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Mephic

PF3 vs ProATCX for NGX - final "battle"

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Hi

 

I read a lot on this forum about both programs, I also know that ProATCX was an ATC tool which was recommended a lot in the past, but this has changed with release of PF3. I also saw a lot of comments in the beginning that PF3 is better for VFR and ProATCX is better for IFR, but lately this trend seem to change. I never saw one definite answer to question which of those programs is ultimately better, but I guess this might be related to fact that different people need ATC tool for different reasons.

 

So I'd like to share more about my SIM and ask you (community/experts) what would be best pick for me.

 

Aircraft: 737 NGX (sometimes 777 but in general - large jets)

Co-Pilot: FS2Crew

Failures: always ON :)

AI Traffic: MyTraffic 6.0a

Regions I fly in: Mostly North America and Europe, but sometimes I do hops to Asia or South America

Way I fly: I want to stay compliant with charts, SIDs, STARs, Noise Abatement procedures, approach types, holds etc. - I use my aircrafts to full extent (offcourse my knowledge is limiting factor here but I learn every day). I don't want to always be vectored, but I also don't want to always fly published procedures - I'd like it random (would be best if it would be matched with current traffic density but I'm not sure if any of those programs allows it).

 

What do I expect from my ATC software?

 

I'm not RW pilot so I don't know much about ATC itself. I am familiar with idea of vectoring and flying according to charts but I don't know real world ATC procedures. I read part of PF3 manual and it seems a very straightforward tool, manual seems to be more accessible than ProATCX one.

 

My perfect ATC software would:

 

1. Control AI Traffic in air and on the ground (it's enough that it does not smash into my aircraft on the ground).

2. Assign SIDs and STARs dynamically

3. Have a built-in profile for 737 NGX with regards to descent rate (or at least programmable)

4. Have ability to assign hotkeys or use command menu built-in sim - I use my sim only in FullScreen.

5. Have ability to control ATC frequency by Co-Pilot but also without a need for him to talk (I have FS2Crew so 2 different copilot voices would destroy immersion).

6. Have not too robotic voice sets available by default

7. Emergency descent and landing options built in including vectors to final in such case

8. Rejected takeoff communication option/Go around communication

9. Communicate with AI Traffic around me

10. Not direct me into mountains like default ATC does when vectoring :)

11. Accept flight plans from SimBrief

12. Assign departure/landing runways based on weather injected by AS16.

13. Ability to accept visual approaches

14. Easy to use hard to master :)

15. Transition altitudes matching particular countries requirements (or at least ability to edit that by country or by airport)

 

I'm sorry if some of those features I would like to see are not described in professional manner or seem obvious. Anything extra is offcourse welcomed. 90% of my flights are IFR, but I sometimes like to take Cessna 172 out for a spin and 1 in 5 flights will actually be VFR, so as long as the software will support VFR flights, it would be nice.

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1. Control AI Traffic in air and on the ground (it's enough that it does not smash into my aircraft on the ground).

If you are hoping for total control of AI traffic then that can be done by AI Controller for example. It's and PF3's developer have been in contact.

 

2. Assign SIDs and STARs dynamically. Actually ATC when giving you clearance delivery don't assign SIDs on the fly. The SID is an already known part of your flightplan. Because it is the published route from a runway to your flightplan. As pilot in command you are required by aviation law to know what SIDs and STARs are in use and why. You can and should specify what SID you want to use as part of your fpl. Obviously if you are flying a scheduled route then ATC know where you intend to go and will always give you the SID of your choice automatically. In other words it is never plucked out of thin air. STARs of course can vary especially on long haul flights. But as PIC you know that and should be prepared.

 

3. Have a built-in profile for 737 NGX with regards to descent rate (or at least programmable)

It is extremely easy in PF3 to set up your a/c preset. Having said that you example is of a jet transport so ATC will always treat them with the same broad brush as they don't know individual speeds as calculated in the a/c flight manuel. So in PF3 you would set up a wet runway length, average climb of 2,000fpm, avg descent of 2,500fpm and approach speed of 160kts. (this would be your minimum speed up to 6DME from the runway unless you are Concorde or having to land at max auw).

 

8. Rejected takeoff communication option/Go around communication.

PF3's developer has been wishlisted on this as it certainly would be a good feature.

 

10. Not direct me into mountains like default ATC does when vectoring :)

This is extremely difficult as ATC add-ons don't know the terrain. That said PF3 allows you to navigate a STAR by yourself. Flying into Los Rodeos Tenerife from the North requires you to do the flying around the island.

 

11. Accept flight plans from SimBrief

Of this I am not certain but PF3 will accept most fpls. I do mine through Routfinder which always has an up to date airac cycle.

 

12. Assign departure/landing runways based on weather injected by AS16.

Usually the weather comes via FSUIPC

 

For the rest of your points see PF3.

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Thank you for your comments!

 

Regarding last point: does it mean that FSUIPC payware version is needed or I can get away with freeware one which I already use?

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Thank you for your comments!

 

Regarding last point: does it mean that FSUIPC payware version is needed or I can get away with freeware one which I already use?

PF3 will use the freeware version.

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Thank you for your comments!

 

Regarding last point: does it mean that FSUIPC payware version is needed or I can get away with freeware one which I already use?

 

Freeware works fine for the function  you are asking about. Payware version to me is a must have for a simmer. 

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Bobsk8 - thank you! I am not sure what do you mean by "must have". As PMDG recommends to set up controls via sim itself (besides it works very well for me on my Yoke/throttles) I did not see any benefit from using FSUIPC payware version to me. Would it be needed for ATC to function properly or it doesn't have impact at all?

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Bobsk8 - thank you! I am not sure what do you mean by "must have". As PMDG recommends to set up controls via sim itself (besides it works very well for me on my Yoke/throttles) I did not see any benefit from using FSUIPC payware version to me. Would it be needed for ATC to function properly or it doesn't have impact at all?

The payware FSUIPC has many other functions besides weather. So it is extremely useful to have. But for PF3 it matters not which version you use.

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Understood. To me FSUIPC was mainly focused on improving controls assignments. One function I found useful reading its features is ability to assign steering tiller but it didn't justify the price tag for me and freeware version gives me everything I need. Thanks for the tip though!

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This is extremely difficult as ATC add-ons don't know the terrain.

 

ProATC/X Does

 

As per the ProATC/X documentation

 

Request Elevation online: ProATC/X will check the waypoint elevation to make sure that no controller descends the aircraft below this.

All approach altitude restriction are met as per AIRAC data.

 

PF3 really need to use updatable navdata and have a database of MSA's, ProATC/X is ahead at this point and really if the OP's main interest is flying the NGX then it's the better choice, it pains me to say this as a long time PFE/PF3 user

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So as I understand PF3 gets the navaids directly from the sim and ProATC X is using whatever AIRAC you install to it? It's not an issue to me with regards to frequencies/headings as I keep my in-sim Airac up to date thanks to aero.sors.fr tool, yet it seems that  if Pro-ATC "knows" the elevation, it's a big advantage.

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ProATC/X Does

 

As per the ProATC/X documentation

 

Request Elevation online: ProATC/X will check the waypoint elevation to make sure that no controller descends the aircraft below this.

All approach altitude restriction are met as per AIRAC data.

 

PF3 really need to use updatable navdata and have a database of MSA's, ProATC/X is ahead at this point and really if the OP's main interest is flying the NGX then it's the better choice, it pains me to say this as a long time PFE/PF3 user

 

My personal experience with PATC is that terrain clearance was not the best  in mountainous areas. Been flown into mountains more than once. 

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So as I understand PF3 gets the navaids directly from the sim and ProATC X is using whatever AIRAC you install to it? It's not an issue to me with regards to frequencies/headings as I keep my in-sim Airac up to date thanks to aero.sors.fr tool, yet it seems that  if Pro-ATC "knows" the elevation, it's a big advantage.

PF3 doesn't need airac cycles. If your flight planning process uses them then that is all that is necessary. As for elevation, If two adjacent waypoints are at sea level but there is a mountain in between then no ATC programme will see it and most likely you'll be flown into the mountain.

It really is no trouble to look at the real approach plates and check the STARs and thereafter any vectoring. Easily programmed into an FMC or to any navigation system. And I am safe in the knowledge that both the FAP altitude and minmum appraoch altitude have been set. So PF3 will not descend me below those points.

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I'm in exactly the same position as you Tomasz, and i cant decide either...Glad to see i'm not the only one ;)

 

I have pretty much the same requirement profile, mainly flying tubeliners over US and Europe and looking for realistic procedures and immersion. 

 

I was a VoxATC user for a long time and it served me well (kind of a hate/love-relationship), but VoxATC is the EzDok of ATC tools....its a pain to setup, buggy as hell, the UI looks hideous, requires a panel to be installed seperately for every aircraft, its far from being easy to use and gets updated once every leap year....thats why i stopped using it a few years ago. 

The 'new' version is now in beta and even though i didnt test it yet, it looks to me like its just a compatibility update for P3D, i didnt spot any new exciting features for the new version.

 

 

Now in regards to the "perfect" ATC program, it would call it Default Vox Pro ATC Flight Emulator™ ;) It would have the voices of default ATC, controlling AI traffic like VOXATC, uses AIRAC data like Pro-ATC and offers the flexibility and ICAO compliance of PE3

 

Now we just need to get those devs to work together ;)

 

I've added some bits and pieces to your requirement list, based on my experience and knowledge i gathered over time:

 

 

1. Control AI Traffic in air and on the ground (it's enough that it does not smash into my aircraft on the ground). 

 

AFAIK, VoxATC is still the only tool that can actually control ground traffic (not just "react" to it), as it injects its own traffic. It can even use MT6 models, however i'm not sure if it uses MT6 flightplans as well or has its own, basic flightplan DB. At least the traffic looked realistic and in correlation with airport location, so no Ryanairs at a KJFK gate...

PF3 can get AI traffic to hold to prevent crashing into you, but thats about all as far as i know. ProATC/X doesnt influence AI traffic at all, you better switch off collisions when using ProATC. 

 

 

2. Assign SIDs and STARs dynamically

 

That would be Pro-ATC/X territory. However, it doesnt always assign the correct procedure based on Aircraft type, traffic, weather and default procedures for this airport. But that would be a bit too much to ask i'm afraid. It allows to request a different RWY/SID/STAR mid-flight since one of the recent updates, but appearantly this option is only available after a procedure has been assigned to you already, which is a bit annyoing. If i recall correctly you can force it to use a certain procedure if you include the procedure ID in the flightplan during import, but this will disable dynamic assignement. 

VoxATC has optional AIRAC support but its SID/STAR implementation is very basic. And PF3 requires you to supply the SID/STAR with the flightplan

 

 

3. Have a built-in profile for 737 NGX with regards to descent rate (or at least programmable)

 

Offered by both, Pro ATC/X and PE3, including manual descent initiation. I honestly cant remember how VoxATC handles Aircraft performance data. I believe it takes some information from the aircraft config file, but not sure about that. I'm also pretty sure you have to initiate descent yourself, at least in the version i was using. 

 

 

4. Have ability to assign hotkeys or use command menu built-in sim - I use my sim only in FullScreen.

 

All 3 offer at least one method

 

5. Have ability to control ATC frequency by Co-Pilot but also without a need for him to talk (I have FS2Crew so 2 different copilot voices would destroy immersion).

 

Should be possible as long as a separate volume control is offered for FO audio. 

 

 

6. Have not too robotic voice sets available by default

 

The holy grail of ATC tools....

PF3 and ProATC are both based on pre-recorded, real voice snippets. Some voice packs are quite good and do not sound too robotic, others are just awful. Also, quality control is virtually non existant for user created voice sets in ProATC. Some of them are missing dozens of major airline callsigns which is quite disappointing

VoxATC uses syntetic, text2speech voices and provides a few voicesets even with static noise. Since its using the text2speech standard, you can add any T2S voice available. While the default windows T2S voices sound terribly robotic, there are some really nice, natural sounding voices available from other suppliers. But some of them are sold for 10-15 quid per voice, which is way too expensive for my taste. However i tested those voices in trial mode and i was blown away.  

IMHO, the best, natural sounding voices are still provided by builtin ATC

 

 

7. Emergency descent and landing options built in including vectors to final in such case

 

I usually fly with failures disabled, so cant tell for sure

 

 

8. Rejected takeoff communication option/Go around communication

 

Offered by all 3 but mostly basic functionality

 

 

9. Communicate with AI Traffic around me

 

Offered by all 3, but only VoxATC actually controls AI traffic, others just react (even though i believe that PF3 is able to hold AI ground traffic to ensure it doesnt crash into you)

 

 

10. Not direct me into mountains like default ATC does when vectoring :)

 

Thats the other holy grail, unfortunately, no ATC tool offers full terrain awarness as far as i know. VOX-ATC ignores terrain completely and will happily guide you into any mountain of your choice. ProATC/X respects waypoint ALT restrictions based on AIRAC data, but it doesnt seem have a MSA DB. You should be safe as long as you follow a STAR, but you could request a 'direct to' shortcut that would lead right through a mountain at your present altitude and ProATC wouldnt complain at all. PF3 relies purely on your preflight planning

 

 

11. Accept flight plans from SimBrief

 

I dont use SimBrief (PFPX here) but as long as SimBrief can output the common flightplan formats it shouldnt be a problem to import

 

 

12. Assign departure/landing runways based on weather injected by AS16.

 

Done by all 3 but unreliable sometimes. ProATC offers some nice features like assigning preferred runway for tailwind up to 5kts

 

 

13. Ability to accept visual approaches

 

Possible with all 3 tools

 

 

14. Easy to use hard to master :)

 

With ATC tools its usually the other way around ;)

 

 

15. Transition altitudes matching particular countries requirements (or at least ability to edit that by country or by airport)

 

ProATC has its own TA DB which seems to be quite accurate, it also offers manual override per Airport. VoxATC only allows one TA per Region. The TA can be changed by editing a config file, but you can only have one TA per flight. Not that great for any non US flights. PE3 offers TA to be set for departure and destination but i'm not sure if it has its own DB. 

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I don't want to always be vectored, but I also don't want to always fly published procedures - I'd like it random (would be best if it would be matched with current traffic density but I'm not sure if any of those programs allows it).

 

 

There is a very nice addon for PF3 called PF3-Randomizer. It sets some of the options relevant for being vectored or being cleared for a procedure prior to running PF3 and thus creates a random variety. And it can be set up as you like. So for example a higher chance for vectors at a busy airport.

 

Overall my sim characterization and expectations towards ATC software are very close to yours. I am very happy now with PF3 after using PATC in the past. I don't know the current version of PATC though so I cannot compare the two as of today. But using PF3 now I don't feel the need to look at PATC again (as you said that is very subjective and I'm not saying that the current version of PATC isn't good).

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There is a very nice addon for PF3 called PF3-Randomizer. It sets some of the options relevant for being vectored or being cleared for a procedure prior to running PF3 and thus creates a random variety. And it can be set up as you like. So for example a higher chance for vectors at a busy airport.

 

Overall my sim characterization and expectations towards ATC software are very close to yours. I am very happy now with PF3 after using PATC in the past. I don't know the current version of PATC though so I cannot compare the two as of today. But using PF3 now I don't feel the need to look at PATC again (as you said that is very subjective and I'm not saying that the current version of PATC isn't good).

 

I was a Beta tester for PATC, and they did make many improvements in this latest release, but after trying and then purchasing PF3, I have only flown PATC once. As a real world pilot that learned to fly in one of the busiest ATC areas in the world, I just like the immersion I get with PF3. If PF3 did not exist, I would then use PATC. I think they are the two best ATC programs that are available, and both are kept up to date. 

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