Table of Contents
Due to the length and complexity of the review, I’ve decided to add a table of contents to it so here we go …..
Dear flight simmers,
"This review is a mix between the original launched Airsimmer Airbus A320 version 1.0 and the recently Service Pack. This means this review will cover parts related to the original configuration and then in particular, the flight dynamics. I’ve tried to make a difference by mentioning if you’re reading test flights related to version 1.0 or 1.1. Excuse me for this, but I can tell you it was a hell of a job to write it that way; that it stays understandable and what kind of product it has become after the SP. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to leave a message on the forum or else just send me an e-mail. Thanks for your understanding." A.v.C.
It seems that for some reason developers – except Wilco Publishing/FeelThere – try to stay far away from Airbus airplanes and in particular those with highly realistic cockpits including good and realistic functionalities. If AirSimmer with their Basic A320 model is able to change that, we will see during this review and I tell you that this model didn’t offer what we hoped for, or at least what I was hoping for. Let’s take for example the PMDG 747-400 or the MD-11 or the recent released Jetstream and not to forget the Leonardo SH Maddog 2008 Professional. These models and thus the vendors, have proven what they can create and that they have the knowledge to do so, but AirSimmer is new so are they able to compete with these highly skilled developers?
Time will tell and for the moment, it’s my turn to see what this A320 can do and what it can’t. By the way, on their home page there’s a little note telling us that the product is not bug free. Isn’t that a little strange? Let’s first see what kind of model this is and if it’s worth purchasing based on those specifications.
"AirSimmer A320 Family is a complete, ultra-realistic and immersive simulation of an Airbus A320 Family of aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X. The A320 Family comes in two editions: Basic and Advanced.
The Basic Edition – that’s the version being reviewed - is perfect for Flight Simulation enthusiasts who are just introducing themselves to flying the A320 and want to learn the basics without the pressure of having to read extensive documentation. It is also perfect for those who enjoy top-quality visual models, immersive sound environment, and the ease of flight that the A320’s Fly-By-Wire technology offers."
Just a small note .. I’m always wondering why developers are telling us that their model offers Fly-By-Wire technology. Either I’m stupid and don’t understand anything about flight controls or we’re confusing things and making things look better or more advanced than they really are. Older commercial aircraft have cable/hydraulic input controlled flight controls while modern airplanes and in particular the Airbus family, offers a mix between electrical/hydraulic input controlled flight controls or a mix between the previously mentioned ways. On the other hand, Flight Simulator is a software program and this means it doesn’t offer any cables, turnbuckles, or whatever is fitted in a cable system. Therefore any MSFS airplane – default or add-on – is in one way or the other a kind of fly-by-wire model.
No, I don’t want to add a complete description in this review of what the real difference is between these systems. Probably another review? As the name suggests, fly by wire is flying with the help of an electrical wire. Nice, but that’s unfortunately not even half of the real story.
Apart from my small note on the left, all the above is directly from the AirSimmer website and while reading and trying to understand it all, it seems it’s a great model but is this true? While later on in my review, it seems that not many things are simulated as I had hoped for and some important auto flight- and general systems are not always doing what they should do, they sometimes results in unpleasant surprises.
What I mentioned before, found on the AirSimmers website, is the not bug free product. While the product was launched, AirSimmer was aware of known bugs or if you wish, a non-optimal product. It means the A320 still has a lot of bugs as you can read below;
"Although it was always our intention to release a completely bug free product, the realities of the current economic crisis affecting all of us to some measure, have forced us to reconsider and to release the Basic edition before each and every bug has been fixed. Although we are proud of what the team has accomplished thus far, we want to categorically state that, even though none of the remaining bugs are critical to product performance, we are by no means satisfied with the state of the product. We are absolutely aware of every bug currently unfixed in the Basic edition and commit to you that our team will not rest until they are dealt with through frequent updates via the AirSimmer Tablet PC. We appreciate your patience and understanding while we proceed to fix these remaining imperfections."
Oops, that’s not good and surfing on their forum tells me that indeed lots of things are not correct. Ok, no add-on aircraft is perfect and needs Service Packs to get it right, but I’ve never seen this before that a vendor writes on their website that bugs are always inevitable. It seems while writing this on January 5th, this particular paragraph is removed from the Airsimmer website after the launch of the Service Pack or I’m looking on the wrong page. Anyway, if this is too quick, that’s something I have to find out.
My personal experience tells me that forum replies are not always as real as they are and some never read the manuals and thus have problems with the model because they don’t know how it works. Others say they own a valid ATPL pilot license and fly in real life with an airliner. Of course, that could be true. However, it could be a lie. Suppose it’s right, are they an A320, Boeing, Fokker or Douglas pilot?
Every manufacturer has its own philosophy on how to create things, how to make them available for pilots and what about maintenance. What I want to point out is that flying and handling a Boeing 747-400 is different than an Airbus A340-600 simply because controlling and operating the Auto Flight is totally different. Am I going get problems from real pilots now? I don’t think so because they know what I mean. Anyway, this intermezzo had nothing to do with the AirSimmer website and/or forum replies or did it!
Ok, let’s get back to the content. The review covers the first AirSimmers model, the Basic Airbus A320. According to AirSimmer, the time-line without dates is as follows:
FS9 Basic A320
FSX A320 Basic
Keeping this single AirSimmer Airbus model in mind, I hope it can compete with the Wilco Publishing Volume 1. You could have your thoughts about the Wilco models, but one thing has be said, Wilco offers both the FS2004 and FSX models for the same price. Furthermore, the user can configure it based on his/her own experience (beginners, intermediate and experienced) and the package comes with all the A320 family members, which are the A318, A319, A320 and the A321.
Ok, probably the Wilco models still have some problems, but AirSimmer must prove that their product is better, that it is more accurate, even more realistic etc. than others as they promised the flight sim market beforehand. I think it’s time to start with the AirSimmer Airbus and I can only say; have fun reading this Airbus A320 review.
The Airbus A320 family is a family of short to medium-range, narrow-body, commercial passenger jet airliners manufactured by Airbus Industries although the official name was changed on July 10th 2000 into EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company). The family includes the A318, A319, A320, and A321, as well as the ACJ business jet.
The first member of the A320 family, the A320, was launched in March 1984, first flew on 22 February 1987, and was first delivered in 1988. The family was soon extended to include the A321 (first delivered 1994), the A319 (1996), and the A318 (2003). The A320 family pioneered the use of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems in a commercial aircraft. It was also the first, and currently the only, narrow body aircraft in the Airbus lineup.
With over 4,000 built and an additional 2,400 on order as of November 2009, the Airbus A320 family is Airbus's best-selling aircraft to date. It is also the second best-selling jet airliner family, behind its competitor, the Boeing 737. After the initial success of the A300, Airbus began developing a new model aimed at replacing the world's most popular aircraft at the time, the Boeing 727.
The new Airbus would be of the same size, yet offer improved operating economics and various passenger capacities. The digital technology in the A320 would herald a two-generation technological leap over the all-analogue Boeing 727 and be a generation ahead of the Boeing 737-300/-400/-500 series. The A320 was targeted at the global fleet replacement requirements for the 727 and early variants of the 737.
After the oil price rises of the 1970s, Airbus needed to minimize the trip fuel costs of the A320. To that end, Airbus incorporated advanced features including fly-by-wire flight control, composite primary structures, centre-of-gravity control using fuel, glass cockpit (EFIS) and a two-person flight deck. The end result was that the A320 consumes 50% less fuel than the 727. According to a study cited by the Stockholm Environmental Institute, the A320 burns 11,608 kilograms of jet fuel flying between Los Angeles and New York City, which is about 77.4 kilograms per passenger in an A320 with 150 seats.
Bernard Ziegler was the initiator of the aircraft's then revolutionary fly-by-wire flight controls with side stick cockpit controller and full glass cockpit. He successfully convinced aviation authorities of the concept's validity.
Airbus requires about eight months building an A320 jetliner. Components from various Airbus plants are transported to the final assembly plant at Hamburg Finkenwerder for the A318/A319/A320/A321 and to Toulouse Blagnac for the A320. Nearly all assemblies are moved using Airbus' A300-600ST 'Beluga' outsized transporters.
The Airbus A320 family is a low-wing cantilever monoplane with a conventional tail unit with a single fin and rudder. They have a retractable tricycle landing gear and are powered by two wing mounted turbofan engines. Compared to other airliners of the same class, the A320 features a wider single-aisle cabin of 155.5 inches (3.95 m) outside diameter, compared to 148 inches (3.8 m) in the Boeing 737 and 131.6 inches (3.34 m) in the Boeing 717, and larger overhead bins, along with fly-by-wire technology. In addition, the aircraft has a spacious cargo hold equipped with large doors to assist in expedient loading and unloading of goods.
The A320 features an ECAM (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor) which gives the flight crew information about all the systems of the aircraft.
With the exception of the very earliest A320s, most can be upgraded to the latest avionics standards, keeping the aircraft advanced even after two decades in service. The flight deck is equipped with EFIS with side stick controllers. At the time of the aircraft's introduction, the behavior of the fly-by-wire system (equipped with full flight envelope protection) was a new experience for many pilots. Three suppliers provide turbofan engines for the A320 series: CFM International with their CFM56, International Aero Engines, offering the V2500 and Pratt & Whitney whose PW6000 engines are only available for the A318 variant.
used in the A320 includes:
Finally, the A320 series has two variants, the A320-100 and A320-200. Only 21 A320-100s were ever produced; these aircraft, the first to be manufactured, were delivered only to Air Inter (an airline later acquired by Air France) and British Airways (as a result of an order from British Caledonian Airways made prior to its acquisition by British Airways). The A320-200 features wingtip fences and increased fuel capacity over the A320-100 for increased range; other than that differences are minimal. The last five A320-100 aircraft, operated by British Airways, were disposed of at the end of 2007. Typical range with 150 passengers for the A320-200 is about 2,900 nautical miles (5,400 km).
It is powered by two CFM56-5 or IAE V2500 with thrust ratings between 25,500 to 27,000 pounds force (113 kN to 120 kN). And finally; the direct Boeing competitor is the 737-800 and before Boeing cancelled the program, the McDonnell Douglas MD80 Series, the Boeing 717 and even our own Fokker F100, but that’s all history.
Installation and documentation
you and I know, there’s no need to spend more words
then needed regarding the Flight1 wrapper/installer however,
I could write something about what happened
after the installation and
what you can do with the TabletPC AirSimmer shortcut on your
The TabletPC is a very nice tool that combines AirSimmer related things together. That means you’ll find your license information, available liveries and which ones you’ve already installed, a fuel planner, a load manager, a TO calculator, the Acrobat manuals, links to the website and forum, 2D panel aspect ratios, possible updates, key settings etc.
It could be that I’ve forgotten one or more items but these are the most important ones. I can’t write a complete tutorial here because that’s not the idea of a review and also because the package comes already with a manual explaining what it all means and what you can do with it. The fact that the tablet comes with a fuel planner, load manager and TO calculator in one window, linked together is already great. These three items can be seen on the lower row of screenshots. Together with the flight tutorial, it should be clear enough how to use it. On the other hand, it’s very straightforward how and what you need to do. In case the flight tutorial isn’t enough for you, you need to contact the AirSimmer forum to get additional assistance.
Shall I offer you a long or short story? Unfortunately, it will be very short since the AirSimmer A320 doesn’t come with a comprehensive manual at all. Ok, it comes with a Quick Start Guide and Flight Tutorial.
The Quick Start Guide isn’t anything more than how to handle the AirSimmer TabletPC. The TabletPC combines most of the things together, but what are things? It’s a central device offering you the ability to keep your aircraft up-to-date with update checks, downloading the possibility of on-the-fly installing of liveries, checking your license and more of that. Because of the complexity or several options of the TabletPC, a special written manual is therefore included.
As the name suggests, it has nothing to do with explaining aircraft related items or helping you understand what every panel can do for you. On the other hand, the Flight Tutorial should help you out with understanding what everything means or what you can do with it. However, this is not the case since the tutorial isn’t anything more than a 50 page package with only a step-by-step description of getting this airplane in flight and safely back on the ground.
In other words, there’s no time for any kind of explanation as to why it works like this or what needs to be done. The flight tutorial starts with a cockpit familiarization but honestly, this is very limited and in my opinion, this product deserves more. Apart from a few text failures in this tutorial, I don’t think this is a good way to offer a product of this format. According to the developers, the Basic A320 is for those flight simmers who want to fly and not to follow complicated procedures, but this is still in my personal opinion, no reason for not offering a panel description or system explanation.
Speaking about beginners and as mentioned before, the fact that there’s a description at all, worries me to be honest. No, there’s no need to pack together with this version a 1000 or 1400 page thick manual, but something wasn’t a superfluous luxury. Anyway, there isn’t anything else and it seems we need to live with it. On the other hand, there are many other manuals for free available outside the AirSimmer handbooks, however, it’s not what you and I expect from a product which costs almost 40.00 US$.
Let’s start this time with …. the external model
I can’t say anything else other then SUPER. Super this time means that a lot of work was put into the creation of the external model. Where others try to implement digitalized images to cover the flaps, slats, wing or landing gear skin to give it a realistic look, none of that is here. What’s better ….. using digitalized images or painting it yourself with a highly 3D effect? Using digitalized images does have advantages but when the basic resolution of that digitalized material is not optimum, the final result is not good and because of this, some developers use different techniques to create something unique.
They tried hard to create 3D looking landing gear and it worked out very well. They tried to simulated or at least to add small individual parts on the fuselage, wing, tail etc. The overall model therefore looks great including the liveries. Every part large or small, is created and painted by themselves. The result is therefore great and reflects what is supposed to be.
By the way, the livery texture resolution for this FS9 model equals 1024 x 1024. I’m aware that this time there are a little more screenshots then I like, but on the other hand, this model and the same for the later discussed VC, they deserve a good presentation. Not because it’s their first airplane but also because it’s worth showing you all its details. Ok, time to wake up and summarize a few things I’ve seen. The overall model looks very nice but the eye for details is great. Just a few items; which needs some attention. As written before, the landing gear. It doesn’t matter which gear you choose, all are 3D modeled and therefore full of details.
Are you looking for some wires or hydraulic lines? I can tell you that almost every wire or hose is modeled, thus highly impressive. That’s the same with the wing surface and flaps and slats. Oops, I forget even the hydraulic actuators connected to the spoiler panels. Ok, you probably say that this is normal but believe me after I’ve reviewed many airplanes, those tiny things like spoiler actuation is not normal. Is it a digitalized image or whatever?
No, it’s all handmade or handcrafted by the graphic designer and he or she did a perfect job. While checking the static dischargers on the wing fences, I found the wing skin and shape well created and it seems no detail is forgotten.
I would like to add one small remark and that’s the texture resolution, although I must admit that this is a FS9 model which does have other resolutions when used within FSX. It seems that almost at every location there where’s some text on the engine, wing, fuselage or tail section, this is not always readable or not there at all. If this is a consequence of the too low livery texture resolution or a limitation within FS9, that’s something I leave open. Anyway, for me the general overview of the whole model is a pleasure to look at.
Good, some last notes while during my walk-around check. The model offers, with my PC specifications, extreme high FPS but this is not all! Not directly related to the external model but worth mentioning, it’s probably logical and thus simple; the cargo doors can’t be opened as long as there’s no hydraulic pressure available.
So far so good when we’re talking about the external model with all the details but what about the 2D and in particular the VC (Virtual Cockpit)? You and I have seen many other add-on models with great looking airplanes but the moment you’ve jumped into the VC, the frame rates dropped to dramatic low values or it was not a pleasure to look at and therefore you didn’t have any fun flying with it.
I’m curious how this is but I can tell you already, it’s awesome. There are not that many Airbus A320 family models out there, but this AirSimmers A320 Basic VC is really great and believe it or not, I say this based on my real life Airbus A330, A340 and A320 family experience. Ok, time to open the LH FWD passenger door followed by the cockpit door and let’s see what this AirSimmer VC offers us and judge with our own eyes. Don’t worry, don’t be shy, I’ll help you a little with it.
Your Virtual working space and cabin
Let’s first mention something else, which is just as important as the VC itself and that is the frame rates. Mentioned before, but I need to say it again, the VC offers without any Airbus equipment switched ON while on the ground located at and in combination with a powerful add-on airport active, average FPS between 60-70 FPS and that’s high. When switching ON all the electrical power thus activating the PFDs, NDs and ECAM displays, the FPS drop is more or less imperceptible but let’s say then a drop of 1-2 FPS. I’ve seen during the last years while writing many reviews and seen many VC’s, many differences and thus many performances. I’m also aware that my PC doesn’t belong to the slowest models but for sure not to the fastest models and still I’ve got good flying frame rates.
Anyway, time to have a look at the first set of screenshots taken at Aerosoft’s EDDF Frankfurt am Main while the crew is out of the cockpit and I could make some shots. Although these screenshots are made during a cold & dark situation, with what I wrote before you can see that it hardly makes any difference if the electronics are switched ON or OFF. This can be seen on all the other screenshots.
Let’s focus for now on the above screenshots. Although not very clear and therefore you need to click the thumbnails, the sharpness is unbelievable. Apart from the sharpness of the sub-panels, it also offers lots of clickable components like the sun blinds, the armrests, the sliding windows, and the foldable 3rd cockpit seat.
Ok, let’s go back to those sub-panels and then in particular to the sharpness and readable text. Have a look at pictures VI and VII. No, it’s not from a real A320 but simulated by the AirSimmer group. Not only do these screenshots reflect eye for details, but the others do offer the same. As far as I can judge I’ve got the idea that the whole cockpit except for example the side stick, is not made from digitalized photo material. Does this mean I’m disappointed? Not at all! Because of this decision, the cockpit look is still real and doesn’t rely on the sometimes lower quality of the digitalized photos.
Anyway, the side sticks are created using photoreal material and they look as real as it gets. When you’re more a Boeing freak, you could think that the A320 cockpit looks very unrealistic. There are hardly any switches visible, the main panel is relatively empty however, and this is how it really looks. A320 family members but also applicable for the larger Airbus family members like the A330/A340, all offer a cockpit which looks empty with less switches than normal and fully integrated sub instruments. The sterile look of every Airbus these days is the result of a well-balanced manufacturer and I also know that not every Boeing lover agrees with me.
I found it a good idea to find out if everything is working on - in particular - the overhead panel. While writing this I need to bring one thing forward and that’s we’re dealing with a “Basic” model while the “Advanced” version is in the make. The AirSimmer website tells you all about the differences and for example, the basic model doesn’t have real operative IRUs (Inertial Reference Unit) nor does it offer a fully functional ADIRU (Air Data Inertial Reference Unit), and there’s no INIT page B (FMGEC MCDU) available.
Some buttons, lights, switches on the overhead panel do not work as well as the FIRE switches with TEST buttons. It’s not my intention to write down what’s all working or clickable and what is not working. One thing is for sure that the Advanced model will be a competitor for the latest PMDG models or even the highly advanced Leonardo SH Maddog 2008 Professional but for sure not the basic version.
Before moving to the 2D cockpit, which is also worth digging into it, it’s a good idea to show you some VC shots during the evening. Just click the lower thumbnails and you will be impressed how they simulated the panel back lighting. Is it of the same level as the PMDG MD-11 or other known vendors? Unimportant to answer this question since it’s not a comparison review between products A and B. No, even comparing the AirSimmer with Wilco’s Airbus Volume 1. Oops, by the way, that wasn’t a bad idea comparing those, but since my review is already half way I don’t have any intentions comparing with the other Wilco airplane. Anyway, here are the evening shots after I powered up the cockpit.
I think I’ve seen enough of this great looking Virtual Cockpit but now it’s time to have a quick look into the Virtual Cabin. I could guide you to the AirSimmer website because they show you how it looks and I must admit, it’s really great and a lot of effort was put into it. However, seeing it with my own eyes gives me the possibility to write with an open mind. Because the website shows many pictures, there’s no need to add those here and therefore I leave with only one shot.
You need to keep in mind that the virtual cabin is disabled the moment the flight deck door is LOCKED and obviously the door is closed. When you move on to the pedestal section COCKPIT DOOR and the switch to UNLOCK, you’re then able to open the flight deck door and you will see the same image as you can see on this screenshot otherwise there’s no virtual cabin of this kind.
The whole virtual cabin is really like this and the lay-out reflects only an economy class (or monkey class, as I always call it). Anyway, the FWD and AFT pantry or galley area is made of digital photo material and when coming too close to the structure, it doesn’t look that great or I should say a little blurry.
Is that a problem? Not at all! I’m already happy that the cabin looks like this and accept the slightly different quality of the pantries and who, by the way, will be constantly look into the cabin? Unless you’re a passenger you should be on the flight deck doing your thing. My overall impression of the cabin is great and honestly I didn’t expect it. During my AVSIM review time I’ve seen other Virtual Cabins of the same or perhaps an even higher quality twice; the CS757 and the Flight1’s ATR72.
And, what’s your impression? I know, it still has nothing to do with flying since that’s a totally different story, but so far it isn’t bad at all. However, is all that beauty – external model, good livery quality, great looking Virtual Cockpit - enough to survive in a hard world where competition is probably even harder than in the real world? That’s something I can’t answer since it’s AirSimmers product and unfortunately only for FS2004.
AirSimmer 2D cockpit
Some like it, some don’t like it! Lucky that we’re not the same and for those who like flying a 2D cockpit, this model still offers one. I must admit that not long ago VC’s were not that impressive or they reduced the frame rates so much, that it wasn’t fun flying these virtual workspaces. With the next generation of computers - in particular the CPU’s - and at the same time the increased quality of the Virtual Cockpits, it’s more and more accepted as the default flying offices.
For those who still prefer for any reason flying the 2D cockpit, I must say that this Airbus cockpit offers many sub panels apart from the main captain’s – within AirSimmer known as commander – and first officer panels. Switching between the different main instrument panels is written in the Quick Start Guide page 14, where the flight simmer can switch between a normal height commander panel or a full height IFR look-alike. See it as a VFR and IFR view.
A few sub panels like the compass, lower and upper overhead panel, pedestal, ECAM SD (System Display) with ECP (ECAM Control Panel), a single MCDU and the EFIS CP – that’s not a few … that’s a lot - are requested via hot spots on the main instrument panel.
This means that the AirSimmer Basic model doesn’t offer a real simulated FMS system, which I hope is the case with the Advanced version. Here many things are not simulated and I had hoped it was. Let’s give you another example of what is not available although I must admit that the AirSimmers website tells you in advance which systems or sub systems are simulated and which are not. Therefore, when reading this information before you buy the product, there should be no reason to be disappointed.
Oops, I promised you something; the IRU or ADIRS. Goodness, all complicated names but let’s first explain it to you and after tell you what’s wrong with it. IRU stands for Inertial Reference Unit and fitted in the A320, it’s integrated into the ADC (Air Data Computer), thus the official name is ADIRU (Air Data and Inertial Reference Unit or together a System). Anyway, it’s not simulated at all! That’s a short sentence but more information is needed. Of course, the output on your PFD (Primary Flight Display) and ND (Navigation Display) is visible and works as it should be but the control on the overhead panel isn’t simulated. The IRUs automatically align in seconds the moment AC and DC electrical is switched ON, even if the IRU control selectors are in OFF. According to AirSimmer this is fully integrated in the Advanced model and they didn’t want to have this in this Basic model.
After waiting that long, I and many other Airbus lovers had hoped for a fully operative overhead panel where you can control and monitor everything or almost everything. The reality is not like this but I can’t complain too much. As said before; you can’t align the IRU’s as in reality but the other indications on the ADIRS panel work. There’s no such option as with Wilco’s Airbus where you can align depending on your skills. Furthermore, the following overhead sub panels don’t work: ENG and APU FIRE control panel, CARGO SMOKE, 3rd RMP (Radio Management Panel) and a few other switches who are not responding to my commands. I could imagine that at least the Advanced Airbus model offers FIRE and SMOKE test facilities including the belonging ECAM indications. That you aren’t able with this Basic and Advanced model to select ENG/APU FIRE switches to OFF, that’s ok for me.
I leave the 2D cockpit behind me since there’s not much more to write about it. I can conclude and this is the same as for the VC, that both are created with love; however love and software bugs don’t like each other. That being said I sincerely hope that all those problems and those I haven’t even mentioned or not seen, are solved with the next Service Pack but hold on, I didn’t even fly yet. In other words, I can’t even judge about that part so it’s time to move on to the next chapter.
Initial flight test (V1.0)
Before starting with the initial test flight, I need to express one thing; you can’t fly the AirSimmer Airbus with your keyboard. You need a joystick or a flight yoke!
Flight simmers, important information ….... please read: As the title is suggesting, this sub-chapter and the other three test flights all cover version 1.00 without the released Service Pack. Apart from many things, the Service Pack promised to solve issues like CTD and Auto Flight problems. I still found it useful to leave the original version 1.00 software in this review. All three test flights are therefore based on flight dynamics without the Service Pack. That will be followed by some flights where the SP is installed and gives me and you the possibility to see if the problems are really solved. Please enjoy my first test flight based on the default package without the SP.
Because of the absence of any study material except the flight tutorial, I decide to follow the LFBO (Toulouse/Blagnac) - LFMN (Nice/Côte d'Azur) stretch. I’ll take care that I’ve got the latest AIRAC installed, which is available for AirSimmer since AIRAC version 0912 was released. Luckily for me the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke works after some configuration including the Throttle Unit. While busy doing the necessary preparations, I decided to make a touch and go or at least, that’s the plan.
I forget for the moment my planned flight to Nice and see first for myself if I can fly the aircraft without using an FMS and thus no flight plan. Furthermore, I’ll try to use all FCU (Flight Control Unit which is the Airbus name for Boeing’s MCP) settings in manual mode as far as possible and with that in mind, I’m ready to go. I’m trying to follow a kind of checklist, but found out that the kneeboard doesn’t have a checklist at all. Although it’s a basic Airbus model, there’s no checklist in the manual nor integrated in the kneeboard.
That’s a pity since this is the minimum you may expect from developers to add this into a model, even if their target group are those flight simmer’s who just want to jump in and fly. Anyway, no AirSimmes checklist available so I make my own, try to follow it and before I know, I’m ready to start the engines.
In case you’re lost, I haven’t programmed the MCDU or FMC, although the FMC is no longer a stand-alone computer, but integrated into the FMGC (Flight Management and Guidance Computer). The recorded sounds during our engine start are very well simulated. Only a real A320 Family licensed pilot can tell you 100% if the sound is ok or not, but with the knowledge and real life experience I have, I can tell you that this recorded sound is very good and realistic.
For those who are familiar with modern Airbuses, starting and monitoring these CFM or IAE engines, is child’s play. You just place the ENF FUEL/START switch in the ON position and the rest is done by the computer system. Officially, there’s no need to monitor anything since faulty engine starts like hung-, hot or slow starts are all monitored by FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine/Electronic Control) and the according action is taken when the start procedure is outside known parameters. Ok, in real life pilots and ground engineers holding a test-run license, do check the automatic system during startup but theoretically there’s no need for this because the computer system detects anomalies much quicker than we humans can.
It’s time to taxi to 14L at LFBO after I received my clearance, but first we need a pushback. I didn’t use the build in pushback option since this is a known bug where the pushback never ends. With that in mind, I did it using the old-fashioned way, which still works fine for me. End of pushback, directly followed by taxiing.
Does it give me the feeling of a real taxi ride? Yes and no! The aircraft definitely doesn’t behave as a default aircraft but it seems that all the center lights don’t influence the nose wheel tires and thus there’s no rumbling noise. Not a big deal because as far as I can remember, only the Ariane 737 aircraft have something simulated. Whatever. Before takeoff I do my last preparations and we’re ready to go. Remember once more; this will be a manual flight where I control the FCU as far as I can manually and that means no strips and dots. I used the built in Takeoff Calculator to have at least my V1, VR and V2. The main idea of this test flight is checking and feeling the flight dynamics and if the AP works as they say since the forum tells me that many problems arise with holding altitudes, A/THR etc.
Takeoff initiated, running and before I know, I’m already in the air. In combination with my Saitek Pro Flight equipment, the Airbus responds as expected. If it’s the same as real, that’s something I can’t judge to be honest but one thing is absolutely true, it’s far from default FS9 flight dynamics, which is good news. The AT (Auto Throttle) pushbutton engaged itself already before the takeoff or at least the moment I did set a specific thrust and now it’s time to see what happens when I connect AP 1 or 2.
altitude was set by me at 11000 feet, HDG straight
set to 140,
and an initial
Speed) of 2200 FPM. It seems that
with these settings, the aircraft
following them and I can’t see any strange things. Ok, with
the initial climb behind me, I’ll reduce my VS, increase
the speed to 250, which is ok since the gear and flaps/slats are
already retracted. Time to leave the aircraft doing the work while
monitoring the pitch and roll behavior. Oops, there’s one
problem … the AT SPD mode seems not to work or what is wrong?
Time to go back to see and face the AirSimmer Auto Pilot behavior. Although I’ve seen many problems on the forum about this and even heard people who told me that the aircraft can’t hold it’s set altitude, I’m not facing any of these problems. Changing my HDG with > 10 degrees, results indeed in a maximum bank angle and I can’t say if this is correct as many suggest on the forum or that it is correct? I’ll come back to this point after I looked it up in my FCOM. So far I must say that it flies normal without observing any strange things, and a good moment to point out the following; the FPS.
Many things are said on the forum and I know that this will always be a difficult item, but I can tell you – next time I’ll add screenshots with FPS indications – that either flying the 2D, VC or looking at the external model, I had an average of 80-100 FPS. This is with clouds active and all sliders set to the maximum. Does this mean I’ve got a super PC? That’s something you may judge for yourself by checking my PC Specs in the yellow box.
Due to a few problems not related to AirSimmer, I had to break this flight, however, my in-between conclusion is “The first test flight was not using any flight plan, no MCDU entries and I wasn’t using the flight tutorial. Still I had the impression that ALT HLD was working, VS inputs and outputs did what they had to do and bank angles where indeed straight to the maximum (need to check this). I had some AT problems, but I don’t say yet that this is an AirSimmer bug since I could be my problem”.
Overall not bad but time will learn with other test flights. The next one will be using the flight tutorial as a guide and let’s see what happens then.
1st official flight tutorial test flight (V1.0)
Using the flight tutorial is probably the best way to see if things work as expected. It’s a relatively short flight, but we could add some additional fuel and make a short divert towards the French Pyrenees and test a few other things not mentioned in the tutorial.
Because of APU start and auto shutdown problems I’ve decided to postpone our French Pyrenees practice. For now, we’re parked at gate E10 at LFBO. It’s officially an Airbus test flight however, the aircraft used is from Air France, but that shouldn’t make any difference or at least, I don’t hope so. As said before, the APU stopped for an unknown reason and thus I couldn’t continue. First the APU BLEED was disconnected and afterwards I had a shutdown of the APU itself. Either they introduced a “simulated” fault or it’s just a bug.
I can tell you, that’s very annoying since I needed that bleed air for engine start. Anyway, after several flight sim restarts, I finally could start my APU, and it kept running this time. I simply followed the tutorial step-by-step as a newbie. Although I’m not a newbie that doesn’t make any difference so let’s pretend. As said before, this aircraft is a degraded Advanced version having less operational systems active to make it possible for every beginner to start it up, and fly away .. all with the help of the tutorial.
I’m not 100% in agreement with that since the aircraft isn’t complicated. Ok, the aircraft doesn’t offer what it’s supposed to do, but still a lot of things need to be done to get it in the air and for a beginner, it’s still a lot of work. It sounds that simple and believe me it is however, the reality isn’t. That’s what I faced during this 2nd test flight. Mentioned before, the flight goes from LFBO (Toulouse/Blagnac) to LFMN (Nice). A relatively short flight that shouldn’t give too many problems and with full auto land options available, it should be an easy journey.
After finishing the MCDU data, and checking the weather conditions, it’s time to start-up the engines and see what happens. Nothing strange happens here thus it’s time to taxi to runway 32R. Oops, I entered while writing this runway 32L into the MCDU, but I leave this mistake behind me. That’s not a big problem for the FMS to control the aircraft along the flight path. All the parts follow quickly; taxi, lining up 32R, and final check before commencing takeoff thrust. The A/THR connects automatically when T/O thrust is set, which leaves me only with either AP button.
I gently rotate the aircraft and before I know, I’ve commanded retraction of the landing gear and at around 2000 feet, I connect AP1 and that’s it. All other FCU indications are dashes-dot except for the ALT indication. After VOR TOU it makes a nice turn to the right while still climbing. I readjusted my initial altitude from 5000 to 25000 feet. While the A320 is doing its work, I jump outside the aircraft, sitting in space and enjoyed the external model. Find here some screenshots while I stick to my previous comments; the external model looks great but there’s more .. flight dynamics and Auto Flight functionality.
After going back into the cockpit, I noticed that for an unknown reason the Auto Thrust was disconnected. By the way, don’t make the mistake by saying that the Auto Throttle is disconnected. The A320 doesn’t have an Auto Throttle system installed like you can see with other older Boeing or Douglas models. The throttles oops ….. officially I should say thrust levers, don’t move during flight.
Passing Thrust Reduction Altitude, the pilot retards the levers to the CLB position, which is the position for the whole climb and cruise and is shown on the FMA (Flight Mode Annunciator) of the PFD. Anyway, I just wrote that, for an unknown reason the A/THR disconnected and I wasn’t able to connect it. Did it stop or could I expect more problems?
No, it even became worse. After a while, the AP disconnected spontaneously. I noticed just before this happened, a huge VS DOWN while manually controlling the N1 to CL thrust, so for me there was no reason that it suddenly sunk with a VS of -5500 feet/minute. I didn’t want to crash and therefore I tried to get back on my NAV track and although it took a little longer to follow the FD needles, I finally had the needles in the middle and could connect both the A/THR and AP again. Lucky for me but still no idea what caused it and it was also strange that I could reconnect the buttons.
In real life being a ground engineer, I’ve sat on the flight deck of different Airbus models, but what I faced here with “building storms” enabled, worries me a little bit. While the aircraft was flying at cruise flight level – FL250 – the engines seems very unstable to me. Unstable means constantly changing the THR level and I also noticed that the aircraft or Auto Pilot, had lots of problems keeping the correct altitude and that for an altitude of FL250 where building storms are far below me.
Anyway, changing the weather conditions to fair or clear sky changed it all and a more quiet and stable aircraft was the result. If the instability was reality or not, I found it a little too much based on real experiences. Ok, that’s all nice, but again while in cruise the AP disconnected and lucky for me, this time the A/THR wasn’t affected.
So I flew the aircraft by hand and decided to give it a shot and reconnect the other AP, which worked. Passing MUS at around 90NM before LFMN, I decided to start my descent but while heading for LUC/38, FS9 had a CTD (Crash To Desktop). This is terrible news, being that close to my destination and having this. Ok, that’s something that can happen but the annoying part is that I had and still have no clue why this happened.
Anyway, this test flight was absolutely no success and although the external model looks great, the VC is a pleasure to sit in as well as for the 2D, having these Auto Flight and A/THR problems is not what I expected. It’s still strange because I didn’t have any problems during my previous flight where I didn’t use the MCDU.
2nd flight tutorial test flight (V1.0)
Let’s first start with something else and talk about flight dynamics or how the aircraft behaves in flight. This is not always easy for me as a non-CPL holder nor having an Airbus A320 Family ATPL. Ok, I got a PPL but that’s not enough to judge if this aircraft flies as real as it gets. Even for a real Airbus A320 pilot it isn’t easy if a model flies real or not. Remember, FS9 doesn’t offer any simulated motion like you have in a real Level-D FFS (Full Flight Simulator) and believe me based on real experience, it makes a hell of a difference flying in a FFS with or without motion activated.
Anyway, FS9 and even FSX doesn’t offer anything like that and therefore it’s a matter of “does if fly different then a default FS aircraft” and “how’s the relation between a control input and simulated aircraft response”.
For many reasons I decided not to use the external power first, but decided right away to start the APU. So far so good! That means no APU auto shutdowns noticed nor other strange things observed. I did all the necessary preparations on the MCDU, started my engines and taxied this time to the right runway, 32R. Takeoff went OK as well as the climb including the cruise. I thought so until at a certain moment during the initial descent; I hovered around the external model and wanted to jump back into the 2D cockpit. While switching between the views with the keyboard “S” key, I got a hourglass and oops, there was my 2D with a disconnected A/THR button and the flaps where suddenly extended to position 2 which resulted in an over speed.
That last part – over speed warning due to extended flaps and slats - makes sense but why were they extended? That’s not all; the SEAT BELTS switch dropped OFF from ON to the AUTO position, and the STROBE light switch was OFF as well. Not all big problems but it’s strange and this is what I’ve noticed but it could be easily that other things where in a different position than before my A/THR problem appeared. I could manage the problem however, not much later while doing the same thing – looking and making pictures of the external model – it happened again.
Is this a coincidence or something related to the model? I’m very confused to be honest because this is the second situation having the same problems and again I wasn’t able to make my approach because I had a CTD again. Although the results look very similar and already detected by other AirSimmer pilots, I’ll give it one more shot on an unscheduled flight from Frankfurt am Main (EDDF) to Birmingham (EGBB).
3rd unscheduled test flight(V1.0)
As promised a 3rd test flight from EDDF to EGBB. I can tell you already, it wasn’t a successful flight. Too many problems but still worth writing down since our readers deserve an honest answer. I planned to make this flight with an Airbus A320 V2500 model in Airbus house livery. I had indeed chosen for this model however, while ready for takeoff from runway 25R, I got a CTD. Don’t ask me what I did wrong and for sure I know it wasn’t me. I only know I was deeply disappointed that I needed to start all over again.
Ok, it’s not much work to do and unfortunately you can’t save a flight situation like with the Level-D 767. Anyway, after restarting FS9, I missed and forgot to change the model thus the rest of this test flight is again based on the Air France CFM. Whatever, that doesn’t make any difference and when it does, then we have another problem.
We’re again ready for takeoff, which seems ok for now so let’s cross our fingers. During climb I noticed an unusual message on the ECAM E/WD. I had for the remainder of the flight an IGNITION message and since I didn’t saw that on my previous flights, I’m wondering why it’s suddenly there but I can tell you that this is a known bug and already solved by the development team, however not yet available for the public. I leave it like it is and continue with my climb to a cruising altitude of FL320.
I hope I’m not the only one facing the following; while in the VC, I’ve now heard a strange cracking sound. One thing’s for sure; it’s not my speakers, it’s not from Windows, it’s something from the AirSimmer simulator and it’s a sound that doesn’t belong there.
Ok, it seems so far that the flight is going well. That means no problems with the A/THR or Auto Flight, however, halfway into the flight I suddenly got a Windows PC message that the PC is running out of memory and FS9 will exit!. Oops, that’s strange for a PC having 6GB of RAM installed. Also, the 2nd part of the message is even stranger. You may have not enough free space on your hard disk. Run Disk Cleanup to free space and then try again!
I know, this is a message generated by the Windows OS but the odd thing is that it only happens with FS9 in combination with the AirSimmer Airbus and by the way; my FS9 hard disk is 280Gb with 270GB of free space. Even the Windows 7 drive is more empty then full. Because of this 3rd disaster, it’s time to check this flight with another preferable Airbus model. I decided to install the Wilco Publishing Volume 1 with additional Service Pack and see what happens. I think you know already the answer; I successfully reached my destination without any problems. No CTD, no out of memory messages, no Auto Flight and/or A/THR problems and so on.
Is it then time to conclude that the AirSimmer is nothing worth? No, that’s not fair since I still think that the external model, VC and 2D look great but looking great is not enough to fly with. When after three flights I wasn’t able to make a successful landing because of a CTD, A/THR or Auto Flight problems, I can only say, I’m lost.
Does this mean everybody has problems with this AirSimmer model? I don’t know and I believe that some flight simmers will never have any problems and because of what … no clue. I only know that for this review I wasn’t able to check it but what I checked wasn’t successful when for example compared to the Wilco Publishing Volume 1.
Ok, you could say that the AirSimmer looks much better and in particular the VC and I do agree with that but I and you know that those WP models fly and reach their destination. So what I can’t say from this reviewed model? As written on the AirSimmer website and seen on their forums, there’s absolutely a need for a SP.
Although I’m so far disappointed, I would like to offer you some screenshots since those are worth looking at.
Modified flight dynamics with Service Pack 1.1
Because of this and in consult with the AVSIM staff and the AirSimmer developers, we’ve decided to wait for the release of the Service Pack and see how the model performs and flies when installed. Find therefore below my impression of the AirSimmer model after I installed the SP and let’s hope the problems are solved and no new glitches are introduced.
Test flight with SP
The first thing I did was uninstall all FS9 programs including the AirSimmer model and finally deleted everything. This was followed by a fresh install of FS9, the update FS9.1 and only the Airsimmer model. No more enhanced ground textures or clouds etc. Before the end of 2009 Airsimmer came indeed with the promised Service Pack or I should say, SPs.
Not only a SP for the aircraft itself, but also an update for the TabletPC and I tell you, there were no really shocking items for this handy tool. No, everybody was waiting for the main SP of the aircraft. Hoping that with this SP all the problems would be gone and Airsimmer could have a fresh start.
While writing his sentence – January 3rd 2010 – I haven’t tested it yet but looking at some forum postings it seems it’s flying as it should be without any problems. Normally I would say that I hardly believe that with one SP all the problems are gone with the wind. I’ve hardly seen this with other highly experienced flight sim add-on manufacturers. That doesn’t mean Airsimmer can’t do this in one time, but on the other hand I can only say … let’s fly this baby and see if the problems are gone.
LFBO-LFMN test flight (V1.1)
Again, it’s early in the morning and it cost me a lot of time to find my tutorial papers. After we’ve done all the cockpit preparations it’s time to ask for a pushback. Since this is one of the items to be repaired, we need to check the integrated MCDU pushback option. It seems now that it’s ok after some push-backs with different distances and turning the aircraft nose either to the left or right.
Unfortunately I noticed something else while walking aside the truck and nose wheel steering that during a left or right hand turn, the aircraft NWS isn’t visually moving and that is strange or at least it disappoints me. Is this a problem because of the SP? No, I hardly believe that and for sure it wasn’t working with the basic installer either.
Anyway, time to move on and since the pilots are ready for taxi, we taxi again to our favorite runway 32R. While at the holding position, we need to perform our last checks and then we’re ready to line up, set thrust to 50% and then 50% N1 set (CFM engines). We apply full throttle which automatically ARMS the A/THR button on the AFS FCU although it’s worth mentioning that the PFD MFA still shows MAN THR. At VR we apply some pitch and there we go, airborne.
According to the modified runway, we fly towards VOR TOU before making a sharp turn to the next waypoint. It’s very difficult to follow this path, even when flying manually thus no AP connected. GEAR UP and FLAPS retract are commanded. When you’ve got no idea, either follow the tutorial or just look on the PFD SPEED scale and then in particular the S symbol. The aircraft is under the control of the AUTO FLIGHT system and for me there’s not much to do anymore except switching OFF some external lights.
I’ll try to stick to the flight tutorial, as I don’t plan to do anything else or make any large modifications in the MCDU. Let’s first see if this SP results in a flyable aircraft from A to B including a full landing. Because I had set an initial altitude of 5000 feet, it’s time to set our cruise altitude of FL250.
No, I’m not going to write a step-by-step procedure here because this should be done by Airsimmer and not by me. I mentioned it already before, the offered tutorial is far from complete even if it’s an airplane that can be handled by beginners. In the mean time, we’ve leveled off at FL250 and according to the MCDU we have to fly another 200NMs. I’ll check the tutorial for the necessary approach modifications. Now I’ve got the time to read them, and if needed, make my own notes. When you do this too late, you’ll probably end-up in “P” with the simulator, which is very unrealistic …. oops, P means pause the simulator!
Ask a real pilot; the moment the descent is started and with less than 100NM to go for landing, stress enters the flight deck. Many things have to be done, all in the correct order otherwise in the Airbus case, alarm bells start ringing and red messages appear everywhere. We'll have none of this!
It seems so far the SP works since I haven’t noticed any A/THR, CTD, AP or other problems. There’s only one thing I’m not really happy with; when you click on the PFD and/or ND, the enlarged version pops up, straight above the original TFT. To get this enlarged TFT out of the way, you need to click on the original smaller TFT, however this is covered by the enlarged popped-up display. Ok, you can use the RH mouse click to close it or drag the enlarged display to another position on the screen which allows you to click on the original TFT. The programmers could also reposition the enlarged TFT slightly higher on your screen, which leaves a gap open for clicking the smaller TFT.
Sorry, I need to return to the flight deck or at least to monitor the aircraft behavior during the descent, approach and final approach. That said before; I’ll stick completely to the tutorial and that works fine for me. Because of the wrong GS (Glide Slope) alignment, we need to fly the aircraft for the last flight phase by hand. The aircraft, and thus the flight dynamics, feel very realistic or far more real than the default FSX aircraft. If is flies real, that’s not up to me to judge because I’m not a real A320 pilot and the times I flew with it, I never flew it myself in real life, thus I never got the real feeling.
The Auto Pilot is OFF, but the A/THR is still connected and I’m only following the GS signal, which means I leave the FD (Flight Director) connected. According to the tutorial you should also select it OFF, but I don’t see why as long as you remember that the LOC signal is wrong. Not difficult to follow the correct runway middle line since you can see the runway and when it’s too far out, you can see the PAPI lights on the LH side of the runway, thus you’ve always an idea where the runway centerline is.
Touchdown – no, not in the sea – and since AUTOBRAKE is set to MED, I can clearly see that the simulated AUTOBRAKE works great. I’m not talking about the actual deceleration value since I’ve got no clue yet, but about the green flowbar above the blue ON pushbutton. It’s flashing which means it's active, followed by inactive. Ok, it goes too far to explain why this is but I can tell you this is very well simulated or highly realistic.
After this successful SP installed flight, I want to do one more; one test flight again from LFBO but this time to LFML. It’s even closer than LFMN, but that doesn’t make any difference. I’m going to fly first towards the Pyrenees to do some tests before heading for Marseille or in the worse scenario we fly back to Blagnac/Toulouse.
2nd test flight LFBO-LFML (V1.1)
I can tell you already in advance .. it was again a success thus I’m a happy Airbus rookie. As said before; my flight was short but via a detour to the French Pyrenees, practicing and testing systems in which I had enough time to fly from there to Marseille. What does that mean, practicing and testing?
Simply by disconnecting the AP followed by flying the aircraft manually and following the flight plan. Oops, for that I needed to modify the flight plan and add waypoints or removing some which was easy and without any problems. Because of the basic version you can’t do too much with this MCDU. Furthermore, flying manually means also making large banks or high pitch angles.
It should be the AUTO FLIGHT system preventing me from doing too strange things and for the yaw, roll and pitch, the AUTO FLIGHT reacted as expected and then in particular the pitch with the resulted ALPHA FLOOR protection. It worked great although getting the A/THR back to normal was more of a problem. Not a problem of the Airsimmer model, but more because of the inexperienced rookie Angelique.
After recovering from this APLHA FLOOR protection, I disconnected IDG 1, and the aircraft AC system responded as expected and after I started the APU, the APU GEN took over that part of the AC network. Restoring the disconnected IDG didn’t work, which is correct. Altogether no problems with CTD or whatever could be expected. No, it was flying great and worth the product. Easily said since this had already be good from the beginning and caused a lot of frustration with many Airbus loving flight simmers.
After this manual and practical intermezzo it’s time to pick up the original flight plan and prepare ourselves for an ILS landing on Marseille. I’ll pass over the tiny details but the approach and final approach did what they had to do and the aircraft responded as expected. This resulted then in another successful landing.
I know, this 2nd test flight is much shorter than the others, but for me it was just testing to see if the 2nd attempt was as good as the previous one and I can conclude that it finally flies ok. I won’t say perfect only because I haven’t made 10 or 20 test flights but with breaking down the aircraft system, the simulated model was doing what it supposed to do. And there’s again that famous sentence … did I cover every tiny detail? The answer is for sure NO, but I flew it a little more than only what’s written here and with the SP, I can finally say it’s seems ok.
Not related to this 2nd test flight but was it not better when Airsimmer had waited a little longer and bringing out there first new model without all these problems. I think - purely as a reviewer - that it was much better when they had first tested the model thoroughly before launching it.
Reading the Airsimmer forum, flights simmers were or still are frustrated, disappointed, angry, wanted their money back and more of these things. Once this has happened, it’s very difficult to get satisfied Airsimmer flight simmers. This is not my problem. It was my job to explore the ins and outs of versions 1.0 and the SP, which brings the model to version 1.1.
The FMGC MCDU
An Airbus without showing and telling something about the basic AirSimmer MCDU (Multi purpose Control Display Unit) is a review without a heart. This Airbus family member doesn’t have separate FMCs (Flight Management Computer), but these are integrated into the FMGC (Flight Management and Guidance Computer). Since the Basic model is indeed basic, many FMC/MCDU features are not implemented or just disabled except for the upcoming Advanced model.
Because the Quick Start guide doesn’t say anything about the MCDU and the flight tutorial only offers limited information, it’s not easy to find out what’s working and what’s not. Playing with it during a flight, you learn very quickly that some keys don’t respond or give a fault message in the scratchpad. Some pages are intentionally left out like INIT page B. Ok, some people are not interested in this but others are and that’s the majority of the flight simmers, they want to see every page if possible.
Keeping the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 1 in mind, many things are simulated and although not perfect, it still offers much more than this Basic AirSimmer model. Let’s first have a look at some screenshots I made. Remember, it’s just a collection of some MCDU pages and absolutely not a tutorial. Ok, here some shots.
Let’s start with the things I think that those functions are not operative. I know these can be found in the AirSimmer listing, but putting them here makes life a little easier. The following MCDU buttons do not work or let’s put it like this … I get a “NOT ALLOWED” message in the scratchpad; PROG and FUEL PRED.
The ATC COMM button seems not to be working at all since there’s no message at all. I mentioned already that there’s no INIT B page thus the flight simmer can’t enter as in the real airplane ZFW, block fuel and other information. According to Airsimmer this option is available in the Advanced version and they didn’t want to confuse beginners. If this is a fair judgment, that’s up to you, but I have my own thoughts about this when looking back to the Wilco Airbus Volume 1 model and the configuration panel where users can modify the system by telling it if they are a beginner, intermediate or experienced user.
That’s AirSimmer’s decision by removing certain MCDU options. I and many others would have seen that this was normally available. Together with the limited flight tutorial you can’t learn much more from the striped MCDU and FMGS.
Questions and Answers
During this review, I found several odd things and faced several problems. Those who own the aircraft will recognize all or some of my questions but it could be that others have seen many more things. Those problems including the answers were collected and added into this chapter where some questions are directly related to this Basic model, while others deal with the upcoming Advanced version.
When I wrote these questions and received the answers, there was no Service Pack available. This means a few questions/answers have been resolved with the SP, while others are not related to any SP and thus are general questions.
Question: Will the Advanced model for example, have the possibility to test the ENG/APU and SMOKE tests from the overhead panel including the belonging ECAM indications?
Answer: By all means it will. These functions were purpose fully removed from Basic. We faced the task of removing everything possible without harming the code, while preserving the main Airbus functionality. We cut everything we could. Nevertheless, our Basic version is still more complex than we intended it to be. The Advanced Edition will develop further and further all the time. ECAM messages will be added. All together, there are around 1000 of them, and each is connected to a chain of events in the systems. These messages will be added gradually, in accordance with the various requirements from PRO Edition customers. As I am sure you understand, the Airbus ECAM with its 1000 messages is really a separate development project, which would take years to complete. If our team undertook to complete it before the release, it would extend our development time to ten years.
Question: It seems to me that in the VC the LH rheostat of the FCU is not working. It stays at backlight intensity but is not controllable. Compared to the 2D cockpit, it is working. The RH rheostat - indications - is both working in the 2D and VC.
Answer: You are right, it is not working. It is not possible to create it in VC in FS9 environment. However, there is incompatibility between 2D and VC. We are also thinking about ways to make it closer to reality, but I can tell you right away that in 2D there will be a rheostat while in VC – only ON and OFF.
Question: When controlling for example the FLOOD LITE MAIN PNL rheostats (in the 2D pedestal configuration), not only the main panel is controlled but also the pedestal while there's a separate FLOOD LT PED rheostat control. I see they are linked together, but is this a FS9 limitation or wrong linked together?
Answer: Here we are facing several complex issues in one. As you well appreciate, officially FS9 does not support anything even remotely like this at all. I pay special attention to 2D. We try to draw bring this functionality to the closest proximity with reality. Such a function adds a lot of additional bitmaps.
Question: I saved a cold & dark configuration however, it seems every time I fire up the FS9 with that saved "cold & dark" flight situation that the BATs and the ENG FUEL SWITCHES are no longer in the position I saved them before. Any idea if this a bug since it's very annoying for flight simmers to load a cockpit where the BAT is normally in the OFF position and especially when you saved it like that.
Answer: It is not a bug per se, as it is an unfinished feature on our part. Saving for Airbus is a very complicated task. This complexity arises from the multiple interconnections between the various Airbus systems. These systems are constantly communicating, exchanging information. They do not “understand” the sudden appearance of, say, a flight, as such. In general, to correctly save properly rendered Airbus systems takes one programmer approximately 500 hours of work.
It seems that for the basic model the IRU's all always aligned
and directly operative.
Answer: The statement is correct. This is a design feature of the Basic Edition, dictated by the fact that a Basic user will not be willing to wait for 15 minutes while for IRU alignment. This is a simplification, which is present in Basic Edition only, of course. In the Advanced edition this is modeled exactly.
Question: Please correct me if I'm wrong, but when I disconnect an IDG (with of course a running engine), I can't reconnect it when the respective engine is SD. I tried it a few times via the RECONNECT option of the MCDU MENU - MAINT - ELEC - LSK 1L. I don't know how far the reality is simulated but normally when the GEN PB is selected OFF, aircraft on ground with ENG SD, you could be able to reconnect it. The problem is that after the previous action, the ECAM SD ELEC page still gives me the message IDG1 DISC.
Answer: Right you are! This is a known bug, to be fixed by the end of this year.
Question: Probably not a normal situation but when I switch OFF all the hydraulic sources with running engines - EDP1 OFF, EDP2 OFF, G ELEC OFF, PTU OFF and Y ELEC pump OFF - the ailerons and elevators drop down because of their weight. What’s odd is that the rudder moves completely to the left while the simulator weather condition shows me no wind conditions.
Answer: This is an inherent feature of the way the AirSimmer model is animated.
Question: Could it be that when the MCDU is in view, you can't use the keyboard "S" command to cycle between the different views? The moment the MCDU is out of view, it seems working again.
Answer: I need additional time to study this issue. Thank you for pointing it out. Perhaps, there is some limitation here, but I am not ready to answer this question immediately. We will need to run some tests to check why the "S" function does not work properly.
Question: Is it not possible to give the user the possibility to move - while in the 2D cockpit view - the pedestal to any other position then only UP/DOWN?
Answer: Absolutely. This is a bug, which will be fixed shortly.
Question: Is it possible to control the aircraft/flight controls without a joystick or flight control yoke?
Answer: No, unfortunately not.
Question: Is it possible to make under MCDU REQUEST also an option of EXT PNEU SUPPLY?
Answer: Yes, this feature is included in the Advanced Edition, but not the Basic Edition.
Question: Why, no idea but during the flight I noticed that for unknown reasons that the A/THR falls OFF and several times also the AP1 (2). What I heard from others that the AP can't hold the ALT; I faced this twice. It looks also to me that when "Building Storms" is selected, the A/THR is very nervous while with clear weather, it's much better. I've flown many times with these Airbuses as ground engineer, but I've never seen such a nervous A/THR. Anyway, when either or both disconnected (A/THR and AP) for an unknown reason, I could connect them again after I stabilized the aircraft by hand. Are some of these problems known as bugs or are some new for you?
Answer: AP and A/THR disengage automatically following an upset (unusual attitude), which is normal. The unusual attitudes were reached due to ALT mode kicking out, leading to a loss of guidance. This bug has been fixed in the update. A/THR performance has also been improved.
APU GEN available
Switched on APU
if ENG START
is in NORM and
the packs, which
on the ECAM
APU BLEED is OFF
be switched ON
way is restarting
else I don't have
Answer: This is also a known bug; to be fixed.
Question: Either I did something wrong or my knowledge is not correct. When I follow the tutorial I got on page 6 a ZFM of 56235.0 kg. When following the tutorial onto page 7, I can see that the ZFW is taken from the LM, however, when I click Calculate BF & ZFM, then suddenly the ZFW is increased to 61904 kg. A ZFW is too my opinion the same and thus I don't understand why it's increased?
Answer: Yes, this is a known bug; to be fixed.
These questions and answers are the result of the email traffic I had with the AirSimmer development team. As you can see, a few items should be solved with the release of the SP and as tested during my SP test flights. It seems, as far as I noticed, that the previous problems are gone with the wind. Does this really mean every bit and piece falls together as it had to be and all bugs are gone? The last Service Pack information can be found in the summary section. For now I could like to thank the AirSimmer team for their replies and additional information.
Summary / Closing Remarks
Where and how should I start? It’s too easy to say that it’s not worth buying this aircraft and at the same it’s not fair writing that the product is great and worth every penny. Could it be that the answer is somewhere in-between?
I don’t know yet since a well designed flight model that looks awesome including a well shaped VC and 2D cockpit, isn’t enough to be a success. Probably many others and I had hoped for an Airbus model having quality specifications like those that we know from PMDG and Leonardo SH. That’s unfortunately not the case with this Basic model. Apart from version 1.00 having lot of bugs, it’s not always easy to fly it because of the irregular and spontaneous problems like CTD (Crash To Desktop), memory problems and Auto Flight malfunctions.
It seems that the released Service Pack for both the TabletPC and the actual model, offers the promises although I hardly believe all the bugs are gone or new ones have popped up. This last statement is not meant as a negative, but based on general programming information. After I flew with the Service Pack installed and a clean FS9 version, I can’t say anything else or that I haven’t seen or faced any problems.
The aircraft is doing what it is supposed to do, no CTD’s, no auto drops of A/THR or AP. An MSFS airplane will never by “bug free” in my personal opinion but as long as the developers are willing to surge for a solution and offer the public a patch or Service Pack, then I’m happy. Conclusion related to the offered Service Pack; I’m happy but I’m also aware that it could be that certain snags slipped through my fingers!
A single aircraft model like this AirSimmer Airbus A320, which cost you around 40.00 US$ with hardly any manuals included and a flight tutorial document with pure basic information and nothing more, is a little too much to ask. When you’re not satisfied with only one Airbus model, you can wait for the other Basic FS9 models. However, you need to pay additional for these models.
How much that package will cost you, I don’t know yet. Keeping the current model in mind, the average manual quality and the absence of many simulated systems, I have my doubts if this was the right choice. Some believe in the Wilco Publishing Volume 1 while others still fly and trust the PSS (Phoenix Simulation Software) A320 Family. Although the Wilco Volume 1 doesn’t allow you to control many systems on the overhead panel, it flies and offers a good manual and three different operation modes within FS9 and FSX.
who love the PSS A320 Family get all members except the A318
and they have to keep in mind that it’s only available for
FS9. Since I know the Wilco Volume 1 and knowing its imperfections,
I still think that the Wilco Publishing Volume 1 goes far ahead
of this AirSimmer model.
As said, I think it’s again a comprehensive review with lots of details, and hopefully with the objective information you’re looking for. Based on that, I hope you’re able to make an educated decision. While writing this – December ’09 – the product cost 39,95US$ and although AirSimmer is pointing out that Flight1 takes care for the distribution, I couldn’t find anything on the Flight1 website. You’re able to download the product via the AirSimmer website and the moment you’re trying to install it, you get the famous Flight1 wrapper. Still strange to me why the Flight1 website doesn’t offer the AirSimmer product.
More … no, this is it. Altogether with the released Service Pack, I think the airplane is doing what it is supposed to do. It’s a shame and it must be said that the initial released version 1.00 package was full of bugs and hardly flyable. A shame that registered users had to wait that long before they finally got what was promised. The fact that the Basic model is a stripped Advanced version disappoints me, keeping in mind the Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 1.
Would I go for the Wilco instead of the AirSimmer? That’s an easy question, however the answer is far from easy. Wilco has got things AirSimmer doesn’t have and vice versa, however, Wilco offers either a normal or Deluxe version and more models than AirSimmer and keeping the price in mind, the Wilco model may be slightly more expensive, and the normal version still offers a fully functional FMC.
Anyway, it’s time to stop. I hope this review covers the ins and outs of the AirSimmer model and as said before, I’m sure I’ve missed something but the overall contents should give you a good idea if this is the Airbus model you’re looking for. Feel free to reply on the forum with additional questions or just write me when you need additional information.
I’m aware that this is not a normal review. It covers the original version as well as the Service Pack to get this baby flying. Whenever certain things are not explained because I’ve forgotten them or they are unclear, just leave a message at the reviews forum and I’ll try to answer it. Feel free if you want to ask your questions by e-mail. (Editor's note: be kind!)
Thanks for reading this review of the Airsimmer Airbus A320 version 1.1.
Last incoming note from Airsimmer regarding the gap problem
between the 2D full commander panel and the TFT - PFD,
E/WD and MCDU screens: The gaps in the panel between
the PFD/ND or ECAM E/WD display and even the MCDU, are under
investigation. It appears to be
related to specific hardware configurations. We really need to
work with those seeing the problem. It is very limited, and only
very few things can cause it.
What I Like About AirSimmer's Airbus A320 Basic
What I Don't Like About AirSimmer's Airbus A320 Basic
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