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Thread: Real world operations Thomas Cook virtual -- By real, literally!

  1. #11


    I don't think anyone would join a 100% realistic VA. If you want to represent a major then you will want people with ATP and since there is not officially recognized vFAA, vEASA, or vICAO then only real world ATPs should count. Majors generally only hire people with Part 121 or military experience. Since no one can guarentee the quality of other VAs then only real world pilots with 5 years of part 121 experience of military pilots with 10 years of experience. You would need to complete a multipage application including a methodology of computing your flight hours that takes PhD to figure out, pass drug screening, and then be interviewed first by HR to include psychological profile, then pass a technical interview. If you get past all of that the real world will schedule you for a sim check most likely at 2AM since that is when their line pilots are not using the sim for training. If you want to be realistic then only a certified Level D simulator should count.

    The realistic VA will then get back to you in about 2 weeks and would reject 60% of all applicants. Once the realistic VA gets back with you they will provide a training date in which we expect you to be avilable for the full 6 weeks of training and comit to 8 hours per day in the classroom and study for another 4 hours per day. Fail any stage check twice and you are fired.

    You can expect to be checked out in only 1 aircraft and that is the aircraft you will fly for the next 5 to 10 years. After training, you will be assigned to a check Captain who will complete your training live. For the next 5 - 7 years the realistic VA will expect you to put in 70 hours per month connecting to shared cockpits and performing the duties FO. You can expect to touch the stick maybe 33% of the time.

    Sounds more like a job than a hobby? You bet it is. It is a highly technical job that requires exceptionally qualified candidates. The average cost of an ATP has risen to well over 150,000 USD + College Tuition and cutting your teeth in the Regionals means living on Raman Noodles and saying goodbye to any social life. Your first 7 to 10 years will be spent earning a megar paycheck while paying back a huge debt. (Gee sounds like Medical or Law School?)

    Somethings in the VA world we are stuck with. Someone decided that PREP means filing a report after a flight and NOTAM was the VAs method of sending out information to its virtual crews. You can complain about the misuse of termonology all day long but it is never going to change. The people who code software that allows VAs to run have embraced this incorrect lingo. There is also the HUB and Spoke system that died back in the 90s yet nearly every VA still operates this way. Anytime you decided to make a Fantasy Football League out of something, in our case we call it VAs, something has to give and that is reality. It is a part time hobby that most do for fun. Realism is how much time do you want to commit to your hobby and there are plenty of VAs out there that offer varying levels of 'realism,' but none are realistic.

    Want realistic, I can recommend a few Aviation Universities.

  2. #12


    There are actually a few Virtual Thomas Cook operations out there, but here is one worth checking out:

    Given some of the over the top and fairly unwelcoming responses the OP received on this thread, I'd check out that link I posted rather expecting a reply from him.

    If you want to do some Thomas Cook Airline virtual flights yourself, then it is relatively easy to make them reasonably realistic, or at least as realistic and you practically can in a flight sim without going completely over the top. I know this to be the case, because I actually work for Thomas Cook's ramp service agent at their main base of operations (Manchester EGCC), and prior to that job, I did some work for the airline itself, including designing some of the training and SOP materials their pilots use.

    So, if you simply want to do some relatively realistic TC flights, first, you want to get hold of the Manchester Airport Android Phone app (this is free, a quick search of the Android store will find it). Once installed, search the arrivals or departures bit of the app and filter it to only Thomas Cook flights by typing 'MT' into the search field (all Thomas Cook flight numbers start with this prefix and have typically four numbers following that). The MT prefix is a legacy of the airline's origins, which still use the prefix for the now defunct airline My Travel, which became part of Thomas Cook. Using that app should give you a list of flights operating into and out of Manchester (Thomas Cook's main base), it will give you scheduled arrival/departure times and expected actual times. This data is very accurate, although in my job, we receive ACARS information from the actual Thomas Cook airliners whilst they are in flight, and data from Eurocontrol too, when on the ramp, most of us just use that app on our phones as it does reflect things very accurately. If you want to know equipment types, it's pretty simple with Thomas Cook; most flights are either A321s or A330s and you can guess which ones will be used most of the time simply off the length of the flight, i.e. flights to places like Dalaman to/from Manchester would typically be an A321, flights to places like Orlando to/from Manchester would be an A330, although you can also use one of many Flight Radar Tracker sites or apps to confirm that, which will also give you things such as cruise altitudes used and routings taken by the aircraft. At EGCC, Thomas Cook aircraft tend to use Pier C most of the time, so that would be typically stands 24, 26, 28, 32, at night they use the remote stands too, typically the ones up near stand 70. They also use - providing they are not in use by Easyjet - some stands around numbers 6 to 12.

    Oh and Thomas Cook's ATC callsign is 'Kestrel', so your flight identity will be something like 'Kestrel 1234' if you want to use 'proper' ATC. As far as loadout is concerned for simulated aeroplane's passengers and baggage, most TC flights are pretty much full and since they are, that usually means plenty of bags, i.e. the rear cargo hold will be filled to capacity, the forward hold maybe about half full. A330s use AKE ULD containerised luggage with a few loose bags in the rear and occasionally some palleted cargo in the forward hold, all their A321s use non-containerised individual luggage and very occasionally there will be some freight in the forward hold although quite often the forward hold will be empty or very nearly so since the rear hold is big on an A321. Note that one or two TC A321s have an additional fuel tank in the rear hold space up near where the wing is although this is not that common, so not all the fleet is identical for either A330s or A321s, for example, currently TC are leasing an A330 registered: 9H-AGU. This is painted all white at the moment (although it might apparently be getting a temporary TC tail logo), so you don't even have to worry about a paint job and can still be realistic with an A330. This is probably enough for most people as far as 'realism' is concerned with airline specifics.

    As far as airliners to use in your simulator is concerned, if you want reasonably decent realism, there are a few A321 choices, the two most well known ones being the Black Box Simulations version and the Aerosoft version although if you are prepared to surrender a bit of type accuracy in favour of much more realistic systems accuracy, you might also choose to use the Flight Sim Labs A320/A319. I can tell you for a fact that the SOP manuals which Thomas Cook pilots actually use for real is the same one for the A320 as it is for the A321 and even the A330, with only a few cautionary notes about rotation, landing angle to avoid tail strikes and turning circles on the ground as far as the differences between the A320 and 321 notes are concerned, so using the FSL A320 as a stand in for an A321 would not be desperately unrealistic. Thomas Cook have (very rarely) chartered an A340 and do have some B757s too, but these are rarely seen at their Manchester base, however, BBS do make an A340 if you want to simulate that and Captain Sim make a Boeing 757. If you want some cheaper options than these add-ons however, Just Flight have a free Boeing 757 and also some 'lite' Airbus simulator add-ons which are inexpensive and not bad.

    Hope that helps - Al
    Last edited by Chock; 07-11-2018 at 11:01 AM.

  3. #13


    I was not attacking the OP with my response, it was meant as a satire on those who think that VA realism has to be a certain way. The reality is that you have all types who join a group and each has specific expectations. Some enjoy highly technical aspects while others eschew it. You embrace one group at the risk of alienating the other.

    In a VA the customer is not the virtual passengers, but it is the members of the VA. You have to build the business around the customers and in this hobby that just kills the realism.

    Instead of trying to find that mystical tier 5 VA that is ultra realistic and does not exisit, make the best of the organization that you enjoy. Just because you enjoy memorizing all of the immediate action steps and limitations of every product that comes out of PMDG, does not mean everyone else shares that enjoyment. Most members of VAs just want to do their thing without a draconian staff breathing down their necks. If they are not having fun, they stop flying, membership dwindles, and the VA fails.

    I also believe that instead of creating more VAs, there are many great VAs out there that could use more staff to make them better. I know I struggle to fill a meger staff roster. If you insit on opening a VA, then please find your niche' and make it great! Opening another ...insert name of real world airline here... just because, hurts VAs as a whole. It fractures the already small membership. Competition is great, but too much competition becomes counter productive.

    Sorry, seems I jumped on the pulpet.


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