with other pilots in FS is far more rewarding than seeing dumb AI aircraft
on screen. Whilst flying alone can be fun and the AI traffic has made
the skies more interesting it is a far cry from flying with your friends
and being able to talk to them on the radio. Basic MP sessions, or the
more challenging online ATC services, are both great fun and provide a
means of sharing your hobby with fellow pilots.
basic level all you need to fly online with other pilots is FS itself.
One pilot elects to host an MP session and notifies his IP Address (and
suggested airfield location) to other pilots. If you enter this IP Address
in your FS MP setup screen and press Search FS should locate the session
and allow you to join. Such sessions are usually set up between friends
or an MP email group but there are one or two web sites that are springing
up so it is worth checking.
you could enter the IP Address of a UK multiplayer server like that set
up by Rory Gillies at Shetland Flyer (see http://lerwick.plus.com/).
The advantage of a permanent server is that many pilots may be connected
so you never know what to expect - it could be very quiet or you may see
quite a number of aircraft.
in MP is awkward as the default method is via a text input box. This is
slow and can be frustrating when you are busy with flying the aircraft.
Many MP session organisers now use alternative voice programs such as
Roger Wilco or Teamspeak allowing pilots to speak to each other..
All you need for voice communication is a decent sound card and a headset
with a boom microphone - you can get very good quality headsets these
days at quite low prices. I use a Sony DR220 and it is excellent for both
FS and listening to DVD's.. For those of you who have not used a voice
program before I think you will be surprised at the quality of sound.
Roger Wilco isn't just for FS either - you could have a long conversation
with your friends around the world, all for free.
basic MP flying can be great fun it's limitations rapidly become apparent.
Once you go into MP mode in FS it automatically stops the FS AI aircraft
and ATC - leaving you with quiet and empty skies except for your friends
online at the time. MP is also limited in the number of pilots that can
join in a session (it can get a bit strained once you have 6 or more pilots
online) - this is due to the way FS sends its data to everyone connected
to the session. MP is also a "pilot only" setup so random flights
are the usual scenario with fly-ins organised by more ambitious groups
- but there is no supporting ATC.
users are nothing but adventurous and so several organisations have started
developing MP to work with fully integrated ATC services. You start up
MP as above but then you link with an online ATC server which connects
you to all other users on this system - both pilots and controllers. You
will see many other aircraft in the skies, all being flown by other pilots
who have connected to the servers, and you now have the ability to talk
to people manning ATC positions. The latter are not running FS but use
a separate program which provides a radar screen showing all the aircraft
connected to the server. Here is a screen shot showing several aircraft
on a radar screen:
take part in an ATC system requires installing their server software.
two most well known ATC providers are
IVAO and VATSIM
and they both use their own proprietary software.
It is therefore worth checking each of these organisations to see which
one best suits your needs.
is a structured ATC system that follows real world procedures. It is far
less than VATSIM and is not as friendly for new, casual users as it used
no introduction. Reformed after the original SATCO system closed down
VATSIM has been running for many years now and can claim a huge following
of both enthusiasts and real world pilots. VATSIM uses real world procedures
and it must be considered the ultimate experience for any FS user who
wishes total immersion in reality.
Flying online - Basic rules and guidelines
in an online ATC session might sound intimidating. In truth it varies
depending on what you try to do.
you are entering the world of ATC it may come as no surprise that a basic
knowledge of how ATC works is needed - and most pilots have picked up
the basics of this if they have used the AI traffic and ATC systems built
into FS2004 and later. With AI running you hear ATC talking to the robot
AI aircraft and you interact by selecting a choice of radio options to
make your transmissions. The only difference between FS and online ATC
is that instead of using the menus to obtain clearances and communicate
you will be hearing other live aircraft and talking to real FS controllers.
varies in complexity and it need not be said that a flight from an airport
like Heathrow is not for beginners. Without doing your homework and knowing
the proper procedures (like SID's) it would be beyond most newcomers to
the system. A simple VFR flight between two small airports is much easier
and most pilots start off in this way and develop their real world skills
over time. This can be very rewarding.
online systems have a wealth of tutorials about real world procedures
and provide training for users joining the system. They also have very
helpful forums to answer any questions you could possibly ask about flying
have written several online related articles that may be worth a read:
look at the basics of ATC. Now you are flying in a controlled environment
this is the time to learn some of the basic ATC procedures that will
be useful for MP flights.
you think you know how to fly your FS aircraft then the real time
environment of online ATC can cruelly show up your weak areas.
article describes the workload of a real airline flight from Ronaldsway
to Heathrow and highlights why real pilots are more prepared for
the unexpected. Inset comments are included to help FS pilots in
procedures they have not come across before.
Sim versus Reality
In this tutorial I'll describe how to plan a perfect flight in the
UK - and why doing this can still leave you unprepared for what may
article is based on a real flight from Ronaldsway to Biggin Hill
in a Cessna CJ1 Citation.
articles are available on my Tutorials
the years the JHB crews have asked me lots of questions about flying
procedures and some of the emails I fired off were essentially quite
detailed tutorials. I never kept copies of these - but some of my
pilots did - and it is well worth giving them a second airing. Some
of the articles describe ATC procedures, some cover Met or Navigation
and some are about aircraft handling..
you have installed the pilot software and have run through the correct
set up procedures here is a guide as to what happens.
are just two things that you MUST do before the temptation to hit
the CONNECT button overcomes you.
Make sure you are not sitting on a runway - you
must be sitting at a gate or somewhere well clear of the runways and taxiways.
It's obvious really - as soon as you connect your aircraft would appear
on radar screens and to other pilots - and you would be sitting on the
runway. If the airport is busy it would spoil their day a bit. Be considerate
and park somewhere safe.
2. Fill in the Flight Plan
- This is to inform
other users of your intentions. This may be new to you but most of the
boxes are self explanatory. If it is just for a test then type "Testing
only" in the remarks box. That way you can go online and play with
the various software settings without being disturbed by others. You may
see other aircraft moving around but no one should pay you any attention.
you connect to IVAO or VATSIM it will automatically disable all your AI
traffic. If you see aircraft moving around they will be other online pilots
flying around you. You will see these aircraft both visually (just like
AI aircraft) and on the TCAS display if you have this.
Things you do (and don't do) before you jump in
bit is mainly for beginners or the curious. It covers what actually happens
when you connect online plus good (or bad) habits you should be aware
of. First I will describe what to expect when you connect on line for
the very first time.
1. One very important rule for all pilots.
have the aircraft on an active runway when you press the CONNECT button!
Yep, I said it above too but this is important. If a controller is active
at your airfield and has other aircraft on final it isn't fair to pop
up on his screen blocking the runway! As in real life it might cause
something of a panic.. Instead, slew over to the apron and then
second part of this rule is also obvious - NEVER
SLEW IN FS WHEN YOU ARE CONNECTED. Not unless ATC gives you
do you see when you connect?
possibly nothing. It really depends on the time of day you connect and
how many other people are online. Choose somewhere busy like Heathrow
or Frankfurt on a Saturday night and it will be a lot busier than Exeter.
soon as you connect don't expect to be inundated with lots of radio chat
and controllers barking at you!. ATC coverage is variable depending on
time of day or weekdays/weekends and you may plug in when no ATC is present.
ATC panel will actually show you any ATC units that are active so you
always know just how much ATC is available. There may be a lot of airports
active or there could be none at all. You won't hear any of them until
you tune into their frequency.
Some useful rules
are a few rules for online ATC but most are simple common sense. I've
already mentioned the prime one of not starting up on a possible active
runway. Others are:
be worried by ATC. We all do this for fun and ATC are well aware
that there are a lot of beginners around - which applies to ATC
you don't understand what ATC have said then do not be afraid to
ask him to repeat a message. "Say again" is a well used
all calls to ATC short. If you talk a lot it can spoil the fun for
other pilots because you stop everyone else from passing messages.
Apart from that it is all too easy to get tongue tied if you try
to say a lot in one go.
real weather if you want to. ATC have access to current real weather
reports and this helps make the experience more realistic. Note
that on VATSIM real weather is automatic and could easily give you
conditions outside your abilities. On IVAO you can turn real weather
on or off.
flights carefully. By this I mean relative to your knowledge of
the procedures that would be required for that flight in an ATC
environment. VFR flights should be no problem but, conversely, if
you elect to fly an Airbus IFR into Hamburg be aware that you could
possibly be asked to conform to the procedures the real flight might
expect. If you can fly SID's and STAR's you'll do just fine..
up the radio "patter" by listening to what others do or
by listening to the ATC instructions more carefully in the default
ATC. This patter is quite rigid so it does not take long to build
up an adequate list of phrases for most of your flights.