Fly Away Simulation

What is VATSIM?

Livin_legend Guest

Hey i just registered to vatsim and i still dont know fully what this is about. Are there servers there where we can play online with other people? I still haven't found anything that explains how the site works and everything! plz I need help! thx

Pro Member Chief Captain
RadarMan Chief Captain

Very close, check this out from their site.


Pro Member Captain
John Hodges (originalgrunge) Captain

You need 3rd party software to connect to VATSIM, so it's slightly different than a normal multiplayer session. With VATSIM, you fly as a pilot and fly in the air with people from around the world through their servers. They train and support ATC which control the servers, so it essentially becomes like landing in real life. The ATC is fully trained, so they encourage you to use charts, appropriate SID/STARs, airspeed restrictions, holding patters, and many other things. It honestly feels like the real thing, especially when you're making an approach to an airport like KORD with full ATC coverage and dozens of planes landing with you. It can certainly be intense!!

You mostly find Virtual Airline pilots using VATSIM, rather than just everyday VFR fliers. It certainly adds a new dimension to the realism of flying, and teaches you a lot about reading charts, approaches, things like that much better (especially since air-space boundaries are enforced!)

Livin_legend Guest

Thank you for answering! Most of this I already knew, what I was mostly wondering was how do I work with VATSIM. I was trying to find servers to log into and to fly around with fellow aviation enthusists. I finally downloaded Squakbox, and entered a game. But since I wasn't and am not fully aware of what to say, how to say and exactly where to go (i.e. follow taxiway Bravo, Hotel, India etc..) Well I think i disturbed a little the airtraffic controller somewhat. I know some basics of ATC commands and answers but I am no professional.
I'm basically wondering where is a place where I can find easy information on where to go, what to do (especially so I don't become a nuissance) and stuff of that sort.

Pro Member Captain
John Hodges (originalgrunge) Captain

A BIG BIG part of vatsim is using charts. Check out Next time you fly around OFFLINE, practice using charts, step by step.

For instance, print out the taxi-charts for the airport you're landing/leaving from, and spend all the time you need to to navigate step by step according to what the computer atc is telling you to do. Don't feel discouraged, this can take PLENTY of time to learn to read. I still get lost at big airports sometimes. Ask ATC if you get stuck to give you directions like "left" or "right." If you just need clarification.

Next get some approach training. If you look at all the STAR (standard arrivals) approach charts for an airport, you'll get some idea of how they work. It'll take a lot of paper, but a nice way to visualize it is print out all of the STARs for an airport and lay them out on the floor. For instance, if you're flying into KORD, you'll see 5 approach plates. Put them on the floor and match up all of the little "ORD" markers (since all STARs head towards that marker). You'll notice for instance that Bradford comes at chicago from the SW, Janesville from the NW, Knox from the SE, etc.

So think of it this way, if you're flying into chicago from toronto, you'll be coming at it from the North East, And according to all the STARs you're looking at, you'll be coming in on the Pullman 4 approach. In otherwords, By the time you reach chicago's airspace from your flight, you should be coming in through one of these controlled corridors to keep from running into other airplanes.

If you see on the top of the chart, there are 3 possible places to intercept this path, each having their own lines/set of waypoints on their way to the main path that starts at PMM (Pullman). Those little triangles are fixes that you can use to navigate along the path. Written along these are the altitudes that you want to be at as you're approaching. Note that they're different for each one. When you're flying with ATC coverage on VATSIM, they'll tell you these altitudes...usually. For instance, you could hear "Cross PMM at 10,000." This means that wherever you are, start descending until you hit 10,000 feet, and then after you cross that waypoint, they'll give you a new altitude to descend to. NOTE: Not all ATC give you these, so always keep in the back of your mind about when you want to descend, and if ATC hasn't given you a new altitude ASK! They're more than willing to assist. Plus, just like us, they make mistakes and lose the occasional plane too! 😛

The final part of the approach involves heading directly to the ORD waypoint, and wait for ATC to vector you to your runway. You can see more detailed approaches from the ORD to the different runways themselves, but ATC will always give you those vectors.

For departure it's much easier, just let ATC vector you to one of the waipoints you see on "Ohare 1 departure" (top of the page at list) and follow his instructions from there. NOTE: One thing most of the controllers I've flown with DON'T say "resume own navigation" like you're used to hearing from the default flight sim. Keep your eyes open to when you cross that departure point (which should be listed in your flight plan), and once you're passed there you're on your own.

As far as the lingo, go through the pilot training program on the VATSIM website. I usually keep the window that explains all the necessary phrases open so that I can just hit Alt+Tab in case I get lost (which is easy the first few flights).

😳 Looks like I typed a lot for you! If you're still reading by now 😉 , let me give you the most important advice about flying on VATSIM:

It's okay to sound like an idiot your first few times and get totally lost, EVERYONE does.

I've flown plenty of times with my virtual airline, and even with them coaching me through I've messed up my fair share of phrases, transponder codes and when to actually turn them on to active, course adjustments/altitude changes, speed restrictions, etc. I've seen more go-arounds (especially on tricky approaches) than you would guess, and I've still come out alive. Sure you get a little red in the face a lot of times, but soon it'll be fun, and one of the most realistic experiences you'll have!

P.S. A handy little piece of software to use with SquawkBox is "ServInfo." It's a simple program that you can just run and get a list of all aircraft on the server, along with either a list or a map of all controllers on line. It helps for your first few times to find an area where there is ATC coverage, but not a lot of planes.

See you in the skies, look for my callsign on the server (UAL2203) and drop me a private message (eg: type ".msg UAL2203" and then your message).

Livin_Legend Guest

Thank you very much! Yes indeed you typed a lot but every single was helpful. I'll get started on the pilot trainingon VATSIM for the lingo, (I'll try to find it) and I'll start looking into flying with charts! Thx for the help it is very much appreciated! I'll be lookin out for ya!

Pro Member First Officer
Greg (FL050) First Officer

I have a quick question as well.

Is there a way to get weather at a certain airport ICAO without having Active Sky? I just have VATSIM and SB3, so is there a way to get weather at certain airports?

Also, would anyone mind explaining what it means when you are cleared for a certain intersection, like:

Tower will say, "Cleared for Take-Off to CLARE, maintain 10,000 expecting FL250 approx. 10min. after take-off."

What is CLARE? I'm guessing it is an intersection to once you get to that point you are cleared for your own navigation. But are these intersections usually straight out from the runway or what?

Pro Member Captain
John Hodges (originalgrunge) Captain

To get weather in the middle of your route, type in ".metar ICAO" (just substitue ICAO with the airport you'd like info for. The only problem is you'll get a mess that looks like :

KORD 070456Z 03009KT 6SM -RA BR OVC013 10/08 A2992 RMK AO2 WSHFT 0421 SLP131 P0002 T01000078 $

😳 Which can take some time practice to translate!

KORD 070456Z
This is the airport info for KORD, taken on (april) 07 at 0456 zulu time (which in chicago time would be about 2356, I think. I keep forgetting about the daylight savings)

Winds are blowing from direction 030 (which is is NorthEast), at 09kts, almost 10 miles per hour. NOTE: Occasionally you'll see a G in there, meaning that there are gusts up to the indicated kts.

Six miles of visibility, with rain and mist. This changes, and I forget the website which can translate them.

Overcast skies at 01300 feet ceiling.

10/08 A2992
Temperature 10 degrees, depoint 8, altimeter 29.92

That should be most of the info you need from the metar. You could also simply ask ATC if they have time to look up the ATIS for you for the airport.

When they clear you for takeoff to CLARE, you can check on the for the departure chart which has a series of waypoints scattered around. When you find yours, after you take off you're gonna fly to that waypoint. Usually CLARE would be the transition point out of the airport's airspace closes to your flight plan.

The waypoint usually isn't the way strait out the runway. If you look on the same website again, you'll find departures for every runway, usually with instructions. For instance, most have a departure that reads like follow runway heading to a certain DME, then make a specific turn to a heading to intercept theintersection.

Pro Member First Officer
Greg (FL050) First Officer

Thanks for the reply grude. I know how to read a METAR, I am a pilot in real life. Pretty much at the end of PPL, but I'm not into Intrument yet ( that is next ).

Playing FS2004 and learning these instruments and charts is going to help me big when I get into Instrument license next. Might as well start learning now.

Thanks again grudge.

Pro Member Site Admin
Fly Away Simulation (Flyaway) Site Admin

We have now published a full guide explaining what VATSIM and IVAO are. You can read it here:

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