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When and who to ask for descent clearance on Vatsim

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I have been running into a problem lately where (and I have tried to do this exact same flight 3 times) I am so close to TOD that landing at vref speed would not even be possible and I am not messaged by ATC so I can get my descent clearance. From my vPilot manager I can see that they are within range and I can talk to them if I wanted but I wouldn't know who to contact. I am no "noob" when it comes to the lingo of Air traffic control as I have racked up quite a few hours on Vatsim and a few in the real world talking to atc ('course I was at a small, towered airport). I just don't have vatsim experience contacting approach or center when inbound to an airport after being on unicom.

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If you are approaching your TOD you typically would still be with Center depending on your cruise altitude. 

 

What flight were you doing, what was the flight plan?

 

Some Center controllers ZLA for example can control all the airspace from KLAX to KLAS, so it really varies.

 

Provide more information and we can help you.

 

*Source, ZLA Controller*

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Seaniez?

 

Not sure what to call you... :smile:

 

There are so many variables in this question that one definitve answer is almost impossible.  The part of the virutal world you are flying in has an impact.  I fly mostly in US and this is my process.

 

If you're at cruise with a center controller and you reach TOD without a descent clearance, contact the center controller with "Center, ABC123 ready for descent."  That let's them know it's time for you to come down.

 

If on Unicom and no center controller and you reach TOD, just descend, even if Approach and/or Tower are on.

 

Knowing when to contact approach is kinda up in the air.  Assuming you are using an FMC for guidance, I also assume you have programmed a STAR into the FMC.  If the Approach controller has not contacted me by the time I reach the waypoint the STAR is named after, then I will contact them with "Approach, ABC123, on XYZ STAR at XYZ xx,xxx thousand descending for xx,xxx thousand."

 

Tower is easy.  They don't give descent clearances, unless you are on a Tower Enroute or TEC route, especially in LA airspace..  Otherwise, contact them when you turn final.

 

Randy

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Thanks for your responses! I was on a flight from KATL - KJFK. So it seems that I continue my course and flight plan until messaged by ATC to contact them.

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So it seems that I continue my course and flight plan until messaged by ATC to contact them.

 

Actually no, that's not true.  ATC has absolutely no requirement to contact you, even if you enter their airspace.  Section B3 of the VATSIM Code of Conduct states,

 

"A pilot must at all times check for appropriate air traffic control coverage for the airspace he is crossing at any given time. If there is an appropriate air traffic controller available or upon request to make contact with an appropriate air traffic controller, then the pilot should immediately contact such controller."

 

Nowhere in the CoC does it state a controller must contact a pilot.  They do it as a courtesy if so inclined, but not always.  You, the pilot, however, are required to contact them. 

 

I once flew on VATSIM from Phoenix to Honolulu.  I checked VATSPY and my pilot client every so often to see if ATC ever came online.  Once I headed out over the Pacific I was less diligent than I should have been.  LAX Center had come on line and been on for 10 minutes or so.  I never checked until too late and they never called.  Once I realized a controller was on I immediately called him and apologized.  He replied "No worries, you were no threat to any traffic and will soon be out of controlled airspace so I just let you go on your way." 

 

Nice of him, but the monkey to contact was on my back, not his, so I still felt bad.

 

Randy

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Oh ok I see now. So like the procedures if clearance delivery is not online (Del, Grd, etc) is there one for contacting atc on arrival? Which would I contact if so and so was offline. Would it be, if there is no Center, contact approach, if there is no approach, contact...

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Centers own all the airspace and desiginate it to various controll agencies such as approach and tower.  The order to contact for a clearance if on line would be 1. Clearance Delivery (if not on line) 2. Ground (if not on line) 3. Tower (if not on line) 4. Approach (if not on line)  5.Center.  When coming into an airport the sequence would be reversed.  If not talking to Center, within about 30 miles it would be Approach (if not on line) then Tower with in about 5 miles (if not on line) on the ground and not on the runway contact Ground for taxi. 

 

I've been flying on VATSIM for almost 15 years.  If I am not talking to a controlling agency and near my TOD, I descend.  If they want to talk to me, they will notify me.  I have never once had problems with any of the controllers or supervisors.  The supervisors will contact me on occasion when if I have been on line for more than 6 hours and I am not talking to ATC.  

 

blaustern

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Wilhelm beat me to it, but here is what I was typing when he posted...

 

First, let me explain that I am not nor have I ever been a controller on VATSIM. But I have almost 4,000 hours as an online pilot so I've seen...I think...just about every combination you can see. Here we go.

 

First the hierarchy from lowest to highest...

 

Clearance/Delivery (usually their callsign is the airport's three letter code followed by _DEL, such as LAX_DEL)

Airport Ground (usually airport plus _GND, such as LAX_GND)

Airport Tower (same, such as LAX_TWR, but you may see LAX_TWR_N and LAX_TWR_S if two tower controllers are on)

Approach/Departure (such as DEN_APP or DEN_DEP, although Approach will also handle departures and vice versa if only one is on. They typically handle multiple airports. SLC_APP may handle Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo, and more, all at once)

Center (The big Daddy, usually LAX_CTR, although some use a specific smaller sector callsign they may be controlling within the larger region of the ARTCC/FIR)

Oceanic or Radio (such as Gander, Shanwick, and San Francisco)

 

There are also controllers in Europe that handle multiple regions above a certain altitude. The one that comes to mind is EURE-W which covers from Portugal up to Ireland if I recall correctly.

 

Now, assuming there is only one controller online, this is what they cover (it's called "Top Down" Control on VATSIM).

 

DEL can only give a clearance, no taxi or takeoff instructions.

GND can issue a clearance and give taxi instructions to the ramp if inbound or runway hold point or ramp, but no farther, if outbound.

TWR issues clearance, taxi instructions, takeoff if outbound or landing (your choice of runways, not theirs'), taxi to ramp if inbound.

APP/DEP do either or both jobs at once. They give you instructions to the airport, landing clearance, taxi if inbound and will give clearance, taxi to runway, takeoff, and climb, course instructions if outbound.

CTR does it all, both ways, inbound and outbound. They are the ones who give you descent instructions if inbound...or the one you call with "Ready for descent" if they haven't given you a descent by TOD.

 

If there is more than one level of control online at the same time in the same area it depends on if you are departing or arriving.

 

If departing, contact the lowest level of control for your airport. You would not contact SEA_GND (Seattle), if they were on, for a Boeing Field (also in Seattle) departure.

 

If arriving, contact the highest level that is online.

 

As an example, you are inbound to Denver International (KDEN) and both DEN_CTR and DEN_TWR is online. You would contact DEN_CTR when you enter the Denver Center airspace (by checking VATSPY or other such program which shows the boundaries.) Once you contact them they will take care of the CTR and APP control (Top Down) until you are ready to land and then they will hand you off to DEN_TWR, who will then clear you to land and provide taxi instructions (acting as Ground...Top Down).

 

Another example, this one outbound. If you are at Salt Lake City (KSLC) and only GND is on, they can only give you a clearance and taxi to runway, nothing else. However, if GND and APP are online (remember APP handles DEP also), then GND will hand you off to APP once you reach the runway. APP will act as both TWR and APP, so they will give you takeoff clearance as well as course and climb instructions. Once you reach CTR airspace they will tell you to switch to UNICOM as they can control no higher than APP or DEL. You are now "Not under ATC Control".

 

There are times that Center or Approach will not handle all the airports within their specific region, even under the Top Down concept. This is usually to simulate a field that has a Tower that shuts down for instance, from a certain time until morning. They will tell you to switch to UNICOM and call them once airborne, if departing, or call them at the gate if inbound.

 

That's it in a larger nutshell than I intended.

 

Randy

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Very good explanation! So if I am calling Center on initial contact would I say (for example) "New York Center American 225 with you"?

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You would say " New York, American Two-Twenty-Five, Flight level 350 (if FL350 was your altitude).  Always give your altitude on initial contact.  

 

If you're aircraft is a Heavy, you would identify yourself as "American Two-Twenty-Five Heavy."

 

Other than on initial contact, start your conversation with your identification.

 

blaustern

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You would say " New York, American Two-Twenty-Five, Flight level 350 (if FL350 was your altitude).  Always give your altitude on initial contact.

 

Excellent advice.  I also give my distance and direction to the nearest VOR or Airport.  Some ATC sectors are huge and it helps them find you if they know the area to search at a glance.

 

Randy

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