Typically you use the keyboard to select menu items in the Microsoft ATC Window.
Alternatively, when flying with It’s Your Plane (IYP), you can say, “Select 1”, “Select
2”, etc., and Michelle pushes the associated menu items for you. But this is NOT
what happens in a “real” cockpit. Hence, the sense of “Virtual Reality” is greatly
diminished by the rudimentary Microsoft ATC Window selection methodology.
What SuperATC is…
SuperATC raises the level of performance that permits you to speak “typical” traffic
calls to the internal Microsoft ATC system. The IYP code “listens” and “parses” the
phraseology, and presses the appropriate menu selections within the Microsoft ATC
What SuperATC is NOT…
SuperATC is NOT a full-blown ATC system like Radar Contact. It still faces the
limitations of the built-in Microsoft ATC system; a single Transition Level of 18,000
feet; does not permit SID and STAR departure and approaches; doesn’t address
Holding Patterns, etc.
Learning ATC Chatter
SuperATC offers an entrance-level ATC mode that serves to introduce newcomers to
the world of aircraft communications and accepted protocols. Obviously, a computer
programme like IYP cannot take into account all of the chatter that would take place
in the real world… like telling your friend in the Tower that you’ll see him at the
ballgame next Saturday! However, it will better prepare those who are new to the
world of ATC who may wish to subsequently graduate to a far more sophisticated
ATC programme like Radar Contact.
Listen to Real ATC Communications
It would probably be a good idea to tune to actual ATC traffic and listen to the
General Aviation traffic calls. You will quickly learn a lot about what is said, and
when. You will also learn when other pilots are using incomplete call-ups, usually
ATC will ask them for additional information.
Air Traffic Control Overview
Surprisingly, the majority of flights are not handled by air traffic control (ATC). In
reality, the rules pilots are taught in flight school are designed to ensure the safe and
orderly flow of aircraft traffic. However, when there’s a lot of traffic in a particular
area, or bad weather conditions exist, then instructions from ATC are required.
ATC is involved with monitoring air traffic, controlling navigation and flight patterns,
and communicating with pilots by voice. ATC uses radio and radar in conjunction
with ground-based navigational aids to control the flow of air traffic. Communication
with aircraft is handled primarily by airport traffic control towers (ATCTs), air route
traffic control centers (ARTCCs or centers), and flight service stations (FSSs).
Airport control towers provide for the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of traffic on
and in the vicinity of airports. They sometimes also provide for the separation of
aircraft flying instrument flight rules (IFR) in terminal areas through co-located
terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities. Some control towers are not
staffed by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees but are operated by
private firms. Non-federal control towers (NFCTs) are still staffed by FAA certificated
air traffic controllers.
There are more than 314 FAA airport control towers in the United States. More than
210 federal contract towers and 165 military towers also help separate aircraft.
There are also 22 terminal radar approach facilities (TRACONs), some of which are
collocated with airport control towers.
Airport Surveillance Radar
Airport surveillance radar (ASR) provides relatively short-range coverage within
about 40 miles of an airport and assists "approach control" in handling terminal
traffic. It also can be used as an instrument approach aid. In addition, precision
approach radar (PAR) is available at some locations to allow controllers to guide an
airplane to a landing under instrument weather conditions in place of on-board
approach navigation equipment.
Air Route Surveillance Radar
Air route surveillance radar (ARSR) is a system of remotely located, long-range radar
that primarily provides a display of aircraft locations over large areas to air route
traffic control centers (ARTCCs or centers).
Flight Service Stations
Flight service stations (FSS) provide pilot weather briefings. They also handle en
route communications and initiate search and rescue procedures for overdue aircraft
operating under visual flight rules (VFR). They assist lost aircraft and aircraft in
emergency situations; relay ATC clearances; broadcast weather and airspace
information; receive and process flight plans; and monitor navigational aids. There
are 74 flight service stations in the United States.
Radar is air traffic control’s (ATC’s) primary surveillance system, comprising airport
surveillance radar (ASR) and air route surveillance radar (ARSR). Radar is used
primarily in sequencing and spacing aircraft and can be used independently or in
combination with other navigational aids.
Air Route Traffic Control Centers
Air route traffic control centers (ARTCCs or centers) primarily serve aircraft operating
on instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plans within controlled airspace, principally
during the en route phase of flight. There are 21 centers in the United States.
Types of Controllers
There are five basic types of air traffic controllers. Many air traffic controllers are
trained and certified to work in multiple capacities.
- Ground Controllers
Ground controllers direct aircraft that are moving on the ground, using
the taxiways and parking ramps of airports.
- Tower Controllers
Tower controllers direct aircraft that are taking off or landing at
- Departure Controllers
Departure controllers handle aircraft that have already taken off but
are transitioning from the airspace around or near an airport to the en
route portion of their flights.
- Approach Controllers
Approach controllers handle aircraft that are transitioning from the en
route portion of flight into the airspace around or near an airport.
- Enroute Controllers
En route controllers handle aircraft that are operating on the main
travel portion of their flights, typically at an altitude of 6,000 feet
mean sea level (msl) or greater.
One common misconception is that every aircraft issue a flight plan before it flies.
Flight plans are not required for flights conducted under visual flight rules (VFR), in
which pilots navigate using references on the ground. Most non-commercial flights
take place without one. Just as when you use your car in daily life, pilots can take off
and land at the vast majority of airports by using simple, pre-defined procedures,
broadcasting their intentions over the radio so that they can coordinate their actions
with other pilots in the area, using standardized traffic patterns, and complying with
applicable Federal Aviation Regulations.
VFR Flight Plans
If a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan is filed, it has no air traffic control (ATC)
significance. It’s filed with ATC before the flight to facilitate the rescue of pilots and
passengers in the very rare instance that the aircraft goes missing. Among other
things, the VFR flight plan tells ATC what type of aircraft will be used and what
colours it is, how much fuel is on board (expressed in hours and minutes of
endurance), how many people are on board, the intended route and altitude of the
flight, the anticipated time of departure, and the anticipated time en route (how long
the flight will last).
How the VFR Flight Plan is Used
Once airborne, the pilot activates the flight plan by calling air traffic control (ATC)
and telling them what time the flight actually took off. This starts a timer in the ATC
system. When the pilot lands, he or she contacts ATC to tell them that they have
arrived safely at the destination. ATC then "closes" the flight plan.
If the pilot has not arrived and closed his flight plan within 30 minutes of his
proposed arrival time, ATC will start calling by telephone to see if the flight has
arrived. They may also contact other ATC facilities along the planned route of flight.
Information in the VFR flight plan lets ATC know the maximum amount of time the
aircraft could have stayed aloft based upon the fuel on board when it departed.
If, after a certain amount of time has passed, no one can locate the pilot or the
aircraft, then ATC will launch a search and rescue operation using the Air Force
Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC), which in turn will use the Civil Air Patrol and/or
the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to look for the overdue aircraft. Aircraft from the
search team will retrace the intended route of flight, looking for the overdue aircraft.
Information in the VFR flight plan lets searchers know what kind and color aircraft
they are looking for and how many people were on board.
IFR Flight Plans
Instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plans contain the same information as visual flight
rules (VFR) flight plans. However, IFR flight plans are used by air traffic control
(ATC) to reserve the time and location of use for any airspace needed by the aircraft
operating under IFR. The airspace needed by the IFR flight will be used exclusively
by that aircraft from the time of takeoff until it has landed. Based upon the intended
route of flight, pilots will be issued an IFR "clearance" to operate. In case of radio
failure during the IFR flight, pilots will follow the exact route in the IFR clearance,
and ATC will anticipate their path, altitudes, and times along the route based upon a
combination of the IFR flight plan and the IFR clearance issued by ATC to the pilot.
IFR flight plans can also trigger search and rescue operations if needed.