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Academy....what was the point??


Josh Brown
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I just graduated last week after completing the whole Academy in one week. I was very excited about the whole experience since I tried to complete the ATC training program over a year ago, but was unable to find someone to train me during my online availability. Up until a few days ago, I was under the clear impression (as the instructors kept saying to us) that upon graduation, I would be certified to control TWR and below. However, I was not surprised to learn near the end that a written test would be required from my chosen ARTCC to being me up to speed with local procedures. This makes perfect sense to me.

 

However, after arriving at my ARTCC bright-eyed and eager, I was quickly disappointed to discover not just a written test, but the requirement to be under direct observation for any number of hours, as well as an over-the-shoulder online exam! I tried not to be daunted by this, so I've started taking the tests and have discovered that 1) 50-60% of the information is generic and was covered in the Academy exams I took, and 2) The SOP handbook I was given from my ARTCC was either outdated or just plain incomplete (or both) since I could not find nearly all the information contained in the exam. TWR info was not in the TWR section, and I spent hours paging through the entire 100+ page booklet with no luck. So....

 

What was the Academy really for? What did it do for me if I have to do it all over again at my ARTCC? I'm on the verge of binning this again since my primary availability is during the day, during the week, and as such it's very hard to find someone to jump online to teach me. I'm very happy with the training I received at the Academy, but if in the end it didn't do anything for me that a few hours online would have done anyway, then what was it for? Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a Private Pilot and I work for the FAA so a lot of this is old stuff to me.

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First of all, many ARTCCs have already changed their training proceedures to reflect the academy, but some have not. If you have any questions regarding your ARTCC-specific training, please see their forums.

 

The academy is meant to both improve the quality of controllers on Vatsim.

Brian Beach

VatsimPHP Developer: http://www.bbflights.com/VatsimPHP/

AFA Detroit Hub Director: http://www.flyafa.com/

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I've been in contact with controllers from several other ARTCC's, and all I've heard is m[Mod - Happy Thoughts] confusion. I've also heard a few cases of students overstepping their boundaries, but that's not what I'm concerned with since it's not me.

 

From what I've been told the "re-certification" procedure is the same everywhere else, so my original question stands. Is the Academt merely to introduce students to the world of ATC? And the ARTCC is still responsible for training?

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The purpose of the academy was to deliver to the ARTCC's a person trained and familiar with the tools of the trade (software, etc) and some basic ATC information. Prior to this each ARTCC had to take a new guy or gal through all this and there was a lack of consistency and speed with this process. The academy solves this first problem and the ARTCC's have provided feedback at their delight in the quality of the students they have been getting; it has lightened the load of their instructors to focus on their specific airspace and procedures.

 

So you should expect to get specific training on any airspace you plan to control and it sounds like you do understand that. I hope your local ARTCC training folks can work with your schedule and get you moving.

 

Which is the second feedback item we hear of (and see), is academy students tend to move through the controller ranks a bit faster than those of us who did it the old way.

 

To Brian's comments, the academy was first on the list of priority to get up and running; this year will see the integration of the ARTCC's training with the academy completed.

 

training at vatusa dot org can provide you with a clearer answer than I have given if you have more specific comments or feedback to provide on our training systems, and thanks for asking.

Edited by Guest

Kyle Ramsey

 

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Hmm, well. Tests aren't a bad thing. I just have a hard time seeing the benefit of multiple tests covering the same topic or tests without the right study material.

 

The problem is that as ARTCC administrators we are still dealing with two groups of controllers. We can debate the merits of this, but it's the situation we're faced with. The first group did it "the old way" (such as people coming back from the dropped list after signing up 457 years ago but never followed through, or people who like to take their time and are gradually working their way way but got in before the new system took effect) and the second group you're a part of.

 

As you can imagine, it is very hard to create training programs that can deal with these two groups with hugely different needs. Some ARTCCs, like ZAB, have elected to have academy graduates skip all of the intro material and just get right into pure SOPs and take the relevant tests for that.

 

We're all just volunteers here, not getting paid a dime, so I hope that you understand the situation. If you stick with it, you will certainly be center rated in no time.

Fred Clausen, vZAB ATM

ZAB real life

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The academy provides a platform so that it doesn't take you months to get started at an ARTCC. I graduated from the academy in late November and I'm about to take my C3 to work CTR now. It varies from ARTCC to ARTCC of course, but I would hope that ALL of them will give new arrivals OTSs to make sure the new guys are caught up on local procedures and make sure they paid attention in the Academy

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Why not, it takes you months NOW to get started at an ARTCC! I agree, what is the point of the academy if you have to re-learn everything at your facility.

 

SOP in VATSIM...when in doubt another test can't hurt....

 

Richard, I second your thoughts completely. It is really beginning to be absurd. The hoops one has to jump through to become a VATSIM controller is purely insane. I should not have to be a controller to pretend to be one! I think that is a thread for another time!

 

Jason Vodnansky

810003

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I didn't mean to question the whole system, however I do agree that this is a hobby and there should be a better balance between professionalism and having fun. I suppose all the people who put their free time into VATSIM to keep things governed and organized know that this is probably the hardest thing to do. I am very grateful for their hard work.

 

I guess I will have to look at the Academy as a place to get started and not as a place to exit with certification. That must be where I went wrong- I expected to exit the Academy, take a few short local writtens, and be controlling (at least at the basic levels of DEL, GND, or TWR). At this point I'm still "up in the air" about how I want to proceed. Nearly all my availability falls during times when no one at my ARTCC can be online to mentor me, so it may be a looooong time before I can finish what I started. I may come to a level of comfort with that, but I wonder how many people we missed out on having as great contributors to this hobby because there were simply too many confusing hoops to jump through?

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Josh: I am in the same boat. I used to control many years ago and am now back. And yes trying to have a trainer on at the same time is far and in between(been trying to get my C1). Its been frustrating for me as well. However hang in there, VATSIM is a GREAT network with alot of great people. I am sure it will all work out. And welcome to controlling...Mike

Michael Oberg

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Why not, it takes you months NOW to get started at an ARTCC! I agree, what is the point of the academy if you have to re-learn everything at your facility.

 

 

Richard, I second your thoughts completely. It is really beginning to be absurd. The hoops one has to jump through to become a VATSIM controller is purely insane. I should not have to be a controller to pretend to be one! I think that is a thread for another time!

 

Jason Vodnansky

810003

 

Jason - it only takes months if the person can't coordinate with instructors... I have seen people come out in a LOT less time, but they were motivated.

 

Perhaps they need someone with your knowledge to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]IST them in helping student through.

 

The academy was created to give a basic framework for a student to build off of, so that EVERY S3 had the same basic core skillset (in theory).

 

As for the OP's comments:

1. ...about the extra leg work I can't answer that, but if they p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed it once they should easily p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] it a second time, no?

2. Outdated materials - there is a chain of command about that, the TA,ATM,VATUSA RD, VATUSA3 and even VATUSA1. I agree with the OP that that is unacceptable though and as I am not on staff I will refrain from commenting on what I think of ATMs who let their data go stale.

3. As to having someone to teach them... that is the cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ic issue. Thats not an academy issue thats an ARTCC issue but it should follow #2s order. If they cant teach you in a manner you find timely then complain or move... thats the only two options really.

Richard Green

VATSIM Supervisor

SB Testing & Support Team

VRC Testing & Support Team

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Piloting on VATSIM is the game that is "supposed to be fun." Controlling is a volunteer position to enable the fun for those playing the game. Granted, controlling can be pretty fun at times as well, but as a volunteer controller my primary goal is to enable others to have fun while flying on the network. For most pilots that means realism. And realism coming from a controller means that the controller has to know what he/she is doing (or at least SOUND like he/she knows what they are doing), and that means training.

 

The academy teaches you the basics and the ARTCC will fill in the gaps to get a solid foundation and then build off of that. Any ARTCC that does less isn't worth your time anyway. If I wanted to just get on and spout out anything I wanted, I'd be controlling on FSX's multiplayer servers...not VATSIM.

 

Switching hats to a pilot perspective...there are certain ARTCCs (unnamed you'll note) that I will NOT fly in because I've had terribly unrealistic experiences with them. When I fly, I want everything to be as realistic as it can be from the startup checklist to the proper phraseology to the jetway coming to let the pax off the aircraft. If an aircraft model or panel isn't cutting it in realism, I get rid of it. If an ARTCC has proven unrealistic in their controlling/phraseology, I don't fly there. If VATSIM isn't cutting it in realism....

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SOP in VATSIM...when in doubt another test can't hurt....

 

WOW. Great response from a BoG member... wait, from the President of VATSIM. Although I cannot speak for other controllers and instructors, I'm glad to know that the countless hours that I spent taking tests (both written and over-the-shoulder), working with my instructors, and the hours off-line studying, have been put to perfectly good waste. In addition, I'm now trying to figure out why the time that I have put into, and continue to put into (real world permitting) training controllers is even worth the effort, given that the VATSIM President infers it's a joke and unnecessary. Perhaps we should just let S1's plug into any position the second after they get their CID. I'm sure that will definitely add to the level of realism on this network.

 

It's utterly sad to see how this network has gone down hill with the vast majority of the current "executive washroom key holders". I used to be quite p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ionate about this network, and directly attribute it to saving me thousands of USD in my flight training along the way. But to see the President of the organization make such asinine statements above, just makes me shake my head.

 

By the way, Richard. I'd recommend you get a hold of VATUSA3, considering the last time I flew under your control in Dubai, you could learn a couple dozen things by attending, and possibly taking "another test".

 

Regards,

-Dan Everette

CFI, CFII, MEI

Having the runway in sight just at TDZE + 100 is like Mom, Warm cookies and milk, and Christmas morning, all wrapped into one.

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Dan -

 

I was with you that whole post, but I implore you to remove that last paragraph, lest your real point get lost in the flames soon to follow.

 

Fred, I greatly appreciate your opinion, and thank you for the post. However, I've already put on the Nomex suit, and tinfoil hat. Although inflammatory in nature, it's meant to illustrate that when the President of VATSIM wishes to make a comment which infers that tests and training are essentially pointless, he should at least posses the skillset to make such a valid claim.

 

Again, thanks Fred. I appreciate the caution, but I'm tried of being afraid of flame wars, or saying "bad things" about the management.

-Dan Everette

CFI, CFII, MEI

Having the runway in sight just at TDZE + 100 is like Mom, Warm cookies and milk, and Christmas morning, all wrapped into one.

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It seems, then, that the area which needs reform is at the ARTCC's. Find out which ARTCC's are still clinging to the "old ways" and bring them into line with the new paradigm brought about by the Academy. This should help get rid of redundant tests.

 

Switching hats to a pilot perspective...there are certain ARTCCs (unnamed you'll note) that I will NOT fly in because I've had terribly unrealistic experiences with them. When I fly, I want everything to be as realistic as it can be from the startup checklist to the proper phraseology to the jetway coming to let the pax off the aircraft. If an aircraft model or panel isn't cutting it in realism, I get rid of it. If an ARTCC has proven unrealistic in their controlling/phraseology, I don't fly there. If VATSIM isn't cutting it in realism....

 

Before you choose to avoid certain airspace, I would recommend you send feedback to the ARTCC about your experience with them. Then they will know what to change instead of just seeing people avoid them and not knowing why.

 

I guess I will have to look at the Academy as a place to get started and not as a place to exit with certification. That must be where I went wrong- I expected to exit the Academy, take a few short local writtens, and be controlling (at least at the basic levels of DEL, GND, or TWR). At this point I'm still "up in the air" about how I want to proceed. Nearly all my availability falls during times when no one at my ARTCC can be online to mentor me, so it may be a looooong time before I can finish what I started. I may come to a level of comfort with that, but I wonder how many people we missed out on having as great contributors to this hobby because there were simply too many confusing hoops to jump through?

 

It is important that new controllers operate local procedures correctly, and this does require some supervision (No jumping right in).

 

As for the second part of what you wrote, maybe you should consider switching ARTCC's. It might more important to gain controller experience than to wait for an instructor who can accommodate you. Once you gain some experience in another ARTCC, it should be easier to transfer to and learn the SOP's of the ARTCC at which you are currently attempting to train.

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I'm see you have little constructive to offer except hyperbole.

 

Ahhh. Where was your reply to Richard Jenkins' post? Do you consider his post "constructive" because he is the VATSIM President?

 

Real cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]y there.

 

You're more than welcome. Where do you instruct as a controller? I'd be more than happy to hear your comments, recommendations on controller training.

 

EDIT: Sorry Luke. Caught your post, and hit that pesky "quote" button before you deleted yours... Cheers!

-Dan Everette

CFI, CFII, MEI

Having the runway in sight just at TDZE + 100 is like Mom, Warm cookies and milk, and Christmas morning, all wrapped into one.

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Ahhh. Where was your reply to Richard Jenkins' post? Do you consider his post "constructive" because he is the VATSIM President?

 

Not at all, but he's not suggesting that we abandon controller training at all. To suggest that we may require fewer hurdles doesn't necessarily mean tossing out the baby with the bath water.

 

Look, we need to ensure that we have a steady stream of competent controllers, and we need to get people controlling where they can learn from experience. I think we need to have a discussion as to how we get there, without people suggesting that any loosening involves eliminating training altogether.

 

Where do you instruct as a controller?

 

You know darn well I don't control or instruct anywhere, and input on this subject isn't limited to those who do. If we go down that road to its reducto ad absurdium conclusion, then you have no right to tell Richard anything because you've never been President of VATSIM before. And we both know that's clearly ridiculous. To suggest that Richard isn't qualified to comment because you find his controlling skills less than adequate doesn't [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ist the discussion any more than saying he's ugly and his mother dresses him funny. While it all may be true, it doesn't reflect on his ability to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ess whether training requirements meet the need of the network as a whole - and that's an area where I'll give him at a minimum the benefit of the doubt.

 

If the current process is proving to be a hinderance to qualified people getting behind the scopes, then modifications are necessary. That doesn't mean we toss everything out, and for you to insinuate so is merely a straw man argument. If making things a little bit easier or less bureaucratic means getting more people behind the scopes and learning on the job with no significant drop in ATC quality, so be it. If those who came earlier had a much more difficult time of things and are upset, so be it.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

 

PS: In full disclosure, as you point out my earlier more intemperate post was deleted by me.

Edited by Guest

... 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.

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Dan,

 

I'm sorry your so upset with my comment. Yes, I do think some of the testing regimes within VATSIM are, to use your word, asinine. They are excessive, protectionist, and in some cases used as punitive measures. Inferring that I think S1's should be given keys to anything they want on the network is just wrong and anyone that has spoken with me in any depth would understand how wrong your statement is about my sentiments concerning S1 testing. In fact, I am one of the main sponsors of a proposal to the BoG and EC that would actually require increased requirements for S1's to be promoted to S3 within VATUSA. That is what we are talking about, right? Or are we talking about S1 standards in China or some other region of VATSIM?

 

You are obviously very p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ionate about VATSIM and take great pride in your accomplishments [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ociated with the network. We all make different contributions to the network. These contributions come from all of us, in different forms, that benefit others. For example, Fred is an NDA'd developer for VATSIM, you have helped with controller instruction. In the future, others will come forward and make their contributions also on both sides of the scope, the development shop, the network team, and the finance department.

 

You're certainly entitled to your opinion about my controller skills. As for the nomex undies, no need, I don't have the time to engage in it. Several months ago we had a nice chat online while you were controlling, your enthusiasm was apparent. I would be curious to know what the BoG has specifically done in your opinion that has ruined VATSIM for you?

Edited by Guest

Richard Jenkins

richard(a)vatsim.net

"It's all fun and games until the cops show up."

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It seems, then, that the area which needs reform is at the ARTCC's. Find out which ARTCC's are still clinging to the "old ways" and bring them into line with the new paradigm brought about by the Academy. This should help get rid of redundant tests.

 

Switching hats to a pilot perspective...there are certain ARTCCs (unnamed you'll note) that I will NOT fly in because I've had terribly unrealistic experiences with them. When I fly, I want everything to be as realistic as it can be from the startup checklist to the proper phraseology to the jetway coming to let the pax off the aircraft. If an aircraft model or panel isn't cutting it in realism, I get rid of it. If an ARTCC has proven unrealistic in their controlling/phraseology, I don't fly there. If VATSIM isn't cutting it in realism....

 

Before you choose to avoid certain airspace, I would recommend you send feedback to the ARTCC about your experience with them. Then they will know what to change instead of just seeing people avoid them and not knowing why.

 

You can send all the feedback you want, but the chances of it doing any good are slim to none. I don't blame bad controllers for being bad, I blame incompetent instructors for not caring that their controllers are bad, and there are PLENTY of incompetent instructors. If the instructors don't care, what good is feedback going to do?

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SOP in VATSIM...when in doubt another test can't hurt....

 

WOW. Great response from a BoG member... wait, from the President of VATSIM. Although I cannot speak for other controllers and instructors, I'm glad to know that the countless hours that I spent taking tests (both written and over-the-shoulder), working with my instructors, and the hours off-line studying, have been put to perfectly good waste. In addition, I'm now trying to figure out why the time that I have put into, and continue to put into (real world permitting) training controllers is even worth the effort, given that the VATSIM President infers it's a joke and unnecessary. Perhaps we should just let S1's plug into any position the second after they get their CID. I'm sure that will definitely add to the level of realism on this network.

 

It's utterly sad to see how this network has gone down hill with the vast majority of the current "executive washroom key holders". I used to be quite p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ionate about this network, and directly attribute it to saving me thousands of USD in my flight training along the way. But to see the President of the organization make such asinine statements above, just makes me shake my head.

 

By the way, Richard. I'd recommend you get a hold of VATUSA3, considering the last time I flew under your control in Dubai, you could learn a couple dozen things by attending, and possibly taking "another test".

 

Regards,

 

Students do need training and you're only wasting your time if you believe you're wasting your time. Why should someone else's opinion make you think that your efforts were for naught? Didn't you gain satisfaction from learning and understanding controlling? And teaching others to do the same?

 

Whenever you let the opinions of others affect your decisions, then you allow those persons to control you. I don't know about you, but I prefer to defy the opinions of others. So, stick around. With all your experience and knowledge, wouldn't your departure be contributing to what you perceive as a decline in the quality of VATSIM? (I'm [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming that you're thinking about leaving by your distaste for the current environment, if I am wrong I apologize.)

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