AMA with DeerCrusher

We had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with DeerCrusher this Saturday in the ATC Education Group Workshop, where our members in the Workshop got a chance to ask Deer questions.

Deer is an Infinite Flight Moderator and ATC Supervisor, Commercial Single/Multi Engine Certificate, currently flying the Cessna 208EX Grand Caravan for a Part 135 company.

You’re a pilot on the C208. Do you have any plans for the future like switching to another model or flying for another airline?

What are the plans for the future? Great question. I only have a few days left to fly the Caravan. November 25 will be my last day here at the company that I’m with now. Starting December 18th, I will be in Phoenix at Mesa Airlines training headquarters. There I will spend about 2 months learning the CRJ700/900. I plan on spending about 2 years with them before I send in an application to Southwest Airlines. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved (LUV’d) Southwest. The hope is that I retire with them. That’s kind of my 5 year outlook so far. Pretty exciting but nervous not knowing what the future holds. Always best to set goals and have a plan in life and actively work on that plan as you progress though it.

If you could change one thing on the Infinite Flight Community Forum, what would it be; and what situations are the most challenging for you?

If I could change one thing on the forum? Honestly, that’s a tough one. I love how it operates as is. The forum is really the first and only type of forum that I’ve ever used. I was never into Reddit or some of these other big name forums. So to be fair, I don’t have anything to compare the forum to. The second part of your question, what situations are the most challenging? 98% of our users self moderate themselves. They tend to watch out and take care of each other. Ghostings topics generally show ones true colors. This is where we as moderators need to have patience and allow the individual to talk. I walk into each argument if you want to call it that with an open mind willing to hear them out and perhaps support their argument.

What do you find most rewarding about being a part of Infinite Flight? What kind of opportunities have you stumbled across here?

Most rewarding about being part of Infinite Flight? As a pilot I’ve found that I can continue to keep my skills sharp on a regular basis because of Infinite Flight. This includes even when I’m not flying. The physics are so real, the weather is real, the way that aircraft in general handle, are so natural feeling. Sounds weird but its true. Add on the fact that I can fly from JFK to Sydney and it pretty much seals the deal. I love being a moderator and assisting in any way that I can. I enjoy providing feedback where its needed. Specifically the beta testing portion. I feel that by me providing this info, I can help ensure that the aircraft we’re flying perform the way any other aircraft should handle. #Realism

Part 2 As for the opportunities, I kind of covered that portion above. Keeping the skills in tune even when I’m not flying IRL. ATC also gives me a better appreciation for all of the work that is required to keep our skies clear of conflict. Being able to jump in that hot seat is a real joy.

What have you found or discovered within the community that has either surprised you or made you grow as a person?

What have I discovered within the community that has helped me grow? I think communicating with others on a much larger scale. I’m not a flight instructor but I do enjoy teaching others who have absolutely no clue how to fly a plane across a platform such as the community forum. Helping promote the next generation of aviation is something that I enjoy. You hear all about “PILOT SHORTAGE. Airlines predict 250,000 pilots needed in the next 20 years”. Yeah, while true, even if I could inspire say 25 people to become a pilot just by chatting casually with them, I feel that I have contributed to the industry.

What’s your favorite part of being apart of the Infinite Flight ATC team?

Favorite part of IFATC? The people. Getting to control along side of some amazing controllers is a blast. I don’t control very often, but when I do its a moment you won’t want to miss. I try to have fun while controlling. Some folks are all serious and straight to the point. Approach controlling with an open mindset, relax and get comfortable in the hot seat.

What’s the best part of being a moderator on the forum?

Best part about being a mod? Getting the opportunity to chat with you guys in a setting like this, getting to interact with you guys on the forum and doing group flights with folks occasionally. Its fun to watch y’alls reactions when I show up. Everyone’s like, “ooooh. A mod! Alright, time to shape up and behave!“

Who’s your favorite moderator besides yourself?

Favorite moderator besides myself? That’s mean and hard. I can’t. But I will say this, all of the mods that we have are amazing. We’ve all grown closer together. I have yet to meet up with the rest of the team in person simply because of my crazy and unpredictable schedule. But come 2020 we’re going to change that. FSExpo2020

Have you ever had to make an emergency landing?

Emergency landing? Nope. Not if you count the time I hit the deer. I was already on the ground when he and I collided. But I’ve never had an emergency where I’ve had to land because of an issue with the aircraft/passenger.

What do you think of the A350 being added to Infinite Flight?

What do I think of the A350? I’ve always been a critic of the A350, lets be completely honest. All jokes aside, I’ve never liked the A350. Thought it resembled the 787 too much. To be clear, those first couple sentences are in real life. To me, there was no point in adding it to the Infinite Flight fleet. But I respect and can understand where Infinite Flight is coming from in regards to a business stand point. Thousands of people wanted the plane. Fewer didn’t want the plane. Do the math and we get the outcome that we’ve got coming. That being said, I can’t comment on much about the aircraft right now. I will say though, that I will continue to provide feedback as noted in another individuals line of questioning to ensure that this aircraft is up to par with the high quality aircraft we’ve got presently.

If you were to decide what the next plane to come were be, what would you want to see?

If I had the opportunity to decide on the next aircraft? I still stand by my feature request that I made about the King Air 350. I think we could use another twin engine turbo prop. We’ve only got the Dash 8 which falls under the “regional jet” category. The King Air would be a step above the TBM930. Speed and altitudes would be similar. Corporate. Great cruising capabilities. Great performance on Takeoff and Landing. An all around great aircraft.

If there was one thing in your past that you could do differently, what would it be and why?

If I could do one thing in my past what would I have done differently? So far, I’ve been happy with everything that I’ve done. Its kind of hard to pinpoint anyone thing that I would have done differently. That being said, something that was out of my control was my childhood. When I was a kid, my parents moved my younger sister and I out to Hawaii where we lived for 13 years. Missed out on a lot that happened here on the “mainland”. As much as I loved Hawaii’s weather, I do not miss the traffic, the nonstop craziness, high cost of living, and the threat of Tsunamis a few times a year.

Did you have any other close calls as a real world pilot other than your famous run in with a Deer?

Any other close calls as a real world pilot? I have and interesting ones too. The not so interesting ones include other 737’s that were vectored too close to us when arriving into Dallas. We’ve had our fair share of Turkey Vultures coming close to the aircraft as we’re either departing or arriving. The last one would be a turtle. We were powering up for takeoff and we were at about 40kts already barreling down the runway when we saw a turtle in the middle of the runway. Just a small box turtle of some sort. We missed him as we drifted off centerline to dodge him. Interesting experiences though. Its always an adventure!

Being a pilot you have the privilege of being able to take advantage of Jumpseating. Have you ever used it in your line of work, maybe to go on vacation or transfer somewhere?

Have I used jumpseating in my line of work? Yes, but not for my current company even though I am able to. I currently live at the base where I’m based out of, so I dont need to commute. Makes life simple that way. However, I have jumpseated before and will jumpseat when I move the Mesa Airlines starting in December 2019. The plan is to live in Denver and commute to either DFW or Phoenix while working at Mesa! Its fun and a great opportunity to take advantage of as a pilot. You get to meet and network with other great pilots.

Thank you for that great question! Jumpseating is used widely throughout the industry. Become a pilot for an airline and you’ll use it!

What’s your favorite part about flying the C208?

Favorite part about the C208 Caravan is getting to chat with the passengers. The passengers get to watch what it is we do. The passengers generally have questions after the flight about what altitude, or what speed, or anything else that we did which often opens the door to a great conversation. I’ve got to meet a lot of great people. People from DFW Tower controllers, other airline pilots, visitors from Austria and Australia. Its something that you don’t get to do on an airliner much.

What’s your least favorite part about your job?

Least favorite part about the job? I sometimes have to stand in the rain/snow to watch the fueler. Per company policy, one pilot needs to stay with the fueler to ensure that he/she is putting in the correct amount of fuel into the wings.

Would you trade it (your job) for something else?

Would I trade my job for something else? Short answer: No. Funny, I was just talking to Joshua Smithley about this. I have a degree in Aviation Management as a part of my fallback plan should flying go south for me. The only thing is I don’t know or haven’t thought of what I would do in that event. To me, flying is not a job/career even thought that’s what it is. To me flying is a career that pays with a view.

How did you get picked to become a moderator for Infinite Flight and how did you hear from Infinite Flight back in the old days?

How did I get picked to become a mod? I was creating tutorials on things that involved anything flying. Some are still there today. I approached Mark and Tyler back then asking that if they ever needed another hand to create tutorials covering the flight aspect of the simulator as well as providing insight as a real world pilot to the Infinite Flight community. Couple days went by and they gladly accepted my offer. I created a tutorial just the other day which will come out when update 19.4 rolls out. I also assist some of our other community members who have started making written tutorials for aircraft to ensure that they have the proper verbiage and understanding on how the aircraft features work so that you guys are able to fly the aircraft to its fullest potential.

Moral of the story: Asking for mod is a no no. I did it only because I had something to offer and they agreed. Its no different than Infinite Flight hiring people to be on the development team. What makes you different? What can you offer and bring to the table? Those types of things will take you far in life as that’s what employers are looking for in their employees.

What makes you different that Person A and why should we hire you? Ask yourself those questions and come up with a good answer because every company that you interview with will ask you that question.

Great question. Not one I’ve shared but that’s why we have this Q&A setting!

How long did it take for your flight training? Any advice to younger aspiring pilots?

How long did training take? For me this took 3 ½ years. From someone with 0 hours to 250hours. I wasn’t flying or taking flight courses during the whole time. I got my degree in Aviation Management all while learning how to fly. Something to keep in mind which will answer your second question is that everyone learns at different rates. Don’t base the amount of time that it took me to learn to fly, to you. You may catch on faster or slower. The other thing to keep in mind is your financial standing. I was not born into money but I’m not from a poor family either. Choose a flight program that will fit your wallet because it will cost a bit.

Reach out to me if you have any other questions. I love helping coach people in the right direction especially when it comes to flight training.

Any advice you have for up and coming college students?

Advice for up and coming college students? Have a plan. Know what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to change that plan part way through. I was a mid-year degree change person. I started Aeronautical Science and didn’t like what was involved so I decided to go to Aviation Management.

Have a back up plan. Try to envision where you’d like to be 5 years down the road. Don’t try to work out the 10 year thing because that can often be unrealistic. 3-5 year plans work out better from what I’ve found.

Really got to learn a lot about Deer, some of the stuff relating to his job and moderation. Very cool AMA!

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.

November 10, 2019 by Kyle Boas

AMA with Tyler Shelton

We had an AMA “Ask Me Anything” with Tyler Shelton this Saturday in the ATC Education Group Workshop, where our members in the Workshop got to ask Tyler questions. I was going to give you just a best of questions and answers, but it’s too good to leave out some of these so here’s a full transcript.

Tyler is the Infinite Flight ATC Manager and a full time real world Air Traffic Controller.

Have you ever dreamed to become an ATC or you did you just start working and fell in love with your job after that?

ATC wasn’t a dream of mine, nor was aviation in general growing up. I actually studied music on college after going to an arts school for 6th-12th grade. I traveled, recorded on many records, and eventually went to Florida State University for Jazz Performance and composition. After realizing it’s near impossible to work full-time and give 100% in college I changed gears and went to the police academy. Sadly I couldn’t get hired anywhere because they only wanted officers with prior experience. I then turned to the Air Force and did my research to see which job transferred most to the outside world. I was hooked from day one!

What makes a radar controller a good controller in Infinite Flight, is it the plan that they make before the session, or being calm under the stress, or even being flexible and being able to change planes while controlling, if the original plan didn’t work?

I think having a plan and the ability to adapt real-time makes a good radar controller. Being able to visualize where each aircraft will end up is key, but also takes a good bit of experience along with trial and error.

Is there any chance, even if it was 1%, that you would visit Kuwait?

I’ve visited Kuwait twice actually, both times on a deployment. Exactly one year ago today I was there as well.

Have you ever encountered a situation on the job as a controller in the real world and remembered how it was managed in Infinite Flight?

To some degree, yes. I think one of the biggest aspects I take away from Infinite Flight and apply to real world controlling is compassion and the understanding that everyone is learning all the time. It’s easy to grill someone because they didn’t do exactly what you had in mind. My solution is always to give the tower number, let them call, and have some good two-way feedback to help them and help me.

Have you ever had to deal with an emergency while controlling?

Absolutely! They varied quite a bit between my military and civilian controlling experience. Purely by the nature of military aircraft with their speed, tendencies to be low level, and munitions on board, we commonly had bird strikes and faulty weapon systems requiring precautionary landings.

As for the civilian airport, I’ve had a Cessna go off the runway on many occasions, random aircraft call up asking to land and requesting an ambulance for a sick pax, or a blown tire on landing. The key is staying calm, assisting as much as you can, and clearing the way for them!

Do you rotate stations when controlling — if so, what is your favourite position?

This actually depends quite a bit based on facility and manning. In the Air Force I was tower only so I’d switch between Local (tower), ground, flight data, and Watch Supervisor.

At Goodyear (KGYR) we often had very little manning so I’d commonly work Tower, ground, clearance, flight data, and supervisor all at once by myself for sometimes 8 hours. You sure learn a lot about prioritizing and knowing your limits!

My next facility that I start at soon will be an “up/down” which means I can work all Tower and Approach positions in the same day. Talk about diversity!

My favorite position is definitely Tower (local). The busier the better! I always think it closely mimics the rush of an extreme sport where you get that adrenaline dump and high!

Do you see any similarities between Infinite Flight controller’s skillset and a real word controller’s skillset?

The skills required definitely transfer between Infinite Flight and Real World. The big difference I see is that there is some real emotions in real life that come with major consequences. When it’s busy, things are nearly out of hand, and you’re just getting swamped by yourself it can be a bit scary to know that you’ve got a lot of lives in your hand and they’re all counting on your expertise to get on the ground safe.

What is your next big goal you have for the IFATC?

My next big goal for IFATC is seeing us adopt a Clearance Delivery system with more control over our arrivals, departures, and routing to offer a more realistic experience and a flow of traffic that is far more manageable. I’ll be working with Laura [Laban] to ensure it happens!

I’m currently considering my career options and based on my results so far in school I’m confident I could go for Airline Pilot, Civilian ATC or ATC for the Royal Australian Air Force. Having experienced both military and civilian ATC, which do you think is better and why?

Really good question! As for which route you take, that’s definitely a decision that only you can make. That’s a tough one! For me, if ATC weren’t a possibility I’d be pursuing flying. For any avgeek I’m sure we can agree that the other is the next best thing.

Onto the question… I’ve enjoyed my time as a civilian controller soooo much more. The diversity, volume of traffic, more manual nature of ATC, and general day-to-day pace is so much more enjoyable. I always considered the military to be quite stressful, and maybe it was at the time, but in comparison looking back that traffic was absolutely nothing compared to what we work now and often times the aircraft are adhering to such strict procedures that everything is the expected. Same arrival routes, speeds, altitudes, and procedures to the point where there isn’t much conflict to resolve.

What ways, if any, are there to begin a career in air traffic controlling if your over 40.

Unfortunately the FAA does have a maximum age for applicants. I do believe it is 36. That said, there are many contract companies like Midwest, RVA, and Serco (company I just worked for) that have ATC opportunities with far less requirements. If you want it, there’s always a way and it’s not too late!

From the perspective of a real-world air traffic controller, what are some things you would like to see added/changed/improved to the whole system of ATC in Infinite Flight?

As a whole I’d love to see intrafacility coordination, clearance delivery, and automation features.

Those three in general are massive aspects of real life controlling that I use daily to get the job done efficiently. Intrafacility coordination could be a push to talk intercom feature that allows us to communicate in app between controllers for things like information, hand offs, and requests.

Clearance Delivery ensures routing is correct for runway in use, clear of arrival/departure routes, and flows with others.

Automation features would allow us to select handoff on a target, it flashes on the receiving controllers screen, they tap to accept the handoff, then radio comms are transferred. Little things like this in real life really cut down on the amount of voice comms required and gives us a chance to focus on our frequency and aircraft.

Is being an air traffic controller one of the most stressful jobs in the world according to research, how do you cope with that?

I think the stress is a bit exaggerated. Some days are worse than others, but I don’t find it to be crippling day in and day out to be quite honest! A big key for me is exercise, ensuring you take time for priorities like family, hobbies, or general relaxation. I can’t say I’m most qualified to answer that since I work two jobs, probably don’t sleep enough, and drink too much coffee!

How long you have been with Infinite Flight?

I’ve been with Infinite Flight for 6 years now.. my roles have definitely changed quite a bit over the years, from ATC, to Social Media, to Support, to Pilot Tutorials, and everything in between!

How much you do you love ATC and aviation?

I honestly just love my job though. There is such satisfaction from perfecting your craft and learning new tricks to continuously increase your threshold for traffic tolerance. Hard to describe, but it truly never gets old. Aviation in general has consumed me and I often find myself at airports on my days off for spotting… as if I don’t see enough from the tower.

Are you going to a different facility after working for KMDT for a few years?

I’m not quite sure what’s next. MDT is my first facility in the FAA, it’ll be my first approach certification, and I certainly won’t be in any rush to leave. I’d love to move around as little as possible, so I’m fine staying there until I can make my transfer to the dream facility which is Charlotte (CLT).

What’s your greatest regret?

My biggest regret without a doubt is not finishing my pilot’s license. I had a really unfortunate experience with the check ride.. essentially an examiner who failed about 7 people in a row, all in an effort to get their money, and all for reasons unrelated to material expected with a PPL. I let that discourage me, life happened, I got busy, and never revisited it. Once settled and done with my new facility’s training I hope to tackle it again and make some time for me.

What makes your interactions both here and/or in the real world aviation-wise truly meaningful?

The most meaningful part of what I do here and in real life is the ability to share my passion and create memories for people. ATC is no easy career field to make your way into, whether due to age, location, or any number of circumstances. My hope with Infinite Flight is to provide that experience, rush, and knowledge as an outlet for people to experience a career that they may not otherwise be able to. As for the real world aspect, my goal is usually to be part of a positive learning moment for pilots. Most pilots who fly long enough have those early stories they tell. If I can be the one that helped educate them rather than run them away from a hobby they had passion for or a career they were trying to pursue then I’ve done my job.

What’s the best part about working for Infinite Flight?

The best part for me is watching the community grow and get excited about the things we’re doing. When I say there is a lot in the works, I mean there is a lot. Each dev has their own little projects and they eventually merge into the app, get tasted, and land on your device. Seeing that hard work pay off and get you even closer to the real deal is super rewarding for us!

What aspects of real-world traffic control would you like it to have the current Infinite Flight system? In terms of screens layout etc.

Interestingly, Infinite Flight is way more advanced than real world systems used from a visual perspective. We offer far more visual cues, markings, data about aircraft, and more. The biggest aspect that is missing is the intrafacility communication. We constantly use lines to communicate with our approach for hand-offs, relaying information, and making requests. I’d love for us to have a push-to-talk intercom feature that allows controllers to communicate in app.

My question is more crafted towards ATC in general. We all know there is an ATC shortage as we speak, and this means a lot of people are bound to be interested in filling retiring roles. What would you say is the most cost effective, efficient way to join the ranks of the FAA and the ATC Team?

They’ve definitely got their hands full trying to fill those positions. Since I just finished the FAA hiring process and signed my life away I can absolutely say that they need to make the whole hiring process a bit more streamlined to expedite it from start to finish. The application is so painfully specific, the appointments and requirements are cumbersome (medical eval, psych eval, drug test, etc), and there truly is no set timeline for anything. For many of the tests I had to complete, I had already completed them in the military or for the contract company I was working for but they didn’t accept them. This meant that less than 90 days after doing a drug test, physical, and background check I had to do the exact same thing at the same test locations here in Phoenix all over again for the FAA.

What was the core reason you joined Infinite Flight (as a user), way back when?

I was just beginning ATC at my first base and wanted to check out flight sims as I trying to explore aviation and satisfy that curiosity of my new career. I first downloaded and deleted just a few days later after being so frustrated by the B747 landing mission. I deployed to the middle east a few months later, downloaded it again, got quite active, joined beta, then helped create the ATC aspect of the app which eventually led to me being hired.

At the moment there’s quite a lack of third part applications for the ATC side of things, with the new API being released soon. What hat is something you’d like to see from a third party application that isn’t necessarily possible or high on the (metaphorical?) priority list in terms of ATC?

Good question! I’m not a dev by any means so I have no clue what is or isn’t possible, but a way to easily communicate would be amazing. Perhaps an intercom app that runs in the background that allows controllers to communicate via voice, complete automated handoffs, and share information in real-time would go a long ways. Communicating via text on Slack certainly isn’t ideal and can be quite distracting!

I’d like to thank Tyler for taking the time out of his evening to answer all of our questions. Really great questions and in-depth answers.

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.

October 27, 2019 by Kyle Boas