The previous article, Getting Started with the VATSIM ATC Application, explored what VATSIM membership provides, with step-by-step directions for registering and validating a new VATSIM account.
We'll now explore VATSIM's new member orientation and onboarding education program, which prepares new members for passing the mandatory orientation exam.
Some takeaways from the new member orientation program include the following:
1. VATSIM is a Global Educational Simulation Application
VATSIM is used as a worldwide ATC educational platform as part of academic and professional training programs. Don't be surprised if you learn that you're engaging with a professional ATC, pilot or student trainee while using VATSIM.
2. Capable Enthusiasts Are Among the Member Community
Many VATSIM enthusiasts are not real-world ATCs, pilots or aviation students.
It's important to keep in mind that many enthusiasts engage in their roles as ATCs and pilots, as seriously as general aviation pilots and professional ATCs.
Just like some amateur musicians that play and perform for fun, are equal or better than their professional counterparts, be prepared for knowledgeable, capable, and skilled ATC enthusiasts in the VATSIM community.
3. VATSIM Supervisors and Members Keep it Close to Real World ATC
VATSIM members are expected to ensure their spirit and use of the platform complies with the intended purpose of the network and its members.
Supervisors will act on observed or reported actions that conflict with VATSIM policies, procedures, and guidelines.
Achieving an 80% passing grade on the orientation exam grants a new member access to the VATSIM network with Pilot/ATC Observer credentials.
These beginning credentials open the door for new members to begin their educational journey, learning and practicing Air Traffic Control procedures and practices using the VATSIM platform and global network of ATCs and pilots.
The key to passing the exam on the first try is to treat this like any other examination.
Review the content, take notes, and commit to memory key practices, processes, procedures, and guidelines.
As a new member, once you login for the first time and complete your VATSIM preferences configuration, you'll be prompted to begin the first part of the orientation training program.
In July 2022, VATSIM engaged important rule changes that affect all members. In a nutshell, the rule changes are intended to preserve VATSIM as a serious platform for ATC and pilot education.
To ensure good results with your first VATSIM flight, be sure you are comfortable flying and navigating your aircraft. You should be able to perform basic functions like pre-flight checks, taxiing, take off, flying a heading to a destination, preparing to land, landing and taxiing to a hanger.
Review and study ATC protocols, including pre-flight communications, takeoff, in-flight, landing and taxing communications with air and ground control ATCs.
If you are new to flying, I recommend learning to fly a fixed-wing sailplane first, like the Discus 2c.
MSFS development collaborative group Got Friends currently provides standard and premium Discus 2C sailplane model that you can purchase and add to your MSFS platform.
Microsoft will be releasing additional sailplane aircraft as part of the 40th anniversary edition update planned for November 2022 release.
Learning to fly a sailplane in MSFS will provide you with an excellent simulated flight experience and skills.
You'll learn and get a feel for basic aerodynamics along with and understanding of fundamental flight instrumentation and controls.
When you are ready, you can advance to a power-assisted gliders for extended flights, and motogliders like the Diamond HK36TC Super Dimona, that can taxi and takeoff without the assistance of a ground crew and tow plane.
The second part of new member orientation begins by addressing VATSIM pilot expectations.
Pilots are expected to comply with ATC directives and treat their time in VATSIM much the same as they would in real-world flight.
Additional topics covered include positioning you aircraft when connecting, VFR vs. IFR guidelines, altimetry, UNICOM, flight planning and filing of VATSIM flight plans.
Part three of the new member orientation program introduces new members to ATC concepts and provides an overview of the role of ATCs in VATSIM.
Aviation basics, including ANC (Aviate, Navigate and Communicate), phonetic alphabet and squawk codes are covered.
Approved VATSIM methods of communicating include text and voice. Recommended use is voice communication, using headsets equipped with a microphone (just as in real-world flying).
How to find online ATCs and determine if you are flying in controlled airspace is also discussed.
Using the radio to communicate with ATC, including receiving, and acknowledging instructions is covered. ATC handoffs, which occur when transitioning between airspaces, are discussed.
Once you pass your new member orientation exam, you'll be granted observer credentials that will provide you access to the vast VATSIM network.
Now that you're a new member of the VATSIM community, you can now begin your educational journey: listening, learning, and practicing Air Traffic Control and aviator procedures and practices.
In the next article, we'll explore first learning experiences as a new member of the VATSIM community.