AVSIM Commercial FSX/FS9 Utility Review

It's Your Plane - Pt 2

Product Information

Publishers:  Pacific Feelings Media

Description: Speech Recognition Software.

Download Size:
47.75 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX & FS9 & FS2002
Reviewed by: Roger Curtiss AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 8, 2010

Introduction

In Part 1 of my review of Its Your Plane (IYP), I mentioned that there were too many features to be covered in one review and that this would be a multi-part treatment of the product. That earlier review went into some detail about the ability of the virtual co-pilot to assist in various ways.

I also alluded to the fact that while this is the primary function of IYP, the program also offers many additional enhancements. Specifically mentioned were:

Interactive Help
3 ATC Modes
SmartStart
Come Fly with Me

I would now like to familiarize you with and explain these and other aspects of the program.

Test System

AMD 8400 3x core processor
2.1 GHz
4 GB memory
Vista 64 Home Premium
NVIDIA 6150e N Force 430

Flying Time:
25 hours

Interactive Help

As mentioned in Part 1, the use of the IYP speech recognition software requires the pilot to use specific phraseology in order to issue commands or elicit a response from the virtual first officer (FO). In addition, this FO, if requested to do so, will run through extensive, and for supported aircraft, airplane model-specific checklists for any or all flight phases.

The amount of assistance afforded to you can be controlled in the four modes of interactive help; Extended, Normal, Checklist and Operational. The program’s default mode is with Extended Help on. This is considered a useful tool for new users .

Whenever you call for your FO to execute the checklists, he/she will call for a checklist item which will require a response from you. If you do not respond in a timely manner the FO will ask again. If there's still no response from you the FO will automatically extend help by explaining to you what the item is and what your acceptable responses might be.

In Normal mode (achieved simply by saying, “Extended Help Off”) the FO will ask for a response, repeat the request if no timely response is received and if there is still no word from you will ask if you would like help.

In operational terms, these two modes are akin to flight decks where Crew Resource Management is being practiced (both crew members are actively engaged in carrying out the necessary functions) and the older style “the Captain is king” atmosphere that was quite prevalent where an FO did not offer assistance (or sometimes even speak) unless specifically requested to do so by “the king”.

Checklist help is available at any time during a checklist sequence and is always on. If you forget what a particular item is, or the appropriate response to an entry you simply say “Please help me” or “I need help” and the ever-capable FO will provide assistance to identify the item and the possible responses available. This reduces the necessity of having to refer to the pages of voice commands to locate the correct line item.

Operational help is even more impressive. At the completion of the Pre-Takeoff checklist the FO will ask, “Do you want me to perform the takeoff and climb out checklists?”. If you respond in the affirmative, the FO will then ask, “Do you want me to assist you?”

If you once again respond by saying "Yes please," or "Affirmative," then the FO will help you with the takeoff and climb out phase by automatically pulling up the gear, retracting the flaps, switching on the auto-pilot, etc.

If you respond with, "Negative," or "No thanks," then you will be responsible for performing the after-takeoff and climb duties on your own. However, the FO, being the ever faithful assistant, will still call out the V1, Rotate, V2 speeds during takeoff, operate the seat belt sign during the flight, call out the 1000, 500, 400, 300...down to 10 foot heights on approaches, operate the GPWS and continue to provide other suggestions throughout the flight.

I found that while it was helpful not to have to attend to all of these tasks myself, the FO was a bit too quick on flap retraction when left to do it on his/her own. A better compromise would be to call out each task as needed and have the FO move the proper levers, switches and buttons for you.

Even this assistance was not always workable for me as I utilize a CH Throttle Quadrant and have one of the levers assigned to flaps. If the command is given to raise/lower them the sim will respond but if the corresponding lever is not also moved then the sim will return the flaps to the lever position. Therefore I must physically move the lever. so it does me little good to instruct the FO to do so.

ATC Modes

There are three available ATC modes for IYP- Microsoft Standard ATC, Radar Contact and It’s Your Plane SuperATC.

The Microsoft Standard ATC is pretty much self-explanatory, except for one major addition - selecting that mode in IYP (which is done by simply saying “ATC” or “Select ATC”) opens up the FS ATC window which operates as always but you can interact with it by using voice commands.

Instead of pressing the required number key to respond to ATC, the pilot merely says “Select One” or “Menu Item One” (assuming of course you wanted choice #1...but you probably figured that part out) and that request or response is sent to the controller.

Two additional voice commands are added to simplify your life as well. “Cleared for takeoff” and “Cleared to Land” will transmit a 1 which reduces workload during these critical phases.

It also makes the transitions on ATC handoffs much simpler. When ATC hands you off to another controller you can say “<callsign> is with you” and this will transmit a 1. So the handoff sequence is performed thusly:

ATC instructs you to contact another controller. You respond “Select 1” to acknowledge the handoff instruction. You then say “Going to <new frequency>“ and the FO will acknowledge the frequency change and tune the COM radio to that frequency. You then say “<callsign> with you” and the new controller will respond. Quite simple and no keyboard to fuss with while flying.

While the use of IYP alone eliminates having to communicate with ATC via keyboard the responses spoken are still commands to the system and not the type of phrases one would use in actual flight.

The second ATC mode is SuperATC which is designed to bump up that realism factor a notch. SuperATC seeks to make the voice communication with Microsoft ATC much more realistic. Instead of saying, “Select One” or “Select Two”, etc, to choose a menu item the communication is by actual ATC phraseology. You can directly acknowledge ATC instructions by using the proper phraseology. For example, if ATC clears you to climb and maintain flight level 310 you would say, “Climb and Maintain Flight Level 310” and your FO will execute that command and transmit an acknowledgement to the controller.

The last ATC mode is a SuperATC interface with the program Radar Contact Version 4. Radar Contact is an add-on improvement to the default Microsoft ATC and offers a variety of options to make the interaction with ATC more realistic. It also allows the use of charted departure and arrival procedures which are not recognized by the default ATC system. However, in its normal use, there are still some Radar Contact functions that must be performed by key presses. The IYP interface with Radar Contact allows many of these actions to be performed instead by voice thus ramping up the realism factor even more.

SmartStart

While not as glamorous a feature as the flashier assists to flying the airplane, this is a very nice addition and one that could be easily marketed as a standalone. The fact that it is included in IYP is another indication of the dedication and interest put forward by the developers.

SmartStart is a utility similar to the Windows Start menu only dedicated to the flight simulation realm. It provides the opportunity to have IYP launch Flight Simulator and/or any additional applications you want to run for the flight sim session.

For example; I regularly utilize Active Sky, FS Flight Keeper and Squawkbox for my flights. Others may use FS Navigator, WideClient, Radar Contact, FS Passengers, etc. Regardless, IYP can be configured to start up a maximum of 10 of these programs for you when you activate IYP. You decide how the application will be started (normal mode, minimized, maximized or hidden) and in what order. You also can indicate if you want any delay (from zero to 60 seconds) before each particular application launches and even if you want it to start before or after FS is started. This is especially useful with applications such as Flight Keeper which is supposed to be started before FS is made active.

Come Fly with Me

Flying alone can become a bit tiresome. That is one reason why Flight Simulator includes AI aircraft with the program. And while it is a definite improvement to have other airplanes populating the scene, you face the limitation of not being able to interact with them - they do their thing and you do yours and if you happen to meet an AI aircraft head-on on a taxiway or runway you cannot negotiate a way out of the situation.

Multiplayer function overcomes this obstacle by allowing one to fly with other pilots in online sessions. Now you can fly formation with a friend or just appreciate the fact that there are other folks around. Of course, adding online ATC to this mix completes the realism factor-but that is a whole other story.

The only problem with Multiplayer is that it can be cumbersome to operate - if you decide to host a session then you need to inform others of the IP address so they can join. And obviously, in order to join another’s MP session you need to know the required login information.

Come Fly with Me overcomes these constraints by greatly simplifying the process, thereby enabling kindred IYP pilots to fly with one another. All you need to do is log in to the IYP website and go to the Reservations page. There you will find a list of already scheduled multiplayer sessions along with a description of the route or area to be flown, the aircraft type being operated by the pilot and a number from 1-16 of what session channel will be utilized . Also displayed will be other pilots who are planning on attending the session. Alternatively, you can choose to sponsor a session and a menu will allow you to set the parameters.

To join a Come Fly with Me session all you need to do is start IYP and FS. Once IYP is ready to fly simply say, “Connect to Come Fly with Me.” The first officer will ask for the session channel number and then engage the link. Once that is done just activate Multiplayer from the FS menu, connect and you are set. It is highly advised that you also have Teamspeak2 installed and operating to allow you to talk with the other session pilots. (The new Teamspeak3 is not compatible with IYP)

All of this is made possible by the fact that IYP operates its own servers and they are capable of hosting 16 Come Fly with Me sessions each containing up to 16 pilots. IYP also has its own Teamspeak2 server that will connect to the chosen session channel.

The IYP website maintains a Real-Time Flight Tracker as well, this lists all of the pilots logged online to the IYP servers. If they are connected to IYP Central (IYP’s internal communications system) you can contact them on Teamspeak2.

Other Good Stuff

The IYP website has a few other goodies to keep you entertained and help you fly:

ACARS- provides the flight information (departure airport, cruise altitude, destination airport) and a flight plan in FS and your FO will ask you if you wish to start the ACARS system during the start-up checklist. Once you record a flight, after arrival the FO will ask if you wish to save the ACARS data and then if you want to upload it to the IYP server where it will be kept in a log viewable by visitors to the IYP website.

Voice Commands- a full list of the available commands is maintained on the website

Checklists- the checklists for all of the supported aircraft are available on the website

Airport Data- pertinent data on airports loaded in Flight Simulator showing elevation, location, frequencies and runway data

METARs- when IYP is running providing the FO with the ICAO code for an airport will result in a read back of a current METAR report (if that airport has weather reporting capability)

IYP Tours- there are a variety of flight packages available and IYP also allows would-be designers to create their own and add them to the library. These are flights that have a relevance of some kind to the designer and may include unusual flying conditions or interesting or historical terrain and scenery features. These points of interest will be narrated by the FO as you fly the flight.

Support Forums- every aspect of IYP can be discussed in the forums. The developers are prompt with their replies and truly dedicated to seeking out answers to problems. They will not hesitate to incorporate user ideas into new revisions of IYP and actively seek user input to refine the product. This is simply the best support network I have yet seen in flight simulation.

I have tried to provide an overview of It’s Your Plane but you may find one or more features I have failed to mention and one reason could be that new details are added often.

This is a remarkable product that provides great value for the investment and has so much to offer that anyone is bound to find at least aspect (beyond the fact that your keyboard becomes obsolete while flying with IYP) that will substantially add to the flight simulation experience.

 

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It's Your Plane - Pt 2

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