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.
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…