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VATSIM without ATC and a suggestion about progress


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Hi all,

I have been thinking about two conundrums and the only way to get them settled, is to ask you guys here.

So, I really like flying on the VATSIM network, but I also have to admit that I find it a bit boring when there is no ATC around. I have done many flights on UNICOM and while it is very cool to have conversations and agreements with other pilots, it does tend to be a bit quiet sometimes. My solution is to fly offline using Pilot2ATC, as I get ATC all the way (even though clearly subpar to the ATC given on VATSIM), but it made me wonder. Couldn't there be a way to combine the two. Either have some kind of button to press, using non-VATSIM ATC software or simple have an agreement that it can be put as a remark in the comments. I know that it will require the VATSIM ATC to relinquish some control which defies the purpose, but I know for a fact that the P2ATC will always steer me clear of conflicting traffic.
A secondary solution is to put it as a remark, that will notify the ATC that the person using P2ATC might need a bit more time to transition. So, for example, if I am on the VATSIM network using P2ATC and enter VATSIM controlled airspace, the controller knows that I might need a bit more time to silence/pause P2ATC and then contact him, but that his control will always take precedence over any other ATC software.

One other thing that I really enjoy about VATSIM over IVAO, is the software. I have tried flying on IVAO several times, but every time I just get the feeling that software is dated and clunky (and I am talking about Altitude here). No way to set PTT on stick, no voice atc or unicom (which is not software only, I know), so way to control volume or have multiple sources active (ATC on radio 1 and ATIS on radio 2), but there is one thing that is really good about IVAO that it seems VATSIM hasn't considered or maybe forgotten. Progress and the enticement to come back. I know that for some people, the mere fact that having trained controllers is enough to come back (I mean, I also come back), but I have to say that IVAO does have an advantage in the way they have set up progress both for pilots and ATC. 
I have enrolled for ATC training on VATSIM and I do like the fact that controllers are trained. But I also have to be frank and say that I like the fact that you can get a sense of what it is all about, on your own skin, without having to enroll in training. 
My suggestion is that the VATSIM network incorporate some of progress system in VATSIM. First of all, a simple thing could be to give badges or ranks, based on hours spend on the network. On IVAO they have FS, FS2 and FS3. They don't grant you any particular right, except that you need to be FS3 in order to enroll in private pilot training. 
For the ATC, I would suggest a middle ground. On IVAO, anyone can jump in as a DEL controller, no matter the knowledge they have. That can be an issue, which I acknowledge. But it also have the distinct advantage that you can "try" how it is to be a controller, before you enroll for training. Om VATSIM, one way to do something like this would be to release some standardized DEL controller material that would give you the necessary knowledge to be a controller (experience is only gained one way) and then a written exam, in order to get to the first student ATC level, granting you access to be a DEL controller, no matter which region you are affiliated with. The individual regions may then suggest to give further access. 
This would give people a chance to feel what it is like to be a controller, without being swamped with tasks on day one. 

I hope that you will consider these suggestions.

Sincerely,

Michael Hansen

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1 hour ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

My solution is to fly offline using Pilot2ATC, as I get ATC all the way (even though clearly subpar to the ATC given on VATSIM), but it made me wonder. Couldn't there be a way to combine the two. Either have some kind of button to press, using non-VATSIM ATC software or simple have an agreement that it can be put as a remark in the comments. I know that it will require the VATSIM ATC to relinquish some control which defies the purpose, but I know for a fact that the P2ATC will always steer me clear of conflicting traffic.
A secondary solution is to put it as a remark, that will notify the ATC that the person using P2ATC might need a bit more time to transition. So, for example, if I am on the VATSIM network using P2ATC and enter VATSIM controlled airspace, the controller knows that I might need a bit more time to silence/pause P2ATC and then contact him, but that his control will always take precedence over any other ATC software.

Feel free to put in your remarks what you're using but I don't understand why you would need more time to transition. Even if your canned ATC was talking in the exact moment you received a contact me, it would not take you more than 2 seconds to close it, would it? As for the 1st proposition, no way it's going to happen. ATC need traffic, period. It's the entire purpose of the network.

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Controllers live for traffic!

Which is why I try to fly to/from controlled airports/regions.

Having been a controller on IVAO some long time ago, I encountered a couple of pilots who had both clients running at the same time, which worked great until they came into an airspace that was controlled on both networks. The majority of pilots forgot they were still logged onto the other network and followed the first controllers instructions.. Resulted in chaos every now and then.

The only progress I could think of would be to have some kind of a predictive model for pilots on where to expect a controller so they can properly plan their flights and enjoy ATC along the way.

For Pilots there is the prefiling option to make planning for controllers easier.

A Prefiling/scheduling for Controllers would be nice, so pilots can see where there is a chance of ATC, either by statistics, or because someone was nice enough to schedule a session.

I would love to have a map that helps me plan a flight with ATC coverage.

Nothing is worse than to look at vattastic, plan a flight, load the Sim and get in the air. Then, when cruising along, station after station goes offline.... and one ends up on UNICOM.

 

Just my 2c.. I'll stop ranting, and will go flying...

Ralph

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As for your other question about ATC, it is already done differently in different vACCs/ARTCCs/FIRs on VATSIM. While in some places they train you for event level traffic on Sweatbox before you're let loose for a calm session on your own on the network, in other ones, apart from the waiting times, they will allow you on the network practically immediately, supervised in the beginning and independently later on. So if you choose one of the latter places, you have minimal amount of preparation to do before you can get a feel how it is to control live traffic. Just ask around where and what the conventions are.

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@Ralph ("A Prefiling/scheduling for Controllers would be nice, so pilots can see where there is a chance of ATC, either by statistics, or because someone was nice enough to schedule a session.")

Some hint of where you can get ATC is by looking at vroute.info

Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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7 hours ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

the person using P2ATC might need a bit more time to transition. So, for example, if I am on the VATSIM network using P2ATC and enter VATSIM controlled airspace

But surely you would contact ATC before entering their airspace? You should never put ATC in a position of having to wait for you to get set up after you have entered CAS.

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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Protip: if you want to make reasonably sure that there will be ATC, plan your flying around advertised events.

Outside of events, controllers will controle whenever they feel like it, but advertised events are usually a fairly safe bet. There's still a risk of a no-show, but IME, this doesn't happen often (and when it does, there's still some ATC available, just maybe not the full monty, and top-down coverage should make up for a lot.

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On 1/22/2022 at 7:55 PM, Alistair Thomson said:

But surely you would contact ATC before entering their airspace? You should never put ATC in a position of having to wait for you to get set up after you have entered CAS.

Actually, I have always wondered about that because to me it felt so wrong to get a text message from someone asking me to contact them, but the answer that I landed on, after having asked, was to wait for the ATC to contact me, before checking in, There seems to be no general definitive distance or place where I am suppose to contact the ATC. 

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On 1/22/2022 at 3:43 PM, Dace Nicmane said:

As for your other question about ATC, it is already done differently in different vACCs/ARTCCs/FIRs on VATSIM. While in some places they train you for event level traffic on Sweatbox before you're let loose for a calm session on your own on the network, in other ones, apart from the waiting times, they will allow you on the network practically immediately, supervised in the beginning and independently later on. So if you choose one of the latter places, you have minimal amount of preparation to do before you can get a feel how it is to control live traffic. Just ask around where and what the conventions are.

I get that. On the Scandinavian Division, which I am affiliated with, they train you to become a tower controller straight up. That is why I suggest this as a more general rule that applies to all divisions. 
The issue is, as I see it, that you need to sign up for training, get a mentor and begin your training, before even knowing whether it is something you would like to do. I obviously can't speak on behalf of others, only myself. To be frank, the reason why I know I would like to begin my VATSIM controller training, is because I have tried it out several times on the IVAO network. 

Cheers,

Michael

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On 1/22/2022 at 1:22 PM, Dace Nicmane said:

Feel free to put in your remarks what you're using but I don't understand why you would need more time to transition. Even if your canned ATC was talking in the exact moment you received a contact me, it would not take you more than 2 seconds to close it, would it? As for the 1st proposition, no way it's going to happen. ATC need traffic, period. It's the entire purpose of the network.

Yeah, while writing, I realized that, so that is why I added the secondary solution. I want to be absolutely clear here. I prefer the VATSIM ATC over any offline or "canned" ATC, as you called it. It feel so much more real to hear a real person in the other end and it makes it even more fun, when that person speaks in the language native to the region. But my point of view is also that "canned" ATC is better than no ATC or UNICOM. Flying across the entire US without ever having to call a single person on the network ie. being on UNICOM all the way, is really no better than just flying offline. Except that I can follow my flight on VATMAP or VATPrism....

Cheers,

Michael

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4 hours ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

There seems to be no general definitive distance or place where I am suppose to contact the ATC. 

There is, it's just that sometimes sectors are so complicated that some controllers (especially in Europe) indeed prefer for the pilot to wait for a contact me and that's why you may have heard that advice.

As a general rule, for Center, contact them about 20 nm before the border of their airspace (skyvector does a good job showing this). Approach is the trickiest, but in general, 40-50 nm out or at about FL180 or when established on the arrival (for short STARS) should do the job. Tower - when established on final or as appropriate for VFR. Ground - after vacating the runway. Just think about where you'd normally be handed off from one controller to the next if they were online. With experience, you get a good idea of this in most (simple) cases.

Edited by Dace Nicmane
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3 hours ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

The issue is, as I see it, that you need to sign up for training, get a mentor and begin your training, before even knowing whether it is something you would like to do.

Being a DEL controller doesn't solve that IMO. Delivery is the most boring and most complicated position to get started on. Delivery controllers don't just say some random words, they give out clearances for very specific reasons, and are responsible for making sure the flightplan is actually valid before doing so. During events such as Cross The Pond or VATUSAs Friday Night Ops events, we makes sure to never put inexperienced people on DEL, but instead use experienced S3s or even C1s or higher on it, as it is such a vital position to get right the first time. 

I speak as someone who has spent 70+ hours of his life, restricted to JFK_DEL back in the day, and boy was that a miserable experience. 

Fortunately, when you get training now, you get trained for at least both DEL and GND, and in many places, also for TWR at the same time, so you get more variation. I know it sucks to wait in many places such as VATUK or VATSCA, but there are plenty of places where there are minimal to no waiting times (ZNY is one of those places, where you usually can get a training session within a week or two) almost no matter what level of experience. 

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

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8 hours ago, Karl Mathias Moberg said:

Being a DEL controller doesn't solve that IMO. Delivery is the most boring and most complicated position to get started on. Delivery controllers don't just say some random words, they give out clearances for very specific reasons, and are responsible for making sure the flightplan is actually valid before doing so. During events such as Cross The Pond or VATUSAs Friday Night Ops events, we makes sure to never put inexperienced people on DEL, but instead use experienced S3s or even C1s or higher on it, as it is such a vital position to get right the first time. 

I speak as someone who has spent 70+ hours of his life, restricted to JFK_DEL back in the day, and boy was that a miserable experience. 

Fortunately, when you get training now, you get trained for at least both DEL and GND, and in many places, also for TWR at the same time, so you get more variation. I know it sucks to wait in many places such as VATUK or VATSCA, but there are plenty of places where there are minimal to no waiting times (ZNY is one of those places, where you usually can get a training session within a week or two) almost no matter what level of experience. 

I'll add on to this that going from non-ATC -> DEL/GND or from one facility to a brand new facility with no foreknowledge (for example, I'm an instructor at ZNY and if I went to somewhere in Europe) is probably one of the hardest transitions to make other than maybe S3 -> C1 in terms of the amount of content to learn. Not only are you learning all the ATC phraseology and rules and then executing that when someone is asking you for something, but going from no knoledge to suddenly learning how to look up routes and gaining the intuition for whether something looks right or not is something that takes lots of time and experience. Nowadays, 1500 hours later, I can rattle off most of the routes out JFK/LGA/EWR/PHL without thinking, but it took probably 100+ hours to get to the point where I merely wasn't looking up every route, only some of the less common ones. I'm a visitor at ZOB and ZBW, neighboring facilities to ZNY, and even a year+ later I'm still looking up routes out of DTW and BOS. ATC is an extremely specialized and also highly perishable skill.

In addition, Clearance Delivery, being the position that is the first check on routes and validity of what the pilot is trying to do, is a critical position to get right. It causes many downstream issues if Ground or Tower finds out that the route needs modification once they're taxiing or lining up for takeoff.

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Instructor // ZNY/ZWY Facility Coordinator

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