What will it be .. Europe or Great Britain?
What will it be; a mission, an adventure or just a collection of stretches in and around Great Britain? Let’s say it’s a Britain adventure. It will guide you to every corner in Great Britain. Not long ago I reviewed the First Class Simulations “Pole to Pole and Discover Europe”, which are similar products to this title.
That means the CD offers an airplane, some documentation and a chart how to fly from A to B to C to D and so on. That was the case with the previous titles and it’s not much different with this title. You could ask yourself now; is it worth buying it? You could spend your money on other software or even hardware? But here it becomes tricky. That all depends on your interest, your wallet and exploration feelings.
When you need a kind of “virtual guide” helping you to fly from A to B where you explore many things you’ll probably never see on your own, then those reviewed packages are interesting and that will also be applicable for this software. Remember what I wrote in my previous review; the default FSX/FS9 scenery and all that belongs to it isn’t modified by this software. When you have no additional add-on scenery enhancement software for Great Britain, it will look the same as before the “Discover Great Britain” installation.
Confused? No need for that. Although it’s basic software, the CD offers you a fresh look on Great Britain as you’ve never seen it before. I’ll bet that you’ll never do a cross-country flight alone or with other flight simmers. Having a guided tour with you, including the bonus Auster Autocrat J/1 aircraft, it will be a great adventure. I can promise you that. For some reason the software comes with lots of Auster Autocrat manuals. Very interesting for those knowing the airplane from the past. If you’re not that old, you’ll become enthusiastic reading not only the aircraft manual, but also all the collected historical material. But that’s for later.
Let’s first have a look what First Class Simulations tells us about the contents. “Great Britain is described as one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Take the opportunity to put that description to the test with a series of flight adventures that encompass the length and breadth of Great Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands. From the beaches of Jersey and Guernsey to the Outer Hebrides, Discover Great Britain invites you to take to the air for a panoramic view of the natural splendor of these islands. Take a flight over Central London, explore Wales and the Lake District or search for Nessie at Loch Ness; no nook and cranny of Great Britain is left undiscovered. To complement your journey we include an authentic recreation of the Auster Autocrat J/1, regarded by enthusiasts as one of the most elegant British aircraft designs ever. Over 400 Austers were manufactured as touring aircraft and our included example is perfect for our journey around the highlands, islands and shores of Great Britain. Also included are detailed pilot's notes with a full tutorial on flying the classic Auster. Detailed flight plans and a travelogue offering information on each location visited ensure that you have all you need to embark on this epic journey”.
There’s much more to find out about the title. It’s my turn to add the rest of it and find some pros and cons.
Installation, manuals and what else more …..
The installation process is not shocking, not difficult or with unexpected surprises. You are first confronted with a language option; English or German. Then you make a choice for FS2004 or FSX and finally you enter the serial number. You can find the serial number on the inside of the CD box.
We’re almost there since the installer automatically detects the correct MSFS location and before you know it, you’re done. Done means this time there’s a lot installed on your hard disk. What means a lot since I said before it’s no more then an aircraft, some flight plans and manuals. Let’s summarize that for you:
And that’s it! There’s nothing more I could find on my PC so let’s move on to the next section, the Auster Atocrat J/1 airplane.Who’s Auster and what’s Autocrat J/1?
It seems very difficult to find some information about this British build airplane. You can find lots of pictures and some of them have a short description, but factory information or Autocrat model data, is difficult. It turns out that most of the officially sources are dried out, which means I’m stuck with some Wikipedia material, so let’s go for that. Let’s first find out who and what Auster was.
“Auster Aircraft Limited was a British aircraft manufacturer from 1938 to 1961. The company began in 1938 at the Britannia Works, Thurmaston near Leicester, England, as Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited, making light observation aircraft designed by the Taylorcraft Aircraft Corporation of America. 1.604 high-wing Taylorcraft Auster monoplanes were built during World War II for the armed forces of the UK and Canada.
The name change to Auster occurred on 7 March 1946, when production shifted to Rearsby aerodrome, also in Leicestershire. All designs were evolved from the early Taylorcraft with a sprung skid or tail wheel beneath the fin. When the company was merged into Beagle Aircraft in June, 1961, the high-wing design was developed still further as the Terrier and, with a nose wheel, the Airedale.
The various Auster models were extensively used in the UK and British colonies after WWII for a variety of activities such mail delivery, VIP transport, private owner flights and joy rides at seaside airports and town carnivals.”
Find here a FlightGlobal Archive link of famous British builders including of course the “Auster Aircraft Limited”. Furthermore, I found an interesting link pointing to the International Auster Club. The Heritage Group has formulated the history of Auster Aircraft, to help you understand the background and chronology of the Company.
So that was Auster but what is Autocrat J/1? That won’t be too difficult or will it? Everything that deals with Auster or Autocrat is more or less lost. Not surprising because the factory “as it was” ended existence in 1961. Oops, that’s long ago. Anyway, Wiki can help us out knowing that Wiki isn’t always the perfect source, but there’s nothing else.
“The Auster J/1 Autocrat was a 1940s British single-engined three-seat high-wing touring monoplane. As the end of the Second World War approached the designers at Taylorcraft decided to develop a tourer version of the robust and reliable Taylorcraft Auster Model J AOP.V observation aircraft series. An Auster 5, registered G-AGOH, was modified to take a 100 hp (75 kW) Blackburn Cirrus II engine for trials. At the same time a prototype aircraft was built designated the Taylorcraft Auster V Series J/1 Autocrat. The long name was not used as the company changed name to Auster Aircraft Limited and the aircraft became known as the Auster J/1 Autocrat.
With this Wiki information it’s time to check the First Class Simulation model and see if it’s worth being a part of the Discover Great Britain CD.First Class Simulations Auster Autocrat J/1
Apart from the prepared flight legs, it’s worth looking at the FCS Auster airplane. Honestly, I have never heard of it, and because of that, it’s good to check all the ins and outs and pros and cons of this supplied model. We’re dealing with an old GA type manufactured years ago, but that shouldn’t make any difference. I can tell you that at first instance it’s not bad. It’s not of a Carenado quality, but when we forget that, it’s nice to have it onboard. Honestly, a model should be included else it’s very expensive software and you pay a lot of money for only a few prepared flight legs.
Flying around somewhere in England, I had enough time for a close look. I studied the fuselage from the wooden propeller via the engine cowling, entry doors to the tail section. The wing to- and bottom simulated linen was checked, the wing struts and of course the main and tail wheel construction with the wheels and before I forget it, the tail section.
I must admit that close-up details don’t look bad at all, instead, they look pretty good and realistic. This is for example applicable for the tail with the rudder, fixed tab, control cables, horn counterweight etc. You can clearly see the way the rudder is made; an open structure covered with linen. Since we’re looking at the tail section, have a look to the tail wheel, which is full of details. Other interesting flight controls with the some kind of details are the elevators with tab, ailerons and flaps. The four wing supporting struts, mounted between the lower wing and fuselage are well simulated as well as the bolts and fittings connecting them.
Moving forward brings us close to the windows, main gear and engine compartment. Let’s start with the cockpit windows. Made of transparent plastic without any color but with a kind of pinky/blue reflection. It’s odd, it looks strange and later on we’ll find out that the FSX VC windows have a big problem. You can’t look through the windows or ceiling. In case you think I switched ON “Preview DirectX 10”, I can tell you already that this is not the case. If this pink/blue reflection is natural for the Auster windows, I’m not sure. It doesn’t look that bad but weird.
The main gear structure with wheels is not bad although I miss the brake unit details. I can see the brake but for that you need a lot of imagination. You can see it, but not as detailed as for example the tail rim and tire. The main wheel has in my opinion fewer polygons than expected and because of this, it disappoints me a little since the wheel circumference doesn’t look good. You can’t have everything. Let’s visualize the Auster Autocrat J/1 for you.
What I miss apart from the door opening/closing controls, is the possibility to open/close the engine cowling or individual panels as far as applicable. Since most of the fuselage is covered with linen, there’s not so much to open/close here. Hold on; there’s something odd with the visual FSX door control. It’s worth showing some screenshots of this odd behavior.
After our “flying walk-around check” it’s time to check the flight deck. Oops sorry, cockpit. Flight deck is a little too much for this simple, but easy to fly cockpit. The Auster Autocrat comes with a 2D and Virtual Cockpit.
The 2D is rather simple and doesn’t offer too much. This has nothing to do with the developers in case you might think this. Looking at real Auster Autocrat cockpit pictures, this instrument panel offers of course an IAS (Indicated Air Speed), an Altimeter, a clock, a VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator), a Turn & Slip indicator and last but not least an ADF indicator. For engine related instruments you’ll find RPM, OIL- TEMP and PRESS indicators. Not directly visible since it’s mounted on the floor, is a compass. Furthermore there’s a radio unit mounted on the right hand side of the instrument panel and you have the option of a pop-up Garmin GPS 295.
Altogether I’m not really happy with this 2D cockpit. There are too many “easy” things that are wrong or not as supposed to be. Let’s move on to the Virtual Cockpit hoping this offers a better quality.
That said, the model offers a VC, but far from Carenado quality! Again, I think it’s not fair to compare this VC with a Carenado model. On the other hand, the additional flight leg files aren’t impressive except that you’re ready to go on many prepared British Isle flights. We’ve just seen that the external model isn’t that bad, the 2D cockpit is basic – with some problems - however the VC is of an average level.
Apart of some “external viewing” problems which I’ll explain later to you, the inner panels, hand grip, ceiling (as far you can talk about a Plexiglas ceiling), floor, doors, seats etc. are more or less of a default quality. At the same time looking to the pedals, handles, controls etc., it seems a little more detailed. For some reason isn’t enough and keeping the price of the package in mind – approximately €27.50 – you may expect more. Let’s have a look to some of the Virtual Cockpit shots I made.
As said before, the overall quality of the sidewalls, doors, lining, and other non-flight- and engine instrument related parts are of an average quality. It’s not bad, but I’m far from enthusiastic knowing what the package offers. But that’s not all.
Started previously in short with this problem; there’s another problem that I couldn’t solve. I wrote about the black (blanked) VC windows (see screenshot V). Apparently First Class Simulation commercial screenshots don’t have this problem, but I have. Time to contact First Class Simulations and after a while – holiday season – I got several answer from FCS Germany. I can’t publish those answers because they replied with “regarding adding my replies to the review, I don't see the point in adding my comments, which are in part speculation and wish to remain anonymous.”
On the other hand, they’re trying to do their best to help me and you out with this weird VC behavior. In the meantime I decided to do my own FSX tests, hoping to get rid of these “black VC views”.
What else could I try in FSX?
I contacted some persons who’re more familiar with VC’s then I am and they suggested:
The first and last option were easy; not applicable for me. For the two middle suggestions I need the developer, but as said before, he/she or they don’t reply, so all sources are dried out. I’m lost to be honest while typing this. Keeping in mind that all the other default and add-on airplanes have no VC “black view windows” problems. Before my Paragon image restore, I had a separate drive with FS9 so I think it’s time to check this First Class Simulation aircraft in FS9 and see what happens. The answer is “it works”. You can see the result for yourself – pictures VII, VIII and IX – but still no clue for FSX. I may not hope that the commercial screenshots are taken in FS9 and that the vendor is aware of FSX VC problems!
For now, this is the situation where I am standing. When a product doesn’t do what it should do, the vendor/developer should offer us – reviewers – a patch or whatever and of course all those who’re interested in buying this product. With the current situation – no FSX VC usable – it’s not worth buying it. I leave it like it is and assume they are aware of it or they don’t know how and where to reach the person in charge for this. I still have the flight legs that help me exploring Great Britain, but no FSX model to fly unless I accept a 2D cockpit!
I tried what was possible. I don’t have other Operating Systems nor 32 bits Windows 7. Because of this, I wasn’t able to check it on other systems and see the VC behavior. Since the developer had in general no problems, it could be that you don’t have it either when you decide to buy it. I only worn you that this problem could appear.
Some last words about the “gauge” file used for this model and the panel.cfg file. The panel folder offers one bitmap of the main instrument panel, a gauge.cab file and of course the panel.cfg. The created and implemented instruments are all handmade. Handmade means that there’s no link to default FSX (FS9) instruments thus the included cab file offers all the instruments. I still remember that this was different during my “Pole to Pole” and “Discover Europe” review. Anyway, that’s not applicable for these instruments.
Sixty Six "ready to fly" flight plans
The 2nd part of the software are the sixty six prepared flights. No problems as far as I’ve seen, but don’t expect too much of it. The flight legs of “prepared stretches” guide you to every corner of Great Britain. Those flight legs are not black magic. If you want to, you can even create them yourself.
I leave it for the moment open if it’s useful to spend your money on packages like this or that you prefer having something in your hand that motivates you to fly over a continent.
As said before, via My Saved Flights you’ve got access to these as you can see in picture I. Suppose you’ve saved many of your own flights, you can’t miss which ones are related to this software. They all start with GBxxx where xxx stands for 001 up till 066. You pick out one on the list, most logically GB001. Once loaded, you’re positioned at an airport or on a strip whatever is applicable. Of course, when loaded, you’re sitting in the cockpit of one of the Auster Autocrat models. To be precise, model registration G-AUST. Feel free to change to one of the other paintings.
Anyway, you’re parked somewhere on the airport and ready to go. Not just simple ready to go, no, you’ve got a loaded flight plan as well. Picture III shows you that. Picture II offers you the navigation log, which is for this example, leg 1. Before I forget, request the pop-up GPS unit and navigate with it. For the rest, taxi, take-off, fly along the pink line, descent, land and you’ve finished your first flight leg from Jersey to Guernsey.
Is there anything else to write about these flight plans, legs or stretches? While writing this I can’t think of anything. It’s straightforward and together with the overall Great Britain map, you’ve got a good idea what the next leg brings you and don’t forget to read the User Manual with background leg information.
FPS, sound, Great Britain stretches and flight dynamics
Let’s first start with the FPS and sound in combination with an example flight; stretch GB001 from Jersey to Guernsey. Due to the uncomplicated model with no hi-tech EFIS and/or EICAS/ECAM equipment and no FMS, the frame rates are high. Not that the FPS are directly related to these modern instruments, calculation and complexity reduce in general the FPS.
High FPS for this model means +40 (only measured in FSX), but as always, it all depends on your PC specifications, FSX settings and what kind of sceneries are installed. The airplane model shouldn’t give any problems with FSX and/or FS9, keeping in mind that I couldn’t test the FSX VC FPS because of the black windows.
Regarding the implemented sounds; I’m not sure since listening to YouTube Autocrat movies doesn’t always help and I’m not familiar with this engine and thus the produced sounds. The only odd thing found in the “FCS_DUK_Auster_J1” Sound folder is a few sounds are taken from Microsoft Flight Simulator 2000 or at least that’s what Explorer tells me.
Are these default FS2000 sounds or is it just the wrong Explorer implementation? Whatever the answer is, I can’t judge if the offered sounds are correct or not. Let’s assume it’s correct since there’s no legal source to check it out.
We’ve reached the next part; flight dynamics. I spent some hours flying with the model and if this model flies as the real Auster Autocrat, I’ve no idea. It’s a high wing airplane so it could be that it flies roughly the same as the Cessna 152 or perhaps the Piper Cub, which is more logical. With that said, flight characteristics of the simulated Auster Autocrat feel more or less the same. So let’s accept that it behaves correctly. I know, more than that I can’t make of it and more than that you can’t expect.
This brings me to the end of this section. It’s a straightforward GA plane whereas the external model looks good and some parts are even very realistic however; the cockpit panels and in particular the VC interior is of an average quality. That I can’t fly the FSX VC because of the blinded windows disappoints me. It disappoints me also because First Class Simulation didn’t respond to my emails. It could be that the solution is simple but I’ve got no idea where to look for.
Summary / Closing Remarks
When I started this review I honestly had my doubts and still, while typing this section, those doubts remain. The FSX Virtual Cockpit worries me and at the same time disappoints me. Because of the straightforward and uncomplicated design, flying an aircraft from within the FSX VC should be fun. That fun is completely gone because of the black windows (only applicable for FSX).
The software package offers one aircraft with some textures and the sixty-six flight plans. There is no scenery enhancer files, no additional airport scenery files implemented and no new or different clouds models introduced ... nothing of that!
So this is it? Yes, this is it. No screenshots of what I've seen during one of the fights, since it doesn't add anything more to the review.
Let’s summarize what you get. The CD-ROM offers:
Altogether you could be the proud owner of Discover Great Britain for just £24.99. Keeping the contents in mind, I dare say that it's not worth your money. I'm very sorry for First Class Simulations, but the price vs. quality is too high. What then is a good price? That's not up to me.
Ok, it's handy to have in total 66 “ready to fly” flights legs, which cover the whole British Isle. Suppose you don't agree with my statement about the software, feel free to buy it. I think programs like Ultimate Terrain and Ground Environment or other photo-real software, are worth their money more than this and they have proven it.
A quick summary of the FSX software since the review mainly covers the FSX version; the external model looks nice and some parts are very realistic like the rudder, tail wheel, rudder horn, control cables but also the wings, wing tips and nose cowling. The 2D cockpit is simple and offers apart from the pop-up GPS, a radio unit and compass. The only remark is the available “normal sized” main panel bitmap. Unfortunately there’s no widescreen bitmap for all those flight simmers having a widescreen. The result is distorted instruments and panel.
The Virtual Cockpit is of an average to low quality. The floor, side panels, door ceiling, controls, instruments are slightly better than the default GA airplanes but far from the Carenado quality. Furthermore, due to “something” the VC windows are black or blinded or blanked, whatever you call it. You can’t see anything through it and thus flying the FSX VC is no option.
The sixty-six flight legs are handy – that’s why you bought this product – but not exceptional. If you want to, you can easily make them yourself. You don’t have to be flight simmer expert to do this.
Finally; is it worth to buy it? I said it already before, NO, not in my opinion. The FSX Virtual Cockpit has too many problems and the 2D cockpit works, but is of an average quality. The only thing that looks nice is the external model although the door-, front and roof windows have a strange reflection.
I could be totally wrong but I’ve got the impression that this reflection is from Preview DirectX 10 while this option is not ticked in FSX. Anyway, what is left are the sixty-six prepared flight legs. Taking that all together I suggest you go for something that works and where better support is available either by email or via a forum!
What I Like About Discover Great Britain
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