- Sat Feb 08, 2020 10:58 pm
I would suggest the following:
1. Keep an eye on a vatsim map for a while to see where and when it gets particularly busy. You probably want to pick your time and location such that it gets lively, but not too crowded - ideally, you want to be one of no more than maybe 3-4 pilots that one controller is managing at any time; this gives them enough time and headroom to be more patient with you and accommodate your rustiness.
2. Do your homework. Pick airports and routes that you are familiar with, make sure you have all the charts, know what to expect during your flight, be in a position to anticipate. Don't file procedures you're not comfortable flying - it's better to write "NO STAR/SID" in your flight plan remarks, or request vectors for the approach well ahead of time, than to attempt a procedure that puts more workload on you than you can manage. Worst case, you'll be asked to hold or divert, but IME this is rare (especially when it's not too busy where you're flying - see suggestion 1).
3. Make a suitable remark in your flightplan ("Returning pilot, please be patient" or something to that extent). Not all controllers read it, but most will.
4. Fly an aircraft that you know by heart. Most of the traffic you'll see on vatsim is airliners, but you can pick a slower GA aircraft instead, which gives you more time for almost everything you need to do. If you are going to do that, it helps to fly into an airport that uses a dedicated runway for GA (e.g., EHAM uses runway 04/22 for GA, at EDDF you might get 07R/25L, etc.), this greatly reduces the stress factor of being sequenced in between faster traffic.
5. Before getting your clearance, just sit there and listen in to the radio communications on the delivery, ground and tower frequencies to get a feel for the communication, and to know what to expect. If 5 people before you get the same departure instructions, odds are you'll get the same ones.