• Review: Professional Flight Planner X

    Unless you plan to fly across vast expanses of water, you probably won't need oceanic track messages. If you do, however, then track messages are indispensable for you. With some proactive intervention, you can circumvent the absence of a server subscription for this bit. However, if you do use it, then you have the most current oceanic track messages and data readily available in the program. You can directly refer to a track in your flight plan much like an airway and use all the data that accompanies the associated track message. There's good news here and that is that it's now possible to manually load in track messages from the internet and use them in PFPX as if you never had a server subscription. This is great!

    A feature called CFMU/IFPS validation was earlier part of the server subscription but it was made free at some point of time due to immense demand. It's a form of flight plan validation that applies for portions of a filed flight plan that are within EU airspace. Basically, it's going to check your route and let you know if it's okay to fly along it in the way you've planned. If validation fails, a set of error codes and descriptions are presented in order for you to make amends to your route. This is a great and convenient feature for realism if you plan to fly a lot in the EU.

    PFPX

    One question remains and that is how you'll access all this data in the cockpit. The answer is that you can 'release' a flight plan much like a real dispatcher and print it or save it as a PDF. The software gives you the power to choose how detailed this PDF is going to be mostly with regards to en-route weather charts and a few other things. Do you hate manually entering long routes into the FMS? I sure do. PFPX helps you out there with the ability to export your route in a wide variety of formats. This enables direct loading of routes into your flight simulator or into an add on FMC via means of a CO RTE (company route). There's also the option to export this data directly to the VATSIM flight plan filing page from where you can make additional entries and/or adjustments and file your flight plan.

    There's one fact that's clear now: this software is loaded! But it isn't over yet. There are more than a couple of features left to go over. For instance, the tool can connect to FS2004/FSX/P3D via FSUIPC and display a table with details of active AI traffic and even shows them on the map! Similarly, you can also see who's online on VATSIM or IVAO be it a fellow pilot or a controller. They'll be visible on the map too. PFPX has a built in browser too, using which you can visit popular web sites like FlightAware and RouteFinder straight out of PFPX. There are also links to significant weather charts for different times for pretty much the whole world. And the best part is that you can add links to other pages and categorize them for organized tabbed access.

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    There's so much on offer in PFPX. Hopefully, I've covered the parts you're likely to use with sufficient detail. There are some features of PFPX that I feel I'm probably not going to use unless I became a flight dispatcher in the real world. For example, you could modify airport planning data to specify the operational characteristics of an airport like preferred departure runways, routes, alternates, etc. If you're game, you can define your own NOTAMS and METAR for the airport. Not enough? You can even supply phone numbers, e-mail addresses and radio frequencies for airport staff and the fuel supplier! And I'm quite sure during planning, it's even possible to supply parameters such as fuel costs, delay costs, etc. that can be taken into account to generate a minimum cost route. Then, there's the ability to edit restricted airspace, route restrictions and to create user defined waypoints and airways. And if that wasn't enough then you can go ahead and create your own fuel policy too.

    So many features combined with a lack of experience can disconcert a novice flight simulation enthusiast. Thankfully, there are more than a few resources to help you get up to speed with PFPX. For starters, there's a nicely written product manual that will give you a run down of what's what and what does what. The manual is also a good source of superficial knowledge of important flight planning concepts. For in-depth knowledge and guided tutorials, FlightSimSoft themselves have suggested a few YouTube videos on their web site. Apart from that, there are many videos made by different YouTubers to help one learn the basic and advanced features of PFPX. A simple Google search will help you find these.

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    Now onto the topic of comparing PFPX with Simbrief. Simbrief is a free online flight planning tool. It's known to be powerful and is often considered a sizable match for PFPX. However, I've never used it so I can't really comment about how well it competes with PFPX. I did some research, however, and it appears that feature-wise, PFPX is definitely a richer product. Simbrief doesn't have its own route generation engine and I don't think it can use weather data from add-on software like Active Sky. It requires a Navigraph subscription for the latest navigational data. It won't work with Aerosoft's NavData Pro. Prima facie, however, it appears to be a good match for PFPX in terms of some core flight planning features. Do take note of the caveats that come with its usage, though. Despite of that, the general consensus is that Simbrief is a more automated and easy to use flight planner. However, it isn't as feature rich and doesn't give you the same level of control over planning as PFPX does. I believe the choice you make in this matter depends on how much you fly, how realistic you want to be, where and what you fly, and the level of control you want over flight planning. These are the reasons why, I'll leave this choice entirely to you. However, if you fly airliners a lot, like to do planning with a lot of realism and control and especially like to fly over oceans, then I believe PFPX is the better option for you. But that's just me.

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    This turned out to be quite a long review. I hope I've covered everything that you would've wanted to know in sufficient detail. For all decisions that need to be taken in the cockpit, the Captain is the final authority. You too are a Captain in the matter of deciding to purchase PFPX. Nevertheless, I offer my verdict as a guiding light. PFPX is a feature rich, realistic and functional virtual flight planning software. There's so much it can do out of the box and it gives the user immense power to customize it to their needs. PFPX will satisfy your needs whether you're in a casual mood, trying to be moderately realistic or be like a real pilot. The product is well supported and the community offers a lot of additional supporting files for it. Nothing is perfect in life. And since PFPX is a part of a flight simulator enthusiast's life, the same hold good for it too. Sure, they may be an occasional annoyance or two but on the whole, this is a flight planning tool that can be seamlessly utilized by a virtual airline pilot of any level of experience. If you have any questions, suggestions or constructive criticism, then please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail or leave a comment below. I wish you all a 2019 filled with happy flight planning, clear skies and smooth landings!

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    Rohan Nair
    [email protected]

    Purchase PFPX - Professional Flight Planner X

    Tags: aerosoft, pfpx