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When there's trouble hearing?


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So tonight I had a bit of a Darwin Award-worthy flight out of KBOS that was entirely my fault, but that I would rather not repeat.

 

After cooling down and mulling it all over I realized several factors created the "accident" (feels like a typical Disaster TV show).

 

The factors:

 

1. 3-year lay-off from flying and VATSIM

2. A hurry to get back up to speed. I miss you guys!

3. Lots of new factors like losing my old tools, X-Plane 11 and a new FMS that seems as touchy as dog with rabid rabies.

4. A loss of hearing over time.

 

The first trouble came when ground at BOS said (or so I thought I heard), "Hold short runway 27..... oh, disregard. Runway 33L cleared "

 

What he actually said was to Hold short runway 27 ... oh, disregard, monitor 134.xx."

 

I thought, well no one is around and I literally just crossed runway 4L seconds ago and there was no traffic. I then actually took the time to look right at 4R and then glanced left and scampered across 4R. I called ground twice and got no reply. I [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume they logged off. I then saw text to call CTR and did. I found out then that a BAW on final declared a missed approach and the controller reamed me out heavily (that part I believe should have been handled better).

 

It so flustered me that the next 20 minutes was a blur. I became tunnel focused and missed one item after another. Forgot twice to hit ALT SEL in the Dash 8 which means a blew through two altitude directives. Then the FMS wouldn't behave because, in my haze I was sure I set it and, of course, I didn't see the blue EXEC light. DOH! I screwed up a direct to.... And, of course, I then got the FMS going and it started descending me before I got clearance to descend on my way to Philly at the edge of CTR so one last hit.

 

Had no issues getting into PHL as I've done that countless times and there was thankfully no controllers so I could just relax and do what I've done prior. Seriously, in a roughly 15 years on VATSIM I've never had this sort of meltdown. Just a really bad night.

 

Regardless, I'd like to make sure I avoid this. However there's a real set of issues to consider. I'm coming to the realization that so often I literally cannot fathom what another pilot just said and the controller hears it, supposedly fine and responds. I notice now about ...... 25% of the time I'm not 100% sure what the controller said. 85% of the time of those cases I'm correct on the guess as it's fairly obvious (part of the plan, etc.)

 

So, the obvious answer is, ask the controller to repeat the directive, right?

 

However, I don't want to be THAT guy that has to ask a controller (especially ones I now realize are in my tone def frequency) to repeat themselves continually. We all seem to be put off when that happens on both sides of the interaction.

 

So then I could go text, but that ruins the experience.

 

I'm 53 this weekend and with tone deafness, bad tinnitus and all that goes on in the plane, it's a real challenge. Hell I landed at BOS the previous evening in a MESS of weather without screwing up and with aircraft all over. This was almost empty skies tonight (other than the speedbird).

 

So for the aged pilots, what have you done? Is there a tool or advice to hear what's going on without having to give up all the things that make the experience fun? I suspect if I were actually a pilot I'd be asked to head to early retirement at this point.

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If you aren't sure what the instruction is, then don't move and ask the controller to repeat. [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming things in aviation usually doesn't work out.

Ryan Geckler - GK | Former VATUSA3 - Division Training Manager

VATSIM Minneapolis ARTCC | FAA Miami ARTCC 

Cross the Pond Planning Team

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There's always the ever important point of making sure you're up to speed on your aircraft. Considering the real guys require one or two rounds in the sim per year for non-normals, we PC-hobbiers should keep in mind how quickly knowledge dilutes over time. If you brain laggs behind your aircraft, be it sim or real life, you've got no chance. If it happens, jump down to the lowest ammount of automation you feel you can handle, either full manual or heading select and manual altitude adjustment on the autopilot, then notify your ATC what you need help with in terms of course (vectors) and altitude. Real pilots have flown their plane and p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]engers into mountain sides before while typing on their computers, no need to simulate that phenomenon if you can avoid it!

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I can't make sense of your taxiing story. If you'd just crossed 4L and nothing was said about 4R (either to cross or hold short), that would mean you were taxiing to 9 (not 27)? However, since you did cross 4R, that means you were taxiing to 33L or 27? Which taxiway were you on and which runway were you taxiing to?

 

I realize you have a hearing issue, but in this case it wasn't hearing that was the cause of the problem. If 4R was in your way, you should've received some instruction regarding it. They probably told you "Cross 4L, hold short 4R", however you don't mention hearing or not hearing it. When you realized you had no instruction, you should've stopped and asked, no matter whether you didn't hear the instruction or forgot it.

KntU2Cw.jpg
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I can't make sense of your taxiing story.

 

The part your focusing on misses the point really. I was just basically saying I screwed up. For completeness I had been told to hold short at 4R on my way to 33L. I was also held short at 4L, but as I approached each, ground interrupted to say to cross each of them. I simply omitted the last example of that which came immediately before where I picked up the quoting. I took all that to mean that he intended me to part 33L at the point just past where I cross 33L (which I often get given my flying a Dash).

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I've had issues with XSB in the past where it's too quiet (at 100%). To fix this, you can go into the config (somewhere in then plugins folder) and increase it to 150. That helped me a lot.

 

Thanks. This is the sort of thing I was hoping I might find. I'd also be curious to know what the heck "Filter Audio" does. Seems no one knows given my google searches on it. I was hoping there might be a setting to allow for the pure audio stream in hope that what we hear in the cockpit is somehow processed to sound more realistic and thus introducing more noise.

 

I thought about that because playing on voice servers in standard games usually sounds far more clear. I have far less of a challenge is FPS action where things happen far more quickly and using the same equipment. Perhaps it's just that XSB and the like compresses the hell out of the audio.

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You could've omitted the story altogether and just asked how to improve hearing on VATSIM, but you did tell the story, so I was trying to make sense of it. And you did say that you crossed 4R not because you thought you had permission, but because you thought there was no traffic. Now you're saying that ground did give you permission to cross 4R. If he did, you read it back and he was happy with your readback, then I don't see why Center would get angry with you, as it would be the ground controller's fault then.

 

I simply omitted the last example of that which came immediately before where I picked up the quoting. I took all that to mean that he intended me to part 33L at the point just past where I cross 33L (which I often get given my flying a Dash).

This makes even less sense.

KntU2Cw.jpg
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It's the older codec vatsim needs to use for legacy games that is at issue. As said above vPilot has simulate VHF which I find helps, I think it might reduce the b[Mod - Happy Thoughts] quite a bit. Try the "filter audio" and just sit and listen on a busy freq to see if it makes the difference. Oh and begeesus don't jump back in using the dash!

Mr.

VATSIM P2

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It's the older codec vatsim needs to use for legacy games that is at issue. As said above vPilot has simulate VHF which I find helps, I think it might reduce the b[Mod - Happy Thoughts] quite a bit. Try the "filter audio" and just sit and listen on a busy freq to see if it makes the difference. Oh and begeesus don't jump back in using the dash!

 

Will do on Filter.

 

On the Dash, it's really the only plane I fly. Now that the FMS has changed (I knew the built-in one inside-out) it's added a layer of confusion I wasn't prepared for. The old one is no longer available and it'll be good to ultimately learn the default one as it's a step closer to the real thing and prevalent in many planes now and in the future.

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Hi Rich,

 

Thanks for writing this post, and sharing your experience with the community. I have always felt that VATSIM is a learning-oriented organization. Having discussions like these about ways we can improve is extremely healthy for the network as well as for ourselves.

 

I was the BOS_CTR controller online for your flight. I wanted to apologize directly to you for making the statement you reference. We both feel the statement was inappropriate; I feel it was unbecoming of my position as a controller, and I'm embarr[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed by it now. I'd like to offer a bit of explanation as to my thinking at the time, as well as the situation, so that we can all benefit from it and improve moving forward.

 

The facts you listed in the original post were pretty much correct. Initially, I really had no issue with the runway incursion (crossing Runway 27 on "C" without a clearance, while taxiing for Runway 33L). Fact is, the Ground controller did mistakenly almost instruct you to cross before correcting himself. I happened to be listening to BOS_GND at the time (although I was not formally providing any training), so I heard the exchange. Because the inbound traffic was several miles back, I didn't see a need to interject. Feedback after the session I gave him was that he should have repeated the "hold short" instruction to avoid confusion.

 

The actual issue that created a conflict was two-fold. First, you didn't monitor my frequency as you were instructed to (I tried twice to call you after you'd crossed the runway). Not sure where you went, because we tried you on Ground's frequency too, and didn't hear anything. Worse, you then lined up on Runway 33L without authorization; it appeared to me that you were going to takeoff without clearance too. As soon as I saw you enter the runway, I instructed the arrival on short final on Runway 27 to go around, just in case you were going to takeoff.

 

I think I was reasonably polite when I told you that we provide top-down coverage at BOS, and that crossing and line up instructions are required (let me know). Based on your CID only having 6 numbers, plus the fact that you sounded like you knew what you were doing on the radio, I was concerned that perhaps you knew the correct procedure, but were intentionally ignoring ATC in an attempt to get going quicker. That's happened to me before, so I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.

 

After takeoff, I tried to have you go direct SSOXS, to avoid conflict with an inbound. When you didn't point in the right direction, and started to turn toward the crossing traffic, I gave you an altitude restriction to keep you 1,000' below the other plane. When you climbed through that altitude and created a conflict for the other traffic, I reacted more aggressively than I should have. I said something like "perhaps you should stick to single player", really meaning that maybe a few flights in single player would be good before getting back on the network. However, I can appreciate that it came across more demeaning than that, and that really wasn't my intention. What you heard was the result of being on for several hours and a long shift of pilot deviations. It was a knee-jerk reaction. Nevertheless, it wasn't appropriate, and I'm sorry. I generally consider myself to be fairly relaxed and patient with folks who are newer and thought this was an out-of-character reaction. However, after the incident, I got some feedback from a different pilot that said he felt I was regularly impatient with pilots, so I'm still reflecting on whether my overall approach to controlling on the network needs to be revised. (I also had 3 people send me PMs saying they felt I was fair and patient in that situation, so, like I said, still thinking.)

 

Regardless: I'm sorry. To you and the others on the frequency who heard me say what I did. It wasn't appropriate, polite, or helpful considering the situation. I should have let the proper administrative action (i.e., the network supervisor that was talking to you) handle the situation and not tried to do more than I could from my position.

 

Believe it or not, after your runway incursion, I had to send another pilot around TWICE. The first time, an aircraft again crossed Runway 27 without clearance. The pilot readback the hold short instruction correctly, but then crossed the runway anyway. The second time, the aircraft ahead stopped on the runway (despite SPECIFIC instructions not to because I saw the situation coming). Although they were separated by about 6 miles on the approach, stopping for 30 seconds on the runway forced a go around. In all, poor DAL515 had to fly 3 APPROACHES to Runway 27 before he could land. On the third one, we had to stop everyone from moving on the ground at BOS just to make sure he could get in!

 

Having now read your post, I have a much better understanding of what actually happened, and as a result, I have a few ideas for how things can be done better next time. But at the time, I was thinking "man, here's this guy who has 1,000+ hours on the network, has been a member WAY longer than I have...maybe he's just not interested in listening to me". I've had that happen before: about a year ago, a pilot departing ALB ignored my noise abatement / climb vectors and went on course. When I queried him, he said "yeah, I know you gave me heading 280, but I didn't feel like going off course and didn't see any traffic so I just went direct. What's the point in being realistic when there's only a few of us on frequency?". To me, that's a pilot saying "I don't care that you're trying to keep things realistic, I'm going to do my own thing". And for someone who has dedicated hours to writing ATC procedures and training controllers, it hurt. I had (incorrectly) gotten that same sense from you, and that's what contributed to the reaction you heard.

 

With this bit of background, allow me to provide a few ideas for how things could have been better. I'm not sending this specifically for you; I hope that others reading this post can think about if/how it might relate and help in a similar situation. The objective of flying online -- in my view -- is learning and improving from the situations that offer us lessons.

 

-----

 

Firstly, if you're new to the network, or coming back from a hiatus, please let us know. The biggest challenge controllers face with pilot deviations isn't when someone doesn't know how to do something. Instead, it's when a pilot says they can comply, but then doesn't. Speaking for myself here, I don't care if you can't fly an ILS, have trouble with "descend via", or don't know what I mean when I say "SSOXS4 departure". These are complex, IFR topics that real-world pilots spend 150+ hours studying before they can get in the air. Virtual controllers don't expect virtual pilots to be perfect. But we'd much rather you say "I'm new to ILS approaches, is there an alternative?" or "I don't have an FMC, is there another arrival available?" or, "hey, I'm having trouble with going direct SSOXS". This way, I can plan; I can move aircraft, provide alternative instructions, or know that you might need a bit of extra space. If you don't tell me otherwise, I predicate separation of other traffic on the basis of you following whatever instruction or clearance you've been issued. For me, if someone comes out and says "Hey, I'm a bit new to this" -- or they sound that way -- I instantly try to tone things down to make it as easy as possible. By contrast, when someone is flying a realistic aircraft (like a DH8), sounds professional, and accepts the clearances, I try to be as realistic as I can. Even a simple private message before your flight, or a comment in your remarks, goes a long way to help us help you.

 

Second, if you're having trouble hearing us, that's something we can work on. Sounds like there are some good suggestions in this thread about ways to do that. Having not used X-Plane or XSquawbox, the only thing I could add is -- if you don't already -- consider using a USB headset. You can set up the sim so that your aircraft sounds (engines, wind, etc.) come through the speakers, while ATC comes through the headset. If you have already got something like that set up, great! If not, you may wish to consider it, as I've always found it makes hearing the controller MUCH easier.

 

Third, if you ever aren't sure about an instruction, you have to ask. [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umptions kill. Quite often when I'm flying, I'll ask a controller to repeat. Often, they sound annoyed. But I'd rather they sound annoyed -- and have to field the odd sarcastic comment -- than [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume an instruction was for me when it wasn't. I've had more than a few circomestances where I would have done something wrong if I hadn't asked. There are way too many runway incursions, altitude busts, and close calls in real life and here on the network when pilots and controllers do not communicate clearly enough.

 

-----

 

One last thing I'd like to mention is BVA's Letter to Airmen, visible at http://www.bvartcc.com/LTA. This docomeent is designed to give pilots a very quick (8 pages) primer into flying in our airspace. Many ARTCCs will do something similar. We created this docomeent because we want to help pilots learn, and you'll see me quoting it on the frequency during situations when I feel pilots might benefit.

 

I know some other ARTCCs have similar "pilot briefing" material available.

 

In the docomeent, we've included a "Checklist for Flying in ZBW". You'll find many of the items apply equally for people flying on the network in general. You'll see several of the themes I mentioned in my post above summarized in this checklist:

 

vFKagdU.png

 

Rich, I'm so glad that you've decided to share your experience with others and seek help. I'm even more glad that the comment I made hasn't turned you away from flying on the network. I hope I get the opportunity to work with you again soon. Again -- again -- I'm sorry my rash, inappropriate, and unwelcoming conduct.

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Evan Reiter
Boston Virtual ARTCC/ZBW Community Manager

 

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Evan,

 

Thanks for the detailed response. It's greatly appreciated and, rest [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ured, I will be working overtime to make sure I'm better prepared the next time we run into each other.

 

The actual issue that created a conflict was two-fold. First, you didn't monitor my frequency as you were instructed to (I tried twice to call you after you'd crossed the runway). Not sure where you went, because we tried you on Ground's frequency too, and didn't hear anything. Worse, you then lined up on Runway 33L without authorization; it appeared to me that you were going to takeoff without clearance too. As soon as I saw you enter the runway, I instructed the arrival on short final on Runway 27 to go around, just in case you were going to takeoff.

 

I'm not sure if the recordings capture all my outbound voice to the GND channel, but as I crossed 27 toward 33L I transmitted to GND that I believe he meant for me to go one way on 27 (to "short" 33L) and not go the distance to the full length of 33L. When I got no response from that comment I then tried again and got no response. As has been my bad luck of late, many controllers have recently decided to dump out without any warning what-so-ever. I [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umed this must be one of those cases and believed I was pretty much on my own (a mistake). So I proceeded believing I was on UNICOM and at this point, details got in the way. I went deep into my checklist, head-down, paying no regard to anything but the checklist. I then went about my flight [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming the world was pretty empty. Curiously, I remember looking both ways when crossing the RWY and thought, okay, there's no traffic. I obviously missed the Speedbird. I then took off and at that moment noticed the request pop up. That's when I realized just how terribly I'd botched things.

 

So I was factoring all of that in and had this deep enough feeling of great disappointment, but now coupled with a bit of extra "mustard" after your responses. This all just brought on the tunnel vision I mentioned which, at that point, meant everything was guaranteed to collapse.

 

I was concerned that perhaps you knew the correct procedure, but were intentionally ignoring ATC in an attempt to get going quicker. That's happened to me before, so I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.

 

Yeah, that wasn't the issue for me. Speed was not my concern. I simply had "lost the world" around me. Just as you applied other recent negatives onto me, I too [Mod - Happy Thoughts]umed the worst around me, thought, "oh well, another swing and miss where I'll be on unicom flying alone today".

 

What you heard was the result of being on for several hours and a long shift of pilot deviations.

 

Don't sweat it a moment. We don't know one another, but I actually have worked with some real controllers while working on simulation work for the PC games TRACON, Xavius' ATCC and others. I learned about "flick" and the intensity that comes from their work and how much they put on the line every single day. I can only imagine what it would be like trying to do the same job with a bunch of novices and a system far less reliable than the real deal.

 

reflecting on whether my overall approach to controlling on the network needs to be revised. (I also had 3 people send me PMs saying they felt I was fair and patient in that situation, so, like I said, still thinking.)

 

On this stuff I have mixed emotions. I support you fully on where you go with it. I'm having issues with balancing the real/sim aspects of it. In the end, this is a game so no one really got hurt, but you can't just say that either as it takes away from the sim aspect. I think it might be beneficial if the system had some way of marking pilots for the true willingness to want to do the right thing versus the sorry number that long on willfully create mischief. I would not be among those. Note the remarks in my flight plans. I always remember that you are volunteering your time for this and it's appreciated. I could easily go pay PilotEdge for what they do, but I don't not because I can't afford to, but because I appreciate the broader GOAL of VATSIM. It's an amazing endeavor and one I want to support.

 

However, I also feel we need to be careful in how far we go down the simulating path. If if forgets what's at the heart of this on the pilot side then I worry we may drive too many people off due to their inability to keep up. This, for lack of a better example, is the Rock Band of flying. We play plastic guitars that have no real strings, but in our heads we're Jimi Hendrix playing to the crowds. That magic shouldn't be risked over too much rigid structure. You want a solid experience and my mistakes are something I think you can sense I will strive to address. The catch is, nothing I would do flying single player would help. It would just put me in a world with zero distraction and distraction is the entire challenge of VATSIM. If it wasn't, many of us would not be here.

 

I saw the situation coming). Although they were separated by about 6 miles on the approach, stopping for 30 seconds on the runway forced a go around. In all, poor DAL515 had to fly 3 APPROACHES to Runway 27 before he could land. On the third one, we had to stop everyone from moving on the ground at BOS just to make sure he could get in!

 

Yeah, I felt terrible for that guy, but also not if that makes any sense. IF he wanted to get off and head back to life than I am truly, fully, entirely sorry for my part in delaying that. If he was here for the experience then this type of complication arises continually and so we gave the guy more bang for his buck without intending to. When it's happened to me, I never get upset. I think, "Ooh, something different" just as had happened the night before when BOS was awash in traffic and horrid weather. It made it more interesting and therefore more fun -- which is the point.

 

Having now read your post, I have a much better understanding of what actually happened, and as a result, I have a few ideas for how things can be done better next time. But at the time, I was thinking "man, here's this guy who has 1,000+ hours on the network, has been a member WAY longer than I have...maybe he's just not interested in listening to me". I've had that happen before: about a year ago, a pilot departing ALB ignored my noise abatement / climb vectors and went on course. When I queried him, he said "yeah, I know you gave me heading 280, but I didn't feel like going off course and didn't see any traffic so I just went direct. What's the point in being realistic when there's only a few of us on frequency?". To me, that's a pilot saying "I don't care that you're trying to keep things realistic, I'm going to do my own thing".

 

We couldn't agree more. That's just a jerk, and if I become like that, it's time to give this up. Oh, also, if you can see OLD submitted flight plans you'll see that in the past I've warned the controllers in my remarks when I've been rusty. I actually forgot to amend that since coming back after my latest layoff.

 

If you also haven't grasped my true intent here, you have nothing to worry about. I apologize for making your session that much more tense. We're all good on my end and all this info is perfectly received.

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