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Mission Statement 

The purpose of FLAPS-2-APPROACH is two-fold:  To document the construction of a Boeing 737 flight simulator, and to act as a platform to share aviation-related articles pertaining to the Boeing 737; thereby, providing a source of inspiration and reference to like-minded individuals.

I am not a professional journalist.  Writing for a cross section of readers from differing cultures and languages with varying degrees of technical ability, can at times be challenging. I hope there are not too many spelling and grammatical mistakes.

 

Note:   I have NO affiliation with ANY manufacturer or reseller.  All reviews and content are 'frank and fearless' - I tell it as I see it.  Do not complain if you do not like what you read.

I use the words 'modules & panels' and 'CDU & FMC' interchangeably.  The definition of the acronym 'OEM' is Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real aicraft part).

 

All funds are used to offset the cost of server and website hosting (Thank You...)

No advertising on this website - EVER!

 

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Journal Archive (Newest First)

Entries in B737-800 Boeing 737 Flight Simulator (9)

Tuesday
Apr092013

Batch Files & Flight-1 Program Launcher - Time Savers

Using Flight Simulator from a flight deck is not as straightforward as many may believe.  Before a flight can commence several programs must be started on two or more computers.  These programs include, but are not limited to; Flight Simulator, ProSim737 (main module, MCP, audio, instructor station, CDU & display modules), FSRAAS, Electronic Flight Bag, WideFS, PM Sounds and so on... 

Although it's not exceptionally time consuming, it does become tiresome using the mouse to activate each program, even if you have shortcuts established on the Microsoft shortcut bar. 

There are numerous methods that can be used to open programs: FSUIPC, WideFS, add on programs such as Flight-1, or a batch file.  However, many virtual pilots lack the necessary skills or confidence to successfully interpret FSUIPC or write a batch file that works the way it's supposed to.

Flight-1 Program Launcher

Flight-1 Program Launcher is a very easy program that makes starting a flight session exceptionally easy.  In two mouse clicks you can have ALL the required programs opened and ready to use.

LEFT:  Flight-1 Program Launcher interface (click to make image larger)

Simplicity

The program is standalone, meaning it can reside anywhere on your computer system and does not install into the flight simulator folder directory.  The program interface is very easy to use.

After installation you need to create a list of programs you want the launcher to open.  To do this you click the browse button on the launcher's interface and search for the executable file (.exe) of the target program, and add it to the list and save. 

You can select which program starts first, second and so forth....  When you save your preferences a small autostart.cfg file is created in the Flight-1 program folder; this is your preference list (example at left).

The Flight-1 Launcher only opens programs, it does not close them.

Flight-1 launcher - works out of the box

I've been using this nifty program for a few weeks now and have had no issues what-so-ever with it.  It works "out of the box" as designed, and best of all it's shareware!

Flight-1 Program launcher is a free add on available at Flight-1 website. 

If you would prefer you can download it directly from my site here FS Add On Downloads.

Writing Your Own Batch File

It's a simple process to bypass the above-mentioned program and write your own batch file.  If you write your own batch file you can also include a batch that closes the programs in addition to opening them.  I've outlined how to make a batch file to close programs.  The same can be done for opening programs but, with different syntax.

  1. Open Notepad ad the editor. Go to "Start" and click on "Accessories." Select "Notepad" from the menu.
  2. Find the file names of the programs you want to close. With the programs running that you want to close, right-click on the task bar and click the "Task Manager" option. Select the "Processes" tab to view a list of file names that are currently running.
  3. Use the "taskkill" command (or whatever command you wish) along with the file names you got from Task Manager. Write a separate command for each file you want to close. Each command line should look like the following example: taskkill /im filename.exe. If one of the programs you are closing is Firefox, the command line would read: taskkill /im firefox.exe.
  4. Save your new application as a .BAT file. Select "Save As" and manually type ".BAT" at the end of the file name you gave to the batch file you just created.
  5. Run the batch file. Double-click on the new application to run it. All the programs you included in the batch file should shut down properly.

A shortcut can then be made to the created file and placed into your shortcut folder.  To edit the batch file, right click the file and select edit.

The syntax required to ensure a batch file works correctly can vary between computer operating systems and your requirements.  I'd recommend a quick search on the Internet to determine the best syntax to use (Google "how to write a opening batch file").

A benefit of using a batch file is that you have to only click one button with your mouse to open or close all the programs required to operate Flight Simulator.

A typical batch file used to open programs is outlined below.  This is for the  main FS computer or server.

@Echo off
Echo. Loading software.  ALPHA MAIN COMPUTER (alpha is the name of the computer)

start /d "C:\pmSounds" pmSounds.exe
TIMEOUT 2
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSim737" Prosim737.exe
TIMEOUT 9
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSimMCP" ProsimMCP.exe
TIMEOUT 7
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSimAudio" ProsimAudio.exe
TIMEOUT 3
start /d "C:\FsRaas20" FsRaas20.exe
TIMEOUT 2
start /d "C:\LOLA" LoLa17.exe
TIMEOUT 3
start /d "C:\FS10" fsx.exe

Another method of writing the above batch file is outlined below - although the syntax between the batch files is different the outcome is identical.

@Echo off
Echo. Loading software.  ALPHA MAIN COMPUTER
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\pmSounds" pmSounds.exe
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSim737" Prosim737.exe
ping -n 4 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSimMCP" ProsimMCP.exe
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\Pro Sim\ProSimAudio" ProsimAudio.exe
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\FsRaas20" FsRaas20.exe
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\LOLA" LoLa17.exe
ping -n 2 127.0.0.1 >nul
start /d "C:\FS10" fsx.exe

The numeral after TIMEOUT and png -n relates to the number of seconds that must pass before the next program opens. 

For those that are curious, @Echo off triggers a command to prevent the command text from being visible on thre screen when the batch file is executed.

Closing Programs - Batch Closure File

The best method to close your simulation dependent programs is to create a closure batch file that closes each program sequentially.

Although it's a simple task to closes programs simultaneously (end processes in Windows Task Manager), there is debate in the computer community to whether killing a program straight-out is a good idea; one school of thought suggests that killing several programs simultaneous may cause problems, if a program is writing files to its file structure and not enough time is allowed for this to be completed.

For this reason, I'm hesitant to close Flight Simulator (or other programs) using a closure batch file without a timeout or delay sequence.  Needless to say, it's an easy process to configure a time delay into a batch file to create a delay before closing each program.

Time-outs

Depending upon your computer specifications some programs may open and close at differing speeds.  If you want to ensure that a program is opened or closed before the next program, then a delay sequence will need to be timed into your batch file.  There are several ways to do this and the syntax varies. 

Below is atypical batch file used to close programs on the main FS computer or server.

@Echo off
Echo. Closing software.  ALPHA MAIN COMPUTER
taskkill /im PMSounds.exe
TIMEOUT 3
taskkill /im wideclient.exe
TIMEOUT 5
taskkill /im ProSimAudio.exe
TIMEOUT 3
taskkill /im ProsimMCP.exe
TIMEOUT 5
taskkill /im Prosim737.exe
TIMEOUT 10
taskkill /im FsRaas20.exe
TIMEOUT 5
taskkill /im LoLa17.exe
TIMEOUT 5
taskkill /im FSRealTime.exe
TIMEOUT 2
taskkill /im fsx.exe

The TIMEOUT command is used to trigger a delay between the closure of the programs, ensuring that any read/write requirements are able to occur before the next program closes.  The numeral denotes seconds.  The timeout settings on this file are a little long and probably should be shortened.

IM specifies the image name of the process to be terminated.  For example, PMSounds.exe

You will note I've used Taskkill to close the programs.  Taskkill will cause the program to terminate gracefully (1), asking for confirmation if there are unsaved changes. To forcefully kill the same process, add the /F option to the command line. Be careful with the /F option as it will terminate all processes without confirmation or saving of data.

(1)  Information regarding Taskkill obtained from several Internet resources.

Variable Syntax

Differing syntax can be used within a batch file to essentially achieve the same result.   I have uploaded to this site the four batch files I have used:

  • Batch open programs - Main FS & ProSim737 computer
  • Batch close programs - Main FS & ProSim737 computer
  • Batch open programs - Avionics Computer
  • Batch close programs - Avionics computer

The files can be downloaded here (Training & Documents/FS Add On Downloads)

  • Be aware that these batch files suit my purposes and the computers I use; you may have to edit these files to take into account the programs you use, their location on your computer, and the sequence you wish the programs to open and close. 

I am NOT a computer technician.  The batch files I created for my simulator set-up have worked flawlessly and I am confident, with the correct syntax for your system, they will also work for you. 

If you are like me and tire of opening and closing several programs with a mouse, then try a batch file, or at the very least download and trial the Flight-1 Program Launcher.

Sunday
Mar032013

B737 Blanking Plates - Cover That Unsightly Gap

No matter what style of simulator you are using or have constructed, you will most likely have a center pedestal installed.  The pedestal will be either a two-bay or three-bay type and be a genuine aviation part incorporating DZUS fastener rails, or a reproduction unit manufactured from wood, metal or plastic.

LEFT:  An assortment of Boeing blanking plates complete with DZUS fasteners recently removed from a scrapped B737 - the dirt and dust is still on them!  Note three differing sizes - 1" 2" and 4"  (click image for larger view)

The two-bay pedestals, once allotted the standard Boeing avionics suite, usually have no  space remaining for additional avionics; however, the three-bay pedestals have substantially more 'real estate' and often gaps are remaining that are not filled with avionics.  Most enthusiasts either leave this space open which looks very unsightly, or manufacture their own plate to cover the gap.

OEM Blanking Plates

Why not use the real part….  

Boeing produces several blanking plates in varying sizes to be used to cover any 'gaps' not used in the center pedestal, forward and aft overhead panel, or Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  These plates are machine-grade light weight steel (or aluminum), are painted Boeing grey, and incorporate the required number of DZUS fasteners for attachment to DZUS rails.  The plates come in a variety of sizes with 1 inch, 2 inch, and 4 inch being the norm.

These plates are inexpensive and usually retail between $5.00 - $20.00 USD, and not only fulfill the task of covering an unsightly gap, but are easy to install, come precut, are painted the right colour, and usually have DZUS fasteners attached to them. 

If not using real DZUS rails and your pedestal in made from wood or plastic, then it’s relatively easy to remove the fasteners and replace them with reproduction screw-type DZUS available from GLB Products.

Most aircraft wrecking yards carry these plates, as airlines regularly purchase them.  Failing this E-Bay often has blanking plates for sale. 

Wednesday
Jan162013

Magnetic Declination - FS9 & FSX Navigation Datebase Update

Flight simulator whether it be FS9 or FSX, is quite long in the tooth as far as software programs go.  These programs was released several years ago and during this time span there have been many improvements in computer technology and in real world flying procedures.  When released, FS9 and FSX contained the latest navigational data, including the correct declination, VOR, and ILS radio frequencies; however, these are now out of date with real world counterparts.  

Magnetic Declination

Magnetic declination has a very important influence on air navigation, beginning with the use of the standard compass and sectional flight chart.  Similarly, radio navigation aids on the ground, such as VORs use magnetic variation to ensure reliable and accurate in-plane navigation.  The direction of the runway also relies heavily on magnetic variation and runway directions often require updating to ensure that ILS systems operate as designed. 

Simply explained, magnetic declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north and the value changes each year.  Flight Simulator is referring to a value that was accurate when the software was developed but has changed considerably in the ten years plus since the program was released. 

I realized a problem existed when I noticed that the direction of the runway did not align correctly with the latest navigational database installed into ProSim737 (Navigraph).   The CDU continually issued advisory warnings informing me that the runway direction and database were not identical.  Although it's possible to ignore the warning advisory, it becomes tiresome to continually reset the CDU  whilst in the more demanding phase of approach and landing.

Updating Magentic Variation

Updating this data is easy thanks to Herve Sors.   Herve has developed a free stand alone program that easily and quickly updates the magnetic variation in either FS9 or FSX whilst also providing the opportunity to rectify out of date and changed runway directions.  The information can be updated globally or by country region, and if necessary you can revert back to the old data.

LEFT:  Screen grab of program interface (click for larger view)

Without going into unnecessary detail, the program decompiles, corrects, and recompiles the necessary information within the .BGL files, located in the scenery folder of flight simulator; it's in this folder that the various navaids are recorded.

Do I need To Update ?

The ability of simulator to accurately simulate navigation is only as good as the navigational database installed.  Think of the database as a street directory or telephone book - do you want to search the directory for out-of-date information?  The update is a very simple process and takes but a few minutes and it's strongly recommended.

By updating virtual pilots will benefit at the very least from:

  • All VOR and NDB data will be up-to-date, allowing chart usage to easier with current charts.
  • Correct calibration of magnetic declination of navaids that provide an azimut information (VOR/VORDME/NDB) that will be greatly improved matching the "as real as it gets" experience while navigating (tracking navaid radials will be as it is indicated on charts).
  • ILS data (for those that are corrected, Europe only at this time) will be correct.

To download the required software (FSX World NavAids 4.32 & MagVar Data) and investigate Herve's various other programs, navigate directly to his website at AeroSors NavAids.

The software also updates the database for Prepar3D.

Tuesday
Nov132012

Sheepskin Seat Cover added to Weber Captain-side Seat

Sometime ago I acquired a pair of Weber pilot seats which came with the correct Boeing diamond-pattern, grey honeycomb seat covers.  However, one of the seat covers was slightly damaged.  The lower cover was also a tad on the small side and kept popping off the rear section of the lower cushion when you sat on it.  Not a major problem, but it was slowly becoming irritating having to repeatedly attach the cover back on the cushion.

The small size was probably caused by the previous owner washing the seat cover;  Boeing covers are renowned to shrink substantially when washed in hot water!  To rectify these minor problems, I decided to have the captain’s side upgraded to a sheepskin seat cover.

A friend of mine has access to high quality Boeing-style sheepskins and being a wizard at sewing, agreed to retrofit the cover for me.

It should be noted that sheepskin covers are not attached to the seat like you would do on an automobile.  Rather, the sheepskin is sewn directly onto the existing fabric of the original seat cover.  Colour varies somewhat depending upon the manufacturer awarded the Boeing contract, but in general they are grey to tan in colour.

I think you will agree, that the final outcome looks, and certainly feels, much better than the original damaged and too small seat cover.

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