Fly Away Simulation

Quick ATC questions

Pro Member First Officer
JTH First Officer

I just have a few quick ATC questions that I would be really appreciative if anyone could answer them for me:

What does "flght level" mean (e.g. when ATC say "FL320")?
What's an ILS landing?
And finally what do ATC mean when they talk about watching vectors at landing?

Thanks a lot for any help... JTH 🙂

Pro Member Chief Captain
Insight Chief Captain

1. Flight Level 320 is 32,000 feet I believe

2. Instrument Landing System landing, ILS is a system built into runways to guide aircraft down a glide scope so they can make their approach on a runway they cannot see yet. It gives info about where you are in relation to the runway in terms of height and approach vector

3. Not sure

Pro Member First Officer
john (verygom) First Officer

You need to spend some time in the 'Learning Centre' of FS20004 (if that's what you have) - get past the "just get me flying" section and all will be explained and your questions anwered.

Pro Member Captain
Bindolaf Captain

To answer your first question look here: (shameless self promotion)

To answer your second question:

As for the third:

Hope it helps!

Pro Member Chief Captain
Manuel Agustin Clausse (Agus0404) Chief Captain

1. Flight level is the altitude of an aircraft referring to the standard pressure of 29.92 inches of mercury. To make it easier, pilots and controllers use flight levels when your altitude is above your Transition Altitude. For example, the Transition Altitude in Lisbon Intl. Airport is 6000 ft. If you are above that altitude, then you are in a flight level.

2. Insight gave a good explanation of ILS. It is a system that guides the aircraft using both localizer and glideslope.

3. ATC will give you vectors until you intercept the localizer. That means that ATC will let you know when to turn and what heading you should turn to.

Pro Member First Officer
JTH First Officer

Okay I understand question one now completely, no problem. I understand Insight's version of ILS and I started reading that long page but could you give me a shortened version of how exactly this system guides planes down? And finally, the explanation of vectors seems to make sense, however I would like to know when you are on an IFR and the airport gives you clearance to land at X runway when you're still a good distance out, do you take it from there and just go on your own accord to land on that runway? (i.e. do you leave the heading ATC had given you up to this, or do you wait patiently for them to actually guide you to the final you've been given clearance for?)

Thanks again for all the help!

Pro Member Captain
Bindolaf Captain

Hi again

Read the ILS page, even though it's long. Look at the drawings. The beacon emits a beam out towards space. Two beams actually, one "vertical", one "horizontal". If you're within that beam, you're "on the glideslope". If you're too high you will miss the runway, if you're too low... well... you know. If you're too far to the left or right again.. you know.

As for leaving ATC an vector. ATC will say something to the effect of: "JTH, turn left heading 270, cleared for ILS approach runway 25R, report established". This means, turn "270 and then, when you see the ILS needle moving, follow it and establish yourself on the beacon. Then, call me again".

The three pages I gave you contain most of the basics you need, hope they helped. If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask, but be sure to do some studying. Quick answers are not always correct.

don Wood Guest

From several threads on this forum, it appears that there are two different definations of "flight level". In the USA, flight levels are shortcut phrases for altitudes but only at and above 18,000 feet (Positive Control Airspace). Thus, 18,000 feet is flight level one eight zero. 32,000 feet is flight level three two zero. Below 18,000 feet, altitude is expressed in feet. 12,500 feet would be express as one two thousand, five hundred feet. Apparently, in some other countries, flight levels are used for altitudes below 18,000 feet.

An earlier answer about ILS being "built into runways" is not correct. ILS is a radio beacon system. The transmitter portion of the system, as another poster stated, transmits both horizontal and vertical beams. The ILS transmitter is installed above ground either adjacent to or on the extended centerline for the runway.

The receiver portion of the system is installed in each aircraft. It receives the ILS signal and, depending on the type of instrument being used, either provides a horizontal and vertical needle or other indicia on the instrument that provides information describing the aircraft's position relative to the ideal position, horizontally and vertically, for the landing. The receiver can be slaved to an autopilot and it is up to the autopilot or the actual pilot to interpret the indicia and position the aircraft so a successful approach and landing is made.

In the old days, before flight directors and other sophisticated instrument came into use, this became the source for the aviation term "center the needles". When your ILS needles are centered on the instrument, you are precisely on the course and glide path you need to be for that portion of the approach.

I am not sure I understand the last question. I have never heard the term "watching vectors". A vector, in this context, is an instruction by ATC to turn from current heading to a desired heading, usually with the goal of positioning an aircraft to initiate an approach. Vectors are often also used by ATC to turn aircraft to avoid traffic conflicts. Thus, the ATC instruction: "Wifebeater 201, turn left heading one eight zero, intercept the Wican runway 27 ILS, cleared for the approach" is a vector to immediately turn to 180 degrees and fly that direction until the ILS is intercepted at which time you can fly the published approach for runway 27 at Wican Airport.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Manuel Agustin Clausse (Agus0404) Chief Captain

don Wood wrote:

Apparently, in some other countries, flight levels are used for altitudes below 18,000 feet.

Not all the countries use the same transition altitude as the US. In Lisbon, the transition altitude is 6000 ft. Thus, you don't say "I'm flying at 7000 feet" You say "I'm flying at FL070" Every country have different transition altitudes.

Pro Member First Officer
JTH First Officer

Don Wood, just to clarify I think I was in error when I said "watching vectors", ATC said something like that I was just relying on memory so I do think that I got that phrase wrong.

By the way, does anyone know a basic guide to where flight level starts in different countries/regions? We know the U.S. is 18,000 feet and Lisbon is 6,000 feet - I wonder what it is in other countries?

Pro Member Captain
Bindolaf Captain

It differs. Check individual VaCCs for details. I think it's 5000 in Germany, but beyond that, no idea.

Check and click "countries" to see european VaCCs

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