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The GPS[edit]

Firstly, let's start with one of X-Plane's simplest navigational instruments: the GPS, or global positioning system. It, essentially, tells you how far you have to go to your chosen destination and what direction to fly in.

The GPS (this refers to the version 7 GPS) recognises several navaids (navigational aids) to help you get from point A to B. These include:

  • VORs;
  • NDBs;
  • Fixes;
  • Airports

To operate the GPS, first you must know what you want to fly to. Let's work through an example flight to explain this.

Park yourself in the Piper Malibu at Brisbane International Airport (YBBN), and find your GPS. The route we will be taking today is CG ENTRA YSSY. Seeing as though the first waypoint on the list is CG (it's a VOR to save you some time), press the VOR button on the GPS and enter 'CG'. It should say 'Coolangatta' on the GPS screen now. You will notice underneath you will also have a direction to fly in. Now, we have two choices. You can either fly that heading, by adjusting the heading dials on the glareshield, or, (the preferred method if you want to learn the FMS later), find the little dial that says something like 'NAV1 - NAV2 - FMS'. turn the dial so that it faces FMS. You are now ready to fly! Push up the throttle and take to the skies. Enter 20000ft (FL200 for those who care) in the Altitude box and click 'ALT'. Now you don't have to worry about suddenly dropping out of the sky. Then, find the button that says 'NAV', and click it. Your plane should start turning towards the CG VOR. This is because when you turned the autopilot selector to FMS, the aircraft gets its information of the GPS and will fly to whatever is punched into it, in this case, the Coolangatta VOR.

Okay, so you are cruising along, and the distance to the CG VOR has dropped to about 2NM (nautical miles). Time to engage the Heading button so that you can change your waypoint (because otherwise you will find your plane chasing Fixes that are on the other side of the world). Turn the heading dial so that it is in line with the way you are going, and click the 'HDG' button. You will see the NAV button stop glowing, and your plane will now be following the selected heading, and NOT the GPS. Then, on the GPS, click on WPT and type in ENTRA. Your distances and headings should change. Then click on the NAV button again, and your plane should start turning towards ENTRA (HDG will have turned off when you engaged NAV). Now, sit back and twiddle your thumbs while your plane flies for a bit.

You are near ENTRA, about 100NM away from it. Time to start descending so you don't fly yourself over the Sydney Airport. Turn the altitude dial down to about 3000ft. Then cruise towards ENTRA a bit more.

You are now close to ENTRA. Once again, turn the heading dial to what you are currently flying and disengage NAV (meaning for you to turn on HDG). Now go to your GPS and click on the APT (airport) button and plug in YSSY (Sydney Intl should appear on the screen). Click on NAV and fly towards it. When you see the runway in sight, land on it.

Congratulations! You have just navigated your way from Brisbane International to Sydney International! You can now use the GPS. Don't be afraid to click buttons on it and see what they do.

The FMS[edit]

The FMS is essentially a larger and more powerful version of the better-known GPS. It is a very handy autopilot tool which allows you to enter altitudes, waypoints, NDB's, VOR's and airports that your plane can follow. Once again, we will use out YBBN - YSSY.

Open up the 747-400 and place it on the runway at YBBN. Then, locate the FMS. It looks like a computer, with a keypad beneath it.

You will see a little button just beneath the right hand side of the screen, that says INIT on it (1). Press it. YOU MUST ALWAYS DO THIS BEFORE YOU START A FMS FLIGHTPLAN. Now, seeing as though the first place on your trip is YBBN (the place you are starting at), press the APT (3) button. Type in YBBN. Brisbane International should appear on the screen.

Now press the Next button, and PLAN SEGMENT 2 (or similar) should appear up the top of the FMS screen. press the VOR button, and type in CG. Then press the button next to the FLY AT line (4) and type in '10000'. This is the altitude you will be at when you pass the CG VOR. Press Next again.

PLAN SEGMENT 3 should now appear. Press the FIX button, enter ENTRA, and enter an altitude of 10000ft again. Press Next.

You should now be on PLAN SEGMENT 4, your final entry in the plan. Press the APT button and enter YSSY. Enter an altitude of 1000ft. To do this, you MUST enter a leading 0, so you would enter 01000 in the altitude area. Otherwise the computer will read the altitude as 10000ft, which we don't want. It's a bit high for a landing.

So, now your FMS plan is fully entered. Good. Now all we have to do is fly it.

You would have noticed that while you were entering your plan, a dark red line would have have been drawn across your radar. This is your route.

Turn the autopilot selector to FMS (so it is not facing NAV1 or NAV2, I'll teach you about these later). Then, on your FMS, press the BACK button so you go to the first entry in your plan: YBBN. Press the Enter button (it looks like an arrow). This is now the active waypoint.

Push up the throttle levers and take to the skies! Now you can engage the NAV button (sometimes called LNAV or LOC). Your plane will either:

  1. Start turning towards YBBN;
  2. Start turning towards CG.

If it starts turning towards YBBN, press the FMS's NEXT button (so it is on CG) and press the Enter button. You will start turning to the CG VOR. Good, you can now go and grab a cup of coffee while your plane flies to YSSY. It should take about 1 hour.

Now, another problem you may encounter after takeoff is the altitude does not work. In this situation, engage the ALT button and enter 10000 in its box. In other words, use another autopilot function instead. It's no big problem, and it sometimes sorts itself out during the flight.

Hello, we have a problem: you are not heading towards the runway at YSSY! What's going wrong? Well, quite simply, you did not enter an approach path into YSSY. Well, seeing as though it is too late to enter a new FMS plan (more advanced pilots can try to figure this out, it's not too hard), you should probably fly it in manually.

Another option is to use the NAV1 radio. This is explained in the next lesson.

The NAV1 RADIO and the ILS[edit]

This could well be one of the most useful and simple of the X-Plane instruments. Apart from being able to use it to track towards VOR's and NDB's by entering their frequency on the radio, it can also be used to help you land in next to no visibility:- let's learn about the ILS.

The ILS, or Instrument Landing System is not really one instrument. It is in fact made up of several. One of these is of course the NAV1 radio. Before we jump straight into the tutorial, let's learn a bit about it.

If you have ever looked at the chart for a major airport in X-Plane, such as YBBN, you would have noticed little boxes at the ends of runways, that have something like '110.30' in them. Usually in this box as well is an 'I' or 'ILS'. The numbers in the box is the frequency you plug into the NAV1 radio. be aware, though, that ILS frequency for your runway is at the END of the runway, not the start. This usually tricks novice pilots, so be aware!

Let's do a bit of practical work.

Open up the Boeing 777-200 and place it on the runway at YBBN. Don't bother setting up anything, just drop the flaps and take off into the sky. Fly the runway heading for about 10NM, and then pause the simulator. Go into the 'Plates' menu and select Brisbane Intl. You will see a map of the airport. Then, zoom in on the long runway, and follow it to the right until you see a box in the middle of it (at the end of the runway). This is the ILS information for Runway 01 at YBBN. With any luck, it will get you down for a landing. Note the ILS frequency and fly a wide arc from your current position until you are over YBAF, facing towards YBBN. Pause the sim once again. Now is the important part.

In the NAV1 radio, enter the frequency you noted earlier, and switch the autopilot selector to NAV1, if it is not already on it. While entering the frequency, you would have noticed something happened on your artificial horizon. 2 lines will have moved onto the screen. These are your guides. Un-pause the sim, and turn towards the VERTICAL line. When your artificial horizon is centred on the line, engage the LNAV, LOC or NAV button. This will 'lock' your aircraft onto that line and follow it. Now we will deal with the horizontal line. Fly up or down until it is also centred. Then engage APP. Arm the speed brakes, drop the gear,and prepare for a landing. You have just locked onto the ILS.

One of the main things to remember about the ILS is that you have to keep your aircraft centred on your crosshairs, otherwise you are not heading exactly for the centre of the runway or you will overshoot or hit the ground before the runway, none of which are good to you or your aircraft. A good thing to remember is that you have to 'keep it centred, stupid'.

No one understands ILS the first time around, so it is important to keep practising your skills.