by Jonathan M. Stern
Flight Simulator Flight Shop
Flight Shop is a multi-purpose add-on program for Flight Simulator. At the time of this writing, it was not yet available for review. Nonetheless, as it relates to instrument flying, Flight Shop will have an adventure generator function that will allow the filing of an IFR flight plan with the Flight Service Station and subsequent interactive ATC simulation from issuance of the IFR clearance to radar vectors to the landing pattern at the destination airport.
To prepare the flight plan, the user selects waypoints that define the route of flight, cruise altitude, and type of aircraft. Flight Shop then generates a flight log, a flight plan, and the adventure file. You can print a genuine-looking flight plan form for reference during the flight. Flight Shop provides for ATC clearances and instructions of the type described in the chapter "Avionics."
ATC clearances and instructions are conveyed orally with prerecorded digitized voice commands. Unlike the real situation, the pilot using Flight Shop does not orally respond to clearances and instructions. Flight Shop monitors the pilot's actions in the airplane to determine compliance with the clearances and instructions.
For example, the tower controller does not issue a takeoff clearance until the transponder is set to the squawk code provided by clearance delivery and the airplane is stopped completely. In actuality, the tower controller has no idea whether the transponder was correctly set. The transponder signal typically shows up on radar shortly after the airplane becomes airborne.
The consequences of taking off without a clearance or taking off from the wrong runway are quite harsh. ATC punishes such recalcitrant pilots by inducing an engine failure, complete with low oil pressure, high oil temperature, and smoke pouring from the engine compartment. Pilots who take off and forget to raise the landing gear are advised that their landing gear appears still to be down.
Flight Shop provides radar vectors along the route of flight and handoffs from tower to departure, departure to center, center to approach, and approach to tower. The realism of an IFR flight is somewhat lacking in that Flight Shop does not use an airway structure, and clearances are constantly revised to provide the most direct routing from current position to the next waypoint.
In the actual ATC system, if an aircraft deviates from the clearance route of flight, it is usually vectored back onto the clearance route, not on the heading direct to the next waypoint.
As in real life, weather conditions may change during flight so that a takeoff in clear weather may conclude in minimal conditions. The FPAP, or flight planner autopilot, flies the trip from the time of handoff to departure control to approach control's handoff to the destination tower, if requested.
One other somewhat unrealistic aspect of Flight Shop is the area of arrival procedures. In real life, ATC provides radar vectors to the final approach course of an instrument approach procedure (unless the weather is good enough for visual approaches). Generally, airplanes must be vectored to intercept the final approach course with no more than a 30° intercept angle at least three miles outside the final approach fix. Flight Shop's approach controller reportedly vectors the arriving aircraft into a rectangular pattern around the airport.
Even with some faults, Flight Shop will be an essential add-on to Flight Simulator to exploit fully the instrument flying capabilities of Flight Simulator.