AVSIM Commercial FSX Utility Review

PMDG JS4100 Voice Commander Edition

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Product Information

Publisher: FS2Crew

Description: Voice command utility.

Download Size:
245 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Jason McKee AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 3, 2010

Introduction

Ever since the first Microsoft flight simulator was released it was advertised as “as real as it gets”, but no matter how you flew the airliners, you were always flying alone, in a two person environment.  Some releases of commercial aircraft did come with a limited co-pilot function, but you still have to use your keyboard or mouse to activate them.

FSpassengers did change the way the co-pilot and cabin crew interacted with you.  This add-on made you think about what you did and the consequences of your flying.  It also introduced a co-pilot that could control most (not all) functions. But the caveat was that you still had to use keyboard commands.

We as virtual pilots have long wished to be able to be rid of the keyboard and mouse in controlling the aircraft and crew, but until now that has been largely impossible, now you will still have to use your mouse to toggle switches and such, but with the new FS2Crew voice commander series you can talk to and tell your co-pilot and crew what to do.  FS2Crew started out with crew simulation by using check lists that were used with your mouse and keyboards, but since those early days they have moved to voice and are now releasing more voice commander software for some of the most popular aircraft out there.

PC requirements

Now this is important, you do need to have certain software and hardware for the software to run well. These are as follows:

FSX SP2 running in windowed mode (allows you to see any dialog boxes that may pop up)
A good quality microphone (headset is preferred, but not essential)

Windows 7 (speech recognition is better than previous versions of windows)
Language set to English-US, not any other type of English, as you will have problems.
And of course PMDG’s brilliant BAe Jetstreem J41,

The main window of the FS2Crew program.

Installation and setting up voice control

Following the installation process to the letter will give you an install that will work first time, every time.  The installation process is an easy one; a point and click affair.  Once you have the program installed you can then view the readme file, which is must reading as it gives you important tips and guidance on what you should say, what trigger words are recognized, and what you should do as far as voice reorganization software training goes.

Configuration option to mute the microphone.

Now comes the fun part, talking to your computer, which can make you look like a mad man. My wife thought I was crazy talking to my computer, until I told her why, (she stills thinks I am funny).  The price you pay for voice control!!

The first thing that you must do if you want any degree of accuracy is to train the voice recognition software.  This is a very important step, the more training you do the better the recognition will be.  I only did one session and I have found that it picks up most words, but I think the more you train the better it will be.

Once you have done the training you can then go on and use the software.  I personally recommend printing out the FS2Crew manual and the PMDG J41 checklist, as the software is based around real world standard operating procedures (SOP).  I found myself referring to the manual quite often as I am still very new on the J41 and there is a lot to remember with all the checks and procedures that you will need to follow.

Also you may wish to set a couple of key assignments to mute and trigger some things. These are Alternate Static Source; this has been configured in the FS2Crew as an additional way of using the Hard Mute control. Altimeter (Standard Pressure) this triggers the co-pilot’s call when passing the transition altitude, and Altimeter (reset) this is used to trigger the co-pilot’s call when passing the transition level.

Also included in this package is a special copy of the Video Marshaller. To use this you may want to set a key assignment to the clutch, this will bring up the video marshaller control panel. You must have the Pause on Task switch unchecked in the FSX General Settings.
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Flying the J41

Well I had intended to supply a video of a flight with this review, but due to technical issues with the recorder and my PC, I was unable so I will do my best to describe a typical flight in the J41 using voice control.

Brindabella Airlines Flight to Port Macquarie.

Brisbane to Port Macquarie.

Today’s flight will be from Brisbane to Port Macquarie, about a 2 hour flight south of Brisbane.  When I started the flight, the aircraft was not in a cold and dark state.  Open the control panel for FS2Crew and start the preflight, this will display 30 minutes remaining in the panel, and as the engines are running the co-pilot went about shutting everything down and getting the aircraft to its cold and dark state. This is done 30 minutes before departure and as the first flight of the day a full pre-flight is done (thus 30 minutes)

The three main windows in FSX of FS2Crew, the Configuration Panel, The View Switcher and the Main FS2Crew Panel.

One thing you will need to do to get the FS2Crew control panel up is to make sure you have the battery or ground power switched on, if there is no power you cannot open the control panel.  Once you have got the control panel open you can see the time slowly ticking down. Now if you do not want the full 30 minutes you can fast forward the time to get things moving quicker.  During your pre-flight time, the co-pilot will announce that he is going out to do a walk around, once complete he will tell you he is back, also the flight attendant will ask you if it is ok to start boarding.  All you have to do is give approval with one of the following phrases; Yes, Yes We Are, Thanks and Thank You.

The Panel will show what is next and will cycle through the actions automatically, but you can skip forward or backwards if you need to.

As the pre-flight winds down, you can perform your flows. At about 10 minutes before departure you should ask the co-pilot about the Clearance Brief.  Ask him by using the following phrase; Are You Ready For The Clearance Briefing, to which he will respond he is. Now you can go over the pre-flight, but it is recommend you mute the conversation, as the co-pilot will not act on anything you say, and by muting you avoid the risk of FS2Crew interpreting something you didn’t want it to.  Once you have finished ask Any Questions? The co-pilot will respond No Questions.

Once you have completed the pre-flight and turn flow, call Turn Check by using the key phrases Turn Check or Turn Check Please, then follow the checklist with the co-pilot.  With about 5 minutes remaining, perform your final departure preparations. Once the Flight Attendant has announced that the doors are closed you can then proceed with the Before Start Check. You perform your flow items, and the co-pilot will perform his, once he is finished he will call the first item on the before start checklist.  There is a special phrase the FS2Crew software is looking for, this is Pounds Checked or Pounds On Board, and this is in response to the checklist item relating to the amount of fuel on board.

In the manual there are handy little tips from the developer.

Once you have completed the Before Start Checklist next step is to start the engines. This is easy to do with your co-pilot controlling the start, or you can do a manual start if you wish.  FS2Crew works well both ways.  Make sure you have the engine controls set up correctly, or the co-pilot will tell you something isn’t right, once everything is ready, call Clear and start left, or Start Left Engine. The co-pilot will then start the left engine, and will tell you when the engine has stabilized, you then perform your flow and the co-pilot will perform his, when you are ready call Clear and Start Right, or Start Right Engine, again the co-pilot will go through the start procedure.  If for whatever reason, you can abort the start by calling Abort Start or Abort Engine Start.

With the engines running perform the after start flow, the co-pilot will perform his automatically.  The co-pilot will start the checklist after he has completed his flow, there is a special phrase required after the checklist item APR xxx-C, you can respond by saying Armed, Off, Test/Arm or Test/Off.

The co-pilot and I performing engine start.

As you taxi away from the ramp, perform the taxi flow. Once you have completed your flow, call Taxi Check, the Co-pilot will then start his flow, then start the checklist once he has completed his flow.  When you are at the runway, call for Departure Check, proceed through your flow, and the co-pilot will perform his flow, and then start the checklist.  Once he calls The Line, you have three responses Hold Short, Position and Hold or Cleared For Takeoff. Call which ever you have been cleared for, but for the co-pilot to continue the checklist you must call Cleared For Takeoff.  When the co-pilot calls ignition/anti-ice you can respond with the following Normal/Off, Continuous/off or Continuous/On.

When you are ready to take off, stand the power levers at 12 o’clock, then call Set Power, the co-pilot will set the power to the desired torque, and call Power Set, the he will call 70 Knots as you pass 70 Knots.  You then call My Column,  and as the take off proceeds, the co-pilot will call out Vee1 rotate 5 knots prior to Vee1 speed, then continue to rotate and follow the take off.  If for whatever reason you need to abort your take off roll, call Abort Abort, don’t forget to say Out Of Reverse Condition Levers Taxi during the abort phrase.

On initial climb out call Positive Rate Gear up, the co-pilot will the call gear up and raise the gear, the co-pilot will then proceed with his flow.  Once you pass though the acceleration altitude call Flaps Up After Take Off Checklist.  The co-pilot will then perform the after takeoff flow. The co-pilot will tell you when he has finished. If you wish, you can then activate the autopilot by asking for Autopilot. You can change the autopilot settings simply by asking for them.  You can also ask for any number of things to be turned on or off, again simply by asking for them, the manual shows what you can ask for.  You can also talk to the flight attendant.

When you are approaching the TOD point Say Let’s Start Setting Up For The Approach, or Approach Items, this will trigger the co-pilot to start his setup, which includes talking to the flight attendant, setting the target vref , v2 and vyse, arming the spoilers, arm the APR and the Ice AOA.  The co-pilot will announce Approach Setup Complete when he has finished.  You can then go through the arrival brief, again this is like the pre-flight brief, it doesn’t do anything other than add realism.  Once you have finished, as Any Questions, he will respond No Questions.

As you descend Call Descent Approach Check or Descent Approach Check Please. The co-pilot will start his flow. As you slow down and set up on approach, call out what you want done, i.e. ask for flaps 9, the co-pilot will call and set flaps 9, call out flaps 15, the copilot will call out flaps 15 and set flaps 15.

Taxiing out with the Take off checklist in action.

When you are ready, call Gear Down, the co-pilot will lower the gear.  He will also call out Runway in Sight, or Lights in sight, this is not when you can actually see the field, but based on a calculation due to limitations of technology.

After you call for Flaps 25, call for the Landing Check, this will trigger the landing checklist and flow. As you approach, the co-pilot will call out vref speeds and yaw damper off.  As you land and roll out the co-pilot will call 70 knots, when you come out of reverse call Out Of Reverse, Condition Levers Taxi, this triggers the co-pilot to set the levers to taxi and also starts his three minute engine cool down timer. He will not shut down the engines until they have had three minutes to cool down.

Once clear of the active, call After Landing Check. This will start the after landing flow, and as you taxi to the ramp, call Taxi Light off, to turn the light off and not blind the ground crew.  Once you are at the gate, call Parking Brake On Shutdown Check, once the engines have had three minutes to cool the co-pilot will then start his flow.

If this is the last flight of the day you can then run through the secure check, or if you are doing another leg you can then start from the Pre-Flight.  That concludes our flight.

Abnormal Procedures

If for whatever reason you needed to abort your landing you call Missed Approach to initiate the go around. You must then make calls in the following order, set power, flaps 9. Positive rate, gear up, and flaps up go around missed approach check. The copilot will ask if you want to divert to the alternate or try the approach again.  You can either say we’ll divert to the alternate or we’ll try the approach again.  This will then go to the landing checklist mode.

Video Marshaller

Included with the package is a special copy of the video marshaller. This works well with the J41, but you must run FSX in windows mode to see the marshaller.  From the main control panel of FS2Crew, you open the video marshaller panel, this allows you to signal and get a response from the marshaller.  It works well and add a bit more to the product.

The day time view of the Video Marshaller (picture courtesy of FS2Crew).

The Video Marshaller at night (picture courtesy of FS2Crew).

Control Panel

The control panel covers all the functions you need, and a covenant place for back up buttons.  To access the control panels you use your middle mouse button and click in the middle of the weather radar screen to open the view switcher panel.  This panel is a handy view switcher that allows you to switch between virtual cockpit views at the press of a button. It also allows you to open the main config panel and the main FS2Crew panel. You can undock these windows and have them on a separate screen if you wish.

Test System

Computer Specs

Intel 920 I7 Quad Core
3Gig 1333 Ram
ATI HD4800 1Gb
Saitek Pro Yoke and 2 throttle quadrants
Pro Flight Rudder Pedals
Windows 7 64bit

Flying Time:
15 hours

These panels allow you to set the pre-flight time, fast forward the pre-flight, and move through the flows and checklists if you wish.  Is also allows you to hard mute the microphone, and talk to other crew.

Summary / Closing Remarks

This product adds a great deal to your immersion in FSX,  you can now talk to your crew and have them follow your commands.  I found this a very easy to use product, and once you have done some voice recognition training you will have very few errors.  The ability to control all parts of your flight, follow checklist and even run through abnormal procedures with your crew is great.  I found that I learned a lot about the aircraft and how things should be accomplished to get the aircraft set up correctly.

I can honestly say that I will be using this product on all my flights with the J41.

 

What I Like About The J41 Voice Commander

  • Easy to use, just make sure you y\use the correct trigger words.
  • Adds to the immersion of FSX.
  • You can finally control your crew just by talking to them.
  • Helps you to learn the correct procedures on the J41.
  • Video Marshaller included with this.
  • No performance impact.
  • Handy view changer which makes changing your VC view a snap.
  • Error reduction technology to help reduce the risk of false actions.

 

What I Don't Like About The J41 Voice Commander

  • Having to train the Voice Recognition software.

 

Printing

If you wish to print this review or read it offline at your leisure,  right click on the link below, and select "save as"

J41 Voice Commander

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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