Creating Sweatboxes!

Derek Vento

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Creating Sweatboxes!
« on: June 24, 2018, 08:36:32 pm »
Over the last few months I have had the chance to sit down with different ARTCCs and analyze some of their sweatbox scenarios. This experience was not only an eye opener but also fun and exciting! Of course we alll want to work tons and tons of traffic as that IS the typical air traffic ego in us...but it's important to note, that volume is not as important as you think. With various skill set across the board, it's essential that ARTCCs are providing quality and precise TRACON training, rather than overload a brand new student with 50 airplanes. If there is one thing I learned with ATC, it's how much you can learn with two airplanes. Whether it's angles, rate of descent, vectoring for wind correction, speed control, sequencing or wake turbulence separation, the amount of information that can be discussed surrounding two airplanes can surprisingly be overwhelming.

For those that are just starting off, your initial goal should be simple fundamentals and technique such as proper scanning, and improving upon your situational awareness! A sweatbox is a controlled environment and it truly should be utilized for students to see how "it" SHOULD look, so when things get ugly on the network, you have an idea of how to turn chaos into an organized flow of traffic. Students...this is your chance to mess up! If you don't tell yourself this now, you never will...Fail, and fail hard! Learn from your mistakes and own them; I promise it will make you better!

In going over the various scenarios at multiple ARTCCs, I found some sessions were too busy and of course unrealistic. Sweatboxes should flow and give the student a chance to breathe and make calculated decisions. Yes, students with more time under their belt may need a more advanced sweatbox, but there is also nothing wrong with having even a center certified C1, get back on the sweatbox for an easy 8 plane session, to fine tune some basic skills. One of the beautiful things about a slow session is that, the instructor/mentor can have discussion with the student about what tasks need to be completed while also answering any questions that may arise.

Additionally, one of the most important factors that myself and some ARTCCs sat down and realized was that, most scenarios primarily shed spotlight on a major airport. We took a step back and spoke about the fact that, some for example, such as A80 (Atlanta) have simultaneous triple ILS approaches which is verryyyyy advanced for an S3 just starting out. Why not consider starting with a few basic TRACON scenarios at an airport such as Birmingham (BHM) and practice simple ILS and/or Visual approaches. In playing around, we input 3 airplanes on each downwind, and 1 each on both opposite base legs 40 miles from the field. Students practiced speed control, merging, applied vertical and lateral separation and most of all, an understanding of compression on the localizer. This session took 25 minutes to create, and 20 minutes to simulate. In all, both staff and student learned something from the session with nothing short of positive feedback.


I ask, if there are any ARTCCs overhauling their training programs, please consider evaluating your files. Based on the various skill set of trainees, it is only fair to provide quality training based on one's knowledge and exposure. As most know, the radar environment can be intimidating for first timers, so please properly introduce each student to the dark room with a realistic amount of aircraft for a first, second or even third session. Stick with the fundamentals. The ability to work volume of airplanes will come with time as well as working speed!

Best of luck to all! If anyone want's to sit down and go over some of your sweatboxes I would love to check them out...and also work a little traffic too haha.

dk@derekvento.com

Rick Rump

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2018, 08:50:11 pm »
Fantastic post. A great way to start out a new student on radar for sure.
Just to add one thing, the 20 aircraft all spaced out by 10 mit really serves no one.
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Dhruv Kalra

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2018, 10:01:46 pm »
Amen. We’ve created an 8-10 sweatbox progression through the R90 TRACON (beginning with LNK sector and moving upward to OMA sectors) to attack radar training exactly by this sort of building block approach. You start with basic vectoring techniques and learn how to coordinate with the adjacent positions, move up into sequencing and moving more volume, and finally progress to handling nontowered field operations, VFR practice approaches, pop up IFR, and other oddities.

For Major S3, we take the same principles and apply them to M98. We have 2-3 increasing difficulty scenarios that simulate working the airspace as a single radar position, as well as a “slow” and “busy” scenario for arrival and departure positions. It lets us break the training down into manageable chunks while still letting the students take something meaningful away from each session.

Now if only someone would write us a modern target generator...
Dhruv Kalra
ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor

Toby Rice

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2018, 10:55:24 pm »
Now if only someone would write us a modern target generator...

+1M
Toby Rice
ATC Instructor (I1)
Jacksonville ARTCC
VATUSA ACE Team | CFI/CFII | Former HCF ATM
toby.rice@zjxartcc.org


Matt Bromback

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2018, 07:12:01 am »
Awesome post like always Derek!
Derek's sweatbox files are great!! And I see other ARTCC's do similar stuff which is great!

One big thing we tried one time on ZTL was we had Derek run a file at BHM and we had about 4 S3's in training join us in the room. We did more of a group session then a traditional 1 on 1 session, the feedback we got was excellent. Now I know this won't work for every situation as some 1 on 1 training is needed, but if ARTCC's started doing this more wouldn't it relieve a lot of resources off your training staff? It would be better to train 4 people at once at times thus increasing efficiency. Just something to think about, or maybe you are already doing it!
Matt Bromback

Manuel Manigault

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2018, 08:42:28 am »
Excellent post Derek!  I wish training departments reliably had the capacity to provide continuing education of this type to C1s.
Mani Manigault
Air Traffic Director
VATUSA - Northeastern Region

Ira Robinson

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2018, 04:37:16 pm »
Excellent post Derek!  I wish training departments reliably had the capacity to provide continuing education of this type to C1s.
Manny, I would suggest to you that they do. All they need to do is have the will to do it.   Derek will tell you that we used to [past tense because I don't know if  they still do] hold them all the time.  They were the perfect teaching aide for everyone, regardless of rating.
Ira Robinson
VATUSA4

Toby Rice

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Re: Creating Sweatboxes!
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2018, 05:18:50 pm »
Excellent post Derek!  I wish training departments reliably had the capacity to provide continuing education of this type to C1s.

Manny, I would suggest to you that they do. All they need to do is have the will to do it.   Derek will tell you that we used to [past tense because I don't know if  they still do] hold them all the time.  They were the perfect teaching aide for everyone, regardless of rating.

I provide all levels of remedial training and advanced-ATC sessions to HCF members at their request. Want to get better? I tell them to call me. No one is perfect, but we can always learn from someone else. Makes it more fun when you can practice with someone else to improve your capabilities and bandwidth as an ATC, even if it is VATSIM.
Toby Rice
ATC Instructor (I1)
Jacksonville ARTCC
VATUSA ACE Team | CFI/CFII | Former HCF ATM
toby.rice@zjxartcc.org