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ATCs -- How Do They Work?  
User currently offlineMaverick747 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 26 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks 2 hours ago) and read 3474 times:

Guys,

This is my second post on the forum. I have been reading forums for a while and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wat I want to know is --

Is there a web-site I can go and read about how does ATC's fit into the aviation world? For example -- If a flight is going from SFO - JFK .. which ATC's would come into picture, starting at the tower control at SFO.. .

How would they work together, when would the hand off happen?

Any info is appreciated...

Thanks

19 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineYtib From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 578 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3464 times:

Not sure how old this is, but could be a start...

http://www.natca.org/about/gatetogate.msp


User currently offlineMaverick747 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 26 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3458 times:

Quoting Ytib (Reply 1):
Not sure how old this is, but could be a start...

http://www.natca.org/about/gatetogate.msp

Thanks Ytib!

If not a website, can anyone explain -- briefly if so! This has always intrigued me, especially with the USA Today article about NYC area congestion.

Thanks


User currently offlinePilotfox From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 553 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3441 times:

Well they pick up their clearance on the ground at SFO. Then over to ground to taxi to the runway, tower to takeoff, after taking off they go departure, with is airspace usually 30miles around SFO. After that they go to LAX center, and continue getting handed off to various centers along the route until 30miles of JFK. The centers they usually pass through, are SLC center, DEN center, ORD center, CLE, center, then New York center. Then the whole thing goes in reverse, JFK approach, JFK tower, JFK ground.

User currently offlinePnwtraveler From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 2296 posts, RR: 12
Reply 4, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 hour ago) and read 3400 times:

Prior to take off Route Planners for the airlines file flight plans for the trip to try and take advantage of favourable winds, avoid storms and turbulence and get the most advantage for the trip. Particularly for the North Atlantic runs and very busy areas with air traffic control. Once underway a lot of things can happen for the trip routing to be adjusted or changed.

A pilot can speak to terminal control for pushback and start approval.
To ground (sometimes multiple ones) for routing to the runway.
Tower for runway departure.
Departures up to a certain flight level and distance from the airport.
The the flight gets passed to certain centers along the way.
The final center where the final airport is located.
Arrivals once a certain level of descent is reached and distance from the airport.
Tower for the arrival runway for landing.
Ground once the plane leaves the runway for taxi
And finally terminal control for actually docking.

Crossing the Atlantic for example is interesting because radar converage stops for parts of the trip and the plane switches to High Frequency channels. Many of the airlines rely heavily on chatting with each other. For example a British Airways and an Air Canada flight from YYZ to LHR often leave within a few minutes of each other. They chat with each other mid Atlantic and whoever is in the lead may alert for turbulence or wind changes. Each plane has to follow carefully the assigned altitude and track because there is no radar from the ground for controllers to use.

There is an excellent TV program that follows an Air Canada 767 from pilot check in to flying the North Atlantic to landing in Britain. I can't recall the name or channel it aired on and a quick look in google couldn't turn it up. Maybe someone remembers more about it.


User currently offlineAcey From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 1051 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 3355 times:

Quoting Pnwtraveler (Reply 4):
There is an excellent TV program that follows an Air Canada 767 from pilot check in to flying the North Atlantic to landing in Britain. I can't recall the name or channel it aired on and a quick look in google couldn't turn it up. Maybe someone remembers more about it.

It was actually made back in 2000, and profiled AC 876 (which still flies in the summer) from Toronto to Frankfurt. It was simply called Flight, and aired dozens of times on the Discovery channels in Canada, including Wings and Civilization. If I'm not mistaken, it aired on OLN in the United States. From time to time the three part series still airs up here.

A more hands-on film would be one of the Just Planes DVD's...both the United and Air Canada tapes do an excellent job of walking one through real flights. These are more pilot oriented, though...there's nothing this good that focusses specifically on ATC that I know of.

[Edited 2007-07-16 04:46:08]


If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
User currently offlineOPNLguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 3340 times:

Quoting Pilotfox (Reply 3):
Well they pick up their clearance on the ground at SFO. Then over to ground to taxi to the runway, tower to takeoff, after taking off they go departure, with is airspace usually 30miles around SFO. After that they go to LAX center, and continue getting handed off to various centers along the route until 30miles of JFK. The centers they usually pass through, are SLC center, DEN center, ORD center, CLE, center, then New York center. Then the whole thing goes in reverse, JFK approach, JFK tower, JFK ground.

After SFO tower and departure, you'd be handed off to OAK Center (ZOA), since you're too far north for Los Angeles Center.

Based on the route this day..

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/U...4/history/20070712/2313Z/KSFO/KJFK

..you'd also transit the Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York Centers, then the New York TRACON, JFK tower, and then JFK ground.


User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21876 posts, RR: 55
Reply 7, posted (7 years 5 months 2 weeks ago) and read 3329 times:

Quoting Maverick747 (Thread starter):
For example -- If a flight is going from SFO - JFK .. which ATC's would come into picture, starting at the tower control at SFO..

This is a likely order in which controllers would be talked to:

1) Clearance delivery at SFO
2) Ramp control at SFO (generally airport or airline employees, not FAA)
3) Ground control at SFO
4) Tower at SFO (also known as local control)
5) Norcal departure
6) Oakland Center
7) Salt Lake Center
8) Denver Center
9) Minneapolis Center
10) Chicago Center
11) Cleveland Center
12) New York Center
13) New York approach
14) Tower at JFK
15) Ground at JFK

Depending on the route of flight, the particular centers might be different - i.e. the flight might go through Kansas City Center and Indianapolis Center rather than Minneapolis and Chicago. Also, each departure, approach and center have more than one controller, so the flight will be switching between different controllers in the same facility as it moves along.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineHighFlyer9790 From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 1241 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 3295 times:

how does the whole position reporting work along the north atlantic tracks?


121
User currently offlineAcey From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 1051 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 3258 times:

Quoting HighFlyer9790 (Reply 8):
how does the whole position reporting work along the north atlantic tracks?

Every 45 minutes, at increments of ten in longitude 60W, 50W, 40W and the rest, pilots make a position report on high frequency radio to either Gander or Shanwick Radio, depending on which shore they're closer to (I think 30W is the cut off). They tell the controller their estimate for the next waypoint, reaffirm their cruising speed, and sometimes advise of fuel on board. Position reports are decreasing in frequency because of sat comms, however; HF radio will eventually become obsolete.

[Edited 2007-07-16 06:06:30]


If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
User currently offlineJerald01 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 161 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 3244 times:

Many of the replies above have outlined the various agencies that would talk to an aircraft flying from SFO to JFK, and, for the most part, they are accurate as to the sequence of when the aircraft crew talks to which control agency.

I will try to explain "when" the "handoff" takes place between the various controlling agencies.

Each ATC agency has it's own geographic area of responsibility. Anything operating within that area of responsibility should be under the direct control of the agency that has been assigned control of that area.

Each control area is physically (geographically) next to another control area (Ground Control handles movement from the ramp to the runway, but not ON the runway... Local Control handles aircraft ON the runway, or those within a few miles of the runway on arrival or departure. Departure Control handles aircraft that have just departed Local Control's area but which have not yet reached the area controlled by an ATC Center. That area is usually defined as an altitude ceiling or as a distance-from-airport. ATC Centers handle everything at the higher altitudes where most IFR traffic cruises.)

Regardless of what the control area is, each control agency has specific, written policies concerning handoff procedures to adjacent agencies. We used to call these Letters of Agreement... they may have changed since I controlled traffic. These documents specify where, when, and how the one agency will hand off an aircraft to the other agency. The general rule of thumb is that the handoff must be COMPLETED prior to the aircraft leaving the control area of the losing agency.

The handoff consists of two distinct parts:

(1) The location and identification of the aircraft is brought to the attention of the gaining control agency by an ATC operator in the losing control agency, and the gaining control agency acknowledges that they understand the infomationg just given to them. This notification can be by landline, by radio, by computer link, or any other viable mether that is agreed upon between the two agencies.

(2) The losing control agency tells the aircraft to contact the gaining control agency on a specific radio frequency. When the aircraft acknowledges the instruction to change frequencies, the losing control agency effectively gives up control of the aircraft to the gaining control agency, even if the aircraft is still within the geographical boundaries of the losing control agency. (Should the gaining control agency need to tell the aircraft to gain/lose altitude or to change heading while the aircraft is still within the losing control agencies area of responsibility, the gaining control agency must coordinate such instruction with the losing organization prior to issuing the instruction to the aircraft.)

Regardless of the route structure or the ATC radar/non-radar facilities in use, the above method of effecting handoffs is pretty much universal. There may be slight variations, but the general idea will always be the same: make handoffs safe, accurate, and expeditious.

I hope this helps....



"There may be old pilots, and there may be bold pilots, but there are darn few green cows"
User currently offlineMaverick747 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 26 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 3181 times:

Quoting Jerald01 (Reply 10):

Thanks guys, this helps.


User currently offlineCbartolucci From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 37 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 3046 times:

Here are a few websites that may help you:

http://travel.howstuffworks.com/air-traffic-control.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_traffic_control

http://www.ece.ubc.ca/~jeffj/ny_tracon.html

And if you really want the technical side, check out the textbook "Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control" by Michael S. Nolan.


User currently offlinePnwtraveler From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 2296 posts, RR: 12
Reply 13, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 2986 times:

Thanks Acey that is the one. It is done very much for the layman. Yes Satcom and GPS have taken much of the grey areas out of crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific. The old High Frequency radios could be very staticy.

User currently offlineEgghead From United States of America, joined May 2005, 48 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 2819 times:

Good info Jerald01.

How does it work when you cross from one country to another? Would the losing controller in Greece tell the aircraft to contact Turkish ATC on a specific frequency? Ho do planes cross from India into Pakistan or from North Korea into South when, most of the time, these countries are not even talking to each other?


User currently offlineAcey From Canada, joined Jun 2007, 1051 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 2777 times:

Quoting Pnwtraveler (Reply 13):
The old High Frequency radios could be very staticy.

They still are at certain times depending on a number of factors, and it's still a while yet before they're entirely replaced. On one night over the Atlantic they could be as clear as VHF radio, but the next night they could be unbearable for everyone involved. There are several frequencies for each NAT to go through if contact cannot be established on the first one given by the "land-based" controllers.



If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21876 posts, RR: 55
Reply 16, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 2714 times:

Quoting Egghead (Reply 14):
Ho do planes cross from India into Pakistan or from North Korea into South when, most of the time, these countries are not even talking to each other?

ATC is generally not subject to the swings of international politics. I'm sure the Indian and Pakistani controllers talk to each other. Not so sure about North and South Korea, but if I'm not mistaken, North Korea is extremely strict about who flies into their airspace, so I don't think it's much of a problem in practice.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineJerald01 From United States of America, joined Oct 2006, 161 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 2673 times:

Any country that subscribes to ICAO (the international body that governs air travel between countries) agrees to abide by the rules that organization prescribes for air traffic control procedures. ICAO procedures are, for th emost part, patterned after those in use in the United States, so aircraft handoffs would be very similar to what I described above.

As some have already stated, air traffic control protocol between nations usually does not change back and forth with the ebbs of political winds. When a country decides to limit international travel, be it by air, sea, or land, they become isolated from the rest of the world and it becomes a matter of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. Usually, however, common sense rules over political animosities in most countries and commerce is allowed to take place, albeit at a very slow, controlled pace.



"There may be old pilots, and there may be bold pilots, but there are darn few green cows"
User currently offlineCloudyapple From Hong Kong, joined Jul 2005, 2454 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 2634 times:

Quoting Maverick747 (Thread starter):
how does ATC's fit into the aviation world

To the contrary, ATC is the backbone of all IFR aviation. Everything else fits in with ATC.

Quoting Jerald01 (Reply 17):
common sense rules over political animosities

Except between China and Taiwan. Strictly no aircraft are allowed to cross from Chinese airspace into Taiwanese airspace. Everything goes about a huge detour via HKFIR or Naha FIR. This mainly penalizes Taiwanese traffic as there are few destinations Chinese carriers would want to fly to that are being "blocked" by Taipei FIR.

However, Taiwanese aircraft are allowed to overfly China and occasionally (during chinese festive periods) land in China.



A310/A319/20/21/A332/3/A343/6/A388/B732/5/7/8/B742/S/4/B752/B763/B772/3/W/E145/J41/MD11/83/90
User currently offlineAirTranTUS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 19, posted (7 years 5 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2608 times:

Is there a way to see the ATC map and view the different airspaces and their associated frequencies? As an example, if I wanted to see what airspace ABQ center on 133.0 controlled, and its neighboring airspaces (125.4 for example) where could I find a map like that?

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