A few weeks ago I was perusing through the various social media platforms and groups I belong to and discovered a discussion taking place regarding why simulation based games are so popular. One individual in particular was (in my opinion) trolling the group and making various references that simulation based games are the absolute most boring titles he had ever witnessed and just couldn’t understand why people would spend countless hours playing these types of games. He referenced two which I myself enjoy, Flight Simulator and Farming Simulator.
One point he attempted to make was if you wanted to farm or fly, just go do it in real life. He went on to compare the costs (specifically with flight sim) where one could easily pay for the lessons and time to obtain a PPL or Private Pilots License. I attempted to follow the discussions for a few days but finally lost interest as it was pretty clear to me he really had no clue what he was talking about and most likely was a kid just trying to get a reaction from the group. Anyway….
The gaming industry today is big and growing even larger. If Google is correct, the total industry size includes 3.2 billion players and some $197 billion in revenue during the year 2021 and the forecast for 2022 was expected to hit $200bn. Needless to say, there’s something for everyone when it comes to video game content.
As for me personally, the reasons I enjoy simulation based games is most likely not unique. While at one time in my life I had a dream of learning to fly and obtaining my PPL, this just simply isn’t possible any more. However, through the awesome Microsoft Flight Simulator platform I can fly anywhere in the world from the comfort of my mancave and enjoy each and every minute while doing it. I can role play anything from a bush pilot flying into the Alaskan wilderness all the way to a commercial airline captain flying into small or large international airports around the world. And with the beauty of MSFS, I can fly into a large airport in my jetliner and then depart in a small single engine aircraft and spend time sightseeing around the region.
I’ve known many fellow flight simmers who have used their virtual experience to propel them into various aviation careers such as private and commercial pilots and air traffic control. Many pilots I’ve known through the years continue to use the various flight simulation platforms (in some degree) to brush up on their skills. Likewise, I’ve read about individuals who have come of age with ATS or ETS2 and have used that experience to take up a career in trucking/transportation. I also know of a few individuals who have started working on farms because of their interest and passion from Farming Simulator.
The level of immersion has always been a number one requirement for me in any simulation based gaming title. I’ve discussed many times before that in my opinion the bar has been set fairly high by the flight simulation genre as what truly will define any other simulation gaming title. I’ve discovered in the past where developers have labeled their titles as “Simulation”, but found many reasons why that misses the mark greatly. Any simulation based title must provide an “As Real As It Gets” experience to truly immerse me into that virtual world.
For the simulation based titles I play the most (Flight Sim, ATS/ETS2 and Farming Simulator) the level of immersion is high enough to allow me to completely escape the stresses of the real world for an hour or more as I simulate the life of a pilot, a trucker or a farmer in my own virtual world. And it is for this very reason why I sim.
Why do you sim?
Thanks for taking the time to read. Until next time…
Hello and thank you for stopping by. For several years I have wanted to produce more cinematic flight sim productions. However, the amount of time required hasn’t always been something I’ve had a lot of. But times are different now. Of course I love flying and this video was a lot of fun to put together. There will be more soon….
Welcome Aboard to American Airlines flight 777 with non-stop service between Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Your captain for this flight is JT. Please sit back,
relax and enjoy the flight.
PMDG Boeing 737-800 (NGXu)
American Airlines Livery
Lockheed Martin Prepar3D v5
(1) ORBX FTX GLOBAL
(2) ORBX OpenLC North America
(3) Flightbeam Studios KPHX
(4) FlyTampa KLAS
(5) FSDreamTeam GSX Lvl 2
I hope you enjoy watching my videos. If you do, please hit that “Like” button! Also, if you are new to the channel, please SUBSCRIBE. It really does help!
Please visit my blog site https://grizzlybearsims.com You’ll find my complete mod list and various articles and reviews on many of the simulation based games I enjoy playing.
Thank you for watching!
Dreaming in 432Hz by Unicorn Heads (YouTube Music Library)
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.
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).
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.
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.
A few days ago I reviewed all the various options you have in choosing a flight simulation application. I covered everything back to FSX and everything forward to Dovetail Games Flight Sim World, X-Plane and my favorite Prepar3D.
While some simulation game titles such as Truck Sim, Farm Sim etc. can be played with just a mouse and keyboard or even a slight upgrade to an X-Box style controller, the same really can’t be said for flight simulation. Yes, you can certainly fly only with the keyboard and mouse, but I’m confident that you’ll find learning to fly much, much easier with a good joystick setup. For me, flight simulation is more than just flying from point A to point B. It’s the extra level of immersion which a good set of controls provide and the ability to improve my virtual flying skills with each and every flight.
If you are going to spend your hard earned money on a new flight sim application, then consider spending a little bit more and purchasing a good joystick. From my early days with the Commodore 64 all the way up until approx. the late 90’s or early 2000 timeframe, that is all I used was a joystick. A very good joystick at a reasonable price is the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick. Amazon currently lists this joystick at $34.99. The 3D Pro might be considered entry level today, but that hasn’t always been the case. When I purchased my first 3D Pro (just a few years ago) it was over $100 and it also works well with Farm Sim. The joystick will do everything you need it to do from controlling throttle, rudder, ailerons and offers buttons which can be easily programmed to control flaps, landing gear etc.
Of course, just like with everything else…there are many different options you have in the joystick department. If you are looking for something a little more advanced then look into the CH Products Flight Sim Yoke and add the CH Products Pro Pedals for ultimate rudder control and precision landings. The Yoke sells on Amazon for around $130 and the pedals for about $120. The yoke offers a built in throttle, prop and mixture controls along with toggle buttons for flaps and gear. Additional thumb control buttons can be programmed to suit your needs. I’ve had my CH Products Yoke for well over 15 years and last year I replaced my pedals which had stopped working after about 12 years.
The CH Products Pedals can certainly be added at a later time.
You still have many other cool hardware accessory items you can add to increase your level of realism and fun. I’ll cover more of these in a later article. The purpose of this posting is to provide you with a few examples to get you thinking. I own and use these items in my setup and can tell you that if you take care of them, they’ll provide years of flight sim fun.
A little over 5 years ago I wrote a series of blog postings from a “How To” perspective with regards to the exciting hobby of flight simulation. While some things have changed, some things haven’t. Over the next few weeks I plan to re-release these articles, but will tweak and update the information so it’s more applicable today. After all, a lot has changed over the past 5+ years. For todays installment, I’m going to discuss Why Flight Simulation?
To some individuals, a computer based flight simulator is just a game and to many others it is much more, it’s an important hobby. I’ve even known many younger individuals who were inspired to pursue aviation careers and became pilots and air traffic controllers as a result. Regardless of your motive, one can learn and experience many different aspects of aviation and even learn something about geography through a computer based flight simulator program.
For me, flight simulation changed from being “Just a Game” around the year 2000. As it was around this timeframe when I was first introduced to the world of internet based virtual airlines or VA’s. I’ll discuss VA’s in more depth in a future article. Before 2000, I would load up a flight in my simulator, pick a destination, take off and come back in a hour or two and land the plane. I was happy if I could land within a hundred miles or so of the airport. However, with a little practice (practice does make perfect after all), I could navigate my aircraft and found it was actually interesting to fly the aircraft versus letting the autopilot do it.
Tip – It is easy to get caught up in wanting to fly “Big Iron” aircraft like the Boeing 747. However, you’ll learn more about flying and navigating when spending time in the default Cessna type aircraft which are featured in all versions of the popular flight simulator programs. Work your way up from the single engine prop models just like real pilots.
While I have no desire to take flying lessons or earn my private pilots license, the flight simulation hobby has taught me much about aviation, about the world we live in and I’ve met some really wonderful people as a result.
Next time I’ll discuss what flight simulator software is right for you (there are many to choose from) and some tips on setting it up. Thank you for reading my blog.
Until next time…
Fine Print: Unfortunately I feel the need to state for the record that my “How To” articles and tips are for flight simulation purposes only and should not be used for real world aviation.
With new releases from Dovetail Games, Lockheed Martin and X-Plane….2017 is shaping up to be a really great year for flight simulation enthusiasts. Arguably, the above mentioned developers ARE the future of flight simulation and no doubt will bring many new participants into this wonderful hobby.
For me, flight simulation was my very first video game passion which started in the early 1980’s. Over the past 35+ years I’ve learned a lot and met many wonderful individuals through the hobby of flight sim. As I anticipate a surge of new interested individuals to this hobby, over the next several weeks I’m going to write (in some cases re-write) a series of blog articles to assist in eliminating the confusion in all things flight simulation.
Just like other forms of simulation based games, flight simulation offers much enjoyment for a wide variety of interests. Do you enjoy flying low and slow and taking in the scenery? How about high and fast while simulating the captain of a modern jet airliner? Or do you fancy becoming a propeller head and learning the art of flying non-fixed wing aircraft? Something for just about all interest levels can be found in the wonderful genre of flight simulation. Join me as I will help you better understand all your options and help you get started in flight simulation.
In addition to seeing more helpful content on my blog, I also plan to begin featuring flight sim related content on my growing GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel, and will occasionally stream flight sim related content to both YouTube, Twitch and Smashcast channels in the near future.
I’m increasing my collection of add-on scenery for the European region and just recently purchased the Aerosoft version of Gibraltar LXGB for FSX. This is a fantastic little airport and reminds me of my St. Maarten TNCM package I have from FlyTampa. I currently own scenery from Aerosoft, FlyTampa, FSDT, Orbx, and UK2000 and truly love them all.
I suppose one can quickly go broke on purchasing add-on scenery. One criteria I attempt to use in making a decision on whether to purchase a particular scenery package is the frequency I think I may use it along with just how much more the scenery package will enhance FSX. I really enjoy the KMIA to TNCM route in either a 737 or 757.
I’ve recently performed a lot of flights out of both London Heathrow and Gatwick, so adding those packages from UK2000 was an easy decision. I also picked up the UK2000 package for London City as that is a really neat airport and one I fly into in real life every other year or so. Plus I’m really looking forward to completing the EGLC-EINN-KJFK flight in an Airbus 318 soon.
Another factor I use in my decision is the level of difficulty a particular airport may offer. Perhaps better known as the “Wow” factor. I watched a History Channel program a few years ago called “Most Extreme Airports”. Gibraltar is identified as the 5th most extreme airport. If you are not familiar with this History Channel program, or just want to watch it again. It is available onYouTube. Fast forward to minute 33:00 for the Gibraltar LXGB segment.
Our simulated flight today is the British Airways flight 490 from London Heathrow to Gibraltar in the Airbus A320. Gate to gate time is 2 hours and 50 minutes. Our departure from Heathrow was uneventful.
Our route today
BAW490 departing EGLL runway 27L
Conditions for Gibraltar are showing winds 090 at 6kt. We’ll be landing on runway 09 which is the more difficult approach.
Thick clouds and light turbulence as we approach the southern coast of Spain.
Clearing as we continue the descent.
Flying the published approach and configured at gear down and flaps 3 upon crossing the 5 mile radar fix.
Beginning the turn after crossing the 3 mile radar fix. Airport and runway clearly in sight.
Just a slight cross wind and hoping the aircraft ahead will soon exit the runway.
BAW 490 Clear to land runway 09.
Slowing with plenty of runway to spare.
At the gate.
The Rock of Gibraltar in the background.
Terminal at Gibraltar
Additional detail shown for the LXGB scenery. Need to watch those towers on departure.
All-in-all I’m very pleased with my purchase of the Aerosoft Gibraltar scenery for FSX. If you like flying into and out of some of the worlds most extreme airports where weather, neighboring obstacles, traffic and shorter than normal runways are the featured attraction, then Gibraltar is an add-on I recommend.
Now to return back to Heathrow along with 127 vacationers and crew so that we can plan the next adventure.
As previously mentioned in my blog, I’ve really been having a lot of fun flying for British Airways virtual. I’ve accumulated many hours since joining just about a month ago and my travels have taken me to many European destinations. Since reaching Senior First Officer, I’ve been really having fun in the Level D 767. I’m only a handful of hours away from Captain and looking forward to some long haul routes.
It just so happened that I arrived back to London Heathrow from a flight I made yesterday down to Cyprus and decided today (Christmas Eve) that I would fly to Israel in time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This simulated flight is the British Airways BA163 from London Heathrow to Ben Gurion (LLBG) in Tel Aviv, Israel. Gate to gate time is just under 5 hours.
It’s a crisp winter morning as the sun is just starting to rise on the capitol city. Our Airbus A321 is getting catering service.
Can’t forget to load the bags and cargo items.
Passengers have boarded, aircraft fueled and time for pushback.
The weather this morning is dry with a nice steady breeze from the west. Holding short runway 27L waiting for a company Airbus A319 to depart.
It’s our turn, BAW163, Position and Hold runway (line up and wait) 27L.
Climbing out with London Heathrow in the background.
Beginning our gradual turn to join the departure route.
Approx. 4 hours later we begin our descent.
Beginning our turn to join ILS for runway 12 at LLBG.
Parked and unloading our passengers. We were just a few minutes late as I performed a hold waiting for other inbound traffic. Great flight!
This flight was a lot of fun (aren’t they always). I hope you have some time over the holidays to spend time flying in the virtual world. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
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.
Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software. When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer. I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer. In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft. I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.
As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B. Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Perhaps some will argue this point, but I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator leads the popularity contest when it comes to flight simulator software. From Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 released in 1982 all the way to Microsoft Flight Simulator X released in 2006, Microsoft has certainly done its part to create the industry behind the flight sim hobby.
Tip – Microsoft released a new ‘simulator’ titled Microsoft Flight in February 2012. While Microsoft referred to MS Flight as a simulator, the flight sim community does not. Unlike all other versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Flight is geared to be more of a ‘game’ versus simulator. On July 26, 2012, Microsoft cancelled any further development plans for Flight.
If you are looking into purchasing a version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll find Flight Simulator 2004 (AKA FS9) and Flight Simulator X as the most common versions used among Microsoft enthusiasts. You’ll also find software add-on options (including scenery, aircraft and other accessories) widely available for both FS9 and FSX versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator. I wouldn’t advise purchasing any version prior to FS9.
FSX will function (as well as just about every add-on) without issue on the Microsoft Windows 7 OS (32 bit and 64 bit). I’ve also read in various forums where users have installed FSX on the new Microsoft Windows 8 OS. However, I can’t confirm Windows 8 will handle all the other add-on options available.
X-Plane, developed by Laminar Research is another popular flight sim platform which has been around for a number of years. Designed for Mac, but also available for 32/64-Bit Windows and Linux OS systems, it has become a solid alternative to the Microsoft brand. Most 3rd party developers designing the various add-on options include X-Plane versions. Unlike Microsoft, the developers of X-Plane continue to develop the software and as of the present time the most current version is 10.10.
Prepar3D or P3D is the new kid on the block with regards to payware flight simulation software. Announced in 2009, Lockheed Martin negotiated the purchase of the intellectual property including source code of Microsoft Flight Simulator X along with the hiring of many of the MS developers which were part of ACES Studios to develop what would become Prepar3D. From what I understand, most add-ons as well as the default FSX aircraft work in Prepar3D without any adjustment since Prepar3D is kept backward compatible to FSX. However, there are some small technical changes that must be made if you want to fly online via either the IVAO or VATSIM networks.
There is some debate whether or not Prepar3D is designed to be used in the flight sim hobby community. I don’t believe Lockheed Martin plans to develop a public version, but the Prepar3D website does state that the academic license version is available for students from kindergarten through undergraduate and is suitable for home use. You can learn more about the licensing of P3D here.
Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning
There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear. While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear. In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGearthat will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line. It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.
Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc. I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here. But please….don’t take my word for it. Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.
I base much of my decision around what flight simulator platform I continue to use around the fact that I have a large investment of money and time in the Microsoft platform. I built a custom PCback in 2010 which would handle the demands of Microsoft FSX. I have hundreds of dollars tied up in add-on software and hardware to enhance my flight sim experience. If I woke up tomorrow and could no longer run Microsoft FSX, I would probably further investigate Prepar3D as a solution. However, if you are just starting out….the sky truly is the limit in the direction you proceed.
While there are many reasons to select Microsoft Flight Simulator as your software of choice, the fact that Microsoft discontinued development and in my opinion will never develop flight simulation software again is perhaps a reason to steer away from this as an option. But for now, FSX continues to be my platform of choice and it works well for me.