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8.06 Vatsim's aversion of downgrades and its consequences


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8.06 VATSIM will never downgrade an ATS Rating earned by an Air Traffic Controller for non-disciplinary reasons but may suspend some or all controlling privileges allowed by each rating temporarily. This will only apply in cases of severe deficiencies which affect multiple pilots and, in some cases, other controller's enjoyment.


Let's start of by saying that I can understand that rating downgrades are not fun for anyone and I can agree that this should be avoided when possible. However, by suspending some or all controlling privileges just makes things immensely confusing. This is basically saying (as I interpret it, otherwise the paragraph is not written clear and concise) "Hey, you're an S3, but missing competences. We don't like downgrading you to S2, so we are removing privilage X, Y and Z that are part of the S3 rating. So technically you're an S2, but you're shown as an S3".

See? This only increases confusion to other members. They see an S3, but he's not allowed to do certain things that are tied to the rating. We're making things more difficult than it needs to be. Yeah, a downgrade sucks, but if it's necessary because someone isn't capable of all of his/her current rating competencies and privileges, then maybe they need that downgrade, until they are competent. Don't be silly and remove a few privileges. It doesn't make sense.

Edited by Thimo Koolen
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ACCNL5 (Assistant Training Director) - Dutch VACC

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  • Thimo Koolen changed the title to 8.06 Vatsim's aversion of downgrades and its consequences

Exactly this.

At the moment, Divisions are severely hamstrung when dealing with under performing Controllers. The best we can do is have a talk with them, and let them keep doing what they're doing.

I would be a fan of allowing Divisions to temporarily suspend a rating, pending further retraining. This is not done as punishment, but with a clear intent of restricting Controllers whilst their skills are brought up to scratch.

Tom Kilpatrick
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Let’s not kid ourselves here though. A downgrade is a lost controller, not a remediated controller.

I’ve seen this happen before. The controller is told they’re not good enough and can’t be bothered to improve. They just stop controlling.

That’s not good for the controller, the pilots, or the network. This is why VATSIM is so averse to it.

Matt Bartels
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So let me make sure I'm interpreting the VATSIM stance correctly... 

Bad controlling (aka bad service) + no longer controlling because home facility has removed their privileges + no downgrade = Good!

Bad controlling + downgrade with a documented and individual training program + potential for remediation = Bad!

It sounds to me like VATSIM just doesn't care about Education and instead would rather not hurt anyone's feelings. Again, VATSIM cares so deeply about controller numbers that they dare give facilities a method to retrain controllers.

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There’s a whole section talking about remediation. Remediation is absolutely a positive provided we can get the controller to participate in it.

We’re talking about reality here. Controller thinks he’s Nick Falzone, facility thinks he isn’t up to standard, loses ability to control, feelings hurt, says forget this instead of being remediated.  I’ve seen many cases of that.  The controllers that know they have a problem and want to get better will seek training on their own. 

This is why we need to keep it in the back of our minds that removal of control privileges, downgrades, whatever you want to call them are most likely cases of lost controllers, not remediated controllers.

Matt Bartels
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2 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

There’s a whole section talking about remediation. Remediation is absolutely a positive provided we can get the controller to participate in it.

We’re talking about reality here. Controller thinks he’s Nick Falzone, facility thinks he isn’t up to standard, loses ability to control, feelings hurt, says forget this instead of being remediated.  I’ve seen many cases of that.  The controllers that know they have a problem and want to get better will seek training on their own. 

This is why we need to keep it in the back of our minds that removal of control privileges, downgrades, whatever you want to call them are most likely cases of lost controllers, not remediated controllers.

Citation needed. Can the BoG provide data that controllers who have been downgraded leave vs remediate? If not, this is all conjecture and should be thrown out.

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ALEXANDRA ROBISON
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1 hour ago, Alexandra Robison said:

Citation needed. Can the BoG provide data that controllers who have been downgraded leave vs remediate? If not, this is all conjecture and should be thrown out.

Another example that the policy is based on assumptions, rather than facts. Would love to see some data from this @Matthew Bartels

 

 

6 hours ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Let’s not kid ourselves here though. A downgrade is a lost controller, not a remediated controller.

I’ve seen this happen before. The controller is told they’re not good enough and can’t be bothered to improve. They just stop controlling.

That’s not good for the controller, the pilots, or the network. This is why VATSIM is so averse to it.

Am I suddenly in a prank show? If someone leaves because of a downgrade, then that's though luck for them, we move on. If they leave because of a downgrade, they never really intent to learn and better themselves. And they only care about a rating. Instead, let's please them by having them keep their rating and confuse everyone else instead by suspending some privileges.

 

In another topic you said it isn't about artificially inflating numbers, but to me, this seems like another example of why it actually is. Just like rating upgrades occur when someone gains new skills, rating downgrades should occur whenever someone loses skills. And if they get better again, they should get their rating back. It's not as if they lost their rating forever. If they decide to get butthurt by a downgrade, then they only care about a rating and not about getting better.

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ACCNL5 (Assistant Training Director) - Dutch VACC

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Just another example of how for some reason, we are focusing away from the education part and instead of facilitating and focusing on the dedicated and passionate controllers, mentors and instructors who spend so much time in perfecting their quality of control, and are instead facilitating for the "controllers" who cannot be bothered to learn or train at all and want to leave and are trying to get them to say. For some reason we are facilitating those controllers and making life easier for them. I agree with everyone but Matt here - if someone isn't willing to learn because they can't realise that they need to improve, then that's not a controller in my eyes. Here's the thing, with downgrades, or even just suspensions, the student isn't fully taken away the chance to learn and control again, so in your really rare doomsday scenario, the controller just doesn't want to learn and that's a very bad mindset to have. But if that controller is so set on not wanting to learn how to control properly, tough luck, but in the overall picture, I'd rather lose a controller than to allow them to provide a bad and poor-quality service to pilots.

 

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9 hours ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Let’s not kid ourselves here though. A downgrade is a lost controller, not a remediated controller.

I’ve seen this happen before. The controller is told they’re not good enough and can’t be bothered to improve. They just stop controlling.

That’s not good for the controller, the pilots, or the network. This is why VATSIM is so averse to it.

Usually, the issue is with returning controller, that hasn't been active on VATSIM for ages. I can compare only back to 2009, but I get that going further, the comparison would result even worse, a LOT has changed. Now, with GRP changes - we can briefly say - EVERYTHING has changed. So with all the honesty, they could be put on fast track to retrain, but everything they knew is gone, skills not trained are gone, and your argument, that "they just stop controlling" - they've already done that :). 

Another part of vATCs, are the ones that do not care about SOPs at all, because the only thing they do, is playing a game. I know, it's hobby, it's fun, but doing it this way you basically ruin it for everybody else - but as I get, not following the SOP could be recognized as violation, and disciplinary actions could be taken - and now, as a disciplinary action, it could be done? What procedure could describe it? 

 

(EDIT: Just noticed I am definitely abusing "could" word. 😄 )

Edited by Mateusz Zymla
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Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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9 hours ago, Alexandra Robison said:

Citation needed. Can the BoG provide data that controllers who have been downgraded leave vs remediate? If not, this is all conjecture and should be thrown out.

I can’t provide names to protect the innocent. I can sure give you the story, but I know you’re not going to accept that so is it really worth my time to type out the story?

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Matt Bartels
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8 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

is it really worth my time to type out the story?

Yes. Alternatively, you could provide some sort of aggregate data like "we've had 10 cases of requests to downgrade ratings in Q1 & Q2. Of those, 2 were disgruntled and left the network (with documentation supporting their actual reason for leaving), 1 was granted a downgrade, 3 were given warnings and are in the process of remedial training with their respective divisions while keeping the rating, and the remaining 4 left the network due to unknown reasons."

No data or purely anecdotal data should not be represented in policy decisions nor should they inform any reasoning behind those decisions.

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Jeremy Peterson (HP)
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Ok. Here goes.

A center controller in North America would separate aircraft by issuing ground speeds. This controller did this for years. One day he was finally given the ultimatum. Fix it, we can help you do it or no longer control.  The response email "kindly" said thanks for your time and the controller hasn't been online since.

A tower controller in the UK who has been active on a minor for years but didn't keep up with the changes happening around him. It finally got to the point where the individual was compelled to improve.  End Story, controller no longer controls.

A controller in the Middle East comes back after an extremely long hiatus and causes problems because all of the procedures have changed. The controller is told by his staff that he must seek remedial training to get caught up. The controller says "You can't make me, because GRP." The controller was compelled by a personal friend on the network to seek the remedial training which they eventually did. A positive outcome, but one that would have been negative and likely resulted in loss of controller had there been a downgrade.

Now you may see these as acceptable losses and maybe they are. I see it as a lost opportunity to connect a pilot to a controller. The spirit of VATSIM which is to foster of a community of pilots and air traffic controllers. Exclusivity tears down communities, it doesn't build them. There's more to us than just great ATC. Not all of us want to or can be at the same level of controlling. That doesn't mean they're bad, in fact it's one of the things that makes the experience unique. VATSIM is about being inclusive of all peoples, skill levels, etc.

The very fact that a mechanism to protect our quality of ATC even exists in this policy is a massive departure from what would have been entertained by the BoG even 5 years ago. We need to remember that all of us are on the same team. It may not seem like that right now, as emotions are running high but we all want what is best for VATSIM.

 

Matt Bartels
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10 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Ok. Here goes.

A center controller in North America would separate aircraft by issuing ground speeds. This controller did this for years. One day he was finally given the ultimatum. Fix it, we can help you do it or no longer control.  The response email "kindly" said thanks for your time and the controller hasn't been online since.

A tower controller in the UK who has been active on a minor for years but didn't keep up with the changes happening around him. It finally got to the point where the individual was compelled to improve.  End Story, controller no longer controls.

A controller in the Middle East comes back after an extremely long hiatus and causes problems because all of the procedures have changed. The controller is told by his staff that he must seek remedial training to get caught up. The controller says "You can't make me, because GRP." The controller was compelled by a personal friend on the network to seek the remedial training which they eventually did. A positive outcome, but one that would have been negative and likely resulted in loss of controller had there been a downgrade.

Now you may see these as acceptable losses and maybe they are. I see it as a lost opportunity to connect a pilot to a controller. The spirit of VATSIM which is to foster of a community of pilots and air traffic controllers. Exclusivity tears down communities, it doesn't build them. There's more to us than just great ATC. Not all of us want to or can be at the same level of controlling. That doesn't mean they're bad, in fact it's one of the things that makes the experience unique. VATSIM is about being inclusive of all peoples, skill levels, etc.

The very fact that a mechanism to protect our quality of ATC even exists in this policy is a massive departure from what would have been entertained by the BoG even 5 years ago. We need to remember that all of us are on the same team. It may not seem like that right now, as emotions are running high but we all want what is best for VATSIM.

 

Your entire statement just proves, that you prefer low quality, all-around-annoying incompetent ATC, rather than single departure of this kind of person, who is refusing to improve, lol.

Because of the decisions as per above, you save a single, incompetent departure from the network, making tons of people dedicated to the network going off, because they are driven nuts by these kind of people. 

Edited by Mateusz Zymla
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Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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4 minutes ago, Mateusz Zymla said:

Your entire statement just proves, that you prefer low quality, all-around-annoying incompetent ATC, rather than single departure of this kind of person, who is refusing to improve, lol.

So you would prefer to fly on unicom than fly with a controller who's not perfect?

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Just now, Matthew Bartels said:

So you would prefer to fly on unicom than fly with a controller who's not perfect?

There's a significant difference between "not being perfect" and "not following/standing out to new SOPs", at first. 

Second, to push back this kind of (rethoric) question, would you prefer to fly under single CTR with controller who is not perfect, rather than full staffed subdivision Area with competent ATCs? Because the later ones are leaving VATSIM. 

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Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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6 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

I see it as a lost opportunity to connect a pilot to a controller

These stories depict that in fact there was an opportunity given to connect a pilot to a controller. The opportunity resulted in a unsuccessful application of learned skills (or maybe a failure to apply those skills, or to learn those skills in the first place).

8 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Not all of us want to or can be at the same level of controlling

Without an accurate rating system which is supposed to directly reflect learned skills, "levels of controlling" are meaningless. If the expectation of an S3 is not generally congruent everywhere, or if there is specific allowed policy permitting an S3 to be really an-S2-who-is-going-through-remedial, but showing as an S3, then the rating itself is ambiguous and becomes meaningless.

I think @Matthew Bartels, you're confusing progress in training (i.e., the learning process) as being unidirectional, when in fact it is vital that deficiencies be addressed, which requires taking steps backwards sometimes. There are ways to persuade students who are willing to learn (let me emphasize this: willing to learn) to participate in remedial and understand why their demotion in rating is meant to reflect their set of skills. Of course some will take it personally and make a fit and leave, but we're not in the business of controlling what people's emotions lead them to do.

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Does VATSIM care about Education or not?

I don't want to chase people off the network at all. I would much rather sit down with the controller and my division training director and whoever else and come up with an individual training plan to get the controller back up to speed. In fact, I've done it before! At what point, however, does it become the responsibility of the controller to meet us halfway? Just like the ARTCC/FIR has a responsibility to ensure they are providing quality service and to train the controller, the controller is responsible for staying up to date with policy changes and skills.

Also, as I've said for years - we're here to be a pretend air traffic controller, why would anyone pretend to do a bad job? If people are not meeting the standard, there 100% needs to be a correction. Again, it's not because we want to chase them off the network. It's because we care about the quality of service we are providing. I don't know if anyone else here is a real world pilot, or has a real world experience, but when a controller is obviously unfamiliar with the procedures or the current version of the 7110.65 (or whatever the appropriate controlling order is), it kills any sense of immersion that I'm getting from the network.

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3 minutes ago, Nolan Danziger said:

Does VATSIM care about Education or not?

I don't want to chase people off the network at all. I would much rather sit down with the controller and my division training director and whoever else and come up with an individual training plan to get the controller back up to speed. In fact, I've done it before! At what point, however, does it become the responsibility of the controller to meet us halfway? Just like the ARTCC/FIR has a responsibility to ensure they are providing quality service and to train the controller, the controller is responsible for staying up to date with policy changes and skills.

Also, as I've said for years - we're here to be a pretend air traffic controller, why would anyone pretend to do a bad job? If people are not meeting the standard, there 100% needs to be a correction. Again, it's not because we want to chase them off the network. It's because we care about the quality of service we are providing. I don't know if anyone else here is a real world pilot, or has a real world experience, but when a controller is obviously unfamiliar with the procedures or the current version of the 7110.65 (or whatever the appropriate controlling order is), it kills any sense of immersion that I'm getting from the network.

To be clear - we're not expecting from every one of us to be "FAA/CAA" level ATC. We all here way below than that. It's not about requiring to be "better" i. e. Managing bigger areas, or more amount of traffic. But, if we have people, coming back after 5-10 years, while all the procedures changed, they refuse to re-educate, or they show that - because of new technologies applied/new methods/bigger ammt of traffic they can't do basic things, why they hold the rating? 

 

Also, downgrading the rating doesn't mean it can't be restored later on, after meeting the standard. I can see that in our VACC almost 60% of C1 are inactive, and most of them for ages. We had several people trying to come back as an ATC, and all of them lacked the skills, and tbh - recurrence training differs from person to person. Some managed to come back to standard, some, even with C3s, are not holding positions above APP, because they're simply overwhelmed. Thankfully, they understand that by themselves, but it happened before, that certain people logged in to the position and they responded "I can log whenever I want, cuz grp guarantees that" and any other persuasion didn't work. 

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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Did you all miss the section where a comp check can be done by a division after an absence of a year and a remedial training plan made?

You can no longer just come back and sign right on if you're gone for a long time.

Matt Bartels
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Just now, Matthew Bartels said:

Did you all miss the section where a comp check can be done by a division after an absence of a year and a remedial training plan made?

You can no longer just come back and sign right on if you're gone for a long time.

Yes, that is - finally - a good standard. However, even this can be omitted, as I know people who can log in in the middle of the night for 1 hr just to keep up the currency status (like for major endorsement they do now). But it's only making a little mess on who is really authorized and who is not for certain positions. 

With event endorsement, and restricted/major endorsements we can limit these persons quite nicely, i have to agree, and it's way better, than nothing. 

Mateusz Zymla - 1131338

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3 minutes ago, Matthew Bartels said:

Did you all miss the section where a comp check can be done by a division after an absence of a year and a remedial training plan made?

The title and content of this forum thread shows that this ^ topic is not what we're concerned with here.

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Jeremy Peterson (HP)
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I can understand the reluctance to downgrade ratings. Getting them is not always easy, and in some places requires waiting for a long (long!) time. Someone who waits 9 months for their S2, and then sees it gone, might decide not to put themselves through another 9 months of waiting. Everyone loses that way. The controller may not be competent at the time, but they once were (otherwise they would not have gotten the rating). And lost skills can be retaught. 

I would much rather see an easy way for a controller rating to be frozen, if valid reasons are provided by the both sub-divisions Director and Training Director to either the Regions VP, or Regions Training Director. A quick, simple, and painless way to freeze the rating if sufficient reasons exist.

That way the controller would still have their rating, however would need to go through a few training sessions to remedy whatever the sub-divisions thinks is lacking. Once the Training Director considers the controller to be again up to par they may request the rating to be unfrozen.

It is less drastic and aggressive then a complete rating removal, the end result is the same (the controller is no longer controlling a position at which they're not up to minimum standard), and it is less taxing on the Training Departments, as a fresh-up training should definitely be faster then doing the rating again from scratch. 

Edited by Andre Almeida
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After all else fails, downgrades are the cleanest and easiest way to establish a baseline of competency upon which a controller can improve. So long as opportunity and help exist to be able to afford a student the opportunity to earn back their proficiency, the educational construct of this network is in tact. It’s when there is an unequal opportunity for success that is present that there’s a breakdown in our system. If after showing the student various ways in which they can get back on the right track they fail to accept their end of the bargain, then their dismissal is not only acceptable but necessary to maintain the integrity of our environment.

And keep in mind - it is their will to leave a hobby in which they are not willing to put forth the necessary amount of effort. As far as I am concerned, the exit door shall always and forever remain open for them to waltz back in and give it another try. I welcome those students back with open arms, but I do not bend on my expectations.

If the BoG is so focused on just letting people play around with no significant or appropriate consequence for doing it incorrectly, then why publish an appendix worth of baseline standards in the first place? You want to restrict rating changes, create counterproductive currency requirements, and remove simple benchmark assessments? Then I say let’s scrap all standards altogether and just let people play however which they feel like doing so. Just keep in mind, the dedicated staff and population that make this place a worthy environment for a majority of virtual aviators will find the exit door quick, leaving a void that I can only imagine will be filled with inexperienced, dispassionate hobbyists that cater to the “hang” versus an educational environment that introduces a relatable and engaging set of skills.

Edited by Anthony Santanastaso
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Anthony Santanastaso

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@Matthew Bartels that’s 3 cases of controllers not willing to learn and educate. Which is a part of VATSIM’s slogan. Now, those are a few negative examples. But - how many examples have you seen of controllers being put in the same thing ultimatum but who are actually willing to learn and improve the skills? I can guarantee you that there are more than not.

Everything else’s that needs to be said has already been said - VATSIM has always stood out because VATSIM’s mindset has always been quality>quantity. Trying to change that isn’t gonna make us a any better than all of those other networks. But just like with most other things, I’ve already said that loads of times and it truly saddens me that this is the way the network wants to move from now on.

Edited by David Solesvik 1341101
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