I have been interested in Flight Simulation for a very long time, but it was only last year that I finally invested in a copy of X-Plane as a means of helping my with my real-world flying lessons.
I flew with X-Plane many hours, but always felt that I was missing something big… And that was Air Traffic Control (or ATC). Most flight simulators have some sort of inbuilt ATC, but those are obviously canned scripts that playback a bunch of recordings - nothing even remotely similar to what pilots encounter in the real world.
For many flight simmers, there is one network that is available. It is called VATSIM and is a bunch of volunteers who provide ATC services. The problem is that coverage is spotty, at best, and, despite their best efforts, controllers have varied experience. The net result is that the flight simulation experience suffers.
Along comes PilotEdge
I had almost given up hope of actually having a near-real-world experience on my flight sim (well, as near-real-world as is possible when I’m flying in my pajamas :-) ) when I discovered PilotEdge and my flight sim experience has never been the same again!
PilotEdge provides flight simulation enthusiasts with guaranteed air traffic control services 15 hours a day in the busy Southern California airspace. Pilots tune the COM radios on their simulators to real-world frequencies (such as 118.5 for Chino Tower or 125.85 for Chino ATIS or 122.7 for Corona CTAF) and are connected to a controller who provides them ATC services (not in the CTAF case, of course).
The operative words in the above paragraph are guaranteed and real-world frequencies. PilotEdge services are guaranteed to be available during the network’s operating hours and within the network’s boundaries. PilotEdge pilots tune their radios to the correct frequencies (just as in the real-world) as opposed to VATSIM where you have to figure out which frequency is available and what to tune.
There be Drones and Other Traffic!
Not sure why I suddenly decided to lapse into quasi-pirate there, but hey, it’s getting close to Halloween :-)
One of the coolest things about PilotEdge (yes, there are many cool things about PilotEdge) is the fact that you can see other traffic who are connected to the network showing up at the correct positions relative to you. For example, if the controller tells you “Traffic, 2 O’clock. East to West. 2 Miles ahead”, you will actually see the traffic at that position!
Also, PilotEdge “injects” drone aircraft into the airspace so that you’ll see them flying around in your airspace, very similar to what you’d encounter in real life.
What’s the Catch?
I wouldn’t really call it a catch, but the PilotEdge network is currently available only in the Southern California airspace. You’re still welcome to fly anywhere else in the world, but PilotEdge controllers will provide services only in the airspace under their jurisdiction.
The service costs approximately $20 a month, with deals available for various groups such as AOPA, or others.
Flying while on PilotEdge is as close to real-world flying as I could imagine. I’ve flown everything from simple VFR patterns to longer flights with VFR Flight Following (yes, PilotEdge offers that) to IFR flights.
All I can say is that I’ve had an amazing time and an awesome experience! I enjoy flying the flight sim so much nowadays, that I actually have to tear myself away from it sometimes just so I can catch some sleep.
A Call to Action!
PilotEdge needs more active support from flight sim enthusiasts to become more of a thriving ATC community. They have the drive, and the vision, but they are a commercial entity and need your support (i.e. business) to sustain and expand.
Visit PilotEdge today and sign up - you have a no-obligation 15-day trial offer (they’re nice enough to not even ask for your credit card when you sign up).
I hope to see you on PilotEdge very soon.