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Should I Try Vatsim Or Leave?


Carl Gibson
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Hey there peeps, 

I am quite new to flight simming with about 50 hours of flying on Msfs 2020. I watch so many videos of people on Vatsim and it looks so fun but I always wonder how everyone else started out by talking to atc on vatsim! It looks scary just incase I messed up and always wonder how on earth people learnt on what to say coz I have no clue! 

I only fly the a320 Neo with Auto Pilot and I set up my flight plan at the main screen on the planet screen, so I don't use the cockpit computer! Looks to complicated for me. And atm I just use the default atc. So I am very basic but do wish I could do what others do on vatsim but sometimes they say things so fast I can't even understand what there saying. 

After even wrighting this makes me feel like my confidence is that low I should probs not even try it but it does look good! 

Is there any easy resources for beginners to learn the basics or should i just forget it as I can't even fly the plane without AP let alone having the confidence to talking and listening to stuff I don't know Lol 

 

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The first thing to realise is that in VATSIM, when you're talking to ATC, you're talking to another member of VATSIM. ATC guys and gals know a lot more than you, but they started off just like you. These are your fellow members, so there's no need to be afraid.

Sure, there's stuff to learn, but there's lots of help available. For example, if you live in the US, you could look at

https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/students/presolo/special/new-pilots-guide-to-atc-communication

which seems to be a good starting point. If you are in the UK, you could search for CAP413 which is the ATC phraseology "bible" for the UK, and every country has their own equivalent. When you start studying that, you'll quickly realise that ATC chat is mostly just a bunch of standard phrases and once you have learned a few of these you'll find out that you can understand what's being said, because you'll be expecting to hear these standard words.

And if you just don't get what is being said to you, just revert to plain English and tell ATC that you don't get it. Ask them to slow down a bit if that's an issue for you. If ATC isn't crazy busy, they will help. Make sure, then, that you pick a fairly quiet spot with ATC for your first few attempts, and have fun!

 

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Alistair Thomson

===

Definition: a gentleman is a flying instructor in a Piper Cherokee who can change tanks without getting his face slapped.

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Yes I am from the UK I will deffo check out CAP413 also I just watched a video on how you can join Vatsim as an observer so then I can kinda listen in and try and learn that way too I just didn't want to join and not know anything, it's also the part where u have to load a flight plan in so the atc knows what your flight plan is but I'm not use to that cockpit flight plan thing lol I just do a flight plan using the world map. 

And I am just use to the default atc I have everything on either managed or auto pilot so all I change is the altitude when the atc tells me. Which is obviously not normal... Just wish I learnt all of this years ago! 

I'll get there hopefully one day I just get frustrated when I can't learn anything properly and if I made a mistake I would probs just turn it off and never come back on again. 

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No need to be harsh on yourself for just one mistake. VATSIM's motto is Aviate, Educate, Communicate. If you know how to fly a plane, you know a lot already. Just keep on learning and you'll be fine.

I started flying on the Flightgear sim. It was not possible to connect to VATSIM, so I switched sims and learned X-plane which is completely different. I had to learn to use the FMC instead of using a menu in the sim to enter the flight plan. Once in a while, I buy a new plane and learn it. Right now I'm learning to fly an Airbus that I've never had before. You just never stop learning!

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Thank you for your message, its the way I am in life always put meself down! Not sure why just hate it when it takes me longer than normal people to get where I want to get and I'm inpatient haha because it looks so good to get into I really want to get there! Hopefully sooner than later. 

Is it okay to join via the observer mode? The. I could do my normal flight while listening into the atc to hopefully learn that way or atleast follow somone and kinda follow there steps maybe. 

I'm enjoying flying the a320 but like I said I just usually fly with managed modes and AP so I do have a lot to learn! Even tried that flybywire and couldn't get the plane to even start! Haha so had to turn that off and do the auto checklist. 

Another thing I'm trying to cure tly learn to is the taxiing because when I hear somone talking on Vatsim about which way they need to go that goes over my head too because I have no map in front of me that shows me the route! I just use the blue ribbon that is given to me on msfs. I'm such a noob! Haha 

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Don't worry, there are a lot people like you and if they could do it you can do it too. I'm impatient with myself too because I'm a slow learner for practical things.

Charts are strongly recommended, for the UK they are available for free, as well as for a lot of other countries.

You can also join VATSIM Discord and ask your questions there, there's a lot of people willing to help someone out.

And yes, you can join in observer mode, that way you'll be invisible to ATC and other pilots, so you can listen in while sitting on the ramp or even flying.

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I appreciate the help, i believe i am already on the Vatsim Discord, i will check and if not i will join. i have been looking at charts trying to find a software that is free and easy to read as some are very complicated to understand and some are payware. I am currently downloading the update which has been taking forever! but as soon as it is done i will join the server in observer mode and see what its like, also need to sort out the model matching too.

and thankyou i will look at the learning centre too on vatsim link. 

again i really do appreciate the help so much! if there is any other free places to learn pls feel free to share them with me like any charts/graphs software's or anything else.

Kind regards. Carl.

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Carl. Go through MSFS flights handling the ATC conversation yourself and note the phraseology. It is very consistent and speak all the conversations to get used to focusing on the conversation.

Most of the initial difficultly is that the ATC speak very quickly and it's hard to pick up everything they say, .. you can always ask "say again" ... and can ask for text also.

Prepare for the flight so you know what the routes will be and look at charts of the taxiway, runways and routes.

My first VATSIM was very difficult (and I'm a RW pilot as hobby)  and I ended up cancelling (because I couldn't keep up with the conversations) the flight and just sitting and listening to the ATC conversations for a hour or two. 

I also wrote an Flight Assistant application for MSFS that lets me fly the A320 (NX) very easily so I could focus on the ATC part.

I added a  Script generator .. where I can enter the parameters of my clearance and it types out a text of the request and response that I can just read to the ATC ...

I may make this available in the near future.

Once you have the phrases, you can just fill in the changes for each flight .... and after 20-30 flights now in VATSIM with the A320 , there are still new things that popup .. and I can ask the ATC for clarification and most are helpful (pick low volume airports to begin with ... KSAN is easy) and if it's too much just cancel the flight and review or ask questions here about what you need to learn.

VATSIM is a wonderful immersive experience and really makes it 10 times more interesting to me.

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3 hours ago, Carl Gibson said:

Another thing I'm trying to cure tly learn to is the taxiing because when I hear somone talking on Vatsim about which way they need to go that goes over my head too because I have no map in front of me that shows me the route!

For most airports, chartfox has all the essential charts. In many cases, you can also find the taxiway names on OpenStreetMap, though this isn't as reliable, and often requires awkward zoom levels to show them all. If you're willing to spend some money on this, maybe consider a navigraph subscription, which also gets you FMS data (though I don't know what the state of MSFS is on that front).

Also keep in mind that taxiway names in MSFS are often wrong (or so I've heard), so you can't really rely on the in-sim signage - charts really are quite important, especially the taxi / ground charts.

And one more tip: anticipate. Before requesting taxi, have the ground chart in front of you, identify your current position and where you need to go, and try to guess which route they will send you. Then when you get your taxi instruction, you can easily follow along on the chart, and read back while following along again. The same goes for everything else, really: look up the frequency for the next controller before you get handed off, write down what you think your IFR clearance will be before requesting the clearance, don't call for pushback until you're actually ready to push back, try to guess your landing runway and STAR while still in cruise, etc. In short, try to be one step ahead of ATC and the aircraft.

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5 hours ago, Dace Nicmane said:

https://my.vatsim.net/learn

This is VATSIM's own learning center, deals mostly with ATC comms and VATSIM things.

For flying the plane probably youtube is your best friend.

 

I can't stress this site enough. This is the Pilot Resource Center (the PRC) that VATSIM has had for, oh... the past 15 years. This plethora of information has been updated over that period of time, and contains all the information that a new pilot needs. I would definitely look at this, and then when it comes to phraseology for aviation communications, check out the section that is broken down for your particular region, as they are relevant to the part of the world you intend to fly in. It is definitely worth it.

Should you try it? Absolutely! I mean, who knows? Not only could you sharpen your aviation skills to the point where it works for you in the real world.. but you may just make some friends from around the world along the way.

BL.

 

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Brad Littlejohn

ZLA Senior Controller

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I've had my first 2 VATsim flights in the past week. I was quite nervous, but I did okay (I think), and I definitely had a blast! So yes, you should try it! 

Let me summarize my path:

  • Learn how to fly your aircraft, both in managed and unmanaged modes; from startup to shutdown; I've easily spent 2 months on this; ATC WILL vector you to direct-to waypoints or different flight levels, so you have to be able to do this in your plane
  • (The A32NX is okay-ish, but it lacks important features that makes VATsim life a lot easier, so you definitely need to be comfortable steering it in unmanaged mode if necessary (that's why I switched to X-Plane 11 and Toliss A321 for the time being)).
  • If you are serious about learning to fly the Airbus A320, I cannot recommend this more strongly: https://www.airline2sim.com/collections/airline2sim-training-programs/products/airbus-a320-cadet-training-program ; it is paid however, but really, really good
  • Check out the AviationPro's VATsim Youtube video's
  • Based on these tutorials, make a simplified template of the whole procedure, from IFR clearance to landing and parking, because it will be impossible to recall everything by heart, especially when you have some adrenaline going
  • Choose a take-off and landing airport that is often controlled (install VAT-spy to see this) and get familiar with their layout and commonly used runways for landing or departure (use Chartfox as a free information source or Navigraph as a paid source).
  • Plan a flight between those 2 airports with Simbrief and learn how to export/import the plan into the FMS of your plane (or learn to program it manually)
  • The flight plan will contain a takeoff and landing runway together with a departure (SID) and arrival (STAR) procedure and waypoints in-between: take a look at those procedures in Chartfox and try to understand them
  • Choose an approach: an ILS is probably the safest choice; look at the chart and try and understand the procedure and of course make sure that you can setup your plane for such an approach
  • Depending on the weather/wind you may get another takeoff / landing runway assigned than the one in Simbrief, and therefore also a different SID and STAR; that's why it's better to have a good general understanding of how these work so you can change these on the fly
  • (When you plan your flight on Simbrief an hour or so before your actual flight, the Simbrief runway and procedures are usually correct)
  • If you want to be sure, you can hop into your plane, dark and cold at the gate and listen to ATIS: ATIS will inform you of the active runway; you can then adapt the Simbrief plan to that runway with a corresponding SID (answer Yes if asks to change the SID); afterwards you can pre-file the plan to VATsim through Simbrief, import it into your plane's FMS and be (pretty) sure that ATC will clear you for exactly thát plan
  • Always assume that the wind orientation will determine the departure/landing runway: if the wind is coming from 070 then the departure/landing runway will be 07R for example (if there is such a runway, or one in that general direction): headwind is a friend, crosswind/tailwind an enemy.
  • You can also check flightradar24.com and see where the real-world planes are departing/landing; most probably the same will be active in VATsim.
  • Observer mode is definitely useful to learn how things work at your chosen airport
  • Get all the charts that you expect to need ready in PDF, having a second screen helps a lot for this
  • Then it's time to get it over with: ATIS for weather and other info, Delivery for clearance for your flight plan, Ground for pushback/startup/taxi approval, Tower for take-off, Departure for when you're just in the air, Radar/Centre when you're enroute, Radar/Center for descent, Approach for approach, Tower for final approach and Ground for taxiing to your parking (in general)
  • Keep the next expected frequency ready in your radio, that makes the handovers easier
  • You can use free applications like Little NavMap that connect with MSFS which can show you your real-time location at the airport, making taxiing a lot easier
  • (You can also use Little NavMap to import your flight plan to, so you can follow your position in real-time at all times)
  • Get pen and paper ready to quickly note down ATC instructions, this makes readback a lot easier

Don't expect to get it all right from the first time, it's impossible. But some preparation on airport operations, SIDs, STARs and ILS approaches definitely will make your life easier.

I easily spent 2-3 hours of preparation before a flight to get the basics of a particular flight plan in my head before I jump in the cockpit. And about 1 hour to get from cold and dark at the gate to take-off. Basically that's more time preparing than actual flying 😄 

And then you keep doing this until a few months later you're a pro 😄

One last thing: upon first contact with ATC you can identify that you are new by using the word STUDENT before your callsign, for example:

You: "Brussels Delivery, STUDENT BeeLine 241 at D06, requesting IFR clearance for Berlin with information India"
Or more generally: [Delivery], STUDENT [your callsign] at [gate/parking], requesting IFR clearance for [destination airport] with information [ATIS information].

 

Edited by Spender Vondel
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Since you said you're from the UK -- one tip that will save you:

Avoid the London TMA when you're learning (so, EGLL EGKK etc). If you hop on a northern/Scottish airport when someone is controlling they have much more time to help you out with things like progressive taxi and repeating instructions.

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Liesel Downes
Gander Oceanic Deputy OCA Chief
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Today I experienced something quite remarkable akward. After flying 100s of hours all over the world, I thought I really got the hang of it...well, talking is not the problem, but understanding the ATC has always been tricky. I'm a native Dutch speaker but OK on English, in real life I have to talk to English speakers a lot.. Well anyway...Communicating on VATSIM with Russians, Koreans, Japanese, Germans, Arabs, South-Americans, it went all smooth enough, OK...but today for the first time I just unplugged myself:

Very close to home in Skandinavia I just could not understand what the ATC was saying. So I grasped the sentences that I expected, like " Cleared to Arlanda via this and that departure, squawk so and so, initial climb bla bla...", but when he wanted to say three times some not so standard choices to make or information...I had to ask again and again, not saying " come again"  but " Could you repeat that please..." (totally offgrid) but I felt annoyance in his voice, so I thought to avoid this by just guessing what to answer...wrong idea. That was of course not the answer to the question...me feeling stupid. Maybe it was the accent of the member, I don't know.

Well, I ended up saying that there is something wrong with my mic and I will go further offline... At that point it is just not fun anymore to fly online...I just wanted to taxi to the gate via the o so obvious route, being the only one on the ground. I don't want arguments or trying to be polite but end up being an annoyance to each other. Those things keep happening, rooky or not.

Edited by Sander Cedee
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I hope you don't quit just because of one incident. I don't understand non-standard phraseology half of the time either, even though my English is ok, too. In such situations it's best to ask for text or to speak slower. I'm flying over Japan right now and just got the direct waypoint on text because I couldn't understand it twice.

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4 hours ago, Sander Cedee said:

Today I experienced something quite remarkable akward. After flying 100s of hours all over the world, I thought I really got the hang of it...well, talking is not the problem, but understanding the ATC has always been tricky. I'm a native Dutch speaker but OK on English, in real life I have to talk to English speakers a lot.. Well anyway...Communicating on VATSIM with Russians, Koreans, Japanese, Germans, Arabs, South-Americans, it went all smooth enough, OK...but today for the first time I just unplugged myself:

Very close to home in Skandinavia I just could not understand what the ATC was saying. So I grasped the sentences that I expected, like " Cleared to Arlanda via this and that departure, squawk so and so, initial climb bla bla...", but when he wanted to say three times some not so standard choices to make or information...I had to ask again and again, not saying " come again"  but " Could you repeat that please..." (totally offgrid) but I felt annoyance in his voice, so I thought to avoid this by just guessing what to answer...wrong idea. That was of course not the answer to the question...me feeling stupid. Maybe it was the accent of the member, I don't know.

Well, I ended up saying that there is something wrong with my mic and I will go further offline... At that point it is just not fun anymore to fly online...I just wanted to taxi to the gate via the o so obvious route, being the only one on the ground. I don't want arguments or trying to be polite but end up being an annoyance to each other. Those things keep happening, rooky or not.

See this is what I'm afraid off I would probs do the same and be lost for words and probs deisconnect! I so wish others who are already on Vatsim gave some kind of leniancy to new Vatsim users, I understand we can put "student" in and so on... But I think some people want that professionalism and can't be bothered with newbies.

What gets me if when they tell you something so fast I'm scared that I'm going to miss hear them even if I have a pen and paper in front of me sometimes I listen in and can't understand majority of what they are saying but I think that's partially because I'm new. 

I wish there was other networks where we could atleast learn and take that leap and if we mess up we don't feel stupid or others getting annoyed with us. 

I like to jump into the deep end and just do it but from what I have read and watched it seems like at Vatsim u need to know a lot before u even join. I find it hard to learn that way, Just hope one day I can have the courage to join and enjoy it. 

If anyone is on Msfs and would like to learn together or maybe give me any tips they can always add me up either on the sim or discord. 

Discord - GamingWithGiboTTV#2744

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  • Board of Governors

We're all human and controllers want to have fun too. Yes, it's not very fun to control when 80% of your pilots are new and you're constantly repeating yourself or seeing deviations.  Even as a BoG member I will admit that. However, that doesn't excuse flat out rudeness.

We're going through some growing pains and we forget that at one point we were all new making the same mistakes. The difference is since there was less new members coming in at once, it wasn't overload.

The best advice I can give to the person that want's to be a part of this great community, but is petrified of making a mistake is to just relax. Do your homework, utilize all of the training resources that are out there, then ask questions on the things you don't understand. However at some point, you're going to have to jump in.

You're not going to be perfect the first time, even after all of your self study. Accept you're going to make mistakes, we all did and we all still do. Yes, it's possible you're going to run into Grumpy Cat on the other side of the radio and he may sound annoyed. So be it. Even that grumpy controller is going to smile a bit if you come back the next time, do better and don't make the same mistakes. At the end of the day, don't take yourself so seriously, due your due diligence, accept your limitations, and log on to practice. We all get better every time we fly or control. We all have bad days and might come off a little short. However we all want the same thing, pilots to control, and controllers to give us ATC.

We're going to get there and VATSIM will be so much better than it was when we do 🙂

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Matt Bartels
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Unless otherwise stated, opinions are my own and not representative of the official opinion of the VATSIM Board of Governors

 

 

 

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It is sometimes like a social experiment, but let's not forget the positive vibe that can be experienced...

It is nice to know that you are connected with people all over the world, with the same strange hobby....(edit: deleted my own nonsense)...

Although sometimes awkward...I keep doing this...

Edited by Sander Cedee
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Well, personally I did learn and practice on a multiplayer network for 1,5-2 years, however! I was still petrified when it came to my first flight on VATSIM. Some people are just very serious and responsible and they'll be afraid to make a mistake no matter how well prepared they are. I'm myself like that, so I understand you well. All I can say is, do your homework and then just jump in. I'm sure you'll do fine and you'll be a fine, conscientious pilot that controllers will love.

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I've said for a long, long time -- there's no need to take it personally if you mess up on VATSIM and get called out by a controller.  I've been on both sides of it -- I've been the pilot who just botched something major and got called out by the controller for disrupting the flow, and, I've been the controller telling a pilot he just landed on a different runway than the one I cleared him for, then crossed the active departure runway and was feet from colliding with a departing plane during his taxi-in (real example from yesterday).  It's embarassing to be the pilot in that situation, but, you shake it off, you look back at the procedure you were on and the instruction you were given and figure out what you should have done instead, then re-connect tomorrow armed with knowledge you didn't have yesterday.

"All I want from tomorrow is just to get it better than today." -- Bruce Hornsby, "Jacob's Ladder"

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Cheers,

-R.

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On 8/7/2021 at 1:19 PM, Sander Cedee said:

Today I experienced something quite remarkable akward. After flying 100s of hours all over the world, I thought I really got the hang of it...well, talking is not the problem, but understanding the ATC has always been tricky. I'm a native Dutch speaker but OK on English, in real life I have to talk to English speakers a lot.. Well anyway...Communicating on VATSIM with Russians, Koreans, Japanese, Germans, Arabs, South-Americans, it went all smooth enough, OK...but today for the first time I just unplugged myself:

Very close to home in Skandinavia I just could not understand what the ATC was saying. So I grasped the sentences that I expected, like " Cleared to Arlanda via this and that departure, squawk so and so, initial climb bla bla...", but when he wanted to say three times some not so standard choices to make or information...I had to ask again and again, not saying " come again"  but " Could you repeat that please..." (totally offgrid) but I felt annoyance in his voice, so I thought to avoid this by just guessing what to answer...wrong idea. That was of course not the answer to the question...me feeling stupid. Maybe it was the accent of the member, I don't know.

Well, I ended up saying that there is something wrong with my mic and I will go further offline... At that point it is just not fun anymore to fly online...I just wanted to taxi to the gate via the o so obvious route, being the only one on the ground. I don't want arguments or trying to be polite but end up being an annoyance to each other. Those things keep happening, rooky or not.

I'm sorry you've had a not so good experience in Scandinavia. I take it there was not problems with the mic or speakers. I also assume that you were prepared with current charts and familiar with airport layout etc.

Two things I would suggest:

1. If you after several tries are unable to understand the instructions given to you, ask the controller to give it in writing. Then you'll hopefully see, where the instructions given to you differs from what you've anticipated and hopefully you can continue on voice.

2. Give feedback to the relevant vARTCC, here Vatsim Scandinavia.

Naturally we all like it when we get positive feedback, but usually we learn more, when we get negative feedback. Offcause this should be given in a civil manner, but I take it that is obvious to you.

We can all have "a bad day at the office", but making us understandable is key. Was the controller speaking too fast, was he mumbling, didn't he use standard atc phrasology etc.? We only get better, if such errors are pointed at us.

But we must all look into these situations and constructively work with ourselves, pilots and atc alike.

You can contact Vatsim Scandinavia via [email protected]

regards

Torben

Torben Andersen, VACC-SCA Controller (C1)

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On 8/7/2021 at 6:12 PM, Carl Gibson said:

What gets me if when they tell you something so fast I'm scared that I'm going to miss hear them even if I have a pen and paper in front of me sometimes I listen in and can't understand majority of what they are saying but I think that's partially because I'm new. 

I wish there was other networks where we could atleast learn and take that leap and if we mess up we don't feel stupid or others getting annoyed with us. 

Controllers talk too fast a lot. Understandable, but ultimately not helpful, so don't be afraid to ask them to "say again" (or "say again slower").

Of course there are limits to this, which is why anticipating is so important. But in general, "say again" is hands-down better than doing the wrong thing because you didn't catch it all.

As for the "other networks" bit: we've all been new to this at one point, and we all know what it's like. Nobody is getting annoyed with you, as long as you make a decent effort and avoid things like flying a Cessna out of EGLL on a Saturday night; and even veterans who have been flying on the network for a decade, or people who are actual real-world pilots, mess up sometimes, and nobody gets "annoyed" at them.

You may also want to keep your eyes open for "First Wings" style events - these are events specifically aimed at beginners, they are typically held at small- to medium-sized airports, with a simple layout, that don't see massive amounts of regular traffic; controllers take extra care to make things easy for beginners, and veteran pilots will either stay away, or expect people to make more mistakes and require more guidance.

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