Many flightsim enthusiasts such as me have spent money on different pieces of hardware, such as a yoke or throttles, in the quest to make our home based flying experience more realistic. If you enjoy flying aircraft such as the modern jet liner you have probably wished that you could realistically interact with the FMC. There are some hardware solutions out there but they can be expensive thus making their purchase impractical except for the most ardent flight simmer with a large budget.
Nowadays however, with the advent and proliferation of tablets and WiFi networks we now have the possibility of a much cheaper and equally interactive and realistic software based solution.
A company by the name of TOT has come up with their product, which sells for $19.99 that will make your IOS device appear and act like an FMC. What follows is my review of the TabletFMC on an iPad.
To quote from the developer’s website:
“TabletFMC transforms your iPhone / iPod touch / iPad into a wireless FMC. FMC function of 'Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004' and 'Microsoft Flight Simulator X' can be simulated on the computer with TabletFMC server.”
TabletFMC is an IOS based application that when installed and correctly configured will allow you to have full access and control of an aircraft’s FMC via your iPad in FSX and FS2004. The list of supported aircraft is given below and includes most of the popular jet liners.
The supported aircraft are:
- Boeing - PMDG: 737, 747 (FS2004, FSX)
- Level-D Simulations: Boeing 767 (FS2004, FSX)
- McDonnell Douglas - PMDG: MD-11 (FS2004, FSX)
- feelThere/Wilco Airbus Series Vol1 / 2: A318, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340 (FS2004, FSX)
- iFly Developer Team: Boeing 737 (FS2004, FSX)
- Boeing - feelthere/Wilco: 737 (FS2004, FSX)
- Flight One Software: ATR 72 (FS2004, FSX)
- Boeing - QWSim: 757, C-32A (FS2004)
- Boeing - PSS: 777 (FS2004)
- Airbus - PSS: A319, A320, A321, A330, A340 (FS2004)
- Fokker - Digital Aviation: F-100, F-70, F-70CT (FS2004)
- Captain Sim: Boeing 757 (FS2004, FSX)
Of the list of supported aircraft I only have the PMDG 737 installed so my experiences are limited to that aircraft.
To get this system to work they have two pieces of software. There is the PC based TabletFMC server software and the iPad Tablet FMC client application.
Beginning with the PC based TabletFMC server software which must be downloaded from the developer’s website; http://tabletfmc.tot-games.com/index.html
The “TabletFMC_Server_1.0.1.exe” program is compatible with Windows XP, Vista and 7. There is no installation needed, once you’ve downloaded it you simply run it.
The other application you need is the iPad app which is also very simple to get; it is available via the iTunes AppStore. You will need to input your iTunes account info, locate the application and make the purchase. The app will then be downloaded to your mobile device. That’s all there is to it. There is now an icon on your home screen titled “TabletFMC”.
The product’s documentation consists of a single page “manual” on their website or a single screen on the iPad. The information is rudimentary but then again setting up and running the apps couldn’t be any simpler.
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This is a good place to bring up a couple of additional points that you will need to keep in mind as the program has some limitations and a number of requirements in order for it to function properly.
- TabletFMC Server requires that FSUIPC be installed; it can be downloaded for free from: http://forum.simflight.com/topic/66139-updated-modules;
- TabletFMC works in windowed mode only;
- TabletFMC and TabletFMC Server must be on the same WiFi network as this is how they communicate;
- Your firewall must allow the application to pass;
- The FMC must be undocked; and
- The FMC must remain 100% visible on your screen for you to see the entire FMC on your tablet. WYSIWYG, is the phrase to keep in mind here; what you see is what you get.
The whole premise of this app is to convert your iPad/iPod/iPhone into an aircraft’s FMC. This should make using the FMC seem much more realistic than clicking on a monitor with a mouse pointer.
Throughout all phases of my test flights I utilized this system exclusively to see how well it worked and how it compared to the “old” way of interacting with the aircraft’s FMC.
It did require me to make a change in the way I normally run FSX. I have always run FSX in full screen mode so that had to change; FSX must be in windowed mode. I balked at first but if you want to use this app there is no other way.
It was now time to start the TabletFMC server program on my PC and make my selections. You are required to make three selections from the available drop down menus. The selections are straightforward and self-explanatory. Currently they are not saved and you have to go through this short process whenever you start the TabletFMC server software. I was informed that this will be changed in a subsequent update so that your selections will be saved.
Next I opened up the FMC on my PC making sure it was 100% visible and undocked.
Going to my iPad I started the TabletFMC client app. This is when the connection is made between the iPad and the PC. You need your PC’s IP address or hostname. If you are unsure of what you need to type you can select “Refresh Server List” which should give you your PC’s information. Once you have it just type it into the text box and press “Connect”. If all works as it is supposed to you will see the aircraft’s FMC displayed on your iPad.
Note: If for some reason the two don’t communicate you will want to confirm that the TabletFMC server software is allowed to go through any firewalls you may have in place.
With all the preliminaries done it was time to see how it all worked. The first thing I noticed was that the FMC was a perfect fit on the screen. There were no borders or blank spots anywhere on the screen. When I looked at my iPad I was looking at the aircraft’s FMC. Visually, the look is very convincing.
The next step was to access and program the FMC which is extremely important. I worked my way through every phase of a number of different flights, I have to say that I never ran into a situation where the iPad did not control the aircraft’s FMC; this aspect worked flawlessly.
Every page, every line select key, every keypad key that I was able to press or select with my mouse on the screen now worked on the iPad. There was nothing I couldn’t do from my iPad, every action and input was displayed on the FMC on my PC’s monitor and the aircraft reacted to these inputs just as it was supposed to.
Here are just a very small sampling of the many pages you will access in the FMC and how they look on the iPad.
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They make mention of possible lag time and I did find myself getting ahead of the system on the odd occasion. I think that the speed with which I was able to program the FMC can be attributed with just how easy it is to use the system. It is so much more intuitive than dragging a mouse across a screen when you have to enter data or access different pages on the FMC. Any delays encountered were not enough to diminish the enjoyment or realism the product offered. Depending on your particular setup the length of any delays may vary.
It has already been established that the FMC must be 100% visible and undocked for the system to work. Just to show you what happens when only a part of the FMC is visible on your PC’s monitor here are a couple of screenshots.
When I wasn’t programming the FMC I really didn’t want to see it on my screen. I found that it took up far too much visual real estate for my liking. To illustrate this I have provided two screenshots; one while in the virtual cockpit and another from an external viewpoint. This of course is personal preference; you may not feel that way.
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Not wanting it open when I wasn’t using it left me with two choices; close the FMC and reopen it when it came time to use it again or simply drag it out of the way. Both options are simple and worked quite well. If you choose the latter and forget to undock the FMC you will be reminded of that on your iPad when you go to use it. A message that reads: “Notification Please open the FMC window” will appear in the screen.
| Test System |
• iPad2 64GB with iOS5
• Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 GHz
• 12 Gb RAM
• EVGA GTX560 Ti w/1.2 GB
• Win 7 Ultimate 64
• FSX w/acceleration
Flying Time: 9 hours
Reviewed By: Rick Desjardins
Having your iPad look and act like an FMC is what it’s all about and this product delivers that functionality as advertised. Using their app made the whole process of interacting with the FMC much more convincing. There are what I consider to be a few downsides to the product such as running FSX in windowed mode and the 100% visibility requirement. If you can work within these visual constraints then I believe you will be in for a treat and be a step closer to that realistic flying experience we all seek.
What I like
- Easy to install.
- Allows direct programming of the FMC.
- Overall the iPad based FMC was very responsive.
- Perfectly sized on the screen for maximum visual realism.
What I don't like
- FSX must be run in Windowed mode.
- FMC must be completely visible on your monitor’s screen.