The Virtual Tower View
With the release of version 1.1, VRC now includes a Virtual Tower View. The tower view allows you to connect Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) to VRC in order to see all aircraft in the airport area within the simulator. When you activate the tower view, VRC creates a multiplayer session and adds aircraft to it. All aircraft within 15 NM of your primary visibility center are added to the session. You can then connect FS9 to the session in order to see the aircraft. FS9 can be running either on the same computer as VRC, or on a different computer on the network.
To activate the tower view, choose "Start MP Session" from the File menu. You will see a message indicating that VRC is creating the multiplayer session. After a short pause, you will see a Success message. All VRC program activity is suspended during these few seconds, so it's a good idea to start the MP session before actually connecting to VATSIM and working with traffic. Once you see the success message, you should be able to connect FS9 to the MP session.
As stated above, VRC only adds aircraft to the multiplayer session if they are within 15 NM of your primary visibility center, so the first thing you should do after starting the MP session is to fix your visibility center at your airport. For example, if I'm working the Boston tower, the first thing I'll do is issue the .vis KBOS command. Then I'm free to pan my scope around without worrying about aircraft dropping out of the multiplayer session.
This is especially important for CTR or APP controllers who are also providing tower services at one field in their sector. For example, if I'm on BOS_CTR, I might have a 400 NM range, and my scope may not be centered anywhere near KBOS, so if I want to use the tower view at KBOS, I must set my primary visibility center at KBOS.
Note that VRC just creates the multiplayer session and fills it with the aircraft that you see on your scope. It's up to you to configure FS9 with an appropriate viewpoint of the airport. A good way to do this is to modify the aircraft.cfg file for an aircraft that you never fly, such as the default C182 or C172. Within that file you'll find a setting called eyepoint. Set the last value on that line to an appropriate height for your tower. For example:
eyepoint= -3.95, -0.85, 370.0
This would set the pilot viewpoint to 370 feet above the ground.
There are two other sections of the aircraft.cfg file that you'll need to modify, in order to get your viewpoint to remain "flat" as you pan around. The first is the static_pitch value. It needs to be set to zero, like so:
The other area you need to modify is the first line of the [contact_points] section. For the C182, it should be changed like so:
point.0 = 1, 0.48, 0.00, -3.33, 1500, 0, 0.5, 22.0, 0.3, 2.5, 0.7, 0.0, 0.0, 0
This is basically telling FS9 that the aircraft sits perfectly level on its tricycle gear, instead of resting with a slightly nose-high attitude. The reason this is important is because if you left the default values, the horizon would tilt slightly when you pan your view around in the virtual cockpit.
Now you can load up this aircraft, move to the airport where you will be controlling, and slew the aircraft into position at the tower. You may need to turn off collision detection in order to avoid having FS9 detect a building crash when you come out of slew mode.
Once you connect FS9 to the multiplayer session created by VRC, you should see the aircraft within FS9 when you are in the virtual cockpit view. You can use any normal means available for moving your viewpoint around. Active Camera provides a nice way to use the mouse to pan and zoom your view.
Note that in order for the tower view to work properly, you must have installed the model data when installing VRC. This option is enabled by default when you run the installer. You must also have the modelsets installed. You will already have the modelsets installed if you have Squawkbox 3 installed. If not, there is a separate installer available on the VRC downloads page.
The multiplayer session will remain active as long as VRC is running, even if you switch profiles. If you close VRC and restart it, you will also need to restart the multiplayer session.
See the screenshots page for some examples of what the Virtual Tower View looks like in action.
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