19 October 2007

What’s a Voice Generator Module (VGM)?

Technobabble, that’s what! Nav Canada is implementing a service at Muskoka, Ontario (CYQA) called VGM? Say what? Actually it’s just going to broadcast some AWOS information on 124.575. In Nav Canada’s words, “This new VHF (Very High Frequency) transmitter will make up-to-the-minute altimeter and magnetic wind direction and speed available to all pilots operating in the area.” Part of the goal is to reduce frequency congestion. Great!

But why confuse pilots with talk of VGMs when we already know what an AWOS is? More importantly, pilots would like to know if the AWOS broadcast will also include clouds, weather and visibility? Equally, we need to know what form the communication should take. We really don’t care that internally Nav Canada employees call the device that converts the AWOS data into a voice for broadcast is called a VGM!

Starting 25 October, before operating in the Muskoka’s Mandatory Frequency Area (MF) you are expected to listen to the AWOS, and report receiving the altimeter and wind information to Timmins Radio (the MF provider.) Good idea Nav Canada!

Still, I for one would like to know how the communications should be worded, for example, “Timmins Radio this 172 FABC at 3000 feet over Sparrow Lake VFR to Muskoka with the AWOS numbers…” Or maybe “…with Victor Golf Mike numbers…” Or perhaps simply“…with the numbers…” Finally is a time group need? Say, “…with the 24 numbers…” where 24 is the minutes past the hour.

Aviators have enough trouble remembering all the abbreviations and acronyms already in use, a new one with so little aviation meaning does not help. What we need is clear communications, both in the air and in Service Project Implementation Announcements. Kudos to Nav Canada for the new service. But I will only give a “D” for communications.

Michael Shaw

source: Service Project Implementation Announcements at the bottom of the front page of Nav Canada's website.

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