Author Topic: PFPX without subscription  (Read 358 times)

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Offline Adrian Chitan

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PFPX without subscription
« on: November 26, 2017, 07:39:22 PM »
Hi guys,

so after you buy PFPX they give you a one year subscription to their services and as the saying goes "you don't know what you have until you loose it". So after the year passes, there are three services that go away and in time you really miss them: weather, tracks and NOTAMs.

While the weather subscription is the one that most PFPXers go after solving, the others services are actually even more important than the weather (and I'll tell you why).

Weather Service

The weather service in PFPX is a static picture of the worldwide weather for a certain moment in time. Moreover, PFPX doesn't even care what moment in time the weather is for. If you do a plan for tomorrow morning this evening, the weather will be whatever weather PFPX read from its' sources (subscription - current weather - or other sources that you set up). So if your plan is a 9-hour flight then the departure weather will be useful, but the arrival one totally useless. Even for short flights, if you plan your flight at 2000z in the evening and you plan to fly at 1000z in the morning, then the weather will be quite different and fuel calculation may be quite different.

So after the subscription to the Flight Simsoft servers expires and you have some other weather injector, you can make PFPX take the weather from it. I use Active Sky Next so in my PFPX configuration, in the Weather tab I have selected Active Sky and entered the path to the weather instance file (<user folder>\AppData\Roaming\Hifi\ASNFSX\Weather). It is the folder that holds the wx_station_list.txt and the current_wx_snapshot.txt files.

The good thing about ASN is that you can choose historical weather and even manually set up the weather. This helps because if I want to fly tomorrow morning (small to medium flight), let's say at 0800z, and do the flight plan today at 2200z, the weather will be quite off. But if you go into ASN and set it up to give you the weather for today at 0800z (24 hours before actual departure), the weather will match quite nicely (differences for 24 hours are minor).

Even for long flights you can have a good estimation of the weather by setting ASN to give PFPX historical weather for when you take-off, or even better, for when you will be 1 third into your flight ;). Even more precise will be to set up the weather manually and set the departure weather as it was with a day before your departure, the long cruise part to be as it was a day before you entering that cruise part and the arrival weather as it was a day before again (or maybe 2 days before because when you make the flight plan you may be already 2 days before departure, but you get the gist). But this requires a piece of paper to write the weather parameters and then combine them into a weather pattern throughout your flight plan.


Tracks

Another subscription that you will miss is the tracks navigation subscription. This is nothing major for pilots flying intra-continental but should be quite a fuss for pilots flying inter-continental(ly). There are vast areas in the world that lack radar and/or ATC coverage. These are areas where the ICAO administration defines "highways" to separate inbound and outbound traffic so that no ATC intervention is required. These areas are the North Atlantic, the East Indian Ocean and Australia and the North Pacific. Airlines will always use these tracks when filing flight plans through these areas as they provide a higher level of flight safety. But, they are not obligatory!

The North Atlantic tracks are called NATs (North Atlantic Tracks), the East Indian and Australian tracks are called AUSOTS (Australian Organized Track Structures) and the Pacific tracks are called PACOTs (Pacific Organized Tracks). These tracks change everyday (they are computed to give the pilots the best wind to save fuel) and are published by certain ICAO entities which are actually the entry FIRs for the tracks. One thing to keep in mind is that the tracks are not published before the exit FIRs are open for receiving and landing airplanes, so the Westbound NATs (going to America) will not be published until 1000z because that is 0600L in North Eastern Canada.

The good thing is that PFPX has a way of reading raw track defining messages for you to use and insert in you flight plan. In your main PFPX screen on the map screen there are 4 tabs underneath. The one called "Tracks" has another 3 tabs where you can enter the raw track defining messages and PFPX will automatically read them. To use them in your flight plans is another matter...read on.


But where to get these messages from? The NAT tracks are defined at
https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/common/nat.html,
the AUSOTS are defined at
https://www.airservicesaustralia.com/flextracks/text.asp?ver=1
and the PACOTs are defined at
https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/noticesAction.do?queryType=PACIFICTRACKS&formatType=ICAO.

For NATs and AUSOTS you just copy-paste the message into the right track tab. For the PACOTs you have to check all entries (you have Check All buttons on the page) and then copy-paste the whole message into the Pacific tab in PFPX. And that's it! You now have the tracks defined in PFPX. Unfortunately, I have seen that PFPX doesn't automatically use the tracks in the flight plans even if the Ignore Tracks is unchecked. So here is what I do.

Let's say I want to do a flight from EHAM (Amsterdam) to CYYC (Calgary) in Canada today (26.11.2017). As you can see in the bellow picture, PFPX didn't add any NATs in the flight plan because it has some other settings for auto generating a flight plan.


So the thing that I do is to clear off the generated flight plan, then choose to Edit the flight plan, than Find->Advanced and then put the tracks in the Map (the Westbound NATs for this one).



In the Via 1 and Via 2 (or 3) entries you have to put in the entry and exit points of the track you want to use. For this example I would use track A (NATA) so I have to put in the entry and exit for this track (above). Another thing that you must not forget when you want to use PFPX to generate a track-driven flight plan is to choose the flight levels that are valid for the tracks. If you keep the mouse above a track letter on the map you will see range of flight levels that this track is defined for. NATA is defined for FL300 to FL400 so I put that in the Find parameters.


Pressing find will now generate a flight plan that'll take the NATA into consideration.


And that's it! You now have a very safe flight to do for the next 10 hours. Yes, it's 28% longer than the great circle track, but airplanes don't fly short, they fly safe.

NOTAMs

NOTAMs are notes to airman that are published for every FIR and have time limits of validity. Pilots need to know all the NOTAMs that are valid for their departure and arrival airport, and also any diverts that are possible in the flight. NOTAMs can shorten runways, can warn on departure obstacles (temporary crane installments) or can warn on taxi lights being off. This is another service that is off after the PFPX subscription is void.

But of course there are solutions. In PFPX, in the upper part of the main interface you have the Company Data tab->Company NOTAMS. In here you can add the NOTAMS by pressing the Add button. But you have to put in by hand the ICAO identifier it refers to and the validity time range which will take some time.

NOTAMS for any part of the world can be found at https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/ where you have to write the ICAO identifier you want. Bellow we have the NOTAMs in place for Otopeni. You will have to add them one at a time to actually have the validity time in place.


That is all on the PFPX subscriptions and I hope it helped you do a more complex flight plan...which adds to the fun ;)

Adrian
« Last Edit: November 26, 2017, 07:41:13 PM by Adrian Chitan »

 

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