Sunday, December 26, 2010

feelThere Announces ATC Suite

feelThere! is branching out further from add-on aircraft to other aspects of the flight simulator experience. They recently announced Tower 2011, the latest update to their air traffic control tower simulation. But it doesn't stop there - Tower 2011 is the first component of an entirely new ATC Suite that feelThere is developing. Future updates include Tracon and ARTCC modules.

They have set up a new web site devoted to their new ATC Suite. Looks like they are posting some interesting previews there. Check it out!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Captain Sim Feeling the Christmas Love After All

Captain Sim just announced in a Facebook post that they will continue the annual holiday tradition of the €9.99 one day only sale again this year, after all. They say all but two titles will be offered for €9.99 between 15:00 UTC on December 23 and 14:59 UTC on December 24. (Compute the appropriate range for your timezone accordingly, e.g. CST in the U.S. is UTC-6.)

No word yet on which two titles are exempt, but I have to guess their two newest titles: the 707 Captain and B-52 Driver. They haven't announced this on their website yet, so we will have to wait and see if my hunch is correct.

Still, a good deal if you haven't picked up one of their older titles, such as the 727 or 767.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Captain Sim B-52 Driver Released

Captain Sim has released their B-52 Driver, complete with a 3D VC interior!

Price is €24.99, which is about US $33. Seems very reasonable.

Time to get your Big Ugly Fat F***er on, if you've been waiting for this one! Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PMDG 737 NGX Manuals Coming Soon

Robert Randazzo of PMDG recently made an announcement regarding the availability of flight manuals for the 737 NGX in the very near future. Apparently, these are based on the real manuals for the 737 NG, available from Boeing! They will be a whopping 3,300 pages, and I'm sure it will probably cost a pretty penny to order them all. I'm thinking if I bought the paper and toner to print them out on my laser printer at home, I would probably be looking at close to US $100.

Still, the very fact that they are announcing the manuals is a very good sign that we are on the homestretch. Not clear that we will see the NGX before Christmas, but I think we have a good shot at flying her early in the new year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PMDG Gives Another Preview of the NGX

Robert Randazzo at PMDG has given the world another glimpse of the upcoming 737 NGX. This one focuses on the Heads-Up Guidance System, or HUGS. Looks very impressive. You can really see this plane beginning to come together.

Can't wait...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mini-Review: SimCheck/Aerosoft Airbus A300

How about a little surprise? After tooling around in a Boeing 707 last month, we are going to continue the classic jetliner theme again with a look at SimCheck Software's Airbus A300.

Now before we begin, how about some background knowledge about Airbus and the A300?

In the 1960s, both the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 ushered in jet travel to the masses in the U.S. However, they represented a one-size-fits-all solution to air travel: they were too large to serve some markets, and too small to serve others. Aircraft manufacturers initially responded by developing somewhat smaller, more efficient aircraft for smaller markets: namely, the Boeing 727 and 737, and Douglas DC-9. At the other extreme, aircraft manufacturers designed wide-body jets to carry more passengers on high-demand routes: the Boeing 747, the Douglas DC-10, and even the Lockheed L-1011.

In Europe, a lot of similar designs for narrow-body aircraft emerged in the late 1950s and 1960s as well: the Hawker-Siddeley HS-121 Trident had some similarities with the Boeing 727, and both the Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle (French) and BAC 1-11 (British) had some similarities with the Douglas DC-9. Europe had narrow-body aircraft designs down pat, but lacked anything to compete with the wide-body aircraft the Americans were producing.

Several European governments recognized this deficiency, and decided that it would be beneficial to work together and pool their resources to more effectively compete in global aviation. Thus, the Airbus consortium was born in 1967 as the Groupement d'Interet Economique, or Economic Interest Group through a government initiative between the governments of France, (then) West Germany, and the U.K. Over time, the Airbus consortium would grow to include Aerospatiale, Deutsche Airbus, CASA, and British Aerospace.

With the framework of cooperation established, the Airbus companies set about producing their first aircraft, a twin-engine wide-body model. The use of only two engines was among the first of many groundbreaking decisions made with the design of what was to become the Airbus A300 series. ETOPS regulations had yet to be developed by the FAA, and twin-jets were banned from many routes in the U.S. at the time.

The A300 took its maiden flight in 1972, and entered routine service in 1974. Sales languished through the mid-1970s until Frank Borman, then-CEO of Eastern Airlines, became impressed with the A300 in 1977, due to being 30% more fuel-efficient than the Lockheed L-1011. Eastern went on to order 23 of the type, and it began to take off. Pan Am ordered some more, and Airbus went on to sell nearly 900 A300's during its entire production run, which ultimately ended in 2007.

In the U.S., the A300 continued to see regular service in the passenger fleet until 2009 with American Airlines, primarily on routes to the Caribbean out of Miami and New York's JFK Airport. Sadly, one of these planes was lost in the infamous American Airlines Flight 587 crash in New York in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 disaster. Even to this day, the A300 continues to see regular use primarily as a domestic freighter with both FedEx and UPS. Elsewhere, the A300 still features prominently in a number of foreign airlines' passenger fleets.

The initial variant of the A300 was A300B1, featuring GE CF6 engines. This was soon followed by the A300B2, which used either GE CF6 or Pratt & Whitnet JT9D engines, which were also used on the Boeing 747-100. Soon, more design improvements and a center fuel tank for increased capacity yielded the A300B4 series, with the A300B4-100 and A300B4-200. Further refinements and a glass cockpit (which eliminated the need for a flight engineer) were realized in the A300B4-600, or A300-600 for short. This was the penultimate version of the A300. A shrink of the airframe also resulted in the A310, which also utilized the glass cockpit.

The A300 pioneered several features that are now essentially standard on many aircraft, including:
  • Wind shear protection
  • First ETOPS certification in 1977
  • Autoland
  • Electrically-controlled braking
  • Automating the flight engineer's functions in later versions; thereby eliminating the flight engineer
The SimCheck A300 represents the A300B4-200 variant, dating to about 1980. It does include some niceties such as an INS and an autothrottle, but no glass cockpit or FMS. It represents one of the last of the great analog cockpits utilizing steam-powered gauges, before the 1980s ushered in the era of glass displays. Here is the SimCheck A300 in DHL Cargo freighter livery at LA/Ontario International Airport (KONT) in Ontario, CA:

The SimCheck A300 consists of a sizable number of 2D panels to represent the functions involving the pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer.

Here is the pilot's panel:

And the co-pilot's panel:

Here is the electrics panel:

Here is the panel governing the hydraulics:

And the fuel panel:

And the pneumatics panel:

If you are intimidated by all these panels, don't worry. Fortunately, you don't need to mess with these panels much unless you want to simulate a full startup of the airplane. Otherwise, when the airplane loads, these panels will be configured in an appropriate configuration for engines already running.

Here is the overhead panel; pretty standard, by and large:

Here are the throttles, flaps, and other controls at the center pedestal:

And here is the radio stack:

Here are the Carousel INS navigational units, in lieu of a FMS:

Interestingly, unlike some of the CIVA INS implementations I've seen elsewhere, these do not require you to align the units in advance. I'm not sure if this is a feature of the A300 (doubtful), or if SimCheck simply chose not to implement this action as a simplification of the aircraft. I'm guessing the latter is more likely.

Last, but not least, here are a couple of views of the 3D virtual cockpit:

For good measure, here is a view of the configuration utility. This does not actually directly connect to the sim and configure the plane for you; it is merely a tool that you can use to do load and fuel planning in the aircraft using the standard FSX mechanisms:

So what do I think of the SimCheck A300? Overall, I really like it. It is fairly easy to learn, and fun to fly. You don't have to understand the ins and outs of the entire flight engineer's panel to get up and running, but it's there when you want to play around with it. The software itself is fairly solid - I did not have any noticeable problems with program crashes or the like.

Complexity is somewhat similar to a Wilco/feelThere product: there is enough there to feel like you are in the real thing, although some of the finer details (such as INS alignment) are omitted. Purists who like detailed, PMDG-style simulations may not like this as much.

I do hope SimCheck (or someone) will implement the A300-600/A310 glass cockpit as an option, along with possibly a FMS, in a future update to the A300. An A310 shrunk model would be cool, too.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about the A300 is that the panels do not look terribly realistic. Maybe I'm spoiled by too much time in Captain Sim's products lately - I will readily own up to that! Nonetheless, the rendering of the cockpit in the SimCheck A300 appears less than state-of-the-art. Perhaps this is not necessarily a bad thing; it may be somewhat more framerate-friendly this way. It's certainly not any worse than the Level-D 767, which continually gets high praise from the simmer community.

Bottom line: a solid product that is fun to fly. Definitely a worthwhile choice, particularly for simulating cargo flights. At around US $45, the price is right, too!

Rating: ****

Friday, November 12, 2010

Captain Sim 707 on Sale

Captain Sim has slashed the price on the 707 Captain, to only €39.99, or about US $55. I think this is a terrific deal for such a high-quality plane. Since Captain Sim is not planning on running their annual 1-day only €9.99 sale this year, this might be as good a time as any to jump on it if you are considering it.

If you are still on the fence, Captain Sim has released a free demo of the 707 Captain for trial purposes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Captain Sim Announces Their Next Project

Captain Sim recently gave their customers a chance to have a say in their next project.

Well, the people have spoken, and Captain Sim has listened: the next project will be the 737 Captain series. They are going to take on the Baby Boeing initially: the base model will be the 737-100, and the expansion model will be the 737-200.

No word yet on how far they are planning to run with the 737, but the "737 Classic" series (-300/-400/-500) from Wilco is getting a little long in the tooth, and might benefit from the Captain Sim treatment as well. However, I just can't see them taking on the 737 NG, with PMDG moving full steam ahead on theirs.

Nonetheless, the Baby Boeing is a very solid choice for Captain Sim, as it will fit right in with their Boeing 707 and 727 models. I voted in favor of it myself, along with a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar and Douglas DC-8. I really do wish someone would take on the TriStar for FSX - there are some very interesting features about that plane, such as the Direct Lift Control system. But that's a discussion for another day. :-)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Goodies Coming from Captain Sim, No Holiday Sale This Year

Hot on the heels of the 707, Captain Sim appears to be readying two more "major" releases for before the end of this year, according to this post from Tanya (Captain Sim moderator) in their forums.

One product is known to be the full version of B-52 BUFF. The other? A surprise...

Unfortunately, because of the timing on all this, Tanya has confirmed that the really awesome annual holiday blowout sale (where all products sell for €9.99 for one day only) will not take place this year. So, start saving your pennies...

I'm very curious to see what the new mystery product from Captain Sim will be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mini-Review: Captain Sim's 707 Captain

First, a little history:

Most aviation enthusiasts are well-aware that the Boeing 707 was not the first passenger jetliner to enter service. This distinction belongs to the de Havilland Comet, which first flew in 1949 - just a few years after the end of WWII. Unfortunately, the Comet suffered from several initial design flaws involving metal fatigue. These flaws led to numerous accidents, including a pair of spectacular plane crashes in 1954 in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. As a result of these incidents, all Comets were withdrawn from service by the mid-1950s, so that they could be redesigned.

de Havilland's misfortunes during this time created a huge opportunity for its compeitors, including U.S.-based Boeing. In spite of the flaws, people were still clamoring for fast air travel that only jet engines could provide. Thus, during the early-to-mid 1950s, Boeing was busy cooking up the world's first widely-successful jetliner. This project began with a prototype known as the Boeing 367-80. Ultimately, from the 367-80 prototype, Boeing developed both the KC-135 Stratotanker for the military, and the 707 for the general public. The 707, in turn, was the basis for a few other interesting military projects, including the E-3 Sentry AWACS, and the first Air Force One jet, used as VIP transportation for the President of the United States to anywhere in the world.

The Boeing 707 took its first test flight in 1957, and entered service a year later. Boeing continued to produce the 707 until 1978, even as it developed the newer and more advanced 727, 737, and 747 models. In fact, the 707 heavily influenced later Boeing narrow-body aircraft; particularly the 727 and 737. There are still parts of the newest 737 NGs that are unchanged from the original 707!

The 707 went on to become a smash hit globally with the leading airlines of the day, including American, Pan Am, Braniff, TWA, BOAC, Qantas, andmany others. The Boeing 707 was perceived by the public as a safe, modern, and efficient way of traveling - particularly overseas - and passengers embraced flying in 707s like never before. With a range of over 5,000 nm on the 707-320B, the age of intercontinental jet service had arrived. As Captain Sim touts on the ad banner for the 707 Captain: "Europe is only 7 magic hours from New York!" The 707 ushered in the jet age for the masses; while the de Havilland Comet was relegated to becoming a mere historical footnote.

To this day, very few airworthy examples of the 707 remain; almost no airline uses them for scheduled passenger service anymore, except possibly Saha Air Lines in Iran. In its day, the 707 endured as a serviceable passenger aircraft with many airlines well into the 1980s and beyond. TWA was the last U.S. air carrier that flew 707s on domestic routes; these aircraft were withdrawn from service in 1983.

This fascinating blog post from Southwest Airlines features several pictures of Dallas Love Field about a month before Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport opened in 1973. The Boeing 707 was still a popular airliner for American Airlines at the time, with no fewer than four examples featured in the first photo.

While the 707 may no longer grace the real skies above us on a routine basis, the good news is that she will live on in the virtual skies on our computers. Captain Sim recently released their version of the 707 for FSX, known as the 707 Captain. This is their latest release in their "retro jets" line of classic Boeing airliners, following the excellent 727 Captain released last year. So how does the 707 Captain stack up? We'll dive into details momentarily, but suffice it to say, I think diehard fans of the 707 will be very pleased. The 707 Captain appears to be a very faithful rendition of the 707 for FSX, with many important details being modeled. For younger pilots, this will serve as another great introduction to flying first-generation jetliners using steam gauges, without the help of autothrottles or FMS computers. More expansion models are on the way from Captain Sim, including the 300C (convertible cargo variant), VC-137 (Air Force One), and E-3 Sentry AWACS variant. There may yet be other models, such as the 707-220, 707-120, and 707-020 (known as the Boeing 720 for short).

The 707 Captain comes with various liveries in two main configurations of the 707-300 series: the 707-320B, and the 707-320B Advanced. The Advanced variant mainly differs by introducing three-section leading-edge flaps on each wing, allowing for lower takeoff and landing speeds. There are also two examples of the 707-338C included, but it is unclear how these will differ from the planned -300C expansion model.

Enough talk - let's get down to business, shall we? Here is sight we will probably never see in real life: a view of the 707 on the runway at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS):

Here we are at Runway 17R, about to launch our takeoff roll for a short flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW). This is a 707-320B Adv, painted in a 1970s era Continental Airlines livery. The 707 originally featured four Pratt & Whitney JT3C engines, which are forerunners of the JT3D's subsequently used on many popular aircraft: the Boeing 727, Boeing 737-100 and -200 series, the Douglas DC-8 series, and the McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 and MD-80 series. Later versions of the 707 also used JT3D engines, identified by the "B" suffix in their model numbers (e.g. -320B). These engines are well-known for being loud, and the 707 Captain does not disappoint in this regard! These engines are also well-known for being very smoky, and the 707 Captain faithfully reproduces this effect as well:

Just like Captain Sim's previous product in this series, the 727 Captain, the 707 Captain only features a 3D virtual cockpit for flying. There is no 2D panel view of the entire flight deck. Captain Sim regards this as outmoded technology, and believes only having the 3D VC makes for a more immersive experience. As with the 727, there are a number of preprogrammed views in the VC that one can cycle through by pressing the A or Shift-A keys on the keyboard. This makes it easier to quickly find things like the overhead switches, which mitigates the need for having a separate 2D panel for this.

Here is a view of the front office looking straight ahead:

And another one looking at the center console. Notice the four engine throttles:

There are some very cool aspects about the 707 modeled in this center console here, as well. Notice the round amber screen in the middle? This is a fully-functional vintage, 1950s era weather radar! To the left of this is the original doppler navigation system used by the 707; to the right, a CIVA INS unit. More on these later.

There are a set of 2D panels for some of the more commonly accessed functions, such as the autopilot. These panels are designed to reduce the pilot's workload during flight by making these functions quickly available; as normally, the 707 is piloted by a 3-man crew. Captain Sim used a very similar design with the 727 as well.

As is typical with Captain Sim products, there exists a panel governing all the animations used on the aircraft:

This panel can also connect ground air and power for starting up the engines of the aircraft.

Next, here is a 2D panel version of the weather radar:

And here is a 2D panel displaying a moving map of the plane's current position. This is actually tied into the doppler navigation system; though in reality, it is a stripped down version of the GPS map:

Here is the 2D autopilot panel - very handy to have when you are controlling ascents or descents and need to keep an eye on the horizon. I'm not sure which model this is, but it functions very similarly to the 727's Sperry autopilot. This may be a Bendix PB20, but don't quote me on that:

Seasoned old-school pilots will have no trouble at all picking this one up and setting a course along a VOR/DME radial. One happy note: the autopilot in the Captain Sim 707 appears to be much better behaved than the Captain Sim 727, which was prone to nasty oscillations back and forth before finally settling in on the radial. (Some subsequent modifications to certain parameters in the config file for the 727 reportedly fix this, but I haven't looked into it in a while.) Thankfully, the 707 is very stable by comparison, out of the box.

Here is another 2D panel that we also see on the 727:

Now, we get to one of the more interesting 2D panels. Remember the CIVA INS I mentioned earlier? The Captain Sim 707 does not enable this by default, but they do ship an alternate panel.cfg file as of version 1.2 that enables this. I have gone ahead and enabled this configuration, and here are the 2D popups for the CIVA INS:

The CIVA INS is actually a freeware gauge that is available for adding INS navigational capability to a wide variety of aircraft. The Concorde-X from FlightSimLabs also ships with it.

In the era prior to GPS and FMS systems, the INS was a major boon for overwater flight, especially when going over the Atlantic Ocean from New York to London. The old doppler navigation system used on the 707 was only capable of following a track and a distance, before switching to another track and distance. Obviously, this was not very accurate. One old 707 pilot reported that it was common practice to issue separations of 120 nm between aircraft flying overwater, just to allow for navigational errors! Pilots typically looked for contrails from planes ahead of them to determine if they were still on course.

The INS, while still primitive by modern FMS standards, was a major improvement. The INS could keep track of its current position, with periodic recalibration, and automatically track the aircraft to up to nine waypoints ahead on the route. Pilots continually have to add more waypoints to the INS. There is no onboard database to correlate fix JASMO with lat/long coordinates; the pilot must enter these into the INS directly from the flight plan on paper.

The CIVA INS is one feature that Captain Sim added since the 727. It turns out that it is also possible to add the CIVA INS to the 727 as well, and many sim pilots may find this preferable to navigating from VOR to VOR. Practically speaking, there is less need to have an INS on a 727 as compared to a 707, as the 727 had only half the range of the 707, and was very rarely used for overwater flights.

Moving right along, let's cycle through some of the preset views of the 3D VC. Here is the copilot's seat:

Notice the flight yoke here. You can click on the flight yoke to make it disappear, so you can see the instruments behind it. Clicking on the hole in the floor where the flight yoke used to be will make it reappear again.

Here is a better view of the center console:

One other thing about the CIVA INS here: it is not operable from the 3D VC yet. Captain Sim claims that they need some unspecified "technical details" from the CIVA INS developers in order to make this work. For now, the 3D VC version will display the current position of the plane, but the only way to control the CIVA INS is through the 2D popup panels.

Here is the overhead panel:

And here is the flight engineer's panel, directly aft of the copilot:

Here is a passenger lounge area in the cabin. Wouldn't it be nice if planes still had these?

Here is the view from coach. Wonder what the tickets for a ride cost?

Here is the galley. What is today's inflight meal?

One more view from the captain's seat, with the flight yoke unhidden:

Here is the spot view from outside, directly behind the plane. The 707 looks very distorted and unnatural at this angle:

Here we are on final approach to land at KDFW:

I've spent many lines above talking up the pros of the 707 Captain. So how about the negatives? It turns out, there are very few. This is an astonishingly well-done, polished product from Captain Sim. I didn't even encounter a single CTD during all my test flights. However, nobody is perfect; not even PMDG. There are a few minor issues with the 707 Captain:
  • It is a beast, graphically-speaking. If your graphics card is not up to snuff, you can expect to wait a bit for your GPU to render views inside the 3D VC. Sometimes, even artifacts or other oddities appear. You may want to dial back the graphics a bit on this one, if your GPU is outdated.
  • There are a few incomplete details, such as the integration of the CIVA INS into the 3D VC. Hopefully they can get this resolved in a future release.
  • There seems to be a glitch on the 2D autopilot popup where the elevator pitch control wheel just stops rolling after a while. The plane still remains controllable up and down, so it's obviously working, but the graphics are just not working right for some reason.
  • It's a little spendy: even though Captain Sim recently slashed the price by €10, €49.94 (approx. US $71) is still not cheap. If the price is too high, customers may want to wait until Captain Sim runs their annual holiday sale in December to rack up some big savings on this one.
All in all, you could do far worse than to add the Captain Sim 707 to your virtual hangar this holiday season!

Rating: **** 1/2

Saturday, October 23, 2010

PMDG Lifting the Veil on the NGX

Slowly, but surely, the PMDG gang is giving us tasty morsels of the NGX!

Their latest preview takes a look at the Virtual Cockpit, along with some side-by-side comparisons against their previous 737NG product. You can really see the big leaps forward in the 3D modeling with the new version. Very, very impressive realism.

I want one with a big red bow on it in my virtual hangar for Christmas this year... :-)

I'm Back...

And look who's got a new toy:

Expect a mini-review soon!

Sorry for the quiet period recently. Been very busy with my day job, and other duties in real life. Haven't had much time to sim lately. Progress on the PMDG 737 NGX and Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ seems to be crawling along; hopefully we'll see both of these great toys by Christmas. However, Captain Sim's new 707 is proving to be a very fun aircraft for simming in the meantime.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Microsoft Unveils Flight!

Microsoft has unveiled what appears to be the successor to Flight Simulator X, known as Microsoft Flight. Little is known about the product, except that it has been under development since early 2010. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Captain Sim Releases 707 Captain

Captain Sim has released the 707 Captain! Enjoy...

(I'm away on vacation this week, but will have more to say about this when I return...)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

feelThere Updates Website, Releases E-Jets v2

feelThere released the E-Jets v2 product today! Pricing is US $39.95 directly from their website. You can also purchase the product from Wilco Publishing, where it is €39.95 for European customers, and €31.82 for non-European customers. Looks like US customers can save a few bucks by ordering directly from Wilco and paying in US currency.

Along with the release of the E-Jets v2, feelThere unveiled a slick new update to their website today. Looks very nice.

Guess I'll be picking up the E-Jets v2 later this week. Still enjoying the first one, and it will be nice to add the remaining two E-Jets models to the fleet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

E-Jets v2 Page at Wilco Goes Live

In yet another sign of the imminent release of feelThere's E-Jets v2, a new page has recently appeared at Wilco Publishing for the product. The download links are not active yet, but it looks like the release will be happening very, very soon...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

feelThere E-Jets v2 Forum Opens with Screenshots

In yet another sign of the imminent release of feelThere's new E-Jets v2, they have opened up a new forum for the product, and will be posting a new screenshot a day of the plane until the release. Here is the screenshot thread!

They have posted a picture of the VC over at their Facebook page, and it is supposed to be up at their forums, too. Looks nice, albeit not much different from the v1 at first glance.

I think we'll be seeing this one any day now. McPhat supposedly has the World Airliners 1 and 2 livery packs already ready to go for this, as well.

By the way, no mention of this yet over at the Wilco page. Then again, they didn't announce the ERJ v2 (branded as the "Embraer Regional Jets" product) on their page until the very last minute. Presumably Wilco will be helping feelThere with distribution of this, once again...but we'll see.

PMDG 737 NGX Sliver - 26-July-2010

PMDG gave the fans another little sneak peek at the 737 NGX virtual cockpit on Monday!

I'm anxious to see this thing coming together...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ Update: 19-Jul-2010

Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft also checked in this week with some more preview pics of the CRJ. The virtual cockpit appears to be progressing very nicely!

Mathijs says they are still on track for a late summer release...will be interesting to see if that holds. Nonetheless, it looks like a very exciting product when it finally hits the virtual skies.

feelThere E-Jets v2 Enters Beta Phase, Lots of Previews!

feelThere and their partners over at McPhat Studios, who have been working on a ton of extra liveries, have been showing off some nice previews of the E-Jets v2! This includes the E-175 and E-195 models, as previously mentioned.

Previews are streaming out of feelThere and McPhat now, here are some links for your viewing pleasure:
  • Some E-Jets v2 preview pics are over at feelThere's Flickr page.
  • A really nice screenshot of the new E-Jets HUD is over at the feelThere forums.
McPhat will be doing at least a couple of World Airliners liveries for this one, so stay tuned!

Looks like the E-Jets v2 will be taking the virtual skies before long -- quite possibly any day now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Captain Sim's 707 Captain in "Beta," Releasing Soon?

Captain Sim announced in their support forums over the weekend that their forthcoming 707 Captain add-on has reached "beta" status, and if all goes well, it will be released to the world around the end of July!

Great news! I am really looking forward to this one. The 707 is truly a classic, worthy of a quality version in FSX. It will definitely be fun to take this great lady for a ride, especially since she so rarely flies the skies in real life anymore.

Looks to be an exciting few months ahead for Flight Sim fans:
  • Captain Sim 707 Captain due out late July/August, as mentioned here.
  • feelThere E-Jets vol. 2 is now in "beta" with lots of repaints being done over at McPhat. I imagine we'll probably see this one drop in August/September, if not sooner.
  • Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ trucking right along. Aerosoft claims an August release is targeted for this, but that date seems very aggressive to me. (Translation: no offense, but I'll believe it when I see it.) Still, I would be very pleased to see this one drop sometime in the fall.
  • PMDG 737 NGX is also trucking right along. Previews of the external model are expected very soon. I think we'll see this one in the fall, too. The Dash-8 and 777 won't enter the wild until 2011.
  • There are lots of other projects in the cooker, too. Who knows? We may get a few surprises along the way. CoolSky is rumored to be working on another project. FlightSimLabs appears to have their roadmap for the next several years set with their new high-fidelity Airbus series. Aerosoft plans to get underway on a BAe 146 sometime this winter. PMDG is working on a Dreamlifter, and who knows what else? Somewhere, Level-D is still toiling away slowly at their 757. feelThere is working on an airport project, and possibly a refresh of their 737 PIC (Classic series). Maybe even AirSimmer will get it together and unveil the advanced version of their Airbus. Captain Sim still has the B-52 Driver, the 767-400, and probably other goodies yet to be announced in the queue.
Interestingly, a few new add-ons for X-Plane have been trickling out fairly recently, too. I've never played X-Plane, but it looks interesting. I'm not sure if this is a trend, or even if X-Plane is gaining any kind of momentum since Microsoft canned the ACES team last year, apparently ending any development of the Flight Simulator franchise.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Digital Aviation CRJ Preview: 02-Jul-2010

DA/Aerosoft have given the fans another update on progress of the CRJ here.

Looks like they have made a little more progress on the VC and the overhead panel. Very nice! Matthias Kok seems to hint that they were a little distracted with the Andras Field project (a virtual airpark) for a bit, but are now hot on the trail again.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Captain Sim Summer Sale (1 Day Only!)

Got an email from Captain Sim today. For 24 hours only, they are running a tremendous sale: all of their products are only €9.99! If you have been holding off on checking out their 727, 757, or 767, here is a great way to pick those up without breaking the bank. And if you find them less than satisfactory, then at least you're not out much. I think this is a steal. Check them out!

The sale will run from 15:00 UTC on July 1 (10:00 AM CDT here in the USA) to 14:59 UTC on July 2. If the servers are overloaded, keep trying.

Good luck!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

PMDG 737 NGX Preview: 25-Jun-2010

PMDG gave us a tasty shot of the throttle console of the NGX yesterday!

Wow. Is it real, or is it a computer-generated model?

Can't wait for this one. I think I'm beginning to sound like a broken record with these posts. :-)

Friday, June 25, 2010

feelThere Still Discussing 737 PIC Refresh

In a separate post in the E175/195 thread, Vic from feelThere! also mentioned that they are discussing the possibility of a refresh of the 737 PIC with Wilco.

Sounds nice -- I would assume this would be an update to the 737 Classic series (-300/-400/-500) as PMDG is already covering the 737 NG (-600/-700/-800/-900) with their upcoming NGX. From what we have seen of the NGX, it looks like it will blow the doors off of all challengers. Still, a full 3D virtual cockpit for the 737 PIC would be a really welcome development.

feelThere/McPhat Working on Update to E-Jets, Now in Beta!

I had seen some passing hint of this in the past over in the feelThere! forums a while back, but there have been some very interesting Twitter tweets coming out of McPhat Studios recently. It definitely looks like feelThere! is working on some kind of update to the E-Jets add-on, and this time, the 175 and 195 models will be included as well. McPhat appears to be doing some repaints for these new models at the moment. Recall that the original E-Jets release back in 2008 only covered the 170 and 190 models.

It is unclear whether this is an entirely new development, or will these new models will simply be an external expansion on the original E-Jets add-on. I would guess the latter myself -- the original E-Jets release is very high quality, and still probably recent enough that an entire rewrite would not be justified. I actually really like the E-Jets and still fly around in them from time to time.

Stay tuned...

EDIT: (previous incorrect speculation here removed)

This is a joint feelThere/McPhat project. They are referring to it as "EMBv2" and it has officially entered beta phase this week, according to the feelThere Twitter channel. Wow -- wonder what E-Jets v2 adds over the original E-Jets, aside from the new 175/195 models? Will be interesting to see.

In addition to texturing, McPhat now appears to be doing the 3D external modeling for feelThere on this project, which they have referred to as their "first 3D project." Looks like McPhat is expanding their sphere of influence a bit. This is good news, as it may enable companies like feelThere! to leverage McPhat's talents and put out products more quickly.

I have updated the title of the blog post accordingly.

EDIT 2: had I been paying closer attention, there is a whole thread about the new EMBv2 going on over at the feelThere! forums. :-)

Vic mentions that the following new features will be included:
  • 175/195 models
  • Call! for E-Jets
  • A HUD based on Embraer's HUD
  • "Something else" to be named later (oooh, don't you love surprises?)
EDIT: there is some speculation elsewhere that the "surprise" may be Map!, though feelThere! has not confirmed this. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Between feelThere!, PMDG, and Captain Sim, it seems my wallet is guaranteed to stay thin for the next several months. :-)

Further clarification: this is a SEQUEL to the E-Jets, not a replacement! The EMBv2 will ONLY include the 175/195 models. If you want the 170/190, you have to buy the original E-Jets product.

Vic also hints that feelThere! is working on their first airport scenery project.

FlightSimLabs Updates Concorde-X to SP2

FlightSimLabs has updated their Concorde-X add-on to SP2. Read the announcement here.

This update adds a new Performance Calculator utility, and fixes several bugs and issues discovered after SP1 was released.

Still planning to pick this one up soonish, as I have heard lots of good things about it. Just been very busy this summer...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Captain Sim Updates B-52 Driver Preview

Captain Sim has been nice enough to give the fans some Aerosoft-style progress reports of their B-52 Driver virtual cockpit under development! They just gave us another update today. Very impressive work over the last month or so.

Looking really sharp. The B-52 is shaping up to be a very nice companion to their C-130.

In other Captain Sim news, wonder when the 707 Captain will drop? They have been kind of quiet on that one lately...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wilco Releases Piaggo P180 Avanti II

After being announced on their website several months ago, Wilco has finally released the P180 Avanti II for FSX! Looks like a fun little ride. As a bonus, you get a drivable Ferrari in Flight Sim.

Cost is €27.95 for European customers, or €23 for everybody else. That presently works out to about US $28.50, thanks to the more favorable exchange rates recently. Quite the bargain!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Previews of Aerosoft/DA CRJ VC

The CRJ VC is trucking right along!

PMDG Dreamlifter?

Robert Randazzo at PMDG gave the fans a tease of another project in their skunkworks today. Looks like a Dreamlifter!

No word on whether this is another external model extension on the 747X like their recent 747-8(probable), or an entirely new project.

Sorry for being so PMDG-centric with the blog lately, but as you might have guessed, it's mostly quiet elsewhere in the flight sim scene.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

PMDG Unveils Screenshot of 737 NGX Radio Stack

PMDG gave us a little more than a sliver of the 737 NGX today -- wow!

This is going to be an amazing plane.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another PMDG 737 NGX Preview Sliver

Vic posted another preview sliver of the 737 NGX cockpit yesterday. Looking good!

In other PMDG news, Capt. Robert Randazzo (PMDG head honcho) came in fourth in Nevada's Democratic primary race for Lt. Governor this week. Oh well. Perhaps now he will have more time to focus on making great virtual airplanes, at least.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Digital Aviation CRJ: Early VC Preview

Mathijs Kok of Aerosoft posted some early views of the 3D virtual cockpit from the upcoming Digital Aviation CRJ! Enjoy.

It's still very rough, but there is a lot of nice potential shaping up here. It will be fun to watch it blossom into fruition.

Very nice of Mathijs to share the progress of the CRJ with the flight sim community. Thanks!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Digital Aviation/Aerosoft CRJ Update: 27-May-10

I missed this last week because of the Memorial Day holiday, but Aerosoft gave us another weekly preview of the progress on the Digital Aviation CRJ. See the post here.

The exterior model is looking really sharp! Can't wait to see some of the developments on the interior.

PMDG Gives Another Sliver Glimpse of the 737 NGX

The cats over at PMDG are having a lot of fun with this -- and of course, we simmers are eating up every minute of it. :-) PMDG has given us another sliver preview of the 737 NGX, this time the radio panel.


I have a feeling they are going to sell a lot of these.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Captain Sim Gives Early Preview of B-52 Driver, Part 2

Captain Sim just gave us another update on the B-52 development, including some juicy shots of the 3D virtual cockpit. Enjoy!

Hmmmm, between this and their excellent C-130, looks like we're going to have to assemble the Pretend Flyer Air Force. ;-)

Memorial Day 2010 Thoughts

I apologize for being a day late with this, but I was away from the computer for most of the day yesterday. Here in the U.S., we celebrated Memorial Day on May 31. Memorial Day is intended to be a day set aside to remember the fallen heroes who died in the defense of our nation.

So, I just wanted to offer a heartfelt thanks to all the brave men and women who died in the line of duty. Without their sacrifice, we would likely not have the freedom to enjoy our seemingly trivial (by comparison) hobbies like flight simming, or even more important stuff like our families, careers, homes, and so on. My prayers and sympathies are with the comrades, friends, and families left behind by their passing. I hope that those who remain will find comfort and healing.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

FlightSimLabs Confirms Airbus A320!

FlightSimLabs has confirmed that they were working on an Airbus A320! Recall that they gave a preview of their next product last week, and it looked remarkably similar to an Airbus FMGS. Well, sure enough, they are indeed cooking up an Airbus A320 over at their secret lair. The A320 will be the first in a new "A3XX Master Series" Product Line. Presumably, this means that they will do the other A320 variants (A318/A319/A321) and the bigger 'Buses, too, like the A330 and A340 series. Who knows, maybe we can even get them to do an A380? That would be great!

The "master series" moniker indicates that this will indeed be a PMDG-style simulation in terms of complexity.

Anyway, given the way pretty much everybody has been raving over their Concorde-X lately, this should be good. I am definitely planning to pick up the Concorde-X sometime in mid-June and give it a go myself. If they can successfully model a complex monster like the Concorde, they should do just fine with the Airbus series. Can't wait to see this one.

CoolSky Super80 Pro SP2 Available

CoolSky has released the SP2 update to the Super80 Professional add-on. This update picks up all the changes and fixes that had been under test in the beta patches that were put out since SP1, plus a few more. Visit their downloads page to pick it up.

If you haven't picked up the Super80 Pro yet, Flight1 will bundle SP2 as part of the installation package now. Trust me, you're missing out -- this is an excellent plane. Though I really should get my hands on the Leonardo MadDog 2008 sometime as well, as I have also heard many good things about that one, too...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Sneak Peek at the PMDG 737 NGX

The gang over at PMDG is having some more fun with us, giving us another little peek at the 737 NGX flight deck. Very cool, and agonizing at the same time. :-)

Robert Randazzo also took a quick timeout from the campaign trail to pop in and answer a few pressing questions about the 737 NGX:
  • Pricing should be below US $80, although exact price hasn't been determined yet
  • Models included will be -600/-700/-800/-900 and most sub-variants (I assume he means things like the -900ER here?), but no BBJ initially.
  • The NGX will be out before the Dash-8. In fact the NGX and Dash-8 will likely not hit the streets before 2011.
The slip on the Dash-8 release to 2011 is a little disappointing, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait. At least we'll have the NGX to tool around in while we wait! :-)

Robert did promise that the NGX will not be too much longer. Hooray! Wonder if we will start to see some preview videos in the not-too-distant future?

EDIT: another peek today. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Captain Sim Gives Early Preview of B-52 Driver

This one has been around for over a month, and I neglected to mention it here!

Captain Sim has also released some preview shots of the VC of the B-52 Driver product they are working on. This is the full B-52 they recently announced, as an upgrade of the B-52 BUFF Exterior Only model released earlier this year.

The models are still in an early stage, and haven't been textured yet. However, you can clearly see it beginning to take shape. I think it will be pretty cool when it's finished -- a nice compliment to their C-130 in their line of military-oriented add-ons.

Captain Sim Demos the 707 Captain in Video

Captain Sim just uploaded a video of their upcoming 707 Captain in action over at YouTube! The focus is on the operation of the weather radar, but they also have some nice external shots of the plane as well. The demo features a 707 painted up in a Pan Am livery. Enjoy:

The radar operation is very cool -- they simulate the original-style weather radar (black & white) of the 707. You also get a nice look at some of the autopilot controls in this video, too.

Judging by the looks of this, perhaps it will not be much longer before the 707 Captain is unleashed to the world!

EDIT: don't forget the new Captain Sim 707 Captain forum for discussions about the upcoming 707 and all its features.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another Morsel of the PMDG 737 NGX

Vin Scimone of PMDG threw out another bone for the fans recently, in the form of this little screenshot from the VC of the 737 NGX.

It's jaw-dropping. The level of detail is unbelievable. Can't wait for this one!

Monday, May 24, 2010

FlightSimLabs' Next Project?

FlightSimLabs has released SP1 of the Concorde-X, and it recently got praise from the FlightSimulatorXWorld blog, as I mentioned a few posts ago. This one is definitely on my short list, although I will probably put it off until the summer for when I have a bit more time to devote to learning such a complex aircraft!

So how does FlightSimLabs follow up their Concorde masterpiece?

Lefteris Kalamaras recently gave us all a hint in this post. He promises a "big announcement coming VERY soon." Ooooh, I love surprises!

I don't know about you, but that image looks suspiciously like an Airbus FMCS, as seen in this photo from a real 'Bus. Several people in the thread have pointed this out.

So...either FlightSimLabs has found a way to retrofit the FMCS into some other plane, or they are cooking up an Airbus of some flavor over in their development labs. I'm betting on the latter, myself. :-)

EDIT: worth noting that FlightSimLabs has slashed the price of the Concorde-X by €10, to €49.95 now. Along with the recent meltdown of the Euro vs. the U.S. Dollar, those of us living in the good ol' U.S.A. can now pick up the Concorde-X for just a shade over US $60 now. That's about $20 less than it was when it came out earlier this year. Very good news for us Yanks, even if the overall implications to the global economy are troubling.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Condolences for the Air India Express Tragedy

And I would certainly be remiss if I did not take a few moments to express my condolences for all the victims of the recent Air India Express Flight 812 disaster. The plane, a Boeing 737-800, appears to have overshot the runway while trying to land. Reportedly, the weather was very rainy, and the pilots may have possibly been attempting a go-around. The airport, located near Mangalore, India, is located on top of a flattened hill with steep drop-offs.

Captain Sim Unveils 707 Captain Preview

Captain Sim has just let out a few screenshots of their upcoming 707 Captain product! There are only 4 up so far, but they look rather nice. Perhaps it won't be much longer before we will be cruising the virtual skies in their 707.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Aerosoft Also Announces the BAe 146

Hot on the heels of their exciting work on the CRJ, Aerosoft has also announced that they plan to tackle doing a BAe 146 later this year. This is an aircraft I've been dying to see in Flight Simulator for a long time! I really hope they do a full-featured simulation in terms of complexity, but I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Digital Aviation Folds, but the CRJ Lives On (and the Fokker, too!)

Well where I have been? This news is nearly two months old, but here goes...

Digital Aviation announced on March 31 that they are closing up shop. It's an understandable decision -- they were down to three people, and were really just too small to make a go of it. No word on any plans regarding the VC for the Fokker 70/100 series, which is too bad. The Fokker does have a very nice set of 2D panels which approximate the experience, though.

However, there is a silver lining. DA had a CRJ series (-700/-900) under development, but apparently, they weren't terribly far along with the exterior modeling. Aerosoft has decided to play the knight in shining armor, and rescue the DA CRJ project! They have committed one of their expert 3D designers to the project, and he has been making great strides with getting some 3D models of the CRJ on track. Matthias Kok of Aerosoft has been providing regular updates over the last few weeks in this thread, and it is really neat to see its progress. Matthias claims that it will be a PMDG-type simulation of the CRJ in terms of detail, Aerosoft is shooting for an August release of the CRJ. Very cool!

Between the Aerosoft/DA CRJ and the PMDG 737 NGX, we've got a lot of great stuff to look forward to in the next several months. By the way, Matthias also claims that Aerosoft is studying the possibility of doing an advanced edition of their Airbus X product. If they pull that off, I'll be one excited sim pilot...especially considering that the Airsimmer team currently appears to be having some issues.

EDIT: Florian Praxmarer, developer of the Fokker 70/100 series, has migrated over to the Flight 1 forums, and has announced that work continues on the Fokker 70/100 VC. Good news! They hope to unleash a preview soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

External Review of FlightSimLabs Concorde-X

The guys over at FlightSimulatorXWorld have posted a review of FlightSimLabs' Concorde-X. It got generally favorable ratings from both reviewers. Looks like a pretty sweet plane, although it also looks extremely complicated. I admit I have been a little intimidated about diving into this one, considering the tutorial alone is over 150 pages long! I definitely want to give it a try though, and will probably look into picking this one up in the summer when I have a little more free time to give it a go.

Gotta admit, the idea of cruising over the pond at Mach 2 (without the use of the FSX time compression feature) is a pretty thrilling prospect.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mini-Review: QualityWings Ultimate 757 Collection

QualityWings debuted onto the flight sim scene this past winter with the release of the Ultimate 757 Collection. The Ultimate 757 Collection actually spans several of the most popular variants of the 757, including the 757-200 (most popular), 757-F (cargo), and stretched 757-300 variant. Variants with and without winglets are also included. I decided to hold off a bit until at least one service pack came out, which happened in early April. Much to my delight, the v1.1 update included support for Navigraph nav data updates in its FMS! I decided by then it was time to give the product a closer look.

Here are some shots of the base 757-200 variant on the ground and in the air. It's really a very nice-looking plane:

Next, we will take a tour through the 2D and 3D panels of the interior. Let's start with the 3D virtual cockpit:

Here is the main 2D panel:

There also exist several 2D popup panels. Here is one for the overhead panel area:

Here is one for the center pedestal area. I think it looks a little cramped:

Here is the radio stack:

Here is the FMS:

And EFIS display control switches:

From here on, I'll break down the rest of this review into three parts -- call it the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good
  • QualityWings has done a really nice job with the external model. The 757 series is framerate-friendly, and still manages to look very realistic.
  • Purchase includes both FS9 and FSX versions of the product. This will no doubt make FS9 zealots happy.
  • QualityWings has also created an impressive number of repaints. My favorite is the Delta Breast Cancer Awareness livery, which looks really nice on their 757.
  • QualityWings' slogan is "Complexity...Simplified!" If you are looking for a plane you can jump into and take off without having to deal with all the startup procedures, then this is the plane for you.
  • The Ultimate 757 Collection has full support for VNAV and LNAV modes in the autopilot. A reasonable subset of the FMC is simulated as of v1.1, including terminal procedures (SIDs/STARs) at airports.
  • You can customize some features of the flight deck in the Ultimate 757 Collection. For example, you can enable or disable the speed tape on the EFIS displays. (The original 757 EFIS did not have the speed tape, but newer 757s do. Depending on the airline you are simulating, you may want to enable or disable this option.) In addition, QualityWings has created a variant of the 757 flight deck with the new Boeing retrofit, which utilizes LCD displays similar to the 737NG and 777. Very cool to be able to fly around in all the different varieties of the 757.
  • QualityWings permits 4 activations of the 757 on a single license purchase. This is rather nice, as I was able to install the 757 on both my desktop (main rig for FS) and my laptop (for when I travel).
  • Based on my prior FS experience with other 757/767 aircraft, I was able to complete a short flight from KDFW to KAUS without even reading the manual.
The Bad
  • A lot of the 757 systems are not simulated in the Ultimate 757 Collection. I know, I know, the philosophy of the QualityWings team from the ground up is "complexity simplified." I get that. Keep this in mind if you are looking for a PMDG or Level-D type simulation of the 757 -- this product does not rise to that level of complexity. I respect the choices of the designers, but I do hope at some point they will consider adding more detail to the systems, at least on an optional basis. To be fair, the QualityWings 757 is not as basic as a default FS aircraft or even a CLS product, although it has less detail than even the Wilco 737. In particular, I noticed the following systems were missing from the QualityWings 757:
    • INS alignment
    • TCAS
    • NAV radio autotune mode
    • Engine startup from cold and dark
    • Weather radar
    There may be others as well.
  • I also noticed a few minor bugs with the 757. For example, on random occasions, the rudder would not move left or right on the external model whenever I would twist my joystick. However, rudder control was still active, as the plane would still move in the desired direction. I consider this a minor glitch. I also had to restart FSX once before the 757 came up with engines started. There were no major CTD problems, fortunately, so I'm willing to overlook these small, yet mildly irritating issues.
  • The Repaint Manager is broken. It fails to even properly start up on my system. I consider this a rather severe bug. There may be a workaround, but I haven't been able to find out about it yet. More on this in the Ugly section, below.
  • One other thing I dislike about the Ultimate 757 Collection is that clicking the glass displays of the EFIS and EICAS to zoom them does not make them substantially larger when zoomed! The small numbers on the displays are practically unreadable in normal mode, and only barely readable in zoom mode. I would prefer that they blow up a little larger when zoomed. This screenshot illustrates what I am talking about:

The Ugly
  • The QualityWings v1.1 installer is very buggy. QualityWings relies on the Virtuali Addon Manager to activate your license over the Internet. Unfortunately, the v1.1 version of the QualityWings Ultimate 757 Collection ships with an incomplete version of the Addon Manager. The net result, if you did not have the Addon Manager already installed via another product (a lot of add-on sceneries use it), is that it will crash FSX every time it starts up. Unacceptable!
  • Even worse, QualityWings denies access to the support forums except to paid license holders. I understand the motivation for this -- it is intended to cut down on piracy of the product, by providing support to only paid members. That's not my issue. The issue I have is with the absolutely broken system they use for handling registrations of paid members. Basically, you fill in a web form which apparently sends an email to a forum administrator to activate your account. Well, it has been over five days now, and a forum administrator has STILL not activated my account for paid support! Unacceptable! Flight1 has no trouble with using an automated system to validate paid license holders for access to their support forums -- why can't QualityWings come up with something similar?
  • All sales of the QualityWings products are final, unlike Flight1 and other vendors. Keep this in mind when purchasing from QualityWings.
  • I had to do research on my own to figure out how to fix the problem with the Virtuali Addon Manager above. Fortunately, I discovered a brief mention in another forum about downloading and installing the standalone version of the Virtuali Addon Manager, and after I did that, the QualityWings 757 successfully activated and installed, and I had no more problems with FSX doing a CTD every time it would start up. Still, it really chaps my butt that I paid $50 for a product that didn't work out of the box, and I had no way to get support from QualityWings to fix the issue. At least I can fly around in it now, thanks to my own research.
  • I am still very annoyed that the Repaint Manager is broken, and I have no way to figure out how to fix it until QualityWings gets around to activating my access to the paid member support forums.
Bottom line: I found the QualityWings Ultimate 757 Collection to have so much promise, but ultimately, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of features. But even more than that, I was VERY disappointed about the lack of access to the paid support forums after FIVE DAYS of owning the product. I want to like the QualityWings 757 -- I really do. I think there could be much to like about it. However, because of the issues as stated above, I cannot rate it any higher than the following:

Rating: ***

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flight1 Unveils the Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander

Today, Flight1 unveiled their new Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft for FSX! Looks like a fun little ride. I seem to recall reading a while back they were working on this. Among many other features, it includes simulation of a Bendix-King GPS unit for navigation. At US $39.95, it's not a bad deal.

QualityWings 757: Total Success! (Almost)

A few reboots later, and the other system is good to go now, too!

There still seems to be a bit of a problem with their repaint manager that I haven't figured out yet, but hopefully soon I can get into the support forums and figure that one out as well. At least I can get going with flying this thing now.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

QualityWings 757: Partial Success!

Well, without the help of the QualityWings support forums that I still haven't been granted access to, I think I managed to solve this one on my own, on at least one of my systems.

It turns out that there appears to be some kind of bug in the QualityWings 757 installer. QW 757 needs the Virtuali Addon Manager, and it tries to install it for you as part of the installation process if you do not already have it. Key word here is tries. Unfortunately, it fails, leaving you with no way to activate the software.

The solution for me was to download and install the standalone version of the Addon Manager from here. Once I did that and ran it, I was in business.

Still crashing on my other system, but I'll keep plugging away...

On the system that works, the 757 looks decent. A little less smooth than the Level-D 767, but nice enough. Will be anxious to give it a spin soon.

QualityWings 757: No Bueno

OK, so I picked up the QualityWings 757 v1.1 release today, and so far, I am extremely disappointed. I have tried installing it onto two different systems here, and it does not work! Crashes to desktop on both. Unfortunately, they have to "manually approve" my account to gain access to the support forums, so right now, I am stuck with a $50 purchase that does not even function.

I am really unhappy. Not off to a good start on this one at all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring Doldrums?

Sorry I haven't posted here in a while, but things have been fairly quiet lately in the world of virtual aviation. I hope this means all our favorite aircraft developers are working hard on their next big projects! :-) Still no word on when Fly Different/Wilco is actually releasing their Piaggio Avanti II, although it is been announced on their site for a while now. I hope it will be soon, as this looks like it will be a really fun business turboprop to take out for a spin.

I finally got around to picking up Ultimate Traffic 2 last month, and so far, I really like it. Seems very realistic, without a huge hit on system resources. Last night, I was in line for Runway 28 at Dublin International (EIDW), waiting in a long queue of Ryanair 737's to takeoff. I was in the Level-D 767 simulating a charter flight to Stockholm-Arlanda (ESSA), but this really made me look forward to the upcoming PMDG 737 NGX. Would have been fun to be another Ryanair plane in the queue.

Speaking of this, I have finally gotten around to doing a substantial amount of exploring Europe lately in FSX. I guess my boredom with the USA has finally caught up with me. :-) Lately, I have developed a new appreciation for European terminal procedures, especially the STARs that practically line you right up on the runway. We do have some nice RNAV procedures at many airports here in the USA, but far too often, many terminal procedures just drop you off at a certain point, and then it's pretty much up to you and ATC to vector in for the localizer signal to do an ILS landing.

I have been mulling over my next aircraft acquisition in the meantime. There have been a few good candidates this spring, including:
  • Simcheck Airbus A300
  • Flightsim Labs Concorde-X
  • QualityWings 757 series
The problem I have is that all these developers are relatively new to the scene, and I'm often very cautious of initial releases until I find out for sure if the quality is there. Though I will admit, I have been known to overlook this policy for certain developers like PMDG that have a strong reputation of quality and support after the initial release. However, with these, I had decided to hold off a bit and wait for a service pack or two to come out before I decide to jump in.

I took another look at the QualityWings 757 recently now that its SP1 has come out, and I have to say, I have become very impressed with how it is looking. So much so, that it will probably be my next acquisition. SP1 fixes a lot of bugs in the initial release, and adds full support for Navigraph updates for its FMS. I suspect the QW 757 is probably a lot like the Wilco 737 series -- good enough, but not a spectacular PMDG-type simulation. That is OK. I do like the features I am seeing on it, though -- including all the major 757 variants. I am reasonably happy with the Captain Sim 757, although it only simulates the old-style 757 glass displays (among others) -- a reasonable design decision, to be sure. However, the QW 757 does simulate the newer LCD retrofit displays, which delivers an experience very similar to the Level-D 767 -- things like a speedtape, for example. I think there is enough difference from the CS 757 to make it rather interesting. The price (US $45) isn't too bad, either. I will post a mini-review here in the near future.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a mention to the recent Afriquiyah Airlines A332 crash in Libya this week. Condolences and prayers for all those affected by this tragedy -- especially the young Dutch boy who appears to be the sole survivor. He will have a long and difficult road ahead of him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Captain Sim Announces B-52 Driver

Captain Sim has apparently decided that sufficient interest exists in a full version of their B-52 BUFF that they will go ahead and model the interior and systems now! Not all systems will be present, but it looks like quite a few will. Should be a fun way to get the look and feel of flying a real B-52.

Very cool.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coming Attractions, Spring 2010 Edition

Every now and then it's fun to take a look at the upcoming products in the Flight Sim world. It's no secret that most of our favorite developers have been hard at work on bringing us more great planes to fly. Some have been upfront about announcing their products, while others have been a bit more coy. Here is a recap of what we know is in the pipeline:
  • PMDG 737 NGX - this is the eagerly-anticipated 737 NG series for FSX from PMDG. PMDG has promised lots of new features and functionality that will no doubt rock our worlds. Should be out sometime later this year, if all goes well. I can't wait!
  • PMDG 777 - after the 737 NGX takes flight, PMDG will bring us a 777. Due to commonality with the 737 NG flight deck, PMDG claims that the 777 should not take terribly long to produce. I am really stoked about this one. We are way overdue for a high-quality 777 in FSX. The PMDG 747X is really nice, but a dwindling number of airlines are still flying the 747 for passenger ops these days. Should be out late this year or sometime next year.
  • PMDG Dash-8 - this will be the successor to the J41 in the PMDG turboprop line. I believe they are starting with the -100 series and working their way up. I sure hope they do a Q400 someday -- would love to see a great Q400 in FSX! PMDG has mentioned that development of this one has slowed a bit due to resources being diverted toward the NGX, so it will probably be next year before we see this one.
  • PMDG Secret Projects #1 and #2 - PMDG has also hinted that they have two additional secret projects in the skunkworks, but they haven't told us what they are yet. Will be interesting to see what else they are cooking up over there...
  • Airsimmer A320 Advanced Edition - Airsimmer has been a very controversial topic over in the forums for the last few months. They seem to have bungled the A320 Basic Edition, and there seems to be some concern whether they will last long enough to get the full A320 Advanced Edition out for FS9 and FSX before they fold as a going concern. I sure hope they make it, because I would love to see a high-quality Airbus simulation for FSX. But who knows when we'll see this one?
  • CoolSky Secret Project - Espen has confirmed that they are working on something new over at CoolSky. Wonder what it is? Speculation ranges from a DC-9 to a 717 to something totally out of left field. Who knows? If I were a betting man, I would put my money on a DC-9, as it shares some similarities with their Super 80 series. But who knows? Maybe we'll find out later this year.
  • Level-D 757 - Level-D gave us a teaser screenshot of the 757 flight deck last year, and it looked very nice. No word on how things are progressing, though. Wonder if this will be the year that the Level-D 757 finally takes flight?
  • Flight1 Secret Project - McPhat Studios has mentioned that someone over at Flight1 is also working on something interesting. It's unclear if it is one of their partner development houses (CoolSky, Level-D, etc.) or something totally different. Keep watching!
  • Digital Aviation CRJ - DA gave a surprise update on the CRJ toward the beginning of the year. Turned out that they had some personnel issues with regard to the staffing of the development team for the CRJ, so progress has been slower than planned. Will be interesting to see if they can get it back on track and out the door sometime soon. I thought their Fokker 70/100 series was a very nice add-on, and I would love to see them (or somebody) do a high-quality CRJ.
  • feelThere Secret Project - rumors abound that feelThere! is working on something new, too.
  • Wilco Piaggio Avanti - this one should be out hopefully any day now. It's already up on their website, with pricing and everything listed. Just not accepting orders yet. Looks like a very interesting plane, and I would definitely be interested in picking this one up.
  • Captain Sim 707 Captain - Captain Sim recently made a big splash announcement about this one. Looks like the natural successor to the 727 add-on. Some nifty new features have been announced, including an INS on some variants. Very nice! Can't wait to enter the jet age with the 707! They are hoping to get this one out later this year.
  • Captain Sim 767-400 - We know they are working on this variant of the 767 as well, which requires an entirely different flight deck compared to their earlier 767 models. Wonder if they will be ready to unveil the -400 series this year?
And as always, expect a few nice unexpected surprises along the way, too. Wonder what else is in store?