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Process of starting out as ATC is exceedingly noob-unfriendly


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Howdy folks.  As a prologue, I'll explain up front that I'm aware that my next step is to wait for replies to some of the emails I've sent, and that patience will prove to be valuable.

I'm a noob at this.  I have no direct aviation experience, but I do have some  real world experience that I would describe as "aviation adjacent," and I'm fully eager to commit to training and to actively learn more by becoming knowledgeable and practiced here on Vatsim.  For the moment, I've decided to start with pursuing ATC over pursuing piloting, and I decide that for a combination of overlapping reasons.  One of the simpler reasons is that I'm of the impression that I would probably have a better experience on the piloting side of Vatsim once I replace and upgrade my computer hardware.  I applied for and received my CID in April of 2016 and was pulled away from Vatsim's time commitments by work and school developments at the time.  Those distractions resulted in my CID going inactive, and I've only this weekend reactivated my profile, now that I'm several weeks deep into the coronavirus lockdown and stay-at-home orders where I live in New York City.

So far, my primary impression this time through the process keenly reminds me of my frustrations 4 years ago.  There is no single source of information for me to refer to.  There's no checklist.  There's no "here's what to expect," and there's no explanation of the distinctions between items that are my proactive responsibility versus elements that I should only become worried once a certain number of days elapse with no visible progress.  I am forced to guess as to whom I might email with questions.  I see hardly any YouTube videos, or posts here or on reddit, that tells me how training *works* once I manage to read the materials and pass a few electronic tests on that same material.  There is nothing to tell me how long training might take for the "average" new participant, there is nothing to suggest how hand-on training works once I become an observer.  There is a bare list of unexplained links to software that I might need to download and install, but there's no place to look at a list of system requirements any given software package might require in order to run, no advice on what kind of internet connection speeds during or following training.  There is no list of pros and cons between the software options.

I could go on, but I don't want my cabin fever and boredom from the last seven weeks up being couped up at home by the coronavirus pandemic to be mistaken or allowed to feed into some sort of rant.  But I am hoping to ask the simple question:  Did I miss something?

"Welcome to Vatsim and congratulations on receiving your brand new CID number, here's a brief FAQ-style list of things that you might find useful to know as you begin navigating the process for this fulfilling hobby."

Does something like that already exist, and I just missed it?  Am I really the first person to ask?

Thanks in advance for reading, and I look forward to becoming better acquainted with Vatsim's policies and practices.

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Hello David,

As an Instructor, and a fellow controller, I would like to take a moment and thank you for your interest in becoming a controller on the network. I totally understand your frustration regarding air traffic control training.

The division or the vARTCC/vFIR/vACC you are a part of should have such checklist on their website. If they do not, please do not hesitate to ask them if you have not, but at the time of this forum post, I am gonna presume that you have done so already without any luck.

As a part of the training, we follow the Global Ratings policy published by VATSIM's Board of Governors available at https://www.vatsim.net/documents/global-ratings-policy#Appendix A

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to private message me or reply to your post and someone can also help.

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Bahaeddine El-Zarif
Lebanon vACC Director
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The thing is, VATSIM does not offer any centralized training at all. That is a responsibility given to the divisions and in turn its sub-divisions.

What you wanna do first is figure out where you want to control. Most people choose their home vACC/vARTCC, but you are essentially free to choose whichever. Since you write that you live in N.Y. If you want to start controlling here, I would follow the instructions given to you on the ZNY ARTCC Join page. You will receive training directly from them. Otherwise if you want to control anywhere else in the U.S. you can view the vARTCC's available at the VATUSA home page, under "facilities".

Good luck on your training, it is a LOT of fun!

Mats Edvin Aarø
General Manager - Member Engagement
Supervisor Team Lead: Team 4
[email protected]

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Hi. It's great to see people wanting to start out as ATC! Your confusion, as others said, is with the fact that you expect to find some sort of official VATSIM training guide with everything. When it comes to ATC training, however, it's all about which Division or vARTCC you're in; as they handle your training, which is specific to that region. That's why there's noting very concrete on how training goes; the waiting time, quality, process and content of the training is all (mostly) up to the vARTCC. As such, when you go control somewhere else, you do a procedure called 'visiting' (or transferring, depending on what you want to do exactly), which allows you to learn the different procedures of the new region.

Hope you have lots of fun controlling!

 

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New and want some help? Send me a message on Discord at GoodCrossing#4907!

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I experienced much the same frustration when starting out with controlling. I wanted to control at my home airport CYVR but for some reason the system wasn’t allowing me to take the entrance exam. A few emails later I found out that I had for some reason signed up with the Seattle ARTCC when I first joined VATSIM and I had to transfer to the Vancouver FIR. Because I was also transferring between VATUSA and VATCAN it took almost a month to complete the transfer. The time it took for me to figure that out and get it sorted was the main cause of my frustration. But technically I should’ve known which FIR I was signed up with so that was no one’s fault but my own. Oh well. Lesson learned. But it’s been pretty smooth sailing from there and I highly encourage anyone on VATSIM to at least try to get their S1 rating somewhere. Good luck with your training!

Josh Jenk

CZVR S2 controller

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Posted (edited)

David, 

I've been around VATSIM for a while now (but only seriously for about 18 months). I've got it figured out now, but I very much remember feeling exactly as you do. It wasn't the training part that confused me (that was easy once I was affiliated and talking to the guys at Miami). The hard part, as you so well described, was figuring out what to click and what comes next. As others have pointed out, the distributed nature of VATSIM organizations makes this difficult to figure out.

As a small example, one point of confusion for me was trying to discern the difference between VATSIM, VATUSA, and the ARTCCs. Even though I had some idea of the organization of the real world aviation ecosystem, I never knew which of those organizations handled which matters, which I needed to actually join, or how to seek help if something didn't work right. Those of us who have now been around a while tend to lose sight of what it's like to be the new guy. Or, maybe it's just my advanced age?

I can't do anything to help the overall problem; that's going to take some folks thinking about some consolidated guidance documentation or other resources. But... if you want to reach out to me on Discord, I'm not any kind of official VATSIM representative, but I will be glad to answer any question that I can or help find someone who can answer your questions. It's StepOnTheBall#3326

 

Edited by Jason Cochran
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David,

As a NOOB myself, I wanted to give you my personal feedback as to what I did.

What you mentioned rang true for me as well.  As a NOOB, I also felt lost as to what to do and where to go but eventually found what to do and how to do it so I will share my experience with you and how much fun I have had so far and still I am not anywhere near the "top" of what I can accomplish.

First, at VATUSA there are various basic training for both Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers.  I started with that for the S1 training.

Second, I picked a location I wanted to control in.  Basically I picked where I live as I am most familiar with that area.  (for me it was Cleveland ZOB).  Once you request a transfer to the area you want, you will receive information from that branch on what to do.  Which in my case they told me what to download and what to do to begin training for S1.  This training (which is for Clearance delivery and Ground for the "Minor" airports) was scheduled through a scheduling system.  They then sit online with you and help you with your training.  They were very helpful and very informative.  After getting through that (which for me took four sessions) I was cleared for Minor Clearance delivery and ground.

I can tell you, I am looking forward to my next steps in training.  The staff are a lot of fun and I found it enjoyable.  I hope you do to.

 

Frank

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Davis,

All facilities in VATUSA have published training policies/manuals that lay out expectations of students. If you are having issues finding this, or if you have other problems, please contact your Training Administrator. If you are not in a facility and have a question please e-mail myself and my Deputy, Austin Wilkins. vatusa3 and vatusa13 at vatusa dot net.

Exiled VATUSA Training Director

VATSIM Network Supervisor | Team 5

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On 5/3/2020 at 2:25 PM, Frank Belter said:

David,

As a NOOB myself, I wanted to give you my personal feedback as to what I did.

What you mentioned rang true for me as well.  As a NOOB, I also felt lost as to what to do and where to go but eventually found what to do and how to do it so I will share my experience with you and how much fun I have had so far and still I am not anywhere near the "top" of what I can accomplish.

First, at VATUSA there are various basic training for both Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers.  I started with that for the S1 training.

Second, I picked a location I wanted to control in.  Basically I picked where I live as I am most familiar with that area.  (for me it was Cleveland ZOB).  Once you request a transfer to the area you want, you will receive information from that branch on what to do.  Which in my case they told me what to download and what to do to begin training for S1.  This training (which is for Clearance delivery and Ground for the "Minor" airports) was scheduled through a scheduling system.  They then sit online with you and help you with your training.  They were very helpful and very informative.  After getting through that (which for me took four sessions) I was cleared for Minor Clearance delivery and ground.

I can tell you, I am looking forward to my next steps in training.  The staff are a lot of fun and I found it enjoyable.  I hope you do to.

 

Frank

Best response of all. You my friend, should be a supervisor here.! Thank you. 👍

 


 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Updates for all interested, and thank you so very much, each and every one of you, for your responses.  The overall vibe conveyed by these responses is one of, frankly, compassion and validation, which can sometimes appear in short supply when on the internet.

Please note that back in 2016, I'd already received a CID and was already assigned to NYARTCC (at www.nyartcc.org) and further to EWR, Newark-Liberty International Airport in RIdgefield, NJ.  Fun fact: Until July 31, 2016, I had direct line of sight from my bedroom in Brooklyn, NY to the northernmost edge of the airfield at that very airport.  As of this writing during the coronavirus lockdown in 2020, I am located in Flushing, Queens, underneath one of the approach-departure sectors for LGA.  (Prior to the pandemic, peak hour flyovers could easily be in excess of 50 planes per minute.)

Thus, I must report that the feedback of "Start by joining, decide what region, etc." was obviously well-intended.  I take responsibility for the fact that I hadn't made clear the fact that I was already past those steps.  I reactivated my dormant CID prior to my OP here, and I am in receipt of several overlapping pieces of information that would purport that I already have access credentials sufficient to login as "Pilot / OBS."  Here's what sticks in the craw;

I have no idea *how* to login to observe, and I have no idea what software I would use to attempt to do so.  I have no explanations of what audio codecs or computer hardware drivers to update on my system, nor am I even aware of how to perform a comm-check with someone else on the system.

I'm also aware of the decentralized personnel architecture of VATSIM.  But I highlight this fact: Even in this case where I know that I'm assigned to NYARTCC. I still have no idea what address I should send an email to, how to introduce myself, nor do I even so much as know the VATSIM "job title" of person to look for.  Do I find a C3?  Do I message someone with the title of "Director" or of any other buzzword in this context?

Here it is, folks.  This OP is dated from Monday 2020 April 27.  It is now Friday 2020 May 15.  I've sent several emails since I submitted this OP.  My laptop is an Asus RoG G73AH, 8GB of ram, ample hundreds of GB in hard drive space, a decent-but-not-great wifi connection, and recently this year entirely reformatted and switched to Windows 10 (system's built-in recovery partition carried WIndows 7, which was the OS that the laptop came shipped with.)  I use a G35 headset, I have better-than-casual faculty with computers in general, including experience managing dual-boot desktop systems between various Linux flavors and WIndows versions all installed on the same machines.  I have experience in setting up, and in using, various voice-comm applications including Skype, Teamspeak, Discord, Mumble, and Steam.  I have some experience in capture footage with OBS (though for any heavy emphasis to record things, I honestly think my desktop rig in my relative's closet is better equipped and more powerful enough to run significant OBS setups.)

How do I go about identifying a specific person's email address so that I can, point blank, log in as an OBS?  Who can help me find, point blank, information on whom I might speak with with questions from my OBS sessions?  Point blank, what system hardware or software might I need, or lack, for doing this?  Point blank, how to a receive a replacement welcome-package email, because the one I saved from 2016 contains dead links to items for me to read?  Point blank, what should I read, and how can I google to find such information?

I might have a neurological diagnosis that lends to having a documented learning disability, but I have taught law school courses to college students.  I've passed and performed well on numerous entrance and exit exams.  I've designed coursework and training curricula for adults in both my above-mentioned academic environment, as well as having designed training curricula to professionals actively employed in a technical field.

I ask all of this, not in rage or frustration, but I ask in exasperation -- point blank, how to I get started?  I hold a graduate degree, I have taught undergraduates, and I have taught graduate students.  How many other potential candidates and applicants have actually given up before my attempts here?

I sincerely hope that there is a forehead-slap moment for myself after someone gets ticked at me and points to a doorway with flashing lights and tasty aromas of food that I somehow didn't notice or was blind enough to skip over.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, David Jacobson said:

I ask all of this, not in rage or frustration, but I ask in exasperation -- point blank, how to I get started?

A very reasonable question! I'll be one of the first to agree with you when you say it isn't entirely obvious how to get started.

As you have pointed out, VATSIM is very worldwide, and very compartmentalised in terms of ATC training, making the whole process a little mind-numbing to understand at first. So, allow me to do my best to (hopefully!) resolve your frustrations.

VATSIM is arranged in Regions. Within each Region, there are a number of Divisions, and in turn, within many Divisions are a number of smaller 'sub-divisions'. Depending on which division you look at, these may go by various names other than 'sub-division', 'vARTCC', 'FIR', 'vACC' and 'facility' being the main ones off the top of my head.

The nature of VATSIM's compartmentalisation means that websites for these different bodies are scattered around the internet. VATSIM is not directly responsible for the maintenence of sub-division resources, training, events and the like. Therefore, each sub-division/division is responsible for their own ATC training, and it is up to them to implement the relevant VATSIM policies that act as a standard for ATC training. So depending on where you go for your training, the process may be slightly different. To my knowledge, VATSIM does not maintain an updated list of websites, training directions, and resources for the various different regions, divisions and subdivisions. 

You have expressed interest in joining the New York ARTCC. This is a sub division within the VATUSA division, which in turn is a member of the North America region (which you seem to have already successfully joined). From here, to begin your training as a New York ARTCC controller, you can head to the website for VATUSA (https://www.vatusa.net/), click 'log in' and proceed with your VATSIM credentials (they will be your certificate number, and password you received in your registration email, my certificate number for example is 1336925).

After logging in, you will be able to take the initial 'S1' exam (this is the first basic ATC rating on the network). Details are on this page https://www.vatusa.net/info/join under the heading 'How do I become a controller in VATUSA'. Further instructions are there.

If once you have completed the exam, followed the directions on that page and you have received no word from the NYARTCC then I am sure you could send an email to their Training Administrator. Email addresses are located under Controllers->Roster->Staff Roster on the NYARTCC website. If you still need help, feel free to come back here!

To briefly touch on your question about observing, the short answer is you need to download an ATC client. Different facilities use different approved software for different reasons, so once you begin with NYARTCC, they will be able to help you out with that.


Hope this was helpful.

Cheers,

Edited by Andrew Ogden
Clarity

Andrew Ogden | I3
Gander Oceanic OCA Chief
VATSIM Web Developer

Visit us: https://ganderoceanic.com
Contact: [email protected] 

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