What to Expect on PilotEdge

Welcome to PilotEdge

We appreciate that you’re here – the network would be a lonely place without any pilots!

As you consider joining the PilotEdge community, it’s important to approach the experience with the right mindset to maximize the learning and enjoyment, not only for you, but other participants on the network since PilotEdge is a shared resource. Whether you’re flying VFR or IFR, here are some basic concepts to know before taking part in the network.

Quick Reference Index

Realism is Key

PilotEdge seeks to replicate what it means to fly in the National Airspace System. It’s designed for pilots who seek a realistic flying experience. While it is most commonly associated with flight training, it is also used to support a wide range of applications within the aerospace industry from Human Factors research to avionics design. As a result, the rules, procedures, and communications you will engage in are modeled on actual aviation practices.

While this creates a unique immersive and educational environment, it is not possible for the platform to deliver on the promise of a realistic experience if all the participants aren’t aware of what is expected of them.

Specifically, it’s vital to realize that despite being a subscription-based service, it is not a classroom or a ‘learn as you go’ environment.

This is because unlike traditional simulation environments – where there is generally no harm in flying well beyond your level of experience – your actions on PilotEdge can affect the experience of other participants. Whether it’s those that can see you, or those that can hear you and the exchanges that are taking place, a controller who is tied up handling an unrealistic situation with an unprepared pilot results in that same controller being unable to efficiently work with other aircraft.

The fact that each user is paying for the service does not provide relief from the need to operate in a plausible fashion.

That is not to say that pilots are expected to operate perfectly, however, the nature of the deviations should not be radically different from the types of deviations that occur in the real world for similar types of aircraft. For those who are using the network as an aid to their flight training, or for sim enthusiasts who want an elevated experience, you need to be familiar with the rules that apply to your operation.

The Role of ATC

Our controllers are here to simulate real world ATC interactions and procedures. They provide traffic management, safety advisories, and critical information necessary for your flight in accordance with the FAA Order on Air Traffic Control (7110.65). They are not flight instructors, nor does the network seek to replicate a classroom environment.

Real-time interaction should focus on pertinent communications as would be expected in actual flight scenarios. Brief procedural questions are permitted, as with real life, but detailed interactions should be taken offline by emailing ops@pilotedge.net, or seeking community assistance via our Discord server.

Limitations of ATC

Since PilotEdge controllers monitor a large number of positions simultaneously, situations that involve precise timing in terms of calls from ATC may be missed or delayed more often than they would in real life. The two most frequent examples are:

  1. during rollout after landing where ATC normally solicits parking intentions, or otherwise advises which exit to take as the aircraft approaches taxi speed, and
  2. midfield downwind during traffic patterns where a landing clearance might normally be issued

In the first case, simply clear the runway at the first practical exit, ensuring the aircraft passes the hold short lines, stop the aircraft, and advise the controller that you are clear of the runway.

In the second case, wait until there is a break in the radio traffic and then solicit a landing clearance from ATC.

Our controllers are furnished with detailed SOPs for each supported towered airport with accurate IFR departures, however, some of the specific local taxi procedures or VFR departure/arrival instructions are not something we have. Pilots should expect plausible, reasonable VFR departure and arrival instructions rather than the specific procedures that might be used at that airport.

Handling Corrections from ATC

Whether it’s big smiles, high fives, relief, elation, satisfaction or the direct opposite of ALL those things (a low-five?) — expect a wide range of emotions during your time on the network.

Expect controllers to point out cases where you are on the incorrect frequency, aren’t complying with your cleared route, or if you are not flying a published procedure correctly (most frequently occurs with SIDs/STARs and instrument approaches). Expect to hear a correction from the controller, as you would in real life.

These types of deviations happen more frequently on PilotEdge due to the fact that people are ‘training ahead’ of their real world experience or certification level, something PilotEdge supports and encourages. A result of this, though, is that our controllers are more likely to assume that a deviation is the result of a pilot not being familiar with the procedure rather than a technical issue or procedural oversight from the pilot.

Rejoice in the fact that the situation can ALWAYS be resolved offline, and that the Pilot Services team at PilotEdge is absolutely committed to answering questions and looking into any situations which require further attention.

Similarly, Pilot Services may reach out via email after a flight to provide guidance, clarification on what transpired or suggested reading for a specific subject area. In the vast majority of cases, this outreach is not punitive, but simply to help point you in the right direction.

What You’ll Hear on the Radio

Expect to hear each controller handling many positions at once. This does not mean your radio broken, it is simply how the network is staffed, otherwise the operating costs would quickly approach the daily burn rate of the National Airspace System.

It is common in real world operations for clearance, ground and even tower to be combined at quieter towered fields, and also common for approach or center controllers to handle multiple positions. PilotEdge is doing the same thing, but on a larger scale.

Review the Radio Notes section of the Getting Started page, it contains important information about the frequency coupling system.

Understand the Coverage Areas

PilotEdge provides two different operating areas. Your trial account allows you to utilize both, regardless of the subscription type that you select (ZLA ony, Western US only, or ZLA+WUS combined). Once the trial ends, the specific coverage limitations of your selected subscription will take effect.

Specifically, ZLA-only subscriptions cannot operate within WUS airspace, and vice versa, WUS-only subscriptions cannot operate within ZLA other than for overflights (such as PHX-SFO which involves overflying ZLA).

Also keep in mind a key difference between the two coverage areas is that not every public-use Class D airport is considered to be towered on PilotEdge in the Western US. If you are looking for a high density of towered airports, the ZLA operating area is a better choice, while WUS provides a larger geographic footprint.

Know Your Sim

This is especially true for real world pilots who are new to the world of simulation. Even seasoned veterans will notice an increase in their workload when flying online.

Given the perfect simulator, flying in PilotEdge would match the level of complexity of conducting the same flight in real life, at least with regards to procedural knowledge and ability to operate the aircraft.

However, short of having a very high fidelity training device, the compromises that are made in flight control systems — visual system acuity, limited field of view, rudder pedals that often have a mind of their own, and simply not enough buttons and knobs to drive the avionics — many pilots realize that is is harder to fly a simulator online than a real airplane.

You will likely be pushing your avionics in ways that typically don’t receive much attention in the sim. Specifically:

  • transponder code and mode,
  • COM1 and COM2 radio frequencies – often during periods of already high workload,
  • flight plan adjustments after the initial load including re-reroutes on the ground or shortcuts in the air,
  • loading new approaches while in-flight

You will be not be starting on the runway or even a nearby taxiway just short of the runway but you will instead be starting on the ramp.

As a result, you’ll need to know:

  • where you are parked on the airport, either by FBO name or by providing a nearby taxiway intersection reference, and
  • how to taxi your aircraft along a prescribed route.

Many pilots, understandably, have never once taxied in their sim, and certainly not along specifically-instructed taxi routes. The fidelity of airport layouts varies wildly between simulators, often conflicting with the current iteration of the real world airport layout that our controllers see.

The controllers will work with you as much as possible if you have dated or different scenery, just be sure to communicate if what you’re seeing doesn’t match what’s on the Airport Diagram.

With ALL of that in mind, it’s important to be comfortable with basic operations of your simulator, including taxi, takeoff, landing, pattern entries, and efficient operation of your avionics. You should be able to comfortably operate your aircraft on an end to end flight in the simulator offline before attempting to fly on PilotEdge with ATC. Interacting realistically with ATC will not make the flight any easier to execute.

Know Your Procedures

  • Understanding of basic airport operations and signage
  • Able to communicate effectively on the radio using correct aircraft and facility callsigns

Note: students who are practicing Aviation English need to be able to communicate reasonably with ATC in order to undertake operations here, similar to the level of a real world solo student pilot.

VFR pilots

  • Strong level of familiarity with sectional and TAC charts — the heart of VFR flying
  • Understanding of Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class E/G airspace, including how to recognize them on a chart, and knowing what is required prior to operating in each type of airspace
  • Basic weather minimums required to operate under VFR in each type of airspace
  • Familiar with left and right traffic patterns, including ability to depart or arrive on any leg
  • Familiar with flow of communications associated with departure, enroute and arrival at towered and non-towered airports

Note: PilotEdge allows you to operate with custom weather, separate to current real world operation. See Box 12 on the Flight Plan filing screen for more information (information ZULU).

An excellent way to become more familiar with VFR operations is through our Communication and Airspace Training program.

IFR pilots

  • Able to file IFR flight plans with correctly-formatted routes
  • Able to request, copy and readback IFR clearances (CRAFT)
  • Able to fly assigned headings and altitudes
  • Able to fly instrument approach procedures (full approaches including procedure turns, or vectors to final) and visual approaches
  • For flights within Socal, familiar with published Tower Enroute Control (TEC) routes
  • Able to fly Departure Procedures (ODPs and SIDS), and STARs
  • Familiar with “Cilmb via”, “Climb via except maintain,” and “Descend via,” altitude assignments

The I-Ratings provide a series of end to end IFR flights of increasing complexity with supporting material to help solidify a wide range of concepts.

Preparation is Essential

Before you taxi to the runway, or even release the parking brake, thorough preparation is essential. The network is a venue to hone and improve the techniques and procedures that you are already familiar with. By and large, most of your learning should occur during your pre-flight briefing, research or through community interactions, (our Discord server is a great resource). These pre-flight activities are vital as they prepare you for a successful flight on the network:

Pre-Flight Briefing: Understand the specifics of your intended flight. Know your route, check the weather, plan your fuel, and familiarize yourself with the airports you’ll be using, including where you’ll be parking at the destination.

Community Learning: Engage with other pilots and controllers on Discord. It’s a great place to seek advice, ask questions, and share experiences. Our community is supportive and always eager to help.

As rudimentary as it sounds, you should be able to trace your finger over the intended route of flight, identifying the specific type of airspace that you’ll be operating in for the planned altitude, along with knowing the communication, equipment and weather requirements for each type of airspace. “Equipment” is rarely an issue in simulated aircraft, but the rest is absolutely on you as the pilot.

Similarly, for IFR operations, upon receiving your clearance, if there are any portions of the route which aren’t 100% clear to you, do not call for taxi until you know what’s expected, either by seeking clarification from ATC, or through offline research. There is no rush on our end prior to you calling for taxi, your clearance will remain in tact as long as you’re connected to the network (and then a full 2 hours from the time you disconnect).

Available Training Material

The CAT and I-Ratings linked above are well-regarded, detailed, practical VFR and IFR training programs to help you on your journey. They’re also quite a bit of fun.

Countless PPL holders and instrument-rated pilots frequently report that those programs have introduced them to new situations, procedures or types of airspace that they simply didn’t encounter during their training. This is not entirely surprising since flight training is usually locale-specific, and is often customized to pass the flight test rather than preparing pilots to fly in a wide range of environments.

For those participants who don’t yet hold a PPL or instrument rating, they are HIGHLY recommended to avoid running into cases where you are not adequately prepared to undertake the types of flights you have in mind.

Wide Variety of Operations

Look to the skies on any given day and you may see general aviation piston trainers, high performance twins, airliners, business jets, corporate helicopters, gliders, military aircraft or any number of other operations. While our graded training programs focus on traditional single engine piston VFR training and standard IFR training flights, PilotEdge welcomes all sorts of operations. If you are looking to beat up the pattern with some friends at a non-towered field or go on an Oregon back country adventure, you’re 100% welcome to do it here. Looking to have a short field landing competition? Have at it! We even offer a high fidelity simulation of Air Venture every year (SimVenture video).

Your Commitment

By joining PilotEdge, you’re stepping into a role that warrants responsibility, preparation and professionalism. Here’s how you can contribute to the realism and functionality of the network:

  • Be Prepared: Arrive well-prepared for each flight
  • Communicate Effectively: Use proper aviation communication protocols
  • Adhere to Procedures: Follow all VFR and IFR regulations as you would in real life
  • Respect Others: Understand that many pilots here to practice and improve their real world skills

PilotEdge is more than just a simulation; it’s a community of aviation enthusiasts who are committed to a realistic flying experience. We welcome you to join us with the readiness to learn, the diligence to prepare, and the understanding of what the network sets out to do.

Happy flying!