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Concerns with the Visiting Controller Endorsement


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Hi All, 

Firstly I'd like to say that GCAP is a big step forward from GRP and brings some exciting new possibilities. I know a policy like this takes a lot of time to create and you will never be able to please anyone - my thanks/thoughts go out to those involved with this project, however I'd like to throw my two cents in regardless. Most of GCAP seems to remove a lot of red tape from GRP which is naturally a good thing since the VATSIM world is extremely varied and a one size fits all approach will never work, however the visiting controllers endorsement does seem a little bit too prescriptive in my opinion.

In the vast majority of cases, visiting controllers do not take the time to learn local procedures and I don't believe GCAP does enough to remedy this. Members from divisions with high standards of training generally see visiting other places as a bit of a joke and a chance to have a mess about, whilst members from divisions with lower training standards see visiting as a way to traffic chase and control busier positions. Allowing visiting controllers to control any minor airport will mean divisions and sub-divisions will respond by making as many airports and as much airspace restricted/major as possible which goes against the general theme of GCAP making controlling on VATSIM more accessible. It makes sense for divisions and sub-divisions to be able to choose which airports are available for visiting controllers, thus preventing traffic chasing, and allowing visiting controllers to learn the local procedures on a smaller airport/position without affecting the experience of other pilots/controllers. Alternatively, allowing divisions to implement competency checks for visiting controllers would make sure effort has been put in to learn local procedures.

I'm also curious as to where visiting controllers will sit in the waiting lists for training. Generally speaking, the areas on VATSIM with the most traffic have higher controller standards which means longer training times and higher demand for training. This seems fair, in that if you want to control the busy positions then you accept you will need to wait longer to get through your training. The issue with visiting controllers being able to control any minor position, and then request training on major/restricted airspace is that certain members will exploit this system to get from OBS to C1 as fast as possible in a small sub-division, and then (for example) visit the Netherlands, UK, and Ireland to request training on the 3 busiest airports in Europe. I don't think it's fair that the training of home controllers should be slowed to accommodate visiting controllers, however if visiting controllers are placed at the bottom of the list for training then in many cases none will ever receive training due to the length of the waiting lists. The simplest solution would be to allow divisions and sub-divisions to choose whether or not visiting controllers are able to control major/restricted positions. I know I'm a Brit so I'm somewhat biased as we love our queues, but having visiting controllers 'push in' to the list of home controllers waiting for training will only lead to friction between these two groups. With GCAP, there is no longer an incentive to train at the division/sub-division you want to control in as members are better off finding somewhere with the shortest training times and then visiting their desired region afterwards.

I'd be interested to know what other people think below, I know visiting and transferring controllers can be quite divisive so please try and keep it civil!

Edited by Ben Wright
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Ben Wright
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I agree with everything Ben has said above.

Another point is that if (I am going to use the UK as an example) we have visiting controllers always staffing positions such as Manchester and Gatwick it might not leave any room for our home members to control the positions.  Also, having lots of visiting controllers may impact the training of the Divisions members as they will not be able to get onto the live network easily due to the amount of visitors constantly staffing up training aerodromes (The UK's visiting system currently does not allow the vast majority of visitors to control any training airports for this reason).

The UK currently is able to accept visiting controllers due to the amount of smaller aerodromes we have, however, VACC's such as VATEIR and the Dutch VACC may really struggle as they have very few training aerodromes.  If the UK gets an extra 50 visitors from they, they will likely be spread across a few airports, but if VATEIR gets 50 new visitors then they will likely all want to control Dublin, leaving very little room for the home members to control and train.

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Reece Buckley
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2 hours ago, Ben Wright said:

In the vast majority of cases, visiting controllers do not take the time to learn local procedures and I don't believe GCAP does enough to remedy this.

This ^

2 hours ago, Ben Wright said:

Alternatively, allowing divisions to implement competency checks for visiting controllers would make sure effort has been put in to learn local procedures.

...and this ^

Unfortunately, the standard of Visiting Controllers in some areas has been pretty poor.  I haven't put in hours of observing, training, learning documents (and subsequently helping to produce them) for someone to come charging in and make a mockery of this because they hold the same rating as me (or lower!).   I've seen people transfer out to beat my Division's queues to immediately come back and control at their new rating as a visitor with no requirement to check their knowledge or skill in the very different airspace that my Division has to elsewhere.   They may be good controllers where they got their rating but unless they put the work in where they're visiting...   

How does it feel for Jo Bloggs who's worked to get their S3, is doing lots of OBS time and speaking to C1s in order to prepare themselves for their CTR training to then see someone come in and have know concept of airspace/local procedure knowledge.   Does that encourage them to work for their rating?  Maybe in a "I'll show them how to do it right" manner - but equally they could turn round and say "why should I bother if they're allowed to control like that".

If people have to work to get a pass in an exam, then others need to be seen to be able to control at that standard in that airspace also.  Yes the queues are long, but there needs to be some mechanism in place to make sure that visitors are of a particular standard in order to control anywhere, regardless of the rating and airspace.

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Trevor Hannant

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I don't disagree that this is a problem. I do fundamentally disagree with you regarding the solution.

There should not be "easy" ways to gain a rating. An S3 rating should be an S3 rating and wherever you go the standard to gain it should be the same. The fact that's not currently the case is the problem, the visiting requirements are just a bad sticking plaster IMO.

Same with the idea that people don't bother to learn the procedures when they visit. There does need to be a consequence and if they are showing they are not controlling to the right standard this could and should include losing ratings. This then forces them to retrain with all the work that entails (see para above) which should be a pretty significant discincentive to anyone looking to visit to muck around.

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2 minutes ago, Graham Drabble said:

There should not be "easy" ways to gain a rating. An S3 rating should be an S3 rating and wherever you go the standard to gain it should be the same. The fact that's not currently the case is the problem, the visiting requirements are just a bad sticking plaster IMO.

It can't really be the same though, can it? If I am training in a country that sees little to no traffic during any normal day, and that has no airport with parallel runways, I can't be prepared for Heathrow, or JFK. I could very well be the best Approach controller in my sub-division, but if I have never before controlled an airport with parallel runway operations then I need some training on how that works, on how to optimize my vectoring so I always get the 3 mile separation on final, and whatnot. 

I'm not the best controller in my vACC, but I consider myself to be a fairly good ATC. I think I could handle pretty much anything that could be thrown at me at any airport within the Lisbon FIR. But I am certain that if I were to control Heathrow, or Gatwick, during a busy evening, maybe even during an event, I would be causing mayhem. Not necessarily because the standards of training in vACC Portugal are poor, but rather because the standards of training in vACC Portugal are different from those in VATUK, as the airport and traffic situation in both countries is very different.

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3 minutes ago, Andre Almeida said:

It can't really be the same though, can it? If I am training in a country that sees little to no traffic during any normal day, and that has no airport with parallel runways, I can't be prepared for Heathrow, or JFK. I could very well be the best Approach controller in my sub-division, but if I have never before controlled an airport with parallel runway operations then I need some training on how that works, on how to optimize my vectoring so I always get the 3 mile separation on final, and whatnot. 

I'm not the best controller in my vACC, but I consider myself to be a fairly good ATC. I think I could handle pretty much anything that could be thrown at me at any airport within the Lisbon FIR. But I am certain that if I were to control Heathrow, or Gatwick, during a busy evening, maybe even during an event, I would be causing mayhem. Not necessarily because the standards of training in vACC Portugal are poor, but rather because the standards of training in vACC Portugal are different from those in VATUK, as the airport and traffic situation in both countries is very different.

I have a very different philosophy here. You are not training or being trained to open airports in a given country. You are being trained and examined to gain a Vatsim rating. So yes, if Vatsim allows an S3 to be an app controller for multi runway airports then the checkout process should ensure you're competent to do that. That way when you do go and visit you will have the skills.

Your "home" division should be a community thing and a way of organising things, not somewhere that sets it's own standards outside the rest of the network

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And how would I go about learning parallel runway operations in a country that doesn't have an airport with parallel runways? There are a few specific procedures that need to be taken into account when controlling parallel runways, it isn't just saying 03L and 03R instead of only saying 03.

And then there are airports where you can have aircraft approaching in parallel without any sort of restriction, as the runways are far enough away from each other to allow it, whilst other airports have them too close to each other, so specific separation on final is needed.

If a sub-division has none of these airports, why would they train their controllers on how to control them? It isn't something they're going to be needing.

If I want to make pasta for dinner I don't also look for a steak recipe just because my neighbour is cooking a steak.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Andre Almeida said:

And how would I go about learning parallel runway operations in a country that doesn't have an airport with parallel runways? There are a few specific procedures that need to be taken into account when controlling parallel runways, it isn't just saying 03L and 03R instead of only saying 03.

And then there are airports where you can have aircraft approaching in parallel without any sort of restriction, as the runways are far enough away from each other to allow it, whilst other airports have them too close to each other, so specific separation on final is needed.

If a sub-division has none of these airports, why would they train their controllers on how to control them? It isn't something they're going to be needing.

If I want to make pasta for dinner I don't also look for a steak recipe just because my neighbour is cooking a steak.

 

 

 

The philosophy though is you're not training people for your division. You're training them for VatSim. Borrow a sweatbox setup from somewhere that has one or make something if there's nothing locally. They will be needing it because they have a global rating that you're awarding on behalf of VatSim.

Yes, there will be some local knowledge and procedures and vocab. Yes you'll have to look them up. But that's no different from the fact that just because you've been training on 2 runways at EGCC you would have to look up how to manage EGPK! They key however is that at the time they are given the rating they have the skills to apply the local documentation and the knowledge that they can't assume that things will be the same

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I guess we'll have to agree on disagreeing on this one. I can't see a point in wasting hours of training for situations that will not happen to the majority of controllers. 

Many places have enormously long training queues, are we going to delay everyone even more by spending hours teaching something that will not be needed?

And let's just assume everything is being taught properly, and everyone worldwide learns how to do all types of parallel runway operations during their S3 training.

If someone then stays for 3 years in their sub-division which has not a single airport with parallel runway, are we going to say "Oh, yes. He must still knows what he learnt 3 years ago during a single sweatbox session, and which he hasn't used since. Let's put him on Heathrow Director during Midweek Madness!"

 

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4 hours ago, Graham Drabble said:

I don't disagree that this is a problem. I do fundamentally disagree with you regarding the solution.

There should not be "easy" ways to gain a rating. An S3 rating should be an S3 rating and wherever you go the standard to gain it should be the same. The fact that's not currently the case is the problem, the visiting requirements are just a bad sticking plaster IMO.

Same with the idea that people don't bother to learn the procedures when they visit. There does need to be a consequence and if they are showing they are not controlling to the right standard this could and should include losing ratings. This then forces them to retrain with all the work that entails (see para above) which should be a pretty significant discincentive to anyone looking to visit to muck around.

I don't particularly have an issue with standards varying across the world - it doesn't make much sense training someone for extreme traffic levels if they're in a division/sub-division which gets very little traffic. In an ideal world everyone would be trained to the same high standards, but I think it's more worthwhile to train 3 students to the required standard in that area than 1 student to real world standards. It's also worth noting that a lot of people struggle to learn the practical aspects of controlling, in the real world very few people make it through the selection processes and to the end of training. Having quieter areas allows members who struggle in high workloads to have a chance at getting a C1 rating and makes the network as accessible as possible.

The vast majority of controllers will happily train and control in their home division - I wouldn't want to visit Portugal and control Lisbon badly in the same way Andre doesn't want to come to the UK, the issue is with a small minority of people who have no qualms about transferring everywhere to avoid training queues and visiting multiple division/sub-divisions without any intention of learning the local procedures. There should really be some way to safeguard against this and only allow in people who have put in a genuine effort.

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Ben Wright
Marketing General Manager
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