Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout

Shane VanHoven

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Every time I do one of these I seem to learn a subject so good that I'm never able to forget the smallest details about it. So I figure I'll just keep adding to the collection with the thought that maybe some of you learn something from them as well.

In the last one I talked about how to establish radar identification with an aircraft, so it's only natural if this time I talked about how to transfer that radar identification to another controller. This can all be found in 5-4 of the 7110.65. But I will put below the paragraphs that are relevant to the network. 

5-4-5 Transferring Controller Handoff

These are the responsibilities of the controller initiating the handoff.

a. Complete the radar handoff prior to an aircraft entering the receiving controller's airspace.
c. Prior to transferring communications:
     1. All potential conflicts have been resolved.
     2. Any restrictions issued to the aircraft are passed along to the receiving controller.

5-4-6 Receiving Controller Handoff

These are the responsibilities for the controller receiving the handoff.

b. Issue restrictions that are needed for the aircraft to enter your sector safely before accepting the handoff.
c. Comply with restrictions issued by the transferring controller unless otherwise coordinated.

It's pretty simple. Keep airplanes safe while you send them to someone else, and keep them safe while you receive them from someone else.

Phraseology For Manual Handoffs (using landline/teamspeak coordination instead of automation)

Caller: "Zanesville, Columbus, handoff"
Receiver: "Zanesville"
Caller: "Five miles east of Appleton VOR, United thee sixty-six"
Receiver: "United Three sixty-six, radar contact, A.Z.
Caller: "M.E."

This is an example of a basic radar handoff. Zanesville is initiating the handoff to Columbus. When Columbus says the magic words "Radar contact", they assume responsibility for that aircraft.


5-4-7: Point Out

The transferring controller must:

1. Obtain approval before permitting an aircraft to enter the receiving controller's delegated airspace.
2. Obtain receiving controller's approval before making any changes to the aircraft's flight path, altitude, speed, or data block information after the point out has been approved.

The receiving controller must:   

1. Be responsible for separation between point out aircraft and other aircraft for which he/she has separation responsibility.
3. Issue restrictions to the transferring controller as necessary as long as point out aircraft is within the receiving controller's airspace.

Phraseology for Point outs

Caller: "Pomona, Stadium, point out.
Receiver: "Pomona,"
Caller: "Eight miles southwest of El Monte airport, Delta seven zero two, descending to two thousand, six hundred."
Receiver: "Delta seven zero two, point out approved, A.N."
Caller: "M.L."


So those are the basics. A handoff transfers radar and communications, and a point out transfers radar but not communications.

Discuss!
Shane VanHoven
Minneapolis ARTCC, VATUSA ACE Team | Instructor
Private pilot, Instrument, ASEL
FAA Air Traffic Developmental, Terminal

Steve Galasso

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2018, 07:33:22 pm »
It's important to understand that you are responsible for any coordination needed with further sectors during a point out.  So if you have a boundary runner and you point him out to Sector A and hand him off to Sector B but later on the aircraft gets to Sector C without being more than 2.5 miles from Sector A then you are responsible for that even if it's 100 miles away and don't even know the sector exists.  There is no requirement for Sector A to do the point out even though common sense would tell Sector A that you're not going to do the point out. 

Alex Bresnick

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 11:02:49 pm »
It's important to understand that you are responsible for any coordination needed with further sectors during a point out.  So if you have a boundary runner and you point him out to Sector A and hand him off to Sector B but later on the aircraft gets to Sector C without being more than 2.5 miles from Sector A then you are responsible for that even if it's 100 miles away and don't even know the sector exists.  There is no requirement for Sector A to do the point out even though common sense would tell Sector A that you're not going to do the point out.

Excuse the crappy Paint drawing below but I want to make sure I understand you correctly.



Is what you are trying to say is it is your responsibility for you to ensure that point out is made with sector C, that is 100 miles away? Because no, that's sector B's responsibility as the sector that has control of that aircraft to ensure a point out 100 miles down the road is completed. If you point it out to both sectors A and B and you're being a fool by working an aircraft 100 miles beyond your sector boundary, then yeah, that's on you.

Steve Galasso

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2018, 11:42:16 pm »
In your particular drawing, Sector B would be responsible for the point out to Sector C.  However, if the aircraft's route of flight was more diagonal and it entered Sector A on a very shallow angle, ran the boundary, and never entered Sector B by more than 2.5 miles by the time it hits Sector C then that is your point out. 

*edit* Reference new attached picture with green line being route.   This is a scenario where sectors are squares essentially so it's a little harder to understand the practicality of this happening when they are like that. Bottom line...boundary runners are terrible and you should always handoff to the next sector unless you can fully see how it will exit the sector you are pointing out to and see it exit by more than 2.5 miles from any other sector.


A much more common scenario would be if you point out a climber and then the climber ends up climbing like garbage and gets with another low stratum sector that you don't see then that is your point out too even though you may not know it exists. 
« Last Edit: December 17, 2018, 11:52:33 pm by Steve Galasso »

Alex Bresnick

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2018, 12:39:39 am »
Ah, okay. We're on the same page now. In your scenario it is a matter of choosing the wrong sector to execute the handoff too. At the same time, if sector B really finds it safe to assume that point out was done with sector C, especially in the era of automated PVDs, please don't let me work next to them.

Climbing scenario makes sense and it highlights the importance of not "overreaching" or controlling beyond your means. If an aircraft is going far enough outside of your airspace where you don't know the stratum from ground up, you shouldn't be controlling that aircraft anymore.

Steve Galasso

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2018, 08:15:38 am »
It's not always so cut and dry.  The map you drew is a very simplified map.  Sometimes there are sectors much closer that aren't even depicted on your scope because they might be at an adjacent facility.  The ones that get away who are climbing, it could be a poor decision to point out to begin with or it might just be that an aircraft was doing 1500 feet per minute, at the time, it was estimated he would climb outside your stratum in 3 minutes but then later dropped to 500 feet.

Things happen.  The simple solution is to call the next guy and say, "hey...can you take care of any other point outs that XXX might need?"  The answer is going to be "wilco" and then that's the end of it.  The thing I'm trying to emphasize here, as you've already said you understand what I'm talking about, is that you are ultimately responsible for any coordination until the aircraft gets 2.5 miles inside the sector that accepted the handoff. 

Alex Bresnick

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2018, 11:16:58 am »
I disagree...it is cut and dry. To clarify, I am basing my view off real world...not VATSIM. I don't know the particulars of VATSIM controlling.

I understand and agree that the responsibility, by the book, will be yours until the aircraft gets fully inside the handoff receiving sector. However, I will still maintain that if you are controlling an aircraft in an area where the stratum is unknown, you should not be controlling that aircraft.

I don't know about other facilities, but my facility has some piss-poor controller maps at some sectors. There are times where I might want to be talking to/have radar on an aircraft in a spot where the controller map doesn't give enough info. So I looked up the relevant SOPs/LOAs. There are other times where I have decided that, I don't need to know and when a situation like you pose arises, I do a handoff to the first low sector all the time.

Not to mention, in the area I work and the surrounding sectors I interact with, saying, "hey...can you take care of any subsequent point outs this aircraft might need?" often would not go over so smoothly with that controller. We do have some LOAs that actually require it but beyond that, I would never automatically expect the response to be a simple "wilco." I would much rather just change the plan and execute a handoff.

Let me pose a scenario...

Let's say you are working an aircraft that is in your climbing scenario. Now they lose pressurization and they start an emergency descent. What are you now doing? Calling the other sectors and trying to explain you need them to do point outs to airspace you don't know about? Knowing how QA can be sticklers on some things, I would venture a guess they might be asking you why you felt the need to work an aircraft where you don't know the airspace.

Hopefully this isn't straying too far from the intended topic, but this is the kind of discussions/disagreements that happen on the floor and there will always be a controller who disagrees with how another controller works.

Steve Galasso

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2018, 11:46:28 am »
I am also basing my view off real world.  I am an en route CPC and have never came across someone who would not do further point outs.  There is no excuse to not do it and if someone refused then I would simply convert it into a handoff.

Shane VanHoven

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2018, 11:49:45 am »
Hopefully this isn't straying too far from the intended topic, but this is the kind of discussions/disagreements that happen on the floor and there will always be a controller who disagrees with how another controller works.

Not at all! Especially on vatsim, it is to everyone’s benefit when these discussions happen! Sometimes all it takes is someone challenging an idea for someone else to try something new.
Shane VanHoven
Minneapolis ARTCC, VATUSA ACE Team | Instructor
Private pilot, Instrument, ASEL
FAA Air Traffic Developmental, Terminal

Dhruv Kalra

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Re: Fun in Chapter 5: The Difference Between a Handoff and a Pointout
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2018, 06:50:16 pm »
Ah, okay. We're on the same page now. In your scenario it is a matter of choosing the wrong sector to execute the handoff too. At the same time, if sector B really finds it safe to assume that point out was done with sector C, especially in the era of automated PVDs, please don't let me work next to them.

Climbing scenario makes sense and it highlights the importance of not "overreaching" or controlling beyond your means. If an aircraft is going far enough outside of your airspace where you don't know the stratum from ground up, you shouldn't be controlling that aircraft anymore.

All good advice. We don’t see this very often on the network given that many times you’re effectively working every sector combined. Also, the general network traffic flow is so concentrated around SID/STAR routings in and out of the major hub airports that they usually end up going through sectors that were specifically designed for that exact purpose.

Pointouts in general seem to be pretty rare, so I’m glad we’re havjng this discussion.
Dhruv Kalra
ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor