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Andy Ford

atc training Request For Comments: New S3 Syllabus

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Callum McLoughlin

It’s VATSIM, gents... I like flying non precision approaches but I would rather have “some” service rather than none by failing candidates over a meltdown totally due to the traffic situation and provision of inappropriate approaches. They’re easy enough to facilitate if taught, but getting someone to perform a full NDB approach from the beacon during an exam with dozens of inbounds is absolutely ridiculous.

Edited by Callum McLoughlin

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Adam Arkley

I'd misunderstood one thing while skim reading - I don't mind so much whether or not the procedural element is examine, by choice or otherwise, but man alive we have to teach it 

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Jim Johnson
7 hours ago, Callum McLoughlin said:

 I would rather have “some” service rather than none by failing candidates over a meltdown totally due to the traffic situation and provision of inappropriate approaches. 

Should this also apply to SRA’s which basically is vectoring? As you know vatsim, unlike Manchester, both Liverpool and Hawarden (top down cover) provide SRA’s. and  when doing a SRA real world, the controller had no problem simultaneously giving me this service and vectoring other aircraft for a normal ILS approach. But this is vatsm and whilst I have provided vatsim  SRA’ s I never taught it when mentoring and have only provided it for a small number of pilots and most were just trying it out, perhaps for the first time. SRA’s are included for the first time in the current EGGP vMats but is it being taught and practiced?

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Callum McLoughlin

The last time I was asked to provide an SRA was probably about 2011! When I’ve given pilots vectored VOR/DME approaches into Manchester when the ILS was out of service, most couldn’t fly it.

Why are we so concerned about teaching and examining skills which are so very rarely employed, at the expense of getting controllers who can provide 95% of the service pilots want, rated?

I am going to start calling some of you the “VATSIM metropolitan elite” :P you’re a bit out of touch with the reality of 99% of VATSIM operations on the actual FSD servers where flying and controlling actually takes place.

If there was a demand for procedural approaches, people would be flying them routinely. The fact they don’t speaks volumes.

”Just in case someone does” isn’t good enough for holding people back or setting them up to fail. I want a decent controller who can provide a routine level of service now, rather than continue to fly into unmanned or tower only fields because elements of VATUK don’t want a controller online “just in case” I request a non precision approach, whilst at the same time, the closest other aircraft is 50nm away...

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Jim Johnson
6 hours ago, Callum McLoughlin said:

When I’ve given pilots vectored VOR/DME approaches into Manchester when the ILS was out of service, most couldn’t fly it.

Perhaps we're old school Callum? Like the real world controller, vatsimers should be current on procedures. e.g. I have been asked if I could oblige, real world, to do a SRA so the controller could tick the appropriate competency box, obviously not too many SRA done at Liverpool! If vatsim pilots do not request procedural or SR approaches the vatsim controller  level of service may also deteriorate and discourage even more pilots requesting them? Remember the old days when maydays were part of the S3 exams and really tested the controllers ability to vector and integrate aircraft into the stream, but that’s another story! Good discussion and now wait to see how the S3 syllabus reflects some of the points raised.

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Callum McLoughlin
23 minutes ago, Jim Johnson said:

Remember the old days when maydays were part of the S3 exams and really tested the controllers ability to vector and integrate aircraft into the stream, but that’s another story!

Yes, however just like the heavy traffic, without sustained practice through traffic levels people lose practice very quickly - especially when they are new to the position. I know plenty of controllers on here who will make a dogs dinner of loads of inbounds in a short period of time - just like I do in the same circumstances on CTR because of a lack of practice (I'm an aerodrome and approach guy, always have been and always will be).

What people don't seem to grasp is that training people to pass an intensive 2 hour session with everything thrown at them is a waste of time and energy... because day to day on VATSIM traffic levels rarely match it, other than during events (and they aren't that often and the slot someone would get will be short). So if you don't practice you soon lose your edge. As such the controller will be capable of day to day and will rapidly lose refinement of all aspects they have not practiced.

Focusing on absolutely core day to day activities and routine traffic levels is critical for creating a faster training throughput without effecting day to day operations and minimal impact on events.

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Simon Kelsey
3 hours ago, Callum McLoughlin said:

Yes, however just like the heavy traffic, without sustained practice through traffic levels people lose practice very quickly - especially when they are new to the position. I know plenty of controllers on here who will make a dogs dinner of loads of inbounds in a short period of time - just like I do in the same circumstances on CTR because of a lack of practice (I'm an aerodrome and approach guy, always have been and always will be).

What people don't seem to grasp is that training people to pass an intensive 2 hour session with everything thrown at them is a waste of time and energy... because day to day on VATSIM traffic levels rarely match it, other than during events (and they aren't that often and the slot someone would get will be short). So if you don't practice you soon lose your edge. As such the controller will be capable of day to day and will rapidly lose refinement of all aspects they have not practiced.

Focusing on absolutely core day to day activities and routine traffic levels is critical for creating a faster training throughput without effecting day to day operations and minimal impact on events.

Agreed re: traffic levels.

However, as you point out, teaching on a fairly basic level how to handle a procedural approach/SRA really doesn't take that long in the grand scheme of things, and (as Jim reminds me), actually, unlike unusually high traffic levels, there's no reason why controllers can't practice these skills as often as they wish after gaining their rating. "ABC123, can you accept an SRA/procedural approach for controller training?" -- and of course on VATSIM we can see exactly who is flying and might have a good idea as to who might be amenable/capable of executing before we ask!

The aims and ambitions of the student are also important here -- as Adam implies, if a student expresses a keen interest in going and opening Shoreham Approach etc after gaining their rating, then actually on the training side of it they may be more interested/might benefit from a little more detail about procedural control. The average radar student, however, whose main aim is to go and run Gatwick/Heathrow Director, may not want/need so much emphasis, though I would argue that a basic background/short session is valuable knowledge for all APP controllers and at least that should be included in the training (not necessarily, as discussed above, the exam). It should be possible, within the confines of the syllabus and the minimum mandatory requirements, to tailor to an extent the training to the student's interests and desires.

I think we have to remember that there are two aspects to controller training on VATSIM. Yes, we want people to achieve their goals/ratings in a sensible time frame and we want more controllers on the network staffing more positions. BUT, as is often pointed out -- we are not NATS and that means we also do not have a commercial imperative to race everyone through the bare minimum training in the shortest possible time. Because this is a hobby, as much as anything it is about the pursuit of knowledge and improving one's skills for the sake of doing so -- it should be about appreciating the journey as much as the destination, and the sense of achievement and confidence which comes from successfully passing a test in slightly (but not unreasonably) more challenging conditions than one might expect to see on an average day.

Edited by Simon Kelsey

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Oliver Parker

I'd argue that a large majority of pilots on Vatsim wouldn't know how to set up a procedural approach either in the FMS or conventionally. I'd also bet a lot of people wouldn't know how to enter a hold if it wasn't pre-programmed into their arrival. 

I don't think there is much need to know about procedural flying on Vatsim. There is often a misunderstanding of what a procedural approach actually is and it is often confused with a non-precision approach - saw that a lot when mentoring. 

Teach people the important things as they still seem to be a struggle. How/why/when to vector and sensible use of the holds. Educate our pilots before wasting time teaching procedural/SRA. No point in wasting time teaching it if nobody is going to fly them. If post-training somebody wants to learn about them then perfect!

Edited by Oliver Parker

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James Yuen

What Simon and Olly have mentioned here is right. The majority of us are going to want to do KK/LL/CC APP positions, which means knowing your VIV, vectoring techniques, RMA/CAS rules and any other specifics that there may be as well as knowing how to do those odd non-standard approaches.

It'll probably be easier if someone just put up how to do an SRA in some pdf document (or similar) for people to read after getting their S3's. I don't give a toss about SRAs because I'll never probably use them, but there'll be people who do and in my opinion, leave that for them to explore and interest themselves in. I'm just thinking, if procedurals/SRAs are going to be taught, the odd mentor will take it way too far, and it'll just be a collective waste of man hours. 

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Jim Johnson
3 hours ago, Simon Kelsey said:

there's no reason why controllers can't practice these skills as often as they wish after gaining their rating. "ABC123, can you accept an SRA/procedural approach for controller training?" -- and of course on VATSIM we can see exactly who is flying and might have a good idea as to who might be amenable/capable of executing ......

 

Agree Simon but the contributors to this topic are like me P0 or generally P1 or P3 which is a VFR rating!  Unless they are at least P4 I wouldn’t know if they were capable of carrying out a non standard approach, but as in the past, I’m always willing to help a Pilot who wants to try out something different. Whilst both P4/P5 do reversals procedures none are trained or tested for SR approaches?  Are we training controllers for a minority of advanced IFR  pilots who may occasionally request a non standard approach? Of course, often the lack of a formal P rating is not always a good indicator of some pilots abilities. 

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Simon Kelsey
8 hours ago, Jim Johnson said:

Agree Simon but the contributors to this topic are like me P0 or generally P1 or P3 which is a VFR rating!  Unless they are at least P4 I wouldn’t know if they were capable of carrying out a non standard approach, but as in the past, I’m always willing to help a Pilot who wants to try out something different. Whilst both P4/P5 do reversals procedures none are trained or tested for SR approaches?  Are we training controllers for a minority of advanced IFR  pilots who may occasionally request a non standard approach? Of course, often the lack of a formal P rating is not always a good indicator of some pilots abilities. 

SRAs are not a formal PTD requirement and not in the rating check (nor, indeed, in the RW test!). However, speaking purely for the BAV P5 course as that's what I know, SRAs are something which we do cover in theory and we would certainly aim to 'expose' a trainee to at least one during the course of training (under the Radar Circuits/Asymmetric Radar Circuits flying details) provided we could get one!

P ratings are certainly a good guide to what a pilot might accept (and over time will perhaps become a much better guide as they become more widespread) - but I have to say I was thinking more about the fact that over a period of time spent controlling a position/airfield one generally 'gets to know' the regular visitors, both through interactions during the flight and through seeing people on the forums/other media. For example, if I were controlling, fancied practicing my SRA skills and saw Jim Johnson inbound, I might be inclined to extend you the invitation in the knowledge that you might be up for it/capable of flying it!

Likewise, I would imagine that you probably know your 'regulars' at Liverpool and have a decent idea of their skill/knowledge levels/willingness to try slightly less ordinary things -- perhaps worth requesting in future and seeing how you/they get on?

Whilst I have some sympathy with the argument about pilot knowledge/skills and do agree that the main focus of training should be on the day-to-day -- I don't think that precludes at least briefly exposing trainees to things like procedural and SRAs during the training process. Even if it's just once amongst countless radar vectored ILSs -- at least people will have done it and understand that such things exist and essentially how to deal with them in the future. And, as I say, 'educate the pilots' works both ways -- if controllers extend the invitation from time to time and people hear this sort of stuff going on on frequency, the astute will be more inclined to develop their knowledge and give it a go themselves in future.

11 hours ago, James Yuen said:

The majority of us are going to want to do KK/LL/CC APP positions....[snip] I don't give a toss about SRAs because I'll never probably use them,

There speaks a man who never had to do an SRA to runway 23 at LL! :D ;)

Edited by Simon Kelsey

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Michael Pike

We could start by using visual approaches a lot more when the weather suits.

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Sebastian Wheeler

@Michael Pike +1 for that.

I don't want to move the discussion any further away, but on the subject of S3 training and visual approaches (Something which I, with a phobia of instrument approaches, unless SRA/PAR, am quite well acquainted to) I have had many S3 controllers provide me with a visual approach, so I think the only thing stopping the visual approach side is the pilots not requesting them! (Note to pilots... Try them!)

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Jim Johnson
34 minutes ago, Sebastian Wheeler said:

@Michael Pike +1 for that.

I think the only thing stopping the visual approach side is the pilots not requesting them! (Note to pilots... Try them!)

Nothing stopping the controller asking the pilot if s/he can accept a visual approach if field in sight.  I have done this occasionally if a trainee tower controller is on line because  it may allow the controller to gain experience with this type of approach.

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Oliver Parker

Visual approaches are the get out of jail on London Control if the pilot can't fly his own aircraft on vectors.

Can I add something else (not a criticism at all) - speed control.

It's something that happens a lot with the approach units I see, giving people speed control for no reason. Usually when flying it is up to the pilot to manage their speed. I don't know what is taught here but apart from sequencing/separation I can't see any other reason for speed control. 220kts is really slow, hard to descend and a pain in the arse for the pilot. Use speed control when required but don't make it the norm to issue 220/180/160 when it is quiet and you already have a lot of miles of separation. Even in the real world the Gatwick controllers do their best to limit use of speed control.

 

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Simon Kelsey
2 hours ago, Oliver Parker said:

t's something that happens a lot with the approach units I see, giving people speed control for no reason.

One reason I used to give speeds fairly routinely was because in the past at least, inevitably given nothing to rein them in about 70% of pilots would try and fly the entire intermediate approach at about 330kt, with turn radii the size of three counties, and then be very surprised when their final approach didn't work out.

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Andy Ford
4 hours ago, Oliver Parker said:

Visual approaches are the get out of jail on London Control if the pilot can't fly his own aircraft on vectors.

Can I add something else (not a criticism at all) - speed control.

It's something that happens a lot with the approach units I see, giving people speed control for no reason. Usually when flying it is up to the pilot to manage their speed. I don't know what is taught here but apart from sequencing/separation I can't see any other reason for speed control. 220kts is really slow, hard to descend and a pain in the arse for the pilot. Use speed control when required but don't make it the norm to issue 220/180/160 when it is quiet and you already have a lot of miles of separation. Even in the real world the Gatwick controllers do their best to limit use of speed control.

 

This is covered, I hope, by 3.4 on the new syllabus. The first grading levels focus more on being able to demonstrate the hard speeds and remember to reduce them, but to get "Securing" the student needs to demonstrate that they don't over-use them and apply soft speeds where applicable :)

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