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This Page was last updated: Saturday January 14, 2012

Welcome to the AVSIM Online Multipurpose/Multifunction/Utility Add-ons section. Here you'll find articles and reviews related to the many add-ons, programs and other materials designed to improve the functionality, appearance, or enjoyment of MSFS. You'll also find some special "how-to" articles, and features about hardware and software generally related to your flight simming or Internet usage. If you wish to contribute your own article or review of an add-on, please read our contributing guidelines.
Multipurpose/Multifunction/Utility Articles - Newest to Oldest

Real Environment Xtreme v2 For FSX By Aaron Graham (Jan 14, 2012) Avsim staff reviewer Aaron Graham looks at the FSX genre of Real Environment Xtreme v2. "Sometimes when you see something, you know it will be great before you use it." "Real Environment Xtreme is basically a complete graphics package for Microsoft Flight Simulator X. Anything to do with textures in FSX; you can bet REX will have it covered. It covers land textures, water textures, cloud textures, airport ground textures, sky colors, lighting effects and finally sun and lens flare textures and effects. REX also includes a weather engine and flight planner." "I am stunned by this product. It is a marvelous piece of programming that many graphical packages should aspire to. If you are in doubt as to whether you should purchase it, just get it."
Electronic Flight Bag By Chase Kreznor (Nov 20, 2011) Avsim staff member Chase Kreznor had the opportunity to use AivlaSoft's Electronic Flight Bag during his time aboard PMDG's 737 NGX. Here's what he has to say about this utility program. "What is Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)? As the name suggests, it’s a virtual flight bag filled with quick references which are purely electronic and paperless. No more printing out procedure plates, check lists, radio frequencies and ILS information. This program is an intuitive all-in-one utility for a pilot to use from flight briefing to shut down. EFB runs alongside FSX either on the same computer or on a networked computer. The EFB User Interface is truly of an intuitive design and easy to learn and engage in." "Overall, I was very impressed with the features and functionality of the EFB. I feel like this is the type of add-on any flight simulator pilot should have in their collection to further supplement the realism of flight simulator and also to make a more efficient planning and reference experience within flight simulator."
Pro Flight System By Benjamin van Soldt (Aug 29, 2011) Staff reviewer Benjamin van Soldt looks at a complete flight sim hardware ensemble from Saitek, namely their Pro Flight System. "I can say very easily that I love the Saitek hardware reviewed. Setting up the hardware to allow actual flying in FS is easy, if a bit tedious. Using the controller section of the FS settings tab, you can set everything up the way you like it, but I really recommend FSUIPC for more advanced stuff." "The actual flying with the hardware is great. All the equipment is of good quality and seems sturdy enough to keep working for a long time. The yoke has been intelligently put together, with firm hand grips and buttons that are placed at exactly the right spots. The throttle quadrant is just as easy to setup as it’s fun to use. Being able to move actual levers instead of ramming the keyboard or moving a depressingly little thing on a joystick is an enormous joy. Like the yoke, the throttle quadrant is very versatile in that you can replace the handles on the levers to suit the function you gave it (throttle, mixture or condition lever). The pedals are easy to setup and require hardly any fiddling. Only the toe brakes might have you going back and forth in the FS settings tab."
Flight Environment X By Harold Zimmer (Apr 19, 2011) Staff reviewer Harold Zimmer plays creator within his Flight Sim with Flight 1's Flight Environment X. "FEX uses a new technology called Xenvision to render clouds, sky themes, and water themes in a way that you have to see to believe.  “Super High Definition” is utilized, giving you the option to use 4096 X 4096 texture resolution sets." "Not only does FEX add an amazing amount of realism, as well as surrealistic environmental settings, but it's simply pure enjoyment when looking out that virtual windscreen. I like to call it the ultimate “Environmental Eye Candy”!  It is also worth the price as you get the tools to create your own personal and unique environments."
iGMap/iGMap HD By Aidan Sandri (Feb 19, 2011) Staff reviewer Aidan Sandri utilizes modern technology to look at FSWidgets iGMap/iGMap HD. "iGMap is a moving map for your iPhone or iPad for use with Microsoft Flight Sim 9 or X, or X-Plane 9. It is a navigation aid for any flight whether it be VFR or IFR." "There are other products similar to this and from reading about them and using them, this product goes far beyond what the others offer. I can say without reservation that iGMap is a must have for any simmer who uses FS9, FSX or X-Plane with an iOS Device."
Terrain Map By Arjun Murthy (Feb 12, 2011) Staff reviewer Arjun Murthy stays out of the "cumulo granite" by using DBSim Studios' Terrain Map. "One of the fun aspects of Flight Simulation is flying to locations that are a challenge. This will definitely happen when there’s low visibility or mountains in the area. If you’re crazy enough to have both, then DB Sim’s Terrain Map comes as a great tool to help you live (virtually of course). It shows the terrain data relative to your position or as a whole and is highly accurate to show where you are now in relation to the terrain." "The terrain map is quite similar to a GPS except that the output information is different tones of color to represent the variation of the elevation of terrain. With this program you can predict the location of Terrain past the nearby peaks, identify the width of a valley to make a turn, plan your path to an airport and if you know the area well enough, also use it as a little GPS type system to track the progress to your destination based on the formation of the valleys." "Terrain Map is one of the simplest yet most detailed programs I have used in my years of Flight Simulation. It is so easy to use and it is very effective if used properly and for the right purposes."
Flight Sim Commander Version 9 By David Wilson-Okamura (Feb 7, 2011) Senior staff reviewer David Wilson-Okamura plans and analyzes his flights with Flight Sim Commander, Version 9. "The most popular payware planners are FSBuild, reviewed in 2006 by AVSIM Staff Reviewer Gavin Hendrie, and FlightSim Commander, which I reviewed here in 2006 (version 7.7) and Arjun Murthy reviewed here again in 2009 (version 8.x). Now that version 9 is here, we’re going to have a third look, and see what’s new. I’ll cover four parts: installation and documentation; flight planning; in-flight and post-flight services; and user interface." "Flight Sim Commander 9 is not the best program for any one thing, but it does more things than any of its rivals, and it does all of them well enough. My advice, if you’re looking for a flight planner, is to download the trial version from the website. It’s free, and you can run it for thirty minutes at a time. After thirty minutes, the program will close, but you can start it up again as many times as you like."
HeliTraffic 2009 By Alan Bradbury (Jan 3, 2011) Staff reviewer Alan Bradbury adds more life to his airports with Flight 1's HeliTraffic 2009. "HeliTraffic 2009 offers itself up as the solution to the lack of realistic whirlybird participation in your Flight Simulator AI. It does this for both FS9 and FSX." "HeliTraffic 2009 is extremely simple to use. In fact, if all you want to do is add realistic chopper flights to your airports as eye candy then it really could not be any simpler if it tried; just click a couple of options in the very simple interface which you get to from the FS menus, wait for it to do a bit of a read of your files for a minute or so and then a simple click to ‘enable’ it and you are in business. HeliTraffic 2009 will do all the rest of the work and you will then see whirlybirds using all of your airport helipads for both add-on and default scenery and choppers merrily making their way across your FS world at a typical altitude of around 3,000 feet or so." "There is certainly no doubt HelTraffic could add a lot of realism to something like the wilderness scenery from companies such as Orbx, where choppers are likely to be flying around a lot. I recommend HeliTraffic 2009 because it’s an excellent little piece of software and it's a great little add-on."
Airport Wizard By Roger Curtiss (Jan 1, 2011) Staff reviewer does some maintenance on his airport lighting with FightSimTools' Airport Wizard. "This is marketed to be the easiest way yet to add some much needed nuances to the airports in FSX and FS9." "The allure of this product is that it can make these enhancements to default airports and even add-ons. It does so by creating a new scenery area called Airport Wizard and the improvements it generates for each airport are placed in a scenery file stored in that area. This allows for easy removal of the enhancements if desired without interfering or disturbing the underlying base airport scenery files.""This is even more convenient than it might sound because enhancements must be performed on an individual basis, airport by airport, making this a rather painless way to make changes without having to worry about disturbing or distorting legacy scenery."
Flight Tracker By Arjun Murthy (Dec 22, 2010) Staff reviewer Arjun Murthy keeps a record of his simming experience with Chanticleer Software's Flight Tracker. "The program enables you to record some of the important data that happens in each flight through its extensive ACARS feature and creates a log of these flights so you can look back on your performance at any time." "The ACARS Tracker feature is the face of this program. The layout is so simple that you may find many things even before reading the manual. Some of the items include the Date, Aircraft Type, ZFW, Origin ICAO/Name, Flight timings, Weights, Fuel amount, Distance, various Speeds, Takeoff N Settings, Weather and Vertical Speed at Touchdown." "The Flight log feature is the “other half” to this program. All the flights can be logged and the information displayed in numerous formats. The data from each flight can be individually viewed and edited." "Flight Tracker performs its tasks with significant detail and the developers have ensured that the level of accuracy is raised, especially by adding editing options to the users. The data can be viewed in many simplistic formats and your total statistics can be viewed very easily."
Active Sky Evolution By Alan Bradbury (Oct 18, 2010) Staff reviewer Alan Bradbury plays weatherman as he manipulates his flight environment with HiFi Simulations' Active Sky Evolution. "The culmination of many iterations of Active Sky over the years, which first showed up in 2002, Active Sky Evolution is thus well named, being a finely-honed product thanks to all the previous work it is born from. This is a major step up in terms of realism to enhance the weather depiction, which is exactly what HiFi’s Active Sky Evolution is about." "Despite the massive capabilities of ASE and what is going on under the hood, this means it could not be simpler to get into. So you find there is an extremely powerful tool at your fingertips, which is not only childishly simple to use, but also very pleasant to look at." "Power is nothing without control, but Active Sky Evolution manages to make such powerful abilities easy to master and is flexible to implement in that you can cherry pick just how much or how little you want it to do for you. As such, it is readily apparent that the many years HiFi have spent in honing Active Sky versions, has resulted in a masterful ability to offer such complexities in a brilliantly user-friendly fashion."
Airport Enhancer HDX By Allen Lavigne (Oct 14, 2010) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne improves his airport's looks with Cielosim's Airport Enhancer HDX. "An airport texture replacement and management tool. Made from real life DSLR photographs, these are bound to enhance the airport environment. At these higher resolutions of 4096x4096, detailed surfaces and refractive wet effects are much more detailed than are the default FSX ones." "The sets provided represent the majority of airport textures you will encounter in FSX but there are a lot they left untouched as well. For instance: dirt airfields, gravel, and cement, bituminous, and the one and only steel runway in FSX at KNJM. Granted, these are oddities, one of a kind airfields, and as such were not that necessary to enhance." "Airport Enhancer HDX offers you textures of higher resolutions (4096 compared to 1024 for default) for your airport environments."
FS2Crew for Level D 767 By David Smith (Oct 9, 2010) Staff reviewer David Smith continues the FS2Crew voice module series. This time the Level D 767 gets the FS2Crew treatment. "All in all FS2Crew is definitely a fun thing to have to break up the monotonous routine of simulated flight. Being greeted by your Co-Pilot or having to call operations for your zero fuel weight adds to the realism of a carefully planned, and executed trip. Being able to call for gear up or to have the flaps set is something that has improved the way I fly." "The sounds are above average. There has been a lot of thought put into making crew responses as real as possible. I found FS2Crew to be very worth the price. It is a well thought out package and is a joy to work with. The interfaces are great as well as the interaction with the crew. I would recommend the package"
X65F HOTAS By Angelique van Campen (Oct 6, 2010) Senior staff reviewer Angelique van Campen gets a firm grip on flying with Saitek's X65F HOTAS. "Using joysticks or this non-movable stick means you’ve entered a totally new flight simulator world. It first starts with the X-65F look. There’s no need to touch it since it expresses durability and has at the same time a professional look. This time professional means that it looks awesome. You could have your thoughts about a stick that’s not movable. On the other hand, why should it move? A stick that doesn’t move like the X-65F, feels in the very beginning very strange and you can hardly believe that the electronics are able to detect force sensing." "The Control Panel and Profile Editor graphs confirm that it can detect your applied force and the flight simulation programs follow, without any hesitation, your steering commands. Even for me as a left handed person, using my right hand on the stick doesn’t give any problems. All the buttons, switches and trigger are directly accessible. I flew many hours with different airplanes and even some fighters and can come to only one conclusion; it flies like hell. It feels natural, it reacts directly and you have full control over the force to apply." "Editing the buttons, which are available on the throttle unit, is fun and gives you full control over your flight simulator aircraft or helicopter. Not unimportant, split throttle movement is available when you wish and it works great with twin engine aircraft. You really feel the massive metal piece moving underneath your hand. When you’ve split the throttle (engine) control, you’re still able to move them without any stagger. That’s because your hand-palm covers both throttle halves." "Is Saitek's X65F the ultimate HOTAS equipment? For me it is!"
Radar Box Pro By Marlon Carter (Sep 26, 2010) Staff reviewer Marlon Carter takes a look at the real world of commercial aviation with AirNav Systems' Radar Box Pro. "AirNav RadarBox is the world's best selling and most advanced Real Time Virtual Radar. Designed by Professional Pilots and the first and only ADS-B receiver with a presence in space." "Flight number, aircraft type, altitude, heading, speed are all updated each second. Two of the features I enjoyed with this program is the networking capabilities which is described as revolutionary since it is one of the first worldwide flight radar flight data. This feature allows you to access data from other Radarbox users around the world. Another feature of the product that I enjoyed was the alert function that alerts you whenever aircraft come within your radar range." "RadarBox is not only a useful tool to pilots but also to those of you who are interesting in air traffic control and even if you are neither of the two, I can guarantee that if you love aviation you will enjoy having this product. This is the closest you can get to real world aviation without leaving your living room. It allows you to monitor the movement of aircraft not only at your home location but also worldwide."
Real Environment Xtreme for X-Plane By Allen Lavigne (Sep 19, 2010) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne looks at a product previous reviewed for MSFS and is now available for X-Plane, Real Environment Xtreme. "Most of you are probably familiar with the REX products made for FSX and FS2004 by Real Environment Xtreme. As its manual states: "REX is an environmental add-on, and manipulation program which includes a robust selection of beautiful user-selectable sky and cloud themes, an advanced weather spotter search feature, archived data weather, enhanced METAR smoothing/probing features, real-time weather reporting & updating and weather avoidance features." "REXPlane comes with six themes. These are made up of 4 sets of cloud textures and one set of sky textures. Personal creations from combinations of the 5 sets can be chosen to suit your own weather needs or tastes. A randomizer button is available for the daring." "Typing in the ICAO code for your airport will display its current weather or a chosen date from the pull-down ARCHIVE WEATHER at the bottom of that page. Within the weather page is a weather avoidance system page accessed from the purple button on the lower part of this page. It is powered by the familiar Google Maps which is a sliding map with a zoom in/out bar, and adds areas of weather interest." "What REX-Plane is, is a choice of texture sets, not a weather engine. It can deliver a metar sheet to X-Plane, but once inside X-Plane's weather engine it has no influence on layers etc..., only textures that are pre-loaded. Regardless, REX-Plane delivers the meat to the bare bones that X-Plane alone gives you."
Flight 1 - Audio Environment (Airliner Edition) By Angelique van Campen (Sep 8, 2010) Senior staff reviewer Angelique van Campen brings new sounds to her ears with Flight 1's Audio Environment (Airline Edition), developed by Turbine Sound Studios. "Many users dislike flying the default aircraft that come with FSX as they seem unrealistic and dull compared to the complex airliner add-ons available. Improving the sound sets for these aircraft adds a tremendous depth to the realism and immersion, giving these aircraft a whole new life." "Everybody knows Turbine Sound Studios (TSS) for their high quality sound sets that they provide for many third party add-on aircraft. Knowing this, Flight1 and TSS started to collaborate on a project to give an auditory upgrade to FSX. TSS would provide the sounds for the main FSX airliners and Flight1 would provide the interface to control the backup of the default sounds and installation of the new sound sets." "The default aircraft that Audio Environment (Airliner Edition) applies to are the B737-800, B747-400, Airbus A321, Bombardier CRJ700 and the Learjet 45. Having worked in the real world industry, remembering those real sounds tells me that this “Airliner” sound (and AI sound) package is worth your investment."
FS2Crew - PMDG J41 Voice Commander By Jason McKee (Sep 3, 2010) Staff reviewer Jason McKee gives his commands to his co-pilot through FS2Crew's PMDG J41 Voice Commander. "FS2Crew started out with crew simulation by using check lists that were used with your mouse and keyboards, but since those early days they have moved to voice and are now releasing more voice commander software for some of the most popular aircraft out there." "FS2Crew's PMDG J41 Voice Commander adds a great deal to your immersion in FSX, you can now talk to your crew and have them follow your commands. I found this a very easy to use product, and once you have done some voice recognition training you will have very few errors. The ability to control all parts of your flight, follow checklist and even run through abnormal procedures with your crew is great."
FS2Crew - PMDG 737NG Voice Commander By Gary Yip (Aug 13, 2010) New staff reviewer Gary Yip gets some help in the cockpit with FS2Crews' Voice Commander for the PMDG 737NG. "Where once before, preflight setup was a dull and lonely task and one that you just wanted to get out of the way, it has now become a totally different and enjoyable experience. From a cold and dark cockpit, powering up the aircraft and setting up for the flight ahead has never felt more realistic." "The recent 2010 Voice Edition releases add a new element of voice control to the mix. This enhances the product’s realism by allowing you to talk to your virtual first officer. As in the real world though, train yourself to respond using the EXACT phraseology and it will not only make you a better pilot, but it will also help the flow of the checklist and avoid having to repeat yourself, thereby enhancing your realism." Gary describes the various stages of flight from cold and dark, thru preflight, taxi, in-flight, approach, landing, and shut down, and the various commands and controls shared by you the pilot and your virtual co-pilot. You can even have the co-pilot do the take-off and flight. "Despite the difficulties of simulating a multi-crew environment on a home PC, FS2Crew has done a great job of making it seem less lonely up on the flight deck. Simple procedures such as starting the engines have a lot more realistic feel to them as well with the introduction of the passengers and cabin crew into the mix."
Contrails Pro By Viktor Lakatos (Aug 3, 2010) Staff reviewer Viktor Lakatos makes his mark in the sky with FlightSimTools' Contrails Pro. "Contrails Pro is a module for Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 that adds realistic contrails to AI aircraft." "This is not a utility in the usual way: you don’t need to handle anything during your flight. It is a small module which tries to raise the level of FS reality. And it does its work. Just fly an airline route with Contrails Pro and you will discover a brand new view."
Ultimate Traffic 2 By Angelique van Campen (July 16, 2010) Senior staff reviewer Angelique van Campen adds extra intelligence to her flight experience with the boxed version of Flight 1's Ultimate Traffic 2. "Let's first have a quick look at what the DVD box offers; the DVD and an Operations Handbook. I haven't compared every page of this booklet with the software version of the user manual, but most of the menus from the UT2 control panel are discussed in this handy booklet." "The UT2 control panel gives full control of FSX Ultimate Traffic. Important to mention; AI traffic is only injected if available at that airport for that day and time of the week, so "for pleasure" flying traffic is not implemented and to complete the story; this means not only AI commercial traffic but also GA registered traffic! Irrespective of the default FSX AI Airline traffic density and General aviation traffic density slider position, UT2 has become active and no longer are the default FSX airplanes shown." "The AI aircraft all look realistic. I haven't seen an AI model I didn't recognize. One problem I encountered is the appearance of approaching AI planes. Not from the sky following the ILS, but out of nowhere low with the ground. It seems, after checking this behavior for hours that the approaching AI models land far before the planned touchdown zone." "Ultimate Traffic 2 is designed to be active from the beginning without the need for making complicated setting changes. This means you're ready to go and AI traffic is automatically injected into FSX. That the control panel allows you to make additional changes or monitor AI traffic movements is an additional benefit. The way the control panel is designed and the look of the dedicated UT2 website, both reflect a well balanced AI environment. Looking at the overall functionality, I think Ultimate Traffic 2 is worth its price."
TOPCAT By Marlon Carter (June 6, 2010) Staff reviewer Marlon Carter takes all the guesswork out of performance calculations with TOPCAT Sim's Take-Off and Landing Performance Calculation Tool. "It brings into a single application all of the calculations required to plan for safe and repeatable take-offs and landings. TOPCAT will provide you, the captain, with Load Sheets, Take-Off and Landing performance analysis, Individual Runway Tables including all relevant speeds (V1, VR and V2), optimum thrust and flaps configurations, de-rated and assumed/flex temperatures and stop margins." "At first glance I thought that this program would be very complicated to use. After reading the entire manual I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would be able to use this tool as it was intended. The documentation is very thorough and it leaves no gray areas or any aspect of the program unexplained. The developers of this program have obviously put a lot into it and they deserve thumbs up for their efforts. Many simmers are already using this program and have all commented that it is an extremely useful tool in flight planning." "The TOPCAT tool for me has been the missing link in having that true to life flying experience. If you are a hardcore simmer who enjoys all aspects of flying, including the preflight paper work and calculations then this program is a must have."
FS2Crew For The Maddog By Marlon Carter (April 18, 2010) Staff reviewer Marlon Carter looks at FS2Crew's Voice Commander for the Maddog. "I have always said it would be a lot easier and realistic if there was a simulated first officer. While aircraft and flight simulators have come a long way, the aspect of the entire work load being on one pilot has detracted somewhat from a true to life flying experience, if you don’t believe me try flying the Maddog all by yourself as accurately as possible!" "After starting the FS2Crew control panel, the 30 minute preflight routine was started. The First Officer came into the cockpit and asked how I was doing today, after replying “good” he then started to carry out all of the pre-start checklist items. Be mindful though, that you are required to complete certain checklist items on your own before starting the FS2Crew program in order for the FO to carry out his flows correctly. After the FO completed his Pre-Start check, I then asked if he was ready for the departure brief to which he said yes. We continued on from there..." "One of the things I can’t over emphasize is the fact that all of these functions are carried out without the click the mouse on a control panel to prompt the various commands. All of this is done simply by speaking as in real life. It is also important to say that using the voice commander will take some getting use to since there are various trigger words which have to be said in order for the program to work correctly." "I highly recommend this program to anyone who owns the Maddog2008 or any other aircraft which is supported by FS2Crew Voice Commander. I no longer have to wonder what it would be like to have a true to life flying experience within the confines of Microsoft Flight Simulator."
FS Live Traffic 3 By Roger Curtiss (April 8, 2010) Staff reviewer Roger Curtiss dons the headset and listens to AI traffic request clearances and watch them taxi around the various airports that he visited with AirNavSystems' FS Live Traffic 3. "Like any good airplane enthusiast I have spent my requisite time listening to a radio scanner and even tuned into the action on one of the live ATC computer channels available at www.liveatc.net. But these were just audio feeds and I had to use my imagination to visualize the actual aircraft movements. I was intrigued to learn of an offering called FS Live Traffic 3 by AirNav Systems Inc." "FS Live Traffic 3 promises to provide the same real airline traffic as the earlier offerings but states that the traffic information is freshly loaded each time and will reflect actual aircraft movements from one minute before the download. AirNav Systems is primarily a provider of aircraft tracking hardware and software for the aviation community both professional flight organizations and home users. Real-time flight information is collected and then distributed to its users." "For what it does; taking real world traffic and displaying it as dynamic features in the FSX environment, FS Live Traffic 3 performs brilliantly."
Airport GPS By Robert Mariani (April 2, 2010) Staff reviewer Robert Mariani never gets lost on the ground now that he's using DBS Studio's Airport GPS. "DBS Studios Airport GPS is a GPS simulator that works like a car GPS except that it shows only runways, taxiways and parking places of the airport you are currently sitting at." "The first thing to keep in mind is that Airport GPS only works while you are on the ground at the airport. In other words, you cannot select the airport while you are flying and look up its layout. Next, in order to use the Airport GPS you must first install it on your airplane’s panel via the add-on’s drop down menu, and then reload the airplane to make it work. Finally, the ATC directions may sometimes be slightly different from the route you get from GPS, but as long as they end at the same gate, all is well." "GPS can be undocked and placed anywhere on your desktop like an independent window, while still communicating with FS. You can also resize and place the GPS anywhere on your panel, and if you have a multiple monitor setup, the thing to do is to place it on another screen for use while on ground." "DBS Airport GPS is a simple tool that truly simplifies the way to taxi at busy airports and provides another way to get progressive guidance to either the runway or your parking spot."
My Traffic 2010 By Philip Wilson (February 16, 2010) Staff reviewer Philip Wilson adds more life to his virtual skies with Aerosofts MyTraffic 2010. "MyTraffic 2010 from Aerosoft, along with MyTraffic X from Simmarket, are both developed by Burkhard Renk. My Traffic 2010 is the latest version of the popular and longtime successful My Traffic series. Uncompromisingly optimized for the Microsoft Flight Simulator X this product provides realistic air traffic in the air and on the ground, which is controlled by artificial intelligence, for more than 8200 airports." "MyTraffic 2010 features 146 unique AI aircraft representing 4,106 liveries across the globe. In addition, you will see the FSX default GA and corporate aircraft at most airports. Each aircraft was designed specifically for FSX with the latest tools and are fully DX10 compliant. There are no “carry over” models from FS9 which speaks volumes about the dedication of Burkhard to ensure only the best products are incorporated in this release of MyTraffic." "Many of the commercial IA aircraft are beautiful. After examining 50+ commercial aircraft in various liveries, I found most of the repaints excellent on average, with a few that bordered average. In addition to the default FSX corporate aircraft, MyTraffic 2010 adds the Challenger 300, 601, 604, 850 and the Global Express. The quality of the textures on these aircraft fall into the average category as I didn’t see any truly high quality repaints regardless of which airport I visited. Visit any small real world airfield and there will be numerous GA aircraft sporting a wide variety of paint schemes. One aspect of this product I really looked forward to was the addition of military aircraft at bases around the world." "More than 2,100 FSX stock airports have been modified with greater AI traffic. In many cases where there was no AI at all, including many military airfields, MyTraffic 2010 added a number of additional parking locations. Givin the limits of FSX, I feel the resulting AI traffic is extremely realistic and given that the user can add/remove or edit schedules makes for a very complete product. MyTraffic 2010 displays as much airport activity at 16% than FSX does at 100%." "MyTraffic 2010 brings everything into one easy to use package. From thousands of new FSX/DX10 compliant airliners, to military bases across the globe full of realistic combat aircraft, this package is a definite must-have for anyone who wants a one-stop-shop for all their AI traffic needs."
Real Environment Xtreme 2004 By Philip Wilson (February 9, 2010) Staff reviewer Philip Wilson changes his Flight Sim world with Real Environment Xtreme for FS2004. As mentioned in the manual, "REX is a full weather environment creation, display, and manipulation program which includes a robust selection of beautiful user or automatically selectable sky, cloud themes and other environment textures, real world and custom weather generators, and real time weather reporting & updating." "There are currently no other environmental products on the market which even come close to the level of quality and professionalism REX brings to FS2004. For many, FS9 is their only flight simulation option due to the steep system requirements for FSX." "If you fall into that category, I highly recommend this product as it will give you breathtaking and realistic environmental textures, exceeding even the stock FSX textures in beauty and realism."
Electronic Flight Bag By Eduardo Ocampo (February 9, 2010) Staff reviewer Eduardo Ocampo modernizes his work environment by adding Aivlasoft's Electronic Flight Bag. "The flight bag is the aviation equivalent of a constructor’s tool box. Turns out the smart people at Aivlasoft noticed that there was not an add-on for MSFS that fulfilled the needs of the dedicated simmers that enjoy flying the virtual skies with all sorts of resources: detailed flight planners, airport and route charts, NOTAM’s, checklists, flight following tables, etc. The result? Aivlasoft’s Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), a software that provides everything you could possibly need to make your flights better planned and executed." "To provide the information, this software is composed of two major pieces: The Data Provider and the Display Unit. The Data Provider is the core of the EFB since it acts as a CPU. It is linked to FSX and makes the connection between it and the Display Unit. Every command you make in the Display Unit is sent to the Data Provider which will “look” through FSX to respond to your initial command. The Display Unit is the user interface. From here you will work with the different functions the EFB has to offer and it’s both the starting and the ending point for every request you make to the EFB system." Eduardo goes on to break down each section of these 2 components. He concludes his look at the Electronic Flight Bag with, "from head to toe, a flight planning tool! Definitely something every dedicated simmer should have in his/her arsenal of software. Despite all of its functions, the EFB is easy to use and has a simplistic approach; very user-friendly. The charts are definitely the strongest point of this software, although its other functions are equally powerful and useful. If you enjoy a planned flight in your sim with all the proper tools at hand, you will find this software tailor made for you."
Ultimate Traffic II By Jason McKee (August 20, 2009) It's been 2 years since we looked at Flight 1's Ultimate Traffic, now staff reviewer Jason McKee looks at their latest release Ultimate Traffic II. "To use some marketing parlance, it has been completely redesigned from the ground up, specifically for FSX. This means that the models are more frame rate friendly than the FS2004 version; that you can use DX10 preview without the grey or white aircraft issues showing up; and overall you can have more traffic than you could have had in the past." "Included with the package are some very neat tools, including schedules for one or all airlines covered, flight maps, flight routes, aircraft livery configuration and aircraft removal to name but a few. If you have selected 100% traffic and your system can handle it, you are in for a treat. Major airports become bustling areas with traffic going every which way, and GA fields have a nice flow of traffic around them too. Following the AI with the new AI camera option in FSX is great fun. Watching a variety of different aircraft flying around they all seem to fly correctly, taxi well and generally look good." "Ultimate Trafic II is a great product, designed from the ground up with FSX specific models and features, most aircraft feature moving flaps and reversers. With the range of tools provided and options to change the flight plans of aircraft, it makes a powerful program to manage and adjust your AI. It fills your airports with realistic traffic that follows the latest schedules and assignments. I highly recommend this product if you are looking for a great AI traffic system that is fully customizable to suit your needs."
Airport Enhancement Services (AES) By Jon Murchison (August 12, 2009) Staff reviewer Jon Murchison adds all the bells and whistles to his airport ramps with Aerosoft's Airport Enhancement Services and he likes what he sees. "A number of FSX scenery designers are beginning to work with the FSX SDK and we see purpose built animated jetways and other interactive features beginning to appear, but overall the bit between flights is typically the time we get another cup of coffee and eat a sandwich, so any baggage or refuel action that may take place is out of our control to a greater extent. Now enter AES from Aerosoft developed by Oliver Pabst." "Once parked, the marshaller will walk forward and position himself to the left of the aircraft’s nose wheel and depending on where you are parked either an animated Jetway that has been added by AES to replace static ones or the animated jetways that come with the scenery will move into position against your aircraft, complete with warning beep and flashing orange lights at its base. Cargo unloading vehicles also move into position at the same time and all of this happens within a few moments of you engaging the aircraft’s parking brakes. What impressed me was the variation of equipment that is used for the different aircraft categories at each parking location. The types used are determined in the AESHELP as AES will base the equipment on the height of cargo and exit doors meaning you’ll never get a conveyor cargo unloader at a 747, just as you won’t get a pallet unloader at a 737 or prop aircraft." "Depending where you are parked will determine if a small fuel truck that will connect with a localized fuel outlet arrives or a large tanker that carries all your fuel on board. Once deboarding was complete I could then call up the cleaning crew. During winter you can call for deicing and this is an added option only available at that time of the year. If you want de-icing, two trucks will arrive; their booms will extend and then animated hose pipes will start directing a solid beam of de-icing fluid across the wings, rear fuselage and tail." "AES is not just about adding an animated environment, it also adds sounds as part of the experience. All of the vehicles have appropriate engine noises as they arrive, sit at the aircraft and then depart. Jetways have a warning horn when they move and the little dude during pushback tells you exactly what you need to do to advance through each stage. AES doesn’t stop there in terms of spicing up the sound and visual environment. Once lined up on the runway and you begin your take-off roll AES had added the sound aircraft make when they run over the centre lights on the runway." "I really enjoyed this product and found the level of interactivity to bring a new dimension to my experience at the airports I had unlocked, which leaves all the others somewhat empty and boring. I love AES and will watch closely as it evolves. If you already have sceneries it’s compatible with, you won’t be disappointed with the final result in FSX."
FSFlyingSchool2009 By Jeff Skyluk (July 23, 2009) Senior staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk goes back to school, flight school that is as he revisits a product he previously reviewed except this time it's the 2009 version of FSFlyingSchool. "FSFlyingSchool is an interactive simulated flight instructor who monitors your actions in Flight Simulator and accumulates notes on your technique into a comprehensive logbook. Jeff Preston, the team leader for the FSFS project is tireless when it comes to making revisions and additions to the product. He listened to what customers had to say about FSFS, and now he is proud to present a new release of the product. I will revisit FSFS and find out what is new in this latest version." "I should be clear and point out that there are actually quite a few increments involved, depending on the version of FSFS you are looking at. The same basic premise and operation of FSFS remains intact, but a number of improvements allows for smoother, more streamlined operation of the product, as well as a higher lever of interactivity with the instructor. Checklist items like lights and engine management are now crucial for a successful flight." "The new version has an enhanced logbook that keeps track of all of your flight statistics. You can consult your flight records for an in-depth analysis of your pilot habits, use the log to track your flying time for a virtual airline, or seek out a definitive cause for an aircraft crash." "FSFS2009 is easy to install and easy to use. The focus is on maintaining basic airmanship skills, so there are no in-depth lessons like you would find at a flying school, nor are there accommodations for extreme aircraft like fighter jets or stunt planes. However, you may use almost any engine-powered fixed-wing general aviation or passenger/cargo aircraft that you have on hand, including third-party add-ons. FSFS2009 does require that you have at least the freeware version of Peter Dowson's FSUIPC installed for FSX." "Overall, FSFlyingSchool2009 is a product I like, much as I do the original FSFS. Now that I have seen both, I can say I prefer the new version. It doesn't break anything, it just improves on what has gone before."
FS Aspen By Jason McKee (July 10, 2009) Staff reviewer Jason McKee does some maintenance on his aircraft's panel with Flight One's FS Aspen. "Aspen Avionics have released the Evolution Flight Display system. This system comprises of three separate gauges, The EFD 1000 PFD (which I am reviewing here) The EFD 1000 MFD and the EFD 500 MFD." "Flight1 have released the Aspen EFD1000 PFD as a separate gauge for both FS2004 and FSX, also included in the package is the Flight1Gauge Config utility and a demo version of FS Panel Studio. The latter is a very powerful panel editor, which allows you to modify your panels in any installed aircraft." "The Flight1 Gauge Config Utility is a simple little utility that is easy to use and makes installing your Aspen gauge a breeze. The F1GCU is quite a powerful way of installing your PFD and autopilot into your aircraft’s 2D panel. Although this utility will only work on the 2D panel, if you want it installed into the VC then you will need to use the FS Panel Studio or manually modify the config files." "The Aspen PFD and Meggitt S-Tec 55X autopilot complement each other nicely. The PFD displays all the information in an easy to read format without having to scan and decode multiple steam gauges, and the Meggitt A/P adds some nice little features and ease of use. The inclusion of the Gauge Config Utility is a great one, and makes installing this gauge a breeze. I recommend FS Aspen to anyone wanting to upgrade their GA fleet with modern glass cockpit avionics."
Ultimate Weather FX By Jeff Skyluk (July 4, 2009) Senior staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk changes the weather conditions with Zinertek Technologies' Ultimate Weather FX. "If there is one thing that can define your experience with Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS), it will probably be the weather. Ultimate Weather FX is an add-on that changes the look of the sky and the clouds, but it does not change the underlying method that MSFS uses to create weather in the first place." "Ultimate Weather FX from Zinertek is a small program that updates the look of clouds, sky, and runway lights in FS9 and FSX. If you use FS9, you can expect impressive variety in precipitation as well. Ultimate Weather does not at all change the way weather is generated in MSFS. For that, you will need an add-on such as the one recommended by Zinertek: Active Sky from HiFi Simulation Software." "Ultimate Weather provides new textures for clouds and sky. Mostly, the textures and effects are more detailed than in default FSX, with the exception of cirrus clouds and the visibility layer. This utility is a relatively small file. It takes under a minute to install, and it keeps a backup of your default FSX files in case you decide to uninstall it. Ultimate Weather FX definitely makes changes to MSFS."
FlightSim Commander By Arjun Murthy (July 1, 2009) Staff reviewer Arjun Murthy goes behind the scenes of flight planning and navigation and checks out all of the buttons and windows in FlightSim Commander X (also for FS9). "Many people don’t want to purchase aircraft with FMC’s. Many people find Flight Planning slightly difficult. Many people find making an aircraft fly a particular flight plan difficult. With FlightSim Commander, many of these numerous ‘unknowns’ can be erased with a program called FlightSim Commander. FlightSim Commander is an amazing program enabling you to perform many tasks that are very hard without it." "FlightSim Commander is an absolutely fantastic program when it comes to the use of virtual pilots. I would recommend this program to anyone that flies non-FMC aircraft or default aircraft a lot. It has it all in one product and makes an absolutely great little tool with all the information. This will definitely be one of those products that I will use in almost ALL of my flights."
FS2Crew PMDG MD-11 By Angelique van Campen (July 1, 2009) Senior staff reviewer Angelique van Campen gets joined in the cockpit with a virtual partner courtesy of FS2Crew's PMDG MD-11. "Do you like to fly alone without a First Officer next to you, helping you out with all kinds of things; or do you want to master the aircraft with the help of a virtual flight/cabin/ground/handling crew?" "It all starts with the FS2Crew Start Center. Selecting the PMDG MD-11 tab allows the user to install different voice packs (UK, Europe or US) and assigns command to the RED and GREEN buttons. These RED and GREEN assignments are, by default, for default keyboard and joystick assignments. However, you are free to modify this. These assignments are important since you need these during your interaction with the MAIN panel." "The MD-11 FS2C panel configuration is different than before and is very easy to follow. You only have two panels; the MAIN and SECONDARY. The manual doesn't offer you a separate chapter to explain every light, button or text window of either panel. Instead, it offers a huge but very informative tutorial and where and when needed, it explains the functions of each panel or a specific part of it." Angelique then takes her PMDG MD-11 for a test flight utilizing all of the features of this software. She has chapter subtitles that include pre-flight; Pushback, engine start and taxi; Take off, climb, cruise; and Descent, approach, landing and termination. She conludes her reiview with, "FS2Crew's PMDG MD-11 is a great piece of software. Keeping in mind what I've seen and how interactive it works and how bustling with activities this product is, it's absolutely worth the investment."
FS Elemental

By Robert Mariani (June 18, 2009) Staff reviewer Robert Mariani changes his environment with FS Elemental's Natural Pack. "The publisher says, “FS Elemental is an extraordinary and complete environment enhancement dedicated to Flight Simulator 9.”" "FS Elemental is very easy to use. There are only three buttons. If you were to push the wrong button first, FS Elemental would make a backup of your original textures before it runs or installs anything. FS Elemental is not revolutionary by any means, but evolutionary nonetheless in relation to your stock FS9. The authors suggest that FS Elemental works best with an external weather generator such as Active Sky or Weather Maker Pro." "I like how FS Elemental changed the look of FS9 even though it seemed underwhelming at first. Still, it was something new and something that refreshed my favorite sim. It applies changes your stock FS9 and results will vary significantly, especially if you have other add-ons installed."

Add-on Converter X By Peter Clemenko III (April 21, 2009) Staff reviewer Peter Clemenko III takes a look at a utility to convert your older textures to work with DX-10. "When Microsoft released SP2, one key flaw was that you had to use a specific texture type to have your add-ons working in DX10 mode. Add-on Converter X’s primary focus is to allow you to fly those aircraft in FSX SP2 in DX 10 mode. Without them in that format they would just show up as white textures in the add-ons, which is the default non-skinned texture of a model." "I should note that this only converts the textures, but that’s acceptable as converting gauges to my knowledge has to be done by hand due to coding stuff. I noticed that it automatically converted the scenery and aircraft, and it fully worked in DX10 mode. It doesn’t convert at night, dawn, or dusk in the virtual cockpit, which is something that I find to be, well, unacceptable." "Overall, this is a very good idea for a tool. The problem is that Add-on Converter X doesn’t work as advertised, in my opinion. I do give FlightSimTools credit for releasing 2 patches since the initial release, and they have focused on some of the annoying bugs, but not the worst one. This product has a lot of potential, but it needs a major fix.
AirTrafficFX By Allen Lavigne (March 8, 2009) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne manages his AI with AirTrafficFX. "AirTrafficFX is not a global airline nor general aviation AI management installer, it is a real time traffic generator for localized and enroute flight plan AI traffic only. It can use any of the airplanes in your directory, it is not restricted to AI." "What is the purpose of a localized generator? If you have a favorite airfield(s) which your AI airline or general aviation management generator does not populate with any or sufficient AI, this little application can easily make the place busy, or just look visited with static aircraft. The most selling feature is in its ability to do so in real time, while FSX is running, and become an active part of your AI traffic immediately, without having to reboot FSX. Other features include formation flying, IFR flight plan based AI, static AI, and real time radar display." "AirTrafficFX has its niche. It is a very small installation with specialized use. My favorite attribute of AirTrafficFX is in its ability to use the highly detailed payware aircraft I have as AI. The formations made and unmade while enroute were a good diversion from the doldrums of a long flight. So, if you want to make localized AI for your favorite out of the way airport or air strip, AirTrafficFX can be most useful to you."
Instant Mission Maker By Robert Mariani (March 3, 2009) Staff reviewer Robert Mariani gets creative with Flight 1's Instant Mission Maker. "The Instant Mission Maker is simple and very easy to use. The documentation is more than adequate to get you going, and the program features are something we have not seen in the FS world since the days of the old FS4 and the adventure files. By that I don’t mean the graphical and visual experience, but the flexibility to add on another dimension to the Flight Simulator that lies hidden in its intricate web of files and folders." "this program is great and with its reasonable price I would recommend it to anyone who likes the missions in the FSX and anyone who thinks that they have a creative streak. Instant Mission Maker rekindled the old interests, opened up the old doors, dusted of the old books and magazines, and made me remember why this hobby was such great joy to pursue." "With the unfortunate twist that cut off the ACES team from the continuation of the FS development as we know it today, Instant Mission Maker can serve as an important tool that will keep the FS flame alive for a while longer with many users. It features a powerful GUI that will be great for the first-timers as well as well as those who can be very creative and have the knowledge of inner structure how the missions work."
Super Traffic Board By Jason McKee (February 24, 2009) Staff reviewer Jason McKee arrives at the airport and checks out the flights as presented by Flying W Simulations' Super Traffic Board. "Super Traffic Board can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. If you just want to watch your traffic come and go and let the program sort out problems, so be it, it will do that for you. But on the other hand, if you want to fully control the advanced features of the program and fiddle with your traffic, the program will suit this trait as well." "here are two modes for viewing AI; Pilot mode and Spotter mode. Pilot Mode assumes that you are in an aircraft and that you will be moving. In Spotter Mode, it assumes that you will not be moving and as such cancellations and diversions are shown on the board, even though you cannot see them. The Super Traffic Board flight control is a built in feature the automatically monitors the traffic information being sent from flight simulator.I found this a good little program to use." "I found Super Traffic Board to be a good little program to use. It works without a fuss and in reality you do not notice the program doing anything, but it is constantly monitoring and adjusting traffic in the background and as an added bonus, you can keep an eye on what is happening traffic-wise. You can also become a virtual plane spotter. I recommend this program if you want an easy to use and unobtrusive traffic board and control program."
FSX Mission Maker By Jeff Shyluk (February 21, 2009) Senior Staff Reviewer Jeff Shyluk tries to get technical as he delves into FSAddon's FSX Mission Maker. "This product is designed to make Mission creation easier. People who are experienced at Mission creation and who have used FSXME refuse to go back to making Missions without this program. Even the Mission gurus at ACES, Microsoft's internal development team for Flight Simulator products, have nothing but good things to say about FSXME.""The FSX Mission Editor does four things much better than the default Microsoft editor: 1) FSXME will create and compile your Mission files automatically. You can even create a software protection key that will help keep your Missions from being pirated, should you decide to sell them for money. 2) FSXME uses a data flow chart system to arrange the elements of your Mission, which are called "nodes". Nodes can be dragged and dropped to create sequences of events, and are freely editable. 3) FSXME comes with a powerful set of easy-to-use debugging tools. Often, a mistake will show up in your flow chart as a colour-coded box, making it easy to diagnose and fix problems in Missions. You can even import files from Flight 1's Instant Mission Maker utility. 4) FSXME has a simple yet powerful Mission Creation Wizard. Use the speedy Wizard to create basic point-to-point Missions. Beginners can use these simple Missions as a tool for learning how to add and edit nodes." "The FSX Mission Editor is compatible with Vista and XP. You can use it to edit Missions from FSX, FSX+SP1, FSX+SP2, and FSX+Acceleration. To get the most out of FSXME, you should also install the free SDK that matches your version of FSX."
vroute.info Premium By Colin McFadden (February 14, 2009) Staff reviewer Colin McFadden looks at a handy utility for all your flight planning and ATC needs, vroute.info Premium. "If you’re like me, having the ability to quickly create flight plans and track whom is online and at what time, is very important when preparing for your next flight, especially when using a network like VATSIM. vroute.info Premium was created by a small group of dedicated developers to ease this process. As a matter of fact, you may never need more than one program to plan your flights ever again!" "The interface of vroute.info is very user-friendly and easy to navigate, not to mention it looks great; the developers did a great job designing the user interface. On the right side are four buttons or “orbs” as I like to say, that act as the primary navigation. At the top of each page are the “subpage” tabs, if you will, allowing you to explore all the features and functions of each “orb.” This review goes into great deal of each interface located within the utility." "I just have to say that vroute.info Premium is probably the most useful and powerful utility for Flight Simulator. Even the free version of vroute.info is a great tool to use while planning flights, while not being nearly as powerful as vroute.info Premium."
XPOI By Jon Murchison (January 17, 2009) Staff reviewer Jon Murchison goes world exploring with FSDreamteam's XPOI. "XPOI is a geographical information tool that utilizes the "couatl" engine and claims 8 million points of interest across the globe; each one of these represented by a graphical icon and descriptive text." "XPOI is a living utility. What does that mean? XPOI doesn’t access a pre-installed database but instead utilizes geographical information it downloads in real time from Geonames which it then displays visually within the FSX world. Where appropriate, and the information is available, it will also access details through Wikipedia to display in an on-screen browser, all within FSX." "Because Geonames drives this information, the categories presented are the same as those that can be selected for display on the Geonames web page. It can point out such things as rivers, mountains, reefs, buildings, roads, bridges, famous places, parks, hospitals, oil wells, cemeteries and more." "XPOI is a unique product. In a way, it’s like Google Earth on steroids but with the ability to fly. I am immensely impressed with XPOI and have learned a lot since I started to use it. It looks great in FSX and I found it incredibly interesting and lots of fun to explore. Integrating Wikipedia into the mix is brilliant. I can certainly recommend this add-on to anyone keen on learning more about what makes up the FSX world around them."
CRJ 700 Panel for FSX By Jeff Shyluk (January 4, 2009) Senior staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk renovates a cockpit with Friendly Panels' CRJ 700 Panel for FSX. "The Bombardier CRJ 700 Panel by Friendly Panels for FSX adds realistic cockpit instruments to the default CRJ 700 jetliner that comes packaged with Flight Simulator. It creates an updated 2D cockpit environment and it replaces some of the gauges in the VC." "The 2D cockpit seems to me to work a lot better than the 3D cockpit. Both cockpits allow the user to click on the MFD's to enlarge them, which is always a welcome feature. The central feature is the new FMC. This device allows for more realistic flight procedures, and is capable of LNAV and VNAV autopilot operations. Flight plans must be created in the default FSX .flt format, and are loaded automatically when you file the flight plan in the simulator. The FMC depends on default FSX data, so you should not download fresh AIRAC information to update it." "The Friendly Panels system seems to improve the functions of the gauges in the CRJ cockpit. However, it does not improve the layout and usability of the virtual cockpit, which was disappointing for me. If you fly with the 2D panel, though, this product seems to perform decently."
Map By Robert Mariani (November 30, 2008) Avsim Staff Reviewer has taken a look at Map by Feelthere. Robert had mixed feelings before getting into depth with this software and goes on to say: "I honestly didn’t expect much to see or review here. After all the MAP! is not interactive, and you are really not doing anything with it. “So”, I thought, “why would anyone even bother with something like this?” Before you pass your judgment, read this review and allow me to start from the beginning. MAP is simple and wonderful. It does exactly what it says and looks very realistic doing it. The downside is that it is not a flight tool for pilots, but rather info for the average Joe or Jane the passenger. You can get philosophical and go into debate about what makes the sim more realistic, but I will stay out of that. Rather, I will say that despite all of its simplicity and lack of interactivity, I found that MAP strangely and unexpectedly enhanced my flight simming experience. Note also that we all have our little quirks, and what makes me smile may make you frown and vice versa. Hopefully, the screen shots from the review will speak better than words in this case and help everyone in the virtual skies make their own decision about this product."
Dispatch Planner X By Jason McKee (November 23, 2008) Staff reviewer Jason McKee has taken a look at the Dispatch Planner X released by Blushing Sheep.  Jason says: "Dispatch Planner X  is something that I have been trying to find for a little while to add more realism to my virtual airline flights.  Dispatch Planner is an all in one tool that provides information about your flight in printed form, the same form that commercial pilots would get from their dispatchers.  It allows for weather information for arrival, departure and alternate airports, load sheets and even tankering fuel. It is a simple and easy to use program and does produce realistic reports.  It will be interesting to see how the product develops into the future, and to see how it develops with new features for the future of flight simulator.  It is not a bad product and does everything it say it does with ease.
Screenshot Toolbox By Jon Murchison (November 15, 2008) Staff reviewer Jon Murchison gets creative within his reviews by using TweakFS' Screenshot Toolbox. "As a reviewer, part of the process of working with flightsim add-ons naturally involves taking screenshots. I can quite literally take 100-200 screenshots per review. The task of then sorting through them, selecting the best ones and resizing them all, can be a big part of the process that can take days in itself, so anything that can help free up time and simplify this process has got to be good. TweakFS have thought about this and come up with a new utility that works in both FSX and FS2004." "TweakFS’s Screenshot Toolkit is promoted as a utility that will bring out the artist in you. I was presented with a user interface which is made up of 8 tabs along the top. Unsurprisingly, each of these tabs allows you to accomplish different tasks within the software, including changing various settings and looking at your screenshots, to setting up various text or logo overlays." Jon goes into detailed breakdown of what each of these 8 tabs contain and how each function within TweakFS's Screenshot Toolbox performs. "Overall, and particularly as someone who takes a lot of screenshots in FSX, I found Screenshot Toolkit to be useful and certainly something I will use in the future. The ability to overlay a website, forum brand or even your own name on images automatically when screenshots are taken, saves plenty of time. The ability to email and upload images directly from the software is a great idea and is very useful. The fact you can download a 30 day trial is a real plus and will let you know if the features it offers are what you are looking for."
Mooney Bravo Meggitt Panels Pack By Bert Pieke (October 15, 2008) Senior staff reviewer Bert Pieke strips down his dashboard and install Friendly Panels' Mooney Bravo Meggitt Panels Pack. "Te package includes two cockpits - one with a Bendix KLN 94 GPS and one with dual Garmin GNS430s. It also includes a full complement of custom gauges: BENDIX KX 165A NAV-COM RADIO, BENDIX KR 87 ADF, BENDIX KT 76C and GARMIN GTX 330 TRANSPONDERS, DAVTRON DIGITAL CLOCK MB800, Autopilot Meggitt MAGIC 2100, Meggitt MAGIC Electronic Flight Instrument System (PFD and ND), Meggitt MAGIC Engine Instrument Display System EIDS." "The installation is straightforward, and you end up with four new Mooney models within your FSX Mooney folder, two paints with the Bendix GPS and two equipped with the Garmins. The Mooney is best started up in the 2D panel. All gauges are in sight and the Meggitt gauges are nicely rendered. The radios are readable and user friendly, and the actual Meggitt avionics suite is a pleasure to use. All the information is right there and the gauges are nicely anti-aliased (no jaggy lines) and move smoothly. The autopilot is easy to use and has a user friendly display read-out." "The Mooney Bravo Meggitt package by Friendly Panels is a promising attempt to package a high end avionics suite with a suitable aircraft in a ready to fly package. All in all, a great avionics set that make you feel as if you are in a much more expensive airplane!"
Learn The Mad Dog By Angelique van Campen (August 8, 2008) Staff reviewer Angelique van Campen goes backing into training mode as she explores the instructional package "Learn The Mad Dog". "This time no aircraft, scenery or airport review. Now it’s time for a very nice, handy and educational product … the Learn the Mad dog DVD and associated Mad Dog study guide." "The DVD offers more than 3.5 hours of visual information of how to handle and fly the MD80. Part I provides you with detailed instruction on how to operate the aircraft's systems and controls. Each system is covered extensively to ensure you understand the function and use. Part II applies those new skills and knowledge from preflight to shutdown in a special instructional demonstration. You'll watch from the jump seat as it takes you through a complete flight scenario and explain each system's use as well as different techniques." "While virtually moving through the cockpit, you’re guided to the overhead panel, to the captain and/or co-pilot's panels, pedestal and every detail related to this MSFS model. In other words, not only in-depth system descriptions and/or system operations are handled but it's a total virtual presentation of the MD80 aircraft. Too much information? No problem, just rewind the lesson and start again." "The quality of the manual is good, while some pictures are directly shot in the Maddog 2006 and are of an average quality but that’s because the Maddog 2006 2D bitmaps are not always that sharp, especially panel text. As long as I can see what it is and I'm able to read the panel text it’s ok for me. Some pictures are, however, taken from a manual or are pure graphics. Those are unbelievably sharp and a pleasure to see. Almost at the end of the manual you can check your skills/knowledge with 75 multiple choice questions. As indicated, the questions are only based on the Learn the Mad Dog DVD and study guide. My conclusion is that it is a good, nice looking and educational manual, which is worth the price." Describing the Learn The Mad Dog package, Angelique says, "It's awesome. The narrators will help you with every detail and guide right up to the landing and parking at KMCO. It’s such a realistic and an in-depth program that this visual guide is really great and improves your learning curve."
Electronic Flight Bag for FSX By Peter Clemenko (August 6, 2008) New staff reviewer Peter Clemenko completes his glass cockpit with the Electronic Flight Bag for FSX from FSWidgets. "Electronic Flight Bag is an add-on that aims to add various handy applications to use in FSX. It includes a weather radar, internet functionality, flight plan details, charts, maps, checklists including audio, and the ability to read a manual in flight." "FSWidgets really did a good job with this program, it does include many handy features. So many in fact, it seems to have everything but the kitchen sink. It is also very nice to have in many situations, especially when trying to learn a complex aircraft. It is also very well documented and very easy to expand the content of the program. It also has the ability to be extended with a free Google maps plug-in." "The charts component is a gem. While it is easy to add more charts, I really would have liked to have been able to see more charts in the default install. The checklists utility is a handy little tool in its own sense. It really comes in useful while trying to learn and fly complex aircraft. The vector map is nice to have because it shows you what direction to go to get to your next waypoint. It also allows you to overlay a sectional chart over the areas and have that overlay the base map. That allows for better navigation." "The weather radar component is another gem. It allows you to pull up weather radar from the NOAA and other sources and uses that with real weather to determine the weather in your flight. The Nav Log is a really handy feature. It allows you to pull up the route of your flight and shows all sorts of important information like the distance from the start and the end of the flight via the waypoints. It also shows things such as bearing, distance, and altitude of the waypoint, and other things such as the ground speed and fuel used." "All in all, the Electronic Flight Bag is probably one of the handiest applications I could think of off the top of my head for FSX. It adds plenty of functionality that should not be left out if you value realism at all or even basic procedures. It has many things in it that are worth the price of admission. I would personally declare this a Must Have add-on."
Ultimate Defrag 2008 By Angelique van Campen (June 14, 2008) Staff reviewer Angelique van Campen takes a look at a utility that not only applies to improving the behind the scenes activity in Flight Sim, but has applications for all of your computing activities. Ultimate Defrag 2008 from DiskTrix presents a totally different graphical presentation of the hard disk. This detailed utility review goes into great depth about hard drive fragmentation and how Ultimate Defrag 2008 goes about putting your files specifically where you want them to improve loading time for FS9/FSX and for all of your other applications on your system. So it's not your usualy "directly releated to Flight Sim" review. While this review is a long read and is very technical at times, it does help to understand how you can imporve the FS9/FSX loading time of your PC, esepcially if you have a dedicated gaming computer. "UltimateDefrag 2008 offers a refreshing GUI (Graphical User Interface) with a totally different look than you’re used to from other defragmentation programs. UltimateDefrag 2008 offers lots of possible fragmentation processes. If you like using it manually, then go ahead, but if you don’t like that idea, then leave it all to the AUTO (OptiSeek technology) option while the program finds a good balance between performance and defragmentation speed. A well balanced defragged hard disk doesn’t help increasing your game's “frames per second”. It helps reduce loading times because the files are neatly placed together in a cluster."
Cockpit Chatter By Angelique van Campen (May 6, 2008) Staff reviewer Angelique van Campen no longer flies alone now that she has Flight 1's Cockpit Chatter installed. "Cockpit Chatter is used to control FSX and your aircraft through the use of your voice by means of an advanced user independent speech recognition engine. You can control aircraft systems, talk to a virtual copilot, interactively run aircraft checklists, and enhance your flight experience with just your voice. With no training required, Cockpit Chatter represents the most advanced speech recognition platform for use with Flight Simulator." "Flying in Flight Simulator X becomes a completely new experience with the wonders of your virtual copilot. Speak to your copilot just like you would on a real aircraft, telling him to set the flaps, raise the gear, tune the radios, or set the autopilot functions. Interactively run a checklist with command and response; just like a real aircraft captain. Natural speech phraseology and speaker independent technology will never leave you feeling alone in the cockpit again." Angelique takes you through the various steps of the program through screenshots with descriptive windows as she shows you how Cockpit Chatter completely changes the way you can fly your aircraft. "There are many MSFS programs where one way or another you are able to control something with your voice, but this program really the pushes limit. Its an awesome product."
Walk and Follow for FSX By Jeff Shyluk and Angelique van Campen (April 25, 2008) Senior staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk traverses his way through DBS Studios' Walk and Follow for FSX. He is accompanied on this trip by staff reviewer Angelique van Campen who reviewed the FS9 version. "Walk and Follow from the Russian developers DBS Studios is a small utility with a big impact on FSX. It will give you a camera view that you can move around anywhere in the FSX (Service Pack 2) world." "In Walk Mode, the camera moves relative to the ground. You can "fly" the camera anywhere on Earth. This is great for looking at scenery, taking screenshots of landmarks, and aircraft-spotting at your favourite airport. In Follow Mode, the camera moves relative to your aircraft. You can freely move the camera within the Virtual Cockpit, or you can even move the camera outside the aircraft for exotic views. In Follow Mode, the camera goes where your aircraft goes, which can help you take some really nice action screenshots from exciting angles." "The Walk and Follow camera is controlled largely by using the keypad. If you have a laptop without a keypad, I think you are out of luck, as I do not know how to re-map the key controls, or even if this is possible. Technical functions are accessed through a menu system. Partly because the developers are using English as their second language, and partly because the internal programming of the FSX camera system is very complex, some of the menu items are difficult to understand." "As long as you are happy with the basics of camera movement, Walk and Follow is easy and fun to use. Once you delve into the technical parts of Walk and Follow, though, expect a difficult learning curve. Many of the functions seem to rely on trial-and-error methods to get good settings.All of your new camera views can be saved. As it is, I find it quite a bit easier and more intuitive to save Walk views than Follow views. This is because the Walk mode uses a logical and organized system for storing your custom views in file folders. The Follow mode on the other hand, is harder to understand, as it relies on pre-existing FSX camera views to get started, and can only save new views over the default views (although it's fast and easy to restore your default FSX views as FSX is running, simply by disabling Walk and Follow)." "The documentation for Walk and Follow is unfortunately very weak, just covering items on how to get the program activated and running. None of the more complex features are explained, and there are no tool-tips in the program to help either. Finally, if you are a TrackIR user, you may find disappointment in Walk and Follow as it will shut off any TrackIR functionality in FSX. I hope this gets fixed in a future patch!" Jeff and Angelique sum up DBS Studios' Walk and Follow for FSX with, "I think that the price for Walk and Follow may be too high for what I got. Although the basic features work great and are a lot of fun to use, the technical features have poor documentation, and there is no support for TrackIR. Still, Walk and Follow costs less than many third-party aircraft, so as long as money is no object and you don't mind using trial and error to figure out the system, this application should help you get that magic screenshot you've been looking for."

By Juan Llobera (April 20, 2008) Staff reviewer Juan Llobera looks at a new way of loading your commercial airliner with passengers with HiFi Simulations' XPax. "This is a new product and is the first one of a series of low-cost dual-sim compatible “pocket add-ons” (something like a Lite series) that basically aims to provide a multimedia passenger experience." "XPax enable you to:
- Provides a multimedia passenger carriage experience
- It lets you control (manually or automatically) the connection of Jetways (if you have a scenery add on that lets you do that) as well as doors.
- It provides Real-time monitoring of passengers health and approval rating
- Provides a scoring and ranking system based on the flights performance
- Provides a set of 12 audio recordings (containing female and male voices in various accents)
- Provides a report about your flight
- Provides a real time dynamic aircraft weight control based on the passenger load."
Juan's review of XPax concludes, "XPax is a pretty good add on. It gives you the chance of populating those empty seats on your virtual flights. It gives us another option when it comes to Virtual Passengers."

Precision Flight Control's Cirrus II Category II Hardware By Zane Gard Jr. (April 11, 2008) Senior staff reviewer Zane Gard flys with Precision Flight Control's Cirrus II Category II hardware. "PFC was one of our exhibitors at the AVSIM FanCon in Seattle last November. Eric Whiteside, their special projects manager, brought two full units out to show at the event. One was a full Cat III system utilizing their newest C2 console, complete with manual elevator trim wheel which was hooked up to the electric trim yoke switch… neat stuff. The other was a full Cat II system using the Cirrus II console (one of their most popular training units ever)." "If I told you that this has transformed my simming experience, would you believe me? Finally… FINALLY I have found hardware that gives a feeling of being in the cockpit and not having to touch the keyboard or mouse from engine startup to shutdown. When I set up the Cirrus II, I made sure to program one of the yoke buttons for the push-to-talk for use with VoxATC, so just like when in a real cockpit I want to talk to the tower or approach, I dial in the correct frequency, wait to confirm no one else is talking then key up and speak… look Mom, no mouse, no keyboard! I’m also utilizing my TrackIR4 Pro but when I setup the yoke button for view selection, I made the decision to make it a switch. Push it one way for the 2D panel, press the other direction for the VC. So I can enjoy the smooth hi-res gauge movement of the 2D and if I want to look out my windows, I can switch to the VC and pan around using the TrackIR." "PFC pedals are heavy; steel and aluminum in construction with springs and are self centering. Their travel may be less than most aircraft I have flown but the overall feel is very realistic, the further you press them the harder they get to push. The toe brakes take some setting up to calibrate them so that you like their feel, and they can take a considerable push to get them to stop the aircraft and this is not far from reality." "The digital avionics radio stack is a thing of beauty; dual knobs, labeled buttons that really work. It was designed to emulate the Bendix/King line of radios found in a majority of training aircraft and includes the radial feature on the nav radio. This allows you to alternately display the standby frequency or the radial from the tuned VOR station. The ADF has all the settings like the real unit including flight elapsed timer, and stopwatch functions. The autopilot and altitude preselect use MSFS variables so they will work with all default and many aftermarket aircraft (as long as the programmer used these same variables they should work)." "I couldn’t wait to get a twin up so I changed the power quadrant out for the twin engine one. Easy job, just unscrew two thumbscrews, pull off the single engine quadrant and push the twin quadrant on and replace the thumbscrews." Zane's in-depth review of Precision Flight Control's Cirrus II Category II hardware wraps up with, "this is really highly specialized equipment, so I don’t expect it to be for everybody. It costs more than many computer/sim hardware combinations out there, so I can understand an initial sticker shock. I can’t imagine any simmer that wouldn’t want it or envy someone that does have it.I would considering getting PFC’s flight sim combo which consists of their yoke, quadrant and rudder pedals. The cost is roughly double of buying plastic equipment, but its an investment that years later will give the satisfaction of money well spent. In fact, add a radio stack to the latter and you can have a Cat I PCATD."
737 / 747 / 777 Panels By Robert Mariani (February 7, 2008) Staff reviewer Robert Mariani does some maintenance to his fleet as he replaces the cockpit panels of the 737 / 747 / 777 with Friendly Panels version. "The default panels that come with FS9 and FSX are functional and work well for the base simulation. For years, many enthusiasts have been making panels to look better or do a specific chore better. Some are made to fit with either the default aircraft or the variety of add-ons. One such offering comes from a payware company called Friendly Panels. The basic premise behind “friendly” in Friendly Panels comes from the fact that all (or at least most) panels are displayed in one window. As the monitors get bigger or more numerous, Friendly Panels allows more to be displayed at one time without the need for “pop-up” panels that are covering parts of the main panel." "The first thing to note is that these are three separate products, each with its own price and installer. The 737 panel comes with two panels, one for the 737-400 and one for the 737-800. The 747-400 is present in both FS9 and FSX, so the installation is completely automatic unless you want to use those panels with other 747 offerings. The 777 is absent from FSX and the Friendly Panels manual tells you how to copy the default FS9 Boeing into FSX so that you can use the panel there as well." "In FS9’s default 737-400, the add-on panel looks great. All instruments including the throttle console and radios are on one screen, as well as the partial section of the overhead, which can be turned off or on via the icon. The only pop-up panel that needs to be opened separately is the replacement for the GPS with that of a new FMC-CDU. The Boeing 777-300 2D panel bitmap is good and sharp and just like the 737 panel, all sub panels are incorporated in one window. The panel is also friendly to undocking and moving, but there are several issues with the CDU. The 747-400 2D panel background is done well, just like the other two panels. The window can easily be undocked and arranged over several other monitors. Similar to the other two panels, this one comes with the new PFD, MFD and FMC-CDU. The VNAV mode is also included." Robert goes into the details featured in each of the 3 Friendly Panels' offerings. "The three panels I reviewed here have the potential to be good add-ons. They are unique because they merge all sub panels together in one window, while still looking realistic and they include the unique feature of VNAV functionality and FMC-CDU interface. Therefore, the authors have succeeded in that the panels are functional and they also look good. Between the three, 737 is the clear winner, as it provides four panels for the price and it works as advertised. All panels do what the authors say they do and the manuals are offered for free on their website so that you can see what you will be getting."
FSCheckride By Angelique van Campen (January 26, 2008) Staff reviewer Angelique van Campen becomes examiner and student as she reviews CAT III Software's FSCheckride for FS9 and FSX. "Ever wanted to test your theoretical MSFS Type Rating skills, not by just by reading additional books? FSCheckride is a brand-new concept in desktop aviation that allows users to create and run professional, feature-rich, interactive examinations using Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 or FSX as the platform. Their target audience is flight simulator enthusiasts, real-world pilots, flight training units and flight instructors, virtual airlines and other flightsim organizations such as VATSIM and IVAO and finally flight simulator developers." Angelique creates exams, edits the content and takes you on a step-by-step journey through this inovative program. She comments, "FSCheckride is an awesome program which adds another new dimension to the flight simulator world. It goes far beyond the flight simulator world, it's even applicable for use in real aviation. The program is so simple in design that it doesn’t require any additional knowledge to understand it. It gives the user who wants to create his/her own exams, a lot of flexibility by adding related pictures, charts, diagrams, tables, voice support and even video movies."
Jeppesen SimCharts V4 By Zane Gard, Jr (December 24, 2007) Senior staff reviewer Zane Gard flies his sim like he would in the real world while using Jeppesen SimCharts V4, "Jeppesen is a name long known in aviation circles. Ever since the early 1930’s when Elroy Borge Jeppesen started making his own charts for his personal use, every pilot that saw them wanted to use them. Jeppesen and Microsoft have had a relationship since FS2000, with Jeppesen supplying the data used for placing navigation data and airport information as well as displaying this information in MSFS’s GPS." This review is very graphic intensive as showing what the charts do in association with a flight is the best way of demonstrating how to use these aids. Zane explains, "I’m going to take you along on three types of approaches which will cover using SimCharts for reality type flying in real IFR weather with winds and low visibility. We’ll do a GPS non-precision approach, a VFR non-precision approach and finally a full ILS all flown by hand, not with the autopilot, and tracked on the SimCharts." Zane wraps up this detailed journey through Jeppesen SimCharts V4 with, "I personally like this product and found it very easy to use. Is it for everybody? I don’t think so. The argument will rise that you can download all the NOS charts for free and print them out using them on a kneeboard or stuck up next to the computer monitor. That won’t give you Jeppesen charts and it won’t give you a tracking line to follow or view later. So if you are flying online and the area you are flying in is using a newer set of procedures, you’ll probably get all uncomfortable as the controller wannabe on the other end scolds you for not being properly prepared."
Instant Scenery By Allen Lavigne (December 1, 2007) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne creates a better, more accurate landscape to fly over with Flight 1's Instant Scenery. "Placement applications with earlier FS versions are available, and some are freeware, yet, for FSX, this is the only one that I’ve seen so far." Allen explains in step-by-step detail of how to manipulate the objects and thumbnails within this scenery utility. He notes that reading the manual is a necessity to get the most out of this program. Allen comments on how various objects can be brought into the utility from outside the program (like the AVSIM library), be saved and even shared with your fellow simmers. Instant scenery is compatible with other 3rd party products like FSDiscover, as well as Microsoft's Acceleration Pack. Allen concludes this short, to the point review of Instant Scenery with, "what you get with Instant Scenery, is a tool to place objects including individual custom, FSX, and autogen objects, and to save your results in a bgl file that can be shared freely on the internet while respecting any authorship of custom objects and model libraries. It allows for the creation of your own model libraries and the creation of thumbnails for preview of batches of other developer’s or your own libraries. It can be linked to an installed version of FSDiscover to mark points of interest in FSX, and you can also use Instant Scenery to hide obstructive autogen."
3D Lights By Alan Bradbury (September 22, 2007) Staff reviewer Alan Bradbury sheds some new light on our default aircraft with Shockwave's 3D Lights. "The 3D Lights effect was first seen on Shockwave’s Wings of Power 2 Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress commercial add-on, released earlier in 2007." "For such a small add-on, it has a massive impact on how things look on your aircraft in FSX, and it seems to be able to do all this without impacting on frame rates. Flicking the landing light switch on, brightens things up big time with this add-on installed. There is no doubt that 3D Lights are more than just an eye-candy gimmick, as they genuinely introduce another element of realism into flight simulation." "If you like piloting the heavies in FSX, where sweating out a tricky approach to a runway through bad weather is your idea of fun, you’re almost certainly going to like the atmospheric fashion in which 3D Lights cuts its way through those clouds and swirling raindrops. And if you’re into low level night missions with helicopters, or landing on the rooftops of skyscrapers, 3D Lights offers really practical benefits to that kind of flying too. Likewise, bush flying in tricky terrain at night with small prop aircraft is made more of a practical proposition with this effect lighting your way." While there is some manual work to be done in the configuration files, Alan says of 3D Lights, "I’d have to say 3D Lights is a winner. It’s true that the effect it offers is not perfect in some circumstances, but most of the time it comes very close to that ideal. And in terms of innovative and a different add-on for Flight Simulator, it’s well deserving of praise. I’d recommend it."
Real Sky Pro By Alan Bradbury (September 14, 2007) Staff reviewer Alan Bradbury reviews Sandon Lyon's latest release of his Real Sky series, Real Sky Pro. "Real Sky Pro is a nifty little utility which professes to add more realism to the sky textures in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, without reducing frame rates, and in some cases, even threatening to increase them. Bold claims indeed, particularly in view of the fact that what one person considers realistic, might not be thought so by the next." "Minor misgivings in the ability to revert textures and the somewhat frugal installation help aside, it has to be said Real Sky Pro is very quick and easy to use, and it does seem to work flawlessly once installed. Real Sky Pro is no more complicated than a set of replacement textures coupled to a graphical user interface to make previewing, selecting and installing them easier. It’s true the interface isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but it is very businesslike, and it does the job asked of it." "There are so many choices available in Real Sky Pro, I was half-expecting to see an option for a Martian sky, but while RSP stops short of offering that, it doesn’t skimp on any sky options for our own planet. In fact, the breadth of choice borders on being overwhelming, so it is nice to see selections offered in logical groups and sub-groups. All replacement textures are accompanied by a representative thumbnail panorama of a large section of the horizon, giving you a good idea of how they will look in FS." "Essentially, all the textures in Real Sky Pro are amendments or variations of the default FS textures, which have then been grouped into a logical sequence to make finding the perfect sky of your choice easy to implement. If creating these textures sounds like it might have been simple, my investigations proved otherwise, and it was apparent that a lot of care had gone into the various tweaks that have taken place to create this product." Summing up Real Sky Pro, Alan asks, "Do I like Real Sky Pro?" His response, "Yes, I do. In fact with so many choices, frankly it would be impossible not to find something I didn’t prefer over the original FS textures, and choice is always a good thing. I think Real Sky Pro will certainly appeal to anyone who can appreciate how much of a genuine feeling of extreme distance these textures offer, instead of simply concentrating on ‘wow factor’ colours. There is some real subtle artistry and particularly astute implementation of what the sky does actually look like when viewed from an aircraft to be found within this package."
Flight Enhancer By Josh Szkoda (September 9, 2007) Staff reviewer Josh Szkoda looks at Cielosim's Flight Enhancer for FS9. "Cielosim’s package contains replacement texture sets for water, skies and runway lights; each set of textures has been duplicated two more times to create the textures for day, dusk and night." "Cielosim have produced 2,700 custom textures for this program, comprising of 30 day sets, 12 dawn sets, 11 dusk sets and six night sets. This is then combined with the “Extras”, comprising of 6 water sets, 4 cloud sets, 4 sun sets, 5 light sets and 3 environment sets. All these can easily be previewed and applied to the simulator with little or no fuss, as the fairly attractive looking user interface will do all the hard work." "Choosing the sets can be a bit tricky. Some of them look fairly similar and the two little preview images that you’ll get to see are by no means sufficient, as all it displays is a picture of what the sky will look like depending on the position of the sun. But I suppose half of the fun is sorting through all the different sets and getting a feel for each. Flight Enhancer also has built-in weather from the Weather Channel website for nearly every continent on the planet." Josh sums up Flight Enhancer by simply saying, "I think Flight Enhancer is a very useful and high-quality FS-tool. I like using it, as it makes my simulation more realistic."
FS2Crew for the Airbus A320 By Paul Middleton (September 8, 2007) Senior staff reviewer Paul Middleton continues his reviews of the Wilco/feelThere FS2Crew series. This time it's the Airbus A320. "For those still unfamiliar with this product series, it meets the need of virtual pilots who want to simulate the professional routine of life in that office at the front of the plane. So not only is there that important paperwork to deal with, and those little passenger emergencies that keep cropping up, but you have someone in the right-hand seat to share the workload and checklists with. So it's more "real as it gets" than flying a passenger jet in solitary splendour." "FS2Crew simulates all those people that a real-life pilot normally interacts with. There's the Ground Crew, who do such things as bring you paperwork and push you back. There are the flight attendants who do such things as tell you when the cabin is ready and report on passengers needing assistance. And last but not least, there is your Flying Officer, who works many of the switches, runs through the checklists with you, and points out when you do something wrong. He does reduce your workload so that you, as the pilot, can do all the Captain's stuff, like hold the controls, set the autopilot, plan your descent, or just look out of the window." Paul explains in detail what happens inside the cockpit while sitting at the gate, during the pushback, start and taxi phases, takeoff, clinb and cruise, and finally the approach and landing. "I have never noticed any additional performance overhead from using FS2Crew. I also find it to be completely reliable. As long as you know the Airbus and its systems, so you know what's going on and what your FO is up to; and as long as you work through the Tutorial Flight a couple of times to become familiar with it, it'll become your tried and trusted friend in the cockpit." In summary Paul comments, "This is the fourth FS2Crew review I have done, and once again Bryan York has produced a little masterpiece. FS2Crew for the Wilco Feelthere Airbus is the latest in a series of excellent products from this stable. If you are a 'bus flyer, you shouldn't be without it!"
XGraphics By Allen Lavigne (September 3, 2007) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne completes his look at the second of 2 releases by HiFi Simulations Software, X Graphics. "You can buy Active Sky X and XGraphics separately, or as a bundle. Not that they are in any way uncomplimentary. Nor are they inseparable. You can completely enjoy one without the other." "X Graphics is an application that is only used before launching FSX in order to pre-install appropriate weather-influenced or a user’s desired set of textures, and is no longer used once FSX has begun to load, it can then be closed. If you also have Active Sky X installed, the simplest way to use XG is to use its weather-influenced choice of textures." "There are 52 themes in XG. Not every theme will alter each and every texture option from your previous theme selection. You may go from one theme to another without changing certain textures. However, quite a few are altered. You can tell just how many by fast switching between two selections of themes while observing one of the four sub-page categories of Cloud/Sky/Sun, Water, Airports/Roads, and Lights/Sounds. Surprisingly, frame rates using the highest quality were fine on my system. Personally, I always try for the best quality to the detriment of high fps." Allen's review contains many screenshots to show examples of what is acheivable within XGraphics. Products of this nature are best seen with descriptive captions. In his summary he says, "there are two ways I like using X Graphics. First and best liked is the weather influenced selection available only through Active Sky X, which I find relevant and easy to use. Second, without ASX installed, the use of themes is very easy and most sets produce excellent results without much fuss. This is not just a bunch of textures made to look nice, it is a massive texture installation engine."
Ultimate Traffic X By Jon Murchison (August 22, 2007) Staff reviewer Jon Murchison looks for signs of intellegent life on the airfield and in the air with Flight 1's Ultimate Traffic X. "In a nutshell, Ultimate Traffic either replaces or enhances, the default AI traffic in Flight simulator X across the globe." "Ultimate Traffic comes with a 40 page Help/User Guide in PDF format. Throughout the Guide, changes from the FS2004 version relevant to FSX have been highlighted in blue which was useful. I found the User Guide aimed at someone with no prior experience with AI, which in my view, is exactly how it should be so newbie’s will be able to get what they need from the guide." "AI is handled slightly differently in the new sim so Ultimate Traffic takes the pain out of this process, and does this with an intuitive interface that has 4 simple buttons. Don’t let this apparent simplicity fool you. Underneath each of those buttons is a myriad of potential." "As aircraft modelers have become more proficient, particularly with the concept of LOD (Level of detail), the sophistication of AI traffic has evolved. While the models in Ultimate Traffic adequately depict the aircraft they represent, they are nothing to get overly excited about. The Flight 1 website is very clear on the limitations of the models and explains up front that they are the same ones used in the FS2004 version, they also acknowledge the issues with using them so at least you know what you are getting before you buy. The complete Airbus and Boeing range are featured, minus the A380 or 787, so Ultimate Traffic is focused on the ‘here and now’ for its fleet offerings." "There is no doubt that Ultimate Traffic improves performance if it replaces the default AI, however, if you max out your traffic, far more aircraft will be present than if the default AI was set to max. So any performance gain will be eaten up and you probably end up loosing." Summing up Flight 1's Ultimate Traffic X, Jon says, "If you want realistically scheduled AI traffic populating your airports, and an easy way of modifying/selecting this, then Ultimate Traffic is worth taking a look at. In my view, it’s the user interface that is the heart of this package. It’s easy to use, gives you incredible control and flexibility over what you compile, and allows you to effectively change everything, and that in itself is worth it. Ultimate Traffic is ideal for beginners and seasoned AI users, and does promise improved performance in FSX if you keep AI settings at moderate levels."
Dispatch Planner III By Josh Szkoda (August 5, 2007) Staff reviewer Josh Szkoda sits patiently in the cockpit awaiting the paperwork that he'll receive from David Baty's Dispatch Planner III. "Dispatch Planner 3 is your virtual dispatch agent, and it really couldn’t be made any simpler." "The settings window allows you to make selections for three different things, the unit to be used for weight, the format for how the date is to be displayed, as well as the version of Flight Sim you wish to use. DP3 connects to Flight Sim and will automatically get the Zero Fuel Weight (ZFW) of your aircraft, so when selected in the dispatch window this information can be put on the dispatch report. This is very handy for those of you who use FMC/MCDU’s. Other information will be printed on the dispatch report too, such as payload. The information is retrieved from the aircraft.cfg file when selected on the user interface." "Filling in the dispatch report form starts off with the basics. You enter things such as your departure and arrival aerodromes, ICAO codes and your flight number. All pretty straight forward. The form then asks you for the flight plan you’ll be flying between the two airfields. The form then continues with asking the type of aircraft, its registration, planned flight level, estimated time of departure and all the other basics." "At the top of the screen displaying your report, you have the options to print, close, some other basic things, and the impressive availability to file the flight plan with VATSIM. The dispatch report itself is a fairly professional looking document that gives all needed details, and I must say it looks not too indifferent from a real world one." "The weather centre is simple yet effective. The weather centre asks you for both your departure and arrival airfields and allows you to enter up to four en-route alternates (RALT’s) and the standard ICAO 2 destination alternates (DALT’s). The weather centre is great for providing an all in one place for the METAR’s and definitely saves a lot of time compared to doing it manually and entering those ICAO codes." Now that Josh has his dispatch form in hand, he sums up Dispatch Planner III with, "It definitely has potential, and I think if the dispatch report was to include things such as NOTAMS and more customization to the actual report; we could be onto a real good thing here. With this said, however, I must point out the accuracy and realism that the data contained on the dispatch report. So would I recommend Dispatch Planner III? Yes, yes I would."
Active Sky X By Allen Lavigne (July 28, 2007) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne incorporates real time data in his flying by using HiFi Simulations Active Sky X. "If you have previous versions installed, you do not have to uninstall them. ASX is a completely separate entity." Allen describes in detail each settings page and menu within ASX. "On initial launch, ASX downloads the current weather only if you left the “Automatic Weather Downloads” option checked ‘on’ in the Settings menu (default setting is on); otherwise, ‘off’ or unchecked, it will reload the last weather downloaded (LastWeather file), which is critical for continuing a saved flight unaltered. Collaboration with VATSIM allows users to download the weather from VATSIM’s source for those who wish to fly on their network." "The map page displays by way of graphical symbols (see legend below), weather conditions at stations within a selectable range from 30 to 5000 SM. Care must be taken not to overcrowd the map. This is easily done by manipulating the range and by selecting symbols from stations, airports, route, clouds, precipitation, visibility, and winds as desired. This legend can also be accessed as a popup from this page. I found this map screen useful to predict weather conditions around and distant from my current position." "The weather conf page is where you can manually configure the weather one station at a time, and impose the METAR range that this station imposes on other stations (up to 80 SM, and “global”). Want to hear the weather enroute? This can be tuned in by adjusting your COM1 radio to 122.00: A voice reading of the local WX is heard but no text is displayed." Allen has included a nice screenshot gallery of various weather conditions, real and built, in his review. Beacuse of the depth of this review, these screenshots help describe the functionality of this utility. In his summary of HiFi Simulations' Active Sky X, he says, "I am pleasantly impressed with this promising new version and knowing HiFi’s excellent support and steady flow of updates, this application will certainly improve with time."
Digital TripleHead2Go By Robert Whitwell (July 8, 2007) Reviews editor Robert Whitwell goes wide with his new Digital TripleHead2Go from Matrox. "Matrox has upped the little black box from last year to keep in line with technology. They have released the Digital version of the TripleHead2Go (TH2G)." "Inside the package is the newly configured "black box" as well as the required cables. A noticeable difference was the lack of a power cord. The digital version of the TH2G plugs into a USB slot vice into the wall. Also, the input into the TH2G has two options, a DVI connector or a VGA connector. Both VGA-to-VGA and DVI-to-DVI cables are included. All that's required to hook up this version of the TH2G is a video card that is DVI capable and 3 monitors with DVI inputs." "Matrox has expanded their list of campatible programs and have added some new features to the software. Monitor Bezel Management is a new to the Digital TH2G. With three monitors sitting side-by-side, you have two large "frame edges" separating your monitors. What the Bezel Management system does is hide some of the image behind these frames to give your image the appearance of being continuous." "Once you've seen the TH2G in action, you'll probably say, "I've got to have one". I've seen other versions of multi-screen set-ups, especially for flight simming, but most of these required multiple monitors as well as multiple PC's. With the price of good monitors dropping on a monthly basis, picking up a digital TH2G for just over $300 is a good investment, in my opinion. You'll be able to see the Matrox TripleHead2Go in action again at the 2007 AVSIM Conference in Seattle."
Pilot Seat By Robert Whitwell (July 2, 2007) Reviews Editor Robert Whitwell gets comfy behind his desk as he reviews a new Pilot Seat by Contact-Sales. "This multi-functional seat allows you to fly, race or just use it as an everyday workseat""Contact-Sales’ quote of “easy to assemble” holds true once you know where everything goes. Within 30 minutes I had my new toy assembled. I now had a very comfortable Pilots Seat to fly from. I attached all of my CH Products flight hardware to the platforms with the Velcro that came with the seat. As I cozied the seat up to my computer desk, I made some final adjustments on the height of the yoke and its distance from the seat, as well as the height of the throttle platform. I was now ready to climb aboard and start flying." While all the assembly details and the features are listed in the Pilot Seat review, Robert comments on the versatility of this piece of hardware, "this Corbeau Racing Seat is very comfortable. If I drop the yoke column down and move it forward, combined with removing the side “wings”, I can move right up to my computer desk and do other PC tasks. No real need to switch back and forth between my office chair and this one. Besides, this is a bucket seat, great for long hauls in front of the PC. If you should chose to use your office chair when not simming, this unit is easily transportable out of the way. I simply unplug my flight controls from my USB hub and place the Pilot Seat away from my desk and roll my office chair back in."
Weather Maker RX By Paul Middleton (June 24, 2007) Senior staff reviewer Paul Middleton taps into Mother Nature and flies in the actual weather coditions as seen outside the cockpit window with Calibre Software's Weather Maker RX. "What Weather Maker RX does is detects where your aircraft is, then goes to a weather report server to pick up the local and surrounding weather reports, and depict this weather around your aircraft using FSX's weather engine. As you move along it will pick up other reports along your route, so that you are consistently surrounded by real weather. If you prefer to use the real weather from an earlier day, then if you've previously stored that weather file it will allow you to use that." Paul explains, "Now I won't begin to pretend that I've done a rigorous series of test flights on all continents and in all climates and seasons, comparing what I see with the weather reports from all the local stations. What I did instead was to use the product in my regular FSX flying, checking summary weather forecasts beforehand and mentally noting what I saw against what I expected. And my conclusion? Well, it never did anything completely silly, like snowstorms over Arabia or heat waves in Alaska. And generally speaking the results were pleasing, because unlike FSX's real weather with its (often) single layer of cloud, I got up to three layers, all different, and quite complex looking." He continues, "FSX's own Real Weather has improved by leaps and bounds from the early days. It's by no means perfect, but it's certainly a lot better than it used to be, and it's an increasingly "hard act to follow". This does therefore challenge third-party software developers to provide a significant improvement, with weather that really does match the reports all the time. The test flights I carried out are representative rather than exhaustive, but it does suggest that when depicting the weather outside the cockpit, Weather Maker RX needs to do more to distance itself from "out of the box" FSX." In his summation of Weather Maker RX, Paul remarks, "it provides a weather radar that can be used both in pre-flight planning and weather avoidance in-flight, and real in-flight weather based on real-world meteorological reports. Whilst this is not always as accurate as FSX's own Real Weather, it does allow you to go back to historic weather, and is a platform for further development."
AirNav Systems FS Live TrafficX By Jeff Shyluk (June 19, 2007) Staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk dives into the world of AI traffic from a real world perspective with AirNav Systems' FS Live Traffic X. "AirNav FS Live Traffic X is software for FSX that will generate artificially intelligent (AI) traffic that looks like real-world airlines, which can populate just about any airport that supports IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flights into, out of, or within North America. This is due to a subscription process that allows AirNav FS Live Traffic X to connect to an Internet server that continuously updates real IFR flight schedules collected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into data suitable for use in FSX." "What this looks like in FSX, is that there are aircraft models with realistic airline paint schemes that will follow real world flight schedules. If a flight is cancelled, delayed, or added from the published schedule in the real word, for example due to weather conditions, then your air traffic in FSX should accurately reflect that change." "The AI traffic models in AirNav FS Live Traffic X are based on the model set from My Traffic X, although the numbers of jets has been stripped down to eliminate IFR flights that do not begin or end in North America. The traffic schedules are taken from AirNav Systems' Live Flight Tracker, and are rendered into FSX as a special scenery layer." "Installation of AirNav FS Live Traffic X is somewhat tricky and depends on the user being able to edit configuration files in FSX. The manual explains the process in good detail with instructive illustrations. Purchasing AirNav FS Live Traffic X is actually part of a subscription system, and the purchaser will automatically be charged $59.95 in US Dollars every six months for access to flight schedules that are accurate almost up to the minute, with the first six-month subscription being included in the price of the utility. Users can contact AirNav Systems to opt out of subscription at any time." "AirNav FS Live Traffic X operates independently of FSX. After installation, very little user intervention is required to maintain the flight schedules or liveries: the process is automatic and internal. The program needs a live Internet connection, from where it will download updates that typically are around 300 kilobytes in size. It took my test system under a minute to process the update, which gets loaded into FSX automatically. FSX load times are longer due to the new data. On my computer, the load time increased by about a minute." "Airports become loaded with real-world airlines that will respond to realistic Air Traffic Controller calls by their proper names. These airliners will take off and land following real-world flight plans, in FSX they will properly use gates and jetways, and will call for support vehicles automatically." "Since it's possible to have over a hundred different airplanes at once in larger airports, the detail level on these jets is low, and up close, they look rather ugly. However, they are colourful, and unlike the fictional MSFS jets like Pacifica and World Travel Airlines, you can have many more of them on screen at the same time before taking a big performance hit with your computer, as long as you are running a decent modern system." "Most of the AI flights are IFR, because the FAA data that AirNav Systems collects is based on IFR flight plans. This means that AirNav FS Live Traffic X depicts mostly passenger jets. Military flights, helicopters, amphibious planes, and such are not modelled at this time. As well, for the parts of the world where the FAA does not track flights, you are not likely to see much AI traffic, if any." Concluding his look at AirNav FS Live Traffic X, Jeff describes it as, "a premium AI air traffic generator for the North American continent. With it, you will get true to life air traffic that is as close to "live" as we can get for FSX, given some limitations. The extra service does come with a large price tag, but if spending money on your FSX hobby is not a problem, I feel that AirNav FS Live Traffic X provides plenty of useful utility. The user will never have to worry about sorting through a seemingly endless list of files, schedules, and liveries, as all of the "book-keeping" and maintenance within the program is performed automatically."
Century Trident Autopilot By Bert Pieke (May 18, 2007) Senior staff reviewer Bert Pieke becomes a cockpit mechanic as he replaces various gauges in his aircraft with Flight 1's Century Triden Autopilot flight control system. "The Century Triden AP system includes the Triden AP with vertical speed, alt hold, approach, nav, hdg, flight director and yaw damper modes. In addition to the Autopilot, the TRIDEN Automatic Flight Control System includes the Century NSD-1000 HSI, Century ADI w/FD and the Century GPSS/HDG switch, plus an Altitude Preselect and Alerter." "You essentially pick those gauges you want removed from the panel (here the ADI, HSI, ADF, Alerter, and GPS switch) and after deleting them, you pick the gauges from the menu in the screen and drag them to the positions where you want them displayed. Then, while holding the Ctrl-key down, you can use the mouse to stretch the gauges to their final dimensions." "Flying with the Triden autopilot is a treat. It feels like you’ve just spent a bundle to upgrade your GA avionics to a high-end set, costing 10’s of thousands of dollars more. The autopilot gauge has all the buttons conveniently located around a screen that indicates the “soft buttons” to push, and if you are used to having to switch to the radio stack to access the autopilot, you can now position the autopilot right on the main panel, in most cases." "This is a high function gauge set that will appeal to real world pilots who are familiar with the Century product line (or those who would like to explore this set of gauges). It is professionally put together and is very satisfying when used as intended," say Bert about the Century Triden Autopilot, "if you carefully select your aircraft for this “avionics upgrade”, you can end up with a great looking and very satisfying result."
Airport Enhancement Services By Michael "DocW" Wehner (May 14, 2007) Staff reviewer Michael "DocW' Wehner looks at all of the "extras" that are included with Aerosoft's Airport Enhancement Services. "AES is a tool that offers detailed adjustable and aircraft tailored ground services for certain, mainly Aerosoft distributed airports. It provides you with a fully automated pushback service, a follow me vehicle, an animated 3D marshaller, a visual docking guidance system, moving and well aligned jetways, stairways, catering vehicles and luggage-belt or container vehicles serving your plane." "The level of detail looks adequate for me and doesn't leave a lot to desire. Let’s imagine you came to a stop in LEPA and gate 18 was assigned to you. You would open the AES-User-Interface, which is similar to the ATC window, with CRTL-SHFT-W, adjust the Gate number with the function keys and then call the Follow Me van. the van will appear suddenly if watched from an outside view, but if you stay in the cockpit, the van will create a realistic visual impression by driving from your peripheral field of vision into the center. You can now follow the VW to the gate." "Arriving at your gate, the automatic guidance system will direct you into the parking position. Arriving at a stand; the 3D marshaller waves you into position. When he is happy with your alignment, you will be asked to apply parking brakes and soon after be informed that the blocks are now in position and finally the jetways or stairways come into play. I am really impressed by finding out that the little extendable pads of the service trucks indeed extend when they moved themselves into position." DocW asked several questions directly to the developers and received some detail feedback. In his summation of Aerosoft's AES, Michael comments, "Simming is a lot about immersion. Immersion is a very personal matter, if ground handling is on your list, then AES helps a lot. I had no serious issues with the package whatsoever, everything worked as advertised. AES impressed me as an elaborate, genuine and substantial contribution to FS9 with still lots of promising perspectives."
Flight Deck Companion! for FSX By Jeff Shyluk (Mar 15, 2007) Staff reviewer Jeff Skyluk fills that empty void called the left seat with Aerosoft's Flight Deck Companion! for FSX developed by OnCourse Software. "FDC was originally released in 2002, and since then, has been revised and improved in many ways." "Flight Deck Companion Live Cockpit! (FDC) is a third-party add-on that provides a Virtual Co-Pilot (VCP) for just about any fixed-wing aircraft in your FSX hangar. The VCP will provide interactive audio checklists that will help you as the Pilot-In-Command to manage all of your cockpit chores. The VCP will also automatically perform many cockpit tasks such as correctly setting flaps, gear, spoilers, speedbrakes, reverse thrusters, and the autopilot, leaving you to concentrate on flying. FDC is flexible enough to provide cockpit support for many of the existing FSX aircraft, and can be configured to accept most, if not all, third-party fixed-wing aircraft, including jets, turboprops, and general aviation aircraft. In fact, FDC is open to a great deal of user customization, as you can adjust how the VCP performs his or her tasks, you can specify exactly which call-outs you want to hear in your interactive checklists (and even which call-outs are to be interactive), you can choose from 16 different cockpit crew voice sets and 6 different flight attendant voices (or you can record your own custom voice sets), and you can set up over twenty hotkeys, including customizing functions that use the buttons on your flight controllers." "In a typical flight, you choose which aircraft you wish to fly, and then connect FDC, which runs outside of FSX into your flight sim. You and your VCP will run through checklists where the VCP reads out items and you interactively respond to them. The VCP is capable of making many settings on his or her own, and can correct your mistakes. FDC monitors your flight progress from departure to arrival. All along the way, the VCP will give you helpful audio cues as you master your checklists. In addition, FDC can create a log of your flight that you can save and review after your journey is complete." "What FDC does best is to provide an immersive audio environment for your cockpit. If you are used to flying all by yourself, it's something different and special to have a virtual Co-Pilot helping you handle the cockpit workload. FDC is simple enough for a novice to use, but can also provide challenge to more hard-core users as well." Jeff sums up Flight Deck Companion! with "Back in 2002, FDC got some very good reviews. Five years later, it's still a quality product, although I feel that MSFS and other developers have caught up somewhat to the high level that FDC enjoyed in the beginning. That being said, FDC gives good value for the money in 2005, and Dave March, the lead developer, promises some exciting new developments for FDC in the future!"
Real Sky v3 By Allen Lavigne (Mar 12, 2007) Staff reviewer Allen Lavigne repaints the sky with Sandon Lyon's Real Sky v3 which includes both the FS9 and FSX versions. "Although Real Sky, by the same author, has already been reviewed, this version of Real Sky 3 (also called REAL SKY V3 EXTRA EDITION) and its textures are not a previous version of REAL SKY with a new name, and are not randomly generated." "Regardless of what textures you had installed before, they can be reinstalled if required. If you find that you would prefer any previously used textures to the ones Real Sky gives you, these can be retrieved individually from the backup folder (rs3backup) in your main texture folder. What does it change? Cloud, lights, water reflections, and sky textures. For the better, IMHO." "I noticed that the default water textures do not have the sun reflection ‘broad line’ on the water, as is the case with Real Sky. Since Real Sky comes with new cloud textures, these are different from the default set and are nicer in my opinion. Also, the ocean field height file seems to generate a wider and mode distinct wave pattern. The water textures themselves are an obvious improvement. The lens flare effect is much more subtle with Real Sky 3. The native FS9 has distinct squares in succession, which is not very real." While the pictures speak many more words than the text implies, seeing this software in action is the real test of what it can do. Allen sums up his review of Real Sky 3 with, "In my opinion, the Real Sky textures show a significant improvement in realism. I’m keeping this Real Sky 3 on my system for use with FSX until something much better can be made. Those not anticipating any other purchases of more expensive add-ons in the future may be interested in getting Real Sky 3, as it is a significant improvement to the default environment (in my opinion)."
TrackClip Pro By Paul Middleton (Feb 23, 2007) Senior staff reviewer Paul Middleton looks at cockpit management with FS2Crew for 747. "These two FS2Crew products are the latest in this series of Cockpit Management add-ons, and are designed for the Boeing 747. The first operates with the excellent 747 from PMDG, and the other with the default 747 that comes with FSX. For those unfamiliar with this product series, it adds a whole new level of realism for full-blown passenger operations." "FS2Crew simulates all those people that a real-life pilot normally interacts with. There's the Ground Crew, who do such things as bring you paperwork and push you back. There are the flight attendants, who do such things as tell you when the cabin is ready and report on passengers needing assistance. And last but not least, there is your Flying Officer, who works most of the switches, runs through the checklists with you, and points out when you do something wrong. He does reduce your workload so that you, as the pilot, can do all the Captain's stuff, like hold the controls, set the autopilot, plan your descent, or just look out of the window." So what kinds of cockpit management functions are within the FS2Crew program? "When you are ready to push back, you press the "PB" button on the Main Selector Panel and the small Pushback Panel appears. You specify the distance and angle you want, and it takes care of the rest. While taxiing, you run through the Before Takeoff Checklist. When you are cleared for takeoff, you set 70% N1, then engage TOGA. If you prefer, you can get your FO to handle the takeoff instead. In that case, you'll use the Main Button to do the callouts and they will handle the yoke while you raise flaps and engage autopilot. As you approach the Top of Descent, you need to perform the Approach Brief. This involves clicking "AB" on the Main Selector Panel, and an Approach Briefing panel opens up, which is similar to the Departure Briefing Panel used earlier. In the descent, you'll be going through the Descent Checklist ("DS" on the Main Selector Panel) and later the minimal Approach Checklist." Paul's summary of FS2Crew for 747 is short, sweet and to the point. "FS2Crew for the PMDG and FSX default 747's is an excellent product, which reflects a continual development and improvement over the earlier versions that were good in themselves. I thoroughly recommend it." For a comprehensive look at this program, read Paul's review.
TrackClip Pro By Jeff Shyluk (Feb 11, 2007) Staff reviewer Jeff Shyluk continues where staff reviewer Zane Gard left off, with the continuation of Natural Point's latest piece of hardware, the TrackClip Pro. "This device is a USB-powered tracking clip that can attach to a headset for use with the TrackIR4:PRO system." "The TrackClip PRO is a sensor device that will clip onto the left side of many headsets. It can be used with either the TrackIR3 or the TrackIR4 PRO models, although it does not include Vector Expansion activation for the TrackIR3:PRO. The TrackClip PRO is small and very lightweight, but I feel it is not as subtle in appearance as the spring steel clip. The TrackClip PRO is constructed of jet black shiny plastic, with the largest mass residing in an adjustable clip that fits on the left side of your headset. Emerging from the clip is a triple-pronged transmitter whose wiry armatures glow with a faint but steady redness from light-emitting diodes (LEDs) at their tips." "So, just how well does the TrackClip PRO perform? I think it works exceptionally well! This product is an absolute winner. The moment you activate the TrackIR in your sim, your whole environment really comes to life. The feeling of immersion into reality seems both powerful and effortless. I saw that the TrackClip PRO easily and accurately tracked the movements of my head, and that the TrackIR system as a whole did not seem to affect my frame rates in any way. the camera sensor will accurately track the TrackClip PRO, and the user can sit farther away from the camera under lower light conditions and still get excellent responses to head movements. It is a sensitive device, so there is no need to use broad, sweeping head motions to achieve perfect control." Jeff sums up the TrackClip pro with, "I am a huge fan of the TrackIR system. To me, a TrackIR is as important a peripheral to a Flight Simulator computer as a joystick and a monitor. I feel that a TrackIR is well worth the investment. The TrackClip PRO is a brilliant add-on for the TrackIR. It integrates seamlessly with my existing TrackIR device. The setup does require a little bit of work, but nothing difficult or strenuous: if you can set up a TrackIR, you can easily set up a TrackClip PRO."
Integrated Simvionics Group By David Wilson-Okamura (Feb 11, 2007) Staff reviewer David Wilson-Okamura looks at a collection of guages from Integrated Simavionics Group. This collection includes a Master Control Unit (MCU), which pulls together the various functions of the system, the FMS proper (where flight plans are entered and various data can be viewed), an Enhanced Attitude Directional Indicator (which adds features to the standard horizon ball), and two different route displays: the Primus 1000 Multi-Function Display (MFD) and the Honeywell EFS50 Enhanced Horizontal Situation Indicator (EHSI). "The driving force behind this project is Ernie Alston, whom some of us know as a controller on VATSIM, and others as the author of FSBuild, which was reviewed here several months ago. The consensus, on VATSIM at least, is that FSBuild is the best flight planning software for pilots who want to fly realistic routings. This same level of realism is now evident in Alston’s gauge offerings. This doesn’t at all mean that you need to have FSBuild in order to use ISG1." "A great deal of thought has gone into making these new gauges play nicely with the other children in the cockpit. It’s possible to specify that a gauge will be used in the VC, or a pop-up, and the gauge will adjust to use system resources most effectively. There are also special versions of some gauges that include back-lighting." When describing who the target audience is for these add-on gauges by Integrated Simavionics Group, David says, "The gauges in this package are carefully chosen and well executed. In combination, they simplify pilot workload and increase the precision of several flight maneuvers, including descent, hold, and approach. I like the results, and have no desire to go back. It really is a package, though, for jets and turboprops. If there is an obstacle to the success of this add-on, it is probably that tinkering with gauges and panels is not everyone’s idea of relaxation."
Eyecessories 3D Glasses

By Gavin Hendrie (Jan 22, 2007) Staff reviewer Gavin Hendire looks at the world through rose (and green) coloured glasses. 3D glasses actually, from Eyecessories. "In a nutshell, they are a pair of plastic glasses, not much unlike the shape of a pair of sunglasses. One lens is coloured Red and the other a sort of Green/Blue and they have been fine tuned by experts to ensure the sharpest image possible. Firstly, you need to download the NVIDIA consumer 3D stereo drivers (about 5.5Mb) and the MATCHING normal graphics driver. Further to that, the more astute of you will be thinking “but what about my ATi card?” The simple answer is that you’ll have to go and buy an NVIDIA card, as the drivers obviously don’t work with any GPU other than an NVIDIA chip." "Don the glasses and the picture will come together but with an incredible feeling of depth. The amazing thing about these glasses is the versatility. This is not just an addon for FS, but in fact for anything you want to view on your PC in 3D." Summing up this latest offering to the 3D world from Eyecessories, Gavin says, "I have to admit that I was blown away by the added and quite genuine feeling of depth. To say it added something to my flying is potentially the biggest understatement ever. Is it worth buying, I’d say it is. Are you getting value for money and the answer here is yes, you certainly are."

FSDiscover! By David Wilson-Okamura (Jan 13, 2007) There's scenic flights and then there's informative scenic flights. Staff reviewer David Wilson-Okamura describes the numerous features in Flight 1's new release, FSDiscover! "With EZ-Landmark, you could look out the window of your aircraft and see labels over the landscape. If you wanted to know what a lake was called, the name was right there in front of you, hovering over the lake. In FSDiscover!, it works the same way, but there are several new features: a basic map with flight planner, more named objects, a new system for displaying names without cluttering up the screen, a mechanism to add placenames while you are flying, and the option to see your flight path painted on the landscape in front of you." "Currently, there are four categories of names that you can show: airports, geographic names, your flight plan (if you have one), and "points of interest." According to the product description, FSDiscover! has a database of "over 3.6 million geographic names from all over the world". Also, FSDiscover! has an interface that lets you add landmarks while you are flying. This involves pointing at the object (by slewing the aircraft) and typing the landmark’s name." David says, "there is a lot of great scenery out there, both freeware and payware, but we don’t always see everything that’s there. FSDiscover! can help with that. Easy to use and also to expand, this is a tool not just for exploring new places, but for discovering new things about the places we already know."
Skydecks 737NG Panel By David Rogers (Dec 23, 2006) New staff reviewer David Rogers kicks off his first review with Skydecks 737NG Panel. "According to the Sky-Decks team, you get a high quality 737NG Panel with all new gauges for the most realistic flight simulation experience. Sky-Deck also provides within the download, a freeware 737 aircraft already configured and set-up to use this Panel." "We are clearly dealing with a fine looking panel. Clicking the appropriate sim icon brings up the overhead panel. And what an overhead this is! The rest of the sub panels are similarly accessed from the sim icons and reveal equally pleasant renditions of their counterparts from the real plane. An initial look around the main panel, and especially the MCP (Mode Control Panel), reveals my first area of disappointment in the Sky-Decks Panel - the functionality and realism of the overhead panel is not extended to the MCP, Autopilot, or FMA (flight mode annunciations), shown on the Primary Flying Display." "An area of realism that does mirror the actual NG aircraft is the fact that you can choose to fly with Boeing’s Full or Compact layouts for the Primary Flying and Navigation Displays. On loading an aircraft that uses the panel, you are presented with a pop-up option box where the selection is made." David summarizes this add-on with, "The Sky-Decks 737NG Panel gives the virtual flyer a stunning looking panel to fly from, along with some nice touches such as an announcement panel and highly functional overhead. Main panel functionality is not on par with the most advanced complex simulations but as an upgrade from the default FS2004 airliner panels, or for use with freeware models, this add-on packs a punch and represents good value for money."
FSPilot By Jeff Shyluk (Nov 17, 2006) Staff reviewer Jeff Skyluk puts everything on Autopilot as he looks at a shareware product from Scientific Networks, FSPilot. "FSPilot is an enhanced "universal autopilot" for virtually every aircraft, including third-party add-ons, and especially including helicopters, that FS2004 supports. FSPilot also includes a digital moving-map EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System), a flight planner, and some extra goodies like an .MP3 player and a Snapshot photo tool." Jeff reports that FSPilot is crammed with interesting items. Here is a list of features in FSPilot: Universal Autopilot, Helicopter Autopilot, Does not require FSUIPC, Time compression, EFIS/Navigation Screen, Low Altitude Flight, Google Earth Interface, Auto Approach, Automated Flight Plans, Inverted Autopilot, Microsoft Access Database Interface, Audio Cues, and Screen Shot capability. You can read about these features in detail within the review. "FSPilot has a lot of features to try out. Most of them apply to what I would consider two broad categories of autopilot function: things you can do in real-time and under time-compression, and things you can do to program the autopilot in advance of the flight. FSPilot is genuinely fun for the whole family, and educational for all ages in the worlds of simulated aviation and programming." Jeff summarizes FSPilot with, "FSPilot is a shareware utility for MSFS that provides a unique "universal autopilot" that is capable of completely controlling just about every aircraft that has been designed for Flight Simulator, including fixed-wing aircraft (propeller-driven planes and jets), helicopters, and commercial and free-ware add-ons. FSPilot also provides a programmable flight planner and a one-click navigation system that allows for setting and following waypoints on the fly. FSPilot provides control over your aircraft at time compression settings well beyond what MSFS is capable of, so that it is easy to simulate long-haul flights in a short simulation session. You can even use FSPilot to perform fully automated landings. You do not require FSUIPC to use FSPilot."
Friendly Panels - 14 Gauges By Brian Fletcher (Oct 25, 2006) Sr Staff reviewer Brian Fletcher does some modifications to the interior of his aircraft with the inclusion of some new gauges. 14 Gauges to select from Friendly Panels. "Friendly Panels 14 gauges pack 1 includes three GPS’s, two NAV-COM radios, two autopilots, 2 transponders, three audio panels, an ADF, and a DME, all of which are designed to reflect there real world counterpart as closely as Flight Simulator permits. This package gives the simmer the opportunity to upgrade from the default FS9 radio and navigation instruments to something more authentic, more legible, and with more features." The selections available in this package include: Bendix KLN 90B and KLN 94 GPS, Garmin GNS 530 GPS, Bendix KAP140 and KFC225 Autopilots, Bendix KX 165A NAV1-Com1 and NAV2-Com2, Bendix KT70 and KT76C Transponders, Bendix KR87 ADF, Bendix KN62A DME, and the KMA24, KMA26, and KA134 Audio Panels. "While researching each of these instruments, I contacted my local Allied Signal retailer for Bendix / King products and found out that FP has done a remarkable job of making the instruments in this package extremely close in functionality and appearance to the real instruments," reports Brian. He summarizes this 14 Gauge review with, "My overall impression of this package is one of satisfaction with a desire for only minor improvements, the manual being the most notable. I am very pleased with the authenticity of each instrument, and I like the fact that all of the features of the real instruments are included with the only exception being those not supported by Flight Sim. As for recommending this product, while I can not possibly determine the wants and needs of every simmer, I can say that if you are looking to enhance your communication and navigational equipment, than this package is made just for you."
Saitek X-52 Flight Control System By Brian Fletcher (Sep 11, 2006) Sr staff reviewer Brian Fletcher revisits another piece of hardware just in time for the release of FS-X. The Saitek X-52 Flight Control System. "Even though the vast majority of simmers use some type of joystick, What separates the X52 from most other HOTAS controllers is that it has the ability to control every function in every Flight Simulator that I tested it with", quotes Brian. "The Joystick can be mounted to your desktop by use of the two existing holes in the front right and rear left of the base, or by using the four supplied suction cups, but the weight of the base will keep it in place on just about any surface. From any angle, the joystick portion of the X52 is, in my opinion, just about as good as it gets. I have found it to be comfortable and I am pleased with the array of buttons, switches, and knobs which can be configured to function the controls however you want them to, in most Flight Simulators." "I found the throttle portion of the X52 to be a perfect companion for the joystick. When you combine the buttons, knobs, slider, and rotaries with those on the joystick, you have all you need to fly without the mouse and keyboard." "Given the seemingly endless functions, the comfortable and authentic design, I consider the Saitek X52 to be one of the finest HOTAS controllers available. Some of the features, such as the separate throttle control, LED display, and adjustable button lighting add to my cosmetic likes of this controller. And other functions, such as the rudder twist, adjustable palm rest, conveniently placed buttons and switches, mouse controller, and mode selector, find my approval as well. And even though I may not be willing to suggest that you hurry up and get one for yourself, I do highly recommend giving this product serious consideration," Brian concludes in this hardware review.
CH Yoke, Throttle Quadrant and Rudder Pedals By Brian Fletcher (Aug 27, 2006) Sr Staff Reviewer Brian Fletcher takes another look at the CH line of cockpit products for those who are thinking of upgrading their systems with the release of FS-X on its way. "These products have all been a part of my home cockpit for a while now, but a recent event made me realize just how much I have taken these products for granted." Brian goes into great detail about CH's Yoke, Throttle Quadrant and Rudder Pedals. He explains the configuration management program that is included with each piece of hardware and how to get the best combination of uses from each controller piece. Brian also advises on the best way to get the biggest bang for your aviation dollar when purchasing these items. Brian summarizes his revisit of these CH products with, "I have discussed why I am fond of the these products, and I believe that most simmers will likely find them to be as fantastic as I did after trying them out. In my opinion, I have found all three of these products to be a great way to step up the realism of Flight Sim affordably. I believe that these controllers will make an enormous improvement for any simmer who wants to replicate flight more authentically."
Garmin G1000 By Zane Gard, Jr (Aug 12, 2006) Staff reviewer Zane Gard, Jr shows us the future of GA cockpits with Mindstar's Garmin G1000. "Now here’s something that a lot of flight simulation enthusiasts have been waiting for. Glass cockpits for GA aircraft have been the talk of aviation since the turn of the century." "One thing that Mindstar and Eaglesoft wanted me to make absolutely sure that I reported, was that this is a work in progress," notes Zane, "It is complete enough to go flying with and uses quite a few of the features that you will find in the real life unit, but there are still some hurdles to overcome to get it to work with FS2004 as well as getting the myriad of features the real unit has to function correctly on two independent displays. This is not always as simple as it sounds. I can report that the Mindstar team has been very fast to respond to any problems I encountered and the unit has been through a few revisions since I started reviewing this product; each one fixing a discovered problem and also adding new features." "If you have been following the FSX leaks, you already know that FSX will ship with their own in house simulation of the Garmin G1000 system installed in the Cessna 172, Beechcraft Baron and Mooney Bravo. Anyone with experience with their real life counterparts, knows these are a very simplified graphical simulation of the Garmin GPS’s and many of the actual features are left out." So how does this PC version compare to the real thing? "I do have a very limited amount of real life experience with the Garmin G1000. I have had a pretty thorough ground demonstration in a Cessna 182 when the Nav III option was first introduced. And more recently, I took a Diamond DA40 with the Garmin G1000 panel for a test flight. That was enough for me to realize that I didn’t know enough about these wonderful units. I also took the opportunity to look at a Cessna T182T that is for sale locally. One of N65431’s recent flights was from Bowerman to Snohomish (KHQM-KPAE) via the Olympia VOR (OLM) at 7,000 feet, so that seemed like the perfect flight to try the sim version out on." Zane goes into great detail on all of the functions he used while recreating this actual flight on the C182. He has also included step by step screenshots with descriptions. Zane concludes his Garmin G1000 glass cockpit experience with, "Mindstar has gone where no-one has dared to go yet and offer a truly representative simulation of the Garmin G1000 integrated cockpit for FS2004. I personally found this to be a very helpful tool to use for my own familiarization using the G1000 system. If you have an interest in learning the Garmin G1000 systems, I recommend this software to you. If you are a pilot and are renting, are considering purchasing or already own an aircraft with the G1000 in it, this is going to help with familiarization quite a bit."
Electronic Flight Bag By Gavin Hendrie (Jul 30, 2006) Staff reviewer Gavin Hendrie takes our current flight bag jammed full of charts, approach plates ,weather maps, etc and turns them all into one electronic package as he reviews FS Widgets' Electronic Flight Bag. "In a nutshell, the Electronic Flight Bag 2004 (EFB04) is a standalone process that allows you to view the type of information you need as a pilot within FS9. The blurb on the FS Widgets website states, “EFB will provide you with a paperless cockpit with access to PDF approach charts, PDF aircraft manuals, audio/standard checklists, NAV log, internet and real-time weather links plus a moving map display. It’s the intelligent and organised way that EFB does this that makes it useful." Gavin goes into detail as to what each section of this utility is capable of doing. In summation Gavin states, "This is definitely a handy utility, clever and useful, well thought out, and easy to use. However, we can still view pdf charts on approach without needing EFB. If you want to view online weather images you can do so without EFB, ditto your aircraft manuals and checklists and especially so for a moving map and webpages. In short, EFB offers little that is new, other than the fact it bundles it altogether in one neat package. Go and download the manual, flick through it and if you like what you see, download the demo. Use the demo for the 20 minutes you get free and if you like it, buy it and unlock the time limit."
Copilot 767 By Nick Preston (Jul 20, 2006) Rookie staff reporter Nick Preston takes an accompanied flight in Level D's 767 with Left Seat Simulations' Copilot: 767 Edition. "Left Seat Simulations Copilot: 767 Edition is a stand alone package developed to bring an added sense of realism to flying the Level D 767-300 using voice recognition technology." "After reading through the instruction manual for Copilot: 767 Edition, you will note some key steps that need to be taken before you can begin flying with your copilot. The most important step is training Microsoft’s Voice Recognition Software to listen and follow the commands of your voice," Nick informs us. "Completing the voice training should take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and once you are done you are ready to fly with your copilot." So what's my new copilot going to do for me? "The copilot can control a number of commands, most of which are used to control functions on the main panel. These commands are used to control functions like the landing gear, flaps, radios, autopilot, flight director, autothrottles, autobrakes, radios, aircraft lighting, and more. All spoken commands are repeated by the copilot to confirm that the command has been received after the action is carried out, which simulates real world operating procedures." This gives you more time to concentrate on more important things, like flying the plane. Nick sums up this utility by stating, "Copilot: 767 Edition is an excellent utility for the avid Level D 767 pilot who wants to further their realism and get the most from their flying experience without sacrificing computer performance."
FSBuild By Gavin Hendrie (Jul 16, 2006) New staff reviewer Gavin Hendrie plans a flight using the latest version of Ernie Alston's FSBuild. "It’s a flight planning utility akin to FS Navigator, but, in my opinion, better." "FSB is a powerful utility and allows you to plan a route in a number of ways, from simply picking the DEP and ARR airports and hitting AUTO GENERATE, to manually entering each waypoint, fix, VOR, NDB, Airway, etc yourself. The package also comes with a large number of pre-stored routes and plans. A User Guide folder is installed as part of the installation process and contains both a range of thorough documentation, including a 4 page quickstart guide, which will have you planning and exporting simple FP’s in no time at all." Gavin summizes in his review, "you may never fully appreciate ALL of the features FSBuild offers, but equally, you won’t be left with a utility that is obsolete as it will constantly update with the times. If you need a powerful Flight Planning utility, buy FS Build."
FlightSim Commander 7.7 By David Wilson-Okamura (Jun 18, 2006) Reviewer David Wilson-Okamura explains the details of the latest incarnation of FlightSim Commander, V7.7. "There are not many products for Flight Simulator that can claim to have gone through 7 versions. What started out as a flight planner now provides a full array of in-flight services as well." "FSC has grown incrementally, and with each iteration the feature set has expanded," David explains as he notes 23 features listed in the review. He goes on to describe the in-flight services and flight planning abilities of FSD. "It’s hard to think of anything you might want to know while flying that FSC doesn’t tell you. If you’re flying on the VATSIM or IVAO networks, FSC will download the current data and tell you where the controllers are online." From the flight planning section, David mentions, "Unlike at least one popular flight planner, FSC can be run on a separate computer. One thing this flight planner is very good at is building a route between any two waypoints on the flight plan: not just two airports, but any waypoints. This makes it easy to combine different types of routings: navaid, low-altitude, and high-altitude." David's review is a very in-depth analysis of this release. "The developers of FSC have clearly been making an effort in this version and the patch already released for it, makes FSC more useful to VATSIM and IVAO pilots. One of the best things about FSC is that it’s shareware. After 35 minutes, it will stop working, but there’s nothing to prevent you from closing the program and using it again for another 35 minutes. This will give you more than ample opportunity to evaluate whether the tool works the way you need it."
Reality XP Wx500 Weather Radar and ST3400 TAWS/RMI By Brian Fletcher (May 23, 2006) Sr Staff reviewer Brian "Cap'n" Fletcher takes a look at two of Reality XP’s award winning products that are sure to enhance any Flight Sim enthusiast's home cockpit. The Wx500 Weather Radar and ST3400 TAWS/RMI. "The Wx500 Weather Radar to give you ample notice of dangerous weather systems that should be avoided. The ST3400 acts as terrain awareness warning system, radio magnetic indicator, traffic collision avoidance system, and ground proximity warning system all in one." Brian goes into great detail about the installation, set-up and use of these two pieces of equipment. Such detail, that you must read the complete review to get a true feeling as to what these add-on gauges can accomplish. He concludes his analysis with, "I am extremely satisfied that both the Wx500 and ST3400 do everything that they claim and more. I find the displays to be crystal clear, the information is relative and accurate, and they can be resized to fit into just about any cockpit. I really enjoy using both of these products, I continue to do so, and I will likely continue using both of them for a long time to come."
Reality XP Flight Line T By Alexis Esguerra (May 18, 2006) Alexis Esguerra, Sr Staff Reviewer, looks at Reality XP's Flight Line T package, flight instruments intended to replace those that don’t come up to par. "FLT is designed to replace the basic ‘six-pack’ on the instrument panel, those basic items that any pilot relies on to give him or her feedback on what the plane is doing flight-wise at any given moment. The basic six for all GA aircraft in MSFS are good at what they represent and what they do. Closer scrutiny reveals that they all are a bit clunky, both in appearance and operation," explains Alexis, "FLT addresses those shortcomings by providing the end user with a set of instruments created from an all new, in-house rendering program that they call TrueGauge XP. An advantage of the instruments in FLT is that they are configurable for the specific aircraft they are mated to." "I am happy to report that FLT did not seem to have any visible impact on my system. As compared to the default gauge-equipped C182S under a variety of conditions that included more complex sceneries, traffic conditions, and weather, the FPS rate of the FLT-equipped Skylane performed just as well as the pre-retrofit version." Alexis concludes his review with, "I can state without question that these gauges are a vast improvement over the original gauges they replace, and I continue to use it to this day. If I had purchased this add-on, I would have considered it money well spent."
FS2Crew for Level-D 767 By Paul Middleton (May 13, 2006) Sr Staff Reviewer Paul Middleton looks at the fifth in the series of Cockpit Management simulations that operate within other FS9 aircraft, FS2Crew for Level-D 767. "FS2Crew simulates all those people that a real-life pilot normally interacts with. The procedures that are modelled in FS2Crew are a replica of those used by a British airline," explains Paul. "There's the Ground Crew, who do such things as bring you paperwork and push you back. There are the flight attendants who do such things as tell you when the cabin is ready and bring you cups of coffee. And last but not least, there is your Flying Officer, who works most of the switches, runs through the checklists with you, and points out when you do something wrong." "This is the second FS2Crew product that I have reviewed, and the third that I have used personally. What continues to impress me is the way in which they are improved and refined each time." Paul states in his review summary, "this is not a product for everyone. If you just like to fly a passenger jet as an essentially solitary experience, perhaps communicating with ATC, but otherwise having no-one to bother you, then you may find that FS2Crew limits your freedom of action. FS2Crew expects you to work as a team with your virtual FO, not to mention other colleagues, and this means that you need to do certain things only at certain times." "FS2Crew for the Level-D 767 is a solid and reliable product, which mirrors accurately airline cockpit management practice, in a way that is simple to learn and become familiar with."
Active Sky 6

By Mike "Mike T" Toussant (May 10, 2006) "Without a doubt, weather (WX) is the single most dynamic variable of flying. It affects every aspect of the flight from the moment the pilot begins the flight plan to the moment the arrival runway is chosen at the destination airport. Weather affects flight performance, the flight route, the runway in use, and the comfort and safety of the passengers as well as the integrity of the aircraft itself." Avsim reviewer Mike Toussant takes a look at this natural phenomenon as presented by HiFi Simulation's Active Sky 6. "Activesky 6 is actually two separate programs that have been combined to operate flawlessly together. Many of you may know of the FSSKYWORLD freeware project that brought beautiful realistically textured cloud graphics to FS 2002 and 2004; this has been updated and integrated into AS6. The integration of the two programs has been deftly accomplished by HiFi and each program now compliments the other because the WX engine takes advantage of the various clouds included in the graphics package to display a highly realistic weather-scape." While there may be a few more steps than many “jump in and fly” programs sim pilots are used to, it is more than worth it as it translates directly into more WX realism within the simulator and transitioning from the default FS WX engine to Activesky the difference can be simply breathtaking. Simply put, the inclusion of AS 6 to the FS 2004 environment is simply night and day. The differences range from the subtle to the dramatic and everything in between." "Undoubtedly AS6 has taken the FS 2004 weather envelope and pushed it about as far as it can go," Mike concludes in his review, "Activesky 6 is a MUST HAVE utility for FS 2004 but when taken with HiFi’s stellar support, dedication and constant improvements it is not only a must have, but also a pleasure to own."

Triplehead2go By Zane Gard, Jr (May 7, 2006) Reviewer Zane Gard takes a "wide" look at a new piece of hardware. The Triplehead2go multi-monitor device from Matrox Graphics. "I wanted to research a triple wide monitor setup. I had seen photos of other people’s sims with three and even more monitors hooked up. I remember an article a couple of years ago about the Bugeye Three Window Display system that Chuck Boudreaux wrote. I thought that was a pretty neat idea but when I looked at my computer desk I noticed that it wouldn’t fit. I discovered that if you wanted to actually span the display across three monitors there was one manufacturer that made a device that could handle that… Matrox. Matrox had the bright idea of making a way in which you could split the display output to three monitors yet still use your present graphics card." "Inside the product box is the little black box… and it really is little...and a plastic bag with all the patch cords, power adaptor, instructions and installation CD. Matrox accomplished this little wonder by making the computer/graphics card think that the little black box is itself a monitor with three available resolutions settings, 1920x480, 2400x600, 3072x1024 and 3840x1024. The 3072x1024 setting allows for a 75 Hz refresh rate, the others are at 60 Hz. The unit then splits that signal up and sends it to the appropriate monitor." This device is not only compatable with MSFS but also with Combat Flight Sim programs, racing programs, "Shootem-up" games, fantasy games and many more. All of the details are available at the Matrox website.(www.matrox.com) To read the complete details of Zane's experience with the Matrox Triplehead2go hardware, and to see numerous screenshot examples, read his complete review and judge for yourself as to whether this may be part of the flight sim experience that you've been missing.
Checklist Manager By Brian Fletcher (Apr 27, 2006) Sr staff reviewer Brian Fletcher looks at a utility that every serious simmer has used in one form or another. The checklist. Except this time it's in electronic form. Here's Checklist manager by SEA Development."The aircraft checklist acts as a silent co-pilot that ensures your aircraft is airworthy and walks you through each step of flight from pre-start to shutdown," notes Brian, "What is the Checklist Manager? In short, it is one of the most simple and straight to the point onscreen checklists available for FS9." "Technically speaking, the SEA Checklist Manager will work with any aircraft in your inventory from the Wright Flyer to the Airbus A380. In order to load the Checklist Manager you will need choose one of the “SEA Checklist Manager” flights from the “select a flight” menu in FS9. Once the flight loads you can then choose any aircraft of your choice and the Checklist Manager will remain active." "Each of the flights will begin with a cold cockpit where you will follow a series of pre-start inspections to ensure the aircraft is ready for startup. The checklist will begin by requesting an external inspection, a fuel calculation, and suggest that you get a weather briefing from ATIS. The next few steps ask you to verify that your charts are ready for use, the parking brake is set with the throttle controls at idle, and to switch on the battery master switch. Once the pre-start inspection is complete it will be replaced by the startup procedure checklist,....and so on." The Cap'n wraps up the review with, "Like every add-on ever made, this product comes down to a matter of taste. Some virtual pilots will like the ability to have the on-screen checklist so that they don’t have to take their eyes off the screen. Others may prefer the realism of having a paperback version instead. I have found a few benefits to having a program like this."
Real Sky By Brian Fletcher (Apr 17, 2006) Reviewer Brian Fletcher adds more outside detail to his flying experience, by taking a look at Sandy Lyon's Real Sky. "With Real Sky you will now have a more realistic ground glazing sunrise, accurately toned daytime textures, and a blazing orange sunset that leaves the default textures in the dark. Even the night sky takes on a whole new look, with or without the four new foggy weather themes included with this package." "It is kind of difficult to find a big difference between the Real Sky and default day textures at first glance, but after a deeper look I noticed three advantages to Real Sky. First, the sun appears with a more brilliant white and yellow texture with a larger haze. Second, I personally found the multiple shades of blue from after dusk to before dawn to be much more realistic. And third, I definitely prefer the clouds now that they reflect a mild glare off the sun, especially around the edges. Comparing the Real Sky and default night textures was like....well, it’s like night and day", says Brian. There are also 4 "foggy" weather themes included in this package. Brian flies a 24 hour flight to demonstrate all of the features of this add-on and to visualize the changes over time. While visual preference is an individual choice, the screenshots show the details that are hard to put into words. Read his complete review and see how this add-on compares to the default atmospheric scenery.
VFR Flight Plans Over The UK - Vol 1 By Brian Fletcher (Apr 11, 2006) Staff Reviewer Brian "Capn" Flethcer takes us on a scenic tour over Southern England with Just Flight's VFR Flight Plans OVer The UK - Volume 1. "The story begins by identifying the departure and arrival locations, and connecting them with a series of waypoints in between. The flights begin in Waddington and continue through Coltishall, Southend, Turweston, Oxford Kidling, Biggin Hill, Lydd, Southampton, Yeovilton, and finally into Plymouth," explains Brian. Brian takes us on the first leg of the flights in the add-on, "It can be difficult for someone who is used to using a GPS to follow a VFR map. Once the flight loads I can open the kneeboard to view the map, but since I have printed it out ahead of time I can use the paper map instead to free up my view. I have identified the town of Chard by using the waypoint photos in combination with the map, which indicates the presence of a river to the north. Once there, I have altered my heading slightly to take me towards Honiton and ultimately Exeter, which is the third waypoint. But what happens when the weather gets too foul to see the ground targets? To find out I have loaded up some foggy weather as I turned back to the southwest towards Salcombe. Though I can not see the ground textures very well, I can reset my chronometer and stay on the correct heading for the time dictated by the flight plan. As the fog cleared I was able to see the point where I was to begin my decent." About this program Brian says, "I was impressed at how well I could follow a VFR flight plan with just a little practice, and I believe that each of the 9 flights were created to expose the most beautiful scenery in this part of the world. I also liked having the VFR maps, the flight plans, and the waypoint photos accessible from one easy to use document. I can only say that I liked it and I will continue to use it." To get the complete description of the VFR Flight Plans, read the complete review.
My Traffic 2006 By Gene Davis (Apr 8, 2006) Reviewer Gene Davis looks at the world with AI aircraft in the review of My Traffic 2006. "MY TRAFFIC 2006 includes a vast array of GMAX AI aircraft; they include everything from commercial, military and general aviation. AI aircraft are typically not as detailed as flyable aircraft, but MY TRAFFIC 2006 does offer some visually pleasing aircraft." "As you look at all of the aircraft that are in this add-on, you will find that they are region specific. There are certain GA planes that you will see in the European countries that you won’t see in the US and this goes for the commercial and aviation traffic", comments Gene, "You will find yourself in awe as there are over 160 different aircraft types that range from 1965 through the present." A virtual "time machine" is a new feature with this AI add-on, "Turning back the clock is perhaps the most impressive part of this AI package; you can change the years via the 7 different batch files at the click of a mouse. This means that if you want to go back to 1965, simply go to your editor change the date and the program will automatically compile all available aircraft for that period, sadly 1965 is the earliest date you can go back to. The included years are 1965, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2005, and 2006." "In the end it always comes down to performance, so with all these pretty aircraft and busy skies, they do come at a cost. The solution here is to turn your slider down to about 30-50 percent. I decided that I did like My Traffic 2006 as it offers a great deal of variety within MSFS." Gene wraps up the review with, "If you don’t have an AI program or have the need for a military package to replace your other AI program, this is a good choice. I really don’t think you will regret the purchase."
Copilot3 By Brian Fletcher (Apr 1, 2006) Staff reviewer Brian Fletcher now employs an assistant during his flights after reviewing CoPilot 3 from Abacus. "The whole purpose of this package is to provide flight planning and tracking. This program goes beyond the default capabilities by allowing you to get much more in depth when planning a flight, and then have this plan automatically entered into your new CoPilot GPS with the autopilot ready to take over on your command." Brian describes the details of setting up the preferences within the CoPilot GPS system and how to select aircraft and destinations from within your MSFS scenery and aircraft files. He describes the "moving map" and the different display options and the benefits of having more than one monitor to use. Brian also further expands on its capabilities by describing a sample flight he flew during the review trials. The numerous screenshots within this review speak for themselves and assist in the in-depth description of all the features within this utility. Brian concludes his review with, "I like it, I use it, and I would suggest giving it serious consideration. The reason why I prefer using it is because of the moving map and the ability to alter the waypoints to my liking." It doesn't get much clearer than that.
FS Repaint By Brian Fletcher (Mar 14, 2006) Little know artist disguised as an AVSIM reviewer , Brian Fletcher, tries his hand at "livery makeovers" with FS Repaint from Abacus. "Repainting an aircraft is a fun and relatively simple way to add realism or your own personal touch to Flight Simulator. In fact, repaints seem to be the most commonly uploaded freeware files for Flight Sim." "Imagine if you could simply start a program that contains a list of all of your aircraft and each of the variations," ponders Brian, "Then choose which one you want to alter, or make a new variation, paint the aircraft, then immediately see how it looks all without having to start Flight Sim. That sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? That is exactly what you get with FS Repaint." "If you are interested in repainting aircraft, this utility could quite possibly become your new best friend," Brian's review states in his closing remarks, "even if repainting aircraft is not one of your hobbies, this program may be just what you need to get started. Overall, I would call it a “great buy”."
Flight Simulator Graphic Solutions By Matt Clement (Mar 5, 2006) Avsim Staff Reviewer Matt Clement looks at a unique service offered to us simmers, Flight Simulator Graphic Solutions. "Let’s be honest for a minute. Flight Simulator, for many of us, is as much about the tweaking as it is about the flying," comments Matt. The biggest problem Matt had in finding answers to his simming problems on forums was that more often than not, the answers were wrong. "A lot of guesswork is involved when you are trying out other people’s ideas, because we all have very different and unique systems, "says Matt, "working with FSGS eliminates all of this guesswork for you." The key to the success of FSGS’s service is a process called System Unification. You could plunk down a few hundred bucks at your local community college in a computer course and not learn half of what the people at FSGS teaches you in a single evening. If you aren’t satisfied with the FS-GS services, you are not charged a dime! "So that leaves even the most skeptical among you with little excuse to not give FS-GS a try," says Matt. Matt wraps up his review with, "I’ve never run across a product that has totally revolutionized my flight sim experience as FS-GS has. As long as your computer can meet the minimum requirements and you are able to leave what you think you know at the door, FS-GS can help you. I can’t recommend FS-GS enough."
Traffic 2005 By Brian Fletcher (Feb 25, 2006) Staff reviewer Brian Fletcher flies through the busy world of AI aircraft with Just Flight's Traffic 2005. "Thanks to the team at Just Flight, the bland default AI traffic can be replaced with an authentic representation of real world traffic with Traffic 2005." Brian comments about this add-on utility, "Even though it is tempting to set the traffic density at 100%, this setting exceeds realistic traffic flow in most places of the world. I have found the most authentic settings to be somewhere between 65 and 70%. The AI aircraft, including commercial, general aviation, and helicopter traffic, will follow preset flight plans, taxi as applicable, and communicate with the ATC without any need for you to intervene." There are many more utilities built into this program as well. "With the taxi speed tool, Traffic 2005 will allow you to set the speed at which AI traffic taxi. Traffic 2005 also includes a Flyable Aircraft Tool which will allow you to convert any of the AI aircraft into planes that you can use. Also included, is a repaint utility which will allow you to easily modify the textures of any of the AI aircraft." Brian wraps up his review with, "I would definitely call it a must have for anyone looking to greatly enhance the AI traffic and for those of you who like to sit back and watch the planes go by."
Flight Operations Centre By Jean-Claude Bailly (Feb 19, 2006) Avsim reviewer Jean-Claude Bailly takes a detailed look at an in-depth Flight Planning program that has been around for a while. The Danur Flight Operations Centre (FOC). "The learning curve is steep and demands a respectable time, but ultimately your ability to prepare the most detailed flight and operational plans there are in the flight simming world today will be your reward," remarks Jean-Claude, "unless you are a professional flight planner, there is no short cut to jump on the click button trying your luck in making your first flight plan." Jean-Claude's review goes on to describe and explain the many sections and planning tools included in this elaborate program. "FOC is a professional tool designed by a pro who was himself a dispatcher for a major airline, hence there is very little –if anything – that can be added to such a complex and complete package. If you really want to become as knowledgeable on flight operation planning as on flying techniques, then FOC could very well be for you."
Track IR4 Pro By Zane Gard (Feb 18, 2006) Staff reviewer Zan Gard looks at a piece of hardware that has been reviewed before. But this latest incarnation is nothing like the last version, the Track IR4 Pro from NaturalPoint Technologies Inc. The Naturalpoint company actually has its roots in developing mouse alternatives for handicapped individuals that aren’t capable of using a mouse or are suffering from such painful conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome. One of their developers was seriously into gaming and hooked it up to one of his games and the rest is history. The enhancements of TrackIR4 over TrackIR3 with vector expansion include increased field of view (from 33 degress to 46 degrees) and a 25% reduction in response time. The LED/receiver which is mounted on your monitor was completely redesigned so it is now much smaller and can easily be mounted onto a flat monitor with it’s adjustable legs. This latest offering from NaturalPoint is a further enhancement on the technology they have been the leader in and combines all their latest technology into one. A rather small and inconspicuous receiver is mounted on top of your monitor and a rather silly looking spring steel contraption with three reflectors is mounted on to the bill of a baseball cap, they can even provide the baseball cap. Zane says, "You are first struck with what a really neat little thing this is and you start going through every aircraft in your hanger exploring their virtual cockpits in a way never before possible. You start noticing how easy it is to find those switches that were hidden under the yoke in some aircraft by just moving your head over to one side and looking around that yoke. This to me is revolutionary and converts the virtual cockpit from a novelty into a real learning tool as long as the aircraft developer has correctly duplicated the panel functions.""Startup checklists are now a breeze cause you can move around and get to all the switches and see all the gauges. If you are into aerobatics you are just gonna love using the TrackIR4 to glance side to side and for visual orientation," adds Zane. Zane comments on all of the other flight programs that this piece of hardware is designed for, and that's not all, "If driving games are also on your computer, this brings a whole new level of excitement. It’s never been easier to get a bead on the right line and spot the apex point for the corners as well as keep an eye for your opponent." One of the final comments of the review says it all, "I am putting this on my “must have” list for FS add-ons."
FS Passenger By Alexis Esguerra (Feb 15, 2006) AVSIM staff reviewer Alexis Esguerra reviews a flight sim utility from a perspective we are all familiar with, being a passenger. FS Passenger 2004 goes behind the scenes of what's required of a pilot to contribute to the success of an airline business. "FS Passenger thrusts the user into the role of Professional Pilot," reports Alexis, "you are also expected to create and maintain that company as well. There is also a secondary role akin to being CEO that has to be dealt with." But it's not just about the pilot, "there are a wide variety of add-on aircraft out there that you may wish to import to your fledgling company’s fleet. I am happy to report that FsP seems to be able to support a rather wide variety of them," Alexis adds. But wait, there's more. Alexis makes note, "Be prepared to deal with emergencies, because FsP will bring them to you’re PC. A host of problems are ready to plague your mount, ranging from the modest (minor engine fluctuations) all the way to the severe (cabin decompression)." You'll really have to earn your stripes with this utility. The review concludes with, ""I have never encountered any software for MSFS that has given me such an overall sense of what it’s like to fly as a profession."
Radar Contact 4

By Michael "Mike T" Toussaint (Feb 10, 2006) AVSIM Staff Reviewer "Mike T" takes an in depth and extensive look at a new ATC utility release, Radar Contact 4. "It has never been a secret that the crew at JDT was working on the next generation RC product, RC 4. Promised in RC 4 were many enhancements not available in its predecessor or the default ATC, and, not least of these new features, is the management of AI traffic," Mike reports. "Radar Contact is a program that runs in the background while you fly within MSFS. You are able to customize keyboard combinations as necessary, as well as customize the controller, pilot and copilot voices within RC4," says Mike, "Another astonishing fact in regard to Radar Contact, is that as you fly over different continents, the ATC vernacular and procedures change. This should really please users around the globe because it makes MSFS as a whole less “Americentric”." Mike goes into all of the details of this utility as he takes us on an overseas long haul flight. From start-up and pushback, inflight and approach, to taxiing off the active and bringing it back to the jetway. The description of all of the "real world" nuances are present in this RC4 review. In the review summary, Mike gives this utility its accolades, "Radar Contact is infinitely more than just an ATC replacement for MSFS. RC effectively fills the need for ultimate realism for ATC services and then surpasses expectations. I know that after just one flight that there is absolutely no way that I would ever use FS 2004 without Radar Contact guiding my flight. YES, it is THAT GOOD."

FS COMM 2004 V2 By Jean-Claude Bailly (Jan 11, 2006) A new flight planning utility is now on the market, FS Comm 2004 from Pointsoft. Avsim reviewer Jean-Claude Bailly takes an in-depth look at this utility. "There are a number of flight planners available on the market for FS 2004," remarks Jean-Claude, "this new addition makes an attempt to offer much more than just flight planning by entering the difficult grounds of flight adventures using speech recognition (SR) for ATC and checklists." Here's Jean-Claude's explanation of the basics. "The first step will lead you to a window on which you will select your departure and destination airports. The second step of your flight planning will be to create your routing. The last steps of the flight planning will take you to the selection of a SID, and the same procedure to determine our STAR. Finally, so as to be able to determine your fuel quantity needed, you will want to find the total flight distance somewhere on your flight plan." About the speech recognition feature of this utility, Jean-Claude says, "The recognition level can apparently reach 95%, but a number of conditions must be met. A decent microphone mounted on headphones (to remain hands free), keep noise level in your room as low as possible during the training of your SR system, then practice, practice, and practice again.""Your sequence of actions will follow the real cockpit life before start: check-lists, pushback, etc", Jean-Claude comments about using the utility, "then clearances from Tower and then you are handed over to Departure." "I find this package extremely appealing for the features it offers and its overall brilliant concept," he closes, however, you'll have to decide about this program yourself after reading the complete review.
Flight Sim Design Studio V3 By Brian Fletcher (Jan 8, 2006) Staff reviewer Brian Fletcher walks up though a new utility to create aircraft for MSFS 2004. Flight Sim Design Studio Version 3 from Abacus. "FS Design Studio V3 is an amazing technological marvel that simplifies the design, construction, animation, and implementation of aircraft, static displays, flight-line vehicles, buildings, cars, trucks, ships, and in deed anything that you would want to fly or use for static or dynamic scenery in Flight Simulator", explains Brian, "If you are not familiar with the process of creating your own aircraft and scenery objects, you are missing out on one of the most incredible and rewarding aspects of Flight Simulator." Is this one of those "you need an enigineering degree and experience with AutoCad" programs to use? Brian says, "Prior to receiving FSDS, I had never built an aircraft or anything else related to Flight Sim for that matter. By the end of the first day, which included printing out the help files and experimenting a bit, I had already built a fuselage, wings, tail, and landing gear. I used day two to make the intricate parts and build the virtual cockpit. By the end of day three, I had assembled my aircraft, added animations, textured all of the parts, and was flying it in FS9. Not bad for my first go at it." Brian also looks at another Abacus product, the Virtual Aircraft & Scenery Studio, "the Visual Aircraft & Scenery Studio (VASS) is a separate utility from FSDS that can be used to texture your creations." Brian summs up his review with, "if you want to dive right in and be flying your creations in no time, then I would highly recommend Flight Sim Design Studio."

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