What is Gliding? Part 3: Approach/Landing

June, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

When a glider pilot decides to return to their respective airfield for landing, they have to monitor altitude and airspeed very closely. There are no second chances.

Firstly, a typical landing begins with a 45 degree entry into a downwind pattern leg, and then continuing with a base and final leg. It is essential for a pilot to have a reference point to refer to for relative altitude or location, and that a set base turn point is established prior to turning base. A good rule of thumb in gliders is that being too high is better than being too low. Glider pilots fly a high approach, using the dive brakes, flaps, or side slips for speed control. A good airspeed to stay at during approach is a speed that is 1.5x more than the stall speed of the glider. A glider pilot should monitor airspeed and control airspeed with usage of dive brakes, along with keeping a close eye on altitude and set pattern legs. If the approach is set up correctly, the landing will be smooth and efficient.

Want to try this in Infinite Flight? Fly a non-powered approach in any General Aviation aircraft. Be sure to try this in an uncontrolled environment in case something should go wrong. Start higher than usual, only use power when necessary, and keep the aircraft’s speed around 1.5x higher than the stall speed. Join the downwind leg at a 45 degree angle and use flight spoilers or flaps for speed control. Avoid a go around and try your best to nail the approach and landing. Experiment with different aircraft and variables, including weather. Get creative and challenge yourself!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

What is gliding? Part 2: Thermalling

May, 14, 2021 by Suhas J.

To avoid a stall, gliders utilize a gradual, continuous descent depending on speed. However, it is entirely possible to climb thousands of feet in a glider. How? Thermals.

What are Thermals? Thermals are the movement of rising hot air. Hot air rises and cold air sinks. The hot air rises from the ground, typically in a cylindrical shape. Because thermals are in a cylindrical shape, in order to stay in a thermal, pilots have to enter it and then continuously turn to stay inside. How do they find thermals? Thermals are typically located near Cumulus clouds, above hills, and above open fields. Thermals aren’t visible, but once a glider pilot enters one, their variometer will show a positive climb rate. If the climb rate continues to stay steady, the pilot has flown into a thermal.

A typical thermalling method is the ‘Easy as 1, 2, 3’ turn. Once the pilot has determined they have flown into a thermal, they will count to 3 and then turn continuously left or right until they find the thermal. This may mean they fly out of the thermal occasionally, but they will continue until they center the thermal, as seen above.

Continuous, steady turns are much harder than they look. It is essential to keep a steady turning rate once in a thermal, and to not let your nose or airspeed dip too low. My instructor taught me to ‘pin the nose to the horizon’ – and keep the nose level to the horizon while turning. If the variometer indicates a higher level of climb, a shallower bank is utilized, and a steeper bank for a lower level of climb to return to the thermal.

After the pilot has finished with one thermal, they will find another, or return to the airfield for landing.

Have you ever practiced continuous turns? Try it in Infinite Flight with any lightweight GA aircraft. Continuous turns are easier in powered aircraft, because if the nose is dipping or the airspeed is too low, more thrust can be used. Practice continuous turns while keeping the nose steady on the horizon and try to look outside but also keep an eye on your airspeed.

References: Image

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

What is Gliding? Part 1: Takeoff

May, 12, 2021 by Suhas J.

Gliding, also referred to as Soaring, is the recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft using natural occurrences in the atmosphere, such as thermals.

First of all, what is a glider? A glider is a typically unpowered lightweight aircraft built from composite materials with one or more seats and a glass canopy. They normally have a wingspan of 40-100 feet.

If they don’t have an engine, how do they fly? Gliders are most commonly towed into the air by a powered aircraft with a ~200 foot tow rope. The nose of the glider has a hook which can be released from the cockpit. The tow rope is hooked to this link on the nose of the glider and the fuselage of the tow plane. The glider pilot uses the stick and rudder and exercises precise movements to stay directly behind the tow pilot, either above or below the propeller wake. Communication via headset is essential for events such as banking and release points.

Once the glider has reached the predetermined release altitude, the glider pilot announces release, and pulls the tow release knob in the cockpit. After a headset confirmation that the glider is free from the tow aircraft, the glider pilot will break right, and the tow plane will break left and return to the field for landing. Now the glider is soaring freely. How does it stay airborne? That’s where Mother Nature comes in.

Want to try this step for yourself in Infinite Flight? Try simulating an aircraft tow in an uncontrolled airspace. Stay close behind the imaginary towplane, but try and stay above or below the propeller wake. After you reach a certain altitude, practice breaking separate ways. Because your speed will have to be manually controlled, it’ll be an extra challenge!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Be there for your pilots: The mindset of Anton de Zeeuw

May, 11, 2021 by Suhas J.

A wise man once said, “The pilots are not here for the controllers. The controllers are here for the pilots.” Anton de Zeeuw, a now former IFATC Supervisor, was an undoubtedly great controller and mentor to the IFATC. In honor of him, today’s post goes more in detail on Anton’s famous saying.

As a controller, your sole duty is to manage your airspace and provide quality service to your pilots to make their flights safer and more efficient. The pilots aren’t lesser than the controllers; they aren’t inferior. The controllers are here to help them and make their flights effortless. Keep this quote in mind whenever you’re in a controlled airspace or when you are preparing to open a frequency. This mindset is a great way to approach your airspace.

Always make it your goal to prioritize your aircraft and make their flights as efficient as possible. There is a genuine difference in service quality between one who carries this mindset and one who does not. Make things easy for your pilots. Anticipate their needs and next actions, and help make their experience better. If you handle your pilots with care, your service will be well received. Remember to be there for your pilots.

The IFATC would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Anton for his guidance, mentorship, advice, and service over the years.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

IFATC’s Fastest Recruit Part 3: Practical Test

May, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

You’ve passed your Written exam, and your recruiter has cleared you for a Practical Test. The IFATC Practical Test is a test where anywhere from four to six IFATC Testers spawn at your parallel runway airport and fly patterns on both runways.

The recruit should expect runway changes, transitions, ground conflicts, and more. Firstly, set a good date that works for both you and your Recruiter. Make sure you have nothing else going on at this time and that you’ll be in an environment where you can focus on your airspace.

Once you’ve picked a date and time with your recruiter, use the time in between to practice until you feel absolutely confident in your skills. In your Tracking Thread, try having more people attend, switch airports, ask them to challenge you or focus on aspects you need to work on. If you need ideas for good parallel runway airports to open, this post on our blog written by an IFATC Supervisor and Trainer outlines the 10 best and most common training/testing locations.

Always ask for feedback from your pilots. Ask them to be honest, and take any criticism in your stride and improve on it the next time around. Receiving and acting on feedback is an essential aspect of IFATC.

Lastly, always thank your pilots for coming out to fly. Prepare yourself for all scenarios and continue to review the ATC Manual and the Perfect ATC Test YouTube video.

The time has come, and it’s the day of your Practical Test. As your test draws near, rewatch the Perfect ATC Test YouTube video again, and definitely open your Tracking Thread at least once depending on your availability before your Practical Test. Your Recruiter will typically let you know your testing airport 30 minutes before your testing time. This airport will have parallel runways. As soon as your recruiter notifies you of your airport, take advantage of this and go observe your surroundings. Spawn at your assigned airport and taxi to a runway. Use the free cam and airport ground map to look for potential hot spots or conflictive areas. Take note of where your runway exits are. Some airports have exits at several points of the runway, while others only have exits at opposite thresholds. It is crucial that you know where your runway exits are should there be a need for a go around.

After you’ve taken note of span points, hot spots, taxiways, and runway exits, fly a pattern yourself. Take note of your airport’s elevation and calculate your pattern and transition altitude. Also be sure to observe nearby airports, as testers won’t always start at the same airport. After you’ve got a good feel of your airport, you’re in an environment where you can focus, and you’ve gotten some practice in, you’re ready to go. Your Recruiter will tell you to open your frequencies, and your testers will begin spawning.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. Treat this as a normal Tracking Thread in the sense that you don’t overwhelm yourself, and as always you try to provide the best service possible to your pilots. Take deep breaths, and think logically, moving from one aircraft to another. If you get multiple commands at once, start with one aircraft and work your way through the others. Don’t panic and don’t rush!

Remember your training and you’ll do great. Be on the lookout for typical testing methods you may have seen be put in use at your Tracking Thread, such as ground conflicts, go arounds, transitions, and runway changes. Your Practical Test will be over in around 30 minutes after all testers have come to a stop or despawned, and your Recruiter will get back to you with your results shortly after consulting your testers for feedback.

If you pass, you’ll be provided with feedback and a link to join the IFATC Discord Server. If not, you’ll receive feedback on what to improve and when these incidents occurred in your replay, and you will typically have a wait period ranging from 2 weeks to 30 days before you can retest, depending on your Recruiter’s opinion of your performance. Use this time to study your resources, and of course, keep practicing.

“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” You’ve made it this far, don’t lose hope! Stay motivated and you’ll get there in no time.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

Preparing before applying to the IFATC

May, 3, 2021 by Suhas J.

With well over 400 unique active controllers on a weekly basis, the Infinite Flight Air Traffic Control (IFATC) group is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious and diverse programs Infinite Flight has to offer. Do you want in? Here’s tips on how to ace your written and practical first try, and the story of my record breaking IFATC application process.

Firstly, you have to know your stuff. The ATC User Guide is your best friend here. Even if you have less than 100 ops and have controlled once or twice, the ATC User Guide is the perfect starting point. The most helpful sections will be sections 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. These sections will cover important topics such as Ground, Tower, and ATIS frequencies, along with general rules and terminology. Although it sounds like more than a handful, the information has been simply put, in a way so that you can gain a basic knowledge of Local frequencies in less than 30 minutes.

The Infinite Flight Community is an incredibly useful resource to prepare for the Written and Practical tests. I would recommend reading up on the tutorials in the #ATC or #Ground-School category.

As you navigate your way through these, you will likely come across YouTube videos and tutorials on how to maximize performance as a controller, made by your Infinite Flight ATC Manager himself, Tyler Shelton. After reading through these sections and watching a few videos, you’re more than ready to put this knowledge into practice.

If you don’t have previous experience with the ATC UI in Infinite Flight, things may seem awkward, and you may struggle to find what commands you are looking for. Don’t panic, we all start out this way! The only thing that will help familiarize you with the UI and ins and outs of controlling or pilots habits is the age old mantra: Practice, practice, practice! Keep practicing, and remember that you should prioritize controlling at runways with parallel runways or pattern traffic management, as opposed to opening large hubs such as Los Angeles or London. Avoid these, as all they will bring is mass pilots who typically have little professional experience.

After you feel comfortable with sequencing, pattern management, and you have practiced it at a parallel runway airport, the next great step in your ATC career would be to open an ATC Tracking Thread, if you haven’t. There are numerous guides and tips along with active threads on the IFC, utilize those to create your thread. Each time you open, always remember to prioritize pattern management as parallel runway airports are preferred.

How come pattern management and parallel operations important? These exact elements will comprise your Practical Test. To see a great example of a Practical Test, I’d recommend watching the YouTube video by Tyler Shelton entitled ‘The Perfect ATC Test’ at least once, if not multiple times. This will help you have a general idea of what to expect when the time comes. Each time you open, share it with your friends, or people in your group chats, Virtual Airlines, Virtual Organizations, try to get a good amount of people coming to practice sequencing and pattern management with upwards of 7 or 8 pilots. At this stage, your controlling is significantly more advanced than when you began honing your skills. You’re ready to apply.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

IFATC’s Fastest Recruit Part 2: Applying

April, 30, 2021 by Suhas J.

After applying on the website, my application was received very quickly, and the next day I was assigned to my Recruiter, Grizpac.

I woke up the next day after applying to a message on the forum from Grizpac, telling me my application was received and approved for recruitment. He gave me my written exam link and code.

I had spent the previous days taking practice tests, reading tutorials, and having friends quiz my knowledge. I felt prepared enough to attempt it the same day. I had heard all the stories; people have failed twice, others waited a week or more before attempting, and so on.

I was nervous, but I didn’t see any reason to wait, since I felt that my knowledge was proficient. I took the exam 3 hours later, and passed with an 88% in 8 minutes.

I messaged Ryan, and he confirmed my stats and cleared me for a Practical testing. I wanted to get it out of the way, and as I had an available time slot that same night, I scheduled it for August 17th at 10:30pm CST. Ryan agreed on this time, and it was set. That day, I opened my Tracking Thread twice, including an hour and a half session before my Practical. I closed 30 minutes before my scheduled time, and confirmed my attendance with Ryan.

He told me my testing airport would be KVAD and that I should spawn in at 10:30. I took the time in between to spawn in and take note of elements such as spawn points, taxiways, runway exits, and calculate pattern and transition altitudes.

I confirmed with Grizpac that I was ready, and I spawned into my frequencies as the testers spawned in. I was excited, hopeful, ready to go, and terrified. It was time to roll!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.

IFATC’s Fastest Recruit Part 1: Pre-Application

April, 23, 2021 by Suhas J.

My IFATC Journey started spontaneously. I, like other Infinite Flight users I know, had no particular interest in the ATC aspect of Infinite Flight. Granted, I had only ever opened a frequency once or twice, both of which were for less than 5 minutes and done out of curiosity.

As a pilot with over 3000 flight hours, I had a proficient understanding of ATC usage from flying into featured airports and hubs. I had friends who were in IFATC, but the thought of applying myself never really sparked my interest.

As July rolled around, I continued to gain flight hours and experience. Summer break meant I had more free time on my hands, so one day, out of boredom, I decided to open a frequency to see what the commands looked like. I had flown with ATC before and figured it couldn’t be that hard.

I opened JFK Ground on the Training Server, and my session loaded in. I had maybe two aircraft on frequency, and I struggled. I opened for roughly 10 minutes and subsequently closed. After my session, I took away two things:

  1. I was not at all familiar with the ATC UI.
  2. I didn’t do so hot, but that was fun.

Later that afternoon, I practiced opening some more frequencies such as Los Angeles and London Heathrow Tower, but I only had a vague understanding of the ideal mannerism and conduct while controlling. I consulted the ATC Manual and spent roughly an hour reading through the guide and watching the videos made by Tyler, and I was amazed at how efficiently the ATC UI was made. I thought to myself that if I learned how to do this, it would be great fun.

Later that day, after more guide reading and session practicing, I opened my Tracking Thread on the Infinite Flight forum, and had roughly 3 pilots stop by at KAUS where I was controlling. My first Tracking Thread session was not pretty in the slightest. I missed sequencing, clearances, and struggled with locating commands. My pilots gave helpful feedback, however, and I took their words to heart and used this newly gained knowledge in my next, upcoming sessions.

As the weeks went by, I opened my Tracking Thread daily, and received excellent feedback and compliments. My skills had significantly improved after a few days of controlling and taking feedback from pilots. I had my good days and bad days; some sessions were immaculate while others were all over the place. As time went on, my service became more consistent, and I gained confidence.

I began sharing my Tracking Thread across Virtual Airlines and Virtual Organizations, group chats, and asking friends to come. Sometimes, I’d have an attendance of 8-10 pilots, some IFATC, some not. They all provided helpful feedback. I decided this was something I genuinely wanted to continue and seek improvement upon, and with the persuasion of some friends, I applied for IFATC. My journey had begun!

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user and IFATC Specialist. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.