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FS2004 ATC and Terrain Avoidance

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Has anyone checked out how FS2004 handles high altitude and mountainous apporaches, does it still fly you right into nearby mountains like FS2002??Randy Jura, KPDX

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Yes, I would love to hear the answer to this too!I find it very strange that it has been totally untouched in the otherwise extensive Avsim Review...Stamatis

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Well I haven't tried any mountianous approaches yet - though I'm off to bed atm with FS2004 flying a route to KSEA in the DC3 while I sleep.I'll check to see if it vectors me into or around terrain in the AM.I can tell you this, I did find a rather nifty feature.ATC will no longer let you takeoff from a controlled Airport under VFR during IFR situations. ActiveSky created Thunderstorm activity around KPHX this afternoon and I was trying to do a quick flight to Glendale, when I contacted the tower (I had canceled my IFR plan during taxi to active), it told me that 'This airport is IFR, VFR Flights are not permitted' and told me to contact Ground for return to parking.I thought it was kinda cool.

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I've tried KTVL and KRNO where the ATC handled you and AI traffic just fine.

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That's good news Kevin, thanks.I consider this as one of the most important problems of the FS2002 ATC engine.Stamatis

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It's still not great, at least for departures. Here's what happened to me last night...I made a very short flight from Ogden, UT (KOGD) to Salt Lake in the King Air, just to try out the new ATC. Since I fly from KOGD in real life, I'm familiar with the IFR procedures there.I chose the "fogged in" weather scenario and was assigned Runway 3. IFR clearance said to "maintain runway heading." That set off a red flag, since a straight-out on rwy 3 leads you straight to a 10,000 foot mountain range within about 10 miles. In real life, every IFR departure from KOGD includes an initial turn to the west to get you away from the mountains.Anyway, after contacting departure there was a short delay in receiving instructions since the controller was talking to someone else (I like that, as it often happens in real life). When he got back to me, he gave me a vector to the right, which pretty much sealed my fate since that was a turn directly toward the mountains. It didn't really matter, since the extended straight-out departure had already set me up to bore a hole in the mountain.I've got a lot more experimenting to do, but so far I'm not impressed.Dan

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Dan,The ATC engine can't detect ground in front of you, only underneath you from what I understand. I think some people are expecting to much sometimes for a sim that costs $60.00. Yes, it would be nice if it could handle all situations appropriately, but realistically, you will have certain particular scenarios where problems arise. Your departure variables are not the normal, and basing FS2K4 ATC performance on this one instance is not practical.I haven't had too much trouble with ATC vectoring me into terrain and I have flown several places already within the sim.Jeff the AV8RFOOL

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Hi Randy,I've done only two flights so far, DEN-LAS and LAS-SEA both with the Learjet. The ATC cleared me to 10000', then there was high ground ahead of me so I was cleared to "climb to 12000'"! This is better then flying into the hill, but not very realistic. In real life there are min safe altitudes and min vectors alt. The controller has a trace and won't lower us early if he has to make us climb later ahead. I guess the ATC engine can't think see ahead yet... maybe in FS2006?!Nothing is perfect but at least we won't fly into mountains on arrival. Departures are another story...Danny

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I know the feeling very well :(What I do for deparures in FS2002 is that I include a SID in my flight plan, with all its waypoints.When I takeoff, I stick to my SID and "surprise, surprise" the ATC is very happy about it and keeps quiet, other than nagging me to climb to my cleared FL, if I level off momentarily.Stamatis

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What about special VFR! As an ex Air Force helicopter pilot I've departed in SVFR conditions that were pretty bad with rotary wing wx limits.I think the ATC is based on the US system and procedures, wich tend to be less flexible... no offence to my American friends... for exemple in Canada I can take-off from anywhere on the airport (with a helo). In the US, once, the controller wouldn't clear me for takeoff because my #4 was hovering over the grass beside the runway... he had to move a few feet to be over the paved runway... then we got the clearance! On a military base you cannot file a flight plan until the WX guy signed it! Here it is the pilot responsability to check his WX.On the other hand, I like the US landing clearance, wich is often "cleared to land #3". In Canada you usually don't get the clearance until the runway is cleared (with a fixed wing). Well there is good in both systems, and I understand the US airspace is very busy...Danny

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Yeah, I know it's a $60 piece of software. In most respects a very good one. I was just responding to the question with my first-hand experience. And I think this airport and its departure procedure are very typical for the Rocky Mountain area. Like I said, I've got a lot more mountain airports I've been to in real life to try out in the sim.

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Well the FS2004 ATC in this regard is certainly not perfect but it is also not 100% responsible for the safety of the aircraft! Relying on ATC exclusively in FS2004 or the real world is asking for disaster.One thing to always keep in mind in this discussion is that in both the real world and sim flying it is ultimately the Pilot in Command's responsibility to insure the aircraft's safety and avoid flight into terrain regardless of instructions from ATC. This requires forethought and constant situational awareness of where the aircraft is in relation to the surrounding and upcoming terrain. It's your responsibility to know where you are at at all times. FS2004 provides somewhat better tools to do this in the form of the terrain display on the map and GPS functions. While precise elevations are not shown the fact that you are over or approaching high terrain should serve as an alert to you to consult your other charts and pubs for MEAs etc to insure safety. So for example if ATC assigns a takeoff runway likely to put the aircraft at risk for high terrain it is the pilot's responsibility to be aware of that risk and ask for a different departure runway if available - the ability to do this is built into FS2004. Knowing the surrounding terrain layout should be part of your overall flight planning. If ATC gives you an approach descent below the MEA for where you're at don't do it! A nagging "please expedite descent" call is better than running into a granite cloud.Point being ATC is only one part of the safety equation. You are the biggest part!CheersBill

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You are right about it being typical for the Rocky Mountain region. I think FS has problems with rapid rising terrain. I flew from Denver to Aspen in the Lear and I was surprised with how well it handled the altitude assignments, although I scorched some deer antlers at one point and another time knocked out a bear with my landing gear. ;-) There are some quirks with certain airports you will find, but overall I found the FS2004 ATC to be improved over FS2002!

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Yes, good points. Just one comment...If ATC gives you an approach descent below the MEA for where you're at don't do it!Actually it's pretty common to get assigned altitudes below MEA, at least here in the mountainous west. The controllers have MVA's (minimum vectoring altitudes) overlayed on their scopes. Since these are defined by small area sectors instead of airways, they can be considerably lower than the corresponding MEA in areas where the terrain height changes rapidly over a small area. Since pilots don't usually have access to MVA maps, this really is a case where you are mostly relying on the controller to provide terrain separation.Dan

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