Many, and possibly most, sim enthusiasts will do whatever they can to make Flight Simulator as real as possible. Joysticks, flight yokes, rudder pedals, you name it…you can find it. I have seen home cockpits that range from a dual monitor setup all the way to an actual Cessna 152 cockpit converted for use with FS9. But no matter how carried away you get, the realism suffers if you forget about the little things. One of those little things that I am going to address today is the checklist.
The aircraft checklist acts as a silent co-pilot that ensures your aircraft is airworthy and walks you through each step of flight from pre-start to shutdown. Every aircraft has a checklist, and every pilot (that I know) would refuse to depart without it. Why is that? Well, because when you put your life in the hands of an aircraft, you want to know that the machine is prepared and so are you. Also, it is nice to know that if you have a temporary lapse in memory that you can always look to your checklist to get you back on track.
In Flight Simulator there may not be any danger involved in taking a flight, but if you want it to be successful and keep the authenticity, you will need to know the proper procedures for the aircraft you are flying. Because not all aircraft are the same, neither are all of the checklists. Certainly the procedures for flying the Ford Tri-Motor will vary from the Boeing 747, and SEA Development understood this when they released the SEA Checklist Manager.
What is the Checklist Manager? In short, it is one of the most simple and straight to the point onscreen checklists available for FS9. The simplicity stems from the fact that there is little need to interact with the checklist outside of the occasional key press to advance through each step, and at times no need at all. But remember that I referred to it as an “onscreen” checklist. That is because there will not be any callouts here, in fact, the only sound you will hear are the new ambient sounds included with this package. Instead, each of the steps will be listed across the top of the screen in the same manner the ATIS information is displayed, except not in a continuous line.
In this review, I will discuss what aircraft this checklist manager will work with, just how inclusive each checklist is, and later on we will give it a try on a cross country flight. By the end of this review you should have plenty of information to make an educated decision as to whether this product is for you or not. Finally, I will let you know my feelings towards this product, and here’s a hint…I rarely use it. Read on to find out why. Let’s start by finding out what aircraft this product will work with, and then we can get the Checklist Manager installed.
Will It Work On All Aircraft?
Technically speaking, the SEA Checklist Manager will work with any aircraft in your inventory from the Wright Flyer to the Airbus A380. The catch is that the checklists are specifically designed to be accurate with only a limited number of aircraft. The following list contains all of the aircraft that are fully compatible with the Checklist Manager.
In addition to these aircraft, SEA is currently working on adding the Captain Sim Legendary C-130, the Cerenado C182RG, and the Lago DHC-6 Twin Otter. I have also been informed that the 747-200 Ready for Pushback will be added to this list in due time. But even if you don’t see your favorite aircraft in this list, you are not necessarily out of luck as there are three options that will allow you to use an alternative aircraft. The first, and most obvious, is that you can choose one of the aircraft that matches the one you want to fly. For example, if you want to fly the Commercial Level Airbus A340, then you can choose the flight that loads the PSS A340 checklist. In this case there will be few, if any deviations between the two.
Another option you can use, is to load a flight with an aircraft that is similar to the one you want to fly. For example, if you want to fly the default Learjet, than you could choose the Cessna Citation X flight. In this case a few of the steps may be irrelevant, but it is better than not having any checklist at all. Of course you can use any of the checklists you wish for any aircraft in your inventory, but as you can imagine, it would be best to find one that is in the same ballpark as the one you want to fly. Obviously you would not want to load the default Boeing 747 flight if you intend on flying the Ford Tri-Motor.
The third option involves crossing your fingers and hoping that the team at SEA Development will update the checklist to include your favorite aircraft. They are constantly taking requests for additional aircraft to be included on the list…but don’t hold your breath waiting. Instead you should contact SEA at http://www.seadevelopment.altervista.org/clmeng.htm and send them a suggestion. I do not have any idea as to how long it will take SEA to get more checklists ready to go, but most likely it will be an ongoing process to try to get as many aircraft compatible as possible.
Pre-Flight Checklist (Installation)
There are two steps to installing the SEA Checklist Manager. First, you will need to run the auto-install file titled “installs_clm”. This process involves nothing more than locating the FS9 directory and waiting for the program to install. The second step requires you to run the other auto-install file titled “clm_activator”. This process is the same as above and is used to let the program know that you have purchased the program and are authorized to use it.
Once installed you can receive instructions for use by consulting the SEA Development website or you can enter FS9 and choose a flight from the “select a flight” menu under the “SEA Checklist Manager” heading. The latter option will give you a brief overview before each flight, which consists mostly of advising you of the key commands and reminding you to set a key to function the master battery controls if you do not already have a key combo assigned. Everything else is self-explanatory.
Checking Out The Checklist
In order to load the Checklist Manager you will need choose one of the “SEA Checklist Manager” flights from the “select a flight” menu in FS9. Each of the aircraft in the table above will have a preset flight in this menu, all of which begin at the gates of the Kingsford Smith Intl. Airport (YSSY), Australia at dusk. You will know everything loaded properly if you see an option to begin the pre-start checklist, and you will also see a fireworks display ahead of you. Once the flight loads you can then choose any aircraft of your choice and the Checklist Manager will remain active.
You may also choose to relocate to any airport you wish, with any weather theme and time of your choosing, and switch to any aircraft variation you want. The Checklist Manager will continue to function regardless of any alterations you make to your settings. When the checklist first appears you will encounter a message that gives you the option to begin the pre-start check. To continue with these steps you can press the “ctrl” key plus the “]” key, or the “+” key. To skip the pre-start check and move on to the startup checklist you can use the “[“ or “-“ key in combination with the “ctrl” key. This goes for the rest of the checklist as well.
The checklist will not be called out, but you will not usually have to worry about missing any of the steps because most of them will require you to use the key commands noted above to move to the next step or next section. In some cases, usually while in flight, each step will be listed and then be removed to make way for the next step without the need to press any keys. When this happens you will not have the opportunity to go back and see what you’ve missed, but each of the steps will usually remain on the screen for plenty of time.
It does not matter what view you choose when flying as each of them will display the checklist across the top of the screen. Therefore, you can feel free to step outside while in flight and you won’t have to worry about missing any of the steps. What are the steps? Well, it would be difficult to list every one of them here, but let’s go take a look at a few of them, starting where it all begins…the pre-flight checklist.
A Cold And Dark Pre-Flight Check
Each of the flights will begin with a cold cockpit where you will follow a series of pre-start inspections to ensure the aircraft is ready for startup. The checklist will begin by requesting an external inspection, a fuel calculation, and suggest that you get a weather briefing from ATIS. The next few steps ask you to verify that your charts are ready for use, the parking brake is set with the throttle controls at idle, and to switch on the battery master switch. Many of the steps will give you direction as to what key commands to use.
The pre-start checklist continues by verifying the flaps are up, spoilers are retracted, and the pitot heat and de-ice is off. The lights will be checked along with the avionics switch, flight controls, and fuel quantity. Every so often you will come across a seemingly out of place step, such as step 10 with the default Boeing 737 that verifies the landing gear is down. Of course it wouldn’t take you very long to realize that the aircraft is parked on its belly, but this is all part of the pre-flight check.
If you are using the aircraft that the checklist is intended for than it is unlikely that you will come across any irrelevant procedures. However, if you are using a different aircraft of which every step does not apply, you can simply skip the step and move on. You can also choose to skip an entire section of the checklist at any time, but that could lead to missing a crucial step.
Once the pre-start inspection is complete it will be replaced by the startup procedure checklist. By this point you should be able to rest assured that it is safe to fire up the engines…so let’s go do it.
Ready For Startup, Taxi, and Departure
The next few sections of the checklist will take you from engine startup through takeoff. Along the way you will need to perform inspections of the instruments and controls, set the flaps (if required), set up the Flight Management Computer and GPS, and contact the ground and air traffic controllers for clearance to taxi and takeoff. You will also use this time to program the autopilot and set any of the applicable gauges, such as the heading indicator.
If you choose to communicate with the controllers, you may need to relocate the checklist display or the ATC display so that they do not overlap each other. Personally, I like to keep the ATC display towards the top right section of the screen and leave the checklist in its default location on the top left.
Once airborne, the checklist will begin to display steps without the need to use the key commands to advance through them. This will allow you to keep your hands on the joystick, yoke, throttle, or wherever you want without having to interact with the keyboard. After a while you will notice that the checklist becomes somewhat dormant providing steps few and far between as you reach your cruise altitude. On occasion you may need to advance the checklist manually, but for the most part you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Once you are ready to descend to your final destination, the checklist will become more active again. You will be advised to check your airspeed, rate of descent, flap settings, and so on. There will even be steps reminding you to contact the ATC as need be. After you touch down, the checklist will continue with a taxi checklist, and ultimately end with the proper steps for shutting down the aircraft.
Throughout the process of landing your aircraft, you will not have to use the set key commands to progress through each of the steps. This will free up your hands for more important things, but you should be aware that on occasion it may be necessary to manually advance the checklist if it begins to display each step a little slowly
While the checklist will differ for each of the aircraft, several portions of it, such as taxiing, will remain the same for them all. However, since the checklists have been designed specifically for the aircraft indicated, you will need to be aware of the appropriate settings for the aircraft you are using. For example, different aircraft have different takeoff and landing speeds, and will require different increments of flaps depending on the conditions, payload, etc.
I don’t know of any actual bugs, but I have run into a couple of issues that may not be isolated to just my system. For starters, I have found that on occasion the checklist seems to freeze. When this happens it can take upwards of a minute to advance to the next step. This did not just happen in cases where there would normally be a pause between steps, but also at times when the steps should have progressed on my command. I have researched this issue and found a few others that have experienced similar problems, but it seems to be very rare.
Another problem that I encountered, happened on two separate occasions when I began a flight and was advised by the Checklist Manager that I needed to purchase to program. This is likely related to the program not having accepted the checklist activator for one reason or another. However, I have not found any other users of this product reporting a similar experience yet, but that does not necessarily mean that I am the only victim. If this does ever happen to you, running the CLM activator will take care of the problem swiftly.
I would not define either of these issues to be major, and I have not run into either of them for quite a while. If you happen to discover these, or any other problems when using the Checklist Manager, the team at SEA has contact information on their website that you can use to submit a request for help.
A Final Check Before Departure
Like every add-on ever made, this product comes down to a matter of taste. Some virtual pilots will like the ability to have the on-screen checklist so that they don’t have to take their eyes off the screen. Others may prefer the realism of having a paperback version instead. I happen to fall into the latter category, but have found this utility very useful for making my own hard copy of the checklist for my home cockpit. Since all of the steps are relevant and accurate, I have copied this information to a Word document, printed it out, and laminated it to resemble a checklist similar to one I am familiar with using in the real world.
I have found a few benefits to having a program like this, the first being that it can be helpful for those of you that are not experienced at starting a flight with a cold cockpit. I find this method to be essential to make Flight Sim authentic. Another advantage to having this utility is that with all of the third-party aircraft available, it’s not too hard to lose track of the appropriate steps to follow for each aircraft. With the Checklist Manager running you can rest assured that you won’t miss a beat.
I like the way that each step in the checklist is displayed across the top of the screen so that it does not impede your vision, and it can be resized a little. I might have liked to have the checklist called out, but I am told that providing that option for all 2500+ steps would have taken a great deal of time and lessened the cost-value by eclipsing the current $9.99 price tag. Perhaps it also would have been nice for the checklist to be provided in a sub-panel of some sort, but again, it all comes back to keeping this package affordable as far as the publisher is concerned.
So do I recommend the Checklist Manager? Well, not for everyone, but I do believe that it can make a great utility for those who are still learning the proper steps for a successful flight, and even for the expert who is ready for a change from the paperback checklists…or no checklist at all. However, if following the proper steps is not for you, than neither is this product.
There are quite a few checklist utilities available, many of which work through the kneeboard and others that have a sub-panel. If you are interested in obtaining a program like this than I would highly recommend shopping around and trying some of the freeware utilities first. That is not to say that I do not like the SEA version, but to be honest, I rarely use it. If you do choose to give the SEA Checklist Manager a shot, I can say that you can be assured that each of the steps throughout the checklist will be accurate.
My advice would be to consult the SEA Development website to track the updates to this product. The team seems to be very dedicated to improving this program by adding more aircraft checklists and fixing any reported problems. I have also been told that there will be a new version of the Checklist Manager that will work with the FS Passengers program in the future. Right now I am not overwhelmed by this program, but perhaps after a few updates are released I will re-examine the Checklist Manager and have a change of heart.
|What I Like About Checklist Manager|
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