April 11, 2012


A few years ago, I had a brilliant idea.  I suggested adding a transitional route to the standard arrival route (STAR) into Montreal that would start inside my area's airspace and would take planes around our Adirondack Military airspace and, while we're at it, add a spot just south of the Canadian border which would allow us to tack on an altitude crossing restriction to miss the high sectors in Montreal Centre whom wish not to speak to such planes.  It would make our lives much easier, especially when dealing with pilots who speak English as anything but their first language (aka, many of them that fly into Montreal from the south...here's looking at you, Cubana). 

I wrote up my proposal, including the LAT/LONG of said spot (intersection) for crossing restrictions, and even theorized about how this added safety would increase the possibility that there would be peace on earth; international incidents averted.

My proposal was sent up the chain towards the black hole that is the FAA outside the control room.  A few months later, I was planning a trip to Montreal for the weekend, and took it upon myself to set up a tour of Montreal Centre.  I commented to those there on my desire to change the arrival procedures into Montreal and the universal response from everyone at the Centre was that "we're reversing flows" soon, so don't worry about it.

(thanks skyvector!)

The red arrows represent the arrivals into Montreal, and the green arrows are the departures.  The controllers in Montreal were proposing to reverse these.  Green to Red, Red to Green.

A year passed.  No word on my proposal.  No word on Montreal's flow reversal. 

Then a few Montreal controllers came to visit Boston Center.  They wanted to see our perspective on their flow reversal.  It would be a big change, but nothing we couldn't handle.  The number of planes would be the same, they would just go in opposite directions than we were used to.  It was fine, really, thanks for asking.  The only issue left to discuss was how northbound arrivals would be routed through NY Center airspace (through the east side of their center, as opposed to the current western edge).  We suggested that they go visit NY and talk it over with them.  They looked at us, looked at each other, and decided to cancel the project. 

So, Green is still Green, Red is still Red.  But what is up with all the Blue lines all over the place on that map up there?  Well, if you remember from WAAAY back, I discussed a little thing called Navaid use limitations.  Its a cute little rule that says that direct routes (even with GPS) require radar monitoring when there are no VORs or NDBs around and used as part of the aircraft's route.  See MSS (Massena, NY) on the map up there?  Notice how it is the only VOR within 40 miles of Ogdensburg and Massena?  Well, since NextGen is kicking in we supposedly don't need VOR's anymore, with GPS taking over.  So, the FAA has let MSS slowly become weak and powerless.  It is unusable below 10000.  Even though planes have GPS, we can't let them take off (below radar) and just fly where they want without radar monitoring from us, the controllers.  Even though planes are allowed to use GPS to fly instrument approaches towards the ground, they aren't allowed to use them to fly away from the ground.  And some higher-ups (who work extremely close to the black hole) have taken notice of some controllers who aren't strictly following these rules.  I could go on and on,  but lets just say that there are safer ways we could be going about this whole thing.

Montreal, on the other hand, has charged ahead and basically eliminated VORs from their system.  The blue routes on the map are Q routes.  They don't need VORs.  Just plug the fixes into your GPS and fly.  They're run by a private company, NavCanada, so they can do that, I guess.  If you want to fly in Canada, you ought to have a GPS and know how to use it.  If you don't, they'll just vector you around and consider you an exception.  Overall, their change has gone pretty well.  While they were at it, they started their new GPS STAR into Montreal in US airspace where I proposed it should years ago, and the whole thing misses our military airspace.  They've streamlined one of their countries most complex sectors (just northwest of MSS where Ottawa and Montreal arrivals cross with overflights and Ottawa departures). 

While the focus was on Montreal, a few changes in Toronto's route structure was left unnoticed until we started handing them off planes in way's they didn't appreciate the first day this all went into effect.  A few notes and a missing Letter of Agreement change later, we were all on the same page.  NavCanada expects to take their GPS on the road west and ultimately make their entire country one big, happy, GPS-guided family.  Just like the US.  Except without the rules and black holes that hold us back. 

Till next time....


PS.  That new airspace redesign I was discussing in my last post involved new Q routes into NY Center.  So, yes, we have them too, but only for high altitude....

EDIT:  The one thing missing from the new arrivals into Montreal is that intersection just south of the Canadian boundary for crossing restrictions.  Expect 10 south of DAVDA at FL280....


Frank Van Haste said...

G'day, Mike!

I have to admit to feeling a little queasy about all GPS all the time with no independent backup. What do you suppose our Northern friends plan to do when the GPS constellation goes Tango Uniform, declare all of Canada ATC Zero?

I was disappointed when LORAN went away, and I'd hate to see all of the VOR's taken down. It's just prudent to maintain a basic VOR network (and "maintain" is meant in all senses of the word.)

It's not "if GPS goes down", it's "when GPS goes down." Remember what was in the news 100 years ago this week...

Best wishes,


deltamike172 said...

My attempt at subtle commentary will always fail, since I am not subtle...but the irony of NextGen isn't about the GPS network failing. It's that using anything other than radar as an aircraft position detection method is currently against the rules if the planes aren't using VORs to navigate. Any suggestion that GPS use without radar could be safe and OK is met with stiff resistance from everyone who's signature is required to change the rules. Any use of ADS-B and GPS together would get a controller written up in violation of the 7110.65...technically...


Kevin said...

What we need is a Q route that goes YUL dct BDL and BDL dct YUL. I'm sure you can figure out who I fly for.

Is it not possible for controllers to combine their frequencies when they are working multiple freqs?

deltamike172 said...

your company keeps filing you B190/A anyways ;)

And if such a Q route would exists...it wouldn't be a straight line!


Steve said...

From your snippet of a chart, I count 6 NDBs in NavCanada airspace but zero in the USA. I think I also see an NDB airway or two up there to the NW. Are they really as up to date as we are lead to believe?

Thanks for trying to change the status quo. It's incredibly hard to do out here in the private sector where we're incentivized to make things better, faster, cheaper. Can't imagine how it is in the FAA below the visioneering pay grades.

Anonymous said...

I fly the North Pacific with, depending on the airplane, INS/GPS, and CPDLC/ADS or HF-only, pretty much IFR and pretty much not a radar or VOR in sight for 3500 miles. Amazingly, your Oceanic colleagues in Fremont, CA handle all these combinations without paper strips. The Singularity already knows how to designate equipment, airspace classes, and separation rules to make it work. They're just funnin' with you.


deltamike172 said...

According to the interpretation from the folks who claim to run the show at Boston Center, Oakland is completely against the rules in running random route non-radar ops in your instance. I don't agree with it, I'm just throwing it out there.... The rules as currently written don't allow for NextGen.