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Fly and See Santa 2015 debriefing

Jouka Ahponen (1239359)

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Jouka Ahponen (1239359)

Hello guys,

Time to cut this event into pieces again and see where we succeeded and where we failed. It's always good to run the event down in debriefing se we can maybe learn something new and change some things if needed.

I will add mine once I get back home later tonight.

Best regards,

Jouka Ahponen

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Joonatan Porkkala (1244751)

Apologies for a way too long and messy post, but here's my views of the evening.

I was on EFES-M the whole evening, from 17z to 23z. Traffic in the sector was almost 100% arrivals from Southern Europe and of course from Helsinki, since I covered the airway that carries the traffic that has entered FIR via BALTI or then from the Helsinki TMA via TEVRU.

Logged on at about 16.30z, no problems there and established coordination with other sectors via PM or Teamspeak since I wasn’t able to attend live at Malmi. Only had some issues with EFES-D as he couldn’t handoff some of the labels to me and had some trouble contacting him via PM there, but eventually established contact with him as well. Initially traffic flow was smooth but as I expected I did have to use some rather aggressive speed control or also vectoring, within the pilot’s comfort zone of course, to get the required 30-40 NM spacing so that EFES-H could merge the traffic flow from sectors G and M. I was quite happy with the result there. At this time also had a couple of overflights which went to sectors H or G.

Later on traffic started picking up from the south with planes coming very close to each other with around 10 NM in between. EETT was online but apparently they didn’t do much active controlling with the traffic. EFES-D established a hold at TEVRU, but I had some trouble coordinating the holding with D, I’d think we weren’t precise enough to each other while coordinating so some planes which I wouldn’t have wanted came through etc. but managed with them OK. I’m the one to blame on that one. At this stage it was also evident that an en-route holding stack would have to be created at the border of the next sector, and eventually EFES-H officially closed the airspace so everyone went into the stack at ELPOP. We then agreed with EFES-D to just let everyone in dirty, even on top of each other as I deemed that since everyone will be holding anyways, there's no point in trying to get everyone in with optimum spacing and perfectly. This allowed me to pay more attention to the hold and getting planes on their way to Rovaniemi once I got releases from EFES-H. Minimum holding level was FL200 so I could fit in quite a few aircraft nicely, however I had to create another hold at the previous waypoint for a short moment. Unfortunately I was only able to give rough estimates to the aircraft on the holds about their estimated time of exit as I didn’t get much info from the next sectors, but then again they were extremely busy so it would have been just a bonus had I actually gotten estimates. At this time we also agreed with HK-APP that all departures north would be subject to coordination, which we did well in my opinion as I got the aircraft into the sector pretty much the way I wanted them.

Then all of a sudden my internet started acting up and eventually went down entirely, the good thing was that I had prepared for something like this and switched to my backup internet. However it took some time and when I finally got myself back online my sector had become quite an ”organised chaos”, everyone was safely separated but it was extremely messy, also I had lost my voice and the Teamspeak connection was acting up as well. However EFES-D and G rerouted some of the aircraft via the west so I could tidy up my holding stack and get the aircraft on vectors back on course and start letting aircraft into the sector again. Meanwhile the callsign of sector H had also changed and I sheepishly kept on trying to contact the old callsign so that caused some delay to aircraft in the stack as I couldn’t get an all clear from H so that I could let aircraft out of the stack again. The good thing in the delay was that I could let all of the aircraft out of the hold "at once" (even though it took over an hour to clear the entire stack IIRC, there simply were so many aircraft) and they didn’t even have to hold at NEPIX from what I saw. Almost all pilots were professional and responded to instructions promptly so that relieved some of the burden on my shoulders despite the connection problems and everything.

But eventually, at 23z, my sector was empty, and it felt like I had just started controlling. Time acceleration? I did have a terrible headache though, my eyes hurt and I was quite tired. But I had a lot of fun, and performed better than I expected, so all went well in the end. Thanks to everyone, both controllers and pilots. :D

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Alex Hartshorne

The Finland area control was very good!

Just wondering, how was a light aircraft allowed to do circuits at Rovaniemi during the event yesterday? :o 

Alex Hartshorne
Marketing Director

VATSIM United Kingdom

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Arvid Hansson (1162891)


I was on OSN from 2100z until the last arrival left the sector (logged off 2320z). I must say compared to previous events (I have been away for a bit though) this was something else. First of all I must commend the preparation work done by Alex and the Event Department, the predefined re-routings (accompanied by the diagrams) helped a lot during the event, everyone seemed to know what was going on and where to expect traffic.

Coordination, and sectors down the line calling on traffic, worked well. Quite a few controllers were on TS whilst others were on Skype or text. Personally I prefer Teamspeak, provided there are rooms set up for individual sectors or positions to minimise disturbing other controllers causing them to mute and become unavailable, but whatever method I had to use seemed to work well.

The plan in OSN was to call on aircraft from Oslo in the EGAGO hold and move them through the sector to hold at TUDGI which was delegated to N from K. Some aircraft also held at DIBVA as an intermediate point to move as many aircraft as possible out of Oslo and further north at the same time. OSF occasionally offered a relief route, routing aircraft direct BAKIL and then up via the coast which worked well and minimised the amount of holding required at DIBVA. Overall everything worked well and proper coordination ensured a good (or as good as it gets) flow through the sector.

I had at least five EFRO inbounds who decided to go to Luleå. The idea of putting something in the scratchpad was good and probably helped everyone's situational awareness. Most diverts I had were coordinated with K direct TOMBA FL290, sneaking below the en-route stacks to diminish the delay. Some of them suddenly disappeared though, wonder what happened...

Despite the delays most pilots seemed happy, however at one point it became common knowledge in the sector someone was doing visual circuits at EFRO which led to some discussion and debate on frequency. Someone eventually suggested that all pilots flying the Aerosoft Airbus turned their fuel pumps off as this apparently keeps the engines going without drawing any fuel at all, interesting technique.

One thing that confused me slightly was the TopSky logic when aircraft are put in a hold. Some aircraft got RAMs, for some aircraft the holding fix disappeared from the route draw, making it look like they were spinning around in the middle of nowhere, whereas for others it remained. All aircraft were either direct to the holding fix or had it in their route somewhere. Perhaps someone will be able enlighten me.

All in all I am very pleased with this year's event, great job everyone involved!

Here's to next year! B|


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Jan-Erik Andelin (812425)


With a sudden switch for me from another sector to EFES_D, i was a little unprepared and I had to close my sector for handoffs from EETT for some 10-15 mins.

I have the following notes

  • on northbound traffic EFES_D is a rather short sector of less than 60 nm across, between BALTI and TEVRU on the common Santa route, with little space for errors. Magnus kindly advised me in advance that I would need to use all the space for vectoring traffic for optimum separation
  • traffic from EETT came in rather poorly separated laterally, and also uncoordinated vertically, which made it difficult to have aircraft descend into proper top-down holding stacks in my sector
  • the narrow air space also led to pilots checking in on the frequency late; some pilots never even logged in with me, but just flew through my sector and straight into Joonatan's  EFES_M sector. Some pilots were also unable to hold at specified waypoints and had to be vectored around.
  • for future endeavours it might be appropriate to be prepared for 2 hold stacks in EFES_D, one immediately at BALTI – but on the Finnish side, in Finnish air space (with a southbound inbd hdg)  and a second one at TEVRU with a northbound hdg. The BALTI holding of course meets the risk of traffic straying back into Estonian air space.
  • I am sorry for not being accustomed to Teamspeak being used in coordination, so my comms with the EFES_G and EFES_M were on chat, which caused some delay
  • I would also have appreciated some more distinct information from some top flow coordinator to pass on to the pilots as to why there were delays and when they could expect to be released to resume their flights.
  • another time we could also try to keep decibels at the ATC desk a little lower, since both me and pilots occasionally had problems hearing comms

All in all, it was nice to meet fellow controllers at MIK/EFHF with a great night with Jouka, Magnus, Jouni, Juha, Jukka, Jerome and Oskari and other people, who hung around and watched our event over our shoulders. I'd be happy to do Santa again!

Edited by Jan-Erik Andelin
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Juha Holopainen

This year was my first time serving primarily as APP - arrival (EFRO_R_APP) for the first four hours and radar (EFRO_APP) for the last two, with a break including a short time at EFES covering for a toilet break in between. Even though my experience from those positions is rather limited, it seemed that for the first time we were able to pull of the entire event without having to stop arriving traffic to sort out a messy TMA with a similar number of operations as the last two years, I'd say this was a major improvement! The only time I encountered any issues with the number of traffic was when one aircraft suddenly decided to park at six miles final, but fortunately I was able to persuade the pilot to continue moving before I ran out of space to vector the following aircraft.

During the shift at EFRO_APP the work was mostly getting aircraft out of the holds and sequenced into a downwind flow. I wasn't completely happy about the idea of using just a single downwind leg before the event, and my opinion didn't change during the event. The way I see it, most of the work in sequencing two arrival flows into one would have been avoided by using two downwinds, and the spared mental capacity could have been used for other purposes. It's not a question of whether a single downwind works, it does (during peak hours the achieved operations rate was pretty much constant at around 25 per hour), but would two have provided better results? There were occasionally long gaps between arrivals that were at least partially caused by the extra effort required to synchronize the arrival flows into one at such an early stage.

All in all, after the event was over I thought we had had a lot less traffic as everything went relatively smoothly without the traditional chaos at some point, but the stats tell a different story. EFES and ESOS probably had their hands full with enroute holdings, but I don't think there's any way to avoid them as there are just so many aircraft in such a short period of time.

The VFR aircraft was probably a nice challenge for EFRO TWR and it had little or no effect on the total operations rate. At least I'm happy about any traffic regardless of flight rules, traffic doing circuits will just have to expect some delays.

I can disable the RAM alert for holding traffic in the plugin, but then it'll be disabled regardless of where there the aircraft is (approaching the hold, holding, or having left the pattern but the controller forgot to terminate the holding...). For the route drawing, without a log I can't say for sure why it behaved like it did, but in any case the route data comes directly from EuroScope and the plugin just draws the lines. I'd expect that at least those planes that didn't have the holding fix in their route would have had the issue since after reaching the holding fix, ES would consider the direct-to point overflown and reverted the route drawing to the original route.

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Marius Granli


I had enough with taking care of Tromsø TMA, and couldn't pay attention to what happened in other sectors. After a big lack of controllers (only 4 available during the event), we had to change the staffing. Due to this, Sivert was alone on ENOS_CTR, probably the most busy position in Norway this evening. However, we decided to keep ENTC_APP active instead of splitting Oslo AoR, due the traffic in and out of ENTC (~40 arrivals and ~30 departures, based on my stats). We even tried to get ENGM_APP active to handle the Gardermoen traffic, but failed. I would like to give huge creds to Sivert for sorting this out on his own, it must have been far from easy. I think we should pay closer attention to the ENOS position in the briefing part next year, make sure to have at least two ENOS-controllers, at least ENGM_APP and hopefully ENSV_CTR as well. All of the GB traffic to ESPA/EFRO as well as traffic from several airports in Europe to ENTC including traffic from Oslo AoR goes through ENOS, one of the most challenging positions to cover. We should be better prepared next year.

In Tromsø, we used runway 01, so all traffic except from ENAT/ENSB traffic came straight in against the active runway. We used holdings and tried to get most of the pilots on a kind of downwind (we sequenced them to the middle of the TMA approx and then back), followed by speed restrictions on the base. Martin worked hard on ENBD to keep the traffic flow inbound manageable. All in all it worked good enough, but the traffic quantity varied a lot, from 1 to 10 pilots in the TMA.

I think, unless the wind makes it impossible, we should try to use runway 19, because of the sequencing to the ILS (see attached illustration, red lines = runway 01, yellow lines = runway 19, green lines = approx airway track with todays tactics [we didn't do exactly like shown, but that was at least the basic idea]). This allows us to sort all/most out on a downwind from opinion, and less work for CTR and APP. We will also avoid that aircrafts must backtrack to gate (they will backtrack for departure, but since we have less departures than arrivals, I still think this is smart) (see second picture with the ground movement area) and we will be able to send them tighter on the ILS. This will also allow us a smoother sequencing for outbound traffic, many of the pilots yesterday had strange departure routes from Tromsø. Very well done by Vegard on TWR who managed to take all safely down even with tight separation ;) A note to self: Try to establish maximum 8 NM out from runway treshold to avoid "running out of LLZ". As you can see from the minimum safe vectoring altitudes, this is not very easy :P

All in all, I would like to give you fellow controllers huge creds for sorting out all the traffic in such a very good way B| The pilots were happy, only one pilot on my freq. got pissed off after overshooting the ILS five times and then logged off.



Edited by Marius Granli
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Magnus Gustafsson (880543)

First of al, Merry Christmas to you al!

I had an wonderful weekend travelling from Aaland Islands to Helsinki and for the second time meet up with online friends in our community!

My findings in my positions:

    • Yes, Supervisor did approval of that callsign! Further one step closer to "old time" FSS, where there where "always" an SANTA online, that used his know how and overview to help out during the event.
    • I had several tasks as SANTA either initiated by myself or initiated by others and hopefully that made a difference to the better.
    • Most of the SANTA tasks was to inform regarding the general overview of workload and help out!
    • Generally: we could enhance the coordination between Sweden tow most northern sectors and Finland two most northern sectors. During the time as Sweden-K started holdings, the workload for Tampere-H cross the water, was very easy! There was attempt to relief Sweden-K by having traffic going over the water "SUTEV dct NEPIX". Most probably this is not that easy to coordinate on ad-hoc basis, but several aircraft´s did fly that route. Something to think about to next year!
  • EFES_J_CTR (after two hour break)
    • After two hour break as SANTA I joined my main position EFES_J_CTR (most northern Tampere ACC sector), covering Sweden border over intersection MISMO and EFRO TMA entry point NEMGU.
    • As usual, the coordination with Sweden-K was good! Immediately I reported that my airspace was closed, no further traffic leaked trough (wonderful). There after I felt bad for my neighbour ACC sector in Sweden that had his airspace full of holdings (what I could see) and I had only one holding over NEMGU.
    • Generally the pilots did the holding over NEMGU as instructed! I used an alias ".nem = HOLDING INFORMATION: Join holding over NEMGU, inbound track 054, left hand circuite, 2 min legs"  , I have no clue how many times I said that phraseology that evening together with that text information, but it worked! Only 3 aircraft´s needed vectors and instructions to start doing 360´s in an left hand circuit over NEMGU airspace, due to NEMGU was not in aircraft database.
    • Generally I had from 4-10 aircraft´s in hold over NEMGU at al times during my 5-6 hours on that position. During the break @Juha Holopainen came over to my position and showed how to use the Topsky plugin even furter to not have that cluttered scope (hopefully I can show you in @Tobias Hofvander thread where Juha already have responded)
    • Beside the feeling as @Joonatan Porkkala said, "it was over before it started" feeling, but still I was tired and had headache in the end, I would say that this when´t smooth.

When we looked at the stats for the evening (about 2 am.), we had about 10-15 movements less that 2014. With that you can say that one downwind on EFRO was an success! Still I am of the opinion that two downwind legs should be used at Rovaniemi!  With two parallel downwind legs there is the possibility to have two aircraft´s on same FL in the TMA, without any conflict. I have no clue, how close EFRO_APP and EFRO_R_APP was to peak performance during the evening!

I will share some pictures from Malmi Airport (EFHF) in MIK locality http://www.mik.fi/ .

It was an very nice evening, to yet again meet up with people that you have chatted to during an year or two! 

Hope to see you again, soon!















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Magnus Gustafsson (880543)

Here is also my playback from Euroscope for sector EFES_J_CTR during the evening!

There was an connection loss late in the evening, so I do not know if it´s the hole session on EFES_J_CTR or up to the connection loss!

Download from my OneDrive: http://1drv.ms/222kh84

Report if the download does not work!



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Jouka Ahponen (1239359)


From my point of view it was one of the smoothest Fly and See Santa event so far when it came to approach position. Of course I have very little idea how it went on the CTR sectors.

The first few hours of the event were a bit quieter and no holding were needed. When I started to notice that traffic started to enter from NEMGU with too little lateral separation to fit another aircraft from NEPIX or from North in between them I decided to get holding running which calmed the situation back on the normal phase. After that it was easy to coordinate with EFES_J and NEPIX feeder when more traffic was needed and if the feeding frequency was good. There was few times when TMA was rather empty or there was unnecessarily long distance between two aircraft where another aircraft could have been fitted in but we have to remember that we cannot always do 100% perfect on this event as traffic just comes in and everyone is very busy. Also the pilots may take some time to respond to a clearance given.

After my 2 hour duty on APP I had 2 hours break where I tried to coordinate and help all the other controllers in Malmi by handling coordination or releasing a controller for a little break by taking over on his position or just trying to get a good picture of the situation and suggesting possible solutions when needed. So shortly I worked as a planner for the positions close to EFRO.

After the "break" I took over the arrival from Juha. There was lots of traffic incoming by the time I got there but Juha and Jukka had done extremely good job as well as J_CTR and NEPIX feeder and the TMA was very organised and it was rather easy job to give the final vectors. Only few times the downwind got a bit longer because of few pilots mishearing a instruction given to another aircraft which lead into a small confusion and wrong pilots turning to wrong direction. No separation losses though but it just made the flow a bit disoriented and I had to extend the downwind to fit everyone in with proper distance in between them. However as there was few gaps here and there it was possible to get the downwind back to normal by giving slower speeds to planes etc. After the rush hour finished the end of the event was very again very smooth with very little problems at all.

All in all this year was very good from EFRO_APP point of view. The airspace was never fully closed and we were able to keep traffic flow very good for the whole event.

Maybe next year we could try two downwinds again and see how smoothly it goes. But it has been proven now that with one downwind we are able to pull this event off rather smoothly. With two downwinds the pressure moves from APP to ARR but I think that we should be able to do that as well as long as the TMA doesn't get overloaded with too much traffic.

Thanks everyone for the great event again. See you next year!

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