By Harry Sugden
Heathrow-Frankfurt City Pair - 16th January 1800-2200Z (1730-2230Z) - Area Brief
The time has come to shine; thank you to all those who've put their name down for tonight's event. Let's get some more feedback telling us how professional our service is! 😉 You do not need to read all of this brief - please read 'Traffic Plan', the relevant sections under 'Sectorisation' according to what you've been rostered on, and the 'Holding' section at the bottom (important! cos trial phraseology).
I'll be coordinating 1845-2045Z - shout at me if you're having any troubles! Also, if a C1+ comes along offering their time to control, send them to me!
The official event times are 1800-2200Z. We have two routes published in each direction: outbounds via BPK-REDFA or DET-KOK; inbounds via LOGAN or ALESO. Adjacent ATC has been sourced for both routes.
Departures are expected in high numbers. The event will be mainly departure focused until 1900Z because it takes just under an hour from Frankfurt to the London AoR boundary in the other direction. Expect Heathrow to chuck them out. There will then be a mixed raid from 1900-2030Z ish - Frankfurt have asked us to be ready to slow the departure rate down by halfway through if they get rammed. But in this central core of the event outbounds and inbounds will both likely be in high quantity. From 2030Z comes the arrivals raid, later becoming a holding raid... hold on tight!
We have asked Frankfurt for no more than 20 per hour on each route. This will require Heathrow to land 40 an hour + non-event - more than enough for VATSIM! If the demand on the ground at Frankfurt is greater than this, we may have to be more generous between 2000-2100Z and fill up the enroute holds, otherwise the event could go on all night.
At peak, we plan to have open: Worthing, Dover and TC SE; Daventry, 2x Clacton, TC SABER and TC NE. (8 sectors)
There are no non-standard splits within the South LAG. The Central LAG, however, has 2 non-standard splits.
AC Clacton - @George Complin @Fergus Walsh @Benjamin Matthews
We have not yet decided how to split Clacton. It will be one of two options: (1) Sector 12 and Sector 13+14, or (2) Sector 12+14 and Sector 13. The former will effectively be an inbound/outbound split, the latter would mean that the controller handling most of the Heathrow inbounds does not also have to speak to any Essex/Gatwick traffic from the east. Please make sure you are comfortable with both split options. The key points are:
Any traffic RFL295- will be with the Sector 14 controller, including flights from EHAM/EBBR. This traffic must be descended to FL240 in good time to avoid Sector 13 airspace, if these sectors are split. They are then presented to TC SABER at FL240, level by LOGAN. Assuming speed control is being applied to high level inbounds above, try to gauge/coordinate a sensible speed and fit them in the stream. Do not delay handoff to TC SABER so they can integrate the low and high level. Traffic via BARMI is 'skipped' by Sector 12 and transferred to either Sector 13 (EGLL FL300 lvl BARMI) or Sector 14 (EGKK FL260 lvl BARMI) by AC North. These inbounds are not released for turn or descent within Sector 12's airspace without coordination (like EGKK KIDLIs in TC NW). EGKK inbounds must also not penetrate Sector 13's airspace (FL245+) without coordination, so coordination with either Sector 12 or 13 is required at some point (if 13 and 14 are split). EGKK inbounds need to be descended quickly to stay on profile for FL140 by ABTUM - this is essential today, because TC SE is going to be very busy and will not want to hear "this aircraft is high at ABTUM, is that OK?". They might say yes, but it won't be. The agreement is FL220 lvl ODROB/BLIXY/SUNUP - please look at where these are on the display before you start controlling and make a real effort to (a) descend in good time, and (b) transfer to TC SABER in good time. The Sector 12 controller will also be covering the northern portion of TC East (known as TC REDFA), as we plan to only split TC SABER off. There is an agreed levels diagram for TC REDFA on this post which is worth having a look at for any intra-TC East agreements.
TC East - @Oliver Rhodes @Nathaniel Leff
We plan to open TC SABER from 2000Z, when the bulk of the inbound traffic will start to come through. Your job is relatively simple: transfer the planes to TC NE in trail and at reasonable speeds (290/300 kts is not reasonable if there is holding at LAM!). We may start holding at BRASO - well, inevitably we will - and this is your job to manage. TC NE should then call aircraft on to LAM; but feel free to give them a nudge if you see spare levels. We do not plan to stack swap via TANET for this event, as there will be inbounds from the south. Thus, if BRASO starts to get full this is a warning sign that LOGAN is next and there are too many planes. Let me (as coordinator) or the Sector 13 controller know so they can start the chain of "SLOW DOWN!".
EGKK inbounds need to be descended promptly to stay on profile for FL140 by ABTUM - this is essential today, because TC SE is going to be very busy and will not want to hear "this aircraft is high at ABTUM, is that OK?". Give Sector 14 a wee nudge if you aren't getting them level by ODROB/BLIXY/SUNUP.
There is an agreed levels diagram for TC SABER on the above Temporary Instruction post. Whoever is covering Sector 12 will also be covering TC REDFA, as the remaining part of TC East.
TC North East - @Fergus Walsh @James Yuen @Sebastian Rekdal
Please facilitate Heathrow not holding for as long as possible; late, fast planes to APP are a pain in the backside. Offer full(er) releases towards the start of the event if you can. No planes to Heathrow 10 miles from LAM at 270 kts! Be proactive with calling on aircraft from BRASO if/when we begin holding there. Otherwise, NE is relatively easy.
TC South East - @James Yuen @Jack Edwards @Loui Ringer @Benjamin Matthews
I'm sorry in advance if your sector gets a battering, but you have every right to tell Gatwick to slow the rate of departures down with an MDI (don't you dare touch Heathrow though 😛) and please shout at me if at any point it's getting too much. The essential tips for this sector:
Get all of those DET deps on a heading from EPM as the BIG westerly track is going to be busy tonight, so let's avoid any loss of seps! You have two options for these departures when the BIG hold is very full: (1) take them towards Gatwick and south of the BIG hold, giving climb earlier, or (2) the less preferable option to vector them underneath the BIG stack and climb later. Be very careful that EGLL DET departures do not enter Area 6 of the Gatwick RMA at or below 6000ft. They must be MSL or higher by the Gatwick extended centreline. Do not delay the transfer of departures via DVR to AC Dover. I know this may seem like a relatively simple comment to make, but it's very easy during events to let these aircraft level off at FL180, which can be detrimental down the line. If Dover gets them too late, they may not reach FL245+ by KONAN, causing issues if Brussels/Maastricht are split. Dover also needs to arrange nicely before transfer to Maastricht. Tell Dover early if BIG is filling up. They will eventually start holding at TIGER and will also tell Reims to start slowing planes significantly if we are holding at TIGER. Gatwick LAM departures get a lot more complicated with a full BIG stack, but the FL130 by the TC N/S boundary rule becomes even more essential during a busy LTMA. You must coordinate with TC NE if you screw up - it's usually absolutely fine if coordinated well, but not coordinating just doesn't help anyone. In previous events, planes have made it abeam BPK without being transferred from TC SE - this should be avoided!!! AC Dover - @Nathaniel Leff @Nick Marinov @Ben Wright
You will likely be another busy controller tonight, and we don't have any options for splitting Dover at this time - sorry! If you anticipate a really busy period with LL DET outbounds and LL inbounds (likely from 1900Z onwards), then feel free to impose an MDI on Gatwick deps, via TC SE. We could also try to delay GW/SS deps via ABTUM a little as well if there are some rogue non-event partygoers.
Once holding at BIG begins, it becomes very important to present planes at appropriate speeds for holding. Transfer the planes to TC SE in trail and at reasonable speeds (290/300 kts is not reasonable if there is holding at BIG!). FL180 ETVAX to MSL(+1) by BIG is a tight descent - do not delay transfer before holding starts; it is very easy to trigger holding by one a/c being too high.
Finally, we are very close to finalising a new LoA with Belux (very exciting, I know!). Although this isn't the currently documented procedure, it is worth pointing out that in the new LoA we have agreed the transfer of comms point for traffic via KONAN to be no later than 10 NM east of DVR - they want to do more work, so give them the planes earlier! Again, although this isn't the currently documented procedure, the figure below shows the new KOKSY Gate (in blue) - France actually delegates a portion of airspace to Maastricht south of KONAN, so you can position outbounds a lot further south than we ever used to do. The red bit is a buffer though - so don't point further north than VABIK! Also, try not to give them any more than two abreast. Thx.
Daventry & Worthing - @Benjamin Matthews @Sebastian Rekdal @Nathaniel Leff @George Complin @Ben Wright @Matthew Burton @Nick Marinov
Daventry and Worthing will be covering TC NW and TC SW, respectively. If you get raided, put a plea out for some top-down or adjacent ATC in #request_atc_pilot or speak to me after 1845Z when I'm coordinating. Please look out for your Dover and Clacton group controllers - if non-event planes into BNN and OCK are getting 1-2 laps of the hold and then straight off whilst planes at LAM and BIG are spinning back to BRASO/TIGER, say something. This is silly.
I haven't updated the holding diagrams since CTP - hopefully all the details are still correct.
Today, please trial the following phraseology for all inbounds and let's see if we can resolve the majority of wrong direction holding:
"hold at LAM as published, left hand" / "hold at BIG as published, right hand" / "hold at BRASO as published, left hand"
I will gather your opinions on how it works after the event.
LL CTP TC-ENR HOLD v2.pdf
Questions? Fire away.
By Dominic Hatje
In real life I’m a student pilot, learning to fly at the Redhill airfield which is close to Gatwick. I was hoping to get some practice through Vatsim at talking to ATC while flying circuits there and carrying out cross country flights from there in Xplane as preparation for my licence. Would anyone on the network be available as a controller at Redhill to do this? Thank you.
By David Gant
Although I mainly do VFR and know little about the other flavours, I have joined some friends (cockpit sharing) recently for IFR in the UK and have some questions if that's ok?
1) Does IFR traffic ever do the full instrument approach (this might not even be the correct name for it)? I realise that under ATC they will be vectored to the final approach but when not under ATC control, do they ever overfly the beacon and include an outbound leg as per the procedure charts?
2) If so, what unicom calls should be given? I'm guessing one would report: a) intention to join, and b) overhead the beacon, then what? Report final?
3) Also, if so, is it possible to request a full procedure from a quiet ATCO and what would the request be?
By Harry Sugden
This post brings together links to all London (EGTT) - and Scottish (MPC) - documentation and additionally summarises the available positions, including under what conditions they may be opened.
London (EGTT) Area vMATS Part 2 - spot a mistake, or have some feedback? Post in THIS thread. London Agreed Levels Diagrams - spot a mistake, or have some feedback? Post in THIS thread. London Sector Diagrams Current Supplementary Instructions (SIs)
SI 2020/14a - Route/STAR Clearance Responsibilities Letters of Agreement (LoAs)
Whilst the Operations Department aims to ensure the information in the vMATS is up to date, where there are conflicts, the LoA will override any procedures detailed in the vMATS Part 2, except where instructions are otherwise promulgated to the ATC Procedure Changes Forum.
VATéir (Shannon & Dublin ACCs) & VATSIM UK (London ACC) LoA Dutch vACC (Amsterdam ACC & Maastricht UAC Delta) & VATSIM UK (London ACC) LoA Belux vACC (Brussels ACC & Maastricht UAC Koksy) & VATSIM UK (London ACC) LoA French vACC (Reims, Paris & Brest ACCs) & VATSIM UK (London ACC) LoA
Controller Bookings and Logging On
In line with Division Policy and guidance on the VATSIM UK website: "Members may open either a single Primary or Secondary sector, or a valid combination of Primary or Secondary sectors."
London Primary Sectors
LON_S_CTR LON_C_CTR LON_N_CTR LON_W_CTR London (MPC) Secondary Sectors
LON_E_CTR LON_D_CTR LTC_N_CTR LTC_S_CTR MAN_CTR To open any further splits of a Primary or Secondary sector, the remaining portion of that sector must be staffed too. For example, to open PC East (MAN_E_CTR) requires PC West (MAN_W_CTR) to be open, or covered by another controller. Or to open TC South East (LTC_SE_CTR), TC South West must be open or covered by another London controller.
Controllers who booked a primary or secondary sector shall have first preference over the airspace they wish to control if a split of that primary/secondary sector wishes to log on (Div Pol 3.8 k). This applies too if LON_S_CTR is booked before someone else then books LTC_S_CTR; the controller who made the first booking for LON_S_CTR has the right to swap with a booking made at a later point for LTC_S_CTR. However, booking a bandbox such as LON_SC_CTR or LTC_CTR gives the controller no right to pick which airspace they control with precedence over subsequent bookings.
A sector name (i.e. what we publish in documentation) will always be the most-split version - i.e. the blocks of airspace - which are collected in a Local Area Group (LAG):
South LAG: Worthing, Dover, TC South West, TC South East Central LAG: Daventry, Clacton, TC East, TC North West, TC North East North LAG: AC North, PC West, PC East West LAG: AC West
Controller Positions & Coordination Names
A position is different from a sector, in that a controller may log on to a position and be covering different sectors depending upon what other positions are open. For example:
If LON_SC_CTR and LTC_S_CTR were logged on, LON_SC_CTR would be controlling the Daventry, Clacton, TC East, TC NW, TC NE, Worthing and Dover sectors, whilst LTC_S_CTR would be controlling the TC SW and TC SE sectors. If LTC_E_CTR then logged on, LON_SC_CTR would now be controlling the Daventry, Clacton, TC NW, Worthing and Dover sectors. The names of the positions (i.e. the callsign you use for coordination) sometimes change in London.
LON_CTR (127.825) - always "(AC) Bandbox" LON_SC_CTR (132.600) - "(AC) South Central" - if the controller is left with just South/Central group sectors, as either South/Central South LAG
LON_S_CTR - "(AC) South" - if Dover is opened, then the position becomes known as "(AC) Worthing" LON_D_CTR - always "(AC) Dover" LTC_S_CTR - "TC South" - if TC South West/TC South East is subsequently opened then the position becomes known as the remainder of the two LTC_SW_CTR - always "TC South West" LTC_SE_CTR - always "TC South East" Central LAG
LON_C_CTR - "(AC) Central" - if Clacton is opened, then the position becomes known as "(AC) Daventry" LON_E_CTR - always "(AC) Clacton" LTC_E_CTR - always "TC East" LTC_N_CTR - "TC North" - if TC North West/TC North East is subsequently opened then the position becomes known as the remainder of the two LTC_NW_CTR - always "TC North West" LTC_NE_CTR - always "TC North East" North LAG
LON_N_CTR - always "(AC) North" MAN_CTR - "PC Bandbox" - if PC East/PC West is subsequently opened then the position becomes known as the remainder of the two MAN_E_CTR - always "PC East" MAN_W_CTR - always "PC West" West LAC
LON_W_CTR (126.075) - always "(AC) West"
By Harry Sugden
Summary of Lessons
Edinburgh is always the busier airfield and should have FIN rostered (or at least on standby) from about an hour into events (or when the arrival rate is predicted to pick up). Glasgow does not need FIN rostered for dual-airport events. AIR and FIN coordination needs work, but this is not unique to this event. It may be worthwhile to produce guidance on what kind of constant conversations need to be had during events. The positions tend to sit in different coordination rooms which isn’t ideal, and muting on TeamSpeak prevents more effective communication. The APC controllers at Edinburgh did a fantastic job, given the traffic levels. IMPRESSIVE! @Fergus Walsh @Thomas Greer @Reece Buckley Holding is not fair without a ‘grand plan’ or a way of keeping track of the delay across different inbound routes. It may be worth discussing whether this is something that matters on VATSIM, and thus whether it is worth taking some (relatively simple) steps to resolve this. LAC North is worth rostering for any ScTMA ‘overload’ events - they played an essential role this event in regulating the flow to ScAC. Traffic Levels
Departure Rate (per hour)
Arrival Rate (per hour)
Departure Rate (per hour)
Arrival Rate (per hour)
Aerodrome / Approach
The Edinburgh controllers did a fantastic job at handling the level of traffic that they did. With no rapid exit taxiways, handling a high number of departures and arrivals at Edinburgh is a difficult challenge - yet for three hours, at least 20 arrivals were consistently handled.
😓 We were lucky that the demand for departures at Edinburgh wasn’t stronger. Some thought that coordination between TWR and FIN could have improved to help get the departures that did show up with minimum delay, but this is a common feature of events.
The Edinburgh INT/FIN split was only rostered 1945-2115, but was required until close. It worked well given the extremely high pressure from the top in terms of having two enroute holds waiting to be emptied! There were some occasions where aircraft who were slow descending in the TARTN hold prevented a bunch of aircraft from dropping down. In these cases, coordination by INT with Galloway to bring the aircraft toward STIRA so they could descend on their way to the north side / in the STIRA hold may have been useful. This is as much ScTMA’s responsibility to notice as it is APC, however.
Streaming before holding began could apparently have been a little better, with 5 NM on a few occasions (especially when on consecutive aircraft) leaving APC with little room to play with. But this is the responsibility of all controllers down the chain to ensure aircraft are sufficiently in trail, and the merging of 3 routes inbound to TARTN does sometimes lead to unavoidable < 10 NM streaming to APC.
😴 Glasgow FIN was rostered - it was not (and is never) needed in events with both Edinburgh and Glasgow. If anything, a standby could be rostered that jumps on for 10 minutes here and there if required if there are any unmanageable waves of traffic.
Sectorisation, Frequency Congestion & Coordination
Having 7 controllers was just the right amount for this event and enabled a reasonably optimal sectorisation.
❗ The original plan was to split Deancross from ScAC Bandbox at 2015Z to catch the expected main wave of inbounds from the South. A controller dropout meant that the planned Deancross controller took all of the Scottish upper sectors, which quickly became unworkable. Handling a strong stream via INPIP and AGPED to Edinburgh, as well as being required to provide top-down at Inverness and Aberdeen led to a temporarily degraded service north of the TMA. Luckily, despite the drop-out, a quick reshuffle enabled ScAC East to be split off from Bandbox, so each ScAC controller became responsible for one of the enroute holds.
✔️ ScTMA was split at the right time - there were very few departures this event, so Galloway was consistently underworked, but it was still important for them to take some workload off the Talla controller. Talla had an extremely busy frequency from opening as the TARTN hold filled up well above the published FL140 max (highest was FL210 at one point). To avoid overloading the sector, a stop on all further traffic entering the sector was put in place until this level could be brought down.
✔️ Antrim was also very useful to have on throughout, handling a total of 19 flights from Dublin/Belfast/Derry inbound to Edinburgh.
🤩 ✔️ Finally, LAC North was an essential addition to the roster. Without them, ScAC Bandbox’s job would’ve been made one hundred times harder before the split. ‘Overload’ style events in the ScTMA should always have AC North rostered.
Generally, all controllers reported frequency congestion of around 3, with peaks of 4 (out of 5, being ‘overworked’). This is with the exception of the ScAC Bandbox shift (before splitting), which was too busy. All controllers reported having sufficient time to coordinate. There was no coordinator for this event.
Spacing & Holding
Once the peak began, aircraft were generally having to hold for about 20 minutes in the TARTN hold. But with holding in place, AC North ( @Matthew Burton ), ScAC Bandbox ( @Daniel Button ) and ScAC East ( @Trevor Hannant ) did a fantastic job with in trail streaming of inbounds to Edinburgh. The picture below was taken during the event - thanks @Cathal Boyce 😄 Even when there is both terminal and enroute holding, having aircraft in trail is essential to avoid overloading the next controller and increasing complexity any further. There were no complaints from anyone who gave feedback related to enroute streaming. ✔️
Holds at INPIP and AGPED were established as soon as Talla reached capacity and had to put a stop on all further inbounds into the sector. There were unpublished holds, but were in good positions and managed well by their respective controllers to hold the traffic. Reflecting on my own Talla controlling, there was too much vectoring of traffic between INPIP/AGPED and TARTN, given the traffic was going to re-enter a hold anyway. This increased the workload further unnecessarily, but was my attempt at accounting for the long distance between INPIP/AGPED and TARTN when calling aircraft off the stack. ❗
Miles-in-trail requirements were used between Talla and Bandbox/East to empty the aircraft from the enroute holds, adjusted depending on how full TARTN was. These worked well, and were also adhered to brilliantly by ScAC. ✔️
Aircraft via INPIP with a cruise level below FL255 avoided the INPIP enroute hold and were put straight into TARTN. This enabled them to effectively skip the queue. Aircraft managed to avoid any significant holding by coming via Galloway and then being routed onto STIRA. One aircraft did a spin at MAC, but otherwise these aircraft experienced no delay. ❓ 🤔 Neither of these loopholes are ideal, but they are also somewhat unavoidable without a coordinator. It may have made sense to re-route aircraft planned via AGPED round to the north of Edinburgh and into the STIRA stack, but then aircraft in INPIP would still have held longer than these STIRA aircraft. The answer could lie in recording at what time an aircraft starts holding as soon as the inbound delay is above around 20 minutes, potentially using the SPad. This could then be used to determine the order in which they then enter the terminal hold.
If aircraft are routed via STIRA, then APC should theoretically continue to empty planes from TARTN (and by extension, INPIP) with an earlier holding start time, thus ensuring STIRA planes get a fair share of the delay. (With AGPED -> STIRA re-routes, the ‘start time’ could be set as the point they are taken off route for the trip round). It does appear as if some other locations use this method - start times for holds have been recorded in the FP remarks for Zurich’s extremely popular Tuesday Nights in the past. This may be something to explore.
There were 3 diversions to Glasgow from INPIP/AGPED towards the end of the event. By this point, the delay at TARTN actually only turned out to be about 5-10 minutes!