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Help r.e controllers location for a newbie

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Hi folks,I've been flying with FS2002 for about a year now, but still consider myself quite a beginner. I just signed up for Vatsim and downloaded Squawkbox etc etc, and tried to try it out a few times over the past few days, but am having a few issues, namely with locations of controllers.On the 'beginners' tutorial listed on this site, they strongly incourage firstime users to file a flight plan from 'quieter' airports so things aren't as hectic. So I took that advice and picked two regional airports here in Ontario (Toronto Island Airport to Ottawa International). The problem is that the only controller anywhere near me was in Boston!My question is, is there any point in filing a flight plan BEFORE finding out what controllers are available and where they might be? As a beginner it took a long time to follow all the steps of SB etc etc, and to get to the 'IFR Clearance' stage only to find out that I'm out of that controllers area is pretty disheartening.I'd appreicate any tips that you folks might have in order to make sure that your flights are always covered by a controller on the Vatsim network.Cheers,Jeremy

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Hello:There is always a good reason to fly with a flight plan as it lets people know where your going and if a controller does come on line at some point during your flight he will know where you are going.If you are interested in flying in areas where there is a controller online get the program ServInfo and when you run it it will show what comntrollers are on line and where they are.Hope this helpsRegards,Ron

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I am also new to online flying and have a followup question. Is there a procedure for clearance delivery, taxing, etc., if there are no controllers in your range or do you just file the flight plan, take off, and when you come into a controllers air space wait for them to make contact (or do you initate contact)?Any suggestions or guidance would be much appreciated.Don MarshAAL174

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Hi Don and Welcome to VATSIM,Here are some answers and other general tips for you:You should always file a flightplan on VATSIM - even if you are flying VFR. This is to make sure that everyone understands what your intentions are.If you are filing the flightplan through the SquawkBox Flightplan interface you must remember to RESEND FLIGHTPLAN once you connect to the network.Be sure that in your simulator under OPTIONS -- GENERAL you have PAUSE ON TASK SWITCH unchecked. This will prevent your aircraft from pausing when you change to other programs (checking email, browsing the web, getting back to work, etc.)If there are no controllers online in your area, you should announce your intentions in the UNICOM (122.80 frequency). Although you can do this on voice - you should always do it on text as well as you can never be sure who is on voice and who is not. I personally don't do clearance delivery to myself - I'll just pretend that I have it and announce things such as:If I see others at the airport:"Las Vegas Traffic, SWA301 taxiing 25R"When I take off:"Las Vegas Traffic, SWA301 departing runway 25R"Once I get up to cruise altitude (at an appropriate altitude for direction of flight) I'll keep quiet on Unicom. On my way down and close to the field I might announce something like:"Burbank traffic, SWA301 is 15NM NE of the field thru 8 for 4000 - planning 15 approach"This gives anyone in the vicinity or on the ground my plans.Followed by:"Burbank traffic, swa301 8 mile final 15"and that is that...Situational awareness is both the responsibility of ATC and of Pilots. I suggest a program such as SERVINFO to determine who's sky you are in. You could also try the payware program FSNavigator which won't tell you if ATC is on - but WILL tell you who's airspace you are currently flying in. Finally - you can always just call up any ACTIVE ATC (callsign ending with DEL, GND, TWR, DEP, APP, CTR, or FSS) that show in your list and politely ask them. ATC also has a way of sending a message to pilots asking them to contact them on the appropriate frequency.I hope that is not too much information for you. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask.

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Jeremy,Filing a flight plan is something you should always do regardless of if you are a VFR or IFR flight. Although this might not be 100% realistic - on the network it allows everyone to see your intentions.Unfortunately - no one can guarantee you ATC anywhere or anytime. Those who provide the ATC services are just having like you and I - and often only have limited to contribute or must leave due to other priorities. Some areas are staffed more regularly than others. Over time you should get a good idea of where and when you have a better chance of getting ATC and where and when you probably will never get ATC.Coverage in the Ontario region is by Toronto Centre (CZYZ_CTR) and in my opinion they seem to be one of more often staffed FIR's in Canada.Hope this helps you - if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

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...and another followup. I realize that announcing with voice on UNICOM isn't very effective, because there are so many voice servers. But with text, is EVERYBODY going to see my intentions? Or only those within a certain proximity of my plane? If so, what is that proximity (40 miles, 100 miles, etc)? I can't imagine that someone in Rome is interested that I'm on final in Bozeman. And what if you check ServInfo and there's no one around, do you still announce on UNICOM?Jared

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The servers are set up to handle a certain proximity. You may from time to time see broadcasts from people on the ground in Amsterdam and other airports where the field altitude is below Sea Level. I am sure that the server developers have solved this problem and we will no longer see it the next time they do an update.As for servinfo - the information you see is delayed based not only on how often you update/refresh but also every XXX minutes when the data feed from the server is refreshed. So - I would not base this sort of thing on what you see in ServInfo alone.As a side note for those of you who are new - the data feed that ServInfo gets info from goes down from time to time - but this does NOT MEAN that the VATSIM network is down. In fact - I can't remember a time when the network was ever completely down except for scheduled maintenance (rare). Often people think that when ServInfo doesn't work - the network is down. Be assured that there are still people controlling and flying on the network regardless of the data feed.Hope that helps.

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I suggest going right to vatsim.net for current info. It's much more current than is servinfo...In the left column, click on Full Network stats, then scroll down and look for the list of controllers...Sherm

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Sherm,Thanks for bringing this up. Sometimes I use the VATSIM.NET stats also and they certainly are an excellent source of information.However, they are actually updated using the same data feed that ServInfo (and all other applications that depend on VATSIM data) use - so the data is just as current on either.

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>The servers are set up to handle a certain proximity. You may>from time to time see broadcasts from people on the ground in>Amsterdam and other airports where the field altitude is below>Sea Level. I am sure that the server developers have solved>this problem and we will no longer see it the next time they>do an update.>Already done, about 4 days ago. You shouldn't see this problem any longer.cz

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>Sherm,>>Thanks for bringing this up. Sometimes I use the VATSIM.NET>stats also and they certainly are an excellent source of>information.>>However, they are actually updated using the same data feed>that ServInfo (and all other applications that depend on>VATSIM data) use - so the data is just as current on either.>>Not always true, Ian, at least in my experience. There have been times I have checked servinfo, and it shows a controller on duty. When I get there, it is empty. A check with vatsim confirms that. btw, I do not think this has anything to do with length of times on line and my just happening to sign on as a controller leaves.Sherm

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No, Sherm, Ian is correct. The "Who's Online" data snapshot is created once every 2 minutes. It is pushed to the server for the "Who's Online" page and also to the distribution points used by ServInfo, Whazzup, all the funny little signature icons and so on. It is absolutely the same data in each place unless you just happen to catch a transfer in progress. The window where they might be different is probably no more than 10-15 seconds. Depending on exactly when you start ServInfo and what auto-update period you use, you can end up in a situation where ServInfo is effectively always 1 update behind what's actually available on the servers. Perhaps that's what you're seeing.cz

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I stand corrected. Ian sent me a note similar to your explanation. I really cannot explain why I felt SI to be a bit behind the vatsim.net list of controllers on duty. Just one of those crazy things, I guess...:-)Sherm

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