time for pilots and controllers to "put it to the test".

 

And I will remind everyone this JUST happened in Brazil, about two days after that TAM crash. The entire country's ATC went down.

 

See you there.

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So are you going to use non-radar? When you say "radar contact lost", do you mean the data tag? The data tag is not the radar part; the target is the radar part. If you actually want to do "Radar Contact Lost", I think you'd have to actually disconnect from VATSIM or something to really simulate it. If you're going to try to control without a datablock, that'd still be cool and challenging, just not really radar contact lost you know?

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Probably the best way to simulate actual radar failure would be to use filters and/or the radar floor (if using VRC.) That way, you'll still show up on the list for pilot's, so they can still tune your freq, but you won't be able to see their tag and/or target.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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