by Kyle Ramsey and Roger Curtiss
VATSIM is an online community created for enthusiasts of flight simulation and air traffic control. One of the main goals of VATSIM is to create an environment which is fun, and, at the same time, educational and a realistic simulation of procedures followed by pilots and air traffic controllers everyday around the world. With that said, virtual flight organizations, sometime referred to as "virtual airlines" are an integral part of the flight simulation community and allow many online pilots to experience the unique characteristics of the airline industry and various government agencies around the world.
The VATSIM VIRTUAL AIRLINES & SPECIAL OPERATIONS ADMINISTRATION (VASOA) exists to work with various virtual organizations that utilize the VATSIM network. Here you will find links to popular Virtual Airlines, General Aviations groups as well as special interest groups that cover Military, Paramilitary and civilian government flight organizations. It is a one-stop location for the hobbyist to see what is available as well as a starting point for virtual organizations wishing to join the VATSIM family. The VASOA is represented on the VATSIM Board of Governors by through the Vice President of Virtual Airlines & Special Operations, VATSIM.
The VASOA is divided into two divisions comprising a total of three (3) distinct categories, each having its own unique requirements for affiliation, unique standards to be maintained after being affiliated, and in certain cases, unique privileges when standards are met and maintained. The divisions and categories are:
- VIRTUAL AIRLINES
VA Partners: Civil flight organizations (non-governmental)
- SPECIAL OPERATIONS
Civilian Government Agency / Contractors Organizations
VA PARTNERS: Here you will find almost everything in the way of civilian flight; from major air carriers to commuter carriers, corporate/private operators, and general aviation clubs. Some are based on actual carriers while others are purely fictional. For those who wish to "open" a virtual flight organization, this is the easiest category to join as it has the least amount of requirements.
Civilian Government Agency/ Contractor Organizations: Virtual flight organizations that are government-related but not necessarily Military or Paramilitary in nature are listed here. These groups are considered to be part of the VSOA and may be required to meet special requirements based on their activities and events while using the VATSIM network. Organizations in this category may consist of government agencies such as border patrol, law enforcement, emergency services etc.
Military/Paramilitary Organizations: All virtual military flight organizations that are part of the VATSIM community are listed here and are considered to be part of VSOA. These organizations are required to adhere to the most stringent guidelines pertaining to operations; training and realism in order to utilize the VATSIM network for Military related activities and events.
For details of these virtual airlines and organizations please visit VATSIM Pilots>Virtual Airlines from the menu on the main VATSIM website.
Like any other aspect of VATSIM, the VASOA has its share of regulations regarding its VA Partners and Military/Paramilitary and Civilian Government organizations. There are no restrictions limiting virtual airline flying on the network. However, in order to be listed as a VA Partner, virtual airlines must meet and maintain certain standards as specified in the website section VATSIM Pilots>Virtual Airlines>Apply for partnership.
Due to the nature of military/paramilitary/ and civilian government contractor flight activity and its potential to disrupt operations on the network if not closely regulated, anyone wishing to engage in such activity on VATSIM must be affiliated with a certified SOA organization. Operations of these organizations are dictated by the VATSIM SPECIAL OPERATIONS POLICY which can be viewed HERE.
Policy governs activity not aircraft. You are free to fly any AIRCRAFT on the VATSIM network. Although, if you have any questions as to what activities are prohibited, please consult the above-mentioned document or feel free to contact any VSOA Liaison personnel or the V.P. of Special Operations directly.
In closing, the VASOA is the place to look for the best of the best, be it long haul flights in heavy metal, bush flying in a Cessna, even to combat exercises in a fighter aircraft. They are only one click away in the area mentioned off of the main website. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the VSOA personnel.