Monday, June 23, 2008

Well We're Movin' on Up!

Well we're Movin' on Up!
Movin' on Up!

To the east side!

- Theme song to The Jeffersons

The East sector that is. After a few weeks of seasoning on the Whiting sectors - where I've both built up my confidence and scared myself a couple times - I've started preliminary training on the Pensacola Regional Airport bank of three scopes. Basically, I'm working my way south, since I started with the Whiting NAS bank to the northeast, now Pensacola in the middle, and afterwards I'll go onto the NAS Sherman Pensacola bank.

Here's a 3D overview I made of the two largest sectors, East and West:

The three scopes at the PNS bank are as follows:

East (E/AR): The most complicated sector in the house.

The northern half of it sits on top of the Whiting sectors and owns 6000-10,000. The southern half owns SFC-15,000, but is locked in above and to the south by the Sherman bank. The northern boundary butts up against Jacksonville Center and the entire eastern boundary is taken up by Eglin Air Force Base.

When operating as the eastern side of a localizer split, the East calls the sequence for final into Pensacola Regional (PNS). It's a crazy, highly shelved sector which has a lot of high speed traffic and not a lot room to work with them. There are all kinds of special automated point-out procedures and corridors that allow you to make use of other people's airspace for your needs, as well as allow others to go through yours.

West (W/AR): In contrast to its chopped up sibling to the east, the West is considered by many to be the easiest sector in the facility.

A big wide open expanse with little to fill it, it owns SFC-10,000 throughout the majority of its airspace, except for a few small shelves to the northeast. While it shares the PNS final with the East sector, most of its traffic is just "passing through" to other areas such as the Whiting sectors, Sherman, or to a few uncontrolled fields.

P Final (P/AR): The third sector is used primarily for vectoring to final and only owns up to 3000. To describe it as fluid is an understatement, as its airspace changes based not only on the runway in use at PNS, but on whichever runway's in use at NAS Pensacola to the southwest. It also takes ownership of certain areas and corridors dependent on runway.

Being the "final" sector, P/AR also has control for descent and turns (as opposed to other sectors in the house, which just have control for turns) with the E/AR and W/AR airspace boundaries. For those who don't know what "control for descent and turns" means, if you take a handoff you're allowed to both descend and turn that aircraft before he actually reaches the boundary of your airspace. This gives the controller a lot more flexibility in getting an airplane down and established properly, but you'll of course need to look out for any conflicting traffic.

Compare that to the Whiting sectors, where if I have an aircraft come to me at 5000 feet only a few miles away from his destination airport, I have to wait until he crosses my boundary before I can descend him. Keep in mind, anything is possible with coordination. I can call the other sector and say "W, D, N123, request control for descent," to which the other sector would reply "W, N123, your control." and I can start dropping him. However, that needs to be manually coordinated. With the P/AR I could feasibly start descending that aircraft whenever I want as long as he's clear of conflicting traffic.

Localizer Split: This is the configuration we use the most often. Basically, we operate only the E/AR and W/AR scopes, split right down the middle of the PNS Runway 17 localizer. The P/AR airspace is divided and absorbed into both of the other sectors, and therefore both E/AR and W/AR have control for descent and turns.

Corridors: Our Letters of Agreement and Standard Operating Procedures lay out a number of corridors and areas within our airspace that can be assigned to different sectors. There's about a dozen of them, so I'm not going to go into detail. Generally, they provide "cheats" for allowing a controller to use another sector's airspace to reduce coordination and expedite arrivals.

Here's what they all look like. And yes, those are The Joker's colors.

Fasten Your Seatbelts!

If learning ATC can be compared to learning to drive, the Whiting bank of scopes was those first few turns around the neighborhood where you're learning how the car works. You jerk the vehicle around, give yourself some nasty whiplash, and narrowly avoid collisions with innocent mailboxes. All the while a parent sits next to you biting their nails and giving you grief, trying to be constructive while restraining themselves from grabbing the wheel and jamming the shift into park. After a while, you get comfortable enough to drive over to your neighbor's house or the corner store to pick up some groceries, all the while keeping under 30mph and staying on the quiet side streets.

This new bank of scopes is like being given a nice new BMW and told to drive from Miami to Orlando. On Interstate 95. In heavy traffic. At night. In the rain. With no map. Throw in a woman in labor or a sick relative to add to the fun. Over dramatic? I suppose. I'm just trying to drive home the difference in scope between the "low and slow" Whiting sectors and the madness that is the Pensacola bank.

It's going to be a challenge. It took me around 9 months to get certified on the Whiting bank. Naturally, the first scopes of your first bank of your first facility are the going to be the most challenging, since you're getting used to basic phraseology and procedures. I'm thinking it'll take me a while to get checked out here. I'm not planning on anything less than a year.

However long it takes, I'll be busting my butt to get it done right. Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Great blog. Good luck on your next positions. I look forward to reading about it!

Robio said...

Hey, Flying Penguin (sorry, didn't get your name), I am a 24 year veteran controller from Miami Center. Believe it or not, I am looking to one day transfer up to P31 or TLH by way of mutual swap or regular transfer. The way it's going I might have to quit here and then try and get rehired under the rehired annuitant clause in our new contract. We do have some great Cuban sandwiches here in Miami. And those Cuban coffee places! So let me know how easy/hard it would be to get in there. I work approach control for Vero Beach and Fort Pierce under Center rules.

I also own a townhome in Mexico Beach (just east of Tyndall).

Rob Ryan

Robio said...

I'm also a drummer!