by Ray Marshall
First, let me make this crystal clear. This is NOT your typical introduction to a new add-on or product. This is a status report on the work-in-progress of a new up and coming flight simulator. Aerofly FS 2 is indeed a very exciting new Flight Simulator specifically targeted for the global market - well it will eventually cover the globe - but significant improvements are already completed. In fact, you can fly from the West Coast to the East Coast of the USA then on to Switzerland today.
Actually, you can start anyplace on earth and fly around the world if you like using the nav aids but, you will only find airports for take off and landing in three defined areas. Aerofly FS 2 calls these areas DLCs, DownLoad Content areas. Now, these DLCs are exceptionally large, superbly done and generally have lots of detailed airports.
A majority of the earth’s surface has a very low-level terrain mesh with equally low-resolution images. You can recognize geographic features from the higher altitudes but this is only intended for fly overs. A higher resolution DLC of the world is probably in our future but, I would suspect the file size would be horrendous. A more likely approach for the developer might be to complete the USA, then maybe the UK or large parts of Europe. Those areas that we will be flying over to connect the high resolution DLCs are the likely targets for better resolution.
Some of our FSX – P3D – XP friends are already excited enough to chunk their old time simulator for this new and promising sim currently available on Steam as an “Early Access Game”. I don’t personally plan on giving up my FSX or P3D anytime soon; I have far too much invested in the add-ons and each will co-exist with any new flight sim, like Aerofly FS 2, just fine.
As you read more and become familiar with Aerofly FS 2 hopefully you will see a very bright and entertaining future for our flight sim community. The final product is probably nowhere near completion or even totally defined, but what I have been using for the past 3 weeks is very encouraging. More than encouraging, I am absolutely excited as I learn more, and I hope to tell you why.
Don’t expect any sort of direct comparison between this new flight sim and FSX/P3D/X-Plane. It is too early in the development of Aerofly FS 2 but, in several important areas Aerofly FS 2 already outshines, outperforms, and flat leaves the others in its wake as long as you don’t dig very deep.
I have to keep reminding myself that Aerofly FS 2 will be attracting more and more first time or rookie flight simmers that may have never even heard of FSX or P3D. Many of these newcomers will be owners of one of the VR systems and they will have an advantage over us old timers. They won’t have to unlearn anything.
Everything is not rosy however and it is not necessarily better in every way as some of the OMG threads might state. But, when looking at startup time, memory management, airplane selections and texture levels, available detailed airports, and ease of use it will be at the top of the charts and actually puts FSX to shame in every one of these categories.
Let me go on record as saying since I downloaded Aerofly FS 2 from the Steam store, I have not had a single PC crash, blue screen, VAS problem, controller failure, nothing. On the positive side, this thing is blazingly fast, smoother by far than anything I have ever seen. Initial configuration and startup was super simple and easy, and I have only scratched the surface of many of the features.
I have mostly Saitek controllers, pedals, panels, etc. and Aerofly FS 2 found them, configured them, and then gave me a choice of running at 60 FPS using vsync or switching to the windowed mode at 120 or 240 FPS. No, that is not a typo.
Before you pause reading this review and rush over to the Steam store, you need to know how far along the development cycle is and what is still out there over the horizon and without a promised delivery date.
Even though the scenery is significantly higher grade than FSX default, for instance, and the airports are far superior to any default airport, and the 17 aircraft all appear to be from a payware shop, and it is indeed super-fast loading and buttery smooth - it is eerily quiet and lonely in the Aerofly FS 2 skies.
This is because there is no working ATC and no AI traffic to be found anyplace. There is some talk about adding these necessary features, but nothing on the near horizon.
To illustrate my point, here are some screenshots from the Southwestern USA. This could be considered default scenery as it is a free DLC for Aerofly FS 2.
The weather is very basic, but the user does have global control of the wind speed and direction and can choose to have Cumulus and/or Cirrus clouds or not. There are four sliders for clouds (puffy cumulus or streaky cirrus) – two are for cloud density and two are for cloud height, high to low.
The Visibility slider rounds out the Conditions screen and offers low to high so you can have restricted visibility takeoffs and breakout of the weather at minimums for that early morning ILS approach. But, this is nothing close to ‘real weather’ or what most folks are used to.
The reasoning is fully understandable – the target market is the casual flight simmer, not the hardcore, experienced, been flight simming since TRS80 days kinda guys and gals.
As a matter of fact, I like this so much I think I am going to redefine myself as a retired pilot and a casual flight simmer because this is so much more enjoyable – and just wait ‘til I show you Switzerland.
Before you stop here and move on, I would like to state that I haven’t been flight simming since the beginning, and I never used FS9 or FS2004, but I have been a real world pilot with a certificate or two in my wallet since before men walked on the moon. And I have been writing reviews at Avsim since FSX was in its infancy and P3D was not yet a reality.
The intent is not to spend time, effort and frustration on setup, adding and configuring, running out of time, memory and money and such. But, to turn on the PC and go flying in a complex airplane with a high definition cockpit with autoflight capabilities and HD scenery out the window, or zip along at Mach 2 in a Hornet or Strike Eagle, or do loops and barrel rolls in the Pitts, or slip the surly bonds of earth, and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings. Oops, sorry, sometimes I get carried away.
Remember, it runs on Steam so you don’t have to manage your files, keep up with CDs or DVDs, try to figure out which add-on is interfering with the other add-on and keep checking back to see if you are missing an update or download. There are no VAS warnings or ‘Out of Memory’ errors here.
Before we see it in action, I would like to summarize my 3 week evaluation of Aerofly FS 2. It has insanely quick loading times (in seconds, not minutes), not a single crash, no ‘VAS’ issues, quick and simple startup, high quality visuals and superb frame rates all the time. The way I like to fly – instant approaches, start over at a new location or altitude or with a different aircraft, and especially flying from outside the cockpit – Aerofly FS 2 provides all of this for me, today, right now.
All the stuff that drives me crazy with FSX and P3D are now gone, but, should I feel the urge for deeper systems or the need to experience a mechanical breakdown or failure, or to walk around and preflight my airplane, I can always fall back on my existing flight sims.
OK, OK, I know, show me the numbers. First, let me state that I have only been using Aerofly FS 2 for a very short time and started from absolute ground zero. I had not even read a press release or been to any of the forums, even though the initial release was in June, 2016, so there are probably many features that I haven’t even discovered or that I have failed to discuss.
About Aerofly FS 2
Aerofly FS 2 is a joint venture between IPACS and IKARUS and has evolved to this current form from earlier Flight Simulators that were designed for Radio Control models and Gliders.
Since 1998 IPACS, located in Tübingen just south of Stuttgart and IKARUS Modellsport, located in Schramberg-Waldmössingen in the black forest, have been developing these high-quality flight simulators in close cooperation. This newest flight simulator, Aerofly FS 2 is the result of that working history.
IPACS has a development team of 10 people working full time. This includes three main programmers, two with Doctor of Physics degrees, a 3D Artists and Design staff of 5, plus 2 Aircraft Setup coder/programmers. You can click on the About screen and read the credits and see the names of the team. There is also a large question mark on the About screen that will take you to the IPACS support website where you will find tabs for FAQs, an interactive Manual, and galleries for aircraft and screenshots.
Aerofly FS 2 flight simulator is being developed to appeal to beginners and experts alike. Dr. Torsten Hans frequently states their flight model, meaning the physical simulation of the flight dynamics, is considered one of the best on the market. He says they have many real world pilots that confirm this. Aerofly is even used by professional aerobatic pilots to prepare for tournaments.
This new 64 bit flight simulator has at its heart a newly developed in-house engine with outstanding flight physics. It has a generous supply of 3D flight models, 3 large high-resolution geographic areas with about 250 detailed airports and some are probably in your backyard.
One really exciting aspect is that the design team is heavy on education and technical experience and they are eager to respond to the posts in the forums. They sound extremely intelligent and give me the impression they are there to build us the perfect flight sim.
A key item in Aerofly FS 2 is encouraging 3rd party involvement in all aspects – scenery, aircraft, ATC, the whole shebang. They released an update to their SDK just last week and a user paint kit is just around the corner. You can add your own scenery, airports, runways, buildings, aircraft, registration numbers, etc., limited only by your capabilities.
As a matter of fact, everything I see in Aerofly FS 2 seems to be based on original thinking and quite innovative. As an engineer and pilot, I realize that it is much harder to present a complex design or subject in a simple and uncluttered manner. Obviously, Aerofly FS 2 has succeeded, quite well.
You can read a Q & A interview with the developer here. https://www.helisimmer.com/interview/interview-aerofly-fs2-developer-tosten-hans
This is how it is explained at the Steam store:
You might want to read this more than once as there are some very impressive features included like VR support, replay system, and interactive flight school in addition to those features that most of us would expect to find in a newly designed flight simulator.
I don’t have either VR system yet, but I do have the TrackIR and all the Saitek (now Logitech) panels. Many of the OMG posts are coming from those fortunate owners of VR systems. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are supported for that awesome experience.
These are quite low-end PC specs to provide that expansive list of features that we just read and reread. Even more astonishing is the recommended low setting of 120 fps when limiting the frame rate.
That is not a typo, the default installation uses vsync and states if you are having problems, switch to the windowed mode and fix the frame rate at 120 fps. The only other setting for limiting the frame rate is 240 fps - Whoa, you have my attention.
Before you run off shouting hallelujah keep in mind there is much more yet to be added. Possibly FPS eating pieces like Weather, ATC, AI, night-lighting and possibly some sort of Autogen. But, even so, the bar has already been set at a tremendously higher level than many dreamed possible.
Keep in mind that Frame Counting, as in FPS, is only an indicator and a game or simulation can still have stutters and flashing or jagged edges that distract the user. This one is buttery smooth on my PC with the FPS set in the Windowed mode at the recommended 120 FPS or 60 FPS in vsync.
The keystroke Ctrl + F1 brings performance information up in super small text placed in the lower left corner of the screen. I usually just press F12 for an instant screen shot and then zoom up the image to confirm that I am indeed running on 64 bits and 120 FPS. Wow.
And when a user asks a technical question on the forum and gets an answer like this, it makes you feel like the upcoming improvements are in good hands.
How do I get Aerofly FS 2 on my desktop?
The PC desktop version is only available on Steam and requires that you have a Steam account. Unless you have a fiber optic cable terminating at your house, you are probably looking at an all-day or all night undertaking to download the initial install plus the optional content. You will also need something greater than 100 GB of free storage. The basic or initial install is around 35 GB, but then you will want to add the free Southwestern States DLC that is another 60 GB or so.
Aerofly FS 2 scenery comes only as downloadable content, DLC, with one large freeware high resolution Texture Pack for Southwestern USA and two additional high resolution Texture DLCs available for a small fee. This Early Access version is set at a discounted price of $49.99 with the understanding that once enough development is achieved this price will most likely increase. The scenery DLCs cost $9.99 each and are available as instant downloads.
As of January 1, 2017 the following is available:
Fortunately, once started, Steam will do its thing in the background so you could indeed start the download and finish reading the review at the same time.
Can I download a printed manual prior to purchase?
Printed manuals are not offered, but, just last night a new website came alive with lots of new information and examples. The plan is to continue to populate this site in English to be followed shortly with a German edition.
This new wiki web site has been established as a ‘one stop location’ for all information for Aerofly FS 2 users and developers. Check it out. You can find the new Software Development Kit, SDK, download link here along with several new ‘how-to’ pages for using Aerofly FS 2. https://www.aerofly.com/aerofly_fs_2/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=start
The new SDK includes a full working model of the Robin DR400 so the user or developer can see how things come together and adjustments are made. This is a key step in opening the doors for 3rd party development.
Here is a link for the manual that I have been using. http://www.ikarus.net/en/manual-aeroflyfs2/
The included choices of aircraft.
At first glance, I thought this was a well-thought out collection of aircraft and surely most anyone would find one or more of their favorites in the virtual hangar. A closer look confirmed my initial thoughts - these are really impressive aircraft.
The Cessna 172SP is one of the best that I have seen in any flight sim. It recently received a ‘cold and dark mod’ adding features that I expect were sorely needed. This fully equipped Skyhawk makes a great jump in and go fly airplane.
These stock or default aircraft include an Airbus A320-214 with CFM engines, a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo, a Boeing 737-500 flying Southwest Airline colors with the potential for an A380 and 777-300 at some future date. A great start for those high flyers and those that want to fly from the East or West coast to the other coast or commute from Sacramento to Phoenix, for instance.
They have 3 warbirds, a WWII single, a slick twin and a WWI bi-plane. These are the F4U Corsair with folding wings representing the Western Pacific theater, the P-38 Lightning with counter-rotating props from the European 8th Fighter Group and a British Sopwith F.1 Camel single-seat WWI fighter with a rotary engine and twin synchronized machine guns firing through the wooden prop. This one was notorious for holding more fuel than it could takeoff with and adding an aft CG to the poor RAF pilot problems. No guns on our sim model.
For the acrobatic pilots the Pitts S-2B and Extra 330 LX should do the trick and the Swift glider is fully acrobatic.
For those that prefer twin propellers, the B58 Baron and King Air C90 Gtx turboprop are ready and waiting.
And for those that opt for the planes without propellers, they have a couple of high performance, super slick one-seat sailplanes. The Schleicher ASG 29 with the perfect T-tail and extra-long and skinny wings with so much flex it looks like a bird. I think this one has that little sustainer engine tucked away to stretch the glide just a little bit more. The winglets make the effective wingspan even longer.
The other one is the Marganski Swift A1 acrobatic glider with retractable landing gear and stressed for 10g + and -. This particular model is quite rare because so few were built.
For those that tend to lean toward the military hardware, they have a tandem seat Aermacchi MB-339 Italian single engine advanced trainer. Once you ace the advanced course you can move right in to the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet or the recently introduced F-15E Strike Eagle. Many of the jet jockeys will be pleased to know the HUD in included and it works with all the planes (as one of the exterior views). A slider for size from small to large and a HUD Horizon on/off selection is found in the miscellaneous settings.
Saving the best for last, the outstanding Bombardier Learjet 45. I am hoping someone at IPACS takes a special interest in this particular business jet and keeps tweaking it until we have one of the best ones in the flight simulator skies. It is about time we got a high-end modern Learjet with winglets.
I am so ready to move up from that large group of older Learjets. The view from the cockpit is very different when looking at winglets rather than those huge wing tip fuel tanks needed to carry enough fuel to feed those older 20 and 30 series engines, not to mention the outstanding Primus 1000 avionics deck.
A Look at the VC panels.
I came across a one-page tutorial written by JvanE highlighting the A320 Airbus. I loaded up the Lufthansa livery and setup a short flight from Zurich to Geneva – FL290, 3 VOR checkpoints and a straight in landing. Using the step-by-step instructions it was a snap and very enjoyable. I think this is going to be one of the more popular features of Aerofly FS 2. Grab an airliner, find a checklist, create a route, and go fly.
As I taxied to the gates at Geneva and was waiting for the follow-me crew, I loaded up and snapped a few panel screenshots of whichever airplane caught my fancy. Take a look.
Inside the Aerofly FS 2 airplanes
Although, all these aircraft are absolutely stunning both inside and out and all can be flown today, there are improvements being made to add more system depth. To be fair, other than a statement about being highly detailed and fully animated, no one has ever said these were finalized with complete systems type airplanes. For the casual flyer, they are already much better than you could find anyplace else.
Granted, I did not fly each and every aircraft, but I did fly most of them and I found them all enjoyable. However, if you are looking for something more than casual flying at this stage of development it is going to be a bit of hit or miss.
I have spent more time in the pilot’s seat of the Cessna 172SP and the Learjet 45 than all the others put together simply because I’m not writing an aircraft review, I’m writing a review of the Aerofly FS 2 flight simulator. My next tier of favorites will be the Boeing 737-500 and Airbus A320, one of the military jets, and probably the Extra 330 LX.
This B737-500 also comes with Lufthansa colors. Lufthansa has flown the model 300 & 500 since the 1980s and just last year retired the last one. Well, not totally retired, they kept one -500 as a training aircraft and have several magazine articles and videos showing lots of closeup shots. One key milestone is their 737 jets have flown around 2.3 billion kilometers for Lufthansa – roughly 300 trips to the moon and back. Lufthansa was the kickoff airline for the 737 family back in 1965, ordering 21 new 737-100s. They have owned every classic model since for a total of 148 of these babies. Link for video http://magazin.lufthansa.com/xx/en/fleet/a737-500-en/der-ideale-coach/ You can also view a 360 deg panorama of the cockpit of the -500 at this website.
The Extra LX really is something special – this one is so much more advanced than the one we have been flying (300S). I wasn’t ready for the surprise of the crispness and clarity of the panel and gauges. I have never seen a payware level 330LX before – stunning. My first barrel roll, turned out to be 2 snap rolls, so go easy on the stick until you get the feel for this one. Check out the real world version here. This is 2,000 pounds of pure joy. 55 kt stall, 220 kt Vne and stressed for +/- 10g. Oh. Boy! http://www.extraaircraft.com/330LX.php
It seems to me that the acrobatic planes have the best panels for this ‘absolutely unreal high-definition textures’ look. I had been flying Aerofly FS 2 for about a week or so when I loaded up the Pitts for the first time using my dual wide screens in vsync mode and I was astonished. From the back seat you are just inches from the instrument panel and it is eye-popping outstanding texture work. I snapped off a couple of screenshots and used a niftty feature to upload the screenshots to Steam – automatically. Neat.
All the larger animations should work as expected, i.e., landing gear, flaps, spoilers, and control surfaces. But, other than the recently updated mod for the Skyhawk, I didn’t see any cabin doors open or close yet, although you can view the VC cabins with the view selections.
Most have a working autopilot with more upgrades still in work. You can expect the AP to capture an Altitude and Heading and fly your route, and even fly an ILS approach. All the airliners that have LNAV/VNAV will fly the planned route automatically. The PFD will show the tuned ILS, course and distance to next waypoint. This auto tuning is really nice – and it picks up the navaids from your route information and updates the time and distance to the next waypoint for you. You see this on the moving Map, the green Route info at the top of the screen, and on the PFD.
I am pleased to see the IPACS folks know how the FLC function is supposed to work. The Learjet 45 Flight Level Control feature already works better than anything I have in any of my payware bizjets. Now if I could just get someone interested in putting a working FLC engage button on my Saitek Multi Panel I would be in flight sim heaven.
IPACS has a team working specifically on fine-tuning these auto flight systems, adding to and upgrading all the systems and capabilities to improve the feature list and add depth to their entire fleet. New and more functional pages for the EICAS and ECAM equipped planes are already in work.
The basic flight gauges and indicators such as the attitude indicator, altimeter, VSI, airspeed, course deviation, PFD, ND, all work pretty much as expected but some of the secondary gauges for engine monitoring might not be working with real data just yet.
Those planes with EICAS or ECAM have the basic pages working but require additional work to add systems depth to become a full engine monitoring and control system. The ones that I have been flying have no method of adding fuel or monitoring the fuel flows and no method of checking the CG or changing the payloads with passengers and baggage.
The most difficult part that I see is where to draw the line for aircraft complexity. This is already at a much higher level than I was thinking for casual flyers. Of course, I always want more and more. I suppose it would be reasonable to have a working autoland feature one day - just for the casual flight simmer, you understand.
I’m sure most or all of these items and many more will eventually be addressed and we will all benefit with improved aircraft with expanded features and systems depth for even more immersion, but I expect it will take time for these things to arrive.
It is so refreshing to read posts where a Developer Team Member makes comments like this . . .
Fortunately, because this is an ‘Early Access Game’ updates can be made piecemeal as the features and functions are developed.
We shouldn’t have to wait for a ‘major update’ as such. The hard part is going to be the ‘Waiting’ and trying to ‘Please be Patient’ by the flight sim community. This is one tough crowd and we aren’t known for having a lot of patience.
I’m sure each and every one of the aircraft will be that ‘special one’ or go-to favorite for someone. I have two favorites, the slow Cessna and the fast Lear. The long haul folks will probably be attracted the A320 and B747, while the regional and charter drivers will go for the B737, the small twins and the Q400 when it arrives.
For fast moving military jets Aerofly FS 2 offers both the F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-18C single-seat Hornet for those that want to experience speeds greater than the Concorde and 50,000 fpm burst climbs. For those that prefer the spinning props and radial engines we have the Corsair. Boy, it is nice to finally have a high quality Navy fighter from the Pacific theater in our flight sim.
Just wait ‘til you feel that F4U’s outrageous 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp radial sending 2,000 hp to that equally outrageous Hamilton Standard Hydromatic 13 foot 4 inch 3-bladed prop. They were both the largest available at the time. Be ready with plenty of right rudder and add power very slowly on that first takeoff roll. Now this is when you will notice not only how smooth this engine/propeller works in Aerofly FS 2 but how smoothly your flight sim is running. When you tuck up that heavy duty landing gear, you can appreciate that this was the very first fully retracting gear for landing on aircraft carriers.
Bet you didn’t know why the Corsair had that funny looking inverted gull wing design. Something to do with providing ground clearance for that huge propeller and still having the necessary room for folding wings on the aircraft carriers. Oops, sorry, sometimes I drift off. . . No wonder, the Black Sheep Squadron loved them so much.
If you crank up your sound system you can feel the prop biting into the wind and also watch the pictures hanging on the wall start sliding a bit askew, then you will appreciate the Aerofly FS 2 sounds. The sound cone is very well done. Moving around the planes in the exterior view is where the directional sounds are really noticeable. I did notice the sounds do not vary with the throttle position as they should in the Corsair – hopefully this will be corrected soon. It should sound and feel like a freight train on the takeoff roll.
The moral of the story is that each and every one of the Aerofly FS 2 airplanes has a rich history just waiting to be discovered.
The Vought F4U Corsair unfolding its wings was chosen to be the first airplane you see in the official trailer for Aerofly FS 2. Watch the https://www.aerofly.com/aerofly_fs_2/ Note. Drooling is allowed.
Outside the Aerofly FS 2 airplanes
One of my favorite terms used to describe the exteriors and overall model presentation is ‘drop your socks gorgeous’ and I haven’t come up with a better way of describing these airplanes. Some might have the edge on the one to its side in the virtual hangar, but as a group they are all in the near outstanding category. Many of these must be payware with new ownership simply because there are so many complex and highly detailed models included.
I suggest you spend some time at the screenshots tab and while you are there make a close inspection of the aircraft in the pictures. The screenshot area at Steam is loaded with eye popping images of these aircraft and some dazzling scenery. http://steamcommunity.com/app/434030/#scrollTop=0
So how do they fly?
This is always subjective and it is difficult to get two flight simmers to agree on almost anything, but, I think as a group, these are the best flying aircraft I have seen with only a few exceptions. I have a special place in my memory for RealAir and A2A Simulations and it would be nice to add a third name to that list. We shall see as the aircraft and systems mature, but, the ones that I spent time in are better than many that I have in the dusty corners of my hard drive.
Many are going to ask if they are PMDG or Flight Sim Labs level payware. No, of course not, but consider the price you are paying for just one of those specialty aircraft.
To me, the flying sensations and immersion levels, are probably somewhat different than the games-oriented flight simmer with a new VR headset, and the one who insists that everything be ‘totally realistic’. I like to ask Mr. Realistic how he gets his airplanes started if he doesn’t use a mouse or keyboard? I never had either in any of the airplanes I flew, realistically, for 5,000 logged hours.
Bottom line, I really enjoy flying these new airplanes. They are different enough from those that I already have and are a welcome addition to my virtual hangar. They look good, feel good, sound good, and are sophisticated enough to require some skill to fly. I like that because I prefer to use the systems and procedures and any available documentation that I can find when flying flight sim airplanes. These are still a little shy of completion in this area but, I have all the confidence in the world that they will come out winners.
The Cold and Dark mod for the Cessna 172SP.
All these years we have taken for granted that a small Cessna would have animated doors and windows, a parking brake, and removable yoke among other things. Seems like these simplest things are just now making their way into the Aerofly FS 2 models. I did notice that although the windows now open and close with the new Cessna 172SP Cold and Dark mod, the hardware clasp that makes it happen in the real Skyhawk is totally missing in the sim. Hmmm.
Every time I load up or switch to the Skyhawk I see yet another improvement over the C172 that we have been flying all these years. This is one gorgeous airplane and the sounds are spot on. The paint coupled with the lighting and shadows gives it a surreal sort of look. Everything just seems to look so much better in the Aerofly FS 2 skies. Jump to this link and zoom up the images to full screen and see if you agree. https://www.aerofly-sim.de/download/download-aeroflyfs2/af2_c172_download
I was told by a wise man to never compare different developers in an Avsim review. But, I really would like to show the improvements in the default aircraft since the introduction of FSX and today. Using the same veritable Learjet 45, as the choice, we can compare the MS default Learjet 45 that we are all familiar (which is one of the better default aircraft) to the Aerofly FS 2 Learjet 45. The Aerofly FS 2 model is approaching payware level.
These remaining comparison screenshots tell the story.
How the world is divided up by Aerofly FS2.
This Flight Simulator comes with one free DLC consisting of a three state area in the Southwest adding high resolution textures with almost 200 improved airports. The optional high resolution texture areas with improved airports are Northeastern USA and the entire country of Switzerland.
The entire Earth is flyable in Aerofly FS 2 using standard navigational aids so we can connect the dots while additional areas are being built for future DLCs. Some parts of the world outside the DLCs are generally fuzzy looking without much detail and without any airports for landing but can surely be navigated. Other parts seem to have better resolution as seen from high altitude.
It is not like the ground is mush or such; it is just lower density terrain mesh and scenery without any improvements. We will most likely see most of this unimproved global area eventually upgraded to something less than FS9 levels but better than what we see now. I think the limiting factor is the huge file sizes of the scenery for such a large area.
There are plenty of VORs, NDBs (non-directional beacons), and checkpoints worldwide and these are prominently shown on the world map.
I heard a rumor that Meigs Field in Chicago may be the first 3rd party airport and possibly be offered by Orbx for Aerofly FS 2. I would like that, I wrote the FSX Steam review of KCGX a year ago, a joint venture between Orbx and Dovetail Games.
The DLC Scenery Areas
The 3 states in the Southwestern USA DLC are California, Arizona, and Nevada with 191 improved airports. The recently released Northeastern USA DLC area has tons of New York City area buildings and structures plus 19 nearby improved airport areas. The entire country of Switzerland is the only DLC outside the USA at this time and has 33 improved airport areas.
There are four areas of concentrated airports in this 3-state region. These are the San Francisco, Los Angeles/San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas areas. Each have multiple large airports and many, many outlying or nearby airports. Of course, some of the most interesting ones may not be anywhere near any of these metropolitan area.
There are just about as many scenic areas as there are fingers on both hands. At the top of any list has to be the San Francisco bay area and surrounds and the Grand Canyon area. If you like desert flying then the Phoenix and Grand Canyon areas would be your choice. Mountain lovers might meet somewhere between Lake Tahoe/Reno, Nevada and Sacramento, California to the West, and Fresno/Yosemite to the South.
Of course, when you look at the really big picture of the world, the total DLCs make a relatively small total area, but it is still early.
I searched for some comparisons of the size of Switzerland to an area in the USA. One comparison is that California is 10 times the geographical size of Switzerland, and Los Angeles county alone has 2 million more people that the entire country of Switzerland. I think the scenic beauty of the mountains and valleys might sway me towards flying into every one of the Swiss airports.
Another good visual comparison is to superimpose Switzerland onto a map of the state of Pennsylvania in the heart of the NE USA DLC texture area. The country is about 1/3 the size of Pennsylvania.
The Really Big Flying Area for Aerofly FS2 – California and neighbouring states.
This Southwestern USA DLC is a huge flying area. It is 100% of California, about 95% of Arizona, and all of Nevada. It even has an airport or two in southern Utah. I used the Navigation route planning feature to check some of the distances available for some longer flights that stay within the region. I was surprised how far it is from one end of California to the other and the same for Arizona.
The San Francisco bay area
This is one of the more scenic areas for flying and should be able to keep most of us entertained for quite some time. I like to use Monterey airport as a base and fly around the Peninsula and check out the golf courses along the ocean coastline then head north over San Jose . We have airport after airport as we approach the bay area. The city of San Francisco is especially well represented with the central business district and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the wharf area.
KSFO airport will probably be the hub for much of the airliner traffic with dozens of choices for the smaller aircraft. Half Moon Bay airport has an attraction of its own. I could spend a month or more just flying around looking at the islands and bridges.
Northern California and the Mountains
A recommended familiarization flight would be start at any of the Bay area airports and fly east over Sacramento then on to Reno and have lunch. After lunch, fly South over Yosemite National Park to Fresno then back to Monterey. You will see a varied countryside and will have a good feel for future flights.
Nevada and Arizona and the Desert
You can make a similar flight across mid-California. Takeoff from Santa Barbara on the coast and fly over the Mohave Desert to Las Vegas – on your left as you are climbing out will be Burt Rutan’s Spaceport. Make sure you fly around the city and check out all the Hotels and such. This also needs a nighttime flight to see the lights.
From Las Vegas it is a short flight to the Grand Canyon. For desert flying just head any Southern direction and end up in the Phoenix and Tucson area then fly almost due West to the San Diego area. Desert flying is very different than any other flying.
Once in Southern California you can spend a month or more seeing the sights. This is the where there is an airport just about any place or any direction you choose to fly.
Nevada seems to be a little light on airports. This is probably because it is so thinly populated and the military uses almost the entire state for whatever purpose they choose. You will find two clusters of airports – The Reno area and the Las Vegas area. But, whatever you do make sure you drop in at Area 51 for a visit. Let me know if succeed in finding the UFO, there is one included. Cool.
Southern California with a mix of it all – Beach, Mountains, Desert, smog
To paraphrase Maverick in Topgun, “Goose, this is a target rich environment.” If airports were targets then Southern California certainly is a target-rich area.
I am somewhat familiar with this area and have flown many hours out of the Bob Hope airport in Burbank and I have Aerosoft’s US Cities X – Los Angeles scenery pack installed with my FSX flight sim. I made a quick check of which airports are detailed, or present in Aerofly FS 2 and those that are just vague spots in the scenery. Using the Los Angeles Terminal chart as a base I have marked those airports NOT included as an indicator. See red circle map.
Just to make sure we also look at the ‘glass is half full’ side of things, the included airports have a green circle. Not quite 50/50 but this is a highly concentrated area of airports. Many were left over after World War II and eventually given to the nearest city or township. See green circle map.
The missing airports
Many of the missing or not-included airports could certainly be added by a 3rd party developer or maybe by a user using the SDK kit in case one of your favorites is not there. There are so many airports in this area that unless you happen to know one is missing you might never miss it. I do miss one. Take a look at these screenshots of the Navy’s TopGun Miramar base, KNKX, in North San Diego.
It looks like it was intended to be included but never quite got the final treatment
Here is a closeup look at the fantastic number of airports that we do have available in the Southern California area of the free DLC.
Flying outside of the DLC
I did notice that the Pacific Northwest seems to have a somewhat higher resolution than the center of the USA. No airports there, but the scenery from FL300 looks great for overflying. I flew up the West Coast of Oregon, circled over to Portland then flew back South to California about 50 miles from the coastline and it was a very scenic flight. Here we are with all of California in HD and we are already flying outside the good stuff. Duh.
As long as you stay up in the Flight Levels the low resolution scenery in this area is just fine for fly-overs. I can see me flying up to Vancouver Island and circling around and flying back to Reno or one of the DLC airports for landing. Who knows, one of our users or a 3rd party developer might choose SeaTac or PANC to make a detailed airport.
I decided to add the screenshots at the end of the review and only place a few in amongst the text. Many of them are worthy of your time to zoom them up to full screen and admire the content.
Keep in mind Aerofly FS 2 is still in the Early Access development, but, tremendous progress has already been made. Sure there are some weak spots here and there, but generally it is very well developed already. I think we can all see where it is headed. It is just that we are now starting to yearn for some pilot talk over the airways. I read in one of the forums that one of our friends was flying with LiveATC playing in the background. He may be on to something.
UTC Time only.
Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), is the time standard chosen for Aerofly FS2. Many folks often consider this the same as GMT or Zulu or military time.
Universal Coordinated Time, is the time at longitude 0 degrees 0 minutes - the prime meridian or longitudinal line that separates East from West in the world geographical coordinate system. This line of longitude is based on the location of the British Naval Observatory in Greenwich, England, in London.
Changing the time zone in Aerofly FS 2 is as simple as pressing the T key or Shift + T. It is delightful to pause a flight and select one of the outside views to get the big panoramic image and then cycle through 24 hours by repeatedly click the T key. The shadowing effect and lighting really jumps out at you.
You can click on the clock face, depending on which aircraft you fly, and set the time to local. Easy Peasy.
The only airports currently in Aerofly FS 2 outside the United States are all located in Switzerland. This is most likely a carryover from some of the previous Aerofly FS simulators using the Swiss countryside as their playground. This additional scenery pack is simply named “Switzerland” and is available as DLC provided you already have Aerofly FS 2 in your Steam account
Just about every Swiss airport, military or civilian, is included in Aerofly FS 2 and most of the scenery is breathtaking, but remember, there are no seasonal changes available.
Fortunately, about half of Switzerland is lush farmland and green lowlands and the rest is mountains and valleys with plenty of lakes so you should be able to find snow or grass by location. I wasn’t able to find the exact month of the scenery but, there is no snow at the lower elevations, but plenty up high on the mountains.
Almost any place in Switzerland you may choose to fly will be breathtaking. My three favorites, this week, are the approaches to Buochs, home of Pilatus Aircraft; Samedan, near St. Moritz; and Lugano, just for pure beauty.
Take a look at this approach to Lugano airport in the Cessna. Look closely, the upper left and upper right are real world photos, the others are screenshots taken by me.
The VFR only approach to Samedan is fascinating in the Boeing 737-500 and the Learjet 45 (real world photo)
These screenshots of a missed approach at Geneva should give you a feel for the realism of flying Aerofly FS 2 with the Switzerland DLC.
Have you ever wondered why Swiss aircraft registrations begin with HB?
Up until 1932 Switzerland’s country registration code was “CH” (for Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin name for the Swiss Confederation).
Then, in 1934, the revised Paris Convention decreed that all aircraft registration must be identical to its radio call sign. In 1927, the Washington International Radiotelegraph Convention had allocated the block of “HBA” to “HBZ” to Switzerland. So the later Paris Convention assigned Switzerland the “HB” country code for its aircraft registrations. So, now you know.
Flying in the Switzerland DLC.
Remember, there are no delays when loading scenery in Aerofly FS 2. You can move from Arizona to Switzerland in a heartbeat and switch from the Boeing 737 to the Cessna 172 in another heartbeat. You can also change or adjust the visibility or time of day while flying with simple keystrokes or map these features to your controller or joystick.
Taking off from Geneva in the lower West corner and flying East over the tallest mountains and landing in the Engadin valley near St Moritz at Samedan (elev. 5600 feet) is only 160 nm. Continuing on NE to Zurich is a mere 80 nm. Completing our round robin back Southwest to Geneva we decide to stop at Bern which is almost directly on our flight path. The distance from Zurich to Geneva via Bern is about 130 nm. So you see, you can sit down, fire up the flight sim, fly one leg, two legs or a 3-stop cross country in about an hour.
I would like to mention there is evidently a lot of interest by some folks in the military airports in Switzerland. Here are some links for those of you who might be interested. http://www.mil-airfields.de/ch/list.htm http://ourairports.com/countries/CH/
Minimum startup time – Be flying immediately
This ease of getting started, speed of getting into the air, ease of building a flight plan with everything you may need readily available and being able to walk away an hour later after visiting 3 cities might appeal to a lot of our flight sim community.
There are absolutely no requirements for adding this or that add on to get a workable flight sim, like FSX or P3D. Well, actually you couldn’t add that stuff if you wanted to at this stage of development.
I will show you how to plan the above flight but first, let me walk you through the Aerofly FS 2 screens.
Let’s start with an overview of the initial screens. The Start Screen which comes up in about 10 seconds or less on my system.
The basic setup of choosing controllers, screen settings, etc. goes really quickly and is mostly select from the choices offered, click and move on. It is a simple pick and choose.
I don’t think I ever saw a SAVE button anyplace, you just back up or exit the current screen and everything is saved.
These are all full screens if you are using vsync or full windows if you are using a windowed display.
There is no certain order required, but generally, you will pick an aircraft, set the time, wind, weather, choose a departure airport or location then choose your destination airport and runway. Everything you choose will be waiting for you if you quit and return later in the day, tomorrow, next week, or whatever.
I tend to just load and go. This will usually be flying the Learjet 45 someplace in Switzerland with good visibility, early morning or late afternoon, light winds, some high cirrus clouds and maybe a few low density cumulus’ to dodge and so I can land on any runway of my choosing. Some runways are a little short for a 20,000 pound bizjet landing downwind, but this will all change once we have ATC added.
It is so easy to pause the game, select the screen for conditions, put a stiff wind on your nose and continue with your landing. I do this often when on final in one of the higher elevation or shorter runway airports and I am flying the Boeing 737.
A little later I will show you how to startup, and be flying an approach with a proper configuration (speed, flaps, gear, etc.) in 30 seconds or less. Change planes, change airports, change time of day and visibility and be flying a new configured approach in another 30 seconds. Yep, truly amazing to me.
Most of the screens are self-explanatory but, if you get stuck just ask yourself what would your kids or grandkids do at this point. I did find that it helps to at least glance through the on-line manual to get a feel for what screens are available and look at some of the example pages. Most of these examples were not available until very recently.
The good news is that many of the pages have a big question mark (?) in the upper right hand corner of the screen. This is will bring up some explanations of the major functions controlled by this screen.
If you use the default keyboard setup just remember the letter I will cycle the flight Info Bar at the top of the screen, M will bring up or remove the Moving Map, L for Landmarks (this is a real useful feature), P for Pause, H for HUD, T for Time, V for Visibility and C or CoPilot if you get lonely. If you forget, your first thought is probably correct. F12 snaps a screenshot for you.
The View commands are totally different from FSX/P3D but, you can easily assign them to be the same as you may be used to using. A new, to me, method is using the icons in the lower right of the screen. These are grouped by function and you can adjust the transparency of these control elements at the General Settings screen with a slider.
There are additional control elements for engaging and managing auto flight by clicking on the appropriate icon. These are placed directly below the View icons and actually overlap some of the area. The auto flight icons are only available when you are actually flying – free flight or a route - and disappear when the flight is paused. The SPD, HDG, ALT, and VS parameters can be changed on the fly. This is an innovative little feature that I find very handy and easy to use.
An example is that I am just up flying around and I want to go get a fresh cup of coffee. I can simply click the On/Off box to turn on the AP, then click whichever box I need – SPD, ALT, HDG – then provided I don’t fly into the side of a mountain I can run get my coffee and be back flying a few minutes later. This keeps the flight going rather than Pause.
Even though you apparently can’t have both the View Screens and AP Screens up at the same time, the functions remain active in the background if you switch from one to the other.
Another nifty feature the “Quick Lift Up” icon located just above the View Screens. This is the one with the UP arrow above the airplane. This is like a ‘get out of jail free card’ when you are flying around and not paying attention to the terrain.
You look up and see there are ‘rocks in them-thar clouds’ or the terrain just keeps gradually increasing in elevation. A click or two will instantly have you flying at a higher and safer altitude. Whew! Neat.
I can’t seem to get enough flying in the valleys of Switzerland and there are lots of them and they all have an airport or two around the bend. They also get a little narrow in places so taking the Lear in some of these unknown places isn’t so smart, so I just switch over to the ever reliable Cessna 172SP or one of the other slow flyers. .
I have gotten so comfortable using the ‘Up Now’ icon that I requested a DOWN NOW icon from IPACS, but I don’t think they took my suggestion very seriously. (Serious - I am and would love to have that feature added!)
OK, How to Plan a Route – Geneva to Samedan example
This shows how the selection of your choices of runways for taking off and landing affects the routing for your flight plan.
Local flying is super easy and extremely enjoyable in Aerofly FS 2. Take a look at this collection of screenshots using Zurich airport.
Btw, I only found one airport that had the runway numbers reversed – 05/23 at Interlaken. It is just the painted numbers that needs fixing, the navigation screens and routing are all correct.
I hope IPACS adds a few of the local Pilatus PC-24 static aircraft to spread around this area
The Flight School feature
I only completed the first lesson and got 2 out of 3 stars. It was difficult to explore for a review because it would be so time consuming – so I chose not to. It evidently has 22 individual lessons and if you need flight instruction for flight simming you will have it available. I’m sure they have all the basics there but I just didn’t have the time to follow it through. Sorry.
The concept is you watch a demonstration flight of a given maneuver and then you are graded by an instructor on your ability to fly that maneuver. You are allowed to have several tries to get it right before you move on to the next lesson. You can find an overview of all the lessons here. http://www.ikarus.net/en/frage-welche-lektionen-gibt-es-in-der-flugschule-des-aerofly2-fuer-ios-2/ Just click on the American flag for English.
This may be a game with a game so I recommend you check it out if you are interested.
I also failed to explore the Approach Guides feature that assists you in lining up and flying the proper approaches to runways. This is sometimes referred to as ‘flying through the yellow boxes’. This feature is turned on or off using the Settings/General screen and can be useful to new pilots learning how to fly approaches to runways.
The Northeastern USA – New York City area – DLC
This is the 3rd scenery pack released for the Aerofly FS 2 and came just in time for Christmas. Within hours, new videos were being posted on YouTube and Vimeo. The comments varied from – Wow, this is fantastic, to Oh heck, they have the wrong façade on some of the historic buildings in Manhattan and everything in between.
I am not familiar with how many spans are on what bridge or which bridge connects to New Jersey or how close the Statue of Liberty is to Governors Island, and other such details, so I just load up the flight sim, pick an airport and go fly.
When I did stay close in I thought it was overkill to have so many buildings and structures so close together, but, then if they left out a few, I guess it wouldn’t be the Big Apple.
I did load up Google maps to locate the new Freedom Tower to see how it was rendered in Aerofly FS 2. It looks great to someone not intimately familiar with the area.
Being at outsider who only visits NYC for a few days at the time, I notice the lack of ferries, no helicopter traffic up and down the Hudson, no yellow taxis, a million people moving around, and things like that. But until that day arrives, there are a couple of static wakes in the water and there are certainly enough improvements to fill my windshield.
What excites me is that I can make a flyby of Manhattan at high speed in a bizjet and the flight sim not turn into a slide show like FSX with my NYC add on package.
I set up a flight to fly the perimeter of the concentration of the 19 airports in 3 states – New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. I made a few low approaches, some touch and goes and a few full stop landings. It is great to have all these new airports added and available for use.
I did not spend a lot of time at each and every New York area airport but, a few of the outlying airports did get my attention. I really enjoyed flying back and forth between Westchester County, Stewart International and Teterboro. All three of these airports have a generous number of static aircraft and all have two large runways. The countryside is also very pleasing with lakes and rivers with plenty of green area and built-up commercial areas. These make a great little triangle for those looking for a quick flight. The approach to runway 19 at Teterboro has a great view of the New York City buildings so this makes for a good place to complete a flight.
Being able to fly from Arizona or California and land in New Jersey or New York adds so much more to the package. I’m sure just as many flights will be heading West from the New York area toward the Pacific with even more available destinations.
I used the Navigation feature to plot a route from KJFK to KLAX using no intermediate nav aids. The computed distance is 2,146 nm. KICT in Wichita is just about halfway across the country and would be a good airport to consider at a layover airport. When I add the ICT VOR to the route it divides the route with an initial leg of 1,116 nm and the completion leg as 1,026 nm. Meanwhile, you can select one of the aircraft with that range and go fly from coast to coast.
Maybe one of the future DLCs will be ‘strategically placed airports to bridge the existing DLCs”. Let’s see, how about Dallas/Ft Worth, Denver, Wichita, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Miami, Washington DC, and Boston. Any of these airports would be sufficient to provide a layover airport for flying between the East and West DLCs.
I think my choice to base the Learjet 45 when in the area will be either Teterboro or Belmar Monmouth, both in New Jersey. Both of these are just on the outskirts of the super busy triangle of Newark, La Guardia, and Kennedy. Not that it is busy in the Aerofly FS 2 skies just yet, but, when ATC and AI arrive this will be a mad house.
I failed to read why all the 19 detailed airports are clustered together in this one area when the improved scenery area appears to cover several states. All of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland and small sections of Eastern Kentucky and Ohio, and the SW tip of Maine appear to have somewhat higher resolution scenery. Now that is a large chunk of territory without any airports.
Although, there are no airports for landing and taking off outside the 60 nm radius circle around Manhattan, the vastness of the general area is impressive. For instance, measuring corner to corner the HD improved flying area is almost 750 nm.
Flying from the West Coast to the East Coast or back
I was curious what the area between the two USA DLCs would look like as I made my first flight to connect them. I chose the A320 before I knew I couldn’t run out of fuel. This particular Airbus A320-214 cockpit was built by Aerosoft and licensed to Aerofly FS 2, but all the systems are being coded in-house in Stuttgart. I started at the closest airport to the Northeast corner of the Western States DLC, E91, Chinle Muni in Arizona, and plotted a more or less straight-line course to KBLM in Farmingdale, NY. I used the Navigation feature to snap the route line to the nearest VOR when I thought I needed one.
I found the low density terrain mesh varies quite a bit, but from FL300 it generally looks okay. Sure it looks better as you enter the Western boundary of the Northeastern states DLC but until that area has airports added such as Buffalo, Pittsburg or Roanoke it is not that different.
Here is what it looks like from the left seat of the Airbus A320 and from some external shots. The moving map will tell you where along the route the image was taken. It would be nice if we had one or two mid-America layover airports to bridge the trip but it is certainly flyable just as it is.
More about flying outside the DLCs
I decided to look further North past Seattle and see what Alaska looked like in the Aerofly FS 2 ellipsoid. The VOR at Kenai was as far North as I could move the Location circle but the scenery looked reasonable from FL300. Using this mid-air location as a starting point, I created a route direct to Anchorage VOR, then a looping leg to the East coast of the US via the Yukon and Northwest Territories down across the Great Lakes and on to NYC. Using Kennedy as the destination airport, the distance was just over 3,000 nm. Hmmm. What is the extended range of the A320? Is PANC and KJFK listed as city pairs? Indeed, Delta flies it and we have a 320 with a Delta livery. Ready for a long haul? I kept looking for Yellowknife in the NW Territories but my route was South of YZF.
The route estimate was a little over 6 hours flight time to stretch the range and have fuel for the alternate. This was a very enjoyable flight and can be flown here and now for those that think the DLC areas might be restrictive. The scenery is certainly good enough for the passengers to spot the lakes and land features across Canada and the Great Lakes. You can check the route map on each screenshot to see the location.
I found a great website for all nav aids in Canada so we can ID the towns. It can be used for any country in the world. Very handy for flying in new areas. http://www.pilotnav.com/browse/navaids
My next off the reservation adventure is going to be a flight from Hawaii to San Francisco. All it takes is an air start just the other side of the Honolulu VOR and favorable winds.
But, everyone should keep in mind the included DLC of California, Nevada, and Arizona is an extremely large area for exploring, and the entire area is photoscenery with unbelievable changes in geography and so many airports.
How about the straight line distance from San Diego, way down South to Shelter Cove, 0Q5 up North on the coast? 575 nm or almost the same exact distance between Monterey, California and Winslow, Arizona. Those are some seriously long legs. These extremes could make great one hour flights in the F-15 Strike Eagle or F-18 Hornet.
A Big Advantage for us Users
IPACS and Ikarus seems to be receptive to user input so if you want to help shape this new flight simulator now is the time to step in with your suggestions. Who knows, you might have that magic suggestion that is just waiting to be implemented in a future update.
The IPACS forums and the Aerofly FS 2 forums on Steam are good places to start with your comments and suggestions. There are some small tweaks and improvements that I am suggesting just in case everyone else is standing back hoping they just might happen out of the blue. I have always been of the opinion that if you want the soup to taste different, you really need to talk to the cook.
If I were making some of the decisions or helping with the priorities, I would suggest more effort be placed in the completion and fine tuning of the systems and gauges of the existing planes and less on bringing even more new aircraft into the fold. Now I totally agree that a few more aircraft are needed to balance the offerings like a helicopter and a bush plane (preferably on floats) and a really fast, single-engine high-performance plane like a Lancair Legacy, but that’s just me.
No, I am not discounting the expected euphoria when the Boeing 777 and the Bombardier Q400 arrive, but there is just so much work 10 people can do. Remember the old adage: 9 women can’t have a baby in a month.
A side trip for some free FAA Aeronautical Charts of this area.
Fortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration makes it easy to keep up-to-date charts. All you need is a large hard disk and a high resolution monitor and a few free graphic programs to display them. You probably already have something to read your pdf files, if not visit Adobe.com. For graphics, Windows comes with a few, but Google’s free Picasa Photo Viewer is hard to beat. Your choices of display will be either pdf or tif. I sometimes make snapshots or screenshots of an area of interest and save them as JPGs just for the ease of viewing.
You will most likely use Sectional Charts and Terminal Control Area charts for VFR in the DLCs. Jet traffic might also opt for Low Altitude Enroute and High Altitude Enroute IFR charts. A very nice U.S. VFR Wall Planning chart can be found under the heading of Planning.
For our non-pilot and non-US friends, the Sectional charts do not match up with state or county lines so you will need a key of sorts. The TCA charts are easier, the name is the largest nearby City and are double the Sectional scale. The Sectional chart is named for “a city” somewhere on that chart and are 1:500,000 scale.
Many times it is much easier just to go to Skyvector.com and use their charts and flight planning software. You can zoom the maps in and out with ease and snap a screen shot for areas of interest. They have a new agreement sheet where you state you understand this is real world stuff and not for simulators, but only if you try to file the flight plan.
I have not heard any rumors or wild guesses as to where any of the future DLC scenery areas might be but, just in case anyone is listening, I would suggest the following (no special order):
London or Paris area
A collection of strategically located large airports to bridge flights crossing the USA and crossing the Atlantic Ocean with flights to Switzerland.
Southeast USA – Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana
The Southeast USA could connect Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Atlanta, and New Orleans for the regional flights and would be perfect flying weather for general aviation with plenty of water and beaches. Of course, the international flights from KSFO and KLAX connecting to KMIA and KATL then on to Heathrow, Paris, or Zurich would be well received.
Additions to the Flight information Strip
Mainly because there are no immediate plans for Aerofly FS 2 to support Saitek FIPs or iPads for active flight information, the only external flight information will be from the Flight Info Strip at the top of the screen. Therefore, I think it would be great if we could also monitor the status of the Wing Spoilers 1) Landing Gear 2). The Mach speed readout 3) is almost a necessity for all the high flying fast movers.
Should IPACS decide the ‘Down Now’ feature is worth exploring, I suggest one of these locations for the icon.
Improvements needed or Work-in-Progress
There are several important parts or blocks still being discussed and possibly being worked on in the back rooms and the think tank but the most obvious ones are:
ATC, Weather, AI traffic, road and water traffic, night-lighting, seasons, autogen and multi-player.
It is so very quiet when flying in Aerofly FS 2 and those puffy white clouds are nice but are certainly no substitute for more realistic and advanced clouds and real world weather.
ATC is evidently being explored and discussed and the powers to be want a totally new well-thought out system for their newest sim. After ATC is developed and working, I am sure the multi-player community will be asking for some attention.
Autogen, as such, may never be a reality in the Aerofly FS 2 world, but something that places 3D buildings and structures is needed.
One of my disappointments is the substantial number of trees located in the middle of major highways and other odd places. These trees are obviously computer or automatically generated and an update should be moved to near the top of the to-do list or items that need immediate attention.
Every so often I notice some jagged edge shadows moving along the airplane. I am usually have too much fun to stop and see if it is one of my nVidia graphics card settings or something that I need to report to support.
Some of these items, like seasons have not even been mentioned, but, maybe the 3rd party developers will find a niche in building more detailed scenery areas with night-lighting and seasonal changes.
Another surprise to me is the flight planner limitation of only allowing one takeoff and one landing for any given flight. I have always been a fan of round robin type flights. I guess this is a holdover from my CFI days and helping the primary students plan their first solo cross-country flights – this requires 3 stops. This certainly does not stop anyone from planning a flight, building a route and flying it, but, one takeoff and one landing sure crimps my style of flying.
An area that I think needs some attention is the inconsistent use of static aircraft on the airport ramps. A few have the ideal mix and quantity, but most, especially those in Switzerland, are few and far between. Some airports don’t have a single static airplane. I did notice the overly repetitive use of some of the repaints, especially the Gulfstream 450. The military airports hardly have any at all, most are totally bare of aircraft. There are some nice C-5 and C-130 static aircraft but, they need to be passed around to more military and joint use airports.
One of the disappointments to me is when I land at an airport and taxi by 9 totally identical Lear 55 static aircraft all parked side by side, then see another dozen scattered around the ramps. As far as I could see, there is only one single-engine Cessna static aircraft and it is the old straight back 172 from the very early 60s. I would suggest several different small Cessnas with as many different repaints as practical and the addition of some of the other smaller planes commonly seen at airports in the USA. I failed to see a single Cirrus, Diamond, Mooney, Bonanza or Grumman American static aircraft anyplace. Huh?
It would be nice to have a lot more, like double or triple the present number of static aircraft, so we aren’t looking at the exact same plane on practically every airport ramp. Like the ‘Conoco Phillips USA’ Gulfstream, Ugh. It is a nice G-V static aircraft but it has to be the most overused static plane in the scenery packs. A good start would be to remove the company name and add a few slightly different paint schemes – maybe a half dozen different tail colors, or something, please.
I spent some time flying in to the different airports just to look around and see which static planes are on the ramps and check out the free coffee at the FBOs. I haven’t found a quick and easy method of moving around to the different ramps and tie-downs on the opposite sides of some of the airports, other than the old fashioned way – taxi. (think helicopter or Slew function) It would be nice to have more dedicated ramp starting locations at the airports that have several FBOs. The way it is now, the big jets, little jets, bi-planes, military and turboprops all share the same single ramp location when starting at any location other than a runway.
I’m sure as more developers come onboard someone is going to add some sort of SLEW function for getting around when not actually flying.
The very large and busy airports like KLAX, KSFO, KPDX, KJFK, KEWR, and LSZH are naturally more developed and complete. Lots of static aircraft are located at these busy terminal airports and multiple ramp and gate starting areas are available.
As a rule, just about everything is sharper and crisper than the default systems that I have been using. I have a lot of payware aircraft, many from reviews that I have written. The one single exception is when I glance out the pilot’s window of the Baron 58 I don’t see a nice sharp engine cowling vibrating at the joints and a clear view of that row of cowl fasteners.
The Aerofly FS 2 Baron has a very sharp interior cabin and panel, but that view of the left engine could use some sprucing up for sure. To be clear, the exterior model is definitely sharper than the default Barons in either of our sims, but falls short of payware level textures – those ill-defined fasteners are just too close to my view for comfort. As a check here is a comparison to the Aerofly FS 2 King Air C90 GTx red and white left engine.
We need to keep in mind this is a ‘work in progress’ and many of these small things are probably already on someone’s to-do list or being worked on or maybe even completed and just waiting to be approved and pushed up to the Steam site for updating.
Practically every airplane is being fine-tuned to bring the auto flight in line with the expectations of the pilots and copilots and to get more pages and features working correctly. Many of the minor engine gauges may not reflecting real or actual data and it seems that you never run out of fuel or even use much according to the fuel gauges. Most all radio and avionics dials work, a few don’t, but IPACS knows this and has a dedicated team working on it.
Those of you that enjoy the ‘Cold and Dark’ startups will have to wait a little longer but, I understand this is one of the items currently being worked on. The Baron 58 seems to have working electrics, and the Cessna 172SP just had a recent upgrade to move it closer to the total shutdown and startup level. The windows and doors open and close now, and you can shut down the engine with the mixture, master switch, and ignition key. Basic things like removing the yoke, working avionics dials, animated engine gauges and a working parking brake were added.
I understand the flight behavior will be constantly adjusted based on user feedback until the performance levels are spot on. This is for all the aircraft in the inventory.
At present, we can’t save a flight plan or even a ‘favorite’ location, aircraft, repaint, time, conditions, etc. as we have always been able to do in most flight simulators. Even though all these choices can be clicked and chosen quite rapidly, I think this is going to one of the most requested featured by the beta testers.
Keep in mind that although we can’t ‘Save’ a flight, wherever we are and whatever aircraft we are flying is automatically saved when we exit. So if we simply clicked the Play button at the Steam library and 10 seconds later clicked the Aerofly FS 2 ‘Start’ button we would be starting with our last flight. This is not really a saved flight, as such, but starting a new flight with the last selections, such as the specific aircraft and location that we last used.
I suggested at the IPACS forums that I would like to hear some verbal callouts on those takeoff rolls. I miss the 80 knots, V1, Vr – Rotate, and V2. I would think those guys could add these rather easily – even if they aren’t properly calculated, just yet. You can add this to the . . . one more small change list.
An updated manual with tutorials?
Just hours before I closed the files for this review, I read at the IPACS forum that “An updated User Manual is coming soon – It will have tutorials and detailed information for all Aerofly FS2 functions”. The timing was such that I could not get any additional information on this. This is very encouraging and I suspect some tutorial flights will soon follow, most likely by enthusiastic users.
I am always delighted to find a detailed tutorial flight for any flight sim airplane. Historically, most developers have tended to avoid including aircraft documentation and details that we need to plan flights and actually fly the airplane.
Aerofly FS 2 totally missed adding Wind Farms in California.
California has by far the most concentrated array of wind turbines in 3 wide area locations. Aerofly FS 2 has several airports located at or near all of these locations, but, not one animated wind turbine is to be found. This looks like it could be a slam dunk addition with a small effort, but huge payback. After all, if you don’t see massive numbers of windmills turning, you are probably not flying in California.
Just add water.
That sounds a lot easier than it is, but we must not forget that world’s surface is mostly water. The addition of water will be a big step in covering the world with improved scenery. But, how about a rain shower every now and then? Maybe a new slider for Rain Showers. Hmm.
Some of the many already working items.
I hate to make a list because I will surely miss some of the most important accomplishments to date. But, for sure, near the top of the list would be the extensive choices of aircraft already in the virtual hangar and the enormous size of the included High Resolution Texture pack for Southwestern USA which includes almost 200 detailed airports. I counted 191 total - 145 in California, 25 in Arizona, 19 in Nevada, and two in Utah.
Of course, there’s never been a bigger bang for the buck than the additional fee DLC areas of Switzerland with 33 airports and the Northeastern USA DLC with 19 airports for only $20 for both packs. The exterior and interior textures are on par with the typical payware aircraft that I am familiar with and the airports are approaching stand-alone payware levels for the immediate airport area. These airports need more work in the surrounding areas especially what we see in the approach paths. Working gates and some follow me vehicles would be nice at the larger airports. I don’t think anyone is ever going to be excited about a bunch of flattened houses and buildings when on final at 500 feet.
As mentioned earlier there are even more aircraft at various levels of completions that will appear in the download box sooner or later. The seriously large ones are the B777 and A380. The fun one for me will be the Cirrus SF50 that is finally available for rw delivery and for the historians there is the Wright Flyer. I hear the Wright Flyer is a blast in the VR.
The Bombardier Q400 Turboprop may be completed by the time you are reading this review. If not, it is surely in final checkout or maybe even in the paint shop being readied for delivery. This may be the most advanced regional carrier in the world, so I’m guessing it will be a good one to carry the flag and highlight the new Aerofly FS 2 engine.
A look at the VR modes
Because I don’t have a VR setup is no reason not to include this exciting option in this review. I asked a newcomer to flight simming that uses an Oculus Rift VR setup to fly the Aerofly FS 2 Cessna 172SP for help. Phil’s recommendation is to jump in and enjoy the immersion at a whole new level. Sure, if you wait you can probably get a higher resolution headset with somewhat better integration for reading approach plates and checklists but, that never changes with new technology.
When you startup Aerofly FS 2 you choose one of three modes: the “normal mode” i.e. desktop pc with flat screen monitors or Steam-VR mode or Oculus-VR mode. Aerofly FS 2 supports both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Like everything else, the better or higher-end graphics card you have, the better resolution you will get with any of the 3 choices.
Phil says the larger the flight instruments are the better when using VR. Flying the Baron 58 is borderline, but the airliners’ dials and gauges are hard to read. The single seat gliders and the tandem seat Extra 330 should also be good choices for VR users.
My question is . . . Can you change the radio frequency dials, can you push the AP, NAV or FLC button on the auto flight panel? Can you zoom in to read the PFD or MFD? I suppose I need to find a brick and mortar store and get a VR demo.
I’m holding out and saving my pennies for this one (the one in the cockpit).
Phil Hulme, in the UK, did some good VR research and we have that document available for our readers at www.avsim.com/ Thanks. Phil. You can find a 3 page white paper on VR here:
Some of the 3rd party developers are already at work
William Ortis, LHC owner, has this to say about Aerofly FS2:
Lionheart Creations has screenshots showing one of his planes flying the Aerofly FS 2 skies and shows an image of his Q200 in the Aircraft selection screen. He states there is still work to be done on this one, but he plans to pursue making many of his FSX/P3D payware planes available in Aerofly FS 2 in the future. Bill may surprise us with a new airport one day also.
Orbx has posted a screenshot of the Aerofly FS 2 Cessna 172SP entering downwind at Meig’s Field and Dino Cattaneo has posted at FsVisions that he is looking into adding some of his designs to Aerofly FS 2. He is currently working on two exciting models for P3D – the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Siai Marchetti S-211 or one of the derivatives like the M-311/M-345. Now wouldn’t that pocket rocket be a kick in the butt.
All of these projects are in the exploratory phase as far as becoming models for Aerofly FS 2 but, it sure paints a pretty picture for the future of flight simming.
So what do I think about the Aerofly FS2 flight sim?
I think IPACS and Ikarus are on the right track and understand what it will take for a successful flight simulator. I think they understand the market and are going to be receptive to the wishes and desires of the marketplace. The choice of using Steam based Early Access was a good move and in the right direction for user feedback.
I think the Aerofly FS2 is breaking new ground on several fronts but some are so new and so different from FSX/P3D that it will take some time for some to adapt.
First, understand that this is a 64 bit system and runs at warp speed when compared to a tricked-out typical FSX/P3D setup. The startup and loading time is unbelievably fast - I mean blazingly fast. From first click of a running PC I can be flying in a plane of my choice, in a location of my choice, without anything more than some simple screen selections in about 30 seconds.
I can then choose to change airplanes, change location, change clouds or visibility, and be back flying again in less than 30 seconds, easy.
The interface could not get much simpler. Everything is pretty much pick-and-choose, change if you like, do it again if is not what you thought you were selecting. A few of the icons, locations of icons, moving maps, and VC box across the top of the screen are very different from anything I’ve used in FSX/P3D but I am getting more relaxed as I gain experience.
Fortunately, I have some real world pilot licenses and certificates to remind me that I already know now to fly. I just need to select the airplane, the location, the conditions and go fly. I tend to prefer to fly from outside the cockpit most of the time and this will be a new learning curve for me for a while. The Flight Information Bar or Strip along the top of the screen has most of the information one needs for controlling a flight from outside the cockpit. If the landing gear and spoiler status could be added it would be a big improvement for me.
My Saitek FIPs individual gauges will all be blank unless something happens by a 3rd party developer. The good news is that almost all the Saitek wide panels already work with Aerofly FS 2. This is the Multi panel (AP, CRS, HDG, NAV, Trim wheel, Flaps) Radio Panel, Switch Panel (with Mags, Master, Light switches and Gear lever).
For some reason, the Backlit Info Panel, BIP is not working – maybe that will be addressed in the next update. This would really be important if the gear and spoiler status is not added to the Flight Info panel. I understand all of these panels will receive constant tweaks and updates to keep up with any updates to the sim coding changes.
The good news for those of us who prefer the view from outside the cockpit is that someone at IPACS must be from the same gene pool, hence we already have the nifty Flight Information Panel placed at the top of the screen and loaded with easy to read active flight data. This is a first for any flight sim that I have seen.
Although these wide Saitek Panels, yokes, pedals, throttles, etc are supported, you may find a button, light, or switch that is still mis-behaving. These small gremlins are already on the Aerofly FS 2 team’s radar to track down and fix.
I started a discussion asking IPACS/Ikarus to look into developing some type of flight instrument/flight data transfer to tablets and smart phones. This could be a big boost in the acceptance by the cockpit builders if we could use touch screens for FMS and GPS units and have the basic 6 instruments and a few AP functions on an iPad or Android tablet front and center.
I am waiting to hear if Sim Innovations is going to be one of the 3rd party developers and add Aerofly FS 2 to their IOS and PC based flight sims. That could be a game changer for sure.
User Interface – Simple, easy to use, in-your-face.
The user interface is easy-peasy. It may take a day or so to get familiar with the layout and stacking of the screens but, once you are familiar with the system, this is a very workable interface for any level flight simmer.
Where Aerofly FS 2 really shines is speed and smooooothness. Nary a stutter, not one time. I don’t know if it qualifies for ‘warp speed’ but it must be close. Sulu: Helm ready, Captain. Kirk: All right, Mr. Sulu. Let's see what she's got. Warp speed, Mister Sulu. Sulu: Aye, sir. Warp speed.
Here are a few images that I failed to get in the correct location, but I did want them included. I want to remind folks to use the scroll wheel on the mouse often. It is especially helpful scrolling though the Aircraft Selection screen. I find the Moving Map, the Navigation screen and the Flight Info Strip a good substitute for my trusty GTN750.
So what’s the attraction?
For most folks it will be the speed and smoothness, others the ability to use their VR systems, some will favor the photoscenery and HD airports, others the outstanding aircraft, you will be stunned by the colors, shadows, lighting and such, some will speak of the ease of startup, the simple interface, the sounds, the ability to fly from outside the cockpit, some will mention the perfect setup without making constant adjustments, and others like the Steam setup with automatic updates. Heck, I like it all.
On the horizon, maybe just over the horizon
Just as this review started about being crystal clear, let me close with let’s be crystal clear. By definition, there are no promises made or implied that all, some, or any of the improvements discussed or suggested will be made or be made to our expectations. I have read a lot of posts in a lot of forums and I glean an eagerness for this flight simulator. Who knows, the next DLC or the next aircraft, be it an executive helicopter, a luxury bizjet with global range, or a regional turboprop might be the one object that breaks it wide open. Or it could be one or more of the 3rd party developers stepping in with their specialty, be it scenery, avionics, or specialty aircraft.
This might be a good time to make a pitch for something really special – how about putting this new engine to the ultimate test and build a Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey Tiltrotor. Now wouldn’t that be a fantastic addition to Aerofly FS 2.
This could even be that next big thing. Whoa. When we eventually get water, we can land on aircraft carriers. Before I wake up maybe I should also make a pitch for the ultimate high flyer – How about a Concorde?
Using the recently updated SDK, it is possible to create airports anyplace on earth, add specialty scenery, or build your very own airplane. I am hoping for a few freeware, strategically located airports to expand the boundaries and to connect the East and West coast. May I suggest Anchorage, Wichita, Denver, and Dallas Ft/Worth for a start.
Hopefully, many improvements and enhancements will be made, and sooner is better than later, but we are going to have to exercise a civil attitude and not make unreasonable demands or unrealistic deadlines. Patience will be a virtue.
Meanwhile, let’s go fly.
Screenshot collection and links
The IPACS gallery at https://www.aerofly.com/aerofly_fs_2/aerofly_fs_2_gallery.html is a good start.
The fleet https://www.aerofly.com/aerofly_fs_2/aerofly_fs_2_aircraft.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMvIo4dfcEk 4:48 by Pitts S – Excellent, good music, day, night, many locations
Airplane Single & Multiengine Land
Single Engine Sea
IPACS.de Dr. Torsten Hans for answering my questions.
IKARUS Rudiger Gotz for serving as point of contact for review questions and providing evaluation software
IPACS.de Aircraft Setup team member Jan-Hendrik Hanuschik for background and technical information
LHC William Ortis for providing comments and use of screenshots of Q200
Rob Ainscough for comments and producing 4k videos of Aerofly FS 2 in New York and Switzerland
All the folks that contributed Screenshots and suggestions.