If you’re like me, having the ability to quickly create flight plans and track whom is online and at what time, is very important when preparing for your next flight, especially when using a network like VATSIM.
Unfortunately, that used to mean scrambling all over the web for your routes, charts, and scenery; not to mention all of your other tools and resources for fuel planning and weather information which created a mess of windows on your desktop. I know, you’ve probably gathered a mob of fellow flight simmers flailing protest signs in the air as you come to realize how tedious your flight simulator career has been to this point, but fear not! Luckily, vroute.info premium was created by a small group of dedicated developers to ease this process. As a matter of fact, you may never need more than one program to plan your flights ever again!
First, let’s take a look at the key features of vroute.info premium:
- Intuitive flight forecasting
Drooling yet? If not, let’s read on and see if we can’t get your salivary glands running!
Installation and Documentation
Installation for vroute.info Premium is easy and straight forward. While I did not have to go through the purchase steps you will have to go through upon purchasing this program, I will be giving you an overview of what is needed to be done to get there. I do know that purchasing vroute.info from an online store, such as simMarket or FS Pilot Shop, will render a registration key upon purchase, and you would insert the key in the necessary field once you enter the vroute.info program.
However, the initial installation is a snap and shouldn’t take very long. Of course, this is only if you don’t decide to buy from an online source as stated above. All you will need to do is go to the vroute.net website, click on the “Download” link on the navigation page, and then download vroute.info premium.
That will create a .zip file on your desktop and you’ll need to extract it. From there, open the folder and double-click the “setup.exe” file. Once it is installed, and you open the program from the programs list in the Start menu, it will bring up a screen to register and purchase the product. You fill in any needed information and you pay via PayPal (there will be an option for that in the window). If you were just planning to use the standard free version of vroute.info, initial registration would be all that’s needed.
While no documentation comes with the download, there is PLENTY of juicy documentation on vroute.net under the “Online manual” link, as well as “FAQ.” And let’s not forget, the gem of all information is the forums, which are located on the product website, and there is also a dedicated section in the VATSIM forums for vroute.info help.
Inside vroute.info Premium
I know, enough of the boring stuff! It’s time to take a deeper look at this great program. The interface of vroute.info is very user-friendly and easy to navigate, not to mention it looks great; the developers did a great job designing the user interface. On the right side are four buttons or “orbs” as I like to say, that act as the primary navigation. At the top of each page are the “subpage” tabs, if you will, allowing you to explore all the features and functions of each “orb.”
Throughout this review, we’ll be going through each orb and subpage to give you an idea of what you can do with this fantastic program, as it should be at the top of your add-on list!
By default, when you open vroute.info premium, you will be taken to the first page;“Info.” The first thing you should always do is look at the bottom and click the little button with the sun and moon; this changes the mood of the program (night and day modes). You always want to make sure your optical nerves are comfy before proceeding!
Next to that button is another one labeled “SkyBlue Radio.” This feature is included in the free version of vroute.info, and is something I’ve found that really enhances the experience. I mean, really, what more could you ask for at this point?
Now, let’s take a look at the “Info” section itself. Directly to the right is a bright-orange box titled “VATSIM in a nutshell,” which means exactly what it says. The box contains upcoming event information, any friends that are online, as well as any bookings you have created. If that gets boring, go ahead and look at the main body of the page on the left.
This section usually contains more information and pictures for upcoming VATSIM events, as well as news; you can scroll down the page to look at past occurrences. Since we’re on the subject of events, you can click the “Events calendar” tab at the top to bring up a calendar. As shown below in pictures, you can click any of those days to see if there are any events on that particular day. If there is, it will show up on the box to the right; click on the event to bring up details about the event. Very nifty, and a great way to plan ahead for flights.
If you take a look at the “Community” sub tab, you’ll see a whole bunch of virtual airlines that have created groups, mainly to advertise. As you can see, I am a part of my own virtual airline’s community, MetroAir Virtual Airlines. However, I rarely go to this page as usually there is no one online anyway.
Let’s move on to the “Configuration” page on the next sub tab. If you ever need to change your name or email, or insert your VATSIM ID, this is where you go. You can also upload a photo (avatar) of yourself, or anything to represent you so pilots that track your aircraft can see you. This is also where you can add friends to your friends list.
Now that you’ve been acquainted with VATSIM event knowledge and social pride from your packed friends list, let’s see who’s flying online. This is without a doubt the most-used section of vroute.info premium, at least for me.
Say I wanted to take a flight from Boston, MA to Orlando, FL. Instead of going to both Boston and Jacksonville’s ARTCC website to see who’s online, I can simply see who is online for both of them by clicking on their names via the list on the left panel. As you can see in the photos below, both Boston ARTCC and Jacksonville ARTCC are fully staffed for each airport (KBOS and KMCO). This makes planning flights so much quicker, and fun!
Now that you know you will have full ATC support, you can look below at the “Present flights” box to see who is online to see how busy it is. By clicking on a certain pilot, it brings up a “pop-up” page containing information about their flight (route, miles remaining/miles to go, remarks, etc). On the right resides another box for future flights.
For example, someone may be on their way from London-Heathrow to Boston-Logan; vroute.info automatically estimates the time it will take and allows you to see who will be landing in Boston in that given amount of time.
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…the 3D, super-duper, hi-resolution map with live traffic! This is located, obviously, in the “Map” sub page. It usually takes a little time to load all the aircraft onto the map (usually around 10-15 seconds before I can start dragging around the map), but once it does, it's quite smooth. However, if you make continual adjustments it could stop working as this is a LOT of information to collect. Usually when I move it a little, adialogue screen comes up saying, “Please wait, loading aircraft information…” and you have to wait around 3 seconds for it to be done. So just be sure to make minor adjustments each time to ensure the best performance.
Anyway, once it’s ready, you can track yourself or anyone else flying at that time. If you uploaded your image in the “Configuration” sub tab of the “Info” orb, you’ll be able to see your (or someone else’s) image when hovering over the aircraft, as well as name, call sign, and route.
In the picture below, you can see I hovered over a pilot who uploaded his photo. Also, when hovering over someone’s aircraft, it will also create a purple line showing where they came from. By clicking on the aircraft, that “pop up” window will show full details of that pilot’s route.
In the next two sub tabs (“All Pilots” and “All Controllers”) you can search for particular pilots or controllers by name, call sign, status, rating, facility, etc.
Hoowee, that’s enough to excite anyone! Now you know where you want to fly, and what ATC you can expect. But wait, you still haven’t actually planned your flight. Well, if you’ll follow me into the “Route” orb, we’ll do just that!
When you first open up this page, you will see four sub tabs; “Standard Search”, “Advanced”, “Bookings”, and “Add new route.” If you don’t know the ICAO code of the two airports (KBOS – KMCO), then you will probably want to use “Standard Search”, which gives you drop-down menus until you find the airport, as illustrated below.
Otherwise, the “Advanced” tab would be a bit faster, for all you’d have to do is enter the ICAO codes directly into two fields, as can be seen below. Either way, you will be led to the same page of routes and the final menu, where you will actually do the rest of the planning.
Now, you are greeted with ten very helpful sub page tabs. The first tab, “Overview”, will give you...well...an overview of your flight! Departure and arrival airports are listed, as well as the full route, current weather at both facilities, TAF reports (weather of area within 5nm of an aerodrome/airport), and even a list of typically operated aircraft for that route! And below all that, your Alternate Airports are listed in case of weather or other emergency.
If we move on, we’ll run into the “Fuel” tab for fuel calculation, which is a huge plus; usually I just have to estimate how much fuel to use to my best ability. Now you can choose your aircraft from a list of add-ons (I chose the iFDG Airbus A320), your alternate airport, payload and altitude. Now, before we press “Calculate”, I just want to share something with you right quick. My primary aircraft is the Project Airbus A319 in MetroAir colors; as you can see, Project Airbus is not included in the list of aircraft. This is where I’ve seen many people render this part of the program useless because their aircraft isn’t included, which you shouldn’t say right away.
I contacted Michal Rok, vroute.info founder, and asked him if there was a way to add aircraft to that list. His response (which came within a couple hours) was that I myself could not insert a new aircraft, but Michal also said that if I was willing to fly the PA 319 for some tests, he could put the aircraft into the database. The instructions to do this can be found by clicking here. I suggest you do this if you have an aircraft model not included in that list. Thanks to Michal for those instructions, and I plan to run those tests when time allows.
Where was I? Oh yes, press “Calculate”! A calculated air profile will show up displaying your vertical profile throughout the flight, with waypoint/VORs listed below it. Speaking of waypoints, if you click the next tab, “Waypoints”, you will be given a complete list of the waypoints and VORs you will be crossing throughout the flight, with a visual aid to the right. Neat stuff!
Now it’s time to export your flight plan, so click the “Export” sub tab. Fill out the remaining information tabs via the drop-down menus, and then choose a format to export. I always use the “Flight Progress Card”, “FSInn”, and “vasFMC 2.0” format choices, and the “Flight Simulator X” format for Active Sky X. Press the button next to the format menu to retrieve your flight plan, and then insert them into the correct places. I have found the Flight Progress Card to be a great resource to record my flight, it is very clean and gives you all the information you need.
Now, just go to the “Maps” sub tab to retrieve your charts! As you can see, every chart needed throughout the flight is listed, and shows up right away as a PDF once clicked. Also, check out the “Sceneries” sub tab for scenery specific to the chosen airports, and the “RealFlight” tab for information on real-world flights from KBOS – KMCO. I have found that the remaining tabs (Weather, NOTAM, ATC Coverage) haven’t been very useful; Weather isn’t updated very much, NOTAM’s aren’t available in the US, and not many ATC controllers specify how long they are going to be online.
Now, if you’ll go to the top of the window and click “reopen” on the very top silver bar, it will take you back to the page with the four tabs. By selecting “Bookings”, you’ll see that one flight is selected, the one you just planned! And just for reference, clicking the “Add new route” tab will bring you to a page where you can create a route if it isn’t available when you first enter it.
I recently did this on a flight from KONT-CYYC; I used a route generated by a fellow pilot from vataware.com, inserted it, and it was approved within a couple days and added to the database.
You’ve done it! You’ve planned a whole route and received all the needed resources in one intuitive, visually beautifully and audibly pleasing (assuming you turned on SkyBlue Radio!) application; now go fly!
I don’t really use the “Book” orb very much. It’s somewhat useless, at least for me, as it just shows flights that you’ve planned, and allows you to create new bookings (without actually planning your flight) as shown below.
However, if you are a controller it may be useful, as pilots like to know when ATC will be online so they can base their flight around you.
I would consider my PC to be high end; it’s a custom build, but I don’t think having the fastest computer makes a huge difference. Both my rig and laptop go about browsing the application at very similar speeds. However, the difference I’ve found is internet speed.
I used vroute.info on my laptop with a Wireless-N USB adapter (I have a wireless-n router), and I switched out my wireless-n desktop adapter with a wireless-g card so that my rig had a slower internet connections than the laptop. And yes, the laptop was faster when roaming the 3D map. When I put the wireless-n card back into my rig, it matched the laptop’s speed (with slight differences favoring the rig).
Overall, performance won’t be a huge issue, especially if you don’t use it to track flights on the 3D map.
Summary / Closing Remarks
In closing, I just have to say that vroute.info Premium is probably the most useful and powerful utility for Flight Simulator that I’ve ever used. Even the free version of vroute.info is a great tool to use while planning flights, while not being nearly as powerful as vroute.info Premium.
Purchasing the premium version allows there to be a free version. So paying for vroute.info Premium helps those who can’t afford to pay for it and still have the ability to have such a tool. This tool combines all the aspects of flight planning in one program so you can be in and out into the cockpit within minutes.
Before I wrap this review up, though, I would like to thank Michal Rok for not only building the most useful FS tool I’ve ever used, but for his dedication to the hobby of flight simulation. He is a great asset to the flight simulator community. Although, I don’t want to put all the credit on his shoulders, since it took a team to complete this application, a journey that began all the way back in 2004. Thanks, vroute.info!
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