Quick Start for Flying on VATSIM

Quick Start for Flying on VATSIM  

by Larry James



To answer the recurring question from new members, “I have my VATSIM ID, now what do I do?”


To provide quick simple steps for immediate connectivity to VATSIM.


We urge all new pilots to read and study the lessons found in the Pilot’s Resource Center (PRC) in detail. It’s packed with valuable material that will enhance your VATSIM experience. It’ll give you a great learning curve and answer questions that, as a new pilot or new VATSIM member, you might never have the words to ask. Pay particular attention to the General Lessons tutorial to fill in important details between the lines of this quick start guide.

The only thing you need is your version of Flight Simulator (Microsoft Flight Simulator or XPlane). This is the only thing the member needs to purchase, the rest of your VATSIM experience is free of charge. Then you can be up and running in a few quick and easy steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the Expectations and Requirements for connecting to the network.

This is an important introduction to being able to interact with other pilots and controllers. It also includes a basic list of minimum components of being able to handle your selected aircraft. It’s best to practice and become familiar with handling your aircraft offline before connecting to the network. This includes being able to Taxi, Take-off, Maintain an assigned altitude, heading, and airspeed, etc.


  1. Pick and install your Pilot Client for your version of Flight Simulator.

This is the software that will connect your Flight Simulator to the VATSIM Network. Look for the basic features for setting your PTT (push to talk) for voice communications and the connect option. This is covered in the connection link.


You will actually fly on VATSIM using Flight Simulator and all Flight Simulator’s controls. You’ll communicate with live Air Traffic Control by tuning your Flight Simulator’s cockpit radio to the controller’s frequency. You can use a program such as ServinfoVATSpy, and vRoute to see which area’s have ATC coverage and their frequencies.


  1. Start up Flight Simulator and place your aircraft at a Gate or parking area ensuring you’re not blocking taxiways or runways.

There are provisions for continuing a flight already started (discussed in the PRC), but a beginner should become familiar with these immediate basics. Please be sure to follow these important and basic rules.


  1. Connect to VATSIM with your Pilot Client.

Choose a callsignA new VATSIM member might best start parked at an airport with ATC coverage and listen to the exchange between other pilots and controllers. This will get him familiar with how pilots are interacting on the network. It’ll also give new VATSIM members an opportunity to check the integrity of their pilot client installation. You should put a comment in the remarks section of your Flight Plan to let the controller know your intentions. Some words to the effect of “Newbie Listening” might suffice.


Look at the Airport ATC Procedures Lesson for whom to contact when you’re ready to fly. This includes the hierarchy of controllers.

Flight Simulator’s built in ATC feature might be a good start for becoming familiar with some of the dialog that might happen between the controllers and the pilots. You can also listen in on real world pilots and controllers at LiveATC.

Welcome to a very rewarding experience!  If you need any help head over to the forum where you will find many experienced members willing to lend a hand, or you can search for past posts about the same issue.  And you can start pilot training using VATSIM Certified Authorized Training Organizations (ATO) who offer a selection of ratings including the basics of making your first flight, the VATSIM Online Pilot (P1).