More About X-Plane Situations and “Scenario-Based Training”

To allay confusion about the “situation” with the Situations that I created to complement the scenarios in my latest book, Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator, here’s a little more information. As I explained earlier, the developer of X-Plane frequently updates the code, and each time he does, the format of the .sit files changes, and you may not be able to load the provided Situation.

It’s not practical for me to recreate the Situations every time Austin updates X-Plane and to try to maintain an archive of the files for every version that folks may be using at any time. If he stabilizes the .sit format in future, I’ll create new Situations.

But the Situations I provided are just a convenience. You can use any recent version of X-Plane with the scenarios described in each lesson. In fact, you could use the scenarios/lessons effectively with any simulation (FTD, PC-based, etc.), provided that simulation has the required scenery, navaids, etc. Instructors can also use the scenarios and templates for lesson plans, as part of ground-school classes, flight planning exercises, challenges for practicing aeronautical decision making, and so forth.

I focused on X-Plane and FSX because they’re the most popular, cost-effective PC-based simulations that are widely available. I documented the core features of those simulations (again, not especially dependent on a specific version) that help instructors, students, and pilots use them effectively to complement formal training or just have more fun with the hobby of virtual aviation.

Again, the core of the book, the FITS-based scenarios, can be used with many simulations. If you use X-Plane, you just need to use the information provided for each lesson/scenario to place your aircraft at the starting location, adjust the weather, and then start “flying.”

More Details Emerge about Microsoft Flight

Microsoft Flight, the successor to Microsoft Flight Simulator, is in beta. Now more details about the new game (Microsoft dropped simulator from the title) are emerging. You can find a summary from one person who attended the unveiling at Microsoft here.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the game will be offered as a free download. That initial release includes only a couple of aircraft and the scenery and activities are limited to Hawaii. Users eventually will be able to download additional scenery, aircraft, and activities from Microsoft, with each module coming at a price, as yet unannounced.

According to the account above, however, Microsoft will not publish information about how to create add-ons for Microsoft Flight, and, apparently, it will not allow others to host or distribute additional content for the game. Everything will come from Microsoft.

That latter point is telling, and it ends a decades-long practice that led to a worldwide community of developers and enthusiasts who created add-on aircraft, scenery, and features for the Flight Simulator franchise.

Using X-Plane Situations with “Scenario-Based Training”

My new book, Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator: Using PC-Based Flight Simulations Based on FAA-Industry Training Standards, is now available. If you use X-Plane, you should be aware that the Situations posted for download from the book’s page at the publisher’s website may not work with your version of X-Plane.

When I asked about compatibility last year, I understood that the Situations I created while using X-Plane 9 would work with subsequent versions of the simulation. But according to recent email from the developer, the file format changes “a lot,” and he explained that “i am working to make the situations more robust in with-standing file-format changes in the future, but have not yet done so.”

It’s not practical to update all of the Situations every time the format changes–one of the features of X-Plane is frequent updates, even between major versions.

My best advice? If you can’t load the Situation files provided to complement the scenarios in the book, you can use the descriptions of each lesson to quickly set up the Cessna (or your choice of aircraft) at the location where a particular virtual flight begins. As noted in Chapter 10, “Using the Scenarios in This Book,” the Situations are just starting points; they’re not interactive “missions” (see especially p. 109-110). For more information about X-Plane and Situations, see Chapter 6, “A Quick Guide to X-Plane” and the help resources described there.

X-Plane v. Microsoft Flight Simulator

I get a lot of questions about PC-based flight simulations, and the most common query is, “Which is better, X-Plane or Microsoft Flight Simulator?” My detailed answer is the subject of Chapter 5, “Choosing a PC-Based Simulation: X-Plane or FSX?” in my new book, Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator: Using PC-Based Flight Simulations Based on FAA-Industry Training Standards.

You can download and read PDF versions of Chapter 5 and the table of contents for the book from one of my SkyDrive folders.

You need the free Adobe Reader (or its equivalent) to view the PDF files.

Microsoft Flight: A Few More Details

The Microsoft Flight team released a bit more information about the successor to Microsoft Flight Simulator on 15 November. You can read the update here. It includes details about the hardware you’ll need to show off the snazzy new graphics.

It includes a teaser for “an exciting announcement” in December.

Unfortunately, we still don’t have answers–even hints, really–about what Microsoft Flight (the new product’s title doesn’t include simulator) is. Will it continue to re-create the entire world? Will it include navigation data, ATC, and other features essential to a simulation? What aircraft will be included? Will any add-ons created for Microsoft Flight Simulator work with the new “game”? So far, Microsoft isn’t saying.

PC-Based Training for New 787 Pilots

Here’s a feature from Wired about the process for training B787 pilots. Note especially the progression from PC-based training in cubicles to the use of full flight simulators.

It’s a point I often make when discussing the use of PC-based simulations like Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane in general-avaition flight training—and one of the core arguments in my forthcoming book, Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Regardless of what the regulations and advisory circulars say about flight training devices, many people obsess about flight models, physical switches and controls, and absolute fidelity when representing instrument panels. In doing so, they miss most of the value of integrating PC-based simulations in flight training.

My New Book about PC-Based Flight Simulation

Wiley has announced my new book about using PC-based flight simulations to complement flight training.

Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator: Using PC-Based Flight Simulations based on FAA and Industry Training Standards will be out in January 2012.

The title offers general guidance about using PC-based simulations effectively, plus reviews of the essential features of X-Plane and FSX. It includes links to sets of Situations (for X-Plane) and Flights (for FSX) that correspond to lessons based on the private pilot and instrument rating syllabi available at the FITS website. Each lesson in the book includes specific references to key FAA training handbooks and related background information.

The book also helps virtual aviators–flight simulation enthusiasts–master essential skills so that they can expand and increase enjoyment of their hobby.

New Cessna-branded yokes and accessories from Saitek

Saitek has announced a new set of Cessna-branded controls for Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, and other PC-based simulations. Saitek offers a bundle for $449.99 that includes:

PRO Flight Cessna® Yoke System  (Ships 7/22)
PRO Flight Cessna® Rudder Pedals
PRO Flight Cessna® Trim Wheel
PRO Flight Switch Panel (Free with purchase)