Air Traffic Controller Discussion With a Global Perspective
By Erik Wachters 815026
#503901 Hello,

Yes, I know, this is not the first time this annoying problem came up here.

Yesterday, after a couple of weeks I decided to do some controlling again.
And again in a session of 2,5 hours I had 3 pilots that didn't respond to my "contact me" calls for more then 30 minutes. I control in one of the busyest crossroads but very small airspace in Europe. You can easy cross my airspace from east to west in 30 minutes.
Yesterday I called a SUP on the third case because my airspace became very busy an I had to divert 4 planes to avoid one that was not answering for about 10 minutes now. He was about 30 miles in my airspace.
The SUP told me that he would take care of it but didn't. After another 25min the plane was out of my airspace.
I can understand that you leave the cockpit on a long flight over the ocean or on flights at night (local) in an airspace that is big enough so the controller can easy keep other traffic clear of you but not in the middle of the most busy time in the most busy airspace of Europe.
This problem is annoying me more than ever. And it is not only once, it's every time I am online.
Why is it not possible for a Sup to take the experience and decision of the local controller into account? He can see that I'm a C3 and I have a lot of online time. By the time I call him I have a good reason and tried everything I could to solve the problem myself.

Another thing that I see more and more is that pilots who are under control just tell you "leaving for 5 minutes" instead of asking if it is possible. They then return after 20 min. Most of the time I had already coordinated with the next controller and tryed to keep other traffic clear.

I'm not even gone start about the "problem" of the more and more text pilot's those days....

I saw someone saying in an other topic to first check Vatspy to see what kind of pilot are about to fly in your airspace.... Good idea but sadly not gone work always.

If Vatsim isn't going to make some changes to the rules, I think they gone loose a lot of good controllers.

Erik
By Nicholas Cavacini 1084329
#503904 A SUP will use their judgement to determine how long a pilot will get once entering controlled airspace. Depending on circumstances, it could be very little time or it could be all the way up to 30 minutes. As to why we can't just disconnect them because you ask us to, there are many controllers who do just call us and say disconnect this person. We can't just do that. It doesn't matter if you are an S1, C3, or I3. We need physical proof of wrong doing and we can't just take someone's word on it.
By Andreas Fuchs 810809
#503905 Hi Erik,

adding to Nicholas' answer, I would like to say that you could have enquired with the SUP in question why he did not take care of the pilot that you had reported. He probably got carried away by other cases, which can easily happen. If you do not get a satisfactory result or answer, you should report this to the VP SUP, he has an open door to all sorts of feedback, be it good or bad. Us SUPs are individuals and everyone has a slightly different approach to things, some are more experienced, some are less. We strive to improve our service to the community, but for this we require your feedback. The best is by direct contact to the VP SUP instead of using the public forums.

Regarding your case: if a SUP does NOT disconnect an unresponsive pilot, then the main reason is that the ATCO has had not been online for more 30 minutes or more. We are to allow pilots 30 minutes away when outside active airspace and the worst case scenario is them leaving their computers exactly 1 minute before entering active airspace or 1 minute before an ATCO connects. We therefore normally check for how long the ATCO had been online in this situation and then adjust the "allowance" to 10, 15, 20 minutes or whatever is appropriate. E.g. you were connected for 10 minutes as ATCO, we should allow the pilot 20 minutes, because he could not know that you were online.
In your case, though, it sounded like you had been there much longer than 30 minutes already, so there is no reason to give the pilot more than 2 or 3 minutes before closing his connection.

By the way, pilots being unresponsive does not always mean that they are not at their computers. I regularly come along unresponsive pilots using XSquawkbox or vpilot, having inappropriate message alerting settings on their computers. When texting them I do not get a reply for many minutes. When I then tell them that I suspect that they are not aware of the incoming messages and I am going to disconnect them to raise their attention. It normally does not take more than a minute or two, before they connect to VATSIM again and apologize, they had not seen the chat messages.

The thing about pilots just announcing that they are leaving for a certain number of minutes, I sometimes just deny it. When they are close to the border of my airspace, I ask them to wait x minutes before handoff to the adjacent controller or UNICOM. And if they really need to go, I issue specific instructions to be back "before time xxxx" or "before waypoint ABCDE". That works for me in 95% of cases.
By Erik Wachters 815026
#503908 Hi,

This theorie can work in a large airspace. We have a very small piece of airspace in the middle of Europe. Pilot's can cross this airspace east-west in 30min and north-south in 10min. We have to sort out arrivals for 4 very busy neighbouring TMA's and out 5 local airports. If two unresponsive pilot's flying trough, it can be unpossible. Not only for us controllers but also for other pilot's.
So in theorie we can better stop controlling because every pilot can cross our airpsace without calling us just because they can cross in less then 30min.

The best is by direct contact to the VP SUP instead of using the public forums.

It's not just one case. I see this problem occure more and more and I don't think that telling one guy is gone solve the problem.

By the way, pilots being unresponsive does not always mean that they are not at their computers. I regularly come along unresponsive pilots using XSquawkbox or vpilot, having inappropriate message alerting settings on their computers. When texting them I do not get a reply for many minutes. When I then tell them that I suspect that they are not aware of the incoming messages and I am going to disconnect them to raise their attention. It normally does not take more than a minute or two, before they connect to VATSIM again and apologize, they had not seen the chat messages.

Why fly online if you don't expect messages. Stay in your cockpit while flying in rush hour in very busy airspace. Use voice!! :evil:

The thing about pilots just announcing that they are leaving for a certain number of minutes, I sometimes just deny it. When they are close to the border of my airspace, I ask them to wait x minutes before handoff to the adjacent controller or UNICOM. And if they really need to go, I issue specific instructions to be back "before time xxxx" or "before waypoint ABCDE". That works for me in 95% of cases.

I do that too but most of the time when you call them to handoff to the next controller you can't reach them because they left anyway. :roll:

Thanks for responding,

Erik
By Dhruv Kalra 878508
#503909
Andreas Fuchs 810809 wrote:The thing about pilots just announcing that they are leaving for a certain number of minutes, I sometimes just deny it. When they are close to the border of my airspace, I ask them to wait x minutes before handoff to the adjacent controller or UNICOM. And if they really need to go, I issue specific instructions to be back "before time xxxx" or "before waypoint ABCDE". That works for me in 95% of cases.

This is fantastic advice. Working a predominantly "overflight" airspace as I often do, I've taken to treating requests for time off the deck with exactly this attitude. Each request now falls under one of about four categories:

  1. Non-critical ("Approved as requested, report back");
  2. Non-critical exiting my airspace ("Approved as requested, if not back within X minutes, frequency change approved");
  3. Time-critical in my airspace ("Time XXXXz, report back not later than YYYYz"). In such cases, I usually adjust the report back time to a few minutes short of when I actually need them back on frequency just to be safe; or
  4. Time-critical entering another controller's airspace ("Unable at this time. Make your request with the next sector. I'll have you over to him in X minutes"). I usually reserve this for pilots less than 10 flying minutes from an adjacent sector
By Andreas Fuchs 810809
#503910 Hello Erik,
Erik Wachters 815026 wrote:This theorie can work in a large airspace. We have a very small piece of airspace in the middle of Europe. Pilot's can cross this airspace east-west in 30min and north-south in 10min. We have to sort out arrivals for 4 very busy neighbouring TMA's and out 5 local airports. If two unresponsive pilot's flying trough, it can be unpossible. Not only for us controllers but also for other pilot's.
So in theorie we can better stop controlling because every pilot can cross our airpsace without calling us just because they can cross in less then 30min.
why does this not work? If you, the ATCO, has not been online for more than 30 minutes, I can disconnect the pilot in question after a brief (2 or 3 minutes) chance to "wake up". If the ATCO has been there for less than 30 minutes, then we need to respect pilots who follow VATSIM's rules: 30 minutes away are acceptable if no ATC is expected to be there. When I fly online and I check for ATC ahead and there is nobody, I will be away for up to 30 minutes, if I need to. That is 100% okay!

Erik Wachters 815026 wrote:
The best is by direct contact to the VP SUP instead of using the public forums.

It's not just one case. I see this problem occure more and more and I don't think that telling one guy is gone solve the problem.
And why is it better to mention it here on the public forums? If you want to reach the one guy who can give specific instructions/feedback to Supervisors, then you need to contact the VP SUPs.

Erik Wachters 815026 wrote:
By the way, pilots being unresponsive does not always mean that they are not at their computers. I regularly come along unresponsive pilots using XSquawkbox or vpilot, having inappropriate message alerting settings on their computers. When texting them I do not get a reply for many minutes. When I then tell them that I suspect that they are not aware of the incoming messages and I am going to disconnect them to raise their attention. It normally does not take more than a minute or two, before they connect to VATSIM again and apologize, they had not seen the chat messages.

Why fly online if you don't expect messages. Stay in your cockpit while flying in rush hour in very busy airspace. Use voice!! :evil:
Maybe I was not clear enough: those pilots ARE at their computer, they ARE paying attention, but somehow there is no alert-sound for an incoming private message (which is the case for our requests to "contact me"), there is no pop-up window with the chat-message etc.. How on earth are they supposed to see that someone is trying to make contact with them? Normally it is beginners who are new to VATSIM and new to the specific pilot-client and have to get their grips on how to set it up correctly. There is no mal-intent, no leniency, no ignorance, just people who are new and who need to learn. Disconnecting them normally makes them have a look at their pilot-client and realize what is going on. They then know what to look for and what to change in their setups. Problem solved. You cannot blame them for anything.

Erik Wachters 815026 wrote:
The thing about pilots just announcing that they are leaving for a certain number of minutes, I sometimes just deny it. When they are close to the border of my airspace, I ask them to wait x minutes before handoff to the adjacent controller or UNICOM. And if they really need to go, I issue specific instructions to be back "before time xxxx" or "before waypoint ABCDE". That works for me in 95% of cases.

I do that too but most of the time when you call them to handoff to the next controller you can't reach them because they left anyway. :roll:
Then you must be really unlucky. When I control EDGG_E_CTR, EURI_FSS or EURM_CTR I rarely get this (I can count these cases on one hand, per year). In 95% of cases I can rely on the statements of pilots, they are often back well before the time that they requested. And if they do not return, get a SUP involved so they can "yell" at them and take care of the case. People staying away for much longer than agreed need to realize that this is not the way it is supposed to be.

In closing I would like to emphasize that we should strive to not allow those cases bother us too much. I try to concentrate on the good guys who know their navigation, their radio comms, their descent-planning etc.. Otherwise I'd get crazy as well, we have too many negative things in the real world already, let's try to chill here a bit.
By Johnny Coughlan 861497
#503911
Erik Wachters 815026 wrote:Hello,

Yes, I know, this is not the first time this annoying problem came up here.

Yesterday, after a couple of weeks I decided to do some controlling again.
And again in a session of 2,5 hours I had 3 pilots that didn't respond to my "contact me" calls for more then 30 minutes. I control in one of the busyest crossroads but very small airspace in Europe. You can easy cross my airspace from east to west in 30 minutes.
Yesterday I called a SUP on the third case because my airspace became very busy an I had to divert 4 planes to avoid one that was not answering for about 10 minutes now. He was about 30 miles in my airspace.
The SUP told me that he would take care of it but didn't. After another 25min the plane was out of my airspace.
I can understand that you leave the cockpit on a long flight over the ocean or on flights at night (local) in an airspace that is big enough so the controller can easy keep other traffic clear of you but not in the middle of the most busy time in the most busy airspace of Europe.
This problem is annoying me more than ever. And it is not only once, it's every time I am online.
Why is it not possible for a Sup to take the experience and decision of the local controller into account? He can see that I'm a C3 and I have a lot of online time. By the time I call him I have a good reason and tried everything I could to solve the problem myself.

Another thing that I see more and more is that pilots who are under control just tell you "leaving for 5 minutes" instead of asking if it is possible. They then return after 20 min. Most of the time I had already coordinated with the next controller and tryed to keep other traffic clear.

I'm not even gone start about the "problem" of the more and more text pilot's those days....

I saw someone saying in an other topic to first check Vatspy to see what kind of pilot are about to fly in your airspace.... Good idea but sadly not gone work always.

If Vatsim isn't going to make some changes to the rules, I think they gone loose a lot of good controllers.

Erik


Erik, I commend you for highlighting this but saddly(not surprisingly) nothing will be done.

The replys to your concern are the typical ones where you're made feel that there is nothing wrong and it is all in your head. Your concern will get sweapt under the carpet, this thread will eventually vanish into the page numbers and life will continue.

I suggest you record(if possible) your sessions making and archive for yourself with recorded timestamps of incidents you feel are a concern. Then once you've gathered enough material you feel will validate your point then bring it to the attention of the 'higher ups'.

I currently stream(record) my sessions noting incidents as they happen for future reference.

Unfortunelty for you with no evidence to back you up on your point it is a game of he said she said and you will alsways lose.

Andreas Fuchs 810809 wrote:In closing I would like to emphasize that we should strive to not allow those cases bother us too much. I try to concentrate on the good guys who know their navigation, their radio comms, their descent-planning etc.. Otherwise I'd get crazy as well, we have too many negative things in the real world already, let's try to chill here a bit.


This for me empahsises the whole 'nothing to see here, please move along, go about your business' mentallilty some have on this network.
By Andreas Fuchs 810809
#503913 No Johnny,

you are not right with your opinion. Whenever members highlight incidents, concerns or opinions towards the VP SUP, they get taken seriously and something will happen, if something needs to be done and can be done.

What Erik has described looked like a mistake by the SUP who was involved. My guess is that the SUP was working on several cases at a time (which happens regularly) and got distracted by a "more important" incident. I can comfortably stand here and say that this has happened to me more than once before, mistakes happen. They do not happen on purpose.

So, nothing will be swept away. Nothing will be hidden. They only thing that I wanted to show was how VATSIM's rules for unattended connections work "live on the network". We need to be fair to both sides, the ATCOs and to our pilots. In the case described by Erik, the SUP should have disconnected the other unresponsive pilot within a few minutes, but it did not happen by mistake. This should be followed up to make him aware of it so he can improve. Case closed. There is no systematic short-coming in the system itself. And if you now reply that we should not allow anyone to step away at all for more than 5 minutes, then we can close VATSIM down, it will not work, it will not be respected and we will be busy closing connections. This cannot be in anyone's interest.

If I have an unresponsive pilot and cannot get hold of him in good time, I treat him as being non-existent and tell other pilots to ignore him, even if they get a bit closer to him than would be comfortable. In the end we just push bits and bytes, only attitudes can get hurt.

Please don't be so pessimistic about VATSIM! It is a great community after all, there are so many positive things that outweigh the negative experiences. If, of course, you allow yourself to be dragged down and get angered over those unresponsive pilots, it may obstruct your view on the greater, more important parts. This is my personal opinion and attitude, nothing that you need to do, I am just offering my advice.
By Erik Wachters 815026
#503914 Andreas,

What Erik has described looked like a mistake by the SUP who was involved. My guess is that the SUP was working on several cases at a time (which happens regularly) and got distracted by a "more important" incident. I can comfortably stand here and say that this has happened to me more than once before, mistakes happen. They do not happen on purpose.

I think you missed the point here. I don't point a finger to the SUP at all! :oops:
I wanted to point out that the problem with pilot's that are not responding is increasing bigtime.
I don't get it why you want to fly online and at the same time leave your PC for more then 5min. If you don't have the time to fly, don't fly online.

there is no pop-up window with the chat-message etc..

If this is true, I can only say that this software is not a good one and must not be used anymore.
How can you interact if you don't know if you receiving messages? Isn't that the whole point of flying online? pilot - controller interaction?

Erik
Last edited by Erik Wachters 815026 on Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
By Kyle Ramsey 810181
#503916 When I get these calls one of my first interests is any upcoming conflicts. If yes, then we get to disconnecting them expeditiously and I then send them an email explaining why I disconnected them but then unable to ensure they got that message and understood it. If not then I have time to wait to see if they came back because more than anything I want to talk to them to explain why they need to stay in the cockpit.
By Erik Wachters 815026
#503918 Kyle,

So, at this point you as a SUP decide when there is an upcoming conflict in an airspace you don't know? In my opinion there is more than just the upcoming conflict visible on your display. The local controller has a whole picture of the situation and knows the LOA's with the neighboring acc's and has a whole planning in his head for the climbs and descents of other traffic.

Just to be clear, I'm only started this topic because it's a problem that I encounter every time when controlling and not only yesterday. Most of the time I leave those pilot's just fly there route and try to divert other traffic around. Only when It's the thirth or foured in 2 hours time and I have the time to explane the problem (again) to a SUP I call them in.

Just hoping that pilot's read this too and let them feel how annoying this is. 8)

Erik
By Kyle Ramsey 810181
#503919 No, I ask the controller if there is any upcoming conflicts, and let them know to let me know if one arises. I mention this as it may explain what the SUP is doing for the next 30 min while it seems they are not doing anything.

I do not feel all that tied to the 30 min rule myself, as there is nothing in CoC that says they must be given 30 min for anything. I am interested in talking to them to try to correct the behavior for the future.

Unattended connections is the #1 reason for suspensions on our network. SUPs spend a lot of their duty time dealing with them. I doubt any of them are reading this thread and those that are may not see themselves as part of this problem.
By Bradley Grafelman 1242018
#503937
Andreas Fuchs 810809 wrote:we need to respect pilots who follow VATSIM's rules:

Such as CoC B3, which not only says "at all times" should pilots be checking for ATC but that they should "immediately" make contact when they observe one or one asks them to make contact? It says nothing about "... except ignore both of those phrases if you want to take a 30 minute break" even though nothing in the CoC or CoR guarantees you at least 30 minutes of inactivity?

Andreas Fuchs 810809 wrote:When I fly online and I check for ATC ahead and there is nobody, I will be away for up to 30 minutes, if I need to. That is 100% okay!

It's also 100% okay for you to be disconnected and (assuming repeats) "maybe suspended" for doing that. (Source)
By Andreas Fuchs 810809
#503940 No, it is not okay to get booted within the 30 minutes. The 30-minute-rule isn't there for nothing. Before leaving your computer unattended for a few minutes one has to check if there is ATC ahead and limit the time away based on this, so the 30 minutes may not be available in all situations. But that's it. Brad, please don't tell us SUPs how to do our jobs, you don't seem to know system well enough.

On a longer flight I need to eat. And if I need to eat, I will be in my kitchen to prepare fresh food as I never consume junk-food from the freezer or similar, as some here may be doing. Making a nice salad will take more than just 5 minutes...