Flight Sim World: Weather and Approaches
Whether it is real weather injected in real time and continuously into the simulator, to weather defined by the user, or rapidly adjusted approaches for training, FS-FlightControl is full of surprises that will make you fly longer and farther.
Using FS-FlightControl with Flight Sim World opens multiple options in terms of control, as I wrote in my previous article. Now I explore two of those features that are quite interesting: weather control and training approaches.
Weather control in FS-Flight Control takes away the pain of having to go through multiple operations to have the weather you want for a specific flight. Through the program’s interface you’ve access to all the tools needed to control the weather, either using the weather presets or building your own. This means that you can go from a canned solution that will suit many situations to a very detailed weather map, built by you, layer by layer (pun intended).
FS-FlightControl makes it very easy to adjust all those things, being, at the same time, an interface to extend your curiosity, as its terminology, when it comes to clouds and meteorological features, will probably make those not familiar with some of the terms go and search for knowledge. This characteristic of the program — make you want to know more once you start to use it — is rather interesting and something you’ll find present, associated with the different features. After all, it makes no sense to invest in software like FS-FlightControl if you don’t want to explore it and learn with/from it.
Back to the weather machine in the program, it connects directly — through SimConnect — to your simulator, and will work in tandem with it, to receive data but also injecting back any data you create in FS-FlightControl or pick from real life. In fact, with the program from AB Tools it is now possible to inject real weather directly into Flight Sim World, even defining if it is continuously updated and in which conditions. This means that a flight from A to B can be made under different weather conditions, if in the REAL WORLD the weather changes. For some users, this is a valuable feature that can be fully controlled through FS-FlightControl.
The interface for real weather control allows to define the source of the weather — which can be NOAA, VATSIM or IVAO — and also if it is static or continuously updated. It is also possible to define on automated weather the amount of time before it changes or the distance flown, whichever comes first. Injecting real weather in Flight Sim World through FS-FlightControl brings the usual problems of updates completely changing the aspect of clouds in the sky around you, breaking the immersion, but the program, apparently, picks info from 10 to 12 stations around the one being used, to reduce the effect. It is also possible to define that no weather update happens below a certain altitude above ground, so you’re not surprised by an unexpected change during the final phase of an approach.
The Custom Weather interface allows complete control over wind layers, cloud layers, visibility, temperature layers and atmospheric pressure. Once you’ve defined your custom weather you can save it as a preset, which then can be injected into the sim at any moment.
Through the weather interface it is also possible to control ILS visibility for instruments approaches — CAT I CAT II, etc. — and the specific preset is activated. As the exact rules for the various ILS categories are different from country to country you can customize the decision height and runway visibility in the Settings module to your needs.
The weather themes present in Flight Sim World also appear on the interface of FS-FlightControl, allowing for a faster change of conditions. Weather, season and time of day are important elements of a flight, so through this graphic interface it is also possible to change the season and time of day. A simple click and in seconds the new settings are injected into FSW. Brilliant!
Playing with the weather and seeing how it all changes through a simple command is a funny activity that will probably keep you busy for a while. Remember, though, that all those experiences do not reflect real life, and that the continued testing of the system will slow down your sim and make it hard to adjust to consecutive changes. It’s not a problem of your sim or the FS-FlightControl, it is just that you are asking too much from your system. So, if the landscape starts to break after a few changes, remember this advice. After all, once you start to use the program in a normal way, you’ll have no problems with framerate, from what I saw while using FS-FlightControl. But initially, do try all these changes, and be amazed. I know I am!
Another aspect of FS-FlightControl that interests me and that I’ve explored the last couple of days is the Position module, which allows to access Approaches, ideal for training. The interface allows you to select an airport, either using an ICAO code or at random, then a runway and finally the approach position or take-off point. The aircraft is immediately moved to the selected position.
For take-off this allows to place the aircraft at any gate or parking position, a decision helped by the presence of a detailed map of each airport. You can also place the aircraft anywhere, both related to the runway landing point or to any geographical coordinates. This is of great help to get to know airports you visit, and can help to taxi the aircraft to different locations.
While this is great, the best part comes, from my point of view, from the Approach menu, which allows you to set the aircraft on a position for landing, from a series of clickable positions. If the runway supports ILS, the aircraft is placed exactly on the glideslope, if you’ve chosen a final position. You can also define things as speed, pitch, trim, landing gear, flaps and other aspects of the flight, making this an invaluable tool to train approaches under different conditions.
In fact, I’ve had a lot of fun simply selecting approaches, either ILS or visual and completing them. This leads me to another aspect of FS-FlightControl: it kind of invites you to travel around the world, using the Random option of the approaches. Then the program chooses one approach for you and takes you there. The simplicity of it makes for some unexpected surprises, and helped me to discover airports and areas that I would probably never visit, but that I’ve now registered for further exploration.
When you select an Approach you’re given all the information you need for that airport, and that’s part of the fun. I only wish that this Random feature would have another level of control, allowing to define “Random” within a certain range of airports, as it would help to only search, for example, for runways that are “longer than” for certain type of aircraft. Still, even as it is, it’s a great tool that will make you train more approaches and discover more of the world inside Flight Sim World.
There is much more to explore and use in FS-FlightControl, but let me point, yet, to another feature that many will appreciate: the program allows you to PAUSE the simulator in FSX style, meaning you do not revert to a menu, but keep the image of your airplane in flight on screen. This is great for all those who want to capture images of their sessions and want to do so with the program paused, instead of using Slew. It’s another aspect of FS-FlightControl that contributes to make it a “must have” tool in your virtual “electronic flight bag”.
Finally, I share one picture of an optional setup for using FS-FlightControl. You can use one monitor, and I do use my 30 inch (2560x1600) to control everything, but if you’ve an extra monitor to use — as shown here in a setup I use when I’ve more time -, then FS-FlightControl can be expanded and kept visible during the whole flight. Just remember to keep an eye on the road…