Where are you, Virtual Airlines…

Once upon a time, the skies of SL were filled with many pilots sporting planes with just a few different liveries. These liveries represented the virtual airlines (VA’s) that dominated SL for some time. They were a part of one or another group of people that were friends and companions that shared a love for flying, and friendship with each other.

The names of Vulture Air, Unity, Eagle, SLCS and a select few others were the leaders of the VA community. Pilots flew these labels with pride. Why? Besides the friendship and support of fellow pilots, you had the pride of having EARNED the label. No one just grabbed an airplane, slapped on a Vulture (or other) livery and started announcing flights. For most of the VA’s you had to prove yourself as an avid professional with a desire to be a part of something special.

A successful VA boasted the ability to host charters with fully crewed planes (pilot, copilot, flight attendant) and often even ground crews.

What Changed?

From observing the postings (or sometimes lack thereof) in Passengers of SL, the picture seems different today. While there are lots of liveries out there, it seems like the affiliation that made the virtual airlines great has been lost. Oh there are postings of flights. But any posting from most named “airlines” tends to be from the same pilot for a particular airline. In short, it appears that most want to do their own thing.

So What Happened?

Starting with the obvious, sometime near the end of 2017, flying in SL became almost as dangerous as space flight. It was almost even money whether a particular flight would make it from point A to point B. Further, it was a pretty safe bet that any flight with more than five passengers would lose at least one along the way (usually more). Region crossings became a throw of the dice.

Perhaps also, the fundamental makeup of SL has changed. Role play seems to be a dying practice. The things we enjoy as pilots mostly involve doing things that are not socially inviting. Sure we have some great organized flights, drives and cruises. But observe that these organized activities involve people together for a few moments at the start and then watch how many planes, boats and automobiles leave with only one occupant. In short, you’re still doing the activity alone.

Finally, as we all know, the first aircraft creator to really embrace the passenger community came with “baggage” that generated a grand split in the airline community. Of course that drama has mostly gone the way of the sopwith camel, but it took its toll, turned friends into enemies and overall made great entertainment for some of us “listening” to the lunacy that resulted in many of the aviation groups. Enough said about that.

But Star, Aren’t Region Crossing deaths the Biggest Cause?

Well I’d like to think so, except for one thing. For well over a year, even the once dreaded ATX-72 can now cross a region without breaking much of a sweat. The migration to AWS forced Linden Labs to finally acknowledge and fix the major bug that caused the death by crossing problem. In short, while region crossings still cause some hiccups, they are no longer the killer they once were. Flights can often end with the same number of avatars they started with. We don’t often get snapped back to the beginning as if we were caught in a reverse slingshot.

What Do We Want Now?

I’d love to see the VA’s once again dominate the skies. Anyone can hop in a plane and pretend to fly the thing with little regard to any semblance of order or realism. But hey you can do that in Flight Simulator.

The question to you, dear reader, is what would YOU like to see in your flying experience in SL? I’m sure many of you do indeed enjoy just the flying experience. And that is OK. SL is about doing what is fun for us. If you want more than that, please keep reading.

The Virtual Airline

What makes the difference between flying independently vs being a part of a VA? In just a couple of words, structure, association and a sense of purpose. Here are the finer points.

  1. Energized/enthused participants. Of course the most important part are the people. They need:
    1. An interest in aviation. More than just pilots, a VA needs flight attendants, ground crew and mechanics.
    2. A desire to achieve some degree of realistic flight.
    3. Willingness and desire to be a team player.
    4. Flexibility. The reality of SL is sometimes you might need to support a flight by serving a different role than normal.
  2. Structure. A well defined virtual airline will have several aspects of structure such as:
    1. Flight manual with operating rules.
    2. Crew certifications.
    3. Training.
    4. Professional looking liveries and uniforms.
    5. Leaders AND front line staff.
  3. Physical presence. Having counters at multiple airports not only gives legitimacy to the VA, it supports the airports that the VA actually needs to exist. You can’t have realistic flight without places to take off and land. And airports are not free.
  4. Talented people to do the background work. That means content creators for logos, plane liveries and other in world content, web site designers if a web presence is desired, creative writers to design professional grade operating manuals and rosters.

The above shopping list may seem grandiose. But it is an ultimate goal. Effectively it is the creation of a semi-structured role play group that has the entire span of SL as their playground.

Passengers: The Key Element

Of course, what good is a virtual airline if we do not have passengers that want to fly. They are out there. Many just gave up for the same reasons many of us did. Region crossings, lack of reliability, name your reason. But I submit that if the virtual airlines reacquire their greatness, the passengers will return. I’ve seen more than one solicitation for charter flights in Passengers of SL.

Final Thoughts

We can have a lot of small “mom and pop” airlines, or a few dominant carriers with close friends and colleagues as what once made SL aviation a grand community. Share your thoughts.

Blue Skies!


6 thoughts on “Where are you, Virtual Airlines…

  1. I think you made some good points. Even before the period where sim crossings were death and then the time after that where the wold map was broken there was another issue. It’s one shared by the firefighting community. Everyone wants to be the one in charge. Except most of the time it’s for their own ego, not because they have any real leadership or organizational skill. If they manage to get anyone to work under them, said people see how little the ‘leader’ is doing, decide they could do it better, and the next thing you know it, they’ve created yet another livery and the the cycle repeats.

    I’ll point out that the better VA’s didn’t have to post ‘Pilots Wanted’ notices very often. People saw them being active and flying with far more skill than the usual dive at the runway noob, and wanted to learn how and be part of that. They learned and found out doing something well was more fun than doing it poorly. VA’s will only have a chance, if that idea takes hold again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a fantastic, accurate, well-written article! I’m so glad someone is blogging about SL aviation again, especially someone who has been in it for so long. Starbuckk was already a well known, respected pilot for Vulture Air when I joined the aviation community in 2013.

    As the owner of SLCS (mentioned in this article), and co-creator of SLCS Airlines with Debi Dastardly, I can give you my point of view:

    I joined SL in 2007, but couldn’t get into aviation until 2013 when I could finally, and barely afford a PC good enough to handle region crossings, and lag, without crashing. I’ve always enjoyed learning and reading books about flying, and mastering flight simulators, since I remember remembering. When I finally was able to fly and create an airlines, I was SUPER excited. That excitement, unfortunately, turned to sadness pretty quickly as the new presence in the community of a dumb cheerleader was met with ridicule, constant trolling in Passengers of SL with each new flight that was mentioned, and I was treated even more poorly, by men and women in SL Aviation chat, mostly people who had been in SL Aviation much longer than myself.

    SLCS flights were “griefed” by other, even well-known aviators, who would join the flight to bring it to an end in one way or another, by rezzing obstacles in front of planes, lowering elevators, anything they could “legally” do to make the flight go badly. Fortunately, we had pilots who forged ahead, and for many years, keeping SLCS Airlines alive. After starting The Drivers of SL, I quit hiring new pilots, which one has to perpetually do to keep a virtual airline operating. Fortunately, pilots Lian, Blanche and Ares continued to fly for years and even became part owners, until RL got in the way, or just a change in SL interests for them.

    The driving community was less developed, and once I figured out it WAS possible to drive in SL, one just needed something better than a freebie car, I became enamored with a community of friendly, accepting people who have (nearly) always treated each other with respect and kindness, including me. While I have met MANY fantastic friends and nice people in SL aviation circles, including Starbuckk, for which I am VERY grateful, I decided instead of making planes and avionics, and operating a virtual airlines, that my time was better spent helping a community where I didn’t feel ridiculed every time I said something in group chat or released a new product.

    I’ve heard of, and seen others treated similarly in SL aviation circles, though most people’s feelings don’t get hurt likely as easy as mine do, I think much of that doesn’t help to keep the community growing. I think even likely more of a factor is that there just aren’t many good planes being released, and back then there was always a new plane to look forward to monthly or more.

    If someone wants to fly for SLCS, we’re still here!


  3. Great blog Star. I think you’re spot on. I agree with Christi about how people were and are treated in certain groups. There is a cancel culture in SL. If you fly aircraft by a builder they don’t approve of you get canceled. I fly what I want, when I want.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As long as you do what you like and I mean the fact that I’ve been flying in the sl for two years even though I’m not a pilot in rl, but SL is the place where there shouldn’t be some very strict rules, the idea is to socialize and we enjoy everything. I would like to see as many airlines flying as possible not only to keep their planes in the hangar and only to complain that they have no passengers, in the last year I have noticed a very high rate of decline among passengers but that didn’t stop me from doing what I love. I am not interested in the competition between other companies, the important thing is to enjoy the flight with or without passengers


  5. You left out an important factor, what I will call “The Bellisaria effect” should not be ignored after all the lindens wrote the Covenant for this new Supercontinent rules to make it aviation friendly.

    The people who live there have took it a step further to build a rather nice sense of community to the point that people IM you when you fly over to complement your aircraft or to thank you for making there SL experience feel all the slightly more real it is by far the best place to fly in SL right now but at a cost. Belli technically only has two real airports both are small and basic and not conducive to massive aircraft.

    Secondly the new continental connection Bellisaria now offers is currently tight and would be
    extremely difficult to fly in a massive airliner.

    End result there’s currently a upswing in the popularity of Small aircraft, Seaplanes and helicopters all of them seem to fit the current state of the grid I suspect that as soon as it becomes easier to fly across the continents in bigger planes they will be returning to the Skies of SL

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for writing this article, it is nice to see a positive spin on the SL aviation community for a change instead of someone trying to ridicule another person or group.
    I am one of the owners of Unity Airport and Pirate Air. At one time the passenger’s group was so busy with activity, that people were accidentally announcing flights over the top of each other. Now I see tumbleweeds blowing across the runway in empty airports.

    . I do agree with the previous posts before mine about the silly drama and back stabbing in the aviation community. People were griefing other airports, interfering with flights, writing silly blogs to insult airport owners, banning airplanes because they dislike the builder and so on. We all watched this comedy of errors unfold together..

    Things became so bad that we had pilots in tears because they were griefed anytime one of our members announced a flight.
    Then we had a person looking around our many airports for something to report us over and I ended up being suspended from SL on two occasions over prims sticking out into the common linden areas that we did not know about.

    That is when I decided I was no longer doing business with Linden Lab and left SL. If it was not for Fey, I would still be gone. The airports that we have are for her and the rest of the community’s benefit.

    I would like to see the community return back to it’s former glory where the flights were being announced endlessly and the people were having fun flying or riding along while meeting new people.

    We can only hope


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