Flightsimmers Rise in Popularity

"Vatsim 702, cleared for takeoff, contact departure on frequency 124.7" the flightsimmer announces with confidence from his computer chair.

"Tower, Vatsim 702 switching to departure," and by now you’re wondering who is going where. But air traffic radio chatter like this isn’t unusual for Vatsim-flight-simulator-air-traffic controllers. Flightsimmers virtually spend hours bringing national and international flights to a smooth landing. Vatsim stands for virtual air traffic simulation network, and their air traffic controllers spend two years in written and simulated flight training before taking control of virtual airspace.

Business News says that In Imaginary Skies, Would-Be Controllers Guide Pretend Pilots. But sometimes, Vatsim controllers cross paths with real-world pilots. "Last year, the Israeli airline El Al ran newly hired 737 pilots through a PC simulation hosted by members of Vatsim in Israel to hone their commercial-airline radio skills in a realistic environment." So if you’re wondering where hours spent monitoring fake flights might lead, well, you just never know.