Getting Online to Fly
Now that you have joined VATSIM, it's time to get online to fly.
Your first flight will no doubt see you very nervous because you don't want to appear to make silly mistakes!
Don't fear, every single VATSIM user was new once and we've all made mistakes. What's the worse that can go wrong? I mean, you crash and everyone survives to walk away and live another day; say something not quite right on the radio and someone will correct you and you learn for the next time.
The majority of VATSIM members worldwide have never been at the controls of a real aircraft or work as Air Traffic Controllers, that's one of the appealing features of the Network.
VATSIM is a learning environment and encourages flight simulation enthusiasts to learn from one another.
Flight Sim Clients
To fly online in the VATSIM network, every virtual pilot will need some free software, which connects his/her flight sim with the network. These programs enable the communication with the network, transfer important data (e.g. the flight plan, aircraft type and your position and speed) to the network. On the servers side, all data will be collected and again sent out to the various pilots and ATC stations in your area.
A pilot client is not a may have, but a must have.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
You can connect your sim with an approved (to connect to the VATSIM Network) Pilot client. There is a choice of two approved clients:
Your choice of client is personal. FSInn has better model matching properties (so that you can see other VATSIM users as aircraft in your Flight Simulation hanger but is a little more fiddly to set up. Squawkbox doesn't have the same model matching capabilities but is less complex to set up.
Click on the links above to be taken to the VATSIM website instructions on how to download and install the clients and follow those instructions to the letter. An incorrect installation or not following those instructions will no doubt lead to some unwanted heartache as you try to connect to the Network.
NOTE: Both clients were developed a number of years ago and have had to be adapted for later versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, especially for FSX and require time and patience to get them installed and operating. New clients are currently in development so keep on the VATNZ forums and the VATSIM forums and the VATSIM forums for more information about the release of these new clients.
X-Plane is an alternative Flight Simulation programme to Microsoft Flight Simulator. It's popularity is increasing in recent years following Microsoft's decision to discontinue the Flight Simulator line. X-Plane is also the only cross platform Flight Simulator available, able to run on both Windows OS and Mac OS, making it very popular with Mac users.
For X-Pane, there is only pilot client available:
Click on the link above to be taken to the VATSIM website instructions on how to download and install XSquawkbox and follow those instructions to the letter. An incorrect installation or not following those instructions will no doubt lead to some unwanted heartache as you try to connect to the Network.
Connecting to a VATSIM Server
You can connect to any of the VATSIM servers in the drop down lists in your pilot client. All servers are interconnected so flying on one, means you will be seen by other aircraft in your vicinity and any ATC in range.
In order to ensure the greatest stability, it's probably easiest to simply choose the closest to your home location.
Some Dos and Don'ts when flying online
In order to get the most from your online experience, there are some simple dos and don'ts to help you on your way:
- Connect only when parked at a gate or parking stand not at the end of a runway (you don't know if there's another aircraft on final approach and you might force them to go around) - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause B(1)
- Turn 'crash detect' off in your simulator settings (someone else might already be parked at the gate you join the online session and your FS will register this as a crash and terminate your flight)
- File a Flightplan for each flight you make
- Tune your COM1 radio either to the local controller or if no controller online, use 122.800 which is the worldwide Unicom frequency - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause B(1)
- Announce your intentions to the controller or if no controller online, via text in the text box in your pilot client so that other aircraft know what you're doing
- Squawk Standby on the Ground and Mode C (or normal) when lined up on the departure runway, airborne and when vacating your arrival runway after landing
- Once you have finished your flight(s), remember to disconnect from the network
- Be courteous and respectful to other VATSIM members - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause A(1)
- HAVE FUN!
- Connect while at the end of a runway, whether it is the active runway or not
- Connect to the network with both a pilot client and controller client at the same time - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause A(8)(a)
- Leave your connection unattended for longer than 30 minutes - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause A(9) - or at all when you are in controlled airspace or expecting to be in controlled airspace (i.e. a VATSIM Controller online) - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause B(3)
- Declare a hi-jacking or squawk 7500 (the international code for a hijack) - VATSIM Code of Conduct Clause B(8)