Air Traffic Controller Discussion With a Global Perspective
By Zachary Beard 995625
#504290 Hey y'all, after starting at actual ZAB as a developmental controller/trainee piece of scum, I've noticed how much weather plays a factor in affecting the complexity of controlling air traffic. Keep in mind, only IFR aircraft require a weather deviation control instruction. VFR aircraft still should be issued weather advisories, however. It's also important to refer to displayed precipitation as "an area of (insert intensity here) precipitation", not as "weather".

Here's a pretty good way to use the resources available to us hobbyists to call weather, almost like traffic, to aircraft that may need to deviate for it.

Skyvector! Our best friend and holy savior. To quickly set up a weather radar display, load up Skyvector, turn on the high map (or low if the traffic is below FL180), then center it over SJN or otherwise to see the whole center airspace. I haven't found a way to import the ZAB outline into Skyvector, but I have some tips on finding the weather reference your traffic.

Now that you have the whole airspace in view, click on "Layers", then "Weather Radar". Now, compare your traffic with any displayed precipitation, and we'll figure out how to put it all together below:

What to Tell The Pilot! (It's a lot like giving traffic advisories)

    - "area of (insert intensity, moderate, heavy, or extreme here) precipitation..."
    - Clock position
    - Distance
    - Size of precipitation in diameter in miles
    - Depth of precipitation in miles (likely optional, but I'm unable to find supporting documentation, and these "requirements" are based on my observation of actual ZAB controllers alone)
    - Tops, if known

Example: "N123, area of moderate to heavy precipitation twelve to one o'clock, three zero miles, two five miles in diameter, one five miles deep. Advise if you need to deviate."

How to Issue a Weather Deviation

- You've issued the weather advisory, and the pilot advises he needs to deviate. They may specify how many degrees, or they may not. What they should definitely advise is which direction, however. If you care how many degrees they deviate (because of traffic), restrict how many degrees they may deviate, then issue where to fly direct to next to resume their route of flight, or a heading to fly to rejoin an airway.

Example: "N123, deviation up to twenty degrees right of course approved, when able cleared direct Gallup and advise." or "N123, deviation left of course approved, when able fly heading 100, join V60."

It's actually a lot of fun to do this when you're able on VATSIM, and it adds a level of realism that I'd imagine not many VATSIM controllers are comfortable, or able, to provide.

Advise if you have any questions!

ZB
Last edited by Zachary Beard 995625 on Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:34 am, edited 3 times in total.
By Zachary Beard 995625
#504295
Josh Glottmann 1275389 wrote:Nice post! Can you explain what exactly the precipitation "depth" is?


Effectively how deep the cell would be if the aircraft were to fly directly though it. And thanks! It's actually made a generally dead frequency on VATSIM a lot more dynamic and interesting.
By Camden Bruno 1253785
#504296 I have not heard depth nearly as much as I have heard tops, which can be found on an RCM Radar Plot or can be reported by pilots in the area.

Just for more information on some (optional) components of a weather advisory. From Boston Virtual ARTCC's ATC Handbook:

Areas of precipitation are shown on real-world ATC radar screens. For our purposes, precipitation areas can be cross-referenced from SkyVector or other sources.

Issue advisories about areas of precipitation to pilots by defining the area of coverage in terms of azimuth and distance, or the general width of the area. Use the term “precipitation” when describing radar-derived weather, and describe the area as “light”, “moderate”, “heavy”, or “extreme”.

JBU917, area of moderate precipitation between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, 20 miles, moving eastward at 20 knots, tops reported at FL240 by a Boeing 737.

Pilots may request to deviate around areas of precipitation. Approve requests to deviate whenever possible, or issue alternative instructions if the requested deviation is not possible.

Boston Center, AAL469, request to deviate 10 degrees right for weather.

When approving the deviation, state the word “approved”, and issue instructions allowing the pilot to return on course once clear of the area.

AAL469, deviation 10 degrees right approved, when able, proceed direct MHT.

AAL469, deviation approved, advise when able to resume own navigation.


AAL469, unable deviation, turn thirty degrees right, vector for traffic, advise clear of weather.


Hope this helps. I try to advise pilots of weather as much as possible while controlling on the network. I have found that it is rare to receive this from controllers, but the pilots really appreciate it considering most of them are running real-world weather engines and are seeing the same things you are. Makes things more fun and interesting!

Great post, ZB.
By Josh Glottmann 1275389
#504298 Let's say someone's taking their plane (EXH1947) out to Roswell to go UFO spotting, but there's this nasty chunk of weather they are avoiding (but still hit a large stretch of it).
Image
How would the weather advisory sound if they were over Liberal?
By Zachary Beard 995625
#504299 Camden, good point about issuing tops if they're known. From what I've seen at ZAB, they're not often known or issued, because during monsoon season in the Southwest, they're generally very tall, i.e. FL400 and up.

Josh, essentially you'd include the adjective "scattered", i.e. "N123, an area of scattered moderate precipitation 12 o'clock and 33 miles, lasting 88 miles along your route of flight, advise if you need to deviate, I'd recommend deviating north."

I am only assuming the color coding for intensity using the Skyvector weather radar. I imagine green is light, yellow moderate, orange heavy, red extreme.
By Simon Kelsey 810049
#504305
Josh Glottmann 1275389 wrote:Now if only we could get a weather radar on our clients ;)


I would think that, if nothing else, some enterprising plugin developer could probably create an overlay that works with ActiveSky using their radar API... (would also have the benefit that it should be pretty close to what most pilots would experience).
By Luka Stevens 1345102
#504311
Simon Kelsey 810049 wrote:
Josh Glottmann 1275389 wrote:Now if only we could get a weather radar on our clients ;)


I would think that, if nothing else, some enterprising plugin developer could probably create an overlay that works with ActiveSky using their radar API... (would also have the benefit that it should be pretty close to what most pilots would experience).


that would be awesome
By Brad Littlejohn 811975
#504342
Kirk Christie 956763 wrote:For which area of the world is this relevent too...


Josh Glottman 1275389 wrote:FAAland.


As far as phraseology is concerned, yes. Outside of that, no.

Looks like SkyVector has also fluidly included the world VFR map, as well as IFR high and low maps as well. For example, I just followed ZB's instructions in his original post, but centered over YMMM. I just found a nice cell of weather activity over Mildura (YMIA), which is accompanied by a couple of SIGMETs. This matches with what the BoM in Melbourne is reporting as well.

Wash/rinse/repeat for a cell off the cost of Ireland, just east of EIDW.

I think this should work worldwide, where the only true limitation would be the reporting of weather phenomena. So with that, it comes down to phraseology for each division. Get that to match up in your local areas, and this should work worldwide.

BL.
By Nick Warren 813047
#504349
Simon Kelsey 810049 wrote:
Josh Glottmann 1275389 wrote:Now if only we could get a weather radar on our clients ;)


I would think that, if nothing else, some enterprising plugin developer could probably create an overlay that works with ActiveSky using their radar API... (would also have the benefit that it should be pretty close to what most pilots would experience).


I have always wanted to see weather overlays on our scopes. I actually had strong hopes with vSTARS and the new DSR client. I don't know why they didn't make it into the program. I am not a programmer by any means, so I don't know the complexities. I know Ross creates some amazing tools, and if it was a possibility to put them in, he may be open to it. I have heard, and unreliably so, that perhaps the "juice wasn't worth the squeeze" as there was always the factor of displayed weather not matching up with the pilots displayed weather based on pilot choice or client use. I think that even in the face of these transient inaccuracies, we can still be well served by having and providing this information from our scopes. Again, however, I do not know the programming feasibility of this.

As far as plug-ins go, I'm sure somebody could probably do something. The only platform I have seen plug-ins for is Euroscope, which personally does not work for me. I think there are some great plug-ins out there for Euroscope too, like importing ADS-B traffic feeds, Tower view, and several others. The client just doesn't suit me personally and would love to see the ingenuity for plug-in creation brought to other clients as well. Anyway, my cent and a half

Nick
By Ross Carlson 887155
#504351 The likely mismatch between what the controller sees and what the pilots see (and indeed the mismatch from one pilot to the next) is the main reason I haven't bothered to implement any weather radar overlays in my clients. It would be a fair amount of work, for the payoff of a half-baked feature. I know that some would rather have a half-baked feature than no feature at all, but I'm very much not in that camp.

If there was a way to get the majority of our pilots all using the same weather engine, and that weather engine provided consistent placement of storm cells from one pilot to the next, then I think we'd have a path toward a viable solution. Maybe it's possible now ... I don't know. I haven't put the (presumably considerable) time into figuring out if the FSX/P3D weather system can be coerced into consistent placement of storm cells. I read somewhere that it doesn't give you that level of control, but that was several years ago, and I don't recall the validity of the source.

Sure would be nice ... and we could maybe solve the winds aloft problem along the way.

And a solution so that X-Plane users aren't left out in the cold (vague pun intended) would be a bonus.
By Randy Tyndall 1087023
#504352 Josh,

I use Skyvector all the time and get sigmets and the outline of the affected area, but I have yet to see an option to show weather cells like your screenshot shows. What the heck am I missing? PM me please so I don't force this thread too far off track. :D

@Zachary,

Sorry to hijack your thread, even if only momentarily, I apologize.

Randy