Join Boston Virtual ARTCC
This page provides everything you need to know in order to complete the entrance exam on the next page.
If you are already a VATSIM pilot or have experience flying with realistic, online aviation communities, you may wish to keep this page open and proceed directly to the Entrance Exam. If you're new to online flying, you will probably want to read through the materials on this page before you start the exam.
Boston Virtual ARTCC (BVA) is an integrated community of pilots and controllers focused on the Boston Center (ZBW) airspace, within VATSIM's global network of pilots and controllers.
There are no special requirements for BVA pilots. Simply decide where you wish to fly, file a flight plan (if necessary), speak to the relevant controllers, and start flying. As BVA is not a 'virtual airline', there are no special callsigns, liveries, or aircraft requirements for our members. Similarly, there are no currency or activity requirements for pilots. Just login and fly, whenever and as often as you wish. The only requirement to keep your account active is to ensure that your email address remains active.
BVA pilots interact with our controllers when flying in the Boston ARTCC (ZBW) airspace on VATSIM. While BVA pilots are welcome to fly around the VATSIM world, pilots only interact with BVA air traffic controllers when flying inside of ZBW. Pilots who fly in other areas of the world may be able to receive air traffic control from other VATSIM organizations.
Members join BVA by completing an entrance exam and a long-answer application. This helps ensure that members who join the community have a base level of knowledge to be able to participate effectively in our activities, and can continue to build on that base of knowledge using the many training and reference materials that are available to members. After being accepted, members are directed to the Getting Started Guide, which explains the step-by-step instructions for connecting to the VATSIM network as a BVA member.
Your application to BVA has no impact on your account with VATSIM, or your ability to fly and control on the network. In fact, you are welcome to fly on VATSIM, in ZBW, before your application is accepted. Once you are accepted, you'll have access to our TeamSpeak server, Discord, community forums,and an incredible library of learning resources. You will also become part of one of the most active, professional, and community-oriented ARTCCs on the VATSIM network.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions...ever! Controllers much prefer to answer a simple question than to correct a mistake after it has already been made. If you don't understand an instruction, ask for clarification. You will hear pilots do this all the time in real life.
- Unless you are sure that you are at an uncontrolled airport, do not to start taxiing or flying without talking to someone first. Even if you get the wrong frequency by accident, we'll help you find the right person.
- Come prepared with charts. Read the recommended material and have relevant charts and frequencies handy before you sign in to fly with controllers. Charts for U.S. airports are available from a number of online sources including AirNav.com, SkyVector.com, Fltplan.com, and others.
- Begin with an aircraft you know how to control. If this is your first time flying multiplayer, you should not be searching for your radio stack or fooling around with an FMC. Start with something manageable, and then work your way up.
- Only accept what you can. If you are unsure of an instruction or don't know what it means, reply with a form of the word "unable" and ask air traffic control for alternate instructions.
- Only connect to the network when parked at a ramp or gate. Don't connect in the air, on a taxiway, or blocking a runway.
- Don't pause in controlled airspace without asking a controller for permission first.
- Listen, and wait your turn. Before speaking on an ATC frequency, make sure that the frequency is silent. If it's not, wait until pilots and controllers have completely finished their conversation, wait a few more seconds, and then begin your request.
We expect members of BVA to act professionally, maturely, and respectfully at all times within the confines of our community. We are not governed by codified rules; instead, BVA is governed by a set of norms and shared values that unite our members. We work together in expressing our passion about aviation. Members are therefore expected to recognize the needs and wants of other users, and use our shared values and objectives to frame decisions.
When communicating through the VATSIM network or BVA's servers (including TeamSpeak, Discord, our forums, and the website), BVA members are responsible to act within the confines of our shared values:
- Mutual respect
- Responsibility and accountability
- Empathy and courtesy
You must also abide by the VATSIM Code of Conduct and Code of Regulations.
Your account is your responsibility. Keep your password safe and ensure you are the only one who has access to sign in to our server under your VATSIM ID.
Please visit the Member Expectations page for more information on how the community operates.
Setting Up Your Aircraft
Selecting an Aircraft
Your first flight with BVA is not the time to try out a new aircraft. Choose something that is familiar to you and that you can control easily. While flying heavy aircraft or military jets is not expressly prohibited, these aircraft tend to amplify mistakes. For that reason, we recommend starting with a simpler, slower aircraft and working your way up.
Regardless of the aircraft type you choose, you are expected to comply with the rules of civil aviation at all times. These include requirements for contacting ATC, the ability to comply with (or request alternative) ATC instructions, and blanket rules such as the country-wide speed restriction of 250 knots below 10,000’ MSL. If you are flying VFR, remember that VFR aircraft are not permitted in Class A airspace, and thus the highest permissible altitude for a VFR aircraft is 17,999'.
Choosing a Callsign
When you connect to the network, you need to select an accurate callsign that will be used to communicate with ATC. There are two general 'types' of callsign.
General aviation aircraft (i.e., non-airliners) use the aircraft's registration number (also called 'N-number' or 'tail number') as callsigns. For aircraft registered in the U.S. begin with the letter 'N', which is followed by:
- Anywhere from one to five numbers (i.e. N24896, N5333, N243, N12, N2)
- Anywhere from one to four numbers, followed by a letter (i.e. N2385P, N829P, N12A, N2A)
- Anywhere from one to three numbers followed by two letters (i.e. N107KR, N70AF, N2AG)
Note that the letters 'I' (India) and 'O' (Oscar) are not used in these tail numbers to avoid confusion with the numbers 1 (one) and 0 (zero), and the numeric portion of these call signs cannot begin with zero (for example, N032BC is incorrect). Tail numbers for aircraft registered in other countries vary. Callsigns painted on an aircraft’s fuselage may include a dash (-) character for readability. This character is omitted in air traffic control systems and thus should not be entered into the 'Tail Number' box when selecting your callsign.
Airline callsigns consist of a three letter prefix assigned to the airline, followed by one to four numbers representing the flight number. Again, dashes are not used in the call sign (i.e. use AAL603 instead of AAL-603). For more information about airline callsigns, visit our Airline Designators page in the Pilot References section of the website.
Aircraft Type or Type Code
When connecting to the network, you also need to specify your "Type Code", or the type of aircraft you are flying. This information is used by other pilots to identify the aircraft you are flying.
The Type Code is a three or four unique character code for the aircraft you are flying. Some type codes for common aircraft include:
- Cessna 172: C172
- Beechcraft Baron 58: BE58
- Boeing 747-400: B744
- Airbus A321: A321
- Boeing 737-700: B737
You can access a full list of type codes on the Aircraft Type Abbreviations page in the Pilot References section of the website. Ensure to reference this list when you are connecting to the network.
Filing a Flight Plan
Flight plans are filed through a VATSIM pilot client, or pre-filed online. Just like in real life, flight plans are required for all IFR flights. VFR flight plans are optional, but recommended.
A screenshot of the flight plan form in vPilot, which is the most popular VATSIM pilot client, is shown below:
More information about completing and filing a flight plan will be provided once your application is approved. However, there are a few important points to note about filing flight plans.
IFR flights are always flown at altitudes on the thousands.
- For IFR flights eastbound, fly at an odd altitude (i.e. 7,000'; 11,000'; FL330)
- For IFR flights westbound, fly at an even altitude (i.e. 8,000'; 12,000'; FL340)
The term 'flight level' (FL) refers to altitudes where a constant altimeter setting of 29.92 is used. Each is stated in three digits that represent hundreds of feet. For example, flight level (FL) 250 represents a barometric altimeter indication of 25,000’; FL255 an indication of 25,500’. In the United States, flight levels begin at 18,000’ MSL. Thus, an altimeter indication of 16,000' would be read as 'one six thousand' whereas an indication of 20,000' would be read as 'flight level two zero zero' and the constant altimeter setting would be used. The transition altitude (18,000’ MSL in the United States) does not vary with local altimeter settings.
VFR flights follow the same rules as IFR flights, but add 500' to each altitude. Remember, VFR flight is prohibited in Class A airspace (above 17,999' MSL).
- For VFR flights eastbound, fly at an odd altitude plus 500 (i.e. 7,500'; 11,500')
- For VFR flights westbound, fly at an even altitude plus 500 (i.e. 8,500'; 12,500')
Pilots are encouraged to file a route of flight when filing IFR flight plans. Preferred routes are available on our website.
Who Do I Talk To?
Controllers at Boston Virtual ARTCC provide ATC within the Boston ARTCC (ZBW). The airspace covers 165,000 square miles of airspace in Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, and parts of New York State:
BVA controllers only provide coverage within the region shown above. In other regions of VATSIM, controllers from other organizations like BVA will provide ATC coverage, but their coverage and policies may differ from ours. Regardless of geographic location on the network, VATSIM members require different certifications to act as controllers.
Active controllers will appear in your pilot client and also on network monitoring tools like Vattastic and VATSpy. The position the controller is working is identified by the three-letter airport code, an underscore, and then the following abbreviations:
- DEL = Clearance Delivery
- GND = Ground Control
- TWR = Local Control (Tower)
- APP = Approach
- DEP = Departure
- CTR = Center
For example, Boston Tower would connect to the network as "BOS_TWR".
On the VATSIM network, and within the area that BVA provides ATC coverage, controllers will login to the highest position they wish to control and cover positions "underneath" that are not staffed. This is referred to as "top-down coverage", and it's common across most free online networks. For example, if you see a Boston Approach controller online (e.g., BOS_APP on 133.00), the controller handles approach, and will also cover Boston Tower, Ground, and Clearance, if another controller is not logged on to any of those positions.
If you are ever unsure of which controller to contact, call the controller you think will provide coverage via voice, provide your location, and ask for the correct frequency. The controller will be happy to point you to the right place. Because ATC audio is range-based, if you don't get a response from one controller, you may have to try contacting someone else (or reach them via a private/text message).
At all times, when there are no controllers online, monitor UNICOM on 122.80, and treat the network as you would for a VFR flight in uncontrolled airspace, making appropriate position reports via text or voice and keeping an eye out for other traffic.
To further clarify which controller is the right one to speak with, consider the following list of active controllers:
- BOS_GND (on 121.90)
- BDL_DEL (on 121.75)
- BOS_CTR (on 134.70)
- NY_CTR (on 125.32)
In this example scenario:
- Flying IFR from KBOS to KBDL, an aircraft would contact 121.90 (Boston Ground) for clearance and taxi. Because BOS_TWR and BOS_APP are offline, the Ground controller would advise the pilot to contact BOS_CTR on 134.70 for takeoff clearance. BOS_CTR will also provide vectors for landing at KBDL (because there are no BDL_APP or BDL_TWR controllers online).
- Flying IFR from KBDL to KBOS, an aircraft would initially contact 121.65 (Bradley Clearance) for clearance. The aircraft would then be instructed to contact BOS_CTR for taxi and takeoff instructions.
- Flying VFR into KBDL, if not receiving Flight Following, an aircraft should contact BDL_TWR or BOS_CTR about 20 miles from the airport to receive sequencing instructions. Because this aircraft is VFR, no vectoring will be provided.
- A pilot at KHFD who was unsure of which frequency to contact could reach either BOS_CTR on NY_CTR and ask for clarification on which controller is operating that airport.
When making contact with a controller for the first time, identify the controller, explain who you are, and finally what you want. If you have a long or non-standard message that will take more than a few seconds, you may want to ask the controller if there is time for the entire request. For example:
- “Bradley Ground, Delta Two, request IFR Clearance to Boston”
- “Boston Center, Cessna 153KB, south ramp, request taxi, VFR closed traffic”
- “Boston Departure, N311KR, request"
Please remember that when you leave our ZBW home airspace, you are no longer flying with BVA controllers. While members are encouraged to explore the world of VATSIM, it's important to remember that you are only talking to BVA controllers when you are flying within the Boston (ZBW) ARTCC.
Help! None of This Makes Sense...
If you are confused about any of the information above—or don't understand it at all, DON'T PANIC! This information is only provided to help you through our entrance exam. After that, you’ll have access to more comprehensive information in the Getting Started Guide. There are also several other resources available if you are interested in learning more.
Once accepted, you'll be directed to our Orientation pages. This section of the website is specifically designed to help orient you to the many resources available to help you get started. From our Getting Started Guide (which takes you through how to configure your PC/simulator and connect to the network step-by-step) to our Radio Communications page (which explains, with examples, how to communicate with ATC), you'll find everything you need to know on our website.
Wings Over New England
Wings Over New England Pilot Ratings, accessible at www.bvartcc.com/wings, is a self-study pilot training program designed to teach flight operations within the air traffic control system for BVA members. The program consists of a series of flights, each of which builds in new concepts about flying with air traffic control. Flights can be conducted any time air traffic control is available within ZBW. You'll have full access to participate in the program once you are part of the community.
The Forums and Discord
BVA has a very active forum community that contains a wealth of interesting and useful information. If you have a question, you are probably not the only one (or the first!). If you have general questions, comments, problems, or suggestions that you feel the community should know (or can help with), making a post on the open forums is a great idea. If you have a specific or private question, you can use the forums to email or send a private message to a member. You can also connect with our members using Discord and TeamSpeak.
Contact Us via Email
Finally, our administrators are always happy to point you in the direction of additional information or answer questions via email. Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us; let us know what help you need or what type of program you are looking for, and we will be sure to point you in the right direction.
Once you have a good understanding of the material on this page, click the 'Next' button below to proceed to our entrance exam. The exam contains questions based solely on this material and a score of 80% or higher is required to pass. It may be useful to keep this page open for reference as you move through the exam.