CREATING 'RANDOM-LIKE' EXERCISES
FOR THE ATC2K SIMULATOR
By Ioannis Mansolas
What is a random exercise ?
ATC traffic randomness is supposed to rely on various company callsigns activated at random times , levels and tracks . This simplistic idea however of mixing various company names with various aircraft types and allocating random routes between points of the video map creates a rather crazy exercises beyond the scope of the designer or even the SIM-fan . It falls quite rapidly under the attention of everybody that some types are not used by certain companies and they do not follow totally random routes while their profiles in a sector are usually standard .
This is why a 'serious' approach towards random exercises is to create known callsigns on known routes with known types that fit to these companies and accepting to randomize within specified limits their profiles and their entry times only . A random exercise of this type will suit well the needs of the SIM-fan and the professional designers of "Global" or "Refresh" types of exercises . It will never ,though, suit the professional needs for "Analytic" Exercises aiming at teaching individual basic skills where randomness is a lost battle from the very beginning ! Please , do not KILL your students skills with totally random exercises !
on the other hand may be proved very efficient in that you may easily and quickly sort out flight plans which later you may edit and modify accordingly to suit your specific objectives . The speed of exercise creation is thus becoming the only solution when , as the standard practice suggests , ' the boss' needs a training to be ready by tomorrow (!) - preferably yesterday - ignoring the tedious and very sophisticated work demanded to create objective exercises . This software is a further development of other similar ones existing in the past , designed however for the same reason ... the need to expedite exercise creation. This particular need was the reason for the creation of such a program and that brings my mind back to 1991 when I developed such a QBasic routine for similar reasons. Some years later Vic was happy to adopt it for its ATC2k version.
Use Vic Day's ATC2ktrf.exe - 'Easy random exercises creator'
So ... Victor B. Day's ATC2k.EXE is now enhanced with an executable file called ATC2ktrf.exe and a help file called Traffic Help.doc . The ATC2ktrf.exe runs independently from ATC2k.exe - it is not integrated in the same file but their products are fully compatible .
The basic idea is that we use an existing exercise file so that ATC2ktrf.exe copies all its 'geography' data as the basis on which 'randomness' will be added according to flight data found on a data base file . The product will be flights under the [FLIGHTS] header where randomized data have been created . Then getting all the geography data from the initial file and adding on the bottom these flights we will have a new complete exercise file.
The steps to follow are the following :
Why ? Because all the data found in the exercise ASD file are to be used as they are , except from the [FLIGHTS] part . That is to say that the program will use the geography , aircraft types and routes already existing on this ASD file . Once you do this the following dialogue appears whose most interesting part at this moment is the BROWSE option by which you select and load an existing ASD file , in the case shown this is one of mine called : D:\Yiannis\ATC2kp\ELLX06.asd which will appear finally on the browser's window .
Then you select the CREATE/MODIFY FLIGHTS menu.
There on the windows displayed you input or you check the data for every flight necessary that will constitute your data base . The one displayed above is the result of an existing data base that contains 34 flights in all and the one selected is the 4th one . That explains the indication : Flight No 1 of 67
Let us analyze the data for this flight : The Flight Identity (callsign) AEA353 , the A/DES and A/DEP are obvious (LEPA,ELLX)
On the Route part : The program having detected from the previously loaded ASD file the existing Routes, is now simply offering a choice between them . All you need to do is select one to assign from the drop-down menu appearing . here the MMD-LUX was selected . Automatically you watch its description appearing below as PETAG : WLUX/S : WH2 : WH3 : 06 : ELLX
The a/c Type (aircraft type) follows exactly the same logic with route . Just select one of the existing ones offered
Note : All the above are non-randomized data , the program will use them exactly as you define them
What is never defined , though , is the activation time for a flight . This is totally randomized by the program
The next part refers to the profile described by a range of Flight levels that can be allocated to the :
RFL : Requested Flight level - can be considered also as XFL ( Exit FL co-ordinated )
CFL : Cleared Flight level
AFL: Activation FL - the FL a flight starts for the first time upon activation
Use always an ascending order !
In the above case I have selected :
This part above is semi-randomized, that is flights will enter randomly between, however , the range of levels you specified
It is obvious , though , that you decide how much randomness can be included - or may be non at all
But do not let all this work go wasted ! Use now the Save All Flights menu to save this Data Base . A file will be created now called , in my case D:\Yiannis\ATC2kp\ELLX06.fpd that will record all these data and will use them again whenever you want to create an exercise out of this Data bank . The name equals the original file name ELLX06 but with a different extension , the fpd , for Flight Plan Data . Needless to say that you may create Data banks for any number of areas for whom there are valid ASD files . This program is not slaved to one area or one type of exercises only !
There you need to select the Exercise Duration in minutes , default is 40 , and then how many of those aircraft to be activated in that period , the Number of Flights , default is the closest multiple of 10 of the entire number in the data base , here it is 30 when maximum in data base is 34 .
Then you only need to press the button Generate Exercise and within some fraction of a second you may watch at the bottom written in red the :
File [D:\Yiannis\ATC2kp\ELLX06_temp.ASD generated
This tell us that the product has always the same title with the extension _temp added to the main title of your previous exercise ASD file . You may now choose Quit to go out of the ATC2ktrf.exe and start the ATC2k.EXE to see it running .
Keep notes of all the modifications you need to do , flights to change or delete and when you are sure go and Edit this file , include the changes and then SAVE AS under the final name of the exercise you want to keep . The above process may be repeated as many times as you want leading to a number of exercises created always from the same data base
Special note for the RVSM traffic :
This program was created before RVSM was implemented and due to much occupation of the 'creator(s)' , a special field for RVSM equipped , non-equipped was never introduced. However , by adding a space and then a capital 'W' after a callsign is enough to create an RVSM equipped flight for the ATC2k. That actually solves the problem and this W will appear in the callsign to indicate RVSM equipped or not , if W is missing . The only remark here is the flight plan syntax for ATC2k. The non randomized data are put always within brackets : here is an example of some flights within a data base file *.fpd :
<ACA110 W> <B762> CYMX LSZH <B1E> 290 310 310 330 390 410
<AEE120 W> <B734> EGLL LGAV <B1E> 290 310 310 330 330 350
<DLH1162 W> <B744> CYMX EDDF <B1E> 390 390 390 390 230 230
Whatever is surrounded by brackets is considered as a 'whole' word not stopped by a space. This is why the W appears as part of the callsign , although this will not have any negative effect at all. In a normal exercise file a callsign would appear without the brackets and the W never becomes part of the callsign. At the end RVSM is still possible and this remark is made just as a 'good-to-know' and avoid any misunderstandings. If you so insist you may use MS Word to replace all < or > symbols by a space on the exercise file and clear them out.
Another small remark is that you may simply edit a data base file (*.fpd) with a common text editor , use copy-paste and create more and more flights with the format above. Be aware though , not to leave any blanks between them and expect the ATC2ktrf.exe to put them in alphabetic order , as it does always by default
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