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Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator

My new book about using PC-based flight simulations was published in January 2012 by Wiley.

The webinar I presented March 21, 2012, “Using PC-Based Simulations to Complement Flight Training,” is now available as a video that you can stream from the EAA webinars page. The video isn’t high-def, and the webinar hosting software that EAA uses doesn’t support videos and animations, but the presentation does give you an overview of my thinking about where PC-based simulations like X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator fit in among the training and proficiency tools available to instructors and pilots. The presentation, which is based on the new book, also describes how you can use PC-based simulations effectively as part of scenario-based training (SBT).

You can listen to the podcast of an interview on February 18, 2012 with me about Scenario-Based Training at FlightTime Radio. Follow this link to the mp3 audio at the FlightTime Radio website.

Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator: Using PC-Based Flight Simulations based on FAA and Industry Training Standards (ISBN: 978-1-1181-0502-3), available at a list price of $39.95 from online retailers such as Amazon.com and bookstores, includes:

The FAA has published new editions of the practical test standards (PTS) for the private pilot and commercial pilot certificates. The new standards become effective on 1 June 2012. You can download the PDF editions here. Note that under these criteria, instead of evaluating a pilot's performance on a series of individual maneuvers, examiners must use scenarios that include as many tasks as practical. Examiners also must emphasize and evaluate the applicant's ability to apply the principles of single-pilot resource management and aeronautical decision making. These concepts are at the core of Scenario-Based Training.

Samples and Resources

You can download the full table of contents, index, and a sample chapter from the publisher's website.

You can also download the Situation and Flight files, plus charts, references, and other resources that complement the book.

Changes in X-Plane Situation File Formats

The developers of X-Plane frequently change the format of the Situation files that save initial conditions for specific virtual flights in X-Plane. Each time the developer updates X-Plane (often, and not on a published schedule), the Situation file format changes. If you can’t load the Situation files provided to complement the scenarios in the book, you can use the description of each lesson (that is, the scenario) to quickly set up the Cessna (or your choice of aircraft) at the location where a particular virtual flight begins.

It's important to understand that, as noted in Chapter 10, “Using the Scenarios in This Book,” the Situations just set the initial conditions (aircraft type, location, weather, etc.) for a scenario. They’re not scenarios themselves or interactive “missions” (see especially p. 109–110). The Situations (for X-Plane) and Flights (for FSX) are just conveniences I supplied to help readers quickly load the initial conditions.

The scenarios in the book are, in effect, the lesson plans, and if you can’t load the X-Plane Situation files provided to complement the scenarios in the book, you can use the description of each lesson to quickly set up the Cessna (or your choice of aircraft) at the location where a particular virtual flight begins. I've provided an Excel workbook that includes the key information about each scenario and complements the descriptions in the book. In fact, you could use the scenarios in the book (i.e., the lesson plans) with any simulation (e.g., an FTD), as the core of a flight lesson in an airplane, as ground-school exercises, and so forth.

For more information about X-Plane and Situations, see Chapter 6, “A Quick Guide to X-Plane,” and the help resources described there.

For more information about the resources associated with the book see the Readme document (PDF) available for download at the publisher's website and the Aviation Resources page here at BruceAir.com.

I have compiled information about the Situations and Flights in a Microsoft Excel workbook that you can download from one of my SkyDrive folders. The file, Wiley-SBT-Situations-Flights.xlsx, includes details about each of the Situtations and Flights that complement the book, and it provides links to charts and airport information. If you don't have Microsoft Excel, you can download a free Excel viewer from Microsoft.

In November 2011, FAA AeroNav Services, the FAA division that creates and publishes aeronautical charts and A/FD information, announced that it intended to restrict access to charts and data. The new policy, details of which are pending, is to become effective sometime in 2012. For the latest information about current charts and A/FD data, visit the FAA AeroNav Services website. Some providers of charts and A/FD information hope to continue offering free online versions of the information. To learn more about those services, visit: SkyVector.com, AirNav.com, and similar resources.

BruceAir's Blog and SBT's Facebook Page

To view current information about Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator, aviation, simulations, and flight training, see:

Who Should Use This Book

Here’s a short list of those who can benefit from reading the book and from using the Situations and Flights and the resources associated with them:

Table of Contents

You can download the complete table of contents (PDF) for the book from the publisher's website. The index and a sample chapter are also available from that website.

For more information about Scenario-Based Training with X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator, visit the book's Facebook page and BruceAir's blog.

What You Need

Although the general recommendations described in the book apply to any PC-based flight simulation and most flight training devices, to use this book effectively you should have either:

X-Plane runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. For more details, see the the product information page on the X-Plane website.

For FSX, you need an appropriate computer running Microsoft Windows (XP, Vista, or Windows 7).

You should also have a mouse and a joystick or flight yoke. For more information about PCs, joysticks, and yokes that work with either X-Plane or FSX, see the Microsoft Flight Simulator page here at BruceAir. You may also want to read my reviews of joysticks, yokes, throttles, and other products here at BruceAir.

To view the references associated with the lessons you need the free Adobe Reader utility or other PDF reader.

Resources for Pilots and Virtual Aviators

You can find links to the resources associated with the lessons on the Aviation Resources page here at BruceAir.

Aviation Book Collage

Many of the Situations and Flights begin the air, with the airplane in position to fly an approach, practice basic flight maneuvers, rehearse VOR navigation skills, and so forth.

All of the supplied scenarios use the Cessna 172 Skyhawk included in X-Plane and FSX, but you can switch to any airplane available for those simulations.

You can use the links in the following list to download the complete training handbooks in PDF format from the FAA website. If you prefer real books, ASA offers reprints of many titles.

To learn about more books and other (mostly free) aviation resources available on the Web, visit Aviation Resources here at BruceAir.

X-Plane Essentials

To learn about key features of X-Plane, see Chapter 6, "A Quick Guide to X-Plane." More help, including a complete manual (PDF) is available from the X-Plane support page.

For more information about and help using X-Plane, including system requirements and FAQs, visit the X-Plane website and the simulation's support page and forum.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Essentials

To learn about key features of FSX, see Chapter 7, "A Quick Guide to FSX." More help is available at the Learning Center page at FSInsider.com.

If you have questions about Microsoft Flight Simulator (e.g., system requirements, sources of technical support and help from other users, improving performance on your system, updates, add-ons, etc.) please see Related Links on this page, the Flight Simulator page here at BruceAir, and the official Flight Simulator Insider site at Microsoft. To learn more about how how Flight Simulator is being used in aviation training, see Flight Simulator in Aviation Training here at BruceAir.

Installing the Situations (X-Plane) and Flights (FSX)

Changes in X-Plane Situation File Formats

The developers of X-Plane frequently change the format of the Situation files that save initial conditions for specific virtual flights in X-Plane. If you can’t load the Situation files provided to complement the scenarios in the book, you can use the description of each lesson (that is, the scenario) to quickly set up the Cessna 172 Skyhawk (or your choice of aircraft) at the location where a particular virtual flight begins. As noted in Chapter 10, “Using the Scenarios in This Book,” the X-Plane Situations are just starting points; they’re not interactive “missions” or "scenarios" (see especially p. 109–110). For more information about X-Plane and Situations, see Chapter 6, “A Quick Guide to X-Plane” and the help resources described there.

For detailed instructions, see the Readme document (PDF) available at the publisher's website.