I’ve blogged about my experience with VA’s or Virtual Airlines. When I setup my sim gear and eased back into the hobby I really had plans just to fly and not get involved with any VA. Well, this lasted about two weeks. I recently joined British Airways Virtual (BAv).
I’ve known about BAv for over a decade. Back when I was involved with American Virtual Airlines (AvA), we setup a partnership with BAv and I could tell even back then that this was one finely operated virtual airline. While I’ll always be proud of the time spent with AvA, and I may even one day go back to AvA. I can also say that BAv is perhaps the premier VA in all of the internet based flight sim virtual airlines. Why do I say this? Well…even back in 2001 when I was first introduced to the world of virtual airlines, BAv was the only VA (I was aware of) which actually had a relationship with their real world counterpart and this is HUGE.
If you’ve been around the virtual airline world long, you have probably heard about VA’s being shut down by their real world counterparts. I know it has been “virtually” impossible to keep a Fedex virtual airline running for any length of time as the real Fedex Company attorneys will send the management of the Fedex VA a Cease and Desist letter and insist they cease all operation due to copyright infringement. Fedex is just one example of many I’ve heard about over the years. Why do some real world airlines take issues with VA’s simulating their operation? Perhaps I’ll leave this discussion to another article.
Anyway, wanting to spend some time exploring Europe…I decided there was no better airline (and VA for that matter) than to fly British Airways. I figured if I’m going to do this, I might as well have more purpose to my explorations. So I pointed my web browser to the British Airways Virtual website and decided to fill out an application. Now I’ll admit that I have thought about joining BAv before. However, each time I visited their website they were not hiring. BAv has a policy to not have any more than 1,250 members. Luckily, when I checked this time around, they had an opening for 75 pilots and I was able to get my application in ahead of the quota filling up.
Within approx. 24-48 hours I received an email from their HR department with instructions on how to complete their online exam process. An exam??? Yep, and one of the reasons why I believe this is a First Class VA. I spent time reviewing the BAv policy documents, their website and sat down at my PC to take the exam. All the answers to the questions could be found if you had taken the time to read the information. Within minutes of successfully completing the exam I received my pilot number and temporary credentials to access the BAv website.
While I have thousands of hours logged flying computer flight simulators (and over 1000 hours on VATSIM) I opted to start at the low rank of First Office at BAv and work my way up. Even with not transferring any hours over to BAv and starting out as First Officer, I can still fly the 737, A319, A320 and A321. I’ll receive my first promotion to Sr. First Office at 50 hours and to Captain at 100. I’m having a blast flying routes out of Gatwick and Heathrow in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A3xx. Once I reach 50 hours I’ll have access to the 767 for European routes and at 100 hours will have access to 747 and 777 and can do long-haul routes should I want.
While VA flying isn’t for everyone. I can tell you that you’ll find no better VA than BAv when it comes to their requirements of maintaining active membership. With only one required flight per month and BAv allows for both online (VATSIM and IVAO) along with offline flights to be flown. It’s easy peasy to not only be an active member, but also remain an active member.
In addition to accumulating flight hours, another element to BAv which I’ve not experienced with other VA’s is the way they award experience points and conformance percentages. Flight hours are accumulated like any other VA. However, BAv awards experience points for each flight you make along with nice bonus points for complete flight rotation (EGLL-EBAW-EGLL). Pilots are also awarded for schedule conformance. BAv uses actual real world British Airways flight schedules and conformance to these schedules are tracked.
Finally, BAv uses a small software client called Phoenix to track your flight. No this isn’t like having Big Brother watching over you (although I can see where some will think this), but more like a flight data recorder. You simply book your flight on the BAv website, launch Phoenix and retrieve the flight. Setup your flight and just before you are ready to start engines and push-back, you start the Phoenix client tracking. Each hour the Phoenix client asks for a position report each hour of flight time. You simply dial a COM 2 frequency when requested. Phoenix also handles your PIREP reporting at the end of the flight. While other VA’s have similar ACARS software, I’ve not seen anything as robust as the BAv Phoenix client.
Again, VA participation isn’t for everyone. However, in all the years I’ve been flying computer sims and participating in virtual airlines, BAv truly is for those who are serious about flight simulation. If you would like to experience a first class virtual airline, then look no further to British Airways virtual. As of this blog posting, BAv has 41 pilot vacancies, with 33 applications in queue. Get those applications in today before all slots have been filled.
Until next time…