Which radio to use in small airports

I’m brand spanking new to Vatsim and have been observing for a while. I was about to take the plunge today and speak up but realised that the controllers were covering all the large airports and not the one i was taking off from.

In this scenario, do i tune into unicom and ask for radio check/aerodrome information or?

(Was taking off from EGLK. All controlers seemed to be EGKK, EGLL, EGCC)

Hello Michael,

When you mention “realized that the controllers were covering all the large airports”, were you told by a controller that they were not covering your airport, or you just saw them online?

Depending on the controller’s position, they may cover the smaller airports below their airspace, workload permitting. This is very common with a Center/Control position. If you see a controller in these positions, simply ask them if they are controlling your airport (top-down model).

On the other hand, if you were told by a controller that they are not controlling your airport, you would announce your intentions on Vatsim Unicom 122.8. Or if you see controllers logged in as Tower somewhere else, you would use Unicom at your airport.

Have you taken a look at the Vatsim Learning Center? There is a lot of great material on the site, including ATC communications.

The UK has a rather complex hierarchy of sectors. This is a useful guide: https://www.vatsim.uk/operations/sectors

EGLK is an uncontrolled airfield. It’s right next to Farnborough so follow the hierarchy in the link above for Farnborough.

If you’re flying VFR and keeping away from Farnborough and other controlled airspace you probably won’t need to contact ATC at all and you can stay on UNICOM.

If you’re flying IFR, you’ll need to check with London Terminal Control LTC_SW_CTR or a higher sector (see the hierarchy above) if active before departure to get clearance and a squawk code. But the airfield itself remains uncontrolled.

If by some miracle Farnborough Radar is on, check with that controller.

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This was very helpful by the way so thank you, and sorry for the late reply.

I guess at this point I’m suffering analysis paralysis.

Having followed the above, I started at eglk and asked the controller (London control*) via private message whether he covered eglk. I got a very prompt - go check vatglasses.

This then told me that eglk had no coverage but that Farnborough did. I then chickened out. I was fearful that the centre controllers would just tell me to get off the line the moment I asked for a radio check/vfr clearance since they seemed to exclusively be dealing with transiting ifr traffic.

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You’ll have those types of days :slightly_smiling_face:. As long as you continue learning the basics and building a good foundation, you’ll be just fine in the long run. Since you’re brand new, it will be an interesting journey until you feel comfortable. Don’t give up!

Maybe try a different country or airspace that has low traffic volume with ATC online. You should have a better learning experience. Observing different locations is a good way to find an area you would like to try flying. It gives you good insight into local procedures and personalities.

I fly a helicopter in the KLAX area which is pretty busy. I fly the same routes over and over, and they’re only about 10 minutes between each hospital. If I call out each leg, each approach, and each departure it gets really old, really fast, annoying. So what I do is pretty close to real life. I use the same tail number and name all the time, sort of like a discrete squawk code, an identifier. I submit a flight plan for each leg and stick to it. I’m always at 2000ft or below. I get fuel at small airports that are out of the way and not busy. If tower wants to talk to me I answer. If someone gets close, we talk. I only really bug them unless I’m going into LAX or close to it. We seem to get along that way.

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I actually had two good flights. One was vfr out of Bristol to blackbushe.

The other was a flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen during low traffic. (This one I discovered I’d bound my reverse thrust to my PTT key… which was fun during take off)

Sort of getting the hang of what to say but doing terribly at remembering squawk codes, frequencies, pressure and my own tail numbers during readback… I’ll get there but this has been great when I get on.

I’d love to do a ppl for real but it won’t be this year…

Hi Michael,

Like you, I am brand spanking new. I have learned that when I get clearance, I write everything down and then the readback is easier. It takes some getting used to, but it works. Just a small tip to help you out. Here’s to you having clear skies and light wind!