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Maintaining Calm

Imagine being able to interact with another person while flying your favorite flight simulator as he acts as an enroute, approach or terminal controller. Not so hard to imagine is it? We do that on a daily basis with the wonderful tools supplied to us by all kinds of generous individuals in our favorite hobby. There is nothing better in the Simulated World of VATSIM than having a calm steady voice guiding you into your destination airport safely in adverse weather conditions. It is a true joy for me personally, and I also enjoy trying to be that calm voice for others as I work the friendly skies of ZLA. It is extremely important for virtual controllers to maintain a calm steady voice when dealing with pilots for many reasons, but for my money, the most important reason is to gain the trust and respect of the virtual pilots so that they visit our virtual skies again and again.

Controlling at ZLA should be a fun, enjoyable experience for both Pilot and Controller, and if one is not having fun, then perhaps it's time to look for something else to do. I can tell you from personal experience that when a controller or even a pilot looses his composure, it ruins the fun and enjoyment for everyone in earshot. I can recall an incident while flying into Denver where a controller lost his cool and berated a pilot because the pilot did not do things exactly as the controller had expected him to do. This controller stepped over the bounds for even a REAL WORLD situation. This controller called the pilot "Stupid" and referred to him as an "Idiot" for everyone else in the Roger Wilco Room to hear. It was such a shock to me at the time that I almost disconnected from the network. I did write a letter to the Denver Chief suggesting that the matter be looked into, and from the response I got, I'd say that I was not the only one who was concerned.

You see, even when we are having a bad day it is not "professional" to ever loose our cool with ANY pilot or controller for that matter. If we are to take matters into our own hands and verbally berate someone on an open line we cause embarrassment to ourselves, our pilots and our ARTCC, not just the individual with whom we have a "beef" with. While working the FRIENDLY skies of ZLA it is important to always remain relaxed and calm while speaking through Roger Wilco. A steady, even voice has a way of making the most chaotic of situations seem a bit less so. We have the ability to project the best face for ZLA in everything we do just by the words we choose, and how those words are spoken.

When you are working any position within ZLA (or VATSIM for that matter) and using Roger Wilco it is vitally important that you maintain your calm, and speak with a steady cadence of words. Do not rush your commands when things get busy. Do not raise your voice as the stress level starts to go up. Do not EVER verbally abuse any individual while working a ZLA position. When you feel the "Irish" starting to rise in you, release the PTT button, take a deep breath, exhale and regain your composure. Make every single radio call in the same tone and at the same voice level under every circumstance. It will be surprising to see the effect that it will have on everyone else on the frequency. If you have a problem with a pilot that requires a supervisor, then call for a supervisor using the .WALLOP command (i.e. .WALLOP LAX needs a supervisor for consultation about a problem pilot). Do not take things into your own hands, as you may make things worse, and you may find yourself in a position where you have to defend yourself to the VATSIM staff. If a supervisor is not available, then be civil, remain calm, and try to maintain your voice in the same tone and volume level as you would when clearing a pilot to land as you try to work out the conflict. Under NO circumstances should you ever loose your cool with a pilot…any pilot!

Another important tip is to always THINK about what you are going to say before you actually say it. If you must constantly stop a transmission or start over because you either forgot about what you were going to say, or perhaps because you never actually knew what you were going to say in the first place, the result is that you will congest your frequency making it more difficult to maintain control. When giving Clearances to pilots it is better to take an extra 10 seconds to ensure that you have ALL the information needed. Is the route complete? Is the Cruise Altitude appropriate, do you have a squawk code ready to be assigned; do you know the frequency of the departure controller that just opened? Well, when you start reading the clearance, then half way through it you realize that one of the above is missing or wrong you have done two things. You have shown the pilot that you are not completely prepared and you have may have caused a delay in either you giving instructions to a pilot, or a pilot needing to relay some information to you.

A final tip that I'd like to pass along to you is mostly for those who use headsets while using Roger Wilco. Do you find that you are a bit tense while giving commands? Why do I ask? I ask because there are a lot of folks who seem to be holding their breath while giving instructions and then forcefully exhale at the conclusion of their instructions. How do I know this? I know this because 9 times out of 10 that individual will exhale first, then release the PTT button. What we are treated to is usually a very loud "rushing" noise that blasts our eardrums. When it happens on rare occasions it is not terribly troubling. When it happens at the end of EVERY transmission it becomes extremely annoying. Do you do that? You might be surprised. The next time you work an ATC position and are starting to get busy, pay close attention to your breathing patterns at the end of each transmission. Do you exhale every time? It probably isn't very loud to you…but to the rest of us, it can sound like a passing hurricane.

Like I said at the top, there is nothing better than being able to interact with LIVE ATC while flying one's simulator. Interacting with live ATC who is calm, predictable and considerate is the ultimate enjoyment for this writer.

Be Safe! Have FUN!

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