Home flight simulation is arguably one of the best ways to train and stay proficient as a student or professional pilot. Everyone wants to get the most realism out of their home flight experience, and online aviation networks can really help with that. Being able to exchange information consistently with air traffic control (ATC) over radio is super important for pilots wanting to gain proficiency. It is essential to know how to manage different types of situations: managing other traffic, unexpected calls, unclear instructions, or interacting with control towers.
If you haven’t started to take advantage of the online air traffic network yet, here’s your sign! It's actually super easy to set up and start using right away to start interacting with other pilots and start bringing your experience to life!
In this article we’re going to break down how you can get started with ATC, the options you have in your area, and other resources you can use to get the most out of your home flight experience.
No more flying in silence!
Getting Started With ATC on Your Flight Sim
The Air Traffic Control on your flight simulation requires these essential things for an easy configuration:
- Stable Internet Connection.
- Home flight simulator setup.
- A headset and a microphone.
Configuring ATC to your home flight simulation is as easy as installing an application that connects you with the online aviation network. These apps allow you to associate yourself with other pilots in your airspace and enable communication with air traffic controllers.
Depending on where you are located, there are different networks. In the United States, you can find Vatsim which has global coverage and PilotEdge restricted to the U.S.. This service is compatible with other flight simulation platforms (Microsoft Flight Simulator, Prepar3D, and X-Plane).
Let’s break down the details about your options a little more.
Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM) is a global and accessible network. It is the most popular in the U.S. but also operates in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
This network has a real world tracking map called SimAware where you can see the active traffic and ATC coverage. This is very useful when you want to quickly hop in the sim for a short flight and easily see where the coverage is located at the moment.
- 100.000 Active members.
- Around 1.000 pilots connected during the same time.
- Regular events.
- SimAware tracking map.
- Air Traffic Control coverage is not guaranteed. Online ATC is available a few days of the week (usually weekday evenings or weekends).
PilotEdge is a subscription-based network with professional air traffic control for 15 hours every day. They ensure quality for their ATC through their rigorous Quality Assurance process so you can rest assured knowing that you're getting the best.
This network stands apart because it provides the closest real world experience for pilots and can cater to the needs of commercial flight training organizations.
PilotEdge also has a real world tracking map showing you the active traffic and ATC coverage in the Western United States.
Additionally they have a comprehensive VFR and IFR training program that's included in every membership!
You can check out more of the advantages that PilotEdge brings here.
- ATC coverage is always available.
- ATC quality is always guarenteed.
- The most realistic radio system in the online network.
- Tailored to real world pilots.
- A big community of active pilots.
- There are regular events.
- VFR & IFR training program with membership.
- PilotEdge tracking map.
- $20 per month.
- The ATC coverage is limited to the western half of the U.S.
International Virtual Aviation Organization is a free online flight simulation virtual machine working in 73 countries around six continents but mainly used in Europe.
This simulator has more than 210.000 registered members, and every day there are approximately 8.000 connections.
On average, there are between 600 and 900 simultaneous connections. Like the other networks, they organize events as well.
This network also has a real world tracking map called WebEye where you can see the active traffic and ATC coverage. This is very useful when you want to quickly hop in the sim for a short flight and easily see where the coverage is located at the moment.
Resources to Help You Get the Most From Your ATC Practice at Home
If you have lots of real-world flying experience and a home flight simulator setup, then you have everything you need to take advantage of an online ATC network.
On the other hand, if you are a student pilot or hobbyist who’s nervous about talking to a virtual controller, you are not alone!
Thankfully, there are plenty of great resources available to help you learn and practice.
The Flight Simulation Association
The FSA provides lots of great resources for getting started with your home flight simulator and online ATC. Check out their easy training on how to use VATSIM.
YouTube has thousands of content based on flight simulation, and you can find more information or tutorials about using VATSIM or PilotEdge. They can help you to understand and comprehend the essentials of ATC. Find free and quality content from plenty of experienced pilots.
Boston Virtual ARTCC
Boston Virtual ARTCC is a free, big, active, and very realistic community. It’s a community for pilots and enthusiasts using VATSIM. FYI, before you join the community, they’ll send you a test to check your knowledge.
In this community, students and experts are connected in different areas of aviation. Their community uses PilotEdge to learn and practice.
Now that you´re convinced to set up air traffic control for your home flight simulator, prepare yourself to connect with experienced pilots and enjoy, learn, and practice with a great community. No matter if you are an experienced pilot or just a student with a future career in the air, don’t miss the opportunity to grow and improve your proficiency through ATC.
Get confidence and security, and have a nice flight!