General discussion about current VA Partners
By Kyle Ramsey 810181
#294659 Q: How do I start a Virtual Airline?

A: Many people get quite excited about the concept of a virtual airline and may sometimes think they would like to start their own VA. While it may seem easy to open a VA, it is far, far more work than throwing together a few pages on a freeweb site and painting a few airplanes. These VAs come and go by the hundreds each year but do not sustain recruiting new pilots and growing features rich enough to retain pilots.

The short answer is you should sign up for an existing virtual airline and through volunteering to increasingly higher levels of responsibility within that VA. At some point the amount of work required to start and operate a VA will become clearly apparent (most VA managers spend 10-20 hours per week at a minimum) and you will better understand how a VA is started and more importantly, how one is operated sustainably over a long term.
By Scott DeWoody 1003218
#313288 Kyle, I can't agree with you more. Most of the members of larger VA's just join and fly, follow the rules, and have a good time, and that's exactly the intent. However, I would venture to say that most of them have no idea the time, effort, and finances involved in running a successful VA, I know I didn't until I actually got involved the the management of AvA.

Scott DeWoody
Chief Executive Officer
American Virtual Airlines


btw.... BBCode is off in this thread also.
By Tim Murphy 1055644
#339188 I agree with both comments. In my two years experience I have seen one pilot start-up atleast 3-4 VA's. Each time failing to keep them up. This particular pilot has a lot of spirit and interest in flying and creating his version of VATSIM flying, but was/is unable to see the problem.

I commend all VA's and the staff that make them successful. It is a lot of dedication.

Well done!
Tim
By Tim Farrell 1074471
#417558 So far everyone has been right on in the discussion on starting a VA. I will add some of my own experiences of starting a VA and comment as well.

1. Hosting/maintaining your website is key. This is not generally free either, unless you like pesky ads that have nothing to do with your VA or Flight Simming popping up all over your website. Your hosting server/webmaster must be very dependable, trustworthy and knowledgeable. As a CEO/owner it is important to have ultimate control of everything at all times. Ex: Losing a webmaster can be devastating unless the CEO/owner can pick up the slack. - (I did this). Knowledge of HTML and PHP can be very helpful.

2. Having the right ACARS system is very helpful too if you plan on using one. My webmaster actually built our ACARS system from scratch. The cool thing about our ACARS is that pilots don't have to fill out pireps (please don't ask for the code, 'cause you will not get it). It is done automatically as they fly on Vatsim with their assigned callsign. There are only a handful of good ACARS systems out there, some have a cost involved.

3. Decide the pilot market you want to go after. Are you cargo, passenger oriented or both? What kind of fleet will you have? Are you emulating a real world airline or is yours a fictional one? Are pilots limited to fly aircraft based on rank? - (I left my first VA because I could not fly my payware aircraft because I was a new pilot with them). Will you have aircraft repaints? Where will you main hub be, will you have others? Will you offer pilot training and how? How will your pilots communicate with each other during flights? Will you have limitations? - (Our VA is one of only a few that allows its pilots to fly all kinds of cargo aircraft of any type and make). We also use an optional outside alternative ACARS system as well. How will you market your VA?

4. Don't expect them pilots to come swarming. It will take time. I started with 3 or 4 pilots and soon had about 12-15 after the first few months. The pace slowed quite a bit after that. However, we now average 30 pilots a year well into our 3rd year now as a VA.

5. Having a vision rather than an ego trip will take you much further toward having a successful VA. Many VA's fail due to bad/in-experienced administartive management. Be a CEO because you can do better that most other VA's, not because you want a title. Be prepared to spend hours maintaining your VA.

6. In summary - Have a vision. Be prepared to spend a few bucks, if necessary. Find a trusted and experienced webmaster. Build a solid and attractive website and build your empire! Just be ready for a bumpy ride while building your empire.

I hope this enlightens inspiring CEO's and future VA owners on what is involved in building a VA on Vatsim. Although not perfect but impressive, if you want to see an example of a successful fictional VA, enter the address below into your browser.

http://www.freightdogs.info

Tim Farrell, FDC001
CEO/President
Freight Dogs virtual Air Cargo
ceo@freightdogs.info
www.freightdogs.info
By Roger Curtiss 810159
#417944 Tim Farrell offers some excellent advice to which I will share just a few observations from experience with a few VAs and participation as a pilot and in management:

-Offer a unique take on the flight sim airline experience. There are hundreds of VAs around so your best bet is to have a vision and a goal of filling an under served niche.

-Do not try to get too big too fast. Stick with your core product initially, adjust it and refine it before adding features that may be stretching your resources or ability to manage.

-Be patient. As Tim mentioned it can take time to build a following. Establish a core of dedicated pilots and they will share their positive experience with others and generate new members

-By starting a VA you are taking on considerable responsibility. Delegate tasks to willing members so you have time to enjoy your creation as well as manage it.

-I have seen quite a few VAs fail because they had to use an outside webmaster who then left. Make sure you own your own web site so someone else cannot take it away from you if they become disgruntled or lose interest.

-HAVE FUN. This can be a great experience but it also might not quite work out. Take pride in your success but if your VA does not prosper realize that it may be due to factors beyond your control and perhaps try another approach.
By Roger Curtiss 810159
#518183 It could not be simpler. Instruct your pilots to use the call sign RTX. VATSIM does not reserve or control (with some exceptions for banned ones) call signs. They are not assigned and there is nothing to stop anyone else from using RTX if they desire.

It would be beneficial for your pilots to indicate in the remarks section of their flight plans that the voice call is "RotateX" so that controllers have a heads-up.