AVSIM Commercial FSX Mission Review

Airshow Pilot

Product Information

Publishers: Just Flight

Description: Fly and/or create your own air show and be an air show pilot.

Download Size:
34 MB

Format:
DVD or Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - November 6, 2010

I always wanted to be an ……. Airshow Pilot

So now you know what I wanted to be …… an Airshow Pilot. Great, but how and with what can I do this within Microsoft FSX? That’s the question, but I’ll try to give you an answer on that together with Just Flight’s vision. They brought it on to the market so let’s see what “Airshow Pilot” is, what it can do for you and how to handle your shows.

According to Just Flight, “Airshow Pilot is all about aerobatics, and you’ll be testing your skills against other flight sim pilots in competitions around the world. This is against AI competitor’s generated offline on your home PC or against real flight sim competitors who will be flying in the same events throughout the year and comparing their results with yours online. Hone your skills during a full calendar of events. Tracking software will record your routine and will evaluate and rate your skills. You'll also be able to download other competitors, flights and play them back to see how your opponents are shaping up! Overall, Airshow Pilot is a set of programs and tools to let you manage your aerobatic skills!

With this Just Flight introduction I could conclude that it’s all about aerobatics, skills and competitions. For me this is not enough so let’s see if there’s more JF Airshow Pilot information.

Just Flight continues what the Main Program can do for you.

The Event Calendar shows all air shows and aerobatic events in the near future. Each event features an aerobatic program in two difficulty settings – ‘Sportsman’ (short, easy), ‘Advanced’ (longer, more difficult) and also ‘Display’ (flying airliners or jet aircraft for display, rather than aerobatics).

Each flight program consists of a number of aerobatic figures, such as straight flying, turns, loops, rolls and much more, both in normal and inverted (upside down) orientation. You can practice your flying – individual figures or the entire flight program – in the familiar surroundings of your chosen home airport. When you are familiar with your flight program, you are ready to enter the competition at the designated airfield.

A Flight Data Recorder will monitor your practice and competition performance and after your flight will give you a full rating for each individual figure flown and for the full flight program. You can play back your entire flight in 1st person, 3rd person views and even in ‘freeze image’ view, which shows the entire flight path as still images in Flight Simulator.

Each aerobatic figure consists of a gate to pass through (with a symbol for the figure to fly). When you think you have finished the figure, you indicate your readiness for the next one and the next figure will start from there.

During competitions the airfield area will be filled with an air show crowd and objects – people, tents, booths, cars, display aircraft and much more. You can even hear the crowd noise! Once the event is over you will be ranked alongside all the other pilots (AI or real ones). Track your progress throughout a whole season and see your awards - goblets, medals... or nothing at all, depending on how well you fly!

Events can be offline (competing with randomly generated pilots) or online (competing with other users). You can download other users' flights in order to watch and learn from them. Similarly, you can upload your flights for other users to view so you can show off your skills to the public!”

Just Flight concludes that Airshow Pilot is a program that offers air show flight simulator pilots:
- An Airshow Pilot program that allows you to attend offline and online air shows, either on your own PC or via the Internet.
- Together with the following three additional programs, endless combinations are possible.
- Event Designer – create your own aerobatic events.
- Flight Program Designer - create your own flight programs.
- Population Designer - create your own airport populations.

So it’s all about aerobatics and creating a world around you. It’s about learning all kind of figures and to monitor your skills and thus your improvements. Once you’ve got enough aerobatic “training” experience, it’s the moment of truth. It’s the moment where you test your skills offline or online at designated air show airports.

One advantage; you’re never alone at an air show. There are always people around with tents, booths, cars, static aircraft and much more. Do I have a good idea what this software offers as part of the three additional programs? Honestly not yet, so it’s time to install it and see what’s installed on my hard disk and what kind of sub programs or control panels I have to deal with.

Real aerobatic shows

While searching the Internet for real air shows I can tell you that it returns with a huge list of worldwide air shows. What worldwide recession? Looking at the list and locations, it seems to me that there’s no recession at all.

Let’s give you some examples; “the Al Ain Aerobatic Show is one of the largest and most prestigious events of its type in the world. Held in the UAE's cultural capital of Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and held under the patronage of HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the event attracts a glittering array of the world's foremost aerobatics specialists, teams and performers).”

But there is more … “The 2010 Fort Worth Alliance Air Show presented by Bell Helicopter! The US Navy Blue Angels, the US Air Force F-22 Raptor and the US Army Golden Knights will be featured on October 30 and 31, 2010 in North Texas. Experience a full day of dynamic aviation performances, static display, interactive booths, Kid Zone and more. Gates are open from 9 am to 5 pm. The same show is held from approximately 10 am to 4 pm both days. The Fort Worth Alliance Air Show is a non-profit event with the goal of raising funds for beneficiaries in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.”

Or here’s one more ….. “Witness thrills like never before from a variety of military and civilian aerobatic demonstrations at the 2010 NAS Jax Air Show. The world famous Super Shockwave Jet Truck will be racing down the runway at speeds more than 300 mph. The grand finale will be the Navy's flight demonstration team: The Blue Angels. While you are at the show enjoy military and civilian aircraft displays, shop at novelty, food and beverage booths, or head to the free Kid's Zone for games and activities for all ages.”

In other words, there’s so much on the internet. Have a “search” for yourself and see it with your own eyes! Before I continue there’s something that must be cleared in case you’re not familiar with air shows or air races.

The vertical pillars are used at air races. Airshow Pilot is not about air races but about aerobatics. In real aerobatics all flight figures must be flown within a “box”, marked as a square on the ground. Hold on, to understand this, I need to dig into the background of aerobatic air shows. After a while I found some good and detailed information at Wikipedia, so let’s have a look what real aerobatics means.

Competition Aerobatics

Competition aerobatics is an air sport in which judges rate the skill of pilots performing aerobatic flying. It is practiced in both piston-powered single-engine airplanes and gliders. An aerobatic competition is sanctioned by a national aero club, its designee, or in the case of international competitions, by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). The sanctioning body establishes the rules that apply to the competition, including entry qualifications for all participants, operating procedures and judging criteria.

A pilot enters a competition in a category of his or her choice, which defines the level of difficulty of the aerobatic sequences flown. Within each category, a pilot flies one or more flight programs. Each flight receives a total score from the judges; ranking each pilot's combined total scores for all flight programs within each category determines that category's winner.

Flight Programs

Within each category, each pilot flies one or more flight programs. They are:

Known: Determined each year by the FAI or the national aero club. It is flown by all competitors at all contests all year long. This is sometimes known as the Q (for qualifying) program.

Free: In this program, each pilot is given the opportunity to demonstrate his personal flying skills, creative talent and his aircraft performance by designing his own sequence.

Unknown: This program is made known to the contestants only about 12 hours before the competition. The figures are chosen by either teams or pilots, each submitting a single figure. In Local contests often the governing body or the contest chief judge chooses the unknown sequence. The pilots must not practice before flying the unknown sequence. (For classes Intermediate and above.)

4-minute Free: Only the top unlimited pilots might be invited to fly this final program. It is for this program that new figures are sometimes flown as pilots strive to display their creativity and superior skills as performers.

Aerobatic Box

The aerobatic box is a volume of airspace in which the aircraft must remain while performing a sequence. Its length and width are each 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). Its height varies based on whether FAI, national aero club or local rules apply to the competition. White ground markers at each corner of the box make it visible to the pilot from the air. For most categories, penalties are assessed for flight outside the aerobatic box.

The box has two axes, the identification of which is based on the location of the judges. The X-Axis (called the A-Axis by some aero clubs), runs across the line of sight of the judges. It is along this axis that most figures are usually flown. In some contests a center line is marked along the middle of the X-Axis.

The Y-Axis (called the B-Axis by some aero clubs) runs perpendicular to the X-Axis, toward and away from the judges. This axis is used for cross-box position correction. The official wind direction is always declared by contest officials to be along the X-Axis. This, however, does not always reflect reality, and generally during the course of a sequence the competitor will drift either toward or away from the judging line. The competitor can extend or shorten maneuvers flown along the Y-Axis to obtain the desired positioning.

The box floor is as high as 460 meters (1,510 feet) above ground level (AGL) for Primary level competitors and as low as 100 meters (328 feet) AGL for Unlimited level competitors. The box ceiling is as high as 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above its floor. Before a category starts, a competitor will mark the box by flying along its boundaries at its floor. This allows the judges to visualize the box in the sky and prepares them to adjudge an aircraft flying below the box floor. At a groundspeed of 300 kilometers per hour (approximately 190 mph) the pilot has 12 seconds from entering the box on the one side before exiting the box on the other.

Aerobatic Figures

Aerobatic maneuvers are flight paths putting aircraft in unusual attitudes, in air shows, dog fights or competition aerobatics. Aerobatics can be performed by a single aircraft or in formation with several others. Nearly all aircraft are capable of performing aerobatics maneuvers of some kind, although it may not be legal or safe to do so in certain aircraft.

Aerobatics consist of five basic maneuvers: Lines (both horizontal and vertical), Loops, Rolls, Spins, and Hammerheads. Most aerobatic figures are composites of these basic maneuvers with rolls superimposed. Most of these can be entered either erect or inverted, flown backwards or have extra rolls added. Where appropriate, the Aresti Catalog symbols have been included. Not all the figures are competition figures, and so some do not have diagrams to accompany the description.

Test System

Intel Core Extreme i7-965  3.2Ghz
6GB Tri-Channel DDR3 1600Mhz
EVGA GTX-285 For the Winner
Triple WD VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Single WD 1TB HDD
Windows 7 Ultimate X64
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Flight Simulator FS9.1
X-Plane 9.60rc3
Saitek Pro Flight System
Saitek X-65F
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flying Time:
100+ hours

What do you get?

Installation

Let’s start with the easy part; DVD installation. The DVD offers the Airshow Pilot program – roughly 30MB – and the two Microsoft Flight Simulator X Service Packs just in case. That’s all and it also means this time no demos or videos. For me there’s no need to add installation screenshots here because you can’t do it wrong and because of the size, it’s done in a split Dutch second.

The installer detects the correct FSX directory and within 5 seconds the Airshow Pilot program is installed. With the installation you’ve got a desktop “Airshow Pilot shortcut”. This shortcut allows you to start the main aerobatic program. More about this later.

Furthermore, via the Start menu button you’ve got a Just Flight Airshow Pilot folder with:
- the previous mentioned AirshowPilot.exe program.
- FlightEventDesigner.exe program.
- FlightProgDesigner.exe program.
- FSPopulationDesigner.exe.
- Tools Manual (Acrobat File).

That said it’s time to see what the AirshowPilot.exe and Designer programs can do for you, so let’s move on since there’s a lot to discuss.

AirshowPilot.exe program
This program or control panel allows you to view:
- available flight events,
- which aerobatic figures you need to fly on a flight event,
- training sessions with aerobatic and display figures to increase your aerobatic skills,
- off- and/or online competition result list and
- user profile settings.

That’s a pretty short description and worth having an in-depth look.

Flight Events

This page shows you the available flight events. Except for one, all the others are offline events. The yellow flag means that I haven’t taken part of it while the finish flag means I’ve done it. The two buttons in the middle above the tables allows you to filter the output. In this case there are only offline shows and open so there’s nothing to filter else it could help if you’re looking for something special.
When you’ve chosen which flight event you would like to attend (let’s assume the Iquique International Air & Space Fair), you click the ”Go to Event” button. This will bring you to “Current Flight Event – New flight”.

By the way; an offline event means that you fly the air show alone on your PC and keep the results for yourself while online flying allows you to fly the flight programs on your own and then to compare your results online with other pilots. The results of all pilots are put together in one ranking list.

Current Flight Event – New flight

Training for Sportsman
Training for Advanced
Display flight at an air show

You’ll find three white boxes or actually one is light grey. The two boxes on the right tells me that I need to use the Extra 300S default FSX airplane, maximum 50 points to earn and aerobatic figures are intended for Sportsman. Aerobatic figures to perform for a sportsman are fairly simple, which are ideal for beginners. Oops, that’s an understatement!

If you think you can do better, you’re able to change these default settings. This means in the left hand light grey box you can change the category or in straight English, you can change between Sportsman, Advanced or Display Flight. Actually you change between aerobatic flying (types or difficulty levels). Hold on, there’s something you need to know; when you change to Display Flight (blue symbol) the recommended aircraft type changes to “BAE Hawk T1”. That means that the installer didn’t install only the Airshow Pilot software, but also an add-on aircraft; the BAE Hawk T1!

Conclusion: changing to another category not only changes the aircraft, but also the aerobatic figures and points to earn.

Let’s continue with this left hand box. It also allows you to switch between “Training / Competition”. The moment you change to Competition, the airport or airfield will be full of spectators, tents, booths, cars, display aircraft(s) and much more. When you go for the Training option then there’s nothing on the ground that tells you there’s an air show going on.

On the other hand, during training sessions – remember, you’re improving your skills – you’re able to tick “show freeze flight program” and “show freeze aerobatic figures”, but what does it mean?

When ticked (for training flights only), all aerobatic figures will show as a series of frozen images in Flight Simulator. You can, for example, activate Slew mode for a closer view or see it as a visual aid.

Finally, you can print out this training or competition flight for your own use and as a reference. Furthermore, the “Fly New Flight” button allows you to start FSX from here. This results in a minimized Airshow Pilot program and the minimized activation of the flight data recorder program. This program will monitor and register your flight performances in the background. The FSX default flight will be loaded – whatever you have selected as default – and a green information bar on top of FSX tells you what you need to do. “Need to do” means to bring it to my training- or air show airport. More about this later when my training starts.

Training

Although not the 1st button on top of this Airshow Pilot program, it’s probably the best way to start with. Unless you’re an experienced air show pilot, you should practice first before attending off- or online air shows. This page shows you all kinds of training “figures” for different skills (categories). If you want to, you can use the filter option which allows you to see only the Sportsman, Advanced or Display flight figures.

Once you’ve decided to go for a training skill/category, you either click the “Go to Training” button or double click the selected skill/figure. This brings you to a “Training – New flight”” page, which is in principle the same as the previously discussed “Current Flight Event – New flight”, but now for an individual training flight figure. Only difference is that on the left hand light grey box you can’t select a different category for the simple reason that you did specify this already before.

Ready for your training flight? Click the “Fly New Flight” button. The Airshow Pilot program minimizes, the Flight Data Recorder starts monitoring in the background and FSX starts. Worth to mention; when you click the “Fly New Flight” button, the program not only minimizes, but all will be grayed out meaning that no changes can be made as long as FSX is running.

Competition results – My rewards

This screenshot and contents should be self-explaining. The screenshot doesn’t show anything yet, which is correct because while writing this, I’m only analyzing the Airshow Pilot program and haven’t flown a centimeter! Anyway, flight results are added on this list and improvements can be monitored.

Options – User profile

It allows you to set certain parameters. You need to enter your name for “saved” competitions, your training base airport/airfield and if you want offline and/or online events. Offline events are ratter simple since there’s no need to connect to the Internet for this. The moment you select either “Online Only” or “Offline and Online”, you need to register for online activation. Online feedback returns with a Personal ID, which you must write it down for further online playing.

Furthermore, there’s a box where several offline event selections that can be made. This is more or less the same for the online event box. Remember, for online you first need to register and by the way, registration is done via the left hand upper “Register for Online Competitions”.

Clicking the “Program Settings” icon, located in the right hand upper corner allows you to make certain program adjustments like “Language”, “Colors”, “Fonts”, “Flight Recorder Settings” and the directory location for user specific data. This “directory location” was already asked for during the installation process.

Although it was never my intention with the above to rewrite the JF Airshow Pilot’s manual, which offers the above information, but in more depth. It’s just to give you a general impression of what you can and must set. Complicated? Not at all! Time to move on to the next set of separate programs that comes with the installation.

FlightEvent-, FlightProg- and FSPopulation Designer programs

These three separate programs are known as the “Flight Event Design Tools”. Together with this there’s a handy “Tools” manual. Let’s first start with the FlightEvent.exe program.

It allows you to create an event at any time and any place. An event can be an Aerobatic Competition or even an Aircraft Display Show. The next logical step after you’ve created an event is linking a flight program (flight figures) to it. Though it’s a separate program, you’ll  do all these steps from within the FlightEvent.exe program. When needed, the FlightProg.exe program is started to make the necessary settings.

There’s no air show without population and therefore the last part of the flight event is the FSPopulation program. Again, you’ll do this from the previous FlightEvent.exe program while the FSPopulation program is started and allows you to add whatever you want to be on the air show itself. Full access to the Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX SimObject folder for this is available.

OK, you got it? If not, don’t worry. The Tools manual shows you in clear and understandable steps what and how to create your own flight events, flight programs and who is on the ground watching you or hovering in the air.

FlightEventDesigner Program
FlightProgDesigner Program
FSPopulationDesigner Program
These three screenshots offer you only a small “inside” of the real programs. With these sub programs you can create endless possiblities when it comes to flight programs (combination of aerobatic or display figures to fly) and flight simulator population. Any airport can have it’s own airshow with all that belongs to it. The provided Tools manual helps you till a certain extend to create new flight events.

Manuals

I discussed already more or less one manual; the Tools manual.  This manual is written more like a tutorial and helps you through all the steps needed to create your own air show. At the same time I must say that not every step is always clear which could lead to problems or misunderstanding.

The 2nd manual is the booklet from the DVD box; Airshow Pilot Operations Handbook or when you bought the download version, a digital Acrobat file. The book is 77 pages thick, but this doesn’t mean every page deals with the air show program. Apart from some JF Advertising, Credits, Copyright and Software Piracy, it’s all about the Airshow Pilot program.

You could say that the operations handbook consist of the following chapters:
- Introduction and installation,
- a tutorial with chronological steps starting with training figures till and including off- or online flying,
- Airshow Pilot – Main Program,
- Flight Data Recorder,
- Appendix.

I’m pleased to conclude that the manual is written as a tool, as a guide, as a hands-on manual. This is particularly the case with the Airshow Pilot Main Program and the Flight Data Recorder sections. Before using the Airshow Pilot program, I’ll make a side step to the add-on “BAE Hawk T1”airplane. As said before; this add-on air show airplane was added during the installation so let’s have a closer look at what it is and how it looks. No, it will not be a complete review about this add-on model, but just a short impression.

Airshow Pilot add-on “BAE Hawk T1”

I warn you in advance … don’t expect a high quality Hawk T1 aircraft. You can’t compare it with for example the SkySim.co.uk BAE Hawk T1. That’s a gorgeous model while this add-on BAE Hawk T1 is of an average quality. Average means that the external airplane textures are of a low quality. Although I own the Sky Sim BAE Hawk T1, it is absolutely not my intention to compare these two together.

That said, the external model is average, which is also applicable for the cockpit. The 2D cockpit looks in my personal opinion, like the default FSX Learjet 45 while the VC is a modified cockpit. Modified meaning that the panels and displays are rearranged.

Does it impress me? No, not at all but I must be honest; the software covers something else. The software offers lots of other things that deal with the aerobatic air shows and that’s more important! Find below a few screenshots of this added Just Flight version “Hawk T1”.

It’s very simple; either you like it and use it or you go for the default 300S aerobatic airplane. On the other hand, you could be the lucky owner of the Sky Sim Hawk T1 or your own other high quality aerobatic airplanes. It’s up to you!

External Red Arrow view I
External Red Arrow view II
External Red Arrow view III
Virtual Cockpit view I
Virtual Cockpit view II
2D cockpit which is slightly different then the Virtual Cockpit

Since this JF Hawk T1 is – logically - located in the SimObjects\Airplanes folder, let’s have a look at what wlse is there. That’s easy; there’s nothing else in the “Airplanes” directory, but the installer added an “AirshowPilot” directory right under SimObjects. This directory offers all the additional “air show” objects like tents, static aircrafts, benches, pavilions, concessions, RV’s, cars, trucks etc. This is the part that belongs to the FSPopulation Designer.

Not directly related to the SimObjects folder, but worth to mention are some additional scenery files for airport ICAO codes “FAVG (Virginia Airport -  Durban/South Africa)” and “VOYK (Yelahanka Air Force Station – Yelahanka/India)”. Now it’s really time to start with my training lessons, so please join me!

My dazzling career towards becoming an Airshow Pilot

Part I - Training sessions

Before being a successful aerobatic pilot, it’s good and wise to start with the training sessions and learn over and over all the aerobatic figures. Believe me, it sounds so simple, but it’s not as easy as I thought. Just see it as a new and exciting challenge learning all those figures.

Some training sessions are so easy that after one try it’s enough while other figures to fly need more practice. More practice means you need to train those figures many times before you dream them. As you can see on one of the screenshots below, during your training session you not only have the entrance squares to fly through as well as an exit square, but in between them you’ll have the visual guides. Visual guides that show you what and how to fly the particular flight figure.

Some are easy while others are more complicated like inverted figures together with a loop. I know it’s just a difficult example, so don’t worry too much about it. Later you will learn that these visual guides are not available during an air show except for the entrance- and exit squares.

It’s my first time to start with the training lessons or individual flight figures. My first “simple challenge” was a straight flight at 1500” feet MSL at EHLE (Lelystad Airport), which is my chosen home airport. You need to remember one thing; when you’re default FSX initial flight is not at EHLE like in my case, a green info bar tells you what to do. This means in my case I have to go to EHLE, hovering above runway 23 or 05 and be at an altitude of 1500 feet or when you don’t want to hover at a position, you simply position your aircraft close to EHLE.

What I want to point out is that when you decide just like me to start with the training sessions; make your FSX default flight your “Airshow Pilot” chosen airport.

Anyway, when I made my training choice, the Airshow program minimizes and at the same time the flight recorder is started to record my skills/performance. When you’re in position at your training area, you start the “flight figure monitoring” with the “brake” key (“.”). A tone will tell you that your flight skills are recorded. When you’ve reached the end of the figure, a tone now tells you that you’ve finished it meaning that you’ve completed the job.

The green bar on top of FSX tells you then to shutdown FSX. This is only applicable when it concerns one aerobatic figure to fly. When FSX is shut-down completely, the Airshow program pops-up automatically and tells you that you’ve flown the figure but more important, how many “training” points you’ve collected.

Is it worth making some screenshots of this very simple training figure? Probably for some it is, so let’s go for it and it gives you a good idea how the visual guidance looks.

Training area EHLE ahead of me. That’s my default Airshow Pilot airport and thus where I can practice all the individual aerobatic figures or combination of figures like you will do on shows.
Approaching my very first aerobatic figure; straight flight. Each aerobatic figure starts with a green entrance square showing the figure to fly and ends with a blue exit square. In-between are visual guides showing you how to fly this figure.
Entered the training area – red/white balloons – and quickly approaching the entrance of this straight flight figure.
Almost flying at the middle line of the visual guides and ahead of me I can see already the blue exit square.
Just passed through the exit square and approaching the other side of the training area.
When you’ve finished successfully your exercise, it’s logged and points are added.

The above set of screenshots is just to give you an example of how a training session looks. The actual “flight figure” to learn is always within the white/red balls thus within the circle. As said before, it isn’t easy at all. You have to be at a certain altitude and you need to maintain that. At the same time you have to perform the flight figure. A straight flight figure like this example is easy, but what about when you have to make an inverted loop? The aerobatic training consists of 26 individual aerobatic or flight figures, so enough to learn all the ins and outs of the aerobatic figures.

How long will it take before you can sign-in for an air show? That’s difficult to answer. It all depends on your general flight skills and if you have enough experience to handle the 300S or the Hawk T1 airplanes. Of course, if you want to you can take any other airplane, even the Cessna 172. Is it realistic to take a Cessna 172? Using it during an air show isn’t realistic, but for initial training sessions it isn’t a bad idea. The only thing to remember when using slow performance airplanes; those are not as maneuverable as the aerobatic models! That’s of course up to you when you want to slow down the mastering an aerobatic figure. After “x” flight hours, you can decide to go for the real work … the air shows.

I think it’s a good idea to spend a section about the “Flight Data Recorder” program. Every time you start a training session for individual flight figure training or a combination of figures (related to an air show), this tiny program starts minimized. It’s great that it monitors but what can you do with it and what do you see when it’s activated?

After you’ve finished the training session and shutdown FSX as written in the green bar, the flight data recorder has stopped recording and the Airshow Pilot program pops up. The “Training – My Flights” page appears with hopefully the recorder flights. In the example screenshot it shows you two flights. Both are related to the same 0.00.0.0 figure, which equals a straight flight. Let’s go for an example; I clicked the upper recorder flight – Extra 300S Flight Instruction – followed by the “Play Back Flight” button. This starts FSX and positions my 300S at the right spot where the recorder started. Together with the flight data recorder, which is now in view, you can play back 1st person or 3rd person.

During a 1st person play back you’re able to visualize the flight from the moment you started the figure until the end and while this video plays back, you can also increase or reduce the playback video images. Find below a static example of this.

A set of “Flight Data Recorder (FDR)” screenshots showing you the 1st person playback. While playing back, you can use every view option within FSX. That means you can chose for the 2D- or Virtual Cockpit view, external view, tower view etc. The whole idea of this FDR is to monitor your own flight skills. One interesting item to bring up is that during this playback there are no visual guides that you had during the actual training. When you have within FSC selected the 2D or VC, you actually fly the figure, so your aircraft is moving.

Suppose your actual FSX view is the 2D or VC, then during a 3rd person playback nothing happens. However, suddenly you see your aircraft as a 3rd person moving towards the figure. So flying 3rd person is something you do looking from the outside. I made three screenshots of this and hope it gives you an idea, but the best is, of course, when you see for real with your own eyes. Oops, another reason to buy the product!

On purpose I didn’t go any deeper into this FDR since the manual tells you all about the tiny details. In general this FDR is handy for checking your performances and based on the output, to try to improve it when needed.

Example of the 3rd playback feature from the integrated Flight Data Recorder.

Part II - SCDA (Iquique) Airshow as training or competition?

Oops, that isn’t as easy as expected. When you’ve decided for yourself you’ve got the flight skills needed to be the air show pilot, you still have two options; either you go to the training area at EHLE and train yourself in the combined aerobatic figures or you go for a real competition at SCDA, but what’s the difference?

When you decide to go to SCDA, you can do the aerobatic figures with the help of the visual guides. When you decide to go for the real thing, being an air show pilot, the visual guides aren’t there. The only thing that’s there is the entrance- and exit squares. Don’t forget; you need to know at least where to start and where to end the aerobatic figure.

I decided to breakdown and pack my rented 300S, put it in the cargo hold of an Antonov 124 and fly to SCDA (Iquique). I’ll give it a shot and see if I can handle it. I can tell you already, it wasn’t really a success flying the 5 aerobatic figures, but instead I made some nice pictures of the air show equipment and there was even some blood in the cockpit. I did something wrong, but survived!

Different then with training sessions, there are no visual guides helping me how and what to fly, so it’s all up to you and the printed paper.
Almost entering Cirque du Soleil. Oops, that’s something else but the idea is the same. Let’s go for it and see if I can make it.
Upon entering the area and correctly above runway 36, you press the “.” (BRAKE key) that starts the aerobatic squares to fly. Here it’s a loop!
All blue sky … correct?
All ground .. should be correct when I try to fly a loop.
Lucky, back to normal.
90° right hand roll. Looks easy, but believe me, it isn’t!
Inverted flight above the ground .. help, help! One mistake and I’m crashed and the red … oh, that’s my blood all within the cockpit.
After a while I’m used to inverted flights, but it’s tricky and attention should be at maximum alert.

Part III - LEGR (Granada) Airshow and EHLE (Lelystad) Training

Let’s give you another example of attending an air show. This time I’ve decided to go to Granada, Spain. Ok, that’s in my list and any other air show on this globe was ok. It’s just to give you an idea when you’re ready with the individual aerobatic figures. So you’re ready to make a combination flight with some aerobatic figures. Which ones, that’s not up to you. That’s decided by the program.

I’ll try to explain this typical air show with some screenshots to make it easier to understand or at least, that’s the idea. The reason to go back to the training field is simple because the previous SCDA air show wasn’t really successful.

A problem with the software? Not at all! More a problem with the female pilot who though it wasn’t difficult.

Training Mode

When you go for the “Training” mode as shown in picture I, you’ll get all the aerobatic figures including the necessary guidance of how and what to fly, but that is something you understand now. Although the screenshots below are not directly related to the correct direction to fly, it gives you a good idea what to expect.

So, when you’ve decided that you go for the “Training”, you click the red dotted pilot. FSX is launched and unless you made your training Airshow Pilot airfield/airport the default FSX flight, you need to reposition your aircraft to the default Airshow Pilot airport. I explained this earlier and by the way, there’s always the manual that helps you out.

It’s very simple, when you’re not, I repeat not at your default Airshow Pilot airport because you don’t see anything around you. This nothing in the air means no white/red balloons placed in a circle at a certain altitude and no aerobatic visual guides. On the other hand, you can’t do it wrong! Just read the contents of the green bar on top of FSX that tells you where you need to go to. Ok, let’s have a look at the following.

picture I
picture II
picture III
picture IV
picture V
picture VI

Picture I:
I’ve decided to go for the “Training” mode. This means I’m heading for EHLE, which is my default air show pilot airfield. By doing so, the air show program tells me what and how to fly the aerobatic figures within the designated white/red balloons area. I think it’s a good habit to print out this collection of aerobatic figures. It helps you understanding what to do and what to expect apart that you have visual guidance. Later on when you fly the “real competition”, you’ll see that there’s no guidance at all and then this printed overview will help you which aerobatic figure to fly and which one follows next.

Picture II:
I’m approaching the designated area. I’m sure I’m at the right spot since the whole “training” visual guides are in position. According to the printed layout there are not many aerobatic figures to fly, but I can tell you, it isn’t easy. Remember, you’re not flying in a Cessna 152 or the same kind of model. You’re flying a 300S which is quite fast and there’s hardly any time left when one figure ends. Ok, you’re free to jump out for a moment and after a short break, you pick up the next figure, but still.

Picture III:
Although it seems I’m lost, I’m just familiarizing myself with the figures to fly. That I fly in the wrong direction isn’t important for the moment. By the way, you can see that by the “DO NOT ENTER” signs of each aerobatic figure. As you can see, the white/grey visual guide wings show you how you should fly; straight, inverted, left turn, right turn or a combination of it. Oops, there’s no reason to tell you that! When you’ve come so far, you’ve probably spent hundreds of hours doing the individual training sessions.

Picture IV:
Same as the previous picture, however, a little closer.

Picture V:
Take a close look on the left hand side (it’s better to click the thumbnail otherwise you hardly see it). Within the amber squares you can see from each aerobatic figure the entrance – green – and exit – dark blue – frames. So that’s the way you need to fly and thus to start with.

Picture VI:
Oops, wrong direction! Time to return to the training area!

Ready for the real Granada air show? Let’s go for it!

Ok, here we go again; after you’ve decided to attend the air show, you double click this line. The “Flight Event – New Flight” page appears and as mentioned in the previous section, it shows again the aerobatic figures to fly, the airplane, the category and points to earn.

Everything that was applicable in the previous section is the same here, however now you select “Competition” instead of “Training”. See for this the red square in picture VII. We leave the “Sportsman” level as it was and the moment we click the pilot symbol, FSX is launched etc. Now it comes; FSX tells you to “go to 1500 feet above LEGR/27 to start”.

You manually position your aircraft to LEGR runway 27. Leave the 1500 feet for the moment what it is. Actually, you can climb by yourself to 1500 feet and second … oops, this goes wrong. The problem is that the airport itself lies at an altitude of roughly 1800 feet so climbing to 1500 feet is rather difficult. So, this is a small bug in the program. I’ll found out if this has to be 3500 feet.

picture VII
picture VIII
picture IX
picture X
picture XI
picture XII

Picture VII:
Not really different than the previous first training session screenshot, but this time I selected “competition”. If you want to, you can change the aerobatic airplane to the Hawk T1 however, that’s in combination with the “category” selection. In case you’ve forgotten it, when you change the category, you also change the aerobatic figures and thus the complexity. Anyway, don’t worry too much about this. Just leave the category green. Don’t make it more difficult than it already is!

Picture VIII:
Ready for takeoff and as you can see in the green bar, ready to climb to 1500 feet. Oops, that gives us a small problem. With an airport AGL of roughly 1800-1900 feet, climbing to 1500 feet is as far as I understand impossible unless there’s an airport below the ground. On the other hand, in the right hand upper corner you can see a white/red balloon that belongs to the airshow circle and thus the required altitude. Just takeoff and climb out to approximately 3500 feet.

Picture IX:
I’ve reached approximately 3500 feet and have a good view of the area within the show that must be held, but hold on, there’s nothing that helps me about what and how to fly the aerobatic figures. I warned you, this is for real. Welcome to the virtual “Airshow Pilot” world!

Picture X:
Once inside the aerobatic area and ready to go, you click the “brake” keyboard key and oops, there’s the entrance green square, and as said before, there’s no visual guidance. Ok, within the green entrance you can see what aerobatic figure you need to fly. In this case it’s a simple figure this time; straight normal horizontal flight.

Picture XI:
Hold on, here’s the same sign we’ve seen at Lelystad when we did the training figures and it points us the wrong way! It’s just another example of entrance, exits and wrong way squares. Difficult? Believe me … it’s difficult but at the end your triumph is all worth it.

Picture XII:
The only reason to show you this “Flight Event – New Flight” screenshot is the different chosen “Category”. There’s also a third category “Display Flight”; this is not really aerobatic figures but ideal for flight demonstration of, for example, a commercial type aircraft to show it’s behavior during slow and/or fast fly-by.

With this Granada tour and another category ahead of us – flight demonstration – it’s time to create our own Farnborough Airbus Airshow. Can you remember it; with the help of the 3 additional packages - FlightEvent-, FlightProg- and FSPopulation Designer – you can create almost every show, so let’s do it.

Finally … my own Farnborough (EGLF) Airshow

My ultimate goal is to create my own Farnborough Airbus air show in England where, what I’ve heard, the Airbus A380 will make a display flight. Which A380 add-on model you choose, that’s up to you. The idea is that this will be a show for my Airbus A380 (or whatever model you chose).

To create this, we need the previously mentioned three separate “Tool” packages. Since you’re not yet familiar with these packages except for what I’ve written, it’s a good idea to print the Tools manual. Once printed, you can find those programs via the Windows Start button – All Programs – Just Flight folder. I’ll also recommend that you first launch FSX and PAUSE it. It doesn’t matter where FSX starts, as long as FSX is running. This is needed for some programs to communicate with. It’s not my intention to write a complete tutorial of how I did it since these programs come with their own manual, although I must admit that making your own show isn’t as easy as written in the manual. A small note; whenever you want to make the necessary changes to the FSPopulation, read pages 13 and 14 of the Tools manual carefully.

Anyway, I started creating my own “Farnborough Population”, followed by my own “Flight Program”. Mentioned before, I want to create and fly a display flight with an Airbus A380. To fly this Airbus, I used the Wilco Publishing Airbus A380 however I wasn’t able to select it from the “recommended aircraft” list within the “Flight Program”. This list only shows airplanes from Just Flight and all the default Microsoft airplanes. All other add-on models are not visible. Not really a problem since you’re free to change the airplane once you’re at your designated airport although it’s strange that you can’t see all those other add-on models.

After the creation of my own Farnborough population (named A380-1) and Flight Program (A380-1), I started the Flight Event program. After the creation of my actual air show, I linked the previous creations to it. I gave the flight event a name (A380-1) and saved it. See the screenshots below.

Let’s summarize this; I created a complete air show; this means I created my own ground and air population, I created my own aerobatic/display figures to fly. You can imagine that an inverted flight, looping or whatever will be ratter difficult for an Airbus A380. I linked the files together to make the actual flight event. When you’ve followed these steps, you’re ready to go. The screenshots below show you the Airshow Pilot program and the result of my ½ hour Farnborough Airshow work. I’m personally satisfied since it looks like a real show as I’ve seen once at Farnborough, although it was a little bigger and in that year there was no Airbus A380s.

My own created “A380-1 flight event program” with of course the homemade A380-1 flight program and A380-1 population.
Take care that, by default, the “Training/Competition” comes up with Training. When you want to fly for real, you need to switch manually to Competition and by the way, ignore the A321 aircraft. You can always change this in FSX.
Important; print the aerobatic figures to fly. Unfortunately this form doesn’t show you the altitudes to fly at. For this display flight at Farnborough there where two flight levels included.
Farnborough Airshow overview
An old Douglas Dc-3 with the Emirates A380-800
Apart of the Emirates A380, a BAE Hawk T1 and a private owned helicopter
The very first A300B in Airbus house colours with at the back an A310-300 from Uzbekistan and of course the A380 tail from the Emirates
Close-up of an Airbus A310-300 with in the far left our A380 in Airbus House colours
An A310 MRTT (Multi Role Transport Tanker) from the German Luftwaffe and many people walking around
My own Farnborough Airbus Airshow. If it’s close to real or not that doesn’t matter for the moment. The idea is that together with the Tools manual it isn’t complicated. I made this compilation myself within 15 to 30 minutes. Lucky for me that Farnborough isn’t a big airport with lots of aprons. Anyway, it was fun and fun is a major component of this FSX add-on software

When you’re ready, I’m ready so let’s head for our training area (EHLE) and see if we’re able to fly the created A380 pattern and when you think you can, it’s time to fly to Farnborough. I mentioned it before; only at your training location you’re able to see the aerobatic and/or display figures to fly. At Farnborough or any other chosen aerobatic competition airport, you don’t see them so remember that!

The following screenshots are again to show you the patterns to fly and I have my doubts about the left- and right full roll to fly. The A380 can do that, that’s no problem, but within the short distance I have to do this; I have my doubts. On the other hand, suppose you can’t make it, you can always modify the “Flight Program” file either via the program or directly within the XML file.

All three of these programs save the data in an XML file and thus if you’re able to you can modify the contents. Good, the EHLE A380 screenshots show you that we need to fly at two different flight levels; close to the ground and at roughly 1700 feet. Mentioned before; all the green entrance squares show you which aerobatic or display figure you need to fly. The blue exit squares don’t need any explanation and whenever you think you’re flying in the wrong way, the blue squares show you the “DO NOT ENTER” sign.

Before going directly to Farnborough, I think it’s a good idea to see the pattern to fly at EHLE (Lelystad Airport). The reason that this can only be seen –visual guides - at EHLE is because I assigned it within the Airshow Pilot program as my home airport. I hope it’s clear that any other default asigned airport will do the same for you. Together with the printed paper you can see what to expect and when and what to do at Farnborough.

While you practice at EHLE, I’m heading for Farnborough and see what the air show offers. You can either arrive from a remote location and start your “display flight” from the air or you park your airplane at Farnborough and from here taxi to the runway, climb out and start the “display flight”.

I decided to go directly to the Farnborough Airbus air show where my Airbus A380-800 is parked at the apron. Don’t forget that EGLF isn’t a big airport so it wasn’t easy to find a good spot.

While you’re still thinking of what to do, I’m taxiing to the runway and see if I can find my way.

There’s our flight model, the Airbus A380-800 in Airbus house colours. It’s ready for taxi to runway 06
Nice shot from her nose with at the background the airshow
Great lift-off shot of our A380 with behind at the apron, the airshow
Entering the aerobatic area. Remember that you need to be within the area to start your display flight and you need to fly above the assigned runway
One of the aerobatic figures to fly; a full roll left. That wasn’t easy with this A380. It’s possible within certain limits however, the A380 is too slow to do this within the designated distance
A nice 45° left hand roll outside the aerobatic area, but visible for the audience down below on the ground
Next try towards the airport. Let’s hope it works out fine without any failure or missing squares
Another pattern around Farnborough. The previous attemp wasn’t succesful. Whatever the reason was, it gives a nice view of the Farnborough Airshow
Snif snif …….
I didn’t succeed to get my award. Either the pattern to fly was too difficult or I’m still a rookie that shouldn’t fly the A380. Nonetheless, I hope the intention is clear!
Angelique’s own Airbus Airshow at Farnborough, England.
It’s a sunny day with lots of tourists, cars, but above all, interesting airplanes. It is indeed mainly Airbus airplanes, ranging from very old to brand new. Not strange since it’s a special Airbus Farnborough airshow. Flying a combination of aerobatic- and display figures wasn’t as easy as expected. The A380 isn’t a fast airplane nor does it make quick rolls. The flight computers do prevent this and therefore the idea was great, but the reality was totally different. Does it mean I’m disappointed? No, not at all! Although I didn’t pass the figures, I had a lot of fun creating my own FSPopulation as well as my own flight program. I mentioned this before and would like to warn you about this; you need to know what to fly and at which altitudes. If you’re not sure about what and which altitude, just print out the schedule and manually mark the flight program altitudes. Unfortuantely, when printing out the flight program, it doesn’t come with the altitudes. Just a small detail to keep in mind. Anyway, the above screenshots give you an impression of what to expect. The entrance- and exit squares are the same for all the airshows and as mentioned several times before, the visual guides are not avaialble to help you out. Therefore you need to practice at your home – default Airshow Pilot – airport. Don’t do this once, but twice or even as many times as needed.

And finally this section reaches the end. What I tried to do is to offer you not only screenshots, but also the necessary background information. Either you go for a “ready to go air show” or you create it yourself. Then you can decide to fly offline thus on your own PC or online and challenge with other aerobatic pilots. Although the program doesn’t seem complicated, many options or combinations are possible.

What else?

I think I’ve covered more or less the most important parts. As usual, it could be that I’ve missed an item or I did that on purpose. There’s not always a need to explain every small item in detail like the formation flight of the Hawk T1 planes. Offline or online aerobatic competition is, in principle, the same with the only difference being that offline aerobatic flying is on your computer while online is sharing it with the outside world, but the main idea of the Airshow Pilot program stays the same.

The same means you’ve got a flight event and this flight event consists of a flight program and normal population. Ok, a flight program tells you which aerobatic figures or display flight you need to fly while population makes it all as real as it gets. Altogether the flight event is pin pointed for a date, name of event and the previous two items.

I think this is it, so nothing else. Oops, what about FPS? The best test for me was the creation of Farnborough. I added lots of individual components like tents, airplanes, people, cars and much more. There was no Farnborough scenery, but I have installed Ultimate Terrain X Europe and Ground Environment enhanced Europe. Knowing that both don’t influence my FPS, I can conclude that with all these Airshow Pilot objects active, I haven’t seen any FPS impact. Not on the ground or in the air.

Summary / Closing Remarks

Curious if you can do it? Just Flight offers for those rookies a demo where you can take part in an offline competition and if needed, you can download the manual in advance. Not enough? Here’s the official Just Flight YouTube promotion Airshow Pilot movie. Altogether, including the contents of this review, it should convince you that Airshow Pilot is probably the biggest flight simulator experience you ever had, at least I did!

Don’t expect that within 10 or 20 training hours you’re ready for the real competitions. Even highly experienced flight simmers will confirm this, but see it as a challenge. By the way; real aerobatic pilots didn’t learn these aerobatic figures within 10 hours. Even for them it took many hours to learn all the figures, so don’t get down when it takes a little more than these 10 to 20 training hours.

Because this review offers already in-depth information, there’s not much left for me to write down. Ok, the price of the boxed or download version – indeed, there’s no difference - is £27.99 (approximately €34.95 or US$41.99). Although the program size is small, it offers you a lot of fun. No, there’s no scenery enhancer program added except for the Hawk T1 airplane. Honestly, the additional Hawk T1 could be of a higher quality, but that’s my personal opinion. The external textures could be better as well as the 2D and Virtual Cockpit. It’s also strange that the 2D and VC are not the same, but again, it’s all about the Airshow Pilot program. Together with the manual you should be able to handle and learn to fly the aerobatic figures. Those who think they can do it without a manual; are probably wrong!

The manual also offers a kind of step-by-step procedure as well as detailed background information of all the symbols used in the Airshow Pilot program. Whenever you’re ready, you can create your own flight events with flight program and if you want, your own population for the air show. Together with those additional programs, comes a Tools manual. Certain parts of that manual could be written more like a step-by-step procedure, but don’t worry too much about this.

When you like to visit and be a part of it; Just Flight’s Airshow Pilot is a great add-on, but remember what I’ve said several time before ….. don’t expect that you’re ready to fly these complicated aerobatic figures within a couple of training hours. Apart from this note, it offers you FUN, FUN and even more FUN!

See Airshow Pilot as your new Flight Simulation Challenge!

 

What I Like About Airshow Pilot

  • Unlimited hours of fun with endless flight event (and thus flight program and FSPopulation) possibilities.
  • Integrated Flight Data Recorder with play back functions (only available in training mode).
  • Easy installation.
  • Useful in-depth Airshow Pilot handbook.
  • The Airshow Pilot software comes with an add-on BAE Hawk T1 airplane however, there’s nothing mentioned in the manual. Really needed? Not really since the cockpit looks and feels like a Learjet 45.
  • Visual “aerobatic figure” guidance available at your selected default home airport. Great way how they created this and it’s easy to understand.
  • Creating your own Airshow like I did with Farnborough gives you almost unlimited possibilities. This is because the whole FSX SimObjects database is read and available for use.
  • Direct X 10 Preview compatible.
  • I think this is it and else the review contents helped you out!

 

What I Don't Like About Airshow Pilot

  • The Tools Manual isn’t always clear and to my personal opinion not always a logical order.
  • The “Flight Program Designer” program doesn’t allow you to select other aircrafts then only the Just Flight and default Microsoft models. It was not a bad idea when other add-on airplanes were also listed.

 

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