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Easy Runway Alignment   by Steve Sokolowski
In the 1990s, I lived in a place called Waikoloa. A sleepy little
community on the Big Island of Hawaii. On those lazy days
in paradise, flying a Piper Tomahawk with a buddy of mine
was one of those experiences I'll not soon forget. Taking off
from Kailua-Kona Airport in the early morning; with its sunlight
glistening like the sparkle of diamonds upon the crystal aqua-
blue water of the Pacific; I reached my crusing altitude of 2000
feet. With ocean water below; majestic mountains, topped
with a light sprinkle of newly fallen snow; reminincent of
whipped cream covering the top of a childhood ice cream
sundae; to my left. If this wasn't heaven, it was a close
second. With only 5 hours of flying time under my belt, I left
the black sand beaches of the Big Island for the now crowded state of Florida.

Leaving my friend and his Tomahawk behind, I longed for the days of strapping myself in the seat; releasing the parking brake and pushing that throttle to the firewall; waiting for that moment of freedom. Freedom from the bonds of earth called gravity.

I had it. I admit it. I had the flying bug, deep within me. And the only "fix" that would satisfy this strange addiction, was the purchase by Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2002. Nothing can compare to flying with the clouds, but Microsoft has come close.

The biggest problem I have with FS2002, is trying to visualize a three dimensional world, while being confined to the realm of a two dimensional computer monitor. While on "final" to Ocala Reginal Airport (Florida - KOCF) it's hard to visualize your attitude in reference to the airport. To help with a VFR landing, I made use of the available ILS signal from Ocala. At a frequency of 111.5MHz, both horizontal location and altitude above the airport is easily made available at a glance. But it stilled lacked "reality".

While surfing the internet one day, I came across the "HOW TO . . " articles found on the web site. There was one of the many fine articles that caught my attention. It was titled:

                "Stay Aligned With The Runway On Approach" by Bob Allison
Bob came up with a novel; yet simple modification that literatly painted a small blue box on the computer monitor in the approximately location of the runway threshold. But when I tried the "trick", I found out pretty fast that the blue box was moving out of the range of the viewing window when decending 500 feet per minute to an airport. So why not convert the small blue box to a 4 inch long blue vertical line.

Take a look at Figure 1. Just by changing the box into a line, you can easily align your "172" for perfect landings without the use of the ILS. With just the use of the VOR (130.70MHz for Ocala Reginal), compass and the magical blue line, you can easily maneuver your aircraft until the runway threshold is located within the boundries of the blue line (lets call it the
Alignment Bar).
Modifying the Panel.cfg File
To get the Alignment Bar to appear on screen, a small number programming lines must be added to the aircraft you wish to change. To add the Aligmment Bar to the Cessna 172; for example, just locate . . .

      C:Program Files/Microsoft Games/FS2002/aircraft/c172/panel/panel.cfg

using Windows Notepad editor. Just remember; it is a good idea to save the PANEL.CFG program to another file or hard drive BEFORE making any changes. So that if any errors are made, the original .CFG file can be easily re-installed.

With Panel.cfg displayed on your Notepad editor; lets tell the computer that we will be adding another window to the program. Under [Window Titles] - add the following: window05=target (see below). The original program is colored in "
Brown"; while the added material is in "Blue".

// Panel Configuration file
// Cessna 172sp
// Copyright (c) 2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[Window Titles]
Window00=Main Panel
Window01=Radio Stack

window05=target // <== Add this Line


Now we must define the color, position and thickness of the Alignmenr Bar. To do this; just add the following 11 lines to the .CFG file as seen in Blue (below) after [Window04}



window_size= 0.003, 0.407
window_pos= 0.505, 0.07 // Position left, Position Up-Down
// Increase this Number '.505' Line goes RIGHT Lower this number '0.07' - Line goes up

// ------------------------------------------------


gauge00=Bendix_King_Radio!Bendix-King Radio Nav-Comm 1, 0, 0, 205, 77
gauge01=Bendix_King_Radio!Bendix-King Radio Nav-Comm 2, 206, 0, 205, 77
gauge02=Cessna172!Clock, 413, 1, 93, 93
gauge03=Bendix_King_Radio!Bendix-King Radio DME, 0, 86, 198, 51
gauge04=Bendix_King_Radio!Bendix-King Radio . . . . . . . . .


With the added lines complete, SAVE the file to its original hard drive location:

      C:Program Files/Microsoft Games/FS2002/aircraft/c172/panel/panel.cfg

It's now time to RUN Flight Simulator S2002 and take a look at our handiwork.

When loaded, select the Cessna C172SP and hit "Fly Now". With the 172 file running, you will be greeted with the usual Cessna Panel display and scenery window. To activate the Aligmnent Bar; hit the SHIFT-6 buttons. Magically the Blue Line will appear. To remove the Bar; just hit the SHIFT-6 buttons again.
Using the Alignment Bar
Lets say your flying at 2100 feet and you're at 30 degrees to the left of the centerline at the desired airport (Use the ILS if available). Turn on the Alignment Bar (See Figure 2). Notice the ILS indicates that you're over too far to the left and need to compensate. The idea is now to manuver your Cessna so that the Runway "Centerline" is parallel to the Alignment Bar. Figure 3 indicates that you are on the Glide Path and that the Alignment Bar is parallel to the runway's centerline. Figure 4 is from a previous flight, note the Alignment Bar is centered with the Runway. The ILS indicates proper positioning; although a bit low. I've also included the GPS in this photo. See how the GPS shows proper alignment with the Runway.
Figure 5 shows your Cessna about .5 miles from the Runway; the Alignment Bar is still centered with the Runway. Continuing your final decent on this approach will guarantee you a successful landing. Time and Time again.
On Feb 3, 2009, I received an email from one of my Flight Sim buddies, Stan Shear, from Vancouver, BC. He came up with a small modification that allows the Runway Alignment Bar to be used on multiple aircraft, using FSUIPC and a Hot Key. Well, enough with my explanation on how it works, here is Stan in his own works.

Hey Stan, Thanks for the email, the modifications and the OK to reprint your code.
Hi Steve

I've been flight simming for years now, but still have that suspenseful problem of final line-up without the visual cues of real-life landings.  And then I saw your solution on Flightsim, and thought, wow, brilliant.

It's a really great solution, but with the number of panels on modern planes since your publication in 2005,  and trying to find an unused hotkey combination, the only way you can allocate a specific hotkey is to use FSUIPC, but it's still difficult to find a solution that will apply universally to any aircraft, so I was wondering whether you had any ideas?  I found the following:

1. It is one heck of a job to find a hotkey allocation that is not used for a specific aircraft.  Somehow they don't all show up in the control assignments and you get all sorts of windows popping up after allocating with FSUIPC that you can't locate.  Strange but true.

2. I eventually got it to work with my Piper Archer.  You have to specify a specific ident and I used an ident of 24, which was the Window number, and the Control-R key combination, and got no reaction.  I then changed the ident to 124 and it worked, and I just had to move the line up to the top of the screen.

4. I then tried the same settings on my Beech Baron and couldn't get any reaction.  Not a darn thing.  I tried various idents and various keystrokes, but nothing happened.

5. I think its a good idea and would be great if you could get the some hotkey combination for all your aircraft otherwise you would have to remember specific combinations for each aircraft, and that's not on.  Also the postion settings will probably have to be modified for every plane - not a big deal since I only have a few that I concentrate on (Piper Archer, Beechcraft Baron, and DH Beaver- but each of the last-name's million combinations of course has its own panel.cfg).  The two problems are the ident number and finding a vacant hotkey combination.

If there's a simple solution to all this, your idea would really be MOST useful, and I'd certainly like to apply it.  Are you still using it by the way?

Stan Shear (Vancouver)

Hi Steve

Since my email I did some further investigation and succeeded in getting it working.  What you have to do is to allocate in the [Window Titles] section, WindowNN=10001, where NN is the next available window, and 10001 is a number between 10000 and 19999 according to the literature, which says that if you allocate a non standard ident to the window, it should be between these two numbers.

Under [WindowNN] your code is the same except that ident=10001.
I also found that I had to change the vertical position of the line to position it correctly.  The horizontal position was fine.

THEN you have to use Peter Dowson's FSUIPC to allocate a free hotkey combination.  I have used Control-R, which I allocate to the Panel_ID-Toggle event, and this so far works fine for all my aircraft.

That's it.  It's a very useful utility - much better than Ms's little triangle aid, so thanks for that.

Here's the final code, just for convenience.

Add to   [Window Titles]

WindowNN=10001  where NN is the next Window in sequence and 10001 corresponds to the ident number which should be between 10000 and 19999

Then add the code for –WindowNN}

Background color=41,200,253
ident =
10001 //from [Window Titles allocation]
0.01//Position left, Postion Up-Down (this is the only number I changed).
//Increase this Number '0.505' line goes RIGHT, Lower this number '0.01' line goes up.


Then use FSUIPC to allocate  the activation key to the Panel_ID_Toggle event.  I use Control-R


     If you have any comments or questions, Stan can be contacted directly at:

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