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  • FS Global Real Weather For FS9/FSX/P3D






    Review by Werner Gillespie. Weather and its implementation in our beloved hobby has always been an issue! It has long been an issue that when I use high altitude winds in flight simulator, it seems to have the most horrifically unrealistic effects on the FDE's of most aircraft.


    I also found that gusting winds and turbulence are far from realistic either. It has gone to a point where one needs to actually disable high altitude winds to have anything near a realistic cruise experience.


    Many third party developers have created add-ons for the flight simulator platform to try and combat the issues related to the weather issue inside flight simulator. Most of them have been rather successful in some areas, and less so in others, each having its strengths and weaknesses, as we have had to accept over the years due to the obvious flaws and limitations inside the flight simulator platform.


    Recently though, FS Global have released their latest program, FS Global Real Weather, claiming to be a very realistic solution to all our flight simulation weather needs, not only that, but right across the platforms, from FS9 to FSX and P3D as well!  


    I simply had to get my hands on this piece of software to see what it behaves like, especially after the hype about it in the forums. From what I could see, customers were very happy with the end result. So let us take a closer look...


    Installation and documentation


    The installer you download from their website is around 7.30 megabytes large, so it is a small little program. When you download it you can either use it as a trial mode which allows you to explore a limited amount of the program features, or you can purchase a license key and get on with it!


    If you have a license key, you simply need to activate the program. I shall get to that in a moment. So, first of all I run the installer and it takes only a few seconds to install. The program itself operates via a graphical interface outside of flight simulator or P3D, which is something I like very much! So this means that all the settings are done within the GUI (graphical user interface) that operates like any normal Windows application.


    You can install the program to any folder on your hard disk, no need to install it to the flight simulator or P3D folder.  Good so far.


    Now to the documentation...


    I installed the program to my Program Files (x86)\FSGRW folder (yes I run Windows 7 64-bit).  Inside this folder are numerous .dll files, and three folders: data, log and manuals. When I go to the manuals folder, I find the following inside:-

    • Manual_de, which is the German version of the PDF manual;
    • Manual_en, which is the same manual in English; and
    • Manual_fr, which is the French manual.

    Since my German is very limited and my French non-existent, I head to the English version of the manual. It is a 12-page read, and when you scroll through the manual, it becomes apparent that operating the program itself cannot require a software mastermind programmer extraordinaire! The explanations regard the functions of the program and how to tinker with the settings inside the program.  


    The manual is well written, easy to follow and will get you up and running with the program in about 10 minutes or so. The only graphics inside the manual are the Pilot's logo and the Facebook logo.


    If you follow the manual it will take you through the program very quickly, no problems! It covers the three different simulation platforms with the pitfalls of each to be observed. Other than that there really is nothing more to say about the manuals. They get the job done!




    First off, as I had indicated you get to experience the program by way of a limited demo. This I really like, because you don't have to wonder what you are getting, you can find out first hand before purchasing.  This is an incredibly effective marketing tool as far as I am concerned.  So what can you do in the demo?


    If you are running the unregistered version, that is you don't have a license key that you registered with after installing the program, you get what is referred to as 20 evaluation points.  How does this work?  


    Each time you download or load a weather file (more on that later), one point is deducted. So this means that I can download ten weather files and implement them into flight simulator or I can download one weather file and use it in the simulator nineteen times. This is more than enough to give you the feel of the program. Oh and one other thing, you will be limited to File Mode, again more on that later.


    As I said, the program itself is a GUI which you can run like a normal Windows application, and to date, I have not had one CTD (crash to desktop) under Windows 7 64-bit. The program also has to run in the background to communicate with flight simulator whilst you are flying the flight.


    The program is highly customizable as we shall soon see. Furthermore, if you have a registered version of FSUIPC, and remember that at least a freeware version is required to access many of the program's features, you have to disable all weather and wind settings inside FSUIPC in order for the program to work properly.


    Finally this is one of a dying breed of programs catering not only for FSX and P3D, but also for FS9 (2004), which I think is wonderful!


    So let us then take a look at the program and its options in more detail...


    Getting to know the FS Real Weather


    When the program starts, you are faced with the welcoming screen, which gives you the following options:-

    • Load a weather file - this gives you the opportunity to select a previously downloaded weather file from FS Real Weather and inject (their term, not mine) it into your flight simulator.
    • Static weather download - this downloads weather into the program only once, and does not update it again. This is similar to the static weather download in flight simulator itself.
    • Dynamic weather download - this function download the weather in the program for injection into flight simulator and then updates it continually every five minutes. Again, similar to the dynamic weather download within flight simulator itself.
    • Download weather file - the option allows you to download a weather file from the program's server, and then to use it on another computer if you wish.

    So having said that, it is clear that the program downloads weather from its own servers and then you can implement or inject it into flight simulator. The weather download does take a while, but the amount of data that you get is amazing as we shall see a little further on.


    So now let us look at the top left hand side of the program menu and you will find the following drop down menus:-

    • File - contains a minimize and a quit function, no explanations required there!
    • Tools - this is the heart of the program. So let us look at it a little closer.  The first submenu is Settings, which contains the general program settings, irrespective of the simulation platform that you are running. If I select the general settings, I get another screen which offers me the following options:-
      • Weather depiction realism - this option allows you to set whether you like a more visually realistic or more weather related realism in your simulation. The higher the slider is set, the more realistic the simulation of the weather conditions within the simulator. The lower the setting, the more visually attractive the clouds become.
      • Automatic weather refresh on the ground - this in option that you can tick or deselect based on your preferences. If it is selected or ticked, the weather will be automatically refreshed every ten minutes for as long as the aircraft is on the ground and not moving. If disabled, the program will only update the weather dynamically after takeoff and you will only have the initial weather conditions which were injected into the simulator when you started the program whilst on the ground.
      • Natural wind movement - again, this is a feature which can be selected or deselected based on your personal preferences. Enabled, the program will create natural wind changes in speed and direction for you. This prevents those sudden unexpected and horrific changes we are used to in default FSX weather, and yes, it works like a charm!
      •  Program version and updates - again, select or deselect according to your preferences. If enabled, the program will automatically check for updates to the program and advise you thereof when you start the program, allowing you to download and install the latest version.
      • Data exchange - again, select or deselect, enable it if you are using third party tools that require data exchange to be activated.
    • FS2004 - a menu allowing you to set specific program options for FS2004. In this menu I have the following sub-menus:-
      • Common - this allows you to set only one option in FS2004, the weather radius. This defines the area around the aircraft where weather loaded will not be updated. The lower the value is set to, the more current the weather, but you may have difficulties with ATC as your weather may differ from theirs, and you may see sudden cloud formation changes occurring.
      • The Visibility option takes you to a different screen with the following options:-
        • Enable visibility control - this allows the program to smooth the changes between the various different cloud layers making the transition more realistic.
        • Limit maximum visibility to 240km - this will limit visibility depending on your slider setting to a maximum of 240km. This will be determined by performance issues of the simulator itself of course.
      • High altitude weather - this option takes you to another screen with the following options:-
        • Transfer high altitude winds and temperatures - Enable or disable according to your preferences. If enabled, this data will be injected into your simulator using every available weather station.
        • Transfer high altitude turbulence - again enable or disable according to your preferences. It will also inject the turbulence at any given level into the simulator.
        • Reset AI traffic - this is a nifty little feature! This will reset the AI traffic to prevent any departures or arrivals in the wrong direction after the initial weather was downloaded and injected into your simulator.
        • Network - if you are using a network the program will work across the network with the proper settings. Please note that I do not have a network setup so I did not test this feature!
    • Under the Tools and FSX/P3D menu, mostly the same settings are available for FSX/P3D as for FS2004, with one or two important exceptions:-
      • Under the Common settings, there is either standard of fast mode that you can activate. In standard mode, you might get a few more white flashes when the weather updates, however, you will get the effect of the clouds moving with the wind. In fast mode, you get a few less white flashes, the weather updates faster, but the visual effect of the clouds moving with the winds are lost.


        Should you engage fast mode, you can also set the cap on the visibility distance that you want. As with the FS9 similar setting, the lower this value, the more current the weather, but could cause differences between what you have in the sim and what ATC will have. They recommend leaving it at 130nm. I leave my options set to standard mode in any event.

      • Under visibility and clouds you have two extra options, and the previous two you had for FS2004 is a little different:-
        • Low visibility cloud layer - this option if engaged, will create an overcast stratus cloud layer below the lowest visibility layer. This sounds complicated, but isn't! What this does, is eliminate the default type effect that you get of only being able to see a cloud layer once inside it, and trust me, this has amazing results!
        • Smooth visibility layers - this will load the layers as indicated at that particular weather station and then provide a gradual visual change instead of instantaneously as we have become used to, again very nifty!
        • Limit maximum visibility - the same as for the FS2004 version, and again the higher the visibility, the better the visual effect, but could have an impact on your FPS. You will have to find the right balance for you. I have mine set to 180km.
        • Improve stratus overcast - this completely changes the visuals you get when both flying through or above or below stratus clouds and the effects are just wonderful!
    • The options under high altitude weather and AI settings, and the network settings are the same as for FS2004, so I won't discuss that.
    • The last difference is the one extra option for FSX/P3D which is the data exchange function for users of Pro ATC/X support. I don't own this, so I cannot comment on that.
    • Now for something different. Under the tools section, regardless of which version of simulator you use, there is a flight planner option. Take note that this can also be accessed after injecting the weather into the simulator from that particular screen. From here we can either open or download weather files. This will assist you in planning your fuel usage based on high altitude temperatures and winds. How does this work I hear you ask?

    Very simple really...


    All I need is to create the flight plan I want in either FS2004 or FSX .pln file mode, and the program even supports flight plans compiled by FS Commander! So, once I load this into the program, I have to create a weather report as per usual. I would then need to select my departure and destination, and give a cruise altitude value. For now, I will pick KORD-KDFW, 725nm.  


    Next, I have to select an aircraft profile. I ask the program to perform its calculations based on the B737-800 profile. I select my cruising altitude as FL370, which I have to enter as 37 000.  Lastly, I select calculate flight plan! for it to start doing it's magic.


    If I now look to the left top of the program options, I select weather forecast. This tells me everything I need to know about the weather at higher and lower altitudes along every waypoint and station along the way. Excellent!  And yes, you can print this out if you wish to!


    If I now click on the final option to the top left, it shows me all the waypoints and tells me the altitude overhead, the distance to travel to the next one, the flight time, the course to the next waypoint, the wind for that particular point in time at that altitude and the temperature as well.  I can also see what turbulence I can expect if any.  Folks this is magic, just wonderful!  I will cover this in a test flight a little later.

    • The only tab left is the help tab, which is pretty self explanatory, and where you would go to enter your program key once you have registered it.

    As you can see, there is an enormous amount of depth in the program that is made very simple and intuitive to use, for which we as end user can be very thankful for! The graphical interface is as I said, extremely intuitive; wonderfully user friendly and you won't find any trouble navigating it at all.  Full marks to the developers for tha.


    Point of the review?


    Right, so let us get one thing straight right off the bat here - this program does visually enhance your flying experience due the realism of the weather environment, but does not have any textures. That means it uses whatever textures you already have installed, and in my case, I have default FSX textures which is actually quite relevant as we shall soon see!


    But visual reality is not the point of this software. No sir, this is not a piece of scenery, this is what the developers refer to as an atmospheric simulator, that's it. It addresses the issues that other developers may or may not, and by just enhancing the realism of the weather, it greatly enhances the visual experience and immersion you get from the flight, both visually and in terms of the actual feel of flying into certain weather. So with that said, let us jump into some test flights and see what this is all about then!


    Test flight


    So for this test flight I will do a B737-800 flight from our virtual airline for a few reasons, firstly, since I will be using the B737-800 profile that comes with the FS Global package and secondly, it will be the PMDG NGX version of the aircraft which means I will be testing the package on a few different levels.  The first test will comprise the accuracy of the profile predictions. Secondly, I will judge how an ultra-realistic simulation with a separate FDE from FSX will respond to the weather simulation, and thirdly, what sort of impact on performance one can expect when running this FS Global package when using high end add-on aircraft.


    Okay, so let us look at the flight we will be taking...


    We start from KORD (Chicago O'Hare International Airport), and end at KSLC (Salt Lake City International). This is around a two hour flight and I love this flight. Not only is it a favourite leg of flying for me, but it also gives us a chance to see what sort of weather the program can generate when flying in conditions where there is a fairly flat city on one end and a mountainous terrain on the other side.

    The reason I am interested in this comparison is that we all know that interesting, challenging and sometimes downright dangerous weather conditions occur in and around mountains. Without going into mind bending details, mountainous terrains causes due to their very nature, changes in atmospheric pressure, temperature and orthometric height in a current of air caused by vertical displacement.


    This can be presented by orographic lift when a wind blows over a mountain or a mountain range, or by wind blowing over an escarpment or plateau, or even upper level winds deflected over a thermal updraft or cloud street.


    These are called lee waves, since they always occur on the lee side of a mountain. This results in a turbulent vortex, with its axis of rotation parallel to the mountain range. When created along the first trough it is called a rotor wind. The strongest lee waves are created when the lapse rate has a stable layer above the obstruction with an unstable layer above it and below the obstruction (Wikipedia).


    So in short then, as many of us simmers and the real guys out there who have to fly for a living around these areas can testify, will know, mountainous terrain can have an upsetting effect on an aircraft, and in particular in FSX where the weather engine in general tends have shortcomings which becomes more obvious with complex add-ons like the PMDG and other high end developers' FDE's.


    What I will further do is to show you at the various different points of the flight how the weather is simulated by FS Global in the form of screenshots.


    So here we go, then KORD to KSLC...


    Okay, the weather forecast for the take-off from KORD is the following:-


    28 km visibility, winds 350 at 7 knots, no precipitation, 22 degree temperatures few clouds at 5500 feet, broken at 25 000 feet, altimeter 30.06.


    When I look at the skies around me, first using default FSX weather, it looks like this...




    Now I inject the weather indicated in FSGRW package into the simulator.  Look at this...




    Look at the difference in the cloud layers and the limitation in the visibility as you would expect! When looking at the waypoints in the profile I generated for the flight, this is what it says...




    KORD         668 ft

    T/C        33,000 ft   116 nm    00:19  262°  262°/ 46 kt   -38 °C  S

    IOW        33,000 ft    52 nm    00:07  262°  260°/ 45 kt   -39 °C  L

    DSM        33,000 ft    92 nm    00:13  268°  276°/ 31 kt   -39 °C  M

    OBH        33,000 ft   212 nm    00:29  271°  284°/ 23 kt   -40 °C  M

    LBF        33,000 ft   110 nm    00:15  260°  274°/ 22 kt   -40 °C  S

    EKR        33,000 ft   332 nm    00:45  262°  240°/ 21 kt   -42 °C  L

    RACER       33,000 ft    44 nm    00:06  273°  224°/ 22 kt   -42 °C  -

    MTU        33,000 ft    57 nm    00:08  273°  219°/ 28 kt   -43 °C  S

    THISL       33,000 ft    50 nm    00:07  269°  212°/ 30 kt   -43 °C  M

    SPANE       33,000 ft    15 nm    00:02  269°  212°/ 30 kt   -43 °C  M

    LEEHY       33,000 ft    7 nm    00:01  296°  212°/ 30 kt   -43 °C  M

    T/D        33,000 ft    11 nm    00:01  296°  212°/ 30 kt   -43 °C  M

    FFU        32,348 ft    2 nm    00:00  296°  212°/ 30 kt   -41 °C  -

    DRYVE       29,022 ft    10 nm    00:01  330°  205°/ 19 kt   -33 °C  L

    PITTT       24,713 ft    13 nm    00:02  354°  205°/ 20 kt   -22 °C  -

    MAGNE       22,704 ft    7 nm    00:01  355°  197°/ 15 kt   -18 °C  L

    QUIPA       22,417 ft    1 nm    00:00  355°  197°/ 16 kt   -17 °C  L

    RROYY       14,303 ft    27 nm    00:04  355°  210°/ 18 kt    3 °C  L

    KSLC        4,333 ft    27 nm    00:06  163°  123°/ 14 kt   21 °C  -

    KSLC        4,227 ft    0 nm    00:00   0°  122°/ 14 kt   21 °C  -

                    1,185 nm    02:47

    AVG TRIP WIND:        243°/ 24kt

    AVG CRUISE WIND:       242°/ 25kt



    AVG TRIP TEMP ISA DEV:      11 °C




    As you can see there is an enormous amount of very useful information in there! If I look at the first waypoint, it is indicated that I can expect some turbulence as I fly overhead. Now let us look at the most impressive feature of this software...


    The weather is updated via every single available weather station as opposed to the standard method that we are used to which does a global update! That's right. This means that I can set my visibility to the maximum as discussed above, and see the weather as it is coming from the stations around me.  


    Practically then what does this mean? It means that should I be able to see weather building, for example a cloud formation, over a long distance if visibility permits, i.e. I can now see a CB cloud building as I approach it! No more popping up of unexpected clouds as I approach it.  I can also simulate the high altitude weather, visibility, temperatures and winds properly. We will look at this as I approach the first waypoint.


    So how about the effects of the wind on the aircraft then? As I climb out to my cruise altitude, there are obviously some changes in the wind. For example, I check the closest station to me, which is now KCWI, about 14nm out from my current position. I am now at FL247, and if I crosscheck this altitude with what the wind speed and direction should be at the station currently, it should be 292 degrees at 16 knots.  Here is a screenshot of what it is saying inside the cockpit of my B738...




    Nice isn't it?  And the effects of wind changes? Extremely realistic! It isn't jerking the aircraft all over the sky as I was used to in FSX default weather! There is another feature of realism for you?


    So what is my TAT at FL280? It is 6 degrees! The OAT is now -26 degrees. Another level of realism then!  This just keeps getting better and better!


    I am now at FL310, nearest weather station KDVN. Visibility is reported to be 28km. Look at that misty effect from the different layers and what that does to the maximum visibility...




    Okay so now we approach the first waypoint, IOW, and if I look at the above weather information, it seems as if I may be expecting some turbulence! How does this affect the aircraft? Quite dramatic, as the turbulence is quite severe and I reduce my cruise speed to Mach 0.74 as is procedure. Though the effect is severe, it doesn't make the aircraft do silly things, but you get a sense that there is turbulence and that it is quite bad. It doesn't throw the aircraft into the convulsions that we are used to seeing in default weather.


    What I have described above and what I have shown you through the various different screen shots is true for every single waypoint! The simulation of the weather and the effects thereof on the aircraft is simply mindboggling in terms of how realistic it is, from flying through various different cloud formations and layers, to the effect of the wind on the aircraft, to the effect of turbulence.  


    What I can add to this is that a whiteout is exactly that, a whiteout! You are no longer playing a game of now you cannot see me at all, now you suddenly can with the runway (I have included a YouTube video for you at the end). If you get a whiteout that takes you down to a category IIIB minimum that is what you will get, the simulation of the cloud layers are simply astounding! The effects of what goes on inside a CB cloud and what it will do to the aircraft is simulated as well as I think you will ever experience it in FSX! To take it further, I never thought this kind of realism possible inside the flight simulator environment.  


    The rest of the cruise passes, checking each and every waypoint against what the weather is giving in the program, and each and every time the turbulence, the visibility, the winds etc, they all conform to what the program is giving me. Just marvelous! I have some more random shots for you that I took during the cruise part of the trip, just look at that...




    Now for the interesting part, the descent into KSLC...


    The weather at KSLC is the following:-


    Wind is 140 @12 knots, so we are using runway 16L for the landing. There is no precipitation, 29 degree temperature, 73km visibility, a few clouds at FL 190, and altimeter is 30.04. Bit disappointing, no real turbulence to see what will happen on a more adventurous day, but that said, let us get on with it!

    I now pass FL 192, look to the right, visibility is now about 28km, and with KSLC still being further than that away, I obviously cannot see the few clouds at FL 190 as in the forecast...




    Now, as we are within the visual range, there we go!  Look just above, the few clouds at FL190!




    Now the visibility becomes 73km so, look at the clarity around us, and some more of those few clouds above us at FL 190...




    On the final approach now, and the forecast is a stable wind which should be 140 degrees @ 12 knots now, no gusting, so how do we look?  See for yourself...




    Close enough, remember that we are still just above the ground here, the closer we get to the runway, the closer to the actual prediction it will become. Today the mountains caused a little bit of choppiness, but right in accordance with the weather forecast, nothing dramatic, and that is how the aircraft performed on the way in.  Nothing more needs to be said!


    Okay, so today's weather for this flight was good, but how about some bad weather then? For your pleasure I have randomly placed us at another airport to give you a good look at the simulation of the weather in this product.


    Here is GOOY (Dakar, Leopold Senghor International Airport), East Coast of Africa. The weather is:-

    Wind 10 degrees @ 3 knots, light rain, 27 degrees temperature, 9 000m visibility, few clouds at 900 feet, broken 13 000 feet QNH 1010 HPa. Look at this...




    The wind and altimeter settings match perfectly and as the weather report was the air was very stable and the cloud cover simulated nearly perfectly!  


    In closing off, here is one video of someone who has flown into a fogged in Sydney (YSSY), which gives you an indication of what that looks like.


    Folks, this simply is the most complete atmospheric simulator available to us flight simulator enthusiasts, period! Nothing that I have used previously compares to this as far as getting genuinely realistic weather effects modeled into the simulator. Sure, there are others that can do more visually, but as I have explained to you before, this is not the point of this software.  


    You will get the odd white flash here and there, especially if you go for the ultimate realism as explained in the options of the program, but does this in anyway make the simulation less enjoyable? Certainly not!


    If you are a realism “nutter” as far as weather is concerned, this is the program, look no further!  




    Right, so all this must cost you an arm and a leg performance wise then right? Right? Wrong! I run an Intel Core2Quad Q9550 at 2.83GHz and 6 GB RAM, with a GeForce 480GTX with 768 MB RAM. As you saw, I operated the NGX and I did not reduce my settings for the displays or cockpit textures or modeling.


    Usually, without it being a fresh FSX installation and without massive airport add-ons and further textures for clouds and weather installed, I get a comfortable and consistent 25-35 fps. When running this software with settings maxed out, I lose no more than 2 fps at any given time! This is just marvelous!


    So yes, adhere to the system specifications; play around with the settings on your own machine. Find what works for you, but from what I have experienced, you will not pay a severe performance penalty if you already run a fairly modest system with a balanced FSX setup.


    In conclusion?


    What is left to be said? Not much to be honest! I think what needs to be said can be read and seen above. This is quite simply the ultimate simulation of atmospheric conditions, period. It would be nice to get some comments from other users having used similar products from other developers and then started using FSGRW to see what they have to say though.


    How much will this set you back? E 39.99. This may seem a little steep, but as you may have gleaned from what I had to say about it in the above passages, you will find it worth every penny! Oh and of course, you don't have to take my word for it - download the demo and have a go at it for yourself! If you don't like it, don't buy it, but I have a feeling that after you have used it for a few minutes, you will understand why I now have a permanently fixed broad smile on my face when I deal with real weather inside of FSX!


    For X-Plane users, if you look on their site, you will also find that they are in development of the X-Plane version of this software to.


    What I liked about FS Global’s Real Weather:

    • Very easy and user friendly GUI;
    • Extremely intuitive to use;
    • The extra features, like the flight planner and waypoint weather predictions;
    • The seamless integration into FSX despite having to be run outside of FSX;
    • Ultimate realism in simulating atmospheric conditions;
    • The wind smoothing and turbulence effects are realistic and has realistic effects on highly realistic add-ons like the PMDG 737 NGX not causing huge upsets to the aircraft like the default weather;
    • Weather forecast and simulation of the forecast matches nearly perfectly;
    • Even with default cloud textures, the simulation of the various layers and their effects on the visibility aspect of the simulator is astounding;
    • The massive level of customization to set it up to your likes and this tinkering does not require you be a rocket scientist!

    What I didn't like about FS Global’s Real Weather:

    • Nothing to list here folks!

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