• The Corner #37 - A Lovingly Tended Neurosis

    A Lovingly Tended Neurosis

    By Chip Barber (1 April 2008)

    Just how "over the edge" are we, when considered as a group? Speaking only for myself, I can truthfully say that my neuroses know no boundaries.

    For your consideration, I offer the following evidence: I am on the downslope of middle age; I am a grandfather; I have my eyes firmly set on the day I retire from my vocation; I'm a commercial airline pilot; I've a mortgage that is nearly .... How's that again?

    I can blather on for hours on end, discussing all the ins and outs of why we fly. It's good for the brain, good for the hand-eye coordination, heck, it may be good for the prostate for all I know (judging by some of the emails I've gotten, perhaps not). But in the harsh reality of daylight, well, I like to think of myself as something more than just a crotchety old guy who really digs playing on the computer. That, of course, would be totally unacceptable and quite possibly an indicator of some impending organic brain issues. But nope. I'm not that. I'm a pilot.

    License? Just look at me. I can fly a single bug masher, any old twin you'd care to place before me, prop, turbo-prop, business jets, carriers of all shapes and sizes. I can fly in the rain without getting wet. I can fly VFR and IFR. I can pull negative G's during the in-flight movie just for the fun of hearing the passengers barf their peanuts. And in the middle of all this fun, I can go grab a Molson and a sandwich, pop a DVD on and relax while my combination of aluminum, oil and avgas hovers obediently, awaiting my input to commence the journey.

    You see? I told you I was a pilot. Of course, depending on the software I happen to be running, I'm also a fire truck, a soldier and occasionally a furry quadruped. And the really funny part is, you're sitting there going "Yeah, I know. Me too". So let's see. How can we make this neurosis of ours even better? Read on, MacDuff.

    This has been a banner couple of months for me. Of late, I've been having a field day with freeware. I've picked up all the wonderful NHL pattern repaints by Andrew Beranek, I've found some wonderful airport scenery for Toronto and Jacksonville, Florida. And I've come across something for which I have been pining for a long, long time.

    As you may or may not know, I continue with my neurotic behavior towards payware. Someone wise once defined neurosis as the perpetuation of behavior while expecting a better outcome each time. Well, I happen to be the poster boy for that phrase. I keep hoping that my software purchases will begin to actually reduce the debt so incriminatingly posted to my account each month. Hasn't happened yet, but I'm certain that it will, what with computers being prone to funky little glitches that every so often work to one's advantage. Besides, simply by virtue of sheer numbers, chances should be better than good that something will break my way. Hope springs eternal, even if common sense doesn't.

    But see, I've spent a king's ransom looking for something to answer a burning need. What I've desperately wanted to do was choose an airport in a place with which I am not terribly familiar even if I've augmented it with tres' cool scenery. Then, being of limited attention span and a fair to good likelihood of an unscheduled nap, I consult my many, many various flight planners trying to find destinations that are within 200 miles or so, with ILS and runway length sufficient for a Concorde (can't be too careful on the roll-out; it is terribly bad form to run out of concrete/asphalt before one runs out of forward momentum) and at a vector of my choosing so that I may overfly something other than sand or water.

    To varying degrees, I have seen a return on my FSInvestment. If I combine several aspects of each flight planning software title I own, I can manage to answer most of my aforementioned requirements. Unfortunately, by the time I've managed to compile, sort and digest all the information I've accumulated, simulated flight has taken a back seat to any number of alternate activities that have managed to catch my fancy in the interim. It is a question of timing, you see. Generally, it is a potty break that begins the decline of my desire to fly. Even you real world flyboys gotta pee, otherwise they wouldn't put a loo in close proximity to the flight deck, right?

    But much to my delight, I've come across the answer to my dilemma. Martin Gleeson has produced this gem of a piece of freeware that does precisely what I've wanted, and even some things I neglected to whisper to Santa during my annual lap-sit with him at the local mall (besides, I don't think he was too keen on listening to my requests, what with him moving around and sweating whilst attempting to accommodate my not inconsiderable mass so delicately placed onto his lap; think of the whale in Free Willy doing a sort of weird lap dance on you, and you'll get the picture.).

    Here's what I've discovered so far with Destination Finder (DESTFN12.ZIP). I enter the ICAO of my departure (if there is one thing I'd like to change with this program, it is a better way to input the departure airport, as there are times I must actually look up the ICAO what with there being no other way to input this important piece of data. Are you listening, Santa?), and continue down the line inputting the parameters I'd like the program to consider while it ponders my potential destinations. These parameters include distance, direction, runway length, runway constitution (hard, soft, gravel, etc.), ILS equipped, public or military. I mean, come on! This is far and away beyond what I would have ever thought to ask! The direction thing is cool, in that you may leave it blank for a circle search around your departure airport, ask it to search along a specific heading (1 to 360 degrees), or in a specific compass direction. Ask it for airports to the southeast, and it will look in a 90 degree arc to the southeast. Nifty!

    Now, once you've gotten what the program considers all of the airports that fit your requirements, it will do even more. Not only are the columns able to be manipulated to your heart's content, they may also be removed if you feel you do not need the information they offer. It is completely customizable to your own demands.

    Here's the best part. Once you highlight the airport destination you'd like to choose, a right click on said airport row brings up a menu, in which you may choose to have the program list alternates! How cool is that! I NEVER would have thought to ask Santa for that!

    All this, and freeware too. Honestly, I would have paid for this piece of software. No small surprise, right? But really, how often do you come upon anything that does not only everything you could ever ask of it, but more? I think that, to celebrate, I'll have to input some really eclectic departures, get some really funky destinations and then do a perimeter check to see if I can't manage to get some augmentation for the scenery. After all, I didn't pay anything for my new favorite piece of FSSoftware, right?

    Have you been introduced to the AES line from Aerosoft? One of my favorites, I'm finding using my AES enabled airports together with Destination Finder. Now, it is a simple matter to find departure and destination within my list of enabled airports so that not only do I have all the really cool features at departure, but on rolling off the active I've got a Follow Me car waiting to guide me to my parking gate, after which it is terribly cool to watch the passenger gate glide to my bird along with a bunch of support vehicles.

    So now, there we have it. What shall we be today? Where shall our neurosis take us? Perhaps I'll assume the role of an Ewok, piloting a jump plane delivering firemen to a forest fire. Neuroses indeed!

    Three Green!

    Chip Barber
    [email protected]

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