AVSIM Commercial Utility Review

AirNav FS Live Traffic X

Product Information
Publisher: AirNav Systems
Description:  AI Traffic Generator.

Download Size:
276 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9 and FS-X
Reviewed by: Jeff Shyluk AVSIM Staff Reviewer - June 19, 2007

FOREWORD: Crowded Skies Can Be A Good Thing!

When you fly in the newest Microsoft Flight Simulator environment, you are seldom alone anymore. The sky is populated with AI aircraft, which are models your computer will call into play, and are flown by “Artificial Intelligence” to simulate local air traffic. Not so long ago, the MSFS pilot had the only aircraft that flew in the simulated world. Although some third-party developers made programs to try to fill the void, it wasn't until late in the year 2001 with the release of Flight Simulator 2002 (FS8.0) when Microsoft officially added the AI aircraft of the type we are familiar with in FSX.

I had to look this up to be sure. With many thanks to Jos Grupping and his FSHistory website, I was able to confirm that FS8 was the first version to have AI flights, where computer-flown aircraft would start at one airport, fly a flight plan, and land at another airport. It just seems like yesterday to me that AI traffic was a new and amazing marvel, but of course today I take it for granted.

One criticism of MSFS AI aircraft is that they only support liveries for fictional airlines. If you are a fan of MSFS, you are familiar with the names Landmark, Pacifica, World Travel, Orbit, and so on: make-believe passenger carriers with pretty colours. Users who want a stronger sense of real-world aviation can turn to AI traffic generators that feature authentic brand-name airlines. Some AI packages will also include military flights, helicopters, and other exotic aircraft.

Beyond the actual models for the aircraft, an AI traffic manager should also understand realistic schedules of flights. At the most basic level, a flight should originate and terminate at logical and reasonable airports. An Aeroflot Airbus should not be tasked to take off from a grass strip near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and land at a water runway in Lake Winnipegosis. So, among other solutions, there are two common ways to solve the scheduling problem.

One solution is to generate flights based on collected real-world schedules, "averaging" them out to make as many flights as possible, as realistic as possible. This allows the AI traffic to be generated globally, so that no matter where you go in the virtual world, you should be able to find flights that resemble the real world, as long as the data used to generate them is recent enough. If the data is not periodically refreshed as real-world schedules are changed, your simulated flights may go out of date.

Another solution is to retrieve the flight data from the real world in real time. The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is an open source of flight information that can provide to the general public an amazing wealth of information about flights into, out of, and over America. There are some restrictions to the flow of this information, notably a time delay for security reasons, and globally speaking, the FAA doesn't always track in-depth data about flights from overseas. While flight data from the FAA is constantly updated, it cannot cover the entire planet, and so only North American flights have the most up-to-date information.

Let's take a closer look at FS Live Traffic X by AirNav Systems to see how it handles AI traffic in FSX.

INTRODUCTION: Real Time AI Air Traffic Management

Test System

Intel Core 2 CPU 6600 @2.40GHz x2
2 GB RAM
NVIDIA geForce 7600GS
RealTek AC'97 Audio
Win XP SP2
Thrustmaster Top Gun Afterburner II
Microsoft Intellimouse
MS Digital Media Pro Keyboard
MS Sidewinder Steering Wheel (for the foot pedals)
TrackIR4:PRO
TrackClip PRO

Flying Time:
15 hours

AirNav FS Live Traffic X is an add-on that will generate realistic AI flights for FSX. There is also a version for FS2004, but I will confine my review to the product intended for FSX. AirNav FS Live Traffic X uses actual FAA data to generate schedules that are as close to real time as we can get for now. It is capable of depicting cancelled flights as well as delayed and extra flights. Because AirNav FS Live Traffic X uses FAA data, it is limited to tracking flights that either originate or terminate in North America. Still, that covers a lot of flights, literally thousands of them to be sure.

According to the documentation, AirNav FS Live Traffic X covers flights in and out of more than 1600 "enhanced" airports, which are FSX airports specifically flagged by the program to handle AirNav Systems' flight data. Each flight is given a real-world model and livery that in FSX should match what you would see at the airport. So, if flight XYZ out of Minneapolis-St. Paul (KMSP) is a United Airlines CRJ-200 at noon, AirNav FS Live Traffic X should generate exactly that plane in FSX. Sometimes, there may be discrepancies, but the rule is what would be flying over the real North America at any given time, should be what you would see in FSX courtesy of AirNav FS Live Traffic X.

The system is based on two halves combined. One half is MyTraffic X, an AI traffic generator that uses pre-rendered flight schedules to create flights that go around the entire virtual world. MyTraffic X has been stripped down somewhat to concentrate on flights based out of North America.

The reason for this is to accommodate AirNav Flight Tracker, which is AirNav Systems' flagship product. Flight Tracker allows computer users with an Internet connection to track any real world flight that the FAA has data for, which is basically every passenger jet that uses a North American airport, with some support for regions beyond that. Combine MyTraffic X with AirNav Flight Tracker, and you get AirNav FS Live Traffic X, which creates AI traffic that represents real flights in real time.

INSTALLATION & DOCUMENTATION: A Bit Of A Bumpy Ride

AirNav FS Live Traffic X comes as a download only. The file size is around 276 MB. Once I completed the download, I was presented with the executable installer program. I could find no accompanying "Read Me" files or on-line help to get me going. AirNav Systems generated a two-part pass code that I needed to gain access to the installer, and this code was sent to me by e-mail.

The installer is what I would describe as semi-automatic. If you are very new to FSX or flight sims in general, the installer probably will not offer much comfort to you. If you don't mind manually altering your FSX configuration files, then it's not so bad.

The installer will seek out your installation of FSX and start to create the proper folders for itself. Along the way, it will give you cues as to what it intends to do. For me, the language in the cues was vague. At one point, I was expecting it to perform a function, while the program was waiting for me to press the "Exit" button, which would start that function. I sat staring at nothing happening for twenty minutes before finally figuring it out. Another time, it looked like the installer had frozen up and quit, when in reality it was working but not showing its progress.

Please be sure to read carefully all of the installation documentation!

The installer does warn the user repeatedly that he or she will be required to edit the configuration files of FSX! I am told by AirNav Systems this is because different users will have varying set-ups that the installer can't completely account for. Reportedly, it's just easier to have the user make the changes. If you are not paying attention to the installer, like you are making sandwiches or talking to someone, or you just click on things without reading the messages, it may be possible to miss these warnings. If you miss the warnings, then AirNav FS Live Traffic X won't work properly, although it's not hard to fix.

The final part of the install process requires that the user make three manual changes to the FSX files. The installer did not tell me how to make these changes, nor was there a handy read-me file. The manual describes the process in detail. The manual is somewhat hidden; I found access to it through a button in one of the AirNav FS Live Traffic X menus, as well as in my Windows Program List. I prefer to have the help file in an obvious location that’s easier to find, or at least to have some help on-line. The Support section of the AirNav website provides very little actual assistance, and currently it only mentions the FS9 version of AirNav FS Live Traffic.

The concise manual helped me finish my installation correctly. It's only 13 pages long with large blank areas and not much writing, but it is well illustrated. There is not much for the user to do in the way of actually operating AirNav FS Live Traffic X, so the manual concerns itself with making those three manual changes to FSX. If your installation of FSX is close to the default like mine is, then it's easy to follow the illustrations and use cut-and-paste functions to edit the files. If your FSX installation is of the more exotic variety, then you might have to be more careful.

If you make a mistake (or if you fail to make the required changes), AirNav FS Live Traffic X will run, but it will cause all of the FSX-generated AI aircraft to disappear, and you won't see any AirNav FS Live Traffic X aircraft either. The Troubleshooting section of the manual will tell you how to correct the most common mistakes. I did make such a mistake, and wiped out the entire population of AI aircraft. I followed the manual more closely, found my mistake, and corrected the problem easily.

AirNav FS Live Traffic X at the top of the Scenery Library list.

AirNav FS Live Traffic X, in basic terms, occupies its own scenery layer in FSX. Different parts of the simulated world have their own distinct "layers" in FSX, which makes it easier to keep files organized. Geographical regions, autogen models like buildings and trees, ground vehicles, and add-on sceneries each have their own layers, which are found in the Scenery Library Settings tab in FSX. The AirNav FS Live Traffic X AI aircraft are treated like scenery vehicles, ones that can take off, follow a flight plan, and land, and are given their own layer.

I did not test AirNav FS Live Traffic X with Windows Vista, as I do not run that operating system. But I did ask the good people at AirNav Systems about Vista, and this is what they have to say:

"It runs fine with Vista, you just need to find the FSX.cfg to change in the maze of Vista and also you need to run Live Traffic by right-clicking and selecting Run with Admin mode."

 

PERFORMANCE: The Air Traffic Slider Is At 100%

After I finished navigating through the labyrinth of set-up issues for AirNav FS Live Traffic X, I found it extremely easy to use. I think that AirNav FS Live Traffic X has two main advantages over other payware and freeware AI traffic systems. The first is that the program handles all functions of all of the AI airlines automatically. Other systems may require the user to manually sort through airline liveries or flights schedules, or in the case of some freeware AI packages, the user is required to add each airline and flight schedule individually. Under normal operating conditions, AirNav FS Live Traffic X handles everything completely automatically, which is very different from how it installs.

The other advantage to AirNav FS Live Traffic X is that it updates its flight schedules to within ten minutes of real world schedules, via the AirNav Systems Internet server. All of the functions are totally automated, so that there is only one thing for the user to do and that is to press the "Start" button to make everything go.

Let's take a look at what happens when you start a flight session with AirNav FS Live Traffic X. The AirNav portion of the program actually runs outside of FSX. In fact, FSX must be closed down completely before you can run AirNav FS Live Traffic X. The program will generate a very simple window with three tabs: "Connect", "Help", and "About". The Connect tab has the Start button, the Help tab has a button to open the manual, and the About tab links to the AirNav Systems website.

The main AirNav FS Live Traffic X screen.

Make sure your Internet connection is active, and then click on the Start button. The program will download the required FAA data from the AirNav Systems server, usually roughly 300 kilobytes of information. Then, the program compiles the data into flight schedules for FSX to use. Depending on how much processing needs to be done, this can take anywhere from a few moments to a couple of minutes. A status display shows the program's progress.

A registered user may access the AirNav Systems server as many times as they like, at any hour of any day, much like downloading weather information from the Jeppesen server for FSX weather effects. Unlike the FSX weather system, though, AirNav FS Live Traffic X cannot get up-to-the-minute information while FSX is up and running. The reason for this is that AirNav FS Live Traffic X compiles the traffic into its own .bgl file for use as a scenery layer. Scenery layers cannot usually be altered unless FSX is shut down and restarted.

Once AirNav FS Live Traffic X has compiled the traffic, FSX uses the custom-generated file to operate the AI flights. All the user has to do is close down the AirNav FS Live Traffic X window and boot up FSX, and the rest of the process is automatic. It can take several moments or even minutes for FSX to accommodate the new data, so load times are definitely increased.

AirNav Live Traffic X crunches the numbers.

After that, your North American airports will be loaded up with real world aircraft. The models that AirNav FS Live Traffic X are noticeably lower in detail than the default FSX aircraft models, which is normal for a good AI traffic generator. Since each model has a lower demand on your computer system, you should be able to load more models into your simulation at any given time. Basically, you trade visual quality for quantity.

On my system, before I tried AirNav Live Traffic X, I usually kept default Air Traffic to 40%, which seems to be enough to fill the skies, but not so much as to overload my computer. With AirNav FS Live Traffic X, I got good results at most airports with the Air Traffic turned up to 100%, although the largest airports like La Guardia (KLGA) still caused my framerate to lag considerably.

I think that each user might have their own ideal frame rates given how they choose to use AirNav FS Live Traffic X. Therefore, in my estimation, if you can run FSX reasonably smoothly, you should be able to run AirNav FS Live Traffic X. Some users, like me, might actually get a modest boost in framerates. On the other hand, older systems might have trouble processing the demands that AirNav FS Live Traffic X places on the sim.

For the purposes of this review, all of the screenshots I have taken show traffic at 100%. For me, airports like Kansas City (KMCI) were filled with aircraft, yet my framerates stayed comfortably above 20 frames per second. The largest American airports were laggy for me, but even so, with light bloom and shadow visual effects turned off, I could keep flying at above 10 or 15 fps. At 100% density, AirNav FS Live Traffic X can really load in the models; for instance, at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (KORD), it seemed like passenger jets covered every inch of the tarmac.

I counted 138 jets in this overhead picture of KORD, and that doesn't even include the main terminal.

Keeping Air Traffic at 100% may not be the most realistic option. While setting the slider to full will give you the most airplanes to look at, this can cause some problems with the large volume of traffic on the ground. AirNav FS Live Traffic X seems to generate schedules in favour of passenger jets, so if you like watching the heavies fly, you are in for some fun.

General Aviation aircraft do get some representation, but even at smaller airports, there seems to be a much greater number of big jets than I would have expected. The kind staff at AirNav Systems provided the answer for this issue for me: the FAA data that is collected for their program charts the progress of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flights, which are primarily passenger jets. VFR (Visual Flight Rules) aircraft tend to be private General Aviation aircraft, which don't get included in the AirNav FS Live Traffic X flights unless they file an IFR flight plan.

One would suspect that with all of those jetliners lumbering around, the taxiways would be clogged with traffic. The way AirNav FS Live Traffic X operates, though, seems to minimize AI traffic line-ups. Real world schedules are designed to keep air traffic moving as smoothly as possible, and since AirNav FS Live Traffic X closely emulates that, the congestion seems to be more or less managed. There is a lot of activity, but few actual traffic jams.

The real problem lies with how FSX chooses to taxi AI aircraft, which is slow at best. Although AirNav FS Live Traffic X does not seem to compensate for creeping taxi speeds, it does naturally space most of the aircraft far enough apart to avoid some go-arounds and missed approaches. There are freeware solutions for this issue, like AISmooth, which can also help. I have found that keeping the Air Traffic slider at 60% seems to give me the best performance along with good visuals, although other users may prefer different settings.

As to how any individual aircraft will be handled within FSX, I can report that the results are satisfactory. The AirNav FS Live Traffic X planes seem to obey the basic traffic rules in FSX. Jetliners have no problem with taxi to the gate. They will even properly extend or retract the jetway as needed and call for support vehicles. While this does put a drain on system resources, it is fascinating to watch.

Traffic lines up in an orderly fashion for Runway 4L at Boston's Logan International (KBOS).

TEXTURES, MODELS, ANIMATIONS & SOUNDS: Quantity Versus Quality, Form Versus Function

I will be blunt: I think the aircraft models in AirNav FS Live Traffic X are generally ugly, at least at close visual range. AirNav FS Live Traffic X is a traffic generator, so it should generate much more traffic than FSX in default settings. Perhaps the easiest way to do this and still preserve frame rates is to strip the details from the aircraft models. This means that a lot of the visual appeal of a jetliner gets lost as well. What you lose in quality, therefore, is made up in quantity, so that you get many more jets to look at.

The models don't bear up well to close inspection.

The system AirNav FS Live Traffic X uses to control model detail has the aircraft being rendered at even less detail the farther away it is from the viewpoint. The GMAX-rendered models are reduced nearly to geometric primitives when viewed from a long way off, and gradually, the closer you get to the model, the more detailed it becomes. At very close ranges, though, the models are blocky and lacking in finer details.

Still, there are some nice touches. Turbofans and propellers are animated and make generic noises as they spin. Anti-collision and wing lights which flash brightly on and off, really sparkle with the FSX light bloom feature activated. Landing gear will go up or down as needed. I did not notice flaps or control surfaces moving, so the models do have limitations in their animation.

Basic models get the job done.

As an important note, one of the best features of the audio for AirNav FS Live Traffic X is that all of the airplanes feature realistic real-world call signs. The Air Traffic Control refers to the airlines by their correct names, which for me adds greatly to the feeling of realism in this product.

The textures on the models look approximately like the real thing. There are a lot of models, so the textures tend to be somewhat vague copies of real liveries without being very detailed. There are also a very large number of different textures, and I found there would often be a delay in FSX while they were loaded onto the models. The effect of many different airlines parked at any given airport is a very colourful one.

Dozens of jets lend colour to a smoggy day at KLAX in Los Angeles.

From what I could see, the models and textures were primarily designed for FS9 and ported into FSX, although I could be wrong here. Still, FSX effects like bloom, bump-mapped textures, and advanced reflections would largely be lost on the plain AirNav FS Live Traffic X models. Even the distinctive shiny American Airlines livery is just a clever colour gradient, rather than being truly reflective. What AirNav FS Live Traffic X lacks in visual finesse, it makes up for in bold colour. I found the palette used in most of the liveries to be highly saturated, meaning that the colours are bright and in my opinion cartoonish. This may just boil down to a matter of personal taste: there is nothing wrong with seeing lots of bright colours to liven up the view at any airport.

A jet with the distinctive American Airlines livery.

All of the aircraft models come equipped with night textures. Again, the effect is basic and reasonably correct without showing any real sophistication. Some of the airlines seem to have extremely bright cabin lights that would be blinding to passengers, and to my mind gives the models an unearthly appearance. The running lights and beacons for all of the airliners are set to full intensity. The effect is as cartoonish as the oversaturated colour palette, but it does make the traffic easier to spot from a distance.

Night textures get murky, but the cabin lights can outshine even the famous Las Vegas Strip.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES: Benefits And Bugs

AirNav Systems bills AirNav FS Live Traffic X as the most realistic AI traffic system for North American flights in FSX. Given that AirNav Systems tracks IFR flights using data supplied by the FAA, and generates real-world schedules that a registered user can access at any time, I believe that this gives AirNav FS Live Traffic X an advantage over other AI traffic programs.

In addition, the process of schedule generation is completely automatic, so the user can be up and flying in a matter of minutes, without having to sort through lists of schedules and liveries. It's an easy and efficient system to use, and is ideal for the sim pilot who prefers to see lots of realistic air traffic in FSX without spending time sorting out file folders in Windows menus.

AirNav Live Traffic X generates a wide range of models of IFR flights.

For me, it seemed a little strange not to have to perform periodic maintenance on my AI fleet. When I press the Start button, AirNav FS Live Traffic X will automatically update the traffic files, but it also can update models, liveries, and patch itself if needed. In fact, AirNav Systems does not recommend going into the files to make manual adjustments, as the program should make the proper decisions on its own.

I find that some third-party add-ons for FSX benefit from allowing the user the ability to play with the internal settings, but the "tinker factor" for AirNav FS Live Traffic X seems to be quite low. This program is best left to work on its own with minimal input from the user. I find it's actually quite liberating not to have to deal with the micromanagement of aircraft details, but on the other hand, I also miss the ability to tweak my FSX universe exactly the way that I want it. For instance, I notice that some Canadian airports will have jets with the old Air Canada livery, while foreign airports (foreign to Canada, that is) host jets with the newer paint scheme. I would like to get rid of the old livery altogether.

If you already own MyTraffic X, then I have been told AirNav FS Live Traffic X is compatible with that program, and you should get the benefit of on-demand realistic flight schedules for North America. Airports like KLAX in Los Angeles or KJFK in New York are positively crammed with traffic both domestic and international.

If you don't use MyTraffic X, you will find that coverage of overseas flights may be reduced significantly. Non-American airports that connect to American airports should still have a large population of jets, but other airports might look deserted. For instance, an international hub like Frankfurt Main (EDDF) had only five flights going, and Fiumicino Rome (LIRF) had two, one time that I looked. When I asked, the AirNav Systems Tech Support warned me that AI traffic systems other than MyTraffic are not compatible with AirNav FS Live Traffic X, and would probably cause weird scheduling effects due to differences in the AI systems.

Non-American airports can be virtually deserted. These are views of Rome Fiumicino (LIRF), Frankfurt-Main (EDDF), Tokyo Narita (RJAA), and Moscow Sheremetyevo (UUEE), respectively.

I did try an experiment with restoring the default AI planes to FSX while using AirNav FS Live Traffic X. The default planes do seem to be somewhat compatible with AirNav FS Live Traffic X, at least in my limited testing. If you try this at home, you may get different results than I did, so please be warned! At the very least, I did take a performance hit in frame rates trying my experiment, and I think I may have caused a problem with the AirNav FS Live Traffic X internal scheduler. On the other hand, non-American airports did fill up with traffic, even though some of it was fictional.

My bold experiment: real-world and fictional liveries at the same time! Although it's possible to do this, it may cause problems for AirNav Live Traffic X.

Sometimes, I would run across a recurring bug with AirNav FS Live Traffic X. For some reason, it started to generate a Visual Fortran Run Time Error, which caused AirNav FS Live Traffic X to quit prematurely. I am not a programmer by any stretch of the imagination, so the significance of this issue goes beyond my pay grade. However, the bug did crash the program.

Whether or not AirNav FS Live Traffic X is working, though, does not affect the overall operation of FSX. The AirNav Systems data is used for generating the traffic file in FSX. Once the operation is complete, AirNav FS Live Traffic X shuts itself down before FSX is started. The problem is intermittent, in that the bug does not always show itself. This makes me think either the issue was related to a bad batch of data that I might have downloaded which got fixed in a subsequent download, or else I did something to AirNav FS Live Traffic X that I wasn't supposed to.

PAYMENT ISSUES: Thoughts On Cost Effectiveness

Usually, I don't let the cost of a product I am reviewing factor greatly into my analysis of a product. Microsoft Flight Simulator is an expensive hobby, what with the continuous stream of computer upgrades, the specialized aviation peripherals, and the cost of third-party add-ons. There are certainly ways to economize, but sometimes there comes a point where the product is so good that the cost isn't important, even if it is hard on the pocketbook.

AirNav FS Live Traffic X seems to me to be an expensive proposition. For some flight simmers, money is not an issue and they will spend whatever it takes. If you have a large flight sim budget, and you want AI traffic in North America to behave with up-to-the-minute realistic schedules, then AirNav FS Live Traffic X could be just what you are looking for.

On the other hand, if your budget is tight, then you may want to be wary of this product. The up-front cost for AirNav FS Live Traffic X is $59.95 in United States Dollars (USD). For a full-featured AI traffic program, this seems about the usual cost, although compared to other add-ons, it's a bit pricey for my taste. A good AI traffic program is something you will use virtually every time you fly FSX, so in terms of getting value out of money spent, a utility like AirNav FS Live Traffic X can be a good investment.

However, AirNav FS Live Traffic X is different from most other programs for its type. The $59.95 USD that you spend will buy you all of the IFR traffic into, out of, and around North America, and it also purchases your subscription to the AirNav Systems Internet server for updates to your schedules. After six months, the subscription runs out and you will not be able to get updates until you pay another $59.95 USD.

What's more, purchasing an update is automatic. If you do not want to be charged $59.95 USD every six months for unlimited updates, you must contact AirNav Systems and cancel your subscription. Subscription payment schemes that require me to "opt out" always make me wary. I much prefer a system where I can "opt in". If I want more content, I want pay for it up front rather than have the vendor automatically dock my credit card. This way, it's easier for me to control how much product I am paying for, and when I must pay for it.

Then, there's the problem in the near future, when a user decides to let the subscription lapse and is denied access to the AirNav Systems server. What happens then if the user decides to reformat their computer, or re-install FSX? They would be left without any useable real-world AI traffic unless they had the foresight to save their air traffic scenery .BGL file ahead of time. Either that, or they would be compelled to re-purchase AirNav FS Live Traffic X.

I certainly do not begrudge AirNav Systems for wanting to make money from their flight tracking system. I think pairing their computerized flight tracker with AI traffic in FSX is a novel and ingenious idea. This kind of system would be extremely difficult to set up and maintain in a freeware system, as there is so much data that needs to be handled at any given time.

Absolutely, this kind of data management must be costly over the long run, so it would be difficult to give out this many flight schedules for free. The cost must be passed on to the end user. It just seems to me that the end user should be very aware of the pricing scheme for AirNav FS Live Traffic X. There is some "fine print" that discusses the subscription process on the AirNav Systems website, but I had to look for it and ask questions of their friendly Customer Support people to get things straight in my mind.

CONCLUSION: Executive Summary

AirNav FS Live Traffic X is software for FSX that will generate artificially intelligent (AI) traffic that looks like real-world airlines, which can populate just about any airport that supports IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flights into, out of, or within North America. This is due to a subscription process that allows AirNav FS Live Traffic X to connect to an Internet server that continuously updates real IFR flight schedules collected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into data suitable for use in FSX.

What this looks like in FSX, is that there are aircraft models with realistic airline paint schemes that will follow real world flight schedules. If a flight is cancelled, delayed, or added from the published schedule in the real word, for example due to weather conditions, then your air traffic in FSX should accurately reflect that change.

Overhead view of KBOS. Lots of flights are generated! Note the bright anti-collision lights.

The AI traffic models in AirNav FS Live Traffic X are based on the model set from My Traffic X, although the numbers of jets has been stripped down to eliminate IFR flights that do not begin or end in North America. The traffic schedules are taken from AirNav Systems' Live Flight Tracker, and are rendered into FSX as a special scenery layer.

Installation of AirNav FS Live Traffic X is somewhat tricky and depends on the user being able to edit configuration files in FSX. The manual explains the process in good detail with instructive illustrations. Purchasing AirNav FS Live Traffic X is actually part of a subscription system, and the purchaser will automatically be charged $59.95 in US Dollars every six months for access to flight schedules that are accurate almost up to the minute, with the first six-month subscription being included in the price of the utility. Users can contact AirNav Systems to opt out of subscription at any time.

AirNav FS Live Traffic X operates independently of FSX. After installation, very little user intervention is required to maintain the flight schedules or liveries: the process is automatic and internal. The program needs a live Internet connection, from where it will download updates that typically are around 300 kilobytes in size. It took my test system under a minute to process the update, which gets loaded into FSX automatically. FSX load times are longer due to the new data. On my computer, the load time increased by about a minute.

Airports become loaded with real-world airlines that will respond to realistic Air Traffic Controller calls by their proper names. These airliners will take off and land following real-world flight plans, in FSX they will properly use gates and jetways, and will call for support vehicles automatically.

Since it's possible to have over a hundred different airplanes at once in larger airports, the detail level on these jets is low, and up close, they look rather ugly. However, they are colourful, and unlike the fictional MSFS jets like Pacifica and World Travel Airlines, you can have many more of them on screen at the same time before taking a big performance hit with your computer, as long as you are running a decent modern system.

Most of the AI flights are IFR, because the FAA data that AirNav Systems collects is based on IFR flight plans. This means that AirNav FS Live Traffic X depicts mostly passenger jets. Military flights, helicopters, amphibious planes, and such are not modelled at this time. As well, for the parts of the world where the FAA does not track flights, you are not likely to see much AI traffic, if any.

AirNav FS Live Traffic X is a premium AI air traffic generator for the North American continent. With it, you will get true to life air traffic that is as close to "live" as we can get for FSX, given some limitations. The extra service does come with a large price tag, but if spending money on your FSX hobby is not a problem, I feel that AirNav FS Live Traffic X provides plenty of useful utility. The user will never have to worry about sorting through a seemingly endless list of files, schedules, and liveries, as all of the "book-keeping" and maintenance within the program is performed automatically.

THE LAST WORD:

This pretty much concludes my review AirNav FS Live Traffic X. I like to leave the last word regarding any product that I write about to the developers, since above anyone else, they will know their own product the best. AirNav Systems were very kind to allow me to pass on this quote to you:

"Live Traffic has a lot of features crammed in: first it brings all necessary aircraft models and paints to simulate the traffic in and to North America. Second, it brings a collection of more than 1600 enhanced airports, which have been tested on many live schedules to support the aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator X and 2004 that have been found live in hundreds of samples, to visit them. Third, it brings the software to download the current flight information and to automatically convert them to schedules. User interaction is neither necessary nor foreseen with this - you cannot be more realistic than "live"! Fourth, it will bring updates to software, airports, and aircraft, and free downloads of these during the subscription period. This is simply the closest AI Traffic program for FSX to reality for US airspace."

For those who may be interested, here is a link to the AirNav Systems website: http://www.airnavsystems.com/

Here is a link to Jos Gruppings' FS History website, with thanks: I have often used his site as my springboard for researching the history of MSFS: http://fshistory.simflight.com/fsh/start.htm

As mentioned in this article, AISmooth is a freeware utility that can help you keep your FSX AI aircraft from creating traffic snarls and bottlenecks by automatically placing them at safe distances from one another. It is by Michael Sagner, and may be downloaded from the Avsim File Library.

Sightseeing over Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (KDWF), which is busy on this clear, sunny summer morning.

 

What I Like About AirNav FS Live TrafficX

  • Excellent coverage of North American airports!
  • Realistic flight schedules, including delays, cancellations, and extra flights
  • Framerate friendly (in the screenshots, the Air Traffic slider is at 100 %!)
  • The models correctly use animated jetways and call for service vehicles, plus they have proper ATC names
  • Very easy to use and maintain schedules and paint jobs
  • Server access is available at any time during subscription period, downloads are fast

 

What I Don't Like About AirNav FS Live TrafficX

  • Expensive time-limited subscription system
  • Homely models and textures
  • Coverage of airports outside of North America is weak or non-existent
  • No VFR flights, very few General Aviation aircraft, and no military or exotic aircraft
  • Visual Fortran Run Time Error bug
  • Longer loading times for FSX

 

Printing

If you wish to print this review or read it offline at your leisure,  right click on the link below, and select "save as"

AirNav FS Live TrafficX"

(adobe acrobat required)

Comments?

Standard Disclaimer
The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

Tell A Friend About this Review!

2007 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved