AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Package Review

Cargo Pilot

Product Information
Publisher: Just Flight
Description:  Flight sim expansion package.
Download Size:
N/A
Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Joseph Ellwood AVSIM Staff Reviewer - October 9, 2006

Introduction

There are numerous types of simmers out there: heavy iron pilots, helo drivers, jet jockeys, VFR junkies – and of course, freight dogs. There are various products out there that expand upon these categories, and until now, cargo flying has often gone unnoticed.

In a lot of ways, this product is the cargo equivalent to the popular FS Passengers title. You create your own airline and pilot, tehn fly and get judged by your efforts. If you fly well, you get rewarded. With these rewards you can expand your fleet and buy new bases. If you fail to perform, you’ll need to face the consequences. You’ll find yourself going backwards financially if you’re not up to scrap. Then you’ll need to sharpen up, otherwise you’ll have to shut down your business.

The beauty of products such as this and FS Passengers is it brings an entirely new dimension into the sim. It allows the user to be creative, do something different other than fly, and more importantly, keep their flying skills in tip-top shape. Products such as this are very much welcomed in my opinion on the basis of the above.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

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

Flying Time:
30 hours

Yes, we have to cover the boring bits first! Installation is a no brainer, put the DVD into your tray and wait for the program to start up. Included on the DVD are various promotional tid bits for other Just Flight products, including heaps of videos and screenshots. The program requires Microsoft .NET Framework V2, so if you don’t have this, don’t sweat because it’s on the DVD for you.

The manual is typical of Just Flight. Bulky and extensive. The manual covers all aspects, going into detail on how to use the program and what each feature does in a lot of depth. Having the manual beside you is very handy when you initially open the program. Read the step by step guide to starting your own cargo airline and completing your first flight. The manual is in English, French and German.

What Is Cargo Pilot

I mentioned above that Cargo Pilot is the cargo equivalent to FS Passengers. There is a lot of things that set these products apart, and no, I’m not referring to the obvious.

Primarily, Cargo Pilot is an independent program which is mostly run outside the sim, whereas FS Pax is run during the sim. In a lot of ways, I prefer the Cargo Pilot method. However, it has its repercussions. The Cargo Pilot program is very resource hungry and uses around 82 megs of RAM. The result is that your sim will run more proficiently when doing flights using Cargo Pilot and there is minimal work to be done regarding the program when flying.

You start up with a set amount of funds, enough to buy yourself a small piston aircraft and a small airstrip to use as a base. Once you’ve done this, you can select flights to do. Unlike FS Pax, Cargo Pilot sets flights for you, which is much more realistic. Each flight is unique. Some may be short hops carrying a few goods while others could be much longer; for example, delivering mail. The weather is pre-defined, but thankfully you’ll get a full flight briefing once you accept a job.

Cargo Pilot main screen, note the office changes as your company grows

Simply put, the more cargo you fly and the safer you fly it, the more income your company will receive. Regular aircraft maintenance is required; otherwise you’ll encounter in-flight problems and risk both your precious cargo and your airplane. The beauty of Cargo Pilot over FS Pax is the aspect of not having to worry about nit picky passengers. But some cargo is just as fragile as passengers, a hard landing will cause damage to your cargo, resulting in fines.

As your company grows, you expand both your fleet and bases. At this point, as long as you avoid any major screw-ups, the program becomes a walk in the park. Millions of dollars will start rolling in, unfortunately, at this point I found it becoming a bit boring as I enjoy a bit of a challenge. However because of this, you can make your company BIG. When I say big, you can fly a healthy fleet of 747’s and hubs at all major cities in the world. Luckily, initial configuration lets you choose the length of the program and difficulty.

Flying With Cargo Pilot

Performing flights with Cargo Pilot is a simple exercise. Start up the Cargo Pilot via your desktop and then go to Flight Management. Once there, you are faced with a wide array of available flights. All of these flights are either to or from your selected base. This menu shows you all the information to help choose a flight which is best suited for you. My only let down here was the lack of shorter flights.

Main Options Screen Dozens of flights to choose from Out shopping. Hmm, 61k won't get me far!

Flying a small single load of cargo up to 500nm can take a while. Most of us live busy lives and don’t have time for such long flights; hence I feel there should be a wider selection of flights under 300nm. Although in real life, such cargo would probably be delivered by other means of transportation. So while I would have preferred to have shorter flights, it is more realistic.

Once you’ve selected a flight, you’re presented with a flight plan and briefing. Cargo Pilot sets the weather for you, so this option is out of your hands. Flight Simulator is opened via Cargo Pilot, which will skip you through all the menus and will put you straight onto the tarmac for cockpit preparation.

Basically you do a flight like a usual flight, with the exception of keeping the Cargo Pilot plug-in updated. Once you’ve landed, the tracker will de-activate. Shut down the aircraft and close the sim, followed by viewing your post flight briefing.

My Experiences

After completing a few flights safely and without hassle, I decided to stir the pot and “purposely” go for a disastrous flight. My flight was from Rimouski, Canada to Mary’s Harbor. Take off and climb was normal but as I got to my cruising attitude of 10,000 feet, I ignored further ATC frequency changes which resulted in them canceling my IFR flight plan. I had no further contact with ATC that flight.

On my descent, I went a little crazy. I rolled the aircraft way beyond its set limits, did a healthy nose dive at 150KIAS, followed by stalling the aircraft down to 1200 feet. I was unaware of the damage both to the airframe and cargo until I viewed my post flight briefing. On top of my attempts at aerobatics in the Caravan, I overshot the runway, causing me to crash down into a hill and very narrowly avoiding a lake!

Let the fun begin! Luckily we missed the lake, I didn't pack my swimmers!

Feeling eager to view my briefing, I closed the sim and opened Cargo Pilot. I’ve included a screenshot of the report, and as a result of my poor flying performance my company had to pay the consequences. The guys in the financial department were not happy!

Oh oh - this dosen't look good! Post flight briefing. When you first start your cargo airline, you have hundreds (possibly thousands) of bases to choose from. Now, I only have a dozen or so.

After a few weeks using this program I decided to keep it simple. My cargo airline utilized a healthy fleet of 5 Cessna Caravans based in Rimouski, and I decided that most of my flights were going to be mail runs. In the future, as I have more time to fly, I’ll start another airline. Hopefully operating much larger aircraft with numerous large hubs and longer flights, thus resulting in more money.

What's Missing

Although this expansion is a great add-on, I feel there are a few things missing. Note that I find these to be very minor. Primarily, I would have enjoyed a more advanced payload editor as sometimes the default FS one isn’t much help.

Another point are the sounds. Sounds bring any product alive and help create that atmospheric feel that us simmers are always looking for. This product does not include any built-in sounds. Some things such as the cargo being loaded and chit-chat in the backround would be great.

Also, there are no random failures unlike FS Passengers. No simulated bird strikes or peculiar engine failures here. The default random failures do not do justice to the flight sim in general or Cargo Pilot. Because our passengers are box shaped and are not demanding attention all the time, this made me feel a little more relaxed. Whereas, I should have been aware that anything could have gone wrong at any time.

Summary

The beauty of this product is it gives the simmer something out of the box (nice pun, huh?) to tinker with. Not all products these days do this, and I really enjoy using these “expansions” for the sim.

The ease of use, helpful manual and the ability to use any aircraft you wish displays the diversity and creativity of product. However, I would have liked to have had the ability to fly shorter flights. None of the negative feelings I had towards this product had enough significance to turn me off the product.

I’m sure this product will not disappoint any freight dog out there. Whether you wish to fly simple mail run routes to continental electronics delivery – this is a fantastic addition to anyone’s sim library.

 

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