ATC Issues A place where pilots may enter the 'lions den' that is Air Traffic Control in complete safety and find out the answers to all those obscure topics which you always wanted to know the answer to but were afraid to ask.

ANS v NATS

Old 29th Jul 2019, 14:45
  #41 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
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Originally Posted by chevvron
Our UTP required the mentor to take over when traffic got to certain levels, depending on how much training the U/T had carried out.
I'm afraid I think there's a lot more to it than simply stepping in and taking over when it gets busy or complex...however that is determined.

Originally Posted by Flying184
This is because the training styles and learning employed in the ATC world are still stuck in the 1950's....
I understand exactly what you're saying. But I'm not sure that learning by rote to start with is such a bad thing. Everything else I'm 100% in agreement with. In the years since I went through the basic training I've seen a number of big changes (particularly with respect to NATS' trainees).

Back in my day, your description fitted my experience perfectly - sit in, often with a mentor who didn't like or didn't want to do training, do the best you could until you did something wrong when the mentor took over and then maybe gave it back to you, but rarely had any explanation of what happened, why or how to have handled it better. Alternatively you were left until you were out of your depth and the mentor had to rescue you which did little to build one's confidence. Unless you were a natural at the job it was an uphill struggle, made harder still sometimes if you had the temerity to say you weren't happy with the training. Of course, it wasn't all as bad as that but there were plenty of days when that was the only memory! There seemed to be a disconnect between the college, mainly theory and sim-based teaching, and the trainers in the real world. The way I sum this up now is to point out that it is very difficult to remember how little you knew on your first day out of the college. As you mention, one could quote passages from the book but had little understanding of what it meant when applied to the real world. Somewhere along the way those who go on to have successful careers learn how to apply the theory to the real world and a lot more besides. The unit training for a previously unqualified person needs to take them from that very green and keen college trainee and feed them everything that us old hands know in a way that makes sense and at a rate that can be assimilated effectively.

Then, I guess in the mid-80s, we got UTPs. Lots of training/learning objectives and, sometimes, even performance standards to be achieved. It was a lot of hassle to put together but, if the UTP truly covered all of the activities at the unit - including those that don't happen very often - it could form the basis of a good training programme with material being fed in at the right time. But not everyone put together a tailored UTP, and there was a fair bit of cutting and pasting going on where only the unit name changed! About the same time we got an OJTI rating/endorsement - initially, IIRC, given to those who asked and could show previous experience in OJT, and later issued following completion of a training course. So, I remember a few reluctant mentors who, willing or otherwise, got OJTI tickets because of their past experience and others who actively tried to get the ticket because they enjoyed the power/authority, even if not the training. And then, because it went on the licence, people wanted more money if they had the ticket. Sadly, little of this bore any relationship to whether anyone had the skills or ability to train effectively.

In the 90s, a decision was made in NATS to shorten the time that trainees spent at the college. The reasons for this seemed to vary depending who you spoke to but it was at the time NATS units became separate business units, and managers had to manage the money. The units had to pay the college for each trainee. So, before long, unit managers started trying to find ways to save some of that money by reducing the time trainees spent at the college. This, of course, meant that the trainees came out of the college even greener than before (but hopefully still keen). This was fine for the unit managers because, they said, it enables the unit to provide more bespoke training for their people. I presume that the UTPs for these units were suitably expanded to meet the needs of both the units and the trainees.

We've now got approved courses which must be followed at certified training organisations. This has increased the costs involved for everyone, and blocked a route into the industry which I followed, but - hopefully - has improved the quality of training and, ultimately, better prepared the people providing services for whatever they may be faced with when doing the job and thus provide a safer service. Because those last couple of points is what it's all for - right?

We've now also got EU regulations to cover all of these things - running to over 450 pages of law and guidance. Whatever one may think about the EU, I would point out that the UK took the lead in many of the concepts in the EU legislation and had implemented them in the UK rule framework long before EASA had any involvement with ATM. So the UK has a mature training system in place.

And the CAA carefully oversees industry operators, using safety arguments put forward by ATC units to justify what bespoke training is needed for their respective locations, challenged when appropriate if the CAA experts are not convinced by those safety arguments (a bit like what the FAA does with Boeing) and not approving something if it does not meet the necessary safety standards.

As I say, a lot has changed over 40 years or so. But it sounds like the training experience for some, at least, of today's trainees is much the same as it was all those years ago. It's a bit of a shame, isn't it?
LookingForAJob is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2019, 08:49
  #42 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Location: UK
Posts: 27
Originally Posted by LookingForAJob View Post
I'm afraid I think there's a lot more to it than simply stepping in and taking over when it gets busy or complex...however that is determined.

I understand exactly what you're saying. But I'm not sure that learning by rote to start with is such a bad thing. Everything else I'm 100% in agreement with. In the years since I went through the basic training I've seen a number of big changes (particularly with respect to NATS' trainees).

Back in my day, your description fitted my experience perfectly - sit in, often with a mentor who didn't like or didn't want to do training, do the best you could until you did something wrong when the mentor took over and then maybe gave it back to you, but rarely had any explanation of what happened, why or how to have handled it better. Alternatively you were left until you were out of your depth and the mentor had to rescue you which did little to build one's confidence. Unless you were a natural at the job it was an uphill struggle, made harder still sometimes if you had the temerity to say you weren't happy with the training. Of course, it wasn't all as bad as that but there were plenty of days when that was the only memory! There seemed to be a disconnect between the college, mainly theory and sim-based teaching, and the trainers in the real world. The way I sum this up now is to point out that it is very difficult to remember how little you knew on your first day out of the college. As you mention, one could quote passages from the book but had little understanding of what it meant when applied to the real world. Somewhere along the way those who go on to have successful careers learn how to apply the theory to the real world and a lot more besides. The unit training for a previously unqualified person needs to take them from that very green and keen college trainee and feed them everything that us old hands know in a way that makes sense and at a rate that can be assimilated effectively.

Then, I guess in the mid-80s, we got UTPs. Lots of training/learning objectives and, sometimes, even performance standards to be achieved. It was a lot of hassle to put together but, if the UTP truly covered all of the activities at the unit - including those that don't happen very often - it could form the basis of a good training programme with material being fed in at the right time. But not everyone put together a tailored UTP, and there was a fair bit of cutting and pasting going on where only the unit name changed! About the same time we got an OJTI rating/endorsement - initially, IIRC, given to those who asked and could show previous experience in OJT, and later issued following completion of a training course. So, I remember a few reluctant mentors who, willing or otherwise, got OJTI tickets because of their past experience and others who actively tried to get the ticket because they enjoyed the power/authority, even if not the training. And then, because it went on the licence, people wanted more money if they had the ticket. Sadly, little of this bore any relationship to whether anyone had the skills or ability to train effectively.

In the 90s, a decision was made in NATS to shorten the time that trainees spent at the college. The reasons for this seemed to vary depending who you spoke to but it was at the time NATS units became separate business units, and managers had to manage the money. The units had to pay the college for each trainee. So, before long, unit managers started trying to find ways to save some of that money by reducing the time trainees spent at the college. This, of course, meant that the trainees came out of the college even greener than before (but hopefully still keen). This was fine for the unit managers because, they said, it enables the unit to provide more bespoke training for their people. I presume that the UTPs for these units were suitably expanded to meet the needs of both the units and the trainees.

We've now got approved courses which must be followed at certified training organisations. This has increased the costs involved for everyone, and blocked a route into the industry which I followed, but - hopefully - has improved the quality of training and, ultimately, better prepared the people providing services for whatever they may be faced with when doing the job and thus provide a safer service. Because those last couple of points is what it's all for - right?

We've now also got EU regulations to cover all of these things - running to over 450 pages of law and guidance. Whatever one may think about the EU, I would point out that the UK took the lead in many of the concepts in the EU legislation and had implemented them in the UK rule framework long before EASA had any involvement with ATM. So the UK has a mature training system in place.

And the CAA carefully oversees industry operators, using safety arguments put forward by ATC units to justify what bespoke training is needed for their respective locations, challenged when appropriate if the CAA experts are not convinced by those safety arguments (a bit like what the FAA does with Boeing) and not approving something if it does not meet the necessary safety standards.

As I say, a lot has changed over 40 years or so. But it sounds like the training experience for some, at least, of today's trainees is much the same as it was all those years ago. It's a bit of a shame, isn't it?
This is a really interesting post and gives a great insight into the history of where we are at. For what it's worth I totally agree with all of your sentiments.

I do agree that there is some worth in rote learning lists at the college to begin with, but I would like to see (as you rightly point out) more of a link between this and real world applications. As I said in my original post, there is a significant difference in the training styles/technologies used in pilot training compared to ATC. I have also been searching lately for research/articles/publications into the study of training of ATCOs and can find very little if anything. Yet the pilot industry has many research articles and publications. Definitely a big gap for some research into ATC training!
Flying184 is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2019, 18:45
  #43 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 1999
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My own opinion is that you canít compare learning to fly with learning to control. They are completely different. Iím not a currently licensed pilot, so some may think Iím talking rubbish, but I have done some flying, and of course there are generalisations coming up......

Learning to fly is basically physics. Given a set of variables, such as; airspeed, aircraft/aerofoil design, angle of attack etc, then a given control input will result in reaction A. Always. Change one variable, and the given control input will result in reaction B. Always. Learning to fly is how to string those control inputs together to result in a sequence of reactions to get the aircraft to do what you want it to do. This is how there can be zero flight time simulators.

ATC has far more variables, many of them involve human interaction.. Our main method of controlling is communication to other parties. Weíve all sat through the PowerPoint about how much non-verbal comms are used in life. Given an infinite amount of money and staff and time, one could possibly build a Ďzero controlling timeí ATC sim, but youíd literally need 50 people, all with different accents, first languages, different distractions and ideas to each act as a pilot/driver/airport ops person/other controllers. Controlling is about putting yourself in the head of the pilot/driver etc. Itís about balancing priorities based on many factors that you only get knowledge of through experience. Thatís why itís more effective to do the bulk of training in a live environment. The basics can be done in a sim, learning phraseology, basic techniques etc, but that can only get you so far.

I would equate ATC training to an airline pilot command course. Itís not about flying the aircraft, itís about being ahead of any situation and having to weigh a lot more factors to form an executable plan, while having alternative plans ready to activate in case something changes.
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Old 31st Jul 2019, 19:43
  #44 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Gonzo View Post
My own opinion is that you canít compare learning to fly with learning to control. They are completely different. Iím not a currently licensed pilot, so some may think Iím talking rubbish, but I have done some flying, and of course there are generalisations coming up......

Learning to fly is basically physics. Given a set of variables, such as; airspeed, aircraft/aerofoil design, angle of attack etc, then a given control input will result in reaction A. Always. Change one variable, and the given control input will result in reaction B. Always. Learning to fly is how to string those control inputs together to result in a sequence of reactions to get the aircraft to do what you want it to do. This is how there can be zero flight time simulators.

ATC has far more variables, many of them involve human interaction.. Our main method of controlling is communication to other parties. Weíve all sat through the PowerPoint about how much non-verbal comms are used in life. Given an infinite amount of money and staff and time, one could possibly build a Ďzero controlling timeí ATC sim, but youíd literally need 50 people, all with different accents, first languages, different distractions and ideas to each act as a pilot/driver/airport ops person/other controllers. Controlling is about putting yourself in the head of the pilot/driver etc. Itís about balancing priorities based on many factors that you only get knowledge of through experience. Thatís why itís more effective to do the bulk of training in a live environment. The basics can be done in a sim, learning phraseology, basic techniques etc, but that can only get you so far.

I would equate ATC training to an airline pilot command course. Itís not about flying the aircraft, itís about being ahead of any situation and having to weigh a lot more factors to form an executable plan, while having alternative plans ready to activate in case something changes.
Im a flyer not a controller. However, if I was to compare the two I would probably simplify controlling in the same way you simplified flying. Which means weíd probably both be wrong.
handleturning is offline  
Old 31st Jul 2019, 21:46
  #45 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Originally Posted by handleturning View Post


Im a flyer not a controller. However, if I was to compare the two I would probably simplify controlling in the same way you simplified flying. Which means weíd probably both be wrong.
Which is why trying to compare the two shouldn't be done. There are parts of training for each that would probably improve both.

What I do know that simulators for aircraft are very realistic as in how an aircraft will have to be flown in any situation. So you can train very accurately in them.

Simulators in the ATC world are accurate in replicating kit (as its the same) but not very good at replicating the aircraft and what they will do. The people pretending to be pilots and other atcos do their best but ultimately after a certain point the trainee starts to get no benefit from them. I have seen trainees move massive amounts of traffic in the sim but as soon as you add real people in the real world they can't move a 10th of what they do in the sim. The only way to get over this is to train on live traffic in hopefully appropriate traffic levels. I say hopefully because at the beginning of live training it's very hard to find in todays busy airspace.

I think there is a place for incremental learning in the rating courses for atcos to get the basics but once on unit it becomes very hard to achieve.
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Old 1st Aug 2019, 08:42
  #46 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Posts: 2,293
I'm with Gonzo. I'm currently a controller but did, previously, fly professionally, albeit not civil. Could ATC training be better? Of course it could be. Right from the very first point of applying, through aptitude testing and interviews to validation, there could be improvements. Same with flying training. Flying training, as with ATC, varies in quality depending where you go.

I would say that flying instructors are, generally, on average more interested in teaching. Flying to those who do it seems to be more of a passion than controlling, though there are controllers out there who are really passionate about it. This in turn means that instructors may be more enthusiastic,

However the two beasts are different. ATC is very much, by rote, whilst procedures and specific airspace is learned and understood. You can't throw someone in on a busy session and expect them to get on with it. Same with flying; you teach the basics first then you go on to the more demanding aspects.

Like it or not, flying is easier in many respects... you are in charge of one aircraft, ultimately responsible for the safety of it, but guided by ATC in many aspects. You cannot compare like for like the training of the two, but you can take certain aspects from each and apply them
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Old 1st Aug 2019, 15:19
  #47 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Bear in mind that instructors at the NATS College are on the highest salary band so if you were at a Band 1 unit and got posted to the college, you'd instantly become Band 5.
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