I was just flying out of a moderately busy European airport (would rather not say which as it may identify the other people involved, which is not my goal) during a non-peak time. I have about 30 flights on VATSIM now so I am still getting the hang of it, although I am a commercial pilot in real life so I'm by no means a rookie at ATC communications.
So I load up my flight at a gate, there's a few planes at the airport but not too many, and there is no controller online. I announce my preferred runway and my taxi intentions over UNICOM as I always do, and begin my taxi. As I line up and announce over UNICOM again, I see a 777 line up on the opposite end and begin to throttle up. In order to avoid a collision (as I had forgotten to turn my "crash-detect" off, oops) I vacate the runway just in time. As he passes me, the pilot of the 777 messages me to ask what on earth I was doing. I tell him that I had announced my intentions on UNICOM and had received no answer at all, so I had lined up and was preparing to go. His only answer was "haha, good luck with that". I didn't think much of it, figuring he had just forgotten to announce. Right away, however, another 777 lined up on the opposite side of the runway and began to takeoff as well. After takeoff, he sent me an angry message (even though I was well behind the hold-short line by this point) with the winds, indicating that I couldn't possibly takeoff on my preferred runway with the winds as they were (which he was 100% correct about). This leads me to my first question:
1) Keeping in mind that there was still no controller online at this point, how did he get the winds information while still on the ground? Perhaps its a really newbie question, but I would assume that even with "Use real world weather" checked as I have it, it still is not going to be very precise and thus going to an outside source would be fairly useless. Is there a program that these pilots have downloaded, or am I missing something very simple?
At this point, I begin my taxi to the opposite side of the runway because of the winds information, when a CTR comes online. I message him my intentions over text and get no response. I figure he's just busy so I slowly continue taxi and wait for him to respond (keep in mind I've filed for /r at this point). I reach the end of the runway and hear him talking to some A/C in the air, but still no response. I ended up waiting more than 10 minutes, sending occasional messages to his frequency just checking if maybe he had missed me or something, and don't get even a "standby" back by voice or by text. At this point I think I must have a software issue, so I double check that I'm sending the messages to his frequency (I am) and then refile my flight plan as /t (text only) and send him a message letting him know. I spend the next 15 minutes holding short of the runway, monitoring both UNICOM and the CTR frequency. I can still hear the controller talking to other aircraft, so I know I was connected and all that. Eventually I give in and decide to simply takeoff via the SID and be on my way. I announce over both frequencies, line up, and takeoff. As I takeoff, I hear another plane ask CTR why I took off as he was landing. CTR replies that he doesn't know as he didn't clear me to takeoff, and proceeds to berate me over frequency about not communicating with him and getting clearance. He then proceeds to threaten me with a suspension for flying incommunicado. At this point I apologized over text and simply disconnected as it was clear something wasn't right. Let me reiterate a few things. I am well aware of how to communicate with ATC and that I need clearance to take off, that is obvious. I also understand that I could have ruined other pilots' flights, and I always try to overcommunicate before I do anything on VATSIM. However, I had been sitting there for 25 minutes total at this point without getting a single voice or text response, even with nobody else waiting to takeoff ahead of me. I was also constantly trying to get in touch with ATC and was constantly informing over UNICOM as well. Finally, I was able to communicate with other pilots over UNICOM and was still hearing the controller over his frequency. This brings me to my second question:
2) Was this incident likely due to software issues, ATC not monitoring text, a grouchy ATC, pilot error, or a combination of a few of these? In addition, what should I have done in this situation different from what I did?
Now I understand that VATSIM is just for fun and that a suspension, if it does come, likely won't be a big deal, but I also want to double check that I'm not making any glaring errors that will continue to cause situations like this. It's no fun for other pilots to have me taking off as they're trying to land, it's no fun for ATC having a plane that is 'apparently' not communicating, and it's no fun for me being berated over frequency when I'm just trying to have a bit of fun. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to lay into me if you feel I've done something stupid ;D I look forward to hearing from more experienced VATSIM pilots as well as controllers with a different perspective!