Saturday, 28 July 2012

Any landing you can walk away from...

Today I celebrate my first successful ILS landing.  Sadly this was after leaving at least three blazing wrecks in the countryside around EGNX East Midlands Airport and at least 3 missed approaches.

Really it shouldn't be that difficult.  But things aren't helped by (a) YouTube "tutorial" videos that do so using addons that most other simpilots won't have (b) MS's piss-poor "tutorial missions" that don't cover half the things you need to know and (c) FSX's inconsistencies

Anyway,  I finally managed it with the help of the CRJ-700 checklists from Roger Dodger Aviation, but even that was annoyingly vague on the translation from pilot speak ("App hold when established on localizer and glide slope") to actual keypresses required to make it happen (using their Airliner keyboard mod, hit Loc Hold and toggle Appr Mode until G/S shows above the attitude indicator, then turn Alt Hold off)

I also managed to work out my first mini "hack" to get around one of FSX's inconsistencies.

Here's the thing... using the airliner autopilot you tend to have two buttons per function, with one button enabling it and the second "bug" button allowing you to set the target parameter using the generic Increase and Decrease button/key.  For example, if you want the autopilot to follow a particular heading, you'd hit (again using the RD Airline keyboard) HDG HOLD to enable the autopilot altitude control and the HDG BUG key would then let you set the heading using the increase/decrease buttons.  Similarly you've got the ALT HOLD and ALT BUG keys, and even a VSI HOLD and VSI BUG key.

But for speed, you've just got Speed Hold.

When, at various unimportant times during your flight such as, ooh I dunno let's say.. final approach for landing, you need to drop your autopilot controlled speed, sometimes in quite quick succession.  The only way to do this is by mouse-clicking a knob on the virtual cockpit panel or 2D panel.  In FSX there just isn't a key control assignment option for "Speed Bug".

Well actually there is, it's just hidden.

To get to it, you have to directly hack the Standard.xml file located in your user profile (in Win7 it's in Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\FSX\Controls).  You'll need to open it in a non-formatting text editor - which basically means that the ones that come with Windows just won't do and you'll need to download either Notepad++ or Textpad, both free and highly recommended - and  search for "AIRSPEED_BUG_SELECT"  This is the Speed Bug command, which for some reason does not show up in the list of possible keyboard commands you can assign to keys within FSX.  It is set by default to CTRL+SHIFT+R.  You can either use that key combo, or change it manually in the text editor, though be careful to get the correct format.

As a result of this teensy bit of XML hacking, I now have a working Speed Bug key which makes bringing the airspeed down during landing approach a lot easier than having to line up the virtual cockpit view so you can see both the Speed knob and the air speed indicator, fumbling with the mouse then clicking on the right hotspot to raise or lower the bug.

Unfortunately as soon as the victory celebrations for that one were over, I ran head first into another little "quirk" in the interface.  FSX has a "Master Ignition Toggle (ON)" key command.  As the name suggests it doesn't function as a proper toggle switch but only turns the ignition on, and FSX does not have an equivalent (OFF) key.  From an initial hack into the Standard.xml file and a look at the list of possible commands supported by FSUIPC it looks like it was originally intended to act as a true toggle switch but for some reason it didn't work properly.  So some bright Microsoft technical writer "fixed" the bug by simply adding the word "On" to the command description within FSX.  Which as far as I can tell leaves us with no option but to drop out of the simulation immersion and reach for the mouse every time we want to turn master ignition off.

Sloppy, Microsoft, very sloppy.

1 comment:

  1. hey thanks that was very helpful for the speed bug! is there a fix for the VERTICAL speed bug also? no way to change it unless with mouse... thanks!