Paniced out on first flight at VATSIM

just had the first half of my first VATSIM flight but paniced out after half of the route (which was very short EDDB → EDDP). As I don’t know where to get advice, here I am.

But first, I think there were also lot of thinks that I did fine. Please correct if I am wrong:

  1. filed flight plan with remark “first flight in vatsim”
  2. EDDB was uncontrolled so I said my intentions on UNICOM
  3. TO going south and informed inbound traffic that runway is cleared (maybe not correct phrase)
  4. planned to contact munich radar near RUDAK which seemed to be the top ATC level when coming from a uncontrolled area
  5. monitored munich radar frequency
  6. immediately noticed that Leipzig Approach send me a text message to contact them
  7. did contact them within seconds
  8. got expect ILS 26R, squawk 1000 (I had 2000 because of uncontrolled area at TO)
  9. put 1000 in the box and repeated expectation of ILS 26R and squawk 1000

And then the ATC called again asking for an ident, flying current heading and something I totally did not understood (I think not even the words because I was still processing the other information). And booooom. There I was thinking half a second about being the idiot flying into a controlled area without knowing what to do and ruining everyone else evenings. So I said “sorry, I am out” (yes, “sorry I am out, callsign” might have been better) and panic quit XPlane.

Now, I am feeling horrible about my first flight in VATSIM but wondering what to do better next time. Any ideas? A few thoughts:

  1. back in, I think, 2020 there were newbie evenings on VATSIM. But these events don’t happen anymore?!
  2. talking about evening: flying on a wednesday evening maybe wasn’t brilliant because of the high amount of traffic. Is there a good time to fly as newbie?


PS: To be clear: I think the ATC did a good job. Asked to call me via text message, clear language. But I just was overwhelmed by the situation.

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Welcome to VATSIM!

I would guess that Leipzig Approach ATC probably gave you a clearance for the ILS approach; I’m not surprised you missed it because these clearances can be pretty lengthy. However, the good news is that they are almost always the same, so after a couple of occasions you’ll already be getting ready for what comes next :slight_smile:

back in, I think, 2020 there were newbie evenings on VATSIM. But these events don’t happen anymore?!

No, I don’t think they do. The Boston, USA division are pretty good with pilot training, and run courses which you might be interested in.

talking about evening: flying on a wednesday evening maybe wasn’t brilliant because of the high amount of traffic. Is there a good time to fly as newbie?

In my opinion, any time is a good time :slight_smile: I’ve not quite understood the oft-repeated advice to not fly when it’s busy. Obviously you don’t want to try to land at Heathrow during VATSIMs ‘cross-the-pond’ in the wrong direction, but it rarely gets ‘too busy’ in Europe for a beginner.

Anyway, I think you did perfectly fine! The Leipzig controller was probably a little surprised momentarily but you won’t have disrupted anything. Remember of course in real life you’d have a copilot doing the radios; you wouldn’t be expected to do everything yourself as an airline captain.

One little tip that might be useful is choosing a slower aircraft, like a ATR-72 rather than a Boeing 757. Making your final approach take five minutes rather than three gives you two whole extra minutes to prepare for landing! :wink:

One more thing - if you have trouble in the future, try requesting an orbit or hold rather than disconnecting. Holds don’t cause much trouble for ATC, and you can stay in them until you’re ready to request an approach again.

Hope this helps :smiley:


They still happen under the name VATSIM First Wings. There is usually one each month. The next one hasn’t been announced yet but keep an eye out here:

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I’ve not quite understood the oft-repeated advice to not fly when it’s busy. Obviously you don’t want to try to land at Heathrow during VATSIMs ‘cross-the-pond’ in the wrong direction, but it rarely gets ‘too busy’ in Europe for a beginner.
On this I do not agree. Events like “Vectors to Copenhagen” (VTC) every Monday evening (or similar) is very busy with nearly allways resulting in establishing holds or redirecting to another approach than the one filed. If beginners like Daniel are uncertain on what to do, because of the stress of the situation (being new to flying online) or how to understand instructions (overload of information again stress related) and perhaps not proficient in handling the aircraft or its systems like the FMS (reprogram in flight) (don’t know if this is also an issue for Daniel, but it is to many beginners), then the beginners will get a not very good introduction to flying on VATSIM. As controllers we always try to accomodate beginners, but in busy events (not just CTP) it is simply not possible to nurse these pilots. In VTC we often handle more aircrafts than EKCH can handle real time - and we are not proffessionel atc, just a bunch of happy amateurs, who make mistakes just like the pilots do. So the stress level is also rather high on the atc side of things. Coming across pilots during VTC, who can’t handle instructions given to them is really a pain, as our load is also on the limit.
Any other time beginners are more than welcome, and you are naturally also welcome to try flying into events even as beginner, but do not expect that atc is able to repeat the same instructions over and over - it simply is not possible.


Yes, I do agree with Torben.

I suggest to

  • use a city-pair that is further apart from each other. This way you will have time in cruise to calm down, relax, listen to the ATIS of the destination and then prepare the arrival (STAR) and approach (e.g. ILS)
  • definitely not depart and arrive from/at busy airports. If you want to stay in Central Europe, or even Germany, I suggest to fly from Hamburg to Stuttgart, or vice versa, or from Brussels to Vienna. They regularly show up with local ATC and they are not super busy. There are, of course, many other city pairs that will meet the same criteria, you should check for yourself. Are you using an online-map tool where you can check ATC and flight activities on VATSIM, before deciding on a route and before logging in?

I doubt that :wink:
He most likely said “identified” after observing your squawk change. This communicates to you as the pilot that the controller has figured out which target on their radar screen you are. Unless someone explicitly tells you “squawk ident”, don’t ever press the ident button because you will light up like a christmas tree on every controllers screen.


pick a flight and repeat it several times and you begin to hear more and see more of what is going on and what is top priority as a pilot. There are ATCs that are more compassionate but they are very busy and can’t do much more.

KSAN to KLAX (seaward) ILS is 1/2 hour and the ILS into LAX is easy to follow , have the charts for the Approach , look at the go around carefully , figure your need it sometime. The controllers I meet there are understanding of first VATSIM flights.

Fly whatever flight plan many times before you fly it on VATSIM. Everyone wants everyone else to be professional and have fun … VATSIM is wonderful, really takes the Flight Sims to another level. I have a pilot assist program I wrote to help me starting on VATSIM. It generated scripts for me to read for ILS flight plans, taxiing etc. … so be sure you have the jargon practiced also. Good Luck


thanks for all the helpful responses. Good news: I finished my first flight. To be honest it was a bit of cheating because the destination was uncontrolled, but anyway I’ll count this. :smiley:

Here is what I did to be less stressed. Some points are from your responses and some points are what I thought I might need:

  1. inform ATC not only in FP but also during clearance request that I am a new pilot. Thus ATC talked a bit slower to me which was nice.
  2. Take a longer router, this time from EDDM → EDDB (I more or less know both airports and the route)
  3. Created some communication templates which I can fill out during calls (and in case of clearance also before call). The templates have pre printed fields (e.g. CRAFT-fields for clearance) in expected order so that writing down goes much faster. Same for general communication which was helpful.
  4. Wrote down the expected frequencies before TO. So if ATC talks to me I can visually check the frequencies which somehow help to get what ATC said…
  5. last but not least: I joind VATSIM to just sit on an airport and to listen to ATC/Pilots communication to “train my ear”

I have heard lot of (real) pilots say that preparing is most important. I totally agree with this also in simulation. PLAN PLAN PLAN. So you would be less surprised by ATC :slight_smile:

A few other thoughts:

  1. Asking for a hold pattern sounds like a very good idea. Already re-trained that so I know how to program my MCDU.
  2. And yes, hearing the controller say “identified” I thought “Yes, I think this is what Leipzig Approach” told me :smiley:

I think the good vs. bad time discussion can be seen from two ways. From a pilot learning and very good culture of failure in aero view there is no bad time to fly. From a rookie pilot view there is a bad time in point of stress level. Especially if you keep in mind that this is all fun and should be fun for everyone. So rushing into a busy airspace and messing up basic things might be less fun for other pilots and/or ATC. And still I smiled while sitting at EDDF and listening to ground saying something like “No, you are not holding short of L1 but nevermind, just go to the stand XX which is the second of left.” in german. We are all humans, don’t we? :slight_smile:

Thanks again


This is probably kinda self-evident, but … and real good that you have precise notes … get a sense of just where/when you started being overtaken by “helmet fire”. (TCUP: Think Clearly Under Presssure.) It’s very much like losing Situational Awareness. Not likely to get back in flow if you’re faced with more than you can cope with!

Without getting into details, the straw that breaks the camel’s back shouldn’t have that effect. Everyone snaps under too much.

I’ll leave this bit to a more experienced pilot: was there a moment when this situation could have been avoided? (I’m sure resolving it was the optimal solution.)


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I think that Daniel should have had a little more “ice in the stomach” and asked for clarification from atc. It doesn’t seem that atc was that busy (but that’s for Daniel to tell), but you can allways ask atc to repeat. Rather that, than having pilots flying all over the place because they “thought you said” … It is a completely valid request - no problem in that - and you can also always ask atc to talk a little slower and mention you are a newbie.

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Just the specificity I was hoping to see! This is just what I hoped would “surface” with talk of helmet-fire and situational awareness and Think Clearly Under Pressure … what happens when we get flustered?! I really like such as trust your training alternative to Don’t get flustered! :wink: Thanks Mr. Andersen.

I bet this will perk Daniel up somewhat. (reformated)

I intentionally left the last bit on its own. In my book, communication is two way, yes? Obvious, of course, but not always in practice. If the ATC hasn’t “tuned in” to the situation and hasn’t switched over to helper mode I think it’s proper to make the newbie detail explicit.

p.s. Optimally, might there be some indication of something like flight is “first solo”?

Daniel, myt first flight long time ago went the same .As other say fly a fix route not to short .So you can focus first on the route after that on the AC and then you know both on atc .
my vatsim , , has a special site on there forum for new pilots ( introduction and first flight ) witrh step by step guidance on 1e flight.
I put than in remarks , newbie , and never hesitate to ask a controller to clear up what he means . The always willing to help .

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TCUP: Think Clearly Under Presssure.

Never heard of this term before but thanks to give it a name which I can use to get some more information to. Yes, I have some strategies to get me back to TCUP in real life. But this was just a bit to much on my first flight :smiley:

Acronyms like that are real handy. (I just now added TCUP to the left side panel of my old 75th Rangers page.)
I think it’s a good thing to remember, a reminder to not just collapse when things get stressed. Nothing fancy. Just “clearly”. :slight_smile:
Fly the plane, navigate, communicate!

Even professional pilots are not gods: we all work with recipes and many processes follow a structured profile.

For example, in my company, we use the acronym WNPFA for our approach briefing, done more or less at TOD Top Of Descent or 30 minutes before landing:

  • W - Weather - is it good enough for us to begin the approach and land?
  • N - NOTAMs - anything affecting our flight? (can be almost disregarded at VATSIM, since realworld NOTAMs do not play a role here)
  • P - Performance - is the runway long enough for us to land, wet/dry/contaminated?
  • F - Fuel - fuel status, will we have at least alternate fuel + final reserve fuel when landing at the destination, how much extra/additional/PIC fuel do we have on top of it, how many minutes can we play with it, in case of abnormals/delay?
  • A - aircraft status - does any known defect of our aircraft affect the performance or approach procedure, e.g. flaps, brakes, failed NAV receiver etc.

For an emergency and even go-around you can always fall back to PPAA:

  • P - Power - set go-around or power required for the situation
  • P - Performance - flaps? gear? spoilers/air brakes?
  • A - Analyze - read CAS messages, engine parameters, anything urgent that requires our immediate attention?
  • A - Action - e.g. if on engine has failed (propeller), bring the propeller of the failed engine to the feathered position, if an engine fire is indicated, start the ENGINE FIRE checklist from memory (you should know it on most types, although some aircraft types ask to read it from the checklist) etc…

Although some NOTAMs may very well be applied on VATSIM as well. Certain taxiways closed and such announced via NOTAM? ATC may simulate that. Regarding the stuff relevant for the approach briefing, you may have unusable runway exits, reduced available runway, amended missed approaches, etc. - and at least here in Germany, that info will only be included in the ATIS when it is there IRL (e.g., the current EDDL construction impacting the available runway length is announced in the ATIS, the current EDDF construction impacting several runway exits in the Southeast on the other hand is not). So at least quickly glancing over the NOTAMs can also be helpful on VATSIM.

The cranes impacting the OCA aren’t simulated, though (yet…) :crazy_face:

Hmm, in our sceneries those runways and taxiways don’t seem to be closed, so why simulate it…but this is a different discussion. Hence I would not waste time reading IRL NOTAMs for flights on VATSIM.