Our History

24 Years Of Flying The Virtual Skies

In 1999, the Internet was becoming a significant platform for various activities, including flight simulation. Steve Ellis, a former Royal Air Force member, saw the potential to create a UK-based Virtual Airline (VA) modeled on British Airways, named British Airways Virtual (BAV). By late 1999, Steve had built a professional-looking website, and with the help of Geoff Butler, launched BAV in April 2000. The VA quickly gained popularity, with over 900 members within a year, making it the world’s largest VA. However, the manual processing of Pilot Reports (PIREPs) soon became overwhelming, leading to the closure of BAV in May 2001.

Determined to revive BAV, Rob Parker and others, including a skilled programmer Ferry van Aesch, worked on developing an automated system. This effort led to the re-launch of BAV in September 2001, now equipped with automated PIREPs and advanced scheduling tools. The restructured VA was well-received, and membership quickly grew, reaching 1,000 pilots. In 2002, BAV gained official recognition from British Airways, further boosting its credibility.

Over the following years, BAV continued to innovate and expand. They introduced the ACARS function for better flight tracking, held events like an around-the-world flight simulation for charity, and consistently updated their systems. In 2004, after a period of stability, Steve Ellis stepped down as CEO, and Ferry van Aesch took over. The VA faced challenges, including the loss of key member Robin Walker in 2005, but continued to thrive with new leadership and board members.

By 2008, server issues and financial pressures forced BAV to plan for another major overhaul. Steve Ellis and Graham Young returned to help, leading to the development of BAV III, which launched in April 2009 with a new website, server back end, and flight booking system. This version included advanced features and saw a resurgence in membership.

In 2014, BAV faced a cease and desist order from British Airways but managed to negotiate a continuation of their operations with some changes. They rebranded and held a competition to design a new logo, ensuring compliance with BA’s requirements.

In 2018, BAV transitioned to Mk4, using modern technologies to enhance their systems further. On January 1, 2019, BAV Mk4 officially reopened for new memberships, marking a significant milestone in its history. Simon Kelsey took over as CEO, replacing Dan Parkin, who left to pursue a career as a commercial pilot. Under new leadership, BAV continued to offer a rich and realistic flight simulation experience to its members, maintaining its status as a leading virtual airline.