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Future of Online Flying

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I only fly online with either Vatsim or PilotEdge.  Both have their plusses and minuses in my opinion.  Pilotedge pros - full guaranteed coverage top to bottom in the west, very professional / Cons - only in the west, very little traffic, $.  With Vatsim, I see the pros being you can fly online any time, not limited to roughly half of the US, a little more traffic / Cons - no guaranteed coverage, bad sound quality at times.  Does anyone know what improvements, changes, additions, features that will be coming up in the near/distant future to either of these 2 applications?  I haven't flown on IVAO.  How does that compare in the US?  I'm just curious if there are any rumors floating around out there. 

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The voice improvements are a great step forward. Voice CTAF is especially important.

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I was an avid Vatsim user back in the day, but got tired of no traffic, no controllers and flying with Unicomm. Tried all the ATC programs,, some for quite awhile,  and finally settled on PF3 which to me is the most realistic of all of them. Having acquired  my  Pilot's license in a very congested ATC area ( South Florida) I needed something that resembles real ATC, and having one controller for hundreds of miles kills the immersion totally for me. PF3 has  over 140 different controller voices, which I really enjoy.  

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9 minutes ago, Bobsk8 said:

I was an avid Vatsim user back in the day, but got tired of no traffic, no controllers and flying with Unicomm. Tried all the ATC programs,, some for quite awhile,  and finally settled on PF3 which to me is the most realistic of all of them. Having acquired  my  Pilot's license in a very congested ATC area ( South Florida) I needed something that resembles real ATC, and having one controller for hundreds of miles kills the immersion totally for me. PF3 has  over 140 different controller voices, which I really enjoy.  

Yes but Bob, that is not online flying and you are being controlled by your PC, not a controller.   I get what you're saying, but for me, ATC in a can is an immersion killer.  It's liked tinned veg vs fresh veg.

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6 minutes ago, ErichB said:

Yes but Bob, that is not online flying and you are being controlled by your PC, not a controller.   I get what you're saying, but for me, ATC in a can is an immersion killer.  It's liked tinned veg vs fresh veg.

Good analogy!  I like that Vatsim has scheduled "fly-ins" that typically are on the weekends and you can plan around them and know you have scheduled ATC.  Maybe they can do something more regional in the future... For example Friday seems to be "Cleveland Friday Ops" where Cleveland Center will be on for a certain period of time.  Typically when these happen some surrounding centers are online but not for a specific period of time.  Maybe instead to an "east of the Mississippi" fly in where all centers have coverage during that time so you can have more options to fly.  That might be difficult to do as I am not a controller and don't know the complexity of something like that.  

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22 minutes ago, ErichB said:

Yes but Bob, that is not online flying and you are being controlled by your PC, not a controller.   I get what you're saying, but for me, ATC in a can is an immersion killer.  It's liked tinned veg vs fresh veg.

Many functions of real ATC today are determined by a computer. 

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57 minutes ago, Bobsk8 said:

Many functions of real ATC today are determined by a computer. 

How? Please elaborate as I understand there are a human watching our skies and talking to our pilots, they use computers as a tool but all decisions are made by humans.

And nothing compares with talking with a real ATC controller, I own all ATC packages available and none of them are even close to real world operations, they are good, they improve the sim experience but cannot be compared and until someone designs an ATC product with artificial intelligence engine no third party ATC product will ever be even 60% close to real world scenarios.

Simbol 

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1 hour ago, Bobsk8 said:

Many functions of real ATC today are determined by a computer. 

This is about HOW you interact, primarily. 

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One of the reasons I love watching pilots posting of in flight youtube videos is listening to their interaction with ATC.  Especially the ones who fly turboprops and bizjets into the flight levels.  When you watch these you really realize what the member in Florida is talking about, how busy it is up there and how many ATC voices are involved in a typical flight.  Between handoffs from center, to approach, to control tower ATC, to ground traffic ATC, there's a lot that goes on when vectoring an aircraft to final amidst all the other traffic that is out there.

One reason why I went to trike flying is I could just not react fast enough to ATC, although my instructor thought I was OK, I wasn't happy with my interaction with ATC, I just did not have the natural approach that a good pilot has.  You have to be on your toes, plus managing the aircraft, scanning for traffic, scanning for engine out landing spots.  Flying a trike in rural areas you just have to look for other UL traffic, plus birds and engine out spots, which are plentiful given all the dirt roads in rural areas of Arizona.

John

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There might be some relief for predictability of ATC online availability coming.

The idea arises out of my frustration from being a VATSIM pilot who rarely is able to get ATC coverage when I want to fly especially in the US and Asia.

I have just had developed an ATC time booking website which can be universally used by ATC to book time slots when they are going to be online. The booked time slot appears on a daily/weekly/monthly calendar. Pilots can view the calendar and plan their flights to get ATC coverage either flying in or out of that region. A few ATC can also get together to open coverage in tandem so pilots can fly in between the regions (like a mini-event). There is also an option to get an email if an ATC booking has been made on the website (you can turn this off of course).

The website also has a pilot request functionality for pilots to request ATC coverage where they are flying.

The website will be in testing phase very soon and at the moment only a few US based ARTCCs are participating in the pilot (VATUSA is observing if the idea will be feasible). Hopefully when they provide the go ahead we can have more ARTCCs come on board (for some strange reason some regions have declined the chance to sign-up).

The most common feedback I have heard over the years is that controllers are not able to predict their availability most of the times. Neither is there any guarantee that ATC will be online even if they book a time slot (this is VATSIM and real life does supersede). That is fine. There is obviously no obligation to sign-up on the website. With that said at least if some of us use this and can build traffic levels maybe others can follow suit and it becomes a must-do procedure for controllers.

In the end, hopefully we can have some hope of getting some predictability of ATC coverage (which was the original goal of VATSIM), rather than pilots blindly flying around hoping for ATC on VATSIM.

Watch this space...

Shez

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Last year I wrote a lengthy post regarding flying online which numerous people told me helped them to think a little differently about flying online. This is a summary of that post, and I hope it will help at least a few people to look at things a little differently.

I've been flying on VATSIM since it was called SATCO, and I flew online for a few years before SATCO existed. While I'm signed up with IVAO, their Pilot Client software is IMO awkward and non-intuitive, so I'll wait for their upcoming new pilot client before I try to flying on IVAO again.

NOTHING MORE REALISTIC OR IMMERSIVE

I don't believe there is anything in flight simulation more realistic or immersive than flying a VATSIM Event, which often approximates what a commercial airline pilot would experience on a given busy day. AN event gives us the opportunity to fly with a lot of other aircraft piloted by human beings flying in and out of at least one airport (often two or more) and we usually have at least 5 layers of ATC coverage.

BORING FLIGHTS

Of course events don't happen every day, but they do occur several times each week. I look at flying non-events as a way to keep my skills sharp so that when I do fly an event everything on my end goes as smooth as possible. These non-event flights are especially important to those still building experience on the network, because jumping into an event if you're not ready for it will likely be a brutal experience and I've seen people kicked for the network after impeding operations several times due to a lack of knowledge about how things work (flow), not knowing what to expect, and not knowing how they fit into the operational flow.  One might think someone being kicked in worong or harsh, but we have to remember that this isn't offline flying, it's cooperative flying where the good of everyone is more important than taking care of one person during a large, fast paced event.  However if that same person were to fly a non-event at a manned airport that hasn't so busy, they would often receive all the help they needed. This points us to how important practice or keeping our skills sharp is for flying the INCREDIBLE online events.

ONE OF "THOSE" GUYS

One quick word.  Last year I had "one of those guys" who's opinion was always more important than anyone else's and I believe he cruised the forums looking for any post that he could jump in to give his opinion and tell someone else they were wrong and he took no exception with my post as he informed me that I was wrong about people needing practice or sharpening their skills. About 5 or 6 weeks later I was flying a VATSIM event and was on the tail end of about 7 or 8 line of aircraft flying the same route into an airport. About 20 minutes after the line of aircraft began descending on the arrival, I heard ATC come up and start vectoring aircraft in our line all over the place.  Now I have four monitors and run software that overlays other aircraft onto a Ground, Departure, Enroute, Arrival and Approach charts so I know where they are, what they are doing and what they should be doing. It took me a second to see that the lead aircraft had descended without managing (adjusting) his indicated airspeed, resulting in everyone behind him running up on him so ATC started vectoring them all over creation (this would add 35 to 45 minutes to the flying time of each person... very unfair, especially for those who's real world schedule made them log off instead of completing the event). That one pilot screwed everyone else because he didn't know how to fly a descent and arrival. By the way, ATC directed him to increase airspeed several times (ATC had to keep telling him to do so as he got lower) - but only after ATC had already vectored everyone behind him. 

Well, there must be a God, HAS TO BE!  Because wouldn't you know it, the person flying that lead aircraft turned out to be the one who informed me that I was wrong about needing practice and skill sharpening.  I never did write to him, but I should have.

AIRPORT SELECTION

Both VATSIM and IVAO have airports and sectors which are frequently manned, and I'll refer to them as Hot Spots. If a Hot Spot isn't manned and there are six or so hours left until midnight (local to the airport) then there is a fair chance you will have ATC log in. Note also that some controllers who aren't sure if they want to log on or not will sit at their computer and monitor their airport. If one or more pilots log into the airport the controller will often log in. Same goes for inbound flights.  

When flying non-events I have a rough selection process that I use to help me chose which airports I will fly between.

1. ATC Coverage between airports that I will have the time to fly between.

2.  Weather.  Contrary to real world flying, I look for the worst the weather I can find, especially at the arrival airport as I'll be flying longer in that weather than I would during a departure (which are designed to get you out and upstairs).

3. Good airport scenery.  This is less of a factor now that REX Game Studios has provided us with World Wide Airports HD (WWA HD), which provides customizable HD Airport Textures which replace the default textures. Anyone who understands how scenery works will know that it's not possible to create a payware quality airport using this method, and REX WWA HD doesn't and can't do this. But what it will do is replace textures for  default airport or even AFCAD update and give  you a far better representation of what an airport should look like. This is provides an inexpensive alternative to purchasing a payware airport for $32 (USD) especially when you don't place on flying to/from the airport very often.

NOTE: I purchase third party addon airports for those airports which are often manned by ATC (Hot Spots).

4. The number of inbound and outbound traffic.

 

A FEW VERY IMPORTANT POINTS

Here are some things that will help new and seasoned pilots alike.

STAY INFORMED

Check both the VATSIM and VATUSA Event Calendars not only before you fly, but a week ahead of time so you'll know when the incredible events are.  Remember, you need to check both websites.

Use one of the Live Maps for VATSIM or IVAO to see which airports are manned, how long the controller has been online. Less than an hour and you have a great chance of getting service. More than 1 hour and you have a 50/50 change of getting service when you log in and get ready for departure. More than 2 hours and you're taking a risk!

NOTE: FSMAP will provide you with a Live Map that you can switch between VATSIM and IVAO (click the appropriate icon in the lower right of the map to swap between networks). The map will show you all controllers and pilots on the network. There are many other VATSIM and IVAO Live Map services you can use, and using them in flight can help you to know when you're about to enter controlled airspace and where other aircraft are and what they're doing - especially if ATC isn't online and other aircraft are inbound to the same airport you are.  

One very special Live Map resource is VATVIEW which will not only shows you other aircraft, you can also automatically bring up overlays for Sectional, IFR Low, IFR High and Weather Radar!

NOT ENOUGH TRAFFIC OR CONTROLLERS?

Perhaps the most important thing I can say to those who don't fly on VATSIM because there isn't enough traffic or ATC coverage is... if all the people who felt that way logged in when they booted up their flight sim, there would be plenty of traffic!

SINCERE GRATITUDE

We all know that controllers on VATSIM/IVAOare all volunteer and I for one feel enormously grateful that people sign up, study, go through training, and take exams all to provide us with realism based ATC service. These people receive little to no recognition for all they do for us, and it doesn't cost anything to send them a simple thank you when changing frequencies (a sincere thank you goes a very long way for our controllers).

FIND A GOOD GROUP OR VA TO FLY WITH

Flying alone is okay, but flying with friends is always a LOT more fun!

SHARED COCKPIT

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING as fun or exciting as flying a VATSIM Event in Shared Cockpit, but it takes some practice and is best to fly with a friend rather than a stranger.  You can find a lot more information about Shared Cockpit in the AVSIM Shared Cockpit Forum.

DON'T FLY ONLINE AS YOU DO OFFLINE

When we venture into these virtual ATC worlds, we agree to surrender a certain percentage of control over what we can do and won't do, even when ATC Coverage isn't available - in fact it's even more important when ATC isn't online! 

VATSIM/IVAO are designed as virtual aviation worlds where ATC, IFR and VFR rules apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This includes flying in uncontrolled airspace, which is also realistic. In fact, there are even procedures at most every small to large airports for lost communications - which apply if the sector or airport isn't manned. The bottom line here is "Don't be THAT guy". If you want to fly as you do when you're offline, then you should fly offline rather than in a cooperative environment.

Well, my eyes have been blurry for being on the computer for a few hours, but I hope this is helpful to at least a few people.

 

My very best wishes to everyone.

 

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This is more my opinion,I don't know about IVAO in US, but I see a bright future for metioned networks and I think it will grow, having audio in CTAF\unicomm like in the real world and finally a quality audio will change those akwards situation.

IMHO the only aspect thet I don't like about networks is pilots using text that all the purpose, I would rather disconnect if audio is dramatic..

I am an event coordinator of a european region, I believe that if you follow the event calendar proposed by every region, you can have a lot of fun fliyng online.

Its' even worse if you try those overload events where you could get on holding and need to go to the alternate.

Following forums like this https://forums.vatsim.net/viewforum.php?f=17 can inspire you to find good coverage.

I also seeing many twicher doing live or recording video where those networks start to get known more nad more.

Another topic more then a wish it would be killing those region idea and organize resource of avoilable ATC by cover continent by week, like let's say we got 10 CTR, 10 APP, 30 TWR then we cover Half europe, next week we cover the other half then africa then russia then middle east etc.

I know that atc get training for every region but after a while atc can train and get knowledge of every continent, and finally we will have more coverage.

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2 hours ago, DaveCT2003 said:

Last year I wrote a lengthy post regarding flying online which numerous people told me helped them to think a little differently about flying online. This is a summary of that post, and I hope it will help at least a few people to look at things a little differently.

Dave, BZ, great great post. Online flying with ATC is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in this wacky hobby.

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6 minutes ago, Henry Street said:

Dave, BZ, great great post. Online flying with ATC is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in this wacky hobby.

Thank you brother.

 

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I've been a Vatsim member since 2001. I always look forward to flying online when possible. Over the years I have seen the changes from software SB3, SB4, vPilot to quality ATC coverage. I have friends who I met on Vatsim and I still keep in touch with even after all these years.

The only downside I see with online flying is some of the pilots who do not take the whole online experience serious. I know many experienced online pilots who will no longer fly online because they feel Vatsim has gone down hill.  The pilots I'm referring to are those who:

- Ignore the winds for takeoff and landings and go against the flow of online traffic

- Come online to cause havoc with online traffic

- Don’t want to learn and get argumentative when you try to inform them that what there doing it wrong

- Talk more than necessary causing traffic distribution for others during busy events

- Not listening before transmitting causing missed radio calls

- Improper use of aircraft ICAO codes ßMajor factor when dealing with online flying and model matching

 

Don’t get me wrong, we all started from the bottom. What separates a serious online simmer from what I call the “Air Force Proud Steam bunch” is the preparation and learning prior to venturing into the online world. There are many YouTube videos and materials to bring even the most basic virtual pilot up to speed when it comes to flying on Vatsim.

I will continue to fly online when possible but there are some days I wonder why I even bothered. I look forward to any improvements to the Vatsim network.  

  

 

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I've enjoyed flying in the events as they bring all the real positions that ATC has.

As a real pilot I'm often confused by NY_APP giving me takeoff clearance for Danbury- a class D airport with its own tower, which closed after 10pm back in that year. I can understand getting an IFR release with a "void if not off" time, but I remember getting admonished for not asking for taxi clearance... (Arooo?)

However it is very good to hear a voice unicom is in the works!

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13 minutes ago, bjratchf said:

I can understand getting an IFR release with a "void if not off" time, but I remember getting admonished for not asking for taxi clearance... (Arooo?)

 

Yeah, it's not perfect, and those who are used to real world procedures have to cross our eyes from time to time, especially highly qualified and experienced airline pilots like you my friend!

For those who aren't aware, Brendan does this for a living with a major airline. He's a great friend and very talented pilot and flight simmer.

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, DaveCT2003 said:

Last year I wrote a lengthy post regarding flying online which numerous people told me helped them to think a little differently about flying online. This is a summary of that post, and I hope it will help at least a few people to look at things a little differently.

Wonderful post Dave!

 

I think you hit all the points here. One of the challenges VATSIM has is dealing with a user base with wildly different experience levels. When I was 10, thought flying NYC-Frankfurt involved "direct to frankfurt airport"- and wasn't acquianted with the finer points of SID/STARS, CDAs, EDCT times, etc... They can either create a barrier to entry by making it hyper realistic (with violations even, HA!)- but that would cut out a lot of people from joining and experimenting, experiencing. I think VATSIM has a really good middle ground met- during events the barrier to entry is high, but they also provide just enough documentation and support so the enthusiast will be on their feet quickly. 

Edited by n4gix
For goodness' sake, DO NOT quote the entire bloody post for your reply!
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2 minutes ago, DaveCT2003 said:

 

Yeah, it's not perfect, and those who are used to real world procedures have to cross our eyes from time to time, especially highly qualified and experienced airline pilots like you my friend!

For those who aren't aware, Brendan does this for a living with a major airline. He's a great friend and very talented pilot and flight simmer.

 

 

 

Thanks Dave!

 

My hidden agenda for VATSIM though is that it eventually becomes a tool that people can use to become comfortable on the radio in the real world- and maybe turn them on to getting that instrument rating!

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8 hours ago, DaveCT2003 said:

Last year I wrote a lengthy post regarding flying online which numerous people told me helped them to think a little differently about flying online. This is a summary of that post, and I hope it will help at least a few people to look at things a little differently.

 

Great post Dave.  Online flying and shared cockpit completely re-invents the experience of flightsimming.  I'm genuinely excited about the future as the community continues to grow in this regard.

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4 hours ago, ErichB said:

Great post Dave.  Online flying and shared cockpit completely re-invents the experience of flightsimming.  I'm genuinely excited about the future as the community continues to grow in this regard.

Thank you my friend.  I love the way you put it, "Online flying and shared cockpit completely re-invents the experience of flightsimming".  Excellent!

 

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After reading this thread, I decided to give Avsim one more try. I was really into it years ago, and even met with some controllers at an Avsim convention in San Diego years ago. I downloaded V pilot, got everything working and sat at a few airports listening to the ATC. Last evening the only airport I could find with some controllers was Cleveland Ohio. I tried two other airports after they had one or two controllers , and found the audio, especially by the controllers to be beyond terrible. Now before anyone says it is my setup, I use audio with both my flightsim and PC functions all the time and it works flawlessly and is clear and  easy to understand. The audio from the controllers I listened to yesterday, sounded like they were two feet away from their mic. ( I used to be a broadcast engineer BTW) and that they had either  a mouthful of cotton candy or marbles. Now I flew in the real world with real ATC for decades, and never had a problem understanding ATC, so it's not that I don't know what to listen for. This morning I went to Charlottesville and wanted to do some touch and goes in the At6. The controller there was easy to understand but after 2 touch and goes, he signed off and no more ATC. Deja Vu all over again.  I then saw some controllers at Anchorage where I have flown in real life. I went up there, parked at PAWR and was told I needed a clearance to fly about 40 miles from PAWR to PAEN,so I set up my AT6, got on the radio and asked for Clearance, and I heard " mumble, mumble, sgrudi nuble ghdhdh muble. " :blink: I asked for a repeat of the instruction, and got the same unintelligible mumbling.   Now this is with changing the settings in VPilot for audio. I just finally gave up, and signed off V Pilot . Now here is the real kicker, while listening to all this mumbling, the voices of the pilots in almost every case was crystal clear. 

 

 

Back to PF3,,,,   

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15 minutes ago, Bobsk8 said:

After reading this thread, I decided to give Avsim one more try. I was really into it years ago, and even met with some controllers at an Avsim convention in San Diego years ago. I downloaded V pilot, got everything working and sat at a few airports listening to the ATC. Last evening the only airport I could find with some controllers was Cleveland Ohio. I tried two other airports after they had one or two controllers , and found the audio, especially by the controllers to be beyond terrible. Now before anyone says it is my setup, I use audio with both my flightsim and PC functions all the time and it works flawlessly and is clear and  easy to understand. The audio from the controllers I listened to yesterday, sounded like they were two feet away from their mic. ( I used to be a broadcast engineer BTW) and that they had either  a mouthful of cotton candy or marbles. Now I flew in the real world with real ATC for decades, and never had a problem understanding ATC, so it's not that I don't know what to listen for. This morning I went to Charlottesville and wanted to do some touch and goes in the At6. The controller there was easy to understand but after 2 touch and goes, he signed off and no more ATC. Deja Vu all over again.  I then saw some controllers at Anchorage where I have flown in real life. I went up there, parked at PAWR and was told I needed a clearance to fly about 40 miles from PAWR to PAEN,so I set up my AT6, got on the radio and asked for Clearance, and I heard " mumble, mumble, sgrudi nuble ghdhdh muble. " :blink: I asked for a repeat of the instruction, and got the same unintelligible mumbling.   Now this is with changing the settings in VPilot for audio. I just finally gave up, and signed off V Pilot . Now here is the real kicker, while listening to all this mumbling, the voices of the pilots in almost every case was crystal clear. 

 

 

Back to PF3,,,,   

There is something the matter today with VATSIM voice. I am in the air KIAD-KSFO and did find the voice of controllers at KIAD a bit difficult to understand.

I am online at LAX_CTR scheduled 12 noon PST. It is booked on our website :). Maybe you can try there with me.

Shez

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