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Robert McDonald

Vatsim is valuable and deserves our thanks

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I find Vatsim to be extremely valuable to my overall flight immersion levels - 'realtime atc' is lightyears better than 'canned' controllers, yeah? My only suggestion would be that the Vatsim controllers to us a favor and post their intended operating hours in their local ATIS recordings... example: .metar KATL (type into Vatsim window) RESULT:(blah blah usual metar stuff - then add the following...) KATL Center will be online from 12:00Z until 16:00Z today. Please plan your flights accordingly. Your feedback is always welcome at Ztl...All too often I use Vatspy to determine what airspaces are being controlled, plan a flight, and take off, only to have the controllers 'go offline' in the middle of the flight. While I realize this is a 'free' and 'at will' service of Vatsim, I think it would benefit EVERYONE (including the Vatsim controllers themselves) if all interested parties were aware of when their controllers would be going off-line.From the controllers' viewpoint, they could likely attract more pilots if those pilots knew their destination would 'still be there' when the flight arrived... and the same thing is true from a pilot's perspective. If I know the destination airport will be closed before I arrive I likely might plan a completely different flight.As pilots, I believe we should consider volunteering some of our own time to controller duties. In a perfect world, we might have ATC control of the major airspace in the USA or GB or Europe 24x7. How could that happen? If the pilots themselves banded together and said, ok 1 night a week I will donate 4 hours to ATC time. Find 6 people, you have a 24-hour coverage for that day. To start, it would make sense to 'fully staff' key hubs, like New York and Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, Altlanta and Miami.Given the size of the worldwide simulation base, I think this might be 'do able'. I admire the men and women who work at Vatsim, and respect their generous donation of their time to our hobby. Given the fact that they are forced to deal with the gamut of humanity from "professional commercial pilot" to "fumbling newbie" and everthing in-between, it takes a lot of patience and a generous nature to do that job! Particulary for NO PAY.This is why I am thinking of becoming a part time controller - to 'give back' to our hobby.Robert McDonald


 R. Scott McDonald  B738/L   Information is anecdotal only-without guarantee & user assumes all risks of use thereof.                                               

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You're right that it would be helpful - but I would say 9 times out of 10 the controllers don't know how long they are going to be on. There's even a way for controllers to book this in vRoute but most don't for that very reason. Plus, sometimes one controller will relieve another so if one controller put that he was signing off at 0200z but another took his place, the pilots would think that he was signing off even though another controller is relieving him and keeping the position open for another few hours. Personally, I log in and control until I get bored/tired. Sometimes that's 45 minutes, sometimes it 6+ hours. Even when controlling I will see a controller announce that he is logging off at X time but then they end up staying on another hour because traffic is good.


Noah Bryant
 

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You know, I would love to see someone write a tutorial (for our Tutorial System of course) for an absolutely unexposed member here to introduce them to the CONCEPT of VATSIM (and IVAO for that matter)... One that addresses some of the major "fears and trepidations" that we see so much of here. Any volunteers?

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Tom there are many things like that already out there but I never see much like that here at AVSIM. It's more likely someone could just compile them and make them a tutorial or sticky here. I used to do a lot of VATSIM controller training and as an extension of that, I offered countless times to help new pilots on the network by staffing a small tower or approach airspace so that they could get their feet wet with an understanding controller in an airspace that isn't busy. Not once did anyone ever take me up on it. The Los Angeles ARTCC has a great pilot training program and now that VATSIM is doing the pilot ratings I bet there are other great pilot training programs just as good if not better than ZLAs.


Noah Bryant
 

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Tom there are many things like that already out there but I never see much like that here at AVSIM. It's more likely someone could just compile them and make them a tutorial or sticky here.
Yes, I guess if someone were to put together a compilation of sources, links, etc. here, we could promote that up to a tutorial.

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Yes, I guess if someone were to put together a compilation of sources, links, etc. here, we could promote that up to a tutorial.
Well what a great idea!! I 'learned by doing' with Vatsim - but I can say a couple of quick tips to budding pilots that are sitting on the sidelines and 'thinking about it':1- Great tools on your flight deck will help you immensely, and make you look like a professional, from the beginning. Without these tools, you may discover you're taxiing on the runway instead of the taxiway, or worse, you are lined up and waiting on the entirely WRONG RUNWAY. This is particularly bothersome in complex airports, where there are a maze of runways all connected to each other, and you have no CLUE even what side of the airport you're starting out from!Some great tools, ranked in order of value to the newbie pilot:* FLIGHT PLANNINGBEST: EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) by AivlaSoft, free for 30 days. You buy this, you are going to look good, not get lost, easily see your flight from the gate to the runway, departure, enroute, approach, arrival and parking at your ramp. I am so enamoured of this product, I plan to produce a video review and post it here (a link to it) to show off just a FEW of the many benefits I've discovered. The KEY to this is always knowing where you are, especially in the air. Oftentimes a controller may ask you to report your position... and ask for a DME (Distance-Measuring-Equipment) VOR. With EFB you can FIND OUT where you are, and give your location PRECISELY to ATC (We are 10nm southeast of the Los Angeles LAX DME).When told to taxi to your runway 10R via taxiway Alpha, Bravo, Juliet, cross runway 22... you can see your plane push back from the gate, and follow your taxxing on a moving airport map. Even has vectors showing which way to each runway from YOUR POSITION.GOOD: FSBuild / Flight SimCommander 9 (two competitive products) - Each has strengths, I would say FSC9 is probably the overall winner of these two, because you have some good alternative choices vis-a-vis in-flight moving map, seeing the SID/STARS depicted in relation to your overall flight path... AFAIK, FSBuild is no longer in production (?) I think they are still working on FSC9.* NAVIGATION CHARTS / AIRPORT RUNWAY LAYOUTS / PARKING SCHEMES / AIRACC UPDATESBEST: Navigraph services. You can buy only the AIRACCs (change about every month or so), or you can buy selected charts for airports that you need help navigating the runways. Upside: accurate and detailed. Downside: no moving map, no showing your aircraft in relation to the airport itself, must buy charts for EVERY AIRPORT that you want help for.. versus Electronic Flight Bag which shows ALL FSX airports. I pay for AIRACC annual subscription from Navigraph. Since I discovered EFB, I am not buying the supplemental airport data files from Navigraph.2- Overall rules and protocols when using Vatsim or IVAO 'realtime ATC'.The controllers by and large are willing to help you along, and to varying degrees will offer tips, advice, guidance, web resources. It's really great if you can take a moment to THANK the controller before he hands you off to the next guy/gal, something like "thanks for the great ATC service" or "appreciate your generous help and advice".Never talk over a controller. They have priority over everyone else. Wait your turn to speak, after all, it's only a simulation... when it IS your turn to speak, talk clearly and SLOWLY. Remember to give your callsign each time you transmit to ATC. You can listen to others and learn the sequencing of asking for a flight plan clearance, asking for permission to taxi, when to hold short (and when you don't have to), taking the time to get the ATIS DATA (if it's online for your airport) BEFORE you talk to ATC, and how to do a proper 'readback'Remember: If a controller asks you to do something that you are unsure of, or have no clue how to comply with, don't be afraid or embarrased to say, "I'm a new pilot, and I don't understand..." Generally they will do things to help you resolve the concern. A BIG problem for many (including me before I got the EFB program) is when they ask you to fly to a different VOR (radio waypoint). There are the 3-letter abbreviations for a VOR and then there is the common name of that same VOR. For example, near LaX is the VENTURA VOR . If the controller says fly direct to Ventura, you need to know that VTR (on your EFB enroute moving map) -is- Ventura. With EFB, if you zoom in on VTR, both the 3-letter FMC code and the plain-language name are identified, so you are able to understand what (and where) they want you to fly. Without EFB and without any charts? Good luck on that, unless you're fortunate and 'guess right' when looking at the flight legs in your onboard FMC (Flight Management Computer).So it comes down to tools. If you have good maps/charts in an easy-to-use tool (example EFB), you have a far lower level of pain when ATC suddenly changes things up on you. You will notice a lot of times (especially during wee hours) they will take you off your flight plan and ask you to fly direct to the airport. When you near the airport, they will give you "VECTORS" to your runway (either for ILS or VISUAL approach). If you're a new pilot in a heavy plane, you may at first be more confident flying ILS approach over a manual "visual" approach. This is OK, just let the controller know you prefer ILS approach. They will give your VECTORS (a fancy word for "heading") to get you to your final approach leg for the appropriate landing.Understand the terminology. "Vectors" (Heading) "Localizer" "Glideslope" "Missed Approach" "Hold" "Hold Short" "Maintain" "Cross Ventura VOR at or above" "Cross Ventura VOR at 5000" "Descend at pilot's discretion" and so on. If you think the ATC may have forgotten you, you can say "Los Angelest Tower, Delta 9777, request permission to turn for the localizer for runway 24R" if you see you're about to fly through the localizer beam. Sometimes they'll tell you they are aware and are going to turn you back after you've crossed... but it doesn't hurt to gently inquire if you are worried that other pilots may have distracted the controller. Controllers are human. They are primarily charged with keeping us all safe from one another. Everyone knows the perils of near-misses (or worse)... and the Vatsim/IVAO staffers are the ones that prevent those problems by maintaining the proper separation of aircraft.Be polite, be respectful. That person is working hard with NO PAY to make your flight experience much more realistic and enjoyable. Let them know they are appreciated,, take the time to visit their website and give them POSITIVE FEEDBACK. I always try to do so after I finish a flight. During the flight I will take note of the controller's name (you can get this from within Squawkbox without asking the controller to give their name). The ATIS for their airport will give the weblink for the feedback. Take note of the address, take the time to say 'thanks' by leaving a positive note about your experience. You may be an ATC one day, and you'll be hoping for traffic to control, and you'll appreciate hearing the 'thanks for the great (ATC) service..." from the pilots in your airspace.Work to improve your skills. Learn how to slow your airplane and when you should be below 250 KIAS, 200 KIAS, etc. Learn about speed and altitude restrictions (these show up PURPLE in the NGX FMC legs-view). Consider taking the online pilot training course available free from a variety of sources (I am Vatsim OLP P1 certified via Delta Virtual Airlines). Consider joining a virtual airline, there are several. Other pilots will help you learn.This is a great hobby - the ATC folks make it several degrees closer to 'as real as it gets' - I enjoy flying in controlled airspace far more than VFR or IFR on UNICOM (with no controller present). I hope some of these ideas may shorten the radius of your particular learning curve.Robert McDonald

 R. Scott McDonald  B738/L   Information is anecdotal only-without guarantee & user assumes all risks of use thereof.                                               

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Robert obviously gave a lot of very valuable tips there and I'd like to just give a few comments.Like he said, being prepared is the number one factor that makes your and the controllers experience as enjoyable as possible. You are not expected to know everything and you are absolutely allowed to do mistakes - god knows I've had my fair share of them. But one should show an open mind regarding learning and improving and not be ignorant. You can't call the controller in the middle of the flight and ask if he knows how to do an VNAV descent in this or that aircraft or what ILS means. Certainly you can ask the controller how this or that procedure should be flown if you are uncertain and he most like is very glad to help, but don't do it during a big fly-in. HAVE CHARTS!!!Be prepared by listening to how other pilots do it, how they ask for clearance and request this or that. Respond to the controller within a reasonable amount of time - others are usually waiting to get a word in but don't want to interrupt the ongoing RT, if you are wait too long with your response they just might have to. There are so many advices to give really but they have been said many many times already.Regarding Roberts advice for what tools to use, note that Aivlasoft only works with FSX. I have Aivlasoft and run it on a second computer with the screen next to my flightsim screen. It's a great tool and almost makes it too easy! :D Personally I've never been able use VATSIM with FSX since Squawkbox 3 always crashes (on all three computers), so instead I fly with FS9. My tools of choice is to create the route using vRoute (specifically designed for online usage) and then use FSCommander as a moving map, mainly for finding my way on the ground. While I could use the second computer to show charts, I aboslutely prefer the iPad app FSKneeboard 2 - coincidentally the developer Noah Bryant has posted in this thread! :D You pay a one time fee ($20) to get access to all US charts and you can also load charts from the rest of the world there. You also have a tool for checklists and weather info there and I can't recommend it strongly enough!


Krister Lindén
EFMA, Finland
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As far as I am concerned, the only thing a pilot can do to upset me is read things back or agree to comply with things when they have no idea what I said, or what I am talking about. I am relying on pilots to do what I ask them and if they don't know then they need to say so. I have no problems simplifying instructions or explaining something to pilots, or putting something in a text message. I just need to know you don't understand.It's very intimidating for someone getting started on VATSIM so the best thing is to find someone (who knows what they are doing) to be a sort of mentor for you. This hobby is full of intelligent and helpful people who are usually happy to help, it's just a matter of getting in touch with them.As I mentioned earlier, I'm happy to help out by opening a small approach airspace somewhere to help people out with their first flight.


Noah Bryant
 

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As far as I am concerned, the only thing a pilot can do to upset me is read things back or agree to comply with things when they have no idea what I said, or what I am talking about. I am relying on pilots to do what I ask them and if they don't know then they need to say so. I have no problems simplifying instructions or explaining something to pilots, or putting something in a text message. I just need to know you don't understand.It's very intimidating for someone getting started on VATSIM so the best thing is to find someone (who knows what they are doing) to be a sort of mentor for you. This hobby is full of intelligent and helpful people who are usually happy to help, it's just a matter of getting in touch with them.As I mentioned earlier, I'm happy to help out by opening a small approach airspace somewhere to help people out with their first flight.
Noah, you are too kind! What a generous offer, and what sage advice as well! My hat is off to you - especially as a developer as well! Nice! I think it's amazing that you build an EFB for iPad - good job! I gave my iPad to my sister (sad to say) so I'm 'out of luck' on FSK2. :(I agree with everything you said, and your idea of a mentor is very good. You see just about everything on Vatsim/IVAO from competent pro-level pilots to raw novices. No one is 'born' knowing how to interact with ATC- the truth is that it's so worthwhile to learn - in my view, no ATC = no fun flying!I deliberately plan my flights to mesh with the online controllers - by using VATSpy to show the connected airspace (example Minneapolis and Chicago centers are both online - I will fly between those two airports). I like the AvilaSoft EFB because it shows when you are crossing into a new airspace or into uncontrolled airspace.Someone said their EFB makes it almost too easy, that is not far wrong. I even use their frequency ribbon to pre-set the next COM1 channel, and to switch to it - even though I have the VRInsight MCP Combo II unit (which has a comms segment). Using EFB, I can switch instantaneously and precisely on time.If I had an iPad I would no doubt purchase FSK2 as well! Maybe Santa will miss his approach and dump an IPad NG on my doorstep this Christmas! :D

 R. Scott McDonald  B738/L   Information is anecdotal only-without guarantee & user assumes all risks of use thereof.                                               

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Click here for my YouTube channel

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Regarding thanking the ATC for providing controller service, I did the the dreaded "Thank you for the atc" IRL a couple of days ago. The controller sounded a bit surprised but just said "anytime". Argh...


Krister Lindén
EFMA, Finland
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Regarding thanking the ATC for providing controller service, I did the the dreaded "Thank you for the atc" IRL a couple of days ago. The controller sounded a bit surprised but just said "anytime". Argh...
Haha - A friend of mine once did the same thing and the ground controller responded, "this isn't VATSIM!" I've done that a couple times too but they just said you're welcome, lol.

Noah Bryant
 

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Haha - A friend of mine once did the same thing and the ground controller responded, "this isn't VATSIM!" I've done that a couple times too but they just said you're welcome, lol.
Am I wrong in suggesting we thank the controllers for their service? I wouldn't want to do 'the wrong thing' - if it's something they dislike hearing, please advise - Thanks.

 R. Scott McDonald  B738/L   Information is anecdotal only-without guarantee & user assumes all risks of use thereof.                                               

RQbrZCm.jpg

KqRTzMZ.jpg

Click here for my YouTube channel

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Well in the real world I guess they're just not used to it. In fact most RW pilots tend to dislike most controllers, or at least take them for granted. Like someone ringing my doorbell and saying, "Thanks for the great programming!"


Noah Bryant
 

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Well in the real world I guess they're just not used to it. In fact most RW pilots tend to dislike most controllers, or at least take them for granted. Like someone ringing my doorbell and saying, "Thanks for the great programming!"
I have listened to hours of aircrew to controller comms over the years, and there are thank you's that flow back and forth all the time. I remember flying a UAL flight from KSEA to KIAD once and as we transitioned from one sector to another it was as if these guys knew each other by first names. That was somehow reassuring to me. :Hug:While I am here, thanks guys for the input; I will be put that into a Tutorial over the next day or two.

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I have listened to hours of aircrew to controller comms over the years, and there are thank you's that flow back and forth all the time.
Good to hear. All my flying is just GA and I almost never heard thank yous.

Noah Bryant
 

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