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RickB1293

Help with weather planning on long range flights

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I like flying long range transcontinental flights with the 400 / 8i. I get interim destination weather via REX and FS Kneeboard to plan STARs and runway assignments about an hour out. When I get in range of the destination ATIS I usually get completely different "in use" runways based on ground winds. This causes panic on the flight deck what with cancelling STARS and ILS assignments in the CDU and rebuilding the approach to the required runway. Things get a little gnarly because I'm usually well into the descent phase of the flight plan and pretty busy setting up the A/C for approach and landing.

 

How are the final phases of long range flights managed IRL? Does anyone have a procedure for obtaining realistic weather at destination far enough ahead of time so as to avoid the panic?

 

Thanks for your help!

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Rick,

 

The trick is plan, plan, plan!

 

During a long flight with PMDG 747-400X and AS2012, I usually watch the weather at the destination through AS2012 so that I can mentally plan for the arrival. At around 1 hour from ETA, I plan for the appropriate runway direction, enter my descent winds forecast into the FMC, determine the arrival procedures that remain for the chosen direction, and watch the ATC (FSInn) screen for the presence of ATC approach controller.

 

As I approach the airfield, I am ready to be given a runway, or decide for myself. I will have studied the approach charts and airfield layouts, so that I have a plan should the approach be changed on me.

 

This method usually prepares me for the landing as much as possible. This does not avoid all changes, of course, which could include a go-around, etc. But the question I always have in my mind is - Have I mentally planned for all contingencies that are foreseeable before I get near to the destination?

 

I find that flying the airplane is only a (minor?) part the process. My fun is largely derived from the planning processes required and whether my plans actually then cover the reality of landing.

 

I hope that this helps.

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Thanks Richard



I use FSCommander which lets me setup contingency flight plans including STARs and ILS approaches for any number of airports. Ialso use Navigraph to update the AIRACs in all of my aircraft and in FSCommander. It was frustrating to plan an approach in one only to find it unavailable in the other. Have you found that there is a disconnect between reported weather (such as REX, FSKneeboard, etc) and final approach weather via ATIS and tower instructions via FSX? 

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AS Mcdonar said "The trick is plan, plan, plan!" and thats it.

To have a perfect ontime arrival with expected arrival procedures on long hauls can be performed hassle free.
For myself I use ASE with FSBuild for my planning.

First off, Check your destination future forcast so will know the expected winds on arrival. This is important so you can actually insert the specific STAR to your plan.
I Load up ASE first then FSBuild to follow. It gives me the EET which is perfectly calculated for the trip, including with SIDS and STARS.

I seldom times arrive ten minutes or so late, but ONTIME and panic free on many.
This formula in planning for myself is so rest assured that I even post my ETA with VATSIM Virtual Flight Plan System in the remarks which cannot be amend while in flight.
http://www.vataware.com/flight.cfm?id=11626704
http://www.vataware.com/flight.cfm?id=11625249
http://www.vataware.com/flight.cfm?id=11550873
So yes, Planning long hauls with the expected arrival runways can be simple.
Main key is to look for the future forecast for your arrival airfield so you will know your expected STAR and runway.

Cheers,

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Rick,

With AS2012, the variations in wx are usually correct, although occasionally they differ, but only slightly. I believe that everyone/software is getting the wx info from a common source.

HTH.

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Thanks guys-

 

I think my problem was looking at current weather at destination instead of ETA weather. :fool:  I'll take a look at ASE or some of the RW weather services. Thanks for the wake up. 

 

Rick

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Whoa. Wait a minute. I'm going to through a great big yellow flag/card on this one.

 

 

The only real way to do that is:

 

 

1. Have that deep, meaningful, one to one with the supreme being (or be him/her).

 

or

 

2. Well, number 1 is really the only way if you're using real weather on your flights.

 

 

The best answer was the forecast, but it's still something that Aviators and Weather Guessers (meteorologists to the enlightened) struggle with this at the best of times. This is why pilots are required to have and report the latest weather prior to departure and arrival.  If the airfield is coastal, you can actually get some better forecasts because of onshore breezes and the time of the day, but even then transitory weather patterns can mess than up.

 

Depending on the aircraft, you'll be able to tolerate wind changes up to about 10kts and still land on your intended runway.  Add realism into the picture like VATSIM, and the runway may be decided for you if it's a controlled field.

 

*** The real answer is ***

Treat your flight like you would in real life. Be prepared/plan for a runway and/or arrival change. Unless the Runway change nails you during the arrival (rare), you shouldn't experience a delay.  Remember to, if an aircraft is on approach and the winds change direction, ATC is not likely to abort your landing unless the winds are severe, but would rather inform you of the winds (wind check) and maybe give you an option of going around and vectors to a new runway.

 

As for reprogramming, use of an FMC helps considerable, and having access to the charts that you may need, and reviewing them ALL before your arrival is just, well, realistic and part of every brief prior to an arrival (and departures for shorter flights).

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I'll take a look at ASE or some of the RW weather services. Thanks for the wake up. 

 

If you're using ASE in DWC mode, you should really have a look at their manual.

 

To save you the paper chase, I'll attempt to explain here:

DWC mode avoids huge changes in weather by overriding weather stations around your aircraft, setting the global weather (to include your destination) to the processed weather that should be around the plane, and adjusting it as you get closer.  As such, ATIS/AWOS/ASOS information may not reliable information in the sim.  You're better off looking at the METAR/TAF in ActiveSky, because that's what it will be forcing when you get closer.

 

For reference, in the United States, we really don't have that many runway dependent STARS, and the ones that we "do" have are normally just multi-leg STARS.  As an example, if you look at the GIBBZ1 STAR into IAD (specifically page 2 of it), you'll see that it has two legs off of SUNYJ.  After that, there are two fixes on each side.  In order for the FMC to understand which leg you want, the entry on the DEP/ARR page shows GIBBZ1.19 and GIBBZ1.01 (and may actually list each of the runways individually: GIBBZ1.19L / GIBBZ1.19C / GIBBZ1.19R - every singe one of those is exactly the same, however, same for the 1s).  The only difference between those STAR entries is the fact that the GIBBZ1.19 and the GIBBZ1.01 is the fact that the .19 option ends with SUNYJ UDIYU MATTC, and the .01 option ends with SUNYJ SIYOB MIKEJ.  You'd only really know that if you looked at the charts, though.  You could save yourself a world of pain simply by deleting the last two waypoints, and replacing them with the other side's waypoints.  This is why there's a chart requirement for pilots of Part 121 and 135 operations: you need to reference them.  Too many simmers try to skate by flying these procedures, thinking the FMC will handle it all.

 

So, if the FMC doesn't force you to enter a runway, don't enter one.  Most facilities won't give you a runway until you're passing through about FL200-15,000 anyway.  If the FMC does force you, use the METAR/TAF (real world, like AviationWeather.gov) to guess.

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Thanks Dave-

For me it's not the procedures or planning but the selection of proper resources. I can't tell you how many times I've done a weather download from FSCommander or REX an hour out of destination only to have the winds and weather overruled by FSX's ATIS broadcasts and ATC arrival controllers. I'd expect this if I were flying along the eastern seaboard on a late summer afternoon, but this seems to happen anywhere in the world. Add to that, FSX doesn't make the destination airport available to contact until you're 30-40 miles out. Manually tuning ATIS gains you another 10-20 miles but I am usually well into an approach (STAR or otherwise) by that time. Quick fingers and the CDU resolve the LNAV issue but the vertical approach profile via VNAV almost always has to be modified or a hold inserted to pair up the new FMC commands and present location.

 

You are absolutely correct about the preflight planning, charts and plates. My question was whether or not the RW weather reported in one source (REX, FSCommander, etc) was consistent with FSX's ATIS and ATC. I usually fly IFR rules around the big airports and am usually surprised by the differences in weather and especially winds. I'm curious as to whether (sic) these changes are encountered IRL. Thanks for your time and comments, they make this hobby interesting.

 

BTW, I spent seven years in Navy Air, thanks for serving shipmate.  :united-states-flag:

Regards,

Rick



So, if the FMC doesn't force you to enter a runway, don't enter one.  Most facilities won't give you a runway until you're passing through about FL200-15,000 anyway.  If the FMC does force you, use the METAR/TAF (real world, like AviationWeather.gov) to guess.

Thanks Kyle -

I haven't tried leaving the destination runway open, I'll give it a shot. BTW, what do you use for sectionals, high/low altitude airways, etc. The approach plates read nicely on my iPad with FS Kneeboard but there is nothing like looking at a big honking wallpaper chart for long range planning.

 

Rick

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I haven't tried leaving the destination runway open, I'll give it a shot.

 

You're welcome.  The giveaway is the EXEC light.  If it lights up without a runway/approach, you can leave the runway blank until one is assigned.  If it does not, you have to place a runway in there.  If I remember correctly, this is more of an issue for departure than it is for arrival.

 

 

 


BTW, what do you use for sectionals, high/low altitude airways, etc.

 

To be honest, I use ForeFlight, as that's what I use when I fly in the real world.  If I were only a simmer, I'm not sure I'd justify the $75 yearly.  If you have a second monitor SkyVector (or similar) would work just fine.  I don't know how well SkyVector would work on an iPad, in the browser.  I rarely look at the en route charts during flight, though, unless I needed to divert or I was given a re-route (VFR is a different story - sectionals I will use during flight if I'm flying an aircraft without GPS, and ForeFlight will actually take data from FSX and place it on the iPad if you download and install this).

 

If you fly real world as well (particularly instrument rating or higher, but that's only because the cost is better justified with the approach charts), I'd suggest taking a look at ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot.  I've compared them here, if you're interested.  Both are great apps, though I think Garmin Pilot is slightly cheaper in the end.

 

For planning, I use a computer-based method that's worked quite well for me, and it's in the first link in my signature.

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Rick,  it isn't cosmic in the real world either. Many times i've checked before a flight and things are totaly different on arrival. Last thursday while on a leg from DC to Miami, the weather was way different. I was put into holding 3 times while on the hiley four. The airport closed while a big line of cells stretching from the keys to the carolinas moved through. 4 guys diverted while waiting. We like to load the estimated arrival and approach to help calculate block time. If things are different, its no big deal to reload and re-init the landing page. On average, descent usually comes 45 to an hour so we request digital atis or weather about 30 prior. We brief the expected approach and take/brief what ever we get

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Thanks Rick,

My goal in the sim is to make everything as realistic as possible. It's great to hear that RW pilots have the same problems and are willing to share their experience with us amateurs. I was in Navy Air for seven years and it wasn't "weather" unless you could walk on it, couldn't see through it or it blew faster than you could fly in it.

 

Thanks again,

 

Rick

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It's great to hear that RW pilots have the same problems and are willing to share their experience with us amateurs.

 

Sadly, there are a lot of things that some would dismiss as problems only in the sim, that are present in the real world.

 

...like the FAA making weather decisions on their data, while DAL, SWA, UAL, AWE and all the other operators have their own weather teams and interpreted data.  The list goes on...haha.

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BTW, I spent seven years in Navy Air, thanks for serving shipmate.

 

Excellent!  Which platform Rick?  P-3C's for me. North Atlantic Winter mostly, in and around GI-UK gap, between 500ft (sorta) and the ceiling. Most bangs and bruises I ever got at one time. Talk about weather changes. Loved the flying, but was usually more calm beneath the waves.

 

Thank you for your service too my friend.

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Want to know my trick? While it may not be the "proper" way of doing things, it works for me, as I don't have constant contact with "company" to help.

 

I program all, but the STAR and approach in until I am actually at TOD. That way, I am close enough to know that the weather "shouldn't" change too much, and during descent, I have plenty of time to square away a total of 2 minutes max to enter in my data.

 

Works almost every single time. If a VatSim controller is on, it is even easier. I can just contact Him and ask for an update if I notice the ATIS hasn't been touched in a while.

 

I never usually enter in a STAR into my flightplan anymore, as I find that it always changes, or at least the runway does. So if I do use a STAR at departure (mainly in the US) I always always always leave the runway out until I am close...that way I am not worrying about it at the last minute.

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Excellent! Which platform Rick? P-3C's for me. North Atlantic Winter mostly, in and around GI-UK gap, between 500ft (sorta) and the ceiling. Most bangs and bruises I ever got at one time. Talk about weather changes. Loved the flying, but was usually more calm beneath the waves.

 

 

Hi Dave-

SH-3As (the shithook) for me. Most of my time was reserve cadre chasing subs around Puget Sound (NAS Whibey Island) and SF Bay (NAS Alameda). The only time I got out of the country was a short TDY to Barbers Point HI :LMAO: . Ever been to Fallon NV? Now there's a sweet duty station - live fire range for the ring knockers at Miramar (Top Gun). Rates right up there with Diego Garcia and Adak AK. I used to catch rides on the Orions - sweet bird at FL300, don't think I'd like 'em wave hopping around the pond at 500 ft on two engines!! Were you stationed at Brunswick? Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

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Were you stationed at Brunswick?

 

That is indeed correct!  Being from Connecticut, I thought I knew what winter was like. Nope. Brunswick winter... man, if that's a taste of what our Canadian brothers go through, then I kjust quit! LOL. In my 4 or 5 months there, I'm happy I wasn't actually there most of the time.  Run to Puerto Rico, bang over to Bermunda, then up to the Gap.

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Dave-

 

I'm from MN and we're NORTH of Canada (Really!). I love winter weather - in FLorida.

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