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I appreciate the opportunity that /t afforded to those with limited means over the past 20+ years, but with the recent increase in traffic and major technical advances, there's really no reason to keep /t (and some compelling reasons to abandon it).

It's time that we abandon /t as an option for pilots, with the rare exception of the hearing disabled (for whom I would be more than pleased to continue /t service). Please note, I am not proposing an abandonment of /r. That mode offers some distinct benefits such as keeping the peace for sleeping family members, voice disabilities, and other various use cases.

Some thoughts:

  • it's nearly impossible to buy a computer without a sound card, headphones are a commodity, and bandwidth has greatly improved since the SATCO days 
  • /t disrupts immersion for controllers and other pilots; other successful networks (some paid) promote voice-only as a realism bonus
  • /t increases controller workload in ways that /r does not, fumbling with not-often-used aliases, and degrades the timeliness of service to all pilots including /t pilots themselves
Edited by Jason Cochran
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I appreciate the opportunity that /t afforded to those with limited means over the past 20+ years, but with the recent increase in traffic and major technical advances, there's really no reason to kee

Something I would be curious to know: how many of those controllers posting here that text is “too workload intensive” go firing off unsolicited text PDCs to pilots when it starts getting busy? S

Discouraged by whom? A small group that use the network and feel inconveniced by its use?

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I completely agree.

As a controller, /t pilots are always an issue for me. Whether or not they are good or bad pilots are irrelevant, but I don't really pay attention to a text box while controlling. I am busy working on how many different things, and to write out a whole message with perfect grammar to a text pilot is always a hassle. Sure we have aliases, but they work to a basic extent. You can't specify additional instructions without writing multiple messages which as a whole is just a mess. Worse, remembering hundreds of different aliases for different versions of messages, when instead, you could just say the message however you'd like in a couple of seconds through voice.

From a controllers perspective, text only just overall reduces my efficiency.

Now, I also agree I have 0 problem with /r, /r works just as well as /v. I can read and then respond, the issue is just reading and then typing while working with so many other things.

In today's world, there should be no reason for you to not have a headset or speaker. If you have a computer capable of running a flight sim, you have an audio device. In real life, pilots use coms, and they should on VATSIM as well, for the sake of the simulation.

It is way easier and better for VATSIM to remain with /v and /r, but /t has got to go. If there is a case where you are deaf and cannot hear, that is alright. I believe everyone should have access to the network, and if that includes the need for pilots to fill out a form stating they are incapable of /r or /v, then that is alright, allow them. But it should not be an advertised and normalized option to "just use /t" for whatever A B and C excuse, because when the frequency is busy, /t is always a problem.

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Whenever I control and I come across a /t-pilot, I will ask why he or she is using text only. If the answer is "because I do not feel confident yet" I encourage them to use voice right away and it usually works quite well. In an overloaded or even busy sector this is not possible, I know this.

Conclusion: voice-users should actively encourage /t-pilots to start using voice, in case that it is just a case of confidence or knowledge. Some people simply cannot use voice at times, that's okay for me.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
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I completely agree with the comments above. Text only should of course be an option for those who need to use it, but pilots should know that /t increases ATC workload and will likely result in delays for the pilot (the more /t pilots the more delay I'm afraid), while /r is quite easy to work with.

And I've noticed an increase lately in pilots "cherry picking" the use of text when it's convenient to them:

"I need to step away for a while but I'll be reachable on text."

"Text only for the clearance but I'll be on voice later."

"Text only for the cruise / for the next 10 minutes."

Imagine if I was acting like this as a controller - I don't think pilots would find it very enjoyable to fly through my airspace if I forced everyone to use text just because it's more convenient for me at that time. Yet a lot of pilots seem to find it acceptable to force controllers along their route to play along with this abuse (in my opinion) of the option to use text.

Martin Loxbo

Director Sweden FIR

VATSIM Scandinavia

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I believe /t should be an option for anyone with hearing or speech impairments. How you'd fairly differentiate between those users and users who just have mic fright, I have no idea. Having /t numbers reduced to only those who truly needs it would make a big difference for ATC though, it is a massive pain to keep /t pilots in your scan in high workload situations. It was a bit easier on VRC where you could adjust the chat size, but the max 4 lines-design of ES is killing me.

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3 hours ago, Magnus Meese said:

I believe /t should be an option for anyone with hearing or speech impairments. How you'd fairly differentiate between those users and users who just have mic fright, I have no idea. Having /t numbers reduced to only those who truly needs it would make a big difference for ATC though, it is a massive pain to keep /t pilots in your scan in high workload situations. It was a bit easier on VRC where you could adjust the chat size, but the max 4 lines-design of ES is killing me.

I think one valid way to do this is to require users who would like to use /t to submit a form that states they have a speech or hearing impairment. There should be no need to validate their response, but by including a process in which they must confirm "Yes, I am unable to use Vatsim in audio format and must use text only,' it can greatly reduce the likeliness of people abusing this feature. Now, if whoever would be in charge of this system doesn't mind asking them to validate this impairment in some form, sure by all means lets do that to prevent any chance of somebody abusing the system, but I think the first option is one with no downsides (work) and only benefits. 

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I don’t think speech-disabled folks need /t, since they could use /r with no issues.

Incidentally, some of the best pilots I work have a speech disability! You rock guys.

In my opinion, the exceptions should be handled on the honor system. I’m sure most people would do the right thing. If not and there were suspicions, I suppose verification could be requested.

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As long as text is an option for people who feel like right now they can't be bothered to talk to ATC, there should also be an option for ATC who feel they can't be bothered to talk to those pilots. 😛

That would make the system fair! 😄

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Martin Loxbo

Director Sweden FIR

VATSIM Scandinavia

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2 hours ago, Martin Loxbo said:

As long as text is an option for people who feel like right now they can't be bothered to talk to ATC, there should also be an option for ATC who feel they can't be bothered to talk to those pilots. 😛

If only!

Josh Jenk

CZVR C1 controller

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4 hours ago, Jason Cochran said:

I don’t think speech-disabled folks need /t, since they could use /r with no issues.

While I absolutely understand where you're coming from, I'm not sure it's as simple as that in reality. You don't necessarily know *why* they are speech disabled or if there is more behind it, such as a cognitive disorder or impairment, as is the case with a VAST number of related illnesses.

 

My thoughts are that while it can be a bit frustrating at times, it's easy to forget how much it can help some. Whether it be due to disabilities, anxiety, learning impairment or any number of other reasons - most of the people I have spoken to regarding /t have their own unique reason for it. Should we exclude those people from ever accessing the network again, because it can increase your workload ever so slightly?

Instead, we should focus more on pushing the ones who CAN use voice, to do so. Perhaps through education or information, we should empower people to actually take the leap and use voice.

I have spoken to countless people who were able to use this network just because we accepted text based controlling. I haven't got anything against text-only pilots, and have a very good alias system that in reality makes text pilots easier and faster to handle than voice pilots. I've been thinking about making an alias file that people can use for common problems and issues, and lay the foundation for a good and easy-to-understand alias system. That should help a lot of controllers not used to working with aliases and wildcards at all.

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Mats Edvin Aarø
Assistant to the Vice President - Supervisors
VATSIM General Manager: Member Engagement
[email protected]

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3 minutes ago, Mats Edvin Aaro said:

Instead, we should focus more on pushing the ones who CAN use voice, to do so. Perhaps through education or information, we should empower people to actually take the leap and use voice.

I must respectfully disagree. I think this kind of user education campaign would be hard fought and produce too little in the way of measurable results toward the desired outcome. I certainly don't have time to have this kind of conversation while controlling.

It may be an unpopular opinion (but I suspect it's not an unpopular opinion if the entirety of VATSIM's user base was polled based on my conversation with other pilots and controllers), but yes, frankly I do believe pilots should be forced to use /r (not /v) unless there is a demonstrable reason they cannot.

For me, the impact of a single text pilot may be negligible on a normal day. But, the impact of a mere three text pilots during a busy event approach sector when the voice frequency is already 100% saturated is substantial, and not "ever so slightly."

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Helping users feel more confident and pushing forward to use /v/ sounds great, but I don't think this would be the best way to solve the problem. By removing the text only option entirely from the general user (not including those who are of disability to hear voice communication,) not only will people join VATSIM straight into the environment of ATC simulation, but they will also benefit by jumping right into the learning process immediately. My first VATSIM flight took me 30 minutes to practice requesting clearance, and it turned out I had a PDC, but the important thing is I got through it and I learned. If we give people the easy option of just using text and trying voice out later, it both reduces their speed of learning and reduces the experiences of others on the network.

With the removal of /t/ use, some sort of guidance and/or encouragement keep the smile up video or document encouraging others to at least try /r would be great, but I still don't see a place in VATSIM for /t/, I stand by removing /t/ and sticking with /r and /v only. 

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I'm curious how we would enforce allowing /t only for users that have been approved. A technical solution where only approved users can send text radio messages? (Which would preclude /r.) A policy solution where controllers can wallop a pilot that is text only and not on the approved list? A combination of both?

Edited by Ross Carlson

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

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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34 minutes ago, Ross Carlson said:

I'm curious how we would enforce allowing /t only for users that have been approved. A technical solution where only approved users can send text radio messages? (Which would preclude /r.) A policy solution where controllers can wallop a pilot that is text only and not on the approved list? A combination of both?

Interesting question. I didn't spend much time thinking about enforcement, but I suppose it would have to evolve over time.

I think it could start fairly low-tech. Visibility ranges are a good example of that... nothing prevents me from signing on to an TWR position with a 150 nm visibility range, but I always seem to get a visit from a supervisor within about three minutes. So, maybe a report that triggers an alert when a non-flagged account sends a text message on a radio frequency?

I'm not too familiar with the VATSIM on the backend, but perhaps the end game could be that the FSD servers are modified to quietly drop radio messages from non-flagged accounts? At least then it wouldn't need to be implemented in each client (or at least best I can figure from the outside looking in).

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6 hours ago, Mats Edvin Aaro said:

Instead, we should focus more on pushing the ones who CAN use voice, to do so. Perhaps through education or information, we should empower people to actually take the leap and use voice.

This sounds great in theory, but as others have said I'm not sure how effective this would be? After all, there are already TONS of well-made tutorials and guides on how to communicate on VATSIM available to anyone who cares to do a 30 second google search. I haven't taken much time to look at the new PLC but I'm sure that has a plethora of information available to pilots on how to effectively communicate using /v. I love to help out new pilots when I get a chance and encourage them to use voice, but I have to agree they can sometimes create unnecessary backlogs or delays during busy periods or events. With all that being said, I'm genuinely curious to hear more details on how you think controllers, or even VATSIM as a whole, can empower people to use voice more so than we already do (on a scale that would actually be effective)?

3 hours ago, Jason Cochran said:

I think it's a fair request to ask that the BOG (or whomever) conduct a formal survey of the user population as a whole to take a pulse on this issue. 

I also like this idea. It would be kind of cool to at least see what the majority think about this (both pilots and controllers).

Also, any pilots who use text only and are looking at this forum, let's hear your reasons as to why you use /t so us controllers can try to better accommodate you to use /r or even /v 🙂

Josh Jenk

CZVR C1 controller

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My $0.02 on the matter: How about starting on the "education" end of things before breaking out the big guns ("disciplinary action" or whatever)? No need to force anything onto anyone if you can make them do it voluntarily.

Start with loudly and clearly promoting voice as the preferred mode of communication; present voice as the default mode to new pilots, throw out a bunch of official statements about the state of affairs, call it a policy change if you like - the key goal is to silence the lore and rumors that are making rounds. Lots of pilots out there believe that voice unicom is frowned upon, lots of pilots don't understand the burden text comms put on a controller.

If that turns out to be insufficient, the next step I would take is allow controllers to prioritize voice users. You'll still be served as a text pilot, and if you're using text due to some kind of disability, technical issue, or other legit reasons, and say so in your remarks, I doubt a controller would make use of this unless absolutely necessary, but if you use text for other reasons, then you may be treated as a second class citizen, similar to what it's like to fly in a big event with pre-scheduled slots as non-event traffic: you'll still be served, but you may experience extensive delays and such. Obviously controllers would have to be briefed about this, and that could also including the kind of advice Andreas hinted at: when you encounter a pilot who you suspect is using text out of mic fright, kindly ask them to switch to voice if possible.

Flagged accounts, I believe, would send the wrong message. First of all, some legit reasons to go text-only are situational, such as the home situation requiring silence (think young parent doing a quick hop during a well-deserved break when the kids are finally asleep), or temporary hardware breakage. How does one flag such an account? And second, to people who need to go text-only due to things like hearing or speech issues, having to go through a vetting process to get an official stamp on their disability before being able to participate might give a negative signal - if that were me, I would feel a lot more welcome if I could just state my situation in the pilot remarks and that would be that. I don't have any such disability though, so maybe I'm overthinking here.

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1 hour ago, Tobias Dammers said:

You'll still be served as a text pilot, and if you're using text due to some kind of disability, technical issue, or other legit reasons, and say so in your remarks, ...

Which mean I'll have to read the remarks from all text pilots. I rarely read the remarks at all (adds to the workload for no reason), and I don't think it is fair to have people explaining their handicaps to everyone around. These people are battling with a lot more than their fair share. I think it is great that there is a community they can be a part of on an equal basis and be a valuable member in their own rights. Having said that, I'll encourage pilots to use /v or /r any day.

 

Edited by Torben Andersen
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Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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Making /r (receive voice) a "standard" would be a good compromise IMO as it obviously serves both sides (pilots and ATC), and this possibly could also encourage pilots to switch to /v (voice only).

However, I do think to completely "abandon" /t (text only) is no option either.

Edited by Christoph Reule
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4 hours ago, Tobias Dammers said:

some legit reasons to go text-only are situational, such as the home situation requiring silence (think young parent doing a quick hop during a well-deserved break when the kids are finally asleep),

I think this situation could be resolved by simply using /r?

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4 hours ago, Tobias Dammers said:

Start with loudly and clearly promoting voice as the preferred mode of communication; present voice as the default mode to new pilots, throw out a bunch of official statements about the state of affairs, call it a policy change if you like - the key goal is to silence the lore and rumors that are making rounds. Lots of pilots out there believe that voice unicom is frowned upon, lots of pilots don't understand the burden text comms put on a controller.

I would be interested to see if this can make an impact and we should start with this. Of course, the CoC already states that voice is the preferred method.

Although, I’m not sure if anybody truly reads the CoC until they’ve violated it.

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Yeah /r is still a very acceptable option. I've never really understood text only in that aspect unless you actually cannot hear the frequency, you can well, hear the frequency. 

As for pulling it off, I'm sure it will likely take multiple takes to get it right. A good way to start could be as mentioned, there are only certain users with certain tags to their accounts which are allowed to use /t/. Maybe pilot clients can flash a prompt saying "To use /t/, you must be an approved user which can apply at: _____." If they proceed without being an approved user on a list of users who can use /t/, supervisors will maybe get a little ding and can talk to them and explain the situation. If this is too much work, then maybe remove the /t/ option completely, and then just have text only users have to add to their remarks "text only - reasonforit" and we can change them to /t/ in our clients directly. If we treat them as /r/ from the beginning and we don't read their remarks, they can send us a dm and the jobs done.

I'm sure a good idea can be found, but more importantly, whether or not it will happen is what I am interested in. Could a poll be conducted (explaining the reasons for and possible solutions for situations such as disabilities etc..) be conducted to see what the communities view in it is? I do think it would be important to include in the surveys the reason for the idea to remove /t/, and perhaps include some of the points found in this thread from both the controllers perspective and the perspective of a pilot. 

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