From the Desk of VATUSA1

Brandon Barrett

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From the Desk of VATUSA1
« on: December 01, 2023, 12:21:19 PM »
VATUSA has roughly 190 staff members which include all recognized senior staff positions such as the Air Traffic Managers, Deputy Air Traffic Managers, and Training Administrators along with events, facility engineering, webmaster, social media, training, pilot training, and other ARTCC operational department teams such as human resources, community leads, and non-profit organizational staff. These individuals directly or indirectly oversee roughly 1700 active controllers. It is truly amazing that we can come together as one team to accomplish what seems to be impossible at times. The United States Division requires hundreds of volunteers from all different parts of the United States and the world to run the 365-day-a-year job(s). Thank you to the subdivision staff and teams for making the true magic happen on a daily basis. Without our subdivision team members, there is no USA division.

I’ve been through many ups and downs being on the VATUSA staff throughout the years, but I can say with confidence we are as solid as I’ve ever seen. This division staff has received a few pats on the back from different ARTCC staff, pilots, and GOV members on how great things are currently going. There are and will forever be areas of opportunity, but the sails are most definitely pointed in the right direction.

I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on our achievements and areas of growth as we approach the new year. I also wanted to touch on what the future will hold for us in the years to come. There have been many challenges in 2023 but thanks to the dedication and commitment of all VATUSA and ARTCC staff members we’ve overcome a large portion of the hurdles.


Professionalism is where it starts. If we cannot treat each other with respect and disagree correctly it only makes achieving our goals that much more difficult. The division staff has worked tirelessly through 2023 trying to achieve and set a better example of professionalism through behavior and communication via discord, this is the best we’ve seen in years. Thank you all who are self-aware and set the example along with understanding that we are all humans and on the same team at the end of the day. The division will continue to uphold this value for years to come.

Staff Positions

The ATM hiring process has changed from the old 1 on 1 sit down between an ATD and a candidate. First introduced by the former Division Director, Anthony Santanastaso and former Support Services Director, Shane Friedman, the panel style process was put in place to ensure ownership and to provide the division with multiple perspective feedback from membership and peers, both interfacility and neighboring facilities. The division has nailed this process down and it’s been a proven success with the recent ATMs that have been installed.

Overall, there are a lot of open staff positions in the division. The division must ensure every ARTCC has the resources it needs to achieve its goals. With all the projects, goals, deadlines and policy updates on our plate, the subdivision staff has been strained more than ever. There may be members that are an S1 or S2 that have extensive knowledge in, for example, coding or have an interest in facility engineering, or have real-world marketing or media experience or even, real-world teaching experience. We cannot completely rule someone out just from their rating. At the end of the day, we all have different skills that can benefit the community as a whole. The division one hundred percent understands this and has been working on ways to explore interest from folks at all levels throughout the entire United States.


At the end of the day this organization is run by hundreds of volunteers. There is no light switch fix to retention, we can only try and pivot to and from different ideas. Retention ideas start at a higher level, meaning S3 and above. The division understands the roadblocks to retention such as pilot quality, consistent communication errors, drama, immaturity, or even workload. It’s the division’s responsibility to ensure we water down the roadblocks to achieve the overall retention of the S3+ individuals. The folks who hold the higher ratings are also often staff members who are essential to the daily operation of the division.

The C3 program is still in full swing. I appreciate the folks who have thrown hundreds of volunteer hours both on and off the network to their respective facility. The C3 program is not the end all, be all fix to retention. The C3 program is merely a small token of appreciation for folks who go above and beyond. The division is still looking into ways to expand this program and better formalize the current process. 

Social Media

The division’s social media department is inching forward concerning pilot educational videos. We are still looking for real-world pilots to potentially interview and or demonstrate basic pilot techniques for newer VATSIM pilots. This idea won’t completely fix the quality of pilots throughout this vast network; the division is doing what it can at its level to help be the solution. The social media team will grow and be utilized more come 2024. The team will focus more on engaging through pilot quality initiatives. 


The division is working on a new website for the future. We must continue to advance and update the tools we use on a daily basis. The divisional website is very important to not only for the daily operations, but it contains controller movements, event information, documentation, controller history, and much more. The division’s tech department continues to search for volunteers to help maintain and develop this important infrastructure. We currently have weekly tech meetings to discuss the progress and project timeline. Overall, the new site will have a better flow and contain more statistics for each facility. The more resources we can provide for subdivision staff the easier their jobs will be. Under VATUSA’s non-profit status – we are currently launching free email services to subdivisions. Later on, this will expand and mesh into offering web services help to subdivisions in need.

Event & Command Center

The events department continues to be fluid with regard to policy changes justified by data such as implementing or redacting restrictions with regards to FNOs. The command center has proven its worth tenfold. We are looking at ways to better mesh the relationship between the command center and some facilities. Part of the misunderstanding of the command center is the big-picture NAS mindset. Gone are the days when we shove 150+ arrivals in a 1-hour window to one facility only to watch the receiving end crash and burn. The command center is crucial to not only the traffic management initiative in the United States and bordering countries, but it plays to the idea of controller burnout. The command center is also an example of the retention initiative. When we talk about marketing our facility through events, the command center is yet another example of that initiative. The command center is a team effort engine, meaning, a facility may need to strap the boots on tighter to get the job done more efficiently or dial back the push. How the command center operates is important in how we push and pull traffic through the NAS, not just through any one facility.

The division will be leading tighter communication streams between subdivision events coordinators. The division is working on ways to close any gaps between miscommunications between ECs per region. Facility burnout due to poor planning around staff-up help is the priority area of opportunity.   


The academy continues to mold itself around the recent VATSIM changes such as CRC and GCAP. The academy will never be perfect no matter how much we try to make it. There will always be an individual who will click through and try to finish as fast as possible or simply not retain or pay attention to anything displayed on their screen. The division understands there is a major gap between when an individual leaves the academy to when the individual starts their first session. It starts with setting the expectation and setting the pace before the initial facility is selected. Unfortunately, all of this takes volunteer manpower. Come 2024 we will be thinking of ways to better set the expectations beyond “reading” and clicking a button. This is crucial to staff retention mentioned earlier. No teacher in the division should be bogged down with new students who do not understand the expectations of being prepared for a session or a student who simply doesn’t know what they are getting themselves into. The United States Division prides itself on quality controllers and we will continue to do as such.

The VATUSA DICE team continues to work behind the scenes on refining academy material along with adding CRC material. In 2024 the DICE team will be a crucial asset in reaching out to new academy graduates before a facility is selected.


The Global Controller Administration Policy has gone through several iterations in the past few years, it has now been finalized by VATGOV. ATM, DATM, and TAs are implementing documentation changes in all 22 facilities. The policy isn’t picture perfect where it fits perfectly In the United States mold, however, GCAP gives us more options on the plate than ever before. It’s simply human nature to reject or hate huge changes, there were and still are growing pains behind GCAP, however, we are nearing completion of being 100% compliant and it wasn’t easy! Implementing GCAP certainly did not put smiles on every facility’s face. What I did notice was that there was a level of trust and optimism from our compromise with individuals who didn’t necessarily receive what was desired. Trust and optimism are all I ask for. It is our job at the division level to represent the likes and concerns of all 22 subdivisions, especially in big swooping changes such as GCAP.

The March 1st, 2024, deadline was a tall order; it still is! I appreciate the quick movements of my staff here at the division level. We’ve met with nearly 44 individuals in October to discuss implementing GCAP and airspace designations. This took countless meetings, day after day, week after week to ensure everyone was on the same page. 

Thank you

I wanted to take a few moments to recognize the previous administration and how they’ve helped propel me to where I stand today. When Manuel Manigault was promoted from the US Division Director to VATGOV3 I had the opportunity to apply to become the Division Director. I decided not to apply as the current Region Manager role I held was the perfect fit for me and I was content with the way things were. I figured I could best serve the division for a very long time in an area I was happy and content in, I had no desire to be promoted. Fast forward, the Division Director opportunity came up once again and I yet again contemplated whether I should apply or not. I knew what the job entailed and knew what it took but I also knew the unwritten responsibilities, the hair-pulling headaches, countless hours behind the scenes, the cleanup, and the million other things the job came with that not a lot of people see. I was afraid of trading my happiness in a hobby for stress where the hobby turned into a part-time job. I can’t help but say I’m still very happy serving the community now in the Division Director role. During the Division Director transition period, former Division Director, Anthony Santanastaso and I talked on the phone a few times for an hour or so. After our last call, I thanked him for repairing and laying out the foundation of empathy, dignity, respect, and professionalism. This made the baton pass that much easier. I owe a lot to Anthony for setting the tone and expectations for how we still operate today. He instilled in me the confidence of just being the director in general. I’ve learned better techniques such as patience, listening, forgiveness, and empathy from his tenure. A lot of his techniques are still being supported by my staff today. Thank you, Anthony. Though I learned a lot from him, I’m nowhere near perfect, and I must rely on my staff to carry out the day-to-day. You’re only as good as your staff: Though I demand a lot from them on a weekly/monthly basis, I thank them day in and day out for making my life and more importantly, everyone else’s life in each facility a hell of a lot easier. To the previous VATUSA administration and my current teammates, thank you! Thank you for striving for my goal of molding the future of the division and network.


I’m excited to see what the new year will bring us. Throughout this entire year, we’ve laid the foundation for what’s to come next year. There have been a few speed bumps and rocks thrown our way, but we continued to push forward with the day-to-day operation. This year I’ve seen facilities/ATMs that had zero staff build a staff from the ground up. I’ve seen friendly competition between subdivisions. I noticed ARTCCs helping other ARTCCs in the tech, facility engineering, and training departments. I’m seeing multiple staff members collaborate and tackle the pilot quality initiatives. I’ve seen staff members come back from the past, strapped their boots on, and helped navigate others to their potential. I’ve noticed new, younger staff members grow and learn to become future leaders. I’ve seen hundreds of hours of teamwork editing new documents and implementing new technology. Several staff members have simply reached out and said “thank you” to me and the rest of the USA team. I would call 2023 a success not just operationally but also in the communication and professionalism displayed by our members. We are not perfect, there is always room for improvement. I appreciate the folks who speak up to help set a better example for our young professionals who are the future leaders of this division.
A selfless and caring attitude are some of the important values every staff member in the United States Division should be striving for. In return, there are times when this hobby puts little to no gratification back into our plates. I challenge that we glance at where we were and focus on where we’re going; look ahead and refine the path of what's to come. It is our unwritten responsibility as staff members to ensure the continuance of this great hobby by leaving the next generation a better and succeeding environment so that they to can refine and thrive years down the road. At the division level, development and stability will be important pillars in 2024. As we slowly approach the new year think about these two pillars and how we can better set ourselves up for success.

Thank you all.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.