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Good Afternoon All,

 

I have had a bit of a confidence drop :( - so i have always wanted to fly with ATC but the last few days i have read loads got all the charts plans etc and then came time to fly a simple VFR from Bristol to Cardiff.

Done this route a few times to get comfy with the route i want before joining live ATC. First flight whole machine crashed and it was too late to carry on.

Second flight i got start up correct taxi correct then it all fell apart, i was thinking that i would stay with ground as there was no other ATC on, but whilst i was on route to RW TWR came on, and then i got major flustered and lost confidence, the controllers where (to be fair very patient) but in the end it had gone from being fun to stressful so not knowing what to do and conscious of other Pilots behind me i disconnected (as i didn’t want to spoil the fun for others).

So tonight i am going to try to read some more and wait till the morning got a day off work and am going to try a VFR during the day to reduce my task saturation.

I understand these blockers are with me, but it is not the case that i am not trying or have made no effort i honestly have, even buying navigraph etc to make sure i can taxi around, ident Waypoints OFR etc.

That said i wonder if you helpful people would not mind answering a few questions.

1) when things are just not working and i am getting into a spiral of panic, what is the correct way to say (sorry ATC i cannot proceed) was i ok to disconnect or can i be a little more professional (i would like to be) to say sorry ATC i will clear the airway and try again another time?

2) I am still confused about ATC flow  last night initially there was only London Control on, so i though no problems i just need to carry out flight under Unicom at 122.80 - then APP/DEP came on so my vpilot looked something like this:

I was flying from EGGD to EGFF VFR

1.DEL (Not Manned)
2.GND( not Manned)
3.TWR (not Manned)
4.APP EGGL
5.CTR EGGL

I was again scared off form Filing a plan as i didn’t want to annoy anyone, but was i correct in thinking i should have filed my flight plan, used UNICOM to announce attention and fly to EGFF and use UNICOM to land EGFF or should i have contacted APP EGGL?

Thanks in advance, i know i will get there but i just want to make sure everyone (including me has fun) but i am really trying hard not to be "that guy" lol

Thanks

 Jon

 

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4 hours ago, Jon Hagen said:

but in the end it had gone from being fun to stressful so not knowing what to do and conscious of other Pilots behind me i disconnected (as i didn’t want to spoil the fun for others).

I'm no ATCO, "just" a pilot and I can obviously only speak for myself here, but I for one appreciate when things don't go 100% smoothly all the time. It adds a layer of immersion to me if there's some snags here and there - afterall, real life doesn't run 100% smoothly all the time either. Have you ever heard that real world ATC recording (can't remember what airport that was from) where a crew had to sacrifice their spot in the departure line because there was a passenger with a "toilet emergency"? Life can be whacky and unpredictable and I personally enjoy the odd instance where this happens to get emulated on VATSIM, even if it means I'll be delayed for ten minutes because the flight deck ahead of me has to sort something out. I don't think you should be so nervous about spoiling anyone's fun. Afterall, if someone really just wants some guaranteed smooth sailing with no hangups whatsoever, the Disconnect button is their friend. Anyone who connects to VATSIM actively seeks a human factor in their experience and the human factor is always imperfect.

 

4 hours ago, Jon Hagen said:

1) when things are just not working and i am getting into a spiral of panic, what is the correct way to say (sorry ATC i cannot proceed) was i ok to disconnect or can i be a little more professional (i would like to be) to say sorry ATC i will clear the airway and try again another time?

As I said above, I don't think there's ever a need to disconnect because you made a mistake or fell behind the instructions. Of course I understand why you get the impulse to do it every once in a while, I've been there, but from my personal experience it is a much better experience for everyone involved to have you sort it out with the assistance that you need. So long as you're not yet a smoking crater in the ground, pretty much everything can be fixed with pilot-ATC cooperation. It's one of the reasons why that exists.

"N123AB, Sorry, we made a navigational error, can you help us out with a vector?"

I think ATCs reaction might both suprise you and vastly calm you down. They're pretty cool guys.

The "spiral of panic" really seems to be the big issue here. It doesn't need to come about. I am by absolutely no means particularily skilled or experienced, I have zero real aviation background and I'm fairly lazy when it comes to researching things, so I have my fair share of screwups. I've blown through altitude assignments, I've programmed, activated and flown the completely wrong SID, I've been caught cruising with local altimeter setting multiple times. Hell yeah that's embarassing, but that's about it. My point is that you are going to make mistakes and there's a good chance you'll make a fool of yourself on some days, and those don't neccessarily need to be your first days on VATSIM. Flying an aircraft isn't exactly super easy even if you are a trained professional and there's another one sitting next to you on the flight deck. As a single pilot in the sim, your workload is high. ATC knows this and ATC sees countless pilots make glaring mistakes every day. There's no need to panic about it, it's a normal part of our virtual flying world. The vast majority of people flying around here have no formal training whatsoever, are far from aviation professionals and will make mistakes. You're definitely not the only one, so don't worry about it that much. You're not even the only person to ever be a beginner and a little daunted by it all. 😉

 

4 hours ago, Jon Hagen said:

I was again scared off form Filing a plan as i didn’t want to annoy anyone

Thing is, you know, your flight is the reason ATC is there, right? They're there because there's air traffic to control. It's what they do. It's what they purely want to do - not like they're getting payed here on VATSIM.

To answer your questions about that specific scenario you had there, ATC on VATSIM provides "top-down coverage", meaning that if a lower station isn't staffed but one above it is, that controller will take on the duties of the lower station as well if it is within his control. The order is: DEL -> GND -> TWR -> APP/DEP -> CTR. If you are at a controlled airfield, you'll call the "lowest tier" always. In your example that would have been CTR initially, before APP/DEP opened and when APP/DEP opened, he was the lowest tier available, so that would have been your guy. If you had contacted CTR already and APP/DEP came online then, CTR would have just handed you over to him, that's no deal at all either.

I think all in all you worry way too much and that's certainly understandable as it can all be a little intimidating. But you know how to aviate, you know how to navigate, you have the two most important things down. And there's a guy sitting at his desk just like you providing ATC services to a bunch of enthusiast amateurs just like you. Admittedly, I've been around for only a year, but I have yet to meet a controller that wasn't genuinly helpful to the best of his abilities whenever someone needed assistance. If you want my advice: Before you disconnect because you're far behind and feel like you're in over your head, you trim her out, take a good look around and then you key your mic and make a request for whatever you think may help you out. ATC will be there to work something out with you. And if for whatever reason you got a controller on a really bad day and he really doesn't want to deal with you now, he could still ask you to disconnect then. But even he probably won't.

Edited by Jonas Helkey
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17 hours ago, Jon Hagen said:

when things are just not working and i am getting into a spiral of panic, what is the correct way to say (sorry ATC i cannot proceed) was i ok to disconnect or can i be a little more professional (i would like to be) to say sorry ATC i will clear the airway and try again another time?

The four most important phrases: "Standby", "Say again", "Unable", "Request vectors".

And the two most important rules:

  1. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. If you're too busy flying the aircraft (aviate) and figuring out what's going on (navigate), push the communication to the bottom by saying "standby".
  2. Never accept / readback instructions you are not comfortable executing. Saying "unable" when you can't comply is 100 times better than trying to wing it and messing up.

And finally: task saturation is real, and cockpit workload is a perfectly valid reason to reject or postpone instructions. When you notice that you're about to enter a "spiral of panic", calm down and fly the aircraft. Level the wings, maintain altitude, maintain airspeed. THEN start worrying about navigating: figure out where you are, where you're going, and where you're supposed to go. Then finally, once you have regained situational awareness AND calmed down to the point where you can think straight, pick up the radio and resume communication. But fly the aircraft first.

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In addition to all the excellent advice above;

As you have noted, one of the things which makes VATSIM so realistic an experience is the fact that it is a live, fluid experience with real humans and thus not everything happens predictably in accordance with a set script. This can understandably be a bit overwhelming at first, but the first thing to say is that this is a) entirely realistic and what makes VATSIM unqiue and b) entirely normal, whether you are a new VATSIM pilot, a new real-world PPL student going solo for the first time or a newly-qualified airline pilot. There is a lot to take in, and unlilke in the real world you are generally doing everything alone and without any guidance or instant feedback from an instructor to refer to. So don't worry; the way you are feeling is absolutely normal given your experience level. But it will get better!

There are a number of areas which make up the skillset of a pilot, real or virtual, and they are mostly not related to the actual technical aspect of pushing/pulling the yoke/stick. Two which I think are well worth thinking about are Workload Management and Situation Awareness.

Situation Awareness (or SA), basically can be boiled down to three questions:

1) What IS happening?
2) What HAS happened?
3) What MIGHT happen?

Good pilots are always looking for ways to maintain and improve SA, which means constantly scanning and gathering as much information about the state of the aeroplane and its systems, the flight path, outside agencies, etc etc, and using this information to build a complete picture of the situation. Indeed one major airline uses the acronym "NUTA" (Notice, Understand, Think Ahead) to describe the three levels of Situation Awareness. Noticing is where you are aware of elements in the environment and simply reacting to the situation. Understanding would be comprehending the current situation but not attending to future requirements, and then finally Thinking Ahead is where you are not only comprehending the current situation but projecting ahead and anticipating contingencies. As a simple example, you might notice from listening to the radio that other aircraft going to the same destination as you are being assigned a particular runway for landing. Understanding that you may be given the same runway, you might select the runway in the FMC and tune the ILS. Thinking Ahead, you then might look at the ground chart to work out which side of the runway (and where) you will need to vacate after landing, what the likely taxi route to your parking position might be, and look at the go-around procedure and ensure it is programmed in to the FMS.

This is a constant process. Anticipating potential threats is something which will become easier with experience as you become more familiar with your aircraft and the airspace, but the more you can try and think in advance about things that might happen and how you will deal with that situation the better -- you won’t always be able to think of everything but even if you can anticipate a few things that will help! It is good to try and ask yourself “What if…”

Some examples as a VFR pilot might be “What if I do not get a clearance to enter some controlled airspace along my route?” or “What if ATC log on at my destination when I am joining the circuit?” (coming back the SA thing - you might as you are flying along notice that EGFF_TWR has come online; understand that you will need to speak to them in order to join the circuit and land; and thinking ahead, tune the frequency in the standby radio and make sure you have the relevant chart to hand).

Workload management, likewise, is an important consideration. It is surprising how busy things can get in a light aircraft as a single pilot, let alone an airliner! So it is important to be well-organised (in terms of having all your charts, notes, checklists etc prepared and in the order you will need them, pen and paper within easy reach etc before you start) and to use periods of lower workload (for instance, before starting and taxiing out or in a quiet moment during the cruise) to anticipate and plan ahead for when it will be busier (like during the approach and landing). Again, experience will help in terms of helping you anticipate, and the only way to gain this experience, apart from observing others, is to keep doing it!

When things get busy time can get very compressed. The important thing to remember here is that you are the pilot in command; so if you feel that you are becoming rushed and task saturated, take action to reduce the workload and make more time. Literally slow the aircraft down, or fly an orbit, ask for extra track miles or a hold from ATC etc if you are in the air; on the ground, stop in a safe place, set the parking brake and take your time to get yourself sorted out.

One of the important things to consider in all the above when you are planning ahead is not just what you will do but how you are going to do it. For example, asked to brief the go-around procedure for a particular approach, an inexperienced pilot may respond “We’ll climb straight ahead to 2 DME, then turn right on to a heading of 300 degrees and climb to 3,000 feet.”

That is, indeed, what you are going to fly. But it does not consider how you are going to fly it. What actions will you take? What autopilot modes will you use? What will you select and when? A better example might be “I’ll call “go around flaps”, push the thrust levers to TO/GA, select the flaps one stage up, and if I’m flying manually rotate toward 15 degrees nose up. When we have a positive rate of climb I’ll retract the landing gear, read the FMA, engage an autopilot and confirm that the missed approach altitude is set. The missed approach route is programmed in the FMS but the aircraft won’t automatically follow it so at or above 400 feet I’ll need to push to engage NAV mode, or if ATC give us a heading I’ll set that in the window and pull the knob to select heading mode. At 1,000 feet I’ll select climb thrust, accelerate, retract the flaps on schedule, and do the AFTER TAKEOFF checklist, then we’ll work out what we do from there. The missed approach altitude of 3,000 feet is above the sector safe altitude of 2,400 feet so there’s no concerns there.”

See how the second example deals with not just what you are going to do but how it will actually be achieved? Whilst that is an airline example, the same could be considered for a missed approach in your C172. “If I need to go around I’ll push the throttle all the way forward, select carb heat to cold, retract the flaps two stages, pitch up to the climbing attitude and call “going around” to ATC. Once I’m safely climbing away and at least 400 feet above the ground with a safe airspeed of at least 65 knots I’ll retract the flaps, continue climbing to the circuit height of 1,000 feet and plan to continue in to a left hand circuit for another attempt.”

In answer to your specific question about who to contact -- in all but a small number of cases, APP/TWR/GND units only cover the airfield they are associated with, so you would only need to speak to them if you were flying to that airport or entering that airport’s airspace (in the case of APP/TWR).

CTR units cover wider areas top down, and will cover controlled airports within their particular area (as far as the UK is concerned, that is airports within Class D airspace) “top down” so if you were flying to a controlled airport that was within that particular sector’s area of responsibility you would need to talk to them as you can think of them as fulfilling the role of the APP/TWR/GND unit for the airfield in the absence of a dedicated controller. VATSIM-UK have a helpful page which details which London sectors cover which airports: https://vatsim.uk/area-sectors.

Hope you find that useful and of course do post if you have any questions!
 

Edited by Simon Kelsey
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4 hours ago, Simon Kelsey said:

{...}  “I’ll call “go around flaps”, push the thrust levers to TO/GA, select the flaps one stage up, and if I’m flying manually rotate toward 15 degrees nose up. When we have a positive rate of climb I’ll retract the landing gear, read the FMA, engage an autopilot and confirm that the missed approach altitude is set. The missed approach route is programmed in the FMS but the aircraft won’t automatically follow it so at or above 400 feet I’ll need to push to engage NAV mode, or if ATC give us a heading I’ll set that in the window and pull the knob to select heading mode. At 1,000 feet I’ll select climb thrust, accelerate, retract the flaps on schedule, and do the AFTER TAKEOFF checklist, then we’ll work out what we do from there. The missed approach altitude of 3,000 feet is above the sector safe altitude of 2,400 feet so there’s no concerns there.” {...}

... and don't forget that there's always more than one way to skin a cat.  If VNAV doesn't seem to be doing what you think it should, try FLCH.  If that doesn't cut it, set throttles manually and control pitch to the target airspeed.  If LNAV isn't tracking the correct path, then pop it into HDG mode, or, use the ailerons to turn the plane.  Remember that when the plane isn't behaving as you expect, switching down to a lower level of automation (simple heading, speed, and altitude or vertical speed holds) is often a quicker way to get in compliance with your instruction, buying you time to do the deeper troubleshooting and FMC reprogramming.

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr
grammar snob ;-)
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Cheers,

-R.

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24 minutes ago, Robert Shearman Jr said:

... and don't forget that there's always more than one way to skin a cat.  If VNAV doesn't seem to be doing what you think it should, try FLCH.  If that doesn't cut it, set throttles manually and control pitch to the target airspeed.  If LNAV isn't tracking the correct path, then pop it into HDG mode, or, use the ailerons to turn the plane.  Remember that when the plane isn't behaving as you expect, switching down to a lower level of automation (simple heading, speed, and altitude or vertical speed holds) is often a quicker way to get in compliance with your instruction, buying you time to do the deeper troubleshooting and FMC reprogramming.

Of course. However, to be brutally honest if you've got to that point then you're probably operating more toward the "notice" level of SA and just reacting to problems as you see them rather than anticipating and thinking ahead to ensure the FMS is correctly programmed for the upcoming phase of flight.

Naturally that can happen occasionally, but if it is happening regularly then your SA could probably be improved (or you have a very buggy addon 😄)

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Thank you all so much for the really interesting and assuring feedback. I am happy to report good news, I had a day off, so spent the first half of the morning cramming and saying out load my callsign to the wife, kids and whoever else asked me anything, "dad are you there," HAG01 Reciving HAHA WORKED A TREAT BECAUSE...

With comments here, and two fantastic controllers in EGGD GRD / TWR I had a fantastic experience. Set off for a vfr to Cardiff was able to manage workload fine transitioned from request start up, to taxi to takeoff into unicom and beyond. It was amazing my flight gave me confidence and I decided to fly around having fun, and came back to EDDG via different vrps, using unicom to manage myself with other traffic small GA and the bigger boys.

One of the nicest things that has happened was I let an AIRBUS i think depart via rw27 even though it meant I was back into mild panic mode lol as I was on final so I called and said I would go around for him to avoid a delay for his departure.

I then extended my downwind spoke to the captain over unicom and between us both, we came up with a plan for separation and his take off / my landing.

Felt so good real team work, because at one point another aircraft came in like a stealth bomber and landed without so much as a whisper. Amazing fun and now need to get my head around ctr cta zone arrivals and departures via vfr with clearance from appropriate ATC Cover.

Emboldened I flew to strumble head and back to Bristol via haverfordwest to refuel. Landing back at Bristol I encountered and emergency  autopilot would not disengage (thank you fs2020) was trying to land but it wanted to climb and hold heading. All sorts of madness, I could see a c208 on apron and asked for some assistance ideas 2 go arounds later on a last attemped he said try a really steep bank to see if that would trigger anything, and it did! Teamwork and x2 when I landed I pinged a chat message and said hope that didn't spoil his time (came back saying this would quite possibly be more fun than his filed flight plan) 

 

At one point I was so immersed I forgot I was sitting at a desk on the ground. Fantastic!

 

Thanks again all, this really helped me! And thanks to controllers at Bristol And the 2xpilots it was a blast.

 

Regards Jon 

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2 hours ago, Simon Kelsey said:

Naturally that can happen occasionally, but if it is happening regularly then your SA could probably be improved (or you have a very buggy addon 😄)

I think this was in reference to the ideas outlined in the famous "Children of the Magenta Line" lectures, especially how he emphasizes that the first response to unexpected automation behavior should be to drop to a lower level of automation.

If the FMS doesn't fly where you want to go, don't try to fix the FMS - switch to HDG mode, turn the knob until the aircraft goes where you want it to go, and THEN fix the FMS.

If the autopilot does weird things, don't try to fix the autopilot - disconnect it, hand-fly the aircraft, regain stability, and THEN assess the situation and fix the autopilot.

This isn't something you should need to be doing all the time, but it's nonetheless a good idea to make this your first reflex: something isn't doing what it's supposed to -> drop down to a lower level of automation.

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46 minutes ago, Tobias Dammers said:

I think this was in reference to the ideas outlined in the famous "Children of the Magenta Line" lectures,

We're getting slightly off topic... however to be honest whilst some of what is in said lecture is good advice, it's also in excess of two decades old advice and automation and training has moved on... "click click, click click" and putting yourself in a postion where in addition to anything else you were doing you now have your hands full of aeroplane just to add to your task saturation is not always the best thing to do, especially in a single pilot situation.

Again, my point stands which is that short of a fault, if you understand the automation properly and are ahead of the aeroplane (SA) there is really no reason why you should be getting yourself in a situation where "the FMS isn't going where you want to go". If this is the case then either it has developed a fault (rare), you have programmed it incorrectly (and thus probably not followed the proper procedures for checking your inputs/procedures loaded from the database), you don't understand how to operate it properly, or you have got in to a situation where you are operating reactively and trying to play catch up (SA/workload management again).

Yes, of course it is important to avoid spending lots of time heads down typing in to the FMS in critical phases of flight and yes, of course basic modes are available and should be used appropriately and as needed... but the question should be about why you have ended up in a situation where the automation started doing something you didn't expect, and the chances are that with improved SA, anticipation, mode awareness and effective briefing the situation probably could have been avoided.

In threat and error management parlance, switching to basic modes/disconnecting because the automation is behaving unexpectedly is mitigation... ideally we should be looking to trap, or avoid altogether, the errors and circumstances leading to that before it gets that far. I'm not saying that taking that action to mitigate the consequences is a bad thing, but as I say if you're finding yourself doing it a lot then you need to be asking yourself why and how to avoid it!

Edited by Simon Kelsey
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The thing is: if you are 1 or 2 steps ahead of your aircraft, you will catch unexpected behaviour much easier than trying to monitor everything all the time, which is very fatiguing. It needs an awful lot of training and routine to achieve this. I have not touched a real aircraft since May this year and will do my SIM-training and check next week. I expect the first few hours to be quite rough. Luckily I have my flight simulator game at home and in conjunction with VATSIM it is a great device to stay current in respect to some aspects of real flying. It will be easier for me than for my returning colleagues who haven't done anything with aviation since March or April!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 11/13/2020 at 2:23 PM, Jon Hagen said:

One of the nicest things that has happened was I let an AIRBUS i think depart via rw27 even though it meant I was back into mild panic mode lol as I was on final so I called and said I would go around for him to avoid a delay for his departure.

I then extended my downwind spoke to the captain over unicom and between us both, we came up with a plan for separation and his take off / my landing.

 

 That's pretty fascinating. At first, I thought you were on final at the time. I would like to actually be in that situation in my Dash 8 to do something like that on unicom.

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On 11/13/2020 at 9:00 AM, Simon Kelsey said:
On 11/13/2020 at 4:53 PM, Tobias Dammers said:

I think this was in reference to the ideas outlined in the famous "Children of the Magenta Line" lectures, especially how he emphasizes that the first response to unexpected automation behavior should be to drop to a lower level of automation.

If the FMS doesn't fly where you want to go, don't try to fix the FMS - switch to HDG mode, turn the knob until the aircraft goes where you want it to go, and THEN fix the FMS.

If the autopilot does weird things, don't try to fix the autopilot - disconnect it, hand-fly the aircraft, regain stability, and THEN assess the situation and fix the autopilot.

 

 Funny you should mention that, since switching to HDG. is something I do alot. And then, depending on how I feel, I'll even switch that off. As far as that's concern, this one paragraph puts this entire dissertation in a nutshell for me. 😉

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Another new pilot here - I've managed one Vatsim take off from a relatively busy EGKK and flew unicom from there to EGTE - it's crazy but I was a bag of nerves throughout the process on the ground and this wasn't helped by having two airliners behind my TBM930 waiting to take off while I was lining up. I couldn't activate the AP in the flightdeck as I had the screen restored down so I could use SimToolkit and vPilot, instead of just pressing Z I got myself flustered making for one very ugly climb - although I still managed to maintain my SID routing

It was still an unbelievably rewarding experience and I got a very nice PM from ATC at EGKK thanking me and telling me to enjoy my flight

MSFS2020 is my first ever sim and at almost 53 years of age learning new skills isn't as easy as when you're young but I'm getting there slowly 

One thing I have learned is that I believe pilots are the greatest multi-taskers on Earth! 

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