Thanks for letting us know about your workaround."
Thanks for encouraging me to post something on the Wilco A320 PIC. So, this is where I am standing by now:
A320 PIC can be as enjoyable as any complex plane add-on, and the full 3D cockpit approach is especially remarkable, but it contains strange features that build an unusual barrier between the game and the common user. This may be the reason why there are so few entries in the sim forums about this software. I have tried hereafter to cast some light on features that I found obscure at first. Taking those added precisions into account, I could reach a full and satisfactory use of the plane, even in combination with the FDC, FSC and Traffic utilities, therefore I am tempted to guess that it was the lack of tutorials, more that software glitches which doomed this add-on.
There used to be one A320 PIC support forum within the FeelThere editor forums (http://www.iemit.com/forum/), but it was frozen and A320 PIC support was prematurely discontinued. I understand that this add-on was standing under strong criticism, so that Wilco decided to forget it and replace it with their Airbus series vol.1.
I wrote this post while trying to use the add-on and it is probably too long to be read thoroughly, but, on occasions, it could be search for ideas of problems solutions.
At some time I had problems starting the PIC 320 with my FS2004 configuration:
I created a flight with any other plane, then I used "Plane - change" in the FS menu, to change the first plane into the PIC320.
This is common with elaborate plane add-ons (like the old PSS Airbuses).
At some time, after running A320 PIC, when I tried to stop FS 2004, the FS menu or usual FS commands did not work for me. I had to kill the process “FS9.exe" in the “Processes tab” of the “Task Manager” (what you get with Ctrl+Alt+Suppr).
Special A320 PIC commands
The plane does not obey ordinary FS commands. The specific commands can be seen and modified, if necessary, in the “PIC Setup” window (“Keys assignment” button).
The joystick must be first desactivated in FS, then re-activated in A320 PIC:
• Desactivate your joystick with the FS menu: Options - Commands - Desactivate Joystick
• Alt+Enter to go in “reduced window” display, because you can access the specific A320 PIC commands only in a reduced window.
• Option - A320 Pilot in Command - Setup: The PIC setup window appears.
• Tick box “Use Joystick”
• Click on the “Joystick axes” button
• Click for instance on “thrust lever 1”: it becomes highlighted
• Click the “Modify” button: the message “Please move a joystick axis” appears
• Move your Joystick slider: you should get Thrust lever 1 Joystick 1 slider1
At the end we should see:
CAPT Stick X = Joystick 1 axis X
CAPT Stick Y = Joystick 1 axis Y
Thrust lever 1 = Joystick 1 slider 1
Thrust lever 2 = Joystick 1 slider 1
Rudder = Axis RZ
• Click on the “Close” button
• Alt+Enter : to come back to full screen
Conflicts between A320 PIC and FS2004 commands
There are conflicts between A320 PIC command keys and some command keys in FS 2004. Although the detailed analysis of what happens is not always easy, we sometimes do not get the expected result after pushing a key, and the screen may even freeze.
Usually, if some shortcuts do not produce the expected result (e.g. doors do not open), it is because they are in conflict, either with FS 2004 shortcuts, or with other A320 PIC shortcuts.
Anyway, reassigning the questionable keys solves those problems, for instance, following can be suggested:
Shift X “HDG to be calculated by the plane” changed to Shift H
Ctrl X “HDG to be set by the pilot” changed to Ctrl H
B “Wheel brakes on” changed to W
X “go out of plane” changed to None (The "None" choice is activated by the “Clear” button)
Shift W “Push speed” changed to Shift K
Ctrl W “Pull speed” changed to Ctrl K
Because in FS 2004 those shortcuts have other meaning:
Ctrl X is « activate flight advices »
B is « reinitialise altimeter »
X is « switch to watch frequency »
and Ctrl W is “Prepare for Take off” in FDC
Navigating in the cockpit
As it has been commented already in sim forums, A320 PIC is a full 3D add-on, and there is not even a 2D panel display available. With a little bit of training, I found this option convenient, especially because the instruments always remain at the same place in the 3D cockpit.
To navigate in the cockpit space, keep pressing the mouse wheel and move the mouse: the angle of view changes.
Rotate the mouse wheel: you get closer or away.
Click on the leftwards and rightwards arrow keys on your computer keyboard: you move sideways.
Center of Gravity to be moved backwards (see thumbnail at the end of this post)
When opening the Fuel and Payload window (Aircraft - Fuel and Payload, in the FS main menu), we can see that the Center of gravity of the plane is too close to the nose of the plane, which will cause stalling during the approach phase.
To correct this there is a little trick that explains nothing but enables a steady flight: go to the FS9/Aircraft/A320PIC directory and open the file aircraft.cfg. In the § airplane_geometry, set the parameter wing_pos_apex_lon to 16 (the greater the value of wing_pos_apex_lon, the more backwards the Center of gravity moves). We can now see, in the Fuel and Payload window, that the Center of gravity is now correctly at the middle of the plane, above the wings.
Flight Deck Companion (FDC)
To use FDC, the Airbus must be started in Cold and Dark configuration. Afterwards the announcements and check-lists run OK.
Sometimes, FDC stops talking during taxying:
doing "Pause" and continuing afterwards
or from the FS9 menu bar "Aircraft - Choose an aircraft - Cancel"
makes it talk again
When there is too much load on the computer, while using this Airbus, the display may freeze.
Frames per second (FPS) should therefore be closely monitored (Shift - Z) and not let to be lesser than, say, 3 FPS.
To obtain this, it is recommended to stop extra add-ons, like "All streets of Europe", or "Myworld". It may be furthermore necessary to reduce the Traffic rate. However the display options of the Airbus itself have little influence on the FPS.
After a plane crash, it is sometimes necessary to reboot the computer to have the autopilot working again.
To get the feeling of a real flight, the usual add-ons should be run with the airbus : FDC, FSC , Traffic and PFE.
PC in sleep status
As everything is closer to reality that default planes, it takes also more time to handle the plane. As you cannot always spend continuous hours on your laptop, you may put your laptop to “sleep” and resume your flight another day.
Initial training between two close airports
Because it takes a lot of Take-offs and Landings to master this Airbus, it is good for initial training to set FS2004 for a very short flight between two airports close to each other, so that the Take-off procedure should be quickly followed by the Landing procedure.
Using ground power
To get electricity in the plane, you normally use ground power (the normal procedure in airports).
• Options - A320 Pilot in Command - Request ground power: nothing happens.
> Go to Overhead panel (Ctrl+6).
In the “Elec” section, EXT PWR (External power) button now shows AVAIL.
• Click on EXT PWR button: EXT PWR displays ON
Now you have power for the plane, coming from the external power connexion and you can see the various displays on the CRT screens.
Using the APU
The other alternative to get electricity is to use the APU (no electricity was maybe available in this small airport).
> Go to Overhead panel.
Look at the APU section at bottom of overhead panel.
• Click on both “Main SW” (main switch) and “Start” buttons.
ON is now displayed on both buttons.
After some seconds, the word AVAIL appears on the “Start” button.
Now you have power for the plane, coming out of the APU generator.
Click on the “APU bleed” button
In addition to starting the APU, it is also necessary to click on “APU bleed” before starting up the main engines, because the APU bleed air is mandatory to start up the main engines.
• Turn the knob behind the throttles levers to the “Start” position.
• Put the ENG2 and ENG2 levers on “ON” position.
Now the main engines start.
Ctrl E shortcut
There is also the usual FS shortcut “Ctrl E” available, for having electricity for the plane and starting up the main engines, at the same time.
Start up the “Inertial Reference System”
Start up the “Inertial Reference System” devices, which calculate the geographical position of the plane, at any time, from a starting geographical position:
> Go to Overhead panel.
Look at the ADIRS section (top left of Overhead panel).
• Click on IR1, IR2, IR3.
Each button now displays the word ALIGN (meaning that the plane inertial system must be initialized with the current geographic position of the plane).
• Click “Ctrl+4”: the MCDU screen (“Multi-function Control and Display Unit”, Airbus special name for flight planner) is displayed.
• Click on the INIT button.
• Using the MCDU keys, type-in the starting/ending airport codes, such as EDDF/LFPG.
• Click on the “From/To” button (i.e. the top right button of MCDU, just close to the words “From/To”).
• Click on the “Align IRS” button.
The inertial system of the plane adjusts (“aligns”), so that the current geographical position in the plane inertial system equals the current geographical position of the plane.
• Click on “Next page”. Fill-out the ZFWCG/ZFW (Zero Fuel Weight Centre of Gravity/Zero Fuel Weight). A wrong value would produce a false behaviour of the plane, possibly leading to repeated crashes while landing. A realistic value would be 19/63 (19 m/63 tons, with 56 tons for the void plane and 7 tons for the passengers).
• Click on the F-PLN (flight plan) button: We can see the departure and arrival airport codes.
• Click on EDDF button: the word “Departure” appears.
• Click on the “Departure” button. Available runways appear (they can be scrolled using the two vertical arrows MCDU keys).
• Click on “runway” button: the selected runway is displayed at the top of the screen (e.g. 25L) and the SIDS (Standard Instrument Departure) appear.
• Click on the selected SID button (e.g. KIR9G/KIR): the selected SID is displayed at the top of the screen.
• Click on the “Insert*” button: The flight plan now includes the selected SID.
We need to visualize the SID path, in order to check that it goes in the direction of our destination airport:
> Go to front panel.
• Ctrl+1 to display the front panel.
• Click anywhere on the ND screen, “Navigation Display” for Airbus. This is the CRT screen with the flight plan waypoint visualized. The detached ND window pops-up. It can be moved and its size extended as usual pop-up windows.
So, each time you select a new SID, you can see graphically the SID path and waypoints on the detached ND window.
You may turn a rotating knob on the front panel, to the left of the auto-pilot displays (speed, heading, etc), to adjust the range of the ND display.
Clicking again on the ND will make the detached ND window disappear.
> Back to the MCDU.
• Click on the INIT button - Next page - Files button
This "Files" button was added in the sim to save the flight plans. It does not exist in the real A320.
• Save Co Rte (save company route)
Type the route name of your choice with the MCDU keys, then push the Name button, then push the SAVE* button. Now your flight plan is stored in the game and will be usable another time to fly the same route.
Enter a simplified flight plan in the FS flight plan, in order to see a path on the FS map and to give the ATC enough data to guide you.
• Flight - Flight organiser - Modify - OK
The flight plan must not be detailed close to the departure and arrival airports, because you cannot know in advance your runways, SID and arrival STAR, which will depend on ATC instructions. The runways, SID and STAR will be taken care of by the A320 PIC (using the MCDU interface).
Setting up the altitude
> Go to front panel.
Set the flight altitude on the autopilot.
If your have chosen in FS options“Metric (altimeter in feet)” units (Options - Parameters - International then “Metric (altimeter in feet)”), the A320 PIC Autopilot altitude will be in feet. If you change the option to “Metric (altimeter in meters)”, the displayed figures on the A320 PIC Autopilot will not change, but they will mean meters. Usually feet are more convenient, as the ATC will be talking in feet.
Check fuel requirements
> Go to MCDU.
For fuel consumption purposes, a Flight level must be entered on the INIT first page.
• Click on INIT - Then “Next Page”.
In front of “TRIP/TIME” you can read the “number of tons of fuel for the flight”/”the number of minutes” for the flight. The fuel consumption seems to be much greater than the one given by the FS flight organiser, which probably assumes lower consumption rates for the A320.
Click on the “Engine and Warning” display screen to see the Engine and Warning display detached window. We can see the position of the trust levers on this "Engine and Warning" display (option by default in the A320 PIC setup), which is activated by the slider of your joystick. As the trust levers pass to the position CL, FLX, etc, you can hear a clicking sound.
Flaps: shortcuts are F7 for more flaps, F6 for less flaps. Flaps 2 is OK for taking-off.
Push forward the slider of your joystick, until FLX appears on the "Engine and Warning" display detached window.
When enough speed, rotate.
• Push the auto-pilot button, AP1(keep a set heading or follow flight plan) or the shortcut “A”. This freezes both the heading and the vertical speed to the current values. In the setup window, the box “AP disconnection with stick” should be un-ticked, to have the AP quickly in operation.
• Push the A/THR button (Automatic management of engine THRust) or the shortcut “T”.
The autopilot being engaged (AP1 was pushed),
Start flying away from the airport with a set heading. This is the value by default when taking-off, but it also corresponds to the Ctrl+[selected Key] command.
When enough altitude is reached, click Shift+[selected Key]: this gives the control of the heading to the autopilot, which starts following the flight plan specified with the MCDU.
Automatic flight mode
After take-off, you may start all the airbus automatisms so that the plane will automatically follow the speeds and altitudes as indicated on the flight plan (MCDU).
On the top of PFD, the climb, cruise or descent modes (CLB, CRZ, DES) will be displayed. On the ND, little icons will be added on the path, especially little curved arrows indicating the calculated location of the Top of Climb (T/C) and Top of Descent (T/D).
To activate all the airbus automatisms in the sim, there are shortcut keys (normally Shift+[selected Key]).
Please note that the descent mode does not start automatically: when close to (T/D), select a lower altitude on FCU, then run the automatic altitude management (Shift+[selected Key]).
For landing, you normally use the automatic landing (LOC+G/S), as commented hereafter.
Therefore, a smooth flight is obtained using automatic flight modes (dots on the FCU, for speed, heading and vertical speed) until the plane is alined with the landing runway, then activating the automatic landing (LOC and G/S).
You can adjust the speed with “Ctrl [selected Key]” and turning the speed button (+ and -) (to go back to automatically managed speed it is “Shift [selected Key]”).
FS simulation speed
FS simulation speed should not be used, as the plane starts moving erratically after some time.
You can use the FS map to move the plane closer to the arrival airport if wished so. However, you then may need to amend your MCDU flight plan, to be in accordance with the new position of the plane.
Changing Flight Plan
It is easy, in flight, to change the flight plan using the MCDU, for instance:
- to erase a waypoint, click on the CLR button, and then click on the waypoint button.
- to go directly to a waypoint, click on the DIR button, then either click on a waypoint button (if the waypoint is already recorded in the flight plan) or type the name of the waypoint (using the MCDU keys).
- clicking on a given waypoint, you may also define the name of the next waypoint to be considered after this one, using the NEXT WPT button.
> Go to MCDU.
• Click on the button corresponding to the airport (e.g. button to the left of LFPG).
• Select the landing runway (as instructed by ATC).
Now the ILS frequency is known by the plane, and this frequency will be used to guide the plane automatically to the runway.
• Push “Perf” button - Activate APPR PHASE - Confirm *APPR PHASE.
The MCDU now displays the Approach phase parameters.
Flashing violet diamonds appear on the PFD (Primary Flight Display, in Airbus language), when the plane feels the ILS beam, at about 15 NM from the airport (whatever you do).
• Push the LOC button on front panel: "*LOC" is displayed on the PFD.
The plane goes on with the current navigation parameters, either a set heading (you may change the heading manualy while in *LOC configuration), or following the flight plan.
You drive the plane so as to cross the ILS beam. As soon as the plane encounters the ILS beam, it will automatically align with the beam and "LOC" will be displayed on the PFD.
Nota : sometimes the LOC "diamonds" display on PFD disappears.
Going to MCDU and changing the landing runway (ex 14L to 14R, then 14R to 14L)
or, also in the MCDU, entering DIR [Arrival airport code]
makes it reappear.
Push the APPR button: *G/S (Glide Slope) is displayed, meaning that the plane is searching for the glide slope.
As soon as he has found the glide slope, the plane automatically goes down along the glide slope, and "G/S" is displayed.
Flaps and speed
The correct landing speeds are indicated on the MCDU “PERF” page:
Vapp is the final approach speed, which is automatically recalculated for each flag position;
S corresponds to Flap 1;
F corresponds to Flap 2.
Whatever the plane configuration, either Taking-off or Landing, the plane will stall with Flap 1 if speed is less than S, and the plane will stall with Flap 2 if speed is less than F.
S and F also appear on the PFD speed scale, when Flaps 1 and 2 are activated, so that you do not have to look at the speed figures on the MCDU.
If the speed is too high, have the landing gear down, or extend the spoilers (the shortcut to extend the spoilers is R, to retract the spoilers it is E).
I found the Landing perfect with "Flap Full" and speed to Vapp (as calculated by the MCDU with Flap Full).
The Landing is very sensitive to excess of speed: if the speed is a little higher, the plane may crash (at least in the sim). With Vapp + 5 kts the plane crashes at landing, although with Vapp-10 kts the landing is still OK.
In order to stop the plane on the runway, and not to go beyond the end of the runway, apply:
Ground spoiler armed
Autobrakes : medium
The plane lands and normally stop automatically on the runway. Only remove the autopilot (push “A”) when touching the ground, because if “A” remains engaged the plane will start turning as soon as it touches the ground, as if the plane was in the air.
Sometimes, after a long flight, the ILS Loc and Glide slope were not any more visible on the PFD. I updated FSUIPC (the well known standard interface between FS and the add-ons) and the ILS was never lost again. My new version (I use FS2004) is FSUIPC 3.85, as downloaded on "http://www.schiratti.com/dowson.html".
Sometimes during the landing phase, the automatically managed speed become to low, so that the plane stalls. You can hear the warning voice "stall ! stall !". I doubt that this would happen in the real plane, but in the sim you can disconnect the autopilot, lower the nose of the plane a bit while waiting for the warning to stop, then re-engage the autopilot, and everything will be back to normal.
Take Off Go Around (TOGA)
If at any time during the approach phase, you push the throttles to the TOGA position (Take Off Go Around), for instance if this is required by the ATC, the MCDU will immediately display the GO AROUND mode parameters. To be free to pilot the plane manually, you should also disengage both the “Appr” and the “AP” button.
The landing automatic tools will not be available anymore after TOGA (no ILS violet diamonds, no automatic catching of the LOC or G/S, etc). You must therefore imperatively find a way to go out of this GO AROUND mode to be able to land again.
One possibility (in the sim at least) is:
• Push the MCDU menu button - FMGC - enter a flight level (e.g. FL100).
Pushing the PERF button, we can now see that the plane is back in CRZ (Cruise) mode again and we are free to use the flight plan or to go to the Approach mode for a safe landing.