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Gregg_Seipp

PFPX - My impressions (and frustrations) after a week

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This isn't really a PMDG thing but the software is so relevant to the PMDG airplanes and the people that fly their planes, seemed like a good place to get the conversation going.  I got PFPX a week ago and started tinkering with it.  After watching a bunch of videos, many of which were talking about how powerful it is, I decided to make a flight and fly on Sunday.  I set my departure as KEWR and my arrival to EGLL.  I chose the standard 777-200LR template, created my airplane and started letting PFPX fill stuff in.  When it got to the route, it failed...could not automatically produce a route between those two airports.  I ended up trying various different things but, being a newb at it, nothing I tried worked (I tried the reverse route from EGLL to KEWR and it worked).  I spent a few hours more, studying, reading, etc. until my opportunity to take a flight was gone.  Here's what I've learned.

  • PFPX is nice looking.  It's got a great user interface and many options including ETOPS.
  • PFPX directly interfaces with TOPCAT which is really nice.
  • Compared to other software (EFASS, Simbrief), PFPX requires you to learn and act as a dispatcher.  While EFASS (which has no ETOPS) and Simbrief (which does have ETOPS) will both hand you a flight plan relatively painlessly, PFPX will make you work for it. 
  • If you do get a flightplan out of EFASS or Simbrief, there's a decent chance that it won't pass validation in PFPX even though it passes in EFASS or Simbrief.  I've done a flightplan in Simbrief, paste it into PFPX and gotten 7 or 8 errors.  Who's to know which is more correct and, honestly, who cares?  Maybe it'd be a problem flying online?

Now, honestly, I'm new at it.  My thought process when I bought it was that it would act as a dispatcher, similar to EFASS and Simbrief, not require me to be one.  You have to learn a fair amount more about routing than you do with other software.  While using it, I feel like I'm sitting in a dispatchers office, working around more detailed issues, rerouting because of this or that, understand things like AUTO and AUTO+, etc.  Maybe after a long time of studying I'd figure these things out, but, honestly, it's going to take away my sim time and I don't know if it's worth it.

 

My one cent.

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To bad you encountered problems with routing. In my experience, PFPX will, if you are up to date with latest AIRAC edition, find the correct route (waypoints and airways) between two airports. The only problem I sometime encounter is wrong flight levels, but usually this can be sorted out by selecting "Upper airways" in "Edit route".

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To bad you encountered problems with routing. In my experience, PFPX will, if you are up to date with latest AIRAC edition, find the correct route (waypoints and airways) between two airports.

 

I only have one AIRAC installed on this machine...the latest...1605 rev 1, the same one I'm using for EFASS and SimBrief.

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My thought process when I bought it was that it would act as a dispatcher, similar to EFASS and Simbrief, not require me to be one.

 

A little pre-purchase research is extremely important, particularly when it comes to software. PFPX stands for Professional Flight Planner X. The word "planner" is extremely important in that it refers to your ability to plan your flight. Being handed things isn't really planning. The reason the dispatch position exists as a human role in the real world is that it needs a human touch. Until we have online dispatchers like we have online ATC, if you're looking for any sort of accuracy, then you're going to have to do it yourself (even if you grab a route from FlightAware, it was still assembled by a human dispatcher at some point).

 

I know the sim crowd likes to think that routing between two points is pretty standard - in some cases, it is - but it really isn't, overall. This is UAL470 over the past 5 days:

RNLDI4 OTTTO Q80 FAREV BWG J6 LIT TXK BYP UKW GTH CNX J74 SJN J231 TNP SEAVU2
RNLDI4 OTTTO Q80 FAREV BWG RZC BGD ABQ J78 ZUN PKE J4 TNP SEAVU2
RNLDI4 OTTTO COLNS J134 STEVY LAYED J134 GBEES KI51O ELIOE KK51K SCAWT KK48C DRAWL KA42W KA39U KA36S KA33Q HIPPI J231 TNP SEAVU2
BUNZZ3 RAMAY Q72 HACKS J149 EMPTY J80 FYLLS KI57M SCHMD KK54I TYGER KK48C DRAWL KA42W KA39U PUMPS KA33Q HIPPI J231 TNP SEAVU2
BUNZZ3 RAMAY Q72 HACKS J149 EMPTY J80 FYLLS KI60O JARKE KK60I AZN KK57C HLC J64 PUB TBC J64 PGS RIIVR2
 
There are similarities, but that route is being adjusted daily to accommodate shifts in the jet stream, weather patterns, traffic flow constraints by the ATCSCC, and other factors. Getting a program to accommodate anything other than the wind isn't particularly reasonable/feasible, which is why we have people doing it. The auto-find tool is nice, but it's complex, and I don't think it's unreasonable for it to trip sometimes. I'm curious as to how and why it failed for your KEWR-EGLL, however (despite KEWR being a literal black hole pit of despair). Would it not produce a route at all? What did you change between running the two routes? Were you planning an Eastbound flight during a time the Westbound NATs were active and trying to run CFMU conformance checking?
 
 
 
 

 

All the same, using PFPX doesn't preclude you from getting a route from a real world source like FlightAware and pasting it in (the routing part has already been done by a real world dispatcher if it's on FA). You just might need to make a couple changes to a few things as some sources give you cleaner routes than others. As an example, if I paste a route in from FlightAware, it usually takes it without issue unless it chokes on raw Lat/Lon points, which are easy to convert (and there's an on-screen guide to give you the proper formats in the route planner's edit screen).

 

Also keep in mind that you can make it as simple or as detailed as you'd like. If I'm in a rush and don't want the higher levels of accuracy, I'll simply throw in departure, destination, randomize payload, paste in a route, ignore CFMU processing*, toss in a nominal remaining fuel number, one alternate, address ETOPS if I need to, and launch off. Your experience is all what you want to put into it. There are days where I'm interested in how I might handle a weather event, so I get pretty deep into the planning process. There are also days where I can't be bothered and throw in the least amount of effort possible. Both are options, but it does take a little adjustment.

 

 

 

*Only relevant in/to/from Europe, btw - not sure if you're attempting to run it for the US. We don't do that stuff here unless we need to, as it allows for higher peak efficiency in good weather. It's not all better, though, as it does allow for some pretty spectacular backups if weather doesn't follow the forecast.

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 I'm curious as to how and why it failed for your KEWR-EGLL, however (despite KEWR being a literal black hole pit of despair). Would it not produce a route at all? What did you change between running the two routes? Were you planning an Eastbound flight during a time the Westbound NATs were active and trying to run CFMU conformance checking?

 

 

 

There appears to be an issue where a SID is not available Kyle, in this instance from 04's at KEWR. A route is not generated at all.

 

I posted a workaround on the PFPX forum using the exit points by adding them to the airport file.

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There appears to be an issue where a SID is not available Kyle, in this instance from 04's at KEWR. A route is not generated at all.

 

I posted a workaround on the PFPX forum using the exit points by adding them to the airport file.

 

Weird, and frustrating, of course. Nav data issue though, it seems?

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When it got to the route, it failed...could not automatically produce a route between those two airports.
It happens every now and then. Try it again using Advanced Route Finder and optimize for fuel. I just got a route 10 minutes ago. I just saw Stephen Cooke's post. The 22R is in use now.

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I don't recall in earlier releases such an issue, of course I may not have come across the problem.

 

As I recall though PFPX would route from the departure point placed on the runway heading where departure procedures do not exist.

 

Problem has been raised on a support ticket.

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I posted a workaround on the PFPX forum using the exit points by adding them to the airport file
What the name of the Topic. I don't see it on the PFPX Forum.

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Here it is Michael:

 

Route Finder was not able to find a valid Route

Using the exit points and planning a 04 departure later for tonight's NAT:

 

BDR DCT HFD J42 BOS DCT EBONY N497C RIKAL NATX GISTI DCT SLANY UL9 STU UP2 OKESI Y3 BEDEK OCK2F

 

adjusted from SLANY to achieve validation.

 

EDIT:

 

If you want the notified departure from KEWR:

 

MERIT DCT HFD DCT PUT DCT TOPPS N499A RIKAL NATX GISTI DCT SLANY UL9 STU UP2 OKESI Y3 BEDEK OCK2F

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PFPX has its quirks, and sometimes it's a pain to get it to accept RBV in the USA not the one in SoAfrica; however, so far it's the best thing I've found in this price range for basic planning including ETOPS and Redispatch plans.

 

Kyle, was that a nod to the Princes Bride?

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Kyle, was that a nod to the Princes Bride?

 

That's right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I'm gonna read it to you.

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It may seem frustrating that you don't get a route with a single button click but to me preparing a full flight plan including the route preparation and the fuel calculation is part of the plaisure of the flight.

 

I like the challenge of finding a valid route by myself and trying to optimize it for the weather (other facters of optimization such as the traffic are quite irrelevant in flight sim).

It may be very tricky and a long process to get a valid route across the Europe airspace that passes the CFMU validation, and surely PFPX cannot handle this alone, but I'm not sure whether any planner software does it alone really!

Now you could get rid of the validation and just pick the first shortest route given but what is the point of getting realistic aircraft addons if it is to flight them unrealistically (even if it goes beyond the job of a pilot) ?

 

The funny thing here is that when you get used to preparing a route over Europe with all the restrictions and to validating it through the CFMU, it gets frustrating not to have the same tool for the other parts of the world to ensure your route is correct!

I always wonder where to find if they exist the similar restrictions in the US airspace and how to check if my route is correct.

 

When I look at the routes used for domestic or international flights in US airspace on flightaware, they seem to be quite "relaxed" largely getting rid of the airways with a lot of directs. Does it mean that the use of airways is not compulsory in US while it is strictly in Europe (out of some specified directs which are also usually conditional)?

 

Of course PFPX has some quirks when it comes to generate automatically some routes but the good think is that you can really work your route segment by segment and you can make rather accurate fuel calculations.

 

Who can deny the satisfaction of having done a real-like flight from preflight to shutdown including the flight preparation from scratch and being able to handle everything correctly?

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I always wonder where to find if they exist the similar restrictions in the US airspace and how to check if my route is correct.

 

We don't use a method like CFMU validation over in the EU. Given the larger amount of airspace under a single entity, it's a little easier to use flexible methods of addressing constraints.

 

Current airspace status can be found here on the FAA OIS:

http://www.fly.faa.gov/ois/

 

Any restrictions on routing will be under National Programs and will have a name like FCA###, and the name will be hyperlinked to a page where you can see more information about where the constraint is (so that you can route around it).

 

 

 

"Plays" can be found in the Playbook:

http://www.fly.faa.gov/PLAYBOOK/pbindex.html

^Even if you aren't interested in this site, just have a look to appreciate our fine, FAA, early-90s website that we've only bothered to update the content on. Yes, that's a tiled background and a scanned picture of a glossy print of a tornado... 

 

If you see a storm front between ORD and DFW, and you're going from JFK to LAX, you could use the ONL Play (Playbook > East to West Transcon > ONL). Plays, however, are usually recommended on the planning telcon that is referenced at the bottom of the main FAA OIS page. The various operators (airlines, cargo lines, NBAA, etc.) call into this telcon and discuss how best to approach the airspace situation, and the ATCSCC (- system command center) will solicit various playbook routes on occasion to help handle a particular situation. Some of the common ones are holiday travel between NY and FL (Playbook > Regional Routes > [obvious names]).

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A little pre-purchase research is extremely important, particularly when it comes to software. PFPX stands for Professional Flight Planner X. The word "planner" is extremely important in that it refers to your ability to plan your flight. Being handed things isn't really planning. The reason the dispatch position exists as a human role in the real world is that it needs a human touch. Until we have online dispatchers like we have online ATC, if you're looking for any sort of accuracy, then you're going to have to do it yourself (even if you grab a route from FlightAware, it was still assembled by a human dispatcher at some point).

 

I know the sim crowd likes to think that routing between two points is pretty standard - in some cases, it is - but it really isn't, overall. This is UAL470 over the past 5 days:

RNLDI4 OTTTO Q80 FAREV BWG J6 LIT TXK BYP UKW GTH CNX J74 SJN J231 TNP SEAVU2
RNLDI4 OTTTO Q80 FAREV BWG RZC BGD ABQ J78 ZUN PKE J4 TNP SEAVU2
RNLDI4 OTTTO COLNS J134 STEVY LAYED J134 GBEES KI51O ELIOE KK51K SCAWT KK48C DRAWL KA42W KA39U KA36S KA33Q HIPPI J231 TNP SEAVU2
BUNZZ3 RAMAY Q72 HACKS J149 EMPTY J80 FYLLS KI57M SCHMD KK54I TYGER KK48C DRAWL KA42W KA39U PUMPS KA33Q HIPPI J231 TNP SEAVU2
BUNZZ3 RAMAY Q72 HACKS J149 EMPTY J80 FYLLS KI60O JARKE KK60I AZN KK57C HLC J64 PUB TBC J64 PGS RIIVR2
 
There are similarities, but that route is being adjusted daily to accommodate shifts in the jet stream, weather patterns, traffic flow constraints by the ATCSCC, and other factors. Getting a program to accommodate anything other than the wind isn't particularly reasonable/feasible, which is why we have people doing it. The auto-find tool is nice, but it's complex, and I don't think it's unreasonable for it to trip sometimes. I'm curious as to how and why it failed for your KEWR-EGLL, however (despite KEWR being a literal black hole pit of despair). Would it not produce a route at all? What did you change between running the two routes? Were you planning an Eastbound flight during a time the Westbound NATs were active and trying to run CFMU conformance checking?
 
 
 
 

 

All the same, using PFPX doesn't preclude you from getting a route from a real world source like FlightAware and pasting it in (the routing part has already been done by a real world dispatcher if it's on FA). You just might need to make a couple changes to a few things as some sources give you cleaner routes than others. As an example, if I paste a route in from FlightAware, it usually takes it without issue unless it chokes on raw Lat/Lon points, which are easy to convert (and there's an on-screen guide to give you the proper formats in the route planner's edit screen).

 

Also keep in mind that you can make it as simple or as detailed as you'd like. If I'm in a rush and don't want the higher levels of accuracy, I'll simply throw in departure, destination, randomize payload, paste in a route, ignore CFMU processing*, toss in a nominal remaining fuel number, one alternate, address ETOPS if I need to, and launch off. Your experience is all what you want to put into it. There are days where I'm interested in how I might handle a weather event, so I get pretty deep into the planning process. There are also days where I can't be bothered and throw in the least amount of effort possible. Both are options, but it does take a little adjustment.

 

 

 

*Only relevant in/to/from Europe, btw - not sure if you're attempting to run it for the US. We don't do that stuff here unless we need to, as it allows for higher peak efficiency in good weather. It's not all better, though, as it does allow for some pretty spectacular backups if weather doesn't follow the forecast.

This all boils down to a constrained discrete optimization problem. The difficulty is getting the constraint, the cost function, and searching algorithm right. We have an entire department working on these.

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We don't use a method like CFMU validation over in the EU. Given the larger amount of airspace under a single entity, it's a little easier to use flexible methods of addressing constraints.

 

Current airspace status can be found here on the FAA OIS:

http://www.fly.faa.gov/ois/

 

Any restrictions on routing will be under National Programs and will have a name like FCA###, and the name will be hyperlinked to a page where you can see more information about where the constraint is (so that you can route around it).

 

 

 

"Plays" can be found in the Playbook:

http://www.fly.faa.gov/PLAYBOOK/pbindex.html

^Even if you aren't interested in this site, just have a look to appreciate our fine, FAA, early-90s website that we've only bothered to update the content on. Yes, that's a tiled background and a scanned picture of a glossy print of a tornado... 

 

If you see a storm front between ORD and DFW, and you're going from JFK to LAX, you could use the ONL Play (Playbook > East to West Transcon > ONL). Plays, however, are usually recommended on the planning telcon that is referenced at the bottom of the main FAA OIS page. The various operators (airlines, cargo lines, NBAA, etc.) call into this telcon and discuss how best to approach the airspace situation, and the ATCSCC (- system command center) will solicit various playbook routes on occasion to help handle a particular situation. Some of the common ones are holiday travel between NY and FL (Playbook > Regional Routes > [obvious names]).

 

Kyle,

 

Very instructive as usual thanks!

It will take a while to get used to this "new world" with plenty different terms compared to the Eurocontrol system.

BTW, I like the scanned picture!  :Tounge:

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get it to accept RBV in the USA not the one in SoAfrica
Dan

I don't see that in Version 1.26 anymore

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That's great, I haven't tried it yet with latest version. My crashes with latest have diminished significantly.

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Kyle, thanks for the FAA links to the OIS and Playbook. Can a dispatcher use these links to figure out the prescribed routes for US destinations? What would the workflow be: first check the events for anything en route and next go to the Playbook, select the corridor, and find the route that matches?

 

Are there any other sites (besides apps like PFPX) where one could determine a reasonably realistic flight plan, given current conditions?

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Early in this discussion topic, it was noted that PFPX was having a problem identifying a SID for KEWR departures from Rwy 4L. The only available SID for such departures is the Newark Two, which depends on ATC radar vectors. There is no RNAV SID for northeast departures.

 

I am unfamiliar with PFPX and so don't know how it handles such circumstances. 

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Thanks for the discussion guys.  Busy day at work so I haven't had much time on Avsim today.  I just read through all the comments so far.  Yeah, it's a 'planner' not a 'dispatcher' which I might have picked up on.  From the large number of youtube vids I've watched, people mostly just get a plan so I was surprised when I tried the same thing myself only to have it fail with a "can't" message.  Yes, from what I'm seeing now it might have something to do with the SID...the 4's were active at KEWR when I was planning.  I did get a valid plan when the 22's were active the next day.  Maybe it was the luck of the draw?...just picked an airport that PFPX has an issue with?

 

In terms of planning, I don't mind planning when I need to but, as others have pointed out, there are times you just want to get in and fly.  Being able to customize a route for circumstances is fine but I really don't want to take on the dispatcher role most times.  My learning curve with the 777 is pretty high right now and I prefer to focus on that.

 

And, btw, the reason I was doing KEWR to EGLL is because I've been on that flight on the red-eye twice.

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The Just Planes video of the Air Canada 777-200LR polar ops dvd has a great segment with the dispatcher. Its about a 1/2 hr long and he goes thru flight planning in detail. One of the best instructional videos I've seen. Obviously he's not using PFPX but the methods are quite similar.

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