How to use the default pushback controls
Note: The instructions should work for the past and present (FSX) editions of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
For years I have been frustrated using the MSFS default pushback controls. I had searched the forums, asked fellow simmers, and searched Microsoft's instructions for the answers so I could effectively and efficiently pushback an aircraft to where I actually wanted it to go. But all I ever saw, heard or read was the typical Shift P then 1 or 2 to turn.
So, I set out to understand the controls and how they "really" work myself. (Surely if Microsoft's developers put them in the program, it was only a matter of figuring out the path of the aircraft during pushback in relationship to when I executed the key commands and when the aircraft started the turn.)
So here it goes...
The pushback begins with Shift+P. Or a button on your controller, (which is my preferred method to initiate the pushback.) Then the 1 key, a turn to the back and left, or 2 key, a turn to the back and right. Of course, from the flightdeck and the keyboard layout, this makes sense, 1 left, 2 right.
So what's new about that you say? Nuttin.
But what I have to tell you in this article IS. And more importantly, I'll explain how to use the controls properly.
There are two factors to keep in mind. First is the distance between the aircraft's nose gear and main gear. Second is when to execute the turn based on the main gear's location and where they (will be) when the turn starts.
Calculate the distance between the nose gear and the main gear and where the main gear "will be" when the turn starts. The aircraft will turn when the nose gear has reached the point on the ground where the main gear WAS, when you pushed a key to turn.
If the distance between the gear of the aircraft you are in is 30 feet, then you'll roll back at least 30 feet before the turn will start.
If you rolled back 10 feet before you press a turn key, you'll roll back at least 40 feet before the turn starts from where you initiated the pushback (Shift+P).
(Also this is when I open a window using the "[" key, switch to the chase view, and use it like a remote camera as I'm in the flight deck going through the check list.)
Think out the path before pushing back as you would in the real world.
Initiate pushback using your preferred method. Shift+P or a button on your controller if you've set one up to do so.
Press the 1 or 2 key to turn. The turn will continue until it reaches a full 90 degrees, but not more then 90. You can stop the turn short of 90 degrees if you press the key you started the turn with. Or the "opposite turn key" (I'll better explain that later). Or if you stop the pushback altogether. (Remember to keep track of the gear's location so you can accurately turn the aircraft.)
Press the key you started the turn with to stop the turn, and to continue backing straight. Or simply allow a full 90 degree turn.
Now the important parts.
The turn keys (1 or 2) should simply be pressed and released like typical momentary switches work (press and release).
If you interrupt the turn using a turn key before the aircraft has turned a full 90 degrees, the turn will reinitiate itself again, after it has rolled back the distance between the gear. This means the start of another full 90 degree turn.
If you allow the full turn of 90 degrees, the aircraft will pushback straight after that turn and not reinitiate another turn.
If you use the 2 key to stop the turning to the left (and it will) the aircraft will turn to the right when you've traveled backwards the distance between the nose gear and the main gear.
Say you start turning to the left with the 1 key and turn 20 degrees or so. But press the 2 key to stop turning left, the next turn will be to the right when you have traveled back the distance between the gear.
If you wish to pushback straight farther than the distance between the gear of the aircraft, without turning a full 90 degrees, stop the pushback and restart it. Then turn again when you need to.
With a little practice you can very effectively back an aircraft all around an airport using the default keyboard commands.
A few other details:
Don't press Shift+P again before pressing the turn keys (1 or 2)
Just press Shift+P once to initiate the pushback, then just 1 or 2 to turn after that.
Press Shift+P again to stop the pushback.
You can pushback straight as far as you want before pressing the directional keys. There seems to be no restriction as far as time or distance.
Some aircraft have contact points that are incorrectly placed. So not all aircraft are going to turn exactly as I have explained. If the contact points for the main gear are aft of the tires you see on the model the turn will be executed back further than it should.
Small aircraft will roll back a much shorter distance then large aircraft will.
There is a good tutorial on adding lights to where the contact points are actually placed by the modeler of the aircraft at the Sim Outhouse.
(Thought I'd drop the name since it was a help to me.)
Sometimes it is needed to turn the aircraft starting from where it sits. For this I use a free add-on, FSCopilot 1.6 at MCDUs' web site.
There is a nice pushback gauge in the package whereby you can pivot the aircraft without rolling back for really tight spots.
Since I have found no web page, forum, or directions in MSFS, or on their (Microsoft's) web pages, anywhere, that reflects this methodology and detailed explanation, I hereby lay claim the prize of figuring out the default pushback control mystery. On this date August 24th 2007. WOOHOO! The controls have been available in the sim all along. I make no claim to have put them in the software. But I do claim the intellectual rights of having figured out how to use them accurately and creating this document.
I hope this will help make the pushback process easier for you. Thanks to all those who've helped me along in the journey of making MSFS a realistic and fun simming experience.
Joe Glasper firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.