Communicating with Pilots
There are three ways to communicate with pilots on VATSIM:
Normally, communications happen over voice or text on a frequency. Private messages should only be used for communications that wouldn't normally be heard over the open frequency in the real world.
Setting Your Primary Frequency
When you are "plugged in" and actively controlling, you must select a primary frequency. Your primary frequency is the one pilots will dial into their COM radio in order to contact you. It is the frequency that is usually listed in the pilot software in their list of available controllers. Setting your primary frequency is the first thing you need to do after connecting to VATSIM as an active controller. If you are only connecting as an Observer, then you do not need to select a primary frequency. See "The Comms Panel" for details on configuring your available frequencies and selecting your primary frequency.
In addition to your primary frequency, you can also receive and optionally transmit on additional frequencies. This can be useful if you are working with a student and you want to monitor his/her transmissions and other radio traffic. This applies to both text frequencies and voice channels. See "The Comms Panel" for details on choosing which frequencies to use via text and/or voice.
The Radio History Area
Any text sent by you or received from pilots is displayed in the Radio History Area. The Radio History is found only on your Primary Display, just above the command line. This area is also used to show miscellaneous messages from VRC, ATC messages, supervisor broadcasts, server messages, etc.
Text sent by you will be displayed in cyan. Text received from pilots on your primary frequency will be shown in white. Text received from pilots on secondary frequencies will be shown in gray.
You can change the size of the Radio History Area using CTRL+Up Arrow and CTRL+Down Arrow. These will increase and decrease the size of the Radio History one line at a time. If you would like to temporarily expand the Radio History Area to fill the scope, you can presss CTRL+Tab. Press CTRL+Tab again to return the Radio History to it's normal size. This is handy for making a quick review of received messages if you had to step away for a moment or if you are quite busy and missed a call.
Note that the gray border around the Radio History Area will flash white when a radio message comes in on your primary frequency. To acknowledge the message and stop the flashing, you can either click on the Radio History Area, press CTRL-Space, or send a message. This feature can be turned off in the General Settings. (See "Configuring VRC".)
Saving Radio Logs & Copy/Paste
VRC provides two ways to save the contents of your radio history. The first is by typing the .copy command which will copy the entire contents of the radio history into your Windows clipboard. You can then paste the log text into a text file, email, etc.
You can also use the .log FILENAME command to save the radio history to a file with the specified name. For example, enter the command .log radio.log to save your current radio history text in a file called "radio.log". This file will be located in your "My Documents\VRC" folder.
Frequency Buttons on the Button Bar
For each frequency you are using, a frequency button appears in the Button Bar, if frequency buttons are enabled. (See "Configuring VRC".) A frequency button looks like this:
The yellow number is the frequency. Below that, you will see text that indicates the voice status of the frequency. The status text will contain one of the following:
The TX and RX lights on the frequency button indicate whether or not you are set to transmit or receive on the indicated frequency, via text or voice, and whether or not you or someone else is currently transmitting voice on the frequency. Here are some example screenshots with descriptions of what the information on the button means:
See "The Comms Panel" for details on configuring your available frequencies and selecting your primary frequency.
When communicating with pilots via text, you will often be repeating similar clearances and instructions many times over. VRC provides a way to create shortcuts that can save you a great deal of typing and help ensure that your text phraseology is accurate. These shortcuts are known as "aliases". An alias is a short dot command that gets expanded into a longer string of text before it is sent to pilots. Aliases are defined and stored in your Alias File, which is specified in the General Settings. (See "Configuring VRC" for details.) Contact the training staff in the area where you will be controlling to acquire the appropriate alias file.
Here's an example of a common alias:
.dm descend and maintain $1
If this alias is present in your alias file, and you type .dm 6000 on the command line and press Enter, the following text will be sent on your active transmit frequencies:
descend and maintain 6000
Notice the $1 was replaced with the first parameter you typed after the alias name. Up to nine parameters ($1 through $9) can be used in alias definitions. Here's an example of an alias which uses more than one parameter:
.trd Turn right heading $1, proceed direct $2 when able
To use this alias, you might type .trd 350 MHT. The resulting text sent on the frequency would be:
Turn right heading 350, proceed direct MHT when able
As you can see, aliases can save you a great deal of typing and help ensure accurate phraseology when working with text-only pilots.
In addition to substituting parameters using $1, $2, etc., there are also variables and functions available for creating more complex aliases. A variable is a special word, preceded with a dollar sign, that is replaced with an appropriate value before the text is sent on the frequency. As an example, the variable "$squawk", if present in an alias, will be replaced with the pilot's currently assigned squawk code before the text of the alias is sent to the pilot. So if you had the following alias defined:
.sq Reset transponder, squawk $squawk and ident
And you typed .sq and pressed Enter, and the selected aircraft was assigned 3405 as its squawk code, the following text would be sent:
Reset transponder, squawk 3405 and ident
The following table lists all of the variables available to you when constructing aliases:
VRC also provides several functions for inserting information into transmitted text. A function differs from a variable in that a function can accept a parameter to alter the text that is inserted in place of the function. The following table lists all of the functions available when constructing an alias:
Here's an example of a function used in an alias:
.initvec Fly heading $1, .dm $2, vectors ILS runway $3 approach, $4 altimeter $altim($4)
To use this example alias, you might type .initvec 070 6000 33L KBOS
This would result in the following text being sent on the frequency:
Fly heading 070, descend and maintain 6000, vectors ILS runway 33L approach, KBOS altimeter 2975
Notice that this is a nested alias. A nested alias is one which uses additional aliases in its text. In the above example, the .dm alias is nested within the .initvec alias. You can nest as many aliases as you like within a single alias.
To get a better idea of the possibilities for creating aliases, study the alias file provided to you during your training.
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