After my free two-week trial completed, I purchased a subscription to the ZLA area of PilotEdge. If you’re not familiar with PilotEdge, it’s a service which links ATC controllers with flight simulators, providing a multi-player environment to fly your virtual plane. The paid controllers are trained in actual procedures and ATC communication and will hold you to the correct standards. Other virtual pilots broadcast on comms even when visiting non-towered airports, just like real life. Hearing all of the human comm chatter over the radio is a game-changer for immersion. More importantly, I feel like I’m learning something.
I’ve been working my way up through their training system, starting simple with non-towered to non-towered flights. Even without direct ATC interaction, there’s still plenty of radio work announcing my positions to other pilots, and I’m conscious not to violate airspaces because ATC will engage me.
It raises the bar for X-Plane flight planning. I need to work out all of my frequencies in advance, know exactly where I’m going, and plan to properly enter the flight pattern and determine the active runway based on local traffic or weather conditions. It’s not the solo X-Plane experience of “hop in the fully running plane on the runway and fly in a straight line for a straight-in landing at my destination”. In addition to human pilots, PilotEdge has hundreds of NPC aircraft flying around. More than once I had to wait until a runway was clear or do a go-around due to traffic.
Here’s a clip of my flight from A20 Sun Valley to KHII Havasu City. Both are non-towered airports in Class E airspace. In the middle of the flight you can hear ATC getting progressively frustrated with someone, resulting in a lecture. It’s common to hear ATC give you corrections or advice, such as “you don’t have to call base once I’ve given you clearance to land”. Most of the time it’s just professional chatter of jet and GA craft flying around California.
Next up is moving through the CAT ratings in PilotEdge. This weekend I’d do the CAT-2, landing at a Class Delta airport with ATC communications.