Return to VATSIM….Sort of

Before my long multi-year hiatus from the hobby I was a regular on the VATSIM network.  In the short period of time from first joining VATSIM to my break from the hobby I had accumulated over 420 hours.  Keep in mind this was over a period of time from 2002 through 2004 and another brief stint around 2006.  Not bad for just a little over 2 years.  Of course I know other pilots could accumulate more hours, but during much of this time (2002 – 2004) I served in the capacity of either hub manager or VP of Operations at American Virtual Airlines (AvA). 

In those early days nothing was automated like it is today.  Pilots expected to see their flight hours updated on the roster every couple of days or even daily.  I managed the DFW hub and it was one of the most active hubs in the VA and I found it easier to take 15-20 minutes daily to tally up the hours, then spend an hour or more once or twice a week.  My philosophy back then was I would do all the admin duties BEFORE flying. 

When I started clawing my way back into the hobby a few months ago, the world of VATSIM and Virtual Airlines was NOT at the top of my list.  Due to PC issues in the past, I did find it sometimes to be a struggle to complete an online flight.  Either I would find no ATC online or the hit to the frame rates would cause the sim to run so sluggish or crash….it sort of took the fun out of flying online.

While I was on my Around the World – 2010 Journey, I began thinking about how cool it might be to do an around the world flight and do it online.  While I hope to do another around the world flight in 2011, I’m not sure it will be online.  But I will admit that just the thought of it did peak my interest in VATSIM again.

I did kick around the idea of returning to VATSIM online flying as an independent.  I would fly for whatever carrier I wanted to fly for and the rules would be my rules.  But I didn’t think that would be much fun.  Part of what I find so awesome about this hobby is the people you meet along the way.  By the way, two friends of mine that I’ve met since returning to the hobby both have Flight Sim Blogs.  Please check out Al’s Clear Left, and Onur’s Clear Right Flight Sim Blogs. 

Now what I’m going to say next is NOT a paid message.  But the very best virtual airline in existence really is American Virtual Airlines.   Perhaps I feel what I feel about AvA because I put so much effort into it.  Perhaps it was the way things ended when I left (yes there is a bit of a story here).  In a nutshell I had spent much of my free time helping to keep AvA going strong.  Both my life as well as the life of the CEO became very busy.  We agreed we had nothing else to give and would close the doors.  Thankfully….Thankfully……the other hub members gained control of AvA and kept the doors open and it is still going strong today. 

If I could go back in time I would not have walked away like I did.  My problem was I didn’t know how to ask for help.  I felt the CEO slipping away and he had founded the VA a few years prior to me joining.  The right thing to do would have been for me to ask for help from the rest of the management team and not walked away like I did.  But… can’t undo something that has already been done.  Like I said, the VA was taken over very quickly and has been in great hands ever since.

Anyway….when I realized I wanted to fly on-line again on the VATSIM network with my super fast and super reliable new PC, I knew I wanted to fly mostly with my real-world favorite airline (American Airlines) and didn’t bother looking if other VA’s were out there.  I knew I needed to return home to AvA…and I did. 

I joined AvA and am currently a Sr. Captain with a CAT IV rating and assigned to the best hub in their system, KDFW.  I am as happy as can be.  My first online VATSIM flight was held early this morning (couldn’t sleep) from KDEN to KDFW.  I feel I have a few tweaks to make with theSquawkbox client as it crashed my very fast and very reliable system once I landed in Dallas.  All had worked fine and once I switched it to squawk standby, it all crashed.  I think I’m going to fly a few more trips and see if I can reproduce the issue.  If it happens again, I’ll move SB over to another machine and run it in network mode.

Until next time,


Hello Fellow Flight Simulator Enthuasists

OK…where to start?  Oh I know…let me tell you about myself.  My name is Jerry, I live in Denver, Colorado.  I’m less than 5 miles from KAPA and about 20 miles from KDEN.  I’m married to a wonderful woman who supports all my various hobbies.  Before moving to Denver in 1998, I lived in Dallas, Texas.  I lived very close to KADS and about 15 miles from the awesome KDFW airport.   As a child we would visit the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and one of my two highlights would be visiting Six Flags over Texas and KDFW to watch the planes.

I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes and flight.  Now the weird thing is I’ve never had any desire to learn to fly and/or pursue my private pilots license.  I know….this may sound weird…but it is what it is.  My Uncle has his PPL and he took me flying for the first time in a small Cessna when I was a small child.   While I wouldn’t fly again for 10+ years (and my first commercial flight was around the age of 16) I always loved watching airplanes.  Even as a “Big” kid, I love all aspects of travel (well perhaps not the waiting in security lines).  I love getting to the airport early and watching the planes and the people. 

I’ve been flying computer simulator games for over 25 years.  Yes….they’ve been around that long.  It all started for me with the Commodore 64 computer.  The Commodore 64 computer launched my flight sim hobby, but more importanly it helped launch the career I’ve enjoyed for almost 20 years in IT.  This IT career has helped to further my enjoyment of the hobby with a better understanding of how computer hardware and software functions together and has provided the opportunity for me to fly around the world. 

In the early days of computer flight simulation it was all very basic compared to what we have today withMicrosoft Flight Simulator X.  While a friend of mine had a TRS-80 around 1982-83, I didn’t personally own a flight simulator program until 1984 when a company called SubLOGIC created Flight Simulator II.  This was the second generation flight simulator and was amazing. 

While I was interested in a few other “computer games”, flight simulator was the one that I spent the most time playing.  Now I already mentioned that these early versions were basic.  While I haven’t played Flight Simulator II in over 20 years, I do remember you would start off at Meig’s Field in Chicago.  I honestly believe that was about it.  I believe (but not 100% certain) that KORD was represented in the software as well as several other smaller airports.  However, that was about it.   I also remember a few updates to the Commodore 64 version.  Towards the end of my Commodore experience I had obtained some sectional maps and such of the areas where airports were represented.  I still only flew with a joystick but my skills were improving with every hour of flying time. 

My Commodore 64 computer was finally replaced in the late 80’s with an IBM PC.  My flight sim hobby took off from there with the Microsoft Flight Simulator version 3.0.  This was a HUGE jump from the version I had been flying on the old Commodore.  In the complete history of Microsoft Flight Simulator software, I did miss out on versions 1.0 and 2.0.  Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0 (the first MS product I used with a PC) 3 aircraft including the Cessna we had all known to love along with a learjet and a Sopwith Camel.   The graphics were much improved over the Commodore 64 version and for the first time you could actually look outside of the aircraft.  From MSFS 3.0, I’ve owned every version released and each release was better and better and I couldn’t wait until the next one would come out.

Over the years as the graphics improved so did the options.  Microsoft began adding more scenery and a lot more choices for aircraft to fly.  With the birth of the Internet, an entire industry was born to cater to this exciting hobby.  No more were you just limited to the features Microsoft provided….you had access to hundreds…probably thousands of different add-on products to enhance your experience.  You could fly around the world and land just about anywhere.  “Real World” airports and the accurate scenery around them was all being developed into the software or available through a third party add-on. 

Again, while I’m fairly confident I’ve owned every version of Microsoft Flight Simulator since version 3.0 (circa 1988), for me personally it was Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 (aka version 7.0) that really pushed the game experience into a true hobby.   I picked up a flight yoke and peddles and joined a virtual airline or VA for short.  I have flown for several VA’s over the years.  The first was a VA setup as American Airlines.  It soon went bust.  I then joined a VA operating as Air Canada and then found another American Airlines VA which looked awesome.  I joined and within a short period of time had worked my way up in the management ranks to VP of Operations and also managed the DFW Hub. 

In this timeframe I began flying online and experiencing operating with other online pilots and online ATC (Air Traffic Control) through a network called VATSIM.  During this same timeframe I was traveling more and more both through work and for personal reasons.  I would fly from KDEN to KDFW, then down to KILE (now KGRK) to visit family a few times a year.  One of my favorite things to do would be to re-create the flight before and after a trip.  I would fly the same aircraft at the same time of the day etc.  It almost became a pre-trip ritual.  My first real international (over the pond) flight was in the Spring of 2001.  I was headed to our London office for 3 weeks.  My real-life trip would take me from KDEN to KDFW then to London’s Gatwick airport EGKK.  I simulated this trip in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 (version 7.0) before and after my real-world flight.

Microsoft has used the phrase “As Real As It Gets” since at least the days of Flight Simulator 95 (version 6.0).  It all became too “As Real As It Gets” with the release of Flight Simulator 2002 (version 8.0).  Microsoft had planned to release FS 2002 in mid-September 2001.  When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened, Microsoft delayed the release of 2002 so developers could remove the WTC twin towers from all copies of the software.  As a way of paying respect to those who perished that day, all online flights taking place on VATSIM were suspended for the same duration that real-life air traffic operations were shut down.  I was scheduled to fly to London on 14 September for business.  Needless to say this trip was cancelled.  I wouldn’t fly again until just before Christmas of that same year. 

I continued participating with VA’s until sometime in late 2006 when life just really got busy for me.  Like with any hobby, my flight simulation hobby had to be set aside.   My wife and I bought a house and my job has changed dramatically over the years.  Just before I put the cockpit and software in storage I had purchased the latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X (version 10.0).  At the time of FSX release, my computer was a weakling and there wasn’t a lot of add-ons available.  I’m also not even sure FSX at the time would work on the VATSIM network.  But I had to have it and purchased it soon after it came out. 

Now it is late Summer 2010.  I was flipping through the TV channels and came across a History Channel program about to start called Extreme Airports and I was reminded of how much I loved flying the flight simulator software.   The PC I used back in the 2005/06 timeframe still had FS9 and FSX installed.  I connected my GoFlight gear, my yoke and peddles and flew from KDEN to KDFW in FS9.  My old PC just wasn’t powerful enough to run FSX.  But this was soon resolved. 

I’ll blog about my new “Beast” of a PC on the next post and bring you all up to speed on what I’ve been doing to get started in this awesome hobby again. 

Until next time,



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