Planning and importing Garmin .flt files into RXP v2 GNS

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OK. So RXP in v2 of its Garmin GNS series has provided the function to import flight plans that conform to the Garmin .flt file specification.  Great! I am using that function to populate my most-often used flight plans into the v2 GNS gauges. My routine is to thoroughly plan each flight using a real world flight planning site that can enrich the experience with real weather including winds aloft. The addition of the RXP .flt plan import simplifies the process as now I can complete my flight planning, create the .flt file, and easily import it into my RXP GNS. That eliminates the need to enter the plan a navpoint at a time before flying.   I have gained experience with three different real world flight planning sites that are very good for flight planning in general, and each has a Garmin format .fpl file export or download. And better yet, none of the three sites are fee or subscription based for the features you need for a flight simulator plan.

Why is the new RXP GNS import feature so great? There are a lot of possibilities! If you purchased either the RXP v2 GNS 430 or the v2 GNS 530, you have not one, but two instances of that GNS to use.  430_1 and 430_2, or 530_1 and 530_2.  If you purchased the Complete RXP GNS package you will have RXP2!GNS430_1 and RXP2!GNS430_2, as well as RXP2!GNS530_1 and RXP2!GNS530_2. A total of (4) gauges. There is a limit of (20) flight plans that a GNS430 or 530 can store, but each gauge has it's own memory. If you are strategic about how you store flight plans and how you configure the individual GNS gauges into your various aircraft panels, you can store many many flight plans. Example: for aircraft where I have only one GNS430 configured, I use either 430_1 or 430_2 based on the flight plans I have stored in each. That conforms my use to the type of flights I fly in the particular aircraft.  My shorter route flight plans go say into my 430_2 and the 430_2 then goes into the panel of aircraft like the A36 Bonanza or C182 Cessna that I use for shorter flights. My longer route flight plans then go into 430_1, which I have configured into the Beech C90 King Air, Beech Turbine Duke v2, and my HondaJet., all of which I use for longer flights.  Make sense?

For aircraft where I have (2) RXP v2 GNS430 gauges in the panel, both a 430_1 and a 430_2, I have access to all of the flight plans across both gauges. If you are not already aware, when you have two of these gauges in a panel you are able to activate a flight plan in either of the GNS gauges and use the features of both GNSs with that flight plan. There is then little need to have the same flight plan in both.  I have the complete package and do the same for 530_1 and 530_2. And if I have a 530 and a 430 in an aircraft I pick the _1 or _2 for each to maximize my stored flight plan choices when I fly that aircraft.

Now, back to the subject of planning and importing flight plans...

I plan to summarize three real world flight planning sites that can write Garmin .flt files that can then be imported into the RXP v2 GNS gauges. The process works generally well with all three. For two of these three real world sites you must register as a user. Those are Fltplan.com and iFlightplanner.com. At each you will also need to build a pilot profile and the profile must include configuration of at least one aircraft type.  In both cases that will require a tail number. Do not be daunted. You do not need a pilot's license for either, I found that entering a dummy tail number was successful. A tail number that does not exist. You can check that your tail number does not match a real world USA registration at "registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Inquiry.aspx" (Note; cut and paste the link as getting to it with an embedded link appears to be forbidden)

The experiences I will share of the three sites are not intended as recommendation of the sites themselves, but instead just a look at the differences in the functions of creating and then downloading flight plans  at each site. I will post them here as replies in this topic to keep it all together.  I plan to post the first two, Skyvector.com and iFlightplanner.com today. It will likely be Tuesday before I can post a message on FltPlan.com.

Edited by fppilot
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It is the only one of the three sites where you can create a flight plan without registering and creating aircraft profiles. If all you are wishing to accomplish is to build a flight plan of navpoints for the purpose of saving and then importing a Garmin .flt file, then you can accomplish that without registering. If your wish to also have those flight plans include accurate enroute times and fuel burn then you will need to register and build aircraft profiles. I did not do that at Skyvector.com as I was not required to do so to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. Also, I am registered at FltPlan.com, have used that site for several years, and I already on that site have many FSX addon aircraft profiled and fine tuned as well as I have frequent routes stored there.

If you do not register, Skyvector only requests but does not require a tail number.  All it requires are Departure and Destination airports, a speed, and an altitude.  That is perfectly good for creating a flight plan just for saving and later importing as navpoints Garmin .fpl file. 

Skyvector.com utilizes an interactive map. The interactive map is helpful when first planning a route you have not previously flown.  It presents a highlighted direct line from the departure to destination. You use your mouse to drag and drop the line to choose your desired route. Example: KSUS (St Louis Spirit) to KAPA (Denver Centennial). Select the World Lo map from the upper right corner of the interactive map (see red circle in image below).  Drag the highlight line to a VOR on airway V4 on the map. A prompt will ask you to select and confirm the VOR. Move another segment of the line to another VOR on route V4 and confirm. After two or three drag and drops to points on V4 Skyvector.com automatically assumes you want v4 and jumps to V4 for as much of the flight plan as is reasonable. If that much of V4 is not what you prefer, simply drag and drop off of it at selected points and it will conform to your wishes. You will note a flight plan dialog text box in the upper left portion of the map and can watch the list of waypoints develop as you proceed.  (Highlighted as a red box)


If you already know your route an just want to create an Garmin .flt you can also enter the text line in that same text box of the planning dialog area. I would have put in CABIT V4 TXC FQF instead of using the interactive map.

Downloading your plans to .fpl files is easy. The top of the dialog box contains four icons, one for starting a new plan; one for opening as saved plan; one for saving a plan; and then one for sending a plan (small red circle).  Sending a plan is where you will find the option to download a plan to .fpl.  Click the Send Plan icon and in the resulting box you will see FPL as a choice in the left column. Easy!  Of note is that once downloaded to your system you will likely need to rename the file to a shorter filename and move it to the appropriate Garmin GNS Trainer folder on your system.

Potential downside: If you use J-routes (Hi Alt) or V-routes (Lo Alt), when writing the Garmin .flt plan Skyvector populates the route with every interim waypoint/fix. For longer routes, like a V route from St Louis, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado, Skyvector writes a file with too many waypoints and the RXP GNS import function (and most likely that of the Garmin GNS Trainer) cannot digest it, returning an error in the GPS that the file cannot be imported because it contains too many waypoints. Take a look at all of the interim waypoints between VOR's on V4 in Kansas between TOP and SLN and you will see why that presents a problem. I provided an image of the navlog below  Skyvector.com is the only one of the three sites where this is an issue. At Skyvector.com you can resolve this by looking at the map and adjusting the flight plan text box to remove the reference to V4, adjusting it to contain only the major waypoints, such as VOR's, and while doing that remove the airway references. This then becomes very similar to the flight planning process at FltPlan.com.  This is only an issue for flights on airways where the flight distance is far enough to collect into the plan a large number of waypoints.




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At iFlightplanner.com you must register in order to use the site.  You must also profile at least one aircraft in order to create flight plans. Though you may only be looking create and export a flight plan navlog in Garmin .fpl format, you will still need to complete that step! It will not create a flight plan with no aircraft. There is an extensive list of aircraft types to choose from in a drop down list but you will have to configure the aircraft type that you select. Make sure you have specifications for the aircraft type as you will need minimum take off and landing distances, standard cruise altitude, service ceiling, fuel capacity, and fuel burn per hour. 

You will also need a tail number. If you are not a real world pilot with actual tail number(s) you will need to use fabricated tail number(s).  Search tail numbers at this site to make sure you are not using a real tail number.  "registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Inquiry.aspx" (Note; cut and paste the link as getting to it with an embedded link appears to be forbidden)

If you are only creating the plans to download in Garmin .fpl format for import to RXP GNS then the aircraft type you use is not important as performance is not an ingredient of a .fpl file. In that case you are only looking for departure, destination, and waypoints.  If you are wanting performance such as enroute times, TAS, GS, and fuel burn you do get that in the navlog that results from the planner as long as you configured the aircraft with representative specs.

iFlightplanner's flight planning contains everything on one web page. A long page. You must scroll the page to find the map, and below the map is the nav log. I point that out as if you look at the first image you will see the green "Plan Flight" button. I was pressing it and then questioning why nothing was happening. I had no idea the map and navlog were down below until I inadvertently moved my mouse scroll wheel and found the addition content by accident. LOL.   See the images below where I scrolled about a half screen at a time. Note the live weather on the map.











Interactive drag and drop map
You can either enter the From/To airports and your own waypoints (Custom Routing option), or just enter your From/To airports and use Auto Routing options for Lo Alt; Lo Alt w/Sid Star; Jet Route; VOR Direct; Direct Route for GPS with fixes; and a couple of others. With each of these options you click the Plan Flight option button and the route is depicted on the map, which you must scroll down to find. Maneuvering the view of the map takes some getting accustomed to. The mouse scroll wheel does not zoom the map in and out. Instead it scrolls the page up and down. So it is not like Skyvector in that regard. To zoom in and out at iFlightPlanner you use +/- icons in the lower right corner of the map. Another issue for me is that the map is nearly full screen in size. You must scroll down to find the navlog. Also, scrolling up or down even slightly when using the map can scroll map options off the screen. If you scroll up even slightly the +/- zoom buttons scroll out of sight and you cannot zoom in or out unless you scroll back down. If you scroll down you then cannot reach the dropdown that allows you to select which map type you wish to use (Lo Route, Hi Route, Sectional, etc). And one additional peculiarity is that iFlightplanner initially starts you with a Sectional map, even if you have selected to plan a Lo or Hi airway flight. Little things, but they add up until you get familiar with them.

Interactive changes to a route can be made on the map, but also takes some time to become accustomed to. You may left-click on a waypoint and drag it to a different waypoint. If you wish to add/select an additional waypoint you must first click on the route segment to create a new point, then drag that point to your desired waypoint. Each time you make an interactive change to the route you must click a large icon to recreate the nav log.  Once done, at the top right corner of the nav log, which appears on the page below the map (scroll down to find it), are export options.  Export to .fpl is one of those options.

Unlike Skyvector, iFlightPlanner does not populate the navlog of an airway-based flight plan with interim fixes between VOR's. It appears based on my experience that iFlightplanner includes an interim fix such as an intersection only where there is bend or change in vector at that point. A good example is airway V12 between St Louis and Kansas City.  Between COU and ANX, V12 bends at intersection FRANC, which is obviously needed in the flight plan for that reason. If you read my summary here on Skyvector you may recall that Skyvector throws all interim nav points into the flight log, even those that line on a straight vector between VOR's. Please read that Skyvector summary here to learn the impact that might have on long routes.

In summary, both Skyvector.com and iFlightplanner.com provide flight planning that uses interactive maps.  FltPlan.com has all the real world maps and charts you may ever want, but does not use an interactive map.  At FltPlan.com you plan a bit the old fashioned way, by using scrollable, zoom able maps, write down the nav points and or airways you choose, and enter those as a line in the flight plan page.

I find the Skyvector.com interactive map easier and more intuitive to use. However iFlightplanner.com and FltPlan.com each create less detailed navlogs and that may be important for long routes should you be creating a Garmin .fpl plan to import with RXP GNS.  iFlightplanner.com and FltPlan.com each require you to register and to configure at least one aircraft.  Each of those two sites also provide a means to build a more sophisticated aircraft profile with speeds and fuel burn by hour or by hour and speed based on multiple altitude levels.  FltPlan.com has an excellent app for both IOS and Android that uses wifi to interface to FSX, providing a rich set of features on a tablet. That really adds to the simulation!

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One another difference between skyvector and iFlightplanner, this last one doesn't have IFR map for Alaska (where i love to fly virtually)

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3 hours ago, nirgal76 said:

One another difference between skyvector and iFlightplanner, this last one doesn't have IFR map for Alaska (where i love to fly virtually)

I believe FltPlan.com covers most if not all of Alaska.  Stay tuned for that summary early in this week.

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Hi Frank and thank you for the time you've taken to write all these tutorials! These are invaluable!

As for the flight plan catalog limitation, the GNS V2 also offers the 'EXPORT' function which saves your GNS V2 route to the same flight plan format! This allows you to import/export your flight plans at will, in a single unit!

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The summary of FltPlan.com comes last in this topic because it is limited to North America.  iFlightplanner.com may also be limited to North America. Skyvector may provide worldwide coverage. However I do not fly worldwide so please verify that for yourself. The map coverage at Skyvector appears to be worldwide.

To build flight plans on FltPlan.com, like iFlightplanner.com, requires that you register at the site and that you build a profile for at least one aircraft. Building that profile requires a tail number. As I have pointed out twice previously in this topic, I use dummy tail numbers.  I check to make sure I am not using a tail number registered with the FAA by checking here:  "registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/NNum_Inquiry.aspx" (Note; cut and paste the link as getting to it with an embedded link appears to be forbidden).

FltPlan takes a more traditional approach to flight planning. Remember the days when printed charts were spread out, the best route identified, a hand-written navlog created, then the chain of navpoints placed in as a line of text into a flight planning program?  That is still somewhat the method at FltPlan.com. It is natural to me as that is how I have always completed flight plans. You will see that I am including more captured images of the process at FltPlan.com. That is not favoritism.  It just takes more images to show the walk through of the process there.  It is not necessarily more steps. It is just more screens

FltPlan.com does not, or at least not yet, use the "drag the line to where you want"  interactive map method of flight planning as the other two sites mentioned earlier in this topic.  But FltPlan.com, in its Navigation area, does provide the full range of  maps to plan from. Lo Alt, Hi Alt, and Sectionals. They are perfectly rendered and you can zoom and scroll with ease. But those, as robust as they are, do not function as integrated flight planning tools.  They are more like a traditional component of the flight planning process. So the line you see in the Lo Alt map below is there for guidance You pick your route and enter it manually on the separate Flight Planning pages.



Fltplan,com also has Terminal Area Charts, approach plates, SID, STAR




Just a note here.   In the past I have begged for and received just out of date Lo and Hi Enroute charts from local IFR rated pilots.  With all three of the sites included in this topic that is no longer necessary. Life has changed! And to the good!

To configure an aircraft it must be added in Settings, Edit Aircraft List.  Following that step, the aircraft can be further configured in Settings, A/C Performance.  FltPlan has an extensive list of pre-configured aircraft. Those are accessed with the drop downs in the A/C Performance column.  You fill in the other variables.  Up to 10 aircraft can be saved.  The fltplan.com feature to export a flight plan to Garmin .flt option will only be available for those aircraft types you have configured by placing a checkmark in the Garmin  column.  (see the green outlined box in the first image below).  That is as far as you need to configure an aircraft to merely create flight plans and download Garmin .flp files.




If you wish to go further with your flight planning, aircraft performance values can be edited in Settings; A/C Performance. There you may choose from either a basic Fuel Burn by Hour method (my green box ), or you may edit and use an advanced performance table (my orange box). See the second image below.

iFlightplanner.com has a similar process for aircraft configuration.  Aircraft configuration is mentioned in this topic not because it is necessary for Garmin GNS navpoint flight plan downloads, but because it allows you to create sophisticated performance tables that include climb speed and rate, cruise speed, fuel burn; and descent speed at 1,000 foot increments. You control which method is used by turning the Fuel Burn by Hour method On or Off.

Once your aircraft(s) are configured you return to the Fltplan.com main menu, then Flight Planning, then Create New Flight Plan.  On the screen that follows you enter the Date of your flight, your Departure and Arrival airports, select your aircraft from the drop down list of the aircraft you have configured, and either IFR Domestic or VFR as the flight plan type.  The IFR (ICAO Format) is not available for simulation.




The next screen is where you enter your planned airspeed, altitude, estimated time of departure, and fuel and persons on board. You then may enter your route into the Own Route box, or select from recent routes flown by others. If you have stored previous routes on Fltplan.com then those will be available to select as well.  Then you click on the Press Here for Navlog button and your navlog will be created.

The Garmin .flt download is available via a Gamin Flight Plan button at the very bottom of the screen. (See red arrow in image below). You may need to scroll down to find it.





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