Over 10 years of virtual aviation
10 years is a long time when YourAviation.pro was born, FS9 (Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 – a Century of flight) was the main platform, pilots flew on 2D panels and 1080 resolution was still to come. To put it to a perspective, then iPhone was introduced only a year earlier, than the idea to start an independent Estonian virtual airline – YourAviation.pro took off. Many things have changed over time, so have we.
As with every project, real or virtual, there are ups and downs. We have seen bad times and great success as well. Running a fictional airline in a small country, like Estonia, with only 1+ million residents is not so easy. Real-life Estonian airlines have the challenge to find enough local passengers, we have had a similar challenge of finding local online flying pilots. Besides the challenge, we have managed to attract more and more of the niche hobby, flight simulation, users from the country and introduced them to the world of online flying. This smallness of us is actually beneficial and unique. Most of the other virtual airlines in the world cannot say, that majority of their members has met in real life and had a beer or two with each other over the years.
Virtual aviation, as real aviation, is a dynamic environment. As in real-world, many external factors may change the face and focus of the airline, they can even cease the operations. We are not driven by fuel prices or the economic situation of the world, but we are heavily dependent on the networks we operate and even more – the add-ons for the simulator. If there is a new state of the art aircraft add-on or scenery, we must react, so that our pilots could enjoy up-to-date graphics and features. Here is our story, as short as possible, divided into periods.
before 2008 | JP Air
Roots of YourAviation.pro go back to the late summer of 2008 (and even before that) when two of the founding members, Heigo and Johannes discovered the wonderful, then ahead of its time add-on, called MADDOG 2006. We flew for several different airlines, like Dubrovnik and Blue1 – both closed for today, as there was no MD80 operator from Estonia.
It did not take long, until we found a start-up airline, called “JP Air”, from TLL. We had a way to fly from Estonia with MD80. The real JP Air was supposed to start operations with MD80, but the plan never materialized. We did not know it yet. The aircraft were painted according to sketches from their web-page and the operations started, this time from Tartu. Tartu was selected as there was no usable scenery for Tallinn (capital of Estonia). Founding members were from Tartu. Tallinn airport was also going through a major reconstruction at that time. We synchronized the schedule and post-flight data in excel and it started to become too complex. We needed a solid VA platform. We also needed to break off from any real airline, so that the developments of the real world (like closures, changes in fleet and destinations, etc.) would not affect or restrict our decisions.
And then it all started
2008-2009 | JH Air
Evaluations of different virtual airline software solutions led us to phpVMS. As we started to go online, new branding and name was needed to be separated from real-world JP Air, so the “JH Air” (ICAO: JHI, IATA: JH, callsign: Dorpat) was born. As we can see, only one letter of the initial name was changed, some are joking that JH resembles the initials of founding members. We went online on 24th of December 2008, we still consider that “easy to remember” date as our official birthday. The original paint was really close to the JP Air, but with green variations. Greenish/blueish colours have been with us since. Call “Dorpat” comes from the historical name of Tartu. From the beginning, a fundamental principle was established – each and every aircraft should depart from the airport it landed. Aircraft and crew can not be involved in an accident.
So now you know why JH, JHI and “Dorpat”.
New bases and JH Group
2008-2009 | flyJH
“We take you and your luggage to the same destination on time … every time”
Over the next years, our number flights increased, Tartu was becoming too small for us and there was still no scenery for Tallinn, so we opened new bases out of Estonia. We have been operating from Dortmund, Hamburg and London/Gatwick. We opened some new subsidiaries for cargo and worldwide operations and introduced some new types, like MD-11, Boeing 747-400. All this needed some management and therefore, a holding company, JH Group, was established. Visual identity was changed from “JH Air” to “flyJH”. We have also used City Express livery on the MD80 fleet. Some of the MD-s were refurbished to VIP and business configurations. Before the retirement in 2012, our MD80s had operated around 730 flights and 1700 flight hrs. We had couple of pilots and operated slightly above 200 legs per year.
Period of growth
2012-2015 | flyJH – Your Airways
“We fly the way you want to fly”
In 2012, computer hardware had developed and FSX was becoming usable on most of the PCs of the time. It was a time for an upgrade. After the release of the PMDG NGX, the Boeing 737-900 was introduced to the fleet. In 2013, PMDG Boeing 777-200LR was also added. With the introduction of the new fleet, additional change to the branding was made. Now the name was changed from “flyJH” to “flyJH – Your Airways”. Y was painted as a swallow (national bird of Estonia), so the logo could be read in two ways – Your Airways and (Y)our Airways. New Estonian virtual pilots joined and the number of flights peaked at 845 per year in 2013.
After years of success, previous managers of the airline took a well deserved “vacation”. The number of operations started to decrease, but it was still around 550 flights/year in 2014. During this period, our 777s operated around 300 flights and 1300 hrs and 737s operated around 1500 flights and 2900 hrs. This was achieved by less than 10 active pilots.
Good decisions and bad decisions
2015-2017 | flyJH – Your Airways & virtual Estonian Air
The situation was changing. Founders and managers of the airline did not participate in daily operational control anymore. We were somewhat tired. The JH Group needed more flights and new direction. There was a high demand for something called virtual Estonian Air – OV. JH Group had the interface and systems to do that. So we listened to our potential pilots and started virtual OV. We uploaded all real-life OV schedules, even most of the historic ones. We prepared everything and the project went online. But several things went wrong. First of all, although, there was “a high demand” for virtual OV, the actual interest faded away relatively quickly. Secondly, the “promised” Aerosoft CRJ release was postponed, postponed and postponed again, so we were missing the main type of the airline. Thirdly … real OV ceased operations in 2015. All of a sudden, there was no real airline but we were still there.
OV and JH operations by JH Group continued in declining trend in 2017. Owners of the airlines even discussed the closure of JH Group | flyjh – Your Airways. We learned that all of the decisions have to be calculated and you should never make fundamental changes to the principles that have proven to be successful. We lost the face and by in mid-2017, all flights had stopped.
Wind of change
2017-2020 | Your Airways
“You call it the world … we call it the home”
After some discussions between owners and members, it was clear that the stars have aligned once again. Like almost 10 years ago – we had a top of the line add-on – fslabs Airbus A32X and there was a group interested in flying with that, from Estonia, in our colours. Many former members asked to continue with the project and that’s so we did. At this time, flyjh was dropped from the name and the airline was re-branded to “(Y)our Airways”. The entire website and intranet system was rebuilt from scratch, moved to a new domain and servers. The new livery was designed, schedules added and off we went again. After the launch of the new rebranded Your Airways, we saw a whopping 86 flights in the first month and 139 after that. Your Airways was back and we celebrated our 10th birthday. When we started, the airline operated 200 flights per year, now we are seeing peak activity of 200 flights per month, that translates into roughly 35% of VATSIM TLL traffic. On some months, we are operating close to the numbers of Finnair from Helsinki and even beating Air Baltic from Riga.
2020-… | YourAviation.pro
“Some people see a runway … we see a dawn of a new adventure”
Why? – We simply like to change our name every few years.
Jokes aside, the “airways” part in our name didn’t go together too well with our activities anymore. Our operation was not limited to Tallinn and the virtual airline that operated from there. We had a base in the US for some time and we were also operating business and general aviation aircraft, all over the world. Word “airways” just didn’t seem right, if painted to a fuselage of Cessna 150. Word “aviation” associates better with our actual operation. The goal was also to attract more pilots with different backgrounds and interests all over the world.
We are a global operator that flies everywhere and everything our pilots demand. The traditional airline continued to exist as some of our members still prefer that kind of flying. For those who liked to pick their destinations on their own – executive and club subsidiaries were added.
On top of that, we started to share our adventures and stories about our flights, resulting blog and news section.