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Vatsim needs more controllers...


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I'm probably violating about 15 internet ethical standards by making my first post on a message board being one to complain, but I guess I'm going to.

It's a Saturday afternoon, and I've been watching Volanta pretty much all day, and the average coverage I've seen has been 1-2 ARTCCs, and a handful of TRACONs, in the entirety of the United States.  This morning, I logged on, and decided to fly from KMEM to KMKE (in Milwaukee, just outside of Chicago) based solely on who was online, but by the time I did my plan in Simbrief, rebooted my computer (a practice I advise anyone to do before using MSFS), and got to the ramp, the controllers on both ends of my flight were gone, and both of them had only been on for about half an hour before I decided to hit the go button.  Neither position has been restaffed since.

The good news is that when I HAVE found controllers online, it's an amazing experience.  There may be some not so good controllers out there, but the ones I've run into are, as far as I can tell, qualified to be one in real life.  I basically don't ever want to fly without it again.

I'm new to Vatsim (BECAUSE this exact problem kept me away), but not to aviation.  I got my PP and Instrument Rating back in the 90s (which I suppose makes me officially old now), I've owned several airplanes, but learned that it's not the best investment to make for recreational flying and have even flown from one corner of the country to the other not once, but twice.  First in a Cessna 172 and then in a 172RG.  All on IFR flight plans, which I prefer when going from point-A to point-B.  I'm not trying to brag, I only am bringing this up to show I'm not some belligerent teenager who throws their $100 controller across the room if things don't go their way, and I know my way around airplanes and ATC as a pilot.

I don't have a lot of suggestions, but I do have a few.  First, a friend of mine who shall go unnamed is a certified vatsim controller, but his opinion is that it is far too difficult and bureaucratic to get controller ratings, which probably turns a lot of would-be controllers off.  I am not at all suggesting that be done away with, it's more important to have qualified controllers than qualified pilots, but making it faster and smoother from how it was described to me would be helpful.  Another way is to offer some sort of incentives, from actual money (which could be collected from donations or even optional dues, which I for one would happily pay if it meant having coverage like another online ATC option that I won't name), software giveaways like MSFS licenses, airplanes from various makers like PMDG, Fenix, Just Flight, etc., that I'm sure many would be happy to provide because it would grow their market), and I'm sure there are a dozen other options I'm not thinking of.

Another alternative is just to be out there actively recruiting.  In all my travels through many different flight sim communities, I've never once seen a post that says "Vatsim is looking for controllers, if you're interested, click here", for one example.  That I recall at any rate.

I'm not complaining just to complain, I'm pointing out what I see as a significant problem for Vatsim, and since my experiences when controllers ARE around have been so fantastic, I really want to see it grow.  The problem I've found (and this is NOT based on just what I've observed today, but on many occasions) is that far too often, nothing is staffed.  Or next to nothing.  Right now, only Seattle Center and Jax Center are online, and Seattle just came online.  Whoever is manning it may be gone in half an hour, a situation I've seen a lot of, too.  And I've been an actual user for less than a week.

Anyway, I've made my point.  Too much.  So ban me, mock me, call me names, whatever you feel is appropriate, but I know I'm not the only person who doesn't use the service because of this.   I'm really not a whiner, all evidence to the contrary.  I see a problem that needs to be fixed, so I'm pointing it out.

Kev

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Jax or Mia.  Learned to fly at KPIE, which is like right on the border between the two.

Challenge accepted.  How do I start?

Kev

PS...  I thought someone might say that, but I have avoided it because I'm not so sure I'll be any good at it.

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https://academy.vatusa.net/my/

And while my response was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the reality is that (a) when you undergo the process yourself, you'll be more qualified to comment on what parts are necessary vs unnecessary -- and (b) you'll understand why spending a ton of effort recruiting potential controllers would likely be a poor use of resources.  It is NOT easy, and it would NOT be a good use of time to try bringing in people who are not committed fully to the process.

In the meantime, look at the VATUSA Events Calendar for some guidance on when to expect "guaranteed" coverage.  https://forums.vatusa.net/?action=calendar

Edited by Robert Shearman Jr
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Cheers,
-R.

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All good points.  Yeah, I wish we had coverage for all facilities all, or at least most, of the day.  Many variables seeking a delicate balance.  More quantity can be gained by reducing our quality standards, but then again we pride ourselves on our quality standards.  Given a choice, we, as a network, have given the nod to quality over quantity.  Nothing is perfect, there are "VATSIM-isms", but we'd rather have fewer folks on that are interested in a quality simulation vs. more folks on that are looking to "play" and care less about quality.

Really good points, though.  Our facilities, in general, are still trying to catch up with pent up demand from the pandemic.  We rely on our instructors and mentors as the backbone of our training and certification arm, but the pent-up demand has been burning out a lot of folks.  

Very delicate balances around a lot of variables.  That said, I really appreciate your well-reasoned input and suggestions, and hope that our folks at various facilities are listening and are willing to self-reflect and course correct as prudent.

Thank you, stick with it, look to fly in as many events as you can where more staffing is "more-or-less-guaranteed", and my best wishes for continued tailwinds!

(side note:  I earned most of my ratings in the 90s also! 🙂 )

 

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Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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5 hours ago, Robert Shearman Jr said:

And while my response was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the reality is that (a) when you undergo the process yourself, you'll be more qualified to comment on what parts are necessary vs unnecessary

I've already discovered one thing that may help streamline the process, at least for some people.  Those would be real world pilots.  The link you sent me has me doing lessons on the phonetic alphabet, how to read a METAR, and other such things that I already know so well I could do it in my sleep, and I haven't been an active pilot in many years.  I became disabled in 2017 (long story), and hadn't flown for years prior to that (to give you a sense of how long, I still "taxi into position and hold"), but like military basic training, pilot training sticks.  I suppose that makes sense, because for both of those training scenarios, your life is literally on the line.

I know that being a pilot doesn't make me a controller, and that there are a lot of things I don't know when it comes to doing that job, but some of the basics are universal.  Determining what makes sense to skip for RL pilots might eliminate some time and drudgery.  I don't remember which one, but one of the videos literally put me to sleep.

Kev

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Fair, but, separating those with true real-world experience from those who will use a skip function because they *think* they know everything at a certain step (see: Dunning-Kruger Effect) is not as straightforward as it might seem like it should be.

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Cheers,
-R.

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Sure it is, just ask them for a copy of their Pilot's License.  Heck, I sent one in yesterday to obtain a "P2" pilot rating because I thought for a moment that I might be violating some rule I was unaware of by flying under IFR with "just" a P0, until I later learned there was no such rule.  So, I guess I'll have a P2 rating that doesn't mean anything lol...

Make it optional, of course, with the choice being of send in a copy to skip all the stuff you already know or sit through those redundant lessons and be bored to tears, but also delete their photos once you've verified them so you don't have personal info.  Users will have to trust that you will do that, or just sit through all the courses.  Despite my issues with not having enough coverage, I think Vatsim is a quality, trustworthy org, so I had no issues (save one) sending a copy of mine in, as I trust them/you to delete it as promised.  The one issue I had was they only allowed for a single attachment, so I sent in the back of my license where my ratings were, but it doesn't have my name on it so it could be anyone's.  Then again, how many people are going to just let even a friend take a copy of their license, unless they are an A&P working on their plane, or work for the FAA.

Or, in my case, I have a close friend that used to be my A&P who now works for the FAA, so he checks both boxes.  But he never asked to take a pic of my license.  Or even see it, as I recall, even though he flew with me quite a few times.

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27 minutes ago, Kevin Moseley said:

So, I guess I'll have a P2 rating that doesn't mean anything.

Pretty much, the only person that knows you have a P2 is you, and whoever looks at your flight on vatspy. No controller ever sees it on their screen. I have no desire to get a pilot rating, because I know I can fly and control my aircraft as instructed, and thats all that matters.

More pilots would be great, please invite them.

While learning the phonetic alphabet may seem tedious to yourself as a pilot, what you fail to realise is that most people here aren't pilots, and probably have no desire to ever be a pilot, and those that do probably got that desire from being here. The training is designed to teach off the street. You can certainly fast track your training with real world qualifications you can find out more if you read through all the info on my.vatsim.net 

At the end of the day this is a gaming network.

 

Edited by Kirk Christie
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Kirk Christie - VATPAC C3

VATPAC Undercover ATC Agent

Worldflight Perth 737-800 Crew Member

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13 hours ago, Kevin Moseley said:

the average coverage I've seen has been 1-2 ARTCCs, and a handful of TRACONs, in the entirety of the United States.

You have the whole world. Different parts of the world are active at different times, and if your preferred locations are inactive, that doesn't necessarily stop you from flying under ATC somewhere else unless you want it to.

Regarding courses which contain material with which you are already very familiar, surely that's OK because you'll be able to simply bypass those parts and then cream the tests at the end? It is of course possible for a course designer to build in fast-tracking and the Pilot Training department is doing that in the revised New Member Orientation Course currently under development. But this adds complexity to the development process and not all course developers feel that it's worth the effort.

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Alistair Thomson

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

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Just curious, how much time do u have on the network, Kev?  I'm not surprised u said ZME was staffed in the morning, that's the time their controllers seem to be available.  Timing is the biggest conflict here.  It's a global network, ppl have lives outside of Vatsim, pilots & controllers.  When u say they got off after 30 minutes, it's been pointed out before that something might have come up & they had to leave, they might have been on for 2 + hours but had to reconnect so only showed 30 minutes online.  If you spend enough time on the network & in the community, keep an eye on VatSpy, you will come to know controllers schedules & when they are most likely to get on.  If you make yourself well known, serious, & helpful in the community, controllers will start to remember you & will be happy to be your controller.  Every ARTCC has a website where you can request ATC in advance, it's not guaranteed but you can request.  Their sites sometimes post well in advance if a controller plans to be on.  The more pilots you can guarantee a controller the more likely you are to get ATC.  We like flying when there's ATC, ATC likes controlling when there's planes.  Some air spaces don't see much traffic because it's not seen by pilots as flashy locations or it's tucked away in a corner of the country that is dependent on departures & arrivals so don't draw in a lot of controllers, sim pilots are drawn to the largest markets.  Some are seen as fly over country so people don't arrive or depart in the airspace.  Sim pilots can be strange creatures like that.  Have you looked into joining a virtual airline (VA)?  VA's can & will organize large group flights for their pilots, a mini event, & coordinate with controllers to get coverage.  VA's aren't everyone's cup of tea, do you know a lot of people in the community?  If so, coordinate a group flight with them to get ATC.  As was pointed out, it's a big world & there's always a controller on someplace.  To sum up my biggest piece of advice, social networking.  Be dependable, reliable, courteous, open minded, you can get ATC.

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@Ken Doyen I've only been a flying member of the network for a week or so, but I've been monitoring it with Volanta for well over a year, hoping and praying that I would start to see more coverage.

I finally decided to dive in because even the best replacement for the default ATC (which is so horrific that it makes me want to hurl) pretty much sucks itself, when compared to reality.  When compared to the default it's amazing, but it can't hold a candle to real humans.  There's an achievement in MSFS to land at 500 different airports, so I've been going out of my way recently to try to go places I've never been, and it turns out, believe it or not, that one of those places was KBOS.

So, I glanced at Volanta as I usually have it up when I'm simming, and it just so happens that Boston has a staffed Center, and approach, both of whom had been online for a few hours.  So I thought I'd give it a shot, and planned a short flight from LaGuardia, and let me tell you...  Other than the fact that I've only flown in Cessnas in real life (and a Piper or three), and I was in a 737 this time, it blew me away.  To be clear, in a VERY positive way.  NY Center sounded like NY Center (I've flown there in RL, and those controllers probably have to ice their jaws down when they get home) I couldn't get a word in edgewise (which is completely realistic, whoever it was even sounded like a Noo Jorker), and Boston was also busy as hell, but they were good...  Must've been handling a dozen flights or more, but they gave me the service I needed when I needed it, and I got vectored to final (something I haven't experienced since the last time I flew a real airplane) accurately, and under the glideslope as it's supposed to be, and I landed on time and with no issues whatsoever.

For a first impression, it was as good as it gets.

The only issue I had was I almost had a couple of mid-airs with planes not on the network because I don't think I had my system setup right.  I think it is now, but I still have occasionally seen a plane that shouldn't have been there, so maybe not.

Although I have been monitoring coverage for a long time, I was completely unaware that the ARTCC sites you mentioned even existed, nor that you could request coverage.  Is there a list of them somewhere?

While that sounds great, and I may find a way to take advantage of it at times, the thing is I'm disabled and unable to work, so I'm on MSFS most days, and tend to fly 2-4 flights per day that are totally random, as I just pick my departure and destination locations out of thin air.  I have more handcrafted airports, both freeware and payware, in the US, so I tend to try to use those because let's face it, the default ones are ugly.  It's still an absolutely amazing feat that MS and Asobo was able to include all of them, I think the count is well over 40,000 now, which, compared to when I started with FS 3.0 (where there were like 7 or so), we've come a long, long way.

I just wish someone would make KPIE where I learned to fly, which happens to be about 4 miles from KTPA, so you'd think a company named "Fly Tampa" would actually have them in an addon, and I expect they will eventually, but sadly not yet.  I have their KLAS and KBOS and they are amazing.  Frame rate killers, yeah, but I just picked up an RTX3080 (and the EVGA FTW3 version, too, so it's even faster than your run of the mill 3080, or at least that's what they say), so I'm in pretty good shape there.

As far as virtual airlines, it's not the worst idea I've ever heard of, and I actually stumbled across a vatsim page with a lot of them listed (with links), but I didn't bookmark it!

Anyway, I blabbered on and on, which if you get to know me, you will not find unusual at all (most of my forum posts anywhere could be categorized as short books), so I'll cut myself off now.

Thanks for the help, questions, and ideas!

Kev

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@Kevin Moseley You can find links to all the ARTCC's under the facilities tab on the Vatsim websit.  The sites will also show some preferred routes as the ARTCC's have letters of agreement, LOA's to help with the work load.  If you're in MSFS & you're seeing planes that shouldn't be, go into settings & set it to live traffic.  https://www.vatusa.net/

Edited by Ken Doyen
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On 7/30/2022 at 8:15 PM, Kevin Moseley said:

...  First, a friend of mine who shall go unnamed is a certified vatsim controller, but his opinion is that it is far too difficult and bureaucratic to get controller ratings, which probably turns a lot of would-be controllers off.  I am not at all suggesting that be done away with, it's more important to have qualified controllers than qualified pilots, but making it faster and smoother from how it was described to me would be helpful.  ...

Kev

Your friend hit the nail on the head, I'm afraid.  The VATSIM training path to controller is riddled with pot holes.
-- Sweatbox training is done with out of date, broken, scenario files.  The trainers in these sessions focus on the exceptions, and the "gotcha" situations,  which is the complete opposite of how to train someone on a technical skill, instead of driving home the routine situations, and practicing those,
-- You have to endure training session where a teenage mentor, reads verbatim from a syllabus to you.  They understand the words, but not the meaning behind the words, because they have no real world experience to draw on.  It's excruciating to be honest about it.
-- The ARTCC's expect you to hang out in TeamSpeak, even when not controlling.  Not everyone has the luxury of sitting in a voice chat for hours.  Not to mention, when you get a bunch of teen to early 20's boys together, you end up having to listen to mom jokes, d**k jokes, and homophobic references, while you're in the TS voice chat.  Think 8th grade all over again....LOL.
-- During the training, it's not uncommon to have to "meet a standard," only to have your instructor say that once you're certified, you can pretty much control how you want.  

Unfortunately, there is no real incentive, nor desire for VATSIM to streamline the controller training process.  All the power is with the individual ARTCC's, and they are kinda like the greek system at a university.  Every controller has gone through the current "hazing" of sweatbox, and over the shoulder exams where you pile on the traffic, so nobody wants that system to stop and go away, just like every new frat brother can't wait for the next pledge class to come in.

I was in TeamSpeak, in an ARTCC during a VATUSA event, that showed  just how well a new approach to training could be done.  Too long to type it out at this point in my post, but it was pretty eye opening.

Edited by Tim Simpson
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21 hours ago, Kevin Moseley said:

OK, so I went to the Vatsim Discord, and it assigned me to "ZAE".  What is that?

Sounds like you went to the VATUSA Discord.  ZAE is the identifier for the VATUSA ATC Academy.

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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2 hours ago, Don Desfosse said:

Sounds like you went to the VATUSA Discord.  ZAE is the identifier for the VATUSA ATC Academy.

Thanks, Don.

If you would be so kind as to address some of what Tim said in the post above, frankly if it's even half true, it has all but eliminated my interest in becoming a controller.  I know that may sound a bit hypocritical, because the entire point of this whole thread was that Vatsim as a whole needs not just more, but a LOT more controllers, but I have no interest in joining some sort of fraternity-like system, where I'm "expected" to hang out in a voice chat room on a regular basis.  While I can see some advantages for using such a thing for ongoing training, discussing and debating new rules, and other business-related stuff, I see no reason to just be hanging out, smokin' and jokin' with a bunch of folks still mentally stuck in High School.  I went through Beast Barracks and Plebe Year at West Point, so I've paid those types of dues many, many times over, and have no intention of doing so again.  Not to mention, if they're just hanging out in a chat room, perhaps their time is better spent staffing some ATC positions rather than leaving the map void of controllers.

On the other hand, with one exception, my experience with actual online controllers thus far gives me the impression of professional folks who, like I previously said, are likely qualified to do the job in real life.  I could be wrong, of course, but I just don't see those folks as the types described by Tim.  Then again, instead of wasting time in some chat room, they're actually staffing controller positions, so it may be two different groups. 

The single exception to the otherwise frankly amazing professionalism was a controller who, after I declared an emergency for a decompression event and asked for an airport, explained to me that as PIC it was my job to figure out where to land.

Good news, though...  Last evening the entire East Coast, from Miami up to but not including Boston Center was staffed, and some with TRACONs and Towers.  First time I've ever seen that.  I don't know how long it stayed that way, but for at least a time, it was.  I'd like to take credit for it, but I very much doubt my post which was read by maybe a couple of dozen people (at BEST) had anything to do with it, but I was still glad to see it.  Not having any TRACONs, the DC and NY Center guys were busy as hell, but they both managed it like pros.  For a while there, I thought I was talking to the real NY Center.  I've done so before IRL, I don't know how those guys even have a chance to breathe.

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21 hours ago, Tim Simpson said:

-- The ARTCC's expect you to hang out in TeamSpeak, even when not controlling.  Not everyone has the luxury of sitting in a voice chat for hours.  Not to mention, when you get a bunch of teen to early 20's boys together, you end up having to listen to mom jokes, d**k jokes, and homophobic references, while you're in the TS voice chat.  Think 8th grade all over again....LOL.

I'd certainly be concerned about this part also.   As a UK member, there is no such rule/pressure to do so.  And while it's preferred that you're in TS to assist in co-ordinations, very often controllers won't be unless they have to and I've never EVER seen that enforced.   Even then, the 'Co-ordination' rooms have the following attached to them so you can tell people to leave if they're not respecting the channel rules:

"Coordination rooms are for coordination ONLY.

Only those controlling a relevant position may enter and should return to their own coordination (or other) room when coordination is complete."

If the UK were to ever go down the route of expecting you to "mingle" outside of a controlling session, then I'd be looking for a different Division...

Trevor Hannant

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8 hours ago, Kevin Moseley said:

If you would be so kind as to address some of what Tim said in the post above, frankly if it's even half true, it has all but eliminated my interest in becoming a controller.

It all does look like doom and gloom, doesn't it! But from what I've seen of Tim's posts, that seems unfortunately to be his theme. There's absolutely nothing wrong with criticism, indeed without change an organisation will never grow, so change is not just desirable, it's essential, and is even a pre-requisite, if an organisation is to survive.

VATSIM has never avoided change - the record proves that. VATSIM is absolutely not perfect and I, along with many many others, have spent my efforts trying to improve what I can in my own small way. I could spend that effort in criticism in these forums, but I prefer to use my time constructively and not (merely) critically. I have of course criticised in these pages, but I hope that I have also contributed and that the balance of my efforts have been constructive.

So, @Kevin Moseley and @Tim Simpson, many of your criticisms are valid and acknowledged, so you should think about what you, yourselves, can do to help fix the issues. I'll not pretend that fixing the problems is easy: it's actually quite a challenge. But if you try to become involved with the teams in VATSIM who have responsibility for the areas in which you are concerned, you will be doing VATSIM a service instead of merely griping at it's shortcomings.

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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Kevin, 

I'll do my best to provide my perspective.  I can't speak to Tim's experience, don't know what facility he's talking about, and I don't know when (leaders change, people change/move on, culture changes (albeit somewhat slowly)).  But I can tell you that between the facilities that I've controlled at, and visiting all VATUSA Teamspeak servers during my five years as a Division Director, and having had to deal with complaints that would have come from behavior like that, I never saw any such requirements or any such behavior.  That said, I'm not naïve enough to think some folks/facilities might have been on their better/best behavior when the boss was around.  And I'm also not going to say that on occasion there isn't behavior that rivals 8th grade behavior, but in my experience it happens only on occasion and is not the rule.  Heck, I'm guilty of it on occasion too.  But it's certainly not normal.  Just trying to be completely honest.

The training I've participated in and witnessed has been top notch.  The facilities I've trained with have always updated their tools, files, and ensure the most realistic procedures (as reasonable for VATSIM, of course).

I've never been "read to".  Frankly, the instructors and mentors that I had the pleasure to work with (as a student and then as a peer mentor or instructor) expected you to read and come prepared so they could maximize the effectiveness of training time.

No facility that I know of has ever expected/demanded you to hang out needlessly in a Teamspeak.

No facility that I know of has ever trained to a high standard and then had no expectations after certification.  Quite the opposite, most facilities that I have been associated with or aware of treat certification as a license to learn, gain experience, and really get good.  

Again, I'm not saying Tim's wrong, or that he didn't experience what he describes.  I do not, however, appreciate him representing his experience as something all students can expect at all facilities across the globe.  

I'd also say that there is a chain of command and personal choice that are also tools that any individual can use.  Questionable behavior or poor tools/process?  Bring it up to the facility staff.  Or to the staff's leadership (for example, in the USA, a facility reports into a regional staff, which reports into the Division Director, who reports into a VATSIM Vice President for the Region).  Then it can be dealt with.  Or, alternatively, one can simply transfer to another facility.

Sorry, long post, but you asked.... 🙂

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Don Desfosse
Vice President, Operations

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I've been an active controller on the network for over four years and my experience aligns with Don's.  Much of what Tim wrote is true to a SMALL degree, but represents a TINY percentage of my overall experience training and controlling.  The facility I control with, ZDC, has the culture exactly correct.  For reference, I'm 48.  Most of the trainers I've worked with have been younger than I am but all have been able to provide a wealth of insight into this "game" we call VATSIM ATC -- and not only how to do it well, but to enjoy it.  I hope you find the same kind of culture where you choose to control.  Many of my current friendships stem from people I've met through controlling on VATSIM.

Cheers,
-R.

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On 8/1/2022 at 11:00 PM, Tim Simpson said:

Your friend hit the nail on the head, I'm afraid.  The VATSIM training path to controller is riddled with pot holes.

As of today, I've been on this network for 18 years. I've been controlling and visiting ARTCCs and FIRs around the world, actively for this entire period, and I do not recognize this at all.

Quote

-- Sweatbox training is done with out of date, broken, scenario files.  The trainers in these sessions focus on the exceptions, and the "gotcha" situations,  which is the complete opposite of how to train someone on a technical skill, instead of driving home the routine situations, and practicing those,

Bull. At least not in any of the major ARTCCs. This might have been the case for you in one situation, but most ARTCCs and FIRs pride them selves in keeping scenario files up to date. Are there ARTCCs with limited staff and the ability to fix scenarios? Yup, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. Yes, a lot scenarios include errors that you are responsible to fix. Why? Because we have documentation that you're supposed to read and know, to know the routine situations. On this network, we get non-conformant situations in almost every single session, so we drill in what things you need to look at to ensure it is correct, every time. I don't expect a new S1, S2 or S3 student to know everything by heart - I don't know everything off the top of my head either, but I expect them to know when something is wrong, and where to go to look it up.

Quote

-- You have to endure training session where a teenage mentor, reads verbatim from a syllabus to you.  They understand the words, but not the meaning behind the words, because they have no real world experience to draw on.  It's excruciating to be honest about it.

I have never, in 18 years, experienced this. Most ARTCCs/FIRs don't do syllabus training in that way. I expect you to show up to a session prepared, having already read the materials so I don't have to read it to you. If you haven't done so, then that is an entirely other conversation.

Yeah, a lot of this network lives on teenage mentors. Why? Because we don't have anyone else. By your statement, I assume you're of an older generation, and to be frank: people over 25-30 don't want to deal with training, so if you don't want to deal with teenage mentors, do something about it - suck it up, then come help us and contribute as a mentor yourself, I'm sure nearly every single subdivision on this network would greatly appreciate extra help - I know we sure as heck would.

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-- The ARTCC's expect you to hang out in TeamSpeak, even when not controlling.  Not everyone has the luxury of sitting in a voice chat for hours.  Not to mention, when you get a bunch of teen to early 20's boys together, you end up having to listen to mom jokes, d**k jokes, and homophobic references, while you're in the TS voice chat.  Think 8th grade all over again....LOL.

Bull. Are there people that do this? Absolutely. The ZNY TS usually have people talking about 18-20 hours a day, 7 days a week, since we have members from all over the world. But do I expect people to? Not at all. Not even close. Out of the 250+ active members and visitors in ZNY, only a small handful are actively on TS daily. There is about a quarter of the members that show up semi regularly, but most people just show up when they control, then hang around for a few minutes, before disconnecting. There is absolutely zero requirement to do so. 

Are there mom jokes when people hang around for hours at a time? For sure. But if there are things like homophobic references or other discriminating or offensive talk, I expect you, and anyone else who would be a part of such a conversation to report it, immediately to either the ARTCC/FIR staff or to a VATSIM SUP.

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-- During the training, it's not uncommon to have to "meet a standard," only to have your instructor say that once you're certified, you can pretty much control how you want.  

ABSOLUTELY NOT. With the current GRP it is really difficult to pull someones cert after they have been certified for a position, but it does happen if people do not meet our standards or do not follow policy. I cannot emphasize enough how false this statement is, and this goes for the entire network as far as I have seen.

 

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Unfortunately, there is no real incentive, nor desire for VATSIM to streamline the controller training process.  All the power is with the individual ARTCC's, and they are kinda like the greek system at a university.  Every controller has gone through the current "hazing" of sweatbox, and over the shoulder exams where you pile on the traffic, so nobody wants that system to stop and go away, just like every new frat brother can't wait for the next pledge class to come in.

I was in TeamSpeak, in an ARTCC during a VATUSA event, that showed  just how well a new approach to training could be done.  Too long to type it out at this point in my post, but it was pretty eye opening.

 You clearly haven't been around on this network for long, so I understand that you might think this, but it's absolutely wrong. VATSIM centrally, has been trying to standardize a training process for ages, especially with the latest version of the GCAP policy. The big problem is that Air Traffic Control is done very differently around the world, not just on VATSIM, but real world as well. Procedures, scopes, you name it, nothing is the same from one country to the other, hell, even in the US it varies from ARTCC to ARTCC.

People have been complaining that it's too hard to become a controller in the beginning of this thread too. I'm sorry, but I disagree with you strongly here. You're talking about trying to make things easier, for a job that in the real world takes 2-4 years for you to get on a scope depending on your facility. If you want to become a controller quick, there are plenty of smaller, less complex ARTCCs in the US that will get you up to C1, very quickly, but if you want to control ZNY, ZLA, ZBW or ZTL, I'm sorry, these are insanely complex facilities that you need to work top down, something a controller, real world, would never, ever do. vZNY is fortunate enough that we now have a significant number of real world ZNY, N90 and PHL controllers as our members as well, controllers that have worked their sectors for years, yet they struggle when combining it all from a center position, when you need to cover not only ZNY Area A34, but also the entire area A, and B, C, D, E and F. Oh, and on top of that, you also need to cover the TRACON that have a 70% washout rate. 

We have made huge strides in making things simpler. Trying to move people up faster. The problem is that it is a lot of materials to memorize for most ARTCCs, and that just comes with practice. 

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

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20 hours ago, Karl Mathias Moberg said:

Bull. At least not in any of the major ARTCCs. This might have been the case for you in one situation, but most ARTCCs and FIRs pride them selves in keeping scenario files up to date. Are there ARTCCs with limited staff and the ability to fix scenarios? Yup, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. Yes, a lot scenarios include errors that you are responsible to fix. Why? Because we have documentation that you're supposed to read and know, to know the routine situations. On this network, we get non-conformant situations in almost every single session, so we drill in what things you need to look at to ensure it is correct, every time. I don't expect a new S1, S2 or S3 student to know everything by heart - I don't know everything off the top of my head either, but I expect them to know when something is wrong, and where to go to look it up.

Excellent post Karl.  If I can add to the above, I'm currently training real world with an ANSP and even their sim scenarios are not 100% perfect on 100% of the sim runs.  But we're expected to deal with it.  If an aircraft has an unusually slow rate of climb - deal with it and learn/use ways to ensure/maintain separation.

Sweatbox scenarios are there for a reason - they're there to teach the methods of controlling, not how to control that scenario.   Almost every scenario will have more than one way to resolve it - or should have, as different people will always bring different ideas to the table.  If a scenario file is out of date - does that mean the person controlling is also?  if aircraft types/airlines are incorrect - does it actually matter to learning the techniques?  No.   If something's out of date, elaborating on this and highlighting it to the Division training team would help an individual and others...

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Trevor Hannant

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I think ATC coverage is pretty good these days... it's certainly better than it used to be! Could we always use more? Sure!  But the network in its current state is pretty decent. 

To the OP's point about it being difficult to plan around ATC - this is definitely true. I really wish more controllers would utilize an "expected online until" time; it would dramatically help pilots plan.  Controllers want pilots to file flight plans (even while VFR) for THEIR planning purposes... it seems that controllers giving us something to go on in return would be a nice reciprocation.  Of course no controller - just like no pilot - is bound to honor anything they file... real life happens and people log off early for a variety of reasons. 

But having something, *anything* to go on for planning purposes is sure nice. 

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