FS2Crew should be no stranger to simmers who are serious about attaining the utmost of realism in their FSX or FS9 experience. A few years ago FS2Crew released the 747 Voice Commander for the PMDG 747. This variation of the 747 product line was never reviewed and since the PMDG 747 is still quite popular, I thought it would be a good idea to review this product and to comment on whether or not it is worth the investment today.
So what exactly does the 747 voice commander have to offer? Well here are a few features that have been highlighted by the developer:
- Customized to work exclusively with the PMDG 747 aircraft. This is not a 'generic' simulation. It was 'custom coded' to match the precise nuances of the 747 aircraft and its procedures.
- Run checklists and issue commands using voice control!
- Full voice control integration: Interact with the flight, cabin and ground crew using your voice!
- For maximum realism, SOPs modeled on the same procedures used by a real-world airline.
- Real human recorded United States, United Kingdom and Eurozone voice sets included for the First --Officer, FA and ground crew. FS2Crew does not use computer generated synthetic voices!
- FA Cabin announcements with independent adjustable volume control.
- New features such as the ability to 'mute' the speech recognition system (hard mute and soft mute)
- And a whole lot more!!!
Free Bonus Features!
FS Video Marshaller: A 14 Euro value, this utility allows you to interact with the ground crew using video technology.
As you can see, the list of features in the 19.95 Euro product is quite impressive. During this review we will look at the functionality and practicality of this product which is stated to work not only with the passenger version of the PMDG747, but also with the expansion packs.
Installation & Setup
Logically, it would be best to start off with the installation and setup since it requires a few additional steps in order to get the speech recognition working correctly. After downloading the product, the installation itself is quite easy and you should have no problems whatsoever at this point. The tricky part comes with the setup.
Fortunately, the manual is well written and very detailed with a segment dedicated to setting up your speech recognition. It is important that you read this section of the manual very carefully since the setup will vary depending on the Windows operating system you are using. Currently I am using Windows 8 and it already comes with speech recognition.
After following the setup instructions, I was able to successfully setup and “train” my computer to recognize my voice and the way I speak in a matter of 10 minutes.
After you have successfully setup your speech recognition options on your operating system, you will have to configure your FS2Crew which is also covered in the manual. My next recommendation to users is to ensure that you understand how this produce works by reviewing the section of the manual that covers voice commands that trigger various actions.
This is very important and you should always speak clearly into your microphone at all times to ensure the right commands are executed. This does not at all mean that you have to speak the Queen’s English, but you should simply speak clearly as you would in a normal conversation. All in all the setup should not prove to be difficult to the average PC user.
After flying the 747 for sometime without the aid of FS2Crew, I could safely conclude that the PMDG747 is quite a challenge to fly if you are going to do everything by the book. This challenge increases when you inject other factors such as flying online with live ATC or flying in extreme weather.
Keep in mind that this aircraft was designed for a crew of two pilots and you are quickly reminded of this when you have to fly, talk to ATC and fly instrument approaches in near zero visibility. Under normal circumstances in the real world, the pilot that is flying will not have to worry about many other tasks since the pilot not flying will take care of them. FS2crew affords you the opportunity to experience such an environment and it does so quite nicely.
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The interface that is used to control various features of this program is very easy to use and you are able to adjust many setting to tailor to your fancy. One of the features of this product I like the most is that you don’t have to always start from the preflight procedures. If you started your flight with engines on, you can initiate the program from that point onward.
Another feature worth mentioning is the mute button. I learned how useful this feature can be while flying one day and having a conversation with someone next to me. If you are not careful you might say the wrong thing and the program just might pick it up. For this reason it is recommended that when you are not using the program, such as in the cruise phase of your flight, you should use the mute button and then take it off when you wish to issue a command.
Moving now to the actual experience and whether or not this program is worth the investment, I had the opportunity to test the voice commander on 3 flights using the passenger and freighter versions of the 747. My first flight was onboard a KLM flight from TNCM to TNCA. The second was a cargo flight from KSFO to KCVG and finally a 5 hour flight from KCVG to PANC onboard the 747-8F.
Almost immediately I noticed a difference in the decreased work load I would have otherwise had. Since the interface is not required to be open at all times to use the program, the realism of this experience is unbelievable. My first flight from TNCM to TNCA didn’t really show the full potential of the voice commander since the weather was wonderful and there was no ATC.
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My second flight however put me through the paces with lots of traffic, full ATC coverage and poor weather. Normally I would be minding my P’s and Q’s trying to fly the aircraft and talking to ATC at the same time but this was not the case at all. Being able to command your FO to raise or lower the landing gear and flaps was invaluable when you are fighting a crosswind or flying in poor weather.
Another aspect of this program I enjoyed the most is that various procedures that take place on the pedestal or overhead panel are done “silently” or previewed in a small window which does not obstruct your view while flying. This is a significant aid when taxiing or in any other critical phase of flight and not having to switch between panels or if flying in the VC, not having to change your view to flip switches.
My final flight was really to test the expansion packs for the PMDG747 and to assess whether there would be a significant difference in the operations of the passenger and cargo models. You will be delighted to know that there is a difference in that certain procedures that relate to passenger airplanes are omitted when flying the freighter models.
So what’s the verdict? Honestly, I think that this product is invaluable. The benefit of being able to fly “hands free” enhances the simulation experience 100 fold. While the PMDG747 is showing its age when compared to newer products, the 747 voice commander certainly enhances the value of this aircraft and brings it to life in a new and exciting way.
At a price of 19.95 Euros, you can’t go wrong with this product and I would strongly recommended this title if you already have the PMDG747 or if you’re still on the fence about getting it. There is no better feeling that being able to fly the Queen of the Skies in the most realistic of environments.
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Final Thoughts & Acknowledgments
| Publisher: FS2CREW |
Reviewed By: Marlon Carter
If realism is your aim, FS2Crew 747 voice commander is a must have and you will notice the difference almost immediately when using this product. Provided you read the manuals and acquaint yourself with the proper checklist and flying procedures, I am confident you will enjoy this as much as I did.
What I Like About 747 Voice Commander
- Easy to use Interface
- Creates the perfect airline flying experience
- Innovative use of Microsoft Speech Recognition
- Eases the workload of the Flying Pilot.
- Mute button which allows you to speak while flying online and not affect FS2Crew functions
What I Dislike About 747 Voice Commander
- Setting up the speech recognition takes some time but it is well worth the effort as it can also be very useful when using your PC for other tasks
- This isn’t a dislike since it's expected that you should always speak properly, but using this product requires that you speak clearly and this can be a challenge depending on your accent.