• Review: Professional Flight Planner X

    Professional Flight Planner X (PFPX)

    Publisher: Aerosoft

    Review Author:
    Rohan Nair

    Suggested Price:

    Buy Here

    If you've been into flight simulation long enough, then chances are that are that at some point of time, you've asked yourself: how can I plan my virtual flights in the most realistic manner possible? Many of us, myself included, planned our flights in a rather rudimentary manner in our early days of flight simulation. At that time, it didn't matter to me whether I was carrying the right amount of fuel or not. It didn't matter if I was at the right altitude or not. ETOPS? Didn't even know it existed back then.

    PFPX     PFPX

    As the years went by, I really started to feel that while I might be flying the airplane by the books, I wasn't doing the part before it by the books. There was an add-on called vRoute Premium which helped to shake off this feeling. I remember reviewing it nearly a decade ago. There was also Aerosoft's Flight Operations Center and Ernie Alston's FSBuild. For quite a while, that's all we had. A few free online planners were there but needless to say, they were limited in functionality and what they would let you tinker with. About six years ago, much to the delight of several eagerly waiting flight simulation enthusiasts, FlightSimSoft released Professional Flight Planner X hereon referred to as PFPX.

    Published by Aerosoft, the mission of PFPX is quite simple: to be the most realistic and feature rich flight planner for virtual aviation and appease the tastes of a diverse user base. So does PFPX enable the casual flight simulation user to get realistic routes and fuel plans thereby giving him the moderately realistic experience he wants? Does it give the compulsive pedantic power user the ability to govern every aspect of flight planning like the real world and enable him to account for every drop of fuel estimated for his trans-Atlantic ETOPS flight that has an in-flight re-dispatch waypoint? Read this review to find out.

    PFPX     PFPX

    As you might've expected, PFPX is a tool that runs independently of your flight simulator. Naturally, if your computer can run a flight simulator, then you can run PFPX unless you are still using something older than FS2002 on a pre-XP era system. I'd like to add, based on my experience, that a 1 Mbps internet connection, at the least, is needed to enjoy all that this product can offer without frustration lest you are a really patient person when it comes to download speeds.

    Over the years, PFPX has been actively worked on by its developers. As the product evolved and eventually matured, major developmental activities went into a lull with no new hotfix or release for many months. Not too long before the curtains were drawn in on 2018, version 2 was released and at the time of writing this, the latest version is 2.03. For about $55, you'll receive a downloadable version of PFPX and for no extra charge, a year's subscription to the PFPX servers. Let me get it out there right now that PFPX is fully usable as a flight planner without the server subscription. The server subscription gives a few extra features such as detailed weather, oceanic track messages and NOTAMs. We'll look at those features in detail later in this review.

    Installation is likely to be uneventful and hey ho, 9000 real world routes for you out of the box! You'll be greeted with a user interface that reminds you of the 2010 version of Microsoft Office products. It may daunt some at first but as with many complex things in life, you don't have to pay attention to all of it at once. The user interface can be customized to suit your likes be it the theme, what buttons and controls are visible, the size and layout of the frames and the like. To get a run down of what's what, what does what and some helpful general knowledge about flight planning, head on over to the start menu to read the product manual.

    PFPX     PFPX

    The user interface is functional and in my opinion, well done. There are three distinct portions in the PFPX window. The top quarter spans across the width of the window and here's where all the various buttons and controls are to carry out a multitude of actions. The remaining three-quarter of the screen is split into frames whose size can be adjusted. The left one is where you'll see almost all of the text info that PFPX can tell you. And it's also where you'll be making the most important data inputs during the planning flow. The right side one is the most interesting frame in the window. It's a map view and it'll do more than just show your route. Airports, navigational aids, airspace boundaries, airways, oceanic tracks, FIRs, UIRs, adequate airport circles, terrain, restricted airspace, AIRMET/SIGMET areas, wind barbs, jetstream and turbulence are also what the map can show you. Mousing over any visible element in the map will bring up a pop-up containing detailed information about that element be it an airport, airspace boundary, oceanic track, an airway or so. Weather data, NOTAMs and track messages are readily accessible from here. If you need to quickly jot something down, then there's a scratchpad for that too.

    Most of the program options and a few other features are tinkered with via separate pop-up windows. The UI is well tailored and will always remind you of what is the next action item during the planning flow. The UI is also highly customizable via the program's settings. The software will offer a good user experience from a user interface perspective. However, holistically, the application can put a smile on your face only if its core features perform well too. Read on to find out if they do.

    PFPX     PFPX

    Now before we deep dive into the details of what PFPX has to offer, let me brief you about that server subscription and external software that PFPX can interface with. Your initial purchase of PFPX comes with a year's subscription free of cost. Subsequently, it's 12 Euros a year to use the features that a subscription offers. Those features are access to the PFPX servers that will get up-to-date real time wind and weather data, METARs, Terminal Area Forecasts (TAFs), NOTAMs, and up-to-date oceanic track related data and messages (NATS - North Atlantic Track System, PACOTS - Pacific Organized Track System and AUSOTS - Australian Organized Track System). After reading this review, you'll be able to decide if you really need a server subscription or not.

    In case you don't want a subscription, you still need weather and METAR data, at the least, to make the most out of PFPX. Which is why PFPX can be configured to use weather data downloaded by popular weather engines such as Active Sky and FS Global Real Weather.

    Tags: aerosoft, pfpx

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