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Vatsim needs more controllers...


Kevin Moseley
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6 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

Yes, I do agree with this. With the right learning material (documents, videos, interactive learning) this message can be transported to the candidates and if local procedures put emphasis on preferred routings then this should be part of the learning material and written tests for DEL at complex airports/airspace. I imagine that DEL/GND controllers with "basic training" are not allowed to control any of the large airports in NY-area (JFK, LGA, EWR), but will have to gain experience at small and medium airports, such as TEB, BUF etc.. When you get your PPL done on a C152, then you will only be allowed to fly C152s in the beginning, to bring up an analogy from the pilot side of things.

This is roughly how it works at vZNY. You start at PHL (where DEL is still very important) and once you log some time there, you can start training at EWR, LGA, or JFK. What we've seen over and over again is that even someone who aces the exams and does their reading still needs practice with a live teacher in order to get down the actual listening and saying the right things on the frequency part of controlling. I think we're mostly in agreement here about what should happen, just that that's what's not happening in a lot of places that I'm not familiar with.

5 hours ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

Question: I get the route, but why the altitude?

[text trimmed]

Again, I would like to reiterate that my sole reason for suggestion DEL as an entry for fresh students is not because the work there, isolated speaking, is the simplest, but because it is the position you can man (on your own) where you have the least responsibility. You are only responsible for issuing clearances, as opposed to also being responsible for issuing taxi instructions and takeoff/landing clearances. 

My whole point here is that I think we should allow people to get their hands dirty in doing actual controlling much sooner than we do now and then just accept that more mistakes will be made, because that is the best way, if not the only way, to learn. I am not suggesting that we should throw a freshly trained S1 controller into the frenzy of DEL at a major event or high-volume traffic hours, but merely give them the opportunity to log on for themselves when the intensity is low and get the different procedures under their belt. 

Regarding your question, Ryan gave you the short answer (complex airspace with lots of traffic going all different directions). The specific in-depth answer is that BWI and DCA arrivals are stacked on each other underneath other overflight traffic and traffic departing N90 (the TRACON for New York City) both along Q75 and out of RBV via Q430. There's a crossing restriction into the next sector with DCA at FL220 and BWI at or below FL200. Because of those restrictions, departures from N90 to DCA and BWI are capped at those altitudes because it doesn't make sense flow-wise to climb them any higher.

See the paragraph above your quote for more on your suggestion. The thing is that you can't expect someone who passes the exams to just know what to do. Live training is necessary (ie. someone is there teaching you, not necessarily "live" as in connected to VATSIM). Again, I don't know what it's like elsewhere and how onerous the training is, but some amount of human interaction is required to check the student's knowledge and provide guidance.

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8 hours ago, Alex Ying said:

What we've seen over and over again is that even someone who aces the exams and does their reading still needs practice with a live teacher in order to get down the actual listening and saying the right things on the frequency part of controlling.

Would having Tutorial Videos (e.g. via YouTube) be a solution? I understand and agree that it is not possible to allow someone onto DEL/GND without minimal training/supervision with a human instructor. But this should be minimized as much as possible, as we are lacking human resources.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
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17 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

We got the same thing in Europe. If you try to file an invalid level in the real world, the CFMU-validator (Central Flow Management Unit) will not accept your flightplan. Certain city-pairs have this kind of "level capping".

NMOC you mean, CFMU is long gone history

 

45 minutes ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

You have Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Lelystad and Groningen. Enough airports to have trainees practice.

read again

3 hours ago, Martijn Rammeloo said:

 Not having enough (useful) control slots is another possibility. 

Just because you have different places to go to, doesn't mean they provide valuable training

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5 hours ago, Raul Ferraz said:

Just because you have different places to go to, doesn't mean they provide valuable training

This is not true. I can already hear some people crying out loud "there is not traffic in Maastricht and Rotterdam!!!11!1!!", which is of course nonsense: when there is no ATC on a regular basis, then there will be very few flights only as well. But if you staff smaller airports on a regular and in a reliable manner, pilots will come. Look at EDDS/Stuttgart. Same thing there: regular ATC = a sufficiently high number of pilots will turn up after a while = valuable training. It is a proven principle and I do not accept other opinions on this, as they are simply wrong.

5 hours ago, Raul Ferraz said:

NMOC you mean, CFMU is long gone history

Who cares, it is the same thing, it is about flow control. Will still get the same annoying CTOTs and level-capping, that we usually circumvent one way or another 😄

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
typing error
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4 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

This is not true. I can already people crying out loud "there is not traffic in Maastricht and Rotterdam!!!11!1!!", which is of course nonsense: when there is no ATC on a regular basis, then there will be very few flights only as well. But if you staff smaller airports on a regular and in a reliable manner, pilots will come. Look at EDDS/Stuttgart. Same thing there: regular ATC = a sufficiently high number of pilots will turn up after a while = valuable training. It is a proven principle and I do not accept other opinions on this, as they are simply wrong.

Very, very true.  Build it & they will come.  Staff the same days at same time for same duration & ppl will eventually see that there is a controller they can plan on.  Gonna be a lot of quiet sessions, but, ppl will eventually show up.

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3 hours ago, Ken Doyen said:

Gonna be a lot of quiet sessions, but, ppl will eventually show up.

That seems to make sense to someone like me who has never controlled. But it may be missing the point. I hate to bring up the old chestnut about how folks today seem to have the attention span of a gnat, but that "eventually" thing which you rightly mention may very well be the killer.

From the outside looking in, controlling must appear to be very sexy and attractive to some people who don't always see beyond that attraction. No matter how much is said about how hard it is to control, the superficial attraction may dominate (power! Yay!), and I'm prepared to believe that this is what drives lots of attempted sign-ups for controller tuition.

Then, if the waiting time is too long, or the work is too laborious, or both, they may just walk. They are not in there for the long haul. Three months for a young person, and sometimes even for some who are not so young, is a lifetime and they have unfortunately learned that immediate gratification is a right, even essential.

I sincerely hope and trust that VATSIM will not succumb to that short-term view.

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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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19 hours ago, Andreas Fuchs said:

You have Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Lelystad and Groningen. Enough airports to have trainees practice.

In reality, only to a certain extent. There will always be a bottleneck, like the EHAA position. And let's be honest, in the end, all our members want to control at a major airport. Widening the pipeline at the lower/less interesting positions, would only create longer waiting times at the higher/more interesting positions.

Edited by Martijn Rammeloo
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45 minutes ago, Martijn Rammeloo said:

Widening the pipeline at the lower/less interesting positions, would only create longer waiting times at the higher/more interesting positions.

I don't think that this is correct. As we all know, the rate of people disappearing again after a few months is very high. At least this way they can find out whether this is a hobby for them or not without ATC-organizations having to invest tons of human resources into them. That's what I am trying to get across to the readers here. And if something is hard to get to (for example controlling TWR/APP/CTR at EHAM), it may motivate the right people to sit out their time at another airport and make it more busy by staffing it consistently at the same time and the same day(s) of the week. Pilots will come. We have seen that in various places at VATSIM.

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And we have a different experience. We have a long waiting list to get in. But once you're in, you can advance pretty quickly. And guess what, the number of controllers that disappear, for whatever reason, has dropped significantly. 

So, the point that I am trying to get across, is that there is no single cause for a problem, nor a single solution.

 

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6 minutes ago, Martijn Rammeloo said:

And we have a different experience. We have a long waiting list to get in. But once you're in, you can advance pretty quickly. And guess what, the number of controllers that disappear, for whatever reason, has dropped significantly. 

So, the point that I am trying to get across, is that there is no single cause for a problem, nor a single solution.

 

That doesn't exclude the fact that the faster we can get people sitting at an actual controller position, doing the work (and not just in a Sweatbox sim), the faster they can actually learn how it is to be a controller and what it takes.
The more we insist in getting people through a rigourous reading and studying session, a lot of mentored controlling in Sweatbox sims and then finally, mentored real deal, the more time we essentially insist in putting into people who might find out down the line that controlling wasn't really them. 
I have controlled a DEL position at EKCH (IVAO) before they changed the rules, but even there it was at a rather quiet time and therefore didn't give me the true impression of how it feels when the heat is on. But I do have some idea what it takes. 

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14 minutes ago, Michael Flemming Hansen said:

That doesn't exclude the fact that the faster we can get people sitting at an actual controller position, doing the work (and not just in a Sweatbox sim), the faster they can actually learn how it is to be a controller and what it takes.
The more we insist in getting people through a rigourous reading and studying session, a lot of mentored controlling in Sweatbox sims and then finally, mentored real deal, the more time we essentially insist in putting into people who might find out down the line that controlling wasn't really them. 
I have controlled a DEL position at EKCH (IVAO) before they changed the rules, but even there it was at a rather quiet time and therefore didn't give me the true impression of how it feels when the heat is on. But I do have some idea what it takes. 

My point was that those positions are not available if you have too many controllers for a certain position. And being able to control only once a month is not good for your learning curve. That is the exact reason we only gradually accept new controllers on the DEL position, in orde to avoid delays further on.

 

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11 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

From the outside looking in, controlling must appear to be very sexy and attractive to some people who don't always see beyond that attraction. No matter how much is said about how hard it is to control, the superficial attraction may dominate (power! Yay!), and I'm prepared to believe that this is what drives lots of attempted sign-ups for controller tuition.

Have you ever seen or played one of the numerous ATC simulation games that have been around for decades? I still have one (Dulles Tower) that runs in DOSBox in CGA graphics that I played as a child. The control aspect is not one of power lust, but of an interesting and challenging 3D problem of moving objects around in a way that they don't conflict. It appeals to a large group of people, and then VATSIM goes out of its way to ensure that anyone interested is several months away from actually doing what about ATC appeals to them.

11 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

Then, if the waiting time is too long, or the work is too laborious, or both, they may just walk. They are not in there for the long haul. Three months for a young person, and sometimes even for some who are not so young, is a lifetime and they have unfortunately learned that immediate gratification is a right, even essential.

If someone, after weeks if not months of waiting for training to do something at best tangentially related to moving aircraft around in 3D, walks away because they've lost interest (or feel that they are being ignored), they' re not "insufficiently committed". They are a reasonable human being. As I mentioned before, we have an amazing survivorship bias in ATC leadership where only the 1% that survived the gauntlet of inefficiency that is controller training are present, and they perpetuate the problem and make it worse.

Look at some of the comments in this thread. We have people agonizing over keeping Kai Tak closed because it affects Chen Lap Kok traffic maybe 8, 12 hours a year when the traffic is high at VHHH because of an event. We worry about an incorrect SID and having a following jet run in to a departing turboprop when the reality is that in most cases there will be exactly 4 aircraft in that airports class B (two of which are on the ground and one is stationary). If you read through the forums here, VATSIM leadership has consistently said that we train controllers to the level required for the top 1% of traffic levels, which are almost never achieved outside of major events. It makes no sense at all.

And don't get me started on the numerous reducto ad absurdum thinking in this thread where people try to create this false dichotomy where our only choices are a blizzard of unnecessary and unreasonable rules - or anarchy.

Having read through numerous threads around GRP, GCAP and the variety of efforts the BoG and Founders have made to place sensible parameters on controller training and ratings, I have tremendous sympathy for them and consider them to be the most reasonable voice in the discussion (and considering my post history, this may a first for me!). What most people have lost sight of is in this "quality vs. quantity" debate there has been a clear winner - uncontrolled airspace, which is in most cases worse than an imperfect controller.

Cheers

 

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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57 minutes ago, Luke Kolin said:

The control aspect is not one of power lust, but of an interesting and challenging 3D problem

I agree, and in fact that perspective will be highlighted in the revised New Members' course, complete with a picture of Spock playing 3D chess.

Maybe the 3D challenge isn't there for DEL students and their motivation isn't fed, or maybe if they don't see or want the mental challenge but do have power lust, they don't get to say "cleared to land" in their immediate future, or maybe in this world of rampant ADHD their attention is grabbed by the next dead interesting thing (Oh, look! A chicken!).

Many posts have referred to the idea that maybe there are many possible reasons for what appears to be an unwelcome loss of students before they have begun to contribute to the controlling effort. It's a hard nut to crack, and many posts have pointed at "the solution" as if it were the only possible one.

1 hour ago, Luke Kolin said:

the variety of efforts the BoG and Founders have made to place sensible parameters on controller training and ratings, I have tremendous sympathy for them and consider them to be the most reasonable voice in the discussion

Yes, I almost fell off my chair! 🙂 But you are right, of course, and these guys have the unenviable task of looking at all the maybes and medicines when choosing a solution or set of solutions. The task is in safe hands.

Interesting times!

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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Thinking again about this, I came up with some questions.

1. Is it the case that the Tower position is the easiest to learn? No complex route to specify, no large numbers of aircraft in a wide area to control, but still intersting because of sequencing and the possibility of mixing VFR traffic with IFR.

2. If that is true, is it the case that the only reason we don't start training a new potential controller in the Tower position, is because Top-Down requires a controller in that position to be already trained in the lower positions, so we logically must begin with DEL?

3. If these are both true, would the creation of a Tower Restricted rating, which a newbie would train at but without the ability to cover lower positions, solve that problem?

4. If all of the above is true (yes, I know, but bear with me), would that help with retention because the learning task would be less while the student would immediately be engaged in interesting controlling activity?

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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I was thinking the same thing, except for Ground - but Tower could work as well.

Honestly, unless there is an event or some other reason to have a significant amount of traffic, I don't see any reason why a newly-minted S1 controller couldn't control Ground at somewhere like ATL or JFK. Give them a single-page cheat sheet that explains which runways to open based on winds and the basic routings to the runways, and have at it. Honestly, if they give taxi instructions at ATL to the 9L threshold from Concourse E via L instead of M (or vice versa) doesn't really matter. The point is that they're getting time behind the scope, they're learning and just like controllers help teach pilots, the pilots can teach the controllers.

On a weekend morning, there's exactly 3 people at ATL. I'm sure a newbie could handle it 🙂

Cheers

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... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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3 hours ago, Alistair Thomson said:

Thinking again about this, I came up with some questions.

1. Is it the case that the Tower position is the easiest to learn? No complex route to specify, no large numbers of aircraft in a wide area to control, but still intersting because of sequencing and the possibility of mixing VFR traffic with IFR.

2. If that is true, is it the case that the only reason we don't start training a new potential controller in the Tower position, is because Top-Down requires a controller in that position to be already trained in the lower positions, so we logically must begin with DEL?

3. If these are both true, would the creation of a Tower Restricted rating, which a newbie would train at but without the ability to cover lower positions, solve that problem?

4. If all of the above is true (yes, I know, but bear with me), would that help with retention because the learning task would be less while the student would immediately be engaged in interesting controlling activity?

1. Not necessarily, depends on airfield. 

2. In my opinion you cannot control TWR without both theoretical as well as practical knowledge/experience on both DEL and GND as well as having some control time under your belt in general.

Controlling TWR-only might be boring at some moments, but thing can become 'interesting' without warning. At least on GND you can tell the pilot to hold position...

In general, tweaking the top-down principle is a very bad idea, in my opinion. Even in its current state, it leads to many, many questions. Adding another exception ('TWR covers GND and DEL, except when it doesn't') will lead to more confusion.

Martijn

 

Edited by Martijn Rammeloo
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The main problem with this conversation is that we are unfairly expecting candidates to start controlling almost immediately in a position to retain their interests.

Surely, as in the real world, we should expect pilot and controller self-study academies to be prerequisites so that they hit the road with broad basic knowledge of the tasks ahead. This would also alleviate much of the mentors' workloads in getting people started in their careers and removing those whose hearts are not really in it. Both would also greatly reduce candidates waiting times. 

Edited by Richard McDonald Woods

Cheers, Richard

You are the music, until the music stops. T.S.Eliot
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51 minutes ago, Richard McDonald Woods said:

The main problem with this conversation is that we are unfairly expecting candidates to start controlling almost immediately in a position to retain their interests.

Surely, as in the real world, we should expect pilot and controller self-study academies to be prerequisites so that they hit the road with broad basic knowledge of the tasks ahead. This would also alleviate much of the mentors' workloads in getting people started in their careers and removing those whose hearts are not really in it. Both would also greatly reduce candidates waiting times. 

And that happens in many areas - there are online learning systems in the UK, US and many other places that candidates are given access to when allocated a training place.

It's not all "Welcome to the XXX Division, let's get online..."

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Trevor Hannant

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