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Events getting too unrealistic


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Hi fellow simmers,

usually I'm just reading and sometimes posting in the VATSIM Germany Forum, but I think that's a better place for this topic.

I started flying on VATSIM in 2013 and was flying online on the other network for quite some time before. Seeing that more and more people join VATSIM or start flying again makes me happy and I appreciate that growth, especially in COVID and MSFS times. However, I also see some negative effects with this amount of pilots flying without any regulation in terms of traffic load.

I had a VATSIM break that lasted about 2 years and ended in the last winter. Before that time I loved to fly on events and did that on a regular basis. The ATC coverage and the amount of pilots created such a realistic environment to fly in. After my break and with the wave of so many people spending more time on VATSIM I see that events are becoming more and more unrealistic as they're overloaded most of the time. I don't know if it's just me, but I can't see the fun in being "number 8 for the clearance" or seeing 10+ aircrafts at the holding point. Also, the frequencies are so full (especially delivery and center) that you're sometimes cruising on 6000ft halfway to your destination until you find a gap on the frequency. There's just no fun and realism anymore in such events for me and I tend to avoid them in the future. 

In my opinion there's a desperate need in using slots for the majority of the events (like many real ops events and CTP do). And even if that might be rigorous, pilots without slots should be rejected if the traffic load makes that necessary. That might be very restrictive, but it's obvious that a growing simulation network will reach a point where you can't let dozens of people fly unregulated in a short time from/to a single airport. It will require more planning in advance for pilots, but would hopefully increase the quality of any event.

I hope I'm not just speaking for myself and that the responsible people are already aware of that. I just don't believe that most people are like "I want to see as many aircrafts as possible".

Best regards and always happy landings

Roman

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And then there was today’s FNO at KATL, 50+ departures,  240+ arrivals, 28 controllers, not a step over, clean descents and vectors, I was lined up with 3 other guys in final. To ZTL, freakin awesome

I stopped flying events a few years ago because of the unrealistic congestion. I now look at the vatusa calendar and fly as far away from the events as possible.

It might be a chance, though. Maybe that's a good opportunity to discover other places on VATSIM that previously did not get the attention they deserved. There is also some good ATC and scenery covera

Roman, I think you touched a very interesting topic. The search for balance between quantity and quality will always be an interesting one.

I flew today on the LPMA event, where they introduced slots and for which I did not have a booking. I was expecting delays, naturally, and loaded up on fuel. Went through three different holds but I will honestly say that I had a wonderful experience.

I think slots / bookings can and should be an interesting option to manage workloads, both for airports and enroute centers.

No one enjoys a queue, but it does make it fairer for those who book and even for those who don't, because expectations can be managed (waiting times, etc.).

But, all of this, it's still a work in progress. Lots to experiment and try. But we'll get there 🙂

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In recent weeks I elected to log off and depart offline on a few occasions, because of inflexible use of runways (and resulting delays that were unnecessary) or because I could not afford to wait 30 to 40 minutes. I reconnected to the network after leaving the congested area and before reaching my requested cruise level. I also had to disconnect when a TWR controller was not brave enough to issue a very late landing clearance due to previous traffic still rolling out, but rather asked me to go around at 2 DME. It was a pity, but sometimes it is necessary if your time is limited.

We have reached the point where regular online nights during working days are completely overcrowded. Add the group flight of a streamer pilot and the chaos/delay is perfect.

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Glad I'm not the only one with that impression. I just felt it was never really addressed - or at least I've never seen this topic being addressed.

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No one enjoys a queue, but it does make it fairer for those who book and even for those who don't, because expectations can be managed (waiting times, etc.).

That would be a great solution for everybody if you know what to expect and if you have at least to opportunity to avoid insane delays. Still there must be somebody to judge when to delay the pilots without slots which can't be the controller themselfs. They simply can't figure out all the time if alle frequencies of the airport (or even the whole citylink route) have some capacities left for them.

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We have reached the point where regular online nights during working days are completely overcrowded. Add the group flight of a streamer pilot and the chaos/delay is perfect.

I don't see that on a regular basis, but from time to time as well, even on afternoons or earlier on weekends/holidays. I was flying in Austria yesterday and LOVV_CTR logged on, but quickly closed again, because there was just too much traffic to order quickly. But in these cases I don't think there's much you can do about it. I guess events and regular online days are the only occasions where slots could and should be established.

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It's a really interesting discussion. I remember the days when I would very deliberately plan my flying around events in order to see other traffic and have ATC. The surge in VATSIM membership over the past 14 months has really altered this dynamic in certain locations (not all!).

I'm reasonably confident that balance will restore "naturally" over time as we get used to this "new VATSIM normal" and facilities adapt to the change in traffic levels. 

 

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VATUSA is starting to do a better job at flow management for Friday Night Ops events, but the flip-side is that pilots get upset that DEL or GND is telling them they have to wait 30 minutes to depart for the event field (to join their coordinated spot in the arrival queue) so they pull the move described earlier in this post wherein they disconnect, depart, and reconnect airborne, effectively sidestepping our efforts to regulate the stream into the FNO airport and "jumping the line."

A better solution, at least in the US, is -- if you want good traffic levels but not insane ones, fly to and from airports in sectors *adjoining* the event host, which will almost always staff up and have decent traffic. Not sure whether that holds true outside VATUSA or not.  Maybe others can comment on that. 

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr

Cheers,

-R.

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Just to throw in another perspective, what I usually do is depart from a non-event airport (which is staffed) and arrive at the main event airport. That way I'm not struggling to get clearance or sitting in long departure queues. I will still get ground stops from time to time, but that's no big deal. I actually enjoy the realism of a ground stop, or pulling off to the side and shutting down the engines while I wait for the ground stop to lift. And when I get close to the event airport, I'll often get put into airborne holds, and I enjoy that as well. It's fun to set up the aircraft for the hold, and then see other aircraft circling in the stack around me. Then when the controller clears me out of the hold, it's like winning a little lottery. :classic_biggrin:

That being said, there are still times when the experience is less enjoyable due to the high traffic levels. That happens when the event facility staff isn't properly managing the load with ground stops or airborne holding. Then it just becomes a complete mess near the event airport as the overloaded approach controllers struggle to keep their heads above water. That type of experience is the exception rather than the norm, though.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

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In my opinion I do not see a reason for slots now. I feel the traffic amount on events now comes closer to reality with more pilots attending. Having to fly a holding for 20 minutes at night over Zürich and the ability, to listen to the radio and see the other traffic circling makes the simulation even more fun. As a real world pilot I can assure, that it could be really challenging on rush hour to find the gap to deliver your message to the controller.But don’t get me wrong, it must still be fun for the pilot and the controller. The workload should not mount in “negative” stress. Maybe on certain events, there should be a second runway open for landing and takeoff. I often watched in the past, that there is only one  runway open (maybe on purpose, to get a higher workload, maybe just because they weren’t enough controllers attending)

Anyway, it is an interesting discussion.

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Great too see how many people give their opinion on that topic. I hope my initial post didn't offend anybody. We barely see the work behind every event, but I'm sure everybody who takes part in organising such events does a great job. And of course the controllers are doing an outstanding job in 99% of the time. I couldn't take all that stress.

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I'm reasonably confident that balance will restore "naturally" over time as we get used to this "new VATSIM normal" and facilities adapt to the change in traffic levels. 

Looking at the charts, most ATC positions that exist in real life are also open on VATSIM if there's an event (at least pretty often). So I think there's not much space in creating more capacity in regards of ATC staff.

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VATUSA is starting to do a better job at flow management for Friday Night Ops events, but the flip-side is that pilots get upset that DEL or GND is telling them they have to wait 30 minutes to depart for the event field (to join their coordinated spot in the arrival queue) so they pull the move described earlier in this post wherein they disconnect, depart, and reconnect airborne, effectively sidestepping our efforts to regulate the stream into the FNO airport and "jumping the line."

I didn't even know that you're allowed to connect mid-air and even inside controlled airspace 😅 If there were slots, there would be nothing to complain about as everybody (whether you have a slot or not) knows what to expect. Of course pilots with slot will experience some delay as well, but at least it gives ATC the possibility to prioritize the traffic.

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In my opinion I do not see a reason for slots now. I feel the traffic amount on events now comes closer to reality with more pilots attending.

Yes, the overall traffic amount is very realistic on event nights and I love to see so many aircraft that the airport really comes to life. On the other hand the problem is very often that most pilots fly in the same direction. This doesn't even have to be only the case on citylink events. If there are two events in Europe for example two thirds of the pilots are flying between these to airports. They're using the same runway (if there even are several runways) and the same airpsace enroute. That's the bottleneck.

Just to make that clear: I don't want to say I'm the one with best and greatest solution or that everything is bad. This is definitely a 1st world problem. I just feel that capacity limits are often reached and exceeded in the past year and wanted to initiate a discussion if others feel the same and if something can and wants to be done about that. I'm also not the person getting mad when things get a bit delayed or when I'm getting sent into a hold. In my opinion things are just slowly getting too intense with waiting times around an hour sometimes or absolutely no gaps on frequencies for minutes resulting in people stepping on each other constantly. 

If there are more and more times with traffic like in real life we also need some proper management like in real life. Especially when there are mostly amateur pilots (no offence, I'm one as well) flying.

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13 hours ago, Roman Renner said:

If there are more and more times with traffic like in real life we also need some proper management like in real life. Especially when there are mostly amateur pilots (no offence, I'm one as well) flying.

That is a good point, you are right. An espacially when 99% of the pilots ar flying single ifr with simulated cockpits, that are harder to use than the real ones...

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Two further points that may contribute to easing event congestions:

  1. The availability of full CPDLC will significantly reduce ATC voice traffic
  2. PMDG Global Fleet Operations will provide a host of opportunities for pilots to choose interesting new flight routes rather than 'crowding' events.

We shall see😉

Cheers, Richard

You are the music, until the music stops. T.S.Eliot
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5 hours ago, Richard McDonald Woods said:

Two further points that may contribute to easing event congestions:

  1. The availability of full CPDLC will significantly reduce ATC voice traffic
  2. PMDG Global Fleet Operations will provide a host of opportunities for pilots to choose interesting new flight routes rather than 'crowding' events.

We shall see😉

Cpdlc will certainly help I feel in the enroute environment. I certainly enjoy events more when I use it. Don’t think GFO would add that much to the table which VA couldn’t add already. I think that some form of capacity management system that is not VACC/ ARTCC restricted could also work. This does not have to be slot booking system but something that uses FPL data to forecast capacity.

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The fact we are now getting to the point that we are getting complaints of too much traffic is extraordinary, but I agree (having been present in some events) that the chaos could prove more damaging. 

Question: How does it work in real life? Do multiple controllers handle singular busy sectors or is everything chopped up into smaller sectors for a single controller to manage?

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54 minutes ago, James McRobbie said:

How does it work in real life? Do multiple controllers handle singular busy sectors or is everything chopped up into smaller sectors for a single controller to manage?

There are many more controllers handling the workload, each with their own area of responsibility, or sector. Those sectors are much smaller when it's busy. When it's not busy, a single controller will be working multiple sectors combined into one larger sector.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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They dont have regular mass fly in events in real life, on that basis the very concept of a fly in event event is unrealistic.

As well as sector splits, controllers are limited to how long they can sit at the scope before a break is required.

Edited by Kirk Christie

Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

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It might be a chance, though. Maybe that's a good opportunity to discover other places on VATSIM that previously did not get the attention they deserved. There is also some good ATC and scenery coverage in other places.

When I was starting with VATSIM some 100 years ago, by that time ATC coverage was very good in my home country, so I decided join VATSIM Central Africa instead and try to build something up there. It was a good learning, as we had to learn everything from the scratch - scenery building, sector file building, VA operations.

So anybody who feels traffic in the well-known places is too dense, maybe you might want to give other places a try once you see ATC online there.

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3 hours ago, Alexander Cohrs said:

When I was starting with VATSIM some 100 years ago,

Found the fountain of youth eh? Care to disclose the location ;P? (Or maybe it’s a time machine, hard to say)

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Josh Jenk

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A week ago I was flying during the weekly "Frankfurt Friday" event. I don't know how many pilots there were when I arrived, but my TCAS showed a ton of people on the approach (talking just about one of two landing Runways). I was very surprised how smooth, calm and without any delay or holding everything went. The load on the frequency was just fine, even with some room for more traffic. Apparently one of the reasons was the extreme amount of controllers that day. I remember there were 5 approach, 5 ground, 4 tower (one for each rwy) and even at least 2 delivery controllers. That's something you barely see on way bigger events on bigger airports. Looking forward to fly there again!

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8 hours ago, Lance Williams said:

Just fly VFR into the focus field from a non-controlled departure airport - - problem solved! Or do as Richie does!

Depends what the focus field is. If you’re trying to get your c172 into an overloaded class B airspace, not likely gonna happen. Most likely you’ll be told VFR isn’t being accepted at the focus field and asked to remain clear of the airspace. On the other hand there’s plenty of events that encourage or promote VFR flying and those are often underrated on the network considering how much fun they are.

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Josh Jenk

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1 hour ago, Josh Jenk said:

Depends what the focus field is. If you’re trying to get your c172 into an overloaded class B airspace, not likely gonna happen. Most likely you’ll be told VFR isn’t being accepted at the focus field and asked to remain clear of the airspace. On the other hand there’s plenty of events that encourage or promote VFR flying and those are often underrated on the network considering how much fun they are.

IME, the VATSIM policy to "accommodate if at all possible" is usually adhered to rather religiously, and I have yet to hear a controller say "VFR is not accepted". You will probably get vectored heavily, and you may need to fly a lot of orbits and get a very short final on a short notice, and experience long delays in general, but IME controllers will do their best to get you down between the tubeliners. I saw some brave soul bringing a Bonanza to Gatwick Midweek Madness once, and while they were kept at an intersection holding point for 45 minutes, they did get them out eventually, and while the controller sighed a lot, they never said "you can't fly here" (and the Bonanza pilot was cool with the delay, too). Even airports that do not service GA at all IRL will often do so on VATSIM.

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Yeah it’s not too often that you would get denied service but I’ll give you an example. Last night during the Seattle Denver crossfire they (apparently) weren’t accepting any VFR arrivals or departures for the busiest part of the event. But I agree controllers do a good job usually of handling VFR flights when at all possible.

Josh Jenk

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