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8.02 Activity Requirements for Minor Fields


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IMO the blanket "one hour per 12 months" is atrociously low. Why are we restricting subdivisions from implementing more strict activity requirements if desired? Having someone log in on HMN_DEL for 1 hour every 12 months at 2AM does not keep your skills up.

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ALEXANDRA ROBISON
Air Traffic Manager, Albuquerque ARTCC
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I frankly thought our facility’s 30min in 120 day policy was extremely generous. 1 hour where you don’t even have to have talked to an airplane every 12 months is a complete nonstarter for ZLA.

ZLA DATM, I1

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3 minutes ago, Matthew Kramer said:

I frankly thought our facility’s 30min in 120 day policy was extremely generous. 1 hour where you don’t even have to have talked to an airplane every 12 months is a complete nonstarter for ZLA.

This is EXTREMELY generous - ZAB is 120 minutes in a rolling 60 day period and I thought that was generous. So that is 1 hour a month. This new policy effectively reduces my policy to 1/12th what it is now. Ridiculous.

Edited by Alexandra Robison
ALEXANDRA ROBISON
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52 minutes ago, Alexandra Robison said:

IMO the blanket "one hour per 12 months" is atrociously low. Why are we restricting subdivisions from implementing more strict activity requirements if desired? Having someone log in on HMN_DEL for 1 hour every 12 months at 2AM does not keep your skills up.

100% agree.  How can we say someone maintains any type of currency by controlling for one hour every 12 months?  Seems to go against the idea of having a global policy for competency if we aren't going to care to maintain competencies.  

JU of ZLA

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What benefit is there to the controller with activity requirements? Life happens. Maybe I can't control in this rolling 120 dayss, asking for a Leave of Absence is the last thing I'm thinking about because my life is super stressful right now. Life calms down and I want to control, ooops I can't because I've been removed for inactivity and now I have to reapply and wait to get my minor certifications back. Screw that, I just won't bother controlling anymore.

How does this story benefit the controller, the facility, the ROI of the instructors who trained this person, and ultimately the pilot who won't have a controller online that could have been?

What about the oceanic facility that culls its roster for inactivity a week before Cross the Pond? When a majority of that roster only controls for Cross the Pond?

Maybe  1 hour per year is atrociously low, maybe it's not, but it's a starting point.

Matt Bartels
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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It seems impossible to honestly think that one hour per year will actually do anything in maintaining controller currency. All it will really do is keep the numbers of “active” controllers high, which looks good on paper. Even one hour per 3 months for major airspace still seems incredibly low. 
 

In my experience as an instructor, most people that take a break of more than a few (2-4) months need some type of re-familiarization with procedures. Expecting that someone who controls one hour per year (in which they aren’t guaranteed to even see any planes) can uphold “a standard of quality Air Traffic Control service” seems incredibly naive.


I see no issue with the current system in which subdivisions set their own requirements.

11 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

What benefit is there to the controller with activity requirements? Life happens. Maybe I can't control in this rolling 120 dayss, asking for a Leave of Absence is the last thing I'm thinking about because my life is super stressful right now. Life calms down and I want to control, ooops I can't because I've been removed for inactivity and now I have to reapply and wait to get my minor certifications back. Screw that, I just won't bother controlling anymore.

How does this story benefit the controller, the facility, the ROI of the instructors who trained this person, and ultimately the pilot who won't have a controller online that could have been?

What about the oceanic facility that culls its roster for inactivity a week before Cross the Pond? When a majority of that roster only controls for Cross the Pond?

Maybe  1 hour per year is atrociously low, maybe it's not, but it's a starting point.

Does your story benefit the controller in that situation? No, because it’s inherently not designed to. Current activity policies do benefit the average controller, who puts in more than the bare minimum to stay not only current, but proficient.

It benefits the facility because they can hold their controllers to a standard that encourages proficiency. I can’t think of one hobby that you can stay truly proficient at while doing it for one hour per year.

It benefits the instructor because they know that the standard they are training members to will be continuously upheld and demonstrated, even when a member is no longer requesting training. 

And while the pilot might not have a controller, this ensures that the control they do have on the network follows the  “standard of quality Air Traffic Control service that VATSIM has become known [for].”

Edited by Ben Lindsey
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9 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

What benefit is there to the controller with activity requirements? Life happens. Maybe I can't control in this rolling 120 dayss, asking for a Leave of Absence is the last thing I'm thinking about because my life is super stressful right now. Life calms down and I want to control, ooops I can't because I've been removed for inactivity and now I have to reapply and wait to get my minor certifications back. Screw that, I just won't bother controlling anymore.

How does this story benefit the controller, the facility, the ROI of the instructors who trained this person, and ultimately the pilot who won't have a controller online that could have been?

What about the oceanic facility that culls its roster for inactivity a week before Cross the Pond? When a majority of that roster only controls for Cross the Pond?

Maybe  1 hour per year is atrociously low, maybe it's not, but it's a starting point.

I disagree. On VATSIM, we should be setting high standards to the quality of our control and if somebody is away for more than 120 days, their controlling skills can and do get very rusty and poor (I can tell from my own experience, as this has happened to me on multiple occasions). In fact, I have actually seen a clip of somebody lining up an aircraft ahead of another aircraft on the runway on short final - that controller had been inactive before but there were no regulations stopping him from controlling. The clip in question is from a very well-known VATSIM streamer and the streamer ended up disconnecting. Because of this, this doesn't benefit the pilot, who is left with a bad experience, or the controller or facility, who gain poor reputation because of that.

If you're unable to commit a certain amount of time in order to maintain currency and in order to actually maintain your ATC skills, that's OK but they shouldn't just be able to log back in straight away because that would just be the equivalent of an OBS controlling GND. 

C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

[email protected]

1341101

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In my opinion, requiring only one hour per year is quite ridiculous. Our ARTCC requires, at the moment, 2 hours per month which I believe is a perfectly reasonable request. If the controller has things going on in real life, they can simply go into LOA status and avoid the “axe”. If we broke the newly proposed hourly requirement per year down to minutes, that works out to a horrendously low five minutes per moth; which is an astonishing twenty four times lower than our current requirement. A requirement that low would do little in my opinion to maintain a controller’s skillset, and this could result in a huge decline in controller activities because all the requirements decrease; so some controllers are just inclined to get their hour for the year and not touch a client again.

Ryan Dituro

ZNY S3/Training Staff/Facility Engineering Staff

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5 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

What benefit is there to the controller with activity requirements? Life happens. Maybe I can't control in this rolling 120 dayss, asking for a Leave of Absence is the last thing I'm thinking about because my life is super stressful right now. Life calms down and I want to control, ooops I can't because I've been removed for inactivity and now I have to reapply and wait to get my minor certifications back. Screw that, I just won't bother controlling anymore.

How does this story benefit the controller, the facility, the ROI of the instructors who trained this person, and ultimately the pilot who won't have a controller online that could have been?

What about the oceanic facility that culls its roster for inactivity a week before Cross the Pond? When a majority of that roster only controls for Cross the Pond?

Maybe  1 hour per year is atrociously low, maybe it's not, but it's a starting point.

Then what is the point of having standard documents and policies about competency when we don't care about competency?  

Sure life happens and life comes first.  This is virtual, as in not real.   I'd have a hard time believing that someone that hasn't controlled at a c1 level in a year and has had a super stressful year can just hop back on with no issues.  Then compare that to the competencies we are trying to say we care about and maintain a level of "realism" and standard on the network.  How often do we see these cases where people need to randomly leave for a year with out putting in a leave of absense? 

Again life comes first, and if something happens and I want to get back into the hobby then Id need to make sure I'm up to speed.  My C3 rating doesn't disappear.   It'd be the same as if I transfered facilities.  Learn local procedures up to my C rating.  

If you think a year is a good start, why even have a requirement? Why not just say someone can step away for 10 years and come back when they want?  What's really the difference?  

 

If someone goes inactive a facility can drop them and they can transfer back to the facility.  The facility can decide the best course of action.  There is zero reason to make a global policy with a year requirement about a controllers ability when a local facility can do that.  

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JU of ZLA

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17 minutes ago, David Solesvik 1341101 said:

I disagree. On VATSIM, we should be setting high standards to the quality of our control and if somebody is away for more than 120 days, their controlling skills can and do get very rusty and poor

Looking at your banner it says you last worked PWM_APP. Unfortunately I can't attend Tea Party this  year, but for the past few years when it's been held live I've always been grateful to work an approach somewhere within ZBW. I'd like to think I did a good enough job each time after a through read of the SOPs for the position and my base controller knowledge. No airplanes hit, my phraseology was correct, and I was able to control the position having worked exactly 0 hours in ZBW that year. Unless the pilot was going to drill down into every procedure that I didn't get quite right, I think that the pilot would have thought the quality of ATC in my airspace to be up to what we expect.

If you take what's written as a whole, while actual time on position is standing at 1 hour a year for now, it puts the responsibility on the controller instead of the facility to ensure quality. The controller has to brief themselves and know what they're doing before opening a position. If they don't, quality lapses, and we get poor feedback then we have other avenues of addressing it outside of an arbitrary hours requirement.

Matt Bartels
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Looking at your banner it says you last worked PWM_APP. Unfortunately I can't attend Tea Party this  year, but for the past few years when it's been held live I've always been grateful to work an approach somewhere within ZBW. I'd like to think I did a good enough job each time after a through read of the SOPs for the position and my base controller knowledge. No airplanes hit, my phraseology was correct, and I was able to control the position having worked exactly 0 hours in ZBW that year. Unless the pilot was going to drill down into every procedure that I didn't get quite right, I think that the pilot would have thought the quality of ATC in my airspace to be up to what we expect.

If you take what's written as a whole, while actual time on position is standing at 1 hour a year for now, it puts the responsibility on the controller instead of the facility to ensure quality. The controller has to brief themselves and know what they're doing before opening a position. If they don't, quality lapses, and we get poor feedback then we have other avenues of addressing it outside of an arbitrary hours requirement.

This is what 6.05(j)(x) and 6.05(j)(xi) are for. Not a loosey-goosey activity requirement.

Edited by Alexandra Robison
ALEXANDRA ROBISON
Air Traffic Manager, Albuquerque ARTCC
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I’m sorry Matt, but one hour per year is just unworkable, and flies in the face of the “Educate” portion of VATSIM’s motto. Maybe you are able to hop back into Boston without issue, but you are a unique circumstance and divisions and sub-divisions with flexibility can easily work with that for known quantities. As Alexandra said, there is also the “events” portion of this new document which covers the circumstance you’ve laid out. 

 

Nothing about the as-written required hour requires anyone work any traffic at all, and honestly if someone can’t be bothered to control even a little within 2 or 3 months then we should not stress out losing them. If there are sub-divisions or divisions mandating a returning controller do every single training step again if they return then that is a different issue. As it stands, and in my experience and what I understand to be the common experience, returning controllers are already able to fast track back through their endorsements. Anyone who didn’t atrophy will not have a problem.

 

ZLA DATM, I1

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5 minutes ago, Alexandra Robison said:

This is what 6.05(j)(x) and 6.05(j)(xi) are for. Not a loosey-goosey activity requirement.

The point is that if someone with no experience can come in and do a good job with a thorough SOP review prior to controlling then why can't someone who has been formally trained and took a break do the same thing?

Matt Bartels
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Looking at your banner it says you last worked PWM_APP. Unfortunately I can't attend Tea Party this  year, but for the past few years when it's been held live I've always been grateful to work an approach somewhere within ZBW. I'd like to think I did a good enough job each time after a through read of the SOPs for the position and my base controller knowledge. No airplanes hit, my phraseology was correct, and I was able to control the position having worked exactly 0 hours in ZBW that year. Unless the pilot was going to drill down into every procedure that I didn't get quite right, I think that the pilot would have thought the quality of ATC in my airspace to be up to what we expect.

As Alexandra said, this situation doesn’t have anything to do with the minimum time requirement. Looking at your stats for the past year, you’ve controlled over 20 times the bare minimum per this policy. It’s great that you were able to support the Tea Party event and control a position after just looking at the SOP, but it’s not like that was your first time controlling in a year either. 
 

8 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

If you take what's written as a whole, while actual time on position is standing at 1 hour a year for now, it puts the responsibility on the controller instead of the facility to ensure quality. The controller has to brief themselves and know what they're doing before opening a position. If they don't, quality lapses, and we get poor feedback then we have other avenues of addressing it outside of an arbitrary hours requirement.

While it may shift the burden partially, isn’t the facilities reputation at stake? If you have a very bad experience at a restaurant, are you inclined to return even though the chef might be different?

Regardless, facilities still have to enforce this new requirement, so the burden isn’t completely gone. 

1 minute ago, Matthew Bartels said:

The point is that if someone with no experience can come in and do a good job with a thorough SOP review prior to controlling then why can't someone who has been formally trained and took a break do the same thing?

There is a massive difference between familiarity with a specific facility or SOP and being proficient in terms of controlling ability. Anyone who takes an extended time away is going to see skill atrophy in any hobby, let alone one that can be as complicated as air traffic control. 

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1 minute ago, Matthew Bartels said:

The point is that if someone with no experience can come in and do a good job with a thorough SOP review prior to controlling then why can't someone who has been formally trained and took a break do the same thing?

Because there are checks such as those GRP thingys that require a person to sign off on that thorough reading of the new person with no experience. 

Not the case of the new document that says someone can be vatsim "formally" trained and take a break for a very very long time.  

 

JU of ZLA

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3 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

The point is that if someone with no experience can come in and do a good job with a thorough SOP review prior to controlling then why can't someone who has been formally trained and took a break do the same thing?

Difference is that the event exemption is "may issue" vs the activity requirement which is "must issue". I can grant an event exception only to controllers who I am confident can work a position with little or no training. The same cannot be said for the activity requirement

ALEXANDRA ROBISON
Air Traffic Manager, Albuquerque ARTCC
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1 minute ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Looking at your banner it says you last worked PWM_APP. Unfortunately I can't attend Tea Party this  year, but for the past few years when it's been held live I've always been grateful to work an approach somewhere within ZBW. I'd like to think I did a good enough job each time after a through read of the SOPs for the position and my base controller knowledge. No airplanes hit, my phraseology was correct, and I was able to control the position having worked exactly 0 hours in ZBW that year. Unless the pilot was going to drill down into every procedure that I didn't get quite right, I think that the pilot would have thought the quality of ATC in my airspace to be up to what we expect.

If you take what's written as a whole, while actual time on position is standing at 1 hour a year for now, it puts the responsibility on the controller instead of the facility to ensure quality. The controller has to brief themselves and know what they're doing before opening a position. If they don't, quality lapses, and we get poor feedback then we have other avenues of addressing it outside of an arbitrary hours requirement.

But throughout the year, did you also control anywhere else in the US at all?

Overall procedures, such as phraseology and overall controller skill is very similar (I'll go as far as saying it's the same) throughout the whole of the US due to the way the FAA is structured. Once you are able to handle those, then you can spend a bit of time studying the SOP of any minor US airport and be able to handle it fairly well. 

Also, I don't know if you have a real-life pilot's license or not, but either way, you probably still have a lot of experience from before. Your example is one individual personal example and doesn't apply throughout the whole of VATSIM. You have to remember that the activity requirement is for pretty much any position and any rating. With the line-up example that I gave, this was a controller who clearly did not have enough experience. And I, after not controlling an APP position for 6 months, struggled quite a bit to pick up the vectoring and sequencing skills I needed to be able to operate an APP or CTR position. 

These things differ on a case-to-case basis but unfortunately, I have seen a lot of parts within this policy, that generalise the VATSIM members into one perfect model which fits the policy. As an instructor and the operations director within Gander Oceanic, I also see a lot of cases of controllers coming back to control Oceanic after not controlling for a long time and those end up getting a lot of procedures and phraseology completely wrong and operate differently to the way they worked when they were trained. A lot of those controllers don't even bother contacting us, asking to get re-familiarised with procedures again. I think it's much better to have a stricter currency requirement and have people do a familiarisation session.

Also, going back to your example where somebody is unable to control for a long time (for over 120 days), personally I don't see an issue with them doing one session to get familiarised again. They have to be responsible enough to understand that it's better to get re-familiarised with everything again, than to work based off something you remembered... worst-case scenario a year ago. 

C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

[email protected]

1341101

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6 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

The point is that if someone with no experience can come in and do a good job with a thorough SOP review prior to controlling then why can't someone who has been formally trained and took a break do the same thing?

As I said, local procedures differ from overall controlling skills and procedures. You're still able to use appropriate FAA phraseology and your controlling skills because you've used them before recently.

Edited by David Solesvik 1341101

C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

[email protected]

1341101

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In addition, controlling procedures change. This varies from phraseology changes, AIRAC changes, to even full airport structure changes. If you've barely controlled for a year, without a familiarisation session, how can you jump on a position without fully knowing what these changes are? And in my example with Gander Oceanic, I have seen this too many times with our controllers, as lately we have been updating our procedures more and more but when controllers come and control for CTP, they aren't able to properly control under the circumstances because they don't know how the new procedures work (in particular, the implementation of ADS-B but other changes as well).

C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

[email protected]

1341101

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20 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Looking at your banner it says you last worked PWM_APP. Unfortunately I can't attend Tea Party this  year, but for the past few years when it's been held live I've always been grateful to work an approach somewhere within ZBW. I'd like to think I did a good enough job each time after a through read of the SOPs for the position and my base controller knowledge. No airplanes hit, my phraseology was correct, and I was able to control the position having worked exactly 0 hours in ZBW that year. Unless the pilot was going to drill down into every procedure that I didn't get quite right, I think that the pilot would have thought the quality of ATC in my airspace to be up to what we expect.

If you take what's written as a whole, while actual time on position is standing at 1 hour a year for now, it puts the responsibility on the controller instead of the facility to ensure quality. The controller has to brief themselves and know what they're doing before opening a position. If they don't, quality lapses, and we get poor feedback then we have other avenues of addressing it outside of an arbitrary hours requirement.

If the goal is to have controllers ensure their own quality then why does VATSIM have GRP?  Why not let controllers self certify what they can work and what rating they can control at? 

This sets a standard that all facilities need to follow for training as a whole, to maintain VATSIM quality, but at the same time it says controllers on the other hand if gone for a long time can figure their own quality out and the facilities don't matter at that point.  How does this accomplish any time of quality control for the network as a whole?  It literally goes against what this policy is trying to accomplish.  

This more seems like the BoG is trying to find a way to bring back some old SATCO buddies that hang around doing nothing but can be "active" per policy once a year and still hold some arbitrary position.  

JU of ZLA

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Alright. Meet me in the middle here. We started out wanting to get rid of activity requirements entirely because the thought is that it's better to have a controller online than unable to connect because of some arbitrary number we thew out at the local level where we can kick you out if you don't meet it.

Notice how we started with 1 hour a year. There is plenty of room to find a middle ground.

If I've been a controller for 10 years does that mean that I don't have to worry about atrophy severe enough to impact my ability to control my home minor fields after i brush up on SOP after 2 years? If I just got signed off, do I get kicked for inactivity if I don't control 2 hours a week to make sure that I got it?

The example of the controller causing the go around. That's unfortunate, but it could happen to anyone. We all make mistakes and that's why this is a learning network.

I'd really like to hear from some pilots on their experiences. Part of me things that as controllers we think that our little errors are bigger deals than they really are.

 

Matt Bartels
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

The example of the controller causing the go around. That's unfortunate, but it could happen to anyone. We all make mistakes and that's why this is a learning network.

I think there is a considerably smaller chance of this happening if the controller is fresh and up-to-date with their controlling skills.

I think an overall good number would be a certain amount of hours every month or every 3 months. The way we currently have it in Gander Oceanic, is we require people to control 3 hours every quarter (i.e. every 3 months). I think this is a relatively good and generous number. The timespan is fairly big to allow the controller to spend those 3 hours over a huge timespan and the 3 hours are also fairly generous but they get the job done, as the controller is able to control for a long-enough duration to at least be able to stay as up-to-date as possible with local procedures and also without losing much of their controlling skills. 

C1-rated controller

Gander Oceanic Operations Director & Instructor | VATSIM Spain Events Director & Operational Assistant | Eurocontrol West Sectorbuddy

[email protected]

1341101

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6 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Alright. Meet me in the middle here. We started out wanting to get rid of activity requirements entirely because the thought is that it's better to have a controller online than unable to connect because of some arbitrary number we thew out at the local level where we can kick you out if you don't meet it.

Notice how we started with 1 hour a year. There is plenty of room to find a middle ground.

If I've been a controller for 10 years does that mean that I don't have to worry about atrophy severe enough to impact my ability to control my home minor fields after i brush up on SOP after 2 years? If I just got signed off, do I get kicked for inactivity if I don't control 2 hours a week to make sure that I got it?

The example of the controller causing the go around. That's unfortunate, but it could happen to anyone. We all make mistakes and that's why this is a learning network.

I'd really like to hear from some pilots on their experiences. Part of me things that as controllers we think that our little errors are bigger deals than they really are.

 

As a pilot I have seen some rusty controllers that don't control often and it is noticeable.  Inexperience with procedures and ability causing undue delays and a general unsatisfing flying experience on the network.  

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JU of ZLA

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4 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Alright. Meet me in the middle here. We started out wanting to get rid of activity requirements entirely because the thought is that it's better to have a controller online than unable to connect because of some arbitrary number we thew out at the local level where we can kick you out if you don't meet it.

Notice how we started with 1 hour a year. There is plenty of room to find a middle ground.

If I've been a controller for 10 years does that mean that I don't have to worry about atrophy severe enough to impact my ability to control my home minor fields after i brush up on SOP after 2 years? If I just got signed off, do I get kicked for inactivity if I don't control 2 hours a week to make sure that I got it?

The example of the controller causing the go around. That's unfortunate, but it could happen to anyone. We all make mistakes and that's why this is a learning network.

I'd really like to hear from some pilots on their experiences. Part of me things that as controllers we think that our little errors are bigger deals than they really are.

 

Matt, you know that 2 hours a week isn't a requirement anywhere and you are blowing that out of proportion. On the other hand, I have seen C3s on the network, and have been for 15 years, completely forget how to work en-route radar after returning after 2 years. 1 hour a year is way too low and honestly, this restriction should absolutely not be included in the final copy of the policy as it is red tape just to add red tape.

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