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Welcome to our Pilot Information Centre. This page is designed to give our pilots some hints and tips on flying in the UK on VATSIM. If you're looking for information on individual airports, please visit our Airfield Information pages. Help can also be found on the VATSIM Quick Start Guide and Pilot Resource Centre.
We are extremely lucky to have had a number of quick-reference guides made for our pilots. These guides, created and maintained by Bill Casey, are great tools for getting to grips with UK procedures and terminology. Please find them below.
Try to avoid flying "direct GPS". Our airspace is very compact and we have specific routes and altitudes that aircraft fly depending on their direction of travel. In the UK, we use airways for airline-style IFR flights which have names such as N57, N866, UN864, UL9 etc. This is an easy way of describing a route as you don't need to list all the waypoints you are flying between, only the ones where you change between airways.
When you have successfully entered your route into your FMC or navigation system, you can call the controller to request your clearance. Please make sure that you read back the clearance fully to the controller so that they know you have heard correctly. Make sure to check the initial altitude of your departure if it is not given to you in the clearance.
UK charts can be found on the NATS Aeronautical Information Service with no registration required. Users can find Aerodrome and Enroute charts at these links. International charts are available at the VATSIM Chart Centre.
VATSIM-UK recommends the following resources to assist with flight planning.
A flight plan can be filed on the VATSIM network using your pilot client following connection to the network. Alternately you may pre-file a flightplan here: http://www.vatsim.net/fp/.
When you are ready to start your engines and push back from the stand (where applicable), request it from the controller. Your pushback instruction may include a direction for your aircraft to face. If you are unsure, take a look at your aerodrome chart.
Taxi instructions can seem daunting at first, especially with old scenery, but if you have the aerodrome chart it is very simple. It may help to press Ctrl+S (Microsoft Flight Simulator only) which gives you a top-down view of your aircraft, you can use this with your aerodrome chart to work out where you are and which way you're facing. Once you feel you are ready, request taxi instructions from the controller. Some airports have a more complex system of taxiways than others, so it may be useful to have a pen handy. Once you've read back the taxi instructions, follow the taxiways in the order they were given to the runway holding point, and stop short behind the holding point. If in doubt, or if you get lost, don't be afraid to ask the controller, they will be more than happy to help you.
Once you are approaching the holding point, you will be asked to do one of two things. If you are instructed to contact the next controller, simply readback the instruction, switch to the next frequency and give the controller a call. If you are instructed to monitor the next controller, readback the instruction, switch to the next frequency but do not call the controller. They will have been told about you and will call you on their frequency when they need to give you further instructions. This helps them to work more efficiently.
Before giving you your takeoff clearance, a controller might instruct you to "line up and wait". This is exactly what it sounds like: read it back, line up on the specified runway and wait. Your takeoff clearance will always be given with a readout of the surface wind. Make sure you read back the instruction, but there's no need to read back the wind.
From here on, as long as you have your charts handy, it's just a case of following the instructions of your controllers. Don't forget that controllers are always happy to help if you are having issues or have a question, just ask.