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2021 on vAMSYS

George Peppard

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2021 on vAMSYS

 ~ In memory of Graeme Wright, a long-term member of the platform, a well-respected virtual pilot, VA staff member and so much more ~


"Another tumultuous year here. I could not blame anyone, hey - this was me - tad too optimistic last year when I wrote the end of year message. I think we all thought along the same lines - we will vaccinate, we will adjust and life will come back to normal. It did - for a few months in the UK at least. If the lockdowns did anything - together with the re-release of Microsoft Flight Simulator - they have driven a lot of new users to Virtual Airlines. Based on numbers alone, we did better than ever before. This has been a particular high for us all - let's get real - not every day we get an influx of new people joining our very niche hobby. We are trying to do our best in helping our new members in finding their feet when they go the perilous road of staring a Virtual Airline and we want to thank you for pitching in Discord in helping out.

vAMSYS in 2021 had to take a second violin for me a lot of the time, hence I could not be prouder to hand off the bulk of the end of year message you can see below to the people you interact with the most - the better half of Team vAMSYS. 

- Lukas, vAMSYS LTD


"It's over already?", we hear you say - so do we. I am not sure how I would describe the year 2021 - least of all in a concise format - but circumstances notwithstanding, it's been the biggest year yet for the platform - for which we mainly have you, the user, to thank. So brew a cup of tea (George recommends this one, Lukas would rather you opted for this instead) or grab your favourite beverage, have a seat, and let's discuss what 2021 has meant for the Virtual Airline Management System.

Let's go back to 2020

We ended 2020 on a high - we finished v3, then migrated everyone over to v3; Anna developed Pegasus, then we moved to using Pegasus exclusively; we started the year with 10 VAs, ended with 30+ - last December we were high on lockdown induced accomplishment fever - we were bright eyed, thinking we can do anything and thus - on the wrong side of Dunning-Kruger curve when we set out our goals for 2021.

Don't get us wrong - 2020 has been the best year for us... up until 2021 - we did a lot. With your help - we achieved a lot and hit new milestones in our history, but were a few things we could not do - and it's time to fess up.

We ended our 2020 message on our DIscord with the following:


Nonetheless, we have exciting plans for 2021. Anna will be sure to gift you with new features in Pegasus; George will reward you with new Scorers; there are also murmurs of Aidas developing a Discord bot which you will hopefully be able to use next year. Over the holiday period we hope to finalize and implement most, if not all, feature suggestions you made at ideas.vamsys.co.uk which will go into v3 of vAMSYS. Once done, v3 will go into support mode with fixes and minor additions where needed whilst we start to focus more and more on the next major update – v4. You can already have a glimpse of our plans in terms of feature suggestions which are being moved to v4 in our Ideas tracker.


  • Osprey is dead. Osprey was a project to allow VAs to implement their own frontend to the platform, interacting with vAMSYS via a RESTful API. The beauty of our platform, we believe, is that anyone can use it - even if they do not have the technical expertese that was previously required to run a VA (using self hosted software). Due to what we consider to be very little interest in this feature (leading to the feature likely not being used by many if not all VAs) and reprioritisation of projects in preparation for the v4 release, we have decided that Osprey will not be implemented.
  • Discord Bot - towards the end of 2020 we were very happy to be approached by Aidas. He offered his hand and time in developing a universal vAMSYS discord bot for every VA using our services. We were thrilled with the idea - it has often been a requested addition to the vAMSYS repertoire of tricks. Due to the number of ongoing projects this feature is currently somewhat suspended. We know it's something that many of our customers would value, and we will aim to implement Discord integration in a future release.
  • Pegasus Scorers have been delayed due to the continued support of legacy smartCARS integration. It is likely that due to the required changes to the platform that would need to be implemented in order to fully take advantage of the new Pegasus functionality (and the fact that a new version of Pegasus will shortly be in development, which will change how the software works anyway), major new scorers will be deferred until they can be implemented in v4. We will continue to enhance our existing scoring lineup, and where scorers are required to be implemented, will implement less "ground breaking" options in the current version, to be revisited at a later date.
  • v4 - the elephant in the room, which we will touch more on towards the end of this post. Whilst we never made any dates official - we had some internal milestones to hit which we thought were reasonable when we posted the 2020 end of year message. As the phrase goes, "The devil smiles when we make plans. He laughs when we get too busy." Due to less-than-expected development time between the team, we have realigned our internal milestones to more accurately reflect the pressures of a development team consisting of time-limited members. We continue to work towards a release, which we now expect to be some time in 2022.

We understand that some of this news is likely disappointing to readers, however we would rather offer more transparency (if at the expense of shattering some expectations).


Our yearly holiday post wouldn't be complete without some mind-boggling statistics we share with you every year, so here we go. In 2021...

  • 9700 of you joined vAMSYS for the first time, bringing the total number of users to just over 37,000
  • 26,543 new VA memberships were created, which is around 2.7 per user
  • more than 80 of our current VAs were created in 2021 - and long may they continue
  • you filed over 195,000 PIREPs, which is around 15 per active user
  • in those PIREPs, you flew for over 1.18 million hours, which is enough time to travel to Mars and back... 91 times, in a rocket (or in George's terms, enough time to make around 890,000 trips from end to end on the Central Line)
  • you also used up just over 1.35 million metric tonnes of fuel - let's hope that electric planes "take flight" soon...?
  • our most frequent pilot filed just over 800 PIREPs representing just over two months of continuous flying - the development team are really impressed, and we will be in touch!

All of these statistics represent the reason why we continue to put hours of our free time into vAMSYS, why we are prepared to be woken up at (literally and forcibly, thanks to our alerting systems) every and any hour of the day to fix platform issues and why it's still worth it - because our platform provides a place for people to unwind and do something they enjoy for hours on end (in some cases, hundreds) - and any developer that tells you that's not humbling either isn't telling you the truth, or is not a very good developer.

What has changed?

Not only did we have some incredible statistics to show off, we're also going to talk about some of the biggest and best changes to vAMSYS this year (in mostly chronological order).

  • We implemented the Network Connectivity Service, which allowed us to produce our first of many VATSIM- and IVAO-based PIREP scorers.
  • We implemented proper management of pilot sharing agreements.
  • We added the advanced fleet and stand override system.
  • We completely replaced our pilot search system with one that's much quicker and more user friendly.
  • We added Forum Management in Orwell, allowing staff to (finally) manage forums with autonomy.
  • We rewrote alert management and maintenance from scratch, which to George's great dismay, made it better than notices.
  • We added the Advanced Cargo System which allowed people to specify exactly what virtual oddities they are transporting around the world.

Where does your money go?

I am not a huge fan of prividing these numbers, and fear it detracts from our (my) purpose. vAMSYS (and it's very few partner VAs) do not exist to make thousands of pounds. vAMSYS Is a passion project - that's how the team and I came to work on it. We spent time with VAs, started some, managed them - we are all very much a part of the community we aim to support. However, we think it is only right that as paying customers, you see where your membership fees are spent. Here you go. - Lukas

vAMSYS is a private limited company in England and Wales with one shareholder (Lukas). All payments are handled by Stripe, an industry standard payment processor. Their policies and compliance documentation are linked on the billing pages in Orwell.

As a private limited company, we are required to submit our accounts to regulatory organisations in the UK. They have an address on them - please do not show up unannounced. If you want to meet with Lukas, please just ask him - he will be more than happy to arrange such a meetup. We file accounts every year, however as a small company, we don't need to have them audited by a third party, nor do they need to be particularly detailed.

You can gleam from our filing in August 2021 covering 1st March 2020 to 28 Feb 2021 that vAMSYS LTD is not bankrolling the team or our customers - we do not hire Rolls Royce Phantoms and private Embraer jets for trips to our City of London offices.

We reinvest almost all of the vAMSYS service fees (sometimes more) we collect from you to provide the services you and your pilots have come to enjoy. Monies (per year), as of 20th December 2022 has been allocated roughly as follows:

  • ~£80 for various domains we use
  • £164 for the alerting systems letting us know day and night if vAMSYS has issues (Opsgenie and New Relic)
  • £760 for ticketing and support systems you use to get in touch (Zendesk)
  • £462 for accounting and mandatory legal fees
  • £655 for code storage, deployment and server management
  • £8,520 for bare metal server costs

Were we to hire (assuming it was affordable) the entirity of Team vAMSYS as salaried employees at £30,000 per year, our total cost would increase by another £168,160. Hence all our time, effort and software we use is wholly unpaid. In fact, vAMSYS owes nearly £11,000 in director loans to cover previously incurred expenses. We do have other expenses and overheads which we did not account for here, but these are our recurring costs which your monthly fees pay for. vAMSYS has not paid any dividend nor it will for many years to come.

If you think you know how we can do a better job, then please do get in touch!

What is going to change?

2022 will see the biggest migration of vAMSYS onto new hardware to date, and we're really excited to show off the results (well - actually, we hope you don't notice anything apart from maybe things getting quicker). Some key things are:

  • Circa £1500 investment in the first few months in new enterprise-level software and hardware, with ongoing renewal and support costs after that.
  • Moving off our current model where everything shares resources onto an enterprise-level virtualization platform.
  • New networking equipment linking servers together, allowing us to sync databases between clones multiple times every second with no latency or impact to the user.
  • 96 cores, 192 threads, 512 GB of RAM and over 4 TB disk space of brand new dedicated infrastructure, linked together at 6 Gbps, and to you at 1 Gbps (if you would like us to do some sort of technical blog, please get in touch).

Oh, and apparently there's this thing called "v4" that people have been asking about... not sure about that one though. 😉

We will also invest time into less "physical" - yet still as important - changes, as follows:

  • Increased transparency, telling people what we are working on and why.
  • Moving slowly away from only taking ideas from the vAMSYS Ideas platform, which will allow us to be more flexible and respond more rapidly to change.
  • Moving away from "hard versioning" and towards continuous releases.
  • The retirement of "changelogs" - we will instead publish a regular newsletter comprising of what has been worked on since the last publication, and what is being worked on at the time of publication.

We hope these changes will help us engage better with our customers, and we would be delighted to hear any suggestions you have in order to help us do this even better. Please contact George if you would like to make a suggestion.

We will obviously need to plan some extensive maintenance for the infrastructure move. If you are a VA owner, please continue to monitor the vAMSYS Discord server for publicity so that you can cascade this to your staff and pilots in good time ahead of any downtime.

Closing remarks

Whether you filed one PIREP, a hundred or a thousand, you (and your VA staff counterparts) make vAMSYS what it is today. I wouldn't go so far to describe us as "essential" over the last few years, nor are we "key workers" on vAMSYS (although coincidentally, some of the team are in the "real world", as well as some VA staff!), but VAs provide a place for people to go and spend a few hours with like minded individuals, free from judgement, and do something they enjoy - and I think the importance of this to many people over the last year and beyond cannot be understated. The whole team is eternally humbled by the contributions of our many users to the platform - and we hope that you, like us, look forward to what 2022 has to bring.

- Anna, Chris, Steve, George and Lukas - collectively, Team vAMSYS

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George Peppard
Systems and Infrastructure Advisor to vAMSYS, ex-Infrastructure Director

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