October 17, 2009

IFR at O90

My area has 6 sectors. We generally only have 4 of them open. In this case, the ART/UCA sectors are combined 90 percent of the time. Most of the planes that traverse the ART sector end up conflicting with planes in the UCA sector, so it really works out pretty good. Most planes are flying into the wind, so there is plenty of time to think about the imminent death that potentially could happen over SYR, the main confliction point. If there was any sector that I like the least, it would be ART/UCA. Sometimes it is really fun, though!

These two sectors, when combined, are, from a mental task standpoint, three sectors. UCA sector is the main westbound J547 route leaving ZBW. ART sector works alot of military operations (the MOA stuff on the chart above), coordinates with the Canadians from Canadia, and also sees alot of transient traffic going to eastern Canada and points east. Then there are all the "satellite airport" operations into OGS, MSS, PTD, and MAL. That action tends to take place below 10000, and can really create a headache if coupled with lots of in-trail in the UCA sector. For the most part we can't do any vectoring to approaches, although if I can throw down some ILS approach phraseology, I'll pass breaks!

We generally only see one or two operations at a time into these 4 airports we own up along the border, if any at all. Due to their proximity to each other and our lack of control towers and radar, it is one-in, one-out when the weather is bad. No, we don't get to line 6 planes up on final like Boston Approach. There are times when we get a big bunch of inbounds all at once, and we joke that we become Ogdensburg Approach instead of Center controllers. I will now coin the term "O-90" for this third segment of our sector; the part below 10000 between Wheeler-Sack approach to the west, Ottawa Terminal and Montreal Centre to the north, and the Montpelier sector to the east. Controllers may appreciate my attempt at witty aviation humor, or not. Either way, let's get on with the story.

Last weekend was Columbus Day, and everyone was flying up north to see the leaves change colors. Unfortunately, for those spending their hard earned money flying up to see them, the weather sucked (Ok, I think Sunday was nice!). Allow me to recap Friday evening. I had been at ART/UCA D-side for most of the afternoon, and had left for a break with one slow moving PA32 inbound to OGS from the south. I returned 35 minutes later to fully entrench myself back into ART/UCA D-side... A biz-jet had come screaming in from the west and gone into OGS first, and only now was the PA32 finally getting an approach clearance. The UCA portion of the sector was heating up with westbound jets, and my radar controller was initiating some DTW and CLE spacing.

Two Cape Air C402s departed ALB, one bound for OGS and the other for MSS, as normal, and the MSS inbound offered to slow down and hold for their company to get into OGS first, since we can't run simultaneous approaches.

Flight service calls and requests IFR clearance for two aircraft out of OGS, a SR22 and the biz-jet Citation that had just landed before.
"Uh, I'm still waiting for a cancellation from a PA32 at OGS"
"Oh, I have that, yes, he cancelled IFR," says the FSS
"Ok, who is ready to go first, is one of them number one for the runway?"
"Yeah, the Cirrus (SR22)" ...Great....

I turn to my Radar controller and ask her if I can launch a departure or two ahead of the Cape Air inbounds. She stops the OGS arrival at 6000 and clears him to the OGIVE beacon on the Localizer approach to hold awaiting departures. The MSS arrival gets 7000 and direct the MISSE beacon on the ILS approach to hold, as well. We only own 6000 and below along the river so I'll have to point him out to Montreal Center at some point. The SR22 filed some random route to HYA, so I cross it out and write a better route underneath.

I pick up the FSS line again.
"(the SR22) is cleared from the OGS airport to the OGIVE beacon via direct, maintain 5000, expect routing to HYA via ALB V130 MVY direct and higher when radar identified, clearance void if not off by....(10 minutes at the most), contact boston center on 135.25, squawk code 4617, also verify the pilot can maintain his own terrain and obstruction avoidance to Ogive."
FSS reads it back and I tell him to call me back in a few minutes for the Citation, as I may be able to get him out, too. These Cape Air guys are still a ways out...

I put the strip into the small bay we have between the D and R positions, start a track on the scope to remind everyone that he's only climbing to 5000, and update the route into the computer. I take a quick look around the sector and call Toronto for a handoff. Then I call Montreal and make two handoffs and point out the MSS arrival holding at 7000. Its pretty darn busy in the southern half the sector, and right as I start to get a feel for what is transpiring, the FSS line rings again, requesting IFR on the Citation.

"Sorry, the first guy isn't off ye/"
My radar controller is waving at me and I look over to see an aircraft ident out of 3800 over Ogive. "Ooooo, he's off, standby please"

The track acquires on the SR22, and my radar controller starts issuing the clearance beyond the beacon. I motion her to follow the end of my pen on the strip to make sure she gives the correct route. "radar contact over ogive, cleared to HYA via..." Pen is over ALB, which was on the original filed route "via direct ALB..." Then down a line to V130 "V130, MVY, direct" Excellent, I wonder if he can climb above the Cape air and get outta there. I call Montreal back and point this Sr22 out climbing fast (for a prop) soutbound. She descends the Cape air to 5000, and they swap out nicely as the SR22 climbs to 9000. 6000 is now available for the MSS lander to hold so down he goes.

We still have 4000 available, and we actually saw the SR22 in radar there, so I get back on the line and quickly issue another short clearance to the Citation "cleared from OGS to the OGIVE beacon via direct, maintain 4000, expect routing to SYR via ART upon radar contact, clearance void if not off by... (you got 6 minutes buddy, make it quick), contact boston on 135.25, squawk code 0036, verify pilot can maintain...."

Start another track, put 4000 in the datablock, call Wheeler-Sack to pointout the SR22 climbing southeastbound. We got a RUT lander going head on with all our westbounds at FL410...and we need to get him down through everyone...somehow. I call Cleveland and get control to turn him left. My radar controller is really kickin' some ass. Off comes the Citation requesting 12000. I call Sack back and make the pointout climbing above his altitudes. He gets up to 4000 quickly and only has to make half a turn at OGIVE before we're clearing him on course to the southwest. He slingshots out of the hold just as the first Cape air is establishing a hold over OGIVE at 5000. We get our 5 miles quickly and climb the Citation up to 12000. Cape air is fully established in what is more of a procedure turn than anything, and gets his approach clearance. He promises to cancel as quick as he can so we can start his company into MSS.

After a few minutes, FSS calls back with an IFR cancellation at OGS and an approach clearance into MSS is issued. My radar controller finishes her fine work and the spacing is all taken care of. Switch the planes to Cleveland, give a briefing at O-90, put on my jacket and walk around the parking lot in the rain. Now that I think about it, maybe this sector isn't so bad after all....

Till next time...


For those not familiar with all the acronyms:
ART - Watertown, NY
UCA - Utica, NY
SYR - Syracuse, NY
OGS - Ogdensburg, NY
MSS - Massena, NY
ALB - Albany, NY
HYA - Hyannis, MA (on the cape)
MVY - Martha's Vineyard
V130 - Airway between ALB and MVY
J547 - High altitude airway that goes from New Engalnd through Syracuse to Buffalo and points west.
MOA - Military Operation Area, when active, no IFR planes go in there at the altitudes reserved.


Frank Van Haste said...


Ooh, I love this stuff. Pilot-voyeurism at its finest. I think I get the O90 bit, but, care to let an outsider in on what "ILS approach phraseology, I'll pass breaks!" is all about?

I enjoyed the post...thanks.


deltamike172 said...

Ya know....

"one four miles to Misse, turn right heading 030, maintain 4000 until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway 5 approach Massena"

Deep down I sometimes wish I worked at an approach control. I love my area...but still :)

The ILS 5 into MSS is the only approach we can vector to, but we can only see 4000 or 5000 due to radar coverage, so its kind of a pain, and if we're busy in the UCA sector, we're not gonna do it. Its also tough becuase we're on a huge range, so the ILS is an itty-bitty line...

Generally, planes are just flying visuals or they go direct the LOM, this way we can clear them to 3200 and they usually get the field in sight...

Toby.Bucsescu@gmail.com said...

This was one of your most informative posts to date! Since I am starting the academy for ZBW on Oct 29th, I have been reading up on the 7110.65. Yesterday I was reading the chapter talking about giving out clearances, and then i found this post, which really helped me to get a more practical understanding! Can wait to work with you.

Anonymous said...

Well blogged!


Jason B said...

I had a few questions. What was the motivation behind only clearing the departures to the beacon?

Also if they're cleared to the first fix under their own nav why did you need the 'terrain and obstacle' speech, is that a local thing?

All that said nicely done working with the R-side and keeping the flow smooth!

Keith Smith said...

This should be required reading for newly minted IFR pilots! Beautifully written.

It's impressive to see someone who is so passionate about their job, and clearly has pilots' best interests in mind (based on how you were trying to get traffic in/out as efficiently as possible).

Thanks for doing such great work, it's really appreciated. I'm always looking for new places to fly, maybe I'll give these a shot when you're working some time!

deltamike172 said...

Jason B,
While most places don't worry about the nav-aid use limitation rules in the 7110.65, we have had circumstances (I had a post about this and Malone a few months back), mainly, the fact that the MSS VOR is unusable below 10000 due to a water tower, that have made management really anal about keeping planes legal when they come off the ground. We don't believe this is any safer than say "cleared to xxx via as filed", but the issue has been elevated to the region and they're working on something.

In this case, regardless of the politics, clearing these guys to OGIVE as a clearance limit is the best way in a crappy-radar, en-route environment. If I said cleared as filed to the Citation at 4000...I would have had to call GTB approach first and they would have had to block the airspace all the way to ART VOR 4000 and below. With the SR22, it left us the opportunity to vector the Cape Air in radar coverage around the published hold at OGIVE if we needed to.

We know its a pain in the ass for pilots to suddenly be given a short void time to a new location, but many pilots that fly in and out of ZBW airports are getting used to it.

The real safety issue is that everyone, including Cape Air, feels encouraged to depart VFR and then pick up their IFR once they're above the minimum IFR altitude and in radar coverage, even if its not exactly awesome VFR weather.

Anonymous said...

"(the SR22) is cleared from the OGS airport to the OGIVE beacon via direct, maintain 5000, expect routing to HYA via ALB V130 MVY direct and higher when radar identified, clearance void if not off by....(10 minutes at the most), contact boston center on 135.25, squawk code 4617, also verify the pilot can maintain his own terrain and obstruction avoidance to Ogive."

Why the "via direct" if you clear the aircraft to the fix/navaid without the "direct" then you don't have to add the verify the pilot etc. The pilot is expected to fly the published departure procedure for the airport then proceed to the fix via the appropriate navigation.

deltamike172 said...

I had to verify the pilot could maintain terrain and obstruction clearance based on the new direction of departure, not because I said "direct". The only way to get from OGS to OGIVE is direct, since its 5 miles from the airport on the Localizer approach. He filed OGS-ALB and that is what he expecting to do, and what he planned before-hand, making sure he was safe on that route below the applicable IFR minimum altitudes. If I gave him anything other than direct ALB or as filed, I would have to verify he's OK with it, and he can deny the clearance if he isn't comfortable with the new heading off the airport. Not accepting compliance cancels the clearance.