Unicom Usage

September, 8, 2021 by Suhas J.

You’re never truly alone in the Infinite Flight skies, so communication is essential, especially at uncontrolled airfields. This is where Unicom comes in handy.

Unicom, or Universal Communications, is a type of facility at non-controlled airports in the real world. It is simply a frequency to announce traffic advisories  such as when traffic is inbound, taxiing, departing, or crossing and clearing runways. If you don’t already, always use Unicom when you can for all your communications, even if nobody else is present at the airfield. Long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Supervisor GHamsz summed it up perfectly in a post from last year: “I use the same logic I use while driving. I use turn signals even when I don’t see other cars. After all, you don’t typically see the car you hit!”

Be like Gary, and use Unicom.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Immediate Takeoff

September, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

When a controller clears a pilot for immediate takeoff or asks them to expedite, they are placing their trust in the pilot. So, how can you make your controller’s life easier?

If you’re a pilot at a controlled airport and you are cleared for immediate takeoff, that mean’s you’re cleared for IMMEDIATE takeoff. Oftentimes, when this command is used, there is either a long takeoff queue or a small window where you can depart, so don’t ruin it for everybody by lining up, stopping, and then rolling. Line up at a reasonable speed and start rolling as soon as you’re lined up. If you don’t, there is risk of your takeoff clearance being cancelled, an arriving aircraft having to go around, or both. To make your controller’s life easier and your fellow pilot’s trips more efficient, if you’re asked to expedite, please do so.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Transition Altitude

September, 4, 2021 by Suhas J.

Whenever you open a tower frequency at an airport, do you take note of your transition altitude?

 

Often overlooked, transition altitude is still important to know off the top of your head for your specific airfield. One of the first things I do before or when I open is determine my airfield’s transition altitude by using the well-known transition altitude formula: 2500ft AAL rounded up to the nearest 500 feet. Why? A transition is when an aircraft flies through your tower airspace, or innermost circle on the map, but above your pattern. Pattern altitude is 2500 feet AAL at a minimum so that transition aircraft are 1000 feet above pattern aircraft at either 1000 or 1500 feet AGL, so that they still maintain separation with pattern aircraft. This is then rounded up to the nearest 500, as it is rare to have an airfield be at a perfect 0 or 500. For example, if your airfield’s elevation is 542ft MSL, your transition altitude would be 3500ft MSL.

 

Always know your transition altitude every time you open a tower frequency.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Realism While Controlling

September, 2, 2021 by Suhas J.

Whenever you open a frequency at an airport, do you ever take note of or enforce realistic procedures that are in use by the airport itself? If not, here are some neat ways to get more information about an airport’s specific procedures.

 

Firstly, FlightRadar24 is a great place to start. Find your airport and see the real-time traffic levels as well as runway usage or any other procedures to take note of such as noise abatement, runway closures, or single runway usage at major airports. Utilizing FR24 will greatly increase the realism in your ATIS.

 

For major airports in the USA, an FAA D-ATIS website is available which displays all ATIS information for any given major US airport. Visit datis.clowd.io for real-time US airport ATIS information regarding relevant airfield information.

 

Additionally, listening to an airport’s ATIS frequency online can provide you with realistic operation information. This can be done via LiveATC.net and many other ATC streaming websites.

 

Lastly, do your research! If none of these sources prove to be helpful, turn to your resources. Research about a specific procedure you may be curious about. Look for charts, videos, or even the airport website for more information.

 

If it is not hindering your controlling service, the use of realistic procedures is totally acceptable, but also optional. If you do decide to go the extra mile, however, your controlling will be in tip-top shape while following the real-world operations of your selected airfield.

 

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Be Proud of your Failures

August, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

Failure, specifically within IFATC, is always the beginning of a path to success. Some are ashamed of their failures, but I am here to tell you that failure is not something to be ashamed of.

The best controllers are ones who have failed countless times, learned from their mistakes, and applied their learning and newly gained perspective to their controlling. Be it radar training or local controlling, failure is totally natural. What matters is that you learn from it!

During my radar training, I failed KGJT 3 times, KONT and YSCB once each, and made several other mistakes at various airports. At the time, these seemed like crushing mistakes, and I didn’t see myself progressing any farther. However, each time, I came back again with a positive attitude and motivation to succeed, and eventually made it through all of those airports. Coming back and nailing the airports I struggled at previously was an incredible feeling, and those failures were the experiences that proved to be the most useful to me and my controlling. Looking back now, I am proud to say that I failed several airports.

Don’t be afraid to fail. We all fail at one point or another. Learn from your mistakes!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Rolling at London Heathrow

July, 22, 2021 by Suhas J.

Busy session at London Heathrow on the Expert Server, with Ground, Tower, ATIS, and Approach controllers working together to ensure a seamless service.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

How to Plan for your IFATC Radar Training Sessions

July, 19, 2021 by Suhas J.

For those who decide to pursue radar training in IFATC to become an IFATC Officer, extensive training is required. So how do you make sure you pass?

Once you’ve been given your next training airport, you want to familiarize yourself with the field as much as you can. What things should be taken into account? Terrain, altitudes, headings, and other strategies are essential items to be pinpointed before a radar session. To start, head to ifatc.org and enter your airport code to find a map with terrain, MSA (Minimum Safe Altitudes), and more. If you experiment with the ‘Explore’ tab, you can show options such as Waypoints, nearby airfields, and Approach/Glideslope details, which are very helpful in planning. Start off with writing the MSAs for different areas, based on terrain. Next, mark down your pattern altitudes/headings, as well as your inbound altitudes and paths. Ask your trainer questions, run your plan by them, look at charts/MSAs, watch videos of the approach online if applicable, and fly your plan! Fly your planned routes/altitudes as if you were a pilot at your session – take note of specific waypoints or areas to turn aircraft or safely vector them around terrain. A good tip is that if you see an airport near your session airport and it is in a challenging location or you hope nobody is placed there, spawn there and fly it. Prepare for the worst so that you can’t have anything unexpected happen. Use your resources!

By the time your session rolls around, stick to your plan, think logically, be proactive, and you can’t go wrong. If you do, there’s no shame whatsoever – that is the purpose of training. Failure is the recipe for success.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

What is Gliding? Part 3: Approach/Landing

June, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

When a glider pilot decides to return to their respective airfield for landing, they have to monitor altitude and airspeed very closely. There are no second chances.

Firstly, a typical landing begins with a 45 degree entry into a downwind pattern leg, and then continuing with a base and final leg. It is essential for a pilot to have a reference point to refer to for relative altitude or location, and that a set base turn point is established prior to turning base. A good rule of thumb in gliders is that being too high is better than being too low. Glider pilots fly a high approach, using the dive brakes, flaps, or side slips for speed control. A good airspeed to stay at during approach is a speed that is 1.5x more than the stall speed of the glider. A glider pilot should monitor airspeed and control airspeed with usage of dive brakes, along with keeping a close eye on altitude and set pattern legs. If the approach is set up correctly, the landing will be smooth and efficient.

Want to try this in Infinite Flight? Fly a non-powered approach in any General Aviation aircraft. Be sure to try this in an uncontrolled environment in case something should go wrong. Start higher than usual, only use power when necessary, and keep the aircraft’s speed around 1.5x higher than the stall speed. Join the downwind leg at a 45 degree angle and use flight spoilers or flaps for speed control. Avoid a go around and try your best to nail the approach and landing. Experiment with different aircraft and variables, including weather. Get creative and challenge yourself!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

What is gliding? Part 2: Thermalling

May, 14, 2021 by Suhas J.

To avoid a stall, gliders utilize a gradual, continuous descent depending on speed. However, it is entirely possible to climb thousands of feet in a glider. How? Thermals.

What are Thermals? Thermals are the movement of rising hot air. Hot air rises and cold air sinks. The hot air rises from the ground, typically in a cylindrical shape. Because thermals are in a cylindrical shape, in order to stay in a thermal, pilots have to enter it and then continuously turn to stay inside. How do they find thermals? Thermals are typically located near Cumulus clouds, above hills, and above open fields. Thermals aren’t visible, but once a glider pilot enters one, their variometer will show a positive climb rate. If the climb rate continues to stay steady, the pilot has flown into a thermal.

A typical thermalling method is the ‘Easy as 1, 2, 3’ turn. Once the pilot has determined they have flown into a thermal, they will count to 3 and then turn continuously left or right until they find the thermal. This may mean they fly out of the thermal occasionally, but they will continue until they center the thermal, as seen above.

Continuous, steady turns are much harder than they look. It is essential to keep a steady turning rate once in a thermal, and to not let your nose or airspeed dip too low. My instructor taught me to ‘pin the nose to the horizon’ – and keep the nose level to the horizon while turning. If the variometer indicates a higher level of climb, a shallower bank is utilized, and a steeper bank for a lower level of climb to return to the thermal.

After the pilot has finished with one thermal, they will find another, or return to the airfield for landing.

Have you ever practiced continuous turns? Try it in Infinite Flight with any lightweight GA aircraft. Continuous turns are easier in powered aircraft, because if the nose is dipping or the airspeed is too low, more thrust can be used. Practice continuous turns while keeping the nose steady on the horizon and try to look outside but also keep an eye on your airspeed.

References: Image

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

What is Gliding? Part 1: Takeoff

May, 12, 2021 by Suhas J.

Gliding, also referred to as Soaring, is the recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft using natural occurrences in the atmosphere, such as thermals.

First of all, what is a glider? A glider is a typically unpowered lightweight aircraft built from composite materials with one or more seats and a glass canopy. They normally have a wingspan of 40-100 feet.

If they don’t have an engine, how do they fly? Gliders are most commonly towed into the air by a powered aircraft with a ~200 foot tow rope. The nose of the glider has a hook which can be released from the cockpit. The tow rope is hooked to this link on the nose of the glider and the fuselage of the tow plane. The glider pilot uses the stick and rudder and exercises precise movements to stay directly behind the tow pilot, either above or below the propeller wake. Communication via headset is essential for events such as banking and release points.

Once the glider has reached the predetermined release altitude, the glider pilot announces release, and pulls the tow release knob in the cockpit. After a headset confirmation that the glider is free from the tow aircraft, the glider pilot will break right, and the tow plane will break left and return to the field for landing. Now the glider is soaring freely. How does it stay airborne? That’s where Mother Nature comes in.

Want to try this step for yourself in Infinite Flight? Try simulating an aircraft tow in an uncontrolled airspace. Stay close behind the imaginary towplane, but try and stay above or below the propeller wake. After you reach a certain altitude, practice breaking separate ways. Because your speed will have to be manually controlled, it’ll be an extra challenge!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.