This page is intended to give you a quick guide to getting started as a VATSIM pilot.
Fundamentally, please remember that this is a simulation network, not a game. We expect that you have at least a foundational level of understanding in order to participate on our network and in our community. This includes familiarity with your simulator, how to fly your aircraft, both using its automation and how to hand fly when appropriate/necessary, and how to follow air traffic procedures and commands.
1. Join VATSIM
If you haven't already, sign up for an account. You can Join VATSIM here.
2. Familiarize Yourself with the Basics
Before you are able to log onto the online VATSIM servers, you must review the New Member Orientation Course and then pass a short exam. Check your welcome email for more information on how to find the course (Hint: It’s in myVATSIM). After successfully passing the exam, your account status will become active, and normally within one hour (often much less) after passing the exam, you will be able to log on.
The Pilot Learning Center has lots of information available for you to read that will help you get started. It’s important that you know how to fly your
3. Choose a Pilot Client
In order to connect to the network, you need to install (free) software to connect your flight simulator to our network. You can choose which one you prefer from our Software page.
4. Situational Awareness
There are lots of other programs which might be useful to you when you are on the network. In order to have a look at who is currently online on the network (pilots and ATC), you can take a look at map.vatsim.net . There are lots of similar, standalone programs out there (e.g., VAT-Spy). These are optional, but may help you figure out where you'd like to start. That said, we highly recommend that you start at a small, slow airport so that you don’t get overwhelmed; busy events are no place for brand new pilots!
5. Prepare your Simulator
Load up your flight simulator at a location of your choice. This should be parked on the ground (i.e., on an apron or other parking area). Make sure you aren't blocking taxiways, on the runway, or in the air.
If you connect to an airport with a Ground (GND) or Tower (TWR) controller, they are likely to be able to give you some help if you need it. For your first few flights, it may be advisable to connect to a smaller airport that isn't very busy, so that controllers will have more time to help you if you need it.
6. Connect to VATSIM
Using the pilot client software you installed in step 3 above, connect to VATSIM entering your username, password and callsign. You can select any server you wish; they are all connected to each other. When you have connected you will get a message back from the VATSIM server and may see other pilots at the airport, or controllers in your pilot client's ATC list. You can check to see if there should be someone nearby and check that you're connected to the network using one of the Situational Awareness tools mentioned above (Note: the various maps only update who's online every minute, so don't worry if you don't appear immediately).
7. Listen and Begin
How you progress from here is your choice. It might be advisable to tune to a controller's frequency and just listen for a while to get an idea of how things work. You are welcome to connect on the ground at an airport to watch and learn if you aren't ready to make your first flight.
8. Additional Help
There are lots of articles in the Pilot Learning Center, especially the General Lessons that can help you get started.
If you are on the network and need help, you can contact a Supervisor. More information about this can be found in the Pilot Learning Center Basics Section.
Pilot Training Programs are available should you need additional pilot training.
The VATSIM Forums, VATSIM Community Discord, and the forums/Discords of local VATSIM organizations will likely have plenty of people available to answer questions. Don't be afraid to ask if you're stuck.
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