Please note that there is currently a very long waiting list to begin ATC training. You should expect to wait at least 6-12 months to receive an invitation email for an Introduction to ATC group session. Thank you for your patience – our team are doing their very best to train students as quickly as possible.
Welcome to the exciting world of air traffic control (ATC) in VATSIM UK. If you already have some experience of VATSIM as a pilot, this will certainly provide you with a head start, but it is by no means necessary. You do not even need to own a copy of Flight Simulator; the software for VATSIM ATC is standalone and entirely free of charge!
Becoming a controller requires a certain amount of training before being allowed to control ‘live’ traffic. While undertaking training a certain amount of commitment and self study is required - so be prepared for this! There is a system of graduated controller ratings that determine the ATC positions you can control, so being a VATSIM controller is a constant learning process. We want this to be both enjoyable and educational!
We appreciate that personal circumstances vary, but we still require a certain amount of availability so our mentors can accept your session requests. If you have any concerns about this - please reach out to us via the helpdesk.
If you’re not already a member of VATSIM’s UK division, the first step is to follow the instructions on the Join Us page – you’ll need to ensure that your division is set to ‘United Kingdom’. If you need to make a change, this may take up to 24 hours to process. You will lose your place on the waiting list if you later transfer to another division, and will be unable to undertake training in VATSIM UK.
VATSIM as a whole endorses three controller clients for use on the network, but the UK division only provides training using the EuroScope client. Installation instructions for this are available on the EuroScope website.
Our Operations Department produces and maintains a controller pack, which provides EuroScope with data on the UK’s airspace structure to display on your screen. You can download the UK Controller Pack from the downloads section of our website: be sure to precisely follow the instructions in the README.pdf file provided.
Audio for VATSIM is the programme we utilise to transmit and receive on ATC frequencies. This software will allow you to connect and observe current controllers on frequency.
TeamSpeak is a voice communication program we use for training sessions, coordination between controllers, and simply having a chat! You’ll need to install and set-up TeamSpeak to take part in our training programmes.
In order to join the 'New Controller TG':
Joining the New Controller TG will automatically place you on the waiting list for an Introduction to ATC (OBS_PT1) group session. We run these approximately once a month; when a place is available to you, you’ll receive an email inviting you to join a session. Where sessions are full, you may wish to check back regularly – places may become available if students cancel their attendance.
You will need to have all of the software detailed in the above ‘Required Software’ section installed and working in advance of the session. Connect to the TeamSpeak server in good time before the session, and we will move you to the seminar room once we are ready to start.
During the session, we’ll give you an opportunity to introduce yourself, and we will take you through the basic rules and structure of the organisation. We’ll then show you some features of EuroScope, set-up your hardware and voice communications, and take you onto one of our controller’s frequencies to listen to some live network ATC. We’ll then provide you with a list of helpful resources for your initial training and explain the ‘next steps’.
All of the theory content of your training is available through our Moodle platform. All of our courses are available to any VATSIM UK member, so if you wish you can start covering theory content before your Introduction to ATC group session: the relevant course is the ‘S1 Aerodrome Control’ course.
At the end of the Introduction to ATC group session, we’ll assign you one of three training aerodromes: Edinburgh, Manchester or Stansted. This will be where you complete your training, however after completing training and getting your rating, you’ll be free to control almost anywhere in the UK. We will ensure that you are enrolled on both the ‘S1 Aerodrome Control’ (generic) Moodle course and the aerodrome specific Moodle course for your allocated training aerodrome.
These courses are designed to be comprehensive. Completion of both will take most students around a week’s study to complete, however we acknowledge that people learn at different paces, but we do expect the exams to be within 30 days of the seminar. Failure to do this, without communication, may result in your training place being reallocated. We recommend that you work through each section in a separate ‘study session’ rather than working through everything in one sitting, as this will improve your retention of what you learn. There are two exams to complete: The S1 Aerodrome Control exam located on the Central Training System (CTS) (in the ‘Students’ menu, under the blue bar labelled ‘Exams’, select ‘Theory Exams’, and sit the Observer to Student 1 (OBS > S1) exam) and the relevant aerodrome specific course exam located at the end of the Moodle course.
Once you have completed all exams (airport specific Moodle and CTS Theory Exam), please let us know by creating a ticket on the VATSIM UK Helpdesk. You may need to wait a short while for a training place to become available at your aerodrome. This helps us balance the number of students training on a specific aerodrome with the number of active mentors. We aim to keep this wait under one month by only running seminars when this ‘buffer list’ is almost empty.
Where applicable, eligibility criteria are defined in the relevant sections of this handbook. Once a training place is available, training staff will offer it to you by email/ticket. You will have 84 hours (3.5 days) to respond before the place is offered to the next eligible student on the waiting list. Places may be offered on any of the UK’s training aerodromes.
If you need to, you can request that training staff let you know when the next place is available or can defer your place as per ATC Training Handbook 5.9.
To get the most out of your training, it’s essential that you make the most of the resources available in your own time. This allows our mentors time to be focused on the things you can’t learn yourself helping you get more out of your own training.
What do we expect from you?
What will we provide you?
Your exam will include around an hour of controlling, some questions, and a comprehensive debrief in which your examiner will explain what you’ve done well and what you need to improve upon. If you meet the standard to be awarded a rating, they will request your rating to be upgraded to S1!
This is manually processed, so may take up to around 72 hours from the point at which your exam report is filed. You will receive an email when the rating upgrade has taken place, and will then be able to login as a controller. You will be removed from the New Controller TG.
As a new S1, you are permitted to control any DEL or GND position in VATSIM UK, with the exceptions of London/Heathrow, London/Gatwick, and Military aerodromes. When moving onto a new position, you should be sure to read the local documentation available on our downloads page to ensure that you are aware with the local procedures.
To progress to your S2 rating, you will need to request to join the waiting list. To do this, submit a ticket to ATC Training via the helpdesk. You may be offered a training place at any UK aerodrome.
Further information on our training programmes is available in the ATC Training Handbook.
Your S2 training will review and solidify what you’ve learnt during your S1 training, so you should use the waiting time to practise your skills.
In light of the high traffic levels that Gatwick regularly sees, S1-rated members wishing to control there must complete an additional endorsement here.
After solidifying your S1 knowledge and having controlled for at least 50 hours, you may wish to train on our A/G Fiso endorsement. This is a moodle based teaching module that allows you to control smaller airfields as an A/G (Air - Ground Radio Operator) or FISO (Flight Information Service Officer). This module will start to teach the basics of VFR flight and will stand you in good stead for beginning your S2 training. You can find further details here and if you wish to be enrolled in the course then submit a ticket to helpdesk.
Where will my training take place?
Depending on demand, your training will take place at one of three training aerodromes: Edinburgh, Manchester or Stansted.
How long will it take to gain an S1 rating?
It varies from student to student, and with the amount of time you are able to dedicate to your training. Most students take two-three months after attending an introductory group session, any issues meaning this is not possible for you can be discussed with us and we will aim to accommodate.
What do I need before attending a group session?
Where do I sign up for a group session?
You will be sent an invite to a group session via email when you are eligible for one. You can see group sessions (OBS_PT1) that are available to you via the 'Seminar' section of the CTS.