Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Looking for some structure in your FS experience?

Often people find it a challenge finding some structure and purpose to flying in Flight Simulator. Thankfully, the developers of MS FS are addressing this with "missions" in the fourth-coming FSX. Those of you who just can't wait for the holiday release of FSX, I invite you to explore the huge world of VA's. What is a VA you ask? VA is short for Virtual Airline. Here's a short blurb describing a VA I found on Wikipedia:

A virtual airline is an Internet organization dedicated to the hobby of flight simulating.
Virtual airlines are non-profit organizations, although most attempt to replicate real airlines in terms of organizational structure. The most common organizational structure often includes one or more of the following positions: CEO, COO, President, Vice-President, Customer Relationship director, Operations director, and virtual pilots.
While a wide variety of virtual airlines are fictional in name and operation, other virtual airlines take the name of a real world airline (with approval from the actual corporate entity to which they virtually represent). Some airlines have been known to discourage those using their name (or other copyright material) and have even threatened legal action. Others (such as United Airlines) have encouraged them; in fact, United has a virtual division, complete with real world airmiles and a United.com subdomain. Additionally, there are virtual airline conglomerates that run several more or less independent virtual airlines under a common brand, site design, or name.
"Pilots" who "work" for these "companies" must have a flight simulator and other computer equipment in order to perform. Usually, the airline's website keeps a record of the hours "flown" by each "pilot".

AirNet has a fairly exhaustive list of VA's available to join. Many are tailored for heavy iron flying, but there are a few that are unique. For example, Virtual Executive Jet Aviation is geared for those who prefer to fly business class aircraft. Their fleet is composed of a variety of aircraft from LearJet, Raytheon, Gulfstream, and Cessna. There is even a Virtual Pilots Association available.

Ever wanted to try multiplayer while communicating with real tower operators? VATSIM is the place for you. You'll want to be sure and pick up Squawkbox (it's free) if this sounds like fun.

As a developer, I don't get the opportunity to fly exhaustively enough to really benefit from joining a VA - that doesn't mean that I have not wanted to. It's a decision I make: either create new and exciting enhancements for FS or fly for hours on end. I can't have my cake and eat it to, so for the enjoyment of (hopefully) many, I choose the creation path.

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