In this episode of VATSIM Guide, we will take you through the most basic way of communication on VATSIM network – Unicom. In the first part, we will introduce you to how the Unicom works and what it is. In the second part, we will create some examples of how you can and cannot use Unicom.
Unicom is a communication frequency set at 122.800MHz, where you can talk to other pilots and send them information about your positioning and intentions. It is mainly used for information purposes, and you can’t use it as a normal ATC frequency as there is no controller. This frequency is not intended for chatting and you mainly use it when there’s traffic around you to avoid any collisions. When there is no traffic around you, you don’t need to use Unicom.
There are two ways of communicating on Unicom. If you are able to transmit voice, you can send the information about your aircraft using voice as you would do on a normal frequency. If you are using Unicom this way, be aware, you can’t chat with other pilots through voice in any means. This is not TeamSpeak or Discord, and a lot of pilots can get distracted by this.
If you are using text, a small bit of chat is not a bad thing, however, I really recommend using private chat for non-informative purposes: .msg [callsign] [message]
How to use unicom
As mentioned above, for Unicom you’ll need to be on 122.800MHz, and you need to use it when there is traffic around you. To type information about you, you just have to write your intentions and positioning, depending on what state of flight you’re in. While using text communication, you don’t need to write your callsign, however, when using voice communication, you always need to say your callsign.
Pushback and taxi
Let’s say that you’re Lufthansa 228 (DLH228) at Frankfurt airport at the gate A20, and there is traffic surrounding you. You don’t have to write every detail of your flight, only if you are about to move.
In this episode, we have mainly focused on the text side of Unicom. If you want to use voice, please do not forget to say your callsign and <ICAO> Traffic (example below).
You start with the pushback information. There’s a need to say which gate you’re pushing back from and which side you’ll face.
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC [Frankfurt Traffic when using voice] [DLH228 – say callsign after each information only if voice used], PB and SU (Pushback and Start-Up) from A20 (Gate), facing west
You don’t have to use those shortcuts which I used, but for me personally it is easier to write like that, and most of the pilots understand what you want to say with your message.
After you are pushed back, you can say that you’re about to taxi and to which runway.
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC, taxiing to H/P (Holding Point) RWY (Runway) 18 via N5 (November 5) and L (Lima)
Departure and climbing
Once you get to the runway, you’ll have to check if there is oncoming traffic or if there is traffic on the runway. Here, you have to check and listen to Unicom frequency as they may be a lot of valuable information going on.
If the runway is clear, you can line up and take off. After departure, you have to write that you’re airborne, especially in the busy areas, so other pilots know that runway is clear.
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC, L/U (Line Up) and T/O (Take-Off) RWY 18
If there is an aircraft that just arrived and is still on the runway, you can line up, but you can’t depart. In this case, you write something like this:
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC, behind arrived TFC (Alternative: “behind arrived aircraft” can be also used) L/U RWY 18
Use this when the aircraft landed in front of you vacated the runway, and the runway is clear: EDDF TFC, T/O RWY 18
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC, airborne
At this stage, you’re not on the ground anymore. and the other aircraft are cleared to depart and land after you. If there is a lot of traffic surrounding you, you’ll have to report your passing altitude when there is somebody really close to you, and report which altitude you’re climbing to as well.
EXAMPLE: EDDF TFC, passing 3000 (Feet), climbing up to FL290 (Flight Level 290 –
By this moment, all the surrounding pilots should be aware of your intentions of climbing.
During the cruise altitude, you don’t have to worry much about anything, because it’s rather unlikely that you’ll encounter an aircraft flying into you, but if you do, TCAS is your friend. In this case, you can simply climb or descend.
A lot of pilots have an intention to write every detail of their flight, each of those are rather useless. This kind of messages doesn’t give you any information. Only those which waypoint are they inbound, and that is not useful for you if you are not going to that waypoint as well. And if you do, you’ll still need information from which side they’ll approach, but still, it is very useless.
EXAMPLE: NAX311: Inbound SOPGA, next waypoint SPL
Another bad example is chatting on Unicom, as I mentioned above, this is an informative frequency not intended to be chatted on. It is not against any rules doing that, however, supervisors nor pilots don’t like it.
EXAMPLE: TVQ18: Hi Peter, how you doing?
EXAMPLE: EWG3A: Hi, very well, just about to land in Vienna
A thing to be aware of on Unicom is Ireland. You may ask, why Ireland? Well, Ireland on VATSIM itself isn’t a problem. The problem is the simulators – both Prepar3D and X-Plane 11 suffer from the default ATC, and 122.800MHz is an ATIS frequency for some default airport in the simulator in the region. What you can do is, that you can try turning off your built-in ATC in settings.
Descend and landing
Giving information about that you descend isn’t very important. However, if there is really a lot of traffic, I recommend writing your descend information.
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, descending to 6000ft, expecting ILS RWY (approach conditions, can be replaced with LOC, RNAV or visual. Depending on the airport) 27R
As you approach the airport and you’re about to establish ILS with your aircraft, you write following:
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, 2nm (nautical miles) inbound ILS RWY 27R
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, ILS RWY 27R established
At this point, you have to look out for the surrounding traffic and make sure that when you are on ILS, there is nothing on the approach path and nothing on the runway as well. If it is, you’ll have to go around.
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, going around
At this point, just look out for the traffic again, and write when you are X miles inbound ILS and which runway, as you would do with normal procedures. After that, it is the same like normal approach.
If you won’t encounter anything bad and everything will go flawlessly, when you catch the glideslope, you can write information that you’re on glideslope and you continue your approach towards the runway.
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, Glideslope established RWY 27R
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, landing RWY 27R
As you’re about to land, you need to be sure that everything is okay, and your aircraft is in great landing conditions. Don’t be like me who landed without landing gear in Keflavik.
When you land, you normally vacate the runway and tell on Unicom that runway is clear and it is ready to use. Following that, you can taxi to stand of your choice, saying which taxiway you’ll use is not really needed.
EXAMPE: EGLL TFC, RWY 27R Vacated
EXAMPLE: EGLL TFC, taxiing to gate
By now, you successfully finished your flight on Unicom frequency. You should be able to communicate with other pilots surrounding you and properly give information about your aircraft. In the next episode, we will talk about Delivery and Ground ATC facilities.