What is a Virtual Airline?

Posted on 23/02/2014 by Flight Sim UK

Since the advent of the modern flight simulator platform such as Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series and Laminar Research’s X-Plane it has been possible to fly realistic operations from your desktop. This is great and is used by enthusiasts and even by real world pilots for procedural training for example. The modern flight sim comes with a global navigation and airport database that makes this possible.

Now sitting at your desk recreating the route you flew on holiday last year is great fun but some people are looking for a more structured approach to virtual aviation. This is where Virtual Airlines come in. Put simply a virtual airline is just like a real world airline except it doesn’t fly real passengers or aircraft and it doesn’t (well most don’t) make any money. What being a member of a virtual airline allows you to do is be part of a community and fly structured routes from the airlines database adding an extra dimension to your virtual flying.

Virtual airlines or VA’s for short come in all shapes and sizes from the small regional air taxi service hopping around the Caribbean to the other end of the scale such as British Airways Virtual which mirrors exactly the operations of British Airways. Others like us for example take a different approach and don’t tie members to one particular airline, rather a choice of routes from 22 different airlines based on their real world counterparts. The VA you choose to join comes down to one simple thing, personal choice. Some people like heavy jets, some like 6 seater props and there really is a Virtual Airline out there for everyone.

One thing to remember when choosing a VA is longevity. There are many (excuse the pun) fly by night VA’s, after all it is very simple to set one up and we see them opening and closing quicker than a Ryanair turnaround. Generally a VA based on a single real world airline will not last long as it is very common for their real world counterparts (otherwise known as the Copyright Holders) shut them down as soon as they become aware. Very occasionally a real world airline will allow a VA to use its name and branding, the only occasion I can recall of this in the UK is our friends over at British Airways Virtual who signed a landmark agreement with BA several years ago.

A VA is also a community, its a chance to meet people with similar interests, learn new things and generally improve your knowledge and understanding of aviation in general. You will find beginners through to real world pilots amongst their ranks and you will always find a helping hand. With most VA’s you can fly on-line using services like VATSIM and offline. So if you haven’t already, why not add an extra dimension to your flight sim experience, join a VA.

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