Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wilco/FeelThere Working on CRJ NextGen

Wilco/FeelThere seem to be continuing the trend of refreshing their old products.  The SimWare Simulations website seems to have the inside track with Wilco of late - they broke news of the 737 PIC Evolution first with a preview several months ago.  And now, just last week, they showed off a preview of the next Wilco/FeelThere project: a CRJ NextGen series.  They have some screenshots of external CRJ-700, CRJ-900, and CRJ-1000 NextGen models.  Very nice looking.  Should be interesting to see how these turn out.  I'm guessing we will see these released sometime in 2012.

Hopefully this will light a fire under the Digital Aviation/Aerosoft folks to get their long overdue CRJ out to the masses soon, too!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wilco/FeelThere Release 737 PIC Evolution

I hinted about this one a couple of months ago, and now it's official: Wilco has released the 737 PIC Evolution.  This is an update of the 737 PIC with better 3D modeling, an improved VC, and some other features.

It comes in two versions: standard and deluxe.  The standard version is €28.88 for U.S. customers (or €34.95 for Europeans paying VAT), which works out to about US $38.  The deluxe version apparently includes some additional liveries (though this is not immediately obvious from the Wilco site) and costs €37.15 (or €44.95 for Europeans paying VAT), which works out to about US $48.

This product covers the 737 Classic series, which consists of the 300/400/500 series.  For those of you looking to assemble a complete Southwest Airlines virtual fleet, this will provide you with a 737-300 and a 737-500 to go along with your 737-700 from either PMDG (737 NGX) or iFly (737 NG).

This seems to have gotten some mixed reviews initially, with the consensus being that the product was probably rushed a little for the holiday season.  It may get better after Wilco/feelThere start releasing service packs.

I will probably be checking this one out over the holidays very soon.

QualityWings BAe 146 Goes Beta

QualityWings just announced that their BAe 146 project has just entered its initial beta test period!  The first beta release includes the RJ70, RJ85, and RJ100 for FS9.  More variants and FSX support are forthcoming.  They expect an initial release in February.  I'm looking forward to this one.

PMDG Updates 737 NGX to SP1b

It's been a relatively quiet few weeks in the world of flight sim, but there have been a few interesting developments of late.  First of all, PMDG has released the SP1b update to their 737 NGX product.  This is a free update that consists of mostly minor bugfixes.  The update comes in two parts - one for the original 800/900 series base release, and another for the 600/700 series expansion.  If you are buying new, the NGX installers have already been updated to SP1b.

More info about the update is here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

PMDG Readies NGX SP1b, and More

Robert Randazzo of PMDG recently posted that they are readying the SP1b update to their 737 NGX series.  This will be a free update that fixes some issues that they did not have a chance to address in SP1.  They are continuing efforts to work on the -ER series, the BBJ series, and the military series as well, but they have not yet revealed a timetable as to when these will be available.

Robert says the PMDG team is fully underway on 777 development at the moment as well.  He hopes to update soon regarding release timetables (unclear as to whether he is talking about the NGX expansions, the 777, or something else here) as well as some "announcements on new product offerings."  Oooooooh, the last part is really intriguing for me - can't wait for PMDG to open their kimono a little more and let us know what else they're cooking up!

Elsewhere, there seems to have been a bit of a rift developing between PMDG and McPhat Studios regarding the release of repaints for the NGX.  The exact nature of the rift is unclear, but the gist of it seems to be that McPhat claims PMDG did not provide them with all the legal clearance they needed to release repaints for the NGX, while PMDG claims they bent over backwards to work with McPhat, and are displeased by McPhat's lack of professionalism.

You can read the comments by Robert Randazzo of PMDG regarding McPhat here.

You can read the response to these comments by Terrence Klaverweide of McPhat here.

Best as I can tell, this is one of those things that should have been fairly routine, but seems to have escalated into a pissing match on both sides.  I hope cooler heads can prevail.  I like McPhat, and think they do some great artistry on airplane repaints.  Hopefully a little diplomacy goes a long way here - I think the flight sim world needs both PMDG and McPhat.

Captain Sim Updates 767 Captain to v1.5

Captain Sim released the v1.5 update to their 767 Captain product this week.  Details here.

This update is very similar to the recent 757 Captain updates, in that it removes the dependency on FSUIPC and eliminates some of the nasty rolling/rocking effects previously observed on ILS landings.  I have snagged the recent updates for both the 757 and 767, and I am pleased to report that flying these two planes is a much more satisfying experience now.

Elsewhere, Captain Sim reports that "good progress" is being made toward the full versions of the 737 and 777 - hopefully we will see one or both of these sometime in 2012.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

feelThere! Releases Embraer Phenom 100

feelThere! has released their Embraer Phenom 100 VLJ addon for FS9 and FSX.  This is labeled a "LE" product, which presumably means "Lite Edition".  It does not come with a full implementation of a FMS, instead relying on the default FS flight planner to drive the Garmin 1000 avionics simulated in this product.  (In essence, that means no direct support for SIDs or STARs, and grossly outdated navigational data.)

The Embraer Phenom 100 is available at the feelThere! site for US $34.99.

Note this product is also available for sale through Wilco Publishing, too.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Captain Sim Updates 757 Captain to v4.6

Hot on the heels of the recent v4.5 update, Captain Sim has squashed a few more bugs and rolled out a v4.6 update to the 757 Captain.  List of bugs fixed is here.

Some folks were grumbling that the v4.5 update did not quite fix everything as advertised, so hopefully v4.6 addresses those remaining issues now.

Monday, October 31, 2011

QualityWings Releases Another BAe 146/AvroRJ Video

This one shows a full flight, and the 2D panels.  Looks like they may be getting close to release.

feelThere! announces Embraer Phenom 100 (and more...)

feelThere! sent out a mass email this morning announcing the Embraer Phenom 100.  It is termed an "LE" product, which presumably means it is a less complicated model than their usual fare.  (Though as an aside, I've never found feelThere's planes to be overwhelmingly complicated compared to some.)

For those of you on Facebook, they have been showing off some previews of the Phenom on their Facebook page.

Elsewhere, I managed to dig up some interesting previews of their 737 PIC v2, which following in the same vein as the recent updates to their Airbus products, will apparently be termed the 737 PIC Evolution.  Apparently they are developing this update under contract for Wilco, according to their forums.  No clue on when it will be available, but looks to be progressing nicely.  This product covers the 737 Classic series (737-300/400/500) and should make a nice compliment to the 737 NGX or iFly 737 NG for those of you looking to simulate the entire Southwest Airlines virtual fleet.

PMDG Updates 737 NGX to SP1, Releases 600/700 Expansion

After several delays, PMDG has release the SP1 update to the 737 NGX.  For a list of the issues addressed with this update along with a link to the update, visit the PMDG customer forum.  Due to a number of changes in the aircraft.cfg file, PMDG recommends that you uninstall the previous version of the NGX, and reinstall with SP1.  (Yeah, I know, kind of a pain if you had a bunch of add-on liveries installed...)

PMDG also released the 737-600/-700 expansion pack to the NGX as well.  Cost is US $24.95 for now, available here.

I picked up the update and the expansion pack this weekend.  Most of the little minor bugs in the initial release have been worked out, and the plane is an even greater joy to fly now.  Give the 737-600 a try - even though it never sold well in real life due to poor economics, it climbs like a rocket when very lightly loaded.  Great fun!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Captain Sim Releases 757 Captain v4.5

Captain Sim has released the long-awaited v4.5 update to their 757 Captain.  I'm really looking forward to this one - hopefully it will fix a lot of the problems we previously experienced with the aircraft rocking from side to side on approach.  They supposedly completely removed the dependency on FSUIPC, which apparently caused more problems than it was worth.

Hopefully we'll get some nice fixes for the 727 Captain next...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

McPhat Studios Confirms Wilco/feelThere 737 PIC v2

Remember that juicy little tidbit we dropped about McPhat looking for beta testers for one of their partner's products recently?

Well, it turns out that the developer in question is Wilco/feelThere, and they are indeed working on an update to the 737 PIC.  If you want to help beta test it, step on over to McPhat's forums and put the good word in for yourself.

This is really good news.  I liked the 737 PIC, but all the flat textures in the VC were very unrealistic.  While I don't expect something on par with the PMDG 737 NGX in terms of realism, it will be nice to have at least a new refresh of the 737 Classic series.  With airlines like Southwest flying both 737 Classics and 737 NG's, it will be very nice to have flyable versions of both in FSX this year.

Looks like we will have every 737 available to fly the virtual skies before long:
  • Captain Sim 737 Captain (737-100/-200) - the original "Baby Boeing" - exterior only right now, but interior in development
  • Wilco/feelThere 737 PIC v2 (737-300/-400/-500) - the 737 Classic series (coming soon)
  • PMDG 737 NGX (737-600/-700/-800/-900) - -800/-900 available now, -600/-700 and other NG variants coming soon
  • iFly 737 NG (737-600/-700/-800/-900) - all four models available now
Exciting times.  Now hopefully soon, we can get some updated Airbuses, too!

Captain Sim Releases 737-200 Exterior

Captain Sim has released the 737-200 exterior model for their 737 Captain project.

Right now, the 737 Captain is an exterior model only, aliased to the default FSX 737.  Work on the VC and interior is ongoing.  As with the 737-100 model, the current cost is €9.99 (about US $14.00).  It appears that you can apply the purchase price of these external models toward the full versions, when they are released.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

QualityWings BAe 146/AvroRJ Delayed

QualityWings announced a firmer release plan for the release of the BAe 146/AvroRJ product today.  Also, due to the scope and complexity of the project (both BAe 146 and AvroRJ models for FS9 and FSX), they decided to split up the release a bit.  Right now, they are planning to do as follows:

Release Stage 1:
Avro RJ70, RJ85, and RJ100 for FS9

Release Stage 2:
Avro RJ70, RJ85, and RJ100 for FSX

Release Stage 3:
BAe 146-100, -200, and -300 for FS9 and FSX

Customers will pay for all models up front and get free updates as the subsequent stages are released.  If this is too risky for you, you can always just wait until all the stages are completed.  Unfortunately, they are now saying that Stage 1 will not be due until the end of Q4 2011, which means we won't see anything for FSX on this product until 2012.  Bummer, but understandable.  Hopefully they will use the extra time to make it an even better product.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Captain Sim Releases 737 Captain (Exterior Only)

Captain Sim has released the initial version of the 737 Captain, featuring the 737-100 exterior model and three liveries.  Work on the 737 Captain's interior systems is ongoing, but for now, the interior of the plane is aliased to the default 737 from FSX.  Price is only €9.99 for now, and sure to go up when the full version is out.  I understand early adopters will get a discount on the full version when it is released.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

QualityWings Shows Off BAe 146/AvroRJ Some More

QualityWings has also given the fans some nice views of the virtual cockpit of the upcoming BAe 146/AvroRJ product.  Note that this is not the final version, as they are still actively fixing several inaccuracies.  However, this is looking really nice so far.

A preview of the night lighting is also available here.

This looks like it's going to be a fun little plane to fly when it's ready to go.

Captain Sim Says 737 Captain (Exterior Only) Due in September

Captain Sim has posted an announcement that the 737 Captain (737-100) will be released in September, but it will be the exterior model only at this time.  Price will be €9.99.  Interior and expansion models will come later.

Apparently they are also seeking beta testers for the 737.  Note that this does not tie in to McPhat's announcement today, as the 737 Captain (737-100/200 series) does not happen to use CFM engines.

Majestic Software Developing Q400 for FSX

I have known about this one for some time, but this project appears to be taking shape and making good strides toward release.  Majestic Software has been working on a Bombardier Q400 turboprop, and the advance screenshots are looking very nice.  Visit their forum for more details.  Enjoy!

McPhat's Partner Looking for Beta Testers

McPhat Studios posted an interesting comment at their Facebook page today.  One of their partners is looking for beta testers for an upcoming product.  They dropped the hint that the product is a twin-engine model powered by CFM engines.  Well, that means a few possibilities:

  • CFM56-3 series - found in Boeing 737 "Classic" (737-300/400/500 series)
    feelThere! at one point had expressed interest in possibly updating their old 737 PIC with an updated 3D virtual cockpit.  This is a definite possibility, if that project is still active.  Who knows, maybe someone else out there is working on this.
  • CFM56-5 series - found in Airbus A320 series (A318/A319/A320/A321)
    We know FlightSimLabs is working on an A320.  Some have also suggested that the AirSimmer A320 is not dead yet.  I suspect one of these two is the most likely possibility.
  • CFM56-7 series - found in Boeing 737 NG (737-600/700/800/900 series)
    PMDG just released the 737 NGX, and has a pretty tightly-controlled community of beta-testers.  With the iFly 737 NG also out there, I can't imagine that there is big enough of a market for any more 737 NG products at this time.
So, the bottom line is that somebody out there appears to be looking for a beta tester for either a 737 Classic, or an A320.

feelThere's Next Airplane: Embraer Phenom 100

Well, after a period that has been mostly quiet for the last several months, it looks like some upcoming projects are finally being unveiled.  I'll hit you with a few of these today:

feelThere! has made a couple of interesting posts on their Facebook page recently.  While it seems most of their effort has gone in to developing their ATC Suite, they haven't completely neglected developing airplanes, too.  They showed off a nice rendering of an Embraer Phenom 100 that they appear to be working on.  Supposedly they will show an in-game screenshot of it soon.

Here is a cutaway rendering of the cockpit, too.  And here is a cutaway rendering of the interior.

No word on when this will be out, but feelThere! usually doesn't show off projects until they are nearing the final stages of development.  Could be we'll see this one before Christmas, but don't quote me on that!

Along with the ERJ and E-Jets, feelThere! seems to have found their niche as the go-to company for Embraer products in FSX.  (I would love to see them try their hand at an Embraer turboprop, too, such as the EMB-120!)  Just the same, the Phenom 100 is a very interesting choice...seems the Cessna Citation Mustang from Flight1 will have a little competition in the VLJ segment in FSX.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mini-Review: PMDG 737 NGX

Earlier this month, PMDG released their long-awaited 737 NGX product.  The initial product release consists of the 737-800 and 737-900 models, with other 737 variants forthcoming as optional expansion packs.  PMDG's servers were overwhelmed with enthusiastic flight simmers around the globe picking up their copies of the plane - and also a rogue denial-of-service attack apparently originating in China.  I decided to wait about a week and let the initial excitement die down just a touch.  I finally picked up the NGX about two weeks ago, and have spent a fair amount of time with it since.

Here we see the PMDG NGX 737-800 model in all her glory, in an American Airlines repaint:

For our test flight during this review, we will be doing a quick charter run from Miami International Airport (KMIA) to Jose Marti International Airport (MUHA) in Havana, Cuba.  The above screenshot was taken on the initial climbout over south Florida.  Flight time will be about 45 minutes, which is just about enough time to do a quick rundown of all the features of the NGX.

As with PMDG's previous flagship level products, the NGX comes with a full set of 2D panels.  Here is the main 2D panel for the captain's seat:

Here is another 2D panel for the dome lighting directly overhead:

Here is another 2D panel for the captain's FMS:

Here is a 2D panel for the center pedestal, controlling the radios, transponder, and TCAS:

Here is another small 2D panel controlling the fire suppression controls:

And another 2D panel for the overhead switches, including the lights, pressurization, and hydraulics:

Here is another 2D panel for the INS:

And here is a smaller 2D panel for just the overhead lights - this is a smaller version of the overhead panel, designed to not obstruct the pilot's view while flying:

Now here are a couple of screenshots of the 3D virtual cockpit, which is my preferred way to fly.  The Florida Keys loom somewhere down below:

PMDG has spared almost no detail when modeling the NGX.  Every switch makes a click, and with few exceptions, actually does something.  Boeing supposedly gave PMDG unprecedented access to the schematics and design documents of the real 737 NG series, and PMDG used this information to model every last bit of a 737 NG in the NGX.  I understand Boeing is providing PMDG with similar access to the 777 for their forthcoming 777 product, as well.

Flying the NGX is a bit like peeling an onion.  (Then again, I think this is probably true of every PMDG product I own!)  Veterans of the old PMDG 737 series (FS9-only) or the iFly 737 NG will have no trouble getting the NGX up in the air quickly - probably without even reading the tutorial.  To a lesser extent, any flight sim veteran should be able to get the NGX airborne with only a modest learning curve.

However, there is a gotcha: systems that are not modeled in other 737 NG products are modeled on the NGX.  In gory detail.  For veterans of other 737 NG products, this will occasionally lead to some unexpected issue popping up, due to the fact that the NGX actually models a particular system that others do not.  One example: on my maiden flight of the NGX, I simmed an American Airlines flight from KDFW to KAUS.  I ran with about 1/3 fuel load.  About midway through the flight, I get an alert that the hydraulics system is overheating!  Never seen that one before.  Well, it turns out that the real 737 NG uses fuel in the center tank as a heat exchanger for the electro-hydraulics pumps.  If you don't have at least around 2,000 lbs. of fuel in the center tank, there is no liquid there to collect the excess heat from the hydraulics pumps, and they overheat.  Good to know.  This is the kind of detail you can expect to see in the NGX.

Similar to the PMDG MD-11, there are other bits of eye candy modeled as well.  Things like the pushback sequence, and ground connections for the MD-11.  You can even chock the wheels when you are parked at the gate!

Now I would be remiss if I did not mention one of my most favorite features in the NGX: the Heads-Up Guidance System, or HUGS.  Sure, PMDG is not the first developer to introduce a HUGS in a product - the Wilco/feelThere ERJv2 models a HUGS in the Embraer E-175 and E-195, for example.  However, PMDG probably has the best implementation of a HUGS I have ever seen.  Notice how the color of the light changes when you peer through the HUGS to the outside windscreen, for example:

The HUGS is a wonderful innovation for pilots, as it provides them all the instrumentation information they need without having to look away from the window.  Pilots can integrate the instrument data along with the visual external cues to increase situational awareness - for example, if the airspeed is too high or too low, the pilot can adjust the throttles accordingly without even taking his eyes off the approach.

Another nice feature of the HUGS in real life is that you can see the data being presented at any viewing angle.  Notice what happens in the HUGS in the following screenshots when I pan to the right in the 3D virtual cockpit:

Amazing!  This is the level of detail you can expect with the NGX.  Using the HUGS makes a smooth landing in normal conditions a snap almost every time.  You never have to pan away (or zoom back far enough) to monitor the instruments while landing.

Here are a few other pictures of the exterior model as we fly over the Florida Keys:

Key West is down below: NAS Key West (KNQX) on the right, and the smallish Key West International (really?) Airport (KEYW) on the left.  With a runway only 4800' long, it's hard to believe that AirTran and Delta actually run Boeing 737-700s (severely weight restricted) on scheduled service out of there to Orlando, Tampa, and Atlanta.  Remind me to try that flight when PMDG releases the 737-600/737-700 expansion models for the NGX:

Touching down in Havana.  Welcome to Cuba!

Another nifty feature of the NGX, not shown here, is the ability to dynamically configure the airplane's fuel, payload, and features through a special menu on the NGX.  If your pet airline uses the Collins instrument panel instead of the Honeywell instrument panel, changing it is easily done in just a few mouse clicks!  You can also save configurations for a particular repaint.  Some of the repaints from PMDG even come with configurations that accurately reflect how that particular airline configures its 737 NG.  Very cool.

So you may be asking, what are the downsides to the NGX?  Not many.  Here are a few I can think of:

  • I have experienced a few intermittent freezes and crashes.  However, this may have been a product of having my graphics sliders set too high on the new flight sim rig I am testing out.  I need to run some further test flights with more realistic settings to gauge whether or not this is a big problem.
  • Performance did seem fairly reasonable on both my laptop and my main flight sim rig.  It may tax some older systems or video cards much more than some other add-ons.  PMDG has spent a great deal of time optimizing the NGX, and there is definitely a balance to strike between having lots of detail versus reasonable performance.  I think PMDG did a smashing job of finding the right balance with the NGX - for most of us with decent systems and video cards, we will have our cake and eat it, too.
  • Price is US $70 right now, for a limited time only.  It will jump to US $75 when the first expansion model (the 737-600/737-700 series) comes out.  This seems on the high side, but is actually a tremendous value for the features and level of detail that you get.  Plus, you get to control how much you want to spend: if you want all the variants, you could potentially blow as much as US $150 or more.  (Thankfully, not all at once!)  If you don't care about those and just want to fly a 737 NG of some sort, then you'll get by just fine with the base model.
  • Complexity will put off some novices.  I love a certain amount of complexity myself, but if you don't, then you might consider giving the iFly 737 NG a go instead.
In short: PMDG will no doubt clean up on all the 2011 Flight Sim Product of the Year awards.  It won't even be close.  Which is really too bad in a way, because there are also a lot of other interesting aircraft coming down the pipe in the not-too-distant future.  However, PMDG has definitely earned it with the NGX.  Serious flight simmers will definitely want to add this one to their collection.  The NGX is fun to fly, and will reward extensive study of her features for a long time to come.  Don't miss it!

Rating: *****

Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Little Piece of the CoolSky DC-9

Espen of CoolSky gives another little sneak peek of the upcoming DC-9...this time, in PMDG fashion, it's a small sliver of the VC.  Looks very, very nice...McPhat seems to be doing a great job with the modeling.  Looking forward to this one, too!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Did You Get Yours Yet?

I picked up my copy of the NGX today.  Here is she is on her maiden flight from SeaTac to PDX:

Folks, this plane is an absolute gem to fly.  I love the iFly 737 NG, but the PMDG NGX is even better.  And that is not intended as a slight against iFly - theirs is a very nice plane, too.  However, the attention to detail on the NGX is second to none.  Will elaborate more once I have a chance to completely soak it in.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Digital Aviation/Aerosoft CRJ Cockpit Previews

Mathijs Kok of Aerosoft gave the masses a nice update on the Digital Aviation/Aerosoft CRJ project a few days ago in the Aerosoft forums.  There are some nice screenshots of the cockpit there, too!  It's looking really nice.  Hopefully they will put the finishing touches on this bird in the not-too-distant future, and we can open up the CRJ-based regional affiliates for our new NGX-based airlines...  ;-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Week's Sim News

Lots of little news items trickling out here and there.  Rather than making a bunch of new blog posts, for each one, I'll just collect them all and post them here:

  • The PMDG 737 NGX is out.  I'll be snagging my copy later this week, when the initial stampede dies down slightly.  I guess this means they will be turning their full attention to the 777 next...
  • CoolSky made a new blog post pertaining to their DC-9 - specifically, on radio navigation.  This is a highly useful introduction to anyone who isn't familiar with old-school aeronautical navigation, before the days of GPS and modern FMS units that do most of the work for us.  The CoolSky DC-9 will be true to original form, predating all of these technological advances.  Thus, knowing how to track VOR radials will be very important to successful operation of this plane.  Espen is also including a "special radio navigation training simulator" as a component of the CoolSky DC-9.  This is apparently one of the secret features he had referred to previously.  Looks neat.
  • According to this post, Captain Sim is apparently looking for some 757 experts to help test out VNAV/LNAV functionality in their upcoming v4.5 service pack for the Captain Sim 757.  Bugfixes include stripping out the dependency on FSUIPC, which will make the flight model much more stable.  Major thumbs up on this one.

Friday, August 5, 2011

PMDG Releases 737 NGX, Gets Cyber-Attacked

Well, it's been an interesting day over at PMDG!

First off, they did indeed release the 737 NGX, as promised.

However, at around the same time, their servers were targeted by a nasty denial-of-service cyberattack, apparently originating from China.  This attack forced PMDG to take their servers offline for a while.  As of this writing, they are still offline, but hope to be back up again soon.

Speculation in the forums is rampant that the perps may be sympathetic to the competing iFly 737 product, which was developed at least partially in China.  However, PMDG has downplayed this suggestion, and urges everyone not to jump to conclusions.

I think I'll wait at least a few days for the stampede to die down, then I'll order by NGX in an orderly fashion.  Hope to have a mini-review up here in a week or two.

Elsewhere, AVSIM's forums (where PMDG's user forums are hosted) were also offline due to technical difficulties earlier today.  Not exactly the smooth launch PMDG was hoping for, I suspect.  Nonetheless, these are just minor blips along the way, and everyone should be enjoying their new NGX's very shortly.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

McPhat Unveils Some Interesting Plans

The gang over at McPhat Studios have been rather busy this year, and they recently shared some previews of their upcoming projects with the masses:

  • As previously mentioned here, McPhat has been handling the 3D modeling of the CoolSky (Flight1) DC-9-30 project, in addition to their usual repainting duties.  In their blog, they mention that the DC-9 development phase is "nearing its end."  Elsewhere, Espen has promised another update on the DC-9 very soon.  Looks like we may be taking flight in the DC-9 before long!
  • McPhat has also been going it on their own for the first time, with the development of an ATR 72-500 model.  It still looks early in development, but the screenshots are very nice so far.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this project is that they are targeting this for X-Plane, and not FSX.  However, they have not ruled out a FSX version of the ATR at some point.  They state it will not be a full simulation of the ATR, but the flight model will be realistic.  It will be interesting to see where they go with this.  I love the PMDG Jetstream 4100 turboprop, and hope we can see more realistic turboprops in the future.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PMDG Announces 737 NGX Pricing

Hot on the heels of the announcement that the 737 NGX will drop on August 4, PMDG has finalized their pricing and release structure for the NGX.  It's actually pretty good news, overall.  To recap:

  • The base models of the NGX will be the -800/-900 series, both with or without winglets.  Price will be US $69.99 if you buy right away; otherwise, it increases to US $74.99 when the first expansion pack is released within 1-2 months.
  • The initial expansion pack will be the -600/-700 series models, both with or without winglets on the -700 series.  Price will be US $24.99, and it is expected to be available 4-8 weeks after release.
  • The "ER" variants (-700ER, -900ER) will also be available as an expansion pack, 4-8 weeks after the -600/-700 expansion.  Price and availability TBA.
  • The "BBJ" variants (BBJ, BBJ2) will also be available as another expansion pack, "subject to interest."  (If the PMDG forums are any indication, there is plenty of interest.)  Expected another 4-8 weeks after the ER expansion.  Price and availability TBA.
  • The "military" variants (P-8, Wedgetail) will also be available as another expansion pack, "subject to interest."  Expected another 4-8 weeks after the BBJ expansion.  Price and availability TBA.
Are you ready for the release?  I know I am!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm Still Here!

This summer, our family is in the process of relocating back to the Pacific Northwest of the USA.  We have been living out of suitcases for almost a month, and all my computers (save for my laptop) are in storage.  Thus, I'm a little behind the curve on the Flight Simulator scene right now.  Fortunately, we plan to move into our new house next week, and hopefully things will quickly return to normal again after that.

So what's new in the world of Flight Sim since I last posted?

  • The iFly team has released SP1 of the iFly 737 NG for FSX.  (Link available to registered owners only, sorry for everyone else!)  This update fixes a lot of the minor, irritating bugs, and makes for an even more satisfying flying experience.  I have to admit, the iFly 737 NG has been getting a lot of flying time on my laptop during the move.
  • PMDG has been toiling away on the 737 NGX, and the reports from the field of wide beta testers are streaming in.  They also upgraded their servers this past weekend to handle the expected influx of 737 NGX orders.  Captain Randazzo just announced that, failing any significant problems that warrant a delay, they expect to unleash the 737 NGX to the wild on August 4.  Get your credit cards ready!
  • Not much news on the Digital Aviation/Aerosoft CRJ.  Mathijs Kok reports that things are looking great, but not as quickly as we would all like.  Hopefully we'll get another update soon!
  • The QualityWings BAe146 is still apparently on track for a Q3 2011 release as well, but QW seems to have gone quiescent since the July 8 livery preview post.  Hopefully this means that they are buckling down and getting everything ready to roll out.
  • With all the great 737 NGs coming down the pipe, what about Airbus?  Well, this bunch gave us a really nice preview of their A320 external model last week.  And rumor has it, this other bunch is not quite dead yet...
Enjoy, and happy flying!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

QualityWings Begins Showing Off BAe146/AvroRJ

QualityWings has been giving us some eye candy, with external liveries of their upcoming BAe146/AvroRJ add-on over the last several months.  This week, they have begun featuring some views of the interior 2D panels as well.  Enjoy!

Supposedly, this is scheduled for release in Q3 2011.  Hope they stay on target...this one looks very interesting.

Speaking of the PMDG NGX...

PMDG has been slowly releasing more tidbits about the NGX.  It seems we are inching ever closer to completion, but they are sparing no missed detail along the way.  This should truly be a great product.  I have avoided reposting every new update that PMDG posts, because, well, I am trying to avoid PMDG fatigue here, and frankly, there hasn't been much new to tell.

One interesting bit that came out a few days ago is that you can apparently configure your 737 NGX on-the-fly.  Want to switch from the Honeywell-style MCP to the Collins-style MCP?  Or from EFIS/MAP to PFD/ND displays?  No problem!  This video clip provided by PMDG illustrates the on-the-fly configurability of the NGX:

This is very interesting - as I previously pointed out in my review of the iFly 737 NG, the 737 NG is arguably one of the most configurable jetliners around.  It seems every carrier flying the type has its own, slightly unique flavor of it.  iFly handles these details by requiring you to define the configuration of each model on a per-livery basis in its Fleet Manager, which is an entirely reasonable approach.  The NGX, however, takes this to an entirely new level - the dynamic reconfiguration of the cockpit is a nifty feature.

Though the pragmatist in me actually sort of likes the iFly approach, in a sense - if you know the configuration of a particular carrier, it seems like it would be a pain to have to wade through all the settings and dynamically set them to match your preferred carrier's configuration before flight each time.  I would hope the PMDG will have some kind of per-livery default configuration you can set ahead of time, so you don't have to waste time configuring the cockpit to your liking each time.  I'm sure they probably will - but this video doesn't seem to make that particularly clear.  Nonetheless, the ability to play with the cockpit configuration on-the-fly is a feature that we will all have some fun with.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mini-Review: iFly Jets 737 NG (FSX)

While the forthcoming PMDG 737 NGX product seems to be grabbing most of the hearts and minds of the flight sim community, another competing project has quietly emerged on the scene.  Developed by a relatively new outfit known as iFly Jets and distributed by Flight1, the iFly 737 NG series, which was originally released for FS9 last year, has recently been enhanced and updated for FSX.  The FSX version finally rolled out last week, and I felt it would be worth taking a look at - especially since PMDG seems to be in no big hurry to release the 737 NGX just yet.  (Yes, I know, they have very good reasons, and we won't get sidetracked with that here.)

The iFly Jets 737 NG includes all of the following variants of the 737: -600, -700, -800, -900, BBJ, BBJ2, BBJ3.  Here is a shot of the external model of the 737-900 with winglets in Alaska Airlines livery:

For this review, we will be simulating a short delivery flight from the Boeing 737 factory at KRNT to one of Alaska Airlines' hubs at KPDX.  Here is a shot of the main 2D panel from the Captain's seat:

Here are various other 2D panels.  The FMC:

The flight yoke:

The upper center console, with dual FMCs, throttles, and the other goodies one would normally expect to find here:

Here is the main overhead panel, including the lights:

Here is the rest of the overhead panel, including the IRS:

Here is the radio stack in the lower center console:

And here is the main 2D panel from the First Officer's seat:

The iFly Jets 737 NG also comes with a very nice 3D virtual cockpit:

One thing worth pointing out here is that the 737 NG series is one of the most configurable aircraft series around.  It seems every carrier which operates the type has their own unique combination of options for their own 737 NGs.  Examples include winglets vs. no winglets, eyebrow windows vs. none, old MCS vs. new MCS, CRT vs. LCD screens, EFIS/Map displays vs. PFD/ND displays, and so on. The really cool thing is that the iFly Jets 737 NG allows you to configure these options on a per-livery basis.  You can go investigate the cockpit pictures of Delta's 737-800s at sites like, and configure your Delta repaint with many of the same options.  This adds a degree of realism that is very nice - as opposed to add-ons like the Captain Sim 757, which model only one fixed set of options for the 757.

Here are a couple of examples of how you can vary the options.  The first picture resembles a Southwest Airlines example, which recently switched from EFIS/Map to PFD/ND in all of its 737-700s.  Note the newer-style MCP as well:

And here is an example from a United (Continental) 737-800, which still uses the EFIS/Map style displays, presumably for commonality with their older 737 Classics:

All of these options are managed on a per-livery basis through the iFly 737 NG Fleet Manager, which is part of the iFly 737 NG Configuration Manager.  The Configuration Manager does the usual job of managing payload and fuel for your next flight, as with many other similar utilities.  The Fleet Manager tool within actually helps you manage your repaints and configurable options.  It is somewhat crude - you still have to unzip your repaint into the appropriate subdirectory under SimObjects\Aircraft first.  Once you do this, the Fleet Manager can find the directory you have created, and walk you through the process of setting all the options for that repaint, and update the Aircraft.cfg file for you.  Here is a screenshot of the Configuration Manager.  Click on the "My Fleet" button to access the Fleet Manager here:

And here is a slideshow of various images of the iFly 737 NG in action, on our delivery flight from KRNT to KPDX:

The iFly 737 NG series is fun to fly, and generally works as advertised.  I ran into very few problems with crashes that could not be attributed to other external factors, such as running out of memory.  (Due to a lightning storm taking out my main FSX rig, I had to install and fly the iFly Jets 737 NG on my laptop.  It actually worked okay.)  Make sure you are not low on disk space, in case your machine needs to swap pages to disk.  When I ran low on disk space on my laptop, the iFly 737 NG started behaving in some rather peculiar ways.  Freeing up disk space made it a lot happier.  Users with powerful systems will not likely run into this issue.

Of course, this review would be incomplete without discussing some limitations/drawbacks of the iFly 737 NG series:

  • One notable omission in the list of 737 NG variants modeled by the iFly 737 NG is the 737-900ER.  While externally almost identical to the 737-900, the main point of frustration for me is the inability to "convert" a 737-900 to a 737-900ER by adding the auxiliary fuel tanks.  Yes, I'm aware there are a few other differences between the 737-900 and 737-900ER - such as the extra set of doors, allowing it to be certified for more passengers - but as I see it, the missing aux fuel tanks are the only thing affecting the operation of the plane itself, by limiting its range.  I would love to see a 737-900ER modeled by the iFly 737 NG as well, perhaps in a future update of the product.  It seems it wouldn't be terribly difficult to add this variant, considering that they already do a BBJ3, which is based on the 737-900ER.
  • Weather radar is not modeled on the iFly 737 NG.  Then again, PMDG won't be modeling it in their 737 NGX product, either.  As a workaround, there is a procedure posted in the iFly forums for adding the third-party Reality XP Weather Radar into the iFly 737 NG panel.
  • The EGPWS Peaks display is apparently not modeled on the iFly 737 NG.  Not a huge issue, as it is an optional feature in the real-life NG.
  • Repaints from the FS9 version of the iFly 737 NG apparently are not 100% compatible with the FSX version.  I tried installing an FS9 livery in the FSX version, and it looked terrible.  Not a major issue, but be warned if you download any repaints from AVSIM.
  • The iFly Jets 737 NG series seems a little framerate heavy - nothing severe, but probably roughly in the neighborhood of some of the Captain Sim products.  You may want to dial back your detail settings a little if you are working on a lesser machine.

The iFly 737 NG for FSX is one of those very unfortunate victims of timing.  In and of itself, it is a very nice simulation of the 737 NG series - an aircraft that has been long overdue for a proper treatment on FSX.  If iFly had chosen to do almost any other aircraft instead, everyone would be raving about how nice a product this really is.  However, because of the looming release of the PMDG 737 NGX within the next few months (presumably), it will be difficult for the iFly 737 NG to get a fair shake. It remains to be seen how much the PMDG 737 NGX will actually live up to expectations, but given the details that the PMDG developers have let slip so far, it is shaping up to be the Cadillac of 737 NG simulations.  I liken the iFly 737 NG to something more along the lines of a Toyota Corolla - a solid, dependable, and less expensive simulation of the 737 NG series.  It may lack some of the features and modeling that will make the PMDG version special, but it is still a very, very good simulation of the 737 NG series.  I like the iFly 737 NG, and I wish the iFly team great success with the product.  It is a solid first release from a relatively new team on the payware scene.  Hopefully, iFly will have better luck in the future with choosing projects that will differentiate them from their competitors in the marketplace.  I would really love to see iFly do a Boeing 717, in particular - I think they would do a great job with it.

If you are looking for a decent, relatively inexpensive simulation of the 737 NG, and you don't want to wait for the PMDG 737 NGX, then you certainly can't go wrong with the iFly 737 NG series.  It works well, and it is actually fun to fly.  Subject to the above limitations, I can't really say anything bad about it.

Rating: ****

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Caution: Foreign Objects on the Runway!

If you have ever tried to fly into Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City, Belize (MZBZ), you have no doubt encountered a very nasty little bug in FSX: for some reason, the airport bounds are not correctly computed, and there are all sorts of trees and other objects growing right in the middle of the runway!  Turn off your crash detection for landing at this airport, folks.

Here are some screenshots which illustrate the issue:

Apparently, this is a well-known issue in FSX, although I didn't encounter it until very recently.

There are apparently some third-party fixes available for this problem, although Microsoft has never issued a fix themselves.

Preview of the iFly 737 NG for FGX

I'm going to do a full mini-review on this one perhaps as soon as a few days from now, but I just picked up the iFly 737 NG for FSX last night.  I took a quick first flight from KDAL to KHOU in the Southwest Airlines 737-700 "Illinois One" livery, which is available as a free download through the iFly forums.

Here are some nice preview shots of the upcoming review, just to give you a taste.  The first one is a shot of the exterior model, climbing toward cruise:

Here is a view of the 3D virtual cockpit:

And here is another shot of the exterior, with landing lights on as we line up on final for KHOU:

Initial impressions: it's very nice, especially for the price.  What it lacks in all the little flourishes that will make the PMDG 737 NGX special, it makes up for in a less expensive package that is easy on the wallet.  Plus, as a Flight1 product, it is fully backed by Flight1's legendary guarantee, so you really have nothing to lose.  I really like that it comes with the 737-600/-700/-800/-900/-900ER/BBJ/BBJ2/BBJ3 variants, as well.  There are a few minor glitches, but nothing unprecedented for a 1.0 release.

Enjoy!  And consider picking this one up if the PMDG price tag will be too expensive for you, or you simply MUST have a 737 NG NOW.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flight1/iFly 737 NG Now Available for FSX

I had to dig around in the Flight1 forums to find this, as this has not showed up on their main page yet.  An outfit known as iFly (distributed by Flight1) came out with a FS9-only version of a 737 NG last year.  Now, as of this week, it appears that the FSX version of their 737 NG is also available.  Pricing is a little unclear from the webpage, but the FS9 verison is US $54.95, so I suspect the FSX version is similarly priced.

You can download the Flight1 e-commerce wrapper containing the iFly 737 NG for FSX here.

Very interesting timing, as the PMDG 737 NGX is apparently also very imminent.  I'm tempted to give the iFly 737 NG a look in the meantime, though, just to tide me over...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

PMDG 737 NGX On Final

What's that in the sky up there?  Could it be?  The PMDG 737 NGX really is on its delivery flight to our hangars?

Apparently, it is so.  NGX has been in beta for about a month, and many issues have been resolved.  Wider beta coming soon, and's time to take delivery of the NGX.

Very good news all around.  We will definitely be flying around in the NGX before long.  Check out the new videos in Captain Randazzo's post.

PMDG is showing off some 737 NGX livery previews, too.

Considering I lost my main flight sim rig in a lightning storm last month, I guess it is the perfect occasion to go build a new one...  :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Captain Sim Releases 777 Captain (Exerior Only)

Captain Sim announced that they have released the initial version of their 777 Captain product, which is only the exterior model of their 777.  Price for this is currently €9.99, or around US $15.  They are apparently working on the interior systems now, but for the time being, the interior of the Captain Sim 777 is aliased to the default FSX Boeing 747-400 panel.

Currently only the 777-200 is available, although I presume that in the usual Captain Sim fashion, there will be other 777 variants available in the future as well.

I called this one long ago...not surprised they are doing this one, given the way Captain Sim has been working their way through the Boeing line.  It will be interesting to see how the Captain Sim 777 stacks up against the forthcoming PMDG 777.

I think I'll wait on this one until they are a little farther along, but this is certainly a very interesting development.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wilco Releases Airbus Evolution

After several brief delays, Wilco has finally released the Airbus Evolution Vol. 1 and 2 for FS9 and FSX.  Many regard this as largely a service pack for the existing Wilco Airbus products, though some of the fixes are nice to have.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

PMDG Promises the NGX Is Near!

Today, Captain Robert Randazzo of PMDG gave the fans a major update on the status of the 737 NGX.  And the news is all good - it seems we will be scheduling our delivery flights of the NGX very, very soon.

I don't know about you, but I'm as giddy as a schoolboy on Christmas Eve.  Been looking forward to this one for a long, long time - and it definitely looks like it will be worth the wait.

Friday, March 25, 2011

FlightSimLabs Updates Progress on Airbus Project

FlightSimLabs has just given the fans a nice glimpse of their progress on their Airbus series!  It sounds like they are really going all out in terms of detail.  They have even thrown in a screenshot to tide us over for a while...


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PMDG Putting Finishing Touches on 737 NGX

Captain Robert Randazzo of PMDG reassured everyone in a forum post that the NGX is on track, and nearing completion.  He promises to offer more of an update later in the week.  Stay tuned!

Interestingly, many PMDG developers have already moved onto the next project.  Presumably, this is the 777 and/or Dash-8.

The Boeing 747-8i Takes Flight!

In real-world aviation news, Boeing conducted a successful maiden test flight of the 747-8i in Washington State today!  Very cool.

CoolSky Gives Preview of DC-9

After McPhat let the cat out of the bag about the CoolSky/McPhat/Flight1 DC-9 in the works, CoolSky recently put up a tasty preview of the DC-9 project.  Enjoy!

Going to be a fun bird to fly!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Captain Sim Gives An Update on the 737 Captain

Captain Sim has posted some more screenshots of their 737 Captain work-in-progress.  Nice, nice, very nice...

Looks like they are making great progress with it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wilco Delays Airbus Evolution

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Wilco was in the process of updating the Airbus Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 series to the Airbus Evolution.  Well, apparently the update did not go quite as planned.  The release date slipped to March 7...and as of now, has slipped again to March 28.

I'm guessing this didn't go according to plan.  Hopefully they can sort it all out soon...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flight1 Combines Super 80 and Super 80 Pro Editions Into New Bundle

As we eagerly await the forthcoming Coolsky/McPhat DC-9, Flight1 has announced a new product bundle for the Coolsky Super80: the Super80 Ultimate Edition.  This is a boxed-only edition that combines both the Coolsky Super80 and Super80 Pro into a single box, at a great price of US $69.95.  The two products are also available as downloads for US $39.95 and US $54.95, respectively.  Quite the bargain.

Captain Sim Announces 707 Captain Expansions, Base Pack Price Cut, Update

Captain Sim released three expansion models for their 707 Captain: the 300C cargo variant, the VC-137 (original Air Force One) variant, and the E-3 Sentry military surveillance variant.  Cost of each expansion model is €9.99, or around US $14.

Captain Sim has also slashed the price of the 707-300 base pack, which is required for all the expansion models.  Previously €59.99, it has been slashed by €30 to €29.99 now.  That works out to around US $42.

The 707 base pack has also been updated to v1.3, which contains some more bugfixes and enhancements over the previous version.

The 707 Captain is a great plane, so definitely jump on this one if you are a fan of the classics.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And Speaking of PMDG...

They put some more screenshots of the 737 NGX up this evening.


Coming Attractions, Early 2011 Edition

2011 is shaping up to be another great year for the Flight Simulator X community.  As it has been a while since we last did this, let's take a brief look at the projects currently in the pipeline, along with any known information about release.  Note that these dates are purely speculative, and might even be totally false.  PLEASE do not bother the publishers working on these products!

  • PMDG 737 NGX - PMDG has showed off some impressive screenshots of this bird recently.  This is one of the products I am really looking forward to this year.  The realism will be unprecedented for a flight sim aircraft.  Can't wait to get my hands on it.  While it has been delayed substantially since the original target timeframe, I get the sense that PMDG has expanded the project and added substantial new features since the original timetable was conceived.  Nonetheless, it wouldn't surprise me to see this one hit the streets sometime this summer.  However, PMDG is flight sim equivalent to the Paul Masson winery: they will sell no airplanes before it's time!  We will just have to wait (im)patiently until they are satisfied that they have a release-quality product.
  • PMDG 777 - This one will reuse some elements of the 737 NGX, and PMDG estimated at one point that it would take approximately six months to do a 777 after they release the 737 NGX.  If that still holds, maybe we will be flying the 777 by Christmas.  Then again, with PMDG, who knows?  We'll just have to wait.
  • PMDG Dash-8 - This is the successor to the BAe Jetstream 4100 in the PMDG turboprops line.  Given that PMDG mentioned that they have committed most of their resources to the 737 NGX project, I suspect this one isn't terribly far along.  Perhaps we will see this one sometime in 2012.  We do know that PMDG is starting with an older Dash-8 variant.  I sure hope they (or somebody) will do a Q400 eventually, as those have arguably become the most popular variant of the Dash-8 flying nowadays.
  • Digital Aviation/Aerosoft CRJ-700/900 Series - This is another one I am eagerly anticipating.  CRJs are almost ubiquitous with the regional jet carriers in the USA and Europe.  After Digital Aviation went under, Aerosoft stepped in to help rescue the project.  Aerosoft appears to be working on the 3D model, while the former Digital Aviation guys are working on the systems.  The modeling part appears to be finished, and now we are we are simply waiting for the systems part to be done.  Perhaps we will see this one out this summer as well.  So far, the screenshots we have seen look very nice.
  • QualityWings Boeing 787 - This is a very interesting project, given that the 787 itself is still in development.  I am curious to see how closely the QualityWings 787 will resemble the real thing.  I suspect this will be a "lite" product a la the QualityWings 757 series, where they greatly simplify (read: inop) most of the systems on the aircraft.  No idea when this one will be available, but 2012 or later wouldn't surprise me.
  • QualityWings BAe 146/Avro RJ Series - I am actually really looking forward to this one.  I have been hoping someone would do a BAe 146 for a long time.  Even though we don't see the BAe 146 much in the USA anymore, it still serves as a workhorse in many European regional carriers' fleets.  It is such a unique and interesting bird, compared to a typical CRJ or ERJ.  QualityWings has promised to up the ante on realism with this one, and I hope they deliver.  QualityWings says that this one will be out in Q3 2011.
  • FlightSimLabs Airbus Series - This is another one I am really excited about, although the newly-updated Airbus series from Wilco may give it a run for its money.  Still, a lot of people say that even the updated Wilco Airbus series isn't necessarily realistic.  FlightSimLabs did a great job with the Concorde-X, and I suspect they will do a killer Airbus eventually, too.  I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't see this one until 2012, though, as FSL has yet to release any previews or much in the way of information about the project yet at this point.
  • CoolSky/McPhat DC-9 - As I mentioned yesterday, McPhat let slip early in February that they are helping CoolSky do a Virtual Cockpit for a DC-9.  This makes total sense as a successor to the Super 80 product.  This represents an expansion of McPhat's capabilities, as they previously just did repaints.  Very exciting to see!  No idea when the DC-9 will take to the virtual skies, as we have yet to see any previews.  Could be later this year, or sometime next year.  You may recall that Sky Simulations/Aerosoft did a decent DC-9 for FSX a while back.
  • Captain Sim 737 Captain - Captain Sim has announced they are taking on the Baby Boeing - the 737-100 and -200 series!  They have some early previews of the external model up recently, and they are looking great.  Maybe we will see this one toward the end of 2011.
  • Airsimmer Airbus Advanced Edition for FSX - I would like to take these guys seriously, but I have heard too many negative things.  I sincerely hope they will pull it out, and prove all the naysayers wrong.
  • Level-D Simulations 757 - I know this one has been something of a running joke in the flight sim community; akin to the flight sim equivalent of the Duke Nukem Forever game, or Guns 'N Roses' Chinese Democracy album.  Could this be the year that Level-D finally delivers the 757?  Who knows?
  • feelThere! - We know they are hard at work on the ATC 2011 suite, and a scenery project.  Wonder if they have any plans to do any more aircraft?  We shall see...
Let me know if I've missed anything else exciting in the world of aircraft add-ons for FSX.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 28, 2011

McPhat Slips CoolSky's Next Project

Ha!  I totally called this one last year, in my entry to guess McPhat's next project on their message boards.

According to a tweet posted earlier this month, McPhat Studios is helping CoolSky do a Virtual Cockpit for a DC-9.  Sweet!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Microsoft Gives Some More Flight Teasers

Microsoft has posted some more screenshots and videos of their upcoming Flight product to their website.  Check it out here.

The graphics definitely look to be something of an improvement over FSX, particularly noticeable in the terrain.

There is one interesting comment in the latest (February) video: "Birds fly for free.  So can you."  This makes me think that Microsoft may be exploring a new revenue model with Flight.  I wonder if it will be in the vein of the classic Facebook game FarmVille, where you play for free, but pay small fees for all sorts of "upgrades" to the game?  Perhaps this will be more in the vein of a MMOG, like World of Warcraft, where you can join the "cloud" and fly around with other virtual pilots in realtime?

It will be interesting to watch what Microsoft is cooking up for the successor to FSX.

Wilco Updates Airbus Series to Airbus Evolution

In other Wilco Publishing news, they have recently revamped their website and announced a major update to their Airbus products:
Both upgrades add tons of new features to the Wilco Airbus products.  Too many to list here, but some highlights:
  • Weather Radar
  • Heads-Up Display (HUD)
  • Navigation improvements
  • Systems improvements
  • Others
Pop on over to the Wilco site for full details.

Upgrade pricing for owners of the previous Wilco Airbus products is €16.49 for each product, or €19.95 for Europeans who have to pay VAT.  This works out to about $22 for people in the U.S.

If you are purchasing the Wilco Airbus series for the first time, the price is €49.55 for Vol. 1, or €59.95 for Europeans paying VAT.  This work out to about $68 for people in the U.S.  Vol. 2 is priced at €41.28, or €49.95 for Europeans paying VAT.  This works out to about $56 for people in the U.S.

I've had fun with the Wilco Airbus planes in the past, although I know they aren't terribly realistic.  It will be interesting to see how this update improves on the realism of the Wilco Airbus.  More importantly, it will be interesting to see how some of the other developers working on an Airbus (Airsimmer, FlightSimLabs) respond to this new product.

The Wilco Airbus Evolution series is out today, so go get 'em!

Guess & Win Wilco's Next Product!

Wilco Publishing has put up another Guess & Win contest over at their website.  It originally popped up late last week, but due to heavy traffic, the site was inaccessible for a while.  Everything seems to be kosher now, so pop on over there and take a look.  All correct entries will be entered into a drawing for one of five free copies of the product.  Good luck!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

feelThere! Releases Tower! 2011

feelThere! have been busy lately as well, working on some non-aircraft add-ons for Flight Simulator.  In particular, they announced their ATC Suite a few months back.  Just this week, they released the first component of the ATC Suite: a revamped Tower! 2011 edition.

Tower! 2011 allows you to simulate working in a real ATC tower at an airport, controlling the movements of airplanes taking off, landing, and taxiing around the airport.  It can be played in single- or multi-player mode, and there will be other modules that will be included as well: TRACON and ATCC, for the different phases of flight control.  It looks like a very interesting product series.

Check it out here.

QualityWings Announces BAe 146/Avro RJ Series

Well this one was a pleasant surprise!

Hot on the heels of their recent announcement of the Boeing 787, QualityWings has made another stunning announcement as to what they have been up to: the Ultimate BAe 146/Avro RJ series!  I am really excited about this one.  System complexity is supposed to be higher than their Ultimate 757 last year.  Check out the announcement (including a list of features) and screenshots here.  There are also some great preview animations of the BAe 146 here.

I liked the QualityWings Ultimate 757, apart from some customer support difficulties that I had real problems with last time around.  Hopefully they have managed to iron some of those issues out.

Wow, between the Captain Sim 737 Captain, the PMDG 737 NGX and 777, the Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ-700/900 series, and now the QualityWings BAe 146/Avro RJ series, 2011 is shaping up to be another fine year in flight simulation!

Captain Sim Gives Early Preview of Their 737 Captain

Wow, looks like I picked the wrong week to go out of town on business!  Some interesting new Flight Sim developments this week.

First, Captain Sim has released a couple of previews of their 3D external models of the 737-100 from their 737 Captain series.  Recall that this is their "Baby Boeing" series - the 737-100 and 737-200 series, with the classic cockpit. Anyway, the models look very impressive for the relatively short amount of time that they have been at work on the project.  I wouldn't be surprised to be flying around in their 737 Captain sometime before Christmas, but we shall see.

Check it out here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Captain Sim Releases Weapon for FSX

Captain Sim has released Weapon for FSX.  This adds air combat capability to FSX, by adding several weapons systems to the built-in F/A-18 or LX-45 aircraft.  Looks like fun, and is relatively inexpensive at € 14.99, or around US $20.

Friday, January 28, 2011

PMDG Shows Off Their 737 NGX

PMDG has just posted a major update on the 737 NGX, complete with tons of eye candy.  Captain Randazzo goes into great detail on all the small details that are very realistically modeled on the plane.  My description here wouldn't do it justice - just pop on over to AVSIM and read it for yourself.  Suffice it to say that this is probably the most detailed plane ever modeled in Flight Simulator.

PMDG has promised to post more pictures this weekend.  Could the 737 NGX really be on final at long last, ready to land in our virtual hangars very soon?

Get ready, this is going to be a fun ride!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Too Cool!

I recently upgraded the hard drive in my main FS rig to 1 TB from 250 GB, as my many planes and liveries were stretching my available space to the limit. I used Acronis True Image Home Edition to move my Windows installation over to the new disk, without having to reinstall everything. (Great product, by the way - did exactly what I needed to do, with a minimum of fuss. Two thumbs up!)

Unfortunately, in the process, I discovered that running everything from the new drive invalidated many of my license files for my aircraft add-ons. The major problem children have been the planes from PMDG, Flight1, and Captain Sim. So, for the last several days, I have been going through the painstaking process of backing up my Aircraft.cfg files containing all my repaints, uninstalling planes, reinstalling planes with new license files that take into account the new drive, and then restoring my Aircraft.cfg files. Ugh. Surely there HAS to be a better way of upgrading your hard drive. This is nearly as bad as just reinstalling FSX and all my airplanes and repaints from scratch. :-(

Anyway, I took this as an opportunity to double-check all my favorite sites for any updates to add-ons that I may have missed, by redownloading the latest versions. While perusing the Flight1 site for the CoolSky Super 80 Professional, a familiar line appeared in the "Product Reviews" section:

"If you can only buy one add-on for FSX this year, get this one. You won't be sorry. It is really a shame that the MD-80 is a dying breed these days, in the era of high fuel prices. This one is definitely a fun plane to fly, and the Super 80 Pro add-on captures that essence very nicely." - The Pretend Flyer

Very cool, guys! Thanks so much! It's really neat to see this site get mentioned elsewhere in the flight sim community. I do this blog mainly as a little hobby whenever time permits, and I find interesting things to talk about. Lately, most of the developers must be really hard at work, because there has not been a whole lot of new news since the holidays. Still hoping to see the PMDG 737 NGX and the Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ real soonish.

I have been very pleased with nearly every Flight1 product I own, and they are great guys who are very easy to do business with. Go give 'em some love if you see something there you like.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

QualityWings Announces Boeing 787

QualityWings is showing off some initial screenshots of their Boeing 787.

This one should prove to be interesting...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mini-Review: feelThere! E-Jets v.2

I've been thinking about this review off and on for a few weeks now, and admittedly, I have struggled with it a bit. This review will be much shorter than a typical review, as the feelThere! E-Jets v.2 is primarily a derivative product of the original feelThere! E-Jets released in 2008. If you have seen that product, this product does not add a whole lot new to it.

I refer you to the original mini-review of the feelThere! E-Jets here, in case you missed it. The E-Jets v.2 VC and 2D panels are largely unchanged over the original E-Jets version.

In this review, I will focus on the new features that the v.2 product adds to the original version.

The main things that the E-Jets v.2 adds include:
  • Two new E-Jets models: the Embraer 175 and 195
  • feelThere's Call! for the E-Jets
  • feelThere's Map! integrated into the 175 and 195 models
  • A simulated HUD used in the 175 and 195 models for landing
  • Many new liveries for the 175 and 195 from McPhat Studios, at extra cost.
Here is the 195 model, in the Embraer house livery:

Here is a shot of the Call! panel for the E-Jets:

I actually like Call! a lot. It does add a degree of realism, in the sense that it acts as a virtual copilot that helps you run through the checklists at each stage of the flight. You can even have a virtual flight attendant provide a safety briefing to the passengers before takeoff.

Here is the HUD, which I think is actually rather neat:

Bottom line: I can't really say anything bad about the E-Jets v.2. It works well, behaves as expected, and is actually fun to fly. A few of the textures look a little subpar in the 2D panels when flying at night. It's not terrible, but not very realistic looking, either.

My main concern with the E-Jets v.2 is one of value. If you have never bought the E-Jets package before, then the v.2 product will definitely be worth your while. Otherwise, if you previously bought the first E-Jets package, you probably can't escape the feeling that you are paying twice for something you already bought previously. Sure, Call, Map, the HUD, and the 175/195 models are extra bonuses, but are they really worth around US $45 for all that? I would have liked to have seen a lower, upgrade price for previous owners of the E-Jets package. Unfortunately, no such option exists.

Rating: ****