In this episode of the VATSIM Guide, we will explain to you the basics of how to communicate on the two biggest ATC facilities available on the network – Center, and Eurocontrol.
Center and Eurocontrol are controlling aircraft that are already in the air. They are not controlling Ground, Delivery, Tower, and Approach facilities (except for the Center facility which can control them if the local facilities below are offline). Eurocontrol can control only aircraft above FL245 (24,500ft). The technique of how to communicate there is quite the same for both facilities.
Center facility is a local facility that controls only one country or a part of it (depending on how big and busy the country is). It can control aircraft in unlimited altitudes, and can also control Delivery, Ground, Tower, and Approach facilities if they are offline.
But what do you actually need to do to contact Center? Let’s say you are RYR431 climbing from Warsaw Modlin (EPMO). First of all, if you need to contact Center, you need to be aware of your position and altitude, which you are passing together with the inbound waypoint.
PILOT: Warsaw Center (or you can say Control), good afternoon, RYR431 passing FL120 inbound LUMOK.
ATC: RYR431, good afternoon, identified, climb FL360
PILOT: Climbing FL360, RYR431
Instead of an identified message, ATC may tell you to set squawk to another number. Then you will get identified and the controller will tell you to climb or will give you route direct. The identified message does not need to be read back if it does not contain a route direct or climbing intentions.
These climbing, descending, or route direct situations may occur at any time when connected to a Center facility so I highly recommend to stay active and don’t go away from the keyboard if you don’t need to. If it is necessary, you can ask the controller like this:
PILOT: Warsaw Control, RYR431, request away from keyboard (or away from cockpit) for 10 minutes.
ATC: RYR431, approved, report back
PILOT: Approved and report back RYR431
The ATC may not approve your “away from keyboard” request if there is something important happening, or you have to go at another frequency (or Unicom). The maximum time to request AFK is 15 minutes.
PILOT: Warsaw Control, RYR431, back in the cockpit
ATC: RYR431, roger
Before you start your descend, you need to make sure that controller knows about your intentions. This is how you do it:
PILOT: RYR431, request descend
ATC: RYR431, descend to FL250
PILOT: Descend to 250, RYR431.
However, these are not the only situations that may occur in cruise. You will sometimes need to request heading. Especially during bad weather. You can request an exact heading, or an amount of degrees from your current heading. Of course, you need to specify if you want to go to the left or to the right.
PILOT: RYR431, request right heading 300 due to weather
ATC: RYR431, approved, report when you will be going to return to your position
PILOT: Heading approved, report returning to position, RYR431
After you’ve overflown the storm or any weather conditions, you will want to return to your position. You can just report returning to the present heading. Sometimes, the ATC may give you vectoring.
PILOT: RYR431, returning to present heading
ATC: RYR431, roger, proceed route direct to [waypoint]
Let’s get back into the descend conditions. The ATC may give you 2 or 3 descending prescriptions. These will just include descending to which flight level. You need to read back that you are descending there. After you’ve descended, the ATC may send you to another frequency or you will continue on Center depending on if the local Delivery, Ground, Tower or Approach are offline.
From now on, this will continue like described in the previous episodes. You’ll get your arrival runway with STAR, probably some vectoring, etc.
Eurocontrol facilities are very big and very busy so be aware it can sometimes be struggle to request something from them. You can be sent to Eurocontrol by Departure/approach facility or by Center facility. Speaking of Center, communicating on Eurocontrol is quite the same, except for that Eurocontrol can work with you only if you are above FL245. To contact them, you do the same as you would do on Center facility. The same applies to vectoring, weather avoidance, route directing, etc.
Eurocontrols are usually (in Europe) marked as EURX_FSS, and these areas are really big, they can control sometimes up to 7 countries. (especially the Eastern block).
This was an episode five of our VATSIM Guide. In the next one, we will talk about the oceanic facility, which is considered the most difficult part of VATSIM.