Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's

Spencer Wallace

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Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« on: November 07, 2020, 08:47:45 am »
Hi everyone,

I just started getting back into flying on VATSIM after a rather long (10 year) break. I think I still remember most things, but there were a few point that came up as I've been doing IFR flights and interacting with controllers recently that I've been wondering about.

1. Squawking Mode C vs Standby:
I always thought that you were only supposed to keep your transponder in mode C between the takeoff and landing phase, in order to minimize clutter on the approach or center controller's radar. It seems like most of the ground and tower controllers I've interacted recently with ask you to switch to mode C as soon as you're on an active taxiway. Is switching to mode C as soon as I'm moving the standard, expected thing to do?

2. Altitude Check-in After Takeoff
Shortly after takeoff, the tower will hand you over to departure. After switching frequencies, you would check in with the departure controller and tell them your current altitude, and they would confirm 'radar contact'. In the case where the departure controller is also handing tower (and possibly ground ops) at the airport, there is no frequency change after takeoff. In that case, am I supposed to give the controller (unprompted) an altitude reading once I'm airbone, or do I wait for them to ask for it?

3. Ramp Control and Gate Assignments
This doesn't usually come up, but I was flying during the FNO event last night into a fully staffed airfield and realized I don't really understand how this works. On final approach, the tower asked me what gate I was going to, and I had no idea. How does one decide which gate to choose, and then how are you supposed to find it (given the fact that the airport diagram doesn't really show any kind of info about gate locations)? Also, is there a link somewhere that explains what a usual interaction with the ramp controller is supposed to look like? In particular, I was a little confused about when to switch between the ground and the ramp frequency.

Alex Ying

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Re: Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2020, 03:19:22 pm »
  • Many major airports now have surface radars (ASDE-X) that use the Mode C read-out from the transponder to show aircraft position on taxiways. This is indicated on the airport diagrams as well. Oftentimes, aircraft will push back and once they are holding short of a taxiway, turn on Mode C.
  • You should always report altitude or flight level when checking in with a new controller. For departures where a controller is covering top-down, it's still a good habit to report airborne with an altitude.
  • Choosing where to park is entirely up to you. A lot of people will try to simulate realism and park where their real-world counterpart parks. You can find this on airport or airline websites as well as on Wikipedia pages for the airports (typically these indicate which terminal). However, you're free to ask to park wherever, including asking for the nearest parking and ground control will direct you there.
    Each airport operates differently in regards to the interplay between ground and ramp. If it's a big event and there's a pilot briefing, that will describe how you should plan to operate. Otherwise, just ask and they will let you know what you need to do.

Kyle Sanders

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Re: Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2020, 03:26:26 pm »
1-If the airport diagram has a statement similar to “ASDE-X in use. Operate transponders with altitude reporting mode and ADS-B (if equipped) enabled on all airport surfaces.”.... yes. Other than that, operate per the CFRs/AIM.

2-After you get airborne, most VASTIM ATC will advise you that you are RADAR contact and ask for your altitude, this is a VATSIM’sim because in RW, it happens the way you describe. I would say it is a good rule of thumb that if they haven’t said anything to you by the time you are 400’agl, checkin like you would RW to the “departure” controller.

3-In these situations, respond with “no preference” if you don’t care. If you care to look up where your real world flight would park, respond with that gate. Ways to find it: google “KSLC AIR CARRIER GATES” or something like that. You may be able to find something simple like the following image. Others may be able to provide a better way have handling this.
https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-9KQvLhl6IjE/XHx4Mpp9cAI/AAAAAAAAB8Q/EElZiH-3-PkQzgUxafR1f5jFRGGT2mdKACLcBGAs/s1600/18342646_410607569320086_4230429931510703883_n.jpg
Best Regards,
Kyle Sanders

Don Desfosse

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Re: Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2020, 09:41:26 pm »
A couple of additional notes/clarifications to the above

1.  Per AIM 4-1-20(a)3:  Transponder and ADS-B operations on the ground. Civil and military aircraft should operate with the transponder in the altitude reporting mode (consult the aircraft's flight manual to determine the specific transponder position to enable altitude reporting) and ADS-B Out transmissions enabled at all airports, any time the aircraft is positioned on any portion of the airport movement area. This includes all defined taxiways and runways.

3. I like to look up the citypair using Flightaware (https://flightaware.com/live/findflight/kxxx/kyyy (where kxxx is your departure airport ID and kyyy is your arrival airport ID)), select an appropriate flight for airline/equipment, and then look at the gate information.
Don Desfosse
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Division Director Emeritus, VATUSA

David Stone

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Re: Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2020, 05:19:44 pm »
Spencer,
In reference to item #2, yes you should be reporting indicated altitude unprompted. But this should be secondary to flying the aircraft. Given that, when I am controlling I understand that several things are going on in the cockpit after take off and we are generally operating complex systems single-handed so I am not expecting that to happen immediately. However, if the aircraft is passing through 2000-2500 feet and still no indication I will prompt the pilot for input.
David Stone
Air Traffic Manager
vZID ARTCC

Spencer Wallace

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Re: Back into VATSIM After a Long Break ... A Few Q's
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2020, 09:26:40 pm »
That clears things up, thank you for the replies everyone!