Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Simulator Oddities

Oops, forgot to mark this ready after my sim yesterday.

First, an apology for all the toy flight simulator entries on here lately, and a warning that they will continue. I don't want to turn this into a video gaming blog, but as some of my former blogging time is now being taken up with practicing my professional skills, we should have predicted that some of my blogging thoughts would be turned in that direction, too. I know there are flight sim enthusiasts who read this blog and they can probably help me through my glitches.

I confess to using MSFS 2002. I own Version X but haven't taken it out of the box because my computer isn't optimized for games, so it might not be able to keep up. Remember that I am not interested in scenery graphics, audio ATC, or custom cockpits, just briefing departures and approaches and flying them to minima. In my experience it's really easy to spend more time trying to get a flight sim game to work properly than actually using it. If it's verified that all my little issues are fixed in X, I might upgrade.

Oddity #1 is that the game has only a single command for "raise gear" and "lower gear." I can't do the equivalent of reach out and put my hand on the gear lever without retracting it if it's already down. I have to place the avionics box over the on-screen gear lights, so I can't glance at them to confirm gear position. Gear down is such a separate command from gear up, and so crucial. It should never have been a single command toggle and I hope it's fixed by now.

Oddity #2 is the DME function. (For the non-pilots, DME is possibly the lamest three letter abbreviation in aviation: Distance Measuring Equipment. It's a device on the ground that talks to your onboard receiver and then tells it how many miles away from it you are.) Let's say I start up at CYHZ and tune the IHZ localizer (109.1) on NAV1 and the YHZ VOR (115.1) on NAV2. Both nav aids have a DME source, which is automatically tuned when I select the VHF frequency. The little toggle switch to select which one is displayed is not well depicted, so it's difficult to see by looking whether it is set to NAV1 or NAV2. Fortunately I know where I am, on the button of runway 14, so the one that indicates a distance of 5.2 nm is the VOR. I want to prove DUTSA, 5.2 DME straight off the departure end of 14, so I flip the switch and it shows 0.1 nm. That must be the localizer. I don't take this for granted, though, I click the audio panel button to identify it.

Morse code beeps _ . _ _ / .... / _ _.. . Wait that's something H Z but I is two dots. The something didnt' sound like two dots. I check the plate. Yup. Supposed to be two dots. I listen again and now the identifier is clearly IHZ. I must have heard wrong. take off and fly to DUTSA, then hang a left and track to the VOR, already identified before takeoff. I flip the DME source over to NAV2 also, but don't bother identifying it, because it's for information only. I'll prove station passage with the needle flip. I track outbound on the 297 radial to intercept the localizer outbound, and then put the DME source back to the localizer and ident it. The first time the identifier plays, it's clearly YHZ, then it switches to IHZ. Then it switches back. Experimentation shows that regardless of the position of the DME source selection switch, when the audio DME toggle is selected on, the idents of the two DME sources available play in alternation. I haven't confirmed that at any other airport. Maybe it's just a Halifax glitch.

If anyone cares to fire up Version X to check if this is fixed, could you also see if the Split Crow NDB (364) is in the database now? I couldn't receive it at all, removing the possibility of doing the interesting LOC/NDB approach there.

This post brought to you by another simulated ILS/DME into Halifax in the wind and fog, slightly left of the localizer all the way down, with a conservative correction that brought me onto the centreline just as the approach lights became visible.


Aprenta said...

Oddity #1: A single command is still used for gear in FS 2004 and FSX. Some aircraft allow you to click on the gear lever with the mouse, which gives you control over raising or lowering the gear (or setting the lever to a neutral position, on aircraft so equipped).

Oddity #2: In FS 2004 (and thus presumably in FSX), there's a NDB with frequency 364 at bearing 248 and 5 nm from CYHZ, called "G" (ZHZ?). Is that the one you're looking for?

If you want to practice instrument flight, consider:

1. Moving to FS 2004. Cheap to buy, fixes some issues with FS 2002, runs just as fast, more add-ons available (see below).

2. Investing in a payware add-on aircraft. Many payware add-ons are orders of magnitude more realistic than the default aircraft that come with the sim. You can get all sorts of aircraft, depending on what you like to fly. Look for brands like Dreamfleet, Carenado, Eaglesoft, PMDG, or Level-D. These can be especially useful for serious IFR flight and for systems and procedures simulation.

3. Consider the Active Sky add-on if you want realistic weather for your adventures in IMC. It's part eye candy but also is much more accurate in simulating real-world weather situations.

FS 2004 is obsolete but still widely used, it runs quite fast on any recent PC and lots of add-ons are available. FSX adds mostly eye candy to what FS 2004 provided, with few other changes, and it also requires much more robust hardware than FS 2004 does. FS 2002 is okay but add-ons (such as suggested above) are quite limited.

viennatech said...

'trix, have you considered the half step of going to FS2004? It has a far better 3D cockpit and is actually flyable!

I upgraded my hardware and now fly X solely as it completely changes everything about what makes a sim good. Flying with the ability to look around made the experience so much richer.

As for your avionics issues, have you tried to press "SHIFT - 2" to bring up the zoomed in version of the radio stack. that is much better for clicking on the little dme flip switch.

gmc said...

re: the idents of the two DME sources available play in alternation.

I recall that on some facilities with a co-located DME, every 4th (?) ident as at a higher pitch and confirms DME function vs. the other part of the facility. I wonder if this is what's happening in your simulator?

Keep the blue bytes up...

jinksto said...

Actually, I like all of your posts regardless of topic. I'm interested in your set up though. You admit to playing from a laptop but how do you set it up? I've tried flying flightsim several times in the past but never manage to make it work. My biggest issues are with pitch and roll controls where it's set an angle and forget it or a constant bump... bump... bump.. to keep the angle that I want. It's more of a problem with pitch than with roll but I have issues with both. The keyboards boolean input just makes it difficult. I've tried flying with a joystick (though admittedly cheap ones) but have never managed to get past hyper focus on staying in the air rather than flying the whole airplane.

Anonymous said...

FSX... still one command to raise and lower the gear.

FSX... if you don't have the 'Gold' version (2 DVD's, the 2nd being 'Acceleration') you will need to have at least Service Pack 1 (there are two) from Microsoft.

Not sure how it would fly on your laptop but SP1 does help a great deal and SP2 adds support for dual core processors.

With the right add-on software, six monitors, etc. in a dark room it will bring back memories of your real experience in that real simulator.

The best add-ons...
Ultimate Terrain... VFR flying
REX... weather, graphics
RealAir... planes that fly like they should

As others say FS 2004 might be better with your system. You can install different versions on your computer no problem so toss in the FSX Disc and have at her.

Note: At the very least you need SP1 for FSX else you will have a slide show.

John said...

I don't remember FS2002 that well, but in subsequent version the user was allowed to remap key commands. Have you tried that for the gear up/down situation?

For instance, in Flightgear (a free, open source flightsim), "g" raises the gear and "Shift g" lowers it. You might be able to map the gear up command to something like that.

Bob said...

I've used various iterations of MSFS, dating back to, well, the beginning. We've come an incredibly long way in a very short time. Although I own FSX, it just doesn't work properly on my favored (five year old laptop) computer. Someday I'll upgrade hardware and utilize the capabilities of FSX (or whatever may come in the meantime, hopefully?), but my sense is that it needs to be a major upgrade to make the difference worthwhile. I've read the forums and tried the tweaks, but my (old) computer just isn't up to it. So FSX waits patiently in the box while FS 2004 keeps me happy enough.

FS 2004 is a huge upgrade from FS 2002, in my opinion, and supports enough of the aircraft I want.

Nothing like chugging towards a golden sunset in my DC-3, ready on a moment's notice to kill the autopilot and throw out a radical sideslip to come down fast on short final at the nearest available airfield so I can head downstairs for dinner with Mom and the kids.

I strongly recommend at a minimum a flightstick with the rudder command built into the stick (twist). I am not an equipment fanatic (clearly), making do with a mid-level Logitech. I realize this isn't necessarily something you'd want to travel with, but if you could make room...