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Bits and Pieces

Word of the Month - Centre

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

So we Canadians spell things more like our British and French forefathers than Americans do. Words are spelt the same way in both Canadian English and British English, and we use many French spellings. "Centre" is the facility that houses the air traffic controller we need to speak to during a cross-country trip or whenever we need to enter controlled airspace. Do you know what the word means? Well, it can get to be a bit confusing since 1-866-WXBRIEF connects you to another "centre", the Flight Information Centre or FIC. This facility houses the flight service specialists who offer weather and flight plan services.

The facility housing the air traffic controllers for en route services is called an Area Control Centre or ACC. Canada is divided into eight regions that each have an ACC and an FIC, but they are not necessarily co-located. For example, the region covering Southwest Ontario has its Flight Information Centre in London but its Area Control Centre in Toronto.

When you call Toronto Centre or Vancouver Centre, you select one of the frequencies in bold in the CFS. You find it on a page associated with the major airport in your area. It's interesting to note that ACCs have their own identifier, which is very similar to the major airport they are closest to - except that the second letter changes from a Y to a Z; e.g. Montreal, CYUL, has its associated "centre" identified as CZUL.


Have you been as confused as me about why there are frequencies in bold and in plain print? A bold frequency in the CFS means it is the primary frequency and uses antennae that are a direct link to the ACC. The other frequencies are options as well, and non-bold means it uses a peripheral station (PAL) which just indicates your voice gets transmitted by high-speed data link to the ACC. It's seamless to pilots.

Those of you who are very familiar with this information would at least agree that it's not easy to find in the CFS. First, you have to know what's your biggest local airport, and that's not always obvious. For example, in the case of Smith's Falls, Ontario, it's not Ottawa but Montreal. The information is there if you know how to find it, and as usual, we learn from other pilots and by keeping notes. It's important to know that you have the right frequency even if you don't need the services of a controller. Use it as your standby frequency if you want to keep it handy.

Oh, and if you want to contact that Flight Information Centre to close a flight plan in the air, it's "radio" and not "centre". It's there you'll get FISE from your FSS at the FIC. For more information on these and many more abbreviations, check out page A7 in your CFS!


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