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Evan Reiter


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We started last year’s annual wrap-up Logan Informer article by talking about an event: the 20th Annual Boston Tea Party. During that event, we staffed Boston and every other Class C airport in our airspace and had them all lit up for more than 5 hours.


But the article didn’t really talk about usual subjects like the traffic on the network or ATC coverage. Instead, it focused on something unique about this event. 2019’s Boston Tea Party marked the 20th year in a row our controllers came from across the country—by bus, plane, train, and automobile—to provide ATC coverage live and in-person from a facility near the real-world Boston Center building. 


That didn’t happen in 2020.


This year’s Boston Tea Party marked the first time in 20 years that the storied ATC meet-up didn’t happen. This year’s Boston Tea Party was held remotely—like most of the ATC-based events our community organizes. It joins the list of large shows, travel plans, and life events that have changed, adapted, or been postponed in the year of COVID (we promise not to use the word “unprecedented” anywhere in this article).


But this is not a sad story. There was still a BVA Boston Tea Party; our 21st annual Tea Party saw staffing at KBOS, KPVD, KBDL, KACK, and KMHT for more than 7 hours. In fact, more pilots participated in Tea Party Poker than ever before, winning prizes from FlightBeam, Honeycomb, Orbx, Thrustmaster, and other top simulation developers. The truth is, flight simmers have been social distancing since before it was popular.


One of the best things about our hobby is that, rain or shine, we’re here for each other (as long as the power doesn’t go out). This year, simulation has played a bigger role in many people’s lives. We’ve seen furloughed pilots turn to the sim for currency and 10-year inactive members return to our ranks. Under stay-at-home or work-from-home protocols, people have built new rigs and dusted off old yokes. As we wrap up the year that was, and wasn’t, join us on a look back at how the past 12 months have played out in our community.


By the Numbers


BVA began the year with 855 active members. As we end 2020, there are more than 1,050 active BVA pilots and controllers (an active member must login to the website at least once in 12 months). On average, we add just over one new pilot or controller each day. More than ever before, we saw names from 5, 10, and 15 years ago returning to our ranks this year.


As of December 31, our ATC roster included 147 home controllers (including those in training). 127 have worked at least one hour on position, and collectively our controllers provided more than 16,500 hours of coverage across all positions.


But perhaps most impressive about the year is just how popular Boston has become. In 2020, KBOS was the 7th-busiest airport in the VATSIM world, with almost 46,000 takeoffs and landings. In the U.S., we were second only to KATL for takeoffs and landings in 2020. KBOS was also the busiest event airport in VATUSA between March and December, with 311 more takeoffs and landings than second-place KDEN (KORD, KATL, and KMIA round out the top five). Boston Center was staffed for 3,106.5 hours (35% uptime), an increase of 41% from last year. (Boston Approach was online for 1,603 hours and Boston Tower for 2,400 hours, uptimes of 18% and 27% respectively.)




In 2020, our controllers staffed more than 35 events. As the only U.S. ARTCC with an integrated pilot community of more than 1,000 members, we’re proud of our focus on General Aviation traffic. Our recurring events (Regional Circuit, GA Fly-In, and Minor Facility Showcase) are specifically designed for “low and slow” aircraft, featuring smaller airports with some of New England’s best scenery. On average, we held two of these events every month in 2020.


But, as the busiest event airport in VATUSA (since March), we also put on plenty of large-scale events featuring our home airport. (Hyperlinks for each event we describe will take you to timelapse videos if you’re already feeling nostalgic enough to relive them!)


KBOS-focused events included our annual Northeast Corridor (KBOS/KJFK/KDCA), the Honk! FNO, which also saw Bradley land a record 77 arrivals, and our Winter Kickoff FNO from a few weeks ago.


Boston was also a featured airport in Cross the Pond; we landed 241 aircraft in April (with a record-setting 42 hourly arrivals at the peak of the traffic) and sent 148 back this fall—apparently a few decided to stay for the beautiful, sunny New England winters! During our annual Boston Tea Party, the satellite airports (KACK, KBDL, KMHT, and KPVD) collectively outstripped KBOS for traffic, probably because everyone was competing for the Honeycomb yoke!


We wrapped up the events year with our traditional 60 Hours of ATC event, where 56 controllers managed almost 1,500 KBOS takeoffs and landings over the course of 470 concurrent ATC hours.


Of course, it wasn’t just Boston. Our minor events have seen staff-ups at KASH, KBTV, KGON, KOQU, KPSM, and plenty more. We featured KBDL in our annual Bradley Bash event this October. Courtesy of LatinVFR—who had just released a new payware scenery for P3D and MSFS—pilots had the opportunity to win a copy of the new scenery just by flying to the airport. One of the objectives for us this year was to work with developers like LatinVFR to help create high-quality payware scenery for our airports. The availability of payware products for KACK, KBDL, and KBOS helps explain why these locations are so popular for flight simmers!


ATC Training


The realities of 2020 have made it our busiest-ever year for ATC training. In 2018, we issued 74 ATC certifications; in 2019, that increased to 100. This year, we have issued 202, including five new Center controllers. Overall, we added 19 new senior controllers to the roster, meaning pilots can expect more Approach and Center coverage than ever before. On average, once a student is assigned to a Mentor or Instructor, it takes about 29 days for them to complete training and receive a certification, which is typically given on the fifth training session.


In 2020, we also added 11 Mentors and promoted 2 new Instructors, bringing our training staff to 22. Only controllers who reach the Senior Controller (S3) rating are eligible to become Mentors. The increase in our staff is a direct result of the explosive growth in new controllers we’ve seen this year.


Community Building


The two big, in-person events we plan every year are FlightSimExpo (June) and Boston Tea Party (August). Although neither happened in-person this year, we still found ways to keep the community connected. Whether through late-night group video calls, shared complaints about MSFS features, or through our everyday controlling, our community continues to come together.


Although it didn’t happen until August, a defining moment of the year was the release of Microsoft’s new flight simulator. With continued development, the simulator is steadily improving and is (in our opinion) getting closer to offering members an improvement on existing platforms. For now, our recommendations remain the same:


Based on member feedback and comments from the simulation community, BVA recommends: 

  1. If you’re already using Prepar3D or X-Plane to fly IFR, those likely offer a better experience than you would get in the new simulator. 
  2. If you’re using FSX with a significant number of add-on aircraft and sceneries, continuing to use FSX will give you a better overall VATSIM experience than MSFS, at this time.
  3. If you feel a need to purchase a new simulator immediately, consider Prepar3D v5 or X-Plane before MSFS. 
  4. If you are using FSX with a few (or no) add-ons and are happy with it, you will get a much better experience by upgrading to MSFS.

However, we expect that continued development on the new sim will mean it does become ready for ‘primetime’ in the next few months. To help members share their experiences, we’ve created a forum thread for you to contribute to. As you encounter great add-ons or enhancements for the sim, payware or freeware, let us know!

Another bright spot from 2020 was the resurgence of Cape Air Virtual. The twin-prop operation, which offers regional service around New England, allows our pilots to simulate one of the coolest parts of the KBOS operation. While flying their C402s, Tecnams, and other substitute aircraft into Logan, Cape Air Virtual pilots give our controllers the challenge of sequencing in the slower-moving traffic with the jet arrivals. Cape Air has become much more active this year, hosting weekly pilot events and growing to 60 total pilots over the course of 2020.


We also worked with CFIs Alec and Krikor to update our Ground School videos on YouTube. Held as a series of 9 live webinars between July and September, Ground School covered popular pilot topics like Radio Communications, IFR Clearances, Holds, and more. You can view the entire series on YouTube.


Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2020 for BVA was the launch of Wings Over New England (WINGS). Building from our extremely successful Pilot Ratings Program, WINGS introduced 4 new flights, updated several others, and added new concepts, images, and explanations to the training material. Since the program launched, more than 200 members have participated, completing over 800 ratings flights in our airspace. Now, 26 BVA members can proudly display the airplane icon identifying them as a WINGS Graduate in our Member Discord. Since launching in 2012, the program has contributed almost 6,000 flights to our airspace!


Moving into 2021


Toward the end of each year, BVA’s Administration Team gathers to review our progress and set goals for the coming year. For 2020, we published a series of goals—and actually met most of them, despite the re-focusing this year required. By April, the goal quickly became managing the massive increase in interest in home flight simulation. From new network traffic management initiatives to adding Mentors and Instructors, we have tried our best to provide a welcoming, friendly community for people looking for new ways to spend their free time.


Odd as it might sound, our hope is that 2020 was our busiest year ever. We don’t need to be the 7th-busiest airport on VATSIM every year; in real life, KBOS doesn’t even crack the top 50 busiest airports in the world. We love the traffic and we’re happy that we could play a role in making people’s year a little more fun and engaging. But we also want the world to get “back to normal” in 2021.


We want to be able to meet up at FlightSimExpo in San Diego and make our 22nd annual Boston Tea Party an in-person affair. We want to be able to spend time on position, training students, and creating great training and learning experiences for our members. However, we also want to maintain the momentum. We hope that the controllers who became certified this year want to stay with us, earn their Center certifications, and continue providing great coverage for our pilots.


For that reason, we have decided not to publish formal goals for 2021. Instead, we’ll continue to respond to member requests and changing trends in our industry to continue creating great pilot-controller interactions, both online and in-person.


We’ll continue to schedule an average of 3 recurring Events each month, focusing on smaller, regional airports to give our Class C controllers the opportunity to manage traffic. We’ll work with Cape Air Virtual to provide ATC coverage for their events and host 3 VATUSA FNOs, Bradley Bash, 60 Hours of ATC, and more.


We expect ATC Training to continue to be popular as we move into 2021. As we write, there are almost 70 students in our training pipeline—that’s more than the number of active controllers that was on our roster 18 months ago! As we certify more controllers, more step up to the plate by volunteering for our Training Staff, growing the snowball and giving us even more resources for the future.


Finally, our Community Building efforts never stop. We’ll continue working toward harmonizing our Discord, forums, and TeamSpeak (a project that started earlier this year) and are looking at updating the Getting Started Guide with modern functionality and better content. We’re also reviewing our Radio Communications, Downloads, and Recommended Add-Ons pages to ensure this content remains relevant for the community. Finally, we look forward continuing to work with the Cape Air Virtual leadership team.


We often get asked by members how they can help build the community. As we move into 2021, there are two specific ways members can help. The biggest is deciding where to fly. As we’ve effectively doubled the number of active controllers in our airspace, not everyone has the chance to control at Boston. That means, more than ever, we are seeing coverage at our satellite airports, both during events and on regular evenings. Often, controllers working at KBDL, KACK, KPVD, and other regional airports are new to our community, trying to gain the experience needed to train and certify at KBOS. By electing to fly to, from, or between these secondary airports, you help give them the traffic they need to get this practice. You also help smooth out traffic flows, avoiding backlogs and delays at Boston.


When you choose to fly, especially outside of events, consider departing from a staffed satellite airport. Or, when you see satellite airport Approach and Tower in the “Expected ATC Coverage” on our homepage, consider bringing your B737 or A320 flight into their airspace. Even better, grab a bugsmasher and fly between our regional airports, taking a look at the beautiful MSFS visuals on your way! Cape Air Virtual plays a big role here, and we’re grateful to their pilots for challenging our newer controllers’ ability to sequence traffic. Ultimately, by keeping everyone busy, we’ll help retain more of the many controllers we’ve certified this year and help them earn their Center certifications too.


The second thing members can contribute is to technology. We continue to seek people who would be willing to contribute graphic design, website content, images, and other frontend website development to our community. If you compare the WINGS flights to older resources like our Radio Communications page, you’ll see what we’re talking about. If you have experience managing websites, creating images and video, and working with frontend website design, we’d love to hear from you! Reach out to Evan ([email protected]) or Szymon ([email protected]) with your ideas and experience; we’ll be happy to put you to work!


If BVA was part of your life over these past twelve months, we hope it’s been in a positive way. In a year where so much hasn’t happened, the simulation community has grown stronger than ever. With active development on more than three primary platforms and significant growth in online traffic, flight simulation is well-positioned for what the future brings to real-world aviation.


We hope—really hope—to see you again in-person before the next year-end article gets written. And, until then, we know we’ll be sending you a PDC, reading back a clearance, or just saying hello in Discord and TeamSpeak real soon.




Evan Reiter

Community Director
Administration Team

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