Introduction: What We Do, How We Do It, and Why
last updated Thursday August 26th, 2010 @ 18:50 UTC

What is a Virtual Airline?

A virtual airline is essentially a group of flight simulator pilots who form an organization to simulate working as a commercial airline pilot. While there are an infinite number of ways to go about this, the general idea is that the organization forms a flight schedule, and then virtual pilots complete the flights. The frequency of the schedule, the number of destinations served, the way pilots are assigned to routes, the equipment they use to fly it (meaning both the real-life PC equipment as well as the virtual, simulated aircraft), and the method of reporting the completed flights to the organizers is different from one group to another, and has also evolved over time.

What is TransGear Airways?

TransGear is a monthly, interactive, real-time, voice-coordinated, regional dual-hub virtual-airline-like event for FlightGear Flight Simulator. On the second Saturday of each month, a group of pilots and controllers log onto FlightGear's Multiplayer network. Each pilot has a designated route starting at a given airport at a specified time, and flies a three-leg route connecting through the airline's two "hubs" (with a fifteen-minute layover at each) before continuing on to their final destination. Route assignments may be broken into individual legs if necessary for time constraints. Pilots may choose a different route or role each month. (NOTE: for those who wish to participate in a more "traditional" virtual airline experience, I recommend our "sister organization", Atlas Virtual Airlines. TGA participants are not restricted from AVA membership, nor vice-versa.)

What Are TransGear's Goals?

In forming TransGear Airways, I had several goals in mind:

1. Real-time interaction. "Back in the day," virtual airline pilots would complete their legs in empty skies, because the early-generation sims offered no alternative. Later, pilots could interact with artifically-generated air traffic. Now, pilots can interact with one another in real-time; and interacting with air traffic control and each other is part of the novelty of flying in a muliplayer environment.

2. Convenience and non-burdensomeness. Convenience for a global community of virtual pilots is difficult to achieve, but weekend days in the afternoon (UTC) was a popular timeslot for other FlightGear Multiplayer events, so it was a natural choice for TransGear events as well. Since its inception the times have been adjusted slightly in an attempt to accomodate the largest possible user-base; however, there are a few regions for which the times are not particularly accessible. As for the frequency of gatherings, a monthly event seemed to be frequent enough to avoid being forgotten, without being so often as to be a burden or to dominate the FlightGear Multiplayer landscape.

3. Realism, to a realistic degree. Flying a jet transport requires technical and procedureal knowledge far beyond that which appeals to most of the casual simulator crowd. Our Pilots' Handbook and Communication Handbook outline the basic procedures we use; many are adapted and 'watered-down' from the real-world, and in some cases, following exact published procedures are optional. Our focus is more on the interaction between pilot and air traffic control than on the rigors of perfect flight procedural adherence -- to a large extent it is up to each individual pilot how stritly they wish to follow real-world protocols. Navigation may be done by any preferred method, but to assist new pilots in learning to fly by realistic IFR routes, pre-made waypoint lists are available on the Charts and Resources page, and a Flight Planning Guide has been developed for those who wish to learn to create flight plans on their own.

4. Voice-based communication. Typing and flying isn't just annoying; it can cause crashes. Often times when you think you're typing a chat message, you may not be in the message composition dialog, and you'll be changing control settings, accellerating time, moving control surfaces, deploying gear or flaps at inappropriate and/or dangerous speeds, etcetera. Even the pre-canned chat messages are not fool-proof, nor do they cover the full range of communication needs in controlled airspace. FGCom has recently benefitted from the efforts of some new volunteer programmers, and has taken some major strides in becoming more universally user-friendly.

5. Open membership. We are a non-exclusive event, open to anyone in the FlightGear community, subject to a couple of very loose requirements as listed in the Membership section. In fact, we have no official membership. When each new month's schedules are posted and announced in the forum, please feel free to volunteer for any flight you wish. If you have questions, ask them. We'd love to have you.

What Does TransGear AVOID Focusing On?

We're not here to stroke anyone's ego. I don't call myself the "CEO" of TransGear. There are no "officers" in this organization. There's no "Chief Pilot" here. There are no ranks, rankings, or any stripes on our shirts. I'm not even keeping track of flight hours. I am the event organizer, and that's about it. The one exception is that I do hold my event's air traffic controllers to a very high standard, and as such, there are certain people on the approved list that have passed an "audition" of sorts with me. Contact me via PM on the forum, or via e-mail, if you think you have what it takes and would like to set up a one-on-one.

I don't believe in creating a custom livery for my airline. Custom liveries are pretty, I guess, but the way FlightGear implements them means that they are only visible to those who have downloaded and installed them. Those who have not will possibly see the blue-and-yellow "Cannot Load Model" placeholder glider, or will simply not see anything at all. It's just not worth it. I much prefer that we all use the default liveries on whatever equipment we choose, so we can all see each other. I keep a list of approved equipment with download links so that we can all ensure we can see each other properly. If you would like to request a certain aircraft model to be added to the list, contact me on the forum or e-mail me.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

There's a plethora of information available on this website; but for beginners, most of it isn't really necessary. Look over the Membership Requirements first. That document will direct you to the Pilots' Handbook and the Communications Handbook, but it's not required that you memorize or even understand everything contained there to begin with -- most of it will make more sense after you've done it once. Most of it you learn, as they say, "on the fly." As long as you get the general gist of what's covered in the two handbooks, feel free to answer up for a flight in the forums. Hope to see you in the skies!

Who Is Responsible For This?

TransGear Airways was founded by Rob Shearman, aka MD-Terp, and held the first TGA event August 8th, 2009. He built TGA from the ground up, including a majority of this site, making TGA the premier recurring multiplayer event in FlightGear. In July of 2010 he decided to discontinue operating the event. This was a shock to the community as TGA had become fairly important in the multiplayer community. With his blessings, it was decided to continue the events under new leadership.

The current stewards of TGA are:
Lukosius was charged with planning the events, including selecting the type of event, hubs, and official spoke airports for each hub. To be sure, this is the most labor intensive role in TGA.

Redneck took over as the Air Traffic Controller manager and handles auditions and assigning ATC personnel for each event. He also manages the approved aircraft list, and vets any new aircraft before they are added to the official list.

Yourgod was already hosting the TransGear website for Rob, so he took over as maintainer for the official site, and writes much of the custom scheduling software for the event.