Don't be afraid to fly on Expert

I put this together after seeing another post about someone being afraid to fly on Expert.

A few simple precautions will make your initial flights less stressful.

I won’t cover all aspects of how to fly on Expert, but will touch on a few things to help out.

Uncontrolled Airports
After spawning, look around, see how other people are using the airport. Red and green runways are giving you an indication of wind relative to the runway. If you see everyone departing and arriving the same way, you should probably use that direction regardless of the red and green indications. It is possible to use both ends of a runway, but when you’re starting out on Expert, you might get yourself into trouble.

Before pushing or taxiing, make sure you won’t be impacting anyone that is already taxiing. When it’s clear, announce your intentions and start moving.

While taxiing, stay on the taxiway lines, keep a reasonable distance between you and any aircraft in front of you. If you’re coming to an intersection and someone is approaching from another direction, give way to an aircraft that is taxiing straight through. No point in playing chicken. If you’re on the taxiway closest to the runway, be mindful of aircraft exiting the runway, and yield to them if necessary. Stop before an exit to make it available. If there are parallel taxiways, I use the furthest taxiway from the runway to keep the exits free.

Departing
You’re first in line for takeoff, and stopped behind the hold line… Use your map, and make sure nobody is on short final. Be conservative to start with, if a plane is inside 3mi, wait for it to land. 3mi at 180kts (which is fast) is 1 minute. As soon as the runway is clear or as soon as an arrival has passed in front of you, announce takeoff and enter the runway. Once the runway is clear, begin your takeoff roll. This can be tricky if you’ve got a line of aircraft on final. Here’s what has to happen in that case.

  1. An arrival passes your position
  2. You announce takeoff, and lineup and wait for him to exit the runway
  3. You start takeoff roll and must be off the runway before the next arrival crosses the threshold.

If you can satisfy those requirements, by all means takeoff between arrivals. You may run into situations where the exiting aircraft is slow to exit the runway. In that case, you just wait and the arrival behind you should go around.
It’s important that you announce takeoff before pulling onto the runway, even if you’re going to line up and wait for an arriving aircraft to exit. This lets other arrivals know that you will be on the runway.

Great, now you’re in the air. Just maintain separation with other aircraft and you’ll be fine. Maintaining separation is 3mi horizontal or 1000’ vertical between you and any other aircraft

Approaching
When you’re approaching an unmanned airport with no other aircraft around, announce your intentions, call out your pattern positions, and land. If there are other aircraft in the pattern, you should plan on fitting yourself in the pattern they are using. Announce your intentions, and fit yourself in. You might have to fly a long downwind, or make a few 360’s, but that’s half the fun of flying into an unmanned airport. I can’t stress this enough, FIT YOURSELF IN. Make sure you’re allowing enough room in front and behind you so the aircraft you’re following will be off the runway before you cross the threshold, and you will be off the runway before the following aircraft crosses the threshold. If the plane you’re following isn’t going to exit before you touch down, go around. Same applies for someone entering the runway when you’re on short final, go around. With the exception of lining up and waiting for an arrival to exit the runway and some back taxi situations, there can only be one aircraft on the runway!

Controlled Airports
When you spawn in and ATIS is available, read through it and make sure you understand what it’s telling you. If you don’t understand some of the instructions, it may be a good time to read up on it.

Contact ground and ask for permission to pushback or taxi. If the controller doesn’t get right back to you, be patient, he knows you’ve called in, and he will get back to you. He’s got a big flashing yellow tag with your name on it, that won’t stop flashing until he responds. Once he gives you permission to move, don’t blindly move, check your surroundings, and if it’s all clear, start moving.

Just like uncontrolled airports, follow the taxiway lines and give way to other aircraft. If the ground controller tells you to hold, stop until he says it’s OK to proceed. If he says give way, give way, and once it’s clear, continue taxiing.

Stay on ground frequency until it’s clear ground will not be giving you any more instructions. If there is a chance of merging traffic, either exiting the runway or other taxiing aircraft, stay on ground. It’s always safe to wait until you’re #1 for takeoff before switching to tower. No need to ask permission to switch to tower, the taxi instruction already gave you or permission to switch when ready.

When you’re number 1 for takeoff, ask tower for takeoff clearance. Tower will tell you to line up and wait or will clear you for takeoff. If you’ve been told to line up and wait, enter the runway, line up on the centerline and wait for takeoff clearance. As soon as you’re given takeoff clearance, takeoff! Don’t sit there doing your preflight checklist. You do that before asking for takeoff.

Once you’re in the air, you’ll either be departing the airspace, or flying some patterns. If you’re departing, you’ll either be switched to departure or approach or told frequency change approved. Ideally, if you’re told frequency change approved, you switch off tower frequency.

Patterns
If you plan on flying patterns, I suggest starting out at single runway airports, as sequencing is much easier to follow. Fly at 1500AFE in an airliner, and 1000AFE In a GA aircraft. Don’t make a hairpin turn to get on downwind, as you’ll require the same turn for base/final making establishing yourself on final more difficult. An autopilot turn at 200kts will put you about 3mi away from the airport on downwind, which a reasonable starting point. Be aware of spacing with other aircraft in the pattern, and adjust speed and turns to maintain safe spacing. Keep your speed at 200kias or below, and obviously much slower on final. To help determine when to make the base turn (traffic permitting), lock in the ILS or GPS for the runway, and start your base turn a few seconds after dropping below the glideslope. If you make a nice constant turn, you’ll acquire the localizer just before the glideslope.
Here’s a much more detailed writeup covering patterns…

Once you’re comfortable with single runway airports, you can try multiple runways. Just be aware that you either need to be paying attention to all communications with other aircraft to determine how you fit into the plan, or use other means to work it out. Those details are beyond the scope of what I’m trying to cover here though. Maybe another writeup.

Departing
If departing and not on departure or approach, before turning from runway heading, you need to look around, and make sure you will maintain separation with other aircraft in the area. Other aircraft can be transitioning the airspace, or may be other departures. Make sure you don’t turn into a plane that is departing on a parallel runway. Avoid other aircraft in the area by flying away from them such that you will have at least 3mi of horizontal separation, or by setting an altitude that guarantees you will have at least 1000’ of vertical clearance if closer than 3mi. This may mean you can’t fly your flightplan immediately. Once clear of other aircraft, you can proceed to your destination.

If departing and you’ve been switched to departure or approach, contact them and let them know what your intentions are. It’s not necessary to checkin then ask for another service. Checking in is requesting a service similar to flight following. If you’ve checked in, asked for flight following or stated that you are VFR, the controller may tell you to proceed on course or he may give you an altitude and a heading to fly. If he’s giving you a heading and an altitude, follow those instructions, even if it takes you away from your flightplan. He is probably making sure you don’t get in the way of arrivals, or is sorting out multiple departures. Once he’s happy with your position, he’ll tell you to resume own navigation. That doesn’t mean go back to the airport and pick up your flightplan from where it started. You can go to the map screen, bring up your flightplan, and select a leg that is closest to your current location, then continue following the plan.

Approach
Now you’re approaching your destination, and approach is available. Get yourself at a reasonable altitude of say 15000’ AFE when you’re 60mi out and call into approach. Like departure, only request one service, Don’t checkin then ask for another service. You’re doubling the controllers workload. Follow instructions and don’t checkin or ask for altitude or ask again for your service. There are occasions where the controller may lose track of you, if you look at the map, and see you are not close to anyone else and flying away from the airport, by all means, checkin to remind the controller you’re with him. If you see other aircraft around you, just wait.

Approach will tell you when to switch to tower frequency, it is not necessary, actually frowned upon, if you ask to be switched to tower. Approach will hang onto to you until he is sure you have successfully completed the approach. he may also need to send further instructions, so just hold your horses.

Warnings
Lastly, you may be told to check tutorials or please follow instructions, which is a nice way of telling you to review your current situation, including any recent commands for something out of the ordinary. More than likely, you have not reacted or responded in a way the controller expected. No need to panic, but take note, and try to figure out what the issue was after you exit the game. If you can’t figure it out, by all means contact the controller and ask for an explanation. We’re more than willing to go over these things.

if on the other hand you get a please follow instructions or you will be ghosted, that requires a more immediate resolution. If you can’t quickly figure out what’s wrong, I suggest exiting the game since what usually follows is a ghost, which none of us like to give or get. For this case like the previous check tutorials and the nicer please follow instructions, if you can’t figure it out, contact the controller.

This list may grow, but here’s a summary of likely reasons for…
Check Tutorials and Please Follow Instructions
Ground

  1. Failure to follow taxiway lines
  2. Taxiing to the wrong runway
  3. Failure to maintain reasonable distance while taxiing
  4. Holding over the hold short line
  5. Entering or crossing the runway without permission (may be ghosted if interfering)
  6. Excessive taxi speed
  7. Failure to contact Tower when ready. Not necessary to ask permission

Tower

  1. Entering or crossing the runway without permission (may be ghosted if interfering)
  2. Taking off before given clearance
  3. Not following ATIS instructions (straight out or no pattern work…)
  4. Incorrect pattern direction (left or right traffic)
  5. Not following sequence
  6. Spacing to close on final
  7. Too High on initial contact.
  8. Switching to ground frequency before exiting the runway
  9. Switching to ground after exiting the runway but before crossing a parallel runway when an exit and cross instruction was given
  10. Failure to switch to ground

Approach

  1. Asking for multiple services. Figure out which service you want and ask for it first. No need to checkin and then ask for another service.
  2. Re requesting your service while being vectored.
  3. Checkin while being vectored (We know you’re there)
  4. Asking for altitude change (exception if you’re heading for a mountain)
  5. Asking for frequency change (We will change you when the time is right)
  6. Ignoring speed commands.
  7. Failure to obey a vector altitude and/or heading. (May end up ghosting if interfering)

Please follow instructions or you will be ghosted…
Ground

  1. Failure to wait for clearance before taxiing or pushing.
  2. Failure to follow taxiway lines, (taxiing straight to your gate)
  3. Failure to give way
  4. Running into other planes. (Either backup if possible or exit)

Tower

  1. Failure to exit the runway if entered without clearance
  2. Failure to follow sequencing
  3. Failure to go around (continuing to descend after given a go around)
  4. Asking repeatedly for a runway change. If you ask once and are denied, asking again won’t make any difference

Approach

  1. Failure to follow a heading and/or altitude. If you end up interfering, you will be ghosted.
  2. Asking repeatedly for a service change.
  3. Asking repeatedly for a runway change.
  4. Checking in repeatedly

You can see from this that as long as you follow heading speed and altitude and don’t keep asking for things you will be fine on approach.

All positions

  1. Failure to respond to repeated contacts on guard frequency when in the controllers airspace.
    Don’t forget Approach and departure control from 0 - 18000’

I’ve rambled enough, but I’ve tried to cover the areas I feel many people new to Expert trip up on.

78 Likes

Great post!I hope the users that where afraid got over there fair of flying on Expert after reading this topic

This is a great post, thank you.

I was reading an old post earlier about how people shouldn’t exit the game when they are given a warning before ghosting and there was a good debate around it. Admittedly, I disagreed with the post because to me, it feels better to take yourself out of the pressured situation and use replay to review what happened so that you know for next time, rather than risk continuing your error, or making more mistakes, and getting ghosted.

Nonetheless, whilst Expert is supposed to be for serious users and not necessarily a place to learn, flying in Expert inevitably becomes a learning experience because the quality of the service provided by the IFATC compared to what is usually provided on Training Server is that much better (and enjoyable!). On top of that, you are able to observe other more experienced pilots more consistently. I certainly improved quite substantially in my early days in a way that I don’t think I would have if I stayed in TS.

4 Likes

Love the messages in this post. People shouldn’t be afraid, they should be excited! Yes, there will be scenarios that arise that might not have been covered in every tutorial but if you just use good judgement and a bit of common sense theres a good chance things will end up just fine. One last thing… Patience is Key!

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Ok I’m gonna try the expert server now (really that means whenever I can later) , at-least if I do something stupid and get ghosted I am able to get in the training server still.

Just know your aircraft and be comfortable with the posts above and you’ll be fine :)

I think I even just observed for a short while at my first spawn in at a controlled airport to get myself familiar with ATIS and what was going on before I eventually pushed back and got on my way.

Take your time!

Avoid a very busy airport first if possible.

Up to Alaska I go!😂

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You guys are seriously overthinking this, it’s a game!!! As long as you’re having fun and enjoying yourself, none of this other stuff matters don’t worry what you do or what other people think. Just fly the plane and have fun!

TL;DR: Listen to ATC, pay attention, and don’t do anything obviously incorrect. If you’re given a check help command, ask the controller why.

Expert shouldn’t be a place to be afraid of, but loved. It’s held to a higher standard for the enjoyment of every pilot out there wanting to fly realistically. Enjoy it, don’t fear it :)

Fantastic write up Gary! Every pilot, new or experienced should read this! I would just add a phrase or two about pattern work in the sense that pattern work is not simply flying in circles and doing touch and goes, it involves keeping proper pattern altitude, speed and lateral distance from the airfield - those things cannot be ignored.

I used to be scared of it but after looking at other people and seeing what their doing like grade 4 and 5 pilots I eventually got the hang of it!

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