I was wondering how realistic https://atc-sim.com/ is. I only play for fun, not for training, but I want to play as accurately as possible.


3 Answers 3


Not very realistic.

  • it's text-based; no readbacks.
  • there are no approach clearances. You can assign speed, altitudes, and headings, but there is no way to instruct an aircraft to execute a specific approach.
  • there aren't, really, any missed approaches or go arounds
  • no emergencies

Basically, it' just a game of "keep the aircraft separated", but it doesn't properly simulate how ATC works.


As Digital Dracula says, it's just a game. The best way to experience something approaching the real deal is to join the VATSIM community. It's a virtual ATC system that integrates flight simulator players in a live dynamic ATC environment. It's much closer to the real thing because it's real people, some of whom are real controllers, and you can play it as a pilot using ATC services, or learn to be a controller yourself.

Be aware that the learning curve will be pretty steep compared to a stand-alone mental gymnastics game, because the participants make an effort to make things as realistic and true to life as possible, and as I said, a lot of real controllers participate and provide training tutorials and other resources.

  • 12
    $\begingroup$ VATSIM is very realistic (I am active there myself from time to time) when it comes to controller-pilot interaction. On the other hand, coordination (controller-controller), which is a huge part of real ATC, is almost not simulated at all, nor is interaction with airport staff, technicians, vehicles, bird control, the military, etc. etc. Just something to keep in mind :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ Do not forget IVAO. In Europe often more active. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ @expeditedescent "VATSIM is very realistic" Until someone decides to launch a 747 straight up into the air like a space shuttle or something similarly ridiculous, if some of the Youtube videos I've seen of sessions of it are accurate. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 Doing that is not allowed at these networks (IVAO, VATSIM), but they cannot put constraints on what your flight simulator does. They could only draw consequences from abusing behaviour later. Ignoring clearances and various kinds of trolling ar punishable and some mods are usually online and ready to respond. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 The multiplayer in FSX is not the same as IVAO or VATSIM, these two networks are more governed by rules and also allow various kinds of simulators. One probably would not get banned for good but one might get thrown out for the day with a warning (depending on the further behaviour after being contacted by a mod). BTW, a "FUCKU" callsign would not be allowed either. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 8:48

I've played atc-sim for fun myself some time ago, and it can be a nice way to pass time. However, in terms of realism, it only simulates a very narrow range of the tasks real controllers have to do. It gives you a (very basic) idea of what vectoring is like, and that's it. I'd say probably about 5% of what a real controller has to do is simulated, and given the text based interaction, even that part is not very realistic. So all in all, a fun game, but not at all realistic.

  • $\begingroup$ A chum of a chum who was an approach controller at CYUL told me that for the type of people with the mental aptitude and intelligence to make it through the training and do the job in the first place, with experienc your internal data processing becomes automated enough, plus the fact that the heavy workload periods come in relatively short rush hour waves of a couple hours each, the job was nowhere near the soul destroying pressure cooker that the popular media fostered. She said her shift is about an hour and a half of heavy concentration, with a few hours of light work in between. True? $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, I wouldn't call the job stressful - at least not in the way it's often portrayed. Personally I find the quiet periods much more mentally draining, because I have to stay completely focused with very little to actually focus on. When it gets busy (up to a limit, of course) you sort of get "in the zone" and everything just runs like a well oiled machine. It's a great sense of accomplishment, and often surprise when your colleague comes to relieve you after what feels like 5 minutes but is often 1-2 hours $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Long ago, back in the mid 80s, I tried out for Canadian ATC and took an initial screening test that was a booklet with 25 diagrams representing displays, with airplanes and tracks and data tables, and you had to answer two multiple-guess questions about potential conflicts for each diagram. I didn't keep track of the time. I got to question 44 of 50, then "pencils down!!" I didn't answer the last 6. I only got one wrong of the 44 I answered. I should have just checked the last 6 off randomly and would have got one or two right, getting me over the 45/50 cutoff to move to the next stage. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:43

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