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FSS and UNICOM or Enroute


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So, after a recent flight in the CZEG FIR (VFR in real life) not under any control, monitoring 126.700 I listened to Edmonton FSS give a SIGMET over the frequency. It was about severe turbulance south of Calgary. My main questions are this: Why couldn't this same thing be integrated into VatSim? Not so much for turbulance, but for weather, icing, and such? (Maybe even events)

I've had long email chains with VatSim "higher ups" on why there hasn't ever been any addition of proper Unicom frequencies. The responce I got was mixed, it was a great idea and has been thought of before, but according to them, it would be difficult to do because pilots don't care to check the charts or anything to get a UNICOM or MF. Take Red Deer for instance (CYQF), according to the charts, if you wonder within 25nm of the field, you are to be monitoring and talking on the MF (122.875). In my opinion, this should be something that should be fairly easy to add in. The servers already have the ability to do this, since you can switch to whatever frequency you like and talk, if anyone else is on the frequency, they can hear you. With charts being easy and free to access (online or through and iOS and Android app called FltPlanGo) it shouldn't be an issue. Don't get me wrong, 122.8 isn't horrible, but having a group of three or four Air Canada's making radio calls about taking off in Edmonton while I do circuits at Cooking Lake isn't that awesome, or realistic. 

Wrapping up my rant here, would anyone be intrested in a system like this either the SIGMET type or my proper UNICOM and MF. 
 

Matthew Bleakney

CZEG FIR Events Coordinator

matthewbleakney@outlook.com

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Some VATUSA controllers do a broadcast on their frequencies regarding SIGMETS or flight watch. 

In Canada FSS controllers are required to broadcast items under certain conditions... A new SIGMENT is one of them. (AIM - RAC 1.1.2.1 (C). With the new issuance of a SIGMET I have often gotten asked by IRL CTR controllers if I have that weather on board. If I didn't and they had time they would read it out, but if they didn't I could pick it up from an FIC freq.   For VATSIM users (ATC for this purpose) in order to issue that type of information users would need to have it open or some notification of issuance and some users only have 1 monitor witch can be task loading for them. Also you users would have to be able to understand and issue the required information if a pilot asks about it. So more training would have to be involved. 

As for having multiple frequencies I agree with you on use of the proper frequencies, but it becomes a huge burden on the servers too (ATC are limited to how many RCO/PAL sites we could operate because of this external load). As you may know in Canada there are only a handful of "MF,ATF, Unicom" frequencies that are used and so its not uncommon for you to hear other traffic nearby landing at other fields. So the simple fix is on generic MF, ATF, Unicom, Enroute Frequency for VATSIM while putting a range limiting distance on it. I think its 20NM.

I share your enthusiasm for these features, unfortunately VATSIM is just not there yet...

Edited by Jagard Strong

Moncton FIR

Deputy Chief 

Email: deputychief@czqm.ca

 

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Jagard,

Yes I've seen US controllers do that over their own frequency. However, that is on thier frequency, that doens't allow for VFR aircraft not operating under control to have the same infomation as the IFR guys. Hence why I believe an enroute frequency (something other than 122.8) should be something that should be considered in the near future. Especially with VatSim velocity coming out sometime in the furture. It could be something they integrate into that. I believe that VatSim as full capibility to integrate the MF and proper UNICOM frequecies, because like I said in the OP, if you dial up 126.7 and have someone else do the same, you can hear each other. Like the responce I got from VatSim was that they've tried in the past, however pilots couldn't be bothered to check the charts to get the MF or Unicom. What I suggested to them was leave the 122.800 for the major airports such as YEG, YCC, YVR and majpr airport  like that. As for the smaller towered fields, such as something like CZVL, simply use the posted tower freq as the Unicom, that would work well in my opinion because if a controller decides to log on, they don't have to wait for the planes to contact them after serving them a .contactme, since all the planes should already be on posted freq, it would be something as simple as just logging on and announcing your presance. You bring some great points, but I don't believe that VatSim doesn't have the capibility to integrate such things, just that pilots don't want to have to put in the extra work of finding a frequency and dialing it up instead of 122.8. 

Matthew Bleakney

CZEG FIR Events Coordinator

matthewbleakney@outlook.com

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22 hours ago, Matthew Bleakney said:

As for the smaller towered fields, such as something like CZVL, simply use the posted tower freq as the Unicom

That's sort of how it works in the UK in RW. I've flown VFR in to Cumbernauld, EGPG, after the Information radio frequency had closed down and used that freq to broadcast my intentions. Of course, Cumbernauld has no ATC, just an advisory info channel manned during the day, so there is no ATC-manned tower as such. Your suggestion would be a VATSIM-ism extension of what happens at non-ATC information frequencies.

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Alistair,

Yes, it happens across the pond here too. Within VatSim's current state it should very easily be able to be implemented. 

Matthew Bleakney

CZEG FIR Events Coordinator

matthewbleakney@outlook.com

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 10/5/2021 at 5:01 PM, Matthew Bleakney said:

Yes I've seen US controllers do that over their own frequency. However, that is on thier frequency, that doens't allow for VFR aircraft not operating under control to have the same infomation as the IFR guys. Hence why I believe an enroute frequency (something other than 122.8) should be something that should be considered in the near future.

Of course, this brings up a few points about the practicality of staffing FSS for FISE (Flight Information Service Enroute):

  1. Who's going to man the Flight Service Station to issue these enroute advisories? We can barely lure in enough people to provide a decent replica of ATC services one or 2 nights a week. There is not enough manpower to staff FSS positions in most cases.
  2. While MSFS has changed the ratio of IFR to VFR on VATSIM, VFR is still sadly underrepresented in most cases. So even if we do staff an FSS as stated in Point 1, in all honesty, how many people are they going to talk to? We all do this because we like to talk to pilots. Even in the real world, with the plethora of available apps and information, the number of people calling Flight Service seems to be on a steady decline, hence the slow but steady service reductions by NavCanada. On VATSIM, even if I monitored all of CZEG, which is the biggest FIR, most nights I wouldn't see a single VFR aircraft, let alone get them to actually call me with an inquiry.
On 10/5/2021 at 5:01 PM, Matthew Bleakney said:

Hence why I believe an enroute frequency (something other than 122.8) should be something that should be considered in the near future. Especially with VatSim velocity coming out sometime in the furture. It could be something they integrate into that. I believe that VatSim as full capibility to integrate the MF and proper UNICOM frequecies, because like I said in the OP, if you dial up 126.7 and have someone else do the same, you can hear each other. Like the responce I got from VatSim was that they've tried in the past, however pilots couldn't be bothered to check the charts to get the MF or Unicom.

I tend to agree with your idea, but after a decade on this network, I must admit I often err on the side of practical. Trying to get pilots to read the bloody SIDs and STARs is a neverending battle. Sending them looking for a local or even national unicom frequency would end up with a lot of people on the wrong frequency. Heck, the pros end up on the wrong frequency every so often in the real world. What are us amateurs to do?

The other problem is that we are spoiled here in North America. All of our charts are available online, for free. Many other countries around the world do not have such a luxury. Many countries don't even have a digital version of their charts. You can still only buy the paper charts (unless you subscribe to a service like Jeppesen that has digitized their charts for you). So trying to find "real world" frequencies in some areas may not even be possible using online resources.

This was the reason why, about a year ago, the VATSIM tech teams started collecting AIP information from every Division. The idea was to fill the gap in charting by having a VATSIM AIP that contained a list of frequencies for every country and every airport around the world. By collecting these all in one place, we could have a useful reference to send pilots to for getting information about the correct frequencies, without pilots hunting the internet for information that may not exist or might be out of date. I don't know what the status of that project is.

And one final piece to chew on: Even when everyone is monitoring a common unicom frequency (or at least, they should be), it seems half of all pilots don't make any calls anyways. I have seen tons of arrivals and departures from uncontrolled (or unmanned) airports with nary a whisper on unicom.

On 10/5/2021 at 5:01 PM, Matthew Bleakney said:

What I suggested to them was leave the 122.800 for the major airports such as YEG, YCC, YVR and majpr airport  like that. As for the smaller towered fields, such as something like CZVL, simply use the posted tower freq as the Unicom, that would work well in my opinion because if a controller decides to log on, they don't have to wait for the planes to contact them after serving them a .contactme, since all the planes should already be on posted freq, it would be something as simple as just logging on and announcing your presance.

I think this is the great advantage of the AIP system, except I disagree with your first statement. At any airport, especially major ones, pilots should be on the tower frequency when the tower is unmanned. Major airports should not be an exception, any more than Red Deer. I agree: all pilots should use the Tower frequency as an MF, and when Tower shows up, all they have to say is "Open", and everyone starts talking to them.

I think, at the end of the day, this is not a technical limitation. In fact, given the way AFV works, I am sure the technical hurdles are small to non-existent. It's the institutional and societal limitations we must deal with. While some people crave greater realism, we must be flexible. Not everyone has the time to go searching on the internet for charts or CFS entries for every tiny airport out there. And some people wouldn't even understand how to read a CFS even if they could find it. We must appreciate the fact that there are always new people getting started on the network. We don't want to drown them in information too early on or we will lose them as potential long-term members. Otherwise, the network will slowly die.

Rob Nabieszko | VATCAN3

Director of Training, VATCAN

rnczyzcontrol@gmail.com

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4 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

Where are they available for Canadian airspace?

FltPlan.com

You have to have an account, but its free and no hassle for the account. That gets you the approach charts and VFR / LO IFR / HI IFR enroute charts.

Rob Nabieszko | VATCAN3

Director of Training, VATCAN

rnczyzcontrol@gmail.com

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