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Mats Edvin Aaro

ATC: how to approach beginners on the network

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Disclaimer:

This is a sporadic PSA from my own experiences as a beginner, controller and supervisor on VATSIM. These are my own personal opinions, and does in no way reflect VATSIM's official stance on the issue. Writing this because I don't want to get in trouble, k thanks.

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We have all been there, some just don't want to realize it. No matter who you are, how many hours you have or what the first three digits of your CID reads, we have all been through that palm-sweating frustration of not daring to press the PTT to ask for a clearance. Who hasn't felt the desperation when you couldn't understand an ATC instruction and didn't have the guts to admit it, only to mumble your way through it and hope he wouldn't catch up on it.

As a supervisor I come across users with different amount of experience every session, and not once has an hour passed without me having to talk to or handle a beginner. And every time, i understand the situation they're in. A lot of people are afraid when the message from _SUP comes through, but fear not - we're only here to help. I will go to great extent to help beginners, give them advice, links, and follow them up on email afterwards if I have the time to do so. That is my duty, and my passion. Of course there are situations where a "newbie" can ruin for other users, such as departing without contacting the controller at EGKK during peak hours, where I have to take action to avoid major inconvenience for other people. If you are able to put yourself in his or her spot, you will see how frustrating, scary and nervous an experience like that might be.

 

So from my experiences, I have some advice to other controllers on how to approach such situations.

 

To controllers handling beginners:

Out of the 1000+ hours I have gathered in my time as a controller, I can't recall how many times I've pulled my hair in frustration by beginners not following my instructions. Sometimes, it can feel like it will ruin the whole controlling session. And after walloping several times without response, you go to VATSPY, open the ATC tab, and see that…. WHAT, NO SUPERVISORS ONLINE?!?!?!

My, oh my, do I remember that. But after some time, I started remembering things I had forgotten (or surpressed) from my time as a beginner on the network. From not understanding the top-down principle, not know what an IFR flight means etc... Unfortunately for me, VATSIM Stats saves all of that. 😕 

Controllers; believe it or not. YOU are the face of VATSIM. Not the supervisors, not the BoG, not the people behind the scenes. YOU are the first person new pilots will talk to, and if you don't think about how you approach them - you might be the last one as well.

Some controllers I've told this to tells me "it's not my job to teach pilots how to talk to ATC". And yes you are correct, BUT...

Even though it's not your responsibility to teach them and hold their virtual hand through the virtual skies, how you act can be the difference between them staying and expanding their knowledge and their hobby through VATSIM, or being too scared to ever reconnect. Most of you do this very well - kudos to you.

A good tip to everyone, use aliases. Whenever I talk to a beginner, I give them two links. The PRC (vats.im/prc), and the CoC (vats.im/coc). The holy grail of beginnerland. If you're like me and lacks creativity, copy this into your alias file:

Quote

.prc Hello, I see you are new to the network. First of all - welcome to VATSIM! It may be tempting to jump right ahead and fly, but I would suggest you read through some docomeents first, in order to prepare yourself for what you may encounter. First of all - you should read the VATSIM tutorials at vats.im/prc. Here you can find everything you need. Second of all, you should read through the VATSIM Code of Conduct (vats.im/coc), especially sections A and B, in order to not get in trouble for something you didn't know. Let me know if you need any more questions, I am here to help you! 

 

The great myth of the wallop

If you find yourself in a position where a beginner poses a conflict, or you are unsure what to do, never be afraid to wallop for a supervisor. I have heard about vACC/ARTCC's having policies about when you can and cannot wallop, which I question - but that is a different topic. A "wallop" is simply a way to send a message to online supervisors in order to notify them for assistance. Both pilots and Controllers can utilize this, and it is the same format across all clients.

In order to send a wallop, write this into your scratchpad/text Box:

Quote

.wallop [brief description of issue]

 

Far too often I see people simply typing things like .wallop help, which gives us no way of prioritizing the case before initiating contact. That leads to a lot of lost time. Try giving a brief description of what is happening along with the callsign of the user - so we can get started right away instead of you having to write it all once more. A good example of a wallop is something like this:

Quote

.wallop AAL123 taxiing without contact, not responding to contact me's, conflicting with traffic.

If I get a wallop like that, I can take immediate action instead of having to assess the situation because of lack of information.

TL;DR

Beginners aren't all that bad. Controllers are front figures. If you haven't got time to handle it yourself - wallop.

  • Like 7

Mats Edvin Aarø
VATSIM General Manager: Member Engagement
VATSIM Supervisor Team Lead: Team 4

Email: [email protected]

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Excellent post here, Mats. I just did a flight out of KPDX with a buddy on Discord and he is very new to VATSIM and radio comms with controllers. The controllers were very helpful and friendly. He kept correcting himself on Discord and was embarrassed when he made mistakes. He kept saying things like, "Well that's not how I hear it on LiveATC."

I am a teacher, and my advise to newer people on the network would be the same thing I tell my students... If you don't know, ask. Don't be afraid to ask if you're confused! In my experience of being on VATSIM on and off over the years, ATC has always been helpful.

 

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Some great discussion points. Reminding us of how new pilots may be scared away due to a bad first impression is important. I remember a controller when I was a new pilot I flew out of JFK an made a lot of mistakes. Nicholas Gonzalez was the controller and his gentle approach to one of my first times flying is the reason I kept flying - this was over 10 years ago. 

Thanks!


Help a newbie!

http://czqm.ca

QM/QX Instructor

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Thanks for the post! I may have to relay this information so some of our controllers at my facility who may get into issues with new pilots, and may get even scared or annoyed at new pilots. We all do need to help eachother out, and if there is an issue just ask.

When I'm controlling I always ensure that the aircraft knows what they're doing, and if they don't, I'll take a minute when time and situation permits where I can help them out, or message them some tips/tricks or information.

And... I am certainly looking into that lovely alias you posted! Mahalo!


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This is soo right! My first experience on the network was messaging a controller asking if he was OK with me asking for a clearance and then disconnecting. I was sooo scared! I don't know why VATSIM makes us all scared of calling up, but it does. The controller replied telling me that he had no problem with that, and encouraging me to ask for taxt, etc. as it wasn't busy and he could help me. That ended up being my first VATSIM flight. This experience greatly influenced the way I treat beginners. When they come in, expecting to be eaten alive by controllers, and instead, receive a welcoming message encouraging them to have fun and ask questions, they will most likely stick around.

On 5/19/2020 at 4:09 PM, Mats Edvin Aaro said:

Controllers; believe it or not. YOU are the face of VATSIM. Not the supervisors, not the BoG, not the people behind the scenes. YOU are the first person new pilots will talk to, and if you don't think about how you approach them - you might be the last one as well.

Yes! I think one of the things that causes most disagreements in VATSIM is this. While us controllers are users just like the pilots, not admins or anything like that, but for pilots we're the other side of VATSIM. Look at it this way: what other pilots did is 'what the other guy' did. But if we give a clearance, 'I was on VATSIM and they cleared me..' So if you're having a bad day, and treat a pilot badly, consider that likely, for that pilot, it's not you who treated him badly, it's 'the VATSIM controllers treated me badly'


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

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Exactly @Samuel Rey, and a surprising amount of people don't realize that. IMO that should be taught with every rating, even from S1 level. Controlling on VATSIM isn't just knowing how to issue a pushback or taxi clearance; it's also about knowing your place, role and function, and having that attitude VATSIM is looking for amongst controllers and pilots alike. 😄

  • Like 1

Mats Edvin Aarø
VATSIM General Manager: Member Engagement
VATSIM Supervisor Team Lead: Team 4

Email: [email protected]

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