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This page is a collection of questions frequently asked (at least twice) about ATC-pie. It is a good idea to search through it before repeating a question on the forum or anywhere.

Things "not working"

Why am I not seeing this aircraft on my radar?

Connected to FGMS: I know it is there: the pilot is sending chat messages and/or is visible on the online live map...

You only see an aircraft on your screen if your radar picks up a transponder signal from it. The two following cases will therefore prevent you from seeing a connected aircraft:

  • The aircraft is out of radar range, i.e. under the radar floor (minimum signal pick-up height) or too far out. Open the General settings dialog, check the NM range setting and set the floor to "SFC" to pick up all signals.
  • Its onboard transponder is turned off; see ATC-pie video tutorial 1. You should tell the pilot to switch it on. Alternatively, you can switch on the primary radar system if you want to see all aircraft's positions, or activate the "radar cheat mode" if you want to go the radical way (tutorial 3).

NB: If the aircraft model does not support the transponder feature, it will be simulated by ATC-pie according to the fallback mode you have selected in the settings dialog. A non-equipped aircraft and a zero fallback mode will therefore make the aircraft invisible as well.

FGCom radio is not working. What is going on?

If you are using external clients, i.e. FGCom instances running outside of ATC-pie, you must troubleshoot them there. This section assumes you are trying with internal radio boxes. If you do not understand this distinction, the latter case is yours and you should read on.

First, try an echo test:

  • check that your sound is on, your volume loud and your microphone working (e.g. system sound monitor picking up a signal);
  • close all open ATC-pie sessions and open a single instance;
  • start the echo test from the System menu.

If you hear yourself when you speak, you may skip directly to item 3 below. Otherwise start with 1.

  1. Bad FGCom version/path setting
    Verify the path to your FGCom executable in the system settings. It should point to the right executable file under resources/fgcom and suit your operating system (see Notice file there). All three Linux, Mac and Windows versions are initially packaged with the program.
  2. FGCom server down
    This can happen, unfortunately even for up to a few days. Check for responses from the server, e.g. with ping
  3. FGCom subprocess error
    If the server is up (responding to ping), check for errors in the logged FGCom output files in the output directory.
  4. Port mess-up on your side
    If you are running multiple instances of ATC-pie, make sure you have no more than one radio box on every port. To check what port a radio box is using, see its "on/off" button tooltip. You can change your FGCom settings from the system settings dialog. In any case, you should only choose available ports, not reserved by your operating system. Typically, ports from 16661 and counting up work fine.

Tower view is not starting. The menu option is ticked but nothing happens.

Ruling out that FlightGear is not installed at all, your system path settings are probably wrong. From a terminal, find the right command to start FlightGear and enter it as FlightGear executable from the system settings. Do not add options of any kind; they will be taken care of internally. You may have to enter a FlightGear root directory as well, especially if you have the program files installed somewhere unexpected. Your entries will be saved after that.

My tower is in the middle of the sea, and aircraft floating/landing on water!

You are missing the FlightGear scenery data for your location, or ATC-pie does not know where it is. Check out the Tower viewing feature note in this article.

I cannot connect to my teacher as a student!

Using IPv4 addresses, this typically happens when the teacher is in a local area network behind a router. It is a common setup for home internet, in which the teacher's actual host address is not publicly accessible from outside his private network.

If you know what IPv6 is and that your network configuration will allow it, try using IPv6 addresses. Otherwise, the solution is either:

  • for the teacher to configure his router to forward TCP packets from his router's IP and chosen service port to his local host address;
  • or to create a virtual network, using a third-party VPN service.

What is ...? What value/setting for ...?

What is the FlightGear strip exchange server? Which one to use?

In FlightGear games, the strip exchange feature allows you to hand over strips to ATCs who are connected to the same server and within 180 NM from your position. The public server currently open for general multi-player use is To hand over a strip, drag it from its rack and drop it on the chosen callsign in the ATC handover list. Publicise your frequency so that ATCs around know what to tell pilots for them to contact you!

What nickname should I use for FlightGear multi-player?

Choose any name you would like to be recognised by on the network. In ATC-pie, it will appear in the tooltip over your callsign in the neighbours list of ATCs connecting near enough to see you. In a sense, this feature is more social than technical, but makes sense as typical ATC callsigns (e.g. "VHHHtwr") remain mostly anonymous over MP. Use this field so that other players can identify you.

Where is ...? How to ...?

How do I start anywhere else than bl*ody KSFO?

Use a command line argument: ./ ICAO

The way to do this from a graphical desktop is system-dependant, but there is always a way. Otherwise, open a shell terminal to type the command above.

Can I draw SID and STAR procedures on the radar?

Yes, and virtually anything else, using background images. To learn about those:

  • see the corresponding user guide section;
  • read the resources/bg-img/Notice file;
  • examine the (otherwise useless) packaged KSFO example.

If you have a sector file of the ".sct" format used in VATSIM/IVAO, you should try the included script. It will extract most of the contents, including SID/STAR procedures, and translate them into ATC-pie's native drawing format. Probably your best solution if you know your procedures are included. Here is how to use it:

  1. Run the script: sector_file centre:radius output_dir.
    In this command:
    • sector_file is the input sector file you wish to extract from;
    • centre (Earth coordinates) and radius (range in nautical miles) specify the wanted coverage of the input sector file;
    • output_dir is where you want the output files to be generated.
    In the output directory, the resulting files are:
    • geo-*, proc-*, boundaries-*, containing the extracted drawings translated for ATC-pie;
    • extract.lst, a list of the generated drawing files in the expected format;
    • extract.err, a log of the errors detected in your sector file (do not be alarmed as they often contain many).
  2. Import the results:
    • rename the .lst file to resources/bg-img/ICAO.lst, replacing ICAO with the location code of where to import the drawings;
    • move the drawing files under resources/bg-img, adjusting the paths in extract.lst if you create subdirectories.
  3. Post-editing (cleaning)
    ATC-pie does its best to understand the objects in the sector and to group things together depending on their type. But not everything can be guessed automatically, so you get a lot a files and useless things. This last step is where you merge, split, delete objects, rename points, change colours, etc. to your liking.
    Each generated drawing block (point list under a colour) is automatically given a label, ending with the line number it was sourced from in the sector file so you can easily trace it (@nnn). A tool like sed will help you get rid of all these unwanted suffixes once you have sorted and renamed your objects:
    sed -ri 's/ @[0-9]+$//' file_to_clean

How do I assign SIDs and STARs to aircraft?

This question is asked quite a lot more than it is relevant to a real controller's task... If you are certain this is what you want, you can always freely comment your strips with any information you want to save. But it is probably not.

What people seem to be after when asking this question is a way to organise inbound traffic on arrival, using STARs to manage multiple approach paths. If you like to do so and want a way to visualise and distinguish them, the best thing to do is to stack your inbound strips on racks named after your STARs. Racks are indeed not only a way of categorising traffic, but above all meant for efficient traffic sequencing. Every rack represents its own sequence of ordered aircraft, which is perfectly suited to control separate approach paths in parallel. With this technique, placing a strip on a STAR-named rack basically serves as the "assignment" itself, like one could use runway-specific racks at large airports to keep track of separate landing sequences. You can even set a colour to each rack for quick identification on the scope.

If you otherwise meant to plan routes before they are flown, you are probably looking for something you should not be doing. Routes are lists of waypoints and instructions to follow between the two end airfields. Normally pulled straight from properly filed flight plans, routes are copied onto strips prior to departure, then modified as the flights progress and passed along with handovers. Standard departure and arrival procedures (SIDs and STARs) can be referred to in those routes, but only by their entry or exit navpoints. They should not contain full procedure names like FUBAR1A since those depend on the active runways and might change any time before flying the corresponding leg. For example, routes ending with a STAR should end with "FUBAR STAR", which means that waypoint FUBAR is an entry point from which a published STAR must be followed. The keyword "STAR" is in fact a mere specification for the last route leg. Similarly, routes of the form "SID DUMMY ..." specify their first leg as a standard departure to the first waypoint DUMMY. "SID" and "STAR" keywords are recognised by ATC-pie and accounted for in the second line of the radar contact info box when appropriate (see feature note on routes).

One last meaningful wish regarding this question is for easy reference in text chat messages. Firstly, using racks in the way suggested above, you can use the $rack alias which is substituted by the name of the rack on which the current strip selection is stacked. Otherwise, if the selected strip's route is found to contain "SID"/"STAR" keywords placed in the first/last route leg specifications, text aliases $wpsid and $wpstar will respectively expand to the first/last en-route waypoints of that route. For example, assuming route "SID DUMMY more route spec FUBAR STAR" in the selection, $wpsid will be replaced with "DUMMY" and $wpstar with "FUBAR". Now if you specifically want to assign a full procedure name like FUBAR1A to a contact and refer to it in a generic text chat message, include a line "sid=FUBAR1A" in your strip comments. It will pop up with the strip mouse-over tooltip, and create a custom $sid alias that will automatically be expanded in your sent messages when that strip is selected.

Can I access ILS frequencies?

Not with built-in features. But if you want a quick and integrated reading of ILS frequencies, you can look them up once and write them in the local notepad which will be saved when you close ATC-pie. Using the following format one runway per line will even create local text aliases for convenient shortcuts in chat messages: ils05=111.11 MHz. See custom text aliases for more.

How do I customise the GUI and colours?

To change the radar or strip colours, edit the settings/colours.ini file. Each line holds the paint colour for the corresponding object type in a typical #RRGGBB (red-green-blue) format.

Besides, ATC-pie is a Qt application and therefore allows you to customise all pieces of the GUI with stylesheets. To change the general GUI looks, you may (either or both):

  • change your Qt platform defaults for system-wide effect on all Qt applications;
  • add a -stylesheet=... option with a Qt stylesheet file name on the command line to affect ATC-pie only.

Send us screenshots and share your settings if you find a setup looking really cool! :-)


What's with the funny name?

ATC-pie is written in Python, and I reckoned that the pyXXX naming habit was becoming a little dull, so I merely switched things around. You can surely do the rest of the math in terms of spelling, and later impact on the logo.

Why is the learning curve so steep? People would use your program more if you did/provided [...]

Often followed with: (you must understand that) this is not VATSIM!

We do have a wish list and will consider any feature or help request. However, though it has a few cheats, ATC-pie has always choosen realism as a criterion for implementation and design, over the mere incentive of converting otherwise happy users of other programs. It is a good thing that different philosophies and work flows are available out there, and there would be much less interest in having them all copy each other, fighting over users instead of understanding that not all of them wish for the same game experience. If serious simulation or learning new skills sound like threats to fun for you, you have a perfectly valid reason not to opt for ATC-pie.