OK I hear all this great stuff about VATSIM and I am thinking about joining it, but before I do, I have a bunch of questions, I bet I can get all of the answers in different places in the forums but I found that some of the searches i make are filled with old data and nonsense so I will ask it plain and simple hoping that someone will be able to answer my questions, and that folks wont get too "off topic" in this thread. OK, here we go:
1. Does VATSIM REQUIRE you to start off in certain aircraft, or to run certain routes?
2. I see alot of forum entries that refer to using enroute charts/sids/stars ect. Are they required? I have Simplates? is that a good start? part of the reason I want to join VATSIM is cause I want to learn to use those charts and stuff in a realistic enviornment and if I dont know something I would hope to get some help...
3. I have alot of add-ons, Ultimate traffic, FS Enviornment for sky and water effects, FSPassengers ect. are they still useable?
4. I have some payware aircraft that I am super interested in using too, Level D 767, PMDG 747-400 and Wilco Airbus A380. Can I fly these planes with all of their features in VATSIM? will they appear as the planes they are intended to be to others? (i understand that custom paint jobs wont be visable to everyone) but I dont want anyone seeing me flying a 767 into KSEA and it looks like a Cessna 182 to them.
5. Am I required to log on/log off at certain times? Am I required to fly a certain number of flights or miles in a given time? If something comes up and I have to log off in mid flight will it affect me in any way?
6. Do pilots need to -earn their wings- in any way? I mean can I start off flying heavies into and out of major airports right away? even if I am not quite sure how to go about it in a real world situation? I mean I can fly very well with the out of the box atc from FS9.1 so will it be difficult for me to adapt to VATSIM ATC?
6. Can I eventually dabble in ATC myself? Is there alot of software needed? I see there are alot of downloads from VATSIM, do they provide all that i would need?
7. What does VATSIM cost? I still havnt seen a price tag at their site? Is it free? is it a monthly subscription?
8. If I take the big dirt nap (crash and burn) what happens? Will I be rejected, scolded, sent to my room without supper?
9. I understand that Flightplans are to be filed with VATSIM before the flight, thats cool! can i do it with FSNavigator? or FSBuild?
Though I respect the pilot who flies pinatas out of the Tiajuana airport in a C-47 I dont want to be him. I would really like to check out VATSIM if I knew the answers to most of these questions and I knew I wouldnt be cubbyholed into some backwater bushpilot chores. I have become fairly proficient at flying commercial jets and would like to take the next step up. Should I?
Sorry about the legnth of my little novel but these questions are Important to me and perhaps others will see the answers and will be swayed by them too cause they are in doubt.
😳 You weren't kidding about a lot of questions! Lemme get started on answering!
1 -> Vatsim has no requirements about category ratings. You can fly whatever you want whenever you want. What does usually have category restrictions is Virtual Airlines, many of which utilize VATSIM as a place to enhance their realism.
2 -> Simplates is a great start. If you want better quality and more "in-your-hands" flying, check out www.myairplane.com. They have all of the up-to-date charts for all of america. They aren't required, and you can simply ask the controller (if there is one on line at the time) for "vectors" for your arrival, but they're definitly something you'll want to get under your feet early on. There's TONS of help out there in using them. I'll definitly give you a tour of some charts if you'd like to know how to use them in your planning. Plus, when there's no controller and the pilots are communicating on UNICOM, you'll hear a lot of references to their where-abouts as they pass over specific parts of the published SIDs/STARs/Approaches. It helps to get a sense of what's around you. (note: enroute charts are not required for VATSIM flight either).
3 -> Ultimate traffic will probably go (although i'm not sorry to see it go!) but some people have figured out ways to display AI traffic while on VATSIM, not sure how though. ActiveSky, FSEnvironment, water, passengers, FS2Crew, scenery upgrades, you name it it's all usable!
4 -> You can definitly fly these planes on VATSIM. They have a standard library of planes that gets downloaded with SquawkBox3, so if you log on and register your craft as an A320 in united colors, it'll show up as an A320 in united colors to everyone + the controllers. (Note: You can also be flying a 737 and register as an A380, and it will show you as an A380. It's not a common mistake, but i have seen it 😉 ). As far as the aircraft features, you can use all of them and more on VATSIM! Now you can actually fly SIDs and STARs as published, with all the speed/altitude restrictions included on your FMC. Default FS ATC usually tries to pull control away from you early, but VATSIM ATC usually understand that you're a competent pilot, and you really get to show your stuff with those add-ons!
5 -> There's no time restrictions what-so-ever. You can log on just to listen to ATC, fly a short hop, or head over to China if you'd like. The only thing they ask is that if you're in controlled airspace, you stay in communication with ATC and request every leave of the cockpit. They give certainly leeway though (like if you're heading cross-country and the past 5 centers havn't been on line, and you just so happen to pass through a controlled airspace). However, should they decide that you're in harms way (i.e. just sitting on an active runway while you're off eating an orange) they'll contact a supervisor and knock you off the server for the time being. If you log off mid flight, you simply continue as if you had never logged on, with Ultimate Traffic whizzing around you and your passengers completely un-aware of the change! They're also usually okay with you logging back on mid-flight, so long as you don't cause conflicts.
6 -> You'll find that taking the PMDG 747 out of Dulles International during a "fly-in" to be extremely difficult if you're not used to VATSIM. You're going to hear tons of people talking, probably won't recognize your callsign, may miss instructions if you're not used to only hearing your instructions and not seeing them (note: voice is not required, you can simply use text if you wish). You'll also find the busier the airspace, the more you'll need to rely on the published approaches/departures. So in short, you can start flying as heavy a plane as you want, but start somewhere where the controller only has you and maybe a few other planes in his airspace. You'll get experience under your belt and can even ask questions if you get lost.
6(2) (you made two 6's =) -> Yes, you can get into ATC whenever you'd like. The software is no more than you'd need to fly on VATSIM, and it's all provided. However, be prepared for a fairly rigorous training life! They take controlling very seriously, so there is plenty of reading/lessons/on line training involved!. If you see a controller on as "center" or "approach," know that they deserve to be there and have really earned their title.
7 -> Completely free. You don't even have to worry about any spam newsletters! =)
8 -> If you take the crash and burn, you will probably feel extremely embarrassed, but nothing bad will happen to you. In fact, most people (unless you're in a VA) probably won't even know who you are! ATAv flew into BDL last friday as part of our flyin, and in the middle of our stream of landings a UPS plane came in on approach. He was sequenced in and everything, got down to the runway, and just nosed into it! (the gear must've collapsed). We all had a good laugh, but we have no idea who he was! Now had I crashed, I'm sure everyone would've been ribbing me for weeks 😉 . You're probably going to make some collosal mistakes your first few weeks on VATSIM, and probably once and a while after that too! Sometimes you may hear a controller give you some "strong advice," or maybe a simply rude pilot here or there, but mostly it's all in the process of learning. Have no fear, controllers are trained to handle EVERYTHING =).
9 -> FSNavigator is EXCELLENT at situational awarness on VATSIM, but FSBuild is the real winner on flight planning for it. You'll find a lot of "preferred" routes from the controllers at www.simroutes.com, and with FSBuild it's extremely easy to pop them into flight simulator GPS format, SquawkBox format, or any other addon plane! But yes, FSBuild is invaluable to me at this point. I've logged about 150-200 hours on VATSIM and they have all been thoroughly planned out/researched/loaded using FSBuild (and some other chart/preferred route sites). By the way, filling flightplans can take place about 10 seconds before you request clearance from ATC for the route, so don't be too worried about being in on time 😉.
VATSIM has been essential to my growth in Flight Simulator. Without it, and the help of the pilots/controllers/the standards they like to hold up, I certainly wouldn't be the "virtual" pilot I am today! I have officially uninstalled Ultimate Traffic (too much memory 😉 ), and now fly nearly exclusively on VATSIM, even when there is no ATC or traffic around! Even then, I would say the realism level is that much higher than the default FS ATC.
So I know you and some other people are looking at getting involved, definitly look me up. My VATSIM ID is 920222, and I fly under the callsigns UAL2203 and AMT1470. You and whoever else would like some great experience while not feeling lost in the crowd should come along on ATAv's "Cheers to Friday." We usually pick 1 airport, and fly to it from either Midway or Indy. We get full ATC staffing usually, and it's fairly easy to learn the ropes this way! We leave Fridays around 8:30-9pm EST. I'll keep you all posted.
By the way, I may have littered that last post with gramatical mistakes, but there is no way i'm proof-reading it! 😀
Oh I am in now!
I hope everyone who is on the fence about VATSIM reads your great info OG!
I really appreciate the time you have taken to explain things to me. I will be signing up tonite.