Tuesday, November 2, 2010

IVAO first steps and tips

I am talking about IVAO which seems to be the greatest FS network today ahead of Vatsim in term of volume. If i am wrong about that, do not hesitate to comment. Anyway, Vatsim is a huge network too and have its fans. I am flying for maybe 18 years on FS and a couple of years ago, rumors about a flight sim network slowly emerged. Was i ready for this network ? Comments were harsh about the seriousness of IVAO. Finally, a friend pushed me to register and one year later, i am still addicted to "the network".

What do you need ;
1) Of course, some minimum skills are required ; knowing how to take off, how to follow a path fom waypoint to waypoint, changing altitude with the best rate of climb/descent and of course ability to land and capture ILS : usually by capturing locator and then glideslope. This is easy if you are very found of flight simulation.

2) Second step : you are going to need hours to understand IVAP because it will be your interface with controlers and pilots. You will also learn to use Teamspeak 2. These programs are very well explained on IVAO official web sites (for instance, in France, it is http://www.ivao.fr/)

 3) Okay. First flight. Wow. You should not start at New york JFK nor big platforms. Choose a small airport first. You will be disappointed because you will not hear any controler (although...) but there are pilots here and there, and step by step.. a controler maybe call you. A good thing is too listen them on Teamspeak first (you have the right to enter a channel on observatory mode). 4) It takes time to be accustomed to the rules. You have to undersand how grounds, towers, approaches and controles are organized. There are also departures and deliveries etc.

3 advices : * One common mistake is to forget setting the transponder ON as you are lining up on the runway. Controlers don't like that because they cannot see your current status.

Don't forget. * Seriously, do not start IVAO on London Heathrow, you have no idea what you will be confronted with. Is is just a question of discipline and these mains platforms require a high level of discipline : you must find quickly frequencies, know perfectly your SID/STAR, read a chart etc. * LEARN to fulfil a flight plan and use good plans generators (vroute or even free access routefinder. Flight Commander is very good but tricky for a beginner as it cannot suggest the optimal SID/STARS according to winds configuration.

One example : in many countries, your cruise level MUST be impair if you are going to the east but in Spain or France, it is a question of north/south direction and not east/west. Try it, you will not regret it. A controler can see your position on taxiways any time. Choose your departing gate, fulfil your flight plan, switch frequency and call him :
" Bordeaux Merignac tower good day, delta eleven with you information Zulu, request clearance to Stuttgart.
Tower ; " Delta eleven, good day, clear to Stuttgart. SAU6A departure, initial climb 140, squawk 1234.  YOU : "SAU6A departure, initial climb 140 and squawk 1234, delta eleven". 
Merignac tower : "read back is correct, push and start approved, call back to taxi." 
YOU "call you back for taxi, Delta eleven" 
And the adventure begin!

Level : beginner.

First months on IVAO (or Vatsim). Let's presume you took a look at Ivap and Teamspeak, and you made your first flight on IVAO. Now we want to plan a serious flight between Palma and Frankfurt (LEPA to EDDF), two busy airports on IVAO. Lucky you, it is full staff tonight, all along the flight. This is how you should prepare your flight ;

1) Get a good flight plan from these planners : routefinder, vroute, flightplanpro, flight commander etc. (if you want to be a pro {in Europe}, ensure your flight plan is fully compatible with the Central flow management unit CFMU references. You might also go on flightaware website and pick a real flight plan.

2) Find your maps. You need ground movements for the two airports, standard departure SID, standard arrival STAR and the final approach & landing file card which gives you the altitude of glide interception, ILS freq, RVR and decision height for the say the least. You may look for official websites or networks ressources (IVAO, VATSIM etc).

3) Take a look at the real weather forecasts and then, check IVAO METARS, TAFS etc.. The METAR gives you a photograph of the expected weather at your destination. The TAF is interesting as it gives you a trend.

4) Make load and fuel calculations (with Topcat or Vroute for example) and prepare your flight ; flight plan loading, configuration, and save it.

 5) Start IVAO (or Vatsim).

3 advices :

* The climb stage usually consists of following your flight plan. So you just need to know about your next waypoints and check your parameters (speed, climb rate, top of climb position etc). If there is an approach controler, get ready when he requires to take short cut (for instance, "Speed bird 7, climb flight level 140, route/direct Bebix").

* Last part of your flight, the approach phase is merely a track guidance, so just be prepared to make quick moves on your MCP to follow controler commands. Do not forget to adjust your heading to take account of the wind.

* For your first flights on IVAO (or Vatsim), prefer your best aircraft (with accurate FMC and airac). By doing so, you will not be surprised by an unfamiliar approach. Be prepared and always expect a controler along your flight plan. This is common knowledge : most accurate aircrafts/FMC today are : Level D 767, Pmdg 747, 737NG, iFly.

Airbus X on IVAO ?

A lot of people have requested from Aerosoft a better FMC and SID/STARS implementations. Its totally legitimate as most of us are flying all kind of flight plans. But despite an uncomfortable FMC, the Airbus X is flyable under IVAO (and certainly under Vatsim network).
The only serious problem could appear if a controler request a hold pattern. The function is not available yet but even so, a pilot can perform a hold everywhere with its onboard chronometer and its MCP, adjusting headings.
Compared with Ariane Design or mid-core aircrafts, the Airbus X has a perfect trump : its airac is based on Cheyenne/Fokker/Mustang/Super 80 pro. from navigraph. This database has 99 % of real world waypoints, including RNAVs. Second, Vors and NDB can also be entered in the FMC in order to program a SID or a STAR (but usually IVAO controlers will suggest a track guidance on approach (usually, but not always)). You can enter VOR1 and course 1, VOR 2 and course 2 and NDB/ADF.

To fly the Airbus X on IVAO, we just need charts. In this environment, you are supposed to be using charts. So you just have to look for the best websites displaying airports charts. Vatsim websites are usefull resources.
In Europe, Vatsim Spain (vatspa.net) and Switzerland are nicely done. IVAO Germany is a quite a nice source as well. In France, administration is doing this job (until now). Just look for http://sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/ So, look at your airport. Look for SID chart(s).
If the departures only show intersections with 5 digits, it is usually a piece of cake. Enter these points in Airbus X FMC. If the waypoints are strange with navaids references, arcs and distances, you will need to enter the relevant navaids in your NAV/RAD page (its usually a VOR or a NDB/ADF). Write on paper the radial reference and the distance (nm) and go thru it on "manual". On Take-off, set your ND (navigational display right of the PDF) on VOR and check for the radial (an arrow) crossing the right value. Of course, there are an easier way to do that. FlightSim commander utility can record a flight plan you have defined with SID and STAR but you will have to do it manually. I am writting this item here for beginners and am trying to give new perspectives.

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