A Tale of Two Virtual Airlines

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Chapter 1: The departure

Mary: I failed the entry test of Virtual Air Canada. Can you help me? Yvan?

Yvan: Did I hear VAC?

Mary: Yes.

Yvan: I, too, went through this step. If I told you that it was preferable to take off in a head wind?

Mary: All angle-related questions are green, but this is another tale.

Yvan: FL260 is an altitude marker, but is actually a flight level above 18,000 feet. It seems that you have two KIAS-related questions: it first means Knots Indicated Air Speed. Second, below 10,000 feet, you cannot fly above 250 KIAS unless advised by the Air Traffic Controller.

Mary: What's a touch-and-go?

Yvan: A touch and go is a landing followed by acceleration and takeoff. Then I may ask to how much you failed this test?

Mary: 65%.

Though Mary is not as passionate about virtual airlines than Yvan is, she sure know what's the difference between a turboprop engine and a piston engine. I suppose she flew a Cessna 172 in FS9 before she even tried her hand at turboprops in the game. In a sense, Mary is a special girl, since she always said that girls and aircraft engines don't always go together. If she was accepted, she would fly from CYUL (Montreal-Trudeau) instead of her classical, general aviation CYHU (St. Hubert), with turboprops or jet aircraft, rather than C172s.

Three hours later...

Mary: Yes! I finally made it into VAC! But I think I do not know a thing of IFR multi-engine flying, except for takeoff.

Yvan: I have experience of IFR multi-engine flying, that much I admit. I can teach you the basics of IFR flight, in-game, of course.

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Chapter 2: The first flight

Yvan: What flight did you choose to fly?

Mary: An easy one: Montreal-Quebec.

Yvan: I'll be on the right seat for that one as I am instructing you to the basics of IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) multi-engine flight. I believe the furthest you went into IFR flight was flying single-engine aircraft.

As Yvan was on the "right seat", which was actually a module who allowed two players to fly the same flight, the 2nd one from the right seat. With a T/O (takeoff) briefing ready, which says the following:

T/O type: conventional
Runway distance: 4,500 ft
Accelerate stop distance: 2,700 ft
If something goes wrong, stop on the runway.

Yvan: Takeoff is just like what you would do with a C172, but instead of watching for the rpm, you watch at the N1, which is the percentage of the max rpm for the low-pressure compressor.

Mary: How much N1 should I take off with?

Yvan: Try to aim for 95-100%.

And so the DH1 took off from runway 10 towards the V316 victor airway, as set in the Flight Simulator 2004 flight plan. Her cruising altitude would be 17,000 feet.

ATC (Air Traffic Controller): Fly runway heading, climb and maintain 8,000.

Mary: How do I navigate in IFR flight?

Yvan: Do as I would do: use the autopilot. First, set the altitude to 8,000. Then, as you certainly know that climbing too steep may put you at a risk of stalling, you might want a climb rate between 1200-1500 feet per minute.

Mary: It sure did solve the altitude problem, but the heading?

Yvan: There is a knob called heading in that one. You change it to whatever the route and ATC demands of you.

Mary: I know, no one can climb to its cruise altitude single bound. So I just have to wait a little bit before I go for that cruise altitude.

Yvan: You climbed at somewhere around 2000 fpm. That's a vertical speed I'd keep for low-altitude climbs. But on your second climbing leg, you go between 1200-1500 fpm. Don't forget to retract flaps.

Mary: Oh yes, the flaps. I forgot to retract them.

ATC (on 119.9): Jazz 8702, this is Montreal Tower. Resume own navigation, climb and maintain 17,000.

Mary: I never heard resume own navigation. What does that mean?

Yvan: It means that the heading is up to you.

As she cruised at 1600fpm, Mary did not get over 250 KIAS at any given time. But she wonders why such a rule exists, even with this thing, she never gets over 220 KIAS.

Yvan: Wait until you get in a jet cockpit. Then, you'll better understand the reason of such a regulation.

Mary: Why a jet cockpit?

Yvan: Because jets can easily get to 250 KIAS after T/O way below 10,000 feet.

ATC (on 119.9): You're leaving my airspace. Radar services terminated. Have a good flight!

As to land, however, the landing briefings were long prepared, even if nothing went wrong on the turboprop flight. Of course, she learned how to do one before she began her IFR circuits over CYHU...

Mary: How far from CYQB (Quebec-Lesage) should I descend?

Yvan: Please do it at 3*(altitude in feet/1000)+5 nautical miles from the runway. In addition, to obtain the fpm at which you should descend, use the ground speed (in knots), round it up to the highest hundred for the A/P setting.

Mary: I never flew IFR with an autopilot, so please excuse me.

Yvan: I did it so many times I don't even dare count.

However, as they near the runway of their destination...

Mary: Quebec Approach, this is JZA8702. Requesting GPS approach runway 06.

ATC: Turn right heading 060, expect vectors to final.

FE Expert
Chapter 3: The payware

A few months have passed and Mary is faced with the classical Sr. Pilot problem with promotion hours. Yvan, from a First Officer, became a Sr. Captain by then (VAC-wise). Between these different days, she asked for aid within VAC as a whole.

Yvan: Mary, you know what? Level-D is seeking test pilots for their 787 payware!

Mary: Boeing 787? I guess the real-world counterpart of VAC has ordered a few of them...

Yvan: Unfortunately, a few VAs whose real-world counterparts ordered some of them have either: refused to perform the tests or do not exist. Like Garuda Indonesia who do not have a virtual airline for flightsimmers from around the world to fly with, but did order 10 of them.

Mary: Which ones would have refused?

Yvan: Virtual ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Virtual Air New Zealand have both refused testing that a/c (aircraft) for reasons only God knows. So they both deferred their testing duties to VAC, therefore tripling the number of test pilots picked in VAC.

Mary: They would do that?

Yvan: I have been accepted into it, I should receive the disc in a few days. But you?

Mary: But the 787 is considered as a heavy a/c by VAC! I can't pilot it yet!

The day later, Yvan realize that Virtual ANA's share has been transfered from VAC, cutting the number of places in the program within Virtual Air Canada.

Mary: Testing a payware 787? Tell me that I'm not going to fly VAC flights with it.

Yvan: You can still install the VAC ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Report System) if you happen to get the AC livery.

Mary then signs up for the Level-D 787 testing program, all too excited to test a new kind of payware, which out-trusts freeware by a large margin. But, in the end...

Mary: Drat! It was open to pilots of all ranks! But since VAC did NOT want me to test this bird...

Yvan: Don't worry. Out of the virtual airlines listed, UPSVAC is the easiest, or otherwise the most free of them. You can even do your first UPSVAC flight in a 747-200F (freighter)!

Mary: I guess this is my only chance.

FE Expert
Chapter 4: Simple testing

By some hazard, she had to contact Yvan via the VATSIM private chat system, even if Squawkbox did not support even freeware 787-8s at this time, let alone payware. The closest thing to a 787-8 is a 767-400, by Squawkbox standards.

Mary: Mayday! Mayday! I'm stalling! How should I recover from a low-altitude stall?

Yvan: Do you have the autopilot engaged? If yes, disengage it and lower the nose pitch to a point where the angle of attack gets below the critical.

Mary: Where's the angle of attack indicator?

Yvan: Look in the EICAS setting number 3. If you stall again, please write down the angle of attack at which it happens, as well as the speed in KIAS.

Mary: EICAS? That's one thing even the VAC-based experts didn't teach me much about its signification, let alone UPSVAC (UPS Virtual Air Cargo)...

Yvan: The KIAS along with the altitude then. However, I want you to take note of the ground speed too. If you seem the ground speed at which you began stalling is horribly low compared to the ground speed you usually fly at this altitude, this ground speed is within the maximum "stall speed" domain.

Mary: What's in the EICAS?

Yvan: This is a special EICAS, since the Engine Information and Crew Alert System usually have to do with engines and fuel. Sometimes with flaps, but I never saw an EICAS with an angle of attack indicator.

Mary: I regret testing the beta version of the Level-D 787-8 with UPSVAC under the supervision of the Louisville hub manager, primarily because UPSVAC is about cargo only and I prefer to pretend I'm flying with both pax (passengers) and cargo. Hopefully someone in VAC will have to give up its participation in the system...

Yvan: The VAC-based experts all want to make the other VAC pilots' flying better, that much I'll admit. But you think UPSVAC is more grueling than VAC?

Mary: Even if any hub let me fly just about any flight, I have to fly with them once every two weeks. In VAC, I just have to do it once every four months and I'm ok.

FE Expert
Chapter 5: Just Enough Vertical Speed

Yvan: Finally! You flew the missing 0.1 hour, and way beyond it, so you can now fly any a/c for VAC.

Mary: What did you mean?

Yvan: You can now fly just about anything within VAC.

Mary: We hopefully didn't have to test the ground servicing out, the number of test "pilots" is just crazy. I had to use your help for the stall speed test.

Yvan: What's the result?

Mary: 136 knots true airspeed clean (flaps retracted), 115 knots true airspeed dirty (flaps fully extended).

Yvan: So you know the difference between true airspeed and ground speed? True airspeed is counted in VATSIM flight plans while ground speed is used by pax and pilots as guidelines for fuel and time.

Mary: We got to test the decision and T/O speeds. Which one do we pick?

Yvan: This time around, wait for the ATC instructions, set your autopilot accordingly and set the vertical speed to, let's say, 2400 fpm for you, 2500 fpm for me. Then, we keep the same vertical speed for the other climb phase with the instructions of the ATC still.

Mary: There is an ATC for this flight too?

Yvan: We both depart from CYUL this time around. You chose Mexico as your destination, I chose to fly to CYVR. As for taxiing, someone else tested it and we can taxi at 20 knots without damaging the aprons/taxiways/runways. At least, at airports who handle A380 traffic.

CYUL_CLR: Air Canada 113, you're cleared to Vancouver Airport via direct Montreal Trudeau, as filed. Fly runway heading, climb and maintain 11,000. Expect FL340. Depart runway 28.

Yvan took off with flaps set at 15, but retracted them to 8 at 2000 ft. Mary was airborne before Yvan was.

CZUL_CTR: Air Canada 6141, climb and maintain FL240.

Mary: Roger, Montreal Center. Climb and maintain FL240, Air Canada 6141.

She reduced the climb rate at 2000 fpm once at 11,000 ft. Until then, no one of us actually did stall.

FE Expert
Chapter 6: The Wrong Way

Yvan: Our last test was not done correctly. Some VAC-based expert said that climb tests were not done using VS.

Mary: Surely we are not testing this software alone. There has to be more than two captains to test this thing. What we did until now gave us the impression only the both of us were testing it each on our side.

Yvan: If you left UPSVAC, would you still get to keep the beta?

Mary: That... I don't know. But I do miss VAC's "ground school".

Yvan: That's where I learned just about everything other than T/O and stall recovery. Some other VAs don't have much of a ground school.

Mary: So I went the wrong way by joining UPSVAC?

Yvan: That's not what I said... just that UPSVAC is not a top-notch VA (virtual airline) when it comes to learning. If you enjoy your UPSVAC stay, then OK.

Mary: But I don't enjoy UPSVAC as I enjoyed VAC! In UPSVAC, I am in the role of the instructor. I just simply hate being in their instructor "roster", as I hate portraying an expert when I still have a lot to learn.

Yvan: I understand what you feel, at least UVA has a real-world expert: David Klain himself. If you joined UVA (United Virtual)... no, that won't work, since they have little space for training and most of theirs is used for screenshots.

Mary: How do you know that UVA has more screenshots than learning space?

Yvan: I check regularly the questions prospective pilots ask about UVA. I also check out what screenshots/stories they have in store. They have few learning areas and checkrides.

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Epilogue: A kicked-out pilot

Mary: Look what I found! (in my e-mail box, of course)

Yvan: You finally got to use it under VAC's flag. The pilot we aided on a flight identified as ANA6780 has changed to UPSVAC. But you won a pyrrhic victory, Mary.

Mary: I always thought that even bad behavior in a Scramble wouldn't make a pilot kicked out of VAC.

Yvan: Ichiro was in his worst behavior, then. Surely the aggravating factors - the facts that the Scramble was held in a VAC hub and as a VAC pilot, from T/O - played against him.

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