A very festive Festivus season to all of you. I recently celebrated my 15th anniversary on VATSIM, almost all of it with significant time as a controller.
We’ve gotta talk.
It’s not about pilot quality, it’s not about knowledge gaps, and it’s not about a new PowerPoint we could put together and try to make people read before they login to the network.
After about the last 5-6 sessions, I’ve noticed that the average number of clearances given to get any readback has been hovering between 2 and 2.5.
4 frequency change instructions given, nobody there, and then an indignant transmission asking why they hadn’t been given a frequency change?
Not paying attention at all, calling constantly on a busy frequency for taxi/clearance/pushback - not a problem except when you have 10 airborne airplanes in a busy terminal airspace and are issuing instructions the entire time.
Not listening. The problem is they aren’t listening. I hear Twitch streams in the background, Discord voice, TV shows, movies, etc.
It’s tough to keep positive about this. I don’t like being the bad guy, but after all 10 airplanes today had a 10-15% first call response rate, violated altitudes and routes left and right, had hissy fits about runway assignments, and generally everyone required some degree of coaching or “I don’t have time for this” responses - I know I’d give me some bad feedback if I heard it.
But - 15 years and thousands of hours still seem to leave me remarkably incapable of coming up with a solution. How can I control aircraft if they aren’t listening? How can I coach and correct as necessary if they aren’t only violating clearances left and right, not reading back instructions, but are also not paying attention, and not listening to the frequency at all? Now - take all of that and add a 3 minute call-in on the ground, jamming the frequency, from an aircraft told to standby multiple times? Missing clearances, reading them back entirely wrong 3-4 times, direct to random fixes, refusing procedures - just overall a lack of seriousness and attention to the most basic of details that has never been this bad.
This is getting increasingly impossible. I hate myself for the resentment, yet, I have no words, and no suggestions. An hour feels like six, an event feels like a month in jail.
This isn’t burnout - I’ve been there, done that; this is something I think every S3+ rated controller has been dealing with for a substantial time now. I genuinely don’t have a solution and I’m very curious to hear anyone’s ideas, but I don’t know how we address this.
So here I am, hat in hand. I’m beyond the point of handwringing, making excuses, or hoping that the lingering brain fog from the 45 minutes of mind-bending antics will erase my short-term memory.
What can be done? I’m afraid we are in peak Tragedy of the Commons mode and I don’t know how we right the ship, to ensure I’ve mixed enough metaphors here.
If this post goes well I’m gonna open a Substack.