ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency

Kenneth Haught

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ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« on: May 12, 2018, 03:02:52 pm »
Recently the questions has come up as to whether it's appropriate for an ATC to attempt to reach a NORDO aircraft on GUARD frequency. In the past I seem to recall a Division policy prohibiting this, but cannot locate it now. VATSIM CoC only states
Quote
Controllers should not carry on private conversations between themselves, pilots or other individuals on the active communication frequency, the ATC channel or on the "guard" frequency (121.50). This interferes with providing ATC services to other pilots. The guard frequency should only be utilized in cases of emergency and under no other circumstances. Controllers are encouraged to use private chat boxes for carrying on private conversations.
Ref: CoC C9.

The question is, is attempting to reach a NORDO pilot acceptable under this "emergency" clause, or should we stick to using the .contactme PM and UNICOM to attempt to reach an otherwise unresponsive a/c?

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Ryan Parry

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2018, 05:24:03 pm »
Well, regardless of whether it is ok or not I think the issue would be that the majority of pilots probably aren't monitoring guard to begin with.

If you know an aircraft is on guard, I don't see why you couldn't attempt to reach them that way.
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Daniel Hawton

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2018, 09:27:30 pm »
Well, regardless of whether it is ok or not I think the issue would be that the majority of pilots probably aren't monitoring guard to begin with.

If you know an aircraft is on guard, I don't see why you couldn't attempt to reach them that way.

Guard isn't a frequency you specifically monitor. It shows for everyone in radio range whether or not you are monitoring 121.5.
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Brin Brody

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2018, 08:31:22 am »
Guard isn't a frequency you specifically monitor. It shows for everyone in radio range whether or not you are monitoring 121.5.

Do you mean it shows everyone in radio range if you transmit on 121.5?

I've never known any part of any radar client that allows us to see other users MONITORING 121.5, but I am familiar with the alert you get when a station in radio range TRANSMITS on it.

If this is the case, you're right, we wouldn't necessarily need to monitor it (nor would the pilots), but why not give it a shot, if neither UNICOM nor the standard contact request has worked, after repeated requests?
Brin Brody
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Sean Harrison

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2018, 03:10:57 pm »
In a radar environment I always monitor 122.800, and Oceanic environment 121.500, using VRC.
Sean
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Daniel Hawton

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2018, 06:17:45 pm »
Guard isn't a frequency you specifically monitor. It shows for everyone in radio range whether or not you are monitoring 121.5.

Do you mean it shows everyone in radio range if you transmit on 121.5?

I've never known any part of any radar client that allows us to see other users MONITORING 121.5, but I am familiar with the alert you get when a station in radio range TRANSMITS on it.

If this is the case, you're right, we wouldn't necessarily need to monitor it (nor would the pilots), but why not give it a shot, if neither UNICOM nor the standard contact request has worked, after repeated requests?

Correct, you do not need to actively monitor 121.5, as the clients passively monitor it.  121.5 transmissions are "broadcasts" and display for all clients (pilot and ATC) that are in radio range.
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Brin Brody

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2018, 08:13:57 pm »
Correct, you do not need to actively monitor 121.5, as the clients passively monitor it.  121.5 transmissions are "broadcasts" and display for all clients (pilot and ATC) that are in radio range.

Ok...  So then is this not a valid method for contact?  Based off the technological implementation of 121.5 transmissions, it would be a valuable resource, as it would display it for a pliot regardless of frequency, so those not monitoring UNICOM could still be reached.

So back to Ken's original question:
is attempting to reach a NORDO pilot acceptable under this "emergency" clause, or should we stick to using the .contactme PM and UNICOM to attempt to reach an otherwise unresponsive a/c?
Brin Brody
Deputy Air Traffic Manager
Jacksonville ARTCC
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Daniel Hawton

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2018, 12:09:57 am »
Correct, you do not need to actively monitor 121.5, as the clients passively monitor it.  121.5 transmissions are "broadcasts" and display for all clients (pilot and ATC) that are in radio range.

Ok...  So then is this not a valid method for contact?  Based off the technological implementation of 121.5 transmissions, it would be a valuable resource, as it would display it for a pliot regardless of frequency, so those not monitoring UNICOM could still be reached.

So back to Ken's original question:
is attempting to reach a NORDO pilot acceptable under this "emergency" clause, or should we stick to using the .contactme PM and UNICOM to attempt to reach an otherwise unresponsive a/c?

As far as I am aware, use of 121.5 is restricted by the CoC.  I am unaware of any current VATUSA policy on it.  I know there used to be, but it's no longer listed.
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Don Desfosse

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2018, 06:40:29 am »
This is in no way an official answer; just my opinion.  We seek to simulate the real world ATC and Pilot experience as much as practical.  If a Supervisor were to challenge me on the validity of using 121.5 to hail an aircraft, I'd very respectfully explain that it is a common practice in the real world, an aircraft is in controlled airspace without contact, and a collision conflict could exist down the road.  If real world ATC across the globe considers it a valid use of the emergency frequency, who am I to disagree?

In this case, unless a clear interpretation is made from the BoG level and passed down, the interpretation of "emergency" in this case is likely a gray area.  (Not much is really a true emergency in a computer simulation)  Therefore, pointing out rationale in a very respectful manner while solidly in a gray area is likely to result in a stalemate.  Pointing out rationale in a defensive manner is likely to result in an unhappy Supervisor and therefore an unhappy controller.... 

Like most things, this is a potential opportunity to improve our simulation, yet seems to be solidly in gray area.  Obviously, the CoC paragraph was written that way to avoid abuses.  Overuse or abuse of this method will very likely result in a more restrictive regulation which could hurt, or at least negate any possible benefit, of the improved realism.

Personally, I may try this on a very limited basis.  My first method, when logging into a control position, will still be to send a  text message on Unicom that says something to the effect of: "XXX_CTR is now online, 1xx.xxx".  When unsuccessful, I normally send a followup message on Unicom with the aircraft selected requesting they contact me (using the following alias: .cme Contact $callsign on $com1).  Generally, that gets most.  I may add a step before sending a direct PM/.contactme to try the .cme on guard and see how that goes. 

As you can see, that use will still be relatively rare.  But considering VATSIM is used to seeing precious few transmissions on 121.5, and the fact that Supervisors will see the transmissions quite clearly and visibly, use of this method will almost certainly be a Supervisor magnet.  I'd be very sparing in its use, I'd be respectful when explaining, and know that any perceived abuse will quickly cause this method to come to a very unceremonious end, very quickly....  Let's be smart out there. :)
Don Desfosse
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Brin Brody

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2018, 06:04:40 pm »
any perceived abuse will quickly cause this method to come to a very unceremonious end, very quickly...  Let's be smart out there. :)

So then would it be viable to use it if an aircraft is entering either high-volume airspace or terminal airspace where they are likely to be a conflict? 

Basically, the rare few times when you don't want to use a wallop just yet, but a pilot could soon cause an issue with others, is the only time I'd say I could practically use it. 
Brin Brody
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Jacksonville ARTCC
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Don Desfosse

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2018, 08:18:57 pm »
In my opinion, yes, that would be appropriate.  But that's just one man's opinion.  Like in just about any case when there's gray area and opinions, if you line up 100 guys, you're likely to get at least 7 opinions.... ;)
Don Desfosse
Division Director Emeritus, VATUSA

Matthew Kosmoski

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2018, 11:02:17 pm »
In my opinion, yes, that would be appropriate.  But that's just one man's opinion.  Like in just about any case when there's gray area and opinions, if you line up 100 guys, you're likely to get at least 7 opinions.... ;)

I think you forgot a 0 or two ;-)
Matthew Kosmoski
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Sean Harrison

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2018, 02:42:52 am »
The human brain is an amazing thing, it takes fact and interprets it using its own experiences and expectations.  What is truth? What is reality? What is fact?

Once we accept that others have the possibility of being correct, we can have understanding.

Authority has influence, because of rules, but that doesn’t make them correct.  You merely agree to remain involved.
Sean
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Mark Hubbert

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2018, 11:44:32 am »
I think that Don said it best in his analysis.  A few things to consider and think about.

1.)  We are quick to want to change because of what our real world counterparts do, yet sometimes in wanting to make said change we forget to analyze the things that we cannot simulate for whatever reason; more importantly we sometimes forget to see how the change that we want will impact the change that we cannot make thus creating a new problem.

2.)  From our current Division Policy
6.6.2.
VATUSA controllers have the right to approve and allow special procedures for aircraft under their
control, in alignment with
ARTCC

6.6.3.
Controllers may, and traffic permitting are encouraged to, allow pilots to simulate reasonable
emergencies.  However, as specified in section B8 of the VATSIM Code of Conduct, a controller may
decline to allow, or direct the termination of, any simulated emergency

3.)   COC B8 Pilots are permitted to declare in-flight emergencies only when under positive air traffic control. If there is no air traffic controller providing services to the pilot and surrounding traffic, declaring an in-flight emergency is not permitted. If, for any reason, air traffic control requests the pilot to terminate the emergency, then the pilot must do so IMMEDIATELY or log off of VATSIM. Pilots are not permitted to simulate, in any manner, an unlawful act while logged onto the VATSIM.net network including, but not limited to, declaring a hijack by statement utilizing either voice or text or by entering a transponder code of 7500.

Quote
The question is, is attempting to reach a NORDO pilot acceptable under this "emergency" clause, or should we stick to using the .contactme PM and UNICOM to attempt to reach an otherwise unresponsive a/c?

For purposes of VATSIM etc.  I do not think that a NORDO pilot constitutes an emergency.  I am not going to say what I think it constitutes but any emergency that a pilot may have should be approved or at the discretion of the online ATC controller.  That being said using the Guard Frequency.  "Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide".
Mark Hubbert
Division Director VATUSA

Ira Robinson

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Re: ATC Use of Guard (121.500) frequency
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2018, 10:49:36 pm »
I will add one more man's opinion here.  By trying to find another option to the problem of aircraft that are NORDO I believe that we would begin to slowly eliminate the current ones. In fact, we may be doing nothing more than adding another option that may or may not work either.  The fact that a pilot is not monitoring his radio, or the fact that a pilot is no longer paying attention to whether or not he is in controlled airspace violates several of our most basic rules of flight.  A pilot is supposed to know better and if controllers would do more than simply ignore the problem, and for  the record I admit to being one of those controllers, except when under heavy traffic or when it suites them, we might all be better off.

I would suggest that instead of trying to find another alternative to raise a pilots awareness of his surroundings, that perhaps they be better educated and,  if that education should include the results of a Supervisor's attention, then so be it. 

Of course ymmv...
Ira Robinson
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