Aviation Topic of the Week
Original by Michael Oxner, 2003-2004
Updated May 4, 2022

First Week's Topic
Final Week's Topic

News and Background

I've been writing about aviation in Canada for nearly 20 years, now. My writing began on March 30th, 2003 with this series of "Weekly Topics" that were initially aimed at the VATSIM pilot (and controllers, too) to help the uninitiated navigate the virtual skies. After this run of nearly 18 months, I found that questions came from about a 50/50 split of sim pilots and real-world pilots as these pages gained notoriety. After that run, I wrote in a daily blog before being picked up by a website as a contributing author, and in late 2005, Canadian Avaitor Magazine found me and asked me to contribute a regular column. I've been doing that ever since. Transport Canada also picked up some of my articles for inclusion in the Aviation Safety Letter -- a point of pride for this author.

Through these years, I've had many experiences both in flying and in the world of Air Traffic Control. Though retired, now, I still enjoy playing a controller on VATSIM, and still write. The online meeting world grew substantially with the pandemic over 2020-2022, and with that came a number of "virtual tours" of Air Traffic Control, including some rather enjoyable Question & Answer sessions with the Canadian Armed Forces Barker College and COPA, among the highest-profile groups I've visited with.

And so it seems I've come full circle. Interestingly, I've had several requests from various sources (again, from both online and real-world pilots) for my archive of Weekly Topics which started it all. They found homes on various servers (without anyone contacting me, interestingly), but even those sources have come and gone. But now, with my own domain and website active, it seemed like a good time to repost them. Remembering that these articles are nearly 20 years old, a lot of changes have taken place and several of these topics will be a little dated. Some a lot. This will be a work-in-progress, then, as I attempt the time-consuming task of revisiting each and every topic. Even this intro needs updating as I have completed my ATC "tour of duty" but I gained a metric tonne of new experiences from which to write. That means that this task will take time.

You're invited to take a stroll down memory lane in these pages as they are, but look forward to a lengthy time for them to be updated presented properly. Feel free to contact me if you have questions -- the intent of the original posts was help, and your help is appreciated in keeping the items relevant and accurate, as I make mistakes just like anyone else. Without further ado, I'll let you get on with reading. I wish you a smooth flight, whether the skies are real or not!

Please note that much of this is real-world information from Canada being provided primarily in support of online flying activities within VatSim. The information was meant to be complete and accurate for the time, but it is always best to consult current documents, such as the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) to be sure you're getting it right for the real world.


(If you've read this already, click here to skip to the first topic.)

Allow me introduce myself. My name is Michael Oxner, My thirties (when I first started writing these articles) are well behind me, and I still live in the Moncton area of New Brunswick, Canada. I have been interested in aviation since 1985, while still in school. This interest carried me forward to get my private pilot license in 1988. While I didn't push on any further with other ratings, my interest in aviation didn't wane from there. Plane spotting, at and away from airports armed with cameras and scanners (yes, plural on both items), was a hobby and an excellent way to spend a lazy afternoon when nothing else was going on, whatever the season.

After high school, I applied and was eventually accepted for training with Transport Canada for Air Traffic Control. Successfully graduating the training in the facility in Cornwall, Ontario, in 1991, I returned home to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I was assigned to the Tower at Halifax International Airport (CYHZ). Then-known on the eastern seaboard as the "beehive", Halifax is an airport open to IFR and VFR (though amply-charged for landing fees). A normal day at the office was one where every runway was used to its fullest, including Simultaneous Intersecting Runway Operations, AKA Land And Hold Short Operations, with helicopter operations regularly using our main taxiway. We mixed Cherokees and Cessnas with our Dash 8's and B767's all the time. We were #8 out of the airports across Canada in terms of movements at that time, though I don't know where Halifax sits now. I spent nearly two years learning the ropes and gaining experience with a fantastic group of controllers with an awesome work ethic before being sent to Moncton Center for IFR training.

I later moved to the Moncton Area Control Center in the low-level specialty, where worked for 27 years in Terminal and Enroute airspace. This work includes a little of everything. We work the traffic into and out of the region's airports. Since our group's airspace reaches up to FL280, I worked a lot of strictly en-route traffic as well. A very good work ethic was held amongst our group here, too, as well as the other specialties, Halifax Terminal and our high-level brethren.

While in the role of operational air traffic controller, I also delved into many "side projects" such as training, getting involved in the introduction/adaptation of many our main systems (CAATS, VSCS, EXCDS, you name it), and in the last six years, was the team lead at the regional level for NAV CANADA's Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) Working Group, and the team lead for the three-stage Maritime Airspace Modernization Project. Working with the national representatives of the PBN Operational Deployment Team, we modernized the instrument procedures such as STARs, SIDs, and Instrument Approach Procedures (IAPs) to meet new demands from the users and organize the airspace for a better flow of IFR traffic not only at the airports, but also in the airspace surrounding them.

My wife wonders why I would retire from real-world ATC and the paycheque it earned just to volunteer to do the same thing online. I don't have an answer. All I can say is that I always enjoyed the work. Only now I don't have to do shiftwork and there are no real consequences if something goes wrong in the simulator world.

And so it is that I continue to play an ambassadorial role, trying to bridge the gap between pilots and air traffic controllers. It always pained me that so much information is out there in an amazing number of publications, yet pilots always have so many questions for which there is little out there in said publications in the way of answers. And I'm happy to do it in emails, and you'll find my email address in many places throughout the topics. Feel free to write.

Even though I'm not actively producing topics, I am still interested in further discussion. I'm active in the sim community and hope to remain active in the real-world aviation capacity, too. I still have a desire to facilitate knowledge transfers and answer questions

The goal of these weekly topics was to enrich the Flight Simulation experience by sharing information. I believe I have shared a lot of information, some primary usage and some background information, within these articles. In either case, I learned a few things while writing these, and received a tremendous amount of support for the ramblings I posted here. It has been an honor and a pleasure to write these. Thanks for everything!