To Take-off, Perchance to land
That dial is going backwards
Standard words and phrases
George is flying
The Phonetic Code
Unfortunately all it takes is a single player to suddenly make other players life hell and ruin the progress of a game. What is it they do that spoils things? If you have recently been ejected from a server there are several reasons why that could be. FSOpen Server hosted games usually employ a robot that automatically ejects some players. To date, the most common automatic game ejections, or ‘Auto-kick’, are for the following reasons…
Runway guard. FSOpen Server has a runway guard option whereby any plane starting or entering a game on an active runway is automatically removed and the server software can be programmed to guard any number of airfields. This is to prevent aircraft suddenly appearing on the runway. So the days of being a pilot on approach to land and suddenly having the runway blocked by an aircraft ‘spawning’ on the runway are largely a thing of the past. The solution to this is to choose where you start carefully - start at a ramp or gate, or start in the air, or at another airfield – not on the runway! To date, about 40% of Auto-kicks from my server are for players who have spawned on an active runway.
Network traffic. The next most common reason for ejection from a server is excess network traffic. Every player connected to a server requires a certain amount of data or packets. An ATC may only require 10 to 20 packets while a default FSX aircraft may only need 150 to 200 packets. But for reasons that are unclear some add-on aircraft (different aircraft that did not come with FSX) demand huge amounts of data to/from the server, in some instances I have seen add-on aircraft demand up to 3000 packets - the equivalent of perhaps 20 players using default FSX aircraft! These demands can strain or even crash a server and FSOpen server has the ability to monitor network traffic and eject players demanding too much network traffic. While this can be annoying the effect of a single player requiring too many packets can slow down or even crash the game for everyone else. So, for the greater good some servers set a limit to how much traffic you generate. If you exceed that limit you will be ejected from the game. If this happens, try another aircraft. About 30% of player auto-kicks are for excess network traffic.
Banned aircraft. Some servers prohibit the use of cetain aircraft for a variety of reasons. Gliders are banned by default by FSOpen server but the software can be set up to restrict what aircraft can be used in a game. In the past most F-18's, Extra 300's, and Trikes that appeared in a game were a nuisance to other users because the players usually just messed about and spoiled the game. Many servers ban the aformentioned aircraft though some permit them. About 30% of player auto-kicks are for using banned aircraft.
All frequencies broadcast. Some servers are set up to eject players who attempt to broadcast on all frequencies (pressing 'Shift' and 'Caps Lock' at the same time). This is an obvious nuisance if multiple radio channels are in use. Currently I do not use this function but some servers do, be warned.
Runway guard, network traffic, banned aircraft, all frequencies broadcast, are all auto-kicks that the server software can be programmed for. The rest of the reasons for being removed from a game have to be decided by a server administrator and are not automatic, and there are lots of reasons why that may be done.
Communications. Even if there is no active ATC in a game being able to talk to other pilots is not only useful but vital if there are other planes nearby. As in real world aviation it is standard practice to make advisory calls when there are other aircraft nearby to alert them of your presence and intentions. Even if there is an active ATC present but you are outside of their control area it is normal to monitor a Unicom frequency and make advisory calls if need be. The Unicom frequency is normally 122.80. But if you are inside controlled airspace then being able to communicate with the controller is mandatory. So if you enter a game/server where there is active ATC and other aircraft about, having a working microphone is a must. Now this may seem like common sense but you would be surprised at the number of players who enter a session and are unable to communicate with anyone else, in other words they have no mic.
Radio communication is a major part of FSX on-line multiplayer games but even if some players do have a mic the problems are not yet solved. If you have a microphone but are unable to use the radios properly, that is, you are unable to change frequencies, having a microphone verges on the pointless. But, say you have a mic and can use the radios properly there are still yet more problems. If you have huge fingers or press ‘Caps Lock’ and ‘Shift’ at the same time you transmit on all frequencies which is something of a nuisance if there are different players using different frequencies. Make sure you know what your ATC callsign is and use it in all transmissions. And lastly, if you are given instructions by an ATC make sure you read back those instructions so that the ATC knows that you have heard and understood those instructions, some ATC’s will not accept a simple “Roger”! With these issues in mind it should be obvious that no mic, no talk, and no readback are all reasons a server admin may have reason to kick you out of a game.
Mischief. Next I come to one of the biggest menaces of all - the would-be controller - I call them hijackers. They join a session and then attempt to take over or generally mess up a controllers instructions. (It must be said that they mess up the session for everyone else as well.) There are two types, either they 'parrot' the real controllers instructions, or talk over them or issue contradictory instructions effectively attempting to take over the controller's tower. In some instances these pretenders issue instructions that are malicious, like directing you into a mountain. I am unsure of the reason behind such behaviour but it often leads to angry exchanges and a lot of confusion for all. This is a sure-fire way to make yourself unpopular, suffice to say that if traceable and you try that stunt you’ll be removed and probably banned.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday.” A grey area is that of the 'attention seeker' who makes "Mayday" calls. I have no doubt that on rare occasions there are a few players who genuinely get into difficulties such as losing an engine or have some sort of system failure. Part of being a pilot is learning to deal with such problems, and FSX can be programmed to include failures, either at a set time, or randomly. Planes can and do develop faults but I often wonder about the number of alleged engine failures. And, let us not forget that most modern multi-engined aircraft are designed to be able to fly safely with an engine out. But when I get more than one "Mayday" call in a session I smell a rat. If planes in real life developed faults with the frequency they seem to do in some sessions the entire world's fleet of aircraft would be grounded!
The dilemma for ATC is not knowing who is trying it on and who really has a problem. Either way, some controllers make concessions to crippled aircraft and attempt to get them down quickly. But, that does not give pilots a licence to do as they please. In real aviation a pilot would first work on stabilising the situation, such as correctly shutting down the faulty engine and trimming the aircraft to compensate. Then the pilot can consider the options of where to land. Let me be clear at this point, a pilot is responsible for their aircraft, not the ATC who should not be expected to tell the pilot how to deal with an emergency. In real life an ATC would probably try to offer as much help as possible to a plane in distress such as priority of landing or offering directions. That said, an ATC will still have much work to do to accommodate an emergency in their airspace.
What I am saying is that if you fly the plane you must be prepared for when things go wrong and not rely on someone else to do it for you. And you should not make bogus "Mayday" calls, you may be surprised at some ATC's lack of sympathy for you. On my own server Maydays have to be booked in advance.
The worst aspect of those not 'playing the game' is the time taken dealing with them and in any one session I could spend up to a quarter of all airtime trying to resolve problems. Repeated calls to unresponsive pilots, for whatever reason, spoils the game for those who really can and want to play properly. Below is a list of the most common perils of hosting an ATC session, those of you who have been in or hosted an ATC session will know what I mean! My last comment here is that many problems listed on this page could be solved if players took the time to read the session rules and made thoughtful selections prior to joining.
Below is a list of some of the many ways that pilots in an ATC session mess up a game.
The above list may seem large but could be expanded!
Speak to me. So far you may have gathered that there are rules, even if they are not written down in FSX Multiplayer. It goes without saying that if you abide by whatever rules exist in a game the happier everyone will be, and this is especially so in ATC controlled sessions. Air traffic control, simply put, is the regulation of traffic in the air and on the ground so that aircraft can move safely. It relies on rules, some of which are flexible, some are rigid. But more importantly it relies on effective communication, and that means radio. So, my advice to any player wanting to join an ATC controlled session is that you MUST have a microphone. If you do not have a working microphone in an ATC controlled session and you are spoiling the game for others it is likely that the host/admin/ATC will remove you.
If you do have a microphone it must be working and you must know how to use it. If you have just bought a microphone make sure it is correctly set up, there is a microphone test available in 'Windows, Control Panel'. I have found that it may also be necessary to adjust the volume controls in 'FSX, Settings', turn the voice/ATC volume up, or the engine/other noises down, or both. There are either a lot of deaf pilots about or their volume settings need to be adjusted. Also, an ATC session may have 2 or more controllers on different frequencies. In any event make sure you know how to change and select the correct radio frequencies.
Read and check. Before you join a session look to see if there are any messages posted at the start of the session or in the briefing room chat box, or both. If there are such messages read them. There will almost always be a warning to players joining about the use of microphones and other things you should and should not do. This is especially true of ATC controlled flight. If the session rules state that certain aircraft types are not permitted, don't use those aircraft. Some software add-ons for FSX simply block certain aircraft full stop. Whenever you join a session there are several options that you have control over, the type of aircraft you will be flying is one of them.
Also, you can choose where you will join the session, and this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks of all. There are occasions where for reasons unknown FSX ignores whatever starting position you selected, and then proceeds to place you in the worst possible location you could start in - on the active runway! If this happens (though I suspect in some cases it is simply carelessness on behalf of the player) call the host or tower immediately, apologise, and clear the runway as quickly as possible. But, if the server is using a runway guard to protect the active runways and you attempt to start there your appearance in the game will be very brief.
It’s all in the name. When you enter a session there is an option to type in your 'ATC Name'. Leave it blank if you want to be in the session known by your tail (registration) number. Otherwise type in the name/number you wish to be referred to by in the ATC Name entry box. Try to avoid the generic tail numbers and callsigns like 'JA-068X' or 'WOR1123' since these may be selected by other players as well - often players enter a session with something like 'N123MS' or 'LAN1123' only to find that there is another 'N123MS' or 'LAN1123' already in the session. It should be obvious that two such callsigns in a session is confusing for all concerned.
By all means use any of the 'BOE', 'LAN', 'WOR' or whatever you like but think up a number that will hopefully make your ATC Name unique for the game. Lastly, try to avoid repeated numbers like '4444', these are avoided in real aviation anyway, 3 letters and up to 3 or 4 numbers is usually enough. Sometimes a player puts words in the ATC Name box, some of them unprintable, it is a fair bet that they won't be in the session for long - enough said!
Freeze! At most airfields in real aviation any movement without permission is forbidden. The perils of uncontrolled movement in the air, as well as the ground should need no explanation at all. In FSX no one is truly at risk but most ATC's upon seeing unauthorised movement will at the very least query the pilot concerned. And there are some ATC's who will not hesitate to eject a player who moves without permission. Several of the 'Ways to mess up a game' listed elsewhere need little explanation. However, there are some more that I should amplify upon.
Read back. In ATC controlled sessions most radio calls demand a response of some kind. As soon as the ATC or pilot has finished talking is therefore NOT always the time for you to talk. There are many occasions where sheer volume of radio chatter may prevent you getting a word in edgeways but if you attempt to talk over someone already talking you may actually end up waiting even longer for a response, whoever you talked over may have to repeat the message and in turn you will have even longer to wait. So the word is wait for the right moment to press 'Caps Lock'. Keep your messages short, to the point, and courteous. For example, long-winded IFR clearances may sound professional and informative but they take up a lot of air-time, not only to listen to, but also to reply to. And make sure you read back any instructions for you.
Learn. If you do not know how to fly or control the aircraft you have chosen there are many excellent pointers and lessons available in FSX. In real life an inexperienced or inept pilot wouldn't have a licence to fly anyway. But we all have to learn somewhere so try some of the Missions, fly on your own and make use of Free Flight's ATC facility. Learn how to taxi your aircraft at a controllable speed. Learn how to keep a plane straight and level. Learn how to make a turn without falling out of the sky. Learn how to recover from a stall. Learn how to make a circuit. Learn how to control your speed. Learn how to turn the plane onto finals. Learn how to get the plane lined up with the runway. Learn how to make a smooth, controlled descent. Take the time to understand what all those instruments do and how they can help you. In all, build up the hours and experience to make your flying more enjoyable and professional. My point being that joining an ATC controlled on-line game can be quite demanding and if you cannot comply with ATC instructions then perhaps you should not be joining a live ATC session in the first place!
Fly the plane. If you do fly on autopilot, and many do, as do real pilots, make sure you know how to use it correctly. The adage "Garbage in - Garbage out" is particularly apt here - the autopilot only does what you tell it to. One of the most common mistakes when using autopilot is to make a turn onto an opposite heading, like going from 090° to 270°, and then turning onto that heading, but turning left instead of right, or vice-versa (I've done this myself). Turn the Heading knob slowly in the correct direction, wait for the aircraft to respond, then keep turning the Heading knob slowly until the correct heading is set. On numerous occasions I have instructed a plane to make a left (or right) turn onto a certain heading only to cringe as the aircraft turns the wrong way. Autopilot is a wonderful device and can dramatically ease the workload of the pilot - but only if used correctly!
What now follows is a simplified checklist that you could use to help remind you of some of the things that need to be done before and during a flight. It is not meant to replace aircraft type specific checklists, many of which can be found in the FSX Learning Center. Some of the items listed below are not mandatory, though recommended. But some are obligatory and must be followed. Some, if you omit them, can lead to catastrophe. They are not all necessarily in the right order and some items can be dealt with earlier or later. Either way, I hope that the lists are of some use to you. And for reasons that will become obvious you'll see why such checklists exist in the first place. Take a look at the lists below and ask yourself honestly how many you had omitted or not even thought of for your last flight. If the answer is none either you are the 'World's Best Pilot'... Or you are lying! Now, think of the things you have forgotten or not even thought of and imagine what effect that could have on your flight.
Do you know the limitations of your chosen aircraft? What about your own limitations? Do you have a plan or idea of what you are going to do with the aircraft? Where will you be going? Do you know what all those switches and levers are for? What I am getting at is that although one way of learning about an aircraft is to simply fly it, if you take the time to find out what that plane is capable of there is a greater chance that you will get back down in one piece.
Flight planning. Maps? Charts? Flight plan - VFR or IFR? Weather - VMC or IMC?
Pre-flight check. Aircraft fit for flight? Sufficient fuel?
Pre-start-up check. Brakes on? Props/Engines clear? Beacon on? Radio check? QNH/Altimeter?
Engine start-up. Warm up? Engines stable, smooth running?
Engine checks. Engine readings correct?
(Push back.) Permission? Anything behind/near you? Nav lights? Lights? Strobes?
Taxi. Clearance? Taxi route? Taxi speed? Active runway? Hold short points?
Hold short. Aircraft configured for take-off? Pitch trim? Flaps? Contact Tower?
Line up. Permission? Landing lights? Wind check?
Take-off roll. Permission? Take-off power? Engine response?
Take-off. Sufficient speed? Positive rate of climb?
Contact: Departure/Area Control Centre/Radar/Approach.
Climb out. Sufficient speed? Gear up? Flaps?
Level off. Assigned altitude? Flaps? Pitch trim? Cruise? Auto pilot?
Transit/Circuit. Heading? Navigation? Airways? NDB? VOR? DME? GPS?
Approach. Permission? ILS/VOR/NDB/DME? Speed? Altitude? Flaps? Pitch trim?
Final. Permission? Speed? Rate of descent? Flaps? Gear down?
Land. Speed? Flaps? Brakes? Reverse thrust? Speedbrakes?
Clear runway. Retract flaps? Taxi speed?
Taxi. Permission? Other aircraft? Taxi route?
Parking. Park where? Brakes on?
Engine shut down. Permission? Close throttles? Fuel off?
Secure aircraft. Parking brake? Lights off? Systems off? APU?
The above is not meant to be a complete checklist and is not in absolutely the correct order but it does give you some idea of the many things that go on during a flight.
© Derek Haselden 2017