Direct Requests

Justin A. Martin

  • Members
  • 140
    • View Profile
Direct Requests
« on: March 26, 2020, 06:43:57 pm »
It has been a hot minute since I have been on these forums, but figured since I've been doing a lot of flying and have noticed a trend, I'd ask the opinions of the VATUSA corps. Lately there has been a lot of ATC online which has been really great. In a few cases when I get to cruise, evaluate winds and timing, I ask for something more direct down the line. In almost every circumstance, I am told to standby for coordination. In some cases, if the next center is offline, I am just told unable. In all of these situations, I am deep inside the center airspace (so the handoff hasn't already occurred) and it is not direct destination or any other clearance that would violate an LOA.

I have been controlling on VATSIM (off and on) for 13 years, and I have been a real-world ARTCC controller since 2015. All of that said, this trend is a little perplexing to me. I don't recall ever doing or being taught to coordinate direct clearances in any case other than when an LOA exists with the adjoining facility in my years doing this hobby, and that is also true irl. Most of these cases are just between centers that I am overflying. Is this something being taught at various places as SOP, or is it just being done as more of a courtesy? I have noticed it in at least 5 ARTCCs spread out around VATUSA, so it's not isolated to one area or one controller. Curious on everyone's thoughts!

Justin Martin

Umar Ashraf

  • Members
  • 29
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2020, 08:29:54 pm »
Hi Justin,

I am not going to act like an expert and be able to point you towards references at the .65, but here is my take. As a center controller, I try to give shortcuts where I can. If the direct is in another sector crosses through the same "general" area of the border with that sector, then I do not coordinate because why coordinate if the general flight plan is still the same? I will coordinate though if the direct is way into someone else's sector or if I know it could interfere with another flow primarily as you state, out of courtesy. Again, don't take my word for gold but I think it's a pretty good baseline.
Umar Ashraf (UA)
Vatsim C1
New York ARTCC

Amin Abrahem

  • ZNY Staff
  • 118
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2020, 05:33:36 am »
Very good topic! I was taught that an APREQ is required if you amend an aircraft's flight plan and it affects the next controller. I look forward to hear if this is actually the case since I haven't been able to find any official rule.
Amin Abrahem
ZNY Facility Engineer

David Stone

  • ZID Staff
  • 355
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2020, 08:41:57 am »
Justin, I will offer my thoughts on the matter, not that it is in anyway the end-all answer. I have heard many other RW controllers indicate that this practice in done frequently IRL and in essence we 'clear' pilots through other airspace frequently when we provide an IFR clearance to fly from 'here' to 'there'.
But that being aside, yes, I was taught from the beginning that I am only authorized to approve shortcuts that span my airspace. And another side note to that is the RNAV guidance as I understand it. An RNAV flight plan must include AT LEAST one waypoint in any airspace the aircraft will transit AND there should not be more than 250nm between any two waypoints. So those two points alone would prohibit me from clearing a pilot from say the VHP VOR direct to the LAS VOR, as neither other those rules would be satisfied by the instruction. Perhaps a RW pilot could comment on that standard, but as I said that is as I understand the guidance.

Just my 2 cents.
David Stone
Air Traffic Manager
vZID ARTCC

Brad Littlejohn

  • Members
  • 141
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2020, 09:52:34 am »
Very good topic! I was taught that an APREQ is required if you amend an aircraft's flight plan and it affects the next controller. I look forward to hear if this is actually the case since I haven't been able to find any official rule.

This brings up another question: does APREQ for a shortcut really modify an aircraft's flight plan? For example, let's say I have the following plan from KOMA-KONT:

CATTL2.LNK J60 NATEE.JCKIE2

If the aircraft is already on J60 (which they will be when they cross LNK), would sending them direct NATEE amend their flight plan? NATEE is on J60. I ask, because a shortcut could be sending them directly to a fix that is already on their flight plan, or covered by an airway that is in their flight plan. That is different from say, needing to send them to a new transition to a new arrival to a field that is different from what they filed. That would require an amendment.

BL.

Ryan Geckler

  • Mentors
  • 432
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2020, 10:11:29 am »
Very good topic! I was taught that an APREQ is required if you amend an aircraft's flight plan and it affects the next controller. I look forward to hear if this is actually the case since I haven't been able to find any official rule.

It isn't the case. Planes are rerouted all the time for efficiency, weather, or pilot requests. As long as the routing that you provide is LOA-compliant with the receiving facility, it's not necessary.

I was taught from the beginning that I am only authorized to approve shortcuts that span my airspace. And another side note to that is the RNAV guidance as I understand it. An RNAV flight plan must include AT LEAST one waypoint in any airspace the aircraft will transit AND there should not be more than 250nm between any two waypoints. So those two points alone would prohibit me from clearing a pilot from say the VHP VOR direct to the LAS VOR, as neither other those rules would be satisfied by the instruction.

It's 500nm between the two, and that's for RNAV only aircraft, not ones that have GNSS capability (which is most aircraft nowadays).

RNAV only = /I | RNAV+GNSS = /L

The IFR requirement is that the route FILED must contain a waypoint of each facility that you traverse. What you actually fly could be direct to the airport because ATC is providing radar monitoring of the route. Take a look at 7110.65 4-1-2 - as long as ATC provides the shortcut and uses radar monitoring throughout the leg that you've shortcut, it's legal. /GLVS aircraft are exempt from the radar monitoring part because of their advanced equipment.


does APREQ for a shortcut really modify an aircraft's flight plan? For example, let's say I have the following plan from KOMA-KONT:

CATTL2.LNK J60 NATEE.JCKIE2

If the aircraft is already on J60 (which they will be when they cross LNK), would sending them direct NATEE amend their flight plan? NATEE is on J60. I ask, because a shortcut could be sending them directly to a fix that is already on their flight plan, or covered by an airway that is in their flight plan. That is different from say, needing to send them to a new transition to a new arrival to a field that is different from what they filed. That would require an amendment.


In legal terms, any change of route outside of what the aircraft was cleared is a change in the clearance limit. If nothing in a neighboring LOA prevents changes to arrivals/routes/etc, you have the ability to do whatever you want. You are now responsibility for the accuracy of the route and having to deal with potentially angry controllers down the line if you knowingly route someone right into someone else.
Ryan Geckler - GK
Former VATUSA3 | Division Training Director
Minneapolis ARTCC | RW Miami ARTCC

Lee Sacharin

  • Mentors
  • 5
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2020, 07:21:13 pm »
Not real sure what the GNSS capability of a/c performance has to do with clearing (or filing) to fixes or en-route waypoints.  Remember, for continental operations (not remote or oceanic) aircraft operate on RNP-2, so the GNSS component for this discussion comes to play only on arrival and approach operations.

I doubt most (if not all) Vatsim artcc's have LOA restrictions or discussions regarding en-route directs.  With that in mind, I try to apply what makes sense.  I do not believe in clearing someone 1000nm downrange to a long distance fix, and rarely have I seen this IRL.  Clearing aircraft (on vatsim) to a known fix in the next artcc or subsequent following artcc is far enough.  Additionally, a C1 should have a little knowledge of major airspace around the country and the en-route structure.  In other words, if heading to the west coast, you should know there are fixes/vor where airways or arrivals begin and avoid restricted/military airspace (don't clear direct to LAX!).  Same applies to the NE airspace, etc.  There is a difference when the destination is MSP, ATL, MIA, JFK, SFO, vs OMA, AMA, BOI, etc.   

It is an interesting discussion though...
« Last Edit: March 30, 2020, 06:12:08 am by Lee Sacharin »

Brad Littlejohn

  • Members
  • 141
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2020, 10:33:03 am »
Not real sure what the GNSS capability of a/c performance has to do with clearing (or filing) to fixes or en-route waypoints.  Remember, for continental operations (not remote or oceanic) aircraft operate on RNP-2, so the GNSS component for this discussion comes to play only on arrival and approach operations.

I doubt most (if not all) Vatsim artcc's have LOA restrictions or discussions regarding en-route directs.  With that in mind, I try to apply what makes sense.  I do not believe in clearing someone 1000nm downrange to a long distance fix, and rarely have I seen this IRL. Clearing aircraft (on vatsim) to a known fix in the next artcc or subsequent following artcc is far enough.  Additionally, a C1 should have a little knowledge of major airspace around the country and the en-route structure.  In other words, if heading to the west coast, you should know there are fixes/vor where airways or arrivals begin and avoid restricted/military airspace (don't clear direct to LAX!).  Same applies to the NE airspace, etc.  There is a difference when the destination is MSP, ATL, MIA, JFK, SFO, vs OMA, AMA, BOI, etc.   

It is an interesting discussion though...

And  that's the funny part.. I was on a OMA-LAS flight once where right over LNK, the pilot put in a request for direct KSINO and got it. I've also heard flights overhead on my scanner where a pilot put in a request direct LENDY and got it. I'm in Sacramento. So I've definitely witnessed where they get approved those requests well and truly much farther out than their sector's boundary, but there is no real standard or correlation to how far, or how much coordination goes on between multiple sectors for it.

BL.

Ryan Parry

  • ZOA Staff
  • 350
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2020, 06:17:23 pm »
Today S56 gave my flight to MCI direct PWE. Not sure what coordination was involved, if any, but thought it was interesting to see as I was browsing this thread. That goes across ZLC, ZDV, and a chunk of ZMP.

I personally only ever give a direct to something on the border of my airspace, or the transition to the STAR if they're arriving in a neighboring ARTCC. I only coordinate when it's busy and I don't want to cause problems.
Ryan Parry - 965346
ZOA Air Traffic Manager

Adam Hulse

  • Members
  • 6
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2020, 09:13:24 am »
Not real sure what the GNSS capability of a/c performance has to do with clearing (or filing) to fixes or en-route waypoints.  Remember, for continental operations (not remote or oceanic) aircraft operate on RNP-2, so the GNSS component for this discussion comes to play only on arrival and approach operations.

I doubt most (if not all) Vatsim artcc's have LOA restrictions or discussions regarding en-route directs.  With that in mind, I try to apply what makes sense.  I do not believe in clearing someone 1000nm downrange to a long distance fix, and rarely have I seen this IRL. Clearing aircraft (on vatsim) to a known fix in the next artcc or subsequent following artcc is far enough.  Additionally, a C1 should have a little knowledge of major airspace around the country and the en-route structure.  In other words, if heading to the west coast, you should know there are fixes/vor where airways or arrivals begin and avoid restricted/military airspace (don't clear direct to LAX!).  Same applies to the NE airspace, etc.  There is a difference when the destination is MSP, ATL, MIA, JFK, SFO, vs OMA, AMA, BOI, etc.   

It is an interesting discussion though...

And  that's the funny part.. I was on a OMA-LAS flight once where right over LNK, the pilot put in a request for direct KSINO and got it. I've also heard flights overhead on my scanner where a pilot put in a request direct LENDY and got it. I'm in Sacramento. So I've definitely witnessed where they get approved those requests well and truly much farther out than their sector's boundary, but there is no real standard or correlation to how far, or how much coordination goes on between multiple sectors for it.

BL.

Adding to that, I have a trip that I routinely fly that takes me from ZTL sector up to Allentown.  ZTL will always clear me direct to a fix way down the road (even without me asking), but then ZDC pulls me back out west to my original filed route.  I am not sure what coordination goes on there, but now when ZTL clears me "direct," I always ask to keep my filed route..

Lee Sacharin

  • Mentors
  • 5
    • View Profile
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2020, 07:14:00 am »
I took a rough look at the fixes others have posted and most are around 1000nm give or take.  Its not a limiting number or anything and of course the US is only so wide...but I think the concept of giving directs is a good thing overall.   As a night flyer (more so than day that is...) I appreciate the directs that are given, except when specifically planned to avoid/advantage of wind or weather patterns.  To keep on thread topic, I wish Vatsim/Vatusa had some global guidance to further clarify and provide a uniform approach to the topic (remaining subject to the controller on duty as to if/what/where a clearance is given).  But then again there are numerous areas whereby uniform policy should be implemented....it's just something that's not done for some reason or another.

Toby Rice

  • Instructors
  • 419
    • View Profile
    • ZJX ARTCC
Re: Direct Requests
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2020, 03:14:16 pm »
IMHO, the reason that VATSIM controllers tend to "over coordinate" direct clearances in the enroute environment is because they're taught to follow very specific LOAs in training, usually on next-door facility handoffs, with little focus on non-specific overflight traffic.

For example, ZJX has a very specific flow into ZTL for A80 arrivals, especially ATL jet arrivals. They have to be below a certain altitude and joining a particular STAR depending on ATL config. ZJX can't deviate from that unless ZTL approves it, which they probably won't.

But if ZJX has an enroute aircraft that's overflying ZTL enroute to MCI or something, the handoff is as simple as "on course; level at cruise altitude" or something of that nature. There wouldn't be any issues clearing the guy direct MCI. If ZTL needed to change something, they would.

Of course, this generalization does not always apply, and my example of ZJX to ZTL procedures is only as an example and does not reflect the actual process.

Summary: Not all handoffs are very specific like the ZJX/ZTL LOA for A80 arrivals, or the ZLA/SCT LOA for LAX arrivals... or so on. Most of the time, they are as simple as making sure they're at the proper altitude and on pilot navigation when they switch.

Coordination, however, does fix this issue. The solution to the problem might be to train enroute controllers better to know precisely what the handoff requirements are for aircraft going to the next sector, even if it's as simple as "on course and level."
Toby Rice
ATC Instructor (I1)
Jacksonville ARTCC
VATUSA ACE Team | CFI/CFII/MEI | Former HCF ATM
toby.rice@zjxartcc.org