AVSIM Commercial FSX/FS9 Utility Review

Airport GPS

Product Information

Publishers:  DBS Studio

Description: A GPS guide to any installed airport.

Download Size:
2 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX/FS9
Reviewed by: Robert Mariani AVSIM Staff Reviewer - April 2, 2010

Introduction

Imagine you have just landed that shiny new 7x7 or A3xx to one of the world’s busiest virtual airports. Tons of traffic, and gates everywhere, not to mention miles and miles of taxiways. In the real world, the tower would fire off the clearance to taxi to a point and you, or your first mate, have to acknowledge as fast as possible in order not to hog the frequency - and there is our problem of the day.

If this were your first time at that airport, you would have to carefully study the airport diagram and then even more carefully read the signs posted as you cautiously guide your giant bird around the slim taxiways that barely fit your main landing gear. I you do not carefully thread your way around you might create a dangerous runway incursion or even sink into the mud or unsuitable concrete, and embarrassment would be the last of your worries.

In real world you have to be careful, otherwise your career might be in jeopardy. In our virtual world we have the little purple (FS9) or little yellow arrows (FSX) that can guide us to our ground destination, just by asking.

I bet there are real airliner pilots who wish that they had this handy guide. However, I bet that most of the hard-core virtual flyers do not find the purple or yellow guides very attractive and conducive to the “as real as it gets” mantra.

Now we have a new product that straddles the line between the real and virtual world by introducing the elements of both.

DBS Studios Airport GPS is a GPS simulator that works like a car GPS except that it shows only runways, taxiways and parking places of the airport you are currently sitting at. Although I am not aware of such a product on the real airliners, it is probably close enough to some advanced navigation systems found in EFIS displays today.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Pentium Dual Core at 3 GHz
9600GT PCI-E video 512MB
2GB memory dual channel
TH2GO and Track IR

Flying Time:
7 hours

To install Airport GPS double click on the exe file. After the program is installed, you have to enter FSX and open an activation window from within the add-on’s menu entry. You will then have to fill out your account and order info, and send the activation request. If you do not have a configured e-mail client such as Outlook, you will have to manually send an e-mail to the company.

My activation request was received and responded to in less than 24 hours after I e-mailed it. After receiving the e-mail with the key, you will have to copy and paste that information in the activation window within FSX. Only then can you try using the Airport GPS.

It is also worth mentioning that should you “change your hardware configuration or change your user profile you may have to request new activation.”

The documentation that comes with Airport GPS consists of two PDF files. One is DBS activation guide and the other is the User Guide.
Both guides do a fair job in helping you get started, although my guess is that the author is probably not a native English speaker. It takes one to know one.

The user manual is a three-page guide to all of the features of this tool with graphics and text. In its initial version, 1.0, there was no mention on how to turn the GPS window on, so I played with Shift+5 etc, until I hit the jackpot. The problem came when I loaded a complex airplane that had all Shift+no’s taken and I was not able to bring up the GPS. Fortunately, the teething problems disappeared with the current upgrade of V1.4 in which you can open the GPS with the menu selection from the add-on’s drop down entry.

Using Airport GPS

The first thing to keep in mind is that Airport GPS only works while you are on the ground at the airport. In other words, you cannot select the airport while you are flying and look up its layout. Another important thing to know is that the Airport GPS comes with the handy program called DBS Airport Database Update.

This program reads the currently installed airports and in case you ever add scenery, just run the program to get the current info. It’s also handy if you download AFCADS for AI parking spots. I have not tried downloading AFCADS yet, but I have installed an add-on airport and the parking spots in the add-on match what you see in GPS.

Next, in order to use the Airport GPS you must first install it on your airplane’s panel via the add-on’s drop down menu, and then reload the airplane to make it work. Maybe a more elegant solution would be to have a list of installed airplanes, and then have the option to install the GPS by checking a box for the ones you want. Nevertheless, every good pilot knows that planning is a key to successful flight, so just add this to your pre-start checklist.

Once you have the panel loaded and you have reloaded the airplane, you are ready to fly. I can think of only a few times when Airport GPS becomes useful. However, this is clearly stated in the manual and in the advertising for the product, so there should be no surprises there.

First is when you land and the ground controller directs you to taxi to your gate. Here you simply select the gate you were assigned via the GPS GUI and with a few clicks, you are presented with the top down taxiway route highlighted in magenta. In case you miss a turn, the GPS will re-calculate the route and off you go.

The second time you’ll find the Airport GPS useful is when you are parked at the gate and instructed to taxi to the runway. Again, with a few simple clicks on the GPS GUI, you select your destination runway and the plan is instantly presented on the GPS screen. This is very simple, and all you have to do is just follow the magic line.

There is actually another instance when the Airport GPS comes in handy. Let’s say you just wish to do a free flight without ATC interaction. You then enter your take-off runway and create the route from your parking spot. On the other hand, if you have just landed you can select a gate and the guide will show you the way. That brings us to another dilemma.

One thing that could be useful but is lacking in its current version, is that there are no labels on the GPS map. If, for example, I wanted to taxi to the nearest gate or parking, there is no way to know which one is the one shown on map. You have to select one name and then if it is not the one you wanted, you have to select another, and so on.

While I am on the subject of suggested improvements I might also mention the line from the manual which says,” DBS Airport GPS presents a special interface that provides the ability of customization for different tasks, like implementation into simulator GPS or adapting to custom panel.” However, there is neither further explanation of this statement, nor any additional documentation that points us in this direction. I think it would be very cool if this little gem could be integrated into the default GPS.

Finally, the ATC directions may sometimes be slightly different from the route you get from GPS, but as long as they end at the same gate, all is well. I suspect the full integration with ATC would be too complicated to implement.

Install the panel before flying then open it up with new drop down menu interface.

GPS can be undocked and placed anywhere on your desktop like an independent window, while still communicating with FS. There are no adverse effects when doing this, and the FPS remains unchanged even on my modest system.

Various placements of the Airport GPS including the full screen (2nd pic on top). Third picture on top and all of the bottom pictures show the old version 1.0 with different interface

You can also resize and place the GPS anywhere on your panel, and if you have a multiple monitor setup, the thing to do is to place it on another screen for use while on ground.

Top: After landing with ATC service it is easy to select your gate.
Bottom: Airport GPS provides a different route then MS yellow line, but that is not a bad thing – it doesn’t take you back to the active runway like the yellow line does.

 

Place yourself at the parking, select where you want to go- and voila!

 

Lets say I want to taxi back to the gate because of an unruly passenger. In order to do that I have to select a gate from the menu, which is great but it would be even greater if the gates were labeled on the GPS map screen.

Performance

There were no performance issues with Airport GPS on my computer, whether you leave it on your main screen or undock it and move it elsewhere. In addition, changing the size of the Airport GPS did not degrade my FPS at all.

Closing Remarks

DBS Airport GPS is a simple tool that truly simplifies the way to taxi at busy airports and provides another way to get progressive guidance to either the runway or your parking spot. Its usefulness is unquestionable, however the value of such an add-on for the hard-core virtual captain might be debatable.

That is also the best part of this hobby, pastime, obsession or distraction - whatever you like to call it. What may be real to you is silly to others - and of course it works the other way around. Everyone is free to make their FS as real as they want it to be and if someone is making a product that will advance that goal then more power to us all.

Let’s just say that this tool is useful to those who need further guidance at every airport they have installed in their FSX library. Airport GPS provides a neat graphical interface, it is very clean and flexible, scalable, movable and undockable with no negative impact on FPS. Moreover, updates have been coming regularly, with improvements in each version.

On the other hand, if you don’t use the progressive taxi instructions and are a dedicated user of real charts and taxiway sign navigation is the only way you get around, then you may not be sold on the value of this product.

If you are somewhere in between and have some days when you just need help and guidance from the ground, but hate to use the little yellow lines in FSX (big improvement over the purple lines in FS9) then you just might appreciate this little device that you can pop-up and store away when not needed.

 

What I Like About Airport GPS

  • Simple, informative, regular updates with new features so far
  • Resizable and easy to place anywhere
  • No FPS hit

 

What I Don't Like About Airport GPS

  • Do you really need another pop up window?

 

Printing

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Airport GPS

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