Guest pelorus32 Posted October 20, 2009 Share Posted October 20, 2009 Flight Planner 3000 is a comprehensive flight planning application. Currently it runs under Windows XP and Vista. However at the date of writing the application, like many, was suffering some issues with Vista. FP 3000 provides flight planning for both VFR and IFR. It contains a comprehensive waypoint database and a database of sample aircraft. Flight planning is a simple step by step process and a link to NAIPS is included for both weather access and flight plan lodgement. Delivery, Versions & Installation FP 3000 is available for single Australian States; for the whole of Australia; and for New Zealand. You choose which version you want and the price varies accordingly. Delivery is in a simple DVD case and includes an installation CD and some minor pieces of documentation. You will also be supplied with an activation key which you will use to activate the software. The installation and activation process is simple and straightforward. USING FP 3000 We'll walk through the process of creating a flight plan for a VFR flight with FP 3000. The plan will take us from Shepparton to Coldstream - and back - via the Inland VFR route. When you choose to create a new flight plan you are presented with the Aircraft Screen. Aircraft Screen The first step in creating a flight plan is to choose or create an aircraft. The application comes with over 170 sample aircraft which you can copy and customise, including modifying the registration. Types range from the Piper Cub through the PAC 750 XL, Cessna Citation, Jabirus, Tecnams, Pilatus PC-12, DC-3, Dash - 8, PBY-Catalina and for the rotor heads there is the AS355, Bell 407 and many more. You can also choose a default aircraft and create a new aircraft from scratch. Aircraft details include weights, performance, endurance and call sign. Once you've chosen an aircraft you move straight to the flight planning screen. This is where you choose waypoints and place them in some semblance of a flight plan. The waypoints are contained in a comprehensive database which includes VFR and IFR waypoints as well as some locations and a very large number of airstrips from Melbourne to Oodnadatta and more. Each waypoint includes details such as Lat and Long, frequencies, runway length and direction, surfaces, services and many include details of accommodation available nearby. The database can be accessed by a simple keystroke and searched either on name or abbreviation. As you construct your flight plan you can insert additional waypoints between existing waypoints and construct new user waypoints. User waypoints are useful if you want to later upload your flight plan to a GPS and you want to plan around CTA or PRD. If you wish to plan IFR then there are a list of Stored IFR Routes that can be selected from. Otherwise you just construct your own VFR route. The Main Planning Screen Selecting a Waypoint Once you've selected a waypoint you will be asked to choose a cruising level. This is a "smart" screen as it includes both LSALT and logic that warns you if you are breaking the rules for hemispherical cruising heights. On the waypoint screen you also choose whether it's a landing or reporting point. So far so good. You have created a forward flight plan, now the real labour saving kicks in. Clicking the "Reverse Track" button adds the reverse flight plan after the forward flight plan that you've created. So for those out and back trips you only have to plan one way. In the process of reversing the track you have the option of altering your cruising levels to remain "legal" or leaving them as is. And there's more! Clicking the "Enter Area Winds" allows you to manually enter area winds for various heights - say from an ARFOR or to link to NAIPS and download area winds and NOTAMS for all areas and locations on the flight plan. You can then choose to apply these winds to the flight plan. FP 3000 will calculate Heading, GS and ETI from the winds and the default performance data that you entered for your aircraft. You will need your own NAIPS log on details and will need to configure FP 3000 to accommodate any proxy servers that might be between you and the wide world. Selecting any line in the flight plan provides you with a readout at the bottom of the screen of total distance and ETI to that point from the start of the flight plan. This is a quick tool for testing different paths around obstacles. It helps in answering questions like "which is the shortest path to Goulburn from Shepparton avoiding the Albury airspace?". So far so good. You have the guts of a flight plan and you have an idea of the times and distances. But we still have a fundamental problem. If you are anything like me you like to be able to see the flight plan on a map and work out which airspace you'll be blundering through and which restricted areas you are planning to violate. Populated Flight Plan Screen That's where the Route Map Display button comes in. One click and you have a configurable map with your line of flight and relevant details displayed. You can choose which waypoints are displayed, which airspace is displayed and what other information such as area frequencies is displayed. It's worth spending some time getting the configuration of this page right and then using the Save function to retain your configuration. The Route Map page also allows "right click flight planning". You can create and insert user waypoints into the plan - to keep you away from a Restricted area for instance. You can also insert existing waypoints into the plan by right clicking on the waypoint. You can also check what height you should be at to slide around under the steps as I have done in this sample flight plan. I find the Route Map Display an indispensable aid to situational awareness. I use it when planning the flight and I print it to take with me in the aircraft. Whilst it doesn't replace the WACs, VTCs, VNCs and ERC Lows it does provide a great reference with most of what you need on one page. I particularly like the CTAF frequencies printed out together with the area frequencies. It saves digging around in ERSA and elsewhere. Two other critical pieces of information are present on the Route Map Display: Firstly the details of the CTA steps and secondly the grid LSALT - printed in light grey. One final feature worthy of note before we move on is the "Optimise Plan" button. click this and FP 3000 gives you a whole range of options to optimise the plan for things like lowest altitude and shortest duration. Very smart. Map Display Once you are happy with your flight plan it's time to move on to the Fuel Screen by clicking the next button. Once again FP 3000 uses the data from your aircraft to predict fuel usage along the way Fuel Screen Each waypoint has a fuel detail screen attached to it. For landing points you can specify whether to load a certain amount of fuel or whether to load to a pre-set figure. Options exist for adding taxiing or holding fuel. Now you're almost done. You know where you're going, you think you've avoid CTA and Restricted areas, you know what the wind is and what the headings and speeds are and you know how much fuel you are likely to need. The trick now is to get this into a useful format for the aircraft or to fax in as a flight plan. Alternatively you can choose to submit a flight plan on line if you have a NAIPS logon. The print options that I use most often are those that allow me to print a detailed flight plan together with fuel summary and the one that allows me to print enroute information sheets. These sheets provide me with details about each of my waypoints including frequencies, services and local restrictions. It's basically ERSA without the diagrams but with extra information on services and area frequencies. The End of the Process Now comes the bit you've all been waiting for. If you are anything like a lot of pilots I know you are increasingly wedded to your GPS. Well FP 3000 knows all about GPSs. It will allow you to load the waypoints in your flight plan to any GPS that supports the relevant NMEA sentences - and most of them do. As well if you have a Garmin GPS it will use the Garmin protocol to upload the full flight plan - creating a route in the GPS. This functionality works well and provides a quick and effective link to the GPS. I have a laptop with no serial ports. If like me you have an older Garmin that likes a serial port then you will have to muck around with a USB to serial converter. It takes a little time but I certainly got it working really reliably. Summary All the pilots I know were taught to plan their flights with a paper form, whizz wheel, ruler and charts. I see this as an indispensable skill that every pilot should have and should keep current. Increasingly however we are equipping ourselves with remarkably sophisticated handheld GPS units. Flight planning increasingly consists of jumping in and pushing the GO TO button. Simple and quick. The problem is that we often don't do the other bits of flight planning - optimising the route, avoiding CTA and PRD areas, planning our fuel and checking for appropriate cruising altitudes. I think that FP 3000 is a fantastic bridge between the old paper process of flight planning and the world of the GPS. You can now have the best of both worlds - quick simple flight planning, connectivity to the GPS and the backup of a paper flight plan complete with fuel, weather and altitude. The flight plan in this article took less than 10 minutes to construct. If I'd been really going for it I could have done it in five. Flight Planner 3000 is a great product. The technical support from Champagne PC Services is great and the update service is worth the cost. I couldn't do without it. Likes Simple interface Comprehensive database Route Map Display NAIPS link Wish List A "Stay OCTA" option for all the RAAus pilots out there; The FP 3000 NAIPS interface is pretty picky about what you can use as a call sign. It is pickier than NAIPS! Simpler interface for the Route Map Display Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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