After you have reviewed the appropriate material, installed and set up your flight simulator and pilot client, and planned your route, you will want to file a flight plan with VATSIM. This will allow the controllers to see your planned route and issue a clearance for your flight. Remember, even if no ATC is present when you begin your flight they may come online at any time, therefore having a flight plan is essential to enable the controller to provide ATC services.
Some important points about your flight plan:
Callsign: If you are filing under an airline name, use the ICAO identifier for the airline. For example, British Airways is BAW. JetBlue Airways is JBU. You can look these up here. Military aircraft will be different; for example a USAF flight plan will have a callsign beginning with 'A', such as A3340. General aviation callsigns will normally be the aircraft's tail number, beginning with the country code. For example, British flights begin with 'G'; Canadian flights begin with 'C' and have all alpha characters; U.S. flights begin with 'N'; German flights begin with 'D' and so on. Generally, hyphens are not used in callsigns. For more on choosing a callsign, visit the VATSIM Pilot Resource Centre.
Aircraft Type: This block on your flight plan should contain your type of aircraft: B732 for a Boeing 737-200; A332 for Airbus A330-200, DH8D for a DeHavilland Dash-8, and so on. You can find these codes on many sites, for example here. If you're filing the flightplan through the website or via certain pilot clients, you will have to append an 'equipment type' to your aircraft type. The most common of these can be found here. Therefore where required, your aircraft type code may look similar to: B732/L. .
Cruise Altitude: For a lot of flights, the direction you are travelling will determine what cruise level you should travel at. This varies from location to location, so you should research this for where you are flying. As an example, many areas of the world establishes odd-numbered levels (e.g. FL210) as eastbound (from 000 to 179 degrees) and even levels (e.g. FL360) as westbound (from 180 to 359 degrees).
Route: Using SimRoutes and entering a search for a flight from EGLL (Heathrow) to EHAM (Schiphol) this route is found: BPK M185 CLN L620 REDFA. You would enter that route exactly as found into the route section of your flight plan. Breaking this route down, after departing EGLL you would proceed to the BPK VOR, join the route M185 to the CLN VOR, join the route L620 to a navigational fix called REDFA.
Another example of a route from EGKK (Gatwick) to LCLK (Cyprus): DVR UL9 KONAN UL607 RIDSU UZ738 MUN UM867 DISOR UL608 FSK UN128 LMO UN127 EXELA UM601 DAROS
SIDs and STARs: While this topic is beyond the scope of the material on this page, most areas of the world now make use of SIDs (Standard Instrument Departure) and STARs (Standard Terminal Arrival Route). These can be found online for your departure and destination. If the controller issues a SID or STAR you are expected to fly it as published. If you are unable you should advise the controller.
Voice Capabilities: It is important to include this information. Most pilot clients will allow you to set this up either automatically or each time you file a flight plan.
The options are:
- T - Text only (All transmissions are via typed instruction/readback)
- R - Receive voice but cannot transmit (requires headset or speaker)
- V - Voice (requires headset with functioning microphone)
Remarks: This area is very useful for adding important information relative to your flight, but is not mandatory. Examples of what you may wish to include are: airline callsign (RMK/Callsign: Lufthansa Cargo), flight restrictions (RMK/LAHSO not authorized), SELCAL identifier (SEL/ABCE) and many more. Additionally if you are new to flying online, you can include a remark to let the controllers know. (New Pilot, first flight online) or similar.
VATSIM Flightplan Prefile
If you're going to be flying online within the next two hours, you can prefile your flightplan. Fill in the spaces as shown:
A. The Callsign you wish to use
B. The aircraft type and equipment code
C. The true airspeed in knots
D. The four letter ICAO code for the airport you are departing from
E. The proposed departure time in UTC (must be within two hours) as four whole numbers, i.e. 0130, 1230, 2045 etc.
F. Your planned cruise altitude (can be in the format of F370, FL370, 37000)
G. Your planned route (or waypoints if you don't know the airways). Note: That in the USA and some parts of the world, the anticipated SID and STAR are filed with the route. Check your local Division, vACC or ARTCC website for more information.
H. The four letter ICAO code for the airport you are landing at
I. The estimated time your flight will take in hours and minutes. (If minutes only, enter 0 in the hours field).
J. Check the radio button that lets controllers know what your voice capabilities are
K. Remarks for your flightplan. (see above)
L. How long your aircraft will be able to fly with the fuel you have loaded (in hours and minutes).
M. The four letter ICAO code for an alternate airport for your landing if your landing airport is unavailable due to weather etc.
N. Your First and Last Name and the four letter ICAO code for the airport nearest to your home city.
O. Your VATSIM ID Number
P. Your VATSIM Password
Once you have entered all the information, press the File Flight Plan icon and if there are no errors, you will get a message back that your plan will be held for two hours.
Then connect your sim up at a parking gate, start your preferred pilot client software and enter the same callsign you entered in box A and click CONNECT and you will be online with your flightplan waiting for you.
To pre-file your flightplan, visit the VATSIM Prefile page (will open a new window or tab).