Aspen Avionics have released the Evolution Flight Display system. This system comprises of three separate gauges, The EFD 1000 PFD (which I am reviewing here) The EFD 1000 MFD and the EFD 500 MFD. These three screens replace the old steam gauges and make an older aircraft up to date in regards to the avionics.
The EFD 1000 PFD has been designed to install into the space left by removing the attitude and navigation steam gauges. The screen is a 760x400 LCD display that displays the information in a clear and easy to read format that is almost the same as modern glass cockpits in airliners. The display enhances pilot awareness in both VFR and IFR situations and is easier to read compared to classic steam gauges.
Flight1 have released the Aspen EFD1000 PFD as a separate gauge for both FS2004 and FSX, also included in the package is the Flight1Gauge Config utility and a demo version of FS Panel Studio. The latter is a very powerful panel editor, which allows you to modify your panels in any installed aircraft.
Installation and Documentation
Flight1 is well known for their wrapper system, a simple and safe
way of protecting their software from pirates without annoying
their customers with intrusive and hard to use copy protection.
You download the installer package from Flight1, and then run the
installer/wrapper software which will open the installation and
purchase screen. Purchase and installation is as easy as following
the on-screen prompts.
Documentation includes a ‘quick start’ guide which gives you the basics of the system, the gauge config utility and hints and tips for installation of the gauge into your panel. Also included in the documentation is the manual for both the Aspen EFD100 and the Meggitt S-Tec 55X autopilot. These manual are 200+ and 70+ pages. As these are the actual manuals, some of the features and functions in the software may not act as it says in these manuals.
The quick start guide is quite thorough and covers almost all you need to know about installing and using the package in your favorite aircraft.
Flight1 Gauge Config Utility
The Flight1 Gauge Config Utility (which I will call F1GCU from now on) is a simple little utility that is easy to use and makes installing your Aspen gauge a breeze. UPDATE: there has been a new version of the F1GCU included with the Aspen pack. This updated version fixes the problem, so you can now enjoy the Aspen in your favorite default aircraft.
The F1GCU is quite a powerful way of installing your PFD and autopilot into your aircraft’s 2D panel. Although this utility will only work on the 2D panel, if you want it installed into the VC then you will need to use the FS Panel Studio or manually modify the config files, but this has problems as well so more on that later. Opening the utility you will be asked what version of Flight Simulator you are using. Select the version that you use and then you will then be asked what panel pack you want to use. There should only be the Aspen pack available unless you have some other Flight1 gauge packs.
From there you can then select what aircraft you want to use and if there is more than one panel available, what panel you want to install the gauges into. Once you have selected the panel you wish to add the gauges to, you get the main panel view as it would be displayed in FS with funny yellow squares around the gauges installed on your panel by default. These yellow boxes represent the area taken by the gauge. If you drag the PFD into one of the boxes, the gauge that it surrounds disappears and will not be displayed in FS. This is done so you will get no bleed through from the gauge that is being replaced by the PFD.
Placing the PFD is a very simple drag and drop method. Drag the gauge to the location you want it and drop it there, the gauges behind will automatically be removed. Once you are happy with the placement, you can adjust the size of the actual gauge to fit the location you have dropped it into, i.e. if the PFD is taking out other gauges beside it you can easily reduce the size by entering a new size in the box on the left hand side. Once you are happy with the size and placement make sure you tick the “gauge is installed” box otherwise the gauge will not show. That is the PFD installed into the panel.
Next you can set up the pop-up PFD position. This is accessed by selecting the Pop Up PFD gauge in the gauges box on the left. This is the position that the PFD will go to when you hit the hidden click spot to enlarge it. Again drag and drop the PFD to where you want it and select the “gauge is installed” tick box.
Once you are happy with the PFD, move on to the Meggitt S-Tec autopilot. This is a new window that will be displayed all the time when using the panel. This can be moved around inside FS so positioning is not as critical as you can move it once you have started your flight, even hide it if you wish. Steps are exactly the same as the PFD.
Last is the most important, autopilot switch. This needs to be installed so the autopilot will work and slave correctly with the PFD, again a drag and drop affair and very easy to set its position.
Last thing to do is check to make sure all the parts are installed in your panel to your liking and then save the panel. When you save the panel a backup of the previous panel will be saved just in case you want to go back to the original. Let’s see your handywork in FS.
The Aspen in FS
Fire up FS and select the aircraft you have just modified. Once the flight has loaded, turn on the avionics. The PFD will do a self check and display your purchase info. Once the check has been done you will be presented with your nice shiny PFD which is ready to guide you.
First thing I did was set up my speeds. These speeds are displayed on the speed tape, and include things like maximum speed, maximum flap and gear speed and maximum maneuvering speed, to name but a few. If you do not have these speeds, no problem as you can change the speed setting in the menu. Be sure to make them a speed that you would not reach, i.e. 999.
To adjust the speed, you use the setting menu which is accessed by pressing the menu select button, and then you can scroll through the setting and change the speeds as well as a number of other settings. The manual goes into detail on how to do this, needless to say, it was easy to navigate and set once you have done it a few times.
Using the Aspen PFD in flight gives you great awareness of what is happening. All the information about flight altitude, speed heading and course are displayed in an easy to read format and all in one place, no more scanning several instruments. This alone reduces the workload for the pilot especially on a tricky final approach. With a multitude of options on how the data is displayed, allows you to set the display to suit your own tastes. With the Aspen linked to either your default aircraft autopilot or the new Meggitt S-Tec 55X, you will have a flight director (must already be supported by your aircraft). If you don’t have a flight director in the aircraft it will not display on the PFD, also if you do not have an autopilot installed in the aircraft you cannot use the Meggitt autopilot either.
The autopilot must be activated to use the Meggit A/P (if you installed this earlier). Again this is done through the menu button and the manual is very clear about how to do this. You must have either the Meggit or the default A/P selected, you cannot have both active, you will have issues!! The Meggitt A/P can use the GPS as its sole navigation source, as well as the more traditional NAV beacons. One advantage using the GPS is if you have set up a flight plan in the GPS, then you can use the A/P to follow the whole route.
The autopilot is an easy to use feature which is a modern take on the classic light aircraft autopilot. This autopilot allows you to use the following modes: HDG, NAV, APR, REV, ALT, ALT Capture, and VS
The HDG mode does exactly that, select the heading required on the PFD heading bug and the autopilot will turn to that heading and follow it until you enter another heading or a different mode
The NAV mode will follow the current navigation course, be it by VOR or GPS. Pressing this button a second time will activate the GPS following mode, so that the flight plan set in the GPS will be the one followed
REV mode is the back course mode.
ALT mode holds the altitude that the aircraft is at when the button is pressed.
ALT Capture is the capture mode of the A/P, this allows you to pre-select an altitude that you want to climb to then have the aircraft level out when the altitude is reached. This is used in conjunction with the VS mode button. This is a hidden click spot in between the ALT and VS buttons.
VS mode is a specific mode that tells the aircraft whether to climb or descend, depending on what you have set the vertical speed to via the VS knob.
Flying with the PFD and Autopilot is an easy affair once you have gotten used to it, and it does take a little getting used to. Once you have a few hours under your belt, it is very easy and intuitive to use. It does have a small impact on frame rates. If you are running FSX marginally now, this could bring your system to its knees but if you run FSX well, you won’t really notice the impact this gauge has. It is nowhere near as bad as the default Garmin G1000’s that FSX has by default, and is better than some full glass cockpit add-ons.
The Aspen in Virtual Cockpit
As the Aspen is designed primarily as a 2D gauge and virtual cockpits are a 3D model, you can have problems if you install this into VC’s. You will need to either install the gauge manually by editing the config file for the panel, or using something like the FS Panel Studio. I personally have not installed the gauge in the VC, but some issues you can have is bleed through from the gauges behind it. Or worse, if there are switches or knobs modeled into the panel where you install the PFD these will poke though the gauge. Also, night lighting may not work as intended. It can be installed. Some people have had good results, it all depends on what aircraft you are installing it into.
Summary / Closing Remarks
The Aspen PFD and Meggitt S-Tec 55X autopilot complement each other nicely. The PFD displays all the information in an easy to read format without having to scan and decode multiple steam gauges, and the Meggitt A/P adds some nice little features and ease of use. The inclusion of the Gauge Config Utility is a great one, and makes installing this gauge a breeze. I own some other gauge packs and this little utility is worth it by itself.
The PFD has almost all of the features of the real one, and as such, gives you a taste of what the real unit is like to use. I have enjoyed using this and can see that it will be installed into most of my GA aircraft that I use often. For the price, I recommend this to anyone wanting to upgrade their GA fleet with modern glass cockpit avionics.
What I Like About FS Aspen
What I Don't Like About FS Aspen
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