When controlling on virtual networks, the controller is often the frontline of the network, and therefore they are solely responsible for the pilots’ feeling welcome and comfortable, especially new pilots. So we thought we would create a quick guide on how to approach new pilots and some of the things that we have seen other controllers do to new pilots.
Usually, you can tell if you are speaking to a new pilot as they will probably speak slowly, not mention everything that they are meant to, they probably sound very nervous as well. Sometimes they will also use very generic callsigns, like BAW123.
When you realize that you are speaking to a new pilot it is important to try and remain calm and make their experience as enjoyable as possible, otherwise, they may never fly again, after all, we all had a first time flying at one point. Too many times do I hear stories of controllers shouting at new pilots to disconnect from the network and bits like that which is never good for a new pilot to experience. Instead, you should remain calm and expect mistakes, speak slowly and clearly to the pilot, and if they read something back incorrectly then politely correct them. Try to avoid issuing complex conditional instructions, I have seen a controller give a new pilot a conditional line up clearance three times, and we watched the pilot line up in front of the landing aircraft, with the controller shouting and saying that the pilot should have known to line up behind the aircraft. Just think logically, if you are a new pilot and hear line up three times, irrespective of the conditional, then you are going to line up on the runway.
Try to offer the pilot progressive taxi instructions if they sound confused, as airports can be a complex place to taxi around. If they make a wrong turn, then don’t shout at them, but instruct them on where to go (it happens even to experienced pilots). If it is too busy to deal with a new pilot, then do not shout at them and tell them to disconnect, instead look at calling a supervisor that will be able to help the new pilot, especially if they do not understand things like a QNH, and this will give the pilot a better experience and make them more likely to come back onto the network and fly.
I you have any other ways that you deal with new pilots, then feel free to comment with them below 🙂