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Old 11-18-2010, 08:20 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Difference between LA Center and SOCAL TRACON

Hi,
I've been reading the charts and I've noticed that they say "contact socal approach on ###" or somewhere else it might say "Los Angeles Center is the controlling agency", etc etc. What I wanted to know was what is the difference between SOCAL TRACON and Los Angeles Center. I'm assuming when they refer to "socal" on the charts, that's SOCAL TRACON and when they refer to Los Angeles Center, that's an ARTCC? Just trying to understand the differentiation between the two..

thanks!
Mike
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yup SOCAL is a TRACON, covering (obviously) southern california. NORCAL is the Bay Area TRACON. The name of a TRACON indicates it's area of responsibilty.

LA Center is an ARTCC, covering a large part of the SW US. The name of an ARTCC just indicates where the facility is physically located (sort of, in the case of LA center, which is actually located in Palmdale.)

The SOCAL facility is in San Diego, but covers all the way from SBA down to Mexico. It is the busiest and largest in the world. Due to the the large number of airports, high traffic volume, and mix of aircraft types it's a great place to learn. If you can hang in SOCAL, you can hang anywhere...
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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So if someone does a long-distance trip, do you get handed off from a tower to TRACON to center to TRACON to tower? I'm doing heli so everything's been short
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:44 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by msoultan View Post
So if someone does a long-distance trip, do you get handed off from a tower to TRACON to center to TRACON to tower? I'm doing heli so everything's been short
Normally, yes.

Medium and large airports (and some large metro areas like SOCAL) have TRACONS. Smaller airports don't so you go from tower to center to tower.

In SOCAL, because of the large area covered, you might stay with SOCAL the whole time at lower altitudes (below the flight levels) if your destination and departure are both in SOCAL. This is called Tower Enroute Control (TEC), and is used only in a few large TRACONs. If you look in the AFD, there is a list of "canned" IFR routes for use with TEC.

Do you have an instrument rating? If you do, and you earned it in SOCAL, your instructor should have taught you this stuff...
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Old 11-18-2010, 09:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Do you have an instrument rating? If you do, and you earned it in SOCAL, your instructor should have taught you this stuff...
Nope, not yet! I just finished my private heli a couple weeks ago and have just started on my commercial. I'm on my 3rd dual flight which is a x-country from Long Beach to SD and since flight following was suggested to me, it opened up a whole can of things I didn't previously know..

That said, my CFI wasn't particularly excited about doing flight following (it was my suggestion to try it) as he said he's rarely had a need for it... I don't know if it's a heli thing or a personal thing, but it sounds like something I'd like to learn so we're going to try it for one leg of our trip. Because this is the last dual that I have before I start soloing, I'm trying to get as much of an understanding of how all this stuff works (while I have him in the seat next to me) before I start soloing and really screw things up

thanks for all of the information!!
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Old 11-18-2010, 01:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by msoultan View Post
What I wanted to know was what is the difference between SOCAL TRACON and Los Angeles Center. I'm assuming when they refer to "socal" on the charts, that's SOCAL TRACON and when they refer to Los Angeles Center, that's an ARTCC? Just trying to understand the differentiation between the two.

Mike,

I'm a pilot, and was formerly a controller at Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (SoCal Approach / SCT), located in San Diego, California, just east of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. I also worked at an ATC center, but not Los Angeles Center.

SCT is a combination of 6 formerly independent airport approach controls, that were located at the airports of LAX, ONT, BUR, NZJ, SAN (actually, I think it was at NZY) and PSP. Beginning in the mid 1990's, and starting with Los Angeles Approach, ultimately six of the area's approach controls were combined into SCT.

NATCA Southern California TRACON

SoCal uses different ATC rules to separate traffic, and different equipment, than an enroute center. It's primary job is to get aircraft sequenced to land.

Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center (LA Center / ZLA) is located in the upper southern California desert area of Palmdale. Much like the divisions of SCT, ZLA has "areas" of control, given simple letters to identify them, A, B, C, etc.

Generally speaking, the 22 ARTCC's in the country have "all" the airspace, and delegate that the towers / TRACON's. When those generally part time facilities close, the ARTCC will take over the airspace. SCT is a 24 hour facility, however.

There is little that is the same between the two. The two facilities share very little. ZLA uses long range radar that turns at 5 sweeps per minute in a "mosaic" (that means a computer uses data from more than one radar site at the same time to derive the position of a target). SCT uses single site (non-mosaic) terminal radars, generally located at their respective primary airport, that turn at 10 times per minute.

Both facilities use completely different software (SCT uses ARTS IIIe, ZLA is HOST / DARC) and hardware.

Hope that gives you a quick overview answer.
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Old 11-18-2010, 02:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Hey Tony,
Thanks for all of the info! Now I have a better understanding of how these different facilities tie into one another.

Thanks!
Mike
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Old 11-18-2010, 04:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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If you can hang in SOCAL, you can hang anywhere...
100% agree. Learning to fly here is the best.
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:46 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by msoultan View Post
So if someone does a long-distance trip, do you get handed off from a tower to TRACON to center to TRACON to tower? I'm doing heli so everything's been short
If you are not on an instrument flight plan, the answer to this is sometimes.

Outbound some Towers will arrange a handoff to TRACON. Some automatically; some if you ask; some simply won't but may give you the local TRACON frequency if asked so you don't have to look it up in the AFD.

Inbound most TRACON facilities will tell you the appropriate time to contact Tower, but if you're getting close to the Class D airspace for landing, it's ultimately your responsibility to prompt them for the switch.

TRACON to Center - usually. But remember that unless you are in Class C, for VFR flights, TRACON and Center Flight Following services are workload-permitting. That means you may or may not get handed off and also that you may not get the services at all.
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