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Is this how it always goes for controller training?


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I've noticed over the years, that controllers advance through their ratings by an overload test. I was originally going to call it a hazing, but that word, no matter how appropriate, carries with it far too much baggage, and negative connotations.

 

Why not train to proficiency, and then be awarded the rating?

 

I guess, what I'm saying, is it seems a bit silly to go though this "Ding a dang a ding dong! Everyone come and help obtain his . Let's give him all he can handle." It's an artificially high amount of traffic to handle, that puts the person in a no win situation. To what end? We've all been in stressful situations in life where things really mattered, versus pretend airplanes on a monitor, so I'm not sure what the goal is.

 

Even during events, with seasoned controllers, it doesn't take much for things to fall apart. That's not a criticism, it's just the natural result of controllers not working with other controllers all that much, and the fact it's a hobby, and not practiced every day like in the real world. Even Pilot Edge controllers, who get paid, have a fairly low threshold when it comes to being overloaded.

 

Everytime I think I'm ready to jump in to the controller side of things, and put my fist full of real world certs and ratings to use online, this is what stops me.

 

I'll ask one question then. Is this how it is always done? Is this officially written into the training material from VATSIM? Can a controller candidate elect not to go through the overload event, and just train to proficiency instead?

 

I hope this doesn't wrankle anyone the wrong way. I'm not trying to stir up trouble, as I fly on the network frequently, but there's no real way to ask these things, without risking stepping on a toe or two.

 

Tim

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its not as crazy as you make it sound. until you go through the training and testing, then youll see exactly whats being done. part of it is prepping for event traffic, part of it is to create a little bit of a situation to see how you deal with it, among other things.

 

you are not being judged by how much traffic you get, but how you deal with it

 

as to your question, if the result is simply handing a rating to you, no. and its definitely not as you suggest of creating a no win situation. they want you to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts], they wouldnt have wasted all that time training to you begin with if they didnt. you did the training, the practical exam is when you show it

 

same as if you were doing your flight training, when you go do your checkride, they are going to throw things at you that you may never deal with, but you need to show you can handle it. if you dont show it, they cant grade you on it

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EDIT: and everything Ernesto said.

 

On mobile, will elaborate later. I can speak to experience that putting a controller that knows all the theory and works only 1 plane an hour really well will likely crumble when they have anything near event level traffic. Just because you know how to do everything doesn't mean you can execute it well either. Dealing with the VATSIM-isms of bad pilots, little to no major traffic management, and having to work sectors that would likely be split real world at once, makes it incredibly difficult for a controller to only have theoretical and some practical experience. If you gave me an hour when I first started, I'm sure I could issue mighty fine clearances to 10 planes. Now have me do that in 5-10 minutes and I'd be down the tubes really quickly.

Josh Glottmann
Deputy Air Traffic Manager
Oakland ARTCC
[email protected]

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Ernesto: It looks like I've upset you, and that was/is not my goal. I sincerely apologize.

 

Josh: The events I've participated in, are usually 4 hours long. I've yet to take part in one, or observe one from the ground, that doesn't fall apart between the peak hours 1.5 and 2.5 of the event. It's only natural, as it's just a hobby for everyone involved. Certainly not a criticism in any way.

 

I guess what I'm getting at is, the current "overload test" for a rating, doesn't really help when it comes to events, which I [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the overload test is meant to simulate. Nobody is ever going to be ready for that, so why do it?

 

Thanks,

 

Tim

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not at all. simply trying to give you a better idea compared to what it looks like from the "outside"

 

its not supposed to make you a master at dealing with event traffic. nobody expects that. they are simply seeing to see how you do. IE, do you freeze up, or can you cope with it to a degree. they dont expect you to do 100% at dealing with it all. thats going to increase with experience

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I've yet to take part in one, or observe one from the ground, that doesn't fall apart between the peak hours 1.5 and 2.5 of the event.

I'm curious what you mean by "fall apart." Perhaps you just are pariticpating in the wrong events. Speaking from a US-event perspective, most events go off without any major hitches. Delays caused by there being too many pilots for the airport to handle is not an issue. In my opinion, an event that "crumbles" is one that has ATC being overloaded and unable to handle traffic. And the only way to help reduce the chance of that happening is by having practice with high levels of traffic (which frankly most of these OTS/CPTs don't even see).

Josh Glottmann
Deputy Air Traffic Manager
Oakland ARTCC
[email protected]

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In my opinion, an event that "crumbles" is one that has ATC being overloaded and unable to handle traffic. And the only way to help reduce the chance of that happening is by having practice with high levels of traffic (which frankly most of these OTS/CPTs don't even see).

 

Yup, that's it exactly. Traffic volume peaks, controllers and pilots start stepping on each other, us pilots start missing calls, etc..., all related to traffic volume.

 

In other words, these high traffic events are the exception, and not the norm. Why make the 'graduation' to the next level predicated on the exception not the rule. Nobody, not even most seasoned controllers can handle it during an event, why make that the standard during training? It seems that training to the levels you would normally see, would be more beneficial to the student? Dunno.

 

Tim

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I think the broadcast for live traffic is merely to solicit a little more traffic than would normally be present in day to day operations. I don't really find this to be the same as scheduled event level traffic. Events aren't necessarily the time for training and evaluation, but rather a time to try and shine the best one can as a cohesive group. So if not evaluating under against some test above the "normal", how can one be expected to adequately perform when the event does come around? After all, what p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ing the test says, is that I am now ready to move forward and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume the position or ranking sought under any circomestance. If one can adequately perform the tasks under muscle memory and knowledge recall with an increased traffic level from normal, day to day operations will be a breeze, and the subsequent practice [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming the new rank and/or position will promote a comfort level for the day the event comes.

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The events I've participated in, are usually 4 hours long. I've yet to take part in one, or observe one from the ground, that doesn't fall apart between the peak hours 1.5 and 2.5 of the event.

 

And this is because some facilities don't train to work event level traffic. Sure, the training may be more intense and slightly longer, but your knowledge of air traffic procedures will be much greater and you can provide a better service.

 

I'll use this Friday's FNO at MSP as an example - everyone that worked that event has gone through a very rigorous training program at ZMP. Sure, it might have taken a little longer than some other facilities, but look at how smooth the operation went. We had no holds, ran a long final, and had very few issues overall. This comes from both good training and having the experience of working busy situations.

 

If I were a pilot, I would want a controller that has the desire to be the best in all situations, not just the normal situations.

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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The GRP asks to train controllers to competency. Most facilities misinterpret that to mean proficiency

 

Because competency can be evaluated against a standard. Proficiency on the other hand is a subjective evaluation of performance that is in the eyes of the evaluator. That said however, I don't take exception to evaluating or being evaluated to some level of proficiency. The evaluated represents a face of that subset of the organization. Would one rather present a crew who proves they can merely check the boxes, or one who is truly skilled and growing in their proficiency? Maybe that choice is just left to the indivudual.

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The GRP asks to train controllers to competency. Most facilities misinterpret that to mean proficiency, and that proficiency to an insanely high level. That was never the intent of GRP, nor the Founders. Someday we may get a handle on it.

 

I don't think there can be any question that this is a true statement. But I think people tend to overlook the possibility that there is less difference between the application of those

words than people think. I'm not sure, for example, that people accept the fact that competency can be defined as being able to control to the minimum standards of an individual ARTCC/FIR or facility, which has been calculated based on the history of traffic handled.

 

I would suggest that the level of competency necessary to successfully control at Liverpool is very different than that at Heathrow. Does that mean you must be more proficient to control Heathrow? By definition, perhaps, but only by controlling and gaining experience does proficiency come. First you must be competent, and that is certainly affected by the facility and the amount of traffic it handles.

 

Of course, my comment isn't meant to contradict Kyle's point that even this can be carried too far or be misapplied and is all too real.

__________

Ira Robinson

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Even during events, with seasoned controllers, it doesn't take much for things to fall apart. That's not a criticism, it's just the natural result of controllers not working with other controllers all that much, and the fact it's a hobby, and not practiced every day like in the real world. Even Pilot Edge controllers, who get paid, have a fairly low threshold when it comes to being overloaded.

 

Everytime I think I'm ready to jump in to the controller side of things, and put my fist full of real world certs and ratings to use online, this is what stops me.

 

Tim,

 

I'm not going to start an argument but your above comment can't go unanswered.

 

Controllers 'seasoned' or not actually do work together, as you've stated you're not one on the network, I can [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ure you there is a lot of coordination going on in the background especially using teamspeak for realtime coordination, do you really think events are just posted and executed without any forward planning by the team of controllers handling the event?.

 

I don't know what bunch of real world 'certs' you can wave infront of us but from our (local)real world controllers counterparts who've observed our virtual operations have had nothing but praise, especially because we've actually been doing something in the virtual world they're implementing in real life and have been fascinated on how long we've actually being doing it(remote tower operations).

 

This can very easily turn into a toxic topic so I'll leave it at that.

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The GRP provides for a number of specific skills or tasks that a controller must demonstrate competency in prior to the award of a rating. In this context, competency refers to the ability of an individual to repeatedly and successfully perform a task. I emphasize that these are specific tasks, not a general task like "manage the traffic within the terminal control area" which would be much more difficult to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ess in a consistent manner.

 

For most non-critical skills, competency-based training tends to provide for the needs of everyday operations rather than extraordinary situations, with the reasoning that people will develop proficiency and other skills after their formal training.

David Zhong

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If you're referring to the sup/admin broadcast on the network, I don't think they can get much traffic that way, since everybody is already flying or has planned a flight from the airport they're logged in at. And I'd [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume they use this only when the traffic levels are low (perhaps too low to p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] an exam). I've never come to an exam this way. I've come to many exams (and mentoring sessions) in Europe because they were advertised before and I'd planned it (unfortunately they don't seem to advertise them in the USA). In my experience, traffic during exams is usually slightly above everyday levels for that airport, and it is overloaded only in those airports that are "normally" overloaded in everyday operations.

And I don't know either what events you're talking about, but normally they don't fall apart. The few times I've seen it fall apart were either because of technical problems (controller disconnects) or if there's a weak link among the controllers (new, not so talented or just not experienced).

If you're a real-world controller, a VATSIM exam should be a piece of cake for you, at least for the position you have in real life.

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Even during events, with seasoned controllers, it doesn't take much for things to fall apart. That's not a criticism, it's just the natural result of controllers not working with other controllers all that much, and the fact it's a hobby, and not practiced every day like in the real world. Even Pilot Edge controllers, who get paid, have a fairly low threshold when it comes to being overloaded.

 

Everytime I think I'm ready to jump in to the controller side of things, and put my fist full of real world certs and ratings to use online, this is what stops me.

 

Tim,

 

I'm not going to start an argument but your above comment can't go unanswered.

 

Controllers 'seasoned' or not actually do work together, as you've stated you're not one on the network, I can [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ure you there is a lot of coordination going on in the background especially using teamspeak for realtime coordination, do you really think events are just posted and executed without any forward planning by the team of controllers handling the event?.

 

I don't know what bunch of real world 'certs' you can wave infront of us but from our (local)real world controllers counterparts who've observed our virtual operations have had nothing but praise, especially because we've actually been doing something in the virtual world they're implementing in real life and have been fascinated on how long we've actually being doing it(remote tower operations).

 

This can very easily turn into a toxic topic so I'll leave it at that.

 

 

Poor choice of words on my part. I do know that controllers work together. That is evident every day on the network. What I meant was it's not their full time job, and they don't work together as a team every day, like the real world counterparts. My apologies for not making that more clear.

 

Tim

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The GRP asks to train controllers to competency. Most facilities misinterpret that to mean proficiency, and that proficiency to an insanely high level. That was never the intent of GRP, nor the Founders. Someday we may get a handle on it.

 

That's really what I was thinking should be the way to train. Train to a baseline, then start honing skills on the job (non-event time of course....), with random monitoring from an instructor. That would reduce the workload of the instructors, and encourage more people to pursue the controller side of the network.

 

The real world example for me, is you train a private pilot candidate to proficiency as defined in the PTS, give them a solid knowledge base, and teach them safe decision making. This then gives them the proverbial license to learn. What you don't do, is train a private pilot candidate to ATP standards, just in case they want to fly for an airline one day.

 

In any event, thanks to all for an enlightening discussion. It's appreciated.

 

Regards,

 

Tim

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Hence why we [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ess via sweat box with a scripted [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essment.

 

Every controller that gets their rating in our airspace has sat the same theory test and same practical exam irregardless of the [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essor, in a controlled isolated environment.

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

956763

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That's really what I was thinking should be the way to train. Train to a baseline, then start honing skills on the job (non-event time of course....), with random monitoring from an instructor. That would reduce the workload of the instructors, and encourage more people to pursue the controller side of the network.

This is exactly how my facility does it. Once you're proficient to "everyday" levels, you're given a solo endorsement to work outside of events, and once you've had an event or two under your belt under the watch of an instructor or mentor, you're considered certified.

Dhruv Kalra

VATUSA ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor

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Someday we may get a handle on it.

 

It constantly amazes me that every time there is a discussion on ATC training, someone comes in and says, this is not the intent of the GRP and its being misinterpreted and applied incorrectly, but what us being done to fix divisions that are overzealous with their application of standards?

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

956763

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  • Board of Governors

I think the key here is that a balance is required.

 

Clearly, a reasonable level of traffic is required in order to satisfactorily [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ess certain competencies (dependent on position, but in general streaming, prioritisation, effective utilisation of the runway etc will all obviously require there to be a reasonable stream of traffic to organise).

 

However, I do think that this VATSIM obsession with "overloads" and piling as many aircraft on frequency as possible, whether that's at an event or in an exam, is a bit ridiculous. Yes, it can get busy during events, but the idea that you're not worthy if you can't handle 40 aircraft top down whilst standing on your head and reciting the RT manual backwards is silly. It's not realistic and it's generally counter-productive from a training point of view as people just end up overloading the student and whilst they may 'cope' they have no capacity left to actually learn anything.

 

Gaining a rating (of any description) should not be about being the 'finished article'. Experience is what polishes them and comes with time. What matters is that the candidate is operating in the correct manner, is capable of dealing with certain reasonable scenarios and has a base level of competency that they can apply to keep things safe as they build experience solo and gradually stretch their capabilites.

Vice President, Pilot Training

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I've always thought that it would be helpful to have a full certification to measure competency/proficiency and an events certification where you could test for handling high levels of traffic. To keep the events certification you would be required to work a certain number of events per year to maintain event currency.

 

Many ARTCCs have overload tests because they want to be [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ured that a Controller can work high levels of traffic before awarding the full certification.

Manuel Manigault

Division Director

VATUSA

1079207032_EmailSignatureLogo.png.d228f202e109ce2ee4f9f50b2bbc5524.png

 

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Manuel your first part would run a foul of GRP. once certified, you are certified. would not be a fan of recertifications, we cant keep up with getting certified the first time! lol

 

for events, id hope users would use common sense and know what their limits are, IE if you know event traffic is beyond you, dont put yourself in an event slot thats pretty much what i avoided doing until i felt comfortable enough on a position

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Someday we may get a handle on it.

 

It constantly amazes me that every time there is a discussion on ATC training, someone comes in and says, this is not the intent of the GRP and its being misinterpreted and applied incorrectly, but what us being done to fix divisions that are overzealous with their application of standards?

 

It constantly amazes me that every time there is a discussion on ATC training, someone comes in and says, this is not the intent of the GRP and its being misinterpreted and applied incorrectly, but what us being done to fix and clarify the GRP to make the intent more obvious? Because as I read it, there are sections that are left SO ambiguous that begs for this to happen. For example,

 

III) TMA Controller (S3) – APP/DEP positions

 

A) GENERAL

 

1. Setup, Configure and Connect to the network

2. Demonstrates understanding of the ATS role

3. Displays service delivery awareness

4. Displays situational awareness - my definition of situational awareness and your definition of situational awareness could be entirely different

5. Manages communication priority - if we have different pictures of the flick, you can almost guarantee that our priorities are different

6. Uses correct phraseology

7. Manages Flight Strips, Tags and Flight Plans

8. Displays professional behaviour and pleasant attitude

 

 

My student and I may not have to be on the same realism level, but if it's obvious that they just aren't getting it at regular traffic amounts, then I'm not considering they are competent at the task per the docomeent. Therefore, I'm not able to give the rating because the GRP also says,

 

A division or training department must NOT award an ATC rating until a person has demonstrated all elements of competency required for the rating (where applicable).

 

The GRP, in my opinion, needs a serious revamp. Quite frankly, the docomeent looks like it was written using VATPAC material (which isn't a bad thing), and some of those requirements they way they are worded do not fit the way air traffic services are handled in other places in the world (aka the USA). And since this docomeent is designed to be "global", something has to give.

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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For events, id hope users would use common sense and know what their limits are, IE if you know event traffic is beyond you, dont put yourself in an event slot thats pretty much what i avoided doing until i felt comfortable enough on a position

Unfortunately, very few student controllers have your self-restraint.

Dhruv Kalra

VATUSA ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor

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