Reviewed by: Marlon Carter
Over the past few years, the primary focus of the FS community seemed to be centered on mid to long range airliners such as the 737, A320 and 777. While this focus was most welcome due to the real world popularity of these aircraft, it also created a void for the short to mid-range regional aircraft that are also quite popular at any given airport. When it comes to regional airliners, one of the most popular models in use around the world is the CRJ series produced by Bombardier. The CRJ series has served as the backbone of the regional airline market in many countries and they are often the very first aircraft flown by a newly employed airline pilot.
Throughout the past 26 years, the CRJ series has seen a significant evolution in an effort to better serve airlines and growing markets. Starting with the CRJ-200 which has a capacity of 50 seats, we are now seeing the CRJ series being utilized for carrying as many as 60 – 100 seats with the 700, 900 and now the 1000 series. In an effort to generate interest in the popular CRJ series, Aerosoft decided to recreate this amazing and versatile aircraft for the benefit of flight simulator enthusiast. With the CRJ-200 series slowly being phased out by some airlines in favor of the CRJ-700/ 900 series, Aerosoft decided to focus their attention on the CRJ 700/900 series.
If you’ve been around the FS community for the past 10+ years, this product release should come as no surprise since this product has been in development for a number of years. With so many questions about the development and delays surrounding this highly anticipated product, I thought it would be a good idea to chat with Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft in an effort to understand not only why this product had such a lengthy development, but also to find out some of its key features and “target audience.”
Can you tell us why Aerosoft decided to produce the CRJ series?
Personally I always liked short haul aircraft as they are so much more fun, but basically it was perhaps the last aircraft still used in some numbers that did not have a good sim version. So honestly a lot of the consideration was commercial.
Is there any particular reason why the CRJ-200 was excluded?
Yes. There are some significant differences between the 200 and the larger versions, it would really have expanded the project too much to be feasible.
Were there any significant challenges during the development of this product?
I think most people know this project was many many years late. The main reason was a lack of resources in Digital Aviation. Basically it is just Hans Hartmann so when the project gets delayed it is hard to catch up. And as 'state of the art' advances all the time you are soon trying to reach a moving target. For almost two years we were not completing the project but redoing parts that looked outdated. It was very painful to be honest.
With regard to the aircraft performance, how was Aerosoft able to ensure that the aircraft had the correct handling and performance?
No problems there, we had a lot of friends who either fly CRJ's or have done so in the past. Almost half the testers were actual pilots or people working in maintenance. If anything we had too much information!
Are there any features in the CRJ series that can be considered "new" in comparison to other releases by Aerosoft?
Not really. It's designed as a very 'solid' product. Not extremely 'wide' in features as the Airbuses and really aimed at flying the aircraft. As with the Busses we really do not care about systems that are never used (or used once in tens of thousands of hours).
Will the FS community see more regional aircraft from Aerosoft in the future?
As I said, we like them, so who knows. Nothing we are willing to share at this moment though.
Who would you say is the target audience for the CRJ? Is this a product tailored to hardcore FS enthusiast? Or is this a product that will be relatively easy for beginners to enjoy from day 1?
It's most certainly not an easy product to get into (if only because CRJ's are really very different from Boeings or Airbuses) and we do expect customers to have flown other less complex aircraft before. But basically, as it is the most advanced CRJ for the FS platform, everybody who likes them is a potential customer.
Is there anything else you would like the FS community to know about this product or Aerosoft in general?
I think most people know about Aerosoft these days. I do like to say something about the CRJ though. We released it because we felt it was ready to be used. It's not finished though, we are still working full blast on it. Partly fixing issues and partly adding features customers demanded. Only when we deliver the files for boxed distribution do we consider it 'ready'. That will be a few weeks from now. Some customers might prefer to wait for that one, others like to get into the action early and have some influence on how the product evolves. This is 2017 and we should see the customers are partners to some degree. Not just people who pay.
I also like to say something about the CTD's we are facing in P3d V4. It's something all the development teams of more complex aircraft face at this moment. They are incredibly hard to track down and almost seem random. Though some issues are fixed and some are less likely to appear, we do need some help from Lockheed. And the team at Lockheed what it is, we do get that help. It's a very new sim and just like the CRJ it needs to mature a bit. We do love it however!!
We certainly want to thank Mathijs for provided these insights. As with any highly anticipated product, an area of keen interest is the list of features offered. Here is a list of the features that you can expect to enjoy should you decide to purchase this product.
Exquisite modelling with many animations with up-to-date standards
VAS and FPS friendly because we love complex airports as much as you do
Extended Flight Management System delivered with August 2017 nav data (compatible with NavDataPro and Navigraph)
Complete MCDU with full keyboard control option
All displays available as high resolution 2D windows
Highly accurate flight model
Panel State saving/loading
Standard Sound set done by Turbine Sounds Systems, additional Virtual Cockpit sounds provide by Aerosoft
Heads-up Guidance system
Includes Frank, our avatar to walk around the aircraft and airports (Prepar3D only)
Fully functional (though linked to this aircraft) RAAS provided by FS2Crew
Complete management tool to load fuel, passengers, and baggage. This tool also allows you to tweak the simulation to your hardware
Livery manager with drag and drop functionality
Fully prepared for AES, Chaseplane, PFPX
Many new options to tweak the product to your likings and your hardware, for example to link a hardware control to the nose wheel steering
Our Virtual Cockpit tool (DAVE) has checklists, fuel and passenger loading, change settings, etc.
Five manuals, including detailed step-by-step documentation
Fully Prepar3D V4 compatible with dynamic lights and several other adaptations to use the newest technology
CRJ 700 models:
Lufthansa Regional D-ACSB
American Eagle N508AE
HOP! Air France F-GRZH
Lufthansa Regional Star Alliance D-ACPT
United Express N770SK
Alaska Airlines N215AG
American Eagle N508AE OC
Brit Air F-GRZG
Delta Airways N367CA
Horizon Air N613QX
SA Express ZS-NLT
Styrian Spirit OE-LSF
CRJ 900 models:
Lufthansa Regional D-ACNN
Lufthansa Regional D-ACKI
US Airways Express N247LR
Air Nostrum EC-JYA
Delta Airways N806SK
Adria Airways S5-AAK
Air Canada Express C-GOJZ
Air Nostrum EC-JZS
Air One EI-DOT
Atlas Global TC-ETC
Binter Canarias EC-MEN
SAS Scandinavian Airlines OY-KFI
As you can see, the list of features is quite extensive and in addition to having a host of in-depth features, this product comes with a number of popular liveries to suit your needs. If you would like to see the CRJ in action, please have a look at the preview video below. Thereafter, we will dive right into the review by first of all examining the documentation.
The documentation that comes with any add-on aircraft can easily be an indication of the quality and depth of the product itself. When a develop offers a poorly compiled or lack of sufficient information on the product, it easily signals to the buyer that this product really doesn’t offer much. While some are not fond of reading, in the world of aviation, being an avid reader is something you cannot escape. With the Aerosoft CRJ, the documentation that comes with this product includes details on throttle configuration, operating manuals, checklist, v-speeds and much more. What was equally impressive is that these documents didn’t cover 5-10 pages of information, but it offers in some cases as many as over 100 pages of information in one document alone. With such an array of information to digest, I was also impressed with the relaxed writing style which was detailed but entertaining. My overall impression from the documentation provided is that this product is definitely a cut above the average aircraft add-on. While not on the same level as the Majestic Q400, the CRJ series certainly isn’t far off.
After loading the CRJ series into FSX/P3D, your very first introduction to the aircraft is a stunning virtual cockpit that perfectly captures the look and dimensions of the real CRJ cockpit. The modelling work that has gone into this project is outstanding to say the least and you will be very impressed with the level of detail seen throughout the cockpit. Both the appearance and animation of switches, buttons and levers are all recreated with a remarkable level of detail which is expected of any add-on released in 2017.
Looking at the displays, the CRJ series comes with CRT displays which are a bit older than the more modern LCD displays seen in newer airlines. Nonetheless, CRT displays have a very distinctive appearance with a beveled edge in all 4 corners of the display. While the CRJ displays could have been a bit more “CRT Like” in appearance, they were very clear and easy to read. As an added option, users can also utilize a 2D pop-up of these displays which can be resized for your needs.
As far as the textures are concerned, Aerosoft has once again outdone themselves with an array of high quality textures seen throughout the cockpit. One aspect of cockpit textures often brushed over are the cockpit placards which are often very low resolution and sometimes unreadable. With the CRJ series, Aerosoft has ensured that the virtual cockpit of the CRJ series lives up to the demands of simmers and real pilots from a visual perspective. While keeping performance in mind, the textures used in the virtual cockpit may not be 4K, but they certainly look outstanding both during the day and night time. Here are a few screenshots that nicely showcase the cockpit of the CRJ-700/900.
Looking at the exterior of the aircraft, you can’t help but to be awe-struck by the level of detail that was meticulously recreated during the development of this product. The CRJ series is a unique aircraft with an unmistakable appearance. Aerosoft has done an outstanding job at modeling both the 700 and 900 series with all of their major and subtle differences. As you look carefully at both models, you will quickly see an array of details that go above and beyond the expectations of most eye candy fanatics. For example, the landing gears, flaps, wing, cargo doors and compartments are all modeled and animated to a high degree of accuracy. One of my favorite but subtle features is the main door animation that also caters to the option using a Jetways by lowering the side rails. This is just one of many examples of the level of detail seen throughout the exterior model of the CRJ-700/900 series.
As far as the textures are concerned, the exterior model comes with a vast array of liveries that are all very detailed. The textures may not be 4K, but they are certainly high quality. This is also seen in areas typically overlooked by other developers such as the gear bay and other less noticeable areas. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are few screenshots of the exterior model of the 700/900 series for your pleasure.
During our test flight, we will be examining the flight model and the systems of the aircraft to see whether they stay true to the general characteristics of the CRJ-700/900. While I am not a CRJ pilot, the testing team consisted of many individuals who are current CRJ pilots. As mentioned in our interview with Mathijs, there was sufficient feedback to indicate that the characteristics of the aircraft are as true to life as you can expect within the confines of FSX/P3D. Ultimately, by the end of this test flight we will see whether or not these claims are plausible.
For our series of test flights, I’ve had the opportunity to fly the CRJ-700/900 on numerous routes under a variety of conditions. Some of these flights featured destinations such as KMSP, KLGA, KDCA, EDDF and EDDM. If you are wondering why these destinations were specifically select, these are all airports that not only see constant CRJ traffic, but airports such as KLGA and KDCA offer challenging approaches that will test the aircraft’s performance and handling. Let’s begin by first of all discussing how the aircraft was setup for each flight and then we will examine some of the highlights of my flights to the airports listed above.
COCKPIT SETUP/GROUND SERVICES
Prior to beginning any flight, a good virtual pilot will always want to ensure that the conditions for flying are within acceptable standards. In addition to this, for a realistic experience, being able to accurately plan the route and fuel requirements for your flight is an essential part of good airmanship. To accomplish all of the above, I’ve found that PFPX has been an indispensable tool and while PFPX is superb in generating an accurate flightplan, at this time it is unable to export the flightplan directly to the CRJ. This means that your options for loading a flightplan is limited to manual entry or making use of Simbrief which now supports the Aerosoft CRJ. Additionally, if you do not have PFPX, you can also make use of the CRJ Manager which allows you to generate passenger, cargo and fuel loads for your flight. Either way, this is the first step to setting up the aircraft for any flight. For those of you interesting in going the extra mile, you might find Navdata Charts a very useful program in obtaining all of the necessary airport or enroute charts you need for your flight. To keep your FMS up to date, you may also want to try Navdata Pro which is similar to the Navigraph database commonly used today. While both versions work well with the CRJ, Navdata Pro offers a convenient method of updating multiple add-ons at once and it is very easy to use.
After setting up the fuel and weight specifics of your flight, the CRJ Manager also allows you to setup a few more advanced setting such as Tiller mapping, default systems configurations, sound preferences and more. Among all of these features, you might be wondering what the Tiller mapping is all about. As you may already know, an aircraft such as the CRJ uses a hand tiller for nose wheel steering. This function is separate to the aileron controls but they can be mapped to your pedals or any other axis you wish to have a realistic experience while taxiing the aircraft. If you decide not to meddle with these setting, you can rest assured that the aircraft will taxi as normal using your yoke aileron controls but you will not see the nose wheel turn. Now that we’ve done the initial setup, let’s head over to the sim.
After loading the CRJ at the airport of your choosing, the next step to be completed is the cockpit setup. If you are using the CRJ Manager, this would be the ideal time to load your fuel and weight settings to your aircraft. However, you also have the option of using “DAVE” which is a Tablet/EFB style unit that allows you to control numerous aspects of the aircraft, including your payload details. By using this tool, you can also configure initial state of the aircraft to be cold and dark, ready for engine start or turn around mode. For the sake of this review, I decided to choose the cold and dark setup to test the initialization of the systems. What was very impressive about this process is that the systems closely matched the setup of the real aircraft with the displays showing more or less the same indications of the real aircraft during the power-up phase. Another impressive feature is the immersive sound of the cockpit environment as the avionics comes alive. When programming the MCDU, you will notice that it is slightly different to what you may be used to if you typically fly a Boeing or Airbus aircraft. Nonetheless, the initialization process is very straightforward and I found that despite the differences, it was just as easy to load a flightplan and performance data in comparison to a Boeing aircraft.
For those of you who are especially keen on having a realistic experience, you may be well aware that while the pilots complete the cockpit setup, typically this would also be the time that passengers and baggage are loaded onboard the aircraft. I was quite pleased to see that “DAVE” also offered options to control the ground services available to the CRJ. These services include ground power and ground air services in addition to being able to control main and cargo doors. If you are a GSX user, you will be happy to know that configuration files are also included with this product and they work flawlessly. With passengers loaded, let’s see how this aircraft handles on the ground before we depart.
The engine start process for the CRJ is a fairly automated process and it is actually much easier than starting up a 737 or 747. During the engine start up I was very impressed with the immersive sound of the engines and the overall process seemed to be as authentic as you can get in a desktop simulator. While taxiing to the runway, you will immediately notice two things. First of all, the annoying ground friction issue that has plagued many aircraft add-ons has been resolved with the AS CRJ. Aerosoft has introduced this feature in an effort to improve the overall realism of the aircrafts movement on the ground and they’ve done a fine job in fixing this issue. Secondly, if you ever have the opportunity to assign an axis to your tiller, you will see that taxiing the aircraft becomes an almost effortless task. If you do not have the means to do so, rest assured that your regular yoke or joystick inputs will turn the aircraft but you won’t see the nose gear turning. While this isn’t realistic, it’s an acceptable compromise.
As you line up to the runway after completing your checklist which is accessible through “DAVE,” the real fun begins as you power up the throttles to the TOGA detent and the aircraft steadily accelerates to rotation speed. During the acceleration, the thumps and other noses commonly heard adds a tremendous level of realism that many other add-ons often miss.
Once airborne, the aircraft accelerates to just about 180 – 200kts before the flaps are retracted. Thereafter, the hand flying characteristics of the aircraft really shines as it cut through the air with a smoothness that encourages you to fly the aircraft rather than relying too much on the autopilot for stability. When engaging the autopilot, the transition from manual flight to auto flight is consistently smooth with no erratic maneuvers that may be discomforting to your virtual passengers. An aspect of this aircraft that is especially unique is that it doesn’t have the typical VNAV function of your 737 or A320. During the climb phase of your flight, the climb is managed by using the climb detent of the throttle and the speed mode of the autopilot. With other add-ons that utilize this type of autopilot functionality, I’ve found that these modes can often be a bit unstable. In this case however, while it isn’t perfect, Aerosoft managed to implement a somewhat stable autopilot which has seen some improvement after a few updates since the release of this product. As we settle into the cruise portion of the test flight, we will have a closer look at a few more of the systems that were modeled in this aircraft.
During the cruise phase of any flight, pilots normally have an opportunity to be a bit more relaxed since the workload is reduced to monitoring frequencies and the aircraft systems. With the CRJ, this fact proves to be true with just one exception. With a 747 or even a 737, the autothrottle system makes power management a simple task. Since the CRJ doesn’t have an AT, it means that you as the virtual pilot will be responsible for manually manipulating the throttles to maintain the appropriate cruise power/speed. If you are not very experienced with managing the engines of a jet aircraft manually, the CRJ manuals provide a basic guideline in aiming for a power setting of about 80%. Of course, depending on your winds, this setting may need to be increased or decreased to avoid an overspeed warning or maintain an appropriate speed.
For those who have already mastered the art of engine and power management, the cruise phase of your flight might allow you the opportunity to explore some of the systems of the aircraft in greater detail. Beginning with the most obvious, the CRJ series comes with 6 large displays that feature a Rockwell Collins Proline 4 avionics suite. In addition to the advanced avionics, the CRJ also includes a Heads-up Guidance System (HGS) which is useful for your CAT III approaches. If we were to first of all examine the 6 screen displays, you’ll notice that they fully simulate many of the sub-pages that monitor numerous aircraft systems such as pressurization, fuel, hydraulics, electrical and more. The overall fidelity of these systems are quite remarkable and while there aren’t any advanced failures for most of these system, they provide a balanced level of detail that will impress even the most avid of flight simulator enthusiast.
Moving over the HGS, the display is very high quality and the information being displayed closely (if not perfectly) matches what you will see in the real aircraft. While I enjoy having this feature, personally I find myself sticking to the cockpit displays while flying. Nonetheless, if you wish to make life a bit easier and keep your view outside of the aircraft, this is the perfect tool to do so.
As you glance at the overhead panel of the CRJ, you will see a simple but essential array of switches that control Electrical power, Fire detection, fuel, APU, Bleed Air, Air Conditioning, Anti-ice systems and Exterior lighting. What I appreciate the most about the design of the CRJ is the simplistic layout of the overhead panel which seems to operate on the same “dark cockpit” concept of airbus aircraft. This means that while in the air, if the overhead panel switches are all black, it means everything is setup correctly. The work that has gone into simulating the systems of this aircraft becomes quite evident as you select various overhead switches and you see a corresponding action either in aircraft performance or through various alerts and indications on your displays. If you choose to put the systems of the CRJ to the test, I would suggest doing so on the ground since doing so in the air will quickly ruin your day.
The center pedestal of the CRJ offers numerous capabilities. For example, on the center pedestal you have radios, interior lighting, anti-skid, auto reverse, weather radar and a host of controls that are essential to the operation of the aircraft. One of the center pedestal items that you will likely use quite often is the MCDU. Unlike many other add-ons that only provide a fraction of the functionality of an FMS/MCDU, Aerosoft has offered a thorough and complete rendition of the MCDU in the CRJ-700 and 900 series. With the ability to perform many advanced navigational functions and accurately manage aircraft performance, this unit allows you to fly some of the most difficult ILS and RNAV approach procedures such as the River Visual 19 to KDCA. With regard to performance data, the MCDU has the ability to accurately calculate performance data based on many variables such as winds, weight and vertical path. One of the features of the MCDU which might seem a bit misleading is the VNAV page. As mentioned before, the CRJ doesn’t have a traditional VNAV system similar to what you may be used to in an A320 or B737. The VNAV page is mostly used as a reference and once you know how to utilize it, it can prove to be very useful.
As you look to the left or right (depending on which seat you are in), you will see yet another useful tool that is perhaps one of the best additions to this aircraft. In the initial setup of the aircraft we used the EFB/Tablet called “DAVE.” This virtual cockpit tool closely resembles the EFB style tablets commonly seen in airliner cockpits today. With this tool, Aerosoft has made it possible for users to control nearly every aspect of this aircraft when it comes to fuel, passenger loading and allowing you the option of controlling numerous airline options. As an example, if you fly with airlines outside of the U.S, it is likely that the numeric units for weights may be in KG. DAVE offers you the option of selecting with KG or LBS in addition to default BARO settings which also vary between HPA and IN based on your region.
Other options also take into consideration specific airline options for the MCDU and it also allows you set and customize your payload, v-speeds and a few maintenance items. Ultimately, this tool will be an indispensable assistance in flying the CRJ and Aerosoft honestly made the right move by including this feature.
Now that we’ve taken a look around the virtual cockpit and examined some of the features of the aircraft, it’s now time for us to begin planning our descent. Typically with a 737, the descent planning is fairly due to the advanced level of automation and VNAV capabilities. With the CRJ however, flying this aircraft has a way of separating the boys from the men so to speak. Managing the descent phase of your flight with the CRJ is a delicate balance of math and power management. For the sake of simplicity, we won’t go into much of the math involved in meeting an altitude restriction, but it is extremely important that you as the pilot be fully in control of the aircraft and that you fully understand the basic concepts of power management. If you can master this aspect of flying, you might hardly miss the luxuries of having a VNAV system to manage your descent. If you would like to learn more about the descent management of the CRJ, I would highly recommend the Air Nostrum CRJ-900/1000 video from Just Planes.
When it comes to flying an approach, I found that the autopilot was quite stable most of the time. What do I mean by “most of the time?” Well, there were a few times when I found that localizer capture wasn’t as smooth as it should be and there were one or two occasions when the capture was a bit late but not excessively enough to compromise off the entire approach. If you are hand flying an approach, I found that using the HGS offered a significant advantage in keeping track of your course, speed and altitude thus allowing you to fully enjoy the flying characteristics of the aircraft. After landing, you’ll find that the CRJ performance quite well when decelerating without having to fight the controls to stay on the centerline. Taxiing to the gate is no different to what we described earlier, but when parked at a gate there are a few things we need to take into consideration. For example, if you’ll be using a Jetway, having the stairs configured correctly with the railings down is an option that is available through “DAVE.” Additionally, with two GSX configuration files available, you’ll also need to know which cargo doors need to be operated for the ground crew.
After going through your shutdown checklist, you can’t help but admire the work that has gone into this product to recreate the remarkably realistic experience of being the PIC of a CRJ. This product not only offers you hours of entertainment, but it also offers you an educational experience both in the systems of the CRJ and the hard work that goes into flying these regional airliners. Throughout all of my test flights, I can honestly say that it was always an amazing and challenging experience and I think that everyone will enjoy using this product.
To wrap up our test flight, I thought it would be reasonable to discuss PC performance. This is a topic that can be a bit touchy and especially so for the Aerosoft CRJ. In all fairness, the performance is good if you have a high-end PC, but some have reported that since the last update the performance saw a slight decrease. Despite this notable decrease in performance, some have also noted that it wasn’t a decrease that made it impossible to use the aircraft. In addition to performance issues, there were also reports of navigational issues but these are all currently being addressed by Aerosoft and I am confident that they will be resolved. As mentioned before, this is a touchy topic and not everyone will have the same experiences. Ultimately, if you have an average to high-end system this product will function quite well both within FSX and in P3D.
In conclusion, as a long-time fan of regional aircraft, I am convinced that the CRJ series is one of the best regional jet products to be released in a very long time. This simulation is a remarkable rendition of the CRJ that even many real world CRJ pilots are impressed with. Though Aerosoft took quite some time to release this product, it was certainly worth the wait. The depth of the systems is very well balanced to reflect the day to day use and expectations of a real world CRJ pilot. While having working circuit breakers isn’t the goal of this product, it is sufficiently well simulated to keep even hardcore simmers on the edge of their seats.
In addition to being an overall fun and intriguing aircraft to fly, the practical benefit of this product can be seen in two ways. First of all, due to the lack of an auto throttle and the traditional VNAV functions we’ve grown used to, the CRJ truly helps you to become a better virtual pilot. Being able to effectively manage your speed and descent may require some practice, but you will find it extremely rewarding as your abilities as a virtual pilot is refined. Secondly, if you are an aspiring pilot, it is likely that your very first job might be at an airline that uses the CRJ. While this product is not intended for training purposes, it can be very useful for familiarizing yourself with the basic operation of this aircraft.
With this product featuring two models and so many features, one might expect that the price would rival that of other high end add-ons in the over $60.00 range. However, for the price of $49.99 USD for either the boxed or download versions that are compatible with both P3D and FSX, you will see that the price point of this product is more than generous. For providing a highly detailed product at a remarkable value, the Aerosoft CRJ series has certainly earned itself a 9/10 score for offering everyone the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying this amazing regional aircraft. Why not give it a try?
For those interested, here is a list of all the products used or seen throughout this review. These airports typically see a large volume of CRJ flights.
AEROSOFT Mega Airport Frankfurt V2.0
DRZEWIECKI DESIGN New York Airports V2
DRZEWIECKI DESIGN Washington X
Finally, if you would like to learn more about flying the CRJ, I would highly recommend these Just Planes video titles.
Air Nostrum CRJ-900/CRJ-1000 – One of the best CRJ videos you will find!
Preview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diz7-R5Mc4I
Preview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smvFUr6j_vw