Full Circle

If you’ve followed some of my blog posts in the past 4-6 weeks, you know that I started flying on VATSIM again and also re-joined American Virtual Airlines.  AvA was founded in the summer of 2001 and was the very first VA to be affiliated with VATSIM.  While I wasn’t one of the “Founding Fathers”, I did join in August 2001 and within a few weeks had been offered the role of VP of Operations and managed several of the hubs.  AvA was my virtual employer from 2001 until 2004 timeframe. 

I started flying again with AvA just over a month ago.  I joined the DFW hub and for the month of December have accumulated over 52 hours and I still have one more day to go.  Anyway, after a few weeks I contacted the CEO of AvA and offered my assistance in whatever capacity he could use me.  Initially his response was that he would keep me in mind for future openings (as there were none at the time).  About a week later he contacted me again and told me about an open position for the AvA Training Hub.  The position would be to manage the training hub. 

So as you can tell from the subject of this blog post, I was officially offered and I accepted this position.  I officially got started in the position yesterday and am learning about the automated PIREP system and trying to figure out what pilots are active and which ones need to be showed the door.  Don’t worry…I’m not issuing any pink slips just yet.  I granted everyone a 2 week amnesty to either start flying and file their required two PIREPS per month or just simply contact me and let me know what is going on. 

Since this is my blog, I’m going to insert a little “Help Wanted” notice here.  Are you looking to join a virtual airline?  Would you like to fly for one of the oldest and best VA’s?  Want to fly for the best American Airlines group?  At American Virtual Airlines we offer a fully automated PIREP system complete with FSACARS/FSPassengers/FS Flight Keeper/XAcars integration.  We offer a low commitment of only filing two PIREPs per month to remain fully active and while all flights must be flown on the VATSIM network, this really only enhances your overall FlightSim experiences. 

I would love if you would stop by American Virtual Airlines and submit an application.  If you have less than 100 verifiable VATSIM hours you’ll be assigned to the training hub.  We offer complete training (soon to be fully automated) to help get you started flying on the VATSIM network. 

As Frank Sinatra would sing…..Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away.

Happy New Year!


Christmas Rush 2010

Yes it’s that time of the year and our virtual passengers need our help.  Like my discovery of how much I enjoyed flying the Mooney around the world, I’ve also discovered I really enjoy flying online on the VATSIM network.  My frustrations of trying to fly online from years ago seem to be resolved with my awesome flight sim PC that I built back in the September timeframe.  If you are just finding my blog, please read some of the older posts from September as I describe my new hardware and also discuss how I’m keeping it cool.

Anyway, since re-joining American Virtual Airlines (AvA), I’ve flown over 15 flights (over 30 hours) all of them on the VATSIM network.  Of these online flights I’ve covered flights out of KDFW to DEN, LAX, MEM, MIA, MSY, ORD and my most recent flight to our Nations Capital, DCA.  In thisblog post I discussed how I simulated a real world flight I made recently.  Bottom line is I’ve had a ton of fun and my online experience has been nothing but fun and also educational.

Just like the airlines we simulate, I’m enjoying making every effort to get my flight sim passengers from point A to point B as quickly and as safely as possible.  I’m trying to get in as many hours as I can over the next few days.  This weekend I managed to find time to fly from KDFW to KMIA then from KMIA up to KORD.  Today I picked up my route and headed back to KDFW from KORD.  Finally this evening I’m flying from KDFW to KDCA.  My PAX are happy today as the in flight entertainment is compliments of Fox Sports and CBS Sports.

Climbing through the clouds out of KORD

The weather across the areas I’ve been flying has been mild.  This morning I had some cloud cover as I departed ORD.  I enjoy the challenge that real world weather provides us through the various add-ons like ActiveSky and Real Environment Extreme.  As previously discussed on this blog, I do own both of those applications and find myself using the REX graphics more and more, but I still tend to run ActiveSky weather engine.  I guess it’s my way of getting my $$ worth out of both applications.

Something else I’ve really enjoyed about my new beast of a PC is how much better it functions when flying at night.  When I took my wings off five years ago, not only was it a struggle to fly online…it was also hard to fly at night.  I pretty much had to simulate all my flights during the daytime hours, but now I can handle the twilight and full night-time operations.  I love it.

My flight up to Washington DC this evening was a lot of fun.  DFW was in its usual south operations and ATC gave me 17R.  Once airborne I resumed the Triss3 departure and began my northeast flight up to KDCA.  My route was TRISS3 TXK J42 MEM J42 BKW ELDEE4.  I had ATC coverage just about the entire route with both Memphis and Indy Centers providing the coverage.  Once I departed the Indy airspace I was on my own the rest of the way.

Beautiful sunset behind the MD83

The northeast portion of the US is the most crowded airspace and it is always typically represented this way on VATSIM.  Tonight was relatively light.  I began researching weather conditions for the DC area about 300nm out.  If all holds I’ll be landing on runway 1.

Turning south over DC.

The ELDEE4 arrival takes you north passing over Dulles then turning south keeping you far away from Andrews AFB, The White House and other important locations in the area.  The above image was captured just after I turned south.  I checked weather conditions again and winds were from the north at 7 mph, yep runway 1 is still my best choice.

Final approach into KDCA runway 1

Taking the easy way into KDCA.  On final ILS runway 1.

On the ground at KDCA

At the gate and shutting down.  An end to a great weekend of flying.  I’ll try to fly another route or two this week as I will have a day off and can’t think of anything better to do but fly and help my virtual passengers get to where they need to go just in time for Christmas.

Until next time…Merry Christmas to you and your family.


What’s Next? How bout a trip to Texas

In a few days I will travel down to visit family in Texas.  In the past, and for at least the last 3-4 years, we would always drive down.  This year we have decided to fly.  We are flying American Airlines from Denver (KDEN) to Dallas/Ft. Worth (KDFW) and then on down to Killeen, Texas (KGRK). My parents live in Salado, Texas and the drive to come pick us up is only about 30 minutes versus over an hour if we were to fly into Austin (KAUS).

I’ve been flying into Killeen for several years now.  Only a few years ago the old Killeen airport (KILE) relocated to the much larger Gray Army Airfield.  Gray is located on the south end of Fort Hood and now serves both military and commercial traffic.  American Eagle which has served the Killeen/Ft. Hood area for many years had to operate the Saab 340B into KILE.  With the expansion to Gray, American is now able to fly just about anything in now and occasionally does so for military charter flights.  But the normal equipment is the Embraer ERJ-145.

Now I don’t know if you are like me, but when I fly in real life I like to simulate the flight before hand in FSX. I fly a few times a year and every other year my wife and I fly to Belgium to visit her family.  We’ll be doing this flight next summer and I’ll enjoy simulating that one in FSX as well.

For this trip to Texas, I’ll simulate flight AA1034 and AA3246.  AA1034 will take me from Denver, Colorado (KDEN) to Dallas/Ft. Worth (KDFW).  I’ll use the same equipment in FSX as American Airlines uses for this route. The equipment is the MD80.  The MD80 series is the workhorse of American Airlines and one of my favorite FSX planes.  The route I used was again the real world route which takes us south to Pueblo, Colorado on the Pikes4 departure then turning southeast across the southeast corner of Colorado and down into the panhandle of Texas to Amarillo.  From Amarillo the route follows very closely the Texas/Oklahoma border then drops down to Wichita Falls and then on into the DFW Metroplex on the Bowie One arrival.  The route is as follows: PIKES4 PUB J17 PNH UKW1  You can view the flight info from the Vataware website here.

The weather in the DFW area on this flight day was clear and DFW airport was in their normal south operations.  ATC directed me to runway 13R.  After taxing across DFW I parked at the gate and prepared for the second leg of my journey.

MD80 climbing out of the clouds over southern Colorado.

The second flight and second leg of my real world flight will be AA3246.  This is an American Eagle flight from KDFW to Killeen, Texas (KGRK).  The equipment type is the Embraer ERJ-145.  I departed runway 18L and once airborne made my turn to join the Nelyn Two departure.  This route takes you south to Waco where you turn southwest carefully missing President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas to the Tenat intersection.  At Tenat I turned to heading 125 to head across a portion of the Ft. Hood military base to land on runway 15 at KGRK.  You can view my flight info from the Vataware website here.

My real-world trip is to visit my family for the holidays.  We are sort of splitting the difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The little town where my parents live hold a Christmas festival in early December with nighttime shopping and an outdoor play.  This outdoor theater is presenting A Christmas Carol.  It will be a lot of fun.  Back in the early 90’s I played the character of Bob Cratchit in this same outdoor theater.

I have completed the return trip from KGRK to KDFW and have been running some short flights in the MD8x out of DFW.  I’ve flown down to KMSY and back and then over to KMEM and back.  Finally I took a short hop up to KOKC and back to KDFW.  The screenshot below was captured during my climb out of KOKC on Sunday evening.  The sun had just set and the evening sky still had a hint of red in it.

Climbing out from KOKC

I’m not sure when I’ll complete the return leg to KDEN to match up with my real world travel.  I’m having fun running routes out of KDFW for now.  But when I do return to KDEN I’ll probably fly from KDEN over to either KLAX or KORD and run routes for a while.  Eventually I will head back up to the Pacific North West or even Alaska for more of that GA flying I enjoyed so much on my return from my Around the World – 2010 Adventure.

Until next time,


Local FlightSim Enthusiast Meetup

Just a brief blog update.  Yesterday I attended a small meet up of like-minded individuals on the topic of….(you guessed it) flight simulation.  Except the time I met with a member or two ofAmerican Virtual Airlines back in 2002/03 timeframe, I had never met with fellow flight simmers and sat around a table and discussed the subject of our hobby.

Including myself, there were eight fellow simmers who attended the meet up.  The age range was from the early thirties up to the late sixties/early seventies.  While age in this hobby certainly makes no difference, it is always good to interact with the more mature crowd. 

The experience background ranged from real-world pilots (both active and retired) as well as a young gentleman who is a flight instructor for the University of North Dakota.  I was also pleased to find there was another gentlemen who like me has no interest in learning to fly. 

The fact I have no interest in learning to fly in the real world may strike some as odd.  However, I suppose there are those who may doubt why any real world pilot (active) would spend hours sitting behind a computer flying computer planes.  The flight sim hobby is and always will mean different things to different people.  This fact was demonstrated in the meet up. 

Just another fact from the make up of the group.  About 50% of us had experience in or actively participate in VATSIM.  Two of the younger (early thirties crowd) are actually VATSIM Supervisors.  We hope to make our Spring meet up topic (scheduled for first part of March 2011) be all about the world of VATSIM.  I certainly look forward to sharing the knowledge I have with others and while doing so, pickup up a few new tid bits of knowledge along the way.

If you are located in the metro areas of Denver or Colorado Springs and interested in attending our Spring 2011 meet up, please contact me.  This group meets in Castle Rock at the public library.  If you are not in this area, please consider looking up others who share in the interest of flight simulation and start a group meet up. 

I’m working on my next blog entry which will feature a flight I made on VATSIM and will also make in the real world when I travel down to Texas in a few days.  Also, I added a new poll question asking the question, “Do you fly online”  You’ll find the poll question in the right hand column. 

Until next time,


Flight Simulator meets Second Life – A Review of Andras Field by Aerosoft

The virtual world aspect is nothing new to us sim pilots.  We nailed the virtual concept down many years ago and each year we’ve worked hard to make it better.  While the early days were limited to a single player game, over time this has blossomed into what we enjoy today with multi-player groups like FlightSim Nation, Flight Simulator Network and even larger true-to-life experiences with VATSIM and IVAO.  With Microsoft Flight Simulator X and add-on scenery such as Orbx Pacific Northwest and Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark, one can be fully immersed in what Microsoft has been calling “As Real As It Gets” for many years.  It’s hard to imagine it getting any better than this.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the online virtual community called Second Life.  Second Life has been around since 2003 and as of 2010 has an estimated 18 million registered accounts.  Yours truly has one of those 18 million accounts, but I’ve not visited the community in over 2 years.  At a very high level glance, you register for a Second Life account and install their free client software.  Second Life is absolutely free to join and use, but free accounts have many limitations.  When you join you create an avatar and move around within the Second Life virtual world.  Second Life has become popular in the corporate world as well as the arts, science and religious spaces as well.   One can even buy property in Second Life.

I would estimate my account dates back to around 2006 or so, so I by no means can be considered as an early adopter of Second Life.  I played around with it on a free account and then upgraded to a paid account and then completely lost interest even before my one-year subscription expired.  While it was cool moving around the different virtual areas and meeting people, (I even explored the Titanic) I felt it was missing something to keep me fully engaged.  Plus I got the impression I was mainly interacting with kids and very young adults.  It got old really fast.

The one element to Second Life that I always thought about was how it might be neat to be able to combine some aspects of Second Life into the Flight Simulator hobby or vice versa.  For example, as I stated earlier in Second Life one can buy land.  The land purchase can be either already developed or can be undeveloped space.  While I never purchased land in Second Life, the idea of being able to do something like this in relation to the Flight Simulator hobby interested me.  Of course, I’m not a software designer and never really took the idea outside of my head and shared it with others.  Thankfully someone else had the same idea and did act on it.

I recently learned of a project called Andras Field which has been in development for several months and available for download/purchase since 30 June 2010.  Andras Field is a fictive airport located in Southern Bavaria, close to the Swiss and Austrian border.  The add-on software is available through Aerosoft and as of this blog posting, the current version is 1.10 (full build) with update 1.12 applied on top.  Updates are made available as property is sold.  More about this later.

Again, as of this blog posting Andras Field is sold through Aerosoft for $27.36 USD.  This price is very competitive for all that you get with this add-on product.  Andras Field is more than just an airport, it is an entire airpark including a 7,006 foot asphalt runway, 2,000 foot grass glider base and a 6,000 foot water runway.  Need space to land your favorite heli?  No worries…you’ll find plenty of space at Andras Field to do just that.  Still want more?

Andras Field includes all the amenities one would expect in a self-contained airport city.  You’ll find servicing facilities, restaurants, hotels and residential properties designed by pilots for pilots.  When ready to fly, your airplane can be rolled out of your private attached garage and in minutes you’ll be on the active runway.

But how does all this tie in with Second Life?  Well…like Second Life, you can buy commercial or residential property for real money at Andras Park.  You can have the developers place a standard house/hangar or you can model your own to have placed on your plot for all to see including your name on the street sign.  Updates are made available every ten days or so.

I haven’t decided if I’ll buy some virtual property.  But I have had fun with this software add-on. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!



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