Discussion: ATC Timetable

Evan Reiter

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Re: Discussion: ATC Timetable
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2017, 08:05:24 pm »
Replies so far have effectively discussed the positives. Pilots and controllers have a better idea of who will be staffed where, there's a general idea of who's going to be online, and it makes for setting up informal staff-ups like the one we have going on right now at BOS much easier.

Using tonight as an example: we wanted to get on and support ZDC's FNO. Our EC posted the event on our forums and said "put yourself on the Timetable if you can make it". (For larger events, we roster; however, for nights when we just want to support our adjacent facilities, the Timetable is fantastic as an informal means of coordination.) Now, our EC knows whether or not we'll to have coverage based on what's up there. As it turned out, we saw that DEL/GND/TWR/APP were all going to be staffed. Seeing a few people online at Boston, we also ended up having others connect at BDL. With all of the expected coverage, we got some posts up on social media letting people know that we'll have a full staff.

The Timetable has allowed organic staff-ups to happen quite frequently. I'll toss my name on CTR in the morning and by the time I'm connecting at 8pm, there's 4 or 5 other controllers that have joined in the fun.

As many of you may know, and as DO recently hinted at, we've been using an ATC Timetable (and actually have a pilot one too) at BVA for many years. The controller timetable is quite active; the pilot one doesn't get much attention, but is there for people who wish to use it.

On the ATC side, we've not really had the issues of controllers not meeting commitments. I'm sure it's something that could come up, but would be addressed with the individual controller. A simple "3 strike" rule where the ARTCC just removes the ability for someone to sign up would do fine. Similarly, for folks who just want to jump on when they feel like it, we still encourage people to post to the Timetable. If gives the pilots an idea of how long you might be on for, and -- in some cases -- pilots just check the Timetable (rather than VatSPY) to see who's going to be staffed. Not all of our controllers use it, and I'll sometimes spawn up at the 8pm start time I've set up only to find someone else has CTR. I'll jump on another position until he's ready for relief.

We have not had a single case of bad feedback or a complaint from a pilot saying "hey, ZBW was supposed to be staffed and then the guy removed his name" in the 5+ years we have used this system. Part of that is likely because we're very clear that the Timetable is not like an event sign-up, and everything is optional.

If VATUSA moved forward with an ATC Timetable that was division-wide, there are several things that I would say should be considered and included:
  • An API allowing individual ARTCC websites to display a timetable and for controllers from those ARTCCs to post through their own sites; I don't see controllers doing everything through VATUSA
  • Some rules around not allowing the Timetable to become a means of "reserving" a spot
  • ARTCC policies around how often someone can "no show" before there are concerns


Evan Reiter
Boston Virtual ARTCC Community Manager
evanr@bvartcc.com

Kenneth Haught

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Re: Discussion: ATC Timetable
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2017, 11:36:41 pm »
First off I'd say that a display with ATC bookings (and pilots) would be fantastic. I regularly book when I can (although that's not often as my time is usually spur of the moment these days. What I would add though is instead of re-inventing the wheel here I'd like to see support and a push from Division down to the ARTCC's to integrate the popular booking platform VATBOOK. The advantage here is that it's already displayed in several of the online clients (notably vRoute, although if I recall ServInfo also pulls data), as well as offers a global audience. I believe this is the platform used most often in ICAO land, although I could be wrong about that. It's also (from what I have poked around with) easily integrated on both VATUSA's website, as well as ARTCC websites for those facilities that wish to do so. It's about as "cross-platform" (i.e. multiple website) as you can probably get to avoid having 23 booking systems with 23 different sets of data.

Anchorage Deputy Air Traffic Manager
VATSIM Senior Supervisor (Team 1)
Have a question or concern? Email me at k.haught@vatsim.net.

Brin Brody

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Re: Discussion: ATC Timetable
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2017, 08:49:26 am »
It's about as "cross-platform" (i.e. multiple website) as you can probably get to avoid having 23 booking systems with 23 different sets of data.

Assuming that the plan was for VATUSA to generate it and host the data here, and have external sources (vattastic, VATSPY, etc) pull the data for display, that would indeed be ideal.

What I would add though is instead of re-inventing the wheel here I'd like to see support and a push from Division down to the ARTCC's to integrate the popular booking platform VATBOOK. The advantage here is that it's already displayed in several of the online clients (notably vRoute, although if I recall ServInfo also pulls data), as well as offers a global audience.

So we source this through them, and post?  Good thought on not re-inventing the wheel...  Best not to waste the time of our web team if the "wheel" already exists.

I agree with your comments, Ken.  I think more of the discussion will be on how we implement this policy-wise, rather than technical-wise.

We have not had a single case of bad feedback or a complaint from a pilot saying "hey, ZBW was supposed to be staffed and then the guy removed his name" in the 5+ years we have used this system. Part of that is likely because we're very clear that the Timetable is not like an event sign-up, and everything is optional.

I find that surprising, as many pilots have been known to complain about it in more public forums (vattastic chat, etc) when a controller logs off prior to their arrival.  Maybe it's because they're not necessarily scheduled, in those cases...  In the specific case of ZBW's system, maybe the pilots just don't want to bother leaving feedback about the system when there's the occasional breakdown?  Maybe your controllers are so likely to follow their commitments (as I wish we all were  ;D) that it's never been seen as an issue?  Either way, your success with it is encouraging and is likely to be a very good reason for us to give it a try on a division-wide scale.

So should we, as a division, follow the example of ZBW and make this more of a pilot community, especially with the timetable?  I find it to be rare for most pilots to show up here independently, so should we start advertising vatusa.net as a place for pilots to come and find out division info?

All good points.  I figure all we can do is offer it, encourage it (both from ATC and pilot perspectives), and at least we won't have the incessant ankle biting that we seem to get on the VATSIM forums.... :)

So is the plan now to offer it, in hopes that it will generate some success?  As seems to be the case with the ARTCCs who do offer this to pilots, it may not be used all of the time, but it is a good thing to offer, at the very least.

So do we:
  • Implement VATBOOK? (As a well-established system...)
  • Write our own timetable? (Having to advertise it slightly more...)

Technical-wise, either could work... 

It then becomes a matter of policy with regards to signups, removals, etc.

Do we:
  • Offer it to both pilots and controllers?
  • Offer it to pilots, and encourage (strongly) controllers to use it?

Further thoughts?
Brin Brody
Deputy Air Traffic Manager
Jacksonville ARTCC
datm@zjxartcc.org


Josh Nunn

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Re: Discussion: ATC Timetable
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2017, 09:24:44 am »
Disclaimer: I don't have any experience as ATC but I would like to share my thoughts. 

As a pilot I think this is a great idea because I frequently choose where to fly based on known ATC coverage (if it's available).    I understand that controllers will not always know how long they will be online but if you DO have an idea of your timetable and want more traffic, posting it would definitely encourage me to fly to your airspace. If i see a controller has already been online for 1+ hours and there is not much traffic in his airspace then I may "assume" that he will be signing off soon and will choose to fly somewhere else.  When actually that controller was planning to stay online for a while and was hoping to get more traffic.

I wouldn't expect all controllers to use it if they don't want to or if they don't know how long they will be online. And I wouldn't hold any controllers "accountable" for their booked hours if they were unable to honor them for any reason.

Also I can't speak for other pilots but i cannot imagine getting angry or upset about a controller having to sign off early or not coming online during hours they had booked. Anybody who would get angry about this needs to grow up and realize this is a hobby for pilots and controllers alike and we all (hopefully) have lives outside of VATSIM where sometimes things come up.

Josh


Josh Nunn
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joshn@bvartcc.com

Shehryar Ansari

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Re: Discussion: ATC Timetable
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2019, 10:09:59 am »
I just saw this so...if you have not used it please do. Free.

www.atcbooking.com

Shez