Pablo's Mission Planning Website

Home Links Tips Downloads MPSSF Tips

Greetings Mission Planners,

While the Mission Planners Users Conference (MPUC) remains "sold out", folks from the waiting list are being accommodated as those who can't attend cancel.  If you won't be going to MPUC please cancel your reservation ASAP.

An important point about Las Vegas - it gets cold at night!  The climotology shows that the high during the day gets to the mid sixties while the temperature drops to freezing at night.  The current forecast shows a high of 57 on Monday with a low of 29.  Bring a jacket.

An unoffical event scheduled for MPUC is the first annual Mission Planning Furloughed Airline Pilot Association (MP-FAPA).  We'll be gathering at the Monte Carlo Brew Pub (the review says "we like this place a lot") on Tuesday evening after the conclusion of the first day's general session.  A great chance to combine your love of drinking, complaining, rumor-mongering and talking shop.  Navigators are encouraged to come, point and laugh.

One of the new things on display at MPUC will be the integration of FalconView with the full range of Evans and Sutherland's high end 3D visualization tools in "FalconView-EP".  It brings together the ubiquity of FalconView with the power of E&S's Environment Processor / Environment Creation Tool (EP/ECT).  You'll be able to share data all the way from the single planner on a laptop all the way up to multiple crews using the same data for Mission Rehearsal in full motion aircraft simulators.  You can click on the image below for the real "full size" view.

Mission Planning Tip: Handheld GPS AWE, Part III (Part I, Part II)

So how do you put all the stuff in the Handheld GPS AWE together to accomplish a mission?  Fortunately I've got an unclassified example from my last vacation.  My parents (to put it politely) have become infatuated with the  Lewis and Clark expedition and are traveling along their trail - that is when they're not busy having Lewis and Clark meetings.  One of the most scenic parts remaining from their path is the section along the Lolo Trail.  It wasn't so scenic for Lewis and Clark as they tried to get through the snow filled pass in September of 1805.  They were half dead by the time they got to the other side.  Fortunately on our journey west we'd have the aid of a "Ford Ranger" as opposed to a pack of  horses. They compounded their misery in the pass in the Spring of 1806 as they attempted to cross early in the spring and were thrown back by the bad weather.

For our journey along the trail my biggest concern was staying on the "right" path.  In my experience mountain dirt roads have mysterious or nonexistent signage and all look pretty much alike.  We had a map and advice from the Ranger Station, but that wasn't enough for me.  Using FalconView, CFPS and the USGS Digital Raster Graphics I downloaded from the University of Idaho I created routes to follow the Lolo trail, keeping in mind the 50 point per route limit my Garmin GPS had.  I ended up with two primary routes and a "divert" route in case we decided to take an alternate route.  

The Waypoint database was populated with the turnpoints from the routes I'd planned, but I wanted "reference" waypoints that corresponded to the named features on the Forest Service Map.  I used the Waypoint Tab's "Get Point from FalconView" tool to load points by clicking on the points in FalconView.  Once I had the points in the AWE I renamed them and (in some cases) switched the Garmin's display format to show the Waypoint name.  I could have given unique Garmin supported icons to the points (Ultralight Area, Trailhead, Tollbooth etc.) but didn't have the motivation to do so.

After selecting the points I clicked "Display Points" to show the waypoints that would be loaded to the GPS - including turnpoints and waypoint's I'd selected.  Most of the points were about a mile apart.

Loading the GPS took a minute or two (a serial port isn't the fastest at transferring data) and I was ready for the next day.

The next day after getting to the hotel room I downloaded the Trackpoints from the GPS:

Clicking on the "Make FV Track File" put the data in a format that FalconView could display:

Although this "mission" consisted of an extremely scenic drive in Idaho it isn't that dissimilar from what we do in the Armed Forces, i.e. conducting a mission in unfamiliar territory with fragmentary information.  A traditional map shows you a path on the ground, but where are you on the line?  A GPS shows you a Lat/Long, but where does that plot out to on the map?  Loading information into the GPS provides the relative position information (0.6NM to TP13A, 0.2NM Left of centerline) that works with our brains.  After completing the mission you've got hard data on exactly where and when you were at each point along your route (TSPI - Time Space Positioning Information).  You can't do this with FalconView and a standard laptop - bright sunlight keeps you from seeing the screen and limited battery life means you've only got a few hours of positioning information.

If you'd like to learn more about the Handheld GPS AWE there'll be a class on Wednesday in Red Rock 3 from 1400-1445 and on Thursday from 1000-1045 in Laughlin 1. 

Back to Lewis and Clark, if you'd like to learn more I recommend reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  Both the 19th (Lewis and Clark) and the 20th Centuries (Wright Brothers) saw major events in their first decade that in many ways defined the course of the Nation for the next 100 years.  The Lewis and Clark expedition along with the Louisiana Purchase expanded America from a handful of States along the Atlantic coast into a huge nation that entered the 20th Century as a major world power with the defeat of a European Empire under its belt.  The Wright Brothers and first flight set the course of the 20th Century as a technological explosion bound together a nation and then the world in an interconnected web of travel and 'trons.  It may take a few decades to determine the theme for this hundred years.

See you in Vegas!

Paul