Difference between “Centre” and “Radio”

The other day I was listening to Toronto Centre on liveatc.net. Someone chimed on looking for Toronto Radio. The controller corrected him by saying that he’s on Centre frequency.

I wasn’t able to catch the pilots response, but what the controller said next made me chuckle:

“Do you want to talk to a centre controller or do you want to talk to the radio? The radio people give you weather and stuff and the centre people keep you away from other airplanes”.

Here, listen to the clip yourself.

So technically what is the difference?

*something* Radio is how you’d call up a Flight Service Station. For example in and around southern ontario you could call up “London Radio” and ask for information such as the weather conditions and forecasts. You can also use them to file a flight plan, or amend your flight plan. One of the more important things you should do with a FSS is to broadcast position reports. These are important incase you go missing, the FSS knows where to start the search and rescue.

*something* Centre is how you’d call up a centre controller. For example, if you want to fly around Toronto you could call up “Toronto Centre”. One of their main jobs is to provide separation between aircraft. In the case of Torontos class C airspace, they provide separation between VFR and IFR traffic.

More detailed information can be found in the AIM RAC 1.1.

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5 thoughts on “Difference between “Centre” and “Radio”

  1. There are a couple of important distinctions to keep in mind — first, Toronto Terminal and Toronto Centre are different units working very different kinds of traffic and airspace, and second, the only airspace where ATC is always required to provide separation to VFR aircraft in Canada is in class B.
    Centre controllers typically deal with class B and E airspace. Toronto Centre handles enroute traffic from roughly Belleville most of the way to Manitoba — it spends most of its time with IFR aircraft (especially high-altitude jets), but can also provide VFR flight following if workload permits. Centre is required to separate VFR from IFR only above 12,500 ft, where most controlled airspace in Canada becomes class B.
    Terminal controllers typically deal with class C and D airspace over a much smaller area. Toronto Terminal, who owns some middle-to-lower-level airspace in a 30 nm radius around Pearson, is worried primarily about getting IFR (and, to a lesser extent, VFR) aircraft in and out of Pearson, City Centre, and other Toronto-area airports. In class C, Terminal is required to provide separation to VFR aircraft only to keep them away from IFR aircraft, not to keep them away from other VFRs; in class D, Terminal is not required to provide separation to VFR aircraft at all.
    Good luck with your studies,

  2. I’m sorry that I was confusing in my earlier comment. If you want to fly around Toronto class C airspace, you’ll call Toronto *Terminal*. If you’re flying from Toronto to Sudbury and want VFR flight following in class E or class G airspace (assuming radar coverage), or if you’re above 12,500 ft in class B airspace, you’ll call Toronto *Centre*.
    Terminal is in charge of that big 26 nm-radius circle around Pearson that you see on your Toronto VNC (not 30nm, as I said before). If you look at the Toronto VTA you’ll be able to see the details: the ceiling of class C terminal airspace tops out at 12,500 ft (the airspace above 12,500 ft is class B belonging to Toronto Centre), and the floor varies from 3,500 ft in the outer ring to 1,700 ft in the inner ring (you’re probably used to ducking under the 2,500 ft and 3,500 ft floors flying in and out of Buttonville; when you don’t, you’ll be calling Terminal on 133.4 MHz).

  3. I fly out of Charlottetown PEI, and we have what’s called an uncontrolled airport, instead of Ch’town tower we have Ch’town radio.
    They sit in the tower but instead of issuing “instructions” they let you make your own decisions…, and may make recommendations if something your doing isn’t a great idea. (Never happened to me).
    After I finish the pretrip and run-up, I call Ch’town radio and get the weather, active runway and traffic etc. Then I tell them my intentions, eg: going for a training flight to the NW, will be about an hour, going to taxi Alpha to runway 03,
    If there’s a problem with what you want to do they’ll let you know. I find them a pretty good bunch of guys to deal with on the radio.

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