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I am CEO of Ozark Virtual Air Lines. We have been around for many many years, and I have been the CEO for much of that time. As such, I have seen many people sign up for OVA, but then they never fly one flight. I never hear from them -- nothing.

 

I am just wondering if anyone here could shed some light on why this occurs. Are there people out there who just want to see their name on as many rosters as possible? Do they sign up with good intentions and then things come up that prevent them from doing so? If so, why don't they just drop management an email and let them know, "hey, I intend to fly, but Grandma just p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ed and I don't have time right now?" Does anyone have an answer to this mystery?

 

Brian Wilber

CEO

Ozark Virtual Air Lines

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Think of running a virtual airline as a business. The model is very similar, also for start-ups. Just read the VA News forum and there are tons of VA popping from left to right, but, you'll find it hard to see a VA that will survive more than 3 months. After opening the doors to the public, the owner still needs to get things done.. versus other online 'CEOs' who just sit there and watch the numbers grow. Its pretty impressive, but when you look deep, no one is flying for you. The bottom line is to get things done, in order to promote your VAs growth in terms of numbers and pilot activity. You need to be asking yourself questions - what are the things that will interest your pilots. How you can improve the overall community / environment. What can you offer that other VAs can't. If you don't have answer to any of these questions, the VA will pretty much close itself up.

 

The first step is asking the right question. You're on the right track my friend.

Romano Lara
vACC Philippines, Manager - Training & Standards
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(For all VAs) Please don't [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume that the new pilot understands what you are all about.

 

I had what I thought was a basic idea, but when brand new I was still annoyed that the 20 page docomeent my VA provided didn't describe in plain language what the whole thing was about. The issue is that there are certain things you experienced folks just know coming in and it might be hard to put yourself in a new guy's place and explain certain things once at a kindergarten level just so we are all on the same page. Something like: "You sign into the tracking program, you fly a flight on VATSIM, you make a report, you get credit for a flight, then the sequence repeats." Again, this is all seems really obvious, except to the really new person who might just really need something this basic to put it all into perspective.

 

Watch out for the jargon - new pilots new to VA's might not have it all understood. For example, I didn't understand the directive to "use your codeshare callsign" when logging into VATSIM. Basically, if I'm flying a route that in the real word is ASQ1234, they wanted me to use that callsign rather than my [Mod - Happy Thoughts]igned VA callsign. Explain things like that in plain language - don't [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume we understand the jargon. After the 10th such question occurred to me while I was reading through the docomeents, I started to get frustrated. I knew I could go onto the teamspeak and ask for help, but it just started to annoy me. My mental state was "They left so many simple steps out of these instructions that if I run into any problem at all, I'm out of here." Well, it did turn out to be barely adequate, so I did get through my first flight.

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yep and hopefully you arent getting bots lol

 

sometimes while the VA looks good from the outside, once you join, you find out whats really going on behind the scenes. wouldnt be the first time i join a VA and then find zero activity anywhere, either by other users flying or even posting in their forums. this usually happens with VA's that dont show much to the public. ive learned to kinda shy away from those as its happened too many times, they leave the VA running on automation, nobody does any work, and sooner or later it becomes a ghost town.

 

oh and stay away from templates! #1 thing that draws folks away. it really adds a big negative mark when someone visits the website. the thinking is usually if that the staff was a bit lazy to put out something original, and if they were lazy with the website, chances are they slipped up on many other aspects of the VA, which is usually true. most new VA's forget the important stuff and focus on the wrong parts, and fail in the end because of that. technology is nice, but you have to back that up with something more

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Thank you all. There is a wealth of information and ideas in what you all have said, and I intend to read it all closely and measure Ozark VA against it. Glad I asked the question. I must say I agree with you 1000% on the template, Ernesto. I hate templates with a p[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ion, and don't understand how people who use them don't get sued for copyright infringement. Besides that, as a web builder I know that there are some things about websites that you need to be aware of that only templates created by professionals can do for you. A Google search isn't likely to tell you which ones are done by pros, and most people wouldn't even know what to look for.

 

Again, thank you for the responses. Got some work to do now.

 

One more thing, if anyone feels inclined, I would welcome you to go to the OVA site and tell me what I am missing, or what I can improve upon. You don't have to join unless you want to, but I would appreciate constructive criticism. Yes, we have been around for 12+ years, but we certainly don't have the market cornered on good ideas.

 

http://ozarkva.net

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A lot of people do not like commitment and rules. Therefore if you impose some on them they will just turn you away. However the ones that do stay, stay for good.

 

In my opinion it is very important to have a good team of dedicated people to help you run things, inject new ideas and of course love aviation (I was always amazed at how many people would do anything to get that virtual chair/position and then do absolutely nothing apart from bragging about it).

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  • 5 weeks later...

Ironic. I'm in the exact opposite conundrum: I applied to four VAs and haven't gotten a reply from any of em yet. Not even an auto we-got-ur-application message. Nada. (I know some of you are thinking, he applied to four VAs?! He'll fly only one and be exactly the kind of guy the OP is talking about! Not my intent; all the VAs I applied to have only one or two flight minimums per month.)

 

Even considering the recent holiday weekend in the USA and that peple might be "off-duty" from the VA, it's been at least 72+ hours of regular business week since the end of the holiday; tomorrow would be almost a solid week since the applications were sent in. there should have been SOMETHING by now, don't ya think? One of the VAs even required me to do a four-part training regimen before submitting the app. Thanks a lot for the a/c I downloaded for nothing, the route and flight I had to fly to the tee, again for nothing.

 

I can answer the OP's question as it applies to me. Soon, I'll apply to other VAs. Eventually I'll forget about the four VAs - ironically probably after they've selected me and then their CEO will be like, "why do these guys join and never fly?" Because we're flying with ANOTHER VA, the seventh we applied to who returned results before the first four applications responded.

 

That's why.

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Any chance you got a reply that ended up in your spam folder? (just to play the role of the devil's advocate here ).

 

In Olympic Air Virtual we try to process all application within a margin of 48 hours and do send an automated message when someone successfully completes an application (I guess there are other VAs that follow this practice as well). We even encourage the applicant to contact the Pilots' Manager who is responsible for all new registrations, in case there are no news within 48 hours, just in case there is a glitch in the system and the application is not processed properly and appropriate parties notified as they should be.

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Wow, a lot of interesting feedback in this thread, I suggest Brian changes the Subject to something more relevant.

I recently tried to apply to my second VA (mostly because of language reasons) and got no replies, as somebody said, the website may suggest it is active, but there is little going on inside.

Then I applied to another one, BIG one, I got a reply immediately, but then realized that language is just one aspect of it. Online Communities consume a lot of time, even if you are only a participant with no real responsabilities, and VAs are no exception. I would probably enjoy participating in my native tongue, but some little things and impressions may be turn-offs, or even if nothing in particular is there that bothers you, sometimes just the adaptation curve is enough?

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Virtual airlines need as much automation as possible to deal with day-to-day tasks, because users hate to be kept waiting and it's very tedious and time wasting for management having to process everything manually. phpVMS and VAFS offer that functionality for free (especially in conjunction with ACARS software), but if you can custom code everything you can add more functions such as flight dispatch. Automation frees up management time to do more productive things that will attract and retain pilots. I believe many VAs close quickly because the management get tired of manually inputting everything (that or cease and desist e-mail from their real world namesakes)!

 

At Intercity Airways the entire sign-up process (including an entrance exam) is automated and processed instantly, although for some reason we still get the odd message from people complaining they've not had a confirmation e-mail, despite checking their spam folder and inputting their address correctly; I wonder how many members this has cost us?

 

All Intercity members are simultaneously registered to our forums, to encourage community participation. We also link to the forums from various parts of the website, pushing people in to them and visitors have full viewing rights so they can see we're a live community and understand what we're about. If you hide lots of information away then people don't know what they're signing up to!

 

Our flight logging is fully automated through Intercity ACARS, because everyone also hates filling in forms! You need to make things really simple though because people are lazy, and don't want to download and setup lots of complicated third party software.

 

Ultimately though, you will always get a good percentage of users that sign-up and then forget about you entirely and there's not much you can do about those, other than e-mail them a couple of polite reminders before removing them. Most of my inactive pilots are ones that never flew a single flight!

 

Of course, most of the above is dependent on actually getting people "through the door" in the first place, so you've got to try and offer something different to the myriad other airlines out there. You need to try and do something different, have some kind of a unique selling point (USP), as Romano Lara 1018198 has already mentioned:

* You can do a huge airline with hubs across the world and many aircraft types, but there are already others doing this that are well established (e.g. Euroharmony, Atlantic Sun, BAV) so there's not many pilots left to recruit and it's nigh on impossible to tempt pilots from similar virtual airlines. The other issue I found is it takes a truly huge amount of work to open on such a large scale.

* If you want to be big but can't be bothered doing all the work, you can be a "scheduleless" airline where you let people fly where/when they want. But then I don't see the point in having an airline at all and there's lots of folks already offering this.

* If you can get permission to use a real world name, that will almost certainly guarantee pilots and saves on having to do repaints and schedules, but it limits how you can expand. Fictional airlines have a lot more freedom but it's harder to attract members because they won't know what kind of airline you are just from the name.

* The airlines that tend to stick around are those that offer something different and start smallish, then grow organically! Or ones based on a popular real airline that don't get shut down!

* More staff than pilots ("too many chiefs and not enough Indians") looks really bad, don't promote people for the sake of retaining then.

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Proud supporter of Intercity Airways, visit www.ViaIntercity.com

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Brain,

 

 

I thought you partnered with TWA VA to bring pilots to your VA?? If not, you should partner with any TWA VA to bring pilots to your VA since in real life, I believe that TWA and Ozark were partners in real life. Correct?

 

Your website looks nice.

 

It is ALWAYS my basic belief that any VA offering COMBO of scheduled routes and free flights will survive or generate more popularity than any VA offering only scheduled routes.

 

Aharon

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I thought VATSIM was suppose to have real time flights. People flying real time routes.

I only fly AirHauler. For so many reasons i don't want to go into. I simply need "a reason to fly". That being said, I would love to see something like Dangerous Flights(TV Show) or other Aviation shows coming to life in VA.

- The only one I can find is "Buffalo Airways". BUT, I want a AirHauler Division darn it!

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I thought VATSIM was suppose to have real time flights. People flying real time routes.

 

?????

Let me rephrase, Don't ppl join vatsim for the virtual airliner feeling - in other words, sign down hours you fly for certain divisions?

- I just saw the opportunity to say what I would like to join:) - In hopes that I might find someone with the same wishes as me.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Some VAs require you to sign up to see anything, then once they see, it doesn't meet their needs, real or perceived.

 

I have to agree with Kyle. At AvA, we get the same thing, and unlike what was mentioned in an earlier post, we do offer a variety of options for flight requirements and flight reporting. We also are one of the oldest VA's on VATSIM, so it happens to all of us whether you are just a start up VA, or have been around since the beginning.

 

However, I'm sure there are some that just like to see their name in lights, so they sign up for as many VA's as they can.

 

 

Scott DeWoody

CEO - American Virtual Airlines

joinava dot org

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I agree with Christopher that automation of the application process and pireps is really important to give people instant feedback. The other comments about a simple set of rules that pilots can easily understand is also a great idea. As a former hub manager of a VA I can understand the frustration, in the end I think you just have to resign yourself to the fact that there are a segment of new signups that will not communicate and will not participate. I would not waste any time with engagement with this group and just delete their profiles, if its automated all the better.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Brain,

 

 

I thought you partnered with TWA VA to bring pilots to your VA?? If not, you should partner with any TWA VA to bring pilots to your VA since in real life, I believe that TWA and Ozark were partners in real life. Correct?

 

Your website looks nice.

 

It is ALWAYS my basic belief that any VA offering COMBO of scheduled routes and free flights will survive or generate more popularity than any VA offering only scheduled routes.

 

Aharon

 

I would love to fly for a relatively historically accurate TWA VA that had any substance. The only one I recall in the past didn't have all of the cl[Mod - Happy Thoughts]ic aircraft and had 777s, 787s, 737NGs, but yet no Connies or DC-9s!

 

To add my two cents, there are plenty of VAs that look intriguing or fun on the outside but really have nothing unique to offer underneath the surface for a variety of reasons. Sometimes too many rules/commitments, sometimes too few. Sometimes too unorganized, sometimes a staff that only cares about numbers or simply is absent. Sometimes no opportunities to train, learn, or move into other aircraft, routes, or positions. Yes, the eye-catching website and aircraft play a large role, but the backbone, challenge, community, and depth to follow.

Kyle Weber

Minneapolis ARTCC, VATUSA, C3 / P2

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Perhaps a new pilots perspective of this issue would be helpful. I have over 30 years of flight simulator experience but very little experience on VATSIM. Aerodynamics, navigation /Air and Sea/, (I had real-world experience on the old Loran navigational systems) are longtime interests of my. Computers and computer programs are not interests of mine. As I wandered through the forums(the forum from my virtual airline included) I read discussions about computers and computer programs, a disproportionate number of posts are dedicated to actually flying.

Flying on VATSIM can require extensive alterations to hardware and software, my guess is this process weeds out many pilots (people specifically interested in flying). A high percentage of the ones who successfully fly on VATSIM are no doubt skilled computer users. As an example I might point out the predominance of computer operated aircraft flying on VATSIM.

So, one suggestion (I won't claim this is a practical suggestion) is to provide from the virtual airline the specifications for a computer, hardware and software, which will allow a person to fly on VATSIM (out of the box). This would require the virtual airline to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ist its new pilots in all aspects of VATSIM setup.

(BTW thanks for all the help I have gotten on the forums from experienced computer users)

"Check Your Six "

Scott

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Perhaps a new pilots perspective of this issue would be helpful. I.......

"Check Your Six "

Scott

 

Okay so a new pilots perspective of the issue....

 

I am have only seriously been flight simming for just over a year, mostly general aviation aircraft. When I look at most of the VA's out there it seems to be one of two things, either low number of pilots (ie just starting out) or one heavy in numbers will make new pilots think they will just be a number on the roster. One of the main things I look for is those who don't require Vatsim flying as I am not ready to go there yet, Then I look for those who might have a decent training program setup so that as a new pilot, I can set some goals and improve. I did join one VA briefly, first flight I did for them and I messed up on something to do with the flight and got a PM/Email chewing me out like I have been doing flight simming for a living my whole life. Given I was new, I didn't take kindly to this as this was the the first really interaction from any member of that VA so I walked and didn't look back.

 

So just a suggestion, when looking at the flight reports make note of your new pilots reports. If you seen a constant problem area, such as landing rates, check with them on how they have things set up. They might be that new and just don't know how or what they are doing wrong and the best way to correct that. After 3 to 6 months of those who are pretty active, have you HR person talk with them with main goal of find out why they have stuck around. But probably the biggest thing in my honest opinion, is don't make the pilots feel like it is a second job that they aren't even getting paid for.

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Clear skies and tailwinds

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