Mega Airport Prague is the first airport fully controlled by Airport Controller (Split, Zurich and Berlin-Tegel uses just part of it). The Airport Controller is a technology which should raise the bar a bit. The main purposes of APC are to avoid ground poly flickering, controlling PAPI lights, windsocks, low visibility procedures and visual docking system. The Airport Controller is just technology behind and it was never intended to be controlled manually – hence there is also no manual for it.
The main reason we started to develop the Airport Controller was we wanted to use only pure FSX technology with models and shaders it offers. And it is not possible to combine with widely used old ground poly approach (various hacks, SCASM etc.). This draw in several consequent technologies/approaches and it turns out we need a utility which will drive all that stuff. This was a dawn of the APC. Well, it is a new technology so there are issues some users have to cope with on start, unfortunately. But we already see that our decision to use pure FSX technology was really good. Prague Airport is first scenery using APC in full range and people already reports very good performance for an airport of such size. Even more on better-average machines they say there’s almost no FPS drop.
As we develop the APC, we realized it will allow us to have on airport several feature which could be appreciated by users. The core functionality is conditional and/or unconditional placing of static and “lifted” objects. Implemented conditions right now are ‘low visibility’, ‘time period within the year’, ‘day of week’ and ‘part of day’. Obviously other conditions could be provided too. Those objects could be just any SimObject (MDL file). This for instance allows ground polys to be elevated so you can have better looking terrain. “Lifted” means the objects are lifted from ground when the airplane is higher – this feature was mainly implemented due to avoid flickering of ground polys. Placing ground polys this way also allows increased performance just by character of design of ground polys.
To have an idea how this can be used, here is list of possible features of APC:
Low visibility procedures activation (when visibility is lower then set limits, lights on the airport are on and also rabbit lights start to operate.
placing object depending on time-of-day, part-of-day and day-of-week
Unlimited number of automatically set seasons
Control of custom PAPI lights
Control of custom windsocks
Ambient traffic on aprons and public areas
Visual Docking Guidance System for user aircraft at gates equipped with passenger bridges
At some point oftime there was a discussion whether APC could not be used even further. And this let to massive extending of its possibilities and development of Ground Handling. Even though this feature is not yet (released) part of the Prague Airport I think it is worth to at least provide a list features it will bring:
Animated jetways for user and AI aircraft
Animated ground vehicles for user and AI aircraft – similar to AES/GSX, but not as sophisticated (at least not in first version)
Ambient ground vehicles traffic when low or no AI traffic
Marshaller for for user aircraft at free stands
Static teams – placement of static team to aircraft with ETD higher than set value
Some people complains of having a “resident” tool running on background and consuming their resources (CPU and memory) when they are not on the airport. But this is wrong view. While the airplane is not in area of any of APC supported airports the APC is in “stand-by” mode, just checking in reasonable period it’s position and evaluating whether it should be activated or not. Actually it is like your TV in stand-by. The only function it does is waiting for your remote control command. But you can measure there is almost no consumption.
One point was bit “unfair” from us to give it to APC’s “cradle”: We decided to use EXE instead of DLL approach what makes the APC more visible and hence more denounce-able. But this decision was taken to avoid simulator crashes when something goes wrong. Should we use DLL any issue with it will freeze and kill the simulator too.
Also let us please tell bit more about APC “incompatibility” issues. Most of them are related to GSX. The GSX was here a way before APC appeared and it is really nice stuff. But as FSDT was the only player on market used this technology they do not need to care about some kind of compatibility. So it “kills” all the simobjects appeared around. And as, in pre-APC era, that only meant default (and bit ugly) ground vehicles there was no problem. But when APC appeared we were blamed to be not compatible with GSX. But it is obviously exactly oposite issue. On the other hand – to be fair I have to say Umberto from FSDT has an excellent approach and is very cooperative so we were able to find workaround few days after the release and FSDT will provide some fixes in its next release.
There are also some users reporting APC “is not running” or “crashes”. Well this is mainlyissue of non-standard or even squeezed installations of FSX/P3D on user’s machine even before any APC airport was installed. There are add-ons which do not follow rules by their installation/uninstallation and then our installer is not able provide all necessary steps. But as the APC is core part of the scenery, it looks like the APC is the guilty guy. We’re trying to support those case extensively and we are happy for voices appreciating our support as outstanding.