Realistic Air Traffic Control (ATC) communities come in all shapes and sizes. Some are geographically focused on an airport or region, while others seek to cover the entire world. Some Realistic ATC communities have just a few dedicated members who all know one another, while the two largest networks have tens of thousands. Most are online 24/7, although ATC availability varies and is typically available during evenings and weekends.
Realistic ATC Communities generally appeal to three core groups, each of which is described to the right.
Please note that the organizations on this page may not be a complete list. We encourage administrators from Realistic ATC Communities to Contact Us to add their name to this list.
If you are an aviation enthusiast, a realistic ATC community lets you simulate realistic aviation operations as accurately as possible. These communities offer immersive virtual experiences that include joining an airline, flying full procedure instrument approaches in private jets, or bouncing around the traffic pattern in general aviation aircraft. There is so much more to talking to real, human air traffic controllers and being surrounded by real pilots. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is to learn about flying with air traffic control—and how much more realistic your simulator can become.
As a student or rated pilot, you can use a realistic ATC community to practice radio technique, flying, and procedures from home, for free, in a safe yet realistic environment. Many student pilots who have used these services have shocked their instructors by managing the radios flawlessly in their first-ever training flight. Many add-on developers have created extremely realistic models that can help with aircraft familiarization and operation. However, there is no better way to prepare for the procedural elements of flying than by doing it in an online environment that matches what you’ll be flying in the real world.
Finally, realistic ATC communities provide a forum for virtual air traffic controllers to explore another outlet for their aviation passion. In some cases, real-world air traffic controllers (or those in training) use realistic ATC communities for practice. In others, pilots or aviation enthusiasts like to take up a position behind the scope to see “the other side” of flying.
Boston Virtual ARTCC (BVA) is a free aviation community that provides live, realistic, and professional virtual air traffic control in a truly communal environment where everyone is willing to learn and happy to help. BVA is an integrated community of pilots and controllers that operates Boston Center, or ZBW, on the VATSIM network. Pilots are free to fly anywhere in the world, but feel most at home in the 165,000 square miles of airspace in the northeast corner of the United States.
Unlike the rest of VATSIM, pilots are required to apply to become members of Boston Virtual ARTCC. However, BVA provides everything a pilot needs to get connected and start flying online. The community offers an extensive library of online materials as well as an active Virtual FBO, through which live, in-aircraft coaching is available for new members. While more than 60% of BVA members are rated or student pilots, the community is welcoming of members from all skill levels.
And above all, BVA members are always happy to help and welcome aviation enthusiasts. BVA’s rigorously trained and certified online controllers, including several retired and current FAA controllers, work together with talented pilots to provide what they consider to be the most immersive, realistic flight simulation experience available online.
BVA operates on the VATSIM network, and thus members can connect using any flight simulator platform (including FSX, FSX: Steam Edition, Prepar3D, and X-Plane). BVA is one possible way that a pilot may choose to connect to VATSIM; see below for more information about VATSIM.
The International Virtual Aviation Organization (IVAO) embodies the excitement and passion of flight simulation fused with the adventure of online Air Traffic Control. IVAO is truly 'where the virtual world meets the real world...'
Many thousands of pilots enjoy this completely free community driven global network to fly to hundreds of airports daily. A unique combination of voice servers, real world weather servers and aviation databases provides an unparalleled experience for the online aviation enthusiast.
IVAO is established in over 50 countries with a rapidly growing membership in excess of 150,000. Our members not only provide real time Air Traffic Control for our pilots but also enjoy a host of regional and international events including IFR, VFR and military operations. Our famous world tours bring together the delights and challenges of aviation from across the globe and our ‘Crowded Skies’ event lights up the airways with thousands of pilots simultaneously online.
With free training, dedicated integrated software, virtual airlines and a huge global community; whether you are a keen ATC beginner or seasoned commercial pilot, IVAO provides the most realistic online aviation environment available.
The Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM) is a free network that connects people from around the world flying online or acting as virtual air traffic controllers. The network has a large presence of pilots and air traffic controllers based in the United States and the rest of North America. Boston Virtual ARTCC, mentioned above, is one of several sub-communities of VATSIM.
Users connect to VATSIM using proprietary pilot software. The software supports multiple platforms, including Microsoft FSX, FS2004, FS2002, X-Plane and Prepar3D. Air traffic control software is provided free, as is training for those who wish to become air traffic controllers.
VATSIM members have access to join hundreds of other pilots in virtual skies and fly around the world. In addition, VATSIM members can join many communities across the world to enhance flying skills and the flight simulator experience in a shared virtual airspace.
VATSIM was founded in July 2001 by a group of individuals who came together with the idea of creating an online community which truly met the needs of flight simulator enthusiasts across the world. As well as providing a common network for flight simulation enthusiasts to connect to, VATSIM aimed to create a global community for learning, sharing experiences, and pursuing new opportunities in the virtual world.
PilotEdge is a subscription-based, payware service that provides professional air traffic control for Microsoft FSX, FS2004, X-Plane, and Prepar3D. There are several subscription options including hourly, monthly, and annual service levels. While there are many free alternatives to PilotEdge, the features below are unique to this payware community.
ATC on a Schedule
PilotEdge provides high-quality ATC 15 hours a day (8am to 11pm PT) and is one of the only communities that offers guaranteed ATC coverage. Pilots pay to use the system, and the controllers are paid to be there, allowing PilotEdge to offer the same schedule for 363 days a year. PilotEdge controllers are rigorously screened prior to working with live traffic on the network. Being a commercial venture with commercial customers that include flight schools, the bar is set very high. Almost any real-world procedure used by civilian pilots can be simulated on PilotEdge.
Unique Radio System
PilotEdge incorporates its own radio system with features not found anywhere else, including:
Additional Recorded Traffic
PilotEdge features a library of more than 300 hand-recorded flights in Class E and Class G airspace where communication with ATC is not required. So, get ready for more traffic calls from ATC, even if there aren't any "live" aircraft around you at the time. From helicopters touring Catalina Island to high speed, low-level military operations, there sure is a lot of traffic out there. There's even a slope-soaring glider out of the Warner Springs Glider Port.