I will be posting more pictures here shortly but with the lack of a full sized keyboard I find my hands getting pretty tired typing on the laptop.
Anyways I wanted to introduce some of you to a service that non-flying and flying enthusiasts alike will enjoy. Its called the VATSIM network....
It stands for Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network. Basically what it is, is a group of servers which after you download the FREE software you are able to connect via ASRC/VRC (the Air Traffic Control Client) or Squawkbox (the Flight Sim client) and fly or control on-line.
Screen Shot by Oliver Grytz
So lets say you use Flight Sim 2004 (Version 10 is out now if you can run it) and want ATC for your flight that is real and interactive. You go to VATSIM and join to receive your PID (pilot identification and Password (these are two requirements needed to log in). Then you download Squawkbox and follow the directions to install it properly.
Screenshot by Errol Ikalina
Now once you have the above things you run Flight Simulator. Then you run Squawkbox client and put in your log in and password. You select a call sign which conforms to ICAO standards, file a flight plan and go flying. Basically what Squawkbox does is take your information received from Flight Sim and relays it through the server to the ATC client and shows up on their screen as a radar target allowing them to give you clearances and vector you.
Now ATC is the same way except you download ASRC/VRC and get a PID also. A PID is the same thing which is needed to get on to the network. Since they want to assure quality they require you to pass tests in order to work your way up through the system. If its your first day on the job they do not allow you to work center and tons of airplanes. You must start at clearance deliver the ground, tower, approach/departure and finally center. There are exams and practical check rides so its a rewarding learning experience.
Most of it is kept as real as possible so the experience for both ATC and Pilots is realistic and at times challenging. Also there is built in voice software so the entire experience is enhanced. There is the option of typing only but who wants to type when they are controlling 15 airplanes or flying an INDB approach.
I have been a member since it was SATCO in 1999 but is now known as VATSIM. I have met many great people, who are pilots in real life as well as retired and active air traffic controllers.
Screenshot by Ben Zwebner
If you are looking for a way to make those flights on Flight Simulator more fun or are looking to tell pilots what to do then this might be for you :)