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Greetings Mission Planners,

For those of you interested in the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (and who isn't?) the papers from last June's SRTM Conference have been posted at http://edc.usgs.gov/conferences/SRTM/.  You should pay particular attention to the papers discussing the process of creating SRTM DTED from the raw SRTM data, the characteristics of the SRTM data, the accuracy of the SRTM data and the process being used to fill the voids in the SRTM data.  While it would be comforting to believe that "data is data", the reality is that all NGA data has certain characteristics, and the system used to gather and process the data has a big effect on the final product.  Unfortunately unless you're using FalconView 4.0 you'll have no idea what DTED data you're looking at.  In FalconView 4.0 the "Get Info" boxes provide much more detail, including the data production method, and the cell's void percentage:

One other neat feature in 4.0 is the running elevation (displayed in the lower right hand corner) now includes the 90% vertical accuracy value:

Of course if you're using another Mission Planning tool you won't have any of this information available.  Unfortunately I can't show you the accuracy values of any of the legacy DTED cells since they're limited distribution, but you can believe me when I say that you might be a bit concerned if you saw them.

In the last Mission Planning Tip I incorrectly referred to the NGA system that provides unclassified commercial imagery across the Internet at uWARP.  In fact, uWARP was a Harris/Digital Globe effort to make Digital Globe information available to their NGA customers. Kudos to Harris and DG for their effort, as I know for a fact it was used during the Tsunami relief effort to get imagery to the front lines.  However, the uWARP effort has now been suplemented by NGA's "WARP-UNIL" (Web Access and Retrieval Portal - Unclassified National Imagery Library) which includes imagery from a multitude of commercial vendors.  You can sign up for a WARP-UNIL account at https://warp.nga.mil/cgi-bin/nlprime_Registration/RegistrationForm.cgi.  

Mission Planning Tip - CFPS 3.3.1 Excel Print

For a long time it's been obvious that the CFPS print engine has been left in the dust by modern technology.  Sure your PC had a 3GHz processor, but the flight plans you were printing out looked like they'd just rolled off of a Epson 800 dot matrix printer.  Can't we do better.

Fortunately the answer was "yes we can".  Paul Laroux at Tybrin (now running Joint Technology Engineering) developed an Excel Print capability to address AWE requirements and quickly realized that it could be used by the rest of PFPS as well.  Instead of developing a custom print engine the idea was to use Microsoft Excel - a tool resident on all Mission Planning computers, and capable of formatting and printing with far better results at a lower cost than could be obtained by coding.

Excel Print has been available for some time as an "add on" for PFPS 3.2 and 3.3, but you get it "out of the box" when you install PFPS 3.3.1 or PFPS 4.0.  Unfortunately Excel Printing is not used by default, so unless you know it's there and turn it on you won't even know it's there.

Lets say you've planned your route in CFPS and are ready to print it out.  How do you "print" to Excel?  First lets go to Form Setup in the CFPS menu:

As you bring up the Form Setup you'll realize that CFPS is defaulting to that same old "line character" form that you've known and loved (at least initially) since you were using FPlan (that is if you're a Field Grader):

You know you can do better than that.  First remove the Divert70.frm.  That ".frm" tells you that it's an old school form, i.e. one you don't want to use.  Now click on "Add..." to replace the old form with an Excel one.  Unfortunately when you click on "Add" you'll be confronted with a list of the old forms:

To switch to the Excel forms use the "Files of type" dropdown to switch from "Planning Forms (*.frm)" to "Microsoft Excel Files (*.xls, *.xlt)":

Now you'll see the list of Excel Forms.  Believe me, once you see an Excel form printout you'll never want to go back to an old form again:

After selecting the form you want and clicking "Open" you'll return to the Form Setup window, but now the Excel form will be selected for printout:

Now click on "Print" and Excel will launch and the form will start to populate.  First you'll see the "raw" form with the print mnemonics (codes for what data to stick where):

However after you wait a second or two the form will begin to populate with the route information:

Once the file is in Excel you can print it, save it or do anything else you want with it.  However, doing this dance every time would get pretty old pretty quick, so go and change your default form settings in CFPS System Administration (in the "PFPS Administration" program group in the Start menu):

Make sure your aircraft type is correct and go to the form setup in the Aircraft menu:

The form dropdown in System Admin is different from the one in CFPS, but you can view and select the Excel Print forms when you switch from "Planning Forms (*.frm)" to "All Files (*.*)":

Once you select the form you want you're home free:

Now that you've switched your default form to an Excel Print file that's what you'll get every time you start CFPS for that particular aircraft.  That's right - as strange as it may seem the default form is set by aircraft type, so if you swap from one aircraft/engine Flight Performance Model (FPM) to another one you'll need to go and reset your default form - along with a lot of other options.

PFPS 4.0 Feature of the Week - SIDS and STARS!

This weeks feature was funded by the AF's Air Mobility Command (AMC), as part of their planned migration to PFPS 4.0.  Unfortunately AMC currently has no plans to move past PFPS 3.3.1.  Thankfully their earlier decision to fund SIDS and STARS will benefit anyone who gets a copy of PFPS 4.0.  Today I'll just give a brief overview of SIDS, but the STARS are very similar.

First, right click on an airfield record in CFPS that's a Start Taxi and Takeoff (STTO) point.  If the airport has a departure procedure you'll be able to select "Departure Procedure":

Selecting "Departure Procedure" launches the brand new SID Tool:

Once you're in the SID Tool you can select the Departure Procedure, Runway and Transition you plan to fly.  If you click on "Display in FVW" you'll see the departure displayed in FalconView:

Clicking "Insert DP Into Route" will add that departure procedure to your flight plan:

If you return to FalconView you'll find the SID that was displayed as "info" is now part of your route:

Thanks AMC A58!

Paul