onduty

ATC in those days - the enviroment

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Hi All,

While l'm learning the technical details and operating procedures of the 6 I started to think about the ATC enviroment in the Fifties.

Deeply involved in rw ATC,  getting more and more cuorious, I tried to dig out some info on the net but found only limited stuff on this subject.

While the TWR work/procedures can be quite obvious, I do not know anything about approach or enrute ATC. A couple of questions to start this topic:

- Were there APP units established? How they worked? Using radar and vectoring or procedural?

- What was enroute? Were Centers or ACC units in operation? Their working methods, like position reports, separation minimas?

- How they worked in oceanic regions like between the US and Hawaii (many airlines offered regular scheduled service, so obviously there were quite an amount of traffic in that area)? Position reports? To whom? By HF radio? What was the altimeter setting in the Pacific region in the 10000'-15000' altitude band? QNE perhaps?

I know this is a bit overwhelming but I think flying this classic in a modern enviroment is definatelly an anachronism.

Perhaps sombody from this excellent community could offer a good reading about this topic. It would be fun to learn more of those days.

Cheers,

 

 

Tamas

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, onduty said:

- Were there APP units established? How they worked? Using radar and vectoring or procedural?

- What was enroute? Were Centers or ACC units in operation? Their working methods, like position reports, separation minimas?

- How they worked in oceanic regions like between the US and Hawaii (many airlines offered regular scheduled service, so obviously there were quite an amount of traffic in that area)? Position reports? To whom? By HF radio? What was the altimeter setting in the Pacific region in the 10000'-15000' altitude band? QNE perhaps?

I'm sure you'll find a more robust story from someone who did the actual flying, but here it is in generics:

The further back you go, the more you'll find more procedural areas. Additionally, keep in mind that, when it comes to anything, it isn't a simple decree of "this is ready, let's go!" In other words, radar, and different types/capabilities of radar, were phased in around the world, over time. So, you were more likely to find better equipped ATC around busier airports first, before that tech got rolled back into the smaller fields. Radar dep/app control came into play in the 50s, so right around the same time as the 6 (or at least in its infancy), but those first radar-equipped fields would have been the larger/busier ones, with even some of the moderately-trafficked fields still being procedural/visual. Also keep in mind that the busy airports of yesterday are some of the sleepy places of today: PIT, STL, MCI, and many other smaller fields (that are now even quieter; along with a few that are also no longer here, like Stapleton) were all heavily traveled, despite being mostly ghost towns today. This also somewhat spread the flows out. Whereas today there are strong flows between a few hubs, back then there were strong flows between many more hubs. Additionally, related to the Atlantic and Pacific crossings, keep in mind that there were several airports/cities/towns that catered to that, like St. Johns, Halifax, and various cities in Ireland. Hawaii, Guam, and other island fields slowly started dying off in this period as aircraft developed longer ranges.

Father back, we had LORAN, GEE, Consolan, and LFRR. LFRR was pretty heavily used here in the States. VOR was also beginning to come into play as the 6 began its life. All of these technologies, and their availability affects how ATC provides control, though basic air routes were defined (even if only loosely) prior to those technologies If you've ever done any instrument training for real world flying, you will have come across MANY bits of knowledge that are essentially relics of the past. They're still taught, though, just in case a center loses its radar, like ZDC did a few years back:

j039wbdtru8z.jpg

[You can actually see the line of the south east, and east border of ZDC in the diagonal and vertical lines of aircraft out over the Atlantic. NOTE: In this case, they simply pushed everyone out who didn't really need to come in, though radar was still present at the various airports, so you do see some aircraft within the bounds of ZDC, since they essentially went in 'under' ZDC airspace, through the TRACONs.]

Radios back then are much like they are now: VHF, where available, and HF where VHF isn't.

There may only be tangential references, but I'd definitely recommend reading books like Sky Gods, Fate Is the Hunter, and Three Eight Charlie.

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Have a read about the collision between a TWA Lockheed Constellation and a United Douglas DC-7 over the Grand Canyon in 1956. The reason that is worth a look if you want to know about ATC in the 1950s, is the investigation into the causes of that accident go into great detail about the procedures at the time and also detail a number of changes which were recommended following the tragedy.

It was very much a watershed moment in US ATC development: At the time of the accident, pilots were given a bit more leeway on how and where to fly, since fuel was cheap, and they were expected to fly with panache too, which is why both those airliners were detouring off their route to show their passengers the Grand Canyon. Of course when that tragedy occurred, it threw the severely lacking ATC procedures of the time into sharp focus with the American public, and the administration realised it had to get serious about making things much safer, so it was the catalyst for massive improvements in ATC as well as a change in the attitude of the airlines to how they operated.

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Many thanks Captains for your replies. I will go through all the recommended readings, I really appreciate your hints and contribution. In the meantime a hystoric reading for all who interested: President Truman - Log of President Truman's Trip to Wake Island ... Just google it. A lot of interesting details on a long range, multi-stop VIP flight, planning, navigation, com, protocol  and security issues. ...and yes it is the famous VC-118, the Independence.

Tamas

 

 

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As always, I highly recommend the 2008 Propliner Tutorial, available from calclassic.com

It goes into a great deal of detail on the different phases of aviation infrastructure, the role of air traffic control, when they came into effect in different parts of the world, and the procedures and aircraft required for operations in each phase of history.

Be warned, it's a fairly lengthy read. Here is but a very small excerpt:

Quote

Aviation history is about much more than aeroplanes because the things achieved by aeroplanes and those who fly them depend on a complex external infrastructure that is often ignored. During the pioneer phase of aviation airlines attempted scheduled passenger services without the infrastructure necessary to make it safe. An airline passenger in the Continental United States (CONUS) who chose to make a journey by air in 1929 was much more likely to be delayed and several hundred times more likely to be killed, than if he or she made the same journey by rail.

Microsoft's description of the Ford Trimotor ends, "During its years of regular service in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Ford Tri-Motor helped popularize commercial flight and promote the safety of flying to travellers." No aeroplane could have done that in the pioneer phase of aviation. The necessary public sector infrastructure did not exist. Air mail planes and their pilots were being sacrificed monthly and as soon as the airlines attempted to carry passengers with the air mail in single crew aircraft like the Ford 4-AT-E Trimotor passengers began to perish too.

What each phase of aviation has in common in every country, whenever it arrives, is nearly identical public sector aviation infrastructure, (civilian or military), regardless of aircraft diversity or airline ownership and control. The infrastructure was created by federal governments to enable, impose and monitor private sector compliance with the increasing federal regulation imposed.

The pioneer phase of aviation in each nation, or sector of aviation, was characterised by irregularity of service and high death rates due to inadequate public sector infrastructure. Aircraft were operated by pilots who had no formal training or qualifications in wireless operation or navigation. They compared a road map to the scenery as it went by and often became fatally lost.


The vintage phase of aviation that followed was therefore characterised by large flight deck crews, including both a qualified wireless operator, and a qualified navigator. They used global positioning systems, (GPS), to navigate without reference to the scenery. Using GPS they attempted to fly direct from departure to destination. This was a terrible mistake, but in most nations it took a very long time for federal regulators to come to terms with the failure of vintage era GPS navigation techniques. Remember there were Global Positioning Systems in use long before the emitters were in geostationary satellites. SAT-NAV is just the latest form of GPS. All earlier forms of GPS were terrestrial.

The following classic phase of aviation history was characterised by mandatory procedural compliance with government regulation, using an infrastructure provided at public expense, to ensure both regularity of service and greatly enhanced public safety. In the classic phase of aviation history both the wireless operator and the navigator were banished from the flight deck and the remaining pilots were comprehensively retrained to tune and follow radio beams from radio beacon, to radio beacon, to radio beacon, using sequential point to point instrument navigation following simple text flight plans and federally published and mandated procedures. That third classic phase eventually gave way to the fourth and modern phase of aviation history.

For a single location such as California a passing phase is also an era. Aviation historians tend to talk about eras of aviation, but the truth is that aviation history has happened in phases. Different nations have gone through identical phases at different times and the military, naval and commercial aviation sectors within a single nation tend to progress into and through those phases at different times and at different rates. In what follows I may talk about eras, but they were really overlapping phases which happened at different times in different places. How we conduct a realistic propliner simulation must depend on four different things;

1) crew complement

2) the avionics being simulated

3) location

4) date

Robert Toten

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4 hours ago, scandinavian13 said:

If you've ever done any instrument training for real world flying, you will have come across MANY bits of knowledge that are essentially relics of the past. They're still taught, though, just in case a center loses its radar, like ZDC did a few years back:

On this topic, I was wondering if ATC still uses strips or have the procedures been fully automated?  In my first few years of instrument flying, there were many locations lacking any ATC radar and in some cases the local control was provided by a FSS.  My most vivid memories were of flying to KCLL Bryan-College Station and KGPT Gulfport MS in a PA28R Arrow, single pilot, hand held mic and charts on a yoke mounted chart holder getting clearances and have to make position reports.  It was fun but also tense and I've probably never had been so focused.  Years later, in my USAF career, I would be very familiar with joint FAA-TRACONs and the equipment and observe that controllers still used strips that in the event of radar failure or for whatever reason the screens went black, their situational awareness reverted to those strips.  I found the contrast between methods interesting in that they were trained to go between such different methods and still keep everyone separated.

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My first facility in 1976 with the FAA was Hot Springs Arkansas, a level 1 tower with non radar approach control. This involved separating IFR traffic old school using flight progress strips. The top of our airspace went to 5 or 7 thousand, I can't remember. Mem ARTCC was above us with KLIT Approach to our NE. In this old school way (very old for the day) we insured vertical. lateral and longitudinal separation using time and distance (DME or crossing radials). This involved departure times, clearance void times, and estimated times so a good knowledge of aircraft performance was essential.    

It also depended greatly on pilots being proficient in being where they were suppose to be, flying holding patterns, maintaining altitude and flying the approach. Scary stuff.  Any one who has been through the FAA academy can testify non radar was the most difficult phase of training with the most wash outs. During the Oaklawn  race season we would get extremely busy. After the strike (I was in Lake Charles by then) I believe Hot Spring was closed and Mem ARTCC took responsibility for that area. 

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Just now, downscc said:

On this topic, I was wondering if ATC still uses strips or have the procedures been fully automated?

Some facilities still use strips. Interestingly, some still use strips where the function has also been automated. I know PCT had them, but since the functions are capable of being automated, they just set them on the desk in front of the radar screen (i.e. they don't have strip bays/stacks off to the side from what I recall). ZDC had it all automated when I was there. There's a screen off to the side called the URET, which allows you to call up all kinds of info on each flight, to a degree much greater than you'd get on a strip. They still had the strip bays next to the displays, but I don't remember them being used at all.

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51 minutes ago, downscc said:

On this topic, I was wondering if ATC still uses strips or have the procedures been fully automated? 

Most facilities still use strips in one form or another.  As Kyle mentioned, the ARTCCs use electronic strips via URET.  Many terminals still use paper strips.  They're still very handy as a quick reference (as there's only so much information that can be crammed into a data tag before it starts cluttering up the radar scope).  With that said, it really depends on the facility and what kind of traffic is being worked.  At my last facility before I went to work at the Service Center, we were required to keep the strips for "archival" purposes; but many of the arrival sectors didn't need them, so we had a big container set up to immediately "file" the extra strips as they were spit out of the printer.  Terminals should start getting electronic strips as part of TFDM; but that's still at least a few years away.

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We have been using a compeletily "stripless" enviroment since 2000. No papers at all! We are using cutting edge ATM (Air Traffic Management) technology/software  in a relatively small airspace in Europe, still handling 4000 plus movement a day in the summer peak period.

The main philosophy of our stripless system that all the instructions (speed/altitude/heading/rate of climb,descent, etc.) issued by our controllers, are input through the main radar screen, through the radar labels (every field is interactive).

Our controllers are doing this instictively and real time, very quick, safe and proven method,

Warning: Dear guys, I think this leads far beyond the my PMD DC-6 topic, I do not want the mods to frown upon this conversation, instead keep the info coming on my original question.

In case you need more info on contemporary ATC, PM me, willing to answer.

 

Tamas

 

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, onduty said:

Many thanks Captains for your replies. I will go through all the recommended readings, I really appreciate your hints and contribution. In the meantime a hystoric reading for all who interested: President Truman - Log of President Truman's Trip to Wake Island ... Just google it. A lot of interesting details on a long range, multi-stop VIP flight, planning, navigation, com, protocol  and security issues. ...and yes it is the famous VC-118, the Independence.

Tamas

 

 

Thanks, Tamas! I have read every word. Fascinating stuff! Now i need to search and see what date Truman fired McArthur.

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Hi Lennie,

 

That's exactly why I hate to call serious simming, (like PMDG) a game. It's much much more  than that. Learning, education and sometimes even history!

Tamas

 

 

 

 

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