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Ross Robertson

atc-discussion Clarification of controller priority

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Ross Robertson



I am currently not far from doing my skills test for my PPL in the real world and found out about vatsim. I am still trying to get my head around the priority order for controllers. 


I have been reading the online documentation to get an understanding of the order of priority in the event that the controller I am looking for is not online. This seems easy enough for example if I was looking for a departure and the ground controller was not available then I would try the tower, approach centre or FIR.


"Start with the Clearance Delivery controller for your location and tune to their frequency. You would request clearance there. If that position is not staffed for the departure airport (xxx), look for ATC staffing in this order: "

Clearance Delivery (xxx_DEL)
Ground (xxx_GND)
Tower (xxx_TWR)
Approach (xxx_APP)
Center (xxx_CTR) 


"If there is no ATC available from the Centre or FIR you are departing, you are considered to be operating in a Unicom environment. A clearance is not required. In that event, tune to 122.80 (the advisory frequency or “Unicom”)"


The above seems fine but I was planning on doing a simple route from EGPJ to EGPG and go through the Edinburgh zone today. I would in real life contact approach and ask for a zone transit.


Question 1 -
What do I do if no one else above the approach controller is available? It so happens that a ground controller is on at Edinburgh. Should I contact them and ask for a zone transit or do a unicom message to say that I am entering the zone routing say kelty, forth road bridge, Polmont, Cumernauld? Would I do the same if for example the tower controller and not the ground controller?


Question 2-
If I am flying to a controlled airport such as Edinburgh and for example and the only controller available is the EGPX (FIR) controller. Do I just make a normal request of "tayside1 request join instructions for EGPH" and the FIR controller then takes on the responsibility of the approach controller.


Sorry if this question has been asked before but I wanted to get this clear in my head before I embark upon the virtual flying world.


Thanks for your help.






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Lewis Hardcastle

Hello Ross


Question 1


In that scenario you wouldn't need to contact the ground controller because they only cover the taxiways and apron area. If there was a tower online then you would contact them for zone entry or transits etc. 


Question 2


Yes they cover the whole of Scottish airspace and if you're departing an airport that is within controlled airspace then you would need to call them up. 

We have this diagram on the VATUK website that explains the coverage more - http://www.vatsim-uk.co.uk/area-sectors/


If in doubt then you can always PM the controller to check what they cover.

Edited by Lewis Hardcastle

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Oliver Rhodes

Hi Ross,


First of all, welcome to the world of VATSIM!


In answer to your questions:


1. Ground controllers are responsible for the operations of the airport taxiways and stands (not including the runway), they aren't responsible for any airspace. Therefore, in your scenario, you would broadcast on UNICOM your intentions.


2. Yes, the FIR controller would operate the job of approach, tower, ground, and delivery. In my experience, the level of service required depends on their traffic levels. In high traffic situations, they may tell you to taxi at your own discretion.


Also, on VATSIM we operate a 'top-down' control system. This means that any controller will operate any position below them, unless that position is staffed. However, stations such as Eurocontrol will not operate below a certain altitude (I believe that it is FL240). 


Hopefully this helps you with your questions.


Happy Flying!


Oliver Rhodes

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William Grimsley

Also, on VATSIM we operate a 'top-down' control system. This means that any controller will operate any position below them, unless that position is staffed. However, stations such as Eurocontrol will not operate below a certain altitude (I believe that it is FL240). 

I think this level is FL245. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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Oliver Rhodes

Yes, that is correct - EuroControl covers upper airspace only, above Flight Level 245.

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