Ever wondered how to sound like
you've never seen the sunlight an air traffic controller? Wonder no more, this is for you!
Most of this information is taken out of the 7110.65 (The U.S. ATC bible).
As an air traffic controller, your job is to make sure goons get to where they need to go without hitting themselves or the ground.
Closed Loop Communication
As a refresher, closed loop communication is the practice of reading back the sender's message. This serves as a double check to make sure you received the message correctly, and gives the sender the opportunity to correct you if your read back was incorrect.
ATC: Goon 420, turn left heading 300. Goon 420: Turn left heading 30, Goon 420. ATC: Goon 420, Negative. Turn left heading 300. Goon 420: Turn left heading 300, Goon 420.
As a general rule of thumb, all ATC instructions should be read back. Advisory information such as the weather does not have to be read back.
Correcting yourself or others
It's highly likely that at some point you or someone else will say something wrong. If you make a mistake in a call or readback simply stop, say "Correction", and repeat the wrong section again with the corrected information (Ex. Goon 420, Climb and maintain FL290, correction, climb and maintain FL300).
If someone else reads back your transmission incorrectly, respond "Negative," and repeat your transmission again. The entire transmission is repeated in case the receiver missed some other part of the message.
When signing onto an ATC radio, the flight should check in by stating: "(ATC), (Flight), (Position), (Intentions)." For example, if returning for landing a flight should sign on "Bono approach, Goon flight, 50 miles NW Khasab, Inbound." This allows the controller to find you on the scope and give you appropriate instructions.
ATC can send flights to other frequencies in two ways. The first transfers the flight to another controller and follows the form: "(Flight), contact (controller) on (frequency)." The other releases control and allows the flight to change to any frequency desired and follows the form: "(Flight), frequency change approved." With both the flight should simply read back the instruction and change frequencies.
Once the entire flight is ready to taxi to the runway, lead should call ATC and report "ready to taxi." The response will be of the form "(Runway), taxi via (Route)." Example: Wiggum, Smithers, runway 12L, taxi via A. Flights may also be instructed to follow behind other flights. Ensure you have the correct flight in sight before accepting a follow instruction.
The flight should hold short for the target runway and report when they're next for the runway.
Once next for the runway and takeoff checklists are complete, the flight should call "ready for departure"
If the runway is not ready for another departure, flights may be instructed to line up on the runway with the phrase "line up and wait" (Example, Wiggum, runway 12L, line up and wait). This gives the flight permission to taxi onto the runway and line up. If there are departing aircraft in the way, it is implied that the flight can wait for them to move before lining up. Line up and wait instructions should not be given if there is an aircraft on final (aircraft flying over other aircraft is generally a no-no)
The takeoff clearance is of the form: "(Flight), Wind (Wind), Runway (Runway), cleared for takeoff." (Example: Wiggum, Wind 320 at 7, runway 12L, cleared for takeoff). Additional instructions may be given at the end of the message if needed to maintain separation (e.g. Wiggum, Wind 320 at 7, runway 12L, cleared for takeoff, fly heading 090).
Departing aircraft should be separated from other aircraft on the same runway by the following criteria:
- Previous departing aircraft as departed and has either passed the runway threshold or turned to avoid conflict
- Previous departing aircraft > 6000 feet away
- Previous arriving aircraft has taxied clear of the runway
At the en route phase the controller will be more concerned about their AWACS duties, but the controller should still attempt to maintain separation between flights by adjusting altitude/speed/heading, especially in low visibility conditions.
- Changing speed
- (Flight), Increase/Decrease/Maintain (speed) (Example: Wiggum, maintain mach .8; Wiggum, increase speed to mach .9)
- Changing altitude
- (Flight), Climb/descend and maintain (altitude) (Example: Wiggum, climb and maintain FL340)
- Changing heading
- (Flight), turn left to/turn right to/fly heading (heading) (Example: Wiggum, fly heading 300)
When approaching AO ensure flights have enough room to maneuver without hitting anyone.
Once arriving aircraft get close the point of landing, descend them to the pattern altitude and begin deciding on a landing sequence. 2 traffic patterns should be available, one rectangular pattern 1000 feet above the airfield, and an overhead pattern 1500 feet above the airfield.
Aircraft that desire the overhead pattern should be instructed to "REPORT INITIAL for runway (runway)." Once they report initial, instructions can be given where to break and what direction if needed, or they can be told to continue if the break is pre-briefed. Once in the break, clearance to land can be issued. The clearance to land is of the form "(Flight), check wheels down, runway (runway), cleared to land."
Aircraft desiring the rectangular pattern should be instructed to enter the pattern either on the downwind, base, or final legs (known as a straight in). This follows the form: "(Flight), enter the (direction of turns) (leg) for runway (runway)." Landing clearance is typically given on base or final and follows the same form as the overhead pattern.
Arriving separation is fairly similar to departing separation requirements. Aircraft should be separated from other aircraft on the same runway by the following criteria:
- Previous arriving aircraft is clear of runway
- Previous arriving aircraft > 6000 feet from runway threshold
- Previous departing aircraft is airbourne and has either passed the runway threshold or turned to avoid conflict
- Previous departing aircraft > 6000 feet from runway threshold
In real life there are a plethora of separation minima for IFR aircraft based on a host of factors (radar/nonradar, distance from the radar, altitude, etc.). Since LotATC runs in arcade mode and controllers have a perfect view of the airspace, this guide will assume all targets are radar targets < 40nm from the radar.
Aircraft should be separated from each other by at least one of the following minima:
- >3nm lateral separation
- With formation flights, 1nm should be added per formation, i.e. a formation should be separated from a single aircraft by 4nm, and 2 formation flights should be separated by 5nm.
- >1000ft vertical separation
- The aircraft have passed each other and are heading in opposite directions, or have non-intersecting courses that are >45 degrees apart (known as passing or diverging separation)
The one exception to this rule is visual separation. With visual separation, one aircraft has reported the other in sight and has been given an instruction to "MAINTAIN VISUAL SEPARATION." This shifts responsibility from the controller to the pilot and allows the aircraft to break the separation minima as long as visual contact is maintained.
Goons should be familiar with 3 types of IFR approaches: visual approaches, TACAN approaches, and ILS approaches.
Anatomy of an instrument approach
- Initial Approach Fix (IAF)
- Aircraft instructed to perform a full procedure approach are directed here. Indicates the start of the approach.
- Intermediate Fix (IF)
- Marks the beginning of the intermediate segment of the approach and a start to the descent to the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA).
- Final Approach Fix (FAF)
- Marks the interception of the glideslope and beginning of the final segment of the approach. Aircraft should not be directly controlled after this point.
- Missed Approach Point (MAP)
- Spot where if the pilot has not achieved visual contact with the runway environment, they should initiate the missed approach procedure.
- Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA)
- The lowest altitude an aircraft can descend to without visual contact with the runway environment.
- Missed Approach Procedure
- Procedure to be followed in case an approach cannot be safely executed. Typically puts the aircraft in a position to be vectored for a new approach.
- As a controller, reports are the way to control lots of aircraft. Asking people to report reaching altitudes, report reaching initial, report holding short, etc. passes off some of the responsibility onto the pilot and prevents you from getting task saturated.
- If a flight gives you an advisory message, nothing is required for a response except "(Flight), roger."
- You do not have to wait for minimum separation to exist to issue instructions if you believe the separation will exist at the correct time. This is known as anticipating separation
Basic ATC for Airgoons with examples
Pilot-controller conversation isn’t rocket science. It all boils down to “who you are, where you are and what you want/where you’re going”. When you’re doing anything in an airplane in a controlled environment, you’ll need permission (or clearances in aviation speak) to do what you want to do.
- Sitting on the apron and want to start your jet? You’ll need a clearance.
- Taxi to the runway? Yep, you got it. Another clearance.
- Take-off from the runway? Clearance.
- Switching a frequency? Clearance.
- Enter certain airspace? Clearance.
You get the point.
When you’re given a clearance, you have to read it back to the controller.
Imagine you are at Ramat David airport in your F-16, a flight of two, and you’ve been given the callsign Panther. Since you’re the lead, you are “Panther 1-1” and your wingman is “Panther 1-2”. You’ve climbed into your virtual F-16, and are now ready to start flipping som switches and pull some levers. Since this is DCS we’ll skip over things like ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information System, basically the weather information), ATIS information is given a name from A-Z in the phonetic alphabet (alpha, beta etc.). You have started your F-16, done all the checks and flows, and are now ready to taxi.
Panther 1-1: Ramat David ground, Panther 1-1 flight of two with X-ray (ATIS remember) at apron ready to taxi
Ground: Panther 1-1, taxi to runway 33 via Golf and Delta (Taxiways are also given a name from A-Z and often also with a number like Alpha 2) and hold short. When ready contact tower on 118.6.
Panther 1-1: Taxi to runway 33 via Golf and Delta and hold short, tower 118.6, Panther 1-1.
Then you taxi via Golf and Delta, and hold short of the runway. Upon reaching the holding point for runway 33 (from your point of view a yellow dashed line and yellow solid line) you switch to 118.6 and call the tower.
Panther 1-1: Panther 1-1 at holding point runway 33.
Tower: Panther 1-1, line up runway 33.
Panther 1-1: Line up runway 33, Panther 1-1
Then this is the last chance for you to do your before takeoff checklist. You then line up runway 33 and wait for clearance.
Tower: Panther 1-1, cleared for takeoff runway 33, fly runway heading, climb and maintain 6000.
You then do your standard F-16 takeoff, fly runway heading as best you can and climb to 6000 ft.
Somewhere after takeoff, and probably before reaching 6000ft, you will be told to switch to a departure frequency.
Tower: Panther 1-1, call departure on 132.45
Panther 1-1: Departure on 132.45, goodbye, Panther 1-1
Panther 1-1: Departure, Panther 1-1, runway heading, 4000ft climbing 6000ft.
Departure: Panther 1-1, climb Flight Level 240 route direct Waypoint1
Panther 1-1: Direct Waypoint1, Climb flight level 240, Contact ABM on Freq X
In the handoff from tower to departure, I guess in DCS there would probably be a handoff to some kind of combat controller/AWACS or some-such.