AMA with Gary Hamann

This Saturday, we had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Gary Hamann where the members in our Workshop got a chance to ask him questions.

He is an Infinite Flight ATC (IFATC) Supervisor, former Recruiter and Trainer, with over 575,000 operations as a controller. One of the most experienced controllers.


What is the number one feature, excluding a terrain map, that you’d like to see come to IFATC?

I think we can do a lot with holds, but the UI needs a few commands to support them efficiently. I’d like to be able to click any aircraft in a hold, and get a drop down list of everyone in the hold sorted by altitude. That alone would make them much easier to manage.

What has been your main motivation to be so dedicated to IFATC? Seeing you have over 575,000 ops you must have a huge something to be motivating you to be this dedicated.

I’m retired, so I’ve got a few hours every day I can devote to IF. Most of all, you have to keep learning and at my ripe old age, it’s important to keep the grey matter churning. There’s nothing like a session where you’re operating at maximum capacity to keep you engaged. There’s hardly a session where I don’t learn something new. Just now I had a tough start on approach with very strange winds, I found that keeping the base short helped out.

So I’m in Radar Training. What tips would you give me that would help me in this process?

I mentioned earlier, but preparation, especially for approach is critical! You should have an idea of how you will bring people in when it’s not very busy, and a strategy to migrate to a plan when it’s busier. It should be easy to go from one case to another.

Personally, I like the minimum number of vectors to bring someone in when it’s not busy. As traffic picks up i’ll add a downwind leg, but I won’t let it grow beyond 20 miles. If it does, I’ll feed the downwind with an upwind leg.

Do you prefer controlling approach versus tower/ground? Would you say that there is something about controlling radar that makes it more entertaining than ground and tower? What airports are your most and least favorite to control approach?

My brain works best with processes, and it’s terrible when something requires memorization. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I’ll go with it anyway. Approach is a process based task. You have a plan and you implement it. I don’t have to remember where everyone is, my plan takes care of that for me. The most important vector is the first one. If you make the correct first vector, everything else falls into place.

Tower requires that memory, as you move around from ground and tower, you have to remember who’s pushed back, and who’s lined up and waiting on the runway. Much more stressful for me than approach.

Single runway airports are the most fun for me.

How does it feel to control when you are grandfather?

Feels good to be grandfather! Controlling keeps me young, well, kayaking, fishing, hiking in the forest, all help with that.

Would you like to go flying sometime this spring?

Sounds good to me! A friend of mine just bought a 170B, and I’m chomping at the bit to go up with him.

How did you get introduced to Infinite Flight?

I’ve always been interested in online gaming. I started out many many years ago with Nascar Racing online with a 9600 baud modem. I played around with various flight simulators, but I tired of them after a few months.

A few years ago I decided to look into flight simulators again, and when I saw Infinite Flight, I couldn’t resist. The fact that you could fly with other people was the hook for me.

Then when I realized you could also get into the ATC side of it, it was all over.

You have a background that many of us don’t — a whole career as an electrical engineer. What advice do you have for us younger folk who are looking for a career to go into?

As far as a career, find something you enjoy doing. For me it was math, and electronics. Electrical Engineering was always my first choice.

How does your engineering background play into your strategies for controlling?

Engineering is all about research and planning. It’s part of my nature now, and plays perfectly with Infinite Flight.

What are some changes (both positive and/or negative) you have seen within IFATC in the time between when you first joined and now?

IFATC has constantly moved ahead in my mind, from the processes to the detailed manual we can all reference.

The biggest change I’ve seen is in the quality of the controllers we have. There are so many high quality controllers now, It’s so nice to see people handle radar and tower with a lot of traffic like it’s nothing.

As someone with as much as experience as yourself, what do you find to be the most important quality needed in being a leader?

People learn at different rates. It’s important to realize that and work with people accordingly. I don’t care if you’re working with an engineer taking on a new project or someone learning a new position in IFATC. Understanding that and adjusting how you interact with people will go a long way toward making you and him successful.

Don’t stifle creativity. The new guy may have a better idea than you do!

What was the thing that made you want to become an ATC recruiter?

What I enjoyed about the recruiter position was as I mentioned previously, bringing people up to speed, and seeing them grow.

I had to take a step back from recruiting when scheduling people for tests was starting to interfere with my home life. There were too many times when I’d tell my wife, no I can’t do something because I have a test scheduled in 2 hrs.

I’m glad we have a great batch of recruiters now.

What made you create your YouTube channel? Also, are you planning to improve it in the future with more controlling sessions and tutorials?

I keep telling myself I’m going to make it a more professional site, but I limit my IF to a few hours a day, and most of that time is spent controlling, helping out in tests or training, or doing QA flights Doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Some day I’ll make it a more useful site.

Do you have any advice to me as a new IFATC Officer to not get stressed when I get many aircraft tuning in and requesting approach at once?

The best advice I can give is have a plan, and prioritize your time. People out 60mi don’t need immediate attention. The guy that’s about to run through your downwind line or the guy not turning when he should do required your attention.

When you’ve got the close in planes situated, look further out. When It get’s busy, I typically setup a number of straight legs that feed into other straight legs. As a result, the only thing I have to do is manage the turns and watch for someone doing something he shouldn’t be doing. After that, look for those people 50-60mi out and give that all important first vector, which is probably the most important vector you’ll give. Make the correct first vector, and you won’t have to touch him for many minutes.

Do you have any words of encouragement for those of us enjoying doing ATC on training server, but that are hesitant to make the dive into testing and training for expert server?

Everyone starts on training server. When I started, I would find airports that were less busy, and found pilots more receptive to following instructions. It’s also more fun when half the pilots aren’t ignoring you.

As you get more familiar with the UI, you’ll naturally want to jump into IFATC.

Gary, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? Also, you always help other radar controllers to create a plan for the approaches. How do you do that, have these ideas that really work?

I’ll be 69 in a few days! I feel and act like I’m 20, so I’m grateful for that.

I share what works for me and suggest people give it a try. I also listen to what they’re saying, and many times I incorporate their ideas into my controlling.

Most of my controlling was influenced by my mentors, but I’ve tweaked what they did to suit my style. That’s why I’ll never TELL someone how he or she should be controlling. Everyone is different.

In your age what words of wisdom do you have about Infinite Flight or life in general that have helped you? Also, do you prefer trash haulers or a peaceful GA flight?

Most important, do what you love, and never give up on your dreams.

My father was always interested in racing, or should I say in putting me in machines that could do bodily harm.

I’ve raced go karts, motorcycles, slot cars, and lastly boats. Boat racing was the most fun as we traveled all over the country. We moved up the ranks to a point where we were competitive nationally. We were western US champions more times than I can remember. Our goal was national champion, which we finally accomplished after 8 years. That was our dream and we made it happen with a lot of hard work.

We qualified for 4 nationals, came up short in 3 but won the final one. So never give up on your dream.


If you’d like to join in discussions such as this with like-minded people like yourself and experts in the field, to learn and improve, I’d encourage you to sign up for our Workshop. Upcoming guests