AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Package Review

Aerosoft - Coast Guard

Product Information
Publisher: Aerosoft
Description:  Helicopter aircraft add-on – with USCGC Bertholf scenery.
Download Size:
22 MB
Format:
Download - auto installer
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Joseph Ellwood AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 10, 2006

Introduction

“Semper Paratus” or “Always Ready” is the official motto of the United States Coast Guard. Perhaps the least recognized of the US military forces, the Coast Guard operations involve maritime surveillance and protection, search and rescue and other sea related operations.

In this package, Aerosoft brings us the Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk and an accompanying cutter – for those who wish to explore the seas at a lower level. The Jayhawk is based on the airframe of the Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk. The early generation HH-60s came into service in 1986 to replace the aging HH-3 Pelican, a significant difference between the two is that the Pelican has the ability to land on water, of which the HH-60 cannot. The Jayhawk is powered by two GE T700 gas turbines, each boasting 1980hp.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Intel Pent 4 2.66GHz
512MB RAM PC2700DDR
ASUS A9550
40 GB HD 5400RPM

Flying Time:
20 hours

Once purchased, you’ll download a 22 megabyte zipped file. The installer requires a serial code which is also provided. As with most flight sim products, installation is simple.

The manual is in PDF format, which is 45 pages long, in full colour, and is easy to use. The manual is top notch; it includes labeled diagrams and full explanations to all of the systems. Aerosoft opted to develop the glass variant of the Jayhawk, which has more advanced avionics and seems less daunting than the older HH-60's, which had the good old steam gauges.

I’m just a beginner in advanced helo operations, but after reading over the manual a few times, I was comfortable with operating the Jayhawk properly. Also available, is a tutorial flight from Dover to London. The tutorial flight gets you comfortable with the advanced ops of the chopper and after doing this flight a few times, I was completely comfortable in the cockpit.

Exterior Model

The Jayhawk comes with just the one livery – the current USCG red and white scheme. The textures are in DXT3 format, but looked very clear on my system. There is a huge amount of detail in the model and textures; everything from rivets, decals and down to the nuts and bolts are clearly evident. The model is faithfully reproduced to give the Jayhawk a very authentic appearance.

On the belly of the HH-60 you can spot evidence of wear marks, even the tire hubcaps are modeled in 3D, unlike other products where it is only textured. Every possible mark on the chopper is there – nothing has been spared in this model.

Of course, eye candy is all good, but comparing the simulated variant to the real thing is more important. To do this, there’s no better place to look than than Airliners.net. Personally, I couldn’t find anything which differentiated the two.

The model has numerous moving features that I enjoyed. Opening doors have been standard on models for a while now, and this model has two opening doors. The default key combination opens the side and the secondary door command opens the crew doors. When the side door opens, the man in the cabin will get off his seat and crouch down at the door. Like the pilot, his head will move in conjunction with rudder inputs. Once the door is open and the man is crouching at the door, you can lower the winch with the Shift+W combination. The man will then grab hold of the winch – but no, unfortunately there is no command to lower him onto the ground! Once you close the door, the man will then sit back in his seat – all of his movements are fully animated.

Don't fall in! When the winch is lowered, the man reaches out and holds it Detail in the textures and gear

The Cockpit

This is where the product really shines. As I mentioned earlier, only the modern avionics package is featured. It would have been great if Aerosoft would have developed the older version – but who am I to complain with such an extensively replicated cockpit?

Both PFD and MFD showing plenty of info en route Lower pedestal

The primary instruments of the cockpit of the Jayhawk are of course, the PFD and MFD. Both are fully customizable to your preference, and both contain lots of information to keep you on top of things. There is one interesting feature I enjoyed while flying the Jayhawk, one that I have never seen implemented in any other helo add-on, the function which allows the pilot to use the auto hover system. This is particularly useful during those SAR missions. By tuning the radar altitude, it allows the chopper to hover from 200 feet all the way down to a single foot. This may not be a good idea when rescuing a bunch of fishermen during a severe thunderstorm, as the chopper has a tendency to move back and forth when this system is active.

Close up of the PFD - all of the info here is fully customizable MFD close up - again, this is fully tinkerable

If you follow the tutorial flight (or its recommended settings) the instruments can give you a lot of information. All this data is clear and easy to read, which allows for easier flying and less fumbling around with sub-panels searching for distances and bearings to way points etc.

2D panel in full swing Subpanels

The Virtual Cockpit has been finely modeled. The textures on the pedestal appear to be derived from photo real textures as they have a lot of detail and show signs of wear and tear, whereas the main panel contains less detail. The overhead panel in the VC is not 3D, but the lower pedestal is. The Virtual Cockpit is fully clickable.

Flight Dynamics

Having only been interested in helo’s for a few weeks prior to the assigning of this review, I thoroughly enjoyed flying such an accurate model in the sim. Once you take off, your initial thoughts are “gee, this thing is heavy”. This is worlds apart from the default Bell and it requires much more thought into your movements whereas the 206 is much simpler and easy going.

All folded up A lazy mans taxi, using the AFCS to hold 3 feet at 7 knots

The best way to get accustomed to the flight model is to do the tutorial flight. The flight takes you from the USCGC Bertholf just off Dover to London City. Although this flight is designed to get you familiarized with the AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System), I repeated the same flight flying by hand. The Jayhawk handles comfortably at all times, but sometimes it has a tendency to start flying backwards at low speeds. Whether this is something wrong with the flight model or a lack of my helo skills, I don’t know.

Approaching the cutter for landing is something that needs a lot of practice. Initially, I ended up crashing into the ship or losing control and spinning to my virtual death. The trick is to come in from behind with a slow airspeed, while steadily holding a low altitude. Once you approach the Bertholf, bring the Jayhawk down softly. If you end up slightly to the side, add some collective and move yourself to the centre of the deck. After landing, shut down, fold up the rotors and head inside for a warm shower!

Ready to depart Not much room for error here... Departing the USCGC Bertholf

After only graduating from Jordan Moore’s freeware Bell 412 just before testing this product, I went from having disastrous attempts at landing on the Cutter to nestling the Jayhawk neatly down onboard the Bertholf. I’m sure hardcore helicopter simmers will be able to transition to the HH-60 reasonably well, and beginner helo drivers should have more trouble, but this is a joy to fly no matter what conditions.

Sounds

Although I’ve never been in the presence of a HH-60, I’ve seen a Royal Australian Navy SH-60 Seahawk (same airframe, same engines, developed for the Navy) do a simulated SAR at a small airshow last year. Put it this way, the sounds in the sim are exactly the same as I heard in real life. I found nothing in the sound package that let me down.

The Cutter – USCGC Bertholf

Once you install the package, the program will automatically update your sim’s scenery library to add a few cutters throughout the world. Aerosoft have included a neat tool called “Shipyard” which allows the user to place the USCGC Bertholf anywhere in the world. This is a simple process, and is easily explained. Boot up your sim, choose the cutter and slew to where you want the Bertholf to be. Minimize FS, open up Shipyard and it will connect to the sim and place the cutter exactly where you slewed to. Reboot FS, and, voila! You will be able to choose the USCGC Bertholf via the “Go to Airport” menu and start onboard the ship for your next sortie.

The Bertholf has also been made “flyable”. Apparently it was never intended to be something controllable in the sim, but the beta testers pushed for it to be available to us in order to“explore the seas” via the cutter. The cutter has some neat sounds, a very simple panel, and some nice exhaust effects. This was never intended to be available for use so it’s nothing special, but it is fun to mess around with.

Performance

With all this detail comes a frame rate drop. This can be punishing in bad weather or complex areas, so I had to be careful to avoid such scenarios. For instance, flying the tutorial flight into London was not great. Approaching the city, I noted unflyable frame rates (less than 10) and had to go into my scenery settings and lower them. Experimenting, I went back with the same settings I had prior to the adjustment with the default 172 and achieved a 15 frame rate.

In Closing

I had a great time flying the Jayhawk and the flights it includes. Not only is this a sophisticated helicopter simulation, but the cutter allows the simmer to be imaginative and create their own virtual sorties. It's always good to have some diversity in flight sim. Although the Jayhawk can be a bit hard on frame rates, this can be worked around by avoiding high density scenery areas and/or turning down visual settings. It’s a small price to pay to get the full use of this add-on.

You’ll have a lot of fun flying the HH-60, it’s very charismatic to fly, looks and sounds lovely, and is generally a great helicopter add-on. I had a blast testing this package and will do so for a long time to come. This package will not let down any helo simmer, as it is a fun package and is sold with a very tempting price tag on it.

I’ll end my review with this: before I received this product I very seldom flew “whirly birds”. This product has completely transferred me to the rotary simming world; something I didn’t even know was possible a few weeks ago. This product offers the simmer something different, for which I, for one, deeply appreciate.

 

What I Like About Aerosoft Coast Guard
  • Jayhawk looks great, inside and out
  • Realistic sound set
  • Interesting flight model
  • USCGC Bertholf and Shipyard tool
  • Extensive documentation

 
What I Don't Like About Aerosoft Coast Guard
  • Can be frame rate heavy

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