Table of Contents

General Control — Prioritizing Aircraft and Communications Last updated: 2017-07-10

1. Control of Frequency and prioritizing communications


When busy, one of the more challenging aspects of ATC is maintaining control of the frequency and prioritizing transmissions. On Vatsim, we can't predict future traffic demand as well as the real world can, so there will be times when Vatsim controllers will be overloaded with traffic. During those times, you must use techniques to ensure you are able to prioritize the use of your frequency to provide the best possible service. Generally, you should issue instructions to airborne aircraft prior to aircraft on the ground.

2. Air Force One and other special purpose callsigns

In the real world, there are numerous callsigns that get priority over others. Obviously, Air Force One (or Marine One, Navy One, etc) carries the president, and gets priority over most other aircraft. A more common callsign in the real world will use the term “Lifeguard.” These aircraft are carrying people or things that are urgently needed at the destination for medical care.

On Vatsim, all aircraft are handled with the same priority. Do not give any special treatment to any aircraft based upon its callsign.

3. Handling emergencies on Vatsim (including equipment malfunctions, minimum fuel)

In the real world, for obvious reasons, emergency aircraft get priority over all other aircraft. On Vatsim, emergency aircraft need not be given priority. The controller has discretion over how he chooses to handle an emergency. If a pilot cannot comply with the controller's instructions for whatever reason, he is required to inform the controller and seek alternate instructions. If a Vatsim pilot's emergency becomes too much of a distraction, he should be asked to disconnect from the network.

4. IFR versus special VFR

In certain weather conditions and types of airspace, pilots may seek to operate under a special VFR clearance. The details of these clearances will be covered in a later lesson. However, IFR aircraft generally have priority over special VFR aircraft.

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 2-1-1 through 2-1-4}

5. Responding to requests

Pilots and neighboring controllers will make requests regarding how they would like to proceed. When you receive a request you have three options in how to respond:

1.“Approved” or “Approved as requested” means that the pilot or controller may proceed as they requested. You may issue any needed restrictions in the transmission. For example:

    • “Approved as requested, remain at or above two thousand five hundred.”
    • “Approved, remain north of runway eight.”
    • “Approved as requested, remain clear of Orange County class charlie airspace.”

2.“Unable” means that you are not able to approve the request. When time permits, advise the controller/pilot why you cannot approve the request.

3.“Standby” means the pilot/controller should wait, and you'll advise when time permits.

{Reference: FAAO 7110.65 2-1-18}

Back to Top