World Flight Route 2020
Alexis

Alexis

Worldflight

Worldflight provides the flight sim community an opportunity to come together and raise funds for many worthy causes. Alexis takes us through what Worldflight involves and his extensive experience over the years.

We are drawing near to probably the biggest virtual event in flight simulation – Worldflight.  This event takes place every year in early November. 

The event can trace its humble roots back to the UK and the year 2000 with the concept of flying around the virtual world in order to raise money for charity.  In 2001 the organisation was taken over by the lead team, Qantas 25, based in Sydney, Australia.  Despite very little promotion, a few years later the event gained traction and popularity with more simulators around the world joining the annual event.  Since its inception, the event has grown and grown involving more and more simulators and can now boast being considered an official VATSIM event.   

The event typically involves 10 -12 official teams associated with dedicated fixed base simulator venues.  Many more join in from other non-linked fixed base simulators and even participants from their home flight simulators get involved hugely increasing the level of participation.  The event is an intensive week long, 24 hours a day, round the clock, sprint starting and ending in Sydney, with forty odd sectors of flying around the World in between.

2020 route map for Worldflight

A multitude of teams from all around the world take part.  In the UK, official teams for 2020 include our friends at Simfest and Jet Sim School (see our featured reviews here https://simulatorreview.com/simfest/ and https://simulatorreview.com/jet-sim-school/), as well as Velocity Flight Training near Gloucester.

Worldflight takes place within the VATSIM virtual ATC network.  Teams of volunteer VATSIM controllers provide full ATC coverage throughout the week.  With so many simulators heading along exactly the same route at the same time, it can be very busy and delays along the routes are commonplace – when completing the fuel planning phase, participants would be wise to add a little extra contingency just to cover that! Below is a video illustrating how busy the airspace does get during Worldflight.

Each official team has around 10-20 virtual pilots involved and they are ‘rostered’ to cover all the flights during the week.  For those teams it is a test of bringing all the elements of rostering, flight planning, multi crew operations, time keeping, efficient turnarounds, and ATC radio procedures with VATSIM.  Flying with someone you have never flown with before at 2am with little sleep into a busy airport and potentially sub-optimal Air Traffic Control is a true test of any virtual pilot’s skills and a fantastic insight into the world of a real airline pilot.  We always aim to find the highest levels of realism at Simulator Review and this event is about as close as it gets!

The event is done for charity, and as an example Simfest in 2019 raised juts over £43,000.  Most teams also live stream on their YouTube and twitch channels so you can follow along and interact with them even if you are not able to take part yourself. 

Link to twitch and Simfest site – https://simfest.co.uk/      https://www.twitch.tv/simfestuk

I have been lucky to participate in Worldflight as part of an official team (Team Flex) a few times at Flight Deck Experience (near Manchester, UK) as a B737NG virtual pilot.  Planning usually commenced a few months ahead of the event, with team formation and ensuring all additional scenery was loaded on the simulator taking place.  There were usually a few practice sessions organised to ensure that everyone had a good standard of technical knowledge and general understanding of the standard operating procedures.  When you have two people working together and flying an airliner, it is critical that they operate to the same SOPs.  Also, once everyone had fed in their availability, a roster is produced for the week so everyone knew what flights they were allocated and had a chance to mentally prepare.  We would also find out at this point who was the most unpopular team member when it came to the allocation of the 3am slots!

A typical Worldflight roster for the week

On the day, my preparations would usually begin by looking at where the team’s current location in the virtual world and whether they were maintaining schedule.  I would then start to file the flight plan using some of the excellent online tools like simBrief (https://www.simbrief.com/) to get a routing and accurate fuel planning.  Anyone familiar with Worldflight will know that sometimes delays can happen as the airspace is so busy, so I always used to add in a ‘Worldflight fuel supplement’ of at least 10% extra fuel.  This is the sort of experience that can only be gained from years of participation and excellent ‘Commander’s knowledge’.

It was important to arrive at the simulator at least an hour beforehand, just like a real-world airline pilot would report for duty.  Once on site I could complete the final flight preparations including ensuring I had all my virtual flight paperwork ready, checking latest weather at departure and destination airports, and preparing my essential crew briefing – there would always be times you would fly with someone you hadn’t flown with before so a proper briefing was essential.

Crew in the simulator for a flight

The most challenging sectors were usually the shorter ones, typically less than 180 miles total distance.  This is mainly due to the short flight duration, and I found that the best way to prepare was by briefing the whole flight beforehand in order to avoid falling behind during the flight.  At the other end of the spectrum, there were occasionally long over water sectors (approx. 4-5 hours) which meant learning about operating the 737 under ETOPS which was all new to me.  ETOPS stands for Extended Range Twin Operations, or more commonly Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim amongst the airline pilot community!  Heading in to the approach and landing phases meant being  very aware of all the aircraft traffic around you and listening very closely on the Air Traffic Control frequency.  I am pleased to say that despite the challenges above, all my flights were successful and no crashes!

Sat in the cabin doing some preparation for the flight ahead

My personal wish is that it would be great if more simulator venues throughout the World took part in the Worldflight charity event.  I believe that participating in a Worldflight team is probably the closest an aviation or flight simulation enthusiast can be to experiencing the working life of a real-world airline pilot.  It is certainly a big ask for venues as it means taking your simulator offline for a whole week, but I think the experience and challenge afforded to simulator enthusiasts is immeasurably valuable and helps foster relationships between virtual pilots and the venue. 

Above all, despite the hard work and late nights/early mornings during the week, it is great fun to be part of the event and part of a simulator team.  If the opportunity to join a Worldflight team presents itself I would thoroughly recommend doing so.  If that’s not an option, but you are able to join in from home on a PC based simulator (even for a just a few legs during the week) it is well worth doing.

Within simulatorreview.com both Gavin and I have taken part in Worldflight several times.  Also, a friend of our podcast, Paul, has lots of experience flying in Worldflight too, and you can hear his comments on the event in Episode 9 of our podcast.  If you have any questions about Worldflight, VATSIM, or simulation in general, then please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

More information on Worldflight can be found here:

https://www.worldflight.com.au/

https://simfest.co.uk/worldflight-2020

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