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                   capture of demo

About Vice Last updated: 2023-10-10

vice is an air traffic control simulator, focused on TRACON. It presents a STARS-like interface, but with simulated traffic and other controllers. It also supports multiple users, where each person controls a different position at a facility.

vice supports departure and arrival control scenarios in numerous TRACONs and ATCT/TRACONs: A80, A90, AAC, ABE, AGS, ASE, AUS, AVL, BHM, BIL, BNA, BUF, C90, CHS, CLE, CLT, COS, D01, D10, D21, DAB, F11, GSO, GSP, I90, IND, JAX, L30, M98, MIA, MKE, N90, NCT, OKC, P50, P80, PCT, PHL, PIT, RDU, S46, S56, SAV, SCT, SDF, TPA, and Y90. New scenarios are regularly added. Adding scenarios at additional airports is a matter of writing JSON configuration files that describe them; see below for documentation about how scenarios are defined.

There is a discord server for vice: the Vice ATC Simulator server, for general discussion, bug reports and feature requests, and for discussing facility engineering.

There is a short video overview that gives a tour of vice. (Note: this video was recorded with an older version of vice, so some details are different in the latest version.)

Getting Started

The radar client interface that vice provides is based on STARS. For familiarity to VATSIM controllers, vice generally follows the keyboard command scheme implemented in CRC's STARS implementation; see the discussion of vice's STARS emulation below for more information.

The first time you launch vice, a window is shown for configuring the simulation. (After the first time, the window can be brought up by clicking the "replay" button in the menubar: .) A number of scenarios are available, some departure-only and some including both departures and arrivals. Here is an example:

configuration dialog box

After selecting an ARTCC, the available TRACONs and ATCT/TRACONs in that ARTCC are shown. Selecting one of those gives a number of scenarios to choose from. Here the ZNY ARTCC has been selected and then the PHL ATCT/TRACON. After choosing a scenario and clicking the "Next" button, a window with further settings is shown:

configuration rates dialog box

In the second configuration window, you can set the average departure rate (ADR) for all of the airports that may have departures in the scenario as well as the average arrival rate (AAR) for all of the arrival airports. (The PHL scenario only includes the Philadelphia Airport, though other scenarios include both a primary airport as well as satellites.) Both of these rates are specified in terms of aircraft per hour, so an ADR of 30 corresponds to one aircraft departing every two minutes (on average). If you'd like an arrival-only scenario, for example, just set all of the departure rates to zero.

The "Sequencing challenge" slider controls how challenging the departure sequence is—the higher it is, the more likely it is that successive departures will be to the same gate or to the same fix. For arrivals, the "Go around probability" slider allows setting the probability that each arrival goes around. You may also select "Include random arrival pushes", which will periodically bump up the rate of arrivals to increase the challenge of vectoring the aircraft. "Push frequency" sets how often arrival pushes happen and "Length of push" sets how long they last before traffic returns to regular levels.

After you have configured the simulation, click "Ok" and you will have a STARS scope and flight strip window to work with. Use the usual STARS commands as appropriate (to initiate track, accept handoffs, handoff to other controllers, etc.), and the additional ATC commands below to issue control commands to aircraft.

When the simulation starts, vice also displays a small window listing the active departures, arrivals, and approaches. For this LGA scenario, three arrivals are active but there is just one approach and one departure. Other scenarios may be more complex.

approach list

The approach codes—here, "27R" and "35"— are used in vice's aircraft control commands like "expect approach" and "cleared approach".

To free up space, you can close this window by clicking on the "X" in the upper right corner. Clicking on the button in the menubar will show the window again.

To adjust the amount of space used for flight strips, right click the line separating the flight strips from the radar window and drag left or right with your mouse. You can also remove flight strips entirely by opening the settings window, in the menubar, and disabling "Show flight strips" under the "Flight strips" header.

A number of buttons are available in the menu bar at the top of the window:

  • / : pause or resume the simulation.
  • : opens the window to select a new scenario and set its parameters.
  • : open a window that allows changing various settings. The most useful one is the simulation rate: you can speed up time during slow times or to increase the challenge.
  • : show the window that lists the currently active departures, arrivals, and approaches.
  • : opens a window that shows a summary of vice's ATC commands and frequently-used STARS commands.
  • : open a window with controls for launching aircraft, either automatically or manually.
  • : open this webpage to review vice's documentation.
  • : display information about the version of vice you have installed.
  • : join the vice Discord.
  • : Toggle full-screen mode.

When you exit vice, it remembers everything going on—all of the aircraft in flight, the instructions they have been given, etc. The next time you launch vice, it loads all of that back in and you can continue where you left off. If you'd like to start something new, just click and configure a new simulation.

When vice is paused, you can hover the mouse above a radar track to see information about the instructions the aircraft has been given so far—for example, altitude and speed assignments, whether it has been sent direct to a fix, the approach it has been assigned, etc. An example is shown below. This information is especially useful when resuming a vice session after you have been away from it for a while.

aircraft information

If you are signed in to Discord, vice can automatically update your activity status there with information about your current vice session (the number of arrivals and departures, the position you're controlling, etc.) When you first launch vice you are given the option to disable this feature if you would like. The settings window, available by clicking in the menubar, can also be used to enable or disable this feature afterward.

Drawing Routes

vice can draw the active departures, approaches, and arrivals for the current simulation. This can be helpful when studying those for an airport, since they are drawn directly on the radar scope with annotations that give the fixes, any altitude or speed restrictions, and procedure turns.

To toggle whether a route is drawn on the scope, click the checkbox on the left next to it in the information window that is shown at the start or after clicking on the button in the menubar. For example, here is how the HVN RNAV Runway 2 approach is rendered:

manual aircraft launch window

We can see the procedure turn at PEPER and that it is both the IAF and the IF; altitude restrictions at both SALLT and PEPER, that SALLT is the FAF, and that arrivals from KEYED will not fly the procedure turn.

Launching Aircraft

When a new simulation starts, vice automatically launches new departures and arrivals based on the departure and arrival rates set in the "New Simulation" window. During a simulation, clicking on the departing plane icon in the menubar opens a window that allows more control over aircraft launches. (Note that when vice is used with multiple controllers in the same simulation, only one controller may have this window open at a time.)

The rates for automatic launches can be adjusted in this window. Alternatively, aircraft can be launched manually. If manual launches are selected, the window shows all of the available departure runways and exits as well as all of the arrivals, as shown below. Clicking the aircraft icon for a departure or arrival causes the aircraft shown to be launched. If you'd like a different aircraft for the next launch (for example, to have a heavy aircraft), click the redo icon until you're happy with the selection. The window also shows the elapsed time since the launch of each type as well as how many miles in trail (MIT) there would be if the next aircraft was launched. To delete all of the aircraft from the simulation and restart, click the trash icon: .

manual aircraft launch window

Multiple Controllers

With vice you can also have multiple controllers working aircraft together. Select "Create multi-controller" in the "New Simulation" window and you can select an ARTCC, ATCT/TRACON, and scenario in the same way that you do with a single controller. For multi-controller scenarios, there are some additional settings, shown beneath the list of scenarios:

create multi-controller window

Each multi-controller simulation has a name associated with it; vice chooses a random one by default (above, it's "choice-length"). You're welcome to choose a different name if you prefer. These names can be used so that you can tell other people which simulation to choose in order to join you. You may also enable "Require password" and enter a password for the simulation so that only people you allow can join it.

Selecting "Join multi-controller" shows a list of the simulations that are currently available, including how many controllers are signed into each one. Note that the simulation names are shown in the first column. After selecting one, you can choose one of the available control positions and join. vice also allows you to join a simulation as an observer, in which case you have no control capabilities.

create multi-controller window

ATC Commands

A command prompt is available at the bottom of vice's window. When vice starts up, keyboard input initially goes to the STARS radar scope. To switch to the command window, either click on the command window or press TAB. Pressing TAB again or clicking on the STARS scope will return keyboard focus to STARS. When the command window has keyboard focus, it is highlighted in yellow, as shown below:


The commands below can be entered to issue control commands to aircraft. To indicate which aircraft should be given a command, you can either enter a command and click on an aircraft's radar track in the STARS window or you can enter the aircraft's callsign, a space, the command, and then press the "enter" key. The aircraft's callsign may be abbreviated if unambiguously identifies a single aircraft. After you issue a command, the virtual pilot's readback is shown and keyboard focus returns to the STARS window.

After receiving an instruction, the aircraft will start following that instruction, to the best of its abilities. Unlike VATSIM, the pilots will always do exactly what you tell them to.

Start a message with a slash to send a message in ATC chat that will be seen by all other users.

If you'd like to issue multiple commands to an aircraft, enter the commands one after another with a space between them and then click on the appropriate aircraft. To open a window that shows the available ATC commands when using vice, click the button in the top menubar.

Command Function Example
Hheading Directs the aircraft to fly the specified heading. It will turn in whichever direction gets it to that heading most quickly. If no heading is given, the aircraft is instructed to fly present heading. H050, H
Lheading Directs the aircraft to turn left to the specified heading. L130
Rheading Directs the aircraft to turn right to the specified heading. R210
TdegreesL Directs the aircraft to turn the specified number of degrees to the left. T10L
TdegreesR Directs the aircraft to turn the specified number of degrees to the right. T20R
Dfix Directs the aircraft to proceed direct to the given fix. (The specified fix must be in the aircraft's flight plan, including on the approach assigned to it.) DWAVEY
Dfix/Hheading Directs the aircraft to depart the specified fix at the given heading. (The specified fix must be in the aircraft's flight plan.) DLENDY/H180
Cfix/Aaltitude/Sspeed

Directs the aircraft to cross the specified fix at the given altitude and speed. Either one or both of A and S may be specified.

Altitudes may be given as single altitudes (corresponding to "at"), an altitude and a plus sign ("at or above"), an altitude and a minus sign ("at or below"), or a range of altitudes separated by a minus sign ("between").

CCAMRN/A110+
Calt Directs the aircraft to climb to the specified altitude, which is given in hundreds of feet. If the aircraft is changing speed, both the speed change and climb are simultaneous. C170
TCalt Directs the aircraft to climb to the specified altitude, given in hundreds of feet, after it finishes speeding up or slowing down to meet a controller-specified speed. TC170
Dalt Directs the aircraft to descend to the specified altitude, given in hundreds of feet. D20
TDalt Directs the aircraft to descend to the specified altitude, given in hundreds of feet, after it finishes speeding up or slowing down to meet a controller-specified speed. TD20
ED Directs the aircraft to expedite the descent to its assigned altitude. ED
EC Directs the aircraft to expedite the climb to its assigned altitude. EC
Sknots Gives the aircraft a speed restriction. If the restriction is given after an aircraft is cleared for an approach, the speed restriction is in effect until 5 mile final. If no speed is given, then the aircraft is instructed "cancel speed restrictions". Speed changes happen at the same time as any required altitude change. S210, S
TSknots Gives the aircraft a speed restriction to be applied after the aircraft climbs or descends to the most recent controller-specified altitude. As with S, speed restrictions are canceled at 5 mile final. TS210
SMIN Directs the aircraft to maintain its slowest practical speed. SMIN
SMAX Directs the aircraft to maintain its maximum forward speed. SMAX
SS Directs the aircraft to say its indicated airspeed. SS
Eapproach Tells the aircraft to expect the specified approach. This command must be used before an aircraft is cleared for an approach and it also adds the approach fixes to the end of the aircraft's route. EI2L
Capproach Clears the aircraft for the specified approach. The aircraft must have been told to expect the approach before it is cleared for it. CI2L
Afix/Capproach Clears the aircraft for the specified approach when it passes the given fix. AROSLY/CI2L
CAC Cancels approach clearance for an aircraft. CAC
CSIapproach Clears the aircraft "straight in" for the specified approach. (This command is only useful for approaches that include procedure turns.) The aircraft must have been told to expect the approach before it is cleared for it. CSII6
I Directs the aircraft to intercept the localizer (at which point it will follow the localizer's lateral path but not descend until it is cleared for the approach.) I
CVS Directs a departure to "climb via the SID". CVS
DVS Directs an arrival to "descend via the STAR". DVS
TO Directs an arrival to contact the tower. TO
ID Instructs the aircraft to "ident". ID
X Deletes the specified aircraft from the simulation. This command is useful when one starts going down the tubes. X

Airspace

vice is able to indicate when aircraft are outside of the departure or approach airspace, if it has information about the airspace boundaries. (This information is not available at all airports.) If an aircraft is outside of its assigned airspace, a red "AS" error will be printed at the top of its datablock, as shown below. The valid altitudes for the aircraft are shown as well, if there are any valid altitudes at its current location. For example, the aircraft below is at 5,000' but should be between 10,000' and 12,000' (or should be at a different location!)

configuration dialog box

Two commands are available to draw the boundaries and altitude ranges of the departure and approach airspace. (Note that the placement of the drawn altitude labels is not always ideal.)

Command Function
DA Draw the approach airspace, or stop drawing the approach airspace if it is currently being shown.
DD Draw the departure airspace, or stop drawing the departure airspace if it is currently being shown.

Installation

Installing vice is straightforward, at least on Windows and Macs; on Linux, you need to do a little more work.

Windows

To install vice on Windows, download and launch the installer below. After installation, vice will be available in the Windows Start menu and a shortcut will be added to your desktop.

Your browser may warn about the installer being from an unknown publisher and when you run the installer, Windows will put up a window informing you that it has protected your PC and prevented the installer from running. Click "More Info" and then "Run anyway" to proceed with installation.

Download Vice v0.10.26 for Windows

Macintosh

On a Mac, download the zip file below; it contains a universal binary that runs on both Intel and Apple CPUs. Note that MacOS Big Sur or a more recent version of OSX is required. After opening the zip file, drag Vice.app to your Applications folder to install it.

Download Vice v0.10.26 for Mac

Linux

On Linux systems, it is necessary to install vice from source. See the directions on building vice on Linux in the source code distribution for details.

Reporting Bugs

If you encounter bugs in vice, apologies! It would be of great help if you would send in a report if vice crashes or if you see mistakes in how it simulates aircraft or the STARS interface.

The best way to report bugs is via the "bugs" channel on the vice discord. Alternatively, if you have a github account, you can file bugs directly in vice's issue tracker.

Release History

0.10.26 (16 June 2024)

  • Fixed a bug where vice would sometimes crash at startup or when MAPS was clicked.
  • New scenario: SCT (Jud Lopez).
  • Scenario updates: AVL (Giovanni), A90 and BOS (Michael K).
  • Fixed "ID" flashing when aircraft ident

0.10.25 (16 June 2024)

  • New scenarios: PIT (Gavin V), AVL, AGS, and GSO (Giovanni), ACK, BNA, BOS, CHS, MHT, OKC, RDU (Michael K).
  • Updates to BUF, CLE, D21 (Gavin), BHM (Giovanni), JAX and F11 (Michael K), D01 (Jud Lopez, Andrew S), C90 (Jud Lopez, Yahya Nazimuddin), A90 (Michael K).
  • STARS: multiple improvements to handling of redirected handoffs (Artem Dorofeev).
  • Fixed a bug where vice would crash on launch if it was exited while minimized (Artem Dorofeev).
  • Added a short pause before aircraft ident.
  • Aircraft can now be sent 'direct' to their destination airport.
  • STARS: more realistic video map handling (per controller maps, map id #s).
  • STARS: multiple improvements to drawing aircraft tracks.
  • Facility engineering changes:
    • In "stars_maps", video maps are now specified as single strings giving the video map's name; the other information (short name for DCB, map id number) is found automatically. Run vice.exe -listmaps [path-to-XXX-videomaps.gob.zst] to list the available maps for an ARTCC.
    • "stars_config" has a new "controller_configs" field that can be used to specify controller-adapted sets of video maps in the DCB, which maps are enabled by default, as well as the initial center and range of the STARS scope for each controller.

0.10.24 (16 June 2024)

(Incomplete—not released.)

0.10.23 (28 May 2024)

  • Added ATC chat functionality.
  • New scenario: I90, including IAH, HOU, GLS, SGR (Jace Martin).
  • Scenario Updates: D01 and COS (Andrew S), Y90 (Merry Arbitrary), C90 (Jud Lopez, Yahya Nazimuddin).
  • Added FC command to tell aircraft to change to the next controller's frequency.
  • Full-screen mode is now available.
  • Improved sequencing of departures.
  • Updated command entry so keyboard focus returns to STARS after issuing a control command.
  • STARS improvements:
    • Updated the fonts to the real-world STARS display fonts.
    • Allow entering values for DCB spinners using the keyboard.
    • Add support for displaying requested altitude in FDB.
    • Fixed bug where controller ids would be drawn as question marks in tracks in observer mode.
    • Fixed scope drawing so that hiding / displaying the DCB doesn't cause the scope contents to shift.
  • Fixed various minor bugs with aircraft command input.
  • Fixed bug where aircraft callsign numbers could start with 0.

0.10.22 (28 April 2024)

  • Fixed bug where vice would sometimes crash when invalid control commands were issued.
  • Added BUF scenario (Gavin Velicevic).
  • Major update to C90 (Lucas Chan and Jud Lopez).
  • Fixed drawing of track history, added H_RATE button.

0.10.21 (26 April 2024)

  • New scenarios: BDL (MerryArbitrary), D21 (Jackson Verdoorn), M98 (Jace Martin), P80 (Ethan Malimon).
  • Scenario updates: EWR (aq86_), LGA (Yi Zheng), MIA (Connor Allen), Y90 (MerryArbitrary, Nelson T).
  • STARS simulation has been improved in numerous ways:
    • Aircraft control commands (like "C80" for "climb and maintain 8,000") are now entered in the radio comms window at the bottom.
    • Significantly improved handoffs: multiple redirected handoffs are now supported, inter- and intra-facility handoffs are now handled more accurately.
    • Added support for "force quicklook" to push a quicklook to another controller.
    • Added support for minimum safe altitude warnings (MSAW) for aircraft that are below the MVA.
    • CWT category updates and bugfixes.
    • Added support for global leader lines.
    • Limited datablocks are now supported (and used when appropriate).
    • Added point out history command.
    • Fixed various bugs in DCB spinners (brightness now goes in steps of 5, etc.)
    • Fixed a bug where leader lines would be drawn over track symbols.
    • Handle various cases where the FDB should be displayed by default.
    • The scratchpad can now be set by entering text and slewing an aircraft.
  • A number of other bug fixes, including:
    • Fixed a bug where go-arounds would sometimes not contact departure.
    • Fixed bugs in the winds display in the "new sim" user interface.
    • Fixed a bug where departures handed off to virtual controllers wouldn't climb to their final altitude.
    • Fixed a bug where live weather would occasionally cause vice to crash.
    • Fixed a bug where aircraft TAS would be too high at high altitudes.
  • Facility engineering changes/improvements:
    • In scenario groups, "tracon" must be a valid 3-letter id from the FAA list of TRACONs. (This allows vice to present scenarios grouped by ARTCC and then TRACON.)
    • In the specification of controllers in "control_positions", "eram_facility" and "facility_id" may now be specified.
    • vice now has a built-in model of magnetic declination. Therefore, the "magnetic_variation" setting is no longer used. If small adjustments are needed (e.g. due to video maps assuming a different magnetic adjustment, "magnetic_correction" can be used to add a small offset to the automatically-determined value.
    • There is a new "stars_config" field in scenario definitions with a number of new fields to define per-facility STARS behavior. (See the STARS and Video Maps section for details.) The entries "center", "inhibit_ca_volumes", "radar_sites", "range", "scratchpads", "stars_maps", and "video_map_file" have moved from the scenario to be inside "stars_config".
    • In airport specifications, the Boolean value "omit_arrival_scratchpad" may be set to indicate that the arrival airport should not be shown in place of an empty scratchpad in datablocks.

0.10.20 (28 February 2024)

  • Added new scenarios: SCT LAX (Jud Lopez), IND (Samuel Valencia), MKE (Yahya Nazimuddin), MIA (Mike K).
  • Scenario updates/bugfixes: TPA (Connor Allen), SCT ONT/SNA (Eli Thompson), A80, L30 (Michael Trokel).
  • STARS: added automated terminal proximity alert (ATPA) support.
  • STARS: consolidated wake turbulence (CWT) categories are now shown in datablocks and used for ATPA in-trail requirements.
  • Live weather can now be used in sims.
  • STARS: fixed various small bugs related to when the FDB should be displayed.
  • Facility engineering changes/improvements:
    • For arrivals, the runway endpoint no longer needs to be included in the route.
    • For departures, the runway start and endpoints no longer need to be included in the route.
    • In STARs, "runway_waypoints" are now specified separately per-airport.
    • Improved support for multi-runway departure scenarios: it is no longer required that each runway have a route for each exit; now it is just required that between all of the active runways at an airport, one of them must have a route for each exit.
    • vice is now able to extract STARs and arrival routes from the FAA Coded Instrument Flight Procedures (CIFP). These can be incorporated in scenario definitions, simplifying the development of new scenarios.
    • "location" no longer needs to be specified for airports.
    • Waypoints at the thresholds of all runways are now built-in: for example, KJFK-4L gives the threshold of runway 4L at JFK.

0.10.19 (13 February 2024)

  • STARS: fixed bug with flickering airport weather list.

STARS

vice attempts to present a reasonably accurate representation of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System, the radar system and scope used for TRACON control in the United States. Its primary goal is to provide the STARS functionality that is useful for regular TRACON controlling; thus, obscure features like military operations area commands are not supported. If you are familiar with the real-world STARS system, suggestions about how to improve vice's accuracy would be happily accepted! Head on over to the vice discord...

The following STARS documentation is a work-in-progress and is still incomplete. The documentation will continue to become more complete in the coming weeks.

Key Concepts

Aircraft are shown on the STARS scope as radar tracks; a datablock next to them shows the aircraft's callsign and additional information about it. A leader line connects the radar track to the datablock. Here is an example:

example aircraft track

Here we see the datablock showing the aircraft's callsign, ELY115, its altitude in hundreds of feet (032), and its groundspeed in tens of knots (26). The "B" is the aircraft's consolidated wake turbulence (CWT) category—upper heavy. (See the section on Tracks and Datablocks for extensive documentation of datablocks and the information that they may show.)

The blue circle shows the aircraft's current position and the purple circles show its course over the past 25 seconds; we can see that it is turning to the right. Finally, the "G" in the middle of the circle indicates which controller has owner of the aircraft's track.

Two scratchpad entries may be associated with an aircraft—the primary and secondary scratchpads. The scratchpad is usually used to record information about how to route the aircraft—the approach it has been cleared for or its exit fix, for example. Here is the datablock for an aircraft where the second line is alternating between showing altitude, speed, and CWT category (here, "G"), and the scratchpad ("27L") and aircraft type ("E145").


A single controller may own an aircraft's track and a single controller may own control of an aircraft. The same controller may be responsible for both or different controllers may own and control a track. A controller must have control of an aircraft in order to issue instructions to the pilot. See the discussion of Track Ownership below for more information about how control and track ownership are transferred between controllers.

Other controllers, both real and virtual, may be signed in when you're running vice scenario. The list of controllers is shown in the sign-on list, which is by default on the upper right side of the STARS display. Here is the sign-on list for a SoCal ARTCC scenario:

controller sign-on list

Each controller has a callsign and a sector id that identifies their terminal control position (TCP). For example, in the list above, the callsign HHR_TWR (which corresponds to the Hawthorne Tower controller), has TCP 3T. Many STARS commands use the TCP to identify controllers. Human controllers are shown with an asterisk to the right of their callsign; here, both LAX_F_APP and LAX_D_APP are humans. The position you are covering is always shown at the top of the sign-on list (here, LAX_F_APP) and the rest are listed alphabetically.

Entering Commands

Some STARS commands are entirely keyboard based: you enter a command and hit the "enter" key to issue the command. As you type, your input will be shown in the input area, which is by default on the left side of the screen. Entering a space starts a new line. To edit your input, the backspace key can be used. Alternatively, hitting the escape key clears the input (and any errors that are displayed).

Many STARS commands involve selecting an aircraft that they apply to; in STARS this is called "slewing" the aircraft. To slew an aircraft in vice, click on its radar track with the left mouse button. You will often enter a command with the keyboard and then slew an aircraft; if the documentation below, [SLEW] indicates that an aircraft should be slewed to execute the command.

Many STARS keyboard commands take additional parameters such as a number or the name of an airport. These will be shown in parenthesis with the number and type of character expected. Thus (#) indicates that a single digit should be entered, without any parenthesis. Similarly, (ABC) indicates that three letters are expected.

For commands that take runways, (RWY) will be used. Runways are specified with their number and then, if required, "L", "C", or "R" to distinguish between parallel runways. Runways numbered 9 or less should not have a leading zero. (AIRPORT) denotes an airport given to a command; airports should be specified using three letters, dropping the leading "K".

Many keyboard commands take an aircraft identifier, which will be denoted (ACID) in the following. The aircraft identifier may be given as either the aircraft's complete callsign, e.g., "UAL650", or as the aircraft's beacon code.

It is also common for commands to take identify a controller using the controller TCP ID; in the following documentation, (TCP) indicates that case. There are a number of rules that define how such TCPs are specified; they are discussed in more detail below.

The STARS keyboard has a number of custom keys that are not present on standard keyboards. vice uses the same mappings to regular keys as CRC STARS does. In the following documentation, when one of the STARS keys in square brackets below is shown, the corresponding regular keyboard key should be entered.

STARS Regular
[TRIANGLE] / ∆`
[MIN][End]
[INIT CNTL][F3] or [CTRL][SHIFT]
[TERM CNTL][F4]
[HND OFF][F5]
[FLT DATA][F6]
[MULTIFUNC][F7]
[VP][F9]
[CA][F11]
[CNTR][Ctrl-F1]
[MAPS][Ctrl-F2]
[BRITE][Ctrl-F3]
[LDR][Ctrl-F4]
[CHARSIZE][Ctrl-F5]
[DCB-SHIFT][Ctrl-F7]
[DCB][Ctrl-F8]
[RNGRING][Ctrl-F9]
[RANGE][Ctrl-F10]
[SITE][Ctrl-F11]

When issuing a command leads to an error, STARS prints an abbreviated message above the input area. These are the error codes that vice currently uses:

Code Description
FORMAT Error in the format of the command; for example, specifying a non-numeric value where a number was expected.
ILL ATIS Illegal ATIS code.
ILL AIRPORT Illegal airport: either the airport does not exist or the command does not apply to it.
ILL CODE Illegal beacon code: an illegal squawk code was entered.
ILL FIX Illegal fix: the fix specified does not exist.
ILL FLIGHT Illegal flight: no flight plan is filed for the specified callsign.
ILL MAP Illegal map: an invalid map was specified to be displayed or hidden.
ILL PARAM Illegal parameter: the command specified had an invalid parameter.
ILL POS Illegal position: the control position specified is invalid or does not exist.
ILL SCR Illegal scratchpad: the scratchpad specified for an aircraft does not meet the requirements of a valid scratchpad.
ILL SECTOR Illegal sector: the controller specified is invalid.
ILL TRK Illegal track: another controller owns the aircraft's track, so the command is disallowed.
ILL VALUE Illegal value: the value specified is illegal (e.g., an impossible altitude).
NO FLIGHT No flight: there is no aircraft with the specified callsign.

Specifying TCPs

There are three elements in a full sector ID for a controller: the facility, the area and the sector. Consider for example the N4P sector ID: the N stands for the N90 (New York) TRACON; the 4 stands for the fourth area (which is the Newark area) of the N90 TRACON; finally, the P is the Yardley sector of the Newark area.

There are four cases for how these handoffs are specified:

  • When handing off an aircraft between controllers in the same TRACON facility, only the area and sector need to be specified. Thus, for a handoff from Yardley (N4P) to LaGuardia departure (N1L), the Yardley controller could specify 1L for LaGaurdia departure.
  • For handoffs within the same area, the area can be omitted: LaGuardia departure N1L can handoff to LaGuardia approach N1V by specifying just V for the controller's sector ID.
  • To hand off to a different facility, the facility must be specified first with the delta (∆) symbol, which is mapped to the backtick key. They also must be specified with the receiver TCP's facilty. For example, for a handoff from an N90 position to a position in the ABE TRACON, the facility identifier for ABE must be specified. It must also contain the area and sector ID of the receiving TCP. The area and sector ID can be ommited if there is only one TCP in that facility, or there is an airspace awareness rule (specified in the facility configuration file). Then, only the delta symbol and facility need to be specified.
  • To handoff to an enroute controller, the facility identifier and sector must be provided. For the home ARTCC, the facility identifier is specified with a C. There is an exception that if a neighboring ARTCC's facility identifier is "C", then the facility identifier for the home ARTCC changes from a C to the regular facility identifier. Thus, for ZNY, it turns from "C" to "N". The sector ID may be omitted if there is only one ERAM controller signed on or there is an airspace awareness rule defined in the configuration file for which aircraft go to which enroute controllers.

Quick Reference

For basic controlling, a small number of STARS commands are used frequently. The following table lists them and gives a short description of their operation.

Command Description
[SLEW]

Whichever of the following first applies:

[INIT CNTL][SLEW]Initiate control of an aircraft that isn't being tracked by any controller.
(id)[SLEW]Offers to handoff the track of the aircraft to the controller identified by (id).
(scratchpad)[SLEW]Sets the scratchpad of the aircraft to (scratchpad).
.[SLEW]Clears the aircraft's scratchpad.
+(###)[SLEW]Sets the aircraft's assigned temporary altitude (which is shown in its datablock).

The DCB

The display control bar (DCB) is a menu that is shown by default at the top of the STARS window. Many aspects of STARS's behavior can be configured using the DCB.


There are four types of buttons in the DCB:

  • Toggle buttons: these enable and disable various features. When enabled, they are light green and appear depressed (like the "1 PHL WEST" and "WX" buttons above.) Clicking them toggles whether they are enabled.
  • Menu buttons: when clicked, they replace the contents of the DCB with those for another DCB menu. For example, clicking "MAPS" from the main DCB brings up a menu for configuring which STARS video maps are displayed.
  • Spinners: these allow setting various STARS parameters using the mouse wheel. For example, clicking "RANGE" allows setting the radar's range in nautical miles. Spinners capture the mouse and don't allow the cursor to leave their button until the user either clicks the mouse or presses the [ESCAPE] key.
  • Disabled buttons: these are shown in dark grey and represent STARS functionality that is not currently available in vice.

DCB submenus generally have buttons that return to the main DCB menu—look for a button labeled "DONE" or "SHIFT". Alternatively, pressing the [ESCAPE] key will return to the main DCB menu.

The main DCB menu offers the following controls:

Here is the auxiliary DCB:


Many of its buttons are disabled; the enabled ones are:

Press the [DCB] key (control-F8) to toggle whether the DCB is visible.

Track Ownership

Controllers must both own an aircraft's track and have control of the aircraft in order to issue instructions to the aircraft's pilot. Managing ownership of tracks and control of an aircraft is at the core of how multiple controllers work together to control an aircraft; it is crucial that controllers hand off both the track and control of an aircraft before it enters another controller's airspace. We will start by summarizing the flow of how departures' and arrivals' tracks and control are managed.

Departures

When an aircraft departs an airport, it's track and control are initially not owned by any controller. Its datablock is drawn in green (indicating that the current controller does not own it) and an asterisk shown in the center of its track (here, a blue dot), also indicates that its track is unowned.


Any controller may initiate track of an uncontrolled aircraft track by holding [CTRL][SHIFT] and slewing the aircraft's track. You should do so if you are responsible for an airport's departures, but should not if you are not! Alternatively, you may enable the "Auto track departures" checkbox in the "Settings" window to automatically initiate track on the departing aircraft that you are responsible for in the current scenario.


After you own an aircraft's track, the datablock will become white and a letter corresponding to your position's TCP will appear at the center of the radar track.


However, you do not immediately have control of the aircraft after initiating tracking it; for a departure, the aircraft is still under the tower's control and tuned to the tower's radio frequency. Once the (virtual) tower controller tells the aircraft to "contact departure", they will check in with a message on your radio frequency. It is at this point that you also have control of the aircraft and can start issuing control commands to it.

Arrivals

Arriving aircraft will always be owned by another controller (human or virtual) before they are handed off to you. Initially, they are displayed with a green datablock and the owning controller's id shown in the middle of their radar track. Generally it is a center controller who owns the aircraft and a "C" will be displayed.


The controller who owns the aircraft's track will eventually hand it off to you; at this point, the datablock will turn white and will start flashing, as shown here:


The datablock will continue flashing until you accept the handoff by slewing the aircraft's radar track. At that point it will stop flashing and remain white. However, as with departures, you do not have control of the aircraft until the other instructs the aircraft to contact you, transferring control as well. The aircraft will then contact you on the radio and you may start issuing control instructions to it.

Handing off Aircraft

When you are ready to hand off an aircraft's track to another controller, enter the controller's sector ID and slew the aircraft. Doing so will initiate a handoff request. (Determining the correct controller ID to enter has a few subtleties and is discussed further below.) Outbound handoffs have an identifier for the controller stuffed into the second line of the datablock (here, it is the "L" between altitude/airspeed or airport/aircraft type.)


Once the other controller accepts the handoff, control of the aircraft's track is transferred to that controller. The aircraft's datablock will start flashing to notify you of this and the letter on the track will switch to be the other controller's. After a few seconds the datablock will stop flashing. Note that at this point you still retain control of the aircraft and can issue control instructions to it since you haven't yet transferred control to the other controller.


When you are ready to transfer control of the aircraft to the controller who has accepted the track, use the FC command. This will tell the aircraft to switch frequencies to the next controller.

Tracks and Datablocks

Much information is encoded in the radar track symbol of an aircraft and the datablock displayed next to it. STARS provides many different ways to configure how this information is presented in an effort to balance providing the necessary information about aircraft that are important to a controller while minimizing the visual clutter from aircraft that are less relevant.

Datablock Types

There are three datablock formats that may be used: limited datablocks (LDBs), partial datablocks (PDBs), and full datablocks (FDBs)s.

Limited Datablocks (LDBs)

Limited datablocks are shown when a target is not tracked by a TCP. This will contain the code the aircraft is squawking, the aircrafts altitude, and when slewed, it will display the aircraft's groundspeed for a short period of time.

Partial Datablock (PDBs)

Partial Datablocks are associated datablocks that are owned by another TCP. They display line 2 of a full datablock. With the exception of the groundspeed

Full Datablock (FDBs)

Consolidated Wake Turbulence (CWT) category
Letter Category Examples
A Super A380
B Upper Heavy A33*, A34*, A35*, B744, B77*, B788, B789
C Lower Heavy A30*, A310, B76*, DC10, MD11
D Non-Pairwise Heavy B74[1,3,D,R,S], B78X
E B757 B752, B753
F Upper Large A31*, A32*, B73*, DH8D, E190
G Lower Large CRJ*, GLF[2,3,4]
H Upper Small BE40, B350, C560, LJ*
I Lower Small BE20, C25[A, B], PA31, SR22

The requested final cruising altitudes of aircraft can optionally be displayed in full datablocks as well, multiplexed with the airspeed and aircraft type. The following commands are available to control this:

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]RA Toggles display of requested altitude for all aircraft that have not had requested altitude display specifically enabled or inhibited.
[MULTIFUNC]RAE Enables the display of requested altitude for all aircraft that have not had requested altitude display inhibited.
[MULTIFUNC]RAI Disables the display of requested altitude for all aircraft that have not had requested altitude display enabled.
[MULTIFUNC]RA[SLEW] Toggles display of requested altitude for the slewed aircraft.
[MULTIFUNC]RAE[SLEW] Enables the display of requested altitude for the slewed aircraft.
[MULTIFUNC]RAI[SLEW] Disables the display of requested altitude for the slewed aircraft.

Datablock Display Rules

The FDB is displayed for a track if:

  • The track is owned by the current controller.
  • The track is being handed off from another controller to the current controller.
  • The track is a redirected handoff where the current controller has either redirected it or had it redirected to them.
  • Another controller has pointed out the track to the current controller and the point out hasn't been cleared.
  • The user has clicked on a track owned by another controller.
  • The track is owned by a controller whose sector id the user has quicklooked.
  • The track has been force quicklooked to the current controller by another controller.
  • "Quick look all" has been enabled by the controller.

Positioning Datablocks

Leader Lines and Positioning Datablocks

Leader lines connect radar tracks to the datablocks of the associated aircraft. They may have eight orientations, corresponding to the eight cardinal and ordinal directions. Here is an example of a radar track with a leader line East of the aircraft (left) and Northwest of it (right):


The DCB offers two buttons for configuring leader lines:


The top button, LDR DIR, is a spinner that controls the default direction of leader lines for aircraft whose tracks that are owned by the current controller. The bottom button, LDR, controls the length of all leader lines.

A number of keyboard commands are available to specify leader lines, including ways to specify them for subsets of the aircraft. These all use the numbers 1-9 to specify a leader line direction; depending on the command, 5 may be used to clear a previously-set direction or it may be invalid.

If you have a numeric keypad on your keyboard, you have an easy reference to the association between numbers and directions; consider the aircraft to be at the position of the "5" key and then the other numbers specify the direction of the leader line relative to the aircraft. If you don't have a numeric keypad, visualize one, or refer to this figure:

789
46
123

A number of commands are available to configure leader lines, where all uses of (#) below correspond to a number following the above convention for specifying directions:

Command Function
(#)[SLEW] / [MULTIFUNC]L(#)[SLEW] / [MULTIFUNC]L(#) (ACID) Sets the leader line direction for the aircraft, where (#) is a valid leader line direction specifier. 5 may be given to clear a previously-assigned direction.
[MULTIFUNC]L(#)U Sets the default leader line direction for aircraft with unassociated tracks.
[MULTIFUNC]L(#)* Sets the default leader line direction for aircraft tracked by other controllers. 5 may be given to clear a previously-assigned direction.
[MULTIFUNC]L(TCP)(#) Sets the leader line for aircraft controlled by the specified TCP. If a one-letter TCP is entered, a space should be entered after it. 5 may be entered to clear a previously-assigned direction
[MULTIFUNC]L(##)[SLEW] / [MULTIFUNC]L(##) (ACID) Sets the default leader line for a single track system-wide, across all controllers' displays. 55 may be entered to clear a previously-specified direction.
[LDR] Activates the LDR spinner in the DCB.

Scratchpads

In STARS, scratchpads are used to display information to the controllers. For example, the departure exit gate, or the assigned approach. Scratchpads are three characters, but can be four if specified in the facility configuration file. Scratchpads can consist of alphanumeric characters, plus signs, delta symbols, forward slash, and an asterisk. The primary scratchpad can be set with scratchpad #1, SLEW (Implied command), or MULTI FUNC, Y, scratchpad #1, SLEW. The secondary scratchpad also consists of three alphanumeric characters (can be four if specified in the facility configuration file). The secondary scratchpad can also consist of plus signs, delta symbols, forward slash, and an asterisk. Secondary scratchpads can be entered with MULTI FUNC, Y, +, scratchpad #2, SLEW or scratchpad #2, SLEW

Quicklook

When quicklooking a TCP, all tracks that are tracked by the TCP will show as an FDB. MULTI FUNC, Q, [SECTOR ID] ENTER will quicklook the specified TCP. Or using the implied command: [SECTOR ID] ENTER will also quicklook the TCP.

Force Quicklook

Force Quicklook will turn a datablock yellow, for the receiving TCP. A track can be force quicklooked with *,*,[ID], SLEW. If specified in the facility configuration file, if owned by the TCP, the controller can force quicklook to self with *, *, SLEW. The TCP can clear a force quicklook with SLEW.

Handoffs

Handoffs in vice emulates STARS functionality.

[SECTOR ID], SLEW can ne used to initiate a handoff of a track to the specified TCP.

Point-outs

A pointout can be initiated with [SECTOR ID], *, SLEW and will flash the target as yellow to the specified TCP. If the TCP accepts the pointout, PO will flash in the tracks datablock for five seconds. If the TCP rejects the pointout, then UN will flash in the tracks datablock for five seconds.

SLEW will accept the pointout and UN, SLEW will reject it

Redirecting Handoffs

An incoming handoff can be redirected to another TCP with [SECTOR ID] SLEW. Doing this will add RD to the handoff initiators datablock, to the redirectors datablock, and to the TCP to where the track was redirected to. It will also turn the datablock green for the redirector.

Dwell Mode

Altitude Ranges

Track Identifiers and History

RADAR Sites

Collision Alerts

If there is a loss of separation between aircraft or if STARS predicts an imminent loss of separation, a collision alert will be issued where red text "CA" is shown in the aircraft datablocks and an alert sound will be played. The alert sound continues until one of the aircraft is slewed. Here is an example of a pair of aircraft with CA alerts:

tpa ring

A few commands are available to enable and disable collision alerts:

Command Function
[CA]K[SLEW] / [CA]K (ACID) Toggles whether CA warnings are enabled for the aircraft.
[CA][SLEW] / [CA]P (ACID) Toggles whether CA warnings are enabled for a pair of aircraft. The slewed aircraft must be in conflict with exactly one other aircraft or must have previously had collision alerts inhibited as part of a pair of aircraft.
[CA]AI Disable CA warnings on all aircraft.
[CA]AE Enable CA warnings, except for aircraft that have had them individually disabled.

If collision alerts are globally disabled, "TW OFF: CA" will be displayed in the SSA list. If they are disabled for a particular aircraft, a triangle will be shown after the aircraft's callsign in its datablock:

tpa ring

Minimum Safe Altitude Warnings

If aircraft are beneath the minimum vectoring altitude at their location, a minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) may be issued. Aircraft with MSAWs have "LA" (for "low altitude") displayed in red at the top of their datablocks. An alert sound is played when an MSAW is issued; it can be silenced by slewing the corresponding aircraft. Here is an example of such an aircraft:

MSAW datablock

MSAWs can be configured with these commands:

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]VMI Disable MSAW for all aircraft.
[MULTIFUNC]VME Enable MSAW for all aircraft other than those for which it has been individually disabled.
[MULTIFUNC]V[SLEW] Toggle whether MSAW is enabled for the specified aircraft.
[MULTIFUNC]Q[SLEW] Temporarily inhibit MSAW for an aircraft that currently has an MSAW. Once the aircraft is above the MVA at its location, MSAW will be reenabled for it.

When MSAW is disabled or inhibited, an asterisk is shown after its datablock. (If both MSAW and CA is disabled for an aircraft, a plus sign will be shown after its datablock).

MSAW inhibited datablock

A map showing the minimum vectoring altitudes used for MSAWs is included in the "SYS PROC" maps available from the "MAPS" menu in the DCB.

Tools

STARS offers a variety of tools to help with vectoring aircraft and ensuring they remain separated.

Predicted Track Lines

PTLs (Predicted Track Lines) show the aircraft's predicted course over the course of 0.5 to 3 minutes into the future. Here is an example of a track with a PTL:


PTLs can be controlled using these buttons in the auxiliary DCB menu, which is shown by selecting SHIFT from the main DCB.


PTL OWN sets whether PTLs are shown for tracks that are owned by the TCP, and PTL ALL sets whether PTLs are shown all associated tracks in the current altitude ranges. It is also possible to display or hide the PTL of a single aircraft using a keyboard command:

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]R[SLEW] Enable/disable the PTL for a radar track. An error is issued if the aircraft is already displaying a PTL due to PTL OWN or PTL ALL being enabled.

Range Bearing Lines

Range bearing lines (RBLs) track the distance and heading between aircraft and/or fixes. For example, the image below shows an RBL between two aircraft, indicating that WJA466 is 8.46nm miles along a 246 heading for DLH0VZ. (Alternatively, the RBL could have been set up to be from WJA466 to DLH0VZ, in which case the distance would be the same but the heading would be 246-180=66. The "-1" at the end indicates that this is RBL number 1. If additional RBLs were created, they would be given successive numbers to identify them.

tpa ring

The following commands are available to create and delete RBLs:

Command Function
*T[SLEW][SLEW] Create an RBL between the two slewed aircraft.
*T[SLEW]FIX or *TFIX[SLEW] Create an RBL between the slewed aircraft and the fix FIX.
*T[SLEW](#) Delete the RBL with given number.
*T Delete all RBLs.

Minimum Separation

The predicted minimum separation between two aircraft can be shown. Below we see that based on their current routes the two aircraft are predicted to have a minimum separation of 3.19nm and that separation will occur when they are at the two points marked by small triangles.

tpa ring

The following commands are available to create and minimum separation lines.

Command Function
[MIN][SLEW][SLEW] Create an RBL between the two slewed aircraft.
[MIN] Create an RBL between the slewed aircraft and the fix FIX.

TPA/ATPA

The terminal proximity alert (TPA) and automated TPA (ATPA) tools provide graphical representations that aid in ensuring that there is sufficient separation between aircraft. A TPA cone can be associated with an aircraft to show a given distance in nautical miles in front of it; see the left image below for a TPA cone marking 3nm. A TPA J-ring is a circle around an aircraft's radar track of specified radius; the right image below shows a J-ring with a 3nm radius.

tpa cone tpa ring

The following keyboard commands are also available to configure TPA cones and J-rings:

Command Function
*J(###)[SLEW] Adds a TPA J-ring with radius given by ### to the selected track.
*J[SLEW] Removes TPA J-ring from the selected track.
**J Removes TPA J-rings from all tracks.
*P(###)[SLEW] Adds a TPA cone with length given by ### to the selected track.
*P[SLEW] Removes TPA cone from the selected track. (ATPA cones are unaffected.)
**P Removes TPA cones from all tracks. (ATPA cones are unaffected.)
*D+ Toggles the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for all tracks.
*D+[SLEW] Toggles the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for the selected track.
*D+E Enables the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for all tracks.
*D+E[SLEW] Enables the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for the selected track.
*D+I Inhibits the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for all tracks.
*D+I[SLEW] Inhibits the display of the mileage represented by TPA rings/cones for the selected track.

ATPA automatically generates cones for aircraft in the approach volume for a runway. (Approach volumes are generally along the glideslope for a runway.) For example, the image below shows a 5nm cone with WJA466, indicating the required separation for a B737 behind a heavy A343. The in-trail distance is shown in WJA466's datablock, and both that distance and the cone are red, indicating an ATPA alert for loss of separation.

ATPA alert cone

ATPA alerts are issued if a loss of separation is expected in the next 24 seconds, and ATPA warnings (which are drawn in yellow) are issued if a loss of separation is expected in the next 24-45 seconds.

TPA and ATPA can be configured by selecting "SHIFT" from the main DCB menu and then "TPA/ATPA". The following options are provided:

tpa/atpa DCB menu

The first four buttons toggle a particular TPA/ATPA option and display "ENABLED" if the corresponding option is enabled, and "INHIBTD" if it is inhibited. "DONE" returns to the previous DCB menu.

  • A/TPA MILEAGE: whether the respective radius or length are shown with TPA J-rings or TPA/APTA cones.
  • INTRAIL DIST: determines whether the in-trail distance to the next aircraft is shown in the datablocks for arrivals in an ATPA volume.
  • ALERT CONES: determines whether ATPA warning and alert cones are automatically created when insufficient separation is predicted. If disabled but monitor cones are enabled, monitor cones will be shown.
  • MONITOR CONES: determines whether monitor cones may be automatically created for all arrivals in an ATPA volume.

The following keyboard commands are also available to configure ATPA:

Command Function
*AE Enables the display of ATPA warning/alert cones for all tracks.
*AE[SLEW] Enables the display of ATPA warning/alert cones for the selected track.
*AI Inhibits the display of ATPA warning/alert cones for all tracks.
*AI[SLEW] Inhibits the display of ATPA warning/alert cones for the selected track.
*BE Enables the display of ATPA monitor cones for all tracks.
*BE[SLEW] Enables the display of ATPA monitor cones for the selected track.
*BI Inhibits the display of ATPA monitor cones for all tracks.
*BI[SLEW] Inhibits the display of ATPA monitor cones for the selected track.
*DE Enables the display of ATPA in-trail distance all tracks.
*DE[SLEW] Enables the display of ATPA in-trail distance the selected track.
*DI Inhibits the display of ATPA in-trail distance for all tracks.
*DI[SLEW] Inhibits the display of ATPA in-trail distance for the selected track.

For facility engineers, the ATPA approach volumes are listed in the "PROCESSING AREAS" map list, which can be selected via "SYS PROC" from the DCB "MAPS" menu. Individual maps can be displayed and then hidden by entering [MAPS](###) where ### is the map number associated with the volume.

Compass

To help with determining headings when vectoring aircraft, a compass rose may be displayed around the edges of the STARS radar scope:


The brightness of the compass rose is controlled by CMP in the BRITE DCB menu and the size of the font used is set based on TOOLS in the CHAR SIZE DCB menu.

Range Rings

Range rings are concentric circles drawn around a selected point with successive steps between their radii that are 2, 5, 10, or 20nm. With 5nm steps, the default, here are the 5 and 10nm range rings drawn around KEWR:


The brightness of range rings can be controlled with the "RR" spinner in the "BRITE" menu of the main DCB. If the brightness is set to 0, range rings are not drawn. A few buttons on the main DCB make it possible to configure range rings. Clicking on "RR" activates a spinner that allows selecting the step between radii. If "PLACE RR" is clicked, then the next location clicked on the radar scope will become the range rings' center point. Finally, clicking "RR CNTR" causes the range rings to be centered on the point at the center of the radar scope.

Range rings buttons on the DCB

The radius of the range rings can also be set by entering [RANGE] and then 2, 5, 10, or 20, and then pressing enter.

CRDA

The Converging Runways Display Aid (CRDA) helps ensure separation between aircraft approaching intersecting runways, on parallel approaches, and in related situations. It does so by drawing "ghost" aircraft on one course that correspond to aircraft on another course. The idea is perhaps best understood with an example:

CRDA example

Here two aircraft are approaching KPHL, one with PDT4783 landing runway 27R and PDT4517 landing runway 35. With CRDA enabled, a ghost of PDT4783 is drawn on the runway 35 approach course. We can easily see that PDT4517 will reach the threshold of runway 35 well before PDT4783 reaches runway 27R.

Ghost aircraft may be positioned via either "stagger" or "tie" mode. With stagger mode, the ghosts are the same difference from a common point (e.g., the intersection of two runways); the controller's goal is then to ensure adequate separation between ghost and actual aircraft radar tracks. Alternatively, with tie mode, ghosts are offset so that the controller's goal is to have actual aircraft radar tracks coincide with the ghost tracks in order to achieve separation.

When CRDA is available at an airport, the CRDA status list may be displayed on the STARS scope. Entering [MULTIFUNC]TN toggles whether it is shown, and [MULTIFUNC]TN[SLEW] repositions it on the screen. In the example below, we can see from the "S" in the line below "CRDA STATUS" that CRDA is enabled in stagger mode for runways 27R/35 at KPHL for the current controller, who has id 6N.

CRDA status list

Ghost radar tracks are normally only generated for aircraft within a pre-defined volume of space around an approach course and only if their heading is within a specified range of the approach heading. However, a number of commands below allow forcing a ghost track even if these criteria are not met.

A variety of commands are available to configure CRDA. Some take an airport's identifier, which should be given without the initial "K": i.e., "PHL" for Philadelphia, not "KPHL":

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]N Toggles whether CRDA is enabled.
[MULTIFUNC]NP(AIRPORT) (#) / [MULTIFUNC]NP(#) Toggles whether ghost tracks are enabled for the CRDA runway pair at the specified airport. The number is an index into the list of CRDA runway pairs for the airport in the CRDA system list. If no airport is specified, the controller's default airport is used.
[MULTIFUNC]NP(AIRPORT) (#)S / [MULTIFUNC]NP(#)S Toggles stagger mode for the CRDA runway pair at the specified airport. The number is an index into the list of CRDA runway pairs for the airport in the CRDA system list. If no airport is specified, the controller's default airport is used.
[MULTIFUNC]NP(AIRPORT) (#)T / [MULTIFUNC]NP(#)T Toggles tie mode for the given CRDA runway pair at the specified airport. The number is an index into the list of CRDA runway pairs for the airport in the CRDA system list. If no airport is specified, the controller's default airport is used.
[MULTIFUNC]NP(AIRPORT) (#)D / [MULTIFUNC]NP(#)D Disables CRDA for the given runway pair at the specified airport. The number is an index into the list of CRDA runway pairs for the airport in the CRDA system list. If no airport is specified, the controller's default airport is used.
[MULTIFUNC]NL(AIRPORT) (RWY)(#) / [MULTIFUNC]NL(RWY)(#) Set the leader line direction for ghost aircraft at the specified airport and given runway according to the given number. Clears the assigned leader line direction if '5' is given. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.
[MULTIFUNC]N*ALL Force ghost tracks for all aircraft. (Aircraft still must be within the lateral boundary of their runway's approach region for a ghost to be displayed, however.)
[MULTIFUNC]N[SLEW] If a ghost track was slewed, suppress display of that ghost. If a primary track was slewed, enable regular display of its ghost.
[MULTIFUNC]N*[SLEW] If a ghost track as slewed, display the aircraft's flight plan in the preview area. If a primary track was slewed, toggle whether display of its ghost is forced (i.e., always displayed regardless of heading, altitude, etc., so long as it is within the lateral boundary of its runway's approach region.)
[MULTIFUNC]N(AIRPORT) (RWY) / [MULTIFUNC]N(RWY) Toggles whether ghosts are generated for the specified runway. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.
[MULTIFUNC]N(AIRPORT) (RWY)E / [MULTIFUNC]N(RWY)E Enable ghosts for the specified runway. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.
[MULTIFUNC]N(AIRPORT) (RWY)I / [MULTIFUNC]N(RWY)I Inhibit ghosts for the specified runway. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.
[MULTIFUNC]N(AIRPORT) (RWY) B / [MULTIFUNC]N(RWY) B Toggle whether the qualification region for the runway is drawn; this is the lateral region of space aircraft must be inside for a ghost to be generated. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.
[MULTIFUNC]N(AIRPORT) (RWY) L / [MULTIFUNC]N(RWY) L Toggle whether the course lines for the runway are drawn; these show the final approach course that CRDA is defined with respect to. The airport may be omitted if the runway uniquely identifies the corresponding airport.

Display Configuration

Character Size

Brightness

Video Maps

Weather

The current weather radar can be displayed on the STARS scope. Here is an example South of KSEA. The blue-green areas indicate light precipitation, while the mustard-colored area is moderate to heavy precipitation. Stippling in the radar also indicates the strength, where a denser stipple is heavier precipitation.

Weather radar on radar scope

The brightness of the radar on the STARS scope can be controlled using the "WX" spinner in the "BRITE" menu of the DCB. It is also possible to control which levels of precipitation are shown using the "WX*" buttons in the main DCB:

WX buttons on DCB

With the selection above, the two lowest levels, WX0 and WX1, are not shown, while all of the higher levels of precipitation are.

Preferences

Display Elements

The center of the radar scope can be moved by clicking the right mouse button and dragging. Zoom in and out using the mouse wheel; each step increases or decreases the radius shown by one nautical mile. Holding down the control key while using the mouse wheel gives three mile steps in the radius. Zooming and panning the scope can be disabled with vice's settings window, which is displayed when the in the menubar is clicked.

System Lists

The system lists show various types of useful information in the form of text. Their font size can be adjusted using the "LISTS" control in the "CHAR SIZE" DCB menu and their brightness is set with "LST" in the "BRITE" DCB menu.

vice currently doesn't support two STARS system lists: the VFR List and the Coast/Suspend List; both will be added in the future when the aircraft simulation supports VFR and lost radar tracks. Otherwise, all of the system lists other than one for CRDA are documented in the following; see the CRDA documentation above for information about the CRDA system list.

System Status Area List

The System Status Area (SSA) list displays general information about the configuration of the STARS radar scope. Here is an example:

ssa system list

The red triangle indicates that STARS is functioning correctly; in vice it will always be there. The first line of text shows the current zulu time 06:12:27 and the altimeter and winds at the primary airport, JFK. The following line shows the network status (always "OK/OK/NA" in vice) as well as the current radar mode, which may be "FUSED", "MULTI", or "SINGLE". Next is the current range shown from the scope's center, 41nm, and the length of predicted track lines (PTLs). Next are the altitude filters, first for unassociated tracks and then for associated tracks (both in hundreds of feet.) The next few lines show the altimeter and winds at nearby airports.

A few lines are only shown when corresponding features are enabled. Here, "QL: 4P" indicates that sector id 4P has been quicklooked and "TW OFF: MSAW" indicates that MSAW has been disabled system-wide. When CRDA is enabled for a runway pair, an indication is shown here as well.

Only one keyboard command is available to control the SSA list.

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]S[SLEW] Places the upper-left corner of the SSA list at the selected location.

Which elements that are displayed in the SSA list can be configured by selecting the "SSA FILTER" menu from the main DCB.

tpa ring

The buttons toggle display of the following elements:

  • TIME: current time in zulu
  • STATUS: system status; always "OK/OK/NA"
  • RADAR: radar mode: FUSED, MULTI, or SINGLE.
  • SPC: whether to show an alert for any special purpose codes currently being squawked by aircraft (e.g., "RF" for an aircraft squawking 7600 due to a radio failure.)
  • RANGE: radar range
  • ALT FIL: altitude filters
  • AIRPORT: altimeter and winds at nearby airports
  • QL: quick looked sectors (not shown if none)
  • CRDA: active CRDA runway pairs
  • ALTSTG: show altimeter and winds at primary airport
  • CODES: show selected beacon codes
  • PTL: length of predicted track lines
  • TW OFF: disabled system features (e.g., CA, MSAW)

Tower List

Up to three tower lists can be displayed; each one shows the aircraft arriving at an airport, sorted by their distance to the airport. The assignment of airports to tower lists is done by the facility engineer in the scenario specification and can't be changed while vice is running. Here is an example, showing a few arrivals to JFK:

tower system list

The following commands can be used to configure the tower lists. For all of them the first number gives the tower list index and must be 1, 2, or 3.

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]TP(#) Toggles whether the corresponding tower list is shown.
[MULTIFUNC]TP(#)[SLEW] Places the upper left corner of the given tower list at the slewed point.
[MULTIFUNC]TP(#)(##) Sets how the maximum number of lines of text displayed in the specified tower list. The first number corresponds to the tower list index.

Alert List

The Alert List shows the aircraft that currently have too-low altitudes (LA) or collision alerts (CA). Below we see that both ELY115 and JBU63 are below the minimum vectoring altitude at their position and that separation has been lost between EIN4DK and UPS69. The current altitudes of the aircraft with too-low altitudes are shown in the list in hundreds of feet.

la/ca system list

The alert list can be configured using the following commands:

Command Function
[MULTIFUNC]TM Toggles whether the alert list is shown.
[MULTIFUNC]TM(##) Sets the maximum number of items shown in the alert list.
[MULTIFUNC]TM[SLEW] Sets the position of the alert list on the STARS scope.

Facility Engineering

All of the configuration of vice is via JSON-formatted files. Extending vice to include more airports or additional scenarios is a matter of generating additional JSON that provides the necessary information.

In the following, the use of terms like "element", "object", "member", "array", etc., correspond to their use in the JSON specification. See this page for reference.

See the resources/scenarios/ directory in the vice source code for the scenarios that are currently available and the resources/videomaps/ directory for the video map definitions. Files in those directories with names ending with a "zst" suffix have been compressed using zstandard; in order to examine their contents, you'll want to install zstandard or another decompression program that supports that format.

When developing scenarios, you might make a copy of an existing scenario's JSON file and modify it in order to add more configurations, or you or might specify completely new scenario and video map files if you're working on support for a new TRACON. While you're doing this you can point vice at the file you're working on using the command-line: if you open a command prompt and run vice from the command line, there are two options make it possible to specify additional files for testing:

  • The -scenario command line option takes a single filename. The scenario specified file is loaded at startup time; if it has the same name as an existing scenario, it replaces that scenario's definition.
  • In a similar manner, the -videomap command line option also takes a single filename that specifies a file with video map definitions.

When you're working on a new scenario, you may omit the "video_map_file" specifier in its JSON file. In this case, vice will automatically use the video map file you specified via -videomap or via the UI.

If you're working on multi-controller support for a scenario, you may want to run a vice server locally to debug it. A few command-line options are useful:

  • -runserver launches a vice server on your local system
  • -server specifies the IP address and port of a vice server to connect to. Specifying localhost:8000 will connect to a local server launched via -runserver.
  • -port allows specifying a custom port number for the server to listen to.

Facility Enginerring FAQ

Question Answer
How do I get started? To get started creating a facility configuration file for vice, read through the documentation provided below. It will contain all of the information that will need to be specified in the facility configuration file. You can also refer to the vice GitHub page for pre-exisiting scenarios
How do I test my edits? In vice, you can test your edits with the command line. On Windows, open up a command prompt and set the directory to the folder with the vice executable. Then, run vice.exe -scenario path_to_scenario_file -videomap path_to_videomap_file. On MacOs, it's a very simillar command. Chnage the directory of the terminal to where Vice.app is located. Then, run ./Vice.app/Contents/MacOs/vice -scenario path_to_scenario_file -videomap path_to_videomap_file
How can I submit one of my scenarios? To submit one of your files, you can:
  1. Make a pull request or file an issue in the vice GitHub Page
  2. Join the vice Discord and send the file to one of the vice developers or facility engineers
It says "center" is unknown even though it's in the documentation Make sure that "center" is in "stars_config" or inside of a scenario.
How can I get the lat/long coordinates of a point on a map Using ctrl + shift + click will copy the coordinates of where you clicked into your clipboard!

Specifying Locations

Throughout the vice configuration files, it's often necessary to specify various locations on the Earth. vice has a built-in database of all of the airports, VORs, NDBs, and fixes in the United States (courtesy of the FAA), which allows using these directly for specifying locations. The locations of runway thresholds are available via the syntax KJFK-22L where the airport name and runway specifier are separated by a hyphen.

Locations can also be specified via latitude-longitude positions, given as strings. For convenience, multiple latitude-longitude formats are supported.

Encoding Description Example
Name of VOR/NDB/fix A string giving the name of an airport, VOR, NDB, or fix in the United States. "JFK"
Decimal value pair A pair of decimal numbers where the first specifies the longitude and the second specifies the latitude. "40.6328888,-73.771385"
Degrees, minutes, seconds A pair of values with position specified in degrees, minutes, and seconds, separated by periods. "N" and "S" are used to distinguish North and South latitudes and similarly for "E" and "W" with longitudes. "N40.37.58.400,W073.46.17.000"
ISO6790 Annex H A more compact degrees/minutes/seconds representation; see the Wikipedia page for details. "+403758.400-0734617.000"

(In all three examples above, the location specified is the same—the JFK VOR.)

In vice, if you hold down the control and shift keys and click on a point on the video map, the corresponding latitude-longitude position is copied to the clipboard—this can be very useful when developing new scenarios!

Routes

vice uses a custom syntax for specifying the routes of aircraft, both for arrivals and departures. In addition to the lateral positions along the route, it is possibly to specify speed and altitude restrictions, handoff points, and headings to fly.

Here is an example route from a JFK departure. The first two waypoints along the departure runway are automatically provided by vice so the route starts with the specified fixes in the departure procedure. The "/h223" after "RNGRR" specifies that the aircraft should fly a 223 heading as departing RNGRR. It will maintain that heading until it is further vectored by the controller. If there are further fixes after such a heading, the aircraft may be sent direct to one of those fixes by the controller.

  "SKORR METSS RNGRR/h223"
            

A number of items such as headings can be specified along with a fix:

  • /arestriction: cross the fix with the specified altitude restriction (with altitudes specified in 100s of feet). The following options are available for specifying altitude restrictions:
    • low-high: cross at an altitude between low and high.
    • alt-: cross at or below alt
    • alt+: cross at or above alt
    • alt: cross at alt
  • /deleteheading: the aircraft will be deleted when it reaches the fix
  • /hheading: depart the fix at specified heading
  • /sspeed: cross the fix at the given speed
  • /ho: the aircraft should be handed off from the virtual controller to the user when it departs the fix
  • /iaf: indicates that the fix is an IAF (initial approach fix)
  • /if: indicates that the fix is the IF (intermediate fix)
  • /faf: indicates that the fix is the FAF (final approach fix)
  • /flyover: indicates that the fix is a flyover fix (as opposed to the default, fly-by). Aircraft must pass directly over flyover fixes before turning to the next fix, while they may turn early with fly-by fixes.

If the aircraft should follow an arc leaving a fix, /arc can be given after the fix. It can be used in two ways:

  • Both a radius in nautical miles as well as the fix at the center of the arc's circle can be specified. For example, HANAV/arc16OMN specifies a 16nm radius arc centered at OMN.
  • Alternatively, just the length of the arc may be given. For example, WUPMA/arc7.5 ALABE has aircraft fly along the 7.5nm long arc between WUPMA and ALABE.

For both uses, the direction of the arc is automatically determined based on the position of the following fix.

For approach fixes that have procedure turns, a number of additional items can be specified:

  • /hilpt: there is a hold in lieu of procedure turn (i.e., a racetrack procedure turn) associated with the fix. The default is right turns and a 1 minute limit for ILS approaches and a 4 nm limit for RNAV approaches. Different limits can be specified directly; for example /hilpt6nm gives a procedure turn with a 6 nm limit and /hilpt2min specifies a 2 minute limit. For left turns, add a l after the slash, like /lhilpt.
  • /pt45: specifies that there is a standard 45 degree procedure turn at the fix. (This has the same defaults— right turns, 1 minute (ILS) / 4 nm (RNAV)—as HILPTs. Alternative values are specified the same way.)
  • /ptaaltitude: if the aircraft should descend during the procedure turn, this can be used to specify the final altitude it should have at the end of the turn. (The altitude should be given in 100s of feet.)
  • /nopt180: specifies that aircraft approaching the fix in the 180 degree semicircle of directions aligned with the final approach course should not perform the procedure turn. (As an example, see the KJAX RNAV Z 8 approach; this applies for aircraft between heading 346 and 166 arriving at UDAQI.)
  • /nopt: when specified at a fix prior to one with a procedure turn, indicates that aircraft that pass that fix should not fly the procedure turn.

Airlines and Aircraft

Both departures and arrivals need to know about which airlines fly their routes and which aircraft they use for them. Airlines are specified via their ICAO strings (e.g., AAL for American Airlines). See the file openscope-airlines.json for the database of possible airlines. In that file, each airline may have one or more aircraft fleets specified, in its "fleets" member. If no fleet is specified, vice randomly chooses an aircraft type from the "default" fleet, but if a particular fleet's aircraft is a better match to a route, you may want to use it. For example, AAL's "long" fleet would be a good choice for trans-Atlantic flights.

For reference, the available types of aircraft and their performance characteristics are available in the openscope-aircraft.json file.

As is probably obvious, both of these databases are by way of openScope, which kindly made them available under the MIT license.

Scenario Groups

vice offers users a variety of ATC scenarios, where a scenario consists of one or more airports being controlled, a control position (departure, approach, etc.), and airport configurations—the runways that are active at each airport. Scenarios are organized in scenario groups, which generally collect multiple control scenarios at a single airport. Each scenario group is specified by its own JSON file; see the resources/scenarios/ directory in the vice source code distribution for examples.

These are the elements of a scenario group:

Element Type Description
"airports" Object Defines all of the airports that are included in the scenarios. See the airports section for details.
"airspace" Object Defines the extent of controllers' airspace; see airspace for details.
"arrival_groups" Object Defines the possible arrival routes; see arrivals.
"control_positions" Object

Information about all of the controllers that are used in the scenarios in the group. Each member specifies a controller with the corresponding callsign. For each controller, the following members should be specified:

  • "eram_facility": (Optional) indicates whether the controller is using an ERAM scope (i.e., is a center controller).
  • "facility_id": (Optional) a single character giving the controller's facility. This should only be specified for controllers outside of the TRACON.
  • "full_name": the name of the control position, used in radio readbacks (e.g., "Philadelphia approach")
  • "frequency": the controller's radio frequency, expressed as an integer (e.g., 125325 for 125.325)
  • "scope_char": a string giving a single character to use on radar scopes for tracks owned by this position (e.g., "C")
  • "sector_id": the controller's sector id, as used for handoffs, etc. (e.g., "N56")

One additional member may be required.

  • "default_airport": when CRDA is used, each controller must have a default airport for CRDA commands. vice tries to use the controller's callsign to determine this airport (e.g., LGA_V_APP has LGA as a default). If the start of the callsign does not identify a valid airport then the default must be specified explicitly.
"default_scenario" String A default to use for the initial scenario when the scenario group is chosen. Must match one of the members in "scenarios".
"fixes" Object

Each member associates a name with a latitude-longitude location. These names can be used when specifying routes for departures and arrivals. (Note that they cannot be used when specifying other locations in the scenario group configuration.) For example, this associates a useful name with the point at the end of runway 22R at JFK: "_JFK_22R": "N040.39.00.362,W073.45.49.053".

Fixes may be specified in relation to previously-specified fixes (or standard fixes from the FAA database) using the syntax FIX@HDG/DIST, where FIX is the name of a fix, HDG is a heading leaving it, and DIST is a distance along that heading given in nautical miles.

"magnetic_variation" Number Number of degrees difference between true North and magnetic North. Around New York, for example, this value is approximately 13.
"name" String The name for the scenario group. This name cannot be the same as the name for any of the other scenario groups.
"primary_airport" String The main airport for the scenario. This is used to determine which airport's altimeter and winds to include at the top of the SSA list in the STARS radar scope.
"reporting_points" Array of strings Each entry specifies a fix that aircraft may use at initial contact when reporting their position ("AAL411, 5 miles Northeast of LENDY...").
"scenarios" Object This defines all of the ATC scenarios that are available in the scenario group. See the scenarios section for details.
"stars_config" Object Defines settings and configurations related to the STARS radar scope. See STARS and Video Maps for documentation about the items stored in this object.
"tracon" String Name of the ATCT/TRACON that the scenario group is associated with. This is used to show all scenarios for a given ATCT/TRACON together in the UI.

Airports

The airports in a scenario group are specified via the "airports" member of the scenario group. Each airports is a separate member, named according to the airport's ICAO code (e.g., "KJFK"). The airport object then has the following member variables:

Element Type Description
"approaches" Object

Defines all of the approaches to the airport that may be used by aircraft. See below for documentation about how approaches are specified.

"approach_regions" Object

Each member name specifies information about the region of space associated with a runway when CRDA is used and it is one of the converging runways. See the vSTARS Facility Engineer's Guide for details about their semantics. Note that if you have a vSTARS XML file for a facility with a CRDA specification, each of these corresponds to a value in the XML file.

The following members specify the lateral extent that an aircraft must be inside for a ghost aircraft to be generated for it:

  • "reference_point": position with respect to which the lateral and vertical extents are defined. (Often, the threshold of the runway.)
  • "reference_heading": heading that is opposite to the runway heading.
  • "reference_length": length in nm of the reference line.
  • "heading_tolerance": maximum difference between an aircraft's heading and the runway's heading for a ghost aircraft to be displayed.
  • "near_distance": distance from the reference point along the reference heading where the lateral volume begins.
  • "near_half_width": half of the width of the reference volume at the near distance.
  • "region_length": length of the lateral volume along the reference heading, starting from the near distance point.
  • "far_half_width": half of the width of the reference volume at the far distance.

These members specify the vertical extent that an aircraft must be inside to have a ghost aircraft:

  • "descent_distance": distance from the reference point in nm where aircraft are expected to start its final descent.
  • "reference_altitude": altitude of the reference point.
  • "descent_altitude": expected aircraft altitude when it's at the descent distance.
  • "above_altitude_tolerance": maximum distance in feet an aircraft may be above its expected altitude and still have a ghost be drawn for it.
  • "below_altitude_tolerance": maximum distance in feet an aircraft may be below its expected altitude and still have a ghost be drawn for it.
"atpa_volumes" Object Each member is a string with a runway name and an associated object that specifies the region of space where the STARS automated terminal proximity alert (ATPA) feature is active for the runway. (If not specified, a default volume is generated along the runway's extended centerline.) The following members define the region of space:
  • "runway_threshold"`: position of the runway threshold or point at which should be used for the start of the volume.
  • "heading"`: runway heading or orientation of the volume.
  • "max_heading_deviation"`: maximum deviation between an aircraft's heading and the ATPA volume heading allowed for an aircraft to be included in ATPA.
  • "floor"`: bottom altitude of the volume, in feet.
  • "ceiling"`: top altitude of the volume, in feet.
  • "length"`: length of the volume, from "runway_threshold" in direction "heading", given in nautical miles.
  • "left_width"`: width the volume extends to the left of the extended centerline, where "left" is with respect to an aircraft flying the approach.
  • "right_width"`: width the volume extends to the right of the extended centerline.
  • "filtered_scratchpads"`: aircraft scratchpads that do not receive ATPA warnings/alerts but that do still participate in ATPA calculations for other aircraft. (Thus, this should include for example aircraft cleared for visual approaches that should not themselves receive alerts but where other non-visual aircraft must still be separated from them.)
  • "excluded_scratchpads"`: aircraft scratchpads that do not participate at all in ATPA for this runway. This should include scratchpads of aircraft arriving on parallel runways, for example.
  • "enable_2.5nm"`: a Boolean value that indicates whether reduced 2.5nm separation is allowed on final approach.
  • "2.5nm_distance"`: distance from runway threshold at which 2.5nm separation is allowed, if "enamble_2.5nm" is true.
"converging_runways" Array of objects Each object specifies a pair of converging runways that will be included in the STARS CRDA list. Each object has the following members:
  • "runways": array of two strings referencing two runways specified in "approach_regions".
  • "leader_directions": array of two strings specifying the compass direction ("N", "NE", "E", ...) that will be used for leader lines for ghost aircraft from the two respective runways.
  • "tie_symbol": A single-character string giving the symbol to use on the STARS display for ghost aircraft when CRDA "tie" mode is used.
  • "stagger_symbol": A single-character string giving the symbol to use on the STARS display for ghost aircraft when CRDA "stagger" mode is used.
  • "tie_offset": number giving an offset in nautical miles to add to ghost aircraft's distance from the airport when "tie" mode is used.
"departure_routes" Object Each member is an object that defines routes for the specified a departure runway. These routes are followed by aircraft departing that runway, organized by exit fix. See below for documentation of the per-runway departure route object.
"departures" Array of objects Each object in the array defines a departure to a destination, including one or more airlines that fly that departure, the type of aircraft flown, and information about the aircraft's path. See below for details of the departure object.
"departure_controller" String If specified, gives the virtual controller initially controlling the aircraft.
"exit_categories" Object Each member corresponds to a fix used as an exit for departures in the scenario group and allows associating a string category name with each exit. (These categories are used so that users can control the mix of exits used in a scenario.) Example: "ARD": "Southwest"
"name" String (Optional) The name of the airport.
"omit_arrival_scratchpad" Boolean (Optional) If true, the arrival airport is not shown alternating with the altitude in full datablocks when the scratchpad is unset.
"tower_list" Number Gives the airport's priority for tower list assignments. 1 is the highest priority, then 2, etc. If "tower_list" is unspecified, the airport has the lowest priority. The 3 tower lists in the STARS scope are then assigned using this priority, with ties broken by airport name sorted alphabetically.

Approaches

The member names in the airport "approaches" object give the abbreviated name of each approach, as used in vice's ATC commands.

Approaches may be specified using data automatically loaded from the FAA CIFP or manually. To use CIFP data, run vice from the command-line and give it the argument -route KXYZ, where KXYZ is the ICAO code for the airport. vice will print identifiers for the available approaches and their associated waypoints. For example:

  > ...\vice.exe -routes KMIA
  [...]  
  Approaches:
  I12  : DHP GLRIA/a3000+/lhilpt1.0min/pta3000/iaf PIANA/a3000+ VEPCO/a2000+
  [...]
  RY12 : WORPP/iaf GLRIA/a3000/if PIANA/a3000+ VEPCO/a2000+
         FOGSO/s210/iaf GLRIA/a3000/if PIANA/a3000+ VEPCO/a2000+
  [...]

Approach ids encode the type of approach—for example, I12 is an ILS approach to runway 27 and RY12 is an RNAV Y runway 12 approach. Given the id, the approach can be specified with:

Element Type Description
"cifp_id" String A string giving the identifier of the approach in the CIFP (e.g., "RZ14").
"tower_controller" Optional string The name of the tower controller covering the approach. If an airport has a single tower controller named "(airport)_TWR", then this doesn't need to be specified.

Support for loading routes from the CIFP is new so please confirm that routes are correct and report any bugs you find. Note that not all approaches are included in the CIFP.

Alternatively, approaches can be defined manually using the following members:

Element Type Description
"full_name" String (Optional) A string giving the full name of the approach (e.g., "RNAV Z Runway 13L"). If not specified and the approach is ILS or RNAV the approach's name is generated automatically using "runway" and "type".
"runway" String A string describing the runway the approach ends at (e.g., "13L"). Note that single-digit runways should not be specified with a leading 0 (i.e., "1L, not "01L".)
"tower_controller" String (Optional) The name of the tower controller covering the approach. If an airport has a single tower controller named "(airport)_TWR", then this doesn't need to be specified.
"type" String The type of the approach; it must be "ILS", "RNAV", or "Visual".
"waypoints" Array of strings Each given string specifies an approach route. Multiple strings can be provided for "waypoints" for approaches with multiple IAFs (e.g. an RNAV "T" configuration). vice automatically adds a final waypoint at the arrival runway threshold; aircraft are deleted from the simulation when they reach that point.

Departures

There are two pieces for specifying departures: their initial route leaving the airport, which depends on the active departure runway, and their subsequent route out of the TRACON, which does not. These two parts are specified separately.

The "departure_routes" object in the airport definition gives the initial routing for departures, based both on the runway they are departing as well as their exit fix. Here is an excerpt from the KJFK departure routes:

  "departure_routes": {
    "13R": {
      "ARD,DIXIE,RBV,WHITE": {
        "cleared_altitude": 5000,
        "sid": "JFK5",
        "waypoints": "KJFK-31L/h185"
      },
      ...
            

The members of "departure_routes" are strings identifying the departure runway; each departure runway's routes are then represented by an object with one or more members that specify comma-separated lists of exit fixes. (Thus, the specification above applies to departures with exit ARD, DIXIE, RBV, or WHITE, departing runway 13R.)

The exit fix specifiers may include additional text after a period to allow specifying situation-dependent exits. For example, we might specify one route for "RBV.PISTONS", another for "RBV.TURBOPROPS", and a third for "RBV.JETS". vice treats all of these as going to the "RBV" exit. When departures are defined in "departures", they can then refer to the appropriate exit in their "exit" specifier.

The departure route specification includes the following members:

Element Type Description
"assigned_altitude" Number The initial altitude that aircraft climb to. Aircraft given "assigned_altitude" do not obey any altitude restrictions in the departure route. (This option is mostly useful for hybrid SIDs that start with radar vectors and later have a pilot nav component; aircraft will not climb beyond this altitude until the "climb via SID" instruction is given to them.)
"cleared_altitude" Number the initial altitude that aircraft are cleared to. Aircraft given "cleared_altitude" are implicitly given "climb via SID": they will obey altitude restrictions in the departure route and climb no higher than the altitude given.
"description" String (Optional) A description that is shown in the UI for choosing routes to draw on the radar scope.
"handoff_controller" String (Optional) A string indicating which controller should receive the handoff if one of the fixes in the route has the /ho qualifier for a handoff. This is useful if a virtual controller has initial control, e.g., for a departure from a nearby airport.
"sid" String (Optional) A string naming the SID that the aircraft is flying.
"waypoints" String The initial series of waypoints that the aircraft follows. vice automatically sets the route's first waypoints to be the specified runway's threshold and then a point 3/4 of the way down the runway. The waypoints in "waypoints" are then appended to those. Therefore, for the example above, the aircraft continues to the end of the runway and then flies the heading 185.

Either "assigned_altitude" or "cleared_altitude" must be specified.

The other part of specifying departures is the array of objects stored in "departures". Each one describes a departure to a particular destination. Here is a JFK departure to Paris Charles de Gaulle:

    {
      "airlines": [
        {
          "fleet": "long",
          "icao": "AFR"
        }
      ],
      "destination": "LPFG",
      "exit": "HAPIE",
      "route": "HAPIE YAHOO WHALE N251A JOOPY NATZ MALOT NATZ GISTI LESLU M142 LND N160 NAKID M25 ANNET UM25 UVSUV UM25 INGOR UM25 LUKIP LUKIP9E",
      "scratchpad": "HAP",
    },
  ...
            

A few additional things must be specified with each departure:

Element Type Description
"airlines" String The airlines that fly the route and which part of their fleet of aircraft is used; see airlines and aircraft below for more information
"destination" String The ICAO airport code for the destination. This is only used in flight strips and for the aircraft's datablock on the radar scope; it does not affect its routing.
"exit" String The exit fix for the departure. In conjunction with the departure runway, this is used to determine the aircraft's route leaving the airport using "departure_routes".
"route" String The aircraft's route to the destination. This is mostly used so that flight strips have plausible routes, though vice does its best to have the aircraft follow the given route after it reaches the exit fix.
"scratchpad" Optional String If specified, this gives the aircraft's initial scratchpad. Otherwise, the scratchpad is set based on the exit, using the "scratchpads" dictionary in the scenario definition.

Arrivals

Arrivals are specified via the "arrival_groups" variable, which allows specifying one or more STARs that bring aircraft to the TRACON. Members of "arrival_groups" give the names of arrival groups; each one stores an array of one or more arrival objects.

Because arrival rates are specified per-arrival group rather than per-STAR, vice can simulate center controllers sequencing multiple STARs into a single arrival flow rather than spawning arrivals on two STARs that follow nearby routes and thus should be sequences.

Each object stored in an "arrival_groups" array corresponds to a STAR. These objects have the following members:

Element Type Description
"airlines" Object Destination airports and airlines for the arrivals. See example below.
"assigned_altitude" Number (Optional) If specified, the aircraft will be descending to the given altitude which it will then maintain until given further directions. If the aircraft should be descending via a STAR that includes altitude restrictions, leave this unspecified.
"cruise_altitude" Number The aircraft's final cruise altitude. (This is only used in the aircraft's flight strip.) If unspecified, vice tries to choose a reasonable cruise altitude based on the distance and direction of flight.
"description" String (Optional) If provided, this string is shown in the UI for drawing approaches on the radar scope to give further information about what the route is used for.
"expect_approach" String (Optional) If provided, the aircraft has been told to expect the given approach by a previous controller and so it is not necessary to issue an "expect approach" command before clearing an aircraft for an approach. (This setting is especially useful in "finals" scenarios.)
"initial_altitude" Number The aircraft's altitude when first spawned.
"initial_controller" String The callsign of the controller who is initially tracking the aircraft.
"initial_speed" Number The aircraft's initial speed when first spawned.
"route" String (Optional) The aircraft's remaining route. (This is only used for displaying the aircraft's flight plan, e.g. in flight strips.)
"scratchpad" String (Optional) If provided, the aircraft's scratchpad is set to this value.
"secondary_scratchpad" String (Optional) If provided, the aircraft's secondary scratchpad is set to this value.
"speed_restriction" Number If present, gives a speed restriction in knots
"star" String Name of the STAR that the aircraft is flying.

STARs are sometimes able to deliver aircraft to multiple airports. Therefore, the "airlines" member is an object with airport names as members. Each of the airports is associated with an array of objects that specify departure airports, airlines, and (optionally) airline fleets. Here is an excerpt from the CAMRN4 arrival group at KJFK:

  "airlines": {
    "KFRG": [
      {
        "airport": "KDCA",
        "icao": "EJA"
      },
      ...
    ],
    "KJFK": [
      {
        "airport": "MMMY",
        "fleet": "long",
        "icao": "AMX"
      },
      ...
    ]
  }
            

We can see that CAMRN4 applies to both the KFRG and KJFK airports, though with different airlines and different departure airports for the arrivals. The specified departure airports (here, KDCA and MMMY) are only used so that flight strips and data blocks on the scope are realistic, but the specified airlines are used to select the type of aircraft from their fleets. As elsewhere, a value for "fleet" may be specified to limit which types of aircraft may be chosen.

There are two ways to specify a STAR's waypoints: automatically using data loaded from the FAA CIFP or manually. To use CIFP data, ensure that the STAR is available by running vice from the command-line and providing the -routes KXYZ argument, where KXYZ is the name of the airport. vice will print the available STARS with their transitions. For example,

> ...\vice -routes KLGA
STARs:
APPLE3.SHLBK: SHLBK LOUIE/a13000 BACKY ODESA DQO RUUTH WNDYL BRAND/a8000 KORRY DEPDY TYKES MINKS JERZY RENUE APPLE PROUD/flyover/h45
APPLE3.SWANN: SWANN GATBY KERNO ODESA DQO RUUTH WNDYL BRAND/a8000 KORRY DEPDY TYKES MINKS JERZY RENUE APPLE PROUD/flyover/h45
APPLE3.ALL  : RUUTH WNDYL BRAND/a8000 KORRY DEPDY TYKES MINKS JERZY RENUE APPLE PROUD/flyover/h45
[...]

If the STAR specified in the "star" parameter is present, vice will automatically use the available routes to define the STAR's transitions and runway-specific waypoints. In that case, one additional parameter must be specified:

Element Type Description
"spawn" String The name of the waypoint in the STAR at which new arrivals should start. A point between two waypoints in the STAR can be specified using an "@" symbol and a number between 0 and 1 that represents the fraction of distance between the waypoint and the next. For example, "[email protected]" specifies that aircraft should spawn 0.6 of the way between STW and the following waypoint. Aircraft will then be handed off from the center controller halfway between the first two waypoints of the route.

Alternatively, the waypoints may be specified manually using one required and one optional member.

Element Type Description
"runway_waypoints" Object (Optional) This specifies runway-specific waypoints for each airport, if there are any. After an approach is assigned to an aircraft, the corresponding runway waypoints are added to its route. Note that the first waypoint in each entry in "runway_waypoints" must match the last waypoint in "waypoints". (See the example below.)
"waypoints" String The series of waypoints that aircraft should fly. New aircraft are spawned at the first waypoint. These waypoints should include a "/ho" directive at the point where the aircraft should be handed off from the virtual controller to the user.

The "runway_waypoints" member can be used for STARs that have different routes depending on the arrival airport and runway. When the user instructs the aircraft to expect a particular approach then the corresponding waypoints are added to its route. As an example, the specification of the KPHL JIIMS4 arrival starts with the following string for "waypoints": "HEKMN N039.27.43.645,W074.56.38.400/ho JIIMS/a8000". (The second point is used to set the handoff point to be between HEKMN and JIIMS.) It then has the following "runway_waypoints", corresponding to the runway-specific routes into KPHL, the only active airport in the scenario. Note that all start with JIIMS, the same fix at the end of "waypoints".

  "runway_waypoints": {
    "KPHL": {
      "27L": "JIIMS/a8000 ZMRMN CHPMN PSOUT MKORD/h087",
      "27R": "JIIMS/a8000 ZMRMN CHPMN PSOUT MKORD/h087",
      "17": "JIIMS/a8000 SNEDE/h312",
      "35": "JIIMS/a8000 SNEDE/h312",
      "9L": "JIIMS/a8000 WUDRR WEVVE ERNYY/h268",
      "9R": "JIIMS/a8000 WUDRR WEVVE ERNYY/h268"
    }
  },
            

Airspace

Airspace volumes may optionally be specified using the "airspace" object in the scenario group. These volumes may be assigned to controllers in scenarios, in which case vice will show an alert when aircraft are outside of the controller's airspace. The airspace object has two members:

Element Type Description
"boundaries" Object Defines lateral boundaries of airspace with arrays of location specifiers.
"volumes" Object Defines a volume of space using one or more boundary specifiers and a range of altitudes.

Each member in "boundaries" names a polyline of one or more line segments. Polylines are specified by arrays of locations. The first and second points specify the first line, the second and third points specify the second line, and so forth. Here is an example from the KPHL airspace:

  "PHL_DQO27_33": [
    "N039.21.58.949,W075.28.55.977",
    "N039.25.56.240,W075.29.47.255",
    "N039.26.20.204,W075.27.28.196",
    "N039.22.24.699,W075.26.48.535",
    "N039.21.58.949,W075.28.55.977"
  ]

Note that the first point and the last point are at the same location and thus, "PHL_DQO27_33" is a closed polygon. Airspace boundaries do not have to be polygons like this; because boundaries are generally shared between different volumes of airspace, it's often useful to define boundaries just as polylines and to assemble multiple boundaries to define the lateral extent of a volume of airspace.

Given the boundaries, "volumes" specifies full 3D volumes of airspace. Airspace volumes have three members; "boundaries" is an array of strings that names the boundaries that give the airspace's lateral extent, and "lower" and "upper" specify the altitude range of the airspace. Here is an example from KPHL that uses the boundary defined above:

  "PHL_DU_APP27": [
    {
      "boundaries": [
        "PHL_DQO27_33"
      ],
      "lower": 5000,
      "upper": 6000
    }

Scenarios

Scenarios pull together components from the definitions in scenario groups in order to present specific control scenarios to the user. The scenarios object's members are the names of the scenarios. Each of these scenarios may have the following members:

Element Type Description
"approach_airspace" Array of strings If airspace has been specified in the scenario group, then these strings give the names of the airspace volumes that arrivals should remain inside.
"arrival_runways" Array of objects Each object has two values that specify an airport and one of its runways
  • "airport": string that gives an airport name
  • "runway": string that specifies a runway at the given airport
The specified airport must be present in the "airports" member of the scenario group, and the specified runway must be one of its runways.
"arrivals" Object Each member specifies an arrival group and is an object that contains one or more members that specifies an airport name and a default arrival rate for the arrival group to the airport. It can be useful to specify an arrival rate of zero—in this case, the arrival group will still be included in the UI shown to the user, which allows the user to enable it.
"center" String (Optional) If specified, this gives the initial radar scope center (as a latitude-longitude position.) It overrides the "center" value from the scenario group.
"controllers" Array of strings Callsigns of the other virtual controllers who are online. (These also must be in "control_positions".)
"default_maps" Array of strings The names of the initial video maps that should be displayed when this scenario is selected. Note that "default_maps" may not be used if "controller_configs" is specified in "stars_maps"; in that case controller-specific default maps can be specified there.
"departure_airspace" Array of strings Similar to "approach_airspace", if present, this gives the names of airspace volumes that departure aircraft must remain inside.
"departure_runways" Array of objects Each object specifies information about departures at a runway at an airport in the scenario.
  • "airport": string giving the airport's name
  • "runway": string specifying one of the airport's runways
  • "rate": number giving the number of departures per hour
  • "category": an optional string that specifies an exit category. If present, then only departures that have an exit that is associated with the category will be launched from this runway.
"multi_controllers" Object (Optional) If specified, this provides information about the control positions that are available for multi-controller scenarios. Each member specifies a controller split configuration. Each configuration is then an object where each member specifies a controller with the corresponding callsign. For each controller, the following members may be specified:
  • "arrivals": An optional array of strings specifying which arrival groups the controller is covering. (Used to determine where handoffs from center go.)
  • "backup": Specifies another controller in "multi_controllers" that covers the controller's position if the controller is not signed in.
  • "departures": An optional array of strings that determines which departing aircraft the controller is responsible for. Each string can be an airport name ("KJFK"), a slash-separated airport name and runway ("KJFK/22R"), or a slash-separated airport name and SID ("KJFK/SKORR5"). It is not allowed to mix different ways of specifying departures at a given airport.
  • "primary": Boolean value that indicates that the controller is the primary controller. Must be given for exactly one controller. If no other controllers are signed in, the primary controller covers all of the other control positions. The simulation pauses if the primary controller's position is not covered
"range" Number (Optional) If specified, gives the initial radar scope center range in nautical miles. This overrides the range given in the scenario group.
"solo_controller" String The control position to use for single-user. (This must be present in "control_positions" in the scenario group.)
"wind" Object This specifies the current winds for the scenario. Winds are included in the simulation and affect aircraft similarly to how they do in the real world.
  • "direction": the wind's direction, expressed as a number giving the heading
  • "speed": the wind speed in knots
  • "gust": if present, gives the wind gust speed

STARS and Video Maps

A number of settings related to the STARS radar scope are set using the "stars_config" object in the scenario group. It stores the following values:

Element Type Description
"force_ql_self" Boolean Indicates whether controllers may enter **[SLEW] to make a track appear yellow on their own scope.
"allow_long_scratchpad" Array of two Booleans These indicate whether the primary and secondary scratchpad (respectively) may be four characters long (rather than the default of three).
"airspace_awareness" Array of objects Each of these objects specify an airspace awareness rule for a TRACON. Each object has the following memebers.
  • "fixes": an array of strings that represent that different fixes an aircraft could be filled on to apply for this rule. If "ALL" is given,
  • "altitude_range": (Optional) an array of two numbers that represent the different cruising altitude that an airplane has to have to apply for this rule.
  • "receiving_controller": the sector ID of the controller that will be receiving this rule.
  • "aircraft_type": (Optional) an array of strings giving allowed aircraft types for the rule: "P" for props, "T" for turboprop/ turboshafts, and "J" for jets.
"center" String Default radar scope center (as a latitude-longitude position.)
"controller_configs" Object Each entry specifies controller-specific configuration properties. The applicable control positions are specified via members given as a comma-separated string of positions (e.g., "JFK_G_APP,JFK_K_APP"). The following properties may be specified for each one:
  • "video_maps": an array of strings specifying which video maps should be displayed in the DCB for the controller. See "stars_maps" below for further details.
  • "default_maps": an array of strings that specifies which maps in "video_maps" should be initially displayed.
  • "center": the initial center of the controller's STARS scope. If specified, this overrides any center specified in the scenario or scenario group.
  • "range": the initial range for the controller's scope in nautical miles. If specified, this overrides any range specified in the scenario or scenario group.
"inhibit_ca_volumes" Array of objects Each entry specifies a volume of space where collision alerts are inhibited. It can be useful to specify these around airports so that alerts aren't issued for aircraft arriving/departing on parallel runways. Each object has the following members:
  • "name": a string used to identify the volume in system lists.
  • "type": either "circle" or "polygon"
  • "floor": number giving the minimum altitude of the volume.
  • "ceiling": number giving the maximum altitude of the volume.
For "circle" volumes, there are two additional members:
  • "center": the location of the center of the volume.
  • "radius": the radius of the volume, in nautical miles.
For "polygon" volumes, an additional parameter specifies its extent:
  • "vertices": an array of locations specifying the outline of the volume.
"radar_sites" Array of objects (Optional) Specification of all of the radar sites. (If not specified, then STARS Fused mode is the only radar mode available.) Each object member describes a radar site; the member's name gives the site's identifier. Each radar site has the following configuration values:
  • "char": a single character string identifier for the radar
  • "elevation": an integer giving the radar site's elevation in feet. (Not required if the position is specified using an airport ICAO code.)
  • "position": the radar's lateral position
  • "primary_range": an integer giving the range in nautical miles at which the radar can pick up a primary track (typically, 60)
  • "secondary_range": an integer giving the range in nautical miles at which the radar can pick up a secondary track (typically, 120)
  • "silence_angle": the spread angle in degrees of the radar's "cone of silence"—the volume above it where aircraft cannot be tracked (typically, 30)
  • "slope_angle": the angle in degrees with respect to the ground that the base of radar coverage increases as a function of distance from the radar site (typically, 0.175)
"range" Number Default radar scope center range in nautical miles. If unspecified, a 50 mile range is the default.
"scratchpads" Object Each member specifies a scratchpad entry that is assigned when a departing aircraft has a given exit fix. Example: "MERIT": "MER"
"stars_maps" Array of strings These strings specify the available video maps shown in the STARS DCB; the first 6 are shown in the main DCB and all are available under the "MAPS" sub-menu. An empty string, "", may be given to specify an empty map button in the DCB. No more than 38 maps may be specified. Run vice.exe -listmaps [path-to-XXX-videomaps.gob.zst] to list the available maps for an ARTCC.
"video_map_file" String Filename of the video map file from which the maps specified in "stars_maps" are found (e.g., "videomaps/ZNY-videomaps.gob.zst")

Video Maps

Video maps are specified separately from the rest of the configuration since they require fairly large files and are not generally edited by hand. Video maps for vice can be generated from CRC video maps crc2vice utility program, which is available from the crc2vice releases page. See its README file for information about how to use it.