Some of you not-so-experienced yet in the world of flight simulation may have heard of VATSIM and wondering what it is. Or maybe you know what it is but you would like to get some more details?

Bandon Howell explains what VATSIM is and where to find the most important bits of pieces to get started.

As many of us know, the default Fight Simulator (FS) air traffic control (ATC) is meager at best and suicidal at worst. Fear not, for there is a solution: VATSIM, short for Virtual Air Traffic SIM(ulation).

VATSIM (at www.vatsim.net) puts human volunteers in the tower to provide you with an immersive experience from departure to destination. VATSIM spans the globe, enabling you to get ATC cover from just about anywhere. The AI planes that populate the FS world are gone, replaced by other human pilots such as yourself. Thus, you can fly in a more detailed world, where big jets such as the 747 and A380 visit the major international airports, down to your everyday Cessna out over the plains. VATSIM is also 100% free for you to fly on, so there’s no membership fees to worry about.

Best of all, VATSIM enables you to communicate by voice to the human controllers (no more selecting options in a list). If you do not have a headset/microphone to talk, you can also use text, so nobody is excluded.

Now let’s get into the flying aspect of VATSIM. VATSIM hosts multiple servers in different regions, which you connect to by way of pilot (or client) software. You have two options to download, Squawkbox (FS9 users must use this) or FSInn (FSX users can use this or Squawkbox). Squawkbox is a very simple program to use and is recommended for the beginners. FSInn is more complex, but also offers more useful features (such as radar). Both are available for download from www.vatsism.net/pilots/pilotsclients/

After downloading, take a look at VATSIM’s Pilot Resource Center (PRC) (www.vatsim.net/prc/), which contains helpful guides on how to get started and flying in general.

If you are interested in controlling, VATSIM allows you to do that as well (www.vatsim.net/atc/) and enables you to control all over the world, not just where you’re located. ATC is organized into six different levels: clearance delivery, ground, tower, approach/departure, and center, with center being the highest ranking.

If you have any other questions, ask in the VATSIM forums (at forums.vatsim.net). Give VATSIM a try and take your flight to the next level.

Bandon Howell.