Online flight simulation

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In online -Flugsimulation is a specialized variant of the PC flight simulation with the goal in addition to the simulation of the flight as a pilot using the Internet and other air traffic and air traffic control to simulate. Instead of simulating air traffic and air traffic control with the help of local simulation software based on artificial intelligence , the simulation pilot encounters other aircraft in the online world, which in turn are controlled by pilots on their home simulator. In the process, he also meets online air traffic controllers in the virtual airspace, who take on the coordination. In addition to being a pilot, users can also take part in online gaming as an air traffic controller. Using special client software , users establish a connection to servers on the Internet, on which the data required for displaying the aircraft in the virtual “radar image” or in the flight simulator are managed.


The beginnings

In 1996, Microsoft brought its Microsoft Flight Simulator software version 5.1 onto the market. As a player, you slipped into the role of the pilot, an interactive air traffic control only took place as part of so-called adventures, time and event-oriented, but consistently predetermined. At this time, the software ATP from subLOGIC was available, which, expanded by some functions through Simon Hradecky's 3DAGS , tried to simulate the beginnings of interactive air traffic control. On the other hand, programs for simulating air traffic control as such were slowly emerging, but there was no integration of flight simulation and air traffic control.

The first additional modules for the flight simulators such as Fly by Wire for the FS5 suddenly made multiplayer flights over the structures of the Internet possible, so that it was now possible to see other aircraft that were also being controlled by 'real people'. The group of online pilots slowly grew and more and more frequently one of the pilots refrained from flying himself, positioned his aircraft in the place of the tower and tried to coordinate the air traffic. However, he did not have his own radar screen available for this purpose, but was dependent on what his flight simulator presented to him. Communication took place via Internet Relay Chat .

At this time, the Californian Jason Grooms began to design two programs that started at this point: The ProController program for radar monitoring and the SquawkBox (see Squawk ) program for data exchange with the flight simulator. For this purpose, the SquawkBox read the position and altitude information of the aircraft displayed on the screen and made this data available. In order to enable both programs to communicate with one another, he designed simple server software that exchanged data between SquawkBox and ProController . Around the same time, Texan Joe Jurecka designed a server protocol that was supposed to serve exactly the same purpose. Grooms and Jurecka came into contact and continued to work together. Both achieved their technical breakthrough when they were able to fall back on a function library (" dynamic link library ", DLL) specially developed for the FS5.1 , which could access almost every program variable in the flight simulator. It was Adam Szofran who developed FSUIPC . After the work on both programs continued to progress and was followed with great interest in the flight simulation scene, Grooms and Jurecka divided the work. Grooms continued to be responsible for the ProController , while Jurecka took over the work on the SquawkBox . In the summer of 1997, the Dutchman Marty Bochane joined the team and took over the further development of the server software, which is now known as FSD-Server . Bochane's vision was a global network of servers to bring together as many participants as possible (virtual pilots and virtual air traffic controllers ). On January 25, 1998 , both SquawkBox , ProController and the FSD server in version 2.0 were available and formed the basis for today's online networks.

The organizations

The number of participants in the online flight simulation was initially limited to a few dozen enthusiasts, only a fraction of those who dealt with the topic of PC flight simulation overall. The declared goal was to convince significantly more followers of this hobby in order to achieve an increase in reality by increasing online traffic. Randy Whistler founded SATCO , the Simulated Air Traffic Controller Organization , which made it its business to train prospective customers to become virtual air traffic controllers. Ray Jones founded ISPA , the International Simulator Pilots Association , which in turn wanted to train ambitious amateur pilots. In order to do justice to the slowly increasing use of technology, the organization of the networked available FSD servers was operated under the direction of John Eisenhour . The SATNET was born.


SATCO / SATNET got bigger and bigger and by autumn 1998 they were able to get many supporters in Europe to participate. The structures within SATCO / SATNET were strongly influenced by America due to the history of their origins, so that in autumn 1998 the majority of the European members split off. The International Virtual Aviation Organization ( IVAO ) was created and built on exactly the same software products: SquawkBox , ProController and FSD-Server .

In the summer of 2001, SATCO / SATNET dissolved and handed over the operational activities as well as the existing infrastructure to the successor organization Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network ( VATSIM ).

In January 2003 another group split off from one of the networks, this time from IVAO. Flight Project International ( FPI ) emerged from the group of a few former IVAO software developers , but was dissolved in 2006 due to decreasing membership numbers .


Membership was and is free of charge in all networks (except for the cost of your own Internet access), the running costs are covered by sponsors.

Current state of development


After the software SquawkBox and ProController used were initially still identical in all three networks, it has now been further developed individually:

  • FPI was the first to replace the SquawkBox and released the ATOC Pilot Client (IPI) . This is now supplemented by the ATOC Pilot Client (IPI-Express) . On the controller side, the ATOC ATC Client (ICP 3.x) replaced the ProController.
  • IVAO replaced the SquawkBox with the IvAp - IVAO virtual pilot client and the air traffic controllers at IVAO no longer use the ProController. Here the IvAc - IVAO virtual ATC client 1 does its job alongside the IvAc 2 (beta version) .
  • VATSIM has been using SquawkBox 3 and FSInn since March 2005and on the controller side the ProController was replaced by the ASRC - Advanced Simulated Radar Client in 2003and the VRC - Virtual Radar Client was added in2006. In 2008 Euroscope was alsointroduced as new controller software and is now the main program for controllers.

The server software FSD-Server was also subject to some changes in all networks, so that all networks are now technically incompatible.


While the first online pilots still had to use IRC in 1996–1998, an internal text chat was built into the flight simulator as well as the client software for pilots and controllers in the following years.

This type of communication is also becoming less and less important, as programs such as Roger Wilco and Teamspeak made voice communication possible via the structures of the Internet. All three online networks developed their own voice protocols, some of which were integrated into the respective client software, but some of which are also available as stand-alone software.

Microsoft monopoly?

After Microsoft has by far the largest market share in the field of PC flight simulation with its flight simulator series, the development of online flight simulation is also based on these products. However, the concept is by no means geared towards Microsoft products only, you can basically participate with any flight simulator for which a pilot client is available. The “SquawkBox” was also available for less common simulators and since 2004 the X-Plane flight simulator has enjoyed increasing popularity. An online-capable pilot client is also available for this - the XSquawkBox.

For Microsoft itself - according to Bruce Williams ('product manager' for the flight simulator at Microsoft) on the “1. German-language flight simulator conference “2003 in Paderborn - the area of ​​online flight simulation is not an issue. This is just a fringe group with no major impact on business success, however interesting the topic may be.