I had the pleasure of getting a one-on-one tour at the Toronto Area Control Centre from a blog reader last week.
I had previously wrote about a group tour I had with one of my Seneca classes. Most of the information on that post is still relevant today.
This time around I was able to “plug-in” with a headset for an hour to listen to Joe do his magic as he worked the “airports” position. It was a quiet night, which was good for me as I was able to ask a lot of questions about Joe’s job.
It was extremely interesting to see and hear what it’s like on the other side of the radio. One thing I didn’t realize and didn’t pick up on my previous tour was all the co-ordination that goes on with the other airports and controllers over the hotline.
For example. An American aircraft was on his way to the Rogers Centre from New York State to take some photographs. He was going to be just on the edge of Hamilton’s Control Zone, so Joe buzzes “Ham” on the hotline for a “point-out”:
Joe: “Ham, Satellite for a point-out”
Hamilton Controller: “Go ahead”
Joe: “yeah, N1234 is just passing to the west of your zone”
Hamilton Controller: “Thanks!”
Earlier that night, a Buffalo controller called on the hotline for a “manual hand-off”. Joe had to manually put in the airplanes squawk and tail number into the CAATS system so that the radar (and Joe) can keep tabs on the aircraft.
Another new thing I learned has to do with IFR clearances. The tower controller has to call up Joe and confirm that the clearance is valid before issuing it to the pilot. I knew this happened, but I just didn’t know how. One question I do need to ask Joe is: How is a clearance not valid? And what happens when that’s the case.
I was trying to explain what Joe’s job was like to my friends. I came up with the following analogy: “Imagine 300 people calling your phone at the exact same time to co-ordinate what they should bring to the pot-luck party you’re hosting”.