As a vPilot who wants to fly using real world data finding charts has always been a challenge. Dauntless’s SimPlates Ultra offers a solution with a program that has tens of thousands of plates available for the armchair vPilot.
SimPlates Ultra is a stand alone program that provides you with SID’s, STAR’s, and plates using a simple interface. The system also provides airport and NAVAID data. The documents are printable and in colour for some areas (yippee!).
The installation is a typical executable file with a registration number. You will need an internet connection to register the program for use and to download the plates you select.
I like the search they’ve included in the system. You can search by airport name, city or location, IATA, and ICAO code. That makes it very easy to find an airport without knowing the ICAO code. You can also search by country.
Once you have your airport on the list you may find that there’s allot of charts available. You can filter the available charts by clicking on a checkbox on the left side where you can select to see ILS, Helicopter, RNAV, etc., charts only.
The charts open up in Adobe Acrobat with one icon missing that I really like. That’s the icon to zoom out to see the current page full. To do that you have to repeatedly click the “-“ icon to zoom out. The charts are printable and some charts are in colour, too. If you’ve watched some of those flight in the cockpit videos and were jealous of the nice colour plates the real pilots use, be jealous no more.
The charts are clear and easy to read. Some charts online I’ve seen are done in bmp or jpg format and are photocopies of bad printouts. I haven’t come across a bad one yet in SimPlates Ultra.
If you just need the basic airport data here’s what it looks like for Davao, Philippines. Note you won’t see ILS frequency’s here. Just enough information to determine it’s location and whether your aircraft can be handled here.
There is one issue with the search engine, however. When I searched for one of my favourite airports in Cebu, Philippines, locally known as Lapu-Lapu, I didn’t get anything by typing in “Cebu”. However, typing in “Mactan”, the other name for the airport, I got “Mactan-Cebu” in the list. I tried the same with Lester B Pearson in Toronto. “Lester” brought up the airport, but “Pearson” did not. It appears the search starts at the left of the airport name rather than text contained within. This is disappointing.
They also have a Navaid database which at first may seem a waste but you will use it. If you use an automated flight routing system no doubt you’ve seen NAVAID’s in the plan and wanted to know the frequency to manually tune the radio. Open up SimPlates X and you’ll have access those frequency’s.
Also included is an update feature within the program which would be nice if I could get it working. Every time I update it ends in an “Unhandled Exception” error in Windows 7.
A couple of things to note. First, the charts are not current. They tell you that up front and I’m repeating it. Obviously, don’t refer to these charts as a cheap alternative to buying charts if you are a real pilot. If you’re using stock scenery it won’t matter because it’s old anyhow. If you add some updates to airports then these plates may not work for you.
Finally, how much will you use it? If you fly in the USA only then you won’t use this at all. That’s because the USA gov’t has placed all charts online and are updated every month. Other countries are coming online too, but it’ll be years, if at all, for most countries. If you fly in the rest of the world you will find this to be a very handy app.
Now we come down to the price. It’s 36 Euros or $48 USA/Canada. When I spend more than $30 for an add-on I find myself having to justify it to my other half. It is a big price to pay and you will have decide if it’s worth the cost. Certainly if you fly outside the USA it’s a plus. It will save allot of endless searching on the net.
Simmarket Link: Simplates Ultra
Price: 36 Euros or $48 USA/Canada
Size: Initial size is less than 100mb but it will grow as you download plates.
Developer: Dauntless Software