We share a wonderful hobby: flying with flightsimulators. We enjoy the smart software that mimics the flying with great precision and we enjoy the landscapes that pass by beneath us. That in itself makes our hobby fascinating, yet we can come closer to reality ... by flying online. When flying online, you connect to a network, where other simulator pilots fly and where traffic controllers guide your flight, as in the real world. Often you will encounter colleagues in the air, but even more often at airports, where your flights start or where you arrive. That makes our hobby livelier, exciting and even more interesting than it already was. Most simulator pilots have started as an offline pilot and sometimes a threshold must be overcome to go online. Often this is due to the fact that one is unfamiliar with online flying and due to its assumed complexity. Therefore, we would like to briefly explain what is needed to fly online.
What is needed for online flying? As mentioned above, you must connect to a network. One of these networks is provided worldwide by IVAO (International Virtual Aviation Organization - another one is Vatsim). In this example you become a member of IVAO.
In order to connect to the network, IVAO has developed a piece of software, called a transponder, which, like in the real world, broadcasts a code that makes you recognizable on the network (on the radar). You can download that piece of software (IVAP or Altitude) at IVAO (it's free! and available for various simulator software) and after you have installed it, it will be loaded automatically with your flight simulator.
At the same time voice-communication software (e.g. teamspeak) is installed, which allows you to have radio contact with the controllers.
Radio communication This radio communication is often assumed to be complicated by pilots who are not familiar with online flying, but it mostly consists of easy to learn standard sentences that are used in specific situations. If for instance you want to make a flight, you, with the help of IVAP, fill in a form (a flightplan) with the most important flight data and then ask the airport controller: "KLM123 requests clearance for the flight to London Heathrow". In other cases, a traffic controller may contact you, for example, to adjust your flight direction: "KLM123 turn right heading 120". You as a pilot, repeat such an instruction to let know that you have heard and understood the message. The main reason a traffic controller gives you instructions is to keep the traffic in the sky sufficiently separated and to guide you well to your destinations and ensure that there is enough space between the incoming flights at busy times. That makes online flying really interesting, right?
Virtual Airlines And because your flight can be spotted from the transponder, a log can be made of your flight. IVAO does that, but also Virtual Airlines, like KLM-VA, do that. This allows you to build your own logbook. Or you can participate in events, where a number of legs must be flown in a certain order or under certain conditions. And for KLM-VA, because KLM has a long and rich history, some historical routes can be flown with historical aircraft. And for instance, there is a Europe tour, where all major European airports are being visited. Or you can participate in flying the schedules (timetables) of the aircraft that KLM is flying. And of course you can earn ranks, badges and certificates by that. Take a look around on the KLM-VA site. We think that online flying will add an extra dimension to your hobby. If you need any help with the step-climb to online flying, there are experienced staff members who will gladly help you. Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org