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Questions about the new FNO operations


Marko Savatic 825464
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A few others have mentioned TGIF but none seemed to explicitly caution against a repeat of it. Beyond excluding other VAs, TGIF also developed into more of ego-centric event. It monopolized VATUSA on Fridays and some thought it was bigger than VATSIM in general. It was extraordinarily successful and took on a life of its own.

 

Please, VATUSA, ARTCCs, and VAs, do not let any one group rise to the point where they think they run the network to the exclusion of the membership at large, the appointed administration, and the legal owners.

 

All of us should realize the need to avoid another tail-wagging-the-dog situation and act accordingly.

 

That's from another relative old-fart who lived through a few VA and ATC network revolts. I'm just saying.

Steven Perry

VATSIM Supervisor

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I'm a fan of splitting the traffic across a number of ARTCC's (and actually have been for a couple of months now). The traffic density of the FNO was higher than most ARTCC's could handle, while the rest of VATUSA was relatively vacant.

 

Reducing the event from 1 ARTCC with insane density to 3 ARTCC's with healthy traffic levels is the way to go ([Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming equal traffic distribution and staffing, which are separate problems).

 

As for the change from weekly to monthly, I understand people's concerns, but it's worth seeing how it pans out. It's clear that the VATUSA Event folks are putting thought into the process and are trying to find something that works. Even if you don't like the changes, be thankful that they're at least stepping up and trying.

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A few others have mentioned TGIF but none seemed to explicitly caution against a repeat of it. Beyond excluding other VAs, TGIF also developed into more of ego-centric event. It monopolized VATUSA on Fridays and some thought it was bigger than VATSIM in general. It was extraordinarily successful and took on a life of its own.

 

Please, VATUSA, ARTCCs, and VAs, do not let any one group rise to the point where they think they run the network to the exclusion of the membership at large, the appointed administration, and the legal owners.

 

All of us should realize the need to avoid another tail-wagging-the-dog situation and act accordingly.

 

That's from another relative old-fart who lived through a few VA and ATC network revolts. I'm just saying.

 

This is a very good point here, and with searching through the forums here and reading the posts on the history of TGIF, everyone should see why what Steven mentioned is very important. This is why FNO was spearheaded by the division, not VAs only, not a single sector only. But it doesn't mean that it must live and die by that either.

 

BL.

Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

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A few others have mentioned TGIF but none seemed to explicitly caution against a repeat of it. Beyond excluding other VAs, TGIF also developed into more of ego-centric event. It monopolized VATUSA on Fridays and some thought it was bigger than VATSIM in general. It was extraordinarily successful and took on a life of its own.

 

Please, VATUSA, ARTCCs, and VAs, do not let any one group rise to the point where they think they run the network to the exclusion of the membership at large, the appointed administration, and the legal owners.

 

All of us should realize the need to avoid another tail-wagging-the-dog situation and act accordingly.

 

That's from another relative old-fart who lived through a few VA and ATC network revolts. I'm just saying.

 

Even with all the back drama and stupid stuff going in in the background of TGIF, that was the single best event on VATUSA if not VATSIM for a long long time. When it turned into FNO i was dissapointed, and subsequently stopped going out of my way to get jammed into a line of 50 people flying the same route with me with controllers who arent prepared for it.

 

The only event i ever go out of the way for is Calscream! and the old TGIF.

I agree with others that Anchorage could have every airport stacked DEL-APP with multiple centers, ZLA and ZTL would still get the traffic, and i really wish we would just go back to TGIF of a long time ago, although I know that would never happen.

Brett Susnitzky

FAA PPL-ASEL

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Change is a good thing! I stopped participating in FNO months ago for several reasons. 1) Got tired joining the "Conga Line" 2) very few of the APP controllers could handle the load 3) having fully staffed airports does little for my sim emersion, more specifically DEL and GND positions. I'll take a good CTR, APP/DEP, and TWR controller anyday over the whole string.

 

I do however feel that the VATSIM Community can move ahead and should try news ways of attracting pilots and keeping them. This still is and will always be an awesome environment to learn and have fun at the same time. Repetitiveness sends people packing. Gazing at Servinfo from time to time seems to indicate the usual number of pilots flying in the States on either side of 200 during the prime time evening hours and weekends. Karen deserves more credit than she is getting for trying to promote change. New thinking/ideas will always have opponents. Everyone, including myself need to get back in tha air and create what we all want...a more realistic simulation.

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I guess I am an unbearable optimist. I believe that the Events Directors we have in the ARTCCs are more than just figureheads, and will rise to the challenge.

 

Karen - first of all let me state that I've always been supportive of change and new ideas, even when it means things that I like might be affected or go away all together.

 

I've personally never been a large fan of the FNO or the TGIF style flyin, they just aren't my idea of a fun flyin.

 

As a long time member of the community, I do want to point out that historically speaking meaning of VATUSA's facilities do NOT have the experience, infrastructure, or ability to properly plan, market, and pull of a well run event.

 

My vision of VATUSA events has always been to facilitate the coordination and scheduling of events across VATUSA, and more importantly to act as a resource available to all facilities so that they can plan, market, and host a well run event. Everyone wants to host their own events and I think everyone should experience them. To many they are the pinnacle of the ATC side of the network (though I'd rather work a normal busy sky on a late friday night).

 

What I'm really asking, is that you make sure your events "team" (not sure if you have a team) are actively [Mod - Happy Thoughts]isting and training those facilities that are desperately in need of some training and help in the events department.

 

Planning, marketing, and running an event is not rocket science - however there IS a science to it.

 

Will the loss of FNO be the end of fun on Friday nights? I'm willing to put a down all the money in the world to say no it won't. I'll even give you odds. I thought the same back in 2003 when they ended the Western Regional Fridays. I seem to recall back in those days that people flew in the designated host artcc's on those night providing they were actually staffed. Didn't matter who was hosting - when it was their turn - we flew there.

Ian Elchitz

Just a guy without any fancy titles

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Change is a good thing! I stopped participating in FNO months ago for several reasons. 1) Got tired joining the "Conga Line" 2) very few of the APP controllers could handle the load 3) having fully staffed airports does little for my sim emersion, more specifically DEL and GND positions. I'll take a good CTR, APP/DEP, and TWR controller anyday over the whole string.

 

I'll second that... especially line item number 2 of the above statements.

 

To add to that line item, speaking as a veteran approach controller during events - I'd like to say something that has made FNO very difficult for me is the lack of knowledge of many pilots flying into my airspace during the fly-ins. I think this network is in dire need of a more advanced pilot training program than the current PRC (I realize this is an entirely separate issue). Many new pilots on this network have a lot of difficulty communicating with ATC (outside of the normal range of frequency congestion/internet troubles) and maintaining positive control of their aircraft. When working approach during our last FNO, I noted numerous times when pilots had extremely slow check-ins on frequency (30+ seconds filled with useless information) taking up valuable frequency time, not replying quickly to ATC instructions, and were unable to maintain control of their aircraft and/or speed - which in turn killed any ability to space tightly on the final and caused m[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ive sequencing issues in many cases. I can say I'm not the only individual who has dealt with these problems as well (it’s gotten much worse recently with the large influx of new pilots thanks to a few new policy changes)... pilots need to be prepared for what to expect in the busy airspaces of an FNO... I realize that many facilities do not have the training/ability to handle large amounts of traffic as well, but the situations I described are also very real issues (potentially a more extensive pilot training program would resolve some of these issues? - again a different story - I know).

 

However, after reading this post for the last few days... I truthfully feel that this is a very noble idea to push for a more "regional" style FNO... I think it will present some new challenges for us controllers and allow for us to make more advanced use of our LOAs (Letters of Agreement) with neighboring ARTCCs. My only concern is that of many others here - I just don't know if we have the traffic loads to expect it to be that major of an event to keep us controllers interested...

 

We shall see what happens with the first one... maybe if 3 facilities doesn't work, try condensing it further down to 2?

 

Just my .02 cents...

 

 

-AJ

Andrew James Doubleday | Twitch Stream: Ground_Point_Niner

University of North Dakota | FAA Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) GraduateGPN_Horizontal_-_Tertiary.thumb.png.9d7edc4d985ab7ed1dc60b92a5dfa85c.png

 

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I would like to see routes chosen that allow for good interaction between aircraft. For example, it would be pretty cool to see aircraft heading in the opposite direction p[Mod - Happy Thoughts] 1000 feet below me. One of the attractions of FNO was that you had to interact with other aircraft. Let's face it, on any given night you can find controllers. But you can't find traffic at the levels of FNO. To be fair to the controllers, you don't need to stack all the aircraft together, but you don't want to lose that interaction entirely. It's a thrill for pilots to see someone else when they look out the window - don't take that aspect away.

 

The biggest concern I have is that it is very difficult for ARTCCs to organize events. I've been an Events Coordinator, so I've got first-hand experience. The great thing about FNO (or TGIF when I was around) was that it pretty much ran itself. You just had to make sure you had staffing. You didn't have to worry about finding a hook to generate traffic. So while I applaud the idea of opening up Friday nights to other events, the trade-off is that ARTCCs will have to work a lot harder to create those events. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but time will tell if the ARTCCs are able to step up to the plate.

 

Perhaps the successor to FNO could be every other week until ARTCCs come up to speed with their own events? Or perhaps it should be every week subject to being bumped if an ARTCC can come up with an alternative event.

 

Nonetheless, I applaud the fact that VATSIM is looking to improve its product. I'm just glad that I'm not the one who took on the 800 pound gorilla!

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I don't know the official rules/status of this event posted yet, just what Marko posted originally...so what follows is based on the vague idea I'm understanding.

 

The new event: being held once a month, being conducted between 3 ARTCCs. Seems pretty low scale to me.

 

What I would suggest/propose:

 

If you want to cut back on weekly events, go bi-weekly. Feature two whole regions at a time. The thing I never liked about TGIF/FNO type operations is that they were constantly moving, focusing, moving, moving. You didn't actually have any pattern. What we need is to set up steady beats. By "featuring" certain locations, you naturally exclude other locations from the majority of traffic for that night...so a lot of people don't feel like controlling if they know they aren't being featured.

 

We used to try to set up constant scheduling and have people staffing during the same times on the same days. Being regular about it...people would know and come back at those times.

 

So what I'd suggest is go:

 

CW Days, and NS days. CW is Central & Western region night, and NS is Northeast & Southern region night. Since it's every other week, you can relieve pressure on ARTCCs to always have a staffing. But, it completely widens the "feature" so that a large group of ARTCCs can work together and staff up at the same time.

 

Set up Route Boards for each "Day." (They would only need to be set up once, and would be workable for every concurrent event). Have all kinds of preferred routes available, and set up suggested route plans and "tours," if you will.

 

It wouldn't require that ARTCCs present tons of ATC and preparation, but it would allow for them to have a few ATC to cover moderate operations. [i also realize that ARTCCs like ZAU and ZKC are kind of in a bad position for that type of set up...perhaps they could run during an NS day, even though they are Central Region.]

 

That way, we promote cooperation and workmanship across multiple ARTCCs, while also trying to set up steady patterns for certain ATC coverage. Let's face it: During the week, there are no major events, and ATC can drag. We don't have to monopolize the time with VATUSA run events, but every other week we can try to keep it steady.

 

And perhaps every six months, give full-CONUS coverage a try. Something official where you have every ARTCC lit up for four to six hours. This is harder to do because of time-zones, so it would be a sp[Mod - Happy Thoughts] event...but I think fun to try again, nonetheless. Again, it can help ARTCC-ARTCC relations and work to build a team.

Steve Ogrodowski

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And perhaps every six months, give full-CONUS coverage a try. Something official where you have every ARTCC lit up for four to six hours. This is harder to do because of time-zones, so it would be a sp[Mod - Happy Thoughts] event...but I think fun to try again, nonetheless. Again, it can help ARTCC-ARTCC relations and work to build a team.

 

How about once a month? Say a saturday mid-afternoon to through the evening. I've thought of this for a while and it wouldn't be a big deal. If you had one guy working center in each sector, it wouldn't be a huge deal. Controllers could work 2 hour shifts and the event could run for 4 hours or even more. If you started at 2PM Eastern time, the west coasters would staff up at 10AM local time. Run it for about 4 hours. Would be nice to see it at that level alone. The task, while being large, I don't think would be difficult to manage given appropriate time. I've thought of this quite a bit lately and would love seeing it happen.

 

All things being equal, I don't know if you've noticed but at times when ZLA was not spotlighted during FNO, we still staffed as much as we could so we attracted the traffic we could. Notwithstanding how popular ZLA is, but the whole credo of "if you staff it, they will come" still stands. I've seen places such as ZLC staffed to the hilt outside of a FNO, and pull some pretty good traffic.

 

O rly? (If you don't get it, CLICK HERE and have a chuckle)

 

Two things here BL that will probably come across as me being angry, but it's just me being frustrated to i'll put a cherry on top for everyone else (or at least try).

 

Back to business. Issue number 1: Staffing way up when FNO is somewhere else. I personally think this is a low blow to whoever did host FNO. Most pilots are going to go where they know there is traffic or great scenery. I'm sure if a pilot looked and saw MEM_CTR staffed x4, MEM Approach X2 MEM Tower and MEM Ground (this is our typical large event staffing where I control (KZME)), then say ZLA staffed at Center, Socal App, and LAX tower on, they'd probably fly ZLA. Why? I don't know. I prefer flying into the lesser known areas and helping out the "little man" so I can't speak for everyone else, but it seems I've never seen ZLA on vroute with less than 10 pilots. On a typical saturday or sunday I'll control for 3-4 hours if I can and will control maybe that many planes in 4 hours, typically 2 or 3 at a time at most and most typically overflights. I just think staffing up like that takes some of the traffic and joy away from the other controllers but thats me. I openly invite you to visit control at KZME. Let us get you fully rated and you can work center for those 3-4 hours at a time where you tell an aircraft to ident, then change back to unicom as they fly DFW-ATL sicne thats where most of our traffic lies is in overflights. I don't like it, but I still control and instruct on a regular basis because I believe I'm helping do at least a little good in the fight for more traffic, but time will tell as they say. I think you'll go back to ZLA after doing so and your first thing said to the guys there will be "I was bored out of my skull over there! There's no traffic and it's a waste of time!" but maybe you'd enjoy a nice reprieve from working 60+ operations an hour.

 

Number 2: "If you staff it they will come." I'm calling anyone who swears by this saying out on the carpet. This past sunday ZMP was staffed at Center, as well as OMA, DLH, MSP, GRB, DSM and RST approaches all online at the same time for at least an hour (the time I was logged in as a supervisor before logging off to plug away at more homework). I counted every aircraft in the ARTCC including those on the ground squawking standby and they had 5 aircraft, including one of which was the KZMP TA (Tim Boger) who was flying VFR at the KZMP "hangout" airport (airport is cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ified though ). 7 controllers online and no significant boost in traffic in that particular time on a sunday afternoon. I'd understand if it was a weekday afternoon, but it is Sunday. Then again, who am I to say what people should and shouldn't do on sundays really. I've notified the ZMP ATM about my post here so he can post particulars on the timeframe staffed, but like I said I saw that staffing for over an hour with no increase in traffic levels which all but proves my point about pilots flying where they know.

 

Doubleday: you and I usually don't get along, but I do praise you with your comoment about pilots calling and jamming up airwaves. I worked MSP_APP on the north side during FNO and had several pilots calling me stating "United 123 with you 11,000 250 knots 10 miles northeast of twinz intersection inbound KMSP." I heard a couple guys that would call in (must be experienced aviators) saying just "Approach Delta 123 with you". I seriously wanted to reach through the monitor and give that guy a bear hug. I can't count how many times I had near collisions because that guy called me taking 20 seconds air time when I needed to tell the guy who was nearing the localizer to turn inbound before he flew into another aircraft. I'm not complaining about realism here. I'm complaining that some people don't bother going through the PRC. Yeah, the PRC is dry but it helps out controllers, other pilots, and supervisors deal with new people that much easier. I realize this is a hobby. I'll be the first to admit that. I'm out here doing this for enjoyment but sometimes the frustration of people doing stupid things makes me think twice about getting on and working as a controller. If pilots want training on how to sound more professional on the radio read through the PRC. IF that's too confusing, listen to liveatc for 15 or 20 minutes a day or two a week. Think about what the pilot is saying and why. Listen to an airport you know (a local one usually is best) and you'll already have a jumpstart because you probably will already know the fixes, waypoints and such.

 

On the topic of the new FNO, I commend Karen for all of her efforts. Her and I have butted heads before on things but I respect her in the same breath, and I know she returns the feelings towards me. I believe the event will not work without a lot of work, but "life takes work" as I've seen on a bumper sticker. VATUSA/SIM is no different in this regard. When Matt Temple was VATUSA9 (Southern Region Director) he tried getting all of the ARTCC's to work together to staff at a center level, at a minimum for a particular timeframe. More than not, other ARTCC's would shoot the idea down or when the majority would agree to sign on, one would deny to participate because they didn't feel it was necessary to help drum up traffic or what not. That's just my experience. Maybe Karen will "woo" us with her southern charm, good looks, or maternal instincts. Maybe all 3 at once and if thats the case, god help us

 

Merry christmas to all and to all a good night! (I know it's august, so smile! )

 

*edited to amend some typing boo-boo's*

Edited by Guest

vZME Air Traffic Manager

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I'll see if I can put a whole bunch of responses into one post:

 

Dave - I have also heard loads of complaints about the sim crashing when there are huge numbers of aircraft being rendered, and some pilots avoid FNO areas because of the problem. I know for a fact that many of our r/w pilots avoid FNO-type events (either out of consideration for the overloaded controllers or due to the lack of realism). We need those people online, if only because they are great models for new pilots who are trying to learn how to interact in a professional manner with ATC.

 

Ian - I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, but since you asked: I used to be the Director of Graduate Studies for a business and education oriented master's degree program, so I bring a lot of knowledge about marketing and advertising to add to my systems analysis training. I have designed my department to serve as a multi-faceted resource for the ARTCC Events Directors (marketing, the "art" of designing events, advertising design, graphics support, contact info for the VA's and most importantly, knowing your customer and your own strengths and building on that knowledge). I do have [Mod - Happy Thoughts]istants, one for advertising and one for graphics, but I also rely heavily on our extraordinary webmaster, who has also offered his expertise to ARTCC's that could use [Mod - Happy Thoughts]istance. Our staff Events Forum has a number of resources available to the local events staff, and they hear from me regularly with suggestions, plans and event ideas (culled from the aforementioned call for members to submit unique event ideas). I'll leave it to them to say if any/all of that has been useful.

 

Andrew - See the comments below about the Frequent Flyer program. I am first in line for wanting to see more pilots on a regular basis.

 

Kyle Sipples - Friday night is the busiest night on the network, and many of the ARTCC's have lamented the fact that they could never host their own style event during the busiest time of the week. Now they have that opportunity. However, one item that seems to have escaped most people's notice is the Frequent Flyer Pilot Incentive Program that will launch at the same time as the ATC (Air Traffic Corridor) event: pilots will earn Frequent Flyer points for every operation they complete at event host airports during the event time regardless of whether there is ATC online or not. This program will award points for flying any and all events that are listed on the VATUSA Events calendar. We have always had a "chicken-or-egg" problem. Controllers show up for traffic and pilots look for ATC. This incentive program recognizes our most dedicated pilots ("get your name on the front page of the new Events website" that is to be launched this week). I think that, if the controllers know that the pilots have an extra incentive to visit their ARTCC, they will show up, and then they and the pilots will all have what they are looking for.

 

Steve - I sent out a membership wide NOTAM about the new ATC event. If you didn't get it, please let me know and I'll make sure that you get a copy. I agree totally that constant and expectable staffing gets the attention of pilots over time, but it does take awhile for that to happen. If you would like to volunteer to put a Friday night regional event together on a monthly basis, drop me an email and we'll talk about it.

 

Kyle Steever - I'd love to see all the ARTCC's staffed one day a month, as you suggest. Wouldn't it be insanely cool for VATUSA to sweep Iron Mic one week (or more!) I have asked the ARTCC events departments to be reasonable and thoughtful about respecting their neighbor's already published events, as it does make it tough for events departments to keep putting events out there and have the traffic go somewhere else. This makes it even more imperative that all the events going on in VATUSA are listed on the main events calendar.

 

To everybody - Look, it comes down to this. If we act as a community and invest in the goal of making VATUSA **THE** place to fly in VATSIM by offering a range of events that appeals to everybody, we will all benefit to the tune of more pilots and more controllers showing up more often so they don't miss a cool (or their favorite) event. I'm optimist enough to believe that is possible, but only if we focus on improvement and advancement rather than on criticism, "me first" and negativism as the default reaction to any change. Constructive criticism has its' place, but let's keep the emphasis on "constructive". At the end of the day, I'm focused on building this community: if you have ideas that you think would contribute to that goal, or want to volunteer do some of the work it will take to get there, drop me an email any time.

 

And, luckily, I happen to really like gorillas.

Karen Dunbar

Events Director

VATUSA

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I prefer flying into the lesser known areas and helping out the "little man" so I can't speak for everyone else, but it seems I've never seen ZLA on vroute with less than 10 pilots. On a typical saturday or sunday I'll control for 3-4 hours if I can and will control maybe that many planes in 4 hours, typically 2 or 3 at a time at most and most typically overflights...

 

Kyle,

#1, and #2 are pretty much spot on.

 

Don't expect anyhing to be done about it though, because generally areas like yours have been apathetic

to the problem. One area says something, and the other 12 areas with a similar issues don't say a peep.

So no surprise when nothing happens.

 

Staffing itself is not enough, pilots should be encouraged to broaden their horizons. If they did I think

we'd have better overall staffing. You are on for 4 hours and work 10 planes half of em overflights

, when that happens enough times you'll soon realize you can find better ways to spend that 4 hours.

So its no wonder these areas tend to have light staffing.

 

Ernie Alston

Albuquerque ARTCC

Vatsim Supervisor

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1: Staffing way up when FNO is somewhere else. I personally think this is a low blow to whoever did host FNO. Most pilots are going to go where they know there is traffic or great scenery. I'm sure if a pilot looked and saw MEM_CTR staffed x4, MEM Approach X2 MEM Tower and MEM Ground (this is our typical large event staffing where I control (KZME)), then say ZLA staffed at Center, Socal App, and LAX tower on, they'd probably fly ZLA.

 

Kyle, just to set matters straight, we don't "staff up" during other peoples' regional nights or FNO's...this is what we do every single night of the week!! In fact, it would be a bad night if you only found Center, Socal, and LA Tower on. We're just out to staff up every day, get some great traffic, and do what we love doing. I'm sorry many ARTCC's feel they can't compete with the larger ones, but I can't agree with the rationale behind it. Many of these ARTCC's really staff up once or twice every couple weeks, and then wonder why they don't get any traffic. It's all about providing the pilots with with quality services CONSISTENTLY, not once every few weeks.

 

Our Cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts] D towers (SMO in particular), ZAB's staffing a few months ago, Oakland's recent late-night staffing are all great examples of this.

 

We don't at all feel bad for having our usual levels of staffing (Friday nights or otherwise), nor are we going to tell controllers they aren't allowed to control because there is an event taking place somewhere else. It's just not going to happen. We have tons of controllers who love to get out and control, and that's exactly what we do.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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Perhaps BL's wording was a little off then? Thats what I got from reading that (was that you guys intentionally staff it up fridays as opposed to staffing as any other day).

 

It comes down to the interpretation, not the wording. ZLA won't staff up a Friday night with the intention of raining on some other sector's night for FNO; if it was taken as that, it surely was not meant to be.

 

What I was getting at is that sometimes it takes being proactive about resolving a problem instead of being reactive. I'll give a good example (and try not to brag in the process! ):

 

For those who can remember, 3 - 4 years ago, late nights were nothing but dead around the western region of VATUSA. Yes, there were some pilots here and there, with the occasional pilot from Europe or Far East that were just getting on, but other than that, you didn't know which was louder: the crickets on the network, or the crickets outside your bedroom window!

 

I started to man LAX_CTR late nights (read: 11pm until nearly sunrise), and had the place lit up for traffic, both inbound and outbound. For those new to the network at the time, it gave a different approach (literally) to different airports in the area and kept traffic flowing through the oddest hours of the day (night). Flights from LAX to LHR started then, by the time I closed up shop (roughly 4:30am), they were out to Gander.

 

I don't think we would have seen any traffic late at night, let alone us to be able to implement our RW counterpart's noise abatement procedures, if we hadn't taken the initiative to man the position at those times to get the traffic. That may be what is needed at other sectors. I don't know what specifically is needed, but perhaps that initiative needs to be taken.

 

BL.

Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

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...I'm sorry many ARTCC's feel they can't compete with the larger ones, but I can't agree with the rationale behind it. Many of these ARTCC's really staff up once or twice every couple weeks, and then wonder why they don't get any traffic. It's all about providing the pilots with with quality services CONSISTENTLY, not once every few weeks.

 

Bryan,

 

MSP,ZJX and ZME could staff 12 hours every day for a year and they won't see anything more than a slight

bump in traffic. Those areas are clearly at a dis-advantage, pilots select the popular destinations its

been proven over and over again.

 

Los Angeles and Las Vegas appeal to the pilots a lot more than Memphis, and Nashville do.

 

No amount of staffing is ever going to change that.

 

What has to change is the selection of destinations by the pilots, they need to spread themselves out more.

They keep going to the same 5 or 6 places all the time, look at the radar tracks posted its plainly obvious.

That's great for ZLA,ZAU, and ZNY, not so great for ZJX,ZLC, and ZME.

 

Now don't get me wrong, we expect the big popular cities to get more traffic, we don't expect ZME to have the same traffic as ZLA.

But these areas still need enough traffic for controllers to work to make it worth it to spend their time online, else they will find something else to do.

 

If we want these areas to have more staffing, we need to find ways to get them some more traffic. Additional staffing by itself is not enough.

 

I've never seen an area with good regular traffic have staffing problems, staffing problems almost always come from lack of traffic.

 

Its is put the traffic there and they will staff it, more than staff it and the traffic will come.

 

Ernie Alston

Albuquerque ARTCC

Vatsim Supervisor

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As Steever prompted me, I will chime in on the subject. First, about Sunday - we had the placed jam-staffed concurrently with our ZMP member meeting. Traffic did not really respond initially, as Kyle mentions. However, we did see some folks fly in from MDW and ORD and DTW. That is pretty typical...if ZMP is staffed, pilots not wishing to just go where everyone else is (like ZLA) will pick up a quick "second tier" route inbound to MSP. (Second tier would be departure cities that have MSP-bound flights 2:00-1:00 ETE. First tier would be less than 1:00 ETE). But a lot more goes into this than just random staff-ups. It is the end of summer. People are taking last chance vacations before skool, doing things to get ready for skool, going to skool, etc. It is a busy time for families. So, 1400 CDT on a Sunday afternoon prolly wasn't the best time to expect people to take notice of our beefy staffing.

 

Overall, I tend to agree with the mantra of "Staff it and they will come"...I have seen it work more or less. But there are a lot of variables involved.

 

KP

"No sir, I did not clear you for a PRM."

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MSP,ZJX and ZME could staff 12 hours every day for a year and they won't see anything more than a slight

bump in traffic.

 

I disagree. I believe in the "staff it and they will come" philosophy so to speak...Actually get them to do it and

 

lets see who is right in 6 months.

DPE / CFI / CFII / MEI (Gold Seal)

CP-ASEL, AMEL, IA, GLIDER, E170/175/190/195, CE-500

VATSIM Supervisor

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Ernie, I also completely disagree. Look at your own ZAB as a great example. When you guys were staffing up regularly a while ago (and winning an Iron Mic here and there), what happened to your traffic? I had never seen so much traffic going to PHX, ABQ, and TUS. Now, you guys see relatively nothing.

 

There will always be more people going to ORD, LAX, LAS, JFK, etc. just as in the real world. People want to fly into these major airports. But I can guarantee you that with consistent staffing, these other places WILL see plenty of traffic.

 

Like I said in my above post, you will often see somebody staff up for a week or two, and then you never see from them again for months and months. Then when they staff up again months later, they wonder why they don't have any traffic. It's all about consistency.

Bryan Wollenberg

ZLA!

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Ernie, I also completely disagree. Look at your own ZAB as a great example. When you guys were

staffing up regularly a while ago (and winning an Iron Mic here and there), what happened to

your traffic?

 

Traffic went up a little in ZAB, true, but when you have to put in 110 hours of staffing to

get like a 5%-10% increase in traffic you will not be able to sustain it. And that's what happened in

ZAB. We could not sustain it, we did not get enough traffic to justify the enourmous staffing hours

we were putting in. Its was a lot of effort for what really is a small return.

 

I had never seen so much traffic going to PHX, ABQ, and TUS. Now, you guys see relatively nothing.

 

True you have to staff to get 'some' traffic, but that only goes so far.

 

We really did try the 'staff it and they will come' methodology for well over a year in ZAB. What we found

was we were putting in a huge amount of hours for only a small increase in traffic.

 

'Staff it and they will come' by itself simply does not work everywhere. It only works in areas that have the popular destinations.

 

Many of these ARTCC's really staff up once or twice every couple weeks, and then wonder why they

don't get any traffic. It's all about providing the pilots with with quality services CONSISTENTLY,

not once every few weeks.

 

That is just not true.

 

Do you recall when Squawkbox 3 was first released ? We had a huge bump in traffic on Vatsim. Our traffic

literally doubled overnight. And I remember that ZLA got slammed with traffic, you guys had so much

traffic you were complaining about having so many new inexperienced pilots who didn't know what to do

flying in your area.

 

Those new pilots didn't all go to ZLA because you guys were on every night, they had no idea what the

staffing was when they joined. They just went to the most popular destinations, like they always do.

 

What is needed is a paradigm shift in thinking here, we need to come at this problem from another angle.

 

Throw out the 'staff it and they will come' only theory it is terribly flawed, and does not work.

 

Controllers will put in more hours if they have traffic to work, pilots will fly online more if they

have better overall ATC coverage.

 

What we should be doing is talking to the pilots and the Virtual Airlines and make them understand that

this is a shared hobby. Pilots and Controllers need to work together to make it successful.

 

Pilots want better ATC coverage, they will not get better ATC coverage unless they make more flights

to the less popular destinations.

 

If we are able to convince pilots it is in their best interest to spread themselves out. The less

popular areas will see more traffic which will result in better overall staffing. It will also result in

these areas losing less controllers who end up transferring to the more popular areas because they are bored.

Which will also help their staffing and the traffic.

 

When we have better overall staffing, flying on Vatsim and actually recieving Air Traffic Control services

will become less of the [Mod - lovely stuff]shoot that it is now. That will result in pilots flying online more often.

Which will benefit both the less popular and the more popular ARTCC's.

 

The system we have now only benefits a small number of ARTCC's and made us fairly stagnant

when it comes to activity growth over the past several years.

 

Regards.

Ernie Alston

Albuquerque ARTCC

Vatsim Supervisor.

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