Experience on VATSIM, Questions about procedures

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I'm not new to VATSIM, but through time couple of experiences bring me down to thinking of how should I optimize my flight-preparation.

I usually check charts/weather for dep/arr, route, waypoints, procedures in emergency... but, I somehow don't have the capacity to memorize everything. Not sure if I'm the only one. (take for instance Frankfurt with 128 Charts in SimplatesX). So what I will do is check some specific charts... check the local ATIS, see what dep rwy is, then study dep-routes a little, and then basically get a little surprised by ATC when I am given another departure than maybe one I expected. But the real challenge is actually an arrival.

I don't really know how do I go about the arrival. The many times I messed up were because I wasn't prepared. Either I decide for runway X based on winds, but then winds change, and I have to change rwy on the fly, or ATC is or comes online, and I get Z-runway. Many times I didn't even see ATC online (the only way really is to check VATspy). Not really an issue IRL, as ATC is always there, but on VATSIM a little more challenging... ATIS is not tunable from far away, only some 60nm for some airports, nor is it always working on VATSIM (only default -> useless).

Can someone please share their experience how they go about good organization of descend-star-transition-approach-landing part of the flight?

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Arrival can be a bit of a challenge, here is what I do.

For North American flights - get the flightplan from Flightaware as they almost always give the SID and STAR.  In Europe and other places in the world it is not so simple and you kind of have to look at a lot of charts to try and find the right one that matches up to your last waypoint on the flightplan.  I think if you use something like PFPX it will give you the correct STAR.

For arrival runway, you can check Vatspy and see if other aircraft are on arrival and what runway they are least you get direction correct.  Alternatively you can check will not always match Vatsim but usually close.  I would then just select a runway and be ready to change it if ATC makes an adjustment on your arrival.  You can always use the Secondary Flightplan page in PMDG and FSL aircraft (probably others as well) to setup for another runway but I usually just change it on the fly....doesn't take too long.

Last tip is to listen ahead.  Tune in the Center or Arrival controller and hear what they are assigning for landings...usually you will get the same.


Hope this helps.



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Hi Mark,

thanks for the reply.

I actually use a bunch of tools: I have Aivlasoft EFB, PFPX and SimplatesX. I also use Flightstats to call up flights. When it comes to choosing STAR, that's least of my problems.

Good tips though. I've been through some of them, and I do what you suggested, change on the fly. In that moment, a steady approach often becomes a very stressful one.

What do companies or pilots do in real life? How is that handled really?


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i'm using vroute for many years

It's a nice flight planning tool, designed for VATSIM. You can see who is online, choose a route, ATC coverage for you route, VATSIM events, you can book the flight directly etc. It is my favorite tool for VATSIM. 

30 minutes ago, SimonC said:

In that moment, a steady approach often becomes a very stressful one

If ATC is not online when you start the flight, you should simply check which runways are in use depending on winds. So you can plan what to do if winds change and ATC comes online. 

For example, you fly into LSZH. Check their website   I googled "LSZH charts" and found their website, you can add word "vatsim" too, for other airports.

You can see Preferential runway system:

Arrivals: RWY 14 
Departures: RWY 28
Runways will be used up to 10 kts (RWY 14) and 7 kts (RWY 28) tailwind-component

Then you can plan what happens if you get some wind changes, and just prepare yourself for landing on some other runway. Write down everything you need, frequencies, approach courses etc. 

They usually say which runway to expect for landing when you contact them, so you have enough time

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1 hour ago, SimonC said:

What do companies or pilots do in real life? How is that handled really?

Plan ahead and brief! 

What you are doing is absolutely coerect - however, there is no particular need to memorise anything. Look at the charts, and in particular the textual data pages where things like preferential runways etc will often be listed, check the weather and plan the most likely departure/arrival. There's no reason why you shouldn't make any notes you feel might be useful as well. It's also worth looking at any enroute considerations as well.

However, once you are 'on board' you must be prepared to change the plan if necessary. Listen to the departure ATIS if available, obtain your departure clearance and then brief -- think about things like taxi route, the SID or departure instructions you have been issued (is it programmed correctly in the FMC? What is the stop altitude? What autopilot modes will you use? What is out of the ordinary on this particular day that might cause a problem or require things to be done differently? Is there a tight turn that might require keeping the speed down/flaps out a little longer? Is there a stepped comb profile, a particularly low level off (maybe below acceleration altitude) or anything else that might catch you out?) and contingencies (what will you do in the event of an emergency?).

Obviously you must be careful to ensure that any actual clearance received subsequently is followed should it differ from the brief. 

Arrival is much the same - get ahead and look up the weather and ATIS if available well in advance. Again, check the textual data in the charts and, if available, I often check the relevant VATSIM ACC's website to see if they have any standard procedures published. Ideally you want to have briefed the arrival will in advance of T/D (personally I always think it's about time to start briefing as soon as the T/D marker appears on the ND, ie at the very least about 160nm before T/D) and you can include in this brief your plan for a runway change (what is likely? How will you execute it from a technical point of view in this particular aircraft? Can you set something up in RTE2/SEC F-PLN?) as well as all the usual stuff (what's going to kill us on this particular day? MSA? STAR? Approach type? Minima? Where are you going to vacate and what is the most likely taxi route? Configuration? Speeds? Stopping? If you miss the turn will you need to backtrack? A/P modes? Go around - actions, routing, stop altitude? Fuel - how much time do you have before you have to divert? Where is your alternate?)

All you can do is plan for the most likely outcome and generate some ideas of the possible things that could happen and how to deal with them. Late runway changes are a thing that happens in real life as well - it's part and parcel of aviation but the important thing is to not allow ATC to pressure you in to doing something you're not prepared or ready for. Make more time if you need to - ask for delaying vectors or a hold if necessary to give yourself time to rebrief, or else you can always say 'unable' if you are not happy. 

A real airline would also have a route information manual that you could peruse in advance and contains useful information about each destination's threats and foibles (such as preferred runways and the experiences of other crews). If you do not have access to such a thing then you might consider making some notes of your own each time you visit a particular destination so that the next time you go back you are forearmed!

Ultimately however - don't try and commit everything to memory. Get a pen and paper out and jot some notes for the important points.

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Sorry for the delay, but I did read this, and actually I applied it - and happy to say it does work positively. I actually never used Textual Airport Information, but this helps a lot. Based on that, I check the likely approaches charts, and have somewhat situation awareness (which I did until now too, but without textual, I was a bit lost).

Other things you mention Simon, thanks, I certainly didn't think about any of these. I actually flew to Barcelona recently, and exited the runway to the right instead of left, towards the wrong terminal.

Pen and paper seems a bit old school, I use sticky notes, but I guess the same principle applies ;-)

I already actually made a list of your questions, which I will be using on my next flights, to maybe catch things I'm not aware of. I must also honestly say being just a simmer, I certainly don't understand everything that's on the chart, but I like to think I know the most important things.


Thank you for reminding me about vroute! I actually have premium, however I totally forgot to use it!

I also think that I should fly more often, I think I also might be out of practice... a flight per month or two, just doesn't cut it. Family obligations often take precedence.

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