Be smart, start slow

Start off slow, fly to small low traffic airports, fly pattern work at a controlled field. That’s the same thing the trained and tested controllers do, so if you jump right into the deep end the minute you join the server you’ll flounder. Read the ATC Manual, contact the controller when you are given a “please follow instructions” instruction or “check the tutorials on the forum for assistance using ATC instructions, ect.

Be proactive not reactive.

Putting yourself in the pilot’s shoes

One thing to do while controlling is to put yourself in shoes of the pilot. Would the command I’m about to send make any sense to the pilot, if I was the pilot? It’s ok not know if you’re new and learning. It’s always a great habit to get into though, even for those who have a ton of experience.

Ask Me Anything with Ryan Epps

We had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Ryan Epps this Saturday in the ATC Education Group Workshop. Here’s the best questions and answers.

Ryan is a Commercial Pilot – Instrument Airplane, Airplane Single and Multiengine Land, Certified Flight Instructor — Airplane Single Engine and Instrument Airplane,
Ground Instructor — Basic, Advanced, Instrument, and a Remote Pilot — Small Unmanned Aerial System. For Infinite Flight he is the Airport Editing Manager, Chief Flight Instructor, Airport Surveyor,
Navigation Supervisor, and the Infinite Flight General Aviation Club Chief Flight Instructor.

What originally inspired your passion for aviation?

My family travels a lot, and on instance I got to sit right seat in a Caravan. That probably ignited the passion for something I already thought was cool.

What is your ultimate goal in the aviation industry?

I hope to fly wide bodies for a major. After touring a 777 and A350, I’m torn between the 2 of them. Shorter term, I hope to be at an airline within about 2 years.

How many years has it taken to acquire all of those real world licenses?

I got my most recent license about 24 months to the day after I started training for my private.

Which license was the hardest to obtain?

Initial CFI is the hardest for everyone to obtain, and I’m no different. CFII was actually the easiest one to obtain.

Is getting your CPL worth the time and money if you’re not planning to become a commercial pilot?

I wouldn’t specifically train for it, but if you’re at the time requirements, it’s not much extra to get the rating. If you do become a commercial pilot, then you have some more options and fewer restrictions.

What type of flight instructor work do you do with infinite flight?

Right now I’m trying to develop some programs to use with the upcoming C172. I’m thinking of doing some programs for private and instrument procedures and some competitions on the maneuvers and takeoffs/landings.

At what age did you get your first license?

I was 18 when I passed my private check ride.

Do you own any aircraft, if not are you looking into getting one in the future?

I would love to own an airplane, but do not currently. I’m a bit too picky to buy anything affordable.

What is the hardest part in obtaining all these licenses?

The hardest part with getting most of these certificates is having the determination to stick with it, even when it gets tough. Studying and being flexible with plans is crucial to succeeding.

How much time would you spend studying?

It really depends on what I’m studying for. Instructor is the least, since I already know everything I’m teaching. Jet procedures is the most, since it’s all new. That’s about 5-10 hours a week.

Will you chat a little about the airport editing work and some of the success you’ve seen develop.

Yeah. I have been part of the airport editing team for over 3 years (maybe more). There have been a lot of changes and milestones while I’ve been on the team and while I’ve been in charge of it. The biggest success we’ve reached has been the completion of all airports with A380 service. In the time that Moritz and I have been running the team, we’ve seen a really close group of people develop. Everyone’s determination to editing airports and helping new members has been great to see.

Our next AMA is with Julien Lim, a Real World Toronto Center Controller and Infinite Flight ATC Specialist. Learn together with the rest of our community by joining our Workshop, and get the chance to ask our guests questions during our AMAs.

Know your limitations

The most important part of being a controller is knowing your limit.

Knowing when to stop.
Knowing when to go.
knowing when you’ve lost the plot.
Lost your way.
Lost control.
Don’t lose control.

Having that kind of feel to gauge when you are off and need help is key. Traffic density is not an excuse for poor quality. Don’t give up but don’t power through if you know quality is in a dip.

Always follow the taxi clearance, not the pushback expected runway

When you request pushback you may or may not receive an added remark to ‘expect runway XX’. This is a new one to me that I wanted to point out. The ‘expect runway XX’ does not assign you the runway you’ll need to taxi too. It is not a taxi instruction.

It should only be used if the controller deems it necessary for the aircraft to face a particular way for pushback to promote efficiency. It should not be used for every pushback command sent.

As a pilot, you need to pay attention to the taxi instruction ‘taxi to runway XX, contact Tower when ready’. You don’t have clearance to start your taxi until you receive a taxi instruction.

1. “5.1.5” of the Infinite Flight ATC Manual

Sticking with your strategy

When controlling radar, when forming a line you need to take in consideration that it will be so much easier to conduct things long term if you’re organized.

When you open you may inherit a busy cluster of an airspace. You need to find a balance between still bringing those people in and organizing a line you’ll use for the entirety of your session.

Consistency, organization and uniformity are three adjectives that you’ll want attached to the description of what your line is.

It’s difficult to stick to creating a line. A good example of this is during this session. During a strategy change by Gary Hamann, Gary halted all arrivals.

There was no sneaking people in. He choose to start a new line, he stuck with it, and it pays off.

It may seem very inefficient to completely stop all arrivals just to organize, but it sometimes is needed and the best plan of action.

Can U StoP

C—Calculate. Use the appropriate factors and be sure to consider dry/wet runways and associated contamination, planned touchdown point and speed over the landing threshold, wind speed and direction, inoperative equipment, and special cases.

U-Understand. The manufacturer’s AFM landing data is baseline data, and it is derived based on flight test data. Factors should be applied to the data to adjust it for the current conditions. Pilots should adhere to the operator’s SOPs and best operating practices which will result in the safest aeronautical decision making.

S-Stabilize. Ensure that you understand all the requirements of a stabilized approach and you are able to fly one given the actual conditions. If not–GO AROUND!

P-Professional. Land like a professional using the aircraft’s capabilities as described in the AFM and SOPs. A professional puts safety ahead of style.

Translate that the best you can into Infinite Flight terms.

1. ”AC 91-79” advisory from the FAA.

Consistency with commands

Being consistent can really lighten your workload. You will know where and when aircraft will be without thinking.

I tell this to every one of my Radar trainees. Consistency is key. Even something as simple as using the same heading and altitudes.

Say you’re controlling Centennial Airport (KAPA), runway 35R is in use. Heading 130, 170, 260, 320 clear. You’re done. Repeat.

Staying consistent will allow you to focus on other things, because when you turn an aircraft crosswind you know they’ll be on heading 130.

It’s a small detail that will really help.

Starting slow

Self control is a major part of being a controller. Having that internal voice that tells you when to slow down and evaluate whether you are ready for a specific workload is key.

Even experienced controllers start slow. Say you’ve been away for a week or so, you wouldn’t open the busiest airport of the day. You’d start slow.

Just because you have the ability to do something, that does’t mean you should.

Sequence instead of over-controlling

I credit an Infinite Flight ATC trainee that just recently became part of the team, for this.

There are some somewhat rare situations that you may or may not encounter where you will need to have aircraft extend downwind.

There are two ways to have an aircraft extend downwind.

  • Extend downwind
  • I’ll call your base

‘Extend downwind’ gives the pilot discretion as to when they should turn base, and ‘I’ll call your base’ gives you the power to turn base when you see fit. Both are fine options.

Doing too much and it’s can be seen as over-controlling. A way to both lower your’s and pilot’s workload is by simply sequencing.

Say you have one aircraft, 2 nautical miles past the runway threshold on left downwind for runway 31. You also have another aircraft 2 nautical miles past the runway threshold on left downwind for runway 24. Spot the conflict? If you can’t here’s a visual.

You need to have one of them extend and the other turn base. Let’s have the aircraft on left downwind for runway 24 extend downwind and tell the aircraft on left downwind for 32 to turn base.

Now another aircraft joins the party on runway 32, but he’s on right crosswind. Now do you “A” tell him to extend downwind or “B” simply sequence. “B” is the correct answer.

You now ensure there’s no conflict for either runway with a minimal amount commands sent.