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Andy Ford

atc training Request For Comments: New S3 Syllabus

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Andy Ford

Hi Folks,

Following the redesign of the S2 syllabus, we are now in a position to do this for S3 with the same aims as before.

As such, I am pleased to present the first draft of the S3 syllabus for review. It would be great if members could have a read though and let us know any feedback that they have on this forum thread. Once everyone's had an opportunity to read and comment, we'll make any amendments and look towards implementation including updating the progress sheets.

Links:

Thanks!

Andy

Edited by Andy Ford

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James Yuen

I've just had a flick through. All seems to be good content wise. However, is it possible to combine some of the sections together as far as mentoring reports go? For example: in the report: separation to include F/app and standard radar (3/1k) stuff in one box - or have the radio buttons for each of them, but just one 'text box'?

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Jim Johnson

I assume the S3 theory examination will cover all of the syllabus, but  are there  benefits passing the S3 theory examination before commencing the  practical training? If all S3 students were at a known theory level this may make practical mentoring easier and perhaps the student may progress more quickly if they only have to concentrate on their controlling skills. Of course, there may be nothing stopping students passing the S3 theory examination before requesting mentoring and if required, all of the appropriate boxes on the progress report ticked accordingly as test standard?

Edited by Jim Johnson

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Andy Ford
12 hours ago, Jim Johnson said:

I assume the S3 theory examination will cover all of the syllabus, but  are there  benefits passing the S3 theory examination before commencing the  practical training? If all S3 students were at a known theory level this may make practical mentoring easier and perhaps the student may progress more quickly if they only have to concentrate on their controlling skills. Of course, there may be nothing stopping students passing the S3 theory examination before requesting mentoring and if required, all of the appropriate boxes on the progress report ticked accordingly as test standard?

As highlighted by the syllabus, students are expected to have read all the self-taught information before commencing training - so that they have a basic understanding and can come to their mentoring sessions with specific questions. Once the S3 Moodle course is ready, we'll make it so that people have to pass the Moodle course (and exam) before they can request practical mentoring.

The boxes for anything that is self-taught won't appear in the practical mentoring reports - though any topics where there is a crossover (practical and theoretical) will be assessed on the mentoring reports based on practical demonstration.

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Adam Arkley

Hello, I'd like an NDB/DME approach for runway 05 please ...

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Lewis Hardcastle

I don't see the need to discourage procedural or non-precision approaches from exams. I'm assuming this was based on feedback or observations made during exams where students frequently assume their ability to maintain safety with aircraft flying different approaches at the same time. In my opinion, it should be encouraged for pilots to request any type and let the student decide whether the current traffic situation allows for this activity or not. Otherwise, we'll end up having students only expecting ILS approaches. Surely let them decide and then you have a great opportunity to discuss their traffic integration during the debrief.

I do agree with the rest of the points though ;)

Edited by Lewis Hardcastle
Turnip

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Andy Ford
51 minutes ago, Lewis Hardcastle said:

I don't see the need to discourage procedural or non-precision approaches from exams. I'm assuming this was based on feedback or observations made during exams where students frequently assume their ability to maintain safety with aircraft flying different approaches at the same time. In my opinion, it should be encouraged for pilots to request any type and let the student decide whether the current traffic situation allows for this activity or not. Otherwise, we'll end up having students only expecting ILS approaches. Surely let them decide and then you have a great opportunity to discuss their traffic integration during the debrief.

I do agree with the rest of the points though ;)

So to clarify (in the current proposals):

  • Non-standard approaches - absolutely fine.
  • Procedurals - only if they're vectored to final.

You are right in that this was based off feedback and observations. The logic behind it is that full procedural approaches do not reflect an average day on VATSIM in most cases and sometimes (see Manchester's lovely VOR/DME) cause disruption and make things generally awkward for everyone - not just the exam candidate. They're also not entirely conducive to students showing off any additional competencies that they would have difficulty showing elsewhere. Hence why we elected to say, go for non-standard, just ditch the long-winded full procedures.

I'm happy to revisit this however, if there is strong consensus from the membership that we should be allowing it - whether that's on request from the examiner or the pilots are free to ask for anything they want.

Edited by Andy Ford

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Simon Kelsey

I tend to agree with Lewis. It shouldn't be necessary to see the candidate handle a full procedural approach, but they should know how to do it (and with more UK-based P5 courses getting going there will be some demand for flying training purposes, so probably an important thing for controllers to be aware of).

To that end, I wouldn't ban full procedural approaches (but I wouldn't encourage them either - obviously you don't want 20 pilots all turning up at Manchester requesting the VOR/DME). If a pilot happens to turn up and request the full procedure then the candidate must decide whether that is appropriate given the traffic situation - which is a generic controlling skill which I would have thought valuable to train and assess.

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Callum McLoughlin

Yes, the issue is when I see people requesting a full procedural VOR/DME during heavy traffic.... denied!

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Andy Ford

So would people be happy with guidance to pilots that is simply "don't expect full procedural without delays and please don't ask if someone's already doing one"? That and we make it clear to students that it's ok to do that (I appreciate that some students feel very under pressure to adhere to every pilot request in an exam) :)

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Simon Kelsey

Absolutely (and to be honest, "don't expect full procedural without delays and be prepared for your request to be denied" is guidance that should apply to pilots at all times, not just during exams!)

IMO the key is that the trainee should be [trained to be] confident in refusing such requests if they judge that the traffic situation is such that approving a full procedural approach would cause undue disruption/delay to other traffic and/or excessive controller workload, and at a major (in the general sense rather than the GRP sense!) airport like Manchester I would imagine a full procedural anything is unlikely.

Loads of aircraft in the stacks and a constant stream inbound on the ILS? I wouldn't expect the controller to disrupt/delay tens of other aircraft in order to accommodate one guy's request for a full procedural approach. However, if the traffic situation is calmer then sure, why not (even if the aircraft in question may have to do a few laps in the hold to wait for a gap before commencing the procedure). As I say, it's about the trainee having the confidence/assertiveness and workload management skills to adapt to the situation, which transfers from and to other positions and situations.

In flying terms -- there are times when I would expect people to make use of the automatics in order to relieve their workload and free up capacity -- no point in putting all one's energy in to hand-flying a perfect ILS, for example, if you're so busy you forget to put the gear down :) -- and if on a training detail I could see that a trainee was clearly out of capacity yet refused to engage the AP then I'd be questioning why that was and whether that was a good example of decision making/airmanship. I'd put this in a similar sort bracket from a controlling point of view -- knowing when it is appropriate to say 'no' (without being excessively cautious) to a pilot and having the assertiveness to do so, in a polite manner of course, is an important skill.

Edited by Simon Kelsey
Typo!

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Trevor Hannant

Agree with the above, procedural approaches should be permitted IF the controller deems traffic levels allow.   As well as teaching controllers how to control, we should be making sure we teach them how to say No also when the situation arises that a No will be the best option.   TWR controllers (well, I assume they are!) are taught to say no to circuits if the circuit is full, APP controllers should be taught to say either say no to procedural arrivals when traffic levels dictate they can't be done without significant delay or advise the pilot that they will need to hold pending other traffic, as I did to someone on my S3 exam and they were perfectly happy to hold and understood why.

 

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Lewis Hardcastle

Agreed, we examine based on the premise of choice. Let's continue that ;) 

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Andy Ford

Thanks for your input folks - updated the exam guidelines :)

Edited by Andy Ford

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Johan Grauers

Full procedure approaches, to my knowledge, are really only used for either training or non-radar scenarios. I have never seen one.

 

Vectored non-precision approaches on the other hand are very common and almost every radar shift I do I end up seeing at least one of these for crew training, we integrate them with ILS approaches with no real issue. These are generally loc/dme or loc only approaches but can also be vor/dme approaches, in either case we vector the for the loc or radial, never full procedure. This makes them pretty easy to integrate as long as nothing too weird is going on. 

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Michael Pike

I've always taken the view, during normal controlling, mentoring or any session, that procedures such as circuit detail, non-precision approaches (when ILS is available), IFR 'circuits' etc are by definition training flights and therefore priority Z. So they happen only if they don't delay higher priority flights.

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Jim Johnson

As real as it gets? that's what we aim for flying or controlling on vatsim. If candidates are not tested on full procedural approaches how do pilots know that if they request one, the controller has the ability to provide it?  An SRA is another area of contention but with no agreed procedures of how to ensure a controller can provide it to the required level.  Perhaps the examiner should be the arbiter, and not the student,  as to whether a procedural approach is acceptable in the way other non standard flying has to be cleared by him/her? Where to draw the line on acceptability? I'm sure that if an examination took place at Liverpool and it was very busy, a pilot requesting vectors to Hawarden may create problems but top down cover is part of a EGGP controllers responsibility. I do agree, however, that vatsim is still a game and keep it simple has always been my moto.

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Simon Kelsey
33 minutes ago, Jim Johnson said:

Perhaps the examiner should be the arbiter, and not the student,  as to whether a procedural approach is acceptable in the way other non standard flying has to be cleared by him/her? Where to draw the line on acceptability?

The candidate should make the decision -- after all, surely the point of the exam is to judge the candidate's ability to staff the position solo. (Edit: although the examiner may of course discreetly step in where appropriate to ensure that things don't become silly).

There is no black and white answer as to when a procedural approach is or isn't acceptable, and this is exactly the reason why it is important to see the candidate's response. The decision is then open for discussion afterwards and may contribute to the overall exam result: in other words, the candidate should be able to justify their decision.

If there is no other traffic around and the candidate refuses the procedural approach, that should subsequently be challenged in the debrief and might even contribute toward a failure if the candidate exhibits other excessively tentative/cautious behaviour without adequate justification. Equally, a candidate who decides to accept a full procedural approach and ends up delaying 15 aircraft for 20 minutes whilst someone tootles around the procedure may also fail.

I am not sure what the controller equivalent of airmanship is, but this is essentially it.

Full procedural approaches and SRAs should be trained and the candidate should be prepared to handle them in the exam, but that is not to say that they must be mandatory examination items as the nature of the situation or the pilots flying in may not make it tenable to do so.

For instance, on a type rating skills test there are a whole host of systems failures that the candidate is expected to know how to handle -- but clearly testing every conceivable failure/knowledge of every system is not practical, so it is up to the examiner to select three (IIRC) from the list. However, the candidate will have been trained to be able to handle any of the possible items and should be prepared to expect that any of them could.

In your example about Hawarden -- I would expect the candidate to take steps to manage their workload to provide a suitable service. That could range from to limiting the incoming flow (and thus providing more space/time to work with) by placing aircraft in the hold or reducing the level of top-down service in accordance with the provisions in GRP (up to and including an instruction to self-position if it's really that busy). Again, however, the question is about how the candidate deals with the situation and whether they can justify their decisions subsequently. Again, there is no black or white answer and much comes down to the judgement of the examiner, who of course is a highly experienced controller working within guidelines set by the training department and who understands the experience level of the controller he is assessing.

As I say -- if we are talking about developing generic controlling skills then these are the areas we should be looking at -- less "can you vector an aeroplane/use standard RT/recite the vMATS backwards whilst rubbing your tummy and standing on your head" (not that those are not important skills) but more the 'soft' skills around decision making and workload management.

Edited by Simon Kelsey

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Adam Arkley

The candidate can't and shouldn't make the decision. This is really very simple - if we never teach procedural, we can never open Shoreham Approach and expect our controllers to provide a consistent quality of service. 

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Simon Kelsey

Err... I didn't say anything about not teaching procedural.

What I said was that I don't think it has be a mandatory part of the exam.

The candidate needs to be competent and prepared to handle a procedural approach if one arises, and should be assessed. But if we're not training candidates to make decisions about prioritising traffic, what are we training?

As I say - it's not about the candidate saying "don't fancy a procedural, so if you could make sure nobody asks for one that'd be grand" to the examiner. It's about taking a practical approach and expecting the candidate to operate as they would in a real solo situation.

I don't think anyone would argue that in a real situation controllers on a radar position shouldn't be expected to take steps to manage their workload, which may include refusing a procedural approach if traffic levels determine it can't be achieved without significant delay and disruption to other pilots or if it would unacceptably increase controller workload (ie result in a degraded service to the majority of other pilots). So why should we expect people to act differently in an exam?

If the candidate refuses the procedural when there's nothing else on the scope that might well be grounds for failure - just because it's not a mandatory item doesn't mean it's not assessable, and as I say the overall expectation is that controllers are expected to facilitate what pilots want to do to the greatest extent possible within bounds of maintaining the overall level of service. But it should be about the decision making process and whether the candidate can adequately justify their decision to accept or refuse said approach (or any other scenario).

You can't test everything unless you want exams to take all day, but you can expect everything to be trained.

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