ATC IssuesA place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.
I was chatting to someone who seemed to know a bit about this the other day and apparently NATS are interested in Bristol with a view to basing a combined radar unit there in a couple of years when the West End airspace changes have taken effect in order to provide radar services to Bristol, Cardiff and Filton.
That seems logical and should rationalise the service provided by cutting down on the seemingly unecessary changes of frequency in the climb out of (and descent into) Bristol.
Jumping the gun slightly, should NATS get the Bristol contract there is talk about combining the radar units , however there is no decision as to where it would be based that is a long way off. A brand new building isn't the only consideration. I doubt if it would make much of a difference to the changes of frequency either, you would still be handed to the Final director when inbound whether or not it was at a combined unit or separate units.
Whilst undeniably sensible to combine the radar provision in the Cradiff/Bristol basin, I doubt if Filton will appreciate being lumped in amongst it. Having said that though, with the proposed West End changes, there may be little choice for them
Don't Cardiff and Bristol control Filton's airways departures anyway?
That part of the world is getting quite busy these days with the expansion at Bristol International, it's quite usual for aircraft on the sequence to be told that they're number 6 or 7 (or more). More airspace for Bristol couldn't come soon enough.
When I referred to unecessary frequency changes I meant those times when an aircraft is put to another unit to be held on a silent frequency for several minutes with no other instructions passed until passed on. Extra calls and work for the pilot!
Don't Cardiff and Bristol control Filton's airways departures anyway?
Not all, and not always. Northbounds stay with Filton, as can eastbounds if Bristol have nothing to affect. Westbounds tend to stay with Filton until clear of other traffic and then transferred to Cardiff.
More airspace for Bristol couldn't come soon enough.
Bear in mind there are other airspace users. Much as the Commercial operators want more CAS around that area there's also a heavy training commitment by a lot of the Commercial schools (Oxford etc) to airfields in the area (EGTG/EGBJ mainly). Any CAS allocation will have to take the impact on that into account.
Of course - once it's all sorted it'll all change again when the new ICAO 3 airspace classifications take over
a combined unit sounds a great idea, in the meantime can I ask if at all possible that we be transferred to the next unit along (London if outbound, Bristol if inbound) if there's no traffic to effect, workload permits and you have radar cover to monitor us. The old system was so much better!
Easy Life, Cardiff is performing a function for London Ie Delegated airspace, thus when talking to Cardiff you are talking to a "London" sector. Personally as soon as you are clean of other traffic and no longer likely to be a confliction I hand you straight to the next frequency. A lot of work has gone on of late stream lining the procedures reducing co-ordination between the units, this may not be apparent to the flight crews but it has freed up a considerable amount of workload and increased capacity and reduced flow restrictions on the sector. The "old way" you refer to was not better at all.
As I said do not think for one minute that a combined unit is going to Bristol, the bean counters will decide where it goes and on paper Bristol is certainly not the cheaper option far from it. Of course we are assuming it will go to one or the other but there is also another place it can go to on the South Coast. Having lived in both city's I can also assure you quality of life is infinitely superior West of the Bridge.
This is all jumping the gun, as yet no contract has been announced and although a good proportion of the Lulsgate staff I have talked to are happy with the NATS proposal there are some who are not, to talk about combining the units when an announcement has yet to be made is unfair on those who are currently feeling uncertain of their future.
that's a principle that controllers the world over use. Each aircraft is a hot potato, and if there is nothing to affect, then it will be passed to the next controller along the line (until there is no-one left to pass it to) just in case they happen to call Mayday
If you are being kept on a quiet frequency I can assure you that it is not for the controller's benefit.
They warned me about entering the lions den that is ATC!
I understand the principle of being transferred from sector to sector along a route including between approach units and enroute, what I was referring to is that sometimes it seems unecessary for Bristol to transfer aircraft to Cardiff for a short period of time without any further instructions being passed (and seemingly no one else on frequency) only to then be transferred on to London. Why can't Bristol keep hold of the outbound slightly longer and then transfer it directly to London?
I know next to nothing aboutthe airspace around Bristol and Cardiff, but here's a basic view:
You usually talk to Bristol, then Cardiff, then London...correct?
Now, for you to go straight from talking to Bristol to talking to London, Bristol ATCO has to phone Cardiff ATCO and ask for permission to go straight to London, and if there is anything to affect. In the meantime, what happens if London want you at a different level?.....They know that they usually get you from Cardiff, so the London ATCO talks to Cardiff, who he assumes you're talking to, to co-ordinate, but Cardiff says that, no, Bristol are still speaking to you. So London ATCO phones Bristol ATCO to co-ordiante.
ATC standing agreements are based on the fact that each ATCO knows to whom all the a/c in neighbouring airspace are talking to, in case he or she needs to co-ordniate.
Three or more phone calls and three-way co-ordination can all get a bit messy when the ATCO is busy (not neccessarily co-incident with the frequency being busy).
Because the airspace that you are transiting through is delegated to Cardiff not Bristol. The procedures off RWY27 mean you get climbed to FL60 we then do the climb up to the next standing agreed level, procedures off RWY09 allow for you to be climbed up to the next standing agreed level however you are in confliction with multitudes of traffic coming from multiple directions. You are also only hearing one frequency they are other frequencies operating against which you may have conflicting traffic.Cardiff is integrating traffic from a number of airfields not just Bristol into a stream of traffic spaced for the next sector, A considerable number of Military crossers transit that airspace, we have Filton traffic which is operating on Filtons frequency which we give cleared flight paths too. What may seem a quiet sector is far from it. The system works and particularly off RWY 27 works exceptionally well. Can you imagine yourself asking the same question on one of the London TMA frequencies, stop thinking of it as Cardiff and start thinking of it as the next enroute frequency then it should make more sense to you.
( had to have a bit of a giggle when I discovered that some call us the Cardiff TRACON, all in fun of course but not that far from the truth)
what you have written is how it used to work and yes it was a nightmare at times, tying down the procedures to the ones we have has increased the flow of traffic through the sector and made it a lot safer. When the additional delegated function was done it was not produced in isolation, neither were the procedures to which we now adhere. Bristol ATC management were fully involved at all stages. As a unit we work very closely with them, I personally would be delighted to see them Join NATS.
I'm afraid logic and an easy life is far from the minds of airspace management people and you can forget about the customer (You) having any bearing on the matter. A heavy dose of local politics is also involved in this mix up............. hence the pointless frequent frequency changes. Hopefully this will be cleared up when there is more controlled airspace and a joint radar unit in this area.
Cardiff Tracon Flower?? And how many of you at EGFF hold ATC Area Ratings to provide this function for LACC?
OK so as a customer perhaps Im not fortunate enough to have any input into air traffic management and there are specialists who must design the procedures to handle increasing traffic levels.
I do agree that some of the frequency changes are pointless as its easy to get a picture of what is going on by just listening to a frequency and as I understand Bristol can 'see' well out beyond Brecon and Exmor so could retain us under there control if required. During the day at some times admittedly there is traffic to effect and we are controlled as required but in the evening this does tail off.
Another question for you, why is the airspace delegated to Cardiff when most of the traffic originates from or terminates at Bristol? Surely it can't be just the geographical proximity of the airway to Cardiff?
Hey! I like that, has a kind of ring to it. It is true that in the first few weeks of delegation Cardiff were a bit "iffy"; but they have more than made up for it. Given the airspace geometry they have to work with, they are darned good.....hats off to you chaps/chapesses. The difference between strictly "approach" or strictly "area" is rightly blurred these days.....we just want to get the job done. An approach based TRACON will always have the upper hand in service delivery, their radars normally update every 4 seconds or so, and their picture hasn't been artificially "mushed" to anything like the modern "area" picture; and if they have 3-mile dispensation.....no contest. Interestingly Cardiff have more delegated airspace than Manchester Sub-centre had when it first opened, I seem to recall climbing HON outbounds to FL110 and chucking to London. Although I appreciate the 40-mile limit for "Approach radar" which is a historical radar performance related artificial boundary, I am sure there must be an avenue to allow a greater limit when the traffic is wholly contained in regulated airspace. AVALON and EASYLIFE....lay off Cardiff and Bristol, they are very good at what they do....if you want an axe to grind why not find out why northbounds to Scotland are level-capped whereas London airfields are not....track distance not much different....and why London-Dublin traffic on a route 35 miles shorter is likewise unrestricted.
I am sorry Easy Life you simply cannot get the full picture from listening to one frequency as I thought I had already explained to you, we also have to plan against traffic coming out of 5 other airfields other than Bristol.
The situation is quite simple, Cardiff has the airspace delegated to it. We are in an area where there are sector overlaps and the airspace above us can get quite complicated regarding transfer of control , climb throughs etc. You require one controlling authority else wise the situation lends itself to utter confusion. Would you suggest in the London TMA for example that simply because one unit can see beyond a certain point and as at times there is no traffic on that frequency that you should simply forget that frequency and let someone else do the job ?
I can see Birmingham and Southampton and Bournemouth on the radar does that mean i should keep traffic all the way there although other units may have responsibility for a section of airspace between myself and them.
For whatever reason Cardiff has the airspace, that isn't going to change within the foreseeable future. The procedures have been developed to accommodate the increase in traffic flow through the area. They are a vast improvement although you may not see it, sector flow restrictions have all but disappeared because of the procedures we have in place. The watch I work opposite are excellent, if on RWY 27 and they have no conflictions you as a pilot will generally be transferred ex Tower to us and you get in the majority of the cases Continuous climb and direct routings. Some watches however hold on to the traffic particularly off RWY 09 and only give you to us passing FL130 without any conflicting traffic.
Avalon may think its all political and they are entitled to that view, I would object to anyone saying that you do not get good customer service. We particularly with the new procedures in place now offer a much safer procedure, again something not necessarily that you were previously aware of. I would suggest you come along to Cardiff Easy Life and come and see what happens, we would make you very welcome.
I would think should the few at Bristol who have a negative view of things will change their mind when they work the airspace eventually should we combine.
Thank you for your kind words 055166K. Yes when we took on the additional airspace it was a massively steep learning curve for us all, we did it if i remember correctly without all the simulations and trials one would hope to get.
The job we do now is I think possibly one of the most enjoyable and interesting within the UK. With the addition of Bristol and making it a combined approach can only make it better not only for us at Cardiff but also for our Bristol colleagues. The ability to use 3 miles can really help sort out the myriad of conflictions which from Easy Life\'s post may not be immediately apparent to Air Crew. We work very closely with our London colleagues and i think our relationship with them has improved greatly.
The 40 mile limit is no longer in there but working traffic beyond 40 miles has to be approved by SRG and that can be a hard process, however should we combine then that 40mile limit will have to change but all of that of course has already been thought of.