Virtual Flight Online VirtualFlight.Online

ACARS

ACARS

VirtualFlight.Online uses an ACARS client application that runs alongside your simulator to track your progress in flights. It is compatible with Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and Prepare3D. Follow the instructions below to install, configure, and use the ACARS client.


Prerequisites

The ACARS client requires that you have FSUIPC installed and running in order to connect to the simulator. FSUIPC is a trusted middleware application that exposes the internal data of flight simulators. You can use the free version of FSUIPC - there is no need to register it.

Download and Install FSUIPC

Download FSUIPC

  • Download FSUIPC 7 from www.fsuipc.com.
  • Install FSUIPC, and take note of the installation location - it comes in useful later to make a shortcut to FSUIPC to launch it manually.

Some notes about installing FSUIPC

  • During the installation, FSUIPC will ask if you want it to run automatically with Flight Simulator - you don't have to (but you may want to).
  • At the end of installation, FSUIPC will also ask you about registration - you don't need to do that either (not registering means you are running the free version).
  • All the ACARS client needs is for FSUIPC to be running in the background. To run FSUIPC manually, you can run the EXE directly from the installation location.
  • While FSUIPC is running, it has the option of automatically connecting to the simulator (if the simulator is running) - you can change this as you want. Note that if it is not connected, ACARS will not work.

How to start FSUIPC manually

  • Open Windows Explorer, and navigate to the folder where you installed FSUIPC.
  • Run the FSUIPC7.exe application (you might want to create a shortcut to it while you're at it).

Download and Install the ACARS client

Download ACARS

  • The ACARS client is available as a free download for members of VirtualFlight.Online
  • If you are already a member of a virtual airline that uses the VABase software, you just need to use your VirtualFlight.Online login details.
  • Installation is straightforward - the installer will create a shortcut in your start menu to launch the ACARS client.

Flight Tracking 101

Here's a quick run-through of the basic steps that happen in a typical flight:

  • Run the simulator
  • Fill out the ACARS flight plan page (a free flight), or dispatch a flight via the website
  • Choose the starting airfield in the simulator, and start from a parking area or gate.
  • Make sure you have FSUIPC running in the background (see below)
  • Run ACARS - the flight you dispatched will appear automagically programmed into the ACARS application.
  • When the simulator has loaded, and you've fuelled the aircraft, start the flight in the ACARS application.
  • You must at least have the parking brake on to start the flight in ACARS - so you can start ACARS after starting the aircraft.
  • Ignore ACARS saying "boarding..." - when you start taxiing, it will change status automatically.
  • When you've completed the flight and shut the aircraft back down, finish the flight in ACARS.
  • If you cannot see the button to finish the flight, make sure you have the engine off, and the parking brake on.
  • Wait nervously for a minute or two until the record appears in your logbook to see how you've done :)
  • If you're doing another flight back-to-back, either fill out the ACARS flight plan form, or dispatch it and click the refresh button in the ACARS application to prepare it for the new route.

How to Dispatch a Flight

Once you have ACARS installed, you will need to dispatch a flight to it.

  • Within the Virtual Airline website, pick an event, tour, scheduled, or chartered flight, and click the dispatch button.
  • For Events, choose a leg of the event and despatch it.
  • For Tours, choose a leg of the tour and despatch it.
  • For Scheduled Flights, choose a flight and despatch it.
  • For Chartered Flights, go to the Dispatch Center and choose the Charter option. This will route the request through Simbrief - you will need a (free) Simbrief account.

After booking a tour, event, scheduled, or charter flight you can visit the Dispatch Center for a briefing (available as a link in the header menu under your name). Booked flights are valid for several hours.

A couple of notes

  • When ACARS is first launched, it loads the currently dispatched flight automatically.
  • If you wish to cancel your currently booked flight, just head to the Dispatch Center, and cancel the flight.
  • If you cancel your flight (in the despatch center), and dispatch a different one via the website, you need to use the refresh button in the ACARS client to make it grab the currently dispatched flight details.
  • If ACARS complains about FSUIPC not running, and mentions anything about running things as Administrator - don't believe a word of it. You've just not got FSUIPC running. Start FSUIPC, give it a second, and try to start your flight.
  • If ACARS complains about being at the wrong airport, it's invariably because FSUIPC is either not running, or not connected to the simulator.

How to Start a Flight

Once you have the simulator running, and the ACARS client connected, you need to start the flight in ACARS.

  • Make sure your aircraft has the parking brake on, and is fuelled for the intended route.
  • Fill out any empty fields in the ACARS flight details.
  • Click the "Start Flight" button.

Note - you can ignore the "Boarding..." status. Boarding changes to Taxiing when you start moving.

A warning will pop up after clicking start flight - reminding you to check fuel. Once you have started the flight the ACARS client can be minimised. Note that you can only start a flight with an aircraft that has no engine running.


How to End a Flight

Once you have completed your flight:

  • Taxi, park, and shut the aircraft down.
  • Click the "Finish Flight" button in the ACARS client.

The flight will be filed automatically, with a pop-up message to confirm that it has filed. After a short delay the flight will appear in your logbook in the VirtualFlight.Online website, where you can see how well you did. Sometimes it might take a minute or two for filed flights to appear in your logbook.


What if ACARS says I'm not at the correct airfield?

There are two reasons why ACARS might report you are not at the correct airfield (either to start, or end a flight):

  • The most common reason is that you are not running FSUIPC in the background. The ACARS client needs FSUIPC to be running, and to be connected to the simulator. The easiest way to do this is to make a shortcut to the FSUIPC application, and run it yourself (you can do this while the sim is running).
  • The second most common reason is because the airfield database ACARS uses doesn't match Microsoft Flight Simulator. This is most common for smaller airfields. The solution is to file a manual PIREP - which should be automatically filled with your flight details. If the manual PIREP form is empty, go back and dispatch the flight again, then fill the manual PIREP.

I'm in contact with VABase about the airport database, because it's very annoying.


What if the Simulator Crashes ? Manual PIREPs to the rescue!

If the simulator crashes mid flight, or you lose your connection to the internet, or anything else that might cause you to not be able to file your flight automatically through ACARS, it's not the end of the world. You can still try to continue a flight through ACARS itself, or failing that, file a "manual" PIREP (short for "Pilot Report") - but you have to be mindful about how you do it if you have flown the leg of a tour:

  • Go to Dispatch and make sure your dispatched flight is still showing.
  • If your flight is not listed, go and dispatch it again.
  • File a Manual PIREP - which should be pre-filled with the dispatched flight.

Here's the important bit to remember - tour legs will only be marked as complete if you file a manual PIREP that is pre-filled from a dispatched flight. Just filling in the correct flight number into an empty PIREP isn't enough.


Why is ACARS asking to run as an Administrator?

If you're not running FSUIPC in the background, ACARS will ask you to run it with administrator rights. Ignore it.

Just make sure FSUIPC is running and connected to the simulator in the background.

If ACARS complains again (perhaps about being at the wrong airport), just try starting the flight again - it will start, but sometimes takes a couple of tries to sort it's life out.


Reporting Accurate, Fair, and Representative Information

  • When recording flights either with ACARS, or manual PIREPs, you will be expected to record fair, accurate, and representative information. This is based on trust.
  • You will not manipulate time (through acceleration or deceleration) within the simulator
  • You will not use SLEW, teleportation, or any other method of artificially moving your aircraft
  • If filing a manual PIREP your report will be as accurate, fair, and as representative as reasonably possible