What will it be .. Europe or the North and South Pole?
That shouldn't be a problem for me as a European citizen. I've seen almost every corner in Europe, or haven't I? Looking at the provided Discover Europe map, I have my doubts to be honest. This means it's time to return to my Dutch roots, and see which locations I haven't seen. It turns out for me that I haven't seen most of them. That’s what makes this CD-ROM from First Class Simulations so special.
OK, you don't get any landscape scenery, nor cities or airports. But what you do get is a dedicated Discover Europe airplane and a complete set of prepared flight plans. You could ask yourself if this CD package is worth the money. That's something I can't answer yet, but what I can tell you is that flight plans or missions like these help you see something from the world or in this case, from Europe. You are of course free to add for example Ultimate Terrain and/or Ground Environment Europe or chose other photo-real scenery programs.
Although I chose an FSX installation, the FS2004 version couldn't be much different, keeping the uncomplicated software in mind. Of course, it makes a hell of a difference regarding which add-on scenery you're going to use, if you're going to use it! That's of course up to you, but for me, I leave it out of this review.
And then there's another First Class Simulations package included in this review namely Pole to Pole. You could think this is something totally different and of course; there's a huge difference between "Discover Europe" and "Pole to Pole", although the difference isn't that much when you think about it. What Discover Europe is doing for Europe, Pole to Pole is doing as the name suggest; flying from the North Pole to the South Pole.
The same that is applicable for the Discovery Europe CD is also valid here; a specially designed aircraft and flight plans. That's it! Nothing more, nothing less! That means there's no scenery enhancer or additional airport included or whatever you could think of.
This means my introduction stops here. Two packages from First Class Simulations, both offer different flight routes or adventures or if you wish missions. I think it's time to move on and see what it really offers, instead of hanging around in the Introduction section.
Installations, manuals and drawings
Although my Discover Europe and Pole to Pole installation covers only FSX, I'm quite sure that the FS2004 is the same. This means it's straightforward without complicated questions and even the correct FS directory location is found, or at least for FSX, but as said before, that should be applicable for FS2004 as well.
Oops, something that you easily could forget ... the serial number. When you open the CD-ROM box, you will find on the inside on the left side the serial number. This, together with your name, must be added in the installer and your ready to go. Is this all? Yes, this is it.
As mentioned in the previous section; each software package comes with its own airplane and much more. Let's have a look at what they say about this:
Welcome to Discover Europe! Before we discuss each flight and you embark on your epic journey here are a few key facts that we hope will fascinate you.
There are a total of 64 flights stretching the length and breadth of Europe. We visit the northernmost city of Europe at Hammerfest and travel all the way south to Istanbul on the border of Asia. The journey takes us on a clockwise route through Europe, visiting more than 30 countries!
The route is in the format of a continuous tour that will eventually return you to the starting airport. There are over 11000 miles of flying, taking over 200 hours to complete in the Piper Pacer!
Each flight on loading already has a flight plan preloaded for your convenience. Each flight plan has been carefully devised to steer your aircraft over the most interesting landmarks between each destination. For those who enjoy a challenge we have also included some of Europe’s most difficult approaches.
aware this is just a small extraction of what the manual offers,
but some highlights tell you straightaway what it's all about:
Searching on your PC, you'll find under the Start button - All Programs - a folder First Class Simulations - Discover Europe. In this folder there's an uninstaller, which works perfectly, but not important at this moment.
Further there's an overall introduction manual, a pilot’s note and tutorial. The pilot’s note is important since it tells you all about all of the individual flight legs. Belonging to this manual you can use and/or print out the overall route map, which shows you all the flight legs together.
Then there's the tutorial manual; it tells you all the ins and outs of the Piper PA-20 Pacer aircraft. Apart of this manual, there's also a separate jpg file holding the Virtual Cockpit with all its controls and indicators. Altogether a lot of additional information, which is worth printing out.
Let's give you some background information about those 64 flights and the Piper. Each of the 64 flights will load with the Piper Pacer aircraft and it starts with a full fuel load. The fuel tank loading has been kept simple to allow easy access to the flights. While leading the prepared flight, care is taken to ensure that there is little cloud coverage or winds on your flight.
This is deliberate since much of the enjoyment of the adventure is in the sightseeing. Each journey visits a great number of exciting cities and I encourage you to explore each city or landmark in depth. Furthermore, I recommend that you take the time to explore each city by flying around it and exploring the sights before moving on and initiate your landing.
Flight 1 starts at Humberside Airport in the UK and heads towards Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Takeoff is initiated from Humberside UK and via several stops in the Netherlands, you then move on via Germany, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Poland and many other European countries. At the end, you return back to Humberside. Let's make it a little easier for you ....... take a look at the Discover Europe flight map.
Pole to Pole.
Basically it's the same kind of software and therefore pretty much the same installation process. No complicated questions or problems. The only action expected is that you need to enter your name and serial number, which can be found on the inside of the CD-ROM box. Also applicable for this software, is the auto detection of the FS directory and you’re ready to go and before you know it, you're done.
Let's first have a look at this. It's an extraction of the Traveloque Acrobat manual - one of the two - and tells me that "Pole to Pole software offers in total 52 flights providing in excess of 20,000 miles of flying. The journey starts close to the North Pole and finishes at Palmer Base, deep in the southern polar regions of Antarctica.
The entire trip will take approximately 300 hours to complete with the included Aero Commander 680. The aircraft has been specially equipped with a ski/wheel combination to ensure that this aircraft can perform with aplomb regardless of the conditions encountered during the journey. Anyway, your journey traverses the entire Americas from Canada to Chile visiting some of the most famed locations that the continent has to offer. The circumnavigation chooses the most interesting rather than the most direct route, including an east to west passage of Canada and a west to east crossing of the USA.
A huge number of the world’s beauty spots will pass under your wings, from the beautiful desolation of Canada to the city of San Francisco, to a range of Caribbean islands, a full crossing of the Andes and much more! Each flight on loading already has a flight plan pre-loaded for your convenience. Each flight plan has been carefully devised to steer your aircraft over the most interesting landmarks between each destination Some of the world’s most challenging approaches have been included including the notorious arrival into Castlegar, Canada".
The other Pole to Pole Acrobat manual is no more than an overview of what you can expect, how to install and uninstall the program, product registration and more of that. Don't expect a huge manual. It's just 7 pages and in my opinion not worth printing out. The Traveloque manual is more or less mandatory to print out, since it explains all the details of every 52 leg. Unfortunately there's no additional manual of the Aero Commander AC680 nor does the package offer a jpg file with the main panel functions.
Compared to the Discover Europe, Pole to Pole doesn't offer an overview map what to expect. It looks a little to me that there's much more missing here then we've seen with Discover Europe. The fact that this Pole to Pole software comes with an Aero Commander AC680 is great, although don't expect a highly detailed and complicated aircraft. Regrettably, the software doesn't come with any aircraft and/or panel description or performance data. In other words, you can't read anything beforehand, you can't study beforehand, you can't get a look at what kind of plane it is.
The only thing you've got when you've fired up MSFS, is finding out that the Commander 680 comes in a normal and ski configuration. OK I know, when you're familiar with the default Beechcraft Baron, you can handle this aircraft as well, but since the Discover Europe offers a decent manual, I expected this as well for the Aero Commander AC680.
Anyway, it's not there and I can't change it. End of discussion!
"Discover Europe" CD-ROM contents and impression
What do you get and/or what can you expect? First of all, the Piper PA-20 Pacer aircraft.
I'm not going to fly all 64 legs, but instead of this I'll try to express the quality of the added aircraft and the flight plans, so let's first start with the aircraft. Discover Europe can be flown with every type of GA aircraft, preferable a not too fast flying missile. The Piper PA-20 Pacer is a simple single engine prop aircraft, christened as G-EURO. It comes with a 2D and Virtual Cockpit, it's a tail dragger type and it offers a simple Auto Pilot, which is not a bad idea for all those legs to fly.
As far as I can see some default instruments are used, so it's not entirely handmade. It not only offers - logically - the kneeboard, but also the default Garmin GPSMAP 295 navigation help. Altogether not exceptional and to be honest, I don't like the standard 2D cockpit. It's too basic, it doesn't have that feeling while the VC looks pretty good and because it hardly reduces the FPS, it's also a good way to fly.
In other words, the 2D sub-panels are the GPS unit and a radio panel, which includes mainly the AP panel. Ok, so we go for the VC and as mentioned, it's a great way to fly roundtrip from Humberside to Humberside. That strange, that's a very short trip, but I'm sorry, I forgot those 62 remaining airports and landmarks in-between.
The VC is not of the Carenado quality, but still good enough. The front window panel comes with reflection, sunlight reflection does its work on the instrument panel and photo-digital material is used to create all that doesn't belong to the instrument panel. If you want to, you can sit as a passenger on the couch and look around you, while the pilot is flying the leg. The external model isn't that bad.
What else can I add to what I’ve written already about the model? It isn't that bad at all, but what I said before since most of us have at least one Carenado model, it can't compete with it. You could ask yourself if there's a need for that. Remember what I mentioned about the Discover Europe CD, and it's also applicable for the Pole to Pole software, it consist of only an airplane to fly the missions and the prepared flight plans. That's it and no more! That being said, it was more logical to provide the flight simmer with a more complex and detailed model. I'm not talking about the Piper Pacer since that's ok with me. No, I'm talking about the cockpit, the instrument panel and although not bad, the external model.
Sixty Four "ready to fly" flight plans.
Ok, that was the supplied aircraft, but what else is available in the magic box? I can tell you and I’m probably repeating myself; not much. As you know by now already; the Discover Europe software comes with ready to use flight legs. The advantage of these legs is that you don't have to think about what and where to fly.
In other words, you've got a goal to do something. On the other hand, making your own flight leg or a couple of legs together flying from A to B, that's something everybody can do. So what's the advantage of this software and oops, I forget the manuals? Honestly I don't know. Keeping the price of £24.99 (approximately €25.00 or 32.00 US$) in mind, that's a lot of money for just an average quality airplane and 64 prepared flight legs.
Is it fair to write this or did I miss the point? It could be that I missed something, but I don't think I did or at least I'm not aware of it. Ok, let's have a closer look to the following screenshots, which represent a flight leg and by the way; the flight plans are recognized by the following names: EuropeXX - <from departure to destination>, where XX stands logically for 01 up till and including 64.
Some additional information belonging to the three screenshots. Picture I is the normal way to retrieve and load a saved flight or in this case, the installed 64 flight legs from the Discover Europe CD-ROM. Via MSFS menu "Flights" - "Load", you reach this screenshot as you probably know already from other situations. There's nothing special behind this. Just click the flight you want and your Piper Pacer is placed on the right spot with the correct weather and other environmental conditions. That's all. But suppose you want to print out this flight plan.
No problem, via picture II and MSFS menu "Flights" - "Navigation Log", you'll get an inside view of all the waypoints - if applicable - passing on your journey. The print button allows you to print it out, which could be handy to have next of you during your flight. Although I do believe you've got enough navigational knowledge and thus how to tune a NDB and/or VOR beacons, it's always helpful having the Map option available. For those not familiar with this; via MSFS menu "World" - "Map" you get picture III. If you don't want to use the Map function, you go for the GPS Garmin unit.
Is this all new for you? I hope not, but suppose you're not familiar with all of these steps, then the Discover Europe CD is really something for you. But as said before; when you know how to do all of this, you're able to make your own flight plans, then this software is not really useful for you unless you really want it.
If I wanted to, I could make some flights and take some pictures for you. I told you before that this FSX version is just a basic installation, specially for reviews., In other words, there are no scenery enhancer programs installed, no REX, FEX or ASE etc. This means what you see, is what you get when you've got nothing else installed. Ok, I could show you some nice pictures of Rotterdam, the city of Copenhagen, the Parthenon of Athens, the Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater of Rome or the French Riviera, but there is no reason to do so. My goal is to check what the software offers and what you can do with it. I think I’ve done that! Time to move to the next section and discover the Pole to Pole package.
"Pole to Pole" software and impression
Which external aircraft should I take ... the Aero Commander AC680? If you choose one of the supplied First Class Simulations models, that's up to you, but for me, I have to since it's a part of the review.
Let's start this time with the external models. You're right, models! The Commander comes in two flavors. One for ice skating and one used on a roller coaster. Seriously ... one model offers skis, which allows you to land on ice while the other model is just an ordinary version with a nose and main wheels. The one with skis offers a nice livery where you can't miss what purpose it was created for.. flying from Pole to Pole. Even the aircraft registration can't miss... G-POLE.
On the other hand, the second version with the ordinary wheels is as ordinary as the rest. This means, for example, the N433CR registration and painting, although the painting looks something like those planes are normally delivered to customers. Why is there a difference between the special G-POLE livery and this one... who knows and who cares.
The external G-POLE looks nice, there are lots of tiny details and personally, I really like the fitted skis to the nose and main landing gear. It seems the skis are fitted with wires or cables to the cowling or nose fuselage section. If this is as in the real aircraft, I'm not sure, but it looks great. Not only does it look nice, the engine cowlings are also full of details as well as the rest of the wing, empennage, fuselage and the undercarriage.
Oops, "empennage" and "undercarriage", that's real British English and has nothing to do with the American English aviation words. For those not familiar with these words; empennage versus tail and undercarriage versus landing gear or light versus lite.
Reading my own previous words, I think this concludes the offered Aero Commander AC680 model. Since FSX doesn't offer a twin model with skis, you're a little stuck with this type, unless you go for the Maule model. Good, time to move on to the cockpits.
Since the external model doesn't offer more than this, it's time to move on to the basic cockpit. You can't expect more than that, but I can tell you that the offered cockpit is indeed really basic or should I say "it has a default look" That doesn't sound good and what can I do about it. This time I'll do a search in the panel.cfg file and see for myself if default instruments are used or not. There's no need to add the complete contents of the panel.cfg file here, but an extraction is useful, since it partly means default equipment is used.
From the Aero Commander AC680 panel.cfg file, section [window00], I found the following:
Radio AP, 533,407,141
I don't know if you're familiar with the contents and the meaning of the panel.cfg file, but let's try to explain what's so important. The panel folder within the Aero Commander AC680 aircraft offers only one gauge, namely FCS_PTP_AC680. As you can see for yourself, gauge 07 for example that simulates the altimeter comes from the FCS_PTP_AC680 gauge and therefore this is not default equipment.
On the other hand, gauges 00 up to and including 05 refer to the Bendix_king_radio gauge file, which is located in the default Gauge directory of FSX and is therefore a default FSX gauge. Because of this, it has nothing to do with the First Class Simulations model. OK, I'm not talking or worrying about copyrights. I assume ... no, I'm quite sure that's OK, but I'm more worrying about the fact that you buy a payware product and some parts of the instrument panel are just default instruments. What's then the reason to buy payware? Hard words, but no more than the reality!
The other remaining two bold items "fs9gps" and "Beech_Baron" also refer to default instruments or gauge files. Not mentioned or discussed during the Piper Pacer instruments, but here's the same problem. Some instruments refer to default gauge files, while the majority comes from the FCS_Pacer gauge file. By the way, while busy with something you normally never check, it seems that the Sound folder for both aircraft types is full of sound files, thus here's nothing linked to default FSX aircrafts.
If this is all the same for FS2004; that's something I haven't checked, but for 99,9% I can tell you that there's the same problem. Whatever you seen before, I think it's time to go back to our roots, "how does the 2D and VC look like", so let's go.
With the panel.cfg explanation in mind and the screenshots of the Aero Commander AC680 cockpits, I think I can say that the added aircraft model is worth flying, but that you're aware that you should not expect a high quality and detailed model. Why the did this; don't ask me. Even this Pole to Pole package costs you the same as the Discover Europe software. Is it possibly that I'm too critical, that I'm never satisfied with something or is it because... I don't know!
I'm only checking what you get for xx US$, xx Euro's or whatever currency. Knowing the price, what does it offer? When you buy, for example, a PMDG MD-11 or Jetstream, CLS 747 Classic, Leonardo SH Maddog, Aerosoft SimCheck A300B4 etc, you know, see, feel, play, look around etc. and know that you can't find it anywhere else. When you buy GEX Europe, UTX Alaska, Aerosoft Lelystad X, Amsterdam X and more of those airport or general scenery products, you know what you get and at the same time you know you can't make it yourself.
These two First Class Simulations products offer you lots of prepared flight plans, but if you want, you can create these by yourself, no big deal I would think. The aircraft models; OK, when you're not a designer you can’t make them, but those models are not of an exceptionally high quality and some instruments are even default parts.
52 flights from the North to the South Pole
There's still one item to discuss in relation to the Pole to Pole CD-ROM and that is the flight plans, although I must admit that this is very similar to the Discover Europe CD. Very similar means that the way it works and the way you load a flight plan is the same, but of course the names are different. It’s still worth showing you some screenshots of what and how it looks.
Before that, the Pole to Pole flight plans are identified as P2PXXX. That means P2P001 starts at CYLT and ends at the airport of CJQ6, wherever that may be. Together with the printed manual, I know now that CYLT is Alert Nunavut, located inside the Arctic Circle, while our final destination CJQ6 equals Tanguare Fjord.
While the navigation log doesn't tell you anything, the manual does. Ok, that's another plus point for the manual. The manual is not just a manual; it gives you all the necessary background information what's in between A and B and where to look or what could be an interesting landmark, but more than that I can't make of it.
Since the idea of the above screenshots is the same as we saw during the Discover Europe explanation, there's no need to go through it again.
FPS and flying
Not really my intention, but let's give it a shot. As said before, the available frame rates under FSX on my PC are pretty high and thus a great way to fly with these Discover Europe and Pole to Pole models, but how do they fly?. I spend some hours flying around and if those models fly as the real ones, I have no idea. I think it's in-between a default model and the real aircraft.
The Piper Pacer isn't a Piper Cub and thus it's not a good idea to compare these. The Aero Commander isn't a Beechcraft Baron 58 or a King Air 350, and therefore I can't judge about these flight dynamics. I'm aware this is a very short section, but this combined review should not revolve around the aircraft models, since they offer a little more than that.
Summary / Closing Remarks
I had my doubts and still while typing this section should I make several more flights where I fly from A to B. I could do that, but what will it bring you. Nothing since the software doesn't offer anything more. Mentioned many times before, the software only offers the Piper PA-20 Pacer and the Aero Commander AC680 aircrafts and lots of flight plans and not unimportant, the different manuals which offer the flight simmer background information where to fly to, and what he/she can see on the way. Flight plans that helps you fly the prepared Discover Europe tour and the Pole to Pole stretches. No scenery enhancer files are installed, no additional airport scenery is implemented, no new or different clouds models are introduced ... nothing of that!
once more. Each CD-ROM - Discover Europe or Pole to Pole - offers
This means you could be the proud owner of either Discover Europe or the Pole to Pole software for just £24.99, which is approximately €25.00 or 32.00 US$. Personally keeping the contents in mind, I dare to say that it's not worth your money. I'm very sorry to First Class Simulations, but the price versus quality is too high.
What's then is a good price? That's not up to me. I can only judge what I've seen, what it costs and what you get. As with all my fellow reviewers, we are in a position where we get the software, review it and then it could disappear into a dark corner somewhere in my office. The latter means I'm not going to use it anymore, since I don't see the value of it.
Ok, it's handy to have in total 114 flights available for you, which cover a total distance of more than 30,000 miles, which means hours, no days, no weeks, come on ... months to fly. Suppose you don't believe me and want to buy it, then at least add programs like Ultimate Terrain and Ground Environment or another photo-real scenery software. These give, where applicable, the ground underneath you a little more of a realistic feeling while flying all these miles.
this it? Yes, this is it. No screenshots of what I've seen during
one of the fights, since it doesn't add anything
in my opinion.
What I Like About Discover Europe & Pole to Pole
What I Don't Like About Discover Europe & Pole to Pole
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