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Making sense of LiveATC feeds

Making sense of LiveATC feeds

Old Jan 7, 18, 9:30 am
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Making sense of LiveATC feeds

I was wondering if anyone could point me to a guide of the various feed types available on liveatc.net. For example, for ORD there are
  • Approach feeds for each runway (this is for aircraft not yet cleared to land but being vectored into a landing pattern?)
  • Departure (what are the various feeds for?)
  • Ground (is this for getting aircraft from the gate to a taxiway?)
  • Tower (is this for taxiing aircraft and giving takeoff/landing permission?)
  • ZAU Chicago Center (is this for aircraft cruising over Chicago?)
Do I have that right?
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Old Jan 7, 18, 9:49 am
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Ground is actually from the ramp area to the runway (so basically controls all the taxiways). Tower controls aircraft operating on the runways only. Otherwise that's pretty much correct. In a lot of areas the approach and departure are the same controller, just different name depending on whether the aircraft is arriving or departing.

Approach controls are divided into small sectors laterally and sometimes vertically to divide up the workload

Last edited by Lost; Jan 7, 18 at 10:07 am
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Old Jan 7, 18, 10:09 am
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Hmm, I'll take it in the order how "gate-to-gate" ops happen with regard to VHF communications.
Disclaimer: I am just a PAX who's interested in this and I might surely have a lapse or mixup in this understanding I've built up over time listening liveATC (or "funny" recordings), Pilot made videos and so on.

Filing flight plan to ATC; in most (airliner) cases done by company's dispatch. First thing to get is weather and runway information (ATIS). This comes via computer or the pilot can tune in into a VHF frequency where this information is repeatedly broadcasted and updated every 30min - dont think liveATC has ATIS, would be rather boring anyway .

Next it needs squawk code (and I think final flight plan approval) via VHF or ACARS - I've overheard that on liveATC mostly also on 'ground' streams.

Pushback is on 'ramp' control at larger airports or also on 'ground'. Clearance from apron to taxi is by 'ground'. All the way up to the holding point just short the cleared for takeoff runway is described by 'ground' to. At this point the control switches to 'tower' which will release the holding point for line up with the runway and final departure/takeoff clearance, last call is the handover to the frequency of 'departure'.

After leaving the ATC overseeing the departure aerodrome it's handover to the next ATC on the flight path.

Inbound is replacing Departure with Approach.

Bigger airports with multiple runways might likely split runways and approach/departure sectors on different frequencies. Let me find an appropriate aerodrome map reflecting this.

Waiting for corrections / extensions :-)
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Old Jan 7, 18, 10:25 am
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Watch the upper right corner on here:
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/8d/d7...57e97ccef1.png
ATIS and Delievery on one frequency, Tower and Ground depending on North (24R/L)* or South (25R/L)

*) actually 24 is against the rule, but needed for differing the four rwy having the same bearing
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Old Jan 7, 18, 11:21 am
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Ground will issue taxi instructions. They are also in the tower.

The tower is usually what they call the local controller. Local controllers will issue takeoff and landing clearances.

Departure/approach is sometimes within the tower and sometimes at an entirely different facility. It is also called the TRACON. The TRACON will handle flights up to a certain altitude. Generally it’s somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 and usually extends to about 50 miles away from the airport depending on the city. They will send you out through a fictitious “gate” and then off to the center. Imagine a squate around every city. Usually four corners will Be arrival gates where the center will put everyone in a line to go through and then approach will take it from there. Likewise, every corner that isn’t an arrival gate is a departure gate where you’ll go out of.

The center will deal with you for every other phase of flight whether you are just overflying or not. Centers are big radar facilities and are spread out. So Atlanta Center will actually handle Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte and lots of other smaller airports including lots of GA airports and they’ll work you down to the surface in those cases without an approach/departure controller.
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Old Jan 8, 18, 8:57 am
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Thanks for the explanations.
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Old Jan 8, 18, 8:58 am
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Yes, thanks all!
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Old Jan 8, 18, 10:14 am
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Originally Posted by PAX_fips View Post
Pushback is on 'ramp' control at larger airports or also on 'ground'.)
This is one thing I wanted to mention when I posted yesterday but didn't have time.

The ramp control is actually staffed and run by the airline operating within the individual ramp area, not by ATC. It has a similar function to ground control in that it keeps an orderly flow of aircraft inbound to and outbound from the ramp, and coordinates pushback from the gate to prevent multiple aircraft pushing back at the same time and creating gridlock.

If an aircraft is parked at a gate where they must push back directly onto an active taxiway (typically gates at the very ends of a terminal building), the aircraft will get approval from the ATC ground control to occupy the taxiway before they start to push back.
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Old Jan 8, 18, 10:25 am
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Originally Posted by Lost View Post
The ramp control is actually staffed and run by the airline operating within the individual ramp area, not by ATC.
Good point and even this can vary. At DEN for example, the airport operator (City of Denver) performs ramp control which is essentially the alleyways between the A, B, and C concourses.
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Old Jan 8, 18, 10:59 am
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Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
I was wondering if anyone could point me to a guide of the various feed types available on liveatc.net. For example, for ORD there are
  • Approach feeds for each runway (this is for aircraft not yet cleared to land but being vectored into a landing pattern?)
  • Departure (what are the various feeds for?)
  • Ground (is this for getting aircraft from the gate to a taxiway?)
  • Tower (is this for taxiing aircraft and giving takeoff/landing permission?)
  • ZAU Chicago Center (is this for aircraft cruising over Chicago?)
Do I have that right?
If you want to be a confident and proficient listener, I suggest finding a general aviation book or website that includes a discussion of ATC and other communications and looking over it, and then watching some youtubes of ATC communications. It won't take much of that before you really understand who the various parties are and what's going on.
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Old Jan 8, 18, 12:34 pm
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ORD also has a Metering frequency. Not sure if LiveATC carries it. It is used before taxi when you are ready to taxi. The Metering controller gives you the ground frequency to monitor and puts you in the stack for the ground controller who will then call when he's ready to move you. This system means that the flights are not calling the ground controller when ready to taxi and reduces frequency congestion.
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Old Jan 9, 18, 10:44 am
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Ground to ramp/apron can be via telephone or something, too.. if I remember some "best of JFK ATC" correctly.
Long story short: it's complicated ;-) Most - if not all - ATC recordings I've been listening too had a handover (incl frequency) to the next controller (whoever it be, ATC or X) anyway. Eg. at or before being at the holding point, ground will "speedbird 123, contact twr at 131.25 (for departure/clearance)".
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Old Jan 9, 18, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by Lost View Post
This is one thing I wanted to mention when I posted yesterday but didn't have time.

The ramp control is actually staffed and run by the airline operating within the individual ramp area, not by ATC. It has a similar function to ground control in that it keeps an orderly flow of aircraft inbound to and outbound from the ramp, and coordinates pushback from the gate to prevent multiple aircraft pushing back at the same time and creating gridlock.

If an aircraft is parked at a gate where they must push back directly onto an active taxiway (typically gates at the very ends of a terminal building), the aircraft will get approval from the ATC ground control to occupy the taxiway before they start to push back.
there are also smaller to mid sized facilities where the ramp is completely uncontrolled.

The average tower has 3 core positions which can be split up or combined based on the facility and traffic volume.
For a departure the first position they would talk* to is Clearance Delivery (CD). This position is responsible for issuing routing, transponder code, altitudes to aircraft. At times this is as simple as as filled, other times it is issuing completely new routes. In most facilities that have manual ATIS recordings this is also the person that will be doing the recording. **note automated Pre Departure Clearance (PDC) has replaced actually picking up a clearance from a person at most large and medium sized facilities.

The next person that the aircraft will talk to that is a FAA employee is ground control (GC), who is responsible for all* taxiways and inactive/closed runways and the movements on them. In many facilities this is actually the hardest position to work. In addition to just giving routings to and from terminals you have to take into account release times, direction of flight and aircraft performance in setting the order to the runway. **As with anything some facilities have some taxiways controlled by local

Next would be Local Control which goes by Tower, which is responsible for all runways and an area of airspace around the facilities. Where I am it is 5 miles and 2500 feet around the airport, In addition to clearing people to land and takeoff this position also sequences some or all arrivals, as well as working local airport traffic (touch and goes). Where I am which has lots of training this is considered the hardest position to work.

All three of these position are located in the Tower that you see at the airport from there it can change. The next person that the plane will talk to is Departure, which might be in the tower cab (tracab) which is uncommon, down stairs from the tower in a base building (updown) or in a completely diffrent location (N90, New York), (C90 Chicago). I'm at an updown which means we work both tower and radar functions sometimes on the same day. Departure control works from the point of being given the aircraft off the runway to a set point or altitude that varies by location. Their main task is to get aircraft on there way and avoid any inbound or over flight traffic. For the outbound leg this ends things with the Terminal division of the ATO and you get switched the Enroute division, which I've never worked at but I think their main function is to cause headaches for terminal controllers.

I will write a part two for inbound aircraft at the terminal latter.

Originally Posted by PAX_fips View Post
Ground to ramp/apron can be via telephone or something, too.. if I remember some "best of JFK ATC" correctly.
Long story short: it's complicated ;-) Most - if not all - ATC recordings I've been listening too had a handover (incl frequency) to the next controller (whoever it be, ATC or X) anyway. Eg. at or before being at the holding point, ground will "speedbird 123, contact twr at 131.25 (for departure/clearance)".
No "at" in a transfer, and ground on a telephone would be very very odd.
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Last edited by ROCAT; Jan 9, 18 at 11:30 am
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Old Jan 9, 18, 1:25 pm
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Part two, Inbound flights :

Centers hand off aircraft an approach controller which is not really a position in the facility. My facility has three scopes and three associated positions, East Radar (ER), West Radar (WR), and Final Radar (FR) but FR is usually closed. Other facilities can have many more positions then that each one is called approach. The main responsibility of the approach position is to take many streams of aircraft and sequence them into an appropriate number corresponding to the number of runways. This might be 1 to 6 different controllers depending on the volume of traffic, the number of streams and the number of runways. At larger facilities an additional position is final monitor that only opens when ILS's are in use and only watch a 10 mile long stretch of final and usually transmitting on both approach and tower frequencies and sole function is to break aircraft out if compression is two high and separation would be lost. After the approach controller who is working the final clears an aircraft for an approach they hand the aircraft back to the tower controller who clears the aircraft to land, after the aircraft has landed they are handed off to ground control for taxing. After that the process starts over again. In many cases the composition of the work force changes based on the time of day, for my facility our staffing minimum is 7 for day shifts (6-14), Evenings (14-22) and 2 on Mids (22-06). On Mids every position is combined to the tower with one person working everything and one on break. During the other shifts there is 3 in the tower 3 in the traction and 1 one break, not counting trainees.
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Old Jan 9, 18, 2:17 pm
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I'll simplify this as much as possible. A center is going to climb you to cruising altitude, turn you a few times a long the way, and descend you back down. You might be turned for traffic, for spacing, for metering, because you're on a bad route, etc... Sometimes, centers may even start turning you to put you in a line hundreds of miles out if weather is bad en route or at your destination (e.g. Someone in Memphis is going to start putting you in a line for you to talk to someone in Kansas City who will eventually have you talk to someone in Chicago where you're actually going to).
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