Early History of United Virtual Airlines

United Virtual Airlines traces its lineage back to early 2001. This is a rough timeline of the VA's history and growth.

2001

  • February - Adam Brown and Rick Thompson form an Internet Virtual Airline based on the real-world United Airlines.

2002

  • February - Eric Maresh forms his own VA based on United Airlines. Shortly thereafter, he contacts Adam and Rick and proposes a merger. The new VA (unitedvirtual.us) begins to grow.
  • Summer - unitedvirtual.us becomes active on the VATSIM virtual ATC network.

2003

  • June - unitedvirtual.us now has about 50 pilots. Several flight simulation enthusiasts at United Airlines discover the VA and contact Eric and Rick about United Airlines supporting the VA. After some discussions, the decision is made to accept United's support.
  • July - A wholly redesigned website and engine (UVA1) is released at virtual.united.com. Igor Rafalovsky of United Airlines assumes the helm as President and CEO. Wilson Hines comes onboard as the Senior VP, Corporate Communications and David Klain is hired as UVA's first domicile manager. Shortly thereafter he is promoted to Chief Operations Officer. With United Airlines's support the VA begins to attract more and more pilots while also becoming a VATSIM and VATUSA partner airline.
  • November - Dave Klain is promoted to President and Chief Operations Officer. Igor Rafalovsky retains his position as CEO and liaison to United Airlines.

2004

  • January - UVA holds its first-ever company-wide groupflight. The Denver-Seattle Passion Fly-in is a huge success and puts UVA on the map as a significant VA at VATSIM.
  • February - UVA releases its livery certification program allowing aircraft designers to earn UVA's seal of approval that their livery meets United's official color schemes. UVA also releases a proprietary SA/MCDU software -- a dedicated ACARS simulator that communicates directly with United Airlines's servers.
  • March - Continuing its explosive growth, UVA now has over 500 pilots.
  • May - UVA hosts its second company-wide groupflight. The Mile-Hi City of Angels Groupflight (between Denver and Los Angeles) is widely attended by several VAs and further enhances UVA's reputation.
  • June - UVA hosts its third company-wide groupflight. The Nortwest Pow-Wow (between Seattle and San Francisco) fills the skies between the two cities with UVA aircraft. UVA also hits another milestone with 600 pilots.
  • July - UVA is one of four host VAs for the EUR-US Transatlantic Fly-in with full ATC from Brussels to Washington and New York. Over 100 aircraft fill the skies over the Atlantic.
  • August - UVA hosts its fourth company-wide groupflight. The Planes, Pilots and Politicians event (between Boston and Washington, DC) is another success.
  • November - UVA releases a completely revised database that includes not only United mainline's fall schedule but also all of United Express -- over 4,000 individual flights in all.
  • December - Setting another first in the virtual airline world, UVA publishes the first edition of The Shield, an inhouse magazine. UVA also hosts "Chicago: The Holiday Rush" a unique company groupflight that accurately recreated every real-world United flight flying into and out of Chicago O'Hare during a six hour period....a first for VATSIM.

2005

  • January - UVA conducts an online-survey of all pilots and staff to shape how the VA should grow. UVA also begins updating its' flight schedule to match the real-world United flight schedule on a monthly basis as well as matching the actual flight numbers from United's schedule.
  • February - After helping build UVA from the ground up, Wilson Hines steps down as Senior VP, Corporate Communications. Jim Harnes is appointed to the Board of Directors and selected to head the new Corporate Communications (CC) Division. Shortly thereafter the website and servers unexplainedly go down.
  • March - After several weeks of coordinating with UVA, the UVA Board determines that Igor Rafalovsky has stepped down from his position at United and (for security reasons) United Airlines IS is no longer willing to host the site. An anonymous patron purchases a webhosting service enabling UVA to restore operations at www.united-virtual.com. By the end of the month the site is back up and core operations have been restored. UVA also begins publishing The Shield on a quarterly basis.
  • April - Major upgrades planned for UVA2 are incorporated into the new site greatly enhancing services to the pilots. Most significant is a revised category and rank system that implements various type ratings and checkrides to advance to more complex aircraft.
  • May - UVA hosts "Memorial Day Madness" another groupflight demonstrating UVA's presence on the VATSIM network.
  • July - UVA further expands service by incorporating TED, United's low-cost carrier, into the schedule. Jason Rivard steps down as head of the Human Resources (HR) Division and resigns from the Board of Directors for personal reasons. Rich Lee is selected to replace him.
  • August - To match United's real-world configuration, UVA closes the Miami and Honolulu Domiciles and redesignates the Washington Domicile from IADFO to DCAFO.
  • September - "Flying the Summer Heat" UVA's final company-wide groupflight is completed and UVA begins "The Saturday Scramble" a weekly groupflight visiting some destination on United's system. UVA also releases a passenger load system that provides pilots with a specific passenger load for every flight. UVA also hits another milestone with 100,000 hours flown since the database went online in July 2003.
  • October - UVA implements FS-ACARS, a freeware ACARS utility that allows for enhanced PIREP submission, automated flight tracking and display, and both plane-to-plane and plane-to-ground communications.
  • November - UVA implements the full United schedule including all United mainline, United Express, and both Star Alliance and Partner Airline codeshare flights. Virtual Air Canada joins UVA as a partner in running the Saturday Scramble event.
  • December - UVA released automated aircraft installers -- executable files that automatically install the best freeware models, United textures, panels and sounds available for every aircraft in the UVA fleet.

2006

  • January - UVA conducts the now annual online survey of all pilots and staff to shape how the VA should grow. The aircraft database is updated with accurate SELCAL codes for those planes with the capability and the pilot reservation system now provides weather briefings and SELCAL data (if equipped).
  • March - UVA President and COO Dave Klain makes the VA presentation at the first VATUSA convention (held in Chicago). A number of UVA pilots attend the convention and again demonstrate UVA pilots' commitment to this hobby and VATSIM.
  • April - UVA releases its own Teamspeak Server to support voice ommunications.
  • May - UVA is profiled in PC Pilot magazine. This is the first time a Virtual Airline has been specifically profiled in a major print magazine. The article is available for download here. New installers for the entire fleet designed as Windows autoinstallers are also released.
  • July - The UVA Real-Time Flight Tracker is upgraded to show all UVA aircraft flying using the ACARS system and aircraft flying on the VATSIM network.
  • August - In another first, UVA releases an automated signature image generator that will display the domicile, aircraft type and livery, pilot information and the pilot's name for use in forums at UVA and around the internet.
  • September - UVA releases UVACARS -- an enhanced ACARS add-on that supports text air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, weather data requests and automated PIREP submissions.
  • October - Orest Skrypuch is appointed Chief Pilot, heading the Flight Training and Standards Division, and to a seat on the Board of Directors (BoD). Going forward, the Training Division will grow to provide and facilitate education and pilot development. Another unique VA innovation.
  • November - Leo Angevine is appointed an at-large member of the BoD and Jane-Rachel Whittaker (former Chief Pilot) is appointed as the pilot's representative to the BoD.
  • December - UVA again conducts the "Home for the Holidays" event in conjunction with the Saturday Scramble. A recreation of every United flight arriving and departing from Chicago O'Hare during the time window, it provides a challenge to pilots and controllers alike. UVA's live dispatch system is also demonstrated to great effect during the event. UVA finishes the year with 1049 active pilots, averages over 6000 flight hours and 2000 flights per month and has an almost 24/7 presence on the VATSIM network.

2007

  • January - Training Department (TD) releases the Aircrew Standard Operating Procedures Supplement (ASOPS) which provides detailed flight operations standard procedures.
  • February - Training Department (TD) releases a fuel and flight planning system totally integrated into VAOMS (Virtual Airline Operations Management System) which is the heart of UVA operations. Detailed calculations based on aircraft model, weather and flight data is now used to produce an automated flight release form for every UVA flight. Our CEO David Klain is appointed to the VATSIM Board of Governors as the VP of Operations (VATGOV2). Mr. Klain is the first member of a VATSIM BoG who came up through the virtual airline ranks as opposed to the VATSIM/ATC route.
  • March - UVA switches web hosting companies when the prior host could not keep up with UVA's growth.
  • July - Virtual USAairways joins the Saturday Scramble Partnership with UVA and Virtual Air Canada (VAC). This growing alliance reflects the Saturday Scramble's increasing popularity as the premier weekly VA-sponsored event on the VATSIM network.
  • August - UVA's own in-house magazine, The Shield, returns to print.
  • September - New appointments are made within the BoD. Rich Lee has moved from HR to lead the Flight Operations (OP) Division as the Chief Operations Officer. Ken St. John replaces Rich as the new Senior VP of Human Resources (HR). Jason Goo is appointed the new Senior VP of Corporate Communications (CC).
  • October - "the Shield" gets a new editor Brian Hunsicker.
  • December - UVA holds its 4th annual "Home for the Holidays" Scramble event into Chicago O'Hare. The event is a recreation of all flights arriving and departing ORD during the time window and offers flight assignments. UVA finishes the year with 1400+ active pilots and continues to log on average 5000+ hours per month. Its members maintain an almost 24/7 presence on the VATSIM network.

Postscript

An interesting trip down memory lane.

In 2021 UVA turns twenty years old! From its early days UVA has grown, has always led with key innovations, and continues to reinvent itself to keep current with the trends and interests of its member pilots and the industry.

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