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hsmillie

Realistic ATC

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Hi,

 

This is my first post, so i apologise in advance for any mistakes.

 

I have been flying the PMDG 737NGX very confident in actually flying the plane, manually and automated, however I'm getting a little bit bored of the same robotic voices from the default FSX ATC. Currently I am manually plotting my flight plan in the default FSX flight planner for the required VORS, intersections and airways, i dont mind doing this, however I would like to know how to get the ATC to allow me to decide my point of decent and how to use the atc in conjunction with my SIDS and STARS. I'm looking at these ATC addons:

 

- VoxATC

- PRO-ATC/X

- RADAR CONTACT V4.3

 

Which one would be the best for the most realistic effect of ATC?

 

I am also interest in VATSIM, however I don't have the time or space for myself talking to a computer with other people around.

 

Cheers,

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There a couple of threads discussing ATC alternatives in detail.

 

There is Proflight emulator, Radar Contact and Voxatc. Each has its pros and cons. As for Proatcx, I advise you to wait until the long promised update is released because it lacks some basic features. It doesn't interact with AI and you can't request runway change.

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Welcome and ... yes, you'll find heaps of additional information on better ATC in the FSX forum.

 

For Radar Contact:

It works button-controlled and has an easy, clear user interface. It supports SIDs and STARs, but can't assign them. (It lets you fly your own ones.)

 

For VoxATC:

It works only voice-controlled (Windows native voice recognition with U.S. English language) and it can assign SIDs and STARs (from a Navigraph AIRAC cycle in Level-D format). The latter requires a native flightplan loaded and active in FSX, including at least one waypoint that's also part of the respective SID or STAR.

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You should also have a look at PFE (Pro Flight Emulator)  It got an update just a few days ago as well.

In this video there is a very long pre flight check. But after about 17-18 mins PFE kicks in with the Clearance following the Captain's emergency briefing.

 

For me it's slick and little sign of robotic voices.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94xXG5EC6d0

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For VoxATC:

It works only voice-controlled (Windows native voice recognition with U.S. English language) and it can assign SIDs and STARs (from a Navigraph AIRAC cycle in Level-D format). The latter requires a native flightplan loaded and active in FSX, including at least one waypoint that's also part of the respective SID or STAR.

You can also have the FO handle communications and don't have to use your voice.

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Here is the landing extracted from a 3h video, that I just recorded:

 

http://www.twitch.tv/virtualfreightdog/c/4345472

 

You will mostly hear PRO ATC's background chatter until ground requests me to contact tower.

 

The sounds in Pro ATC are not that bad, but there are quite a few bugs that still need to be smashed.

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While I won't be the guy who comes in here trumpeting that you should use an option not on your list, I do feel like I should come in and point out a few things:

  1. There are certain things that these programs will do that no real world controller would ask of you.  A notable example is the "descent to X altitude by Y DME of Z location."  It's an absolutely valid ATC command, but no controller in their right mind would give it.  It's too vague and work-intensive on the part of the crew.  Additionally, it's better for the controller to give a crossing restriction on a common fix.  I have a feeling the person coded it to do that in cases where pilots aren't using STARs with crossing restrictions, but don't feel like you have to go learn some crazy way of putting this into the FMC as if it would happen in the real world.
  2. Vectoring will still be terrible.  Vectoring is an ATC "freestyle" section of sorts.  It's a segment used to sequence aircraft.  If there are vector portions of your route (which occur often in the United States - not so much in the EU), they will likely be awkward.
  3. The program will be rigid, in general.  It will ask you to do things based on the rules the programmer set into the program.  Unfortunately, the people who made these programs are not as well versed in ATC as they should be*.  It might be a decent primer to ATC (and a step up from FSX's ATC), but again, don't expect this to match up with ATC in the real world.

*Then again, ATC is extremely complex, and varies significantly, even within the same system (how the NY TRACON does things is completely different from how Atlanta TRACON does things - seriously), so I can't say I blame them too much.

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While I won't be the guy who comes in here trumpeting that you should use an option not on your list, I do feel like I should come in and point out a few things:

  1. There are certain things that these programs will do that no real world controller would ask of you.  A notable example is the "descent to X altitude by Y DME of Z location."  It's an absolutely valid ATC command, but no controller in their right mind would give it.  It's too vague and work-intensive on the part of the crew.  Additionally, it's better for the controller to give a crossing restriction on a common fix.  I have a feeling the person coded it to do that in cases where pilots aren't using STARs with crossing restrictions, but don't feel like you have to go learn some crazy way of putting this into the FMC as if it would happen in the real world.
  2. Vectoring will still be terrible.  Vectoring is an ATC "freestyle" section of sorts.  It's a segment used to sequence aircraft.  If there are vector portions of your route (which occur often in the United States - not so much in the EU), they will likely be awkward.
  3. The program will be rigid, in general.  It will ask you to do things based on the rules the programmer set into the program.  Unfortunately, the people who made these programs are not as well versed in ATC as they should be*.  It might be a decent primer to ATC (and a step up from FSX's ATC), but again, don't expect this to match up with ATC in the real world.

*Then again, ATC is extremely complex, and varies significantly, even within the same system (how the NY TRACON does things is completely different from how Atlanta TRACON does things - seriously), so I can't say I blame them too much.

Yes, but the most unrealistic of all is the default ATC. VATSIM et al works only if you can get controllers on line for the whole route you intend to fly.

 

So people end up going with what they are happy with. For me PFE gives me the 'freedom' to do my own thing (recognising its limitations)and also it works well with SIDs STARs and transatlantic routings. But above all it's the least robotic. Have a look at the video above. Now that's an a/c that PMDG could try in their 'classic' range :rolleyes:

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Yes, but the most unrealistic of all is the default ATC. VATSIM et al works only if you can get controllers on line for the whole route you intend to fly.

 

True.

 

 

 


So people end up going with what they are happy with. For me PFE gives me the 'freedom' to do my own thing (recognising its limitations)and also it works well with SIDs STARs and transatlantic routings. But above all it's the least robotic. Have a look at the video above. Now that's an a/c that PMDG could try in their 'classic' range

 

That's the thing, though:

You have to know the limitations.  There are way too many out there who think these add-ons are 100% correct, and realistic.  That's why I posted what I did.  I'm not trying to say "don't use them."  I'm only saying "don't think they're going to be correct to the real world all the time."

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PFE does great things with transmissions: Heaps of voice sets, voice selection according to locations, misreadings, unintelligible transmissions etc.

As long as you are willing to create, set up, convert and load your flights via PFE, PF2000 and FSX, it's a good choice, as well.

 

RadarContact is good at crossing restrictions, for example, and VoxATC can even clear you for a STAR (may or may not include a CR) or instruct you to descent via a STAR.

 

Vectoring, unfortunately, is always pretty 'generic' with offline ATC, not really taking into account terrain, obstacles, RW runway operations and stuff.

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You will mostly hear PRO ATC's background chatter until ground requests me to contact tower.

 

This is one area that sets PFE apart from the other ATC offline solutions. When you fly with no traffic, RC4, ProATC-X, and VOXATC provides traffic ATC via canned Chatter, which is not related in any way to the flight you are on. PFE on the other hand will generate it's own simulated traffic chatter, that uses the same frequency and same controller that you are using in the same phase of flight you are in. The only issue though is it will generate the chatter using all the airlines available to it, so you can have a situation of a European regional like EasyJet flying in the US or a US like JetBlue flying in Europe. There is options to filter out airlines on a specific airport, so you can prevent this on the ground, but they will appear enroute. Other than that the feature works great!!

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When you fly with no traffic, RC4, ProATC-X, and VOXATC provides traffic ATC via canned Chatter

 

A small correction. VoxATC creates and handles it's own generated traffic (so there is no unrelated chatter).

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A small correction. VoxATC creates and handles it's own generated traffic (so there is no unrelated chatter).

VOXATC generates actual traffic, where PFE and the other solutions use FSX Traffic system for AI. What I'm talking about is when you don't have actual traffic but want to hear ATC in the background. I don't think VOXATC does this, or am I wrong? (ATC Chatter but no actual traffic) I like to fly this way, for performance reasons as I don't have  powerful system. I can fly with traffic, and I usually do this when I do my youtube videos, but I get the smoothest flights without it. This way I can at least feel like I'm not alone in the sky, and have a nice smooth flight even with performance demanding addons!!

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Actually, RC interacts with AI the same way PFE does. If the default ATC gives the plane an instruction, they repeat the instructions. As for VOXATC, it doesn't use canned chatter. It creates AI plane and gives them instructions as the default ATC.

 

Both PFE and RC has an option to use canned chatter or the fault AI.

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Ok, now I see what you mean. One cure for the lonely skies is to have LiveATC playing in the background. I have purchased an add on, that will play different LiveATC feeds based on what frequencies you have tuned in FSX.

 

Anyhow, people have been suggesting PFE quite strongly and I was minutes away from purchasing it until I realised, that it does not get the needed info (SID/STAR names and so on) from navdata, but you have to insert them by hand.

 

I'm still tempted, but as a RC4, VoxATC and Pro ATC/X owner, I find it hard to spend even more money on ATC products without getting a change to try out a demo version first.

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There are certain things that these programs will do that no real world controller would ask of you. A notable example is the "descent to X altitude by Y DME of Z location." It's an absolutely valid ATC command, but no controller in their right mind would give it. It's too vague and work-intensive on the part of the crew. Additionally, it's better for the controller to give a crossing restriction on a common fix. I have a feeling the person coded it to do that in cases where pilots aren't using STARs with crossing restrictions, but don't feel like you have to go learn some crazy way of putting this into the FMC as if it would happen in the real world.

Hey Kyle;

 

I'm curious why you say this. One of my best friends has been an ATC for 30 years. That instruction is used in the real world, on VATSIM, and on Pilot Edge regularly. And is a very easy thing to enter into the NGX FMS. Often happens when flying to an airport without a STAR and no appropriately located fix at which to issue an altitude constraint. And, yes, I do have a PPL with an instrument rating. And, yes, this is just friendly conversation. :)

 

Dave

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That instruction is used in the real world, on VATSIM, and on Pilot Edge regularly. And is a very easy thing to enter into the NGX FMS.

 

I'm curious as to what the instruction was, exactly, because the majority of the time, it's going to be related to a particular fix or specific location.  You'll note that I said that it's valid, but avoided.  I'm curious as to what your specific evidence is to show that it's a normal instruction.  In flying ten years (about half of that on instrument plans), I've never heard it.  If there's no specific fix crossing instruction, it's always just been a "descend and maintain" instruction.

 

 

 


And, yes, this is just friendly conversation. :)

 

I figured.  I'm just equally curious as to why you think it's normal, because I've never heard it except in these add-on programs, or informal instructions (VFR FF: "just in case you're unfamiliar with the area, you should be at X altitude at about Y miles from the field.")

 

Beyond being a pilot in the real world, myself, I've been involved in work with the FAA directly, which required work at the ATCSCC, Potomac TRACON, and I have a bunch of friends at ZDC.

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I'm curious as to what the instruction was, exactly, because the majority of the time, it's going to be related to a particular fix or specific location.

I don't fly in the US, but we regularly get "descend FLXXX to be level YY miles before ZZZZZ". I have never been given a DME related instruction other than "report XX DME YYY". Maybe because generally we only encounter VORs either enroute (cruise) or as the IAF to a procedure where ""descent to X altitude by Y DME of Z location" doesn't make sense as traffic separation for an instrument procedure is not vertical unless holding in which case the clearance is "hold at XXX as published, flight level/altitude"

 

I should mention, that most altitude constraints are related to descending through different FIRs, probably not something relevant to trans-US navigation.

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Just to clarify, I'm not referring to on-route fixes. I'm talking about off-route, arbitrary points.

 

A controller referencing a point in your route is rather easy to handle, and while not standard in most FAA parlance, it's pretty reasonable.

 

I'm talking about being on the DOCCS into IAD and getting "cross 30nm west of CSN at 15,000." It's not on the route, so adding that into your VNAV profile is tough. Do you somehow figure out how to make a pseudo waypoint nearest that 30nm ring of CSN crossing your route? Why not, as a controller, just give an altitude on the STAR closest to where that would be?

 

If the aircraft is not on a route, then fine. That's easy enough for the pilot to add in. PPos to the new pseudo waypoint. That's a route where one doesn't exist. If a route exists, though, the instruction is overly burdensome, and controllers are taught to avoid that where possible. Example: if a controller is going to issue a full route clearance, he or she will say "I have an amendment to your route - advise when ready to copy," even if you called for the clearance right then (they don't expect pilots to be expecting such a long clearance).

Just to clarify, I'm not referring to on-route fixes. I'm talking about off-route, arbitrary points.

 

A controller referencing a point in your route is rather easy to handle, and while not standard in most FAA parlance, it's pretty reasonable.

 

I'm talking about being on the DOCCS into IAD and getting "cross 30nm west of CSN at 15,000." It's not on the route, so adding that into your VNAV profile is tough. Do you somehow figure out how to make a pseudo waypoint nearest that 30nm ring of CSN crossing your route? Why not, as a controller, just give an altitude on the STAR closest to where that would be?

 

If the aircraft is not on a route, then fine. That's easy enough for the pilot to add in. PPos to the new pseudo waypoint. That's a route where one doesn't exist. If a route exists, though, the instruction is overly burdensome, and controllers are taught to avoid that where possible. Example: if a controller is going to issue a full route clearance, he or she will say "I have an amendment to your route - advise when ready to copy," even if you called for the clearance right then (they don't expect pilots to be expecting such a long clearance).

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Yes, but the most unrealistic of all is the default ATC. VATSIM et al works only if you can get controllers on line for the whole route you intend to fly.

 

So people end up going with what they are happy with. For me PFE gives me the 'freedom' to do my own thing (recognising its limitations)and also it works well with SIDs STARs and transatlantic routings. But above all it's the least robotic. Have a look at the video above. Now that's an a/c that PMDG could try in their 'classic' range

 

 

Your analysis of Vatsim is spot-on. I pay $15 a month (based on 12-month commitment) to fly on PilotEdge.  There are huge difference between Vatsim and PilotEdge and in a nutshell:

 

  • Vatsim offers 'world-wide coverage' but chances are at any given time, you may have anywhere from NO ATC online to fully-staffed (during special fly-in events). One other thing I don't care for about Vatsim is the controller can 'close up shop' at any moment, with little to NO notice, and switch you to Unicom advisory frequency. In the RW that would NEVER be the case for a commercial jet flying an IFR flight plan. In plain language, Vatsim is a good place to 'learn how' to talk to ATC, but for ongoing flights I prefer PilotEdge, hands-down.
  • PilotEdge offers 'point to point' ATC and you are 'handed off' from Clearance/Delivery to Ground to Tower to Departure, then various ATC 'centers' during mid-flight, then Approach, Tower and Ground at the other end.  During flight you will be given the whole smorgasbord of ATC, including altitude & speed restrictions, visual, RNAV, localizer and ILS approach procedures, vectors to final, and impending traffic advisories.  
  • Pilot Edge operates 8am to 11pm 363 days a year Pacific Coast time.  Their controllers are professional-grade, and there is no 'hi-jinks' as you sometimes find on Vatsim.  The controller is watching your ILS flight, and if you wander off course or are at the wrong altitude, they will gently let you know.  The more you learn about navigation and charts, the more you will enjoy the PilotEdge ATC.
  • Pilot Edge primary coverage area is limited.  Southern California plus San Francisco is it for 'now'.  There is a possibility that they will open a New York hub, but that's not official.  Major companies use PilotEdge to maintain pilot ATC currency, in lieu of extra wear and tear on the real airplane (plus related costs).
  • No matter if you have a primitive joystick and a low end PC all the way up to a full blown simulator in an actual Boeing nose cone, PilotEdge to me is as important or more so than the very most expensive hardware a person can own, because now it's 'real' and not just the result of some programmer.  Nothing against software engineers, but there simply is no substitute for a real human being watching your flight on his/her scope, and stepping you up and down as you go, all the way to your endpoint parking!
  • You'll be busy all flight long with frequency changes as the controllers hand you over to the next ATC airspace.  This is 'as real as it gets' imho.
  • PilotEdge offers a no-credit-card-needed 14 day free trial.  I was sold after two days. They have plans to fit any budget, including a 'per hour' plan if you don't fly much.  Some people think 50 cents a day is too much and stick with Vatsim and are happy with 'sometimes' ATC.  That's up to each individual pilot. I dropped a pay channel from my cable subscription, and thus PilotEdge has zero impact on my cash flow.
  • And some folks are happier using a software-based ATC for a lot of reasons. This isn't 'wrong', it's just a choice. I flew Vatsim for about a year or so before discovering PilotEdge. I used to fly all over the USA, but find I truly enjoy shorter hops, where the workflow for the pilot is heaviest.  Cross-country or trans-oceanic flights are in my view, unrealistic. I suspect a lot of pilots are multi-tasking when flying hours and hours over boring terrain at FL400. Again, though, it's a choice.

Vatsim and/or PilotEdge offer you a degree of enjoyment that is an order of magnitude higher than even the most costly of flight deck setups.  Without human ATC, you're just 'playing a video game' IMHO.  When the controller says 'nice job' after a hairy landing, you really get a rush. They will ask you to speed up or slow down to maintain spacing, and issue hold-short instructions if you will be taxiing across active runways. If you have an emergency, they will clear the airspace and help you get down quickly and safely. The free trial says everything. If it's not for you, you will know inside 14 days.

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Anyhow, people have been suggesting PFE quite strongly and I was minutes away from purchasing it until I realised, that it does not get the needed info (SID/STAR names and so on) from navdata, but you have to insert them by hand.

 

 

It's not that difficult  to put together your own FPL is it? Once done it's done. Once I've downloaded the data it takes no more than 5 minutes to set up. Just think! An airline is given a new route so they have to generate a new FPL too. There are some simmers who seem to want their FPLs handed to them on a plate. No skill needed to check out any NOTAMS etc.

 

Once my FPL is set up in PFE I can use it as often as I wish. Each airport rwy is pre allocated a SID or STAR just as in real life. So all I need to do is choose say which SID I need and PFE does the rest.

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Ok, now I see what you mean. One cure for the lonely skies is to have LiveATC playing in the background. I have purchased an add on, that will play different LiveATC feeds based on what frequencies you have tuned in FSX.

 

Anyhow, people have been suggesting PFE quite strongly and I was minutes away from purchasing it until I realised, that it does not get the needed info (SID/STAR names and so on) from navdata, but you have to insert them by hand.

 

I'm still tempted, but as a RC4, VoxATC and Pro ATC/X owner, I find it hard to spend even more money on ATC products without getting a change to try out a demo version first

I'd be interested in the LiveATC addon, can you  supply the product name please.

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I'd be interested in the LiveATC addon, can you  supply the product name please.

 

No problem! It's Live ATC Chatter from Cielosim.

It's not that difficult  to put together your own FPL is it?  ... Just think!

 

 

Well no. That is why I started building my own flight planner while I was waiting for PFPX to be released.

 

Once my FPL is set up in PFE I can use it as often as I wish. Each airport rwy is pre allocated a SID or STAR just as in real life. So all I need to do is choose say which SID I need and PFE does the rest.

 

This isn't quite the impression I got from reading the manual. Maybe I didn't understand something correctly?

 

From what I read, you have to change transition altitudes (only one available for the whole Europe?), minimum safe altitudes, SID/STAR altitude (and speed?) constraints, SID/STAR names, step climbs and so on.

 

All this data (except for the step climbs) can be found from the navdata. This is why the manual input method (for me) feels quite cumbersome and prone to errors.

 

I was planning to implement a program, that converted a PFPX flight plan into PFE compiled plan to avoid typing errors and cut down setup time. Unfortunately after I contacted the PFE developer, I found out that these files are not open for modification.

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No problem! It's Live ATC Chatter from Cielosim.

 

 

Well no. That is why I started building my own flight planner while I was waiting for PFPX to be released.

 

 

This isn't quite the impression I got from reading the manual. Maybe I didn't understand something correctly?

 

From what I read, you have to change transition altitudes (only one available for the whole Europe?), minimum safe altitudes, SID/STAR altitude (and speed?) constraints, SID/STAR names, step climbs and so on.

 

All this data (except for the step climbs) can be found from the navdata. This is why the manual input method (for me) feels quite cumbersome and prone to errors.

 

I was planning to implement a program, that converted a PFPX flight plan into PFE compiled plan to avoid typing errors and cut down setup time. Unfortunately after I contacted the PFE developer, I found out that these files are not open for modification.

 

There isn't a single transition altitude for Europe in PFE. And all of them can be changed if you want.

Setting up a FP L for the first time takes time to be totally correct. But thereafter one needs only to tweak it if necessary. Step climbs depend on your weight

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