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. 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!
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.
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.
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 both TeamSpeak (with our server set-up) and EuroScope (with the UK Controller Pack) installed in advance of the session. Connect to the TeamSpeak server in good time before the session, and we will send you the room password when we’re ready to start!
During the session, we’ll give you an opportunity to introduce yourself, and we’ll 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 controllers’ 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 four training aerodromes: East Midlands, Edinburgh, Manchester or Stansted. This will be where you complete your initial training, but you will not be limited to it once you have been awarded your rating. 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, and between the two will take most students around a week’s study to complete. 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.
Once you have completed the courses, you’ll need to complete a theory exam 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.
Once we receive your ticket informing us of your exam completion, we’ll assign you permissions to request one-to-one practical sessions at your assigned aerodrome. Your mentors will be looking for familiarity with the theoretical content which you have learnt through Moodle, and will help you to develop the practical skills you’ll need to control network traffic, including:
A full syllabus is available here. You will develop these skills over the course of around 3/4 sessions. Your mentors will not expect you to be perfect, but will be looking for evidence that you have a ‘good enough’ basic understanding to control on your own, the capacity to improve with practice, and the knowledge of where to find help when you need it. When they’re happy with your skills, they will forward you for your practical exam.
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 will be allocated training on one of our training aerodromes:
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. You can find details about that here.
Where will my training take place?
Depending on demand, your training will take place at one of four training aerodromes: East Midlands, 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, but you can take as long as you need!
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.