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Hand-Offs to Center

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MarkHargrove View Drop Down
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    Posted: 11 Jan 2016 at 3:08am
OK, I need some help with hand-offs (and if this is covered in the docs somewhere a pointer to the information is fine).  All of the questions below are in reference to ZAB, but except for specific altitudes, probably apply to all TRACONs.
  • First, what is the criteria for a valid hand-off?  
    • A particular distance from the sector boundary?  
    • A certain amount of time from the sector boundary?   
  • Does the ceiling of the TRACON sector count as a boundary?  (i.e., if I climb the plane to FL200 in ZAB, can I hand it off regardless of it's lateral position?  
    • If so, how close to the vertical boundary must the airplane be?  -- 1000' ?
  • Is there a required heading and/or proximity to the planned exit point?   
  • Is there a minimum altitude the airplane must reach before a hand-off to center?
It seems like the sim automatically initiates a hand-off if I don't do anything -- at least, the plane flashes a couple of times and then turns green.  I try not to let this happen, but it does happen to me from time to time when it's really busy.  Am I supposed to give a frequency change to the pilot anyway (seems like I'd have to).

Any advice appreciated!

-M.


Edited by MarkHargrove - 11 Jan 2016 at 3:09am
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mlovetto View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mlovetto Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jan 2016 at 11:20am
You usually want to hand off 2-5 miles prior to the border. You can do it by time too.... Maybe two minutes would be good. Usually this stuff is covered in letters of agreement between facilities, which we don't have. The ceiling does count as a boundary. Typically turbojets don't like to linger lower than cruise for a long period of time so handing them off about 2000 ft below your ceiling when you know they'll be climbing through it is standard. If they're staying at your ceiling, keep them until the border.

Yes, they should be headed relatively toward the exit. There is no minimum altitude but what I said above are just rules of thumb I use and generally work well. You have auto-handoffs enabled in the options. They automatically hand off when reaching the lateral limits. And yes, you are supposed to give the frequency change. The auto hand off is just handing off the target to the other controller. That's a computer thing. You must tell the pilot to change frequencies because he has no idea he was just handed off on radar.
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scr View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jan 2016 at 11:27am
A handoff may be initiated at any point after departure.  It must be completed prior to the aircraft reaching a lateral position 3 miles from the center boundary. Time is not considered in completing a valid handoff. The ceiling is a sector boundary.  The airspace above FL200 over ABQ belongs to ZAB.  Your aircraft can go up to FL200 at any point in your lateral sector airspace. No 1000' buffer.  Example:  climb a learjet from the airport to FL200. When the aircraft leaves 9000 feet initiate the manual handoff to ZAB.  If the receiving controller takes the handoff when the flight leaves 15,000 feet make sure the flight has been assigned instructions to proceed on the correct departure and then change the aircraft to center frequency.  We want to provide the pilot the opportunity to continue a climb to his final requested altitude without having to level off prior to that altitude. Don't forget to make sure that the departure meets the MVA criteria before switching the flight to ZAB. That is the only minimum altitude criteria. 

You evidently have your TCW options in ATCpro set to enable automatic handoffs.  That is the reason the tag turns green and center takes the handoff.  I recommend that you continue with that, and practice issuing handoffs manually as well.  Yes, make sure you issue a frequency change to center when the automatic handoff occurs. 
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MarkHargrove View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkHargrove Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jan 2016 at 12:33pm
This was exactly the kind of guidance I was hoping for -- thanks to both of you for your replies.

What would you consider as best practice for the hand-off?  

Once I'm "done" with an aircraft:
  • It's climbing to the highest altitude I can give or its requested altitude, whichever is lower; 
  • I've got it established on a DP that will take it to its exit fix or I've got it 'proceeding' to its exit fix; 
  • I'm certain that MVAs are met.

-- should I go ahead and initiate the hand-off?

-M.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote scr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Jan 2016 at 12:45pm
Definitely.  In ATC the bottom line is do whatever you can effectively as soon as you can.  Stay ahead of the traffic.
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deltamike172 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote deltamike172 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2016 at 3:42am
If you bring up the ZAB ARTCC sector boundaries, you'll note the sector numbers 16 or 17 for north and west departures.  Sector 17 owns over most of the Tracon airspace, but anyone going to the north and northwest should be handed off to Sector 16...

If you just hit "C" to initiate the handoff, it will usually flash to Sector 17.  The game will kick back an error to you that you've handed off to the wrong sector for planes over FIREY and POYOH and DNIDE.  

This is an error which happens in real life, I'm sure as well, though there may be an adaptation to make sure planes flash appropriately based on their departure fix.  It doesn't always work right, so don't get frustrated.  If you have planes going over FIREY, POYOH or DNIDE and it flashes at Sector 17, left click on it and take the handoff back.  Then ADDRESS the handoff to the Sector 16.  This is a real life thing.  Type "C16" and then click on the plane again.  

You can tell who it is flashing to by looking at that mess of numbers and letters that becomes of the datablock after you've flashed it.  In the middle of the second line, you'll see C## and that's who it's flashing to.  Likewise, if you got planes going southeast into Sector 94 and you see a C17 in the datablock, take it back and address it correctly.  You'll stop getting bad handoff messages!

PS.  In real life, we try to flash the handoff on once we're done with the plane.   Generally, we want the next sector to take the handoff at least 2 minutes from the lateral boundary, so if they aren't taking it, we have time to contain the aircraft in our airspace.  Any closer, and we'll call them on the landline and make sure they are OK with it.  If you flash early, and address it correctly, Center should take it pretty early.  Just make sure you've cleared the departure on course before you flash so you don't confuse the program.  Within facilities, when everyone is sitting in the same room, handoffs may happen a little later on closer to boundaries in some cases.  


Edited by deltamike172 - 13 Jan 2016 at 3:46am
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ChrisC View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2016 at 8:13pm
If it's a vertical handoff (like jet departures), in real-life they usually start it flashing immediately off the runway. When I was at L.A. Center, SoCal TRACON would always do that. It might vary by facility, but Center generally prefers to know about them as soon as possible to fit them into their other flows.

If it's a lateral handoff from TRACON to Center, 10-20 miles from the boundary is typical (unless it's a VFR or piston aircraft, then maybe 8-15). If it's further away, it just clutters the next controller's scope, and if it's much closer, there may not be enough time for the other controller to coordinate a new heading or altitude if they need it for their traffic (and you'll end up spinning them at the last minute when they can't take the handoff).

Then like anything in ATC, you want to get aircraft up-and-out or down-and-out of your sector as quickly as possible. Like somebody said above, do things now, not later. Once Center takes the handoff, and if there is no further possible traffic for the aircraft (VFR or otherwise), get rid of them. The fewer the aircraft on your frequency, the better. It was normal for me at the Center to talk to departures out of maybe 5,000 feet and not far off the runway, even though the TRACON owned up to 14,000.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MarkHargrove Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2016 at 2:22am
Great, great information -- thanks guys!

One thing of curiosity to me -- I've very frequently seen traffic that has been handed off to center handed right back to me for no reason I can understand.  Specifically, I'll perform the handoff (and usually, it's VFR traffic with flight following active) at maybe 5-10 miles from the sector boundary.  It flashes, then turns green and I give the frequency change.  Then, maybe 30 seconds later the flight starts flashing white again.  I've always taken the flight back and let it progress closer to the sector boundary then handed it off to center again -- but I've never understood WHY this happens.

-M.
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ChrisC View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2016 at 3:09pm
That would be a bug. I'd report it and just ignore the handoff in the meantime (or maybe it'll let you drop the track altogether).
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