The last time I tried my hand at flying a plane on my PC was while exploring multiplayer Grand Theft Auto V. I couldn’t master the craft at all and crashed and burned my way through a wind farm as friends expressed horror and mirth. I suspect that my own utter incompetence in the face of flight versus the skill of others is part of what fascinates me about VATSIM.
VATSIM is short for Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network. It’s a system which populates a flight sim by connecting enthusiasts who each take on piloting or air traffic controller roles. I found out about it through Graham who had spent time on one of the VATSIM forums picking through people’s stories and relaying them to me over Gchat (as in Google Chat – Graham doesn’t have his own chat client yet).
Obviously I was concerned about gaining access myself (the ruined wind farm still loomed large as a relatively recent trauma despite GTA V not being in any way a flight sim). That’s why I got in touch with Justin Friedland. He’s the Vice President of Communications and Marketing at VATSIM and has been flying simulated aircraft since Microsoft Flight Simulator, which was released in 1982.