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NATS interview process

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NATS interview process

Old 29th Jan 2010, 14:10
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Stage 1 on 25th January

Hey I was one of the 30 people on the stage 1 at Fareham and im a little nervous about the pass rate for the spatial awareness test. If it's anything over 50% im stuffed as I only answered 21 out of 40. Think the other tests went ok but waiting for results is torture. Anybody know of the approximate pass rates for S1 assessments?
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 15:22
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Firstly, I don't use Mode S and not been taught a great deal, so this may be fundamentally flawed. No idea what the 3 characteristics are, but what they might be:

Mode S (unlike Modes A and C) isn't dependent on a pilot setting a squawk on his transponder. Each aircraft has its own personal identification so that means less risk of people setting the wrong squawks, misidentification, etc.

From an Area/Approach point of view, it provides much more information which helps the controller work out what's going on and also help improve safety. eg. If you tell an aircraft to descend to flight level 100, Mode S allows you to see both the level the aircraft is currently at, and the level that is set. If the level set is FL90, you can go straight back to them and ask them to check their level. Can help avoid level busts, etc.

Good for stacks - provides a 'vertical stack' image - otherwise on radar a stack looks a bit messy as everyone's flying over each other.

I'm sure there's plenty on the internet on Mode S, where it's used, etc etc - have a look!
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 16:13
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paperclip, you still set a Mode A squawk on a Mode S transponder (well at least for now) and the radar system still uses the same Mode A code to callsign conversion (for commercial flights with flight numbers at least). Also, the same conspicuity squawks are still used (7000, 7500, 7600 and 7700 etc.). Mode C is just the altitude part which is the same.

The main benefit of Mode S is the fact that the radar can selectively interrogate a particular transponder (after it's built up a list of all those it can see) rather than getting replies from every single Mode A/C transponder that it can see which can lead to the radar processor getting overwhelmed with replies (and phenomena called garbling and fruiting!).

The extra info you talk about is only available from aircraft with enhanced (I think that's what they call it) Mode S, which is pretty much all commercial air traffic with flight management systems (FMS) on board. Smaller General Aviation (GA) aircraft do not have the facility to send the extra info, but the basic aircraft ID and altitude will be there.

Anyhow, that's way too much info for this thread!

Disclaimer: I start college next week and it's been a couple of years since I did ATPL theory, so some of this may be slightly wrong or a little too simple. Caveat emptor.
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 16:45
  #5164 (permalink)  
 
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JonathanB,

You're right in that most of Mode S capabilities are not yet used by many service providers - transponder settings, etc etc - but I got the impression that the way the NATS info pack was written was aimed at looking to the future, and so was pointing out what it will be like once you're probably valid.

NATS are primarily concerned with Enhanced Mode S as this is being used in the London TMA and a lot of the traffic is the big commercial stuff rather than GA. Apologies for not including a caveat that this wasn't all happening now, and was more NATS focussed info.
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 16:50
  #5165 (permalink)  
 
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Presumably then Mode S is effectively telling the controller what the programmers have dialed into their computers (pilots into the autopilot!)?

Re: Stage 1

Didnt go too bad, a lot depends on the pass mark.

The ATC motivation test was a piece of cake, with the comments on the nats website and here being particularly prudent. If you know everything in that document you wont have a problem, though there are a few calculations (all very simple!) and some distances to guesstimate.

Spatial Awareness is, i imagine, the one most would fail on. I dont think theres time to do every question, even if there wasnt an option E throughout the test (i.e. one of the shapes was correct every time!). I completed about 70-75% of them if i remember correctly, with a few educated guess's within those. A quick glance round when i popped to the toilet post test suggested most had completed around 50 - 75%. Afterwards most agreed that it was the most difficult test, not so much with the questions, more because of them time. This wasnt helped by the examiner not giving any indication of a test end time (written on the board or something) or a indication when time was almost up. I suppose this stops people guessing the remaining questions to an extent.

Oh, re Spatial Awareness, i didnt help myself by downing a bottle of lucozade pre event. By midway through the spatial awareness test i was desperate for the toilet and lost concentration for a minute which, during a 20 minute test, is a lot of time. The advice therefore is to go before you go into the room. I suspected we'd have a video to sit through first and therefore didnt and almost regretted it.

Diagramming, not too bad, easier than above though there were some tricky commands and at times it was easy to get confused. Completed about 80%. Key is to work down the columns, but also to check for any cancel commands before you start, saves a bit of time.

With both of the above the NATS document isnt much of a help, they are both much harder.

Final test was numeracy and this i found relatively simple, completing it just in time. There was only 1 question i wasnt 100% sure of, had a choice between 2 which seemed fair enough. If you can get used to figuring out distance per minute based on a specific mph it will help you, and remembering the simple ones (360mph = 6 miles a minute, etc!)

So i think im close, but that depends on the pass marks. My friend did the test today also and struggled with the spatial awareness, evidently thinking he had much more time and thinks he's failed as a result, but we'll see.

Good luck to the others that were there today
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 16:50
  #5166 (permalink)  
 
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It's all rather confusing! I don't see the Mode A style codes being ditched any time soon though!
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 17:30
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Spatial Awareness is, i imagine, the one most would fail on. I dont think theres time to do every question
Actually I managed to finish this one back when I had my stage 1 in September. I didn't have time to check all my answers thoroughly (managed to check about half of them), so might have made a few mistakes, but I was able to work them all out properly and wasn't simply guessing.

I wouldn't worry too much about it though, I think most people complete about 50-75% of it and I wouldn't be suprised if the pass mark is as low as 50% on this paper. I certainly know of people who have got through having only completed a little over half the paper.

If you do fail at this hurdle I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Spatial awareness (particularly the kind of cube tests NATS use) requires a very specific mental aptitude, and its not one that is easily learnt (i.e. for most people you can either do it or you can't, practice will help you improve but only by so much). I think even if you are only able to get about 50% correct in the time you should be able to pat yourself on the back and safely consider yourself substantially more proficient in that aptitude than most. I know many very bright and intelligent people who are simply unable to get their heads around these and would struggle to get even 1 or 2 correct under pressure and within the time limit.
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 17:30
  #5168 (permalink)  
 
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LessThanSte,

Sounds like you're over-stating the case regarding Mode S. It simplifies data that's being caught on radar. Instead of receiving sometimes garbled data from a group of aircraft it enables controllers to deal with aircraft on a one-on-one basis, giving them clearer and more precise information to work with.

Please correct me if I'm wrong anybody, but that's the simplest way of explaining it from my point of view
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 18:03
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Instead of receiving sometimes garbled data from a group of aircraft it enables controllers to deal with aircraft on a one-on-one basis, giving them clearer and more precise information to work with.
I might be wrong, but I'm not sure that's quite right. The "garbling" issue isn't about the controller but the radar system. My understanding is that basically prior to mode S the transponders on all the aircraft in the sky are all sending data back to the radar receiver at the same time, sometimes if there are too many aircraft all transmitting at once the radar receiver can't cope and isn't able to decode all the information it is being sent and present it to the controller in an intelligeble way on the radar screen. It's a bit like if you're in a room and several people all try and speak to you at once - if you were to try and work out what they were all saying simultaneously you'd most likely fail to actually work out what any of them are saying, your brain can only cope with one (or at best two if you are an amazing multitasker) person speaking to you at a time. In short, trying to concentrate on too many pieces of information at once results in you taking none on board, it all becomes "garbled".

Obviously when a radar system experiences that problem its not very handy for the controller who needs that information to do his/her job. Going back to the analogy, the best way to communicate effictively with all the people in your room is to listen to them one at a time. I believe this is what Mode S is doing. It avoids garbling by focusing on the return of one a/c, getting it all down without any confusion, then moves on to the next one, and so on and so on... I believe Mode S does this by actively interrogating individual transponders, but am prepared to be corrected by someone who knows a little more.
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 18:08
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Very much what I intended to say, you just articulated it far better than me!
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Old 29th Jan 2010, 18:51
  #5171 (permalink)  
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hatemyjob,

Re your eyesight issue, in the last few months (Sept '09) the medical has changed from the old CAA Class 1 to the new European Class 3.

There are differences between the two though no idea if eyesight requirements is one of them.

More info here, here and here.
 
Old 29th Jan 2010, 22:01
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Not a real ATCO but I can claim a bit of knowledge about ATM Systems.

The discussion on Mode S has strayed a little from the original question. The Track Data Block (TDB) is the small block of text associated with an aircraft's target on the radar display. The TDB contains information about the flight some of which it gets from the radar responses and some which it gets from the flight plan. With Mode A/C the radar response gives us position, height/altitude and its Mode A identification. Using the Mode A we can add callsign and destination from the flight plan. With enhanced Mode S the aircraft will downlink a lot of additional data some of which can be displayed on the TDB. With most modern systems the TDB can be moved around the target and the ATCO will have some choice over the amount of information included. The TDB is always a compromise between giving the controllers the information they want and their contradictory wish to have an uncluttered display.

Although this extra information is very useful and is the visible advantage of Mode S for most controllers there are other advantages of Mode S which are probably more important. First, as others have said, Mode S uses selective addressing of aircraft transponders. This reduces considerably the problems of garbling, which happens when replies from two or more aircraft arrive at the ground receiver at the same time, and unwanted replies to other ground stations which have to be filtered out. The reduction in garbling means radar can be used in the stacks where previously it was too unreliable which in turn allows the use of safety tools like the Vertical Stack List which just wouldn't work properly with Mode A/C. Second it overcomes the problem of there not being enough Mode A codes to go round in some parts of Europe at peak times. For backward compatibility the Mode S transponders downlink the selected Mode A code to be used by the current generation of ground systems. Future ground systems will use the flight plan id to do those things the Mode A code is currently used for. The Mode A and Flight Plan Id still have to be entered by the aircraft crew.

The IAA website has some information on NOTA.

How the VORs are used for the stacks is difficult to describe but I find most people can understand this if they look at the STAR plates which have the stacks on them. The STAR plates for both Heathrow and Gatwick are available on line from the AIS site. If you google AIS EGLL and AIS EGKK you'll find them quite easily. You need to look at both because you'll see an obvious difference in the way the stacks are defined.

The iFACTS look ahead time is a function of a number of factors. First the amount of processing the system has to do depends on it so the longer you set it the more powerful your processor has to be. If you set it too short you lose some of the benefit to the controller but beyond a certain point there's no further benefit because you probably don't care about whats going to happen sometime after it leaves your airspace and the further you look ahead the less certainty there is. On our small island it is quite possible that in half an hour an aircraft will be interacting with aircraft which are currently on the ground and with the tolerance we currently have on slot times no system can predict those interactions with any certainty.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 06:59
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Hi

I previously failed at stage 3. It says that i must wait a year from my inital tests before I can apply again. Just wondering if anyone knows how strict Nats are with this? It's been 10 months since my initial tests.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 10:03
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hey lowlevel

what is involved in the stage 2 tests?
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 12:52
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Dan - don't mean to be rude but try and do what everyone else here does and read the thread before you ask questions.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 12:58
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forgive me, i haven't read all 270 pages of the thread, the only information i saw on stage 2 was old info at the beginning of the thread. i have not seen anything stating what is involved in stage 2 in recent pages. i asked level to respond , not you, so unless you have something helpful to say, such as where i can find the information i require on the thread, then dont say anything.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 13:23
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dan

student88 is way more PPRuNer than you, so maybe you should accept his advices... So chill mate, chill. Try to search for feast test.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 13:31
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that may be the case, but why bother posting to say he wont help? thought thats what this was for? he could have easily directed me to the info i required if he is so well informed.
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 14:40
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http://atcocareers.co.uk/pdf/Hints-a...Three-Days.pdf

It would help if you trawled through the 270 pages on offer here, but in any case, there's a link that I hope is of some help. I'd like to think we could welcome people instead of fobbing them off
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Old 30th Jan 2010, 14:44
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Hi Dan,

Check out this post: http://www.pprune.org/atc-issues/265...ml#post5228059

Should answer your questions


Dr. Pie,

I believe you have to wait 12 months between the dates of your initial applications - so if you first sent in your previous application before Jan 30th last year then you can now apply again. I don't know how efficient NATS are at picking these things up, but seeing as you are trying to apply for a job with them I'd suggest dishonesty is not a very good idea so I'd recommend waiting until you're sure the 12 months is up rather than trying to sneak around it.
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