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A perturbing incident


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Today (technically yesterday), I was told to modify my flight plan. Normally, this would be totally acceptable to me, except for the fact that I was using a real-world flight plan that had just been flown, within the last 24 hours, by multiple real-world aircraft. Isn't VATSIM all about being as real as it gets?

 

As for what the flight plan was, I was told to change my plan from "BLGRS8 IIU PXV QBALL6" to "WHWTR5 VHP VLA5" in order to conform with an LoA. (Yes, I was issued an out-of-date STAR, too; VLA6 is current.) The LoA caused a decrease in realism for my flight. This should never be acceptable.

 

VATUSA LoAs should not preclude the use of real-world flight plans and should not cause out-of-date terminal procedures to be required.

 

I ask that all ATMs please double-check to make sure that your LoAs do not interfere with realism. I think it is important that all ARTCCs allow current, real-world flightplans to be used, even if the real-world flightplan does not comply with a VATUSA LoA. (Since the LoA is the problem, not the flight plan.)

 

Oh, and I have already issued similar feedback for the corresponding ARTCC, but wanted all ARTCCs to understand that real-world flight plans should not be prohibited. We are not The Zone, this is no place for unrealism.

 

Thank you for your time,

 

Stephen

 

P.S. Leave comments if you want, but this was more of a "me addressing a problem/rant" type of post.

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Stephen,

 

Let me first say that many controllers (specifically newer ones) limit themselves to what is listed on their ARTCC's website. Updating the procedures (Charts, LOAs, Sector File etc.) for every cycle is a brutally difficult task. At ZLA, we have a team of 7 or 8 controllers to do just that, as the task can be a lengthy one to accomplish. So it's very likely that in most places on VATSIM, the information will be old, at least for some period of time.

 

However, I also don't think you should ever be denied to use a real-world procedure, like you said.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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When flying from the central United States to ONT, where I am based, my airline for whatever reason always files us via the HEC transition to the ZIGGY 4 arrival. Every single time I operate a flight on one of these routes ZAB at some point reroutes us to TNP.PSP for the SETER arrival instead. I once asked a controller the reason and he stated it was due to a Letter of Agreement that ZAB has with ZLA. This isn't on VATSIM either, it is the real world. Just because a flightplan shows that it was filed one way on flightaware doesn't mean that it was the route actually flown by that aircraft. Even in the real world reroutes do happen.....sometimes for traffic, sometimes for weather, sometimes for LOA's.

 

As for the outdated STAR, it is difficult for a controller to keep up with the latest revision to STAR procedures for airports that aren't in their airspace. Many times during a reroute a controller will just clear the aircaft via the arrival name itself and omit the revision number if the arrival is outside of his area. This is the best way to format LOA's in my opinion.

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When flying from the central United States to ONT, where I am based, my airline for whatever reason always files us via the HEC transition to the ZIGGY 4 arrival. Every single time I operate a flight on one of these routes ZAB at some point reroutes us to TNP.PSP for the SETER arrival instead. I once asked a controller the reason, and he stated it was due to a Letter of Agreement that ZAB has with ZLA.

 

Jeff, that's correct. Anything filed over DRK, J6 (or that general area), etc., coming from ZAB gets rerouted via TNP.PSP, per the Letter of Agreement.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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Stephen,

 

As pointed out, it is simply impossible for VATSIM to stay caught up with real world procedures...and in some cases they CANNOT use current STARTS/SIDS because the sector files have not yet been updated to show the new fixes. Thus when you file a new SID or STAR, even if they have the chart, the points aren't in the system. By the same token a FIR/ARTCC which does update its sector files and procedures to new SIDS/STARS/fixes CANNOT require a pilot to comply with them because the pilot may be flying with the default (old) MSFS Navdata points. The FIR/ARTCC MUST provide services via routing of fixes in his/her database or radar vectors (as appropriate).

 

Unlike the real world where things are updated (at least in the US) every 28 days (and actually more frequently) in VATSIM this is simply not possible when things are done by a group of volunteer hobbiests. I understand your commitment to wanting to do things exactly as you see in the real world, but that simply isn't possible in VATSIM. The only way to do that would be if we had paid full-time employees whos only job was to update NAVDATA and sector files for all VATSIM members...and we'd then most likely have to charge all members a lot of money to use this network which is simply not going to happen.

 

As you point out, we try to be "as real as it gets" and in this case VATSIM falls somewhat short of reality. That said, given what you are paying to use this network, I think you are getting an awful lot of realism for free. In cases like this you'll just need to be prepared to flex and adjust your route as necessary.

 

all the best,

Dave

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My biggest complaint was just that I wasn't able to fly a real-world route. Anything additional, like out-dated terminal procedures, was ancillary.

 

In this case, my complaint was that I wanted to fly a real-world route, even though it would be against the LoA. I wanted an exception for the sake of realism, I was not demanding that they keep current as I realize how much extra work that would be.

 

That's all that my rant boiled down to. Oh, and I disagree that realism has to be sacrificed in this particular case. Like I said, I'm not demanding any extra work from controllers, I'm merely demanding that they be more flexible in allowing me to fly realistically. I think it was an unnecessary decrease in realism.

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My biggest complaint was just that I wasn't able to fly a real-world route. Anything additional, like out-dated terminal procedures, was ancillary.

 

In this case, my complaint was that I wanted to fly a real-world route, even though it would be against the LoA. I wanted an exception for the sake of realism, I was not demanding that they keep current as I realize how much extra work that would be.

 

That's all that my rant boiled down to. Oh, and I disagree that realism has to be sacrificed in this particular case. Like I said, I'm not demanding any extra work from controllers, I'm merely demanding that they be more flexible in allowing me to fly realistically. I think it was an unnecessary decrease in realism.

 

I understand what you're saying Stephen..but at the same time, just like I stated above, how is giving you a reroute for the purpose of meeting an LOA not realistic? It does happen all of the time in the real world.

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I understand what you're saying Stephen..but at the same time, just like I stated above, how is giving you a reroute for the purpose of meeting an LOA not realistic? It does happen all of the time in the real world.

Because the flight plan that I wanted to use is realistic.

 

In this case, the LoA was not realistic, otherwise, it would not have conflicted with the realistic flight plan.

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Stephen,

 

I can understand your point of view, but given the fact you have never controlled on this network and are unfamiliar with the coordination required between the various control organizations, you clearly don't realize how disruptive it is to the network to deviate from the LOAs that are established...and how hard it is to keep LOAs and procedures here updated to reflect real-world ones that are maintained by literally thousands of full-time employees in the US alone. Bottom line is things here will not always marry up with the real world...and they never will. If you are really interested in helping things become more realistic, I highly recommend you become a controller and seek a staff position at one of the ARTCCs where you can then work to make things more realistic. VATSIM has over 100,000 pilots who use the network...it has less than 5,000 controllers who do all the work for free -- we need every volunteer we can get!

 

all the best,

Dave

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In this case, the LoA was not realistic, otherwise, it would not have conflicted with the realistic flight plan.

 

True, the FP was realistic and the LoA isn't.

 

Unfortunately...

 

This isn't the real world. This is a group of ATC simulating...to the BEST of their ability...the real world.

 

Maybe what is in the LoA here on VATSIM is what works best for THIS network. Perhaps the route the ARTCC's hammered out is what works best for them and the one off FlightAware (a GREAT site I agree) is best for what works with the traffic, flow, noise abatement, etc. there...in the RW.

 

Unfortunately, the FP data on FlightAware is public domain and LoA's between ARTCC's are simply not public domain. Getting our hands on LoA's, SOP's, Video Maps, etc. from the FAA is time consuming, difficult, requires hoop jumping and investigation that falls JUST shy of a cavity search, and is EXPENSIVE. Ironically, the F in FOIA stands for "Freedom" but oddly, "there ain't no 'free' in Freedom". It's just the way it is.

 

I like the fact that you provided feedback to ATM's of ZID/ZKC. That's good. I'm sure they appreciate that. I know I do as an ATM/DATM.

 

However, "This is no place for unrealism. We are not The Zone". Do ya need that in there? Really?

 

You don't think we're all busting our humps to do the best we can? Cut some slack now and then.

 

Send you suggestion...privately. Post a nicely worded note here instead of in the tone that was used, have a cool drink and a nice flight.

Matthew Kreilein

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Like I said before guys, that stuff that you all get off of flightaware is nothing more than the requested route that was submitted by the airline to the FAA. It is not necessarily the route given to that aircraft by the ATC system. If you look around enough on that site and compare the routes to the map view you will see plenty of examples of flights that were filed one way but flew another. Sure, its a nice resource to have, but don't think that just because flightaware shows a certain route for a certain aircraft that it could not have been changed when the pilot called for his clearance. For this reason I don't think that asking ARTCC's to use flightaware routes to make their LOA's is a good idea. I do this stuff for a living...I have no reason to make it up.

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However, "This is no place for unrealism. We are not The Zone". Do ya need that in there? Really?

 

You don't think we're all busting our humps to do the best we can? Cut some slack now and then.

 

Send you suggestion...privately. Post a nicely worded note here instead of in the tone that was used, have a cool drink and a nice flight.

Matthew,

 

I was just ranting, my intent was to raise awareness, not to offend. Perhaps I could have said it better, but I also was in a hurry to get it off my chest.

 

I can't raise awareness for all of VATUSA in a private message.

 

Oh, and if I truly believed that by becoming a controller I could actually make a difference in the furtherance of this issue, then I would. My becoming a staff member in an ARTCC would be like a drop in a bucket. It would not allow me to make change on as wide a scale as I'd like. It would only affect my flights in that single ARTCC.

 

But as you said yourself David Klain, "you clearly don't realize how disruptive it is to the network to deviate from the LOAs that are established." And you were right. I didn't realize that when I first posted, but now that I do, I know that my becoming a controller won't change that, so there's no point.

 

If it's beyond the capabilities for ARTCC's to allow realistic flight plans on VATSIM, then I'll speak of it no further. Thanks for the comments.

 

Edit: Indented part added.

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Like I said before guys, that stuff that you all get off of flightaware is nothing more than the requested route that was submitted by the airline to the FAA. It is not necessarily the route given to that aircraft by the ATC system.

 

Well we do have to give some credit to the airline dispatch departments in knowing what routes will be regularly approved by ATC.

 

If you put in a airport pair at flightaware.com and you see that same route listed several times, that would strongly indicate a routing that is regularly approved and that is why it is filed so often.

 

Its pretty clear that both sides should be flexible on this.

 

Unless there was some sort of special event going on, I'd approve routing Stephen filed, but then I tend to be really flexible when it comes to routings especially when traffic is light. But some areas very much prefer you fly their preferred routings. So as a pilot as you go through the different regions you have to stay flexible you will run into different types of controllers some very flexible, others very in-flexible.

 

Though on the other side VLA6 is likely not much different from VLA5 so it may not be out of date from an operational perspective.

 

Regards.

Ernie Alston

Albuquerque ARTCC

Vatsim Supervisor

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Well we do have to give some credit to the airline dispatch departments in knowing what routes will be regularly approved by ATC. If you put in a airport pair at flightaware.com and you see that same route listed several times, that would strongly indicate a routing that is regularly approved and that is why it is filed so often.

 

I agree Ernie. I guess the point that I was trying to make was that receiving a reroute in your clearance, regardless of whether you filed a flightaware route or not, isn't exactly unrealstic. In my opinion having to make these sort of adjustments actually adds a little realism to the experience as it is the same sort of thing that real world airline pilots have to deal with on a daily basis. I suppose it just depends on how you look at it.

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I've always found that getting rerouted to a new airway, direct here or there, a different dp, a last minute star, unexpected runway, new approach, altitude, or shortcut does nothing but add to the fun for me.

 

I've flown a couple of hours on Vatsim and can't ever recall a time when I was upset by a change in plans by a controller (or took it personally).

Ian Elchitz

Just a guy without any fancy titles

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Today (technically yesterday), I was told to modify my flight plan. Normally, this would be totally acceptable to me, except for the fact that I was using a real-world flight plan that had just been flown, within the last 24 hours, by multiple real-world aircraft. Isn't VATSIM all about being as real as it gets?

 

As for what the flight plan was, I was told to change my plan from "BLGRS8 IIU PXV QBALL6" to "WHWTR5 VHP VLA5" in order to conform with an LoA. (Yes, I was issued an out-of-date STAR, too; VLA6 is current.) The LoA caused a decrease in realism for my flight. This should never be acceptable.

 

VATUSA LoAs should not preclude the use of real-world flight plans and should not cause out-of-date terminal procedures to be required.

 

I ask that all ATMs please double-check to make sure that your LoAs do not interfere with realism. I think it is important that all ARTCCs allow current, real-world flightplans to be used, even if the real-world flightplan does not comply with a VATUSA LoA. (Since the LoA is the problem, not the flight plan.)

 

Oh, and I have already issued similar feedback for the corresponding ARTCC, but wanted all ARTCCs to understand that real-world flight plans should not be prohibited. We are not The Zone, this is no place for unrealism.

 

Thank you for your time,

 

Stephen

 

P.S. Leave comments if you want, but this was more of a "me addressing a problem/rant" type of post.

 

The LOAs we use on the network are taking into consideration several things, but keep in mind that the level of traffic on our network does not mirror the real world. It makes for simplification and ease of traffic flow between us. Just because we're not using the real LOAs doesn't mean the ones we do use don't work for our application.

 

The issuance of an out of date STAR for St Louis isn't the result of bad LOA AFAIK. We just do not use the numerical identifiiers in the verbage of the Letters of Agreement. So, if we refer to a STAR that we want an adjoining center to use, we would refer to it in this case as the VANDALIA (VLA) STAR, and not the VANDALIA 5. We know the arrival is the VLA6. The originating controller may have thought the VLA5 was still valid.

Mark Brummett

Website owner, http://www.zkcartcc.org

ZKC Events Co-ordinator

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Ok, I know this has been said before, but Stephen seems to want to ignore it. Flying in the real world is all about reroutes. What you file is very seldom what you get, in fact if you do ever get an "AS Filed" you better break out the champagne. Most controllers get a chuckle out of my response to their question, “ Can you accept the preferred route,“ and I reply, “you are the controller, you tell me where I am going.“ Rerouting is a part of life, and the fact that we actually do check your routes and issue clearances is a testament to how real it actually is on VATSIM. A controller can issue any clearance he likes and deems necessary to conform with traffic flows, LOAs, weather, what ever. If anything, the fact that we ask you if you can accept the preferred route is in fact far from real. In the real world they just read off your clearance and you better have a pencil handy. Just my $.02.

Jim Guyett - JC

ZBW- Mentor

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Ok, I know this has been said before, but Stephen seems to want to ignore it. Flying in the real world is all about reroutes. What you file is very seldom what you get, in fact if you do ever get an "AS Filed" you better break out the champagne. Most controllers get a chuckle out of my response to their question, “ Can you accept the preferred route,“ and I reply, “you are the controller, you tell me where I am going.“ Rerouting is a part of life, and the fact that we actually do check your routes and issue clearances is a testament to how real it actually is on VATSIM. A controller can issue any clearance he likes and deems necessary to conform with traffic flows, LOAs, weather, what ever. If anything, the fact that we ask you if you can accept the preferred route is in fact far from real. In the real world they just read off your clearance and you better have a pencil handy. Just my $.02.

 

Absolutely. Managing these sort of things is a part of the everyday routine of being a professional pilot. I called for a clearance from DAL-IAH once and was rerouted via SAT for weather. What was supposed to be a 40 minute ETE was now 2 hours. Now, of course, we needed more fuel, which means we can't take as many p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]engers due to weight restrictions. This is the life of an airline pilot...its not always about flying from Point A to Point B "as filed". If realism is what you want, I would welcome a reroute every now and then.

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Another thing to consider is this is VATSIM, and the controllers are not 'certified' to real world standards, and we receive no financial compensation for what we do. As a VATSIM controller, yes we want to provide you with the most professional experience you can have, but you have to remember that this is a virtual simulation, with volunteers consisting of both pilots and ATC.

 

Some new 'local' controllers will quote a route based on LOA's or even SOP's, because they don't have the ability to; coordinate your flight plan to DEP/CTR if nobody is upstairs, or they are new controllers that haven't acquired those skills.

 

As much as we as controllers aspire to match the RW, there are certain network limitations we have to deal with that don't happen in real life. First at ZLA, in RL there are at least 650+ controllers working all positions, DEL/GND/TWR/DEP/APP/CTR that are sub sectorized to locations and altitudes. As VATSIM is a volunteer community with limited resources, we can only staff about .010-.015% of our real world counterparts.

 

So considering what we have, may I suggest some advise to pilots, file your flight plan anyway you wish, but WAIT FOR YOUR CLEARANCE before spending goddly hours programming it into your FMC or whatever. The simple reason is that your flight plan might conflict with other traffic, or you would get re-routed based on traffic density.

 

Like it was said before, your the Captain of your aircraft, please know how to fly your aircraft, so surprises like losing an engine, hydraulic failures, lost comms, and having to resort to text is second nature to you.

 

Again, we as ATC have taken a long path to train and become "VATSIM certified", and then went on to get our "local certifications" to allow the pilots of this community to enjoy some of the most RW ATC service we can provide.

 

We are a LEARNING ENVIRONENT, and we need to sit back and relax, be it as a pilot or a ATC, RESPECT each other as hobbyists and or professionals, as were here for one reason; WE ALL LOVE AVIATION!!!

Gerry Hattendorf

ZLA Webmaster

VATSIM Supervisor

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As for what the flight plan was, I was told to change my plan from "BLGRS8 IIU PXV QBALL6" to "WHWTR5 VHP VLA5" in order to conform with an LoA. (Yes, I was issued an out-of-date STAR, too; VLA6 is current.) The LoA caused a decrease in realism for my flight. This should never be acceptable.

 

One thing that has sort of been alluded to by others, but I want to specifically point out. VATSIM (at least in the US), does not employ a flight data system/position. When you file a flight plan in the real world, it goes to a secret, deep, dark room, where the people that work there are never let out, and are fed by pizza's slipped under the locked door. This room is known as Flight Data. Their job is to take the route that Joe Pilot filed, and figure out the best way to frustrate him when he does something stupid like calling for his clearance after programming his Garmin with what he filed. These flight data guru's know the LOA's and will "fix" your flightplan so that it conforms to LOA's as well any current traffic programs in effect for both your origin and destination locations.

 

Now, we can go down the road and engage in the whole argument of you should be able to fly what you file, but that's a separate argument all together. In short, you can file whatever you want out of KSEA to KSFO, but if I need you (for whatever reason) on the ELMAA7, and you want to fly what you filed, guess what... I have a very cool tool I can use if you don't want to accept the routing I need you on. It's called "radar vectors". I can simply clear you to SFO via radar vectors. Then on your departure out of KSEA, you'll receive vectors (and your ground track will look surprisingly like the ELMAA7 ground track). Once I have you clear and can send you on your merry way, I can simply re-clear you to SFO via some intermediary fix along what you originally filed.

 

There are a lot of things that are going on behind the scopes, and it becomes a dancing act, while trying to keep all those plates on a pole spinning at the same time. With regards to a controller clearing you along an expired STAR, again, there is no flight data (in the US) on VATSIM. Typically (real world) all a delivery/ground controller does is read the strip that spit out the printer, they have no idea if your route is "correct".

 

If you want real world, it's the subtle hiccups in every flight (which is all you experienced, and not the end of the world) which make VATSIM realistic. If you want to fly every flight off of some perceived "real world" route (which has already been explained by pilots who work in the system daily) which you pulled off a website (other than the FAA preferred route database, and even those are just "preferred"), then stick to FS9/FSX ATC.

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-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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When you file a flight plan in the real world, it goes to a secret, deep, dark room, where the people that work there are never let out, and are fed by pizza's slipped under the locked door. This room is known as Flight Data.

 

They slipped pizzas under the door? I must've slept thru that part! All I remember getting were something like Milkbone dog biscuits! Oh and the occasional carob chunk thingy they called a chocolate chip cookie....btw, lots of "road-tar" coffee was always available...

 

As you can see, after several years, I escaped!

Gary Millsaps

VATUSA1

 

"I knew all the rules but the rules did not know me...

guaranteed."

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I know for a fact that a real world airline here in Atlanta PURPOSELY files non standard routes in hopes of a shortcut...and they save $1 million per year from the occasional approval. 99% of the time they are re-routed to the standard route. What the airline wants is the best fuel burn route while ATC wants the least congested and conflicting. Problem here in Vatsim is the pilots don't understand that the real world is not so brittle. Seems like in Vatsim's effort to be real we are "more realistic than the real world."

 

Stephen, you experienced an increase in realism.... you were forced to accomodate a controller need.

Regards,

JX

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If anything, the fact that we ask you if you can accept the preferred route is in fact far from real. In the real world they just read off your clearance and you better have a pencil handy.

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I've been on the receiving end of ... "Amendment to your routing, advise ready to copy" I'd be able to afford GOOD pizza.

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I will say that if that happens in my ARTCC, and you tell the controller that "yes, it is an actual flight plan because it's one they filed on flight aware" we're typically let you fly it. We're used to correcting the wrong ones though because so many new pilots try to file 30 waypoints or direct... But if you tell us you know what you're doing, i usually dont have a problem with it.

"TF", ZMA

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I will say that if that happens in my ARTCC, and you tell the controller that "yes, it is an actual flight plan because it's one they filed on flight aware" we're typically let you fly it. We're used to correcting the wrong ones though because so many new pilots try to file 30 waypoints or direct... But if you tell us you know what you're doing, i usually dont have a problem with it.

 

But, keep in mind though, some of those flight plans are amended in-air for weather/traffic and such. I'd get on Flightaware myself and make sure the route didn't look like the letter C before I'd go ahead and say 'yep, you're right'...

Mark Brummett

Website owner, http://www.zkcartcc.org

ZKC Events Co-ordinator

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