Relaxed separation

0705: My day starts. Quite early, but not early enough – I should have been in the simulator five minutes ago, the actual run starts in 15 minutes. Perfect beginning of a day working five hours as a radar controller.

0725: Five minutes late, after a shortened and hectic morning routine and a rather abbreviated briefing, we start our run.
We, that is my course mate and I, him working as “Pick-up”, and me working as “Feeder”, together being the team for “Langen Arrival”.

Langen is the imaginary international airport used in the simulators, which just “happens to be” in the same location as Frankfurt in real life, with a similar runway layout and similar airplane traffic patterns.

The ATC unit “Langen Arrival” takes airplanes from the route network they use to fly from A to B, guiding them to a position from where they can actually land, mostly using “vectors”, which is mostly our fancy term for the directions we sent them to.
It can be split as today, with the “Pick-up” first taking airplanes, descending and turning them closer to the airport, then handing them over to the “Feeder”, who fine-tunes their approach and distances to each other until they finally get to land.

This is the first time we work this way, so we are a little anxious. It actually works quite well though, with only a few things to talk about after the run, and some ideas how to do it better next time – notably, how to get light and very slow airplanes in between the landing stream of the mostly heavy and fast ones.

After one hour, we switch roles, me being Pick-up now. The run is okay according to the coach, though there are still some things we are not fully happy with – there is still some confusion about those plans for the slow ones, and I send some planes over to the Feeder too late, still being used to the old way of doing this alone.

Then, it’s again switched roles, with a new runway direction (airplanes always land into the direction from where the wind is coming, and the God of Sims just changed the wind).

This time, the whole experience feels really smooth, we manage to work those slow planes in almost perfectly, partly relying on visual approaches for them, where the pilot is able to fly his own way instead of being sent around the block by us, allowing for much shorter ways and less time of a Cessna hanging around in the path of Jumbo jets.

The traffic volume is actually higher than with the first two runs, and the runway direction one we are not yet used to, but we actually manage to have fun and, indeed, be relaxed. I guess this is how it’s done!

After the lunch break, a two-hour long run follows, this time area control, with traffic mostly flying along fixed routes (with many conveniently placed intersections so airplanes have a chance to hit each other).

It’s not as relaxing as the first three hours of the day, but still quite good. Once I actually send an airplane to a point I for some reason believe to be to the east of it, causing it to turn north. :)
Well, happens, and some good work of my coordinator ensures that nobody really notices.

With a few very good ratings from the coach, the day ends. Well, turns over to the learning part really, since we have a theoretical exam next week. I would prefer a few more hours in the simulator relaxing with separation, I guess…