Controller frequencies

William Kirkland

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Controller frequencies
« on: December 03, 2019, 08:23:14 am »
I have to imagine this question has been asked before, but I can't seem to find anything using various searches on the forum.

Is there any way to know ahead of time which frequencies a controller might use prior to them coming online?  It would be good to have a list (even if there are multiple frequencies used for a given controller at a given airport) of commonly used frequencies.  I've tried to match them up with those on airport charts and supplements, but with limited success.

 Where this would be useful is a situation where you are on an inbound course to an airport, and an approach or tower controller comes online.  You might be already engaged in something, and scrambling to jot down/enter your comm freq.  and make contact with a controller you didn't know was coming.  If you had a freq. ahead of time, you could be somewhat prepared.

The second question I had was in the event there are multiple controllers for a given function, say APP.  You might see 2 online, and not sure which one to tune to (in the event Center is offline and no hand-off).  I have always gotten a message "Please contact me on XXX.XXX freq.", which works, but if I knew which one ahead of time, I could be better prepared.  This happens in real life at busier airports, I understand, but again - if the frequencies don't match what I see on the charts, and the naming convention doesn't make sense to me, I'm not sure which one to be prepared to contact.  Is there somewhere this is explained?

Thank you,
William Kirkland


David Stone

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Re: Controller frequencies
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2019, 01:22:00 pm »
Hello William. I guess the quick and simple answer is most likely there is no central repository of the data you seek. But here are a few things you might consider.

1. Your Pilot Client (vPilot, xPilot, etc.) should have a means to display the controller's information (sometimes called the Controller ATIS) and with luck the controller has indicated in this block what areas he is providing services for, but this is not uniform across the board and may not be present. In the 'Controller List' of your client you right-click on the callsign and select 'Controller ATIS', or the appropriate option.

2. Although I know some controller positions use a Sector ID as a position identifier in their callsign (i.e., IND_34_CTR), which is not descriptive to anyone without knowledge of area assignments within their ARTCC, but at times you will see a directional component listed instead (i.e., IND_W_CTR) which can help lead you to an assumption based on the direction from which you will be entering their airspace.

3. And lastly, you might check their facility's website where you might find some general information about how operations are conducted within the facility.

These are just some suggestions and I hope you find some useful information. I believe that most of the time an attempt is made to match RW frequencies whenever possible. In the past we had to be careful about frequency selections to make sure we did not use frequencies which are the same as a neighboring facility due to overlap of coverage areas but I think AFV has resolved this issue by limiting the transmitting distance of any one position's frequency.

Good luck.
David Stone
Air Traffic Manager
vZID ARTCC

Robert Shearman Jr

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Re: Controller frequencies
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2019, 01:35:18 pm »
Sometimes, when you're spawning at a GA airport and there are four Center controllers on with sector ID numbers that don't make sense to non-controllers and the controller info block (controller ATIS) doesn't identify which sector is what, there's no better solution than just call one.  "____ Center, Baron 514DV, on the ground at ____ Airport.  Is this is the correct frequency for an IFR Clearance?"  You'll either get, "Affirmative; clearance on request, standby" or "Contact ____ Center on ___.___."

It's trickier in the air, of course, as you're multitasking already.  But, being handed off from one controller to the next is something you need to be able to do while flying, and occasionally so is contacting one or several controllers to find the correct frequency for your airspace.  It just takes practice and a comfort level with your aircraft to be able to do it effortlessly.
Cheers,
-R.

Kyle Sanders

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Re: Controller frequencies
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2019, 11:41:00 am »
Some sites will have info like this. But the problem is that it would be extremely rare when the amount of controllers would be online to actually cover all of these positions.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DJBeRbp4ZS6SnUyNjfTIUF7iKalGbibS/view?usp=drivesdk
Best Regards,
Kyle Sanders
ZLC DATM

Robert Shearman Jr

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Re: Controller frequencies
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2019, 12:04:20 pm »
Some sites will have info like this. But the problem is that it would be extremely rare when the amount of controllers would be online to actually cover all of these positions.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DJBeRbp4ZS6SnUyNjfTIUF7iKalGbibS/view?usp=drivesdk

Minneapolis's is the best one: http://www.minniecenter.org/split

It would be great if the other ARTCCs would follow suit.  You're correct that it's pretty much never the case where all of these would be staffed, but, having the chart does give a pilot a better chance of figuring out which of two or three controllers to call when all you have to go on is the sector number.  And Minnie's even has a description below the map on how they usually split them, plus, they're color-coded in terms of their most common splits, too.

There was a debate some months ago about requiring ARTCCs to eschew the sector number thing in favor of something that makes sense for pilots.  And I was firmly in the camp in favor of that.  However, the biggest and most sensible argument against it is that sector splits aren't constant -- you might start with "DC_N_CTR", "DC_W_CTR", "DC_SW_CTR" and "DC_S_CTR" but when some of those guys start logging off and the ones staying on have to start covering multiple sectors, those designators suddenly don't make sense anymore.
Cheers,
-R.

Alex Ying

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Re: Controller frequencies
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2019, 04:10:01 pm »
To add on to this, at some places (like New York TRACON, for example), sectors can be combined even in regular operations (outside of events) in different ways. There isn't an over-arching "NY_APP" callsign for New York, you'll always see something like NY_CAM_APP or NY_LSO_DEP online. Those are sector names, using the real sector frequencies, but they may have multiple sectors combined onto them. The best policy is to check the controller info and if in doubt, just ask what their coverage and who you should contact for service.