The scenario start remains a mad scramble, but several developments have improved the situation so that starting a few months late is not a huge disadvantage. Slots cannot so easily be hogged now as they start at a very low level (about 50% less than what you'd expect for the period) and increase rapidly over the next five game years. Sami is also monitoring the game closely to make sure no one is buying up slots they can't use right away (ie within 2 weeks). Slot costs are much higher now which reduces the problem of super-competitive players with lots of time being able to quickly dominate. The used market refreshes regularly and the 'call the market feature' reduces the ability of those sitting on the market from getting all the good planes. In short, there have been lots of improvements that while irritating to some, make the game much more playable in the early going. The worst time to start is probably two to three games years in when the used market will be empty of anything worth having and the production lines for new planes will have multiple year backlogs. So, it you are going to join, now is the time.
But, no, there is no way of seeing what's going on without joining. Best advice is to pick somewhere without any competition, start up and then when you can see the whole world decide if you want to move by using one of your Bks.