By Robert Cotey 1388680
#512994 So I have decided that Vatsim could be a very fun thing to use as a sim pilot, but I have a couple of concerns.

I have read the "starting" materials, and I can connect and what not, so I am not too worried about that side of it.

What I am worried about is the fact that I like to fly "all over" and not just around a few airports. I also like to fly at different RL times of day. Some may not have ATC operators online.

So my first concern is what happens if I want to fly a small Airport that is not currently covered by ATC. Should I even sign on to Vatsim? Should I sign on and wait for someone to come around, say three sentences then vanish? Should I just use the flight sims ATC for that airport and stay offline? I know that part of this question is the "can't cover em all" question, but what is the point of signing on to Vatsim if I am not in an airport that is currently manned?

Next comes training, and what not. I know training is provided by third parties, but when trying to look into them they seem to all want me to joint their airline or air club. Is there any ATO in the US that doesn't requirement to "join up" and fly their way. All I want is the training, I don't want to imply that I am going to do anything else with that group, cause I may not.

Finally, I keep reading conflicting information about "how real is it". Some posts seem to really bash on pilots or ATC for things that seem trivial. Maybe ATC should "use x approach" or maybe the pilot did land at "12L instead of 13L" and I understand that IRL that's a big deal, but I am not a real pilot. I will get this stuff wrong, and I don't want to be "yelled at" cause it takes me 30 seconds longer to figure out how to read an airport chart. At the same time I would really appreciate, for example, help understanding taxi instructions (I know there are documents and videos but some airports are just downright confusing. It doesn't help either of you can't see the taxi way. So how forgiving is the community on these types of training issues?
By Lindsey Wiebe 1101951
#512996 Hi Robert, Welcome!

Check out http://www.vatstar.com they are literally what you are looking for!

On the "As real as it gets" front, it's like life there are always 'difficult' people but the VAST majority are awesome. The controllers work what's called 'top down' so a center controller will generally control all airports in their zone and certainly all the flights; so even if you are flying VFR around the hills they can still provide flight following (point out traffic, etc) for you. A lot of times you will be sent to Unicom 122.80 when approaching the field. This actually is quite similar to real life (I have 1500 commercial aviation experience) where you'll make blind calls on Unicom. Sometimes someone will be there at same time, sometimes not. Give it a go. Try a smaller airport first. Don't jump into JFK or SFO, LAX, atc right away. Try SAN or LAS (most of the times not too crazy) as they often will have ground or Approach controllers (feeder airports for the controllers to get experience). Put "new pilot" in your comment section when you log on and ATC SHOULD give you more of a helping hand. A lot of times when I'm flying i'll even text a struggling pilot to help them out if I'm cruising and just listening to ATC. So there's help to be had by ATC or fellow pilots.
By Johan Grauers 1113891
#513008 Definitely sign on even if you're at smaller airport. I see it sometimes as "fishing" for ATC (a phrase I think someone else coined before me though).

Basically if I'm sat at home considering controlling I will look at vatspy, if there is not an aircraft in the sky I tend to not bother. Every person at that uncontrolled airport is there showing that there is traffic to control for ATC. Therefore the more you sign on, even if there is nobody controlling at the time, the more chance you have of someone signing on to control.
By Jim Hurst 1353723
#513012
Robert Cotey 1388680 wrote:So I have decided that Vatsim could be a very fun thing to use as a sim pilot, but I have a couple of concerns.

I have read the "starting" materials, and I can connect and what not, so I am not too worried about that side of it.

What I am worried about is the fact that I like to fly "all over" and not just around a few airports. I also like to fly at different RL times of day. Some may not have ATC operators online.

So my first concern is what happens if I want to fly a small Airport that is not currently covered by ATC. Should I even sign on to Vatsim? Should I sign on and wait for someone to come around, say three sentences then vanish? Should I just use the flight sims ATC for that airport and stay offline? I know that part of this question is the "can't cover em all" question, but what is the point of signing on to Vatsim if I am not in an airport that is currently manned?

Next comes training, and what not. I know training is provided by third parties, but when trying to look into them they seem to all want me to joint their airline or air club. Is there any ATO in the US that doesn't requirement to "join up" and fly their way. All I want is the training, I don't want to imply that I am going to do anything else with that group, cause I may not.

Finally, I keep reading conflicting information about "how real is it". Some posts seem to really bash on pilots or ATC for things that seem trivial. Maybe ATC should "use x approach" or maybe the pilot did land at "12L instead of 13L" and I understand that IRL that's a big deal, but I am not a real pilot. I will get this stuff wrong, and I don't want to be "yelled at" cause it takes me 30 seconds longer to figure out how to read an airport chart. At the same time I would really appreciate, for example, help understanding taxi instructions (I know there are documents and videos but some airports are just downright confusing. It doesn't help either of you can't see the taxi way. So how forgiving is the community on these types of training issues?


Hi Robert,

Welcome!

As a relatively new member (~1 yr), I'll toss out a few thoughts for you to mull over.

First, if you're planning an actual flight (from A - B, or even A - A) that you'd like to do, then sure, by all means, do it on the network. Why? Well, first, it's more experience. Next, if there is no ATC on, then it really is little different from flying yourself in Single Player mode (barring a couple text announcements for t/o and landing), so it's not any more difficult. Third, if there is someone on as ATC, you'll get a richer experience, and as Johan mentions, the fact that you're on, might entice a controller to log in if he sees people flying in his/her airspace. All to the good. :wink:

That said, if you're just "experimenting" - ie. learning a new plane, trying a new technique (like a hold or IFR approach, etc), that you're not sure you can even do, you might want to just do that solo, initially, and then once you've sorted it out, incorporate it into your future flights, as appropriate. Also, there are some types of flying that come under special rules (ie. military ops, airshows, etc.) which are generally prohibited on the network, except under specific policies as part of specific groups or events.

But, for the bulk of typical flying, by all means, definitely feel free to fly it on the network. Of my flights so-far, I'd estimate that more than 1/2 were without any ATC at all. Some of my flights have involved airports that VATsim doesn't even recognize (KBBD, KIER as recent examples). On the other hand, I've had a few flights where I had ATC controllers online most of the way, and that is far more interesting and rewarding than making the flight in Single Player mode would have been.

Regarding training, you have a number of options.

First, there's no *requirement* for flight training of any kind... For pilots, it's all optional (not so ATC). Mind you, I think it's much more fun to expand your knowledge and work towards a more RL approach to flying, and VATsim is a pretty good way to go about it (imho).

If you're looking at ratings, there are options there as well. The P1 rating can be easily done on VATsim's site, online, and only takes a little bit of time to become familiar with the networks basic rules and policies, and a few minutes to take the "written" test.

For ratings beyond that, you can join an ATO that offers them, like a Virtual Airline, if that interests you, or a dedicated training ATO like VATSTAR (I've received a couple ratings from them, and have no qualms about recommending them), or, in some cases, some ARTCC's have "practical flight" programs, where you can simply fly a series of specific flights under ATC observation and at the end of that series you can qualify for pilot ratings.

The folks from Boston's ARTCC are particularly friendly and easy to work with in that regard.

Regarding "realism", it's a mixed bag. First, as you've noted, ATC often isn't available, and when it is, you often have one controller wearing *many* hats. That's a nod to the fact that it's a hobby rather than a real job, and the number of people needed to staff a major metro area (like Phoenix, Dallas, London etc.) is way more than are usually available for an online sim.

Additionally, lots of RL situations won't typically crop up here (ie. certain airspaces, MoA's, R-xxxx, and TFR's are mostly ignored). Emergencies, can (occasionally) be simulated, but far more often, the pilot is just asked to disconnect (because frankly, it can sometimes just get silly)

Where there IS a serious attempt to be realistic, is in using flight plans, picking realistic routes (or even actual published RL routes where appropriate), using RL communication phraseology, and procedures where possible.

Again, those are elements where new pilots can really expand their knowledge, and help create an experience that emulates real world flight operations, within the limitations of an online simulation / game.

In short, it's as real as our interest, knowledge, and software can let it be, although "realism" is a bit of a moving target. Still, by and large, most of the folks I've encountered so far have been pretty friendly and enthusiastic when it comes to helping fellow pilots progress in knowledge and experience, and where reasonable they try to make it mirror RL aviation as much as they're able.

Hope the long-winded post helps... :D

The big thing, is to Enjoy Flying, while hopefully improving your aviation knowledge and experience along the way.


Cheers,
Jim
By Sebastian Barrow 1388757
#513064 I'm very pleased to read the comments on this thread, as I'm in a very similar situation myself.

(I hope nobody minds if I ask my own newbie question, as it may also help answer other questions the OP has.)

I'm a recently joined member (based in UK), yet to consider even daring to log on to the network. Also I'm yet to acquire my headset/mic but this should arrive in a few days. :)

I would describe myself as a reasonably proficient FSX airline pilot (having been playing FS9/FSX on and off for 10 years), with a good understanding of my aircraft of choice, the F-Lite 757-200 / 300 from Just Flight. This 'intermediate' level of aircraft systems simulation is my ideal level, but I find the default ATC pretty irritating and unrealistic, and I've been watching dozens of VATSIM videos on Youtube (particularly AirforceProud95 in case anyone else has!) The whole idea of a world-wide network seems absolutely awesome and I can't wait to get into it.

But... I have a couple of concerns / doubts which I'd really appreciate being answered by someone in the know.

1. I'm new to the idea of SIDs and STARs, although I understand what they are, what they are for and how they work (sort of). Reading the charts themselves gives me a headache, but I suspect I'll get the hang of it. However, given that they aren't simulated in FSX, and that they're pretty much a 'requirement' in VATSIM, how does one gain the proficiency before being let loose on the network? Various sources suggest requesting vectors is frowned upon. Also the FMC in my 757 is simplified and does not incorporate a VNAV function, so does this mean the aircraft is not suited.

2. Concerning waypoints / intersections in general. Am I correct in thinking that FSX is effectively wrong / not up to date, and is there a means to correct all this data in the sim. And then if that is done, does it affect offline flights at all? (I.e. does it break the FSX flightplanner / ATC functions.) Just want to make sure I'm not breaking the game before I do anything.

3. Flying 'abroad' - how does the language barrier work? Does everyone worldwide use English, or do I need a phrasebook to fly to a Spanish destination? :lol:

I'm sure I've got more questions but this will do for now.

Many thanks to anyone kind enough to answer them for me!
Kindest regards

Seb
By Nicholas Cavacini 1084329
#513066 Hi Sebastian,

Again welcome to VATSIM, thanks for asking the questions!

1. SIDs/STARs aren't just available online. You can practice them offline though its important to know differences in different countries. For example, in Europe, you are assigned a SID/STAR by ATC. In the US, you typically choose them yourself. They are typically flown via FMC which I will reference later, however most can be flown through good old fashioned IFR flying. You do not need VNAV, however be prepared to be able to follow any procedures that you file or accept. If it gives a VNAV profile, you can still calculate it and fly it by hand but is much easier with VNAV.

2. You are correct in saying that. The FSX data was current when it came out in 2006. This includes runways, taxiways, airports, fixes, etc. There are quite a few ways to stay up to date. For airports, you can download or purchase scenery. If you know what you are doing, you can also update yourself through an AFCAD editor. As far as nav aids, typically those are updated through the FMC itself and not FSX. Navigraph is a company that is commonly used for nav updates, however there may be some free alternatives. You can use this offline as well.

3. According to the Code of Regulations, 1.01(A): "Members should be able to converse and/or provide air traffic control services in English, the internationally accepted official language for air traffic control."

With that being said, if you fly somewhere where the primary language is not English, you may run into a variety of different English proficiency. And you may run into controllers/pilots speaking the local language if it is permitted in that area. However, with that being said, according to the CoR, you should be able to converse and/or provide ATC service in English. Some people may use a translator to meet that requirement. If you run into problems regarding this you can always contact a Supervisor for assistance.
By Jim Hurst 1353723
#513067
Sebastian Barrow 1388757 wrote:I'm very pleased to read the comments on this thread, as I'm in a very similar situation myself.

(I hope nobody minds if I ask my own newbie question, as it may also help answer other questions the OP has.)

I'm a recently joined member (based in UK), yet to consider even daring to log on to the network. Also I'm yet to acquire my headset/mic but this should arrive in a few days. :)

I would describe myself as a reasonably proficient FSX airline pilot (having been playing FS9/FSX on and off for 10 years), with a good understanding of my aircraft of choice, the F-Lite 757-200 / 300 from Just Flight. This 'intermediate' level of aircraft systems simulation is my ideal level, but I find the default ATC pretty irritating and unrealistic, and I've been watching dozens of VATSIM videos on Youtube (particularly AirforceProud95 in case anyone else has!) The whole idea of a world-wide network seems absolutely awesome and I can't wait to get into it.

But... I have a couple of concerns / doubts which I'd really appreciate being answered by someone in the know.

1. I'm new to the idea of SIDs and STARs, although I understand what they are, what they are for and how they work (sort of). Reading the charts themselves gives me a headache, but I suspect I'll get the hang of it. However, given that they aren't simulated in FSX, and that they're pretty much a 'requirement' in VATSIM, how does one gain the proficiency before being let loose on the network? Various sources suggest requesting vectors is frowned upon. Also the FMC in my 757 is simplified and does not incorporate a VNAV function, so does this mean the aircraft is not suited.

2. Concerning waypoints / intersections in general. Am I correct in thinking that FSX is effectively wrong / not up to date, and is there a means to correct all this data in the sim. And then if that is done, does it affect offline flights at all? (I.e. does it break the FSX flightplanner / ATC functions.) Just want to make sure I'm not breaking the game before I do anything.

3. Flying 'abroad' - how does the language barrier work? Does everyone worldwide use English, or do I need a phrasebook to fly to a Spanish destination? :lol:

I'm sure I've got more questions but this will do for now.

Many thanks to anyone kind enough to answer them for me!
Kindest regards

Seb

Hi Sebastian,

Those are good questions. My perspective is from the USA, but I'm sure there are many similarities, and you probably can also get direct UK information by checking in with the folks at VATUK for specifics (and differences) that may apply there.

1. So, SID's & STARS are nothing more than published routes / procedures for arriving and departing (usually) larger, busier airports. The idea, is that once you're on one, you know what you're supposed to be doing, and the controller knows where you are and what you're doing as well, so ATC workload is lightened to help them deal with more traffic volume.

The charts do take a little getting used to, but keep in mind that most of what they're telling you is little more than the course and headings you should follow, altitudes and speeds you are limited to, and when / where to expect more involvement from ATC. Going over the chart slowly, at first, will give you a pretty good idea how they work once you've read and dabbled with a few.

You can practice them offline, simply by pulling a chart up, and trying to fly it to the airport it's for (or using it to depart an airport for a SID) -- they're usually based on certain runways or quadrants around an airport. For example Phoenix (where I fly out of) has SID's & STARS for westerly arrivals / departures, a different set for easterly traffic, and another set for northerly traffic, so whichever way you're coming from or going to, there's a set of procedures you can expect to use. Additionally, they come in two main types (RNAV and NON-RNAV). RNAV procedures are for GPS equipped aircraft (with or without an FMC) and have named waypoints that are basically just a set of co-ordinates. Non-RNAV procedures still use VOR's or intersections based on VOR's that less sophisticated aircraft can use. Flying these is basically a matter of following the appropriate navaids or waypoints, so a little practice will see you through.

2. FSX came out in 2006, so it can be well out of date in many areas. A lot of the RNAV waypoints, for instance simply aren't in there, although many of the non-RNAV VOR's and such are still there. Along that same vein, a lot of the airports have changed a lot as well. Regarding Navigation, there are a couple services (Navigraph?) that you can use to get updates. Also, there's a gentleman (Herve Sors) that also has donation-ware updates for FSX that can add those various points (though I haven't given that a try as yet). You can learn more about that in this thread. Additionally, there is quite a bit of freeware scenery available to update various airports. Some of the ARTCCs have updates for their airspace, so that can be a good starting point.

3. AFAIK, English is the default language on VATsim, so that should work, but again, my VATSIM flying has (so far) been limited to North America, so if that assumption of mine is inaccurate, I hope someone else will chime in.

Hope that helps!

Regards,
Jim


Edit: Beaten to the punch by Nicholas... :)
By Randy Tyndall 1087023
#513069 Sebastian,

Very good answers from both Nicholas and Jim, however both seem to have skirted around one part of your question 2 concerning updating default nav data.

...does it affect offline flights at all...does it break the FSX flightplanner...


One of the suggestions is the excellent FS9/FSX/P3D update Herve Sors does aligning the default data with the current nav cycle. However, this is directly from Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on his website, the one discussed in the link Jim put in...

FAQ: Your updates break integrated flight planning

ANS: Yes, in many cases they do, but as far as integrated fligh planning is completely outdated (most airways & many navaids have changed since FSX release, FSX-SE and P3D didn't change that), it's not much worse


For that reason I have chosen not to add his updates, despite how good they are. I frequently use Celestial Navigation in the sim...yes, it is indeed possible...and use of it requires a printed map from the default flight planning page to plot star readings. However, another option for making sure my flightplan is as current as possible when using non-FMC aircraft, is the free version of vRoute. You can search current flights from a huge list of airports and then download them as a .pln file that your default GPS can read. Even waypoints not in the current set of default navdata are included, although not by name since they "technically" don't exist.

Randy
By Thimo Koolen 1345135
#513091
Sebastian Barrow 1388757 wrote:3. Flying 'abroad' - how does the language barrier work? Does everyone worldwide use English, or do I need a phrasebook to fly to a Spanish destination? :lol:


As others have pointed out, all controllers are able to provide English instructions and are required to do so. Of course sometimes they can give other pilots instructions in their national language, but they should give you English instructions. Language might not be the worst thing: accents can get pretty heavy as well. If you're flying in a new area, just have a listen to the ATC a little to get used to this accent.

Besides language, procedures are different in other countries as well. Last August, I wrote a post explaining the Dutch procedures (mainly for Americans, because the procedures are quite different):
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=70855&p=503034#p503034