FSX, A journey- Pt2 VATSIM
Well hello again! I know I have done a somewhat piss-poor job of keeping to my weekly schedule, but as I am sure many of you understand, I have a job and it’s December!
Sitting in the default Barron 58 (I had a bit of a thing for that defaulter in my fs9 days) I remember sweating profusely over when I should speak.
Over my radio, airliners flying to Europe, Tenerife and N-America were all asking for IFR clearance and somehow managing to understand perfectly, the jumble of noise that came back at them at 4000 words per minute.
I sat there, taking it all in. This was way more intense than anything I had experienced in my Areronet days and I knew it. Before logging in I had read every scrap of documentation I could find to try and not look like a total knob- yet if someone had asked me at that point if I was ready to taxi, I may well have given up on life and huddled myself in a corner of the shower to work out where it all went wrong.
This was by no means anyone’s fault. Flash forward to today and I comfortably fly on VATSIM- in fact, people reading this may well start listening out for my “love you, bye” sign off I often give to controllers with a sense of humour.
But at this moment in time I felt well out of my depth. After about 25 minutes of listening to radio traffic, I decided now was time to do what I came here to do- touch and go’s. Why? I figured the best way to get used to radio hand offs was to do them, a lot, in a short space of time. Tower-departure-approach-tower. It worked, within 3 circuits I felt comfortable and was able to understand everything without having to get anyone to repeat. ATC at EGKK did a great job that night and it’s probably why I still fly into and out of there so often now.
Now that I had nailed communication, understood charts and somewhat knew what to expect on a standard-ops flight, it was time to bring out the 727.
This to me, was what flying was all about. I made it very clear on my notes that I was only able to fly VOR-VOR, but would fly SID’s/STAR’s to the best of my ability… But not to expect too much accuracy. ATC were, once again, excellent at this and would often fit a departure to the easiest SID they could find, and vector me in for an approach. In fact, in the 4 years I “flew the line” on the FEDEX 727, I only encountered 1 “difficult” controller. This was as I was starting to cross the channel inbound to Mayfield after departing Frankfurt 45 minutes previous. I understand, he was busy- very busy actually and in I came, bumbling towards a VOR and not flowing an airway. This lead to a fairly stressful situation of him demanding I follow the airway, and me trying to work out how I can do this based on nearby VOR’s.
It’s funny, you get somewhat blasé after a while, and it’s not until you try something completely different that you remember the stresses of that “first flight”. For me it was a little amusing- I was in the Boeing 377 and number 2 in a line of 3 for departure at- you guessed it- Gatwick and behind me was obviously a tubeliner captain.
Now, it’s important you understand that I was flying a prop aircraft, had pushed back-engines running and fuel burning. This guy was having difficulty understanding his east and west on the pushback and had come back in a line thus blocking my way. An age later he started taxiing and took the wrong turning. This is how I ended up in front of him, engines churning through my fuel and no FMC to tell me how much I had left.
Now for those that don’t know, it’s important to conduct a “run up” of engines before takeoff- especially when running accusim, to make sure everything is tickety boo- It lasts about 10 seconds. However for this guy (possibly due to the time he had spent sightseeing Gatwick) it was 10 seconds too long and I remember the bellyaching he was doing to Tower after I had been given my clearance to perform this run up on the runway.
Looking back, a surprising amount of people didn’t seem to realise planes once flew without Jet engines, and therefore I often found my “377” confused as a “737”- Always an amusing situation to be on during approach as the speed difference is something fairly substantial.
…I made it to the destination with fuel in the tanks- you will be pleased to hear.
These days I spend my time on VATSIM flying anything I can get my hands on- mainly the PMDG T7 and 737. They are just good all round bits of kit. The Areosoft a320 is also good fun to fly with a co-pilot using the joint flight deck option and I- along with several members of the Bluecoconut family- are in the process of ironing out some kinks that keep cropping up- connection issues, FSX crashed etc. As soon as that’s done I’ll return to producing more From the Flight Deck vids- keep an eye out!
In all, VATSIM taught me a lot- it taught me that when peering out of the window during takeoff, taxi, landing and approach, there is a LOT of chatter going on up front. Taxi directions, hold shorts- even things like holding patterns (an often overlooked thing as a passenger- I must admit, flying home on the 380 a month ago I didn’t notice we had done a loop in a pattern my brother pointed it out of flight radar) and this is now something I imagine every time I get onto an aircraft.
This step that VATSIM gave me, combined with the confidence it seems to give you in your aircraft of choice, is something I am very grateful for. The lads who operate ATC are excellent- In particular whoever runs Langden Radar and all Gatwick controllers- thanks for the service you provided me and my little FEDEX 727 over the years.
Well, that’s it! Or at least, that’s all I have for you on VATSIM- I’m nowhere close to concluding this little journey of mine. VATSIM is the now, but Aeronet, that’s where it all began- and everyone loves a prequel…