AvA 10th Birthday –Something Special in the Air

American virtual Airlines was founded on June 1, 2001.  Each year AvA has celebrated its birthday with an event of some kind.  I remember the early days when we might get 25 pilots or so that would fly in the event.  Normally the event consisted of a group flight from point A to point B.  As I’ve previously discussed, real life events got in the way of my flight sim and virtual aviation hobby and I had to step away for about 5 years.  I re-joined AvA in November of 2010 and quickly worked my way back up to DFW hub manager.  You can read more about this here and here.

Shortly after I re-joined I began hearing about the plans for the 10th birthday celebration.  To say I was excited would be an understatement.  After all, this is almost unheard of in the flight sim community.  VA’s come and go…mostly go.  If you look in the VATSIM forums under the VA News category, you’ll see at least one new VA announce they are opening their doors on a weekly basis.  Some weeks more.  If these new VA’s survive their first 3 months they are lucky.  Survive their first year and I’d call them double lucky. 

As I said, VA’s come and go.  For the most part someone will start a VA just because they want to run their own VA.  While I have no scientific proof, I would say most new startups are done by younger members of the hobby.  There is nothing wrong with this….but there are several key ingredients to starting, running and maintaining a successful VA and most either do not know, understand or care to use these ingredients.  But I digress….

The AvA 10th birthday also marks an anniversary of mine as well.  Prior to joining AvA I really didn’t consider flight simulation a hobby.  It was a game that I played on a computer with a joystick.  I would play the game by departing from an airport and flying around.  Sometimes I would fly from one airport to another…It really had no purpose.  Joining AvA gave me purpose as far as logging PIREPs and gaining a much better understanding of real world policies and procedures.  It also marks my anniversary with flying online via VATSIM. 

As the event planning began just after the first of the year, it was determined that each respective AvA hub would fly from their hub to DFW as DFW is the headquarters for American Airlines in real life, it is also the HQ for AvA in the virtual world. 

As the year progressed I moved from being just a pilot at DFW to the training hub manager then the hub manager position opened up at DFW.  This was something I really wanted and I’m very honored and humbled that I was given the opportunity to once again manage this fine hub for AvA.  With the event taking place with all hubs flying into DFW, I’m especially honored to get to show the DFW hub off to all of AvA.

I wanted to do something special to commemorate my 10th anniversary as well as that of AvA’s.  This is why I arranged to spend all day on Saturday flying.  I cleared it with my very supporting wife, made sure to bring her flowers and cooked her dinner.  Plus I got the chores and other tasks out of the way that I normally do on Saturday out of the way.  The day was set and the calendar was cleared.

My day of flying was planned to look like this.  I would fly from KDEN to KDFW, then KDFW to KTPA.  Since the AvA hubs are flying into DFW, DFW pilots had a choice to fly from either TPA or SJU.  I chose to fly from TPA and join up with the training hub guys who are based out of TPA.  I would then fly TPA to DFW in the large group celebration event.  Did I mention this event is BIG?  We have over 115 AvA members signed up with invitations going out to all of the flight sim community. 

I set my alarm (which I rarely do on a Saturday) so I could make sure to be up for my first flight.  Since I pretty much always fly from my last arrival location, I was coming from Denver to Dallas.  The only problem I had was I actually woke up about two hours before my alarm was set to go off.  After about 10 minutes of not being able to fall asleep again, I said…I know…I’ll fly from DEN to ORD then ORD down to DFW then resume my regular flight schedule.  Plus this will add one more flight to my schedule for the day.  Life is good!

If you fly online and especially during heavy VATSIM event times, you know things can get a bit hectic.  The DFW hub was scheduled to depart from Tampa (KTPA) and as the departure time approached we had no ATC online.  We began systematically departing based on our scheduled time and that worked out great.  I pushed and started on schedule and was approaching runway 01L when Tampa Approach popped online.  This caused a slight kink in the chain as I needed to get clearance and there were about 3-4 aircraft lined up behind me.  Once I got my clearance, I was cleared to take-off.

This event is the largest online event I’ve participated with the new computer I built last September.  I experienced a slight lag on the ground at Tampa.  I’m running the FlyTampa scenery for FSX and I estimate there was about 20 aircraft on the ground and we were all within a 100 yards of each other.  I think all in all the machine held up well.  Time will tell how the machine handles the approach and arrival into DFW.  I expect many more aircraft on the ground and in the airspace than what was experienced in Tampa. 

vatspy2

As reflected in the photo, this is what the VATSIM skies looked like about 2100z.  The photo is a screenshot of VAT-Spy.  VAT-Spy allows virtual pilots to see other aircraft an air traffic control who are logged into the VATSIM network.  If you look at the image, you’ll see AAL100 in the southeast corner of the Memphis ARTCC airspace that is me flying in the iFly 737NGX.  Also, all the orange colored aircraft labels are AvA Pilots.  We had a heavy concentration of pilots departing from TPA, MIA and SJU (San Juan).  But all hubs are represented with BOS, JFK, ORD and LAX. 

As all aircraft began approaching the airspace around Dallas/Ft. Worth things changed from calm to organized chaos but in a good way.  What I mean by this is this is about the only way that we can simulate what real world conditions look like and act like in and around a major airport.  The standalone FSX ATC won’t do it and I’m not aware of any software add-on package that will do this and do it like its done in the real world with true human like involvement.  We had exceptional air traffic control from the top down.  And while we still had a few minor pilot errors, as far as I could tell everyone had fun. 

Once the majority of the aircraft landed, we held an induction ceremony to welcome a few new members to our AvA Admiral’s Club.  Our Admiral’s Club is reserved for members who perform above and beyond the call of duty.  Most have been in the VA for more than 3-5 years and have flown over 1000 hours exclusively for AvA. 

ava_10_sunset

Of course, what is one to do after having such a great day of flying the friendly VATSIM skies and participating in an event with over 80 other AvA members?  Yep, you guessed it.  Saddle up the iFly 737NGX and head west to Vegas Baby!  Yep…about a dozen departed DFW for LAS to continue the after the party party.  This 5th flight for the day caps off a great almost 12 hours of flying and 10 awesome years for American virtual Airlines.  Happy Birthday AvA!

Until next time….

Jerry


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