Flying Online

Is there somewhere I can fly informally with other folks on the net?

Bob Feaver provides the following information on how to fly online at X-Plane.org:

You will need to register for an account. Go to: http://x-plane.org/xsb/mp_server.shtml. The reply will assign you a login number and a password. It takes about a day for the account to become active.

You will need to install the IVAO build of XSquawkBox from: http://www.xsquawkbox.net/xsb/download.php.

When you log on for online flying, Plugins > XSquawkBox > Connect use x-plugins.com as the server connection. This will show your position on the Google Map interface. The X-Plane.org server will not show your position on the map.

There is an Flight Operations FAQ Forum at:  http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?showforum=22.

If you want to get TeamSpeak for PC or Mac go to:  http://www.goteamspeak.com/.

When you login to TeamSpeak at X-Plane.org the server is: x-plane.org and the password field is left blank.

Before you can fly online you will need to open port number 6809 on both your computer and your router firewalls. For information on setting port forwarding on your specific router go to
PortForward.com or see the port forwarding discussion on the Networking FAQ page. (Note you don't have to do any of the X-Plane networking setup - all the networking used by XSquawkBox is built into the plugin.)


Air Traffic Control

Can I fly X-Plane with some intelligent air traffic control?

Yes. There are simulated air traffic control systems that operate on the internet.

How do I join one? Do I need to join a virtual airline?

An answer from Keith Smith:
Joining a virtual airline is absolutely not required. You can fly with any callsign you like (UAL123 for United, SWA123 for SWA, etc) or any fictional callsign, without being a member of the virtual airline, if one exists.

There ARE virtual airlines for X-Plane (Freeworld and California Airlines) which have their own aircraft with custom paint jobs. Cal Air also has its own scenery, I'm not sure about Freeworld.

You don't have to get training, but a basic understanding of IFR or VFR flight would be useful. VATSIM has a Pilot Resource Center, which is a great place to start, http://www.vatsim.net/prc. There are various tutorials on how to fly under IFR or VFR out there, but here's one which explains how to conduct a few VFR flights in the Los Angeles, where I'm a controller: http://www.laartcc.org/article_page/14. It covers the basic procedures and the precise radio transmissions that would be involved in doing pattern work, a short flight, and a longer flight with radar service from a controller.

Yes, real people sit in their homes and fly, while other people sit in their homes and provide ATC services to those pilots. I do both.

If you 'screw up', it's normally not a big deal, ie. turning right instead of left, or not climbing to your assigned altitude. Probably the worst thing you can do is pause your flight sim while you're on final, when the controller has 6 planes behind you for the same runway.

Flying from airport A to airport B, following your cleared route, utilizing SIDs and STARs is a real challenge. Seeing other planes in the sky, and flying into an airport with 3 people ahead of you, 3 behind you, and 15 planes on the ground is a real thrill.

If learning the basics of VFR or IFR flight is NOT an interesting prospect, VATSIM is not for you, as the premise of VATSIM is to interact with ATC and follow real-world procedures, to the extent possible.

As a starting point, consider installing xsquawkbox, signing up for a VATSIM id/passwd, then connecting to the network, parking yourself at the RAMP (not a taxiway or rwy) and listening in to the ATC. To do that, see who's online using the who's online page or java applet on the vatsim.netsite, Find a region with ATC online, start up xplane, go to that airport, connect to VATSIM, and tune into the controller's frequency on your com1 radio.

How do I get started with VATSIM?

Peter Lehrack provides the following step by step description:
  1. XSquawkBox has a separate plug for VATSIM and IVAO, only the first to load will work. You can change the load order by renaming one of the two plugs or holding down 'control' during x-plane launch in order to select which you would like to use. VATSIM supports voice, IVAO doesn't.

  2. The easiest way to start is to first have a good understanding of how to operate your aircraft. Crashing or not controlling your aircraft to the controllers requirements is frowned upon.

  3. Next, assuming you have a VATSIM username and password, go to www.vatsim.net and click on 'who's online' on the left. Here you will see the active servers and regions that the controllers are covering.

  4. Go to a controlled regions airport making very sure that you startup on the ramp, never start on an active runway as you may appear directly in the path of traffic. Once on the ramp you can sit and listen to the procedures that are used.

  5. Eventually you will need to send the controller a flight plan (you can do it via vatsim.net or using Goodway or xpcopilot). It is recommended that you inform the controller that you are a newbie by adding that to the notes field. If the controller is not busy at the time you can ask questions you may have via the .pvt command.

  6. Once you feel comfortable you can request a clearance for your flight 'as filed'. The controller will make sure he/she has your flight plan and it's acceptable (you should probably be familiar with the airports SIDS and STARS and have the appropriate charts for the takeoff and landing runways too). If your flight plan is good, the controller will read the departure information to you. Write it down because you will be required to read it back accurately.

  7. If the read back is correct, you will be told that you can contact the controller when ready to taxi. You are then given taxi instructions/departure instructions, etc. Always do what the controller says and repeat back to him/her all instructions. The controller may tell you to take off and climb/maintain a certain altitude. Do not take off and assume that you can just fly your flight plan. The controller will tell you when you can begin following the flight plan, sometimes it's right away, sometimes not.

  8. Enjoy vatsim, it is an awesome community and makes flying much more realistic and fun. Hang out on the ramp and listen a lot. Write down how pilots respond to the controller, it will help you when it's your turn. Don't be intimidated, the controllers are very helpful and will answer any questions you may have when they are not too busy.
More from Bill Woodrum:

Along with Peter's excellent explanation I would like to add a few things:

What VATSIM wants you to do is go ahead and file a flight plan even if you will just sit there. Just say in the remarks section "Newbie observing at parking south of runway 25L" or something like that. Squawk standby on your transponder so you don't show up as a bright light on the controller's screen. After you log on, call (or text message) the tower on their line and tell them you're there. And, be sure and stay and monitor while your logged on in case they call you (I left my machine for a while once thinking it wouldn't matter and they couldn't reach me so they disconnected me and sent me an e-mail reminding me of the rules).

After you log on at the airport go to an outside view and look all around to see if your sitting on the nose wheel of a 747 parked at the same place as you (this happened to me once). No big deal, just taxi away or log off then move then log back on (even though they're virtual, they are huge!). It's strange to think but, when you're not on line, no one can see you. You can land, takeoff, crash into the tower, whatever you want, your on your own as usual. So you could fly to an airport and land (off-line) then taxi to a spot and log on (I have my favorite spot at KLAX).

As I re-read this, it sounds awfully picky and full of things that can get you into trouble. But I've found they are all good people who are there to help you out if you just ask. For instance, Keith Smith senior controller at the Los Angeles VATSIM http://www.laartcc.org (and contributor here on the Tech list) has been a big help to me off-line. I e-mail him questions and he has good answers. On line with VATSIM is a very controlled environment just like the real deal. I've found the personal rewards are big for success in figuring it all out. Give it a shot, it's all free after all.


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