AVSIM Commercial FSX Utility Review

GeoApr

Product Information

Publishers: Flight 1

Description: Geo-Reference Approach Plates for FSX.

Download Size:
9.62 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Mike Cameron AVSIM Staff Reviewer - October 26, 2011

Introduction

GeoApr is a utility program that is designed to display airport approach plates while FSX is running.   Also, when connected to FSX, the program will show your aircraft’s position on the plate in real time.   The program can display PDF, JPG and BMP format files and can optionally convert PDF and BMP files to JPG format.

In order to see your aircraft on the plate, the approach plate needs to be geo-referenced to FSX and according to the products website; this can be accomplished within minutes through a simple point and click interface.  I will explain this process later in the review and discuss how easy the process really is.    Once the geo-referencing process has been completed, the new file can be shared with others.

The GeoApr program also has the ability to display the aircraft position on the vertical profile section of the approach plate.   The program can be run from the same computer as FSX or on a networked computer.

Installation and Documentation

Installation of Flight1 products is easy but does require an active internet connection for activation of the product.   For purposes of this review, I will be explaining the reinstallation procedure.

Run the Flight1 Wrapper program that you downloaded when you purchased the product.   At the bottom right of the Payment Process screen click the “Click Here to Reinstall” button.   After your credit card was approved when you first purchased the program, the Flight1 Wrapper provided you with a serial key and a four digit password.  Accept the license agreement and locate the serial key and click “Open” then “Validate”.   On the next page enter your password and click “OK”.

The GeoApr setup program will now be extracted to the Flight1 folder or one of your choosing and it will now ask if you want to run the setup program, click “yes”, accept the License Agreement, verify installation location and click “Next” twice then “Finish”.   The whole process should take less than a minute.

A twenty page User Guide is provided after the program is installed on your system.

Chart Display

The program does not include the approach plates but they are freely available on the internet.  The User Guide also provides links to various worldwide government agencies that have them to download for free.

If you just want to display the approach plate alongside FSX, start FSX (must be running in windowed mode) and load an aircraft at an airport of your choice.  Start the GeoApr program and locate the approach plate on your hard drive.  If the plate is in the BMP or PDF file formats, you have the option to save as a JPG File by clicking the “Save as JPG” box, which is recommended by the program.

For the first approach plate, I did save the PDF document as JPG. After a little while the approach plate will display on the same screen as FSX. On my system, this process was pretty quick, maybe 30 seconds or so.     I tried displaying a PDF chart without changing it to JPG and did not have any issues, at least with the US approach plates that I was using.

Because FSX is already running, the program will show that it is connected to FSX with a small green dot at the bottom of the program screen. Moving your mouse to the top of the screen will display the program’s tool icons.

If this is all that you want to do, then GeoApr is not the program for you because you could accomplish the same thing by printing out the plate or resizing the FSX window and having your downloaded plate display on the same screen or on a second monitor for reference.
Approach Plate Selection Screen
Loaded Approach Plate

Geo-referencing Plan View of Approach Plate

In order to have your aircraft displayed in real time, the approach plate needs to be geo-referenced to FSX.   This procedure can be performed with or without FSX running.

The first flight that I used was from Petersburg (PAPG) to KAKE (PAFE) Alaska, using the RNAV (GPS) RWY 11 approach.   To geo-reference the plan view of the plate you need to select the landing point on the runway. Click on the “Set Airport Position Plan View” icon at the top of the GeoApr screen, and then click on the point of the runway where you intend to land on the plan view of the approach plate.   After clicking the touchdown point, the program will display the ‘Runways’ dialog box. Enter the ICAO code for the airport and the program will display a list of runways for this airport.

Here is where that I ran into my first problem, GeoApr did not display runway 11 when entering PAFE as the airport code.  The manual explains how to add the airport runway data manually, but since this my first time using the program, I decided to try an approach to a different airport.   Later in the review I will try to geo-reference PAFE again to see if maybe I was doing something wrong and report my findings at the end of this section of the review.

The next flight was from Grand Canyon (KGCN) to Sedona Arizona (KSEZ) using the GPS RWY 3 approach.   This time the program recognized the correct runway and the program places a small red ‘x’ at the touchdown point of the runway and displays the airport name. In order to complete the geo-referencing process you need to calibrate another reference point on the plan view of the plate. The three ways to accomplish this is to calibrate plan view by waypoint, distance or Latitude/Longitude and each of these have a corresponding tool icon at the top of the program screen.

The easiest way to calibrate is by waypoint but here is the first limitation of the program, it uses the default FSX navigation database. Not all waypoints on the approach plate may be included in the FSX navigation database. After clicking the “Calibrate Plan View by Waypoint” button a list of waypoints within 20NM will display on the left hand side of the screen. For me the font used for the lettering of the waypoints was hard to read but I made do.

For this flight, a waypoint on the plate was also listed as waypoint on the list, simply click on this reference point on the plate and enter the reference point identifier in the dialog box. The program places a small ‘x’ on the waypoint and displays the waypoint name on the plate. The approach plate is now calibrated to FSX and if not connected to the flight simulator or out of range of the plate, a small rotating red aircraft will display in the center of the screen. When your aircraft approaches the location of the plate it will display in green with a green trail following the aircraft of where you have been.

I will now try an approach that is new; the RNAV (GPS) RW11 approach into Ketchikan, Alaska (PAKT).   None of the waypoints on the plate are included in the FSX database so they will not displayed on the list at the left.  Another drawback to using the FSX database is that you cannot load the new or updated approaches in aircraft that also use the FSX database.

For this flight I am flying the Carenado B33 Bonanza with the RealityXP GNS 430 GPS with and updated navigation database, so this not really an issue.  This may seem a small issue because there are probably many current approach plates available that will work with FSX and unless you are practicing current IFR training in FSX, just select another approach that will work in FSX.

I decided to use calibrate by distance option for this flight and this procedure is also very easy. Click on the tool icon at the top and click the waypoint location and enter the distance to airport in the dialog box. I used a waypoint that is also listed on the vertical profile view because distances to the runway are listed.   I did not try calibrating by Longitude/Latitude for this review.

Calibrated Approach Plate
Aircraft on Approach

Overall the process of calibrating approach plates is very easy and watching your aircraft on the plate is very cool and can be helpful when learning approach procedures. I tried to geo-reference PAFE again just in case I did something wrong the first time and the results were the same. Runway 11 was not listed, only runway 10 and 28. I went ahead and calibrated the approach plate using runway 10 and was able to calibrate by waypoint because a few of the waypoint locations on the plate were included on the list to the left.  

Calibrating Vertical Profile

Calibrating the vertical profile of the approach plate is also very easy. I recommend printing the chart for this task because you will need altitude and distance measurements from the chart and this information is very hard to read when the plate is displayed on the screen and the program does not include a zoom feature.  You can enlarge the window but for me this did not help.

Click the “Set Runway Position on Vertical Profile” button and click on the touchdown point of the runway on the vertical profile section of the approach plate. A red ‘x’ will be displayed on this area of the vertical profile. Three fix positions need to be calibrated, starting with one closest to the runway and moving away from the airport. Click on the appropriate button at the top of the program page then click on the location of that reference point. Enter the reference point altitude and distance to next waypoint from the chart. A small red ‘x’ will be displayed at each of these reference points.

Because the FSX navigation database is not used for this procedure, I had no issues calibrating the vertical profile and this can be accomplished in a minute or two at the most. Just like the plan view, when your aircraft is close enough to be displayed, it is represented by a green line.

Calibrated Vertical Profiles
Aircraft on Descent Profile

 This is a wonderful tool and is informative because if you descend below the correct altitude, this green line will show you approximately how close to the ground that you are.

Other Program Features

Some of the other included features are flight record/playback, display FSX waypoint locations, change GeoApr track colors, clear aircraft history trails, regeneration of default FSX scenery geo-reference points & all installed scenery geo-reference points and more.  I am only going to discuss the first two in the review but the manual briefly explains the other functions of the program.

The flight recorder function records the user aircraft’s position, attitude and control settings during the flight.  You start the flight recorder by pressing the start button at the top of the program screen. According to the manual, when the recording is played back an AI aircraft is created and given the recorded aircraft position, attitude and control settings. This is where I have a problem with this feature.

When I select the play button and select the recorded flight, nothing happens until the aircraft is in range of the approach plate and then it is just a green line similar to what you see displayed when flying the approach live. There is not a fast forward button either and because it is recording in real time, I had to wait a long time before seeing this green line on the approach plate from my flight. For me, the playback/record tool is the biggest disappointment of this program because this would be a useful tool to learn from the flight and the manual does not explain how to view the AI aircraft with the flight position, attitude and control settings. I am sorry if I understand this incorrectly, but I would not have an issue if the manual would explain this procedure more clearly. 

Pressing the F2 key allows you to select and display default FSX waypoint locations on the approach plate.   Approach plates are not necessarily drawn to scale, so this feature allows you to display any FSX fix point within twenty miles of the airport to verify the accuracy of the geo-referenced points on the approach plate. This feature is also nice if you are using an approach plate that has newer fix points then are in the FSX database.

After pressing F2, GeoApr will display instructions, click “OK” to continue and scroll though the fix list that is displayed on the left margin. Select the fix by holding down the shift key while clicking on the fix name. GeoApr will draw a red ‘X’ and will display the fix point name.

Flight Record/Playback Function
Display Default FSX Waypoint Function

Again, I had a hard time reading the lettering of the fonts that the GeoApr program used for this function. The waypoints are easier for me to read on the screenshot below than they were on the program screen. After displaying the FSX fix location, the approach plate can start to look cluttered. Pressing the F5 key, temporarily removes all of the GeoApr displayed info from the screen and they reappear by moving the mouse to the top of the program screen.

Test System

Computer Specs

Asus G72GX Laptop
Intel Core2 Duo 2.53GHz
6GB DD2 Memory
500 GB Serial ATA HD(5400RPM)
Nvidia GeForce 260M Video Card with 1GB GDDR3 Memory
17.3” LED-Backlit LCD Screen
FSX with Acceleration
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick.
Saitek Pro Flight Switch Panel & Multi Panel
CH Throttle Quadrant

Flight Test Time:

12.5 hours

Summary / Closing Remarks

If you are like to regularly fly or practice airport approaches, GeoApr could be a useful program to own. For the most part it is easy to calibrate the downloaded approach plates to FSX and I love being able to see my aircraft displayed on the approach plate in real time. Also, having the plate on the same screen with FSX or a second monitor is helpful to see what altitudes that you need to be at without having to look down at a paper chart.

Unfortunately, I encountered too many issues with the program to recommend GeoApr as a must have utility. The program uses the default FSX navigation database, so on some approach plates the waypoints on the chart may not be listed by the program making the geo-referencing process a little more complicated.  This is a minor issue because other than not listing runway 11 at Kake Alaska, I was still able to calibrate all of the approach plates that I downloaded.

Other minor issues include having a hard time reading the program’s waypoint lettering on the screen and no zoom feature which would have helped to read the listed waypoints and the smaller lettering on the approach plate. The biggest issue that I have with this program is the record/playback function; I just could not get it to work as described in the manual.

Flight 1 has an excellent 30 day money back guarantee. If you are interested in this program, I recommend buying and trying it for the thirty days and if you are not satisfied, request your money back. You may not have any of the issues that I reported and will be very happy with the program.

 

What I Like About GeoApr

  • Easy to calibrate the downloaded approach plates to FSX.
  • It is nice to see your aircraft on the approach plate in real time in both the plan view and vertical profile view.
  • Ability to display default FSX waypoints on the approach plate.
  • Flight 1 money back guarantee.

 

What I Don't Like About GeoApr

  • Fonts of the lettering on the program’s displayed waypoints were hard for me to read.
  • Would like to see a zoom feature added.
  • The program uses the default FSX navigation database, would like to see an option for using a more current database.
  • Would like to see the user manual go into more detail on using the record/playback function.
  • Record/playback function does not work as described in the user manual.

 

Printing

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GeoApr

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