Dangerous Approaches – A Developer’s Perspective

Something I really enjoy while simming in FSX is flying dangerous approaches. Sure, we can fly from A to B and take in some scenery on the way, but nothing gets the adrenaline going like flying a very difficult approach at one of the world’s most notorious airports. Nothing could ever match the sense of satisfaction and achievement when you turn off the runway after greasing that landing!

On a personal level, Dangerous Approaches was my first choice in developing an expansion pack for Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition. I wanted to share that sense of excitement, exhilaration and sheer energy of some of the world’s most unique airports with the flight simulation community, especially those who are experiencing our wonderful hobby for the first time with FSX: Steam Edition.

dangerous-approaches-cockpitThe project started quite simply. I found a selection of the most exciting 20 airports in FSX and proceeded to build a mission pack around them. Things immediately got complicated when I quickly realised that there are a staggering 24,490 airports featured in FSX: Steam Edition! I also wanted to ensure that everyone’s flying preference was well catered for, including airports used by general aviation, airliners, and even the classic DC-3. I visited airports large and small with one unifying theme; each had a reputation for a very difficult approach!

The difficulties contributing to a dangerous approach include terrain, the size of the runway, and localised weather effects. Additionally, I was determined to showcase the best that FSX: Steam Edition has to offer, so I needed airports that were beautifully and dramatically presented.

So how did I go about the task of selecting my favourite 20 to share?

Many months were spent researching the aviation highways and by-ways of the globe, building a list of likely candidates for inclusion in the mission pack. My personal research was supplemented by discussions with scores of professional pilots from around the world and the stories they had to share: dark and stormy landings in to Hong Kong, a landing on a short airstrip on the California coast, braving the Andes, and pushing far North in to the Arctic Circle to name a few. These pilots shared with me hair-raising accounts of their adventures.

In speaking to the pilots and hearing their adventures, it quickly became apparent that I should set myself another personal goal when developing Dangerous Approaches. The product had to be much more than a selection of approaches, I wanted to recreate the actual flights in to these airports flown by a myriad of professional pilots. Be it the stretch from Exeter to Gibraltar, or from Half Moon Bay to Shelter Cove, these are real flights flown by real people, overlooking some of the most stunning scenery in the world.

dangerous-approaches-skyDangerous Approaches is based on real-life flying experiences.

All of the flight plans are accurate and require you to fly to your chosen destination in authentic aircraft. In short, you are sharing and enjoying the flights recounted to me by these adventurous aviators! Real-life pilots really do land Airbuses in Gibraltar, as well as flying the venerable Douglas DC-3 in to Innsbruck. Even the waypoints of each of the flight plans are fully accurate to the flights flown by the career crews. I also enlisted the aid of the wonderful Angel Heaven Lee and her voice talents to add further realism to the whole experience. These flights, each culminating in an approach to the world’s most dangerous airports are as real as they get.

I spent many weeks flying these Dangerous Approaches and had the time of my life. I will be returning to each of them for a long time to come, because true proficiency only comes from practice. They are also highly addictive, with that addiction being infectious. I won’t name any names here as I will protect the guilty, but suffice to say many in the Dovetail office have been gathering around monitors for “one more go” at landing these missions. That is exactly what I wanted and hope everyone has this much fun with this package. Dangerous Approaches is a series of ongoing challenges that consistently improves flying skills whilst having enormous fun!

I also spent a great deal of time producing a manual with hints and tips shared from the professionals who fly these approaches day in and day out, suitable for both beginner and experienced simmers alike.

dangerous-approaches-fieldsEvery successful mission landing will garner you a permanent award in your FSX logbook. If you earn all 20 medals, you will have definitely earned a reputation as a skilled pilot. Yet, flying the missions is only half the experience. Every landing in Dangerous Approaches has a story to tell, and I encourage you to share your stories of these remarkable flights within the community. Your experiences, screenshots and videos are always welcome. For there is only one thing better than wheels touching tarmac and nailing that tough landing which is surviving to tell the tale!

I hope that you will join with me in starting your engines and flying the missions in Dangerous Approaches. See you in the crewroom!

Dangerous Approaches will be available exclusively for FSX: Steam Edition and will be released by Dovetail Games in mid-February.

Jane Whittaker

Jane Whittaker is a leading aviation and transport journalist. Along with being the Assistant Editor of PC Pilot Magazine she is a regular contributor to a wide range of magazines, including Airliner World, in addition to writing pilot tutorials and training guides for aircraft, including the Boeing and Airbus fleets. She also regularly contributes to Sky News and the BBC as a technical advisor on aviation matters.