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VATSIM Cross The Pond Slot Booking Changes

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VATSIM has published an important information note regarding the upcoming Cross The Pond 2020 – Eastbound event which will take place on November 14th.

Slot Allocation

The slot allocation was previously done using a booking system on a “first come, first served” basis. In the previous events, the slots would be gone in a matter of minutes, letting on the side of the road anybody who was not able to connect to the site at that time. In addition, the slot bookings sites where sometimes not accessible, making it even more difficult to grab a slot. It has also been considered unfair that depending on the time when the slot booking happened, some people living in certain time zones where advantaged.

In consequence, VATSIM has decided this year to introduce a lottery system for slot allocation. Upon slot booking opening, which will happen on October 28th at 2000Z, people will be given the choice between three most prefered city pairs as well as two most prefered departure times. The booking closure will happen on November 4th, which will give pilots plenty of times to poll in their options. The system will then randomize the selections and allocate slots accordingly. This means that not everyone will be served. Some routes pairing will probably have much more picks than others, leaving less chances to get them. Importantly, VATSIM added that people who polled in their preferences but who still have not be selected in the lottery will have priority bookings for the next events. No further details have been added in regards to the exact process.

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SimToolKitPro: The FSElite First Look

SimToolKitPro is one of those programs that repeatedly made me go, Wow! Not only is this tool a virtual logbook, but also an EFB (electronic flight bag). You can not only plan your flight from directly in the app with the SimBrief integration, but you can also make changed to the flight plan within the program and preview what those changes will do to your flight. Looking up real world flight schedules is easily done within the program, as well as some other cool tools such as checklists, a crosswind calculator, and a lot more.

Join me as we take this first look at SimToolKitPro.

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PMDG Global Flight Operations Appears Online

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PMDG’s highly anticipated Global Flight Operations has appeared publicly available online. This was made aware to us by a Facebook community member. The product has not been officially released yet, but the site is accessible and most features seem to be working. It’s unclear to us if this public availability is intended or not.

The homepage interface right now is just a flight map, with little to show other than a day/night overlay. Though it would seem likely that you can see active flights here once the tool goes live for the public. Another feature that seem to be somewhat working is airport maps. Here you can select between PIREPS or ‘airports with gate info’, which for now seems to be supported by a significant though limited number of airports. On these airport maps you can see gates that have gate data and gates that need additional data. What kind of additional data is required is yet unclear, and selecting the gates didn’t do anything to provide more info.

You can also view the current flight data, which has been built up so far by members of the PMDG team. You can see leaderboards for aircraft and people, as well as the most recent flights. Selecting the airlines that people have flown, or the aircraft, will open a map for that particular airline or aircraft and see their flight data on a map. PMDG seems to be using GFO a lot with their 747, but the recently released Boeing 737-800 and 737-900 also make an appearance in the most recent flights.

Global Flight Operations is currently in closed beta. We got an update about a nearing release back in July, when PMDG shared with us that Global Flight Operations was ‘closer than ever to a release’, and a calendar date for this had been set. At that time, the team wasn’t quite ready to share this date with us.

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The Flight Sim Deck: Head Tracking With A Webcam And $3 [FYC]

Constantly scanning the sky is an integral part of flying.  It’s for safety but also to take in the sites all around you. With that in mind, I want to show you how you can get awesome head tracking in your flight simulator with just a webcam and $3. You might wonder how this method compares to TrackIR. The short answer is that it’s not as precise as TrackIR, but still an excellent alternative that’s left me with almost no complaints.

For those who don’t know, TrackIR is the leading head tracking device on the market costing $149. TrackIR uses a camera and Infrared to track the movements of your head. It’s accomplished by mounting a camera in front of you and wearing the infrared light on your head. This allows you to look all around the cockpit and lean towards your instruments.

The method we’ll talk about today uses your web cam to track the movement of your face rather than infrared light. This is done with software called FaceTrackNoIR. This software tricks the simulator into thinking TrackIR is being used. The camera I’m using is the HD Pro Webcam C920, but any modern webcam will do. Your monitor should provide enough light, but if not, try to light your face as much as possible. This will increase the accuracy of the head tracking.

Once you open FaceTrackNoIR for the first time, you’ll need to configure your webcam. Click “Options” at the top left of the window and then proceed to “Webcam Utility.” From there, click “Devices” and your webcam should be recognized in the drop down menu.

Now that you’ve set up your webcam, you can go back to the main window. Here you will see various options that you can apply to the tracker. “Profile” allows you to save your settings and load them in at anytime. You might want to do this if you have different configurations for various sims. I use “faceAPI V3.2.6” for tracker source, “Accela Filter Mk2” for filter and “FreeTrack 2.1” for game protocol. I also set my smoothing to 30 samples and I invert the pitch axis. Lastly, you can adjust the curves for each axis.

When everything is set, you can click “Start” under GO!. You should now see a black and white video of your face with a yellow overlay tracking your head movement. This shows how your face is going to be tracked in the simulator. Always remember to click “Start” prior to opening the simulator. Otherwise it might not recolonize that you are using head tracking and you will have to restart the sim.

When it comes to compatibility, I’ve tested FaceTrackNoIR on Prepar3D v4.4, X-Plane 11, Aerofly FS2, DCS World 2.5, and IL-2. Each sim functions slightly different but they’re all very close in functionality. This is where you might want to start saving profiles for each sim. The head tracking works right away upon loading Aerofly FS 2, DCS World, and IL2. With Prepar3D and X-Plane 11, there is just a couple of extra steps to make the head tracking work.

For X-Plane 11, it helps to have the plugin X-Camera, which is free to download. But if you want your settings to save, you do need to purchase a license. Otherwise the free version works great for Track IR, as long as you’re okay with re-positioning the camera each time you open X-Plane. To turn the head tracking on, simply open the X-Camera control panel and check the “Enable Track IR” and “Retain Mouse Look Position” boxes. If the camera is not aligned correctly, you can use the arrow keys and mouse to center your view.

Prepar3D follows nearly the same process. The most efficient way to use head tracking in P3D is with camera software called ChasePlane. The head tracking should work automatically, but if not, click “Preferences” on the left and make sure “Enable Head Tracking (TrackIR)” is checked. Again, if the camera is not aligned correctly you can use the arrow keys and mouse to center the view.

From dog fighting over the Persian Gulf, or turning base onto final; FaceTrackNoIR has made a world of difference in my flight simulation experience. TrackIR can be a costly investment but if you already own a web cam you’re just a few dollars away from turning your head inside the virtual cockpit. Have fun out there everyone, see you in the skies!

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Sim Bit World – A Pilot’s Life: The FSElite First Look

Join our very own Aus Flight Simmer, Shane, as he takes you through a fleeting first look of Sim Bit World – A Pilot’s life, a utility to give purpose when it comes to flight simulation. He demonstrates its uses and capabilities during a short hop from Brisbane to Launceston.

Be sure to watch the 7-minute video and leave a comment with your thoughts.

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