October 18, 2008

ABRV8 this!

I've been writing on this blog for almost two years now, and I'm just now starting to pinpoint my audience. I appreciate all of you for reading, commenting and emailing me your thoughts and experiences. While I do my best to project the mental image of the traffic I deal with everyday, perhaps I need to backup a little and cover the basics of my area of specialty for those of you not intimately familiar with the map I had to draw back in Radar school. While my first instinct was to simply put up the map of the airspace, that definitely won't give everyone out there instant situational awareness. But have a look.

For those NOT in the aviation industry, and even for those who are, it is stunning how many abbreviations we use on a daily basis.

The normal world uses 2 character abbreviations for airlines. UA - United. B6 - jetBlue. AA - American. Not us. Each airline is designated a THREE letter identification which is associated with a radio callsign. The associated regional carriers that fly the smaller jets and turboprops are actually separate airlines and are referred to as such, and I'll include those lower in the list. Keep in mind, every time a controller see the three letters on the left, they immediately think of the radio callsign on the right in quotes. The actual airline names in the middle are of no consequence.
AAL American "American"
UAL United "United"
AWE Former America West, now merged with UsAirways "Cactus" (Long story)
JBU jetBlue "Jetblue"
NWA Northwest "Northwest"
COA Continental "Continental"
DAL Delta "Delta"
SWA Southwest "Southwest"
TRS Air Tran "Citrus"
BAW British Airways "Speedbird"
DLH Lufthansa "Lufthansa"
FDX Fedex "Fedex"
ACA Air Canada "Air Canada"
EGF American Eagle "Eagle flight"
CHQ Chautauqua "Chautauqua"
LOF Trans States "Waterski"
RPA Republic "Brickyard"
FLG Pinnacle "Flagship"
TCF Shuttle America "Mercury"
COM Comair "Comair"
GJS Gojet "Lindberg"
AWI Air Wisconsin "Air Wisconsin"
JZA Air Canada Jazz "Jazz"
BTA ExpressJet "Jetlink"
FRL Freedom "Freedom air"
ASH Mesa "Air Shuttle"
WJA West Jet "Westjet"
EJA Netjets "Execjet"
OPT Flight Options "Options"

This is a very impartial list, but gives you the sense of all the different airlines we deal with.

There are 30 sectors in Boston Center, and each area of specialty owns 6 sectors each. These sectors are labeled using a number and a name. Some of the names are then abbreviated based on the location identifier the sector is named for. I work the following sectors:
Sector 08 - Watertown (ART)
Sector 09 - Utica (UCA)
Sector 10 - Rockdale (RKA)
Sector 22 - Albany (ALB)
Sector 23 - Hancock (HNK)
Sector 24 - Delancey (DNY)

We always use the sector number when flashing a hand off to that sector, and refer to either number or name when talking to other controllers. I tend to use the name of the sector in this blog for easier reference.

And then there are all the location identifiers. In almost all cases, we have three letter abbreviations for VORs and four letter codes for the actual airports. Five letter codes are used for computer based fixes and intersections (the intersection of two radials off two VORs), but I won't list them here since there are thousands, and they aren't really abbreviations anyways, although they can be very creative.

Lists of abbreviations are scattered all over the place. Every FAA document lists the abbreviations as the first chapter so we have a reference. Heck, there is an entire tome of contractions right here. Then, for all the fixes, try Airnav.

The following are highly used VORs that I use often in this blog and are prominent in my area:
YOW - Ottawa, Ontario
YUL - Montreal, Quebec
ART - Watertown, NY
MSS - Massena, NY
SLK - Saranac Lake, NY
GFL - Glens Falls, NY
ALB - Albany, NY
CTR - Chester, MA
BDL - Bradley/Windsor Locks, CT
CAM - Cambridge, NY
UCA - Utica, NY
SYR - Syracuse, NY
BUF - Buffalo, NY
ROC - Rochester, NY
ITH - Ithica, NY
GGT - Georgetown, NY
RKA - Rockdale, NY
HNK - Hancock, NY (yes, these are all real places!)
DNY - Delancey, NY
LHY - Lake Henry, PA
LVZ - Wilkes Barre, PA
CFB - Binghampton, NY
PSB - Phillipsburg, PA
PWL - Pawling, NY
IGN - Kingston, NY
GDM - Gardner, MA
EEN - Keene, NH
BOS - Boston, MA
ENE - Kennebunk, ME

Then, there are the airports. Airports have a four letter identification in most cases. All the main airports start with a K in the US, and C in Canada. Very small airports sometimes have numbers in them as well, which I find hard to remember. Often times, the airport identifier is the same three letters as the nearby VOR identifier plus the K or C. Keep in mind, it works the other way as well. In the following list, the VOR is often just the last three letters of the airport code.

I'll start with the airports that my area provides approach control services to:
KOGS - Ogdensburg, NY
KMSS - Massena, NY
KMAL - Malone, NY
KPTD - Potsdam, NY
KOIC - Norwich, NY
N66 - Oneonta, NY
N23 - Sidney, NY

Then there are the local regional airports:
KBTV - Burlington, VT
KMHT - Manchester, NH
KPVD - Providence, RI
KPWM - Portland, ME
KBED - Bedford, MA (busy GA airport)
KBGM - Binghampton, NY
KRME - Griffis/Rome, NY (GSS Approach is the reference on the map)
KBGR - Bangor, ME
KOXC - Waterbury, CT
KBDR - Bridgeport, CT
KSWF - Stewart, NY
KAVP - Wilkes Barre, NY

And the following are the major airports in the eastern half of the US:
KBOS - Boston, MA
KLGA - LaGuardia, Queens, NY
KJFK - Kennedy, Queens, NY
KEWR - Newark, NJ
KPHL - Philadelphia, PA
KIAD - Dulles, VA (Washington, DC)
KDCA - Reagan/National, Washington, DC
KBWI - Baltimore Washington, Baltimore, MD
KORD - Chicago Ohare, IL
KMDW - Chicago Midway, IL
KCLE - Cleveland, OH
KDTW - Detroit, MI
KCVG - Cincinnati, OH
KPIT - Pittsburgh, PA
KATL - Atlanta, GA
KCLT - Charlotte, NC

I wouldn't want to leave out the Canadians, eh?
CYYZ - Toronto
CYOW - Ottawa
CYUL - Montreal
CYQB - Quebec
CYQA - Muskoka
CYHM - Hamilton
CYHZ - Halifax

Of course, this is not a complete list by any means. However, I will feel obligated to use these above listed fixes in future posts without explanation! I may also continually update this list as I see fit.

In addition, if you see a "FLxxx" that stands for Flight Level. Basically, just add two zeros on the end and there you have your altitude. FL300 is 30000 feet. FL190 is 19000 feet. This is only FL180 and above, as the actual use of Flight Level refers to the fact that regardless of atmospheric conditions, all aircraft set their altimeters to a standard setting of 29.92 millibars above 18000 feet.

Thanks for putting up with a simple reference post, but there is more air traffic on the way.

Until next time...



Jimh. said...

I have only been reading your posts for a couple months, but every one of them is very interesting. You always see pliots' blogs but you never hear the story of the guys who tell them where to go. Thank you!

sniggler said...


What happened to the "Mount Peculiar" sector and the high altitude sector above it.


deltamike172 said...

MPV? Its still there, and the radar still goes out every wednesday morning. I don't work it though.


ace said...

I hate to see any air traffic controller use that other name for Washington National.