Publisher: FS Inventions
Platform: FS9, FSX
Reviewed By: Mike Cameron
FS Instant Approach was developed by FS Inventions which also makes the FS Flying School series of products. The features of FS Instant Approach are:
- Ability to setup an approach in seconds. With this program the virtual pilot can setup an approach to any airport in the world in about the same time as it takes to read this sentence.
- Try an approach to a random airport in the world with the ability to filter geographical region, elevation, runway length and more.
- Map all of your flights against the background of Google Maps.
- Automatic tuning of the aircraft radios.
FS Inventions is always updating their products with new and useful features. The current version of the software is 1.5.1. Below is a quick summary of the updates:
- 1.5.1: Approach altitude and runway length was added to approach filters.
- 1.4: Ability to control visibility at the approach airport.
- 1.3: Ability to control surface winds and gusts for the approach.
All of the features of FS Instant Approach will be explained in detail later in the review. Also, if you already own FS Flying School Pro, you do not need to purchase this product because all of the FS Instant Approach features are included with that product.
Installation and Documentation
Installation of FS Instant Approach is very easy. First, you download and install the demo of the latest version of the software from the FS Inventions website. This program operates outside of the flight simulator and installs into its own folder and the whole process should only take a few seconds. The install program will also install the free version of FSUIPC 4.80 if it is not already installed.
Start FSX or FS2004, load the aircraft, airport and parking location of your choice. Now start FS Instant Approach. Until you activate the program, FS Instant Approach operates in demo mode which allows you to practice approaches to any runway at Chicago (KORD) or Green Bay (KGRB). All of the program’s features are enabled except the ability to upload the flight maps to the FS Instant Approach website.
I like that FS Inventions provides a demo mode because it allows the virtual pilot to try all of the various features before purchasing it to see if this is the right program for them. The first thing I did after the demo was installed is go to the Settings screen and verify the correct flight simulator location. If for some reason it is not correct, click the “…” button to locate the correct location. While still on the Settings screen, click on the “Generate runway data for FSX” or “FS2004” to create the database of all of the flight simulator’s runways. This process takes some time but only has to be done once.
After purchasing the program, you will receive an email within 24 hours with three Registration Fields and a Registration Key. These need to be entered on the Credits screen of the program. Enter each of these fields & the key in the appropriate box on the Credits screen then click the “Register Program” button. I copy each of these from the email and paste them to avoid typing mistakes.
If everything was entered correctly, the Registration Field boxes should now be gone; the Registration Key will be greyed out and (Demo Version) will be deleted from the title. This may seem like a long process but it is really very easy. If you still have questions about the activation process, there is a help video that is accessible on the Credits screen.
The manual is available on the Information screen. The FS Inventions website also has tutorial movies on the features of the program.
Setting Up an Approach
Before starting the FS Instant Approach program you need to be in the cockpit of a flight simulator aircraft with the engine or engines running. Once you start FS Instant Approach you are presented with the Information screen. These four pages provide tips on using the various functions of the program.
At the bottom of these information pages are buttons to access the user manual, show popup tips, access the support forum and to tweet FS Inventions. Creating an approach is accomplished on the Flight Plan screen. The wonderful thing about this program is that it is so easy to use and everything is self-explanatory.
If you just want to set your aircraft on approach a few miles from a random runway somewhere in the world, click the “Approach Random Airport” button. The ICAO code, airport name, runway information and ILS radio frequencies (if applicable) will be displayed. Click the “Connect” button to load the scenery into your flight simulator.
The flight simulator will be paused which is nice in case the scenery did not load correctly. One time the approach loaded with the aircraft on the ground instead of at altitude. If this should happen, disconnect FS Instant Approach from the flight simulator and try connecting again or adjust the Altitude filter of the program. Unless you like to fly at night, I recommend placing a check mark in Set (Local) Time filter; I leave the default 12:00 local time. I like to use the approach random airport function when I am short on time and just want to perform a few quick approaches. This also allows me to see airports in other parts of the world.
On approach position
Icao runway altitude filters
If you would like to filter what region of the world or a specific airport that you would like to practice an approach into, that too is extremely easy. For a specific airport, enter the ICAO Code and click the “Approach Airport” button. Below the approach airport buttons are the filters for approach distance from runway, runway selection and approach speed. This is where I would like to see a feature added to the program.
Instead of always starting the approach lined up with the runway, I would like to see an option to approach the runway from different directions. This would add another challenge to the program and also allow the virtual aviator to practice other published approaches to that particular runway. The program will also automatically dial the ILS radio frequency, ATIS on Com2 and dial the NAV1 OBS if you desire.
If you would like to filter airports in certain regions of the world, enter the first letters or numbers of the ICAO Code in the “ICAO Codes start with” box. For example, enter the letter “K” for large airports in the United States, “C” for Canada, etc. I would like to see an option to specify the country by name and also the state or province by name. For me the ICAO code filter is too restrictive.
There are some small airstrips in Washington State that begin with a “WA” ICAO Code. When I input these letters into this box and select “Approach Random Airport” button, the program would occasionally select an airport from another part of the world with the starting letters “WA” when what I wanted was an airstrip in Washington State. This section also allows you to filter runway types, runway elevation & length and starting approach altitude. Just remember to load the appropriate aircraft for the runway selected with the filters. The program is also limited to land based airports.
If you would like to practice more challenging approaches, FS Instant Approach allows you to adjust surface wind speed & direction, visibility and the activation of gusts. This is a lot of fun and if you are not careful it can be more of a challenge than you are prepared for. The gusting feature can be extreme in FSX, especially at higher wind speeds and is enabled at the start of your approach.
On one flight, I forgot that I had gusting enabled, moderate wind speed, low visibility and had not set local time to daylight hours. I then loaded a random approach; I was on approach to a non-lighted airport at night in low visibility with gusts. I was flying a small aircraft without a GPS and it took a lot of effort just to keep the aircraft under control. Needless to say I drifted off course and had to bring up the FSX map in order to see where the airport was located. I was able to eventually land the aircraft safely.
Time radio setup
This is what makes FS Instant Approach such an excellent program, the virtual pilot can create an approach as easy or as challenging as they want it to be.
The flight mapping feature was introduced with the Version 1.3 update. After completing a flight, return to FS Instant Approach program and click the “View All Maps” button on the Flight Plan screen. This will open Google Maps and will display the progress of your flight with either map view or satellite view as the background. These Google Map files can also be uploaded to the FS Instant Approach website for later review. The flight mapping feature is useful to show the pilot if they stayed on the proper runway heading for the entire approach.
During daylight hours with good visibility you would be able to see terrain and obstacles but at night or low visibility, probably not. With the aid of Google Maps you would be able to see how close you came to a dangerous situation. Also after the aircraft is parked, you can use satellite view zoomed in to compare how the flight simulator airport compares to the real world one.
Flight route map
Approach map satellite route
FS Instant Approach is a wonderful program that I highly recommend. I love that I can practice several random approaches in the evening after dinner to airports anywhere in the world. The program is sold for a great price, is very easy to use and approaches can be made to be as easy or challenging as you would like them to be.
I would like to see a couple of features added to the program that would make FS Instant Approach even better. First, I would like to see a filter to approach the runway from different directions instead of always being lined up for a straight in approach. Secondly, I would like to see a geographical filter to select a country by name and to filter it even further by selecting the state or province. Filtering ICAO codes starting with letters or numbers is too restrictive for me.
What I Like About FS Instant Approach
- Demo mode and is very reasonably priced to purchase.
- Program is very easy to use.
- The various filters allow the virtual pilot to create approaches that are routine to challenging.
- Quickly being able to approach random airports anywhere in the world.
- Flight mapping feature
What I Don't Like About FS Instant Approach
I did not have any dislikes about the FS Instant Approach, everything below are suggestions that would make program even better.
- Would like the ability to approach the runways from different directions.
- Would like a filter to select a county by name and also by state, region or province in that country