AVSIM Commercial Utility Review

CATIII Software FSCheckride

Product Information

Publisher: CATIII Software

Description: CATIII Software FSCheckride (including SP1).

Download Size:
14.7 MB

Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Staff Reviewer - January 26, 2007


Ever wanted to test your theoretical MSFS Type Rating skills, not by just by reading additional books? Finding and doing FAA or JAA examinations is not so difficult. However, finding type rating examinations is more difficult but when you Google on the Web, you will find those as well.

Unfortunately, real life aircraft type rating examinations are first based on real aircraft like the once from Airbus, Boeing and others. Secondly, the level goes too deep for the flight simulation world and apart of that, those examinations are usually based on CBT (Computer Based Training) programs or the official FCOMs (Flight Crew Operations Manual).

Finding something related to add-on FS9/FSX aircraft is difficult even though it’s a huge market. For example, for Virtual Airlines who want to offer training programs for their VA airplanes. The CATIII Software website gives you many possibilities where their FSCheckride software can be used. So, FSCheckride has lots of potential for every group or market.

I could write many things here, but before we continue and look into FSCheckride, first some words from the developer Bryan York, who is also responsible for the great FSCrew programs. "FSCheckride is a brand-new concept in desktop aviation that allows users to create and run professional, feature-rich, interactive examinations using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 or FSX as the platform."

Whether you fly for real or fly on a computer, the core idea behind FSCheckride is that the best way to learn (or refresh) your understanding of aviation regulations, laws and concepts is through studying and doing exam questions.

FSCheckride can be used as a:
• Learning aid,
• Examination tool,
• Creative tool and
• FS Business opportunity.

Their target audience is flight simulator enthusiasts, real-world pilots, flight training units and flight instructors, virtual airlines and other flightsim organizations such as VATSIM and IVAO and finally flight simulator developers. That’s a huge list of potential users but let’s focus only on the flight simulator community, so what is the additional value for the Microsoft flight simulator add-on airplanes and virtual airlines?

At the same time I’m wondering if there’s a competitor on the market? That’s very quickly answered. There isn’t anything on the flight sim market like this program, except but this is still not the same, Dauntless Aviation. For the latter, more information about Dauntless Aviation can be found in the Summery.

Is it then unique and extraordinary? While surfing the Internet I couldn’t find anything. OK, there are the FAA examination centers where you can download real tests or even use online once, but not an add-on program like Checkride. So let’s see if this program is really unique and has opened a new market in the flight simulator world.

What is FSCheckride?

FSCheckride is a questionnaire or an examination program that helps virtual pilots or even professional once, test there skills with the help of examination questions. Those questions could be related to the standard FAA Checkride Examination questions but it could be also any other exam like, for example, testing Virtual Pilots of their type rating knowledge.

When thinking about type rating, the possibilities are unlimited; as a virtual airline training manager you could create your own questionnaire based on the PMDG 737NG, the 747-400, Flight1 ATR 72-500 and the Super 80 from Coolsky, Level-D 767-300, PSS 777 or 757 and many more. You could also add/create examinations for GA (General Aviation) like the Eaglesoft Piper PA-30 Comanche or the models from Lionheart Creations and again, many other medium to complicated GA airplanes.

These questionnaires could test the skills about the cockpit panels, operation of the avionics systems or even flight operations. Again, the possibilities are unlimited. When you’ve got the knowledge and the interest to make those examinations, and the fantasy to create some serious but good looking questions, it will be a success for your VA or for the professional market.

Before there’s any misunderstanding, when you buy this product, you get the basic program with one example FAA test and nothing more. Either you need to create new tests or you can download them for free from the CAT III website.

CATIII Software offers the potential buyer four different types of FSCheckride:
• Single User Personal License;
• Virtual Airline Member Special User Personal License;
• Commercial Flight Training Unit License; and
• Commercial Developer License.

This review only concentrates on the Single User Personal License, but the idea and contents of this review also shows you the possibilities related to Virtual Airlines since the differences between the Single User and Virtual Airline Member user are the same except for the price and it's intended for VA’s only! Detailed information about the different licenses can be found on the dedicated CATIII Software website.

Last updated information from CATIII developer Bryan York: "Free exams; Yes, all exams are free. People will not have to pay for any exams. They’ll only have to buy the main program. I am hoping to develop a large database of user created exams that can be freely shared."

In other words, either Bryan York will develop new additional exams for every level, group and purpose or the user can assist by writing their own and share them with the flight simulator community. This is just a part of the software's capabilities.

Installation and Documentation


The downloaded FS9/FSX software is protected by the famous Flight1 Wrapper system, which means when you buy the product, you need to enter the necessary information and afterwards the validation process is started. Once this is finished, it will unpack the basic installer “FSCheckride” into a directory. Reinstallation of the program is no problem, but then you need the created key file. The re-installation process is the same.

The product is available for both FS9 and FSX, so it’s up to you what you which and which groups you want to test. The reason for this last sentence has to do with the fact that FSCheckride only works when FS9 or FSX as started. Once installed, you have on your desktop a FS9(FSX) FSCheckride Exam Wizard icon, and a CATIII Software menu entry. That’s all, but more than enough since this allows you to create new examinations/questionnaires or add/change questions in the sample exam that comes with the product, which is a free FAA Instrument Knowledge test consisting of 50 questions.

By the way, with the icons on your desktop, you are only able to create new questions or new exams. So those icons are not used for starting this program. Starting the program is either done via the so called 01FSCheckride shortcut, located in the Start -> All Programs -> CATIII Software -> FS9(FSX) Checkride or is directly started from the FS9 menu. There you will find the menu item FSCheckride, followed by the option Hide/Show FSCheckride.

Although the installation process is without any problems, I would like to offer you a few screenshots. That’s only because there are a few things I would like to point out. Suppose you forget to read these, then lucky for us that it’s also mentioned in the manual.

Special importance goes to screenshot II where the FSX user is warned about the fact that FSX must run in a windowed version. Screenshot III isn’t that spectacular since it gives you the option to install either the FS9 or FSX version. If you’ve made your choice, FSCheckride will be installed into the FS9 (FSX) root. Lucky for us, the installer checks the registry for the correct MSFS location as can be seen in picture IV, so this is no big deal!


With the installation process you will find in the same location - Start -> All Programs -> CATIII Software -> FS9(FSX) Checkride –03FSCheckride.pdf. Since the program is more or less self explainatory, the 11 pages of the FSCheckride manual covers an introduction, important FSX notes, opening of the program, program operation and finally, creating your own exams.

Ok, let’s have a look to a few points. When you plan to use the FSX version, important notes can be found during the installation process –which was already described above – and on pages 2 and 3 of the manual. Due to limitations within FSX, the FSX flight simulator must be run in a windowed mode otherwise FSCheckride will have problems. So to make it very clear, this is not a CATIII software problem, this is unfortunately FSX itself. I think I've made it clear that this problem is not applicable when using FSCheckride with FS9.

Another note I would like to add, is where the manual starts with “Creating Your Own Exams” (page 8 to 11). Almost at the bottom of page 10 ,there’s the following note: "If creating your own tests by hand without using the Wizard, please examine the folder structure for the sample FAA Instrument test edition located in the CAT3 Folder in your FS9/FSX folder. The INI file and associated folder for your test must use the exact same file name."

I suppose if you’re interested in making your own exams because you’re the virtual Training Manager of VA Campenly, you need this sentence and personally wonder why there wasn't a little more information about this? However, making a new exam can also be done in a different and friendlier way. More on this later.

First … the standard FAA Instrumentation Test

As written above, FSCheckride comes only with one exam. An official selection out of the original FAA (database) Instrument Test Edition.

That’s all, except of course for the main program. According to CATIII Software, more and more additional free exams/questionnaires should become available on their website. Currently while writing this review, apart of this FAA test, only one other tailor made questionnaire for the Airbus from Wilco Publishing is available on the CATIII website. However, you can think of many other examples like PMDG, Level-D 767, ATR 72-500 and don’t forget all the other GA aircraft which can be complicated as well. It's nice to test your skills on those once in a while as well.

Ok, back to the standard FAA test as well as the explanation of the colored buttons in the window. The first thing that’s interesting is the window design. Even in FS9, the FSCheckride window has a FSX look. In the beginning I though I did something wrong but no, in either Flight Simulator version, the window look is that of FSX.

As mentioned before, when starting the free FAA test, you need to start FS9 in full or windowed screen, your choice. For the FSX version, you must have FSX running in a windowed version, otherwise the program does give problems. Ok, let’s first start FS9 (FSX) and for reference, you can look to the screenshots below.

You can load the default FS flight or any other flight you’ve created, with any aircraft type or airport. Once FS9 (FSX) is fully running - in my case we are at KGSO with the Wilco’s Airbus A319 - I start FSCheckride from the FS9 menu, chose Hide/Show FSCheckride and select the only available test, load it and after reading the description and deciding if I want the learning or scoring mode, we start immediately by clicking the green arrow button. Watch out now, question 1 starts with …. Load the Flight Situation file and look at the chart.

The flight situation file is requested via the dark blue airplane button, while the chart can be retrieved via the amber paper/magnifying glass button. Click the dark blue aircraft button (picture IV) and FS9 will load a pre-configured flight file. By the way, a friendly voice is reminding us that we did this. After a while, the specific flight condition is loaded and my advice is, PAUSE FS9. The next thing we have to do is load the corresponding chart. So let’s click the amber button (picture V -> VI). In the same window, an APPROACH chart for NDB RWY14 Millville Muni (MIV) is presented.

Ok, what happened during this loading process? To answer this question, FSCheckride has gotten for us a specific FS file which brings the FS configuration in the necessary flight condition which belongs to the approach chart. With the chart in your hand, the aircraft navigation instruments in the correct position as well as the aircraft itself, we are able to read the question, look at the answers and make our final choice.

If you don’t want to read the question to yourself, no problem, click the light blue button with the speaker and "Q" in it and our friendly captain will speak load and clear what the question is about.

With the aircraft in this position, the approach chart on your screen includes three possible answers, it’s time to make your choice. When in the learning mode, after selecting the wrong answer you still have a second change and if you answer that one wrong again, then you can’t miss since there are only three answers to choose from. So the last option is then the correct one. After answering the question, click on the lower middle button, marked with Next (xx). This brings you to the next question.

If you find the question too difficult, you’re always free to click the Next (xx) button, just left of the End Exam button. This brings you to the next test question or you click the yellow button with the "A" in it. Now our captain will give you the correct answer.

I - Airbus A319 on the ramp II - Started FS9 FSCheckride III - FAA question 1 in view and thinking
IV - Loading the flight file, so gone is our Airbus and loaded is a Beechcraft V - Flight configuration is loaded and our Beechcraft is somewhere in flight VI - Clicking the chart and hopefully we are able to give a correct answer
VII - First shot, I think its answer 1 but immediately I’m informed by an aural sound, which doesn’t look good. Also there’s a red cross button illuminated. VIII - I’ve now chosen answer 2, which is unfortunately also wrong. Because of this, you see the illuminated red cross button as well as an aural sound. IX - While in learning mode, you can change constantly. In this situation it’s simple since only one answer is left, answer 3. I chose this one and I get a green tick button with a nice sound.
Although I started MSFS at a ramp on KGSO with an Airbus A319 from Skybus Airlines (pictures I, II and III), after loading FSCheckride (picture II and up) including the flight file of question 1 (pictures IV and V), there’s nothing left from our KGSO ground condition. Suddenly, you’re flying in a Beechcraft at a nice altitude with difficult questions waiting for you. Since I’ve started this exam in the learning mode, I’m able to try and re-try answering or finding the correct answer (pictures VII, VIII and IX). When you choose the scoring mode, you can’t re-try answering a question. Apart of this, at the end of the scoring mode, you’re either happy (PASSED) or sad (FAILED).

So finally, the basic setup of the window is clear, it has a fresh look. There are buttons for support files/charts/pictures or you get aural information, therefore, you don’t need to read the question and the correct answer. The rest of the questions are setup in the same way. The only thing is …what now? This test covers only FAA instrumentation questions and since they are originally from the official FAA database, these are not that simple. So what to do?

Since the CATIII website doesn’t have any other questionnaires for us yet, I decided to make my own set of questions related to a type rating aircraft. I’ve chosen the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 2 but let’s first show you how you create a new basic set.

Creating a new basic test

I don’t want to write or explain a complete tutorial in this review concerning the start/creation a new basic questionnaire. But since it’s not really in the manual, there's no harm to add this, so let’s go for it.

Start the FSCheckride Wizard icon from either the desktop or the Start menu, as described earlier in this review.

The Wizard window appears and under “Checkride Title", you enter the name of you exam or questionnaire.

Here I’ve chosen PMDG 737NG Familiarization so don’t touch the Load Checkride dropdown window, since we don’t need that now.

Since the rest of the fields are blank, we need to enter the necessary data as you can see on the screenshot on your right. I think this is self explainatory and if not, just follow the example screenshot by entering the same text or values.

When all the fields are done with either your own data or the one from the screenshot, it’s time to save the basic setup. This will create the necessary folders and ini file in the FS9/FSX CAT III Software folder. I’ll come back to this later .

To save it, click the Save button, which is highlighted in amber.

To confirm that you did a great job FSCheckride informs you with a small Information window that the main settings are saved. This message means that it saved the entered data and it created the previously mentioned folders and ini file.

Since we are finished and informed, just click the OK button.

When you look closely, there are two things changed in the FSChckride window. First of all, the Load Checkride line on top of the window shows the same name as we previously entered in the checkride Title.

The second change is, probably a very important one since an exam or questionnaire without questions is worth nothing, is the highlighted green Questions button.

Click this button and we are able to start to enter new questions for our members or friends.

Question 1 window appears with all fields empty and waiting for your data. I think this window is more or less self explainatory but let’s have a quick look.

You first enter the question text followed by three answers, with one answer which is the correct one. This is all done in the left hand side.

On the right hand side you can add pictures, sounds or a video to it and don’t forget to tick the correct answer on the right hand top.
When you’re finished, click the Save button to store your data and continue with the next question by clicking the Next button.

With the View Source button, you can see how it lokkes in the ini file and Copy to FS9 saves all the data into the FS9 (FSX) CATIII directory.

Here you need to click the screenshot or else you have no clue what I’m going to explain.

In the left hand pane of Windows Explorer, you can see for yourself that FSCheckride created under the – in this case – FSX -> Cat3Software, a new folder with sub-folder (PMDG 737NG Familiarization and images). See the red square.

In the right pane you see not only the created PMDG folder, but also the ini file (dark blue square). When you get a little more experienced in creating your own exams, you can also work directly with, for example, NotePad by editing this file since the whole exam is no more than a text file.

Sorry guys and girls, this concludes in a nut shell the creation of a new exam or questionnaire. Let’s now see what a tailor made type rating exam for the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume looks like.

Second … little programming … a MSFS type rating questionnaire

According to the CATIII Software website, it’s very easy to make your own exams, so I thought, let’s give it a shot.

Due to my background experience, I was looking for a new challenge by making a questionnaire for an MSFS add-on aircraft. In real life, I've made approved organizations, technical exams for type rating aircrafts for JAR 147 (Joint Aviation Authorities – European Approved Training Organizations). With that in mind, it was time to make a bunch of questions related to one of my favourite Airbus airplanes, the Airbus A330 Series. I’ve chosen from the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 2 program, but if you wish you can chose the CLS A330/A340 package or the older PSS A330.

It’s so easy to create a new exam. You'll probably need much more time to make nice, good looking screenshots, which can be added to the question to increase the didactical level of it. I haven't even talked about making your own voice files or short video movies. Making those are outside the scope of this review but all of those additional things are possible.

To check my and your skills, I provided CATIII Software with a simple 30 question set applicable to the Wilco Airbus A330. While writing this, there’s already a second questionnaire added to it which goes a little deeper and which brings the total number of questions to 50. I added a screenshot from the main instrument panel, the overhead panel, the pedestal, the PFD, the FCU or AFS panel and others to almost every question.

I made the test in a way that the reader doesn’t really need the Wilco Publishing Airbus itself. On the other hand, its handy when you have the Airbus installed, which makes answering some questions a little easier. Keep in mind that the minimum you need to read those questionnaires available on the CATIII website is FSCheckride itself. Once you own the program, you can read, make or create all of these tests.

Not related to this Airbus questionnaire, but when you’re able to save and load your own created special flight conditions, you get even more involved in the real flight conditions and its questions, like the FAA Instrument Test Edition or like the example of the Level-D 767.

Let’s have a look to some screenshots belonging to this handmade Airbus questionnaire. By the way, when you own the product or have plans to own it, you can download my created Wilco Airbus questionnaire for free.

I – Airbus questionnaire loaded II – Question 1 III – Associated graphic IV – Choose the right answer
V – Other example, question 11 VI – Associated panel VII – Again, another question VIII – PFD close-up for question 12
IX – Last question X – PASSED (soaring mode) XI – FAILED (soaring mode) XII – Do you really want to end?

As you can see for yourself, FSX is in a different flight configuration then the Airbus questionnaire. When you own the Airbus from Wilco Publishing, it’s handy to load it but there’s no need to do so.

Starting FSX FSCheckride is done via the menu item Add-ons -> FSCheckride -> Hide/Show FSCheckride, which brings you to the first picture. Then follow the pictures as numbered II, III, IV etc.

It’s just to give you an idea of what you can expect when doing this exam. Several question are shown with their associated graphics, this is to point out something. When you’ve reached picture IX, it's time to see our score. This score, and thus those pictures, are only calculated during the scoring mode. During the learning mode, you’re able to click the answers until you’ve got the correct one.

Ok, back to the scoring pictures, first at picture X, I PASSED my own test, which is unfortunately followed by picture XI, where I made a mess of it. Irrespective of whether you passed or failed, clicking the Save Exam Result will result in a created folder – FSCheckride - on your desktop including a copy of picture X or XI.

Hopefully, you’ve gotten an idea of what you can do with this program. But more important is what kind of tests you can make and there are so many possibilities. I only made this one example of an Airbus test, but I could think of a test specifically for the PFD, ND, FMGC MCDU, EFIS Control Panels with AFS panel and many more possibilities. So, you’re not a fan the of Airbus? No problem! Many others can be created for Boeing, Lockheed, ATR and many more types including GA airplanes.

Third version … sorry … there is no third exam!

Making a typical exam/questionnaire is not that difficult but needs a lot of time. Probably you, he, she or that Virtual Training manager, has become so enthusiastic that people will start to write their own exams and believe me, it's fun doing it. I think, and keeping in mind the special Virtual Airlines price of $11.99, it can become a great product with a lot of input since you’re free to make your own exams, more or less without any limitations.

Summary / Closing Remarks

It’s an awesome program which adds another new dimension to the flight simulator world, in my opinion. It goes far beyond the flight simulator world, it's even applicable for use in real aviation. The only thing is whether the local aviation authorities agree with it, but on the other hand, many exams can be made for in-house use, or just for self study. While the official exams are used whenever a legal exam must be made.

Test System

Dell Precision Workstation 650
Dual Intel P4-Xeon 3.06Ghz
4Gb RAM DDR 533Mhz
nVidia 7800GS+ 512Mb AGP
RAID-0 HDD’s - SCSI 340Gb
Windows XP Professional SP2
Flight Simulator 9.1
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
Saitek ProFlight Yoke System
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flying Time:
30 hours

The program is so simple in design that it doesn’t require any additional knowledge to understand it. It gives the user who wants to create his/her own exams, a lot of flexibility by adding related pictures, charts, diagrams, tables, voice support and even video movies. All of this can be easily added to a question to make it more powerful and interesting, while at the same time, it’s much more interesting for the user to read. This improves the didactical learning effect, thus the more enthusiastic the person will be.

There’s also a down side or if you wish a dark side. The only thing I hope is that there will be more and more free exams or questionnaires available on the CAT III Software website. Currently (as of Sunday 13th of January) there are only two exams available. One is the FAA Instrument Test Edition, which comes standard with the program and one double set of questionnaires for use with the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 2, but this is not enough to survive.

Many more tests, exams or questionnaires are needed to make this program a success. A success not only in the real world, but also in the Flight Simulator world or by VA’s, where training managers want to improve the flight simmer aviation knowledge level.

The tested version – Single User Personal License - cost you no more then $19.,99 (€12,50) and that’s not that much for a program like this. When you’re a VA airline member, the price drops to €7,50. For this price, you won’t find anything else like it.

I tried to look for competitors, but the only one I could find is Dauntless Aviation. But this product cost you much more and you can’t create your own tests and the fact that these are not really written specifically for MSFS add-on aircraft.


What I Like About FSCheckride

  • Awesome program with a total new design.
  • New concept of an interactive exam/questionnaire program to test or improve your real or flight simulator aviation knowledge.
  • Potential candidate for VA’s (Virtual Airlines) training managers, who want to add something unique to their training facilities.
  • Special price for VA members.
  • Ability to make/create your own examinations or questionnaires, without the need of programming knowledge.
  • Possibility to make the questions more interesting for the reader by adding pictures, text files, charts, tables and video movies to it.
  • An own created test, examination or questionnaire is valid for both FS9 and FSX.


What I Don't Like About FSCheckride

  • Nothing else coming up except then that there are currently not that many exams (tests) available on the CATIII website so let’s hope that will change.



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