We wish for the option to read external (PDF) aviation charts from within the VR cockpit environment: a movable and resizeable ‘browser window’ that can show (user-selected) external PDFs/etc. documents located from within a particular subfolder in the MFS directory; such as real-world sectional charts, instrument approach plates, etc. manually grabbed from the web.
Chart reading forms an essential part of flight (training). This is especially true for hardcore simmers flying on online flight (training) networks, such as PilotEdge, who heavily rely on all kinds of flight information depicted on real-world aviation charts. The implementation of an external chart viewer in MFS would be a blessing for the growing number of VR-simmers who dream of using MFS as their primary flight training platform, for mainly two reasons:
First, chart reading is highly relevant for flight (training), for example to look-up communication and navigation radio frequencies (since real-life ATC will often not provide those during talk), to rehearse instrument procedures in preparation of approaches to landing (eg. altitude restrictions, minimums, missed approach procedures), to derive visual (reporting) points for navigation (ie. VFR pilotage), to devise alternative flight routes (eg. emergencies), etc.
Second, in VR, viewing a (real-life) second monitor or tablet during flight for reading a chart is not at all practical, as peaking underneath the VR headset during flight takes valuable time and attention away from flying the airplane. Moreover, it ‘breaks’ the amazing feeling of immersion that MFS VR provides. Therefore, being able to read ‘external chart documents’ from within the VR cockpit environment would make MFS a truly practical (and competitive) flight simulation platform for us hardcore simmers.
More specifically, I suggest various (progressive; from minimal to ideal) technical features of such a possible ‘external chart viewer’ for MFS. These suggested features mostly stem from an existing community-developed (open source) and very popular mod for X-Plane 11, called ‘AviTab’:
- At a bare minimum, we wish for a moveable/resizeable ‘browser window’ in the VR cockpit environment to read our own external (PDF) chart documents within a specific subfolder in the MFS directory.
- To be able to zoom in and out of charts (eg. reading small-sized print)
- To be able to load up geo-referenced charts too (eg. sectionals, plates, downloaded from the web), which would allow MFS to ‘project’ the current aircraft location onto the chart-in-view and center the map on the aircraft position (ie. moving map). This greatly enhances our situational awareness.
- To be able to read (the lastest-opened) chart from different subfolders. During VFR/IFR flight one often switches between reading sectional charts, instrument approach plates, and airport diagrams. It would thus be very practical to be able to quickly switch between these (by use of unique keybindings), such as by being able to switch between the latest-opened charts as viewed in different subfolders.
- To provide the option to ‘connect’ to Navigraph (or preferrably a free source of both VFR/IFR charts, such as Skyvector) as to be able to pull, load and read relevant (geo-referenced) charts from the web on the fly. (and still be able to load our own PDF/txt documents alongside these web-based charts, such as for accessing personal flight notes)
- To be able to note down ATC information on a blank sheet in the browser window, such as departure clearance instructions given by ATC. In addition I would love the option to write-down text with my VR controller rather than by using a virtual typewriter alone (as I find that writing is much much faster than typing in VR, but less precise)
- To be able to project MFS’s NEXRAD weather map coloring information on top of our charts (similar to the in-game GPS moving map displays, and what ForeFlight offers).
- To be able to search and pull up METARs/TAFs of any airport on the fly (mimicing ForeFlight)
- To be able to invert the chart colors from white/bright colors to black/dark ones (ie. dark mode). This is especially comfortable in low-light flying conditions, such as during night flying.
- To integrate the ‘browser window’ into a virtual ‘tablet’ visible in the VR cockpit mounted on the pilot yoke (ie. the tablet moves with the yoke). This further mimics the real-world use of tablets in the cockpit by pilots and thus adds to the feeling of immersion in MFS VR. In addition, the option to re-orientate the tablet in portrait or landscape mode, and/or to mount the tablet on the co-pilot yoke as well (eg. when practicing co-pilot flying). It would also be cool to be able to turn on/off the tablet as part of the preflight and postflight procedures.
At level 10, the requested feature starts to turn into a simmer’s Electronic Flight Bag. In this way, it may well be used to display other kinds of relevant flight information, such as Failures (to easily trigger failures for enacting flight emergency prcedures), Weight & Balance, etc. It could even host/contextualize the in-game MFS toolbar for us to interact with MFS’s ATC, access the checklist, change the weather, etc.
Thank you MFS Team for your continued care for growing MFS along the dreams of the community. We hope the above-described feature request, may it be only the level-1 tier version, makes it into MFS sooner than later, as it enables us hardcore simmers and real-world student pilots to utilize MFS VR to its full potential.