vatsim guide for beginers

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vatsim guide for beginers

Postby Rampant Smurf » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:04 pm

First Flights on VATSIM � Start small and work your way up. Start by spending some time on the ground listening to radio traffic. If you can, pick one aircraft under ATC control and follow the hand offs to other controllers. That way you get used to the flow of communications, the type of phrases used and get used to tuning your radios. When your ready, it is recommended that you carry out your first flights at either smaller or less busy airfields, but one where there is ATC. This will allow the controller much more time to help you, give advice, and talk you through any difficulties you may have. It is strongly recommended that you do not use a major fly-in or extremely busy airfield for your first flight. Traffic levels are usually very heavy with mainly experienced pilots. ATC will not have the time to provide you the necessary level of assistance.

Know your aircraft and how to control it. (VATSIM 101e) Although this may sound basic, it�s an unfortunate reality that many new pilots initially find that their ability to control their aircraft is not a good as they thought it was. Obviously this can be very disruptive to other pilots who have to be urgently gotten out of your way by the controller. Although there are certainly technical challenges presented by trying to fly and communicate (especially with text), most experienced users have learned to work through this with some practice. Before connecting you should know your aircraft, panel, and autopilot. Know their limitations as well. Different types of aircraft � large vs. small, props vs. jets, single vs. multi-engine have very different flying characteristics. If you�re flying VFR, you should be able to taxi, take off in control, fly a basic traffic pattern, navigate at appropriate VFR altitudes and land visually. If you�re flying IFR, you should additionally be able to navigate using instruments (VOR/NDB/FMS) and (at the least) be able to consistently fly an ILS approach. The network is not the best place to try out that hot new panel or airplane you�ve never flown before.

� Know what the airspeed indicator is and how to HOLD an airspeed
� Know what the altimeter is and how to HOLD an altitude
� Know what direction you are flying and how to HOLD a heading
� Know how to tune the Com 1 radio
� Know what kind of landing you want to do, (visual, ILS)
� If you use the autopilot, know how to use it
� Be able to fly the airplane and comply with BASIC ATC instructions (headings, altitudes, speeds)

Preparation is part of flying: Reality check � real pilots don�t just hop into a running airplane sitting on the end of the runway and blast off into the sky without preparation. Before you start you should have all the materials you need for the flight (charts/approach plates/etc.) easily at hand. You should also know generally which ATC sectors you will be passing through and which controllers you may have to contact. Visit the website of the ATC sector or sectors you�ll be flying. There is a wealth of information on airspace rules, preferred routes, sector boundaries and much more available on these websites. While many controllers will be happy to help you with procedures when traffic is slack, do not rely on this. Start your flight with a quick visit to the websites of the ATC sectors you�ll be flying and you�ll be on your way to a much more enjoyable flight!

Some new pilots enjoy flying VFR, that is, Visual Flight Rules. If you are going to fly VFR, you must do your homework. Know where you can and cannot fly, and keep well clear of Class Bravo airspace. Nothing annoys a controller more than having an aircraft draw a complete circle around the TRACON. Filing a flightplan is also of great benefit. Instead of forcing the controller to tie up the frequency finding out where you want to go, simply file a flightplan, for example, �South Shore Long Island to Verrazano Bridge, up VFR Corridor, GWB then KTEB�

Be familiar with the field, not necessarily every gate, but be familiar with the taxiways and runways at the least. The last thing a CTR controller wants to do is deal with a progressive taxi at a given airport when he/she has a sky full of traffic to control. The charts for the field/aerodrome are available. Use them.

Whether flying VFR or IFR, know your surroundings. As a pilot, you should know where you are pointing your aircraft at all times. You should know what types of terrain you are surrounded by, what types of obstructions might be present and what types of airspace you are flying in. When flying VFR, know where local Class B and Class C airspace is, and who you need to talk to in order to enter it. Fly with a VFR chart. Get to know the FIR(s), ARTCC(s), or ACC(s) that you frequently visit. Most divisions and facilities have websites and forums where pilots are welcome to join in the discussions. The websites are a wealth of information (charts, region specific information, etc.), and the forums will provide you with an opportunity to
(a) Ask questions about things you've seen, heard, read, or want to learn about
(b) Get to know the controllers in your area (and let them get to know you)
(c) Make some new friends and who knows, maybe even
(d) Take up a spot behind the scope and experience VATSIM from both sides

Doing homework is not only for VFR Pilots. IFR Pilots must check their flightplans before requesting clearance. Many areas are not allowing GPS Direct flights, so plan to fly airways. If you want to use your GPS System, you can use it to guide you to various intersections and VORs along your route. Ensure that the proper aircraft is selected, proper altitude is entered, and that your departure and arrival airports are correct (often a pilot will file their intended route, but leave the airports from their last flight). Also, the IFR Pilot should at least possess the approach charts for the various approaches that they may have. For example, if I am on the ILS Approach to runway 16 in Calgary, and must declare a missed approach, I should be able to climb to 5500 without the controller telling me to. I know this procedure because it is written on my chart. The chart also gives localizer information, NDB and VOR frequencies, and runway lengths. During a busy shift, a controller would be burned out rather quickly if continuously required to repeat �Localizer frequency 109.3�, when the pilot should know that by reading the chart.

Connect with your aircraft positioned on a parking ramp or at a parking gate only. Never connect when on a taxiway or runway. If there is an aircraft on short final for a runway and suddenly another aircraft pops up on that runway, a landing pilot will be quite displeased because they will be asked to go around. Position your aircraft at a gate or on the ramp when connecting. If you do find yourself in conflict with another aircraft when connecting, slew your aircraft just far enough to relieve the intrusion. If your FS crashes in that situation, it is YOUR fault, please turn off crash detection in FS options.
The exception to this rule is if prior coordination is done between ATC and pilot (if the pilot�s system crashed, for example, they may coordinate with ATC to resume the flight where it left off). If a pilot needs to join the network while in flight for other reasons, coordination with ATC is necessary.

Squawk Standby before or immediately after connecting to VATSIM. After starting Squawkbox, FSInn, or xSquawkbox, but just before connecting to the VATSIM network, select �Squawk Standby� in the popup menu to place your transponder on standby. Then upon reaching the hold point for departure, unselect �Squawk Standby� to place your transponder in the normal mode (squawk mode Charlie). Some major airports may ask that you squawk normal (Charlie) in all movement areas. Check your local rules. This helps ATC by reducing the clutter appearing on the controller�s radar screen.

File a Flightplan and fly at the correct altitude for your direction of flight. Realistic flightplan routings can be found in a number of places:

The ARTCC/FIR/Regional websites found at
There is an excellent list of flightplan resources at

The REMARKS field is for additional operational information relevant to the flight. A pilot is free to use the REMARK field at their own discretion provided the content does not contravene any VATSIM rule in relation to appropriate on-line behavior.

To File your flightplan, there is a simplified tutorial in the PRC for using both the web filing method and the SquawkBox filing screen, see VATSIM 122a. If you choose to use FSInn to connect to the network, there is a flight plan screen there also. See the FSInn user guide for more information.

Attitude for Direction of Flight - Aircraft operating in the cruise segment of a flight are provided a generic separation based on their heading. Individual countries around the world may have different rules for this - so firstly check your local Division�s webpage for the actual altitudes for your flight.

RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum) see lesson 102f � Most of the world now uses RVSM rules.

When flying in RVSM airspace, the rule in most areas of the world is ODD altitude if you're eastbound (hdg 360 - 179) and EVEN altitude if you're westbound (hdg 180 - 359). However, some airways are altitude specific and MUST be flown at the altitudes shown on the charts for those airways. Actually, RVSM only applies from FL290 to FL410, but in practice people talk about it as if it were a continuation of the airspace below. Then, above FL410, the valid altitudes are FL410, 450, 490, etc for eastbound and FL430, 470, etc. for westbound. Before you attempt to fly RVSM, please view the RVSM lesson here on the PRC (102f).

France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland, follow a North � South rule for determining cruise altitude.

090 degrees (South) through 269 degrees � Odd Levels
270 degrees (North) through 089 degrees - Even Levels

In areas such as Africa which is not RVSM, for IFR flights above FL290 cruising levels are:

FL330, 370, 410, 450 for South traffic
FL310, 350, 390, 430 & 470 for North traffic
No EVEN flightlevels allowed above FL290 in non-RVSM airspace.

Russia is very different. Russia uses the Metric Leveling System so your altitude is in meters.
The Metric Leveling System is applicable only within the airspace of Russia Federation, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. All flight levels reported by ATC and airborne crew are given in meters.
Phraseology - "Moscow-Control, good evening, at flight level nine thousand six hundred meters, Tango Uniform [NDB] estimated in zero six minutes".

For track WEST (180-359) - Russia Only

For track EAST (0-179) - Russia Only

Upper airspace is 8100-12100 - Russia only
Horizontal flights in transition layer (between the transition height and transition level) are forbidden. Altitude below transition level uses QFE and QNH (on request)
QFE/QNH conversion: QFE=QNH-Field elevation, whereas 25ft/8.25m contains 1(one)mBar.

QNH is a reference to air pressure measured in millibars (mb), which when set on the altimeter reads the aerodrome height above sea level when at said aerodrome - thus a measure of your height above sea level or simply put - altitude. When QFE is set, the altimeter reads '0' when at aerodrome level - a measure of your height above aerodrome level.
DLH645: �Sheremetyevo-Radar(Krug), good evening, DLH645, at 1800 meters standard, information PAPA, expect ILS 07L�
RADAR: �DLH645, good evening, squawk ident. Cleared for ILS approach runway 07L, descend to 900 meters height, transition level 1500, QFE 996�
DLH645: �Cleared ILS 07L, descent to 900 meters height, transition level 1500, QFE 996�

Or - if using QNH

DLH645: �Sheremetyevo-Radar(Krug), good evening, DLH645, at 1800 meters standard, information PAPA - QNH 1017, expect ILS 07L�
RADAR: �DLH645, good evening, squawk ident. Cleared for ILS approach runway 07L, descent to 1100 meters, transition level 1500, QNH 1017�
DLH645: �Cleared ILS 07L, descent to 1100 meters, transition level 1500, QNH 1017�

Foreign aircraft (by default) will be given an ILS approach (automatically or manual).
By request � an NDB or visual approach will be approved.

Check the web pages of the VATSIM areas you plan to fly in for more information.

Never Take Off and go flying around without talking to ATC if present. Make sure that you�ve contacted the appropriate controller before taxiing at an airport where tower services are being provided or before departing when no tower is available. When initially connecting to VATSIM, pilots should check the ATC List to connect to a controller. Use the ATC Directory menu in the connection software, the VATSIM �Who�s On Line� page, or use ServInfo (link is in the FAQ document) to determine what controllers are on-line. Start with Clearance Delivery (xxx_DEL) for your location and tune to their frequency. Look for ATC staffing in this order:

Delivery (xxx_DEL)
Ground (xxx_GND)
Tower (xxx_TWR)
Approach (xxx_APP)
Center (xxx_CTR)

Sometimes, the position callsign is listed in three sections (LAX_V_CTR). Further along these lines, the center section (_V_) may appear with other variations such as (_KND_), (_VS_), or (_V1_). From our viewpoint as a pilot, that is just added confirmation the position is �voice� capable. All controllers should be assumed to be on voice unless their ATIS message when connecting to them says they are text only.
Nothing is more frustrating to a controller than sequencing a string of traffic, and sending them all into holds because someone decided to takeoff without contacting ATC. You should check when you first connect, before taxiing, and before takeoff. If there is no controller, you should announce your intentions over the Unicom (122.800) unless the local VATSIM Division has other prescribed broadcast frequencies for that location, e.g., �Calgary traffic, American 602 departing straight out runway 16� The principle of knowing what controller is around holds true while in the air. Know where you are, and what FIR/ARTCC has control over your aircraft (An excellent program for this is ServInfo or the payware program FSNavigator). Do not hesitate to call up a nearby controller, and ask them who has jurisdiction over you.

Listen first before talking on the frequency so you do not �step on� other pilots or controllers trying to communicate. Wait for pilots to complete their readback before jumping in. This is especially important when switching frequencies and talking to a new controller. Listen to the frequency until you can ensure no one is speaking or will be speaking when you make your transmission; then you may transmit. NOTE: This may be an extended period of time in some instances when traffic volume is extremely high and the frequency busy. If unable to contact a controller on the frequency via voice, use the text frequency. If a controller gives a call to a pilot, do NOT speak or transmit until a readback has been given in response to a controller's call.. Listen before speaking on a frequency! Be patient.

Know what you want to say and be brief and do not make superfluous reports. Be sure to know the phonetic alphabet and standard phraseology to ensure your transmission is understood. Also, be brief with what you say, and know what you want to say before you say it. This will reduce many pauses and other unnecessary phrases on the frequency. Don't respond to everything with a ROGER. But please don't clog up the frequency with long messages that are not necessary. If you are being handed off, simply announce your callsign and altitude passing and altitude you are climbing or descending to. If the controller cannot find you he or she can ask you to IDENT (read the tutorials for the connection software you are using so you know what to do when asked to IDENT.

Accepting a clearance from a controller is an absolute agreement to do what the controller has instructed you to do � If you don�t understand ASK � DON�T TRY TO FAKE IT!!: ALWAYS BE HONEST with the controller. Listen carefully to the frequency and promptly comply with instructions provided by ATC.

The instructions that a controller gives you can be likened to a contract � in reading the instructions back, you have agreed, dated, and signed the contract. You may never breach this contract, unless following the instructions would put your aircraft in danger (in which case you would not follow the instructions, and tell the controller why, e.g. �American 602 unable to descend to 2000 due to terrain�). When a controller gives you vectors, he/she is not picking arbitrary directions and numbers. He/She is, in fact, going through numerous calculations designed to keep all aircraft separated from one another. For example, I may be flying a heading of 010. There is traffic at my altitude at a bearing of 020 and going away from me. If the controller wants me to come to a new heading of 040, without altering speeds or altitudes, he or she may simply say �American 602, turn right heading 040�. It is vital that I, as the pilot, follow this instruction. START the turn right away and then give the readback �turning right 040 American 602)�. If I do not, the controller will see flashing conflict lights pop up on the screen. If a controller directs you to perform an action that really makes no sense to you, i.e. directing you to turn left to 040 in the example above, without additional clarification that you are expected to circle 330 degrees, asking for confirmation on a left turn versus a right turn is most likely in order.

If your using text, shorthand is just fine, CTL=Cleared to Land, D/M 5K=Descend and Maintain 5000. Any other short hand you�d care to come up with that still conveys you get what the controller is asking for is fine.

Listening carefully and responding swiftly will bring a smile to many controllers� faces. Vectors-to-final, for example is an instruction that is highly critical to lining up your aircraft on final approach. Missing an approach clearance [with a heading to join a final approach course] may not only increase the controller�s workload, but yours as well. Think ahead of the airplane and it will work out well! Be ALERT on frequency. If you need to leave for toilet or whatever, just call the controller for permission to leave your cockpit for X minutes. This will most often not be any problem and the controller knows that you're away and for how long and can plan for that. Do not leave your connection unattended

When the controller issues you instructions, you should get in the habit of writing them down as he or she says them. This ensures that you do not forget a vital bit of information. When you read the instructions back, read exactly what you wrote. This serves as a final check for your instructions. If you do not understand something, do not read it back. For example, A clearance that I might be likely to receive when flying Calgary Intl to Edmonton is �American 602, Cleared to Edmonton Via the Barbow 7 departure and Flight Planned Route, Departure frequency is 125.900, squawk 4200� (Actually the Barbow 7 chart contains the departure frequency and the controller might not provide it on the initial clearance). If, for example, I did not know what the Barbow 7 departure was, I would readback �Clear to Edmonton, Flight Planned Route, 125.900 for departure and 4200 on the squawk, American 602. American 602 is unfamiliar with Barbow 7 departure, please advise.� The controller would tell me something like �American 602, Barbow 7 departure is maintain runway heading to 7000� for vectors�.

If you get an ILS clearance and you don't receive the ILS signal, tell the controller. It's not nice to have the controller re-vector you three times to the ILS and you overshoot every time because you don't receive a signal because of improper NAV tuning. If you get an approach clearance and you don't receive the necessary navaid for that, tell the controller immediately and verify frequency.

Taxiing properly is part of the process � not optional. Part of the process may be waiting your turn. If you feel the need to try to cut the line by taxiing across the grass or declaring a phony emergency � disconnect and come back when you have the time. If there is little ground traffic and you want to slew your aircraft, communicate your request to the controller to obtain permission. If the controller is busy with traffic, a request to slew will not be appreciated and most likely will be refused.

Don�t pause your simulator or use time acceleration. If you need to pause your simulator or want to increase time acceleration (i.e. 4X), notify the controller you are in communication with. A center controller may have you fly slightly off course to pause or increase the simulation rate so you do not disrupt the flow of traffic; a ground controller may have you taxi to a hanger area away from important taxiways. NEVER pause while taking off, landing, or flying an approach, even for a small amount of time. Even the pause to reload scenery can take long enough to cause problems. Remember that when you are landing there may be a plane only 2.5 miles behind you flying at up to 250 knots. At this rate, a pause of 45 seconds will cause a collision. Do not pause while taxiing or waiting for takeoff by the runway; most airports don't have enough taxiway for the ground controller to send planes around you. Be very selective about when you access Flight Simulator menus because that causes the aircraft to pause as well. Make sure 'pause on task switch' is turned off in the flight simulator.

Disconnect from the network in the event of system or other problems that make you unable to fly properly. If you have an equipment failure that makes it impossible for you to safely fly or taxi your plane and you cannot take reasonable actions, explain this to the controller and then politely disconnect from the network until you can fly again. When you reconnect, do so at a reasonable place (e.g. not in the middle of a runway), not necessarily the place where you disconnected. See �What if I get disconnected from the network� in the VATSIM FAQ for more information.

Use proper radio phraseology. When using voice, a pilot should never jump right into a transmission immediately after connecting. There may be a (simulated) emergency on that frequency, which the pilot would not know about having just come on. Allow yourself enough time to get into the flow of the communications. This may only take 15 seconds, or you may wait for the controller to acknowledge you. Never overstep another transmission, when you do so the controller cannot hear either transmission clearly. While text makes it easier to communicate (no need to wait, the controller can see several lines at once), there are certain rules of etiquette that govern this medium. Transmissions should never be conducted entirely capitalized, or entirely in lower case. All capital letters insinuate that the typist is yelling, and few people like to be yelled at. Proper grammar and punctuation make the job of controlling on text much easier. In addition, a pilot should not be afraid to use shorthand when replying to ATC. For example, typing �d/m 4k, t/l 130, clr ILS 16, OSP� is much easier than �Descend and Maintain Four Thousand, Turn Left heading 130, and Clear for the ILS Approach runway 16, Oscar Sierra Papa�. However, make sure that you can use the proper abbreviations. Do not switch between text and voice, unless either the controller asks you, or you clearly state that you are switching, e.g. �American 602 switching to text, voice not operational�, use text until you are able to reinstate voice, and then state �American 602 back on voice�.

Flying with ATC - Instructions should be read back and executed as soon as possible. When receiving instructions from ATC, the controller's instructions must be confirmed by reading back the instruction to the controller. This must be done by the pilot as soon as possible. The controller is also expecting you to carry out (execute) the instruction as soon as possible. Readback then Execute with no delay unless advised otherwise by ATC. When using voice this is one seamless action. However, you should NEVER read back an instruction you do not understand and are not capable of carrying out.

Don�t chat controllers or try to use text to �get attention� when the voice channel is busy. Obviously simply harassing a controller who�s already busy with traffic only makes things more difficult for all � a little patience goes a long way here. If the controller is too busy to respond to you immediately on voice how are they going to do it on text (which is actually much more work for them as they have to stop talking and type)? Also remember that if you are text only you have no idea how busy the controller is on voice! Please be patient. If a controller sends you a "Contact Me" message, do not send back an "Okay", "Will Do", "Roger", or anything of that nature. It's just another text box he has to open and goes along with not private messaging controllers. After receiving one of these, just tune the frequency and contact the controller on the frequency.

Pilots are permitted to declare in-flight emergencies. If, for any reason, air traffic control requests the pilot to terminate the emergency, then the pilot must do so IMMEDIATELY or log off of VATSIM. Do not under any circumstances declare a phony emergency as a means to simply attempt to push other pilots out of your way or to get special attention from a controller. Unfortunately the all too frequent abuse of simulated emergencies has led many controllers to take a very dim view of pilots who declare emergencies. Never try to declare an emergency during a fly-in or other special event. Even the time that it takes for the controller to refuse your emergency can lead to the controller losing his/her flow.

Simulated hijackings are not allowed on VATSIM under any circumstances. Simulating a hijacking will result in disconnection from the network and possible disciplinary action.

Please use SquawkBox, FSInn, or an external weather source to obtain the local weather and airport information. Advising the controller that you have this information on initial contact lessens the controller�s workload and will be appreciated. The connection software or any external weather program will provide weather information that will help you identify which runway is likely in use. Remember that wind direction is given for where the wind is blowing FROM, so if the wind was stated as 240 at 10KTS you would use runway 24 for landing and take off.
Many controllers help with this by including such details as runway in use and ATIS ID in their ATIS string so when you switch to their frequency, these details will show on text. Also, �ServInfo� will provide much of this information by simply clicking on the controller�s line in the display.
You can also use ServInfo's weather feature to get weather reports at airports, just click on the cloud tool button and 'fill in the blanks'

Unless otherwise stated, the maximum airspeed below 10,000 ft is 250kts. Just like on the highway, you are expected to maintain a safe airspeed at lower altitudes. Often (near airports) the maximum airspeed is even lower. Unless otherwise authorized, maintain 250 knots (KIAS) or less below 10,000 feet MSL.

When flying IFR, ATC expects you to turn at a standard rate. No matter whether you are flying a piper cub or a 747, a standard-rate turn covers a full circle (360 degrees) in 2 minutes or a half circle in 1 minute. The only thing that is different between these two planes is the radius of the standard rate turn, which is determined by how fast the airplane can bank its wings (the roll rate) and how fast the airplane is going.

Know how to obtain and read charts. Departure (SID), Arrival (STAR), and Terminal (IAP) charts are very important to a realistic and safe virtual environment on VATSIM. Know where to find, and how to read these charts before your flight. Many controllers expect you have these charts onboard and understand how to read them unless they are told otherwise.

FS tunes COM1 to 122.95 by default. The first item on your check list should be tune COM1 to 122.80 (UNICOM) or the appropriate ATC frequency for your airfield.

Read Controller Information (ATIS) when tuning to a new frequency. Normally, this information provides weather and runway information as well as other remarks for the primary airport being served. Reading this information, understanding it, and advising the initial controller you have it will most likely answer any arrival information you may have asked the controller.

Remember that although �as real as it gets� may be the goal, sometimes technical and system realities get in the way. VATSIM is a global internet network with an extremely diverse membership. Different members may have dissimilar levels of connectivity, varying system capabilities and an indeterminate level of experience. Also both controllers and pilots, even the most experienced and knowledgeable, are often faced with having to sacrifice some realism in order to accommodate system realities. Understanding that in these situations, individual controllers and pilots may make different decisions about what is the least unrealistic way to proceed. Approaching the process with a relaxed, flexible and positive attitude will go a long way toward increasing your enjoyment of the network.

Be courteous to other users, be patient, and stay cool. Do not argue with other pilots or controllers on line. If you do have a complaint, collect the details and email the relevant Conflicts Manager (see VATSIM 102 (e)).
Rampant Smurf

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