Becoming a Controller
Welcome to the exciting world of air traffic control (ATC) in VATSIM UK. If you have already have some experience of VATSIM as a pilot, this will certainly provide you with a head start, but it is by no means necessary. You do not even need to own a copy of Flight Simulator; the software for VATSIM ATC is standalone and entirely free.
Unlike flying as a pilot, becoming a controller does require a certain amount of training before being allowed to control ‘live’ traffic. Furthermore, there is a system of graduated controller ratings that determine what types of ATC position you can control, so being a VATSIM controller is a constant learning process. We want this to be both enjoyable and educational.
The first step is to refer to the instructions on the Join Us page to join VATSIM (if you are not already a member) and set your division to United Kingdom. Please note that after joining or changing division it may be up to 24 hours before you are able to log in to VATSIM UK systems. However, you can still use this time to download the software and read some of the documentation.
The program used to connect to the VATSIM network as a controller is called a controller client. There are two controller clients in use in the UK: EuroScope (the more common of the two) and VRC. Both clients are suitable for controlling, but for initial controller training we use EuroScope. For EuroScope we provide an Observer profile inside of the UK Controller Pack to get members started quickly.
Once you have installed a controller client you will be able to log on to VATSIM with a controller rating of Observer. This means that although you are not able to do any controlling yourself, you can observe the traffic and the other controllers. Your callsign should be your initials followed by the suffix '_OBS'. For example, if are Joe Bloggs you would sign in as JB_OBS.
TeamSpeak is a voice communication program for group chat that we use for training sessions and for controller-to-controller communication. Instructions for setting up TeamSpeak for use with the VATSIM UK server can be found on the TeamSpeak page.
S1 Training Process
*Once sections marked with an asterisk* are complete, inform us by raising a ticket to ATC Training to move forward.
Introductory Group Session (OBS-S1 Part 1)
Next, arrange to attend one of our group sessions for new controllers as follows:
Log in to the Central Training System (CTS). This system is used for arranging individual and group training sessions as well as for taking theory tests and making ATC bookings.
In the menu, select 'Choose Home', then select 'New Controller' and click 'Request'. This is not processed automatically so approval could take up to 48 hours. Once your request has been processed you will receive an automatic email from the CT System.
We now operate an automatic queuing system for OBS controllers before their Observing group session. This means those who have been waiting the longest for the session will have priority in booking it. You should receive a notification email when a session is available for you, but do occasionally check the system also.
When a group session is available you will be able to see it on the 'Management' page under the 'Sessions' subheading in the 'Students' menu. There are a limited number of places available at each session. Places normally become available for booking 3 to 5 days prior to the session. There are a limited number of places at each session, available on a first-come first-served basis.
If there are no group sessions visible in the list, but you can see the blue information box, then there are no sessions currently scheduled, but we will be posting more soon. We post session dates as soon as they have been planned here, so please don't contact us to ask when the next session will be - as soon as we know, it will be on the system.
If a session is full, you may want to check back at regular intervals, because a place may become available again if another student cancels.
The session will be held on TeamSpeak and will be an opportunity for you to meet us and for us to introduce the basics of VATSIM ATC and of using the controller client software.
You will need to have EuroScope, with the UK Controller Pack, and TeamSpeak installed and set up ready for the session. We recommend that you do this in good time in advance of the session so there is time to resolve any difficulties that you might have.
Generic S1 Theory Training
All ATC theory material for the OBS to S1 course is held within the VATSIM UK e-Learning Portal also known as Moodle.
You will be enrolled onto the CT S1 Aerodrome course once you have completed your Introductory Group Session. Once you have completed the course you then need to take your S1 Theory exam.
OBS-S1 Part 1 Exam (Theory)
Make sure that you read the manual for the controller client you wish to use and become familiar with most of its functions. Controller clients and their documentation can be found in our Resources section. If you have any questions about using your client, feel free to ask in our forums.
This theory exam covers:
How to log in and start up an ATC position
What the ATC positions are and their responsibilities
How to communicate on the ATC channel
Knowing who is online and what frequency other controllers are using
General Ground Procedures
Understanding basic weather (METAR) information
How to get weather information for different airports
Knowledge of major and neighbouring ICAO airport codes
How to use the basic functions of your controller client
When you feel you are ready to take your theory test, log in to the CT System and select "Theory Exams" from your Student menu. Good luck!
Once you have completed the S1 e-Learning course and passed the S1 theory exam, send a ticket to the ATC Training department informing us of this.
Gatwick Specific Theory Training
We will then enrol you onto the Gatwick Delivery and Ground e-Learning course to study the specifics of Gatwick in preparation for your practical session (OBS-S1 Part 2). Once you have completed this and passed the final quiz, simply send us a ticket to inform us and we shall then set you up with your permissions to request practical one-to-one mentoring to complete the final part of your S1 training with instructions on how to do this.
Part 2 Exam (Practical)
The OBS-S1 Part 2 session is a short practical assessment carried out by your mentor. You are not expected to be perfect in every aspect, and assistance and guidance will be provided throughout. You are expected to demonstrate that you have some understanding, and capability to improve with practice, on the following points:
Recognising potential conflict in ground movement
Planning and prioritising
Using appropriate RT
Your mentor will go through each point helping you to understand what is required and testing your knowledge. If your mentor feels you are capable in these basic competencies, you will have successfully passed your OBS-S1 Part 2 session and you are now ready to control solo on the network for the first time as an S1. Your upgrade to the Student 1 (S1) rating is a manual process, so please allow up to 48 hours for it to take place. You will receive an email when the database has been updated, and will be able to log on as soon as you receive this.
As a Student 1 (S1) you may control any DEL or GND positions in VATSIM UK, with the exception of London Heathrow (EGLL) and Military aerodromes which require separate endorsements and can only be achieved with a controller rating of Student 2 (S2) or higher.
You will then be removed from the New Controller Training Group as you will only remain inside a Training Group when you are actively training in it.
When moving onto new positions, make sure you read up on the appropriate documentation and fetch the resources you need in order to give your pilots the best service possible. Now it's time to consolidate your knowledge, get some experience and enjoy your new rating!
When you are in a position where you feel comfortable to continue your training send us a ticket to ATC Training informing us which of the following Training Group waiting lists you wish to join for your S2 training - please bear in mind that due to the high demand for training these are currently quite substantial and there is, as of January 2017, an expected minimum wait of 6 months. Central Training - VATSIM UK’s new training programme is slowly being phased in during 2017 so please be aware the current processes may change throughout its development.
Training Group 1 (TG1)
EGKK - London Gatwick
EGPH - Edinburgh
EGPF - Glasgow
EGGD - Bristol
EGBB - Birmingham
Training Group 2 (TG2)
EGCC - Manchester
EGGP - Liverpool
EGSS - London Stansted
EGGW - London Luton
EGNT - Newcastle
The next Group OBS session date is: Monday 27 February 2017 @ 19z
Instructions on how to join will be given in your invitiation email which will be sent when the session is available to you.