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Topics - Robert Shearman Jr

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Events / Please reconsider single-facility FNOs...
« on: August 12, 2023, 12:48:46 AM »
Before I launch into my opinion below, I want to ensure I make absolutely clear that every single individual controller I encountered in tonight's FNO was top-notch.  They all did an amazing job, and the concept of a "Roulette" event where you get sent to an unknown and non-pre-planned destination was a great outside-the-box idea.

That all having been said...

VATUSA and ARTCC Event staff, please reconsider whether single-facility FNO events are a good idea.  They were "outlawed" after the mass influx of new VATSIM members stemming from the combination of COVID lockdowns and MSFS2020's release.  However, it does not seem to me that the number of pilots flying on Friday nights has diminished, so I'm not sure why it has seemed to be a good idea to allow single-airport events again.  Please reconsider returning to the post-COVID policy of having all FNOs feature at least three airports so that one set of controllers does not go down the tubes for four solid hours through no fault of their own.

Civil discussion welcome.

General Discussion / Most scenic US flights?
« on: May 10, 2019, 06:39:38 AM »
ZSE's "Fly the Gorge" event a couple weeks ago got me thinking -- where are some other really scenic flights one can make in the US?  Obviously there's the Grand Canyon, the Manhattan skyline, the various resort airports around Colorado, the Florida Keys -- maybe around Mount Rainier, too -- what are some other "pretty" US flights you've done that you recommend?

VATSTAR is about to enter its fourth year of operation, and to celebrate, we're taking off for a warm summer getaway!

Join us at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, GA at 1800z on Sunday, June 24th, 2018, and we'll fly to Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Meyers, FL!  Bring your jets, as the flight is 450-500nm and approximately an hour and a half long in a standard airliner.

Upon arrival at KRSW you'll hopefully be checking out the beautifully enhanced airport by our new friends LatinVFR; take a sneak peek at .  One lucky winner will receive a free copy; enter simply by registering for the event ( --> About Us --> 3rd Anniversary Flight), and by liking our Facebook page (  The winner will be chosen on Saturday June 23rd so you'll have time to install the package before the event!

We'll have tons of fabulous other prizes too from other sponsors such as Aerosoft, Flightbeam Studios, FS2Crew, Just Flight, Orbx Simulation Systems, REX Simulations, and TFDi Design!

We'll see you in the sunny southeastern skies on June 24th!

The Flight Deck / VATSTAR now has a Discord server...
« on: June 03, 2018, 06:17:35 PM »
Hello, all --

In response to member feedback suggesting we should find ways to become more of a "community of VATSIM pilots" as opposed to JUST a place to come get Pilot Ratings, VATSTAR has opened a Discord server for its members to join and converse on.

The "lobby" text channel, we hope, will become the perfect place to share general greetings, screenshots, aviation discussion (real and simulated), and any general chit-chat our members choose. There will also be a public voice channel. Additionally, we are opening text channels for each of our Pilot Ratings programs so students can discuss and get quick answers to questions about each of the particular ratings.

Finally, we are also including "Classroom" text and voice channels, in hopes that we can begin using Discord in addition to, or as an alternative to, TeamSpeak and TeamViewer for screen-sharing during Practice Flight and Checkride Exam sessions. This is still in the highly experimental stages but we encourage our staff and our students to try it out and compare / contrast the two methods.

If you have any questions -- well, Discord is the perfect place to ask them! Our other methods of contact are all still valid, as well.

Our Discord invitation link can be found on our Member Forum at .

We hope to talk to you soon!

May 20th, 2018 -- 1800z

Join VATSTAR as we get high in Denver, in celebration of our 800th awarded VATSIM Pilot Rating (which we expect to achieve right around the middle of May)! We'll depart from Cheyenne, Wyoming (KCYS / Jerry Olson Field) and travel over the Rocky Mountains to Gypsum, Colorado (KEGE / Eagle County Regional). You may want to leave your Skyhawks at home, but your Mooneys, Beechcrafts, and Caravans should all be fine. However, bring your oxygen masks, as we'll be joining the Three Mile High club while enroute! Minimum safe altitudes for VFR top 13,000 feet in spots, and MEAs for the recommended IFR route sit nicely at 16,000 (yes, that's 20 feet per every rating we'll have awarded)! Then, the descent into Eagle County is a nice controlled plummet to a field elevation of 6,547 feet. This flight will certainly showcase the many challenges of mountain flying! Are you UP to the task? We'll find out on May 20th at 1800z!

Register for the event at

The Flight Deck / E/G floors at 14,500...
« on: April 01, 2018, 02:26:49 PM »
Hey, all -- I was doing a P4 review session with a VATSTAR student this morning and was trying to show him an example of where the Class E / Class G border is 14,500 rather than the standard 1,200.  I know there were many such areas in the Central and Mountain time zones.  An example we use in our lesson material is just west of KABR in South Dakota.  But SkyVector doesn't seem to show them anymore and I can't find any at all in the lower 48.  I did see that there are still a bunch in Alaska (that I then used to show the student), but, that was it.  Any idea whether and when this changed, and, are there any remaining such areas still in the contiguous States?

The Flight Deck / X-Plane on a Mac?
« on: March 04, 2018, 12:15:37 PM »
Hiya's --

I'm wondering if anyone can help us.

VATSTAR has a student who is a new VATSIM member and generally new to flight simulation.  He is retired, though I don't know from what industry.  He was working toward his real-world PPL a couple decades ago but gave that up for financial reasons; he has recently decided that flight simulation is a worthwhile way to indulge his hobby.

The problem is, he's not terribly tech-savvy.  He's functional on computers, but not to the level of troubleshooting weird compatibility quirks that this hobby sometimes demands of us.  He is a Mac user flying X-Plane.  Several of the Instructors on VATSTAR's staff have experience with X-Plane but not on a Mac.

He's been trying to work toward his P2 rating but to be honest, his biggest impediment is not handling the airplane, which is what my Instructor staff are most adept at coaching on.  It's figuring out the wonderful world of simulation as a whole and all the things that one has to learn to adapt one's real-world flying experience into the world of desktop simulators.

Is there anyone out there who has experience running X-Plane on a Mac that might be interested in helping this guy out?  We have him comfortable using TeamSpeak and TeamViewer, so, that will hopefully work as a venue for communication and coordination for anyone who wants to try lending this guy a hand.

Let me know via PM or emailing me (cfi (at) vatstar (dot) com), and I'll put you in touch.  Thanks for your consideration.

Come Fly With Me / Celebrate VATSTAR's 700th Pilot Rating! Feb 18th 1800z
« on: January 30, 2018, 03:54:40 PM »
Hi, all --

For our 700th Certification Celebration we're teaming up with the Honolulu Control Facility for their "Hang Ten Hilo!" event. We'll meet up via the VATSTAR TeamSpeak and in our simulators on Sunday February 18th at 1800z (1pm EST, 10am PST). If the weather is VMC with adequate ceilings, the starting point will be Lanai Airport, Hawaii (PHNY), which we'll depart VFR eastbound and loosely follow LNY V16 ITO to Hilo International (PHTO). If conditions merit, we'll make it an IFR flight instead, and depart Molokai (PHMK) flying the HAPAI3 to the MKK transition then the V7 to LNY, then pick up the same route from there. A full route briefing will be published a few hours before the event, with complete instructions on how to fly it via radio navigation for those interested in trying it. I and others on TeamSpeak will be available to help coach anyone through the VOR navigation and any other aspect of the flight they're unsure of.

Sunday, Feb 18th
meet 1800z on TeamSpeak and at origin
VFR: PHNY (roughly LNY V16 ITO) PHTO

If you need the VATSTAR TeamSpeak server details, register for an account at then look under Resources and Downloads.

A complete flight briefing will be posted a few hours before the event. Hope to see you all there!

Simple Insanity / The stupidity that is me...
« on: December 24, 2017, 07:01:47 PM »
Haven't flown in a while due to a big Christmas project for the family.  Finally finished it the other night, late, like midnight.  Wanted to relax and celebrate by doing a little flying.  Check VAT-Spy; predictably, little ATC online.  Decide to fly a couple of the FSX "Missions" just for a bit of fun.  Mission comes up in total darkness.  "World" --> "Time and Season" is locked out.  Fine, I'll fix you.  Go under System Clock, uncheck "auto-set system time," change AM to PM, and voila -- night becomes day.

Couple days later I go to check and see who's online.  Hmm; VAT-Spy telling me data is outdated.  Fine, use another server.  Same message.  All servers saying data is out of date by 12 hours, 0 minutes.  Hmm.  Weird.  I know the error message specifically says it doesn't meant the VATSIM network is down, but, with them ALL returning outdated info (and I figure 12 hours, 0 minutes is just the max that the error message in question throws), maybe the network is down.  Get on the VATSIM forums.  No notices about outages.  Hmm.  Interesting.  Well, no time to fly now anyway, I was just curious.  Head to bed.

Next day I go to do some flying and lo and behold, same error.  Still nothing mentioning on the VATSIM forum.  Then I notice it -- it's 1030am local time but my system clock says 1030pm.  Well duh.  No wonder it thinks the data is 12 hours out of date.   System time back to auto-set, all is well.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from a total freaking idiot, LOL.

General Discussion / Suggestion to ARTCC staff regarding event planning...
« on: December 15, 2017, 06:52:39 AM »
Hi all --

Some time ago, Don mentioned an issue with event staffing (can't remember if it was in the forums here or perhaps at the LAST Town Hall meeting, the one before the most recent one) wherein he encouraged controllers NOT to all log off the instant the event ends, if there is still a significant amount of traffic in the area.

While not a controller myself I can definitely see from their side -- if you as a controller have been slogging away with massive volume for four hours and your brain is fried, and there are a bunch of latecomers and you really don't feel it's fair for them to expect you to hang around because they couldn't make it during the event's advertised duration, when that published end time comes I completely understand you are ready to bail and rest.  However, from the pilots' standpoint, many of whom just might not have been able to get home from work and get dinner on the table and get to their PCs in time to get an earlier run at it, it can definitely leave pilots with the impression that the controller staff doesn't really care about them because as soon as the event ends, all of the ATC positions go dark within minutes, regardless of the fact that there are still 25 pilots in the terminal area.

Here's a possible solution, and its similar to what I do in my real-world job managing large crowds for special events.  And that is -- use a different set of times externally rather than internally.  Example: at the University where I work we host a massive open-house every Spring, drawing anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 visitors.  The event runs from 10am to 4pm.  The bus service, however, is staffed from 9am to 5pm.  When 4pm hits, the drivers are not shutting the buses off where they stand and walking away -- they came into the day knowing that their loops were scheduled until five.  So while most of the crowd is making their way home well before 4pm, the ones that made it there later and are experiencing the exhibits right up until they close will still have an hour of bus service to get back to their cars.  From their standpoint, we're running that extra hour as a courtesy -- but from the drivers' standpoint, they came in knowing they were working until five, so it's just what they plan to do from the outset.

It's a little different since I'm talking about people who volunteer to work the extra event but they do get paid for doing so.  So there's an incentive to stay until scheduled.  But I do think there's merit to the mindset when you may say an event runs from 2300-0300 but you internally agree that controllers who volunteer to work it are committing to cover until 0330.  The staff may see that 0330 time as an obligation, but the pilots who are still on at that point would see it as "bonus time"... and, not knowing any better, WILL PROBABLY THANK YOU FOR IT!

Just a thought.  Easier said than done?  Probably.  But, something to consider.

Greetings all -- I am pleased to announce the addition of Andrew Ogden to the VATSTAR Instructor staff. I personally reached out to Andrew on the VATSIM forums after seeing him chime in on several different discussion threads offering help to new VATSIM members. I recall thinking that his desire to assist new pilots learn the ropes of the network exhibited exactly the kind of attitude I was looking for on our staff. He eagerly accepted the position and has just been cleared to start taking P1 and P2 students. Andrew lives in Australia and is a C1-rated VATSIM Controller (with Pacific Oceanic endorsement) at VATNZ. He holds the P1 and P2 Pilot Ratings, and is looking to gain his P3 in the near future. Additionally, he is one of the developers of AccuMap, a next-generation VATSIM network activity monitoring tool with enhanced ATC sector views and other features. On top of his VATSIM experience and certifications, he also holds a real-world PPL. Welcome, Andrew!

Hi VATSTAR members and friends! Sorry for the short notice, but in celebration of our 500th certification issued, we're coordinating with Fort Worth ARTCC (KZFW) and are going to try again to put together a GA VFR group flight on VATSIM! (This time, though, our backup plan in case of adverse weather includes DEPARTING *AND* ARRIVING at a towered field, so we don't experience the crazy delays from last attempt!)

We want to make it Saturday at 2000z -- before dinner for our US members, after dinner for our European members, and early Sunday morning for our Far Eastern and Australian members. I know nothing is truly ideal for *everyone*, but hopefully this is a good enough compromise to allow a decent turnout!

Plan A (VFR): a "Red River Run," depart Harrison County (KASL), fly direct Belcher VOR (EIC, 117.4; approximately 055/30.0 from KASL) then follow the Red River approximately 60nm north to Hope Municipal (M18). The airport has a nice highway and railroad nearby to help visually navigate to the desired pattern entry; I tried it on FSX already and the default scenery is plenty good enough to fly it by. We'll be departing and arriving non-towered and in Class E all the way, so if need be, we can ask for Flight Following -- but if ATC is extremely busy, we can actually do the whole flight without talking to them, weather permitting!

Plan B (IFR): if the weather doesn't cooperate, we'll adjust the plan to originate at Shreveport Regional (KSHV, a Class C airport), still fly northbound via EIC then V13 TXK, and plan to arrive at KTXK (Class D) which has an ILS approach if we need it. Alternate would be KMLU (114nm southeast; also Class D) if required.

In either case, the plan is to gather in TeamSpeak (and online at the origin) at 2000z and start flying at 2030z. Flight is relatively short so probably no more than an hour in the air. If the last pilot gets airborne by about 2100z we're probably all down by 2200z. Sorry again for the short notice but we had to coordinate with several other organizations to make this happen, not to mention work around our CFI's vacation plans! Hopefully a good number of you can make it! We'll post briefings here as the event gets closer, particularly so you'll know which airport to meet at. See you in TeamSpeak at 2000z on Saturday!

Hi all -- please welcome Jonathan Dowdy to the VATSTAR team as an Instructor! Jonathan hails from the Eastern US. In addition to his 375+ flying hours on VATSIM in a mix of airline and GA types, Jonathan has a real-world commercial pilot certificate and is working toward becoming a Certified Flight Instructor. He's P1 and P2 rated on the network, and nearly done his P3 as well. We look forward to making use of his blend of virtual and real-world expertise, and sharing that wealth of knowledge with our students!

VATSTAR would like to offer a warm welcome to Joshua Micallef, a C1-and-Oceanic rated controller and P2-rated pilot hailing from the Land Down Under! Josh has over 600 hours each of flying and controlling on VATSIM, and while he is very well-versed in airliner procedure, he spends quite a bit of time on the network in single-engine props as well -- so he brings a very well-rounded knowledge and experience base to the Instructor staff. Welcome Joshua, and we look forward to you being able to teach in additional Pilot Ratings programs in the near future!

Come Fly With Me / VATSTAR 2nd Anniversary Flight, Sat June 24th...
« on: June 07, 2017, 07:16:19 AM »
Hi all --

VATSTAR is turning two!

Come join us and our friends at ZMP (Minneapolis ARTCC) for our annual birthday flight to celebrate another successful year for VATSTAR. Last year was for the jets, so this year we are showing love for General Aviation.

Minneapolis is hosting an event that evening from 2100z to 0300z. We are going to piggyback on this event (since it will more-or-less guarantee us ATC coverage) and fly a GA VFR route from KCMX to 4R5, following the coastline of Lake Superior. The flight is 116nm and should take about an hour and a half or so. Event time will be 2330z with an anticipated "wheels-up" time of 0000z.

Should the weather not cooperate, we do a have an IFR backup plan of KCMX to KASX via V148 IWD V413 ERIYI V217 GRASS -- and if things get REALLY messy out there, we'll divert to Duluth (KDLH) which has nice wide runways and ILSs-a-plenty. But obviously we are hoping for blue skies and tailwinds!

If you're planning on attending, please register at to let us know, so we can give ZMP a heads-up as to how many to expect (you have to be logged into the VATSTAR site to do so -- if you want to fly with us but aren't yet a member, you can sign up at first -- you don't have to enroll in a Pilot Rating program necessarily, if you don't want to, although we encourage that too!). If you have any questions, hit me up at [email protected].

We hope to see you there!

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