• Vroute Premium

    Review: Vroute Premium

    By Rohan Nair (27 May 2010)

    Foreword

    The keys to a successful flight are flight planning, fuel planning and positional, and traffic and weather awareness. Now imagine a utility that offers all of that. Of course, the first thing on your mind is: 'Get that!' But does such a client exist? Yes, it does and it's called Vroute Premium. Do I see you grinning?

           

    Introduction

    Vroute Premium is the successor to the freeware Vroute.info (still available). Vroute Premium has several helpful features that the freeware version does not. Vroute Premium allows the user to do the following: View information about VATSIM events, join his/her virtual airline (VA) community, configure the client to his/her needs, make friends with fellow VATSIM pilots, see who's online on VATSIM, view a map showing that, search for pilots and controllers, find and export a route, create and upload a route and make/cancel flight bookings. Sigh...it still can't make you coffee, though. But wait, it has an in-built feature allowing you to listen to Sky Blue Radio. You can even get it on your iPhone from the iTunes store. The third screen shot above shows what the freeware version of Vroute doesn't have.

    Download And Installation

    The download comes as a little 1 MB zip file from the Pilot Shop. To install it, extract the contents of the zip file and run the executable 'setup.exe'. Activation is required to use the software. The software automatically runs after installing it. Enter your name, e-mail and discount code (optional). It sends an e-mail in one second and then follow the instructions and restart Vroute. Then, enter the license key and voila, it's all set to go! Well, the system requirement is Vista (32 or 64 bit) or XP 32 bit (64 bit not supported). Although, some people claim to have got it working and a user has even released a patch on the Vroute forums to make it compatible. I reviewed it on a 32 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. An internet connection is necessary at all times in order to use the program.

    History

    Okay, so the origin of Vroute can be traced back to 2004. It was just a flight plan database for the Polish VACC. Sometime in 2004, they made it into a web plug-in called EUroute. In 2005, they made it into a FS plug-in called EUroute Module. In late 2005, a standalone flight and ATC booking client called VATBOOK was developed. Same time round, they started working on a client with several features. As a result Vroute was born integrating all the features listed above. The man behind all of this is Mr. Michal Rok.

       

    First Impressions

    Vroute Premium consists of a window by default in a black and orange color scheme. You change this to grey and orange by clicking on the sun-moon button at the bottom of the window. There are several tab selectors at the top of every page. Each page can be accessed by clicking on one of the large orbs on the left hand column of the window. You can listen to the Sky Blue radio channel by clicking on the 'Sky Blue Radio' button at the bottom of the window. Right clicking brings up a few more options.

           
           
           

    Info Page

    By default, the Info page shows you one of the events that will shortly take place on VATSIM. You can browse through some older archives or recent topics as well. On the left hand side, there is a drop down column called 'VATSIM in a nutshell'. You can stow/re-stow it by clicking on the arrow next to it. It shows you the events for the day in local time (the software automatically detects your time zone), your friends who are online (pilots and ATCs) and recent bookings made by you or your friends. You can click on these to get some more information about them. It also shows the number of pilots and air traffic controllers online. The 'Events calendar' tab lets you browse through various dates to see what events are there. The 'Communities' tab allows to you to browse through the various VA communities and see which you are a member of. The 'Configuration' tab allows you to modify your contact information, VATSIM information, fuel calculation preferences, avatar, and friends list. The links tab allows you to tinker with Twitter connection, make ATC bookings via Twitter, subscribe to the Vroute events calendar and get access to the Vroute.mobile for your iPhone. You can also subscribe to the Vroute RSS feed to have the news about events delivered straight to your desktop. The 'About' tab is self explanatory and not really important.

    Information about upcoming events may be added provided you follow the respective guidelines the developer has provided. You can also create and add your own community. But it will be displayed on the list only if it has more than ten members. These can be done by clicking 'New article...' and 'New community...' found at the top right corners of the 'Events Calendar' and 'Communities' tabs respectively.

           
       

    Online Page

    The 'Online' page shows you information about the ATCs and pilots online on VATSIM in your country (it automatically picks it up). It shows you current ATCs who are online, have made bookings and pilots who are online, have made bookings or who have just passed or entered the country's airspace. They may be filtered by airport ICAO (top right corner). You can click on them to get more information. You can also add a country as your favorite and access it from the top of the page by clicking on its flag. This page along with the other pages updates every two minutes. A drop down column on the left hand side allows you to select continents and the countries within them to see who are online on VATSIM. You can also select different airspace divisions of countries (if they have some) by clicking on the small box next to their names. This whole column can be stowed too. The 'Map' sub-page shows you a map of the entire continent with all aircraft on the ground and in the air. Aircraft on the ground appear as squares and aircraft in the air appear as airplanes. When you place your mouse cursor over any one of the online aircraft, a small bit of information about them is displayed along with their avatar if they have one. If an air traffic controller controlling an FIR or ARTCC is online, the area is shaded on the map. If a tower or local airport controller is online, a small circle appears. You can zoom in and out of the map, move around, and use the select and magnify tool to select an area to fill the screen. Clicking on the 'plus' sign at the top right corner of the page shows you some map options. The blue lines that you can see across the pond (Atlantic Ocean) are supposedly North Atlantic Tracks (NATs). The ones near the Australian region are Australian tracks. These are quite accurate and up to date. Due to the problem caused by the volcanic ash from Iceland, the tracks were moved down south which was replicated in the software too. However, the tracks seem to have slipped up slightly now. The 'All Pilots' and 'All Controllers' sub-pages can be used to search for those pilots and controllers who are online on VATSIM.

           
           

    Route Page

    The 'Route' page can be used to search and perform various operations using routes. The 'Standard Search' sub-page can be used to find routes in a simple manner. If you're feeling random, blindly select the options. The 'Advanced' page can be used to find routes using the ICAO airport codes and the aircraft specific routes too (don't rely on searching by aircraft too much). Once done searching, some decisive information about the routes is shown. The aircraft database is limited but over the course of time, it will grow. The 'Bookings' sub-page allows you to browse through your recent bookings and decide a route for them. The 'Add new route' sub-page is used to add new routes by filling a form. Users of Vroute Premium can access the latest AIRAC cycle for free. Freeware version users will have to pay for the latest but can get some of the older ones for free. Some routes may not appear or may display as 'unavailable' depending on the cycle in use. Now for the 'Private routes' tab. Private routes do not require moderator approval, can be immediately flown and you can edit/delete them as you like. It was intended also for routes that don't meet Vroute's strict criteria - i.e. longer than necessary sightseeing flights, non-CFMU compliant routes in Europe, routes that don't follow airways and so on. Of course by choosing the private route option you do not support the Vroute community as it's strictly private. Similarly, users who are moderators of a community (i.e. a virtual airline) can submit routes for their community pilots.

           
           
           
       

    Selected Route Detail Pages

    This is the screen you see immediately on selecting a route.

    The 'Overview' page shows you some basic information about your route. It also shows you the aircraft that operate on that route (don't rely too much on this) and some suitable alternate airports.

    The 'fuel' page allows you to calculate the total amount of fuel you need to carry. Simply select your aircraft, enter the payload, cruising altitude and captain's reserve and hit 'Calculate'. It also generates a vertical profile for the flight with some terrain and 'on-the-fly' information. It looks like it doesn't consider that you need to make step-climbs to maintain fuel burn efficiency though.

    The 'Waypoints' page shows you some information for each waypoint on the flight plan. It also shows a map of the route with some weather information. The map is similar in function to the one seen on the 'Map' tab of the 'Online' page.

    The 'Export' page allows you to export the flight plan in various formats for programs and add-on as well as default aircraft. It also allows you to book the plan and obtain a Flight Progress Card in PDF format.

    The 'Weather' page shows you a static display of the weather of the selected region. This seems to be updated a little less often though.

    The 'NOTAM' page shows you the current NOTAMS for the airspace you will be flying through. Unfortunately, NOTAMs are only available for parts of Europe and Asia. No NOTAMs are available for North America.

    The 'ATC Coverage' page shows you which ATC are or will be online in the airspace you will be flying through and their timings with bookings if they have made one.

    The 'Real Flight' page shows you some basic information about the real world flights operating on the selected route. Unfortunately, the 'Aircraft' column will display 'Unknown' for all rows as the supplier of this data has ceased supplying the data. Also, some data pertaining to the newer airlines may be partially or completely (the whole airline) may not be existent.

    The 'Maps' page shows you links to maps for the departure and destination airports as well the airspace you will be flying through. In the Premium version, complete and up to date charts are provided for 3,000 airports in the USA and Australia.

    The 'Scenery' page shows you the available scenery for departure and destination airports and the areas in between.

    Book Page

    The 'Book' page allows you to make flight or ATC bookings through a simple booking form. Making flight bookings has never been easier. You can cancel them too. Recent bookings whose flights have or have not been made are still displayed for a day.

    Miscellaneous Notices

    Sometimes, the software may stop responding if you move around too much. Also, the tooltips that appear when you hover your mouse over the top some underlined text may appear at quite a far height above or somewhere near the text depending on the position. The map may also take a long time to load if you have a slow internet connection.

    Verdict

    In my opinion, Vroute Premium is a good flight planning software. It has some bugs and some parts could use some improvement but on the overall side, it's a valuable gift for a person who loves to do his flights just right.

    Rohan Nair
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here

    Other Rohan Nair Reviews:

    Overland Japan Airbus Edition
    Carenado Cessna 172N Skyhawk II
    LiVEinFSX BA270 Adventure


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