Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Adding Altitude Callouts to FSX (pmSounds)

I’ll be posting a major update really soon regarding my desktop simulator (I just need to get some pictures lined up); however, today I just wanted to add a quick post regarding a nice bit of add-on software called pmSounds.

One minor annoyance with FSX is the lack of automatic radar altitude callouts during landing. This is where the cockpit computer calls out 100, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 feet off the ground. Not only does it sound cool, but it helps with flaring at the right moment and you to keep your eyes on the runway without having to glance down at the radar gauge.

On a quick side note, I was once asked what the difference between ‘radar altitude’ and ‘altitude’ is. In short, the normal altimeter is based purely on air pressure and is set relative to sea level. This is why, for example, when sitting on the ground the altimeter isn’t at zero (unless the airport you’re at is at sea level). The air pressure based altitude is very accurate, although as minor pressure changes will cause fluctuations in the readings during takeoff and landing it helps to have an accurate, pressure independent, reading of the aircraft’s actual altitude.

The radar altitude is an electronically measured altitude formed by bouncing a radio signal, from a transmitter on the bottom of the jet, off the ground and then measuring the time it takes for the signal to return. This altitude is the exact height of the jet from the ground surface directly below. The radar altimeter usually only works below about 2,500 feet above the ground and you’ll sometimes notice that, even if you’re flying level, the radar altitude goes up or down. This occurs because, while the jet may be holding a constant air pressure based altitude, a hill or valley will bring the ground closer to or further from the bottom of the jet. The GPS is also capable of measuring altitude relative to sea level (GPS works in all three dimensions, not just two) although for most flight situations only the pressure and radar based altimeters are used.

So anyway, back to the issue of audio altitude callouts… pmSounds (link below) is a nice free bit of software produced by the folks at Project Magenta. This program runs separately from Microsoft Flight Simulator (technically it’s not an add-on program) and is capable of playing a wide range of automated cockpit commands including the approach radar altimeter callouts. pmSounds requires that FSUPIC (link below) is also installed a with your copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator. FSUPIC, designed and produced by Peter Dowson, is a clever little software tool that provides a simple way to export a data stream, containing all the instrument readings from the simulator, to other pieces of software.

By default, all of the sounds in pmSounds are enabled although you can disable any unwanted entries by simply unchecking the box next to the sound. The program also allows you to hear and test each sound separately simply by clicking on it in the list and pressing a test button. A few minutes of experimentation is all that’s required to disable any unwanted sounds and have everything up and running.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a simple solution to add the approach altitude callouts to FSX then be sure to check out pmSounds.

Associated Links


Technical Note
I received a comment from a reader pointing out that the correct technical altitude terms are ‘True Altitude’ for AGL (Above Ground Level) and ‘Indicated Altitude’ for MSL (Mean Sea Level).

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One Comment on “Adding Altitude Callouts to FSX (pmSounds)”

  1. I don’t know I just think that is annoying. I wish I can remove callouts from the airbus aircraft that call us retards, and then there is the other ones like “Too Low Terrain” and “Pull Up”. Gotta love it.

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