Aviation In Canada

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Information Requests

Currently, I'm holding the post of FIR Chief for Moncton and Gander within VatSim (although in reality, Moncton and Gander Centers are under separate management). This post has caused some interesting questions to be fired at me over time. Since NavCanada doesn't host websites for the various regions, when people do searches for the regions by name, the websites designed by VatSim "staff" and hosted for online flight activities often receive the hits for people looking for real world information. There are many folks interested in getting information on Oceanic airspace, for example, and the internet has become a favorite choice for research, rather than official documents. It also seems that no matter how many times you mention that a particular site is meant for flight simulation, some people completely miss it and still believe it's something for the real world. Kind of like hearing what you want to hear.

In any case, I have fielded many questions about oceanic procedures, airspace requirements, and most often requests for tours of a given facility. Just recently, an e-mail arrived in my inbox with the name and rank of a naval officer claiming he was a controller on board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier just off the coast of St. Pierre et Miquelon, a couple of islands south of Newfoundland that belong to France. The ship was in Halifax recently after a multi-day exercise off the coast of Nova Scotia. He said he wanted to know the classification of oceanic airspace east of Newfoundland. I don't know the e-mail was real, but at least I had the answer for him. (Class A, if you wanted to know)

Many pilots who are planning stopovers in Gander, for example, on transatlantic flights ask for a tour. Why wouldn't they? It would be interesting if you've flown across the pond a few times to have a look at the inside. Fortunately, I can answer many of the questions. There have been several that I've been able to ask someone else about. A C-5 captain from the USAF recently asked me if Gander could provide HF DF steers. I found nothing published about such a service, and it turns out, when I call Gander from work, that they can't provide DF steers on any frequency they use. Then there are the questions that only a manager can answer, and all I can do then is refer them to the real person.

I always identify myself as nobody involved with the management or functions of the real world Gander facility, though if the question relates to Moncton, I will tell them that I am a controller there and get them to contact management, if such a question requires a real world answer from them. I'll say this: People looking for real world information shouldn't be contacting me from our simulation websites, but I've met some interesting people and fielded some interesting questions along the way. And, as it has been since I started writing publicly, have learned a few things along the way. And that's what keeps me going on this.