Washington State – I’m Excited

While I can remember the excitement I felt when the US State of Arizona was released (remember it was delayed on initial release of ATS) and I was also excited about New Mexico.  After all, the state of New Mexico is somewhat of a bridge state to both Colorado (where I currently live) and Texas (my birth state).  I knew New Mexico had to come before any chance of getting Colorado or Texas. 

With Oregon, my feelings were somewhat neutral.  After all, I had gambled on and lost which US state would appear after New Mexico.  My opinion (at the time) was SCS would perhaps drop Utah in or (and this was a long shot) Texas.  But I was wrong and SCS decided to continue north with Oregon.  And of course now we know the next state DLC to be released will be that of Washington State. 

I have a little history with Washington State.  I’ve been there several times and I’ve also spent some time hiking in the area as well.  So while I realize this move north will further delay getting Colorado and Texas released, I think it’s going to be a cool state to drive some trucks in.  Actually, to make another comparison to another simulation game I truly enjoy playing (that being Farming Simulator), some of the screenshots I’ve seen from the Washington DLC really reminds me of FS17’s default map, Goldcrest Valley and of course the awesome version Stevie created Pine Cove Farm. 

Future Maps

Which direction will SCS go next?  I think it’s pretty safe to say it won’t be north.  After all, this is American Truck Simulator and not North American Truck Simulator.  So SCS will turn and go one of two directions.  Either they’ll proceed directly east and drop Idaho in which could pave the way for Utah to come next.  Or we could see them skipping Idaho (for now) and going with Utah or Texas. 

From my limited knowledge of the type of trucking that goes on in the state of Idaho, I feel Idaho will be very similar to what we already have represented in Oregon and Washington.  While Texas will obviously be a big project, once Texas is added it will give us miles and miles of trucking opportunities with I-40 and I-10 stretching all the way from California through Arizona, New Mexico and all the way to the eastern Texas border. 

But alternatively, SCS should give serious consideration to bring Utah and Colorado into play as soon as possible.  Especially if they truly work hard and make I-70 as challenging as it can be in real life as it winds and climbs its way through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. 

But of course we’ll just have to wait and see….

Until next time…

Happy Trucking!!!

Jerry

VATSIM Changes

Somewhat off the heels of my recent The Basics of VATSIM tutorial, an updated tutorial on updating Prepar3D to version 4.5 and another little ditty on To Update or Not to Update Prepar3D,  I’m going to discuss a few things related to VATSIM that has me slightly concerned.  Most likely this will end up being more or less an opinion piece.  Just remember, we’re all entitled to our own opinions.  Your opinion may differ from mine and while I welcome you to comment…just keep your response civil.  Thank you!

FCOM

I was perusing the FSElite site earlier this morning and found an article dated 11 April of this year regarding a new FCOM VATSIM/IVAO Message Forwarding System which has been in testing and is now generally available. 

In a nutshell, FCOM is designed to forward messages received through either the VATSIM or IVAO clients to a users Discord via private message.  In the FSElite article on the subject of FCOM there is a short demo video which demonstrates the system working. 

Anyone reading this posting or even the original at FSElite might be asking themselves, “What’s the Big Deal?”  “This is pretty cool” and “this is just what I’ve been needing”.  Sigh…

The VATSIM Code of Conduct clearly states, (Section A. 9) “When logging on to the VATSIM.net network, a member is not permitted to leave his or her connection unattended for a period in excess of thirty (30) minutes. If a member is unable to comply with this requirement, then he or she must log off of the VATSIM.net network. A member who is found to be unresponsive for more than thirty (30) minutes is subject to immediate removal from the network. Members who are found to repeatedly leave their connections unattended are subject to the terms of  Article VI. of the VATSIM.net Code of Regulations.”

In my 18 years of being a member of VATSIM, belonging to and holding various staff positions in many virtual airlines and also running my very own for a few years, I’ve witnessed first hand and heard many accounts of this rule being broken.  I’ve even witnessed this rule blatantly being abused by some prominent YouTube/Twitch Flight Simmers. 

Of course, the punishment can be costly for those who repeatedly abuse this policy as mentioned above and documented in the VATSIM Code of Regulations.  Specifically Article VI which discusses suspension and expulsion from the network.  As I mentioned in the recent “The Basics of VATSIM tutorial”, VATSIM is serious about ensuring their network doesn’t turn into a wasteland of abusers like other multiplayer networks we may know about.  Again, I’m looking at TruckersMP. 

Here’s my concern with this.  First, this is an already existing problem on the network.  Many users will fire up a “Cross the Pond”flight just before going to bed and gamble that ATC won’t contact them or that they’ll hear the “ping” when they are sleeping just to get some hours in the system.  You can read the sob stories of these same pilots on the VATSIM forums, Facebook groups etc. where they didn’t hear the ping and they promise never to do it again.  So now a third party FCOM solution is introduced which will direct any messages a pilot might receive to their Discord via a private message.  I can hear/see the sob stories of “I didn’t get a message”…please unsuspend me. 

Look, I’m a busy guy.  While I’ve been a VATSIM member from the beginning (18 years ago), I’ve racked up a total of 1,950 hours.  While I realize this number only averages out to just over 100 hours per year…the vast majority of these hours are what I call “Butt in Seat” hours.  Meaning, my rear end was in my chair with my headset on my head and me at the controls of my aircraft.  Plus….and this is what I’m most proud of…in 18 years being a VATSIM member and accumulating almost 2000 flight hours on the network…I’ve never been suspended and I’ve never received a warning from a supervisor. 

Yes, I do other things when I’m flying long flights.  I get up to stretch my legs, I get up to go to the bathroom, I get up to go upstairs to get food or drink (as my wife refuses to be my trolley dolly) and yes I even occasionally will do tasks such as clean my office and even do laundry.  What?  You mean your Boeing 747 doesn’t have a washer and dryer in the back?  But the time away from the virtual flight deck is generally no more than 10-15 minutes at a time. 

Bottom line…if you’re going to enjoy the hobby of flight simulation, then be there for all the fun and adventure.  Not somewhere else with your eyes/ears glued to your smartphone and Discord.

Voice Unicom

My God I can ‘bang on’ about stuff can’t I?  OK…so for those who may not know, VATSIM will soon enable voice Unicom.  For those who may not be fully aware of how Unicom works, I’ll tell you.  When you are logged onto the VATSIM network and you are flying in uncontrolled airspace, we dial up the Unicom VHF frequency of 122.80.  This allows the virtual pilot to type text messages which other pilots will see (within a short range of each other) so we can announce our intentions.  This is specifically useful when you are either going to depart or land at an uncontrolled airport.  Typically the type of messages I’ll send are as follows:

Departure

“KDFW Traffic, American 1066 push/start from gate C17, taxi to rwy 17R”.   Then once I reach the runway, I’ll text “KDFW Traffic, American 1066 departing 17R via the MRSSH2 Departure to the SE”.  Finally, “American 1066 clear rwy 17R”

Arrival

“KDEN Traffic, American 1066 is inbound on the HUDAD2 Arrival, Crossing XXX and leaving FL380, expecting rwy 35L”  Once I’m closer to the field I’ll message saying “KDEN Traffic, American 1066 is on 11nm final for rwy 35L” Finally, “KDEN Traffic, American 1066 clr 35L, taxi to A50”

While I will agree that texting on Unicom breaks the immersion, so does departing or landing at either DFW or DEN with no ATC. 

For the past 18 years, the Unicom frequency of 122.80 has been text only.  Even with this frequency being “text only” it does get abused from time to time.  The purpose of Unicom (as I described above) is merely to announce your intensions so other pilots are aware and to avoid (if possible) any issues.  This often is abused with pilots using Unicom as an instant message/chat platform.  However, even when it’s being abused…it’s not as annoying as I can imagine it will be on voice.

From what I understand, once implemented…the voice Unicom frequency will behave very similar to how it does today with text.  The range will be slightly higher when in the air and much less when on the ground.  But my main concern is when voice Unicom is abused (and it will be) it’s going to be a royal pain in the backside. 

While I do enjoy having gate to gate ATC, generally when I’m flying on VATSIM it’s either early in the morning or late at night and I can’t always be guaranteed ATC coverage.  I’m a bit strange when it comes to picking my flights as I rarely hop around.  I typically resume my flight from the airport I last landed.  After all, in the real world our teleport capabilities just aren’t ready for prime time.  So having said that, I tend to fly A LOT in uncontrolled airspace.  When I’m sitting at the flight deck I might be reading, watching TV or even typing a blog article as I happen to be doing now high above the Gulf of Mexico as I fly my American Airlines PMDG Boeing 737-800 from the Big Easy (KMSY) down to Miami (KMIA) to setup for a trip later down to Princes Juliana International Airport (TNCM) on the beautiful island of St. Maarten.  The last thing I want to experience is someone else abusing the frequency with discussions about what they are eating for dinner.  If I wanted to hear that, I would fire up my ham radios (which by the way, I do often have them on and listening to a traffic net).  Anyway….

My wife tells me I’m turning into a grumpy old man.  Well I’ve earned it!  LOL  Of course, VATSIM has stated that they’ll monitor Unicom and handle any abuse of the frequency with swift action.  If it becomes a wasteland of abuse, VATSIM has stated they will switch it off.  We’ll see and I’m hopefully optimistic all will function as they hope.  After all, yes….I will agree that announcing your intentions or hearing from other pilots is much, much easier than typing.  Just don’t wreck my tranquil environment. 

OK…I’ve gotta go now.  I’m less than 50nm from Miami and I need to pay attention to what I’m doing here.  Plus I need to announce my intentions on Unicom since there’s no ATC and many other aircraft in the vicinity. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Farming Simulator 19 – Are We There Yet?

I recently read a few comments on an FS19 Facebook Group.  The comments were comparing FS19 with FS17 and basically the original commenter summed up FS19 as “finally being on par with FS17”.  Of course, this individual was referring to the fact that in the last several weeks we’ve seen some truly awesome mods get released which have helped to narrow the gap between where we left off with Farming Simulator 17, to what we have now with FS19 and also the long awaited 1.3 patch.  But I beg to differ with his opinion…as the delta between FS19 and FS17 is still fairly wide.  Wide enough Evil Knievel might think twice before attempting a death defying jump on his trusty John Deere tractor.

Now before I wade off too deeply into this blog posting.  Just allow me to state for the record that this is an opinion piece and most importantly, it’s MY opinion.  As my blog postings do often appear on a few different forums…the opinions expressed here are my very own.  With that out of the way, let’s lace up the boots and go wading into these weeds.

Vanilla Comparisons

I believe if you strip away all the mods from Farming Simulator 17 and also do the same with FS19, and conduct side-by-side comparisons in their vanilla or default states, Farming Simulator 17 would out shine Farming Simulator 19.  While FS19 touted many enhanced features including horses, a dog and John Deere…to quote Shania Twain…”That Don’t Impress Me Much”.  The horses are meh, the dog doesn’t really do anything (why can’t he ride in the back of my truck?) and I’ve had as much John Deere equipment I’ve ever could have wanted since my first intro to Farming Simulator with 15.  Of course, I know those who play on consoles haven’t had that.

The one thing which (again…my opinion) narrows the divide between vanilla FS17 and FS19 is Cotton.  While we’ve had modded cotton before, GIANTS have done it right (for the most part) and given us cotton and some equipment to work with it.  Hopefully they will continue and give us even more.

The Patch

Many (even including myself) had hopes the 1.3 patch for FS19 was going to solve all the problems with the game and half of the problems in the world.  While “the patch” did resolve an issue I had been having with my Logitech G27 controller and I suppose a few other issues, I still believe a vanilla FS19 is still lagging behind that of its predecessor.  One of the many factors that drive this position is what my ears tell me.  The sounds in FS19 just don’t seem to be on par with that of FS17.  I’ve heard the reasons for this are due to a change up with the individuals who were part of GIANTS with FS17 were no longer there when FS19 was being developed.  As I don’t have time right now to do a side-by-side comparison, I did find another YouTube whose ears are telling him the same thing mine are and here’s a video he made.

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Farming Simulator 19 was an absolute lemon for me for the first few months after release.  As more mods were released including quality maps, Courseplay, Guidance Steering (GPS) and just a few weeks ago FollowMe showed up…it’s becoming once again apparent that it’s our wonderful modding community that will end up saving the day.  I suspect by mid-summer (hopefully not any later) we’ll see the Seasons Mod show up which is expected to bring even more goodness to Farming Simulator than we had in FS17.

I’m really not sure why GIANTS (and they are not the only one) relies on the modding community to keep their franchise games propped up.  As I’ve said before, if it wasn’t for the modding community…Farming Simulator would have already been uninstalled from my PC.  While I’m not optimistic GIANTS will do anything about the sound issues I pointed out earlier, I can (and will) look past that once Seasons comes out.

The Microsoft Phenomenon

Perhaps all this can be likened to what I’m going to call the Microsoft Phenomenon.   If we look back a decade or two, the various Operating Systems Microsoft have developed could resemble a rollercoaster with highs and lows along the route.  Windows XP once service pack 3 dropped was a fairly rock solid OS, then along came Vista.  As we made the turn and proceeded up the next hill along came Windows 7, but then we took another drop and fell with Windows 8.  While Windows 10 is causing a few gray hairs in my professional life…we seem to be on the uphill once again.

So perhaps this is happening with GIANTS.  Who knows…and I could go on and on and on…but GIANTS really needs to hit it out of the park with Farming Simulator 21 (if there will be such a thing).  Farming Simulator is such a fantastic simulation game and truly has so much potential and I believe there’s no one better to drive this franchise forward than GIANTS.  So….just do it already!

Until next time…

Happy Farming!

Jerry

Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update

As the title line reads, Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update….Yes, Ladies, Gentlemen and Children of all ages…That is the question and the subject of this blog posting.  For the record, I recently updated to the latest and greatest version of Prepar3d version 4.5.  I’ve also taken the time to prepare an updated “How to update Prepar3D” tutorial document.  While there really was nothing wrong with the older document which I published in June 2018 (discussing updating from v4.2 to v4.3), I figured…Oh why not!  Anyway…

Not all Games are created equal

Generally speaking, with many of the other simulation based titles I enjoy playing…there’s usually never hesitation to apply a patch or game update.  For the record, and most of my regular readers will know that my gaming collection only consists of a few titles including Farming Simulator 19, American Truck Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator 2 and a few others.  My main gaming interest is in simulation based games.  All the titles I’ve just mentioned (and everything else for that matter) with exception to Prepar3d are Steam based games.  So the update process is automagical.  Being an IT Professional, I’m fairly diligent in keeping backups of the various “game specific” folders where things such as mods and profile game saves are stored.  While I do hear reports of some folks experiencing a game save malfunction during a patch update, I’ve never personally experienced it.  I’ve also successfully moved my original game saves from one machine to another as I did last summer when I built the GBS Beast Mark V.  Which by the way is still purring along just fine.  (knock on wood)

Back on Subject

I’ll be honest, while the Prepar3d (P3D) update process isn’t rocket science…I won’t lie to you and say that it doesn’t make me nervous.

In and of itself, the process to update P3D from version 4.4 to 4.5 is easy.  Actually it’s very easy as I’ve documented.  Follow these steps and the process is quick and easy.  However, transporting dynamite is also a straightforward process as well.  After all, just load it in a truck and drive down the highway.  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly!!!!

So Many Moving Parts

Unlike all the other simulation games I mentioned before, 3rd party add-ons or mods for Prepar3d are as cantankerous as that load of dynamite.  Bad things…really, really bad things can go wrong anytime you start messing about with the foundation of the sim.  Especially when you are like me and have over 175 different add-ons which are installed to make my P3D experience “As Real As It Gets”.  If something goes horribly wrong with the update process, the side effects can mean I’m spending the next many, many, many hours rebuilding my PC and my Sim from scratch.  This fact would almost make any sane person steer so far clear of an update or change.  But who said we’re sane???

Of course, all these bad things can also occur each time we’re alerted to an upcoming Windows 10 update.  As President Ronald Reagan once said, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.  Well…not sure how that stacks up against that dreaded message that states “Windows 10 has downloaded updates”.  These are the things nightmares are made of.  But here I go again….digressing.

It’s All Part of the Experience

For me, and since I do enjoy helping others…staying on the cutting (and sometimes bleeding) edge is all what it’s about.  Prepar3D version 4.5 was released on 9 April 2019, between work, the sudden death of my mom and many other factors…I opted to delay the process by about two weeks.  This delay did work to my advantage as it allowed me to spend some time updating many of the add-ons which required updates to even work with 4.5.  With all that done, I set aside some time to perform the update just as I described in the updated tutorial and I was back flying in no time.

Final Thoughts

I’ll begin my final thoughts with a question which perhaps you’ve been pondering.  Why do some people have so many terrible things go wrong when they update P3D?  If you drop into some of the Flight Sim Facebook groups or forums, you can spend the next (how ever many hours you want) reading sob story after sob story about how everything went sideways with the update and now they are left to having to do a full install again.  Why is this?

Again, being an IT Guy I have a just a little bit of experience with this question and unfortunately there’s not just one single answer.  The answer…most likely could be any number of reasons.  But let me further bang on and I’ll let you get back to your day.

If even before you make the decision to update P3D and you’re encountering the occasional crash to desktop (CTD), experiencing errors or have a really difficult time with overall performance…then these factors will play a really BIG role in whether or not your upgrade experience will be a positive one.

Just as important to the overall health of your current installation of Prepar3D, how’s Windows running?  Are you experiencing the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) events?  Do you experience issues running other Windows based applications?  When is the last time you physically cleaned out your PC?  See where I’m going with this?  If you’re having issues today, these issues should really be addressed before you pile on even more variables that can further cause problems.

My gaming machine is used for one purpose and one purpose only…to play games.  I don’t use it for anything else and while I built it just last summer, I’m fully aware that most likely sometime later this year or sometime in early 2020…I’ll need to do a complete rebuild of Windows and everything else just to keep it performing at 100%.  This process will have me out of commission for at a minimum of several days and most likely a full week.  But it’s a necessary process to having a stable gaming machine.

Well…that’s all I really wanted to say at this time.  Bottom line, I think the benefits of Prepar3d version 4.5 make it worth the effort and outweigh the risks.

Until next time…

Good luck with the update.

Jerry

How to update Prepar3D–v4.5

Just less than a year ago, I wrote a similar tutorial when version 4.3 was released.  I began that article with the words “There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding how to update Prepar3D”.  While ten months may have passed, the confusion hasn’t.  So as I stated before, I’m going to do my best to provide you a step-by-step guide for how to update Prepar3D.  Or at the very least, how I update my own instance of Prepar3D.

About This Guide

This step-by-step guide was written specifically for the Prepar3D version 4.4 to 4.5 update and written/published in mid April of 2019.  Lockheed Martin released P3D v4.5 on 9 April 2019.  If you are referring to this guide anytime after version 4.5 (v4.6, v4.7 etc.) then this method should also work as well.  Unfortunately my crystal ball isn’t working for peering into the future, so who knows how the update process will work for P3D v5 (if there is such a thing).  What I’m trying to say here, is content on the Internet tends to live forever and you might be stumbling on this writing a year, two or more from the time I wrote it.  Just keep that in mind.

The Update Process

Just a little background for those that may not be aware.  I believe, starting with P3D v3.x, Lockheed Martin developed P3D to be somewhat modular in the way one can update and maintain the simulator.  This modular setup consists of three main files with the first being the Client, the second being the Content and the third being the Scenery.  When Lockheed Martin develops, tests and deploys an updated version to us, we no longer need to completely uninstall the entire P3D application just to take advantages of the updates.  In many cases, only the “Client” portion of the update needs to be applied.  But you should do your homework to best determine exactly what you need to update to take advantage of all the new bells and whistles available.

Prepar3D version 4.5 Change Log

To aid you in understanding all the changes included in the P3D v4.5 update, please follow this link.  Use this information to determine what you want to update.

My Update Process

As I do each and every time a new P3D update is released by Lockheed Martin, I study the change log to determine my action plan.  As was the case with the version 4.4 update, I personally am not interested in the updates which have been made to the Content and the Scenery.  So this update will be super simple for me, as I’ll only be updating the Client portion.  If you desire to update either the Content and/or the Scenery…then go ahead and do so.

Step One

Make note of P3D Settings.  Before I perform an update, I typically will start up P3D and take screen captures of all the settings screens.  This way, if anything gets changed during the update process…I’ll be able to quickly reset everything back to the way it was before.  I like to run P3D with the updated version with the same settings I ran on the previous version first, before tweaking anything.  This way I have a better determination on just what improvements were made and how these improvements impact my setup.

Step Two

Download the update files required.  As I previously mentioned, I’m only planning to update the Client for v4.5.  You’ll need to login to the downloads section of the Prepar3D website with your license or account credentials.  Once there, click to expand the individual component downloads section and download the following file:  Install_Client.msi.   Once downloaded, I typically place all the files into a new folder I create on the Windows desktop for ease of access.

image

As a side note, if you were interested in updating the Content, you would also need to download the Install_Content.msi along with BOTH the cont1.cab and cont2.cab files. Same would apply for Scenery.  You would need to download the Install_Scenery.msi along with all seven of the sceneX.cab files.

If you are planning to update Content and/or Scenery, then just place the .cab files in the same location as you’ve downloaded the Install_Content.msi and/or Install_Scenery.msi files.  When you go to run the install on the content/scenery the .msi files will automatically access the .cab files during the process.

Step Three

This is a really important step to focus on.  Regardless of your overall plan, you want to uninstall one component at a time.  I’ve found this to be the least error prone way of performing an update.  On your Windows gaming PC, go to Control Panel > Programs and Features.   From here we’re going to uninstall the P3D CLIENT ONLY.

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When prompted “Would you like to deactivate your P3D installation?”, Click NO!

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Step Four

Next, we’re going to install the updated P3D Client which we downloaded in step two.  As previously mentioned, after I download all the appropriate files, I create a folder on my Windows desktop and place all the downloaded files in that folder.  Right-click on the Install_Client file and select Install.

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Pay very special attention during the install to make sure the updated client is being installed in your specified P3D install directory.  In my example, everything defaulted in just as it should have.

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If you are planning to update the Content and/or the Scenery parts of Prepar3d, then return to step three and repeat the process but this time uninstall Content, then install Content and finally uninstall Scenery and then install Scenery.

Step Five

Pending everything installed successfully, reboot your PC.  While the P3D update/install files will not prompt you or even require you to reboot, it is ALWAYS in your best interest to reboot after installing software and we’re wanting a trouble-free upgrade…so just reboot!  Trust me, I’m an IT Guy!

Step Six

Once your Windows gaming PC has successfully restarted, launch P3D.  Don’t be alarmed if P3D takes a little longer than normal to launch the first time.  P3D is doing a lot of work behind the scenes and in my experience it took perhaps an additional 1-2 minutes than normal.

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Step Seven

Hopefully your update was successful.  Congratulations!  Pat yourself on the back as you’ve just successfully updated P3D.  At this point, I close out of P3D as I still needed to perform a few other updates to software accessories such as ActiveSky, Envtex, FSLabs Airbus etc.

Note:  If you use Orbx Global Textures, you most likely will need to perform a Force Migration after performing an update.   This is a very simple and quick process to complete.  Just launch the FTX Central application.  Go to Settings then look for Force Migration.

The End Result

Upon completing the client update for P3D version 4.5, I’m experiencing absolutely nothing but positive results.  The P3D load time has slightly improved and I’m not seeing any noticeable performance degradation.   From everything that I’ve seen, P3D v4.5 is absolutely fantastic and the enhanced night lighting actually has me wanting to fly more at night which I rarely would do in the past.

Benefits to Updating?

I’ve recently written and published an article I’ve titled “Prepar3D – To Update or Not To Update” which I discuss the benefits and also some of the concerns to updating P3D.   Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.  Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with waiting a few weeks until more of the add-ons have been updated for the newest version.  What ever direction you decide to go, best of luck to you.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

The Basics of VATSIM

I would like to dedicate this blog post to the memory of my dear mother who passed away suddenly a few weeks ago.  As a young person, she always encouraged me to write and while she really had no clue what I blogged about here (most of the time), she still read my work.  I began this article back in March and after returning back from Texas have been somewhat motivated to get it finished.  Here you go Mom…this one is for you. 

The subject of this tutorial has been on my to-do list for many years.  I began blogging about the hobby of flight simulation in September 2010 and at that time I created an Excel spreadsheet and noted a few topics I wanted to cover in tutorial style.  The Basics of VATSIM was added to the growing list but unfortunately just kept getting bumped down the list.  Or I would start the article only to delete it later because I just simply couldn’t convey my thoughts on the subject in a way that met my approval.  I’m just funny like this…I guess I could say I’m a perfectionist and everything I’ve ever featured on my blog site has been as accurate and as detailed as I could make it given my experience and knowledge on what ever subject I’m writing about. 

I was first introduced to the online world of virtual air traffic simulation even before VATSIM was born.  Sometime in either 1999 or very early 2000, I signed up for and became a member of SATCO (Simulated Air Traffic Controllers Organization).  However, I really didn’t do much online flying.  At this particular time in my life I was busy traveling and also I must admit that I was absolutely terrified of the thought of flying online.  SATCO eventually collapsed and was succeeded by VATSIM which I signed up for almost immediately.  Things were beginning to slow down on the real world travel schedule and I met a few new online friends who helped me get over my fears (mainly mic fright) and BOOM…I was hooked. 

The Basics of this Tutorial

As with most of my tutorial style writings, this is not meant to be the “Be All, End All” or even a absolute complete guide to the subject of VATSIM.  I’m going to first encourage you to do some of your own research and reading which I’ll point out in the very next paragraph.  Then I’ll share some of my own tips, tricks and perhaps some of my very own experiences.  But you really need to read a few things on your own before you decide to login to the VATSIM network for the very first time.  Unfortunately, unless you are a real world pilot, VATSIM is not the place to fake your way through.  While VATSIM can be a very friendly and helpful environment, it’s also an extremely serious online community.  More about this later.

Rules of Life

There are many rules I follow in life and the one that has worked for me, has helped me become successful in many different ways is as follows:  “What you put into life is what you get out of it”.  Of course, I’ll also admit (and my wife will vouch for me), I’m stubborn.  Yes, a square peg will go into a round hole if you have a big enough hammer and I almost never stop to ask for directions.  But I digress…

If you are a flight sim enthusiast and you are absolutely new to VATSIM, I would first recommend (almost insist) that you first do a bit of reading before you key up the mic and ask for ATC clearance at your favorite airport.  As previously mentioned, VATSIM (for the most part) is an extremely friendly and helpful environment.  However, it’s not the place for “on the job training”.  Meaning, you should spend some time bringing yourself up to speed on the ways of VATSIM and I’m going to help you do just that. 

Flight Simulation Experience

When I began the outline of this tutorial, I must admit I began writing it with the more experienced flight simulation aviator in mind.  Perhaps someone similar to myself who has been flying computer based sims for many years and who truly is capable of controlling his/her aircraft both while on the ground and in the air.  It’s difficult for me to explain to you just exactly how much experience you need…but will just say that if you’re not capable of operating your aircraft, familiar with basic flight navigation, don’t understand how to read SIDS/STARS charts, refuse to follow instructions/directions….then YOU are not ready for VATSIM.  In other words, if you are absolutely brand new to the hobby of flight simulation and don’t recognize that a computer based flight simulation program such as FSX, Prepar3D and XPlane is MORE than a video game…then YOU are not ready for VATSIM. 

However, if you have spent a few hundred hours enjoying your favorite flight simulation program, have a good understanding of flight navigation, understand how to operate your favorite aircraft, can listen and follow instruction and want to take your flight simulation hobby to the next level, then please continue reading. 

Getting Started with VATSIM

Your first step should be to visit the “Getting Started” section on the VATSIM website.  You’ll find a step-by-step outline for getting started with VATSIM.  This one page will point you in the right direction for all things VATSIM including directing you to the Pilot Resource Center and a “must read” on Expectations and Requirements for Pilots.  Again, I really can’t stress enough that the very first experience on VATSIM will be equal to exactly what you put into it in the form of self-study/research/preparation. 

One of the reasons I’m encouraging you to really prepare yourself for the wonderful fun that awaits you on VATSIM, is simply…VATSIM is a really serious place.  Unlike other online multiplayer communities where users seem to disobey the rules (I’m looking at you TruckersMP), the world of VATSIM is really for serious individuals who truly want to simulate the world of aviation.  While I won’t lie to you and tell you that you’ll never encounter fools doing some really crazy stuff on VATSIM, they will be dealt with quickly and sharply.  In my almost 20 years of enjoying VATSIM and accumulating almost 2000 hours on the network, I’ve only encountered a small handful of idiots and as I stated before, they were dealt with quickly.

Additional Tips, Tricks and Advice

Please don’t let some of what I said discourage you from giving VATSIM a try.  It really is an “As Real As It Gets” experience.  As you gain in experience, some of the large events which VATSIM hosts on the network will have you seeing and experiencing the crowded airspace and airports all over the world.  I’m going to wrap things up here in just a few minutes, but before I do…allow me to share some additional information which might come in handy.

YouTube

Yea…if you need to know how to do something, and you can’t find it on YouTube…then you know you shouldn’t be doing it.  But on YouTube you’ll find all sorts of flight simulation help (including VATSIM information). 

Facebook

Yes, Facebook is more than just sharing pictures of cats.  There’s actually a very active Flight Sim following across Facebook with various groups setup to help on all aspects of the hobby.  There is a VATSIM For Beginners Facebook Group which is also a very good resource.  But once again, I encourage you to educate yourself by reading as much as you can from the VATSIM links I provided above. 

Login, Listen and Observe

One of the things I did when I first started out was to park my aircraft at a gate (never spawn directly onto a runway or taxiway) and then connect to the VATSIM network.   I would locate an airport which had at least one controller and a few active aircraft and listen.  This allowed me to listen to how other pilots requested clearance.  There are several online resources which allow you to visually see what airports are staffed with ATC and which have active aircraft.  But generally most of the larger airports will have activity throughout the day.  One such site which I sometimes use is called VATTASTIC.  Although my favorite is an application called VAT-Spy.  It’s an application I have installed on one of my gaming machines so I can keep an eye on where ATC is staffed.  Check it out! 

VATSIM CRAFT Procedure

Don’t you just love acronyms?  Especially when they can really help you.  When requesting your departure clearance, keep the word CRAFT in your mind.  Or better yet, write it down on a piece of paper. By the way…always keep a notepad and pen/pencil handy when flying online.  You’ll thank me later!.  The acronym CRAFT will help you in writing down all the jibberish the controller is going to tell you (which by the way you’ll need to read back).  CRAFT stands for Clearance, Route, Altitude, Frequency and Transponder. 

Typically when I am flying IFR (jetliner type aircraft), I’ll call up and request clearance like this.  “Denver Clearance Delivery, this is American 1066 requesting IFR clearance to Dallas/Ft. Worth as filed.  I have information Bravo”. 

The readback I receive from ATC will fall into the CRAFT format and may sound something like this:

American 1066, you are cleared to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport (Clearance) via the STAKR4 Departure PYPER Transition (Route), Climb and Maintain 10 Thousand…expect Flight Level 350 10 minutes after departure (Altitude).  Departure Frequency 128.45 (Frequency) , Squawk 2145 (Transponder). 

Aviate, Navigate and Communicate

Things can get pretty hectic when flying online.  Remember, in the real world…airliners are flown by TWO pilots who share the work load.  On VATSIM, all the same amount of work is handled by just ONE pilot, YOU!  Regardless of how busy and hectic things become (and it does get easier with practice) always remember this tip.  Aviate, Navigate and finally Communicate. 

Aviate – Always maintain control of your aircraft.  This is first and foremost.

Navigate – Know where you are, understand the terrain and obstacles around and below you. 

Communicate – Finally…communicate.  As you gain more and more experience, you’ll be able to multitask like a pro.  But until that time comes, always make sure you begin executing all ATC instructions before you communicate with ATC.

Help is Here VATSIM First Wings Event

I realize a few paragraphs ago I said VATSIM isn’t the place for “on the job” training and I encouraged you to read all you can and familiarize yourself as best you can before you show up and try to muddle your way through the procedures.  While I absolutely encourage you to follow this sound advice, VATSIM does conduct various events around the world to help brand new virtual pilots.  These events are called “VATSIM First Wings” and they are absolutely geared to help the beginner online pilot.  While I would still encourage you to read everything you can and also be fully capable of flying your aircraft (this event isn’t geared to teach you how to fly).  Then show up at the appropriate time, location and be ready to learn.  

The next VATSIM First Wings Event is quickly approaching and will take place on 27 April 2300 – 0200z at these featured airports KRST (Rochester), KRFD (Rockford), KCID (Eastern Iowa) and KDLH (Duluth Intl).  You can learn more about this upcoming VATSIM First Wings event here

Other Online Options

Yes, there are other online multiplayer options available.  I chose to write about VATSIM as that is my preference and the one I have the most experience and longest history with.  Just last year I wrote about all the various online multiplayer options available for flight simulation.  The information in this article is still current today. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve reached this point and you’re thinking to yourself, “VATSIM sounds like the last place I want to be” that was not the intention.  However, I can’t stress enough that VATSIM is a serious online community of likeminded individuals who all share a passion for aviation and we’re all after one thing….”An As Real As It Gets” Experience of interacting with Air Traffic Control and other Aviators.  It’s really that simple. 

There’s a WHOLE lot more information that I would love to share and will do so in the future.  Flying on VATSIM is not something I do each and every time I fly.  However, I do very much enjoy the enhanced immersion it provides.  For me, I’m really not interested in the HUGE events such as Cross the Pond.  I tend to favor smaller events where the balance between ATC and pilots better mirror real world operations.  Regardless whether you enjoy flying small GA aircraft, small to medium sized tubeliners or the giants of the sky hauling passengers or freight from one side of the world to the other, VATSIM really does something for everyone.  I hope you’ll check it out and I hope this tutorial has helped motivate you to do so.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

Taking a YouTube Break

Some of you are aware that two weeks ago my Mother passed away.  She was 72 years old and died suddenly of a massive heart attack.  I got the call from my Dad letting me know she was in the hospital, but she passed before I could get there.

To be honest with both my viewers and more importantly with myself, the past few months have been a struggle with keeping content on the channel going.  I absolutely love gaming and I’m not stopping.  But unfortunately, the process of creating content does change how I enjoy the games and more importantly how the games help me to destress from a long day. 

Most of the more mature gamers I know all play games for much the same reason.  First before we were older gamers, we were younger gamers…so it’s just been a natural progression over the years.  Second, we enjoy the disconnect from life’s stressful moments, if only for an hour or two at a time. 

The passing of my mom has somewhat awoken me to what matters most in this life we live.  I’m not going to get all “philosophical” on you, but will just say that I have an insight on a few things now that I didn’t have a few weeks ago. 

In one of my last YouTube Farm Sim videos I talked about my health and what I had been doing to get in better shape.  Both of my parents suffer/suffered from many of the health conditions I’ve been trying to address through diet and exercise.  The sudden passing of my Mother has motivated me to do everything in my power to not follow the same path.  

As most content creators will know, producing content for YouTube takes time.  For now, I’m going to continue to play and enjoy all the wonderful simulation based games I own including Farming Simulator 19, American and Euro Truck Simulator, Car Mechanic Simulator and Flight Simulator.  I’m not making any hard decisions regarding the future of the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube channel other than to say that I’m taking a YouTube break for now. 

However, I’ve always enjoyed writing and I have many additional topics I want to share on my blog site.  Actually I just finished a “Basics of VATSIM” flight sim tutorial which I’ve been working off and on since early March.  This will release either tomorrow or Wednesday.  So if you are interested in getting started with the flight sim multiplayer environment known as VATSIM, then hopefully that tutorial will help you. 

So for now, I’ll do my best to stay in touch via Discord and over at PC-SG.  I’ll re-evaluate things with YouTube in a few weeks or perhaps a few months.  Thank you for understanding.

Jerry

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