Despite how far MSFS has come over the years, it still ceases to amaze me when it comes to the AI Traffic. Even with the traffic density slider set high, there is simply not enough traffic in the skies or on the ground. That’s not to mention the fact that the traffic is limited to only a few aircraft models with fictional liveries. But thanks to the team at Just Flight, the bland default AI traffic can be replaced with an authentic representation of real world traffic with the introduction of Traffic 2005.
Traffic 2005 is 2.8GB of commercial, general aviation, and helicopter AI traffic that will fill your virtual skies with a traffic flow never before seen from a commercial traffic enhancement package. With over 1,200 aircraft and helicopters displaying more than 500 real-world liveries, Traffic 2005 allows you to populate your airports to almost suffocating levels. But the fun doesn’t end there. Also included are countless utilities to help you get the most out of your simming experience. These utilities allow you to alter the AI flight plans, follow aircraft in flight, monitor traffic view boards, and even repaint the AI aircraft.
Okay, I will admit that there are a few less than impressive features and I will be covering them as well. But I can’t discuss this add-on too much more until we get it installed. The first step is to visit the Just Flight website at www.justflight.com to get your hands on this package before it is too late. While your there, you may want to explore the screenshots and product information areas.
Installation and Documentation
I don’t think it gets any easier to install an add-on for Flight Sim than this. After inserting the DVD you will be asked which version of Flight Simulator you are using. For this review, I have chosen FS2004, and all information contained herein is related to that product only. After verifying the Flight Sim directory and agreeing to the terms and conditions, and sitting back for a few minutes, the program will be installed and ready to use. Because Traffic 2005 makes modifications to over 1,500 of the default airports, the scenery will be generated the next time you start Flight Sim.
This package comes with a number of additional utilities that can be found in the main FS9 directory. I will discuss the location of each of them as we make our way through this review, but for the most part everything you need can be found in the “Just Flight” folder that will be added to the aforementioned directory. This folder will also contain several help files for each of the utilities and for the add-on as a whole.
The quickest way to learn this program will be to explore the included paperback manual. This manual will explain each of the components in moderate detail and direct you to the location of more inclusive information. You will also find a Q&A section in the back of the manual covering some of the most commonly asked questions.
Despite all of the help files included, I think you will find that the majority of the features and utilities are fairly self explanatory. Just in case you can’t find the answers you are looking for, you can always visit the Traffic 2005 section of the Just Flight website or use the customer support / contact information for further guidance. I have contacted Just Flight in regards to this program and found that they were very timely in responding to my questions.
Using Traffic 2005
Well I guess the program actually uses itself, but there are some settings that you should be aware of to make your experience more enjoyable. Those of you with a modest computer may want to re-examine your display settings before adjusting the traffic slider too high. If your system stutters when you have the traffic settings too high, then you may wish to lower the scenery settings in small intervals until you find a good compromise. You may also choose to maintain high quality scenery and lower the traffic flow a little instead. Of course, if you have a high-end system you should be able to enjoy the best of both worlds without your frame rates taking a big hit.
Even though it is tempting to set the traffic density at 100%, this setting exceeds realistic traffic flow in most places of the world. I have found the most authentic settings to be somewhere between 65 and 70%. This also allows me to maintain acceptable frame rates without having to lower the scenery settings to pre-historic levels. If you do choose to use the maximum traffic density, you will probably want to examine the taxi speed tool and AI Smooth utilities to help reduce the number of go-arounds and the time that you will spend waiting to takeoff.
Once you have the settings where you like them, you are ready to takeoff. The AI aircraft, including commercial, general aviation, and helicopter traffic, will follow preset flight plans, taxi as applicable, and communicate with the ATC without any need for you to intervene. But if you would like to modify the traffic you can do so in a number of ways. You can use the included Traffic Tools program, as well as a few others to modify the AI flight plans.
The Control Towers
Traffic 2005 includes three control towers (small, medium, and large) that you can use to watch the AI traffic. Each of the towers are accessed through the aircraft selection menu in Flight Sim and are loaded into the game just like any other aircraft. Once you start the flight, you can use the slew mode to position the control tower wherever you choose.
Once you have the tower where you like it, you will have the option of using the “cockpit” or “virtual cockpit” views to keep an eye on the AI traffic. Both views offer the same features, but the VC view will allow you to pan just as in a normal aircraft. The trade-off is the frame rates that you may lose using the VC view, but for the most part I did not notice a major difference.
Inside of the control tower is a control tower panel (also called the ATC console). This panel includes a heading indicator showing the heading that you are looking into. Also included, is a terrain monitor that shows the terrain of the vicinity of the airport up to 40nm. This screen is similar to the GPS front page and can be adjusted in increments from 1, 5, 10, 20, and 40 nm. You can also access a “top down” view from this screen.
The control towers can actually become very addictive as they make for a great location to sit back and enjoy the traffic. Having the ability to choose from the three different size towers allows for you to pick the one that provides the best view for whatever airport you are monitoring.
Though I wouldn’t exactly nominate the “follow me” car in this package for an award, it is quite useful for touring the airfield. Capable of remaining stable up to 50 km or so, the follow me car has the braking abilities and turning radius that make it suitable for navigating enclosed and congested areas. By adjusting the traffic settings with the utilities provided, you can even simulate guiding aircraft to their parking locations with the follow me car.
The exterior model leaves much to be desired, but it does have fairly decent night lighting and a flashing siren light. Unfortunately, the interior textures are painted on the windows showing an obvious lack of depth. There is no forward lumination from the headlights which would be nice for finding your way around in the dark.
There is no virtual cockpit, but the panel provides an acceptably realistic dash with speedometer and tachometer. There are also two sub-panels for the radio stack and ATC. The panel is backlit with a red glow across the dashboard, and the view to either side is completely unrestricted. Again, this thing isn’t going to take home any awards, but it is useful for a quick trip around the airport.
Spotty the Plane Spotter
Now here is something different…well, sort of. Spotty is a utility that is accessed through the aircraft selection menu and is loaded like a normal aircraft. Unlike a normal aircraft Spotty is invisible, or can be displayed from the spot view as an arrow so that you have a reference as to where it is. Spotty’s utilities are accessed through the cockpit view and offer a radio stack, GPS, access to the map, and access to the ATC menu.
Though all of these items would normally be readily available in just about any aircraft for Flight Sim, Spotty has them all neatly organized in a little bag which kind of gives you the feeling of being an actual plane spotter. I can’t say that I am in awe over this utility, but it is fun to use when just kicking back and watching the traffic from time to time.
Taxi Speed Tool
Do you ever get frustrated at aircraft “bottlenecking” waiting to take off? Or maybe you are tired of getting stuck behind the Sunday drivers? With the taxi speed tool, these problems can become a thing of the past. This utility, included with Traffic 2005, will allow you to set the speed at which AI traffic taxi. Located in the “Traffic 2005” folder, this utility is very simple to use. When you start the Taxi Speed Tool, all you have to do is select the speed that you want the AI traffic to taxi when on the runway, and when on the taxiway.
This utility is very handy for getting those 747’s out of the way a little quicker, but it is also quite helpful for clearing the runway as well. By setting the runway taxi speed a little higher than default, the aircraft will exit the runway quicker helping to reduce go-arounds considerably. If you are going to have the traffic density set high, I would highly recommend taking advantage of this utility to help keep everything moving smoothly.
And Some More Utilities
In addition to the aforementioned extras, Traffic 2005 also includes a Flyable Aircraft Tool which will allow you to convert any of the AI aircraft into planes that you can use. Alhough this is a neat feature, these aircraft are not of the greatest quality. Also included, is a repaint utility which will allow you to easily modify the textures of any of the AI aircraft. To use this utility, you simply need to select the aircraft that you want to repaint, and the bitmaps will be loaded into your texture editor. Both of these utilities, along with all others are accessible through the “Traffic 2005” folder in the FS9 main directory.
The rest of the utilities are related to adjusting flight plans and creating new ones. They include Traffic Editor, Traffic Tools, and the Traffic Swap programs. These utilities give you the opportunity to alter the traffic however you see fit. You can alter the flight plans, make your own, and even choose how the aircraft taxi and where they park. You will also notice a few other neat features such as the upgraded voice packs that change the default ATC “robotic” voices into more authentic human voices.
All of these utilities combine to give you full control over how Traffic 2005 affects your virtual world. They are all fairly simple to understand and require very little effort on your part to use.
Join Me for a Flight
Since you stuck around this long the least I could do is take you up for a flight. Even though I know we will be waiting to take off for a while, I am going to set the traffic density slider to 100% so you can see just how populated your airports can become.
On this flight I am going to be using the default Boeing 777 to take us from San Francisco Intl (KSFO) to Los Angeles Intl (KLAX). Maybe when we get to LA we can hop in the Bell 206B to get a few screenshots while we’re there.
Starting from the gate, I am already losing any confidence in being able to take off on time. With so many aircraft taxiing around it is kind of difficult to get through to ground control. After getting clearance to taxi, I still found myself waiting a few more minutes while the aircraft on both sides of me taxied out. Finally enroute to the runway, I find myself behind a Cessna 152 and in front of a Boeing 767. After waiting behind a fleet of aircraft preparing for takeoff, I looked out to the west to see four or five aircraft piled on top of each other getting ready to land. Even though only one landed and the others performed a go-around, I was getting sick of waiting. It’s time to lose some of this traffic.
After lowering the traffic density to 70%, I was airborne in just a couple of minutes. However, contacting air traffic control remained anything but easy. It seemed like every time I tried to get a hold of them, another pilot had beat me to the punch. I guess I will let the GPS get me home this time. After getting a few knots away from San Francisco, the traffic began to lessen considerably. Only the occasional Portland bound heavy and local GA aircraft made an appearance.
After an hour or so, deviating from my flight plan as little as possible, I had LAX in my sights. Unfortunately, I also saw a swarm of aircraft on approach from the west and a few following the traffic pattern. I only wish that I could go to Vegas and bet that I was going to have to perform a go-around, because looking at the traffic I am not planning on landing anytime soon. Sure enough, after receiving landing clearance and just 1 knot from touchdown, I was climbing again. Frustrated from having to watch a Cessna land when I should already be at the gates, I followed the traffic pattern and landed without incident on my second go at it.
Now that we’re here at LAX, let’s switch to the Bell 206B so we can hover around and see what the airport looks like with the AI density at different levels. Starting at 70%, you can see that this facility is anything but bare. As I move up to 80% it gets much more congested, and 90%-100% places more aircraft than I would like to contend with. Fortunately, I’m in my helicopter now so I don’t have to worry about any more go-arounds.
So even though I did end up having to lower the traffic density a little, I was impressed with how much more authentic this flight seemed just by adding some AI traffic. It was certainly much more enjoyable than landing in Los Angeles only to see a few Emeralds Harbor Air and Pacifica aircraft sitting around.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes time to decide whether or not to recommend an add-on for Flight Sim, I ask myself one very important question. If I ever lost the product I have, would I buy it again? In this case I probably would, but I am not really sure just yet. Some of the aforementioned flaws have left me somewhat displeased, but then again, Traffic 2005 did have a very positive impact on my simming experience. Between my review and the information provided at the Just Flight website, you should be able to make an educated decision for yourself.
For the most part, the pros seem to outweigh the cons, at least in my opinion. With the exception of the occasional “ghost” aircraft, and the helicopters taxiing like regular aircraft at some airports where they just seem oddly out of place, this program really does not yield a whole lot of room for improvement. I guess that my biggest disappointment would be the big hit that it has on my frame rates, but I can always lower the amount of traffic or scenery settings if need be. I am not so addicted to this program that I will buy a new computer just to use it to its full capacity.
The only suggestion that I would make is to try to refrain from setting the traffic slider too high. I encountered far too many go-arounds and waited way too long to take off with the traffic set to 100%. The best median I could find that let me get airborne a little quicker and helped with the frame rates was at 75%, which is still considerably better than the default traffic at full settings and much more realistic.
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to try every single AI expansion pack available for FS9, but of the ones that I have tried, Traffic 2005 has them beat hands down. Of course, there are some decent freeware packages, but I am not aware of any that contain this many liveries, aircraft, and extras.
As for recommending this program, I would definitely call
it a must have for anyone looking to greatly enhance the AI traffic and for
those of you
to sit back and watch the planes go by. If frame rates are a concern
of yours while maintaining the highest scenery settings possible, then I would
recommend that you take another route. All in all, I would summarize
Traffic 2005 as being worth the money.
|What I Like About Traffic 2005|
|What I Don't Like About Traffic 2005|
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