Air Traffic Controlling on Training server

Much has been written on this forum around frustrations of training ATCs. With this post I’m not trying to add to this. Instead, I want to try to give a new angle on Training server ATC. Because doing this cleverly can make it a lot of fun, for the ATC and the pilots.

I’m an IF old-timer who retired from IFATC in May 2021. Before becoming an IFATC in 2015 I spent a year controlling on Training server. And even though I was a learner myself, I remember well the frustrations about misbehaving pilots. But recently, I find myself back on IF, doing the odd flight. And because I’m no longer an IFATC, I decided to re-discover the Training server ATC.

I found some cool things which I want to share with you.

Forget about the obvious airports
For some reason, KLAX, KSFO, EGLL airports are a magnet for pilots who are trying to cause havoc. Don’t go there. Yes, there’s traffic, including good pilots. But save yourself the headache and leave them to others.

Pick windy airports
Windy airports (airports with over 5 kts wind), have ‘preferred runways’; the numbers show up in red, amber of green. While the runway colours are for guidance only, Pilots do see the colours and it will give you, as ATC, a slightly better hope of getting them to go to the preferred runways.

Serve your pilots
I’ve said it before: the ATC is there for the pilots, not the other way around. So, try to accommodate the pilots as much as you can. Especially when it’s quiet. If a pilot wants to taxi to (or land on) a non-preferred runway, then let him do so. Yes, this may result in some extra traffic management, but that’s alright, isn’t it? I mean, there’s really nothing wrong with taking off with a 7 kts tail wind.

It may even mean that you have different pilots taxiing to both ends of a runway. Quite a silly situation, but if you want to accommodate a 9-year-old pilot playing with his uncle’s iPad, then you need to be creative sometimes.

Hunt for traffic
It’s nice for pilots that there’s an ATC when they arrive at their destination airport. So why don’t you work out where the inbounds are and open up to ‘catch them’. There are ways to see how many inbounds an airport has and how far away they are. Open an airport, serve the two closest inbounds and, when you see that traffic dies out, you take a little time to find the next airport with close inbounds and open there.

Be careful with this though, that you don’t jump around too much. An IFATC on Expert server has to stay open a minimum amount of time, and there are good reasons for this. While on Training server this is not a hard requirement, it’s not good practice to jump around every 5 mins.

Understand that pilots are still learning…
…and so are you!

We all know it: training server is for learning. You, the ATC are learning, and so are the pilots. Keep that in mind and don’t get too frustrated too quickly.

In ‘Show information’ on the aircraft you can see the User Information. If you see minimum XP and landings then adjust your expectation on what you can expect this pilot.

And if there’s a pilot who really doesn’t know, who taxis 40 kts through the terminal buildings and then takes of on Ground frequency…just smile and send him on his way with ‘You’re welcome’.

Do it well and keep learning
When controlling, focus on the job and do it well. Be there for those pilots: keep an eye on their movements and respond to their requests promptly. Take you ‘job’ seriously and become good at what you do as TSATC. Learn how it’s done well by reading the IFATC manual and fly on Expert server to see how IFATCs do their controlling.

During quiet times, scroll through your instruction-set and see what’s where, so you know where it is when you need it.

Use your instruction-set wisely
I’ve found that ‘Please check assigned runway’ after a pushback in the wrong direction can help pilots. Also ‘please wait for clearance before taxiing’ and ‘please wait for clearance before taking off’ sometimes make inexperienced pilots realise that they need to request stuff before they go. And sometimes ‘progressive taxi instructions’ can help a pilot find his way on a big airport.

And you may be surprised what a ‘Thank you’ can do to a pilot who is reluctantly following your instructions.

And there’s the ones who really try to be a pain
I really don’t believe there’s many of these guys around; most of paying IF pilots want to play well. But yes, they are there, and we all have to deal with them. As learning TSATC you can’t Report pilots, so I’ve developed my own strategy: try to work around them, ignore them (don’t reply to their requests), and when they keep going, close the airport. In some cases, you can wait for 10 mins, and open again, and you’ll find they’re gone.

ENJOY

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This is a great guide! I wish I had this while I had to control on TS. Expert is fun tho!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up! I just hit 900 operations yesterday and am really trying to improve.

The ATC manual has been my best friend and I love finding myself in situations where I apply what I’ve read. For example, I just picked up how to correctly respond to inbound planes for the pattern entry, and using “continue inbound” when unsure. Also, older forum posts have been a big help too.

I’m looking forward to join IFATC when I’m ready but I’ll take what I get on the Training Server. I’ve done a lot of the stuff mentioned like hunting for inbounds on the status list, and also being flexible about runway selection especially when there’s no traffic. I do feel like a better controller when I can give the pilots their requests, but when it’s busy I do have to deny some requests that would cause conflicts, which I think is okay because on expert server I’m pretty sure there will be times when the pilot has to change their approach & runway. And that’s all what being on the training server is about.

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One thing I’ve found is that if you pick a quiet airport, people will see that ATC is online and start spawning there after a few minutes. So you don’t have to pick an airport just because it has inbounds.

Also, more people should try Center. More planes, more ways to order them around, you can control multiple Centers at once, and you can also do Departure and Approach functions as long as someone else is not on those frequencies for the city in question. You do get a lot of AFK pilots, especially if you pick a boring transoceanic center, so it’s best to pick one or a combo that has a lot of destination airports. LA/Oakland, NY/Boston/Washington, London/Paris, etc.

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Indeed pilots will spawn when you open an airport. How many will spawn depends on where you open and at what time of the day it is locally in the area you open. The ‘catching pilots’ idea is that if you are opening an airport, you might as well pick one that has close inbounds.

I find that radar controlling on Training Server is hard. Many pilots have a flight plan, and I found it really hard to get them to come off this flight plan when needed. And on Center we see so many double requests, something we see not just on Training Server. Pilots during climb (with a flight plan) often first check-in, then they request radar vectors to an airport on the other side of the globe, and after this they request a climb.

And many pilots do not now how to work with Center frequency during their decent and approach.

So on Training Server, I stick with Tower and Ground.

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