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OBSERVING AND MONITORING STANFIELD

PART 2:   FLIGHT PLAN, TAXI, TAKEOFF

Last updated January 24, 2017

This is the second in a series of pages intended for scanner listeners who are interested in listening to aircraft arriving and departing Halifax.  It is tailored to those scanner listeners who also might want to go to the airport and combine listening with watching.   You might find it useful to start with Part 1:  At the Airport and follow the sequence.

1. The Airport   2. Flight Plan, Taxi and Takeoff  3. Departing the Airport Vicinity  4. Moncton Centre and Surrounding Zones (High and Low)    5. Arriving at Halifax, Landing, and Taxi to the Gate

THIS PAGE WAS BEING MODIFIED IN LATE JANUARY 2017 AND MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM OR WITH ALL MAPS AND INFORMATION INCLUDED.
PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR ADDITIONS.

 

Getting ready to leave: FLIGHT PLANS AND CLEARANCE DELIVERY

Well ahead of the departure time the airline dispatcher and the pilot will have analyzed weather patterns and determined the route they wish to take to destination.   The detailed plan is created by a dispatcher but aspects can be changed or requested to be changed by the pilot.  The plan is subject to restrictions in time and route imposed by the air traffic control system.  There may be differences of opinion between the airline, looking to maximize profit, and the pilot, looking to maximize safety.  Their decisions will be affected by what the air traffic control system can allow in relation to  already planned traffic, and as well the time of departure may be affected by disruptions on the other end.  For example if Jetlink 2851 is scheduled to depart at 0630 but there are problems at Newark, due to weather or whatever, then there may be a delay in leaving Halifax, as there is no point in flying around in circles holding for landing at Newark.      In terms of the actual routes, most airliners heading to Newfoundland go almost direct, those heading to Montreal and Ontario also go more or less direct, which means going through American airspace, but in a few routing varieties.   Most commonly they will head to Millinocket but that can vary.   The aircraft heading to  New York, Philadelphia and Washington can either go down along NS and then along the Maine coast, or very commonly they take what appears to be the longer way by heading inland over Maine, New Hampshire and even Vermont and then heading south more or less along the Hudson River.  This avoids the very heavy traffic coming from Europe and descending into the New York area, but it does use more fuel compared to the more direct route... the thing being however is that the direct route may not work out, as there may be major diversions for traffic. so it is not that simple to compare.   The flight plan is submitted to the Air Traffic Control system which means not by radio.   It will have to be vetted by all the elements of the control system right through to the destination.   Most commonly this will involve Canadian and US authorities but of course may also include other countries too.   To me it is almost a miracle that this all comes together and a flight plan for example from Halifax to Cuba can be put together and approved, keeping in mind that this all involves both time and route.

 

The next step is to receive clearance for the flight according to the plan.  The pilot or first officer will call for clearance on 123.95.   This will be given by the clearance controller, who often will be double duty as the ground controller, and in fact the two frequencies may be simulcast.  The clearance will be either very specific and indicate various waypoints, or it may just refer to the flight plan route.    One quirk is that usually the clearance is to something like "the Toronto airport" rather than using the fancier name such as in this case Pearson...     When there is more than one major airport in a city that doesn't happen, so that you will hear LaGuardia and JFK mentioned.    An interesting sidelight to this process is that for aircraft on a short turnaround time, you may hear the crew call for clearance for the outbound flight almost as soon as they arrive at the gate.    As might be obvious the clearance delivery for short flights within our area is much simpler than those for longer flights.

 

 

PUSHBACK AND TAXIING ON THE RAMP

 

 

Essentially this part refers only to airliners using the main terminal. After the crew has received clearance and once the aircraft has closed the doors to passengers and is disconnected from all or most of the ground support equipment, the crew will call ground control on 121.9 and request pushback.  Pushback is the backwards movement of the aircraft almost always done by way of a tractor attached to the nose gear.    At this point there will likely be a wired intercom still connected from the aircraft to the ground crew, so you will not hear the cockpit crew speaking to the ground crew.     Because the ramp at Halfiax is uncontrolled, Ground control will invariably say "Push Back at your discretion".   The word is passed to the ground marshallers, and the intercom is disconnected.  With the aid of the walking marshallers, the tractor will push the aircraft back out onto the ramp to a spot where the aircraft can turn and manoeuvre on its own.

    ON THE RAMP.

While on the actual main ramp at Halifax, aircraft are not under the control of the Ground Controller.     In very large airports there will be large areas given over to particular airlines and in places like that there will be control by the company itself of its aircraft movements.   In Halifax, while moving on the actual ramp, it is all “at your own discretion”, until the aircraft is ready to actually taxi off the ramp and onto the taxiways.  Previously Halifax had a ramp frequency of 122.125 designated to allow crew to talk to inform each other of what their intent is but this was discontinued in 2014.  

Note that Taxiways J and K  (Juliett and Kilo) at the far south end of the airport are uncontrolled and therefore they are similar to the main ramp.  

DE-ICING

 

In freezing weather conditions airliners will typically be de-iced just after push-back and prior to taxiing to the runway.  There are four de-icing pads located near the outer edge of the main ramp.   These ramps are merely designated spots at which aircraft park for a few minutes while the de-icing crews apply the various types of chemical showers.   In the winter season 2011-12 each of these pads was operated by a different company, and airliners would be treated only by the company under contract by the particular airline.  Note that these companies are not specifically de-icing providers, and also provide other services to aircraft elsewhere at the airport and throughout the year.  Typically this would include aircraft marshalling,  baggage handling and day to day aircraft maintenance.

 

 

 

Prior to pushback the airliner crew contacts the appropriate de-icing coordinator on the particular frequency and receives instructions on when to approach the correct pad and which way to line up and park.   The desired chemicals and specific procedure are agreed upon, after which the de-icing applicator vehicle operated by a technician referred to as "the iceman" goes to work.    There are very specific phrases and instructions used before and after the operation in order not only to ensure the correct application but also to minimize the very real risks to equipment and lives inherent with moving machines.

 

 

The de-icing companies and their frequencies in use as of January 2017 were as follows.  Note that Jazz provides its own de-icing service, also provided to affiliates Air Canada, Sky Regional and EVAS Air.

 

Frequency

Company

Airline Clients*

Pad #

122.35

Servisair/Globeground Nth America**

Airlines outside the Air Canada family

 1 & 2

129.25

Jazz Aviation

Air Canada, Jazz, EVAS and some foreign clients.

3 & 4

 

 

 

 

TAXIING FROM THE RAMP TO HOLD POSITION NEAR THE RUNWAY

 

Aircraft leaving the main ramp or leaving a location at one of the other venues at the airport will contact the Ground Controller on 121.9 MHz.    You may be interested to know that the frequencies from 121.7 to 121.9 are the most common ground control frequencies in North America, with 121.9 the sort of default most-used of all.    In the initial contact with the controller there might be a simple confirmation of a previously planned runway choice, or a last minute change, or discussions involving delays, or interacting with other taxiing aircraft.   Note that the Ground Controller frequency is often simulcast with the Clearance frequency 123.95 except at very busy times.   Most often this means that you can hear the controller on both frequencies but the aircraft will just be on the appropriate one, but there are times when both will use the clearance frequency instead of 121.9.     The aircraft will be under the control of the Ground Controller until it reaches or approaches the hold position for the runway, at which point they are told to switch over to Tower.   If the final taxiway is just a short connector to the runway this will be done prior to entering that short section.   For example an aircraft on Taxiway Alpha and intending to use Taxiway Charlie to reach runway 05 will be passed to the tower frequency while still on Alpha as Charlie is very short.

 

Note that for some taxiing such as between the main ramp and takeoff Runway 32 it is necessary to cross the other runway.   Aircraft always stop before crossing and wait unless the Ground Controller has specifically given clearance to cross the runway.     You will also hear instances in which an aircraft is directed to taxi on a runway to reach the desired runway and still be under the control of Ground Control, however that is normally only if that other runway is closed at the time. 

 

The topic of what runway will be used is a major one for both the ATC and the pilot, and this of course affects taxiing as well.    ATC and to some extent pilots prefer the runway that is most directly into the wind.  This allows for easier takeoff and as well less crosswinds to affect the roll and the initial flight.   On the other hand airlines want the pilots to take the shortest route from A to B in order to save on fuel.   Another factor is the on-time performance.    A pilot of a plane headed to Toronto and directed to Runway 05 (taking off more or less to the northeast) will prefer Runway 32 if conditions at all allow as the path of travel is more towards the destination as this could easily save $50 in fuel.    Heading 20 miles away from where you want to go and doubling back wastes money and time. Wind conditions always trump these other considerations but when the wind is moderate or less you could see quite a variation in runway use, even though one has been designated as the active.

 

The active runway is always announced on the ATIS, 121.00 MHz.   You can also check the conditions as shown on this Nav Canada site.  While it does not designate the active runway you can evaluate the wind direction just as a pilot would do.

 

TAXIING FROM THE HOLD POSITION TO THE RUNWAY, AND TAKE-OFF

 

 

 

When directed by the Ground Controller, the pilot contacts tower on 118.4 and will be told either to wait for traffic or to proceed out onto the runway.    This will either be a directive to "Line up runway xx" or an immediate takeoff clearance with no waiting.   Both are common.  Sometimes you will hear the pilot ask for a few seconds to do a run-up or other procedure out on the runway prior to taking off.

 

The takeoff clearance will be in this format:  "Air Canada 761 Wind 250 at 15, in the air contact departure (or terminal) 119.2, cleared takeoff runway 23".  The order may be slightly different.

The pilot acknowledges with a read back, and off they go.    The default clearance is to 5000 feet and to maintain runway heading.   Occasionally, as part of of the takeoff clearance, the tower will direct the pilot to make an immediate turn prior to contacting Terminal.

 

 

 

FOR WHAT COMES NEXT, PLEASE GO TO PART 3, DEPARTURES.