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Controller thoughts/feedback


Fred Navarro
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Hi guys,

 

Just a bit of an observation, really.... I am not trying to upset people and the way things are set up on VATSIM.

 

Anyway, as you know, there is a big difference on the network between the number of pilots and the number of controllers. Maybe 1 to 20, probably more.

 

Everybody will agree that to balance things out a little bit and make the network more interesting, we need more controllers.

I know that controlling is possibly not everybody's cup of tea. Fair enough.

It is also more complex in terms of using ATC software like Euroscope, rather than just use vPilot and fly. This might also keep people away and put them off controlling. There is nothing we can do about that, though. Euroscope is a powerful tool and one needs to learn how it works.

 

The one big thing that VATSIM as a whole could consider is "open" the network a little bit more to controllers. By that, I mean, make it easier for people to get into controlling.

For example, why restrict a STU to control only a GND position as I have seen recently in some airports....? I find the whole thing a bit frustrating: "Taxi holding point runway XX, monitor UNICOM 122.8" Really? Would it not be more beneficial for the controller to be in charge of the TWR position and allow the pilot to take off/land. I mean, it is not rocket science. The pilot would also be happier.

I feel for the poor guy who sits at an airport for 2 hours to just say...."taxi holding point runway xx, UNICOM 122.8." They will get frustrated rather quickly. To me it feels like the controller's job is not complete. As a single controller, my humble opinion is that every position should be a TWR position, even in a major airport.

 

There are other things I think would be worth considering, but I will stop here for the moment.

 

As I said, I am NOT trying to upset people, but just offering some feedback.

 

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Fred I think you raise some good points.

 

I’m a C1 with Oceanic endorsement, but it is reasonably hard to control anywhere outside my ‘home’ region. I once tryed to help out in New York Oceanic, but they wouldn’t recognise my quals without doing their [Mod - Happy Thoughts]essments.

 

This is the same in lots of places. An Open Skies policy is a move in the right direction. Controllers are a limited resource, so why not share them around.

Sean

C1/O P3

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There are places on vatsim that skip the S1 (GND) and go straight for S2 (TWR) which is also how most places for real do it. However it doesn't really make much difference.

 

You still have to learn the same amount of material. The difference is that you can't control GND before you get your full S2, so in actual case there is an argument to be made to say that having active S1 solo controllers mean more ATC coverage.

 

Also the open skies thing isn't going to increase controller numbers. It would maybe increase the amount of coverage at busy places, but it would take it away from smaller ones instead.

Johan Grauers

Event Coordinator - vACC Scandinavia

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"Taxi holding point runway XX, monitor UNICOM 122.8"

And if he was tower, it would be just one more instruction: "Runway x, cleared for takeoff, wind blah blah blah, monitor unicom 122.8".

 

Seriously though, the tower theory involves a lot and it does get more difficult, especially with VFR traffic and/or many aircraft.

 

Crawl before you walk.

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Good discussion, if anything raises the need for more standardisation when it comes to controller training progression. Although working tower at cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts] b airports as opposed to cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts] d is quite different.

Oakland ARTCC Events Coordinator - S-3

oakartcc.org

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As much as I like the thought of having openness in regards to controlling, it's not as simple as you make it. If you want to make a good controller that can work any medium-large event level traffic, it's more than just following a standard procedure. Becoming a good controller takes a lot of training, and especially in regards to translating procedures internationally, it's not just as easy as picking it up right off the bat. Controlling in the US is significantly different than controlling in ICAO-land. Different phraseology, procedures, etc. I'm sure if someone wanted to, they could vector a plane towards an airport, maybe avoid terrain, and [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming no one else is online, probably be fine. Add in multiple sectors, traffic flows, weather conditions, etc. and the instantaneous transition is not possible.

 

EDIT: I do agree with Jarid below.

Edited by Guest

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

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... there is a big difference on the network between the number of pilots and the number of controllers. Maybe 1 to 20, probably more.

 

Everybody will agree that to balance things out a little bit and make the network more interesting, we need more controllers. ...

 

Why do you want to balance the number of pilots to controllers?

 

You allude to controllers being bored putting in 2 hours of work just to say "taxi to holding point...". It's not that the limited scope of the cotnroller's work is lacking, it is that TRAFFIC is lacking! Ground control can be incredibly complex, challenging, and stressful. But not when you get one plane every 2 hours!

 

As I write, there are 471 pilots to 39 controllers online. 12:1. Most pilots are in uncontrolled airspace though. In my ARTCC, there are 4 pilots, 3 controllers. 4:3.

 

I guarantee you that these guys are bored, just as you alluded to.

 

Give them more pilots so they won't get bored, lose interest, and stop controlling.

Steven Perry

VATSIM Supervisor

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I can appreciate the sentiment, but the reality is just not feasible. There are always going to be more pilots than controllers, that's just the way it is. I think a better thing to explore is "How do we increase controller up time?" This is a loaded question and it's one that VATSIM must answer if it wants to continue to serve as the premier online ATC Community.

 

One way they have done this is just as you said, allow S1 controllers to work the local position. an S1 is not a Clearance / Ground controller. It is actually a "tower trainee." So while it's true that new controllers are going to learn clearance and ground procedures first, they can actually work the local position as well after they complete the initial training on that position, while still practicing for their full S2 rating.

 

The larger problem is the loss of fully qualified controllers who can work everything and are of vital importance training the newer controllers. You are always going to lose people from this hobby just from real life getting in the way. However, real life conflict is a fraction of the reasons experienced people leave. The primary one is that it just isn't fun for them anymore, why continue to engage in a hobby if you don't get enjoyment out of it?

 

Figuring out what it is that causes the hobby not to be fun anymore for these controllers is the million dollar question for VATSIM management. The answer needs to be found (I have my ideas), and a solution created to keep these guys on to train newer people. You do that, and uptime increases and your ratio of online ATC to pilots starts to become more like what OP wants to see.

Matt Bartels
VP: Marketing & Communication
## vpmkt (at) vatsim.net
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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Some great points here. I remember back to my first days on the network, and the first authorization I got was a DEL authorization. Imagine that for a second -- I couldn't even give a guy a taxi clearance, just an ATC clearance to his destination. And if a pilot landed at an airport I was controlling -- DEL only -- I couldn't give him anything other than a smile and a wave as he taxied by the tower cab that I was sitting all alone in. But, you know what, it was part of my facility's training plan, and it got me on the network, without an instructor having to be right there, and I was grateful. I was crawling before I was walking, and walking before I was running. I became solid as a DEL controller, then as a GND controller (who could not control TWR yet), and then as a TWR controller when I finally got that rating. And, yes, although I yearned for more as quickly as I could get it, I was grateful to even be online, on the network, talking to a few pilots and practicing my craft, and studying for my next lesson/rating. Preventing me from controlling online until I learned DEL and GND and TWR all together would have prevented me from getting online and controlling, albeit not controlling "much" in the grand scheme of things, thirteen times. Three as a DEL-only controller, and ten as a DEL/GND controller. I was grateful to get online and practice while I learned and pushed for my next training session. Matt's right -- you want to increase throughput and get people controlling "more, bigger" stuff? You ensure leadership at all levels are working their hardest to retain good talent and ensure they are giving back to the community by teaching the new folks, reducing training logjams as much as you possibly can by keeping people active and giving back to the community, and the way to do that is to ensure that this is a FUN hobby to participate in, within communities at all levels that are having fun while improving and growing as part of their culture.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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I'm with you Don. I enjoyed every position I was on. Why fly through the steps that make up what a CTR controller is, an all position controller. The proof of hurried ratings can easily be seen when you are flying into or out of and airport or airspace VFR, especially when there is traffic around.

Mark Smith

1119598

Vatsim Supervisor

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I’ve only been around for five minutes, but why is VATUSA broken up into so many vACCs?

 

CONUS is roughly same geo-size as Australia, yet a S1 can control anywhere within Australia. So effectively Australia has a finite number of various levels of controllers, but those controllers can move to where the traffic is. What is the rationale for having so many borders in VATUSA? Do the procedures change from east to west, north to south?

Sean

C1/O P3

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I’ve only been around for five minutes, but why is VATUSA broken up into so many vACCs?

 

CONUS is roughly same geo-size as Australia, yet a S1 can control anywhere within Australia. So effectively Australia has a finite number of various levels of controllers, but those controllers can move to where the traffic is. What is the rationale for having so many borders in VATUSA? Do the procedures change from east to west, north to south?

That's how it is real world. And the actual density of airspace in much much higher than that of Australia, in terms of both volume, and the shear amount of airports.

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

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Interesting discussion.... there seems to be a consensus for training and work your way up through the ranks. Why not? On the other hand, a lot of potential controllers give up after a while because they are stuck controlling "small" positions and lose interest along the way?

 

What if your grade was not [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ociated with the position you can open? Working up through the ranks would be more a reflection of your expertise/experience rather than your "p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]port" to a higher position?

 

 

Anyway... Just a bit of food for thought.

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I’ve only been around for five minutes, but why is VATUSA broken up into so many vACCs?

 

CONUS is roughly same geo-size as Australia, yet a S1 can control anywhere within Australia. So effectively Australia has a finite number of various levels of controllers, but those controllers can move to where the traffic is. What is the rationale for having so many borders in VATUSA? Do the procedures change from east to west, north to south?

That's how it is real world. And the actual density of airspace in much much higher than that of Australia, in terms of both volume, and the shear amount of airports.

 

Is it for traffic or is it purely administrative? Australia used to be broken into Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne FIRs. This ended in the 90s with all en route, oceanic and some approach control for airspace administered by Australia all managed from two buildings in Melbourne and Brisbane. No one would doubt that air traffic has increased significantly since that time. That being said, sectorisation has not remained constant - the real world situation is that each of the two FIRs has a few dozen sectors, from very small near Sydney to very large in the case of the "Indian" sector (covering the Indian Ocean). VATPAC have implemented only 15 sectors, a significant (and appropriate) reduction in number.

 

So I would suggest that the division of FIRs is for administrative purposes (and political, in the case of FIRs whose boundaries align with national borders) and that it is sectorisation that deals with the operational side.

 

With that said, it could be argued that perhaps VATUSA does not need so many administrative regions and could optimise its internal borders based on operational needs instead. But, of course, we have seen the debates on this very issue and it turns out that political concerns are just as relevant here as they are in the real world!

 

The traffic argument on USA vs Australia also doesn't stand to scrutiny. There is no doubt places like LA and NY see great traffic on a typical week. But we know from the statistics that places like Sydney and Melbourne see far more weekly traffic than even some US airports listed in the GRP as "major". This traffic is also not spread evenly across the week, but is concentrated primarily on Monday evenings, which boosts the traffic rate (which is more relevant to ATC workload etc.).

David Zhong

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I’ve only been around for five minutes, but why is VATUSA broken up into so many vACCs?

 

CONUS is roughly same geo-size as Australia, yet a S1 can control anywhere within Australia. So effectively Australia has a finite number of various levels of controllers, but those controllers can move to where the traffic is. What is the rationale for having so many borders in VATUSA? Do the procedures change from east to west, north to south?

That's how it is real world. And the actual density of airspace in much much higher than that of Australia, in terms of both volume, and the shear amount of airports.

 

Is it for traffic or is it purely administrative? Australia used to be broken into Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne FIRs. This ended in the 90s with all en route, oceanic and some approach control for airspace administered by Australia all managed from two buildings in Melbourne and Brisbane. No one would doubt that air traffic has increased significantly since that time. That being said, sectorisation has not remained constant - the real world situation is that each of the two FIRs has a few dozen sectors, from very small near Sydney to very large in the case of the "Indian" sector (covering the Indian Ocean). VATPAC have implemented only 15 sectors, a significant (and appropriate) reduction in number.

 

So I would suggest that the division of FIRs is for administrative purposes (and political, in the case of FIRs whose boundaries align with national borders) and that it is sectorisation that deals with the operational side.

 

With that said, it could be argued that perhaps VATUSA does not need so many administrative regions and could optimise its internal borders based on operational needs instead. But, of course, we have seen the debates on this very issue and it turns out that political concerns are just as relevant here as they are in the real world!

 

The traffic argument on USA vs Australia also doesn't stand to scrutiny. There is no doubt places like LA and NY see great traffic on a typical week. But we know from the statistics that places like Sydney and Melbourne see far more weekly traffic than even some US airports listed in the GRP as "major". This traffic is also not spread evenly across the week, but is concentrated primarily on Monday evenings, which boosts the traffic rate (which is more relevant to ATC workload etc.).

 

For realism purposes, the same can be said for europe where there's a different sector for each country.

Also procedures are different in most states, same applies in europe where every country has its own system (and even sector files).

It's not as easy as just saying let's combine all these sectors.

 

Back to the original topic, I think needing more controllers is a big statement, if you look at the UK, The Netherlands and Germany you will see fully staffed airports almost every day. The main problem (as said before) is the lack of pilots in some areas.

It's very simple, the more ATC is on, the more pilots will come, same the other way around, the more pilots are let's say connected on the ground at an airport, the more likely a controller will log on.

 

And also as said before, S1 is technically a tower trainee position. It's all vACC dependent how they use those ratings.

We (Belux vACC) use S1 for a solo endorsement of 1 month, and S as fully qualified tower. We also go straight to tower and skip ground and del. These are integrated in our tower training.

In The Netherlands they use another tactic, starting from DEL and working your way up.

This is most likey because the procedures aren't easy, it's a big airport with generally a high traffic load (IRL and on VATSIM). One more reason I can think of for using this tactic is to give every trainee a chance as they have alot of applicants and maybe not the time to train them directly for TWR.

Luka Stevens

Belux vACC Training Director (ACCBE2)

Belux vACC | vACC for Belgium and Luxembourg on VATSIM.

smflogo.pngBELUX_LOGO.thumb.png.b082e1876f0a7ca80d93b2d0b5149f30.png

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The traffic argument on USA vs Australia also doesn't stand to scrutiny. There is no doubt places like LA and NY see great traffic on a typical week. But we know from the statistics that places like Sydney and Melbourne see far more weekly traffic than even some US airports listed in the GRP as "major". This traffic is also not spread evenly across the week, but is concentrated primarily on Monday evenings, which boosts the traffic rate (which is more relevant to ATC workload etc.).

To comment on this a little more. Some airports may see less traffic than airports in Australia. With that said, if you're working a top-down sector with a moderate amount of traffic, weather, a neighboring event, weird requests, or any combination of those, it can get overwhelming somewhat quickly. If I were working two ARTCCs at once in the US, I would end up down the tubes in a matter of minutes.

Just for some comparison I pulled data from the last 96 hours. Take a look at North America versus Australia. The number of busy airports is overall greater, as well as the variety and amount of traffic (nearly three times as much).

Edited by Guest

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

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The traffic argument on USA vs Australia also doesn't stand to scrutiny. There is no doubt places like LA and NY see great traffic on a typical week. But we know from the statistics that places like Sydney and Melbourne see far more weekly traffic than even some US airports listed in the GRP as "major". This traffic is also not spread evenly across the week, but is concentrated primarily on Monday evenings, which boosts the traffic rate (which is more relevant to ATC workload etc.).

To comment on this a little more. Some airports may see less traffic than airports in Australia. With that said, if you're working a top-down sector with a moderate amount of traffic, weather, a neighboring event, weird requests, or any combination of those, it can get overwhelming somewhat quickly. If I were working two ARTCCs at once in the US, I would end up down the tubes in a matter of minutes.

Just for some comparison I pulled data from the last 96 hours. Take a look at North America versus Australia. The number of busy airports is overall greater, as well as the variety and amount of traffic (nearly three times as much).

 

A bit off topic but what program did you use to create these images?

Luka Stevens

Belux vACC Training Director (ACCBE2)

Belux vACC | vACC for Belgium and Luxembourg on VATSIM.

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Interesting -- first I've ever seen of this tool. It appears to be a very European-centric tool, but looks very promising. Of course, as the Director of VATUSA, I'd love to see it grow/expand to be/appear more global!

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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"Taxi holding point runway XX, monitor UNICOM 122.8"

Seriously though, the tower theory involves a lot and it does get more difficult, especially with VFR traffic and/or many aircraft.

 

Definitely this. I'm now an S1 Tower controller at EHAM and it's definitely more than just "cleared for takeoff" and "cleared to land". Dealing with VFR traffic (the rare moments they are there) in the CTR is much more difficult and could increase the workload quite a lot, especially if it's a CTR crosser or not on a standard procedure, like doing circuits.

 

Each position needs training and it depends on which airport, but each position has its own difficulties. No way I would've wanted DEL, GND and TWR learned at the same time. It could've been possible, but then the quality of each position's knowledge would be so much worse, thus decreasing the total ATC quality.

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ACCNL5 (Assistant Training Director) - Dutch VACC

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Each position has its own features (I like to use that word here).

Several vACC's are not using the S1-rating, but are going straight to S2. This depends on the size of the airport (GND-control responsibility), and also depending on traffic levels.

 

It would not make any sense, to have a GND or even DEL online only, if you get 1 aircraft in a hour. Luckily this is not the case everywhere, and those vACC's are coping with it (at least in Europe). Working towards what benefit the most.

I don't think there is any reason to change this setup.

Morten Jelle

VATSIM Network Senior Supervisor
VATSIM Membership Manager, Asia/Pacific Region

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  • 8 months later...

Question, I fly always VFR and most off the time the Lancair Legacy (real air) but my aircraft online image = medium aircraft (LEG2)

Can I fly the LEG2 but use the C182 so ATC see a GA VFR approching ( online image= small

Or prefere ATC the medium image but the right airplane , I need the answer from an ATC

Grts Eddy

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In only very rare cases will ATC actually see a depiction of an airplane (using TowerView). The vast majority of ATC will see you as a blip on a radar screen, even ATC simulating a VFR Tower. That said, the answer you got from Ross in the other thread is correct. Anyone that wants to see you correctly, pilot or ATC, should be using a robust enough AI library (e.g. FLAi) to see you correctly. If not, it's their fault. So always just file the correct code for the Legacy (LEG2).

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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