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Flight Simulator X - Tutorial Series

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@bben and @Ceafus 88 thanks for your comments!

Part 2: ILS Landing

While visual approaches are necessary at airports with no ILS localizer or if the aircraft is not equipped with the proper receiver, an ILS (instrument landing system) allows aircraft to land without the pilot maintaining visual contact with the runway. As explained previously, it does so via transmitted radio signals. An ILS consists of a localizer, which allows an aircraft to fly along the runway axis. It also consists of a glide slope, which provides vertical guidance. A typical glide slope is approximately 3 degrees above ground level. This means aircraft approach the runway from a 3 degree angle above the ground. For this update, we will fly an ILS approach and landing at Teterboro.

Firstly, we're going to need some information about Teterboro airport. When you're about 15 nautical miles away from the airport as indicated by the GPS, press the NRST button on the GPS.


Press PUSH CRSR, and use the outside scroll wheel to scroll to KTEB in the nearest airport list and push ENT. Here you will want to take note of the airport elevation, in this case, 9 feet AMSL (above mean sea level). Turn the inner scroll wheel to the right once. Remember that to turn a switch to the right in FSX, click toward the right side of that switch.


On the next page you'll find a list of runways and their lengths. Of course, runways of almost any length will be sufficient to land the C172. We will land at runway 06. Push the PUSH CRSR and use the outer scroll wheel to select the RUNWAY box, then use the inner scroll wheel to select runway 06-24. Press ENT.


We are presented with the runway length 6009 feet with an asphalt surface. The C172 can land just about anywhere, so this information is not useful right now but will come in handy when flying large aircraft that require long runways to take off and land. Press PUSH CRSR again and use the inner scroll wheel to turn to page 3. On this page you will be presented with a list of radio frequencies. Once again, push PUSH CRSR and use the outer scroll wheel to scroll until ILS 06 is highlighted in the list. Our ILS frequency will be 108.90. Write that down because it will be very important.


Press FPL twice to return to the flight plan screen. At this point, zoom in so you can clearly see the airport near the top of the map. Now, push the PROC button. 


Select Approach should be highlighted on the next screen. Click ENT.


In the list, use the outer wheel to scroll until ILS 06 is selected. Push ENT. Leave VECTORS selected, and push ENT again. Use the outer wheel to scroll to Activate, and push ENT. On the next screen that appears, push FPL once.


You'll notice the map has changed. Instead of the next waypoint being KTEB, it is now a strange sequence of letters, in this case, TORBY.


This waypoint is known as the final approach fix. When you pass TORBY you will be lined up with the runway and begin flying along the ILS glide slope, and given the weather conditions are clear, should have the runway in full view. 

Now we need to enter the ILS frequency into the navigation radio. Find the radio panel.


On the radio panel, there are two sections: COMM 1 and NAV 1. The latter is obviously what we need. There will be a tuner dial to the right side of the NAV 1 section. Use this to tune to the ILS frequency. When you're done, push the white button with the arrow to switch the frequency from standby to active. The current active frequency will then switch to standby. Now, push the NAV 1 button above the radio panel to turn it on.


The aircraft will begin navigating on its own toward TORBY. As soon as you turn on the NAV 1 radio you will hear a continuous string of incessant beeping. This is actually morse code for the airport ID. You can now turn off the NAV 1 radio since we are properly tuned. 

Now we need to set our autopilot altitude. If you were receiving vectors from ATC, you would set it to your cleared altitude. Since we aren't receiving vectors, 1,500 feet will be a comfortable altitude. You should be at this altitude by the time you cross TORBY. To ensure you make it there in time, you will need to calculate your vertical speed. This is known as creating a descent profile. To do the math for you, I highly recommend the following site: The GPS will display your distance from TORBY, in my case, it was 5 NM. Enter that into the calculator. Enter your airspeed, in my case, 105 KIAS. Set the initial altitude to 3,500 (or whatever altitude you are currently flying) and enter 1,000 for the target altitude and press "compute". In my case, I was given a very comfortable descent profile of 200 feet per minute. If it's less than about 700 you can leave it as is. Once you're a few NM away from TORBY you should clearly see the runway ahead of you.


On the autopilot, once you're about to reach or have reached TORBY, set the NAV/GPS mode back to NAV, and turn on the approach hold switch on the autopilot (the APR) button. The NAV switch will turn off on its own. By now you should be established on the ILS localizer, and will begin lining up with the runway. 


You will need a very low throttle setting to do this. The aircraft will be flying along the localizer and descending along the glide slope. Lower your speed to about 80 knots, without using the flight yoke. You can close the GPS at this time as well. Once you're near the runway, turn off the autopilot using the Z key or press the AP button. The plane is now entirely in your hands. The point at which you disengage the autopilot is up to you, however be sure you disengage it before crossing the runway threshold. At this point, extend flaps to 10 degrees, and slow to 70 knots.


Maintain 60 knots as you cross the runway threshold. Once you cross the threshold, set throttle to idle and begin a flare by pulling up gently on the stick. Once the main wheels touch down, apply braking until the aircraft slows down, and turn off the runway at the nearest taxiway (using the rudder to steer) and come to a complete stop. Congratulations on landing safely!

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wow, this is by far the most amazing update as yet Josh !

Chock full of screen shots and valuable tutorial info here..

Wonderful update on this one,  wow !!

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@bben thank you!

@Ceafus 88 much more on this coming soon(ish). The GPS is fairly complex, but nothing like the flight management computer in real life planes :P

Part 3: High Altitude Flight & Fuel Mixture

Instead of cruising over an hour between DCA and TEB, we'll fly a short route - this time from KAVL to KTRI. Set up a VFR flight plan (refer to the previous post for instructions) and move the aircraft to the departure airport. We will need a cruising altitude of about 9,500 feet, since we are in higher terrain.

As before, you'll have a powered down aircraft. Start it up, using the previous post and startup guide as reference. Since we're so close to the airport, we will set up our approach immediately. Bring up the GPS and set up the map (TERR, 2x CLR, range of 50nm). Go to PROC, verify Select Approach by pushing ENT, and select an ILS 23 VECTORS approach. Set the autopilot altitude to 9,500, and autopilot heading to 350. Remember not to engage the altitude hold, heading hold, or autopilot until airborne. Take off and once you're clear of the runway, turn on HDG, ALT, and AP on the autopilot.

At high altitudes, air becomes thinner. The propeller needs air to push the aircraft forward. Although altitudes at or near 9,500 feet are no issue for the modern airliner, this is pushing the limits of our little C172. The thinner air means the propeller has to work harder to generate thrust. This means our ascent will be very, very slow.

Once you've (finally) reached 9,500 feet, the plane will level off. Leave full throttle, for now, and once you're about 45 NM away from waypoint MOCCA, make a right turn to the heading opposite of the runway heading, in this case we can assume 230 degrees. Subtract 180 to get a heading of 50 degrees. Be sure to take in the views of the mountains we just flew over. 


Now, let's get to the point of this tutorial. As we discussed, the climb was agonizingly slow, with the airspeed meter dipping below 60 KIAS. Cruise speed won't exceed 80 KIAS. Now we're going to learn about something that you will wish you'd have known during the climb. First, take a look at the tachometer, right below the VSI. 


We've got full throttle on, and the tachometer is barely in the green. The engine is straining, and our airspeed is barely at 80 KIAS. What gives? The problem is fuel mixture. As with any combustion engine, an aircraft propeller engine requires the proper balance of air and fuel to ignite. Remember what we discussed earlier - that air is thinner at higher altitudes. Therefore, you need to reduce the amount of fuel being ignited in the engine as well to maintain that ratio. This is called leaning the fuel mixture, and is generally done above 3,000 feet. In fact, our previous flight to Teterboro would likely have benefited from a properly leaned fuel mixture as well. How do we lean the fuel mixture? Pull out that red lever next to the throttle - the one we said to keep at 100% during takeoff.


Begin slowly pulling the knob out. You'll immediately notice the engine turning faster and speeds increasing. Keep pulling it out until you start noticing a deceleration and the engine sounding rough. When this happens, slowly push it back in again until the engine is smooth again and your RPM climbs and then stops. Try decreasing throttle and then re-adjusting the fuel mixture to maintain engine power. After some practice, you'll begin to get a "feel" for things. There are other methods that involve using other gauges that can be more effective, but especially since we're at such a high altitude, full throttle and a relatively lean mixture will work well for this flight. A higher mixture setting is said to be more "rich", while a lower setting is said to be "lean". 

Watch your GPS. When you get to within about 15 NM, the airport will be visible from your left window. Now is the time to begin preparing for descent and landing at runway 23. 


To start, look up the ILS frequency. Push NRST, scroll to KTRI, and push ENT. Go to the third page and get the frequency for ILS 23. If you need a recap on how to do all of this, refer to the previous post. Push FPL twice to get back to the map.


Enter the frequency into the NAV 1 radio. Switch to the frequency and turn on audio for NAV 1. When you hear the morse code, you can turn audio off again. All of this is referenced in the ILS landing tutorial as well. 

Get the airport elevation, in this case, 1519 feet, and set it to something roughly 3,500 feet higher than that. Since there are hills in front of the runway you will want to have a good clearance above them. 5,000 feet will work nicely. Set the autopilot altitude to 5,000 feet, and vertical speed to -1000. Maintain about 100 KIAS during the descent. It's important to note that as we decrease our altitude, the air will become thicker again, which means you will need to adjust the fuel mixture accordingly. Push the knob back in until the engine begins straining, and then pull it back out slightly. Continue repeating this as you continue your descent. As you begin your final approach, set fuel mixture to full rich or 100%. 

Zoom in on the GPS to get a clear view of where we're at. We're going to continue on our heading of 50 degrees until we're down to 4,000 feet safe and sound, and then make a U-turn to MOCCA, and then begin our final approach. When you're about 7 or 8 NM away from MOCCA, turn directly left by subtracting 90 degrees. Since we can't turn to a heading of negative 40 degrees, you will subtract the 40 from 360, which gives us 320. Once you've made the turn, look out your left window and you should see the airport. Go ahead and turn off the heading hold switch and turn on the approach hold switch. As soon as you're established on the localizer, the plane will make a sharp left turn toward the runway.


Once you catch the glide slope, the altitude hold switch will turn itself off and the plane will begin descending at the correct rate while maintaining the localizer. At this point, make sure your fuel mixture is at full rich and begin slowing to 70 KIAS. If you remember the first landing tutorial, we discussed a nifty device called the PAPI. Now is our first time seeing it in action.


If we were flying a visual approach, the three red and one white would indicate that we are slightly below the glide slope and would need to slightly decrease our rate of descent. Since we're flying along the ILS glide slope, there is no need for concern as it will balance itself out.

As you near the runway, set full flaps (30 degrees, press F7 three times). Disengage the autopilot, and use the throttle to maintain about 60 knots. Remember to flare as you cross the runway threshold. Congrats on another successful landing!




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ya Josh.

of course I had no idea this game was this involved !

But your doing a marvelous job covering everything you can think of about this game..

This is a first class tutorial for sure..

I really appreciate your dedication to this..

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I am with Brian, I had no idea it was so complex! :P I always thought you just jumped in a plane and flew! :P Nice work!

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@bben  and @Ceafus 88 This is just basics, there is a lot more that hasn't been covered :P

Part 4: VOR Navigation & Mountain Flying (1/2)

As you've probably found out by now, the GPS comes in handy for navigation. But hopefully you haven't learned to rely on it too much, because in this tutorial we are not going to use it. How, then, are we going to get from point A to B? The answer is by navigation between VORs.

VOR, short for VMF Omnidirectional Range (VHF stands for very high frequency), is a short-range radio navigation system. Aircraft are equipped with VOR receivers, which receive radio signals transmitted by ground beacons. The ground stations transmit two radio signals: one is constant in all directions, and the other one rotates around the station at a rate of 30 times per second. Equipment on-board an aircraft compare the two signals to interpret a radial from the station. 

To head toward a VOR radial, first the VOR station's frequency must be entered into the navigation radio, similar to how we enter a runway's ILS frequency into the radio. We then enter a course into an instrument known as a VOR indicator. Radials point away from the VOR station. In this case, if we enter a course of 300 degrees, this means we will be flying along the reciprocal, which in this case is 120 degrees (300-180=120). 

Load up your C172 save and open up the flight planner. We'll fly a short hop across the Tetons from KJAC to KIDA. But we need to set up the flight plan differently. On the screen, instead of Direct - GPS, choose VOR to VOR. 


Change the cruising altitude to 10,500 feet. The C172 is unable to climb higher than 13,500, but about 10,000 is the highest the plane will climb to without losing significant vertical speed. When that's done, allow the simulator to move your aircraft to the correct airport and start up the plane. Now, on the menu bar, go to the Flights menu, go to Kneeboard, and choose NavLog. Resize the resulting window so you can see the entire thing.


This is your flight plan, except on paper. We will take off from KJAC, head to the JAC VOR as soon as we take off, then head to the IDA VOR and from there, perform an ILS landing at runway 20 at KIDA. There are two bits of information that will be necessary here. In red, we have the VOR frequency. In blue we have the VOR radial we need to intercept. You may find it useful to write down the VOR name, frequency, and course so that the kneeboard isn't in the way. 

When you're ready, close the kneeboard. There are two VOR indicators, we will be using the second one, to the right of the VSI.



The indicator has four parts:

  1. A Course Card, which is the circular part outside the instrument with the headings on it. The course card indicates the currently chosen VOR bearing.
  2. An Omnibearing Selector, which rotates the course card. Notice the little yellow arrow under N (North) on the course card. The selected bearing will always show at the top of the course card, under the yellow arrow at the top.
  3. Course Deviation Indicator (CDI). This consists of a needle which swings to the left or right to direct you back to the correct course. If the needle swings to the right, turn to the right until the line is centered. If it swings to the left, turn to the left. Keep an eye on the CDI in order to maintain course. 
  4. A to-from indicator. This will consist of an arrow that points UP when you are heading TO the VOR station, and point DOWN when you are heading away FROM the VOR station. When the arrow points down, it is time to switch to the next VOR. When the VOR is out of range, or not tuned in, or the VOR station is inoperative, a red flag will be shown instead.


First, on the NAV 2 radio, enter the JAC VOR frequency of 115.40 and turn on the NAV 2 audio. Don't forget to switch 115.40 from standby to active.


Listen for the morse code. When you hear it, you can turn off NAV 2 audio. Watch the VOR 2 Indicator, you should see the CDI moving and the to/from indicator changing from a red flag to an arrow pointing upward. Enter the correct heading by turning the OBS selector slightly to the left for a course of 6 degrees.

Now, set the autopilot to an altitude of 10,500. Set your trim and lean out your fuel mixture to about 50% and take off. Don't forget to monitor your fuel mixture since we are at a high altitude. When you're clear of the runway, turn on the autopilot and ALT switch and begin flying to the VOR. 

When the arrow begins pointing downward, get the next VOR radial, in this case, 252. Enter it into the VOR indicator, enter the frequency for IDA (113.85) into the NAV 2 radio, and watch the VOR indicator. Keep an eye on the mountains, as you will be flying very close to some of them.


When flying between mountains look for valleys and mountain passes and fly along/between those. Attempting to gain altitude quickly enough to fly over the tops of mountains can result in a stall as you're losing too much air speed. The risks associated with mountain flying are, of course, worth the scenic views!


Save the flight and we will pick up here later.

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