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Controllers signing off due too much traffic


Frans DECHAENE
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I have witnessed in the past few weeks several occasions where UK controllers simply swamped by too much traffic were signing off. And citing this as a reason. I think this is a great pity, and I really felt for the poor guys doing an excellent job up to that point. Is VATSIM a victim of their own success? Is it scaring away potential enroute controllers? 

Should the top down principle in such a situation not be pushed aside and have traffic call in when passing eg 3000ft to cut on the initial clearance, taxi etc chatter? Or take the top off eg FL350 and above uncontrolled? 

I am not a controller at all, just a regular pilot in NW Europe. Just observing, not otherwise involved in VATSIM in any way. 

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Depends what the sector was - could they have collapsed down to a smaller sector etc.   There are opportunities within the UK to handle smaller sectors or low level sectors, it's down to the controller to recognise this and manage their own (and pilot's expectations) accordingly - I don't think we should start abandoning the top down principle or ignoring anything above a certain level when there may be other options locally...

Trevor Hannant

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Also, the top-down system makes VATSIM ATC more available, but only where workload permits! If there's too much work, ATC are absolutely entitled to withdraw, perhaps by not covering all the lower positions normally available.

Alistair Thomson

===

Definition: a gentleman is a flying instructor in a Piper Cherokee who can change tanks without getting his face slapped.

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The are frequent situations where VATSIM traffic volumes per controller position far exceeds real-life ratios.  One of those things with virtual world, there just isn’t the paid controllers to cover highest demand.  They do a great job online, often with unrealistic traffic.

Sean

C1/O P3

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi there..in responce to your post regarding atc ending at busy times i had a experience a few weeks back..I was flying out of orlando and that night there was sessions from orlando to boston and very active traffic..I can say aprox 100 inbounds and 100 outbounds and in middle of session atc all grnd,appr,twr and delivery signed off regarding in chaos and fustration..i am not blaming anyone for this but in these extreme events maybe atc should have counter measures to stop this..The feeling with pilots on unicom was very negative with some bad words or language on the night..

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22 hours ago, john charles said:

Hi there..in responce to your post regarding atc ending at busy times i had a experience a few weeks back..I was flying out of orlando and that night there was sessions from orlando to boston and very active traffic..I can say aprox 100 inbounds and 100 outbounds and in middle of session atc all grnd,appr,twr and delivery signed off regarding in chaos and fustration..i am not blaming anyone for this but in these extreme events maybe atc should have counter measures to stop this..The feeling with pilots on unicom was very negative with some bad words or language on the night..

On the night in question, a published event between Orlando and Boston was running, and the end time was published in advance.  (https://forums.vatusa.net/index.php?topic=10339.0)  It was VERY well-attended -- overwhelming traffic levels prevailed all night.  By the end of it, everyone had pretty much been controlling for four hours already and it was 11pm on the US east coast.

Personally when I control events I try to stay on later than the published end time if there's still traffic, but this isn't always possible.  And when traffic is overwhelming for ten controllers, it's gonna be five times as overwhelming if only two of those are able to stay late.

While I'm sure the sudden loss of ATC was not what everyone wanted, what kind of measures would you take to prevent it?  Force controllers to stay online past their commitment indefinitely, when they're already tired and frustrated, and allegedly doing this as a volunteer position no one is paying them for?

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr
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Cheers,

-R.

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Unfortunately John we don’t have ‘open skies’ for ATC.  It means VATSIM restricts a controller to their small patch of airspace.  Yes a controller can be a visitor, but that is being made slightly harder now.  
 

so whilst you see other controllers online, they couldn’t even if they wanted too.

Sean

C1/O P3

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5 hours ago, john charles said:

 atc guys there did a great job..my idea posted above is to continue service after they log out..and only a idea..

The frustration is understandable but it's really not as easy as it sounds.

I do wish that when events are published as four hours of coverage, facilities would plan to cover five in case there's still good traffic levels at the published end.  But there's still bound to be a point where controllers have to draw the line and say they're done for the night.

Cheers,

-R.

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On the specific night in discussion there were lots of ground delays issued due to the amount of traffic.  So lots PLANNED to fly -- TOO MANY planned to fly -- within the timeframe.  So again, the frustration is understandable.

It may -- and this is my own speculation only, not any position of policy consideration -- end up being similar to Friday Night Ops where the division disallows "crossfire" events where only two airports are featured.  Ultimately it's great that we have so many pilots enthusiastic about flying events -- it just may require a shift in philosophy regarding the event design.

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr

Cheers,

-R.

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Check, I see.

As a suggestion: at EHAM, we use a dedicated controller (Operational Planner, OPL) to manage the outbound traffic flow. A pilot contacts him after receiving a clearance at DEL, and then OPL assigns a startup time using an automated tool, taking into account factors such as booked versus non-booked traffic, departure runway and the time needed to taxi from the gate to the runway. At the given startup time, OPL does a hand-off to GND, or issues a (usually short) delay, based on the actual situation on the ground.

So, a pilot knows well in advance that his flight will start beyond the published event-window. Then, it is his choice to continue (wait...), or try his luck elsewhere. Moreover, we usually have a 'mop-up crew', but I still think that you can't blame controllers for calling it quits after many hours behind the scope. Nor can I think of any practical 'counter measures'.

Martijn






 

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Would be great to have a system like this, where at events pilots could logon, submit a plan, and ATC review/clear in order received.

often it is impossible to get a word in on a frequency just to get a clearance.

1. VATSIM events have almost impossible traffic volumes

2. Real world procedures don’t cope

3. Create a automated FP clearance system that assigns departure time…….

Sean

C1/O P3

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23 hours ago, Martijn Rammeloo said:

Check, I see.

As a suggestion: at EHAM, we use a dedicated controller (Operational Planner, OPL) to manage the outbound traffic flow. A pilot contacts him after receiving a clearance at DEL, and then OPL assigns a startup time using an automated tool, taking into account factors such as booked versus non-booked traffic, departure runway and the time needed to taxi from the gate to the runway. At the given startup time, OPL does a hand-off to GND, or issues a (usually short) delay, based on the actual situation on the ground.

So, a pilot knows well in advance that his flight will start beyond the published event-window. Then, it is his choice to continue (wait...), or try his luck elsewhere. Moreover, we usually have a 'mop-up crew', but I still think that you can't blame controllers for calling it quits after many hours behind the scope. Nor can I think of any practical 'counter measures'.

Martijn
 

Although VATUSA doesn't operate with startup times etc. we do have an entire Traffic Management Unit (TMU) dedicated to doing that work for the entire event and airspace, not just a single airport. We have TMUs at each facility and often also TMUs that are responsible for cross-facility planning. Departures are in most cases never a problem, however, airborne traffic is. As a result, unlike a lot of Europe, the US operates with Ground Stops instead of holding airplanes in the air, whenever possible. This reduces fuel requirements and fuelburn for the airlines, and relieves stress on controllers. 

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Karl Mathias Moberg (KM) - C3/I1
https://nyartcc.org
ZNY Air Traffic Manager

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There is an overwhelming tendency for pilots to want to fly between the two biggest or most popular airports that happen to be mentioned in events. As a result, the arrival airport is typically placed under an unrealistically high demand for air traffic within the first 30 minutes (or less) of the start of an event. When that happens, delay programs get passed back until ultimately there is a ground stop for anyone going to the popular airport. It's all understandable, of course, because everyone wants to feel the rush of flying the busy route with everyone else going to the same strip of pavement. That often comes at the cost of having to spend extra time on the ground so that the receiving airport has a snowballs chance in you-know-where of landing the traffic already in the air.

From a controller's perspective, I can pull off a four-hour shift and still be fairly coherent, but somewhere in hour five is when I start to get mushy-headed and start making the real mistakes. Why not get a relief controller? Well, if one is available, sure, but frequently the controllers at these facilities are living in their respective facilites' time zones and have to get back to their real world obligations, which typically means getting some rest before work the next morning.

What I would really like to see is more pilots taking advantage of the other airports that lie within the online ATC facilities' jurisdiction. It's challenging to the pilot to find a suitable airport that can handle their aircraft and still gets more local coverage, and it's more challenging for the controllers who have to remember the lesser-used routes contained within the LOAs between facilities. You can also typically find controllers staffing up the nearby minor airports and who would love to see more traffic.

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