Virtual Airlines: An Introduction

With Dovetail Games bringing FSX to a huge gaming community like Steam, there will be many people who have always wondered what it would be like to fly jumbo jets and fighter planes. At least, this is how I felt when I came across FSX six years ago…

I have always loved aviation, and what better way to get more enjoyment out of my passion of aviation than to jump into a virtual cockpit and blast around the skies? Getting into a big cockpit for the first time and seeing all those buttons was intimidating, but the plane was already started up so I did not need all these buttons. I just wanted to get in the sky. I eased the throttles forward and away I went, no flaps, no brakes set to RTO… I did not know about any of this. I just wanted to fly. Unfortunately, flying around without a purpose quickly got boring. FSX went back on the shelf, and I forgot about it for a year or so.

Buffalo-Vas-ApproachOne day, I was on the internet and I came across a video of FSX and someone flying for a virtual airline. This intrigued me. A virtual airline? Did I miss this when I first used a flight simulator? Was it included on the disk? A quick search soon answered all my questions. Initially, there were way too many options, from acrobatic groups to real life airline companies. Judging by my previous experience with FSX, I knew I could not handle the big jets yet, and I decided something smaller would be more my style. That’s when I came across Buffalo Airways Virtual. I’d seen Ice Pilots on TV and absolutely loved the WW2 planes they use for cargo runs as well as the DC-3 chartered passenger flights. Those old planes were built for some tough flying, and what better place to do that than in the Northern Territories of Canada? I looked on the Buffalo Virtual website to find out who they were and what they did… and the best part was that they were official partners of the real Buffalo Airlines!

The first step to joining any airline is read the membership criteria. Some airlines have age restrictions, entrance exams, and certain amount of flights you must complete per month. At Buffalo the youngest you have to be is 16, unless you have written permission from a parent or guardian. There is no entrance exam and all they ask is to have a mature attitude when it comes to being in the cockpit as Buffalo Virtual represents a real world airline.

I filled out my application form, and a day or two later I received an email saying I was in! Buffalo have a Teamspeak server where everyone can talk together during flying, and to socialise. I downloaded TS and started speaking to some really helpful guys who gave me all the information I needed to start flying for Buffalo.

The first thing you will need is what’s called an Acars system. This is the program you use to log the flights you do for the VA through which the flight times are accredited to your profile within the VA. This is where reading the rules and criteria for the VA is important because they all have a different rules on how flights are accepted or rejected. Usually the most important rule to note at is the landing rate. If your flight is completely perfect, but you are unfortunate to mess up the landing (which we all do, even after flying on FSX for years!) your flight will be rejected. Many VAs have a landing rate of around 300 feet per minute (to match real world) but keeping in mind we fly WW2 planes in -40c, heavy snow and low visibility, Buffalo Virtual allows up to -1500 fpm. Everyone flying for Buffalo Virtual always try to make the smoothest of touchdowns. Friendly competition during group flights is not uncommon to see who can get the best greased landing!

Buffalo-Vas-RainMany VAs have a rank structure like real world airlines. This is also the case with Buffalo. Although everyone wants to jump straight into the biggest and fastest plane on the fleet, people tend to get so much more enjoyment out of gaining knowledge on the smaller planes and working up to the larger ones. Buffalo has six ranks all together and each has a certain number of flight hours needed to get a promotion. Once you get to the 3rd rank (40 flight hours) you can fly the entire Buffalo fleet. Members start off in our small B55/58, the water bomber CL-215 or the iconic DC-3, and eventually move up to the DC-4 and Lockheed L-188 Electra. When you start with Buffalo, there will always be someone on the Teamspeak channel that will be more than happy to help you download all the aircraft onto your copy of FSX, select a flight from the schedules, and start your Acars to log your first flights. Once you have done your first couple of flights, you will soon be searching for flights that appeal to you.

Buffalo have a special tour every month consisting of a set of flights in certain aircraft somewhere in the world. It gets us out of Canada, and lets us see the world. We also have tours in which one leg is released every week. These are usually flown together as a group on VATSIM, and can last up to a year. Soon after I started with Buffalo, I  joined the ‘Around the World Tour’ in a DC-3. We also mimic flights you see in the TV programme Ice Pilots, and have tours based around the episodes.

Buffalo is unlike most virtual airlines, because we are partnered with the real world Buffalo Airways. We have had professional input into our planes, and the real world pilots use our models to get training hours. They share insight into the quirks and flight characteristics of each aircraft, which have been modelled into our virtual fleet.

A virtual airline really opens up opportunities in this great community, regardless of whether you’re a complete beginner like I was, or a veteran of the virtual skies. Virtual airlines give you a chance to fly different aircraft and socialize with like-minded people, whilst learning a huge amount at the same time. Buffalo was my first VA and I have learnt everything from how the basic controls work to how to use detailed navigation equipment and instrument landing systems. If you want to take your flying to the next level and meet some great, knowledgeable people along the way, join a virtual airline and I promise your experience will turn into a passion.

Buffalo-Vas-LogoBuffalo Airways Virtual is a name which is known around the world within the flight simulation community. All of our operations are designed to replicate the real-world operations of Buffalo Airways. The best part of Buffalo Airways Virtual; the people, the planes and the challenge!

Through our strong partnership with the “Real World Buffalo Airways” we will deliver exciting features not currently provided by other Virtual Airlines.

For more information, visit http://buffaloairwaysvirtual.com

Steven Moody