What Is A Virtual Airline?
Many flight simulator veterans find that flying for the heck of it isn't that fun anymore, and they need a challenge, or something more realistic. Virtual airlines can make your dreams of becoming an aviator for a prestigious airline come true. Many join for this reason, they want to be the guy flying the Concorde over the Atlantic Ocean and landing at JFK International.
When you join a virtual airline, you should feel a sense of pride. You've just joined the next best thing to actually flying for British Airways or US Airways. However, flying for a virtual airline is just like flying for a real airline, it takes time and commitment.
There are two types of Virtual Airlines, fantasy virtual airlines that aren't based on any real-world virtual airlines and then there are those that are based on real airlines; they usually use the same fleet, fly the same routes, and have the same paint schemes.
The only true difference between the two is you know a little more about a real world based virtual airline because you'll already know where they fly in general, what their aircraft look like, etc. So, when choosing to fly with a fantasy virtual airline, be sure to read where they fly. However, with all the types of virtual airlines, be sure you review their web page carefully. Most pilots want a virtual airline that is as realistic as possible.
Where Can I Find Virtual Airlines?
There are dozens of places where you can find a good Virtual Airline. Virtual Airlines on Google--there are tons of them, serving exotic locations such as Russia, the Caribbean, and then those based in America and Europe.
The most obvious way to find anything on the Internet is to look through a browser like Yahoo!. You'll find pages of them on almost any search browser. You'll also find an extensive list of Virtual Airlines. Usually, you'll find the most "prestigious" Virtual Airlines on servers of Virtual Airline Corporations. These corporations host virtual airlines that apply for membership, such as SimMiles. To be hosted, the web sites of these airlines and airlines themselves go through rigorous examination by corporation staff, so the corporation can be assured that each virtual airline is unique in it's own way and ranks five star quality, both in operations and website development.
How Does A Virtual Airline Work?
Once you know where you can find Virtual Airlines, you have to know what you are looking for, so you don't make the mistake of signing up for one and then finding another that looks a lot more realistic and unique. Although Virtual Airlines may look different and operate differently, they all operate in the same general manner.
First of all, most virtual airlines have a downloadable file (in .txt format or .doc format) that explains the airline's operations, fleet, management team, all in great detail. You can usually find this document in a section called "about us" or "join us." Once you get a feel for where the airline operates and how it works, check out their site.
First of all, examine their Hubs. An airline Hub is like a base of operations; when you join the airline you'll usually be given the choice of what Hub you would like to fly for. When you fly a flight, your departure airport will be where your Hub is based, and when you're flying commuter flights, will usually stay in that vicinity.
Next, check the airline's fleet. In the "hangar" section of a virtual airline’s Web site, there will usually be pictures of aircraft as well as specifications. Check your simulator against the virtual airline's aircraft to make sure the planes will work on your computer. Some virtual airlines require you to have extra programs to download the airplanes such as WinZip (usually always required) and converters. The virtual airlines will tell you where you can get these programs.Once you have aircraft installed, you're ready to start your flying. Some Virtual Airlines have flight training programs that you must complete before you start your flights.
When you look on the roster of Virtual Airlines, you notice that there is a ranking system. Depending on your rank, you'll be flying commuter flights or the long New York to London trip in the 747. Some airlines have flight assignments that tell pilots what flight to fly and when to complete that flight or series of flights by. Others have a simple timetable that let you choose a route you're allowed to fly. Usually, you have to complete at least one flight a month or every two weeks so the virtual airline can assure you're still active.
A lot of Virtual Airlines require you to fly under realistic conditions, which requires you to look on your Hub page and view current weather conditions and then set your simulator accordingly. There are also programs that integrate real weather conditions into your simulator. If you use Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000, you can simply use the Real Weather option where weather conditions will be downloaded from databases on the Internet; the weather conditions are then updated every ten minutes, requiring you to stay online during your flight (so for long flights, a second phone line or cable modem helps so you can still receive calls at home).
After completing your flight, comes the most important part, logging your hours so you can get credit for them. Most Virtual Airlines have you log the time you spent in your plane altogether (from gate to gate). After flying, log onto the airline's Web site and click on a button or link entitled "Submit Your PiRep." You will then fill out a form describing your flight and then submit it to the airline.
After you have flown enough hours you will advance in rank. The more hours the more planes you get to fly and the more challenging routes you'll experience. Some airlines even offer you a management position if you fly enough. So get out there and start flying! I hope this article made the choice a little easier.