by Mike Cameron
Dangerous Approaches is the first product developed for FSX: Steam Edition by Jane Whittaker and published by Dovetail Games. I have already reviewed Cargo Crew, the second product that she developed for this simulator. Just like the Cargo Crew product, all proceeds from the sales of this product go to provide support for the health and other expenses for a very brave girl, Rosie Davies.
I briefly wrote about Rosie in my Cargo Crew review and Jane has also created a Facebook page that provides updates about Rosie located here: https://www.facebook.com/JaneRachelWhittaker . The dedicated support forum on Avsim located here: http://forum.avsim.net/forum/733-jane-rachel-whittaker-blue-sock-studios-official-support-forum/ . Just before I started this review it was posted that some of these proceeds allowed Rosie to outside and spend some time at the beach, well done fellow flight simulator enthusiasts. Here is the link of the photo of Rosie at the beach: http://forum.avsim.net/topic/467497-rosie-at-the-beach-your-fundraising-at-work/ .
The following was taken from the manual and the following FSX Insider articles, “Dangerous Approaches – A Developers Perspective” and “Dangerous Approaches: Your Questions Answered”. Dangerous Approaches is a series of twenty FSX: SE missions into some of the most challenging approaches in the world. According to Jane Whittaker, the project started quite simply. She wanted to find 20 of the most exciting airports and build a mission pack around them. She quickly realized that this was not going to be easy because there are a staggering 24,490 airports in the FSX: Steam Edition simulator. She also wanted to include everyone’s flying preference from general aviation aircraft to airliners and even the classic DC-3. The factors that needed to be considered a dangerous approach included terrain, runway size and the localized weather effects. Also, she wanted airports that would look beautiful and are dramatically presented in the default simulator scenery. I have the Orbx Global, Vector, European Landclass as well as several regions so my screen grabs may look different than on promotional pictures.
Besides her own research, she contacted professional pilots to hear from their experiences and was rewarded with descriptions of some of their hair raising accounts such as dark and stormy Hong Kong, landing at a short airstrip along the California coast as well as many others. From these conversations she also decided on another requirement for Dangerous Approaches, rather than just flying the approach, she want to create the actual flights flown by a variety of professional pilots. All flight plans included are accurate and require you fly the route in the authentic aircraft that the real world aviators used for their flights. Even the waypoints used are authentic to the real world flights. You will not be flying alone on your flights, Angel Heaven Lee recorded voice overs to act as your co-pilot or passenger to add to the Dangerous Approach experience. Completion of each mission will generate a reward – be it a gold, silver or bronze medal and is based on the complexity and accuracy of your approach. Just landing at the airport will not generate a reward; you must perform a textbook landing, with touchdown on the first third of the runway, aligned with the centerline, safe touchdown rate, etc. In order to receive the gold medal you need to have a perfect approach and landing which is how it should be. Jane admitted that with some airports it took her a few attempts to get a perfect landing but this is part of the fun. I shall see how good of aviator that I am.
All of the mission flight plans are loaded into the aircraft GPS for you to follow and because the simulator ATC may vector you miles away from your flight plan, align you with an incorrect runway or worse, (sometimes into a mountain), ATC services will not be used for these flights. To get around this, the GPS will automatically be loaded with the STAR (the standard terminal arrival route) for that approach used by real airlines. Following this route for nearly all of the approaches, will line you up with the centerline of the arrival runway with the exact procedures used by the real world airlines. At the small general aviation airports, which do not have an ATC Tower, you will be guided to the airport with the choice of the approach taken from current aviation charts. These are entered in the GPS using custom waypoints taken directly from current navigation data. As you can see from this introduction, Dangerous Approaches has a lot of realistic features, except for ATC, and so let’s get started to see if I have what it takes to fly these dangerous approaches.
The link to download the manual is on the right side of the Steam product page. I recommend downloading and reading it because it provides a lot of useful information about these flights along with descent calculations and other useful information. The manual is also stored in the DLC folder of your root FSX directory after installation of Dangerous Approaches. Purchasing and activating products on the Steam network is very quick and easy. I provided a detailed install procedure with my Cargo Crew review so I am only going to quickly summarize the process here. Before doing anything with Steam, if you have moved the default FSX aircraft to a backup folder because you do not fly them, copy them back to the Simobjects/aircraft folder.
Dangerous Approaches uses ANY aircraft in your inventory, payware or freeware (if you don't use the default Aircraft you will not get the completion badge in the Pilots Log but will still recognize completion of the mission). Log into your Steam Account from the Windows Steam program and purchase Dangerous Approaches if you have not already done so. After purchase, select “Install” and Dangerous Approaches will be installed into your FSX-SE directory (DLC folder) and will also always be associated with your Steam account. This process is so fast that it takes longer to explain then to activate and install.
My First Dangerous Approach
I am going to do things a bit differently with the Dangerous Approaches review. You would think that it would be good to start with the Beginning level flights and progress to the higher skill levels but you would be wrong. The first two Beginning skill level flights are actually Dangerous Approach 08 and 15 and use what I do not consider aircraft for beginners, a Boeing 747 and a Boeing 737 (don't forget you can substitute for your payware A320/Tristar/A330/B777/NGX, etc. etc.). Granted just like Cargo Crew, the engines are already running but you still need to taxi to the runway, depart and fly to the destination using these complex aircraft. If using default airliners with a simplified flight model, you are still required to land within the parameters of these missions and these aircraft may be too complicated if you are new to the flight simulator world.
Also if you are new or inexperienced, I also do not recommend trying the missions in sequential order, Dangerous Approach 01 is an Expert skill level flight so unless you are experienced with the default Lear Jet, I would not recommend starting with this one. What is nice about the FSX: SE missions are that you can fly them in any order that you would like. Personally, I am going to start with Dangerous Approach 07 which is a Beginning level mission but uses the default Cessna 172 (you may substitute for a light aircraft of your choice) and if you are new to this wonderful hobby, I recommend starting with this flight. At the bottom of the Mission selection screen is a box “Enable changes to Selected Mission (No Rewards Given)”, which allows you to fly your preferred aircraft and change the weather settings for the missions. Personally, I do not recommend this because even if you make a perfect landing, you will not receive a reward, but this option is there if you want to practice the approach with an aircraft that you are more comfortable with. As with the Cargo Crew program, a detailed briefing is included to let you know what is required to fly a successful approach. This is a short flight from Kirkwall to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands with heavy wind and rain. After the mission loads, the C172 is ready to go on the active runway and Angel announces that we should depart to the North when ready.
This mission uses the Garmin G1000 equipped Cessna 172 by default, the flight plan loaded on the Multifunction display. I have the Orbx Global, Vector and European Landclass products installed so despite the weather, I can see some nice scenery features after I depart Kirkwall. The briefing suggests staying below 3000 feet and after departing I notice the cloud cover is very low and Angel says to stay below the clouds so at times I will be well below 3000 feet in order to avoid flying into the clouds. As I approach the airport I consult the simulator’s map and according to the weather information I should land on a westerly runway because of the wind. It would be nice if Angel would provide some comment about which runway I am supposed to be landing on. I landed on a grass runway but did not receive a confirmation, good, bad or otherwise. This must have been the incorrect runway so I depart and land on the asphalt runway and receive the wonderful “Success” message. Useful tip, if the approach is to a small uncontrolled airport, use the GPS zoom feature to see where the flight plan ends and it probably will be on the proper runway so land on it first. My landing on the proper runway is less than perfect but still performed well enough to earn a bronze medal so this would be a very good approach for virtual pilots of all skill levels.
Dangerous Approaches 14 – Innsbruck
The next Beginning level flight from Vienna to Innsbruck is a demonstration flight of the DC-3 for the spectators on the ground at Innsbruck, Austria. I have become somewhat familiar with the DC-3 from the Cargo Crew review so I decided to fly this challenging approach. Innsbruck has a reputation as having one of the toughest mountainous approaches in Europe and rightly so. The briefing suggests studying the approach on the GPS first but I use the map because it easier to move around on the map then using the GPS controls.
The final VOR before starting the approach is the RTT VOR, where you will need to make a right turn to a heading of 211 degrees while descending to 9500 feet through mountainous terrain before capturing the runway 26 localizer. Capturing the localizer does not mean that you are lined up with the runway, Innsbruck Airport has a displaced localizer which means when you have the airport in sight you will need to depart the localizer and manually turn towards the runway. I shall see if I have what it takes to land safely with this challenging approach!
The engines are already running and despite being winter it looks like a nice day for this flight. I would not like to fly this approach in an unfamiliar aircraft in bad weather which many real world pilots do. If you are experienced and want the challenge, enable mission changes and change to more severe weather. The only introduction that Angel provides is “Takeoff when ready”, I wish more information would be included before starting these flights and hopefully will be included with future products. I tune the first VOR frequency of 111.40 for the TUN VOR but will be following the GPS flight plan because I still have no idea how to use the DC-3 navigation instruments. I check the weather, taxi and takeoff from the active runway which today will be runway 29 and start my climb to the TUN VOR. After departing Vienna, Angel announces that I should climb to 12000 feet and to follow the GPS flight plan.
The DC-3 is very easy to hand fly but it is not one of the fastest aircraft so it is going to take some time to reach my cruise altitude. After finally reaching 12000 feet, I activate altitude hold to maintain this altitude and Angel is very quiet. This is a long slow flight in good weather so I decide to open my iPad moving map to see what I am flying over. The one thing that would improve the experience would be if Angel would provide some commentary enroute, especially when flying over large cities, rivers and other major point of interest locations. As I get close to the starting point of the approach, it looks like it is going to be a nice evening and now things are going to get interesting as I start my descent through the mountains. This may be a challenging approach but it sure is beautiful country. Oddly the RTT VOR is not included on the flight plan and is slightly off the flight path so I just recommend following the GPS flight plan because it is more direct.
As you can see from the final screen grab, the runway is in site but I do need to make a turn in order to line up with the runway. I was able to approach and land at Innsbruck without issue and was rewarded with congratulations from Angel for successfully flying this approach and received another bronze medal probably because I did not have the smoothest of landings but I did land safely and that is what matters. This is a long flight but I still recommend it for all skill levels because the DC-3 is pretty easy to fly and if you follow the GPS you will arrive safely. The weather is also nice for this approach which may be the reason that this is considered a Beginning skill level mission. The only minor nitpick that I have with this flight and probably future flights is that Angel is quiet enroute, it would be nice to have some more dialog.
Dangerous Approach 16 – St Barthelmy
Dangerous Approach 16 is the last Beginning skill level mission in the Cessna 172 and is a short scenic flight from St Kitts to St Barthelmy in the Caribbean. I am tasked with taking some tourists to this idyllic island. So what makes this a dangerous approach, the St Barthelmy (TFFJ) runway is notorious do to its short length. Another factor with today’s flight is that we will have a steep approach course as we make an easterly landing. According to the briefing this approach is seriously going to test our C172 approach and landing skills. You must have a clean landing in the touchdown zone and brake immediately if you want to come to a complete stop before coming to the end of this very short runway and the entire runway may be needed. If too fast or too high, immediately apply full throttle and perform a go-around. Since I am not alone on this flight and want to impress these tourists, let’s hope I have what it takes to complete a successful approach.
The passengers are comfortably in their seats and the engine is running so I taxi and depart St Kitts Airport. Until I reach open water, my passengers have a nice view of the St Kitts area. When St Barthelmy is in sight I start my descent and slowly reduce my power to prepare for the approach. I successfully land and come to a full stop using only the first third of the runway but am still awarded with only a bronze medal. I wonder what needs to be accomplished in order to be awarded a silver or gold medal. This was a very scenic flight that everyone should be able to finish without issue, just use the GPS and compass or heading indicator to approach the proper runway.
Dangerous Approach 04 – St Maarten
I am going to stay in the Caribbean for another scenic flight from Antigua to St Maarten. This flight will use the Cessna 208B Caravan and although this is a much more complex aircraft then the Cessna 172, the mission starts with the engine running and all that is required is to fly from point a to point b. What is unknown is what the proper approach speed is for this aircraft and it would be nice if Angel or the briefing documentation would provide this critical information. So if you would like to get the most from this mission and all of the other aircraft used in this package, take the time to perform some research before flying this approach. St Maarten is one of the world’s most famous approaches with the obvious known issue is to avoid undershooting the runway. Landing to short at this airport and you will find yourself floating in the Caribbean. In addition to being very scenic, St Maarten is also known as one of the most dangerous approaches in the world. Coastal turbulence causes the pilot to take great care when reaching the runway threshold. You also need to resist the urge to approach from too high an angle, according to the briefing, plan your approach to land at your visual aiming point and you will be rewarded with a successful landing at one of the most dangerous approaches in the world.
These flights do not use ATC so I taxi and depart the lovely island of Antigua. Angel provides some more information with this flight, letting me know that I am to climb to 5000 feet. Most of this flight is over open water and the Cessna Caravan is equipped with an autopilot so if you would like to use it I do not think that you will be penalized. Enroute, I pass by St. Barthelmy, my destination from the last flight. The briefing was right that this is a very scenic approach. I have the Orbx Global, Vector and HD Trees installed on my system so what you see when you fly this approach may be different. I make another successful approach and Angel congratulates me that I flew right over the beach. Despite what I thought was my best approach and landing so far, I was still only awarded a silver medal.
Dangerous Approach 05 – Sion
The final two review approaches will be in Europe, starting with this flight from Paris, France across the Alps to the notoriously treacherous approach into Sion, Switzerland. I decided to try this challenging approach because besides have the Orbx Global and European Land Class products installed on my system, I also own the Aerosoft Sion X scenery, so I decided to install it to have some detailed airport scenery to land at. This flight uses the default Beechcraft Baron 58 which is a twin engine aircraft but since the mission starts with the engines running, don’t worry about having to learn the startup procedures. This flight allows me to do some sightseeing in the Alps but the first challenge is to climb to an altitude to clear the mountain peaks that are on this route. According to the briefing, I will need to start the descent for the approach after passing over the Sion (SIO) VOR waypoint on the GPS flight plan. The flight plan for this flight has several VOR navigation waypoints enroute so you have a choice. The easy way is just to follow the GPS flight plan or you can practice your navigation skills by dialing the navigation frequencies for each of these VOR stations and use both the GPS and the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) for reference. This approach also uses the Instrument Landing System (ILS) for runway 25. The Baron includes more modern navigation instruments than the DC-3 but if you would like to get the most out of this flight and others, I recommend visiting the FSX – SE Learning Center Navigation section as well as the http://www.navfltsm.addr.com/ , website. The author of this website does a wonderful job explaining navigation principles in a very easy to understand language. Again, the choice is yours; you can try the realistic procedure above or just fly a visual approach following the GPS to runway 25. According to the briefing, I will need to fly a slightly offset approach to runway 25, allowing me to capture the ILS for the final approach. I need to make sure that I keep correcting for the centerline just before touchdown and this should keep me well clear of the steep valley walls on both sides of the runway. It also says to be as slow as possible and to descend steeply in the valley to avoid being too high on the approach. One last thing, this is considered an advanced skill level mission.
I load the mission and Angel provides the familiar message to “Takeoff when ready”. According to the navigation log the cruise altitude for today’s flight is 13,000 feet and I already mentioned the VOR waypoints used on this route. The Beechcraft Baron 58 is pretty easy to hand fly but is also equipped with an easy to use autopilot if you would like to use that tool. I depart and it looks like a beautiful day to fly. I can see the City of Paris in the distance so I decide to divert from the flight plan and capture some pictures of Paris.
There is not a time restriction with this mission so have fun and enjoy the nearby scenery. After capturing some aerial photos, I return to the flight plan route and start my climb to 13,000 feet. I have included a screen grab of my instrument panel enroute to the BRY VOR, following both the GPS flight plan route and having this VOR tuned on the Nav1 radio and the course set on the Horizontal Situation Indicator. I cannot reach the 13,000 foot cruise altitude with this aircraft because it really struggles to maintain airspeed. The highest altitude that I can reach is 11,000 feet but decide to descend to 9,000 feet so that I can fly at a higher airspeed and will climb again when I get closer to the Alps. I also decide to turn on the autopilot because there is not a lot to see at this altitude. I try to climb to 10,000 feet but the Baron still struggles to climb so my only solution is to make a series of small climbs when the airspeed is higher, level off and repeat.
The estimated time to complete this flight is one hour and thirty minutes but it is going to take me considerably longer. It is a good thing that this mission is not scored based on time. I consult the navigation log and it says to start my descent at the SPR VOR waypoint and I should be at 2014 feet by the time that I cross over the SIO VOR. Of course I will adjust my altitude depending on the terrain. It would be nice if the navigation log would be included as part of the briefing. I start my descent and this looks like it is going to be a fun and very scenic approach. If you would like to make it easier on yourself, with the GPS open, deviate from the flight plan course, fly to the east side of the lake and follow the valley to the airport from here. I am going to continue flying the flight plan course over the mountains to the SIO VOR.
Unlike the other approaches that I have attempted so far, the runway for this approach is at the opposite end of the airport so I have to overfly the airport in order to approach and land. I wonder why the flight plan did not set me up for the proper runway. I tune the ILS frequency from the briefing but the HSI does not want to capture the instrument landing system so I consult the FSX-SE map and it does not show SION Airport (LSGS) as having an instrument landing system. I am using the Aerosoft premium airport so I do not know if this is a factor but anyway it is a good weather day so I decide to fly a visual approach into runway 25. I successfully land and am rewarded with a nice message from Angel and the “Success” message from the simulator. Because I am using a premium airport I decide to taxi to a parking position before exiting the mission and seeing if I was rewarded for my efforts. I was rewarded with my first gold medal so I must have had an outstanding approach.
I want to make a couple of comments about this dangerous approach. First, even though this mission has higher difficulty level, pilots of all skill levels should not have a problem completing this mission. Secondly, do not worry about reaching the recommended cruise altitude. When the airspeed starts to drop or the aircraft is having trouble maintain the climb, level out until the speed increases then start the climb again in small increments. Just remember you need to be at a safe altitude to clear the mountain peaks on your route, so try to climb as high as possible early in your flight. I never did reach the cruise altitude and I safely cleared all of the mountain peaks. It also would have been nice if Jane would have included a waypoint lining up with runway 25 in the flight plan instead of having the last waypoint of SIO VOR which lines you up with the opposite runway. If this is the proper real world procedure for runway 25 than I can certainly live with this.
Dangerous Approach 06 – Lukla
I am going to stay in Europe for the last dangerous approach that I am going to attempt for this review is a flight from Katmandu to Lukla Airport located in the Himalaya Mountains. I decided to try this approach because not only does it use another general aviation aircraft, the Mooney Bravo but I also own the Aerosoft Lukla X premium scenery for FSX. This should be another scenic flight enroute to capture some screen grabs along the way. There is a reason why they call pilots that fly into this airport, ‘the finest pilots in the world’, even in the best weather conditions; this is arguably the world’s most difficult approach. I will need to follow the GPS flight course but will deviate as needed to avoid terrain. The planned cruise altitude is 25000 feet and there is also a steep descent into Lukla which has an airport altitude of 10,000 feet. According to the briefing, I am going to need to hand fly through the nearby valleys (GPS in terrain mode will help with this), avoiding terrain before lining up with the runway which is perched on the tip of Mount Everest. Another challenge will be to work hard to quickly gain altitude in the Mooney and have an equally hard task to rapidly descend into the valley. To complicate things even further, the runway is obscured by the valley walls until the final few seconds of the approach. Let’s hope that I have what it takes to land at the challenging Lukla Airport and the adventurous passengers that I am transporting, hope so too!
This is an advanced skill level mission but the weather is favorable so weather should not be an issue for today’s flight. After the mission is loaded, Angel responds with “Welcome to our Everest adventure flight and to takeoff when ready.” What is different about this flight is that the engine is not already running so I did a quick startup procedure. This is a Garmin G1000 equipped aircraft and the flight plan course is displayed on the Multifunction Display’s moving map. I depart Katmandu and start my short flight to Lukla. I continue to slowly climb but this is going to be another mission that I do not think that I am going to be able to reach the cruise altitude with the selected aircraft. Angel reminds me that I will have to manually navigate through the valleys. The passengers and I continue to enjoy the mountainous scenery on this route. Looking at the terrain ahead I do not think that I am going to have to climb all the way to 25000 feet in order to clear the mountain peaks ahead. I adjust the zoom level on the MFD and find some valleys to follow that will end up near Lukla Airport. I divert from the flight plan route and start hand flying over these valleys. I continue to enjoy the scenery outside but need to rely on the moving map because at this altitude it is hard to see the valleys.
When I get closer to the airport area, I quickly discover that I am not going to be able to use the Aerosoft scenery to successfully complete this mission because Aerosoft placed their airport in a different location and used a different airport code. This mission uses the default airport scenery and this has been replaced with the new scenery and even if I wanted to, there is not an airport to land at. I decide to continue the approach to the Aerosoft Lukla but when I cannot locate the airport I discover that I am in the wrong valley and am not nearly high enough to locate the airport. I try to climb but quickly discover that similar to the Beechcraft Baron from the previous flight, the Mooney has trouble climbing any higher. Luckily, crashes do not end these missions because I bounce off the terrain repeatedly but eventually locate the airport and still attempt an approach but still could not successfully land. As you can see from my screen grab of the approach to the Aerosoft version of Lukla, I do not think that this scenery is compatible with the other scenery products that I have installed.
I am sure real world pilots have successfully landed at Lukla in a Mooney Bravo; I am just not one of them. The take away from this is climb as high as possible as soon as possible so that I have plenty of altitude to spare. I exit the mission, disable the Aerosoft scenery and decide to try the mission again. This time I continue to fly the flight plan course until I locate the airport and then start my descent into the valley and the approach into Lukla Airport. Unfortunately the result is the same; I crash into the mountainside and am unable to complete the mission. This is the first dangerous approach that I could not complete but decided to include it anyway to demonstrate that some of the approaches in this package may require several attempts to successfully complete. I did capture a screen grab of the runway from the Free Flight Airport Selection to display what you should see if you land successfully.
Dangerous Approaches from Jane Whittaker and Dovetail Games is a worthy add-on pack for the FSX: Steam Edition platform. This program is a good value on its own merits, TWENTY missions that will appeal to all virtual pilots of all skill levels. Depending on what extra scenery products you have installed, the landscapes that you will see on these flights also have some variety and on the flights that I tried were also very scenic. The primary reason that I think people should buy Dangerous Approaches is that all proceeds from this product support the Rosie Davies Appeal which help with her health and other related expenses. So think of it this way, you are getting yourself a very good flight simulator add-on, and donating to a worthy cause at the same time.
Now are there improvements that I would like to see included with future products, yes, but these are minor depending on how you look at it and I still do not have a problem recommending the Dangerous Approaches program.
First, I like the professional voice audio that Angel Heaven Lee provides, I just wish that she would have more to say during the flight. Also, if you are not going to use the simulator ATC, have recorded ATC that Angel responds to, this would greatly add to the experience and also increase the realism. Secondly, there are a lot of new inexperienced virtual pilots that have just installed FSX: SE and this is probably their first add-on product for that simulator. I would like to see the difficulty level of the missions progress in a more entry level way. For example the first two Beginning level missions use large airliner aircraft and these could be intimidating for an inexperienced user. I am experienced but I am not comfortable with these aircraft so I selected missions that used general aviation or smaller type aircraft.
The nice thing about the simulator missions is that you do not have to fly them in order; you can try the ones that you are more comfortable with first. It just would make the mission selection more intuitive if the Beginning skill level missions were in chronological order 01-05 or more and would use less complex aircraft to start with.
Lastly, on one of the flights that I reviewed the flight plan lined me up with the incorrect runway, it would be nice if the flight plan route included a waypoint before the proper runway or at least include the overflight procedure in the briefing.
I want to thank Dovetail Games, Jane Whittaker and Avsim for giving me the opportunity to review Dangerous Approaches.
Intel Desktop Computer
Intel i5 4670K 3.4Ghz Non OC Processor
8GB DDR3 1833 Memory
2TB SATA HD (7200 RPM)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX970 Video Card with 4GB GDDR5 Memory
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick
FSX: Steam Edition, Windows 7 – 64 Bit
REX 4 Texture Direct with Soft Clouds
Orbx HD Trees, Global, Vector, Europe Landclass & Multiple Regions
FS Global 2010 FTX Compatible
DX10 Scenery Fixer
FSX Fair Weather Theme
Flight Test Time: