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XXXX_FSS: a triumph of quantity over quality?


Daniel Parkin
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Or "Look at the size of myyyyyyyy area!" or (whisper it) "I'm a C1 but I'm secretly scared of top-down."

 

I'm not talking about Oceanic here.

 

It started with Eurocontrol and then there seems to have been a proliferation of these sort of things over the past year or so - GULF_FSS, ASIA_FSS, etc. Generally you check in, get an enormous direct and then get asked to report ready for descent (unless of course about 2 hours later you get a panicked "BAW123, turn right heading xxx, avoiding action." because of the conflict that m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive direct has created ). All the time your pretty much expected to be there because it's technically a radar service (at least Oceanic means you can step away for a while).

 

Now call me old fashioned but that's not controlling, an S1 could do it. On the network a controller displays their skills by streaming aircraft, vectoring them for approaches, managing airfields because if you do a conventional enroute area you're going to have to all that at some point.

 

Just lighting up as much of VATSpy as possible doesn't actually provide any quality of service to the pilots.

 

Discuss.

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VATSIM-UK C3

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A lot of the positions are made, to give more ATC. We have in VATEUD togehter with a few vACC’s created the ADR facilities. Meaning that ADR_CTR have a much bigger airspace, and they are able to provide ATC in those areas, where the amount of online hours of ATC, are limited. As Fred mentions, it has nothing to do with quantity or quality. It’s about presence.

Morten Jelle

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

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Good points imo Daniel.

 

FSS’s are breeding and becoming more than prolific, and whilst there are some benefits that I see, I also wonder some times. I have raised track shortening previously on the forum. Why have airways published? The other thing is that each FSS has different conditions, but we don’t know what these conditions are. viewtopic.php?f=6&t=74164 I thought when VATPAC opened them up, it would be a god send for pilots, however they only really help pilots if there are TMA controllers online, because VATPAC FSS is floored at FL245. But some are allowed to TMA control apparently in other parts of the VATSIM world.

 

I think the other thing you are raising is people’s own competency. I know I have limitations in regards controlling, not so much technical things but my brains ability to handle high volume situations. I work with that. So I think FSS may in fact cater for people in same situation, although I believe they are almost useless.

Sean

C1/O P3

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Or "Look at the size of myyyyyyyy area!" or (whisper it) "I'm a C1 but I'm secretly scared of top-down."

 

I'm not talking about Oceanic here.

 

It started with Eurocontrol and then there seems to have been a proliferation of these sort of things over the past year or so - GULF_FSS, ASIA_FSS, etc. Generally you check in, get an enormous direct and then get asked to report ready for descent (unless of course about 2 hours later you get a panicked "BAW123, turn right heading xxx, avoiding action." because of the conflict that m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive direct has created ). All the time your pretty much expected to be there because it's technically a radar service (at least Oceanic means you can step away for a while).

 

Now call me old fashioned but that's not controlling, an S1 could do it. On the network a controller displays their skills by streaming aircraft, vectoring them for approaches, managing airfields because if you do a conventional enroute area you're going to have to all that at some point.

 

Just lighting up as much of VATSpy as possible doesn't actually provide any quality of service to the pilots.

 

Discuss.

 

These FSS positions are made as an effort to provide air traffic control to pilots over a larger area and to help generate traffic. They are also efforts to provide control in regions that are currently in the development stages and trying to provide air traffic control over these regions to serve pilots. You also don't have an obligation to take the direct routing. GULF_FSS in its earliest conception was actually my idea along with Ilan Jonas in July of 2005 as an attempt to provide air traffic control over a large part of the middle east to foster growth of the region and attract pilots. It would appear to have worked, as of today VATAME & VATME is a growing and thriving region and division. While some of these facilities are "unrealistic" and aren't real facilities in the real world, it manages to provide pilots with continuous enroute air traffic control in an area where they otherwise would have been on UNICOM for almost their whole flight. You don't call it real controlling, but the controller is still providing radar separation over a huge area and does indeed still have to do work. The controller also has to have earned their C1 rating, which means they've been put thru the training on local control, and then moved up to approach control, then moved up to their local center, and then finally out of their own desire earned their FSS rating to control these large areas. A controller controlling a FSS doesn't mean they are scared of top down. It means they've voluntarily chose to earn the FSS rating and the desire to serve the pilots of VATSIM over a larger area. They are perfectly capable and competent to provide top down. They don't skip from TWR or APP straight to FSS. The reason VATSIM exist is to provide an opportunity for pilots to fly with ATC, and they are providing this exact service and making an effort to extend that service to you in an area where you may not normally have the opportunity to have a controller online. In terms of the quality of the controlling, that falls back directly on the FIR and Division that they received their training in. If you have feedback on the performance of the controller, then let the FIR know. We're all only human, and we're all only volunteers, and many aren't directly involved in the aviation/air traffic control fields in their normal lives, so they do the best they can with the material they are given. If you feel you could do a better job, I challenge you to, and that's not a sarcastic or belittling statement, and that's a statement that I not only apply to VATSIM, but the real life. If you feel you could do better, then make every attempt to try to do so and to learn your craft, be it air traffic control, flying, or whatever career or hobby you've chosen. In the long run it will most certainly benefit you, and it will benefit those you come in contact with. The next step after that would be to give back and help to share your knowledge and skill with others to make a difference. These FSS positions aren't designed to sacrifice quality, but to take strong controllers and place them into a role they can provide service over a large area, but please do keep in mind the large geographical area they are covering, and they can sometimes get busy and will do their best, but again, they are only human. Their zoom level also requires them to be zoomed out quite a bit more than whats normal, so it is easier to loose proper separation because of this, but you have to ensure you set your conflict alerts a larger distance apart to help combat this and ensure separation is maintained before it becomes "illegal"

ALEX LONG
DEVELOPER
VATSIM TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT TEAM
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I have to say, I'm put off flying somewhere if I see Eurocontrol online. I don't see the point of me spending time researching a route, making sure it's CFMU compliant to have the whole thing nullified by a monstrous direct (my current "record" stands at c1030nm straight lining pretty well the entire flight from LPMA to EGGD!). As a trainee C1, I've no doubt these quys are good, well qualified controllers but I have absolutely no desire to shortcut an entire continent and will either:

 

- fly elsewhere or

- take a shorter hop in a slower aircraft and fly at FL240

 

...to avoid it and make my prep time worth it. And I know I'm not alone in that - I know plenty other UK pilots who despair when they see one of the EUR positions open and actively change flights to avoid them.

 

While they may be good for helping to deliver traffic to up and coming areas, I'm still not convinced that they actually provide the same benefit that a CTR would - top down on airfields as ultimately that's where pilots really want control.

Trevor Hannant

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My thoughts...

 

On the m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive direct point, as mentioned earlier, it is always open for pilots to refuse the offer of a direct. I often get this on BIRD_CTR (which is an ordinary CTR by the way, albeit covering a very large area) and am more than happy to oblige. If you want to stick to the route that you spent much time crafting, I completely understand Also, if it's quiet, I regularly offer long haul pilots the chance to take off their headsets, telling them that I will send a SELCAL or PM when I need them.

 

On the point of whether some VATSIM directs are unrealistic when there is no equivalent real world position, I would agree. Perhaps it is possible, workload permitting, for positions like GULF_FSS to only [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ign directs by FIR boundaries? E.g. if you are going via Egypt, Saudi, UAE and Oman, then you should get 4 separate directs to simulate the various CTRs.

 

On the point of lack of top down coverage, I agree that the departure and approach phases are the most interesting for most pilots because there is more activity. I guess an FSS will be floored at a particular level (e.g. FL245) because of two main reasons: top down would be too busy and/or controllers are not trained on local airfield procedures. I think the first reason is excusable but, for the sake of quality, the second reason should not be an excuse. Perhaps top down should be the general rule, traffic permitting?

 

At the end of the day, I still support more coverage rather than none at all. Part of this is about developing VATSIM communities where they otherwise would be extremely limited or not exist. In many parts of the world, pilots will fly every day in local peak hour from gate-to-gate on UNICOM. Giant FSSs, whether or not they are top down, provide another human being to talk to and foster larger regional communities when individual countries have low membership. Even in established communities, they can provide coverage in quieter periods. This is surely a good thing.

Wygene Chong

C1 Controller | Iceland | Greenland | Faroe Islands

VATSIM Scandinavia

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Wygene, in my experience I get the following from ATC: “QFA123 re-cleared direct NEEXT.”

 

How does a pilot refuse a clearance from a controller?

 

As a C1 I have sometimes used: “NZA456 track shortening available, advise?”, but vast majority of the time I accept that if a pilot planned a route they want to fly it.

 

Anyway, I don’t think much will change. I just think some controllers think that all pilots want as short a time in the air as possible, yet don’t consider that most pilots blindly obey what they are told to do.

Sean

C1/O P3

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Sean, in my experience it's usually gone like this:

 

SAS123: Reykjavik Control, hello, FL360 inbound ISVIG

BIRD_CTR: SAS123, Reykjavik Control, hello, oceanic clearance available with route change, confirm ready to copy?

SAS123: Affirm, SAS123

BIRD_CTR: SAS123, oceanic clearance to San Francisco via ISVIG direct ADSAM. From ISVIG maintain FL360, mach 0.80, squawk 4401

SAS123: Can we keep flight planned route please? SAS123

BIRD_CTR: Of course! Oceanic clearance to San Francisco via ISVIG direct ING, KFV, 64N030W, 64N040W, 65N050W, ADSAM. From ISVIG maintain FL360, mach 0.80, squawk 4401

SAS123: thanks. Cleared to San Francisco via ISVIG direct ING, KFV, 64N030W, 64N040W, 65N050W, ADSAM. From ISVIG maintain FL360, mach 0.80, squawk 4401.

BIRD_CTR: Readback correct and identified. No position reports.

 

I agree it takes a pilot in the know to request their original route. Most pilots seem to be quite happy with their direct when they get it. Those who are not happy are usually the ones who know to ask for the FP route. But that's just my personal experience on BIRD... it could be different elsewhere

Wygene Chong

C1 Controller | Iceland | Greenland | Faroe Islands

VATSIM Scandinavia

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I have the exact opposite experience. Pilots often asking for directs, so they get them. And to be honest, spending time validating a route through the CFMU doesn't really require that much, when using different tools. If you are into making up your own routes, then i suggest that you simply ask to stay on flightplanned route.

But I honestly can't see the big problem here with having these sectors, as they really do help - and it gives you ATC. The only difference from flying through FSS, than having 3 local CTR's online is the frequency change - you could get a long direct anyway.

 

- take a shorter hop in a slower aircraft and fly at FL240

Of course, you can choose to stay below the FSS. During the FSS sessions I've had, I have experinced this and I have also experienced people changing their flightplan, after getting a message to contact me. Where's the respect here?

I believe this is more or less, going against others discussion about the missing ATC.

 

While the controllers is qualified and able to control the sector, keeping the aircrafts on a straight line (eg. by giving them a direct) eases the work. Some routes makes turns every 80nm, and that can sometimes make it difficult to control. I personally prefer having them flying, this straight line - to ensure that I keep the seperation.

Morten Jelle

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

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The reason I don't like the Eurocontrol sectors is that as a pilot you spend time and energy monitoring a frequency that's mostly completely irrelevant to you. In the traditional sectors you are able to build a certain situational awareness on traffic and conditions around you, as things aren't as vast. I agree that because we bandbox a lot on VATSIM this perk is almost always somewhat diluted, still I much prefer intermittent ACC sectors over EUR. I can definately see the appeal for controllers with the traffic ammount provided and only doing ACC tasks for once, but personally my dislike for the positions as a pilot makes me unable to apply for training for it as a controller. The Maastrich sector is the only odd one out, that one is fine in my book.

 

EDIT: I want to emphasise that I don't shun EUR-sectors or go below them, I just prefer local ACC to EUR. I also strongly disagree with OPs choice to disconnect with certain conditions, at that point one would be better off with one of the roleplay MPs I'm sure is out there somewhere.

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Interesting arguments here, lets wrap them up.

 

"I fly offline if this or that station is online". Sorry mate, this IS nonsense (or simply fly offline to have the feeling of being the master of the airspace). I also could go offline as ATC if a certain pilot crosses my airspace. Both ideas are running against the idea of a network like VATSIM. I guess lots of RW pilots also would like sometimes that sometimes this or that RW controller decides different by sequencing traffic in a crowded sector. Thats life. This all has rarely something to do with the idea presented in the preamble of our Code of Conduct which we are all aligned to. We have agreed to that again and again by going online.

The discussion about super centres is an old one, coming up in certain cycles. Amof. the station has a right to be there since it is agreed and described in our docomeents. It is the task of the training director and his/her team to get controllers steeled for the position AND it is a question of self control to see if a controller feels fit for the position.

On the other hand: we need to be able to train the positions and this needs traffic.

 

I am quite sure that those amongst you (and Dan: i am counting you in, as me count myself too) have had situations coming to the limit (and beyond). And some members do act then best for all and others don't. This has nothing to do showing off with the size of the sector self feeling of the importance of being a controller. Our net, and everyone seeking adventures or the fun of a nice evening flight or controller shift in it has the same right of being there. We need to collaborate as best as possible. And if one or another needs more training: this is completely normal. We all went thru those stages during our way into becoming a good pilot or an acceptable controller.

 

Flo

Florian Harms

VATSIM Europe Division / DCRM

Supervisor

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Or "Look at the size of myyyyyyyy area!" or (whisper it) "I'm a C1 but I'm secretly scared of top-down."

 

I'm not talking about Oceanic here.

 

It started with Eurocontrol and then there seems to have been a proliferation of these sort of things over the past year or so - GULF_FSS, ASIA_FSS, etc. Generally you check in, get an enormous direct and then get asked to report ready for descent (unless of course about 2 hours later you get a panicked "BAW123, turn right heading xxx, avoiding action." because of the conflict that m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive direct has created ). All the time your pretty much expected to be there because it's technically a radar service (at least Oceanic means you can step away for a while).

 

Now call me old fashioned but that's not controlling, an S1 could do it. On the network a controller displays their skills by streaming aircraft, vectoring them for approaches, managing airfields because if you do a conventional enroute area you're going to have to all that at some point.

 

Just lighting up as much of VATSpy as possible doesn't actually provide any quality of service to the pilots.

 

Discuss.

 

It is not correct that these FSS' are new-fangled, and it's not correct that they don't cover top-down either. I know that GULF_FSS covers top-down at controller's discretion, and ASEA_FSS covers majors top-down at all times.

 

GULF_FSS in particular has been active for upwards of ten years. The other big FSS' outside of Europe, AFRN_FSS, AFRS_FSS, ASEA_FSS, YMMM_FSS and YBBB_FSS have all been active for yonks as well. The only new addition I'm aware of is ASIA_W_FSS and the locals in West Asia seem to be very happy about it.

 

There's nothing wrong with a track shortening and airways are hardly bulletproof at preventing conflicts. Actually, they're pretty terrible at it unless everyone is going in the same-or-opposite direction. That's one reason why we're seeing more & more free-route airspace around the world. Point is, one can't really argue that staying on airways is safer than a direct route in the vast majority of cases.

 

Stated in ICAO Doc 4444, the purpose of ATC is to prevent collisions, and to expedite & maintain an orderly flow of traffic. Track shortening is very good at expediting the orderly flow of traffic. Of course if the the track shortening is offered as a convenience to the pilot (rather than separation, sequencing, ATS requirements, etc.), then I see no reason why you wouldn't be able to politely request to stay on the flight plan route. Personally (although one should always file & fly a valid & thoroughly planned route) if Eurocontrol gave me a 2,000 mile direct after departure from EHAM on my way to HKJK I'd be a very happy chappy and I honestly don't see a reason otherwise.

 

It's all too easy to criticise from your experience as a pilot when you haven't really any understanding of the FSS controller's perspective. There is an intense amount of concentration required when you're looking after a uniquely big & complex airspace. No, an S1 couldn't do it. FSS controllers have the exact same responsibilities as the regular Area controllers of the airspaces that they cover. By your criteria, Area controllers must be the most bored and underworked people in the ATS system... that's ludicrous.

 

When it comes to stepping away, being with an overland FSS is no different than with an ordinary ACC or oceanic ACC. Just chuck a quick message by the way of the controller and see if it's okay. In any case, as a pilot, I'd rather be on an active area frequency than unicom, and FSS' are the most surefire way to get as many people off of unicom and under ATC coverage. Are you complaining about having to be on an ATC frequency? Because that's kind of the point of VATSIM. Be grateful you're receiving ATC services.

 

Tl;dr, FSS' are a net benefit to VATSIM.

MATT "MAKYOCH"
Deputy Director
VATSIM Kuwait & Iraq

   
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. Are you complaining about having to be on an ATC frequency? Because that's kind of the point of VATSIM. Be grateful you're receiving ATC services.

 

Exactly right? One side they complain not having enough coverage to an area and on the other side they ask why FSS

It is the perfect solution to increase activity in an area with low traffic and low membership.

Shrikar Galgali

Proud Member of VATWA Division

India vACC

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Why are there so many variations which are in-published?

 

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=74164

 

I would have thought an approval would have to be docomeented somewhere, and secondly why hide it.

 

 

It seems you don't read the MoM of the EC and GOV Meetings. Our putting forward the proposal of ASIA_W_FSS , it's trial period and it's final approval - everything was published in the Minutes of Meetings. Please have a look at them.

Shrikar Galgali

Proud Member of VATWA Division

India vACC

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