MOST VATSIM pilots will mess this up. Are you one of them?

I wrote up this post on the VATUSA forums last week after an absolutely head splitting controlling session during an event. Please read, and I’d love to see if anyone has some answers to my little quiz below:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

I wanted to take some time to write up a debrief on following approach clearances properly. I spent over 2 hours on SoCal approach yesterday during FNOscars, and it was EMBARRASING the amount of pilots messed up their routing onto the ILS to 25L and 24R.

I am going to run through how these procedures specifically are meant to be flown, but please remember a few cardinal rules of VATSIM that apply to ALL procedures, during ALL flights, in ALL regions of the world:

  1. Familiarize yourself with your filed or cleared route. Verify that the route loaded in your FMC is INDENTICAL to the route that you filed or were cleared via. Remember it may change during your flight.

  2. If you receive a clearance that you are unsure of how to fly, ASK for clarification. Do NOT just assume you can figure it out.

  3. Familiarize yourself with the automation of your aircraft. If you are unable to fly assigned headings, altitudes or airspeeds with a 100% success rate , you should avoid flying into events of any type until you are able to do so.

  4. If your autopilot is not doing what it is supposed to do, you should be able to disconnect it and hand fly almost as good as the autopilot would be able to. We can accommodate automation failures just fine, but there’s very little we can do if you are unable to fly headings, altitudes or speeds as assigned.

Now to the fun stuff:

LAX Approach plates: These are publicly available for FREE for all airports in the US. Therefore: You have NO EXCUSE for not having the chart.

ILS 24R:
ILS 25L:

All jet arrivals from the east to LAX are either on the ANJLL arrival or the HLYWD arrival. The ANJLL ends at CRCUS, and the HLYWD ends at SEAVU.

Notice, approaches to both 25L and 24R have those two fixes on them. Meaning you will receive a clearance such as “At SEAVU cleared ILS runway 24R”. This clearance means you are cleared to proceed from SEAVU, Direct SKOLL, then via the localizer and glideslope down to the runway 24R.

You are NOT cleared to proceed from SEAVU direct MERCE. This is a common problem that would be solved by following rule number 1 above.

These charts are designed to be very easy to read. Literally just follow the arrows. Every fix you are meant to fly to is shown on the map view with arrows connecting them together. If something doesn’t make sense, follow rule 2 above, and ASK .

Here is another helpful graphic:

QUIZ time!

You are descending via the ANJLL arrival. You check on with approach and they tell you, “SWA123, SoCal approach, information P is current, at CRCUS cleared ILS runway 25R.”

a) What should the next waypoint after CRCUS be?

b) What altitude and speed should you be at CRCUS?

c) What altitude should you be at the fix after CRCUS?

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. You are contributing to the improvement of VATSIM. If you know anyone who needs help with this stuff, feel free to send the link and have them participate.

Remember, VATSIM has decent resource to learn this stuff too. Next time you’re bored at cruise, take some time to explore. You might learn something accidentally. I’m a real world IFR pilots and air traffic controller, and even I find stuff in here that I didn’t know.


There’s absolutely NOTHING special about your “head splitting” session whatsoever. As I’ve already pointed out before, the excellent and creative Los Angeles ATC guy would read out his instructions to the preponderance of traffic and tell you not to reply. The pilots simply pay the flip attention when their call sign is called out, and do what we are told. It’s not necessary to read back. To this day, it’s best VATSIM display I have ever been involved in. I never found out his name.

The term head splitting was in reference to the abysmal display of pilot quality. It had nothing to do with the volume or complexity of the traffic.

I’ve done the key up and get no readbacks thing in real life. It works because each airplane is operated by 2 ATPs. Not 1 hobbyist. While it probably sounded cool and impressive, I’d bet that it wasn’t as effective as you think.

Edit: Did you event read the post? You responded to literally the first paragraph and nothing else.

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This isn’t an attack on other people… this is just a forum to discuss things normally. I agree with the forum… things get chaotic in the network and maybe we need to rework it. Great! But let’s not call people out or get mad. I might be wrong but I know this only cause I have done this before (been unkind to others on forums) anyway this way a great post and I enjoyed reading this… definitely it all was very accurate. Thank you Shane!

I’ll be glad to take your bet any day of the week, or any day, or night, in the sky. Just because the likes of you don’t have the ability to fathom such a thing, or the creative individual at LAX ATC is better than you, umm, … I guess that’s your issue. I do know that he managed to get very congested traffic to flow smoothly. Make a note of it. :woman_teacher:

Do you have anything of value to add to this discussion? I included some quiz questions in the original post with hopes that people might actually learn something. Do you have any answers to those questions?

If not, move along. Your replies to this thread have been largely unhelpful.

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B. Between 12 and 14k, at or below 270kts
C. At or above 10k.

It’s a star with a transition to an approach. There’s nothing exactly special or unique about this; they’re everywhere. Not sure what’s supposed to be tricky about it?

I didn’t think it would be tricky either. But here I was, getting my head kicked in by pilots who did not understand basic STAR and approach clearances. You’re all correct by the way. You’re the first person to actually bother to respond to the questions. lol.

Maybe tone it down a bit Shane and people might actually feel enticed to reply.

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Tone it down in what way? I’m simply expressing how the network has made me feel lately. I feel as though I am entitled to network enjoyment just as much as every pilot. The actions of pilots lately have been negatively affecting said enjoyment. And the lack of pilot competency testing has further lowered my hope of improvement in the future. The only power I have personally is education through these forums.

I think I have the right to be a little flustered.

What, from your experience in education, do you think qualifies you for that role? If you are indeed qualified appropriately, why not offer your expertise to the Pilot Training Department? Your contributions there might have more impact than a post here.

E=QxA. The Quality of your information can be spot on, but if people are not Accepting your message because of its tone, your effort lacks Effectiveness.

My experience over the years is that friendly encouragement helps getting your message across better and quicker than venting your frustrations; you best leave those at the login button of your radar client.

I get your point about some pilots (btw, we’re not real pilots, we’re people at home playing a videogame) not being able to perform basic procedures.
But it’s been that way at any online simulation network ever since I started this hobby with SATCO in 1998. Some networks have active pilot training in place, which works better compared to what we do here at VatSIM. The board chose not to implement active pilot training here though, so it’s just the way it is I guess.

Bottoml line: this is not a professional working environment, you’ll get highly frustrated if you expect something other than aviation enthusiasts having fun in their own way on their own cognitive and skill levels.