- Tue Sep 13, 2016 5:14 pm
As Brad and Simon correctly say, A9 allows for a maximum of 30 minutes away. B3 trumps A9, however. Technically, going to an extreme for example purposes only, once you enter controlled airspace (or once a controller logs on), you are allowed exactly zero seconds away from your connection.
Like I say, that's taken to the extreme for the purposes of an example. In most cases (though not all, sadly) most controllers will allow a reasonable amount of time (e.g. 5 minutes) before trying to hail the pilot, and will allow even more reasonable time before hailing a Supervisor. We all know that it's possible that a pilot, seeing no ATC ahead, may step away for a bathroom break, to grab a bite to eat or something to drink, shut the garden water faucet off, etc., and Murphy's Law being what it is, a controller will pop on seconds after the pilot steps away. That's why being reasonable is so important. But, all too often, that's not how it truly is -- it's someone who has been away for a very long time and is likely to be away for a very long time....
One note that we should all appreciate -- a draft of changes to the CoC is currently in review at the BoG level, and amongst those changes is clarification to the applicability of A9/B3 in uncontrolled vs. controlled airspace. Cliff's Notes: B3 trumps A9 in controlled airspace.
As a Supervisor, I try to ensure with a NORDO pilot report that I know a few facts before taking action.
- If there's an immediate conflict, I sent a quick note to the pilot and disconnect him to prevent against a negative experience for the controller and the other pilots nearby.
- If the controller just logged on (yes, amazingly some controllers will .wallop within only a few minutes of logging on -- and I really wish controllers would stop doing that unless an immediate conflict is brewing, and I wish all instructors reinforced not to do that!), I give the pilot the benefit of the doubt.
- If there's not an immediate conflict, I attempt to find out how long the controller has been attempting to reach the pilot, and I try to spend a reasonable time attempting to reach the pilot. How long I let it go depends on a number of variables, including potential conflicts, how long ATC has already been trying to reach the pilot, if the pilot has a history of unattended connections, how busy the airspace is, how busy the Supervisor is with other cases, etc. As was mentioned, most Supervisors try to use good judgment and good balance, taking those variables into account, and hopefully (workload permitting) most Supervisors actually communicate with the controller to let them know their approximate plan.
As a controller, one thing that I generally do, when I log on and see that there are people in my airspace that may not be aware that I just logged on, is send a text message on unicom that says something to the effect of: "XXX_CTR is now online, 1xx.xxx" This gets, on average, about 65% of the pilots out there who are dutifully monitoring unicom to call me. The others, I generally send another message, on unicom, directed at their callsign, that says Contact XXX_CTR on 1xx.xxx For those controllers/Facility Engineers that choose to add it to their facility's standard alias file, it could look like
I use the .contactme as a last resort. It it the least realistic option; the hailing attempts on unicom mirror what the RW would do on guard.
Too harsh and we lose people. Too loose and we lose people. That sweet spot in the middle where everyone gets better/smarter and has more fun is a tough place to find, but a great place to be. Let's all look for that sweet spot that maximizes the enjoyment of the network for everyone....