This product is a made by Mudpond with Flight1 being responsible for its distribution and forum support. Mudpond Virtual Aircraft Development Center, which is the actual source of this application, make some freeware too. Check it out. You'll also find some software development tools for Microsoft's Flight Simulator and Combat Flight Simulators, and a few complete virtual aircraft models.
Before buying AirTrafficFX you can try out a smaller free utility that will allow you to fly in formation with up to four other aircraft. The payware product offers a lot more though.
AirTrafficFX is not a global airline nor general aviation AI management installer like Ultimate Traffic X, MyTraffic, Traffic X and other competitors. It is a real time traffic generator for localized and enroute flight plan AI traffic only. It can use any of the airplanes in your directory, it is not restricted to AI. You chose.
What is the purpose of a localized generator? If you have a favorite airfield(s) which your AI airline or general aviation management generator does not populate with any or sufficient AI, this little application can easily make the place busy, or just look visited with static aircraft. The most selling feature is in its ability to do so in real time, while FSX is running, and become an active part of your AI traffic immediately, without having to reboot FSX.
It is, however, limited to fixed wing AI; no helicopters, no balloons (which is an FSX AI issue). What I also like about it is that it can use any of your favorite fixed-wing airplanes from the simobjects folder; for example your FLight1 Citation Mustang or Aerosoft's collection of Cheyenne models, subject to your experience of their respective hits on performance of course. You are now not restricted to third party collections of AI of lesser quality. Other features include formation flying, IFR flight plan based AI, static AI, and real time radar display. I will be commenting on each of these features in this review.
This product certainly can be useful, but it is limited to localized traffic and as such, would not do as a substitute for the more extensive, and expensive, global AI airline management generators.
Flight1's wrapper installer is downloadable before payment, which is only initiated during the installation process. Simmers familiar with this method will have no problems here, and newcomers should not have any difficulties as it is easy to use and is a well explained step-by-step process.
As there are no AI airplanes, nor airline textures, nor schedules installed, this application is rather small compared to what I've been used to. At less than a tiny 7 MB fully installed, there is no need for you to plan ahead to make room for it. A concise user guide is included.
It is easy to use, but you do have to familiarize yourself with the various options beforehand, otherwise you can lose sight of your generated AI and not get any enjoyment out of it. A good way to get a hold of the situations you are creating is to turn the FSX AI Traffic slider to zero such that you only see your AirTrafficFX activities. I will be going through each available option.
There are two operational pages; the radar display, which also includes the "Add Parked Aircraft" option, and the "Add Traffic" page, which has six options.
First page: Radar. The radar display is centered at the airport where you were when AirTrafficFX was started. If you like to watch more distant AI coming in (or passing by), you can right-click anywhere on the screen to make that point the center, as was done in the picture above with one Airbus with its tail of trailing dots on approach (history trails).
On the same screen, I am the aircraft in white waiting for the airbus at EDDK to land. There are a few parked AI from my other Ultimate Traffic X application in the corner. I am not using the features of AirTrafficFX AI here, just using the radar.
A second snapshot shows local traffic around New York city. The page has options to reduce clutter, and increase or decrease the range from one half to 80 miles. This is also the page used to add parked aircraft. You can fill every spot available but no more, and since AirTrafficFX has its own permanent airport parking data list, there is no updating of custom AFCADS as with other more expensive AI generators.
AFCADS, Custom Scenery, and PARKING AI: Custom third party airport AFCADS are not supported. If by chance your layout is the same as the default FSX one, or similar, you can place AI at visibly available locations, otherwise, the further from the default your custom scenery AFCADS are, the further your parked aircraft will be from expectations, if they are anywhere to be found at all. I find this unfortunate, as it is just such custom airports like Aerosoft's Heligoland that I was hoping to populate with otherwise absent AI. Maybe a future version will incorporate this feature.
Second page: Add Traffic. This is the page where you can play around and have dynamic fun. There is only so much to get from parked AI after all. Let's go flying!.. with company.
There are six choices for adding traffic: 3 for formations and 3 for single aircraft. When making formations, first you select the aircraft that will make up a formation, then in a second step you decide which of the three options to use: adding to local traffic; to your flight plan as enroute aircraft; or with your flight (the one I show above). Single AI are added in three ways: as local traffic; with a flight plan queued up from its starting airport; or in a flight plan already enroute (starts at assigned altitude).
The six options detailed: I continue next with some specifics based on my experiences using AirTrafficFX:
1) Add Selected Aircraft to Local Traffic Queue: This option can add AI to an otherwise empty airspace. It has occurred that none of my three AI programs (Traffic X, Ultimate Traffic X, and WOAI) do not, at times, add any AI to a nice isolated field I feel like flying around because of its noteworthy scenery (Switzerland, Alaska, others).
With this option selected, selected AI will land, stop, and take off again, allowing you to liven up deserted airfields. If you overpopulate the circuit and there is already an AI on final, a go-around is executed.
When arriving at a destination, you can restart AirTrafficFX and add traffic you will encounter there. The airfield you want to use must be the closest one at the time of restarting AirTrafficFX though. This is good for isolated fields and especially those that are not well serviced by your usual AI program. In the example snapshot below, I am using Just Flight's Traffic X Tower Viewer to create an ATC tower environment for watching my AirTrafficFX AI do touch and go's.
2) Add Selected Aircraft with Flight Plan to ATC Queue: In some instances, you may want the AI to follow a certain flight plan. I made a few specialized flight plans for circling certain custom scenery like Manhattan X and Venice X which I would not use for a regular flight. These can force AI to fly over the city in a zigzag pattern to add to the local traffic for ambience or just for fun, Your imagination is your limit.
Alternately, simply planning your traffic patterns for individual circumstances can come in handy. However, you are limited to having only the flight plans retrievable, as situations for AI cannot be saved.
3) Add Selected Aircraft with Flight Plan to Enroute Traffic: Similar to the second option, except these aircraft will start their flight plan at its assigned altitude (at the departure airport) as opposed to being queued by ATC to begin from the departing airfield.
You could get limited to what altitude AirTrafficFX fixes when using the enroute option if you are still using version 1. Unlike the ATC queue, where FSX's ATC engine handles the AI, AirTrafficFX fixed the altitude to approximately 2500 feet in version 1. This has been remedied in the latest update Version 2 now available. All AI will now go to their assigned flight plan altitude.
4) Add Selected Formation to Local Traffic Queue: Here you can plan some activities to liven up your departure with a group of F-16's taking off in formation and doing local circuit traffic. If there are no other aircraft on final, they will land, stop, then take off again.
In a group, only one AI will land, the others do a go around. But they do depart all together, which is nice to watch. If you are using fast moving military jets, the circuit they follow will indeed be wide and at speeds nearing 500 knots (!!). The formation will eventually become separate AI as each one takes its turn in a circuit to perform a slower touch and go, separating it from the others.
5) Add Selected Formation with Flight Plan to Enroute Traffic: This is similar to the option for individual aircraft, except that a formation is used. It had the same altitude limitations in version 1 but has been revised in version 2. They will fly to the destination and then return to the departure airport, ad infinitum.
In the snapshot below, three F16's fly by on their return to the departure airport, and this was their second tour. This option can be amusing to see if you ever can see them, but their very independence makes them quite elusive.
6) Add Selected Formation to User's Flight: This is the one that amuses me while enroute doing some long distance flight plans. I can be escorted by AI, and in my case, I usually prefer a military F-16 escort appropriate to my rank at AVSIM (cough). A formation can also be one AI.
These flights close to the user can cause apparent jerkiness, but thoughtfully there is a "Delete User Formation" panic button on the 'Add Traffic' page, which eliminates the formation without interrupting anything else AirTrafficFX was doing with other AI. So, if you don't like the escort, you can abort that part of the activity.
Efficiently Managing your Files:
You can manage your files in such a way that when you come back to another FSX session, all your specialized flight plans are handy. I made a folder where I deposited flight plans I exclusively use for AirTrafficFX. This reduces clutter in your regular flight plans folder. The flight plans I have in mind are specialized ones I would never use in a real flight, like the example below for customizing local traffic as applied to Aerosoft's Venice X.
Some ideas for using AirTrafficFX:
From both my own ideas and Flight1's suggestions, this is just a list of some of the possible uses of AirTrafficFX:
Questions and Answers from the developer (Jerry Beckwith):
Question: Why is the altitude for enroute AI following a flight plan always 2500 feet or more, and not the indicated flight plan altitude?
Answer: For an enroute AI aircraft, the program is coded to set the AI target altitude to 2500 ft whenever a waypoint's altitude in the flight plan is less than 2500 ft. If there are only two waypoints in the flight plan, the altitude will be 2500 ft, because the start and end points are at ground level.
Question: Will there ever be the ability to use custom scenery AFCADS?
Answer: Custom scenery would require scanning the entire scenery installation for airports, runways, and starting points every time the program is started. This is a very time consuming process and takes several minutes - depending on your hardware - just to scan the default scenery. I did not feel it was worth making users wait for several minutes to start the program, even when nothing has changed. I also do not care to purchase and test every possible combination of add-on scenery to support its use with this program.
Question: Is there a patch forthcoming?
The following new features are currently in beta test:
Answer: I am the sole designer and developer - which is also my excuse for responding slowly to email inquiries. I've got a good relationship with Flight1. They handle the sales and provide the on-line license validation code for the product. I have the same arrangement with Flight1 on the Triden AP package, and I've also done the flight dynamics for a few Flight1 models. (Cessna C152, C172, C441, Mustang; Pilatus PC-12; MD Super 80; and the AOPA Cherokee Six, Commander 112A and C177B Cardinal.)
Summary / Closing Remarks:
AirTrafficFX has its niche. It is made by Mudpond and sold by Flight1. Although of good quality, it is less voluminous than the other of Flight1's products like Ultimate Terrain and the Citation Mustang that they are famous for.
It is a very small installation with specialized limited use. Except for the fun of making formations, I found AirTrafficFX does not, by design, fully substitute for any of my other three AI program installs (Traffic X, Ultimate Traffic X and WOAI) except around the sparse areas. However, that being said, it does have its niche especially with those airfields that are always totally neglected by the very same, otherwise superb, AI programs I've mentioned.
There is a little performance hit with AirTrafficFX, but what small loads do occur, do so usually when starting queues and adding local or parked AI. It performed best when used separately from my regular AI programs by having both FSX traffic sliders at zero. However, as I liked using it in isolated areas where there was not much regular AI in the first place, I felt free to leave the sliders in the usual higher positions. It performed worst while having accompanying AI near your aircraft, where some jerking of my view sometimes became obvious.
My favorite attribute of AirTrafficFX is in its ability to use the highly detailed payware aircraft I have as AI. Very pretty localized AI scenarios thus become possible. The formations made and unmade while enroute were a good diversion from the doldrums of a long flight. In the now available update, you are able to save static traffic situations and enroute AI setups. So, if you want to make localized AI for your favorite out of the way airport or air strip, AirTrafficFX can be most useful to you.
As I conclude this review, it has been brought to my attention that AirTrafficFX V2 has been sent to Flight1 as a release candidate. It remedies the issues I discussed earlier about the 2500 foot limitation of some enroute AI. Previous customers can get it through Flight1's product support forum.
What I Like About AirTrafficFX
What I Don't Like About AirTrafficFX
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