“Flight simulator was a vital training tool in my ongoing journey to becoming a private pilot. I was given several recommendations by simulator friends when joining my first community but found mixed levels of pilot and controller proficiency. Eventually, I did find a multiplayer community where I fit in, they overall were very friendly, accommodating of different skill levels, and had a true interest in helping each other with difficulties and problems. Boston Virtual ARTCC, or BVA, became my multiplayer home and learning environment.”The above excerpt is from a paper entitled ‘Flying a Desk’ written by Luke, known by his BVA handle of ‘ShyFlyGuy’, about the use of FSX as a trainer to be used in hand with real-world training.
Luke joined BVA as a controller-in-training at KTUL (Tulsa, Oklahoma). Today, Luke is a fully-certified FAA controller, student pilot, and prominent member of our community.
I’ve found the virtual controllers on BVA to be very helpful and welcoming. They use the same documents and rules as those for real controllers. The government 7110.65, which establishes rules for controlling traffic, is written in a formal legal language, extremely extensive, dry, and too much to ask a virtual controller to know. The BVA SOP takes the important and useful rules from the 7110.65 and combines them with technique, and plain language to establish a quick reference document to start teaching controllers. What takes 2-3 weeks of government training is covered in basic simpler form within BVA’s ATC training materials.
Over my years with BVA, I’ve become much better at flying the simulator and many of the virtual controllers have grown to know my virtual call sign as someone who could have fun, or be serious trying to learn something new. Often I’ll seek out controllers in training and bombard them with complicated, unusual, and odd requests both for my own practice, as well as to increase their opportunity to learn.
I would rate BVA’s ATC instructor staff, administrative team, and center-level controllers a solid 9/10, putting forth lots of hard work and extra time to keep the server going as well as moderating the community and training new controllers.
Q: How long have you been a member of BVA?
Since Dec 2009.
Q: How long have you been a real-world controller? What certifications do you hold?
Real world controller since Feb 2009, Fully certified at TUL Sep 2011. Real world ratings: Airline Dispatcher (ADX), Control Tower Operator (CTO), Student Pilot (As of 8/1/13, 37.9 hours logged).
Q: Where are you currently controlling? Have you controlled other positions?
Tulsa International (KTUL) is a FAA Level 8 Tower/TRACON facility. Fully certified tower and approach controller, rotate between those positions on a daily basis.
Q: Do you consider yourself primarily a pilot or controller?
While one of the higher qualified controllers on the server, I still consider myself more of a pilot and ATC advisor. I can and occasionally do control, but since that’s my real job, I usually fly.
Q: What type of aircraft and event are your favorite to fly in BVA?
While most other members like to move heavy metal in large twinjet commercial aircraft, I’m a staple member of the bug smashing community. My preferred aircraft are all single engine 2-4 seat unpressurized aircraft, usually with a wide range of capability in speed. Most of the time I’m in the server is spent designing, organizing, testing, and flying our VFR Challenge events. These events concentrate on basic Private Pilot level skills, while seeing some of the great, and commonly overlooked scenery of FSX. I have an absolute blast coming up with these events, and flying along with other members who are learning from them.
Q: What is your favorite part about participating in our community?
I’ve been very active in the forums since the first month I joined. It’s a great place to ask questions, learn, or just have a laugh. When you only have a few minutes and don’t have time to fly, it’s a great way to keep tabs on what is going on.
Q: Are you part of any other online aviation community?
I joined a large, U.S.-based international network shortly before BVA, although stopped flying with them after the first 3 months because I wasn’t satisfied with the controllers there.
Q: Given the inherent compromises that must be made between BVA and real-world operations, how realistic do you find BVA’s ATC Standard Operating Procedures?
BVA ATC SOPs are a decent compromise between establishing the rules for controlling traffic and creating a reference on technique to controlling traffic. The government 7110.65, which establishes rules for controlling traffic, is written in a formal legal language, extremely extensive, dry, and too much to ask a virtual controller to know. The BVA SOP takes the important and useful rules from the 7110.65 and combines them with technique, and plain language to establish a quick reference document to start teaching controllers. What takes 2-3 weeks of government training is covered in basic simpler form within the SOP.
Q: From what you have experienced, on a 1-10 scale how realistic is BVA ATC staff, in terms of phraseology, patience and control in busy situations, and following FAA real world procedures?
BVA’s ATC instructor staff, Administrative Team, and center-level controllers are a solid 9/10, putting forth lots of hard work and extra time to keep the server going as well as moderating the community and training new controllers.
Q: What would you change, if anything about BVA’s controllers?
We need more of them! Training for ATC isn’t easy; it takes work, and effort outside of your actual time controlling in the server. BVA’s mentors and instructors are constantly flooded with requests for training, that they are hard pressed to keep up with. Sadly many controllers, while dedicated at first, don’t stick with it. Approach ratings don’t come easily, there’s a large jump in required forward thinking and planning to go along with the new concepts and verbiage. But if you can earn that Approach rating at BVA, then you’d probably do well controlling traffic in the real world.
Q: Why don’t you spend more time controlling, and teaching new controllers?
Remember I control traffic for a living, and sometimes to keep from getting burned out I just need a break from controlling. When it comes to teaching new controllers, I find it difficult to train them to the BVA standard and not the real world standard (which is higher, and more difficult). I try to help controllers who are in training by flying in their airspace while they are training, providing requests, complicated traffic, and just being another plane to control. Often I’ve coordinated with their instructor ahead of time to see just what sort of difficulties they are having, or situations they haven’t yet seen.
Q: I’m new to BVA and want to become a real world controller. How do I start controlling with BVA? How do I turn that into becoming a real world controller?
Becoming a real world controller doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a month, it takes years! Start in BVA, learn to fly in FSX by following the Pilot Ratings Program flights. Not only will this give you a familiarity with VFR flight and instrument procedures, it shows you what other pilots will be asking of you as you control. Once you’ve done that, start training to be a controller on BVA. Listen in on a controller’s frequency for an event, and see what it sounds like. Talk with SoloWingDemon and some of the ATC Mentors and Instructors, find out how long it took them to get to where they are. Read the BVA SOPs, then read them again. Get to know them backwards and forwards, once you become a real world controller you’ll have to know your SOPs and Agreements (with other facilities) without being able to look them up. Be active in your training by signing into the sessions early with questions for your mentor. Throughout the session, continue to ask questions, if you can’t get an answer right away write them down.
If you’re still serious about becoming a real world controller start learning the 7110.65 Join StuckMic.com, and read the forums there with the real controllers who debate some of the less defined points of the 7110.65. If after all this you’re still interested in controlling in the real world, look into the ATC programs offered by various colleges, otherwise known as Collegiate Training Initiatives (CTI Schools). Another route to go is via the military, if you think you’re up for it. Becoming a real world controller isn’t like any other job, it is demanding from the minute you decide it is for you, and doesn’t stop even when you’re fully certified.
Q: With all that training and hard work to become a controller, why should I still want to do the job?
Controlling is one of the most instantly gratifying jobs you can ever have. Yes the paycheck is nice, but it’s when pilots take the time to thank you on frequency for getting them through a rough situation that really makes the difference. As a controller you will never forget when you help to save someone’s life, because all you can do is talk to and help guide them.