The Future of VATSIM’s CTP

If you’ve been perusing some of the social networks and perhaps listening to some of the more popular Twitch and YouTube streamers, you may have heard that the ever popular VATSIM Cross The Pond events might be in jeopardy.  If you are new to the hobby of flight simulation and especially VATSIM, the Cross The Pond (CTP) events are held twice a year with the west bound event taking place in the spring (Europe to North America) and the east bound event (North America to Europe) in the fall.  This past Saturday, the eastbound event took place. 

I’m honestly not sure just how many years the CTP event has been taking place.  I’ve participated in a few over the years and made the early decision to sit this previous one out for a few different reasons.  First, I just don’t have the time to dedicate to a full international flight of 8+ hours at this time of my life.  Second, I also felt I was a bit rusty on my oceanic procedures and didn’t have the time to do anything about it. Third, with the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 our hobby has exploded with a ton of new simmers and I figured things might be a bit chaotic as a result. 

The 2020 Effect

Much like everything else which has occurred in 2020, the earlier westbound event this last spring caused VATSIM to take a few additional measures to ensure the eastbound event ran much smoother.  From what I’ve heard, the earlier westbound event was so chaotic with pilots and ATC screaming at each other and ATC just logging off that it became extremely difficult for VATSIM to find enough willing controllers to staff the fall event.  This is sad because these events are supposed to be fun for all who participate.  For pilots to truly get the “As Real As It Gets” experience, we need controllers who are willing to invest their time in controlling and staffing a full top-down ATC experience. 

One of the changes VATSIM made for the fall event was in how pilots requested and were awarded a slot.  It was done on the lottery system.  VATSIM capped the number of pilot slots and for the very first time requested pilots who did not receive a slot to NOT fly oceanic during the event. 

Entitlement, Entitlement, Entitlement

Just like the run on toilet paper the world experienced in the early days of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, entitlement reared its ugly head in the VATSIM world.  Pilots who didn’t receive a CTP slot still made the decision to fly across the pond (some even flying the opposite direction) just because they could.  Some of these pilots endured lengthy holds both on the ground and immediately after departure and restricted to flying below FL290.  I’m hopeful these restrictions helped to minimize the impact to those who had valid slots.

The Future

I’m optimistically hopeful these CTP events can continue in 2021 and beyond.  Many in our community are throwing out their own ideas on how things could get better.  A suggestion of holding CTP more frequently seems to be one popular opinion.  With the amount of events VATSIM is currently holding on an annual basis, I don’t see how they have the bandwidth to add more CTP events to the schedule.  The only way this might work would be to restrict VATSIM members from being awarded slots in more than one pair of crossings per year.  This still would not prevent those who don’t have slots from flying oceanic anyway. 

All this really hinges on each individual VATSIM member doing their part to ensure they follow the guidelines.  If VATSIM says don’t fly oceanic without a valid slot, then stay the hell away.  But in the world we live in today, this is most likely just a pipe dream. 

One More Thing

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  VATSIM is a wonderful multi-player environment which brings together the functions of both Air Traffic Control and Pilots.  There is no AI Traffic (default or payware) that even comes close to giving a pilot the same level of experience.  In my 20 year experience with VATSIM and SATCO before that, both networks have always been friendly and welcoming to new members.  However, there is (and always has been) a slightly steep learning curve to mastering the basics.

I often throw out the comparison with TruckersMP which is a multiplayer server environment for both Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2) and American Truck Simulator (ATS).  While TruckersMP has a fairly loose set of rules which must be followed, someone relatively new to ETS2 or ATS could login to TruckersMP and be driving on the network in a very short period of time.  This just isn’t the case with VATSIM, IVAO or PilotsEdge. 

If you are reading this and you are either brand new or unfamiliar with VATSIM, have a read through a post I wrote back in April of 2019 titled, “The Basics of VATSIM”. 

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone in the US has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

An Update on Prepar3d v5

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted to this blog.  My life has been rather busy and hectic the past few weeks.  As some of the DIY projects were wrapping up a few other household problems began to surface.  The largest was a plumbing issue with a portion of my sewer mainline.  This resulted in having a portion of my basement floor jackhammered up and about 15 feet of pipe replaced.  As a result of all this activity, I haven’t really had much time to spend gaming.  In addition, I also have spent time in my garage woodshop turning pens and other small wood items.  If you are interested in taking a look, here’s a link to my Etsy store.  With colder weather moving in, the amount of time I have to work in the woodshop has been reduced considerably.  But I digress….

The last time I wrote about P3Dv5 I had mentioned that I managed to finally get it dialed in and running smooth.  As many will know, this is not always an easy feat.  Nothing in flight sim is plug and play.  Especially if you choose to run various add-ons which all need to be carefully and painstakingly configured.  Everything we install into the sim fights for resources and in some instances one must choose to sacrifice some settings and FPS in order to achieve what we want to experience visually.

P3Dv5.1

The Prepar3D v5.1 update was released by Lockheed Martin a few weeks ago.  I initially held off on updating as I almost always do.  But around that same time I had been experiencing a few little glitches which I had hoped the update might resolve.  As is the case many times, little things will often become bigger things which I would find out soon after updating. 

Two Steps Forward, Three Backwards

The little glitches I just mentioned became slightly larger ones after updating to 5.1.  My frustration level was high and I was truly beginning to second guess my decision of moving away from P3Dv4.5.  I went to bed one night with the plan of uninstalling P3Dv5.1 and going back to P3Dv4.5.  But with a BIG cup of coffee and a bit of hope, I decided to try to resolve the issues one last time. 

Success At Last

After a few hours of going through some of the basic P3D troubleshooting steps which in this case led to a complete uninstall of my GPU drivers via DDU, updating to the latest Nvidia drivers and clearing shader cache in P3Dv5.1 all was once again stable.   I ran in this configuration for a few days just to make sure all was truly fixed. 

Enhanced Atmospherics

One of the big changes with the P3Dv5.1 update was Enhanced Atmospherics (EA) going from beta to full production.  Honestly, on my system with EA enabled the view out of the cockpit windows appears as if I have a really bad case of cataracts.  I didn’t like EA before v5.1 and still didn’t like it after the update.  Apparently I’m not the only one.  So Lockheed Martin has much more work to do on this.

Lack of Eye Candy

In my P3Dv5.1 setup, I was missing the level of eye candy which I had in v4.5.  The sky and cloud textures were boring and just too plain for my liking.  Of course I knew this would be the case as it takes time for developers of 3rd party add-ons to make the move from one version to the next.  When I heard the TOGA Projects Envtex and Envshade along with ASCA were all compatible with P3Dv5.1 I decided to invest the time to install and configure them.  I had used this combination with much success in my P3Dv4.5 setup and had hopes it would work equally as well in v5.1.  I did make one small change with the addition of using the popular Reshade add-on to further enhance the visuals. 

Nearing Success

As you can see from the images below, the sky/cloud textures with using Envtex, Envshade, ASCA and Reshade look a lot more natural and vibrant.  The images below were taken during a early morning departure out of KRDU (Raleigh-Durham) in the PMDG Boeing 738. 

2020-11-14_5-46-46-456

2020-11-14_5-49-21-998

2020-11-14_5-49-29-429

I still have a bit of tweaking to do, but all-in-all I believe it’s looking much better. I’ll try to get all my settings documented and available for Envtex, Envshade, ASCA etc. etc.  in the very near future. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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