Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Intercity Virtual Airline


 

 
Intercity Virtual Airline
Intercity Virtual is a fictional regional airline based out of the UK.  Intercity utilizes FSX and virtual ACARS software.  The airline was founded in April 2013 by a small group of friends who shared their love of flight simulation.  As for virtual airline they created, Intercity contains routes that travel from the British Isles to Western Europe.  Intercity exhibits a friendly professional atmosphere and currently staffs around 100 pilots.  Newcomers to the airline can discover every detail about Intercity from the main website.   
                                      
              
The airline’s current operational aircraft are the British Aerospace Jetstream J41 and the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.   Intercity has mentioned the possibility of adding a jet in the future.  The airline currently utilizes a well thought out virtual ACARS system to log each flight.  There is a detailed pilot log created for each flight that can be accessed thru the website.  Intercity pilots are not required to fly online but are encourage to.  As an added bonus, members can receive discounts for FSX related software. 

 Hubs and Routes:
Intercity has four hubs; London City (EGLC), Birmingham (EGBB), Edinburg (EGPH), and Dusseldorf (EDDL).  London City is quite unique given its location and short operating runway.   Perfect for regional aircraft, but not for larger aircraft. There are excellent payware add-ons for each of the four Intercity hubs.  

                UK2000's London City (EGLC)
 link to UK2000 website

Intercity Virtual members can obtain a 20% discount on UK2000 airport scenery.   UK2000 sells extremely detailed airport add-ons for EGBB, EGLC, and EGPH.  They are already well priced even before the 20% discount. So for about $60 US you can have each UK hub of Intercity installed on your computer via a UK2000 add-on.  UK2000 also gives away a free version of these airports should you want to try them out before investing.  Aerosoft sells a payware add-on for Dusseldorf that is a little more expensive, but highly detailed. Link to Aerosoft Dusseldorf for FSX

The Intercity routes contain a plethora of flights back and forth across the English Channel, with-in the British Isles, to Spain, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, France and Poland.   Regional virtual airlines have the added benefit that it is easy to fit a flight in between dinner and bedtime after coming home from a long day at work.  My typical time in the sim so far for an Intercity flight is about 2.5 to 1.5 hours.   That includes 45 minutes to start up the Q400, load passengers and fuel, setup the box, and taxi out to the runway.

 Aircraft:
The advances in payware FSX aircraft have led to new and interesting regional aircraft for the virtual pilot.  Hopefully more highly functional and sophisticated payware regional planes will be forth coming.  Intercity currently utilizes the Bae JetSream 41 and the Dash 8 Q400.  These aircraft are well represented by the offerings from PMDG and Majestic Software.   The PMDG Bae JS41 is typical of PMDG type aircraft in that it is highly functional, but also very heavy on FPS.  The Majestic Q400 is a game changer.   Much of its software works outside of the confines of FSX.   Therefore, the Q400 can run on less then ideal hardware, with a decent FPS.   My own labtop with a slow 2.2 GHz i3 processor can run the Q400 consistently at 25 fps with REX Overdrive generating weather and textures. 


                  Preparing Q400 for startup and pushback at EHAM


While the JS41’s performance is typical of most turboprop airliners, the Q400 Dash 8 is not. 
The Dash 8 is currently the best regional turbine prop airliner in use.  The Dash 8 flies higher, faster, farther, and with more passengers, than its competitors.  The Dash 8 performs closer to a jet-aircraft without the added fuel cost.  For short 1-3 hour flights the Dash 8 makes sense and has become quite popular.  The Majestic version of the Q400 comes with a glass cockpit, working weather radar and FMS.   As typical with turboprop airliners, there is no auto throttle with the Q400 or the JS41.  Hence the pilot must keep a close eye on airspeed during each phase of flight and control the throttle accordingly.

Intercity ACARS and flight software:
The Intercity ACARS software is used for tracking and submission of a virtual flight.
The pilot starts the ACARS software and then logs into the system. A notice of all recent news and relevant links will pop-up.  The pilot can also access the SOP for their respective aircraft.  The Intercity ACARS software is then used to search for a route.  Once accomplished the pilot clicks on the selected route.  A quick check that the pilot wants to fly a particular flight and logging begins.  For the Q400 logging starts after clicking on the "off block" button located on the ACARS software.  From then on, the ACARS system works in the background recording the flight.   In parallel to this, the pilot starts FSX at the relevant airport thru the FSX “Free Flight” mode.
 
Intercity Virtual's Live ACARS
 
Once logging has begun, the pilots aircraft appears on the live ACARS map with detailed information.   Once the pilot lands and is at the gate with engines shut down, the pilot clicks
 “on blocks” on the ACARS software for the Dash.  The pilot can then submit the flight report
with or without added comments.  The flight will then show up in the flight log.

 The Intercity flight log is accessed thru the main website.  The flight log details each logged flight along with relevant information.  For example, I can easily see which of my flights were late and which were on time.  A link next to each flight will pop open a map of the flight with detailed information such as altitude, speed, and phase of flight.     
 
A log of my first flight!
 
Virtual Airline Discounts:
Intercity Virtual has obtained excellent discounts for their pilots.  Members can obtain a generous 30% discount on FS2Crew that adds a virtual co-pilot. No support for Majestic Q400 as of yet though. As mentioned before, members can obtain a 20% discount on UK2000 payware airport add-ons for FSX.   If that is not enough, members can now obtain a 10% discount on Vroute Premium.  Vroute Premium is a highly detailed flight planner.   There is a free version, but the premium version adds SIDS, STARS, Weather, Fuel Planning, and more.  There is also support for VATSIM and flying on-line.  Vroute Premium is well priced even before the 10% discount.    

Joining Intercity
Joining Intercity was quite easy.  I was required to take a quick entrance exam.  Quite a lot of people complain about these types of exams.  To be honest, it was really not a big deal.  The exam contained about 10 questions.  Each of the questions were informative and consisted of questions that most aviation enthusiast may know already.  Intercity does not make any bones about the pilot looking up answers during the test.  The point is for virtual pilots to learn some of the basics they should know to enjoy their virtual airline experience. 

After passing the test, I did not receive an automatic email.  Unfortunately something went wrong in the process.  I emailed Intercity HR and received a quick response from Chris Hulme.  Thru the course of a few email exchanges Chris quickly corrected the problem and I was on my way with a pilot ID.  This was a much better experience then with another virtual airline that never answered any of my emails. 

 

First flight.

In the future I hope to do a more in-depth description about some of my virtual airline flights.  But this post has already become long and boring : ).   So here is a quite synopsis of my first virtual airline flight ever!



       First take off from EGBB runway 15
 

There was a learning curve associated with the Majestic Q400.  I found a simplified checklist to be mandatory for flying the Q400.   Once or twice things didn’t go as well as something in the checklist was missed.  The checklist also contains notes I have written onto it per Intercity’s SOP for the Dash 400 such as climbing profiles and RPM settings. It took me a good two weeks of flying the Q400 to become comfortable enough with it to take my first actual Intercity VA flight.
                                       
My first flight for Intercity was from Birmingham (EGBB) to Amsterdam Schiphol (EHAM).  It was a night flight using real world time and weather.  This was the main practice flight I had done on numerous occasions.  After 30 minutes my Q400 was gassed up, ready to go, and lined up with EGBB's runway 15.  The Daventry 5D SID was followed off the runway to my allotted route.  After a quick trip over the Channel, the plane was following along the SUGOL 3B transition to EHAM's runway 18R.  The biggest problem I have found with flying into the EHAM is the crosswinds.  They just love to blow you off course as you are on final for runway 18L or 18R.  To make matters worst the visibility that night was only 3 SM with heavy overcast. Thankfully my practice paid off as I carefully followed the ILS down onto EHAM’s runway 1RL.  As usual the Q400's AP APPR mode lost track of the ILS leading me to take control.   After a smooth landing, I was able to relax and celebrate during the long taxi from 18R to the gate.  With a sigh of relief I submitted my first VA flight.    

 

 

 

2 comments:

  1. Would be great to see some more post's of virtual flights Bill!

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    Replies
    1. Hello and thanks for posting, your Clear Left blog is one of the main reasons I started this blog to begin with! I have read about many of your virtual flights!

      My current plan is to post regularly about virtual airline flights with, general aviation, and other FSX related topics spliced in.

      I just purchased a new computer that can run FSX amazingly well!
      (Anything was better then my old labtop)

      B.

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