VATSIM Interviews November 2009, by Callum McLoughlin
Craig Workman 929129
Craig, thanks for taking the time to allow me to interview you for the VATSIM newsletter. To start the ball rolling, where in the world are you based, how old are you, and what got your interested in aviation?
I am 19 years old and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. From a young age, I can remember aircraft flying over my house on their final approach to runway 23 at Glasgow International Airport, and the interest started from there. I originally wanted to be a pilot, but after a friend's family member got me some work experience at Glasgow Airport I decided that being a controller would better suit me, and that I would enjoy it a lot more. My career of choice would definitely be getting into real world controlling, either through the Royal Air Force, NATS, or Eurocontrol - there are many different avenues into that profession that I would like to look into in more detail.
Is that what got you interested in VATSIM, and did VATSIM have any influence over your decision to pursue a career as a controller rather than a pilot?
I wouldn't say so, as I had been interested in aviation for a while before joining VATSIM, and coupled with the work experience I had already decided that controlling was definitely for me. The person who introduced me, albeit indirectly, to VATSIM was my uncle. He bought me Flight Simulator one Christmas and told me about the different networks which were around at the time, I held off joining any for a while but eventually decided to give it a go.
What were your first impressions of VATSIM?
Daunting! I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to download or how it all worked, so I relied heavily on other users on the forums to learn how to install the software and to get to grips with the Flight Simulator add on culture. After I had succeeded in getting myself up and running, I would spend most of my time at Glasgow Airport in the default aircraft practicing flying; if controllers did come online, I would always use text as it was far less intimidating.
Did you find people were friendly and accommodating to you as a new pilot?
When I was using FS offline and through my work experience, I had a basic background of flying and the taxiway layouts so that wasn't so much of an issue - I didn't make mistakes which would affect other users so I was always able to keep myself to myself. When practicing and controllers did come online, they were always helpful despite me asking questions which could perhaps be seen as daft, such as "what is the UNICOM frequency?". Eventually I plucked up the courage to start using voice rather than voice-receive which was a rather scary transition, but well worth it.
Was changing to voice something which changed VATSIM for you?
Not really, the only big difference was that I could then start thinking about pursuing an online career in Air Traffic Control. Getting the confidence to use voice was a relatively quick process and only took around a month from joining to completing my Observer to Student exam.
You have been a controller on VATSIM for roughly four years now, what have been your "best bits" and what are you most proud of?
When I first joined, the first month was exciting as there was so much going on - I can remember hearing the noise on Squawkbox which indicated a controller had come online and frantically looking to see where they were controlling! My progression through the ATC ranks has also been a highlight for me, I completed the training very quickly (from OBS to CTR+ in a year) as I was very committed and dedicated a lot of time to the hobby.
What do you prefer on VATSIM, as you have dabbled in both, flying or controlling?
It depends on what my mood is, I tend to go through phases of controlling and then phases of flying. I have been known to sit on Glasgow Radar [an approach radar position] for hours on end, even when there is no traffic at all slowly building my hours, but the best part is when it goes crazy with traffic! There are times when I won't use VATSIM for a month or two, and then come back and go through a flying phase either through doing solid Trans Atlantic sectors, or even doing military low level flying. It really depends what mood I am in; but on the whole I tend to prefer controlling. If I could only control one position again, and traffic was always in abundance, it would definitely be Glasgow Radar!
Which Division are you a member of and why is it so brilliant?
I am a member of the UK Division and I have been a member there since I joined; the reason why is that I wished to control at Glasgow as that is where my heart really is. I am competitive and I set myself a challenge of getting to CTR+ before my peers in the division. Due to the UK's excellent training programme, especially in SCONI RTS, I was able to do this with straight exam passes across the board. There were bad sides to the UK as people were leaving regularly and there was a fast turnover of members as well as some empire building which made things difficult at times, but the controlling alone kept me motivated and enthusiastic and that is why I have remained a member for so long. I was also invited to be the SCONI RTSM, as well as myself and a colleague being placed as the acting Military RTSM - this allowed me to put my mark on the way things ran making changes to help those around me.
SCONI is the acronym for the "Scottish and Northern Ireland Regional Training Scheme" which manages the training in that Flight Information Region. RTS's are similar to vACCs in Europe. An RTSM manages the training within an RTS.
You mentioned that you achieved the rating of CTR+ in less than a year, do you feel that UK has changed for the better or for the worse, as getting to even CTR level in less than a year in the division is near impossible?
Not really, it was unheard of at the time too. I just worked very hard through listening to ATC hence picking up radio telephony skills, reading around the subjects, and making sure that I had at least one mentoring session every two weeks or so. This and my competitive spirit really got me through quickly - I was also extremely lucky and was in the right place at the right time. I do think that the division has changed though, the forum was slightly less professional and sterile environment and there was more scope to have a little bit more fun. There was definitely more of a community feel, as I feel now there are more smaller groups of people who get on and the division isn't as close as it once was.
Craig is making reference to the VATSIM-UK forum which is accessible from the VATUK web site.
Outside of UK, where is your favourite place to fly?
Again it really depends on my mood. I really like flying to places such as San Francisco and Boston in the USA, as well as areas in Spain such as the Canary Island and the Balearics. When I go on holiday, like many others, I do like to recreate the flights. Most of the time, however, most of my flights originate or terminate in Glasgow.
What would you next most like to see or do on the VATSIM network, and why?
I think the thing I would most like to do next is become the Military Director for VATSIM-UK, as I would love to be given the opportunity rebuild the Military RTS from scratch and improve the controller retention and training levels. I already have experience in VSOAs as I helped with the introduction of landable [sic] carriers on the network.
One last question, Craig, before we finish - if you aren't on VATSIM, what are you most likely to be doing?
Socialising with friends out and about, most probably. If I'm not doing that I'll probably be at the computer listening to music and surfing the web. I started my Private Pilots Licence last year, however when Woolworths went bankrupt I was unable to continue with it. I will be resuming my training as soon as I can find another job. I have also started DJing which is great fun.
Woolworths was a large business in the UK which gained a lot of publicity when it went bankrupt earlier this year.
George is the Vice President of Membership, VATGOV12.
Hello George, thank you for taking the time to endure this half hour of questioning! To begin, can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Hello, I was born 40 years ago in Athens, Greece, which is where I currently reside. I have two sons; one is seven and one is five and a half years old. I studied for a degree in mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Patras, and I now own a software development business in downtown Athens; through that I get travel all over Europe, and also deal in European politics. My hobbies include flying, achieving my PPL back in 2001 and have currently amassed around 100 hours.
Do you find that your job helps you in your duties as VP Membership on the VATSIM network?
Yes, of course, not only just through the skills I gained through managing my company but through the interaction from people abroad such as Italy, Germany, and the UK. This helped me develop my spoken English which has helped me enormously in the international VATSIM environment.
Do you like travelling or would you prefer to stay at home due to your family?
I enjoy it a lot and the trips are usually only around three days long at a maximum; whilst away I also try and meet people from VATSIM during my afternoons off. I have in the past made contact with people from the network making a lot of friends in the UK, Netherlands, Portugal, and Italy through VATSIM. I think that is the greatest thing I have got out of VATSIM. A year ago I was on a business trip in Milan, and myself and Donato Torrese who is also a part of the Membership Department met up and had a Coffee. I have also attended a Portuguese vACC dinner which was excellent fun, and although I didn't understand much of the conversation as I cannot speak the language, I felt very much at home.
You joined VATSIM on the 12th of July 2001, what got your interested in VATSIM & why did you join?
I found SATCO by accident in 1999 through searching on Google, and then joined VATSIM very soon after it was created. I was a very active pilot and controller in the Hellenic vACC and eventually became the Director; I have also had experience as the Training Director within the area. As I like helping people and VATSIM alike, I chased a position on the membership team which three or four years ago became a reality.
With over 1200 hours logged as a pilot on the network, what is if your favourite route (if you have one!), and if you don't, how do you choose what, and where you would like to fly?
I have a personal ongoing project which began one and a half years ago. It is essentially my mission to visit every capital city throughout the world on Flight Simulator. I started in Athens and am currently somewhere in India after flying the last 20 or 30 legs in Europe. This around the world trip comprises of around 250 flights and I'm up to about flight number 60 at the moment. The reason why I am doing this is because for the last ten years I have been flying only within Europe and have seen most of the major airports. I like seeing as much of the world as possible without having to rush, even if it is just in the virtual world. The aircraft I fly is the Boeing 737-700 - I like using this because it has all of the systems needed to keep the flight nice and relaxed, not to mention the fact I have a basic home cockpit - when I fly, I don't just have two monitors and a keyboard; I have invested in hardware which increases the enjoyment of the flights dramatically!
Can you tell me about when you got the position as the VP Membership, did you find it daunting and how long did it take for you to settle in the role?
I was originally a volunteer in Membership dealing with the data auditing for the European Region, and between 2004 and 2006 amassed hundreds of hours in this role. I believe that if somebody wishes to become the VP. Membership, they need to have experienced all of the challenges involved in the day to day operations to have all of the necessary skills and tricks that you need to posses to be successful. In 2006 I was elected as VATGOV12 and because my previous experience it was not too big of a jump for me.
What advice do you have for somebody who would like be become a BoG member?
You've got to love the hobby, if you don't love it you shouldn't be doing it!
What does your average day in the membership department involve?
I spend at least one hour per day, but sometimes more, replying to emails and monitoring the trouble ticketing system. We have a team of 10-15 people volunteering to help VATSIM's users with their accounts. There are two team leaders who help me - one for North and South America, and one for the rest of the world - we're a very well oiled machine and are constantly in touch via Skype, the internal forum, and email to ensure the highest level of service possible for our users. We also work closely with the Supervisor Team on matters such as multiple CIDs to ensure the network runs as smoothly as possible.
What has been your biggest achievement on VATSIM?
The trouble ticketing system is my biggest achievement, there was nothing in place like this when I became a VATSIM Governor - around one and a half years ago, a number of people helped with setting this system up including Mr Tristan Blackburn, and many others in the Membership Department. I think we have all done a fantastic job and the system ensures a professional and high standard of service for our members, with the aim being to reply to a help request within 24 hours.
Is there anything you would like to see change on the network, even if it is impossible or unlikely?
I would like to see more people on the network with a large spread of pilots and ATC being online throughout the world. Of course this will be difficult but we are gradually getting there as more people register and log in. It's a fantastic thing to see. I believe that all of the Governors are working towards this goal, and whilst we might make mistakes, we have the network's best interests are always at heart.
How much of an impact does being the VP Membership have on your home-life?
I am a very balanced person and I don't do extraordinary things, hence I have set up my time so that I can work one hour before I start working every morning, I can also do some of my VATSIM duties during breaks, therefore it does not affect my business life or my home life. In an emergency I may log in at night, however I do not need to stay up until 3am answering emails because we have a fantastic membership team, and we all work together to spread the load evenly.
If I could write you a check for €100,000,000, what would be the first thing you would buy with the money?
€100,000,000 of health!
I would like to personally like to thank George to spend time talking to me, it was nice to finally put a voice to name and talk about his time at VATSIM. I hope to see George continue in his role as VATGOV12 for many years to come, and wish him the best of luck with whatever challenge he sets himself next.
VATSIM Events - November
On November 2nd at 00:01Z, seven full scale cockpit simulators will depart Sydney Australia (YSSY) heading in a westerly direction on the start of a seven day journey raising money for several worthwhile charities. The seven full sized cockpit simulators are members of the WORLDFLIGHT GROUP (WFG) www.worldflightgroup.com and will visit 45 cities and traverse some 33,700nm arriving back in Sydney seven days later on November 8th at 0820Z. All pilots are invited to join in for a leg or two....
Egypt invites you to the tropical paradise of Marsa Alam on the Red Sea for one of a kind weekend you deserve on Friday the 6th of November, a Beyonce concert at night, and a safari trip or scuba diving the following morning.
Airport in use will be the all new Marsa Alam International Airport (HEMA/RMF), which can handle heavy aircraft, so bring all your friends and fly them to a weekend of a kind, plan your arrival to take place between 1800z and 2000z.
Challenges: Accurate flight planning for the arrival window and a VOR/DME approach.
Further fly in details and notices of pending events can be found on the main page of VATSIM, www.vatsim.net and on the fly in notices forum at http://forums.vatsim.net/viewforum.php?f=17
PLVACC Controllers (www.pl-vacc.org) are pleased to invite you all to a fly-in which will take place at Warsaw Okecie airport, EPWA, on the 11th of November between 18 and 22Z. This date is not accidental by any means - on the 11th November we celebrate Polish Independence Day which marks the restoration of Poland's independence in 1918. After 123 years of partitions Poland re-appeared on the map of Europe as a sovereign democratic country.
Every year, to celebrate this key moment in our history, we organise a dedicated fly-in. This time we have decided to opt for a full ATC coverage at all our main airports and combine it with a special booking system.
Please visit our dedicated page:
VATSIM VP - Communications