RE: Approach vectors
Oh yeah, I get that alot in FS9. Particularly noticeable in big jets. It's happened to me at both Phoenix and San Diego. About 45 to 50 miles out ATC directed me to descend to about 2000' AGL and handed me off to the tower. Pretty fun trying to slow fly a big jet for 45 miles at 2000 feet! The weird thing is that it doesn't always happen. Occasionally I will get a more realistic approach vector and handoff and then other times I get the ludicrous early descent. I have no idea why this occurs. I have noticed that AI traffic don't check in with the arrival tower until within 10 miles for the most part.
One of the reasons this happens in FS9 is because they (MS) were trying to correct the problem that FS2002 had of late steep descents and late handoffs. Unfortunately, they overdid it a bit. What is really unusual though is that the early descent and handoff doesn't always happen. The only real fix for it that I know of is to acknowledge the handoff but holdoff on the actual descent and contact of the tower until closer to the airport. The Approach controller isn't going to bug you expedite your descent becuase after he's handed you off he (FS9 ATC) could care less about you and the tower isn't going to talk to you until you check in.
Wish I had a better answer for you.
"Radial engines don't leak oil....they're just marking their territory"