ATCC Controllers' Read Binder...
NOTAMS, FAQs and other info for users of ATCC
#1: New Sectors posted -- ZLA 4 and ORD Approach
Both new sectors are accessible from the main page-- click "back" to get to them. They are technically "test" sectors, but ZLA 4 is mostly complete.
The "Chicago Approach" sector is mostly for practice or theoretical interest. One of the highlights of ATCC is its full simulation of the Center radar equipment, including computer entries and radar controls. Approach control radar (ARTS III) is different, with the stereotypical "radar sweep" and updates every 6 seconds. Targets are raw radar returns (blobs) instead of the nice backslashes in the Center environment.
So, ATCC can't "accurately" simulate an Approach sector. But, the ORD Approach files give you a chance to practice sequencing for final approach using the realistic flight models and communications that ATCC does have.
#2: ORD Approach
Many approach control functions are similar to the Center environment, in that you must provide separation (3 miles at TRACONs, 5 at Centers, but the same 1,000 foot requirement) to all aircraft. But, the "final controller" (which the ORD sector simulates) only works aircraft headed for the same runways: there are no overflights, no departures, and everybody is pretty much at the same speed.
It is impractical to use "range rings" (like in ZLA19) or "common convergence points" to determine sequencing when close to the airport; instead, you mostly "eyeball" who goes where, and mentally determine who you want to follow whom, then turn them as necessary to make it work.
To keep it simple, though, you want to try to keep everybody in the "standard pattern:" downwind (opposite course from landing), base leg (90 degrees to the runway), then final (lined up for the runway). In the ORD sector, aircraft from the northeast are already on final to runway 22; just leave them alone. Those coming from the southeast need to be turned onto base (360 heading), then onto final (..O). The ones from the southwest are already on downwind, so they need to be turned to base and final along with those from the southeast. The arrivals from the northwest should be turned onto downwind (040 heading), then base (130 heading), then final (..O). You may, however, elect to turn these arrivals directly onto base if you want them to cut in front of other arrivals.
To know when to turn aircraft onto base, or onto final, mentally determine who you want #1, #2 and so on. Turn #2 onto base and final just at the right moments to stay behind #1. Keep #3 on downwind, then maybe a little after you've turned #2 onto base, turn #3 onto base. Keep in mind that #2 could be coming from the south side, and #3 from the north, or vice-versa. Or maybe you want both #2 and #3 from the same side, so it's just a matter of keeping them following each other.
If you're just a little late with a turn, you can mess everything up. You have to be at complete alertness and ultimate concentration. If you do miss a turn, though, it's probably easier just to turn the missed aircraft out and back into the downwind/base pattern than to try to force them back in sequence.
Sequencing to final approach is really beyond the scope of a newsletter, but we should have more tips in the future...
#3: Taking Back Handoffs
One question that has come up is how to redirect a handoff if you accidently flash it to the wrong sector. Just "take it back" with <F1> and the ID (just like accepting a handoff), and it will stop flashing. Then hand it off to the correct sector as usual.
#4: Keystroke Shortcuts
If you have a keyboard with separate arrow keys (usually located between the numeric keypad and the rest of the keyboard), it's possible to keep most keystroke commands (i.e. commands to pilots) on just the arrow and number keys. It may have not been clear in the manual, but you can use the . (decimal point) key instead of the comma key when separating the callsign from the rest of the command. Also, "cleared direct" will work with either one period or two, so if you had vectored DAL323 off course and wanted to tell him to "resume own navigation" (normally just .. without a fix name), you could type 323.. entirely from the keypad, and the first period would be considered a "comma", and the second period as "resume own navigation."
And remember you do not need a comma (or period for that matter) between the aircraft's callsign and any of the arrow keys, so to tell DAL323 to turn 20 left, you would type 323<left arrow>20<enter> all from the keypad area.
Yes, voice recognition will help tremendously in these matters...
#5: Voice Recognition
Several users have reported that a DOS-based voice recognition package by Verbex corporation (http://www.verbex.com) works fine with ATCC. However, it requires a special hardware card, and high-quality microphone, for a total cost of around $500-$800 U.S. Dollars. We haven't yet installed their system to verify how well it works, but if you happen to have their system, email us at email@example.com.
For the future, we do plan to create a driver for a less-expensive system (like the $90 IBM VoiceType, including headset), but that will be after the voice upgrade (speaking pilots) is completed within a few months. Stay tuned!
#6: Keeping the Strip Displayed
A mostly-undocumented feature is the ability to keep a strip displayed without having to hold down the mouse key. Display the strip as usual (with the right mouse button), then while holding down the button, move the cursor to the bottom of the screen, over the control panel. You can release the button, and as long as the cursor is over the control panel, the strip will remain displayed. Move the cursor above the panel (over the radar) to remove the strip again.
Also, if you use ALT-TWR (see previous newsletter), move the cursor over the panel to keep it from flickering.
#6: Sector 75 sequencing fun
As you probably know, sector 75 can fill up with lots of aircraft, and sometimes your attention ends up mostly in the area east of DBQ and west of JVL, where the ORD arrivals are all coming together. One hint, to make things a little easier, is not to worry about sequencing for ORD until aircraft are past DBQ... there is plenty of room east of DBQ to turn aircraft out, or slow them down to get the 10 miles-in-trail you need by JVL. While it is true the sooner you start sequencing, the less work you have to do at the end, it is sometimes hard to determine spacing with aircraft 150 miles apart, and one faster than the other.
Just make sure aircraft are separated while west of DBQ, then worry about spacing to ORD after DBQ, if you are really busy.
#7: Vectors vs. Altitudes
There are usually several ways to solve traffic conflicts, but usually it boils down to: go over/under, or go around? Usually, going over or under (using altitudes) is the easiest and quickest. If two aircraft are converging at FL330, climb or descend one of them to FL350 or FL310 until they pass, then take them back to FL330. It will probably only take two minutes to get to the new altitude (or less), so it is usually the quickest.
Turning aircraft out (10 or 20 degrees, say) involves guesswork, may need additional turning (if your initial calculations were wrong, due to different groundspeeds, or upper winds), and you run the risk that you could get busy suddenly and forget the aircraft was turned out.
Develop your own techniques and use whichever method you are most comfortable with, and whichever is most fair to the pilots. They may be a little annoyed at having to descend then climb again a few minutes later, but they also may be annoyed at having to be turned out when they're already running late. Take that into account, along with what is easiest for you.
If you catch the problem soon enough so that only a 10 degree turn would solve the problem, use turns--nobody should be annoyed at only 10 degrees. If you don't notice the problem until the last minute, it's probably quicker to descend or climb one aircraft than to have to turn one or both 30 or 40 degrees.
#8: From the 1996 FAA Fact Book on ATC Operations
Some interesting info:
Operational Errors ("deals" due to controller mistakes): 776
Proportion of ATC instructions resulting in a deal: 1 in 192,000
Pilot Deviations (usually deals due to pilot error): 1328
Near Midair Collisions: 200
Midair Collisions due to controller mistakes: 0
Busiest Airports (# of operations, Jan-Aug '96)
The JFK(#29)/LGA(#32)/EWR(#18) combination puts the immediate NYC metro area over 700,000, and near the top of the list...
Busiest Approach controls, in order: Southern California (SoCal), New York, Chicago, Dallas, Bay (San Francisco), Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix.
Number of operational Air Traffic Controllers: 16,935.
The Read Binder is updated at the beginning of the month. All information is for use with Xavius Software's Air Traffic Control CenterTM only, is the opinion of the author(s), and does not necessarily reflect the policies or practices of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration or Federal Aviation Service. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be glad to help!