• Wilco Publishing CRJ Next Generation for FSX


    Gaiiden

    I have always thought that the CRJ from Bombardier Aerospace company, looked a little odd with the extremely long fuselage, the Learjet nose and what seem to be ridiculously small engines on the side of the aircraft near the rear.

    That said however, it is a beautiful aircraft and it carries with it the legacy of the quality and precision that makes the Lear so popular with businessmen and luminaries around the world. From as far back as my Flight Simulator 98 days, I have always had a big affinity for the lovely old Learjets.

    Wilco’s latest product, the next generation CRJ, which comprises the 700, 800, 900, and 1000 variants of this aircraft, as the name suggests, deals exclusively with the new and upgraded next generation versions of the jet.

    These next generation jets are equipped with new version leading edge flaps and a new wing design. Further upgrades have included updates to the cabins as well and variations in the fuel system allowing for extended range.

    It also goes without saying that the jet is extremely popular with regional operators worldwide. They are extremely ubiquitous at small and medium sized airports around the world and also of course at the large international airports.

    Installation and documentation

    The file download is a 218 MB large file, so it is clear from the outset that there is a bit of bulk to this package! Once the file is downloaded, simply run it, and it will ask you to key in your license key received from Wilco Publishing. An internet connection is required to verify the installation.

    Once this has been done, proceed to install the aircraft in your FSX directory. Installation will take about 1-2 minutes depending on your HDD speed and your system. Once this is done, you can proceed to run FSX and allow certain .dll’s to operate within the FSX environment. No vices to report with the installation at all.

    Once you go to your FSX\SimObjects\Aircraft folder, you will find that the manuals were placed in their own folder in the folder. A little different to the conventional “inside the aircraft folder” approach, but there you are!

    Inside the Wilco CRJ Manuals folder, you will find the following documentation:

    • CRJ Specifications document, a 2-page .pdf containing all the technical information on the CRJ; and
    • CRJ Nextgen Guide, another .pdf containing 13 pages of information on the installation, introduction, the panels and FMS of the aircraft, as well as the basic operation of the aircraft

    Although the documentation is well composed, easy to read and also easy to understand, it seems a little basic. I have little to no experience flying the jet, so for me a good introduction to how the various systems interject on the aircraft would have been nice.

    That said, however, it remains a rather simplified aircraft type in comparison to the Boeings and Airbuses of this world, and it is not absolutely required to get you going either. Most of the manual comprises operating the FMS. Apart from being fully VNAV and LNAV capable, it has one or two features particular to the product. More on that later.

    The manual is graphically impressive and also further contains the contact details of the publishers should you run into any kind of trouble that you cannot sort out yourself. It also guides you through the rather straight forward starting process.

    Preliminary

    Now, right off the bat, this is NOT a pilot-in-command style product. This means that the aircraft is a simplified model, and not as complex as their pilot in command products, like for example the 737 which is systematically comprehensive.

    There is also no “cold and dark” option for the panel. This means that you need to employ the old Cessna trick. There is also no external fuel loading or pax/cargo loading utilities. You simply calculate the weight and enter it into the different stations in the normal “Fuel and Payload” section under the menu. When done with this, you simply proceed to load the information into the FMS so it can calculate your performance data, but more on that a little later to!

    You also get the 700, 800, 900, and 1000 series with their different seating and performance adjustments. So it is not simply the exterior that changes, the aircraft dynamics also change, but more on the later when we discuss the flight model.

    The navigation data for the FMS is available on the Navigraph site for purchase and download as well, so you don’t have to be concerned with outdated nav data.

    Exterior

    The exterior is exquisite! If you take a look at the landing gear bays you will see the immense detail in the gear struts. The textures are high quality and the aircraft dimensions are all correct according to photos that I had viewed from the internet.

    The fan blades are also beautifully modeled, they don’t have the “empty” look that you sometimes find in products. There were also complaints about the gear sinking through the runways etc, which have all been attended to and all being fixed.

    All the parts move and act the way they should. I have no gripes about the exterior of the aircraft. What I do miss though are a few signs that the aircraft has seen some action, the little signs of wear and tear.

    I will let the screenshots do the talking here:

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    As you can see, the exterior is a masterpiece!

    Interior

    Right, now the business end. The aircraft comes with a flyable 2D cockpit, however, you cannot see the instruments at all! You can only see to the bottom of the autopilot controls. This is more than a little disappointing. Now, I don’t fly 2D anymore, but there are a lot of guys out there who still do and if 2D is your thing, you might have an issue here!

    The rest of the views to the sides and up and down are pretty standard from what you would expect from a 2D cockpit. The other thing that I notice, although sound related, is that when you pan around the 2D cockpit, the sound starts acting up – it appears and disappears, sounds like stutters! Another disappointment in respect of the 2D cockpit.

    In general, one may conclude that this is not really an aircraft you will fly from the 2D cockpit - it sort of forces you to fly from the 3D one!

    In the 3D cockpit, things change...substantially! Apart from the fact that there are no sound issues at all when panning around the cockpit, you can now see what needs to be seen, like the instruments!

    From the screenshots you will see that graphically, the aircraft is not a Picasso - the warning buttons are very blurry. I find that the perspective of actually sitting in the aircraft feels more real and looks a bit better if you use a zoom of 80 instead of 70. This may however be just personal preference and I will not comment on the correctness or otherwise of the cockpit perspective. The reason? I have never been in one myself!

    There are various 2D pop-ups that can be accessed whilst flying in the 3D VC. They are:
    • The displays;
    • The radio stack;
    • The EFIS adjustment section on the pedestal;
    • A very nicely modeled overhead panel;
    • As expected, also an FMC;
    • Enlarged PFD;
    • Enlarged ND; and
    • Enlarged upper engine display

    As far as I am concerned, no VC should ever be without the option to pop a few 2D panels up for ease of use and Wilco has done so brilliantly here.

    I also find that panning up to the overhead instead of using the 2D is a joy - the panel has been designed very well - it is crisp and clear and although at a bit of an angle, I found no difficulties in locating and using the items. This is one of the most impressive features of the VC!

    The throttle quadrant and the rest of the pedestals in the VC, including the radio stack, are well modeled and easy to use in the VC mode, except for the captain’s radio which is partly obscured by the arm support. Oh well, back to the 2D pop-up for this function!

    A word of caution on the 2D pop-up for the radios and pedestal - the proportions in the default pop-up is completely out! You simply need to stretch the pedestal by enlarging it like you would any other window within windows itself. You simply left click and hold the top part and stretch it until the proportions are right, then release the button and presto, you’re done! It will now remain looking right for the duration of the flight.

    Another thing - since this is not the pilot in command series, quite a few switches and systems don’t work, but to be honest, this didn’t bother me too much. As long as you know that you are not getting every system in the book before you buy the aircraft, you will not be disappointed. The heard of the aircraft is there and it works properly!

    The displays are clear and although not on the NGX’s standard, I have no gripes about them! You won’t find them difficult to read at all.

    So how are we doing on the FPS here? The answer is very well indeed! This product is extremely fps friendly, just like the developers say on their website. My fps never dropped below 30 fps, even on the ground at add-on airports.

    Final verdict then? The VC is a perfect balance between quality and efficiency - both FPS-wise and also very user friendly! It certainly won’t blow your mind, but it won’t disappoint you terribly either. I liked it. Here are some screenshots:

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    Sound

    First off, all the aural sounds you expect like warnings and configuration problems are there. Flaps and speed brake sounds are not there. I watched a few cockpit videos to try and determine if this is accurate, however I cannot draw any conclusions - maybe a real world CRJ pilot can comment on that.

    The longer the aircraft (like the 1000) the further away you are from the engines and the lower the engine noises are. Conversely, the closer you get to the engines (like in the 700), the louder the engine sounds become. Nicely done!

    The engines themselves sound very good! The one thing that I always have a gripe with is the lack of wind noise in a sound set! Observing the real thing from cockpit videos, it is quite clear that the engine sounds cannot be heard over the wind noise in the cockpit when flying nice and fast, so this again, is a bit of a gripe for me. Although not as bad as some of the aircraft I have come across in the past, the engines are just too loud at high speed.

    The gear retract sounds are there as well as some nice touch down sounds. In general, apart from the few items that I have listed above, the sound set adds to the immersion of the package. A few niggles here and there, but nonetheless, quite well done.

    Flight model

    Now for the flight model. Is it any good? Let us take it through a test flight to see how it comes along!

    I have added my pax and cargo as per my abovementioned list of directions. I now sit in the aircraft with all the power off and the aircraft is now cold and dark. Powering the aircraft up, couldn’t be easier - I switch on the battery, I make sure the generators and the APU generator are all switched off. I then open the APU door, start the APU and connect it to the system. Once this is done, I start both engines and connect their generators - that’s it!

    From here I quickly enter the flight plan and performance data into the FMS. There is not much to say here, it is nicely explained in the manual. Just remember that the FMS has a copy and paste feature for setting the aircraft’s position into the FMS. This is done by switching to the second INIT page, copying the information and then pasting it into the first page on the into the POS area. Presto, you are done!

    I found operating the FMS a joy and I cannot report any dislikes or vices here. You can be ready to taxi in less than 5 minutes - I cannot say if the aircraft is this quick and easy to setup in real life, because I have never had the pleasure of doing so, but I found the simulation experience to be enjoyable.

    So, the aircraft is setup, and we are ready to taxi to the runway. I found the feel of the aircraft whilst taxiing on the ground very pleasing indeed! Although the aircraft is small in comparison to a Boeing or an Airbus, you will always feel the weight of a few tons of aircraft. This is also the case here!

    She is light and nimble on the ground, but again that empty feeling is not there, in other words, you don’t get the feeling you are taxiing a set of textures around a runway - it feels like an aircraft (if that makes any sense!).

    So now we are lined up on the runway and we are ready to go. Now, just like an Airbus, we have detents on the throttles for CRZ, CLB, and TO. This sets the correct power for you. You know when it is in a detent as you get a very satisfying “clack” noise. After setting the stabilizer trim and the flaps up properly, you are ready to go.

    The FMS automatically calculates your take off speeds for you. I don’t know how accurate these speeds are, but they work in the simulator! So, here we go - we set the throttles to TO detent and the aircraft powers up and starts running down the runway. What I did was to take off from different locations, different altitudes MSL and also different temperatures to throw all sorts of different scenarios at the old girl to see what she is capable of, and time and again, with different weights and temperatures and altitudes, the computed speeds were safe and workable. I was rather impressed!

    Now, for our test flight I selected to fly from KORD to KDAY, a journey of around 220nm.

    As I run down the runway, I check to see what the FADEC systems are doing and how well they are coping with the throttle settings. This is where my first gripe comes from - the engine power runs way past the take-off setting, then corrects to way below and catches up to the take-off setting it is supposed to be at. The auto throttle system is not as precise as I had hoped and I was a little bit disappointed with this.

    However, you are stabilized way before take-off. I loaded the aircraft with the maximum amount of payload and the amount of fuel I thought was necessary for the flight. I selected the navigation settings on the EFIS controls on the pedestal to fly from the FMS and not the VOR, so once I would get airborne, I could test the FMS’ metal!

    Once I reach rotate speed, I pull back on the control column in the 1000 - I was half expecting to find a seriously sensitive pitch behavior...but NO! The aircraft needs quite a tug on the old control column to get the nose up and then to get it airborne. It really feels like what you would expect an aircraft of that size to be like!

    Once I reach 400 feet AGL, I turn the auto pilot systems on to fly off runway 36 and direct to FWA. It is both vertically and horizontally capable, so you can fly the departure (and arrivals for that matter!) using full auto pilot navigation. It will also control the thrust for you.

    Once I have sufficient height, I retract the flaps and slats and I accelerate the aircraft. Then the next gripe I have with the auto pilot on climb out appears - it tends to over pitch easily as you turn when you are doing a SID - you won’t stall, but I cannot imagine that this is normal! That was also more than a touch disappointing and quite frankly rather annoying. I also found that when you get the auto pilot a little out of sync with the flight path it starts to oscillate badly and it doesn’t want to correct itself, especially when changing speeds during climb. Therefore, it is clear that although the auto pilot is present and correct, there are a few issues that need to be addressed by patches in the future (I think?).

    I select an altitude of FL260 for the flight. Now, the management system takes your inputs but it is not as sophisticated as the Boeings and Airbuses of this world. Much of it is guidance only and you have to manage the rest.

    The aircraft is very stable during climb and also in cruise. The computer logic is also correct. If you ask the auto pilot to maintain 250 KIAS in the climb, it will keep the CLB thrust setting and pitch up and down to maintain the selected airspeed. Nice!

    Climb thrust also updates automatically like in a 737 or his friends. Upon reaching 10 000 feet MSL, I select to climb at 280/M0.78. Thrust is still automatically calculated, the pitch changes and presto, I am climbing at 280 KIAS, that is unless the oscillation begins, but once over 10 000 feet MSL and you are in stable flight, you don’t have difficulties.

    Upon reaching my cruising altitude, I pull the throttles back to the CRZ detent, and the aircraft automatically levels off at FL260 for the cruise.

    One of the other features about the FMC that I like is the ability to set your radios and transponder up using an option built in to the FMC - very nice! Not sure if this feature is present on the real thing but it is very convenient when simming.

    Now I start setting up the arrival, we will use ILS 28 at KORD with a WATSN 1 arrival from FWA VOR. I easily enter this data into the FMC.

    Now the auto pilot is showing me that I am not far away from my descent point. I also found that the aircraft has a tendency to oscillate and run away here. Another disappointment. Flying the approach and landing was nice and stable, although one gets the feeling that a lot of FSX native technology exists in the auto pilot for this phase of the flight as well.

    Taxiing in and shutting down was uneventful.

    So, on the flight model? It sure needs lots more work to get it absolutely right, that’s for sure!

    Performance

    As I have said before the aircraft is incredibly fps friendly! I have a Q9550 quad core pc with 6 GB RAM and also a 480GTX 768 MB GeForce graphics card, but I seriously doubt that you will have any difficulties if you have anywhere near the recommended system specifications for this aircraft - as always though, rather be safe than sorry; make sure you have the minimum system requirements!

    In Conclusion

    Publisher: Wilco
    Platform: FSX
    Reviewed By: Werner Gillespie
    Final verdict then? Well... Although there is a lot of potential in this product, there are still some fatal flaws in the FMS and the way the aircraft handles under certain circumstances. It is almost better simply to hand fly the aircraft under certain conditions where the auto pilot would be the most useful.

    Hand flying the aircraft is a dream! It handles beautifully, but one has to frown on the other issues that aircraft has that simply cannot be overlooked. So, are the 30-odd Euros that you will be spending on the product worth it? The answer is unfortunately no, in my opinion. The aircraft is overpriced for the current stage of development. Sure, there are many nice aspects that I have highlighted above but the gripes I have are just too serious to really enjoy the simulation.

    If you are just making the step up from the default aircraft in FSX, you will get a nice learning experience and you might enjoy it, but for the hardcore simulator fan, I doubt you will find a fulfilling simulation experience with this product.

    What I Like About the CRJ
    • Beautiful exterior model;
    • The sounds are very good;
    • The VC is quite well modeled apart from the issues I have listed above;
    • You really do get 4 different aircraft in terms of sound and also performance wise;
    • A rather comprehensive FMS system.
    • Clear displays, easy to read and to operate;
    • The hand flying capabilities of the aircraft - it is a joy to fly by hand!

    What I Don't Like About the CRJ

    • The fact that the 2D panel is not practical to fly from;
    • The sound issues when panning around in the 2D cockpit or when popping up certain panels in the 2D cockpit!
    • The fatal flaws in the FMS;
    • The price!


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