I am a big proponent of online flight simulation but for various reasons there are a large number of simmers who would rather not go that route. One major objection is that in most online sessions rarely are you able to see airport traffic levels approaching a realistic diversity and amount.
However, it can also become tiresome to share airport space with the likes of the fictitious Landmark, World Travel and Pacifica Airlines offered by Flight Simulator as the AI commercial traffic.
Many simmers would like to have real world traffic populating their skies and airports and My Traffic X (MTX) offers a taste of that…for the most part.
Installation & Documentation:
It takes a while to download a 1Gb zip file so make sure you have some computer time to dedicate to the task. Once downloaded, system requirements are:
-10Gb free hard drive space
The download file contains a readme that provides very specific and detailed information about the installation process. Installing takes some time (as should be anticipated given the file size) and there will be a DOS screen that appears to be stalled, but patience is needed as it will eventually run its course and self-close.
Installation consists of two phases; an automated part that loads these files:
and two manual adjustments. The first of these requires a click on an .exe file in order to create the My Traffic folders for Aircraft, Database and Airport Layouts.
The second starts the Communicator; a tool to support the user to get to information and support, to manage FSX settings and add or remove visual features from aircraft such as models, exits (moving jetways and service vehicles) and strobe lights to trade accuracy for computer performance.
Communicator also provides a variety of options to download historic flight plans and enable or disable scenery functions in FSX, to repair installations that got broken and to download updates and patches.
Adding My Traffic X to the FSX Scenery folder as an added scenery layer is the final step to complete setup.
What is added to your FSX folder is a Traffic.bgl file with flight plans. MTX is capable of offering 230,000 scheduled flights resulting in 677,000 aircraft movements a day globally by adding 150 additional aircraft models from the default AI choices in the liveries of over 1900 airlines and military air wings plus general aviation aircraft for a total of 49,000 possible aircraft with one half of the world’s jet fleet represented.
A great deal of thought and effort has gone into deciding just how much traffic to include to keep things interesting without causing airport delays. Again, the user has some control over this, as setting the traffic density at a major airport to 95%+ will result in seeing traffic from a particular airline if the same route is flown by two aircraft within an hour’s time.
Airports that do not normally receive a lot of commercial or IFR flight plan traffic may get a boost with some fictional flights added to keep things interesting. Smaller airports will display their realistic traffic densities with a setting of only 25-35% but those desiring more activity can increase the slider and additional traffic will be created to accommodate the request.
Airports also receive some attention with over 8000 of them presented including 2000 that are upgraded.
The MTX Editor works in the FSX Deluxe edition to add AI aircraft, paints and airport treatments. The MTX Interactive file allows for the creation of custom AI aircraft including different engine variants. It lets the user create custom flight plans and control the smoke effects. Created aircraft can be left parked at a particular airport location or assigned a flight plan and this can be done literally on the fly so that an airplane can be redirected to return to an airport or diverted to anywhere else from its original flight plan.
For your reading pleasure are manuals covering installation, use of the MT Editor, AI traffic and even a “Best of Forum FAQ manual.
The AI World
As noted earlier, my personal preference is online flight simulation, which means that in the vast majority of sessions I am willing to accept a significant reduction in realistic traffic levels for the presence of and interaction with live pilots and ATC. But I do enjoy watching airplanes and even a diehard online guy such as myself sometimes wants to experience the hectic pace at a major airport. For those times a product such as MTX is an asset to have.
Since I do not like flying with the default FS ATC because of its tendency to issue apparently pointless course changes and frequency switches along with other inflexibilities, MTX offers a slightly more intelligent ATC option. I can use a ground vehicle, cruise the terminal and ramp areas or park it in the grass near a runway. Tuning the local ground or tower frequency on the radio allows me to track the aircraft movements and this can be a pleasant way to wile away some time…and is much more interesting than a screensaver.
MTX states in the documentation that, as opposed to other traffic programs, their intent is not to replicate the daily schedules of the world’s commercial airlines- a feat that they claim is impossible anyway. The MTX philosophy is to perk up the airport area with a representative sampling of commercial, general aviation and even military flying.
Created are airline schedules involving over 1900 airlines (from a real world total of 6800), 4700 aircraft models (vs. 15000) and 189 series of aircraft (vs. 400). And while this is not the equivalent of real schedules or aircraft numbers it would seem to be more than enough to fill the simulator world.
In order to give the program a good workout I chose to visit the world’s busiest airport Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International KATL. With airline traffic still set at 93% there was an abundance of airplanes at the airport and activity seemed to closely mimic the real world counterpart. I was there at noon on a clear day with departure traffic making steady treks to 9R and 9L and up to 6 aircraft in line for departure. It was entertaining to sit near the departure end of 9L and watch the takeoffs while another constant stream of arrivals landed on 9R. I noticed two aircraft that sat for a long time on taxiway N awaiting ATC approval to cross the active 9L to get to the terminal.
I next noticed that 9R arrivals were executing go-arounds. I drove my truck over to the runway, and stopped on 9R was an Airtran 717. At 1:00 PM it still had not moved and I became aware that the arrivals for 9L were also not landing. I motored across the airport to that runway and found an identical 717 stopped on that runway. I left the computer with FS still running and two hours later those planes were still there.
At 9:00 PM I returned to the now nighttime KATL and watched the parallel streams of landing lights as traffic made their approaches from the west. The north tower controller was being kept busy with as many as 5 aircraft in line and sequenced for landing on 9L but each one was given a wave off, told to go around and to contact Approach.
After each of these transmissions, he would calmly transmit, “Airtran 992, exit runway when able” and of course, he was ignored. I pulled up alongside Airtran 992 and could see that the airplane was further down the runway than it had been earlier but moving at an incredibly slow pace with over ½ mile of runway left until the end. A glance to the south showed me that the 9R arrivals were also executing go-arounds. It made me wonder where all these planes would end up or if they would just keep trying approaches indefinitely.
I also speculated that with departures continuing unabated, the airport would soon be empty. Since there was obviously a problem with the traffic program I put FSX out of its misery by ending the session. I visited the MTX forum on SimFlight forums and could not find any instance of anyone else reporting this fumble in the program. I wanted to post my experience as a new topic but was unable to log in to do so.
The KATL exposure to a significant amount of traffic showed that there is a slight trade off between fidelity of the aircraft models and quantity, but I think it is reasonable. Some of the aircraft may not be rendered in complete detail but the great diversity of what is offered makes up for any deficiencies in this area. I did find a few instances where aircraft were missing the main cabin door, but again, in the grand scheme this occasional hiccup can be overlooked and forgiven.
One cool feature is the ability to use MTX as a time machine. Airport settings can be created for time periods dating back to 1965. The result is that traffic displayed will be appropriate for that time- no 747s before 1969 and no Concordes after 2001.
For anyone who does not use online connections and the associated “roll the dice” approach to traffic, MTX provides an easy way to populate what could be otherwise dreary and nearly vacant airports with realistic traffic. The ability to customize many aspects of what is presented is a definite plus and the accuracy of the represented traffic makes the airport experience quite immersive.
Currently priced at US$56.00 this is not an inexpensive product but given the level of detail and extensive features with which it is equipped it is certainly worthy of consideration.
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