16 March, 2013

Dear Vatsim Pilots

Dear Vatsim Pilots,

As a Vatsim controller, there are some things I would like to say to you.  These mostly involve misunderstandings due to lack of information.

1.)  Air traffic control services on Vatsim are "top down".  This means a controller works all positions that are under them.  For example, an approach controller provides not only approach and departure radar services to all airports within their airspace, but also tower, ground and clearance delivery services for those airports.  A lone controller working center has a LOT of airports to provide services for.

2.)  Flight plan clearance is the LAST thing on my priority list.  A lot of you new pilots are very impatient and it drives us controllers nuts.  If center is the only controller on when you call for clearance and the controller tells you to stand by, STAND BY.  Don't badger us every two minutes.  Airborne aircraft have priority over an aircraft sitting on the ground, safely at a gate or on a ramp.  We will get to you when we can.

3.)  If you are told to stand by, do not use the amount of radio traffic as a gauge to figure out how busy a controller is.  If you don't hear much radio traffic and are waiting for flight plan clearance, chances are we're coordinating with another controller.  Again, we will get to you when we can.

4.)  Don't file flight plans that you don't completely understand.  Controllers have absolutely no way to know what your limits are until you exceed them.  I you file airways, know how to intercept an airway.  If you file VORs, know how to fly direct to them and how to fly on specific radials.  If you file all GPS waypoints, expect to be told to go direct to any of them.

5.)  Learn what an equipment suffix is.  It's very important.

6.)  When departing an airport and are told to go direct to a navaid or waypoint, it means direct FROM YOUR CURRENT POSITION!  DO NOT intercept the pink line on your damned GPS.  The pilot should be in control of the aircraft, not the othe way around.

7.)  For chrissakes, learn how to use the "direct to" function on your GPS unit.

8.)  Your first flights should NOT be in a 747 out of a major airport.  If you're new to flying it's probably a good idea to learn the basics of flying and aerial navigation offline.  A green pilot, at a major airport, in a large airliner that they do not know inside out is a major source of frustration for controllers.  We will not let our frustration come over the frequency but, trust me, we're cursing you six ways to Sunday off frequency.  Stick to smaller, easier to fly aircraft at small airports where you won't get in the way of people who know what they're doing.

9.) Pilots in the real world start in small aircraft to learn the very basics of flight.  Just because you're in a flight sim doesn't mean you shouldn't do the same.

10.)  Pay attention when a controller is issuing you your clearance.  The controller may have changed your route (usually to comply with traffic volume, facility procedures or Letters of Agreement with neighboring ARTCCs).  When we read you a clearance that differs, even slightly, with what you filed and you read back "Cleared to XXXX as filed...."  We start pulling our hair out because we will then have to reissue the clearance until you read it back correctly.  This is a huge waste of time.

11.)  If you are given an instruction that you do not understand, tell the controller "unable".  If we tell you to do something and you read it back to us, you have just agreed to a verbal contract and we EXPECT YOU TO FOLLOW THAT INSTRUCTION!  We would much rather have you admit you don't understand what we told you.  We can then find another way to do things.  If we tell you to go direct to some point in order to keep you clear of conflicting traffic, you read it back and then don't go direct because you don't know how...  Again, we will be cursing your name off frequency.

12.)  DO NOT FALL ASLEEP DURING FLIGHT!  I generally don't send "contact me" messages unless you're going to be in conflict with other traffic, but if I send a "contact me" and you don't answer, the first thing I'm going to do is find a supervisor and start the process of getting you booted off the network.  If you're sleepy, disconnect from the network.

13.)  The Golden Rule of interacting with ATC is "Aviate, navigate, communicate."  That means if I tell you to fly a certain heading you should start turning towards that heading FIRST, then read the instruction back to me.

14.)  When reading instructions back to a controller phraseology is everything.  If I say "Cessna34A turn right heading 100."  and you read back "one zero zero for Cessna34A"  I have no idea if you are turning to HEADING 100 or are maintaining 100 KNOTS".  Pay attention.  Altitudes, headings, speeds etc should all be read back exactly as the controller issues it so we know you understood.  Altimeter settings don't need to be read back.

15.)  Eliminate the words "Roger" "10-4" and "wilco" from your vocabulary.  Anytime I hear those words it is like you raising a huge "noob" flag and waving it proudly.

16.)  Despite what you've already read, controllers are not pissed at you.  If we sound like we are, you probably picked the wrong situation to try something new or ask for help.  Controllers are more than willing to help you become a better pilot WHEN TIME ALLOWS.  The middle of an event is not the time to ask for help.  Look for a controller who's not busy or has no traffic.

17.)  Controllers are REQUIRED to meet a minimum of standards set forth by Vatsim before they earn their ratings and are allowed to control live (meaning you) traffic.  Pilots have no such restrictions.  An alarmingly large amount of pilots simply keep clicking the "next" button when signing up for Vatsim until they receive their pilot ID number and password.  New pilots are SUPPOSED to read the Code of Conduct (CoC) and the Pilot Requirements, but there is no way to verify a new pilot has actually read those documents.  A simple check box at the end of these documents would solve a large majority of problems, but it isn't so.

18.)  READ THE PRC (Pilot Resource Center) BEFORE YOU TRY TO FLY ON THE NETWORK!!  Sooo many problems I see with new pilots would never have happened had they actually read all the information in the PRC before flying on the network.

19.)  In US airspace, eastbound IFR flights (0 to 179 degrees MAGNETIC heading) should be cruising at ODD altitudes.  11000, 9000, FL210 etc.  Westbound flights (180 to 359 degrees MAGNETIC heading) should be cruising at EVEN altitudes.  12000, 10000, FL220 etc.  VFR cruise altitudes are much the same except you would add 500 feet.  Eastbound  11500, 9500 etc.  Westbound 12500, 10500 etc.

20.)  THE HIGHEST VFR FLIGHT ALTITUDE IS 17,500!!! Anything above that is IFR territory and requires clearance and contact with ATC.

21.)  Class B airspace is sacred!!  When flying VFR Class B airspace requires explicit permission from a controller to enter, leave or transition.  Default flight sim GPS units depict Class B and Class C airspace.  Even if you do not use charts there is NO excuse for you to be violating Class B or Class C airspace.

22.)  Learn the US airspace system.

23.)  Learn how to turn your damned transponder on.  Personally speaking, if you don't squawk the proper code and turn your transponder on (for IFR flight) I will NOT let you depart until you comply.

24.)  If I assign you a heading or altitude I expect you to fly it.  If you do not comply, you are in violation of the pilot requirements.  I will have you booted off the network.

25.)  If you are being an idiot by not complying with Vatsim requirements or by not following a controller's instructions, we (controllers) WILL fuck with you and you won't even know it. 

26.)  According to Vatsim, you are allowed to simulate emergencies, but we all know you're faking it.  If I hear the stupid "mayday, mayday..." bullshit (usually new, teenaged pilots) I'll give you lip service, but that's it.  I'm secretly hoping you'll just disappear and let me get back to helping pilots who give a damn.

27.)  Using the callssign "AIRFORCEONE" or "AF1"  will make controllers fuck with you.  Again, using either of those two call signs, though it may seem cool to you, just let us know you're a noob and are most likely not going to have a clue what you're doing.

28.)  Ask for progressive taxi and you're almost guaranteed to get the scenic (read longest) route to your parking spot.  Airport diagrams are plentiful and free.  There's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't have one ready for your departure and arrival airports.  Same for sectional charts, low altitude and high altitude enroute charts and approach plates.

29.)  Learn the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airports.  Ask for taxi instructions, take off clearance or landing clearance at an uncontrolled field an you will either get vectored around the "scenic area" or will have your departure release revoked.  Try me.

30.)  As queer as it seems, a "visual approach" is an IFR procedure.  If you're flying VFR you'll be told to enter the traffic pattern.

31.)  We're air traffic CONTROLLERS.  Not air traffic SUGGESTERS. 

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