Whats up with all these visiting agreements?

Matt Bromback

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Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« on: April 30, 2019, 08:57:01 am »
So recently in the past year I have seen the visiting agreements start to spring up everywhere all over VATUSA. Some of them go as extensively as allowing transfer of "Major Airport Certifications", others are just agreements for minor fields.

What is the point of being a member of a ARTCC then? If you can join one and visit 9 other places? Is this being used as a recruiting tool to say "hey join my ARTCC!!"??

I guess I am little old school in this but I say revert it back to the way it was done for years....
OR
Just make it so every controller can control anywhere per their GRP rating all across VATUSA. Then if you want a major airport checkout you seek out a instructor at that facility.


Matt Bromback

Ryan Parry

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2019, 09:18:41 am »
I've never understood the value in these types of agreements. If it grants the minors, how is that different than just signing up as a visitor? You get minors under the GRP. I guess no GRP check out? If it grants a major you're only setting the controller and the ARTCC up for failure by not certifying them and assuming they'll figure out your major.

I believe these agreements are going away with the new training standards that are being worked on. At least the ones that grant major certification at another ARTCC are, which is a good thing imo.
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Matthew Kramer

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2019, 12:26:36 pm »
I understand the conceptual value to be "we are close facilities so sharing our minor fields will help people get traffic," but I agree that I've never seen that as a great idea, especially forgoing GRP checkout and ensuring familiarization with local SOP.

Quote
Just make it so every controller can control anywhere per their GRP rating all across VATUSA.

If we care in any capacity about controller ability, and I care a lot, then this should never, ever happen.
Matthew Kramer
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Nolan Danziger

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2019, 02:12:13 pm »
Come on guys, they're just "lowering the barrier to entry"... Because sending an email to the DATM with a visiting request is such a barrier.

Automatic minors I can see the point for smaller facilities, but automatic majors should be stopped at the division level, imo.
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Wesley Miles

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2019, 05:08:23 pm »
I'm personally not a huge fan of visiting controller agreements, in their present form, for the same reasons mentioned in this thread.  I feel that applying to visit the old fashioned way provides more structure and overall accountability.  That said, the purpose behind these agreements, as Nolan so graciously pointed out, is to remove unnecessary barriers to visiting other ARTCCs.  And while it's easy to sit back and criticize the ATMs buying into these visiting agreements, what most people don't realize is that at one time there actually were a handful of facilities who made it almost impossible to be a visitor (especially if they didn't like you), which contradicts the GRP. So you have a few managers who have come together in support of your division director's vision, and went a step further by agreeing to allow mutual visitation for the members.

Another motive behind the early talks of visiting agreements (in the southern region) was to put ARTCC leadership worries at ease.  By becoming familiar with your neighbors' training programs and agreeing to some sort of a training standard, the thought was that ZXX and ZYY would agree to a training standard, thus assuming all controllers were trained to that standard and capable of being a quality visitor with little delay/overhead.  In theory, that provided a handful of benefits to both the member and leadership, but it ended up falling through.  And with the division about to roll out with a new training policy, it doesn't seem this is needed now.

Remember, this is all dynamic and under periodic review.  I ask my ATMs to schedule reviews and discussions on their visiting agreements periodically to ensure we're doing what's best for the members, while still working to preserve the integrity and quality of VATUSA ATC, all while working to align with the director's vision for USA.
Wes Miles
Air Traffic Director
VATUSA - Southern Region

Wesley Miles

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2019, 05:20:43 pm »
I forgot one of the best points about this... it's entirely voluntary!  Isn't it great that Mark hasn't gotten involved with guidance allowing any VATUSA controller to control any minor field at any given time?  Instead, ARTCC leadership has discretion, (as much as GRP allows), as to how they want to process visiting controllers, as long as there are no undue delays.

That means if you don't like the visiting agreement idea... you don't even have to do it!  Sweet concept!  8)
Wes Miles
Air Traffic Director
VATUSA - Southern Region

Peter Shivery

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2019, 02:45:58 pm »
Hi all,

As an Air Traffic Manager, we often talk about growing our ARTCCs. To do this, we likely align to three overarching goals: (1) grow our ARTCC hours/uptime, (2) grow our membership base, and (3) establish training standards which align with policy and provides the best experience for controller growth. From my perspective, visiting agreements help accomplish all three goals.

1. Grow our ARTCC Hours/Up-Time
Visiting agreements remove entry barriers for controlling at an ARTCC. It makes it easier to cross lines and log onto positions. By being less restrictive, membership can easily flow into our facilities and increase our hours and up-time. With additional hours and up-time, this leads to increased traffic, making both our home controllers happy and pilots flying within our airspace happy.

These visiting hours are substantial. ZJX calculated all the hours attributed to visiting agreements and it equates to 191 hours YTD. See below:


That's 191 hours of additional time on ZJX positions, most of which minor, that we would not have received prior to a visiting agreement. This increased our total hours and up-time, increased minor facility traffic, and overall, made a better experience for pilots flying through our airspace.

2. Grow our Membership Base
Why do controllers switch ARTCCs? This is a super loaded question, but one reason I often hear is staleness of airspace. Controllers want to try something new and explore new opportunities. Often, when they do this, they don't want to commit to two sets of activity requirements, so they'll decide to transfer out. This transfer contributes to a decline in your home membership base.

Visiting agreements help prevent this. It enables controllers to visit and try out new airspaces, without having to leave their home ARTCC. It also prevents a new set of activity requirements. You allow controllers to get the fix for new airspaces, while still remaining loyal to their home ARTCC.

3. Establish training standards which align with policy and provides the best experience for controller growth.
Every ARTCC has a different training program and, as argued previously, some are better than others. Visiting agreements allow controllers to learn controller best-practices, from best in-class facilities, and take them back home. It's similar to a professional attending a development conference.

Moreover, it teaches controllers how to navigate different airspaces, which helps their growth as a controller. ZJX is flat land, where MVAs aren't a huge factor when controlling. By allowing our controllers to visit at ZAN, they now can become experts in MVAs, and come back to ZJX to share their experiences with other controllers.

Lastly, it fosters communication and collaboration, which is important in training and development. Communication and collaboration on VATSIM is the key to our success. Since our controllers are constantly inter-mixing with other facilities, ZJX controllers are now experts in communicating and collaborating because they are forced to through our visiting agreements.

In conclusion, because visiting agreements align to the three goals every ARTCC ATM should have, I firmly believe visiting agreements are a step in the right direction for making VATUSA better and promoting growth within our division.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 03:01:00 pm by Peter Shivery »
Petey Shivery
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Jacksonville ARTCC
atm@zjxartcc.org


Daniel Everman

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2019, 06:14:31 pm »
These visiting hours are substantial. ZJX calculated all the hours attributed to visiting agreements and it equates to 191 hours YTD. See below:
snip

That's 191 hours of additional time on ZJX positions, most of which minor, that we would not have received prior to a visiting agreement. This increased our total hours and up-time, increased minor facility traffic, and overall, made a better experience for pilots flying through our airspace.

That table shows an overall downward trend in people utilizing visiting agreements in your airspace. Have you noticed this trend and (if so) what steps are you taking to try and attract towards using the agreements again?

2. Grow our Membership Base
Why do controllers switch ARTCCs? This is a super loaded question, but one reason I often hear is staleness of airspace. Controllers want to try something new and explore new opportunities. Often, when they do this, they don't want to commit to two sets of activity requirements, so they'll decide to transfer out. This transfer contributes to a decline in your home membership base.

Do you have any data that suggests this is usually the case? Most people in the division that I've seen (anecdote) don't seem to have an issue controlling in 1-2 other ARTCCs outside their home facility. An extra couple of hours a month isn't really much.

Visiting agreements help prevent this. It enables controllers to visit and try out new airspaces, without having to leave their home ARTCC. It also prevents a new set of activity requirements. You allow controllers to get the fix for new airspaces, while still remaining loyal to their home ARTCC.

The problem is that these agreements generally only cover minor airports, which don't see the same level of traffic that majors do. At the end of the day, your average VATSIMer is far more attracted to working Orlando than they are Pensacola, as that's (a) where the traffic is and (b) where the complexity is.

3. Establish training standards which align with policy and provides the best experience for controller growth.
Every ARTCC has a different training program and, as argued previously, some are better than others. Visiting agreements allow controllers to learn controller best-practices, from best in-class facilities, and take them back home. It's similar to a professional attending a development conference.

Where this falls apart is that you don't need to even talk to anyone on the training staff or ARTCC staff to actually work their airports. Where's the incentive for someone to learn the best practices when they don't even need to enter into the training program to work the facility you have an agreement with's airports?

Moreover, it teaches controllers how to navigate different airspaces, which helps their growth as a controller. ZJX is flat land, where MVAs aren't a huge factor when controlling. By allowing our controllers to visit at ZAN, they now can become experts in MVAs, and come back to ZJX to share their experiences with other controllers.

How does someone that only controls at ZJX benefit from somebody else's knowledge of MVAs if they're never going to work the ZANs, ZDVs, or ZLAs of the division?
Daniel Everman
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Kenneth Haught

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2019, 12:55:22 pm »
Just make it so every controller can control anywhere per their GRP rating all across VATUSA. Then if you want a major airport checkout you seek out a instructor at that facility.

Frankly with the increased effort of the VATUSA training department, I think this is something that needs to be considered. I'd like anyone to show me valid information as to why an S2 in xxx ARTCC shouldn't be able to work a minor field in YYY ARTCC with a written SOP and a copy of airport charts in hand?

It's been suggested, but there are always a handful of vocal facilities that insist that their minor field is SO much more complicated that it couldn't possibly be worked without weeks of training. Maybe it's not a terrible idea if Division would take that under consideration with the training standardization and mandate minor field compliance with GRP...

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Ryan Parry

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2019, 05:58:56 pm »
Just make it so every controller can control anywhere per their GRP rating all across VATUSA. Then if you want a major airport checkout you seek out a instructor at that facility.

Frankly with the increased effort of the VATUSA training department, I think this is something that needs to be considered. I'd like anyone to show me valid information as to why an S2 in xxx ARTCC shouldn't be able to work a minor field in YYY ARTCC with a written SOP and a copy of airport charts in hand?

It's been suggested, but there are always a handful of vocal facilities that insist that their minor field is SO much more complicated that it couldn't possibly be worked without weeks of training. Maybe it's not a terrible idea if Division would take that under consideration with the training standardization and mandate minor field compliance with GRP...

The only thing that would change if that was done is removing the visiting controller application process, which I'd argue is something we should keep for several reasons. If an S2 at XXX ARTCC has to do weeks of training to work a minor at YYY ARTCC after being accepted and passing a GRP competency check, then YYY ARTCC is in violation of the GRP and the issue should be brought to the Division to be corrected.
Ryan Parry - 965346
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Matt Bromback

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2019, 06:21:49 pm »
Just make it so every controller can control anywhere per their GRP rating all across VATUSA. Then if you want a major airport checkout you seek out a instructor at that facility.

Frankly with the increased effort of the VATUSA training department, I think this is something that needs to be considered. I'd like anyone to show me valid information as to why an S2 in xxx ARTCC shouldn't be able to work a minor field in YYY ARTCC with a written SOP and a copy of airport charts in hand?

It's been suggested, but there are always a handful of vocal facilities that insist that their minor field is SO much more complicated that it couldn't possibly be worked without weeks of training. Maybe it's not a terrible idea if Division would take that under consideration with the training standardization and mandate minor field compliance with GRP...

In a perfect world all ratings would be equal, same knowledge, same experience, etc...
We both know this is not the case. I agree with you in principle but practically speaking it’s not that easy I believe.

The only issue I have heard about certain minors being “harder” then others is where complex airspace exists around the minor field. So in SOCAL/NORCAL and N90 are great examples of this just to name a few. It’s not necessarily working the tower position that is different, it’s underdtanding the airspace that surrounds it. Who do I have to call for release? What altitudes keep VFR traffic clear of a Bravo, etc...It’s much different then a minor airport with just a class C surrounding it that’s not busy, or a Class D airport with just center above. Everyone is so quick to say that would be a GRP violation but in my mind it’s not at all, there is some sense of local knowledge required for every position you work.

If my idea of work anywhere per GRP some serious thought needs to be put into what it takes to get a rating.
Matt Bromback

Manuel Manigault

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2019, 07:00:08 pm »
I personally believe (not speaking as ATD) that all minor fields should be open per a Controller's GRP rating.  Training Departments should be teaching transferable skills when conducting ratings training.  A controller should be able to read a chart and a SOP for any Non-Designated airspace field across the Division (perhaps with a few exceptions).  Training bandwidth across the Division is very tight.  Training Departments should be focusing primarily on Designated Airspace training.  The whole purpose of Designated Airspace training is to teach material that is in addition to GRP Competencies. 

VATSIM is a social activity.  The Mutual Visiting Agreements give controllers an opportunity to interact with other members without having to go through the red tape of a Visiting Agreement to control sporadically at a field in Non-Designated airspace.  Controllers considering transferring to a facility could take advantage of the Mutual Visiting Agreement to try out the ARTCC.

Controlling in Designated Airspace should not be part of these agreements.  Controllers wishing to control Designated Airspace outside their home facility should have to comply with the formal Visiting Controller Policy
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 07:14:52 pm by Manuel Manigault »
Mani Manigault
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VATUSA - Northeastern Region

Nolan Danziger

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Re: Whats up with all these visiting agreements?
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2019, 10:37:10 pm »
I personally believe (not speaking as ATD) that all minor fields should be open per a Controller's GRP rating.  Training Departments should be teaching transferable skills when conducting ratings training. A controller should be able to read a chart and a SOP for any Non-Designated airspace field across the Division (perhaps with a few exceptions).  Training bandwidth across the Division is very tight.  Training Departments should be focusing primarily on Designated Airspace training.  The whole purpose of Designated Airspace training is to teach material that is in addition to GRP Competencies. 

Maybe this is the grumpy old man in me coming out, but it seems like this might be one area where VATUSA as a whole is somewhat lacking. It seems to me that a lot of facilities aren't teaching students how to learn on their own. I think that a lot of students are just happy to get spoon-fed the knowledge to control in their home ARTCC and they miss out on reading SOPs, or the .65, or other forms and instead would rather just become "readers of cheetsheets" instead of "controllers".

This is obviously off the topic of the post so I won't go any further on it, but just an observation of students I've seen recently.
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