ATC for VATSIM – decisions

Desired Outcome: Get fully operational using a virtual ATC system that integrates with virtual pilots on VATSIM.  I’d also like to get hardware that’s sufficient for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024, as I plan on pursuing an instrument rating when back current (in real flying).

Background: Back around 2011, I was interested in this, but then didn’t pursue.  Gaming Pilots (MS Flight Simulator; X-Plane) can navigate around virtually, and be ATC controlled by a virtual team of ATC controllers (on VATUSA, and internationally).  ATC Controllers must be trained and signed off, and it’s all quite official/legit.

Areas I need to address before getting back in to this, as it’s years since I’ve purchased a computer/laptop:

  • VATUSA ATC account:
    • I need to re-activate an account I created years ago.  I know this is easy to do.  I remember doing an initial course, but didn’t complete anything towards S1 (the initial rating – Clearance Delivery and Ground).  I think I have to repeat that initial course, for recurrency.
  • Operating System:
    • In reviewing various VATUSA sites, I’m seeing that Windows is the standard OS for the ATC software (eg CRC).  There are some other systems that are web-based, but CRC is a core application.  I have an iMac (circa 2011), which still works, but now challenged with getting newest MacOS installed.  Theoretically,  I could install Parallels (to run Windows), but I can imagine various incompatibilities.  Windows 10/11 it is.
  • Hardware:
    • I haven’t purchased a computer/laptop in years, so this will be interesting to resolve:
      • Brand
      • Laptop or desktop (I’m leaning towards laptop)
      • CPU (Intel or AMD)
      • Storage (Leaning towards SSD – Solid State)
      • Graphics Card (Ryzen or leather-jacket guy NVIDIA), and video memory
      • RAM
      • Ports
      • External monitors
      • Connections to existing docking station (port replicator)
      • Note: Keep in mind I’m scoping out hardware for both VATUSA and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024
  • ATC software:
    • In the USA, I think CRC is the primary application.  I’ve also seen others for services like vStrips.  Will figure all that out in time.
  • Communications software:
    • There have been some changes since I first heard of VATUSA.  I think there is still software specifically designed for VATUSA, and there’s also Discord Server.  Will figure all out later.
    • Headphones (with mic) – maybe able to use my current Jabra
    • Q: Which button for PTT?
  • Which ATC Center:
    • The basic idea is that you do your initial training, and then register with the closest ARTCC to you.  For  me, that would be Los Angeles ARTCC (  This makes sense to me, as when I get back in to real flying, I’d be within this airspace.  While I’m technically in Central Coast, CA I’m sure I’ll be operating a lot within ZLA.  When I was last current back in late 90’s, my home airport was Torrance, and flew through the SFRA; to Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Montgomery Field in San Diego.
  • Observing:
    • During initial training, you can observe, which is a great way to learn.
    • At this point, I would be in early consideration of creating a YouTube Channel, to introduce/update my progress
  • Entry-level training:
    • There are various steps to take before S1 signoff:
      • Initial course (which I’ll probably review again, anyway)
      • S1 course (which I think covers Clearance Delivery and Ground)
      • S1 live training with LAARTCC controllers
      • Signed off as S1 Controller

Final thoughts:

In reviewing the above, it definitely looks comprehensive and quite exacting, as you would expect for Air Traffic Control work.  I need to ensure that some other major projects I’m working on are completed, before considering launching into this (again…).  In order to be successful, I know it requires some dedication and ability to have several  consistent hours per week to be able to set aside.  Also, as you progress in training, there’s an expectation (I think) that you sign up for various time-slots for controller positions.

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