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PMDG 747-400 V3/QOTS II Reviewed by: Marlon Carter Platform: FSX/P3D Since its introduction in the 1970s, the Boeing 747 has intrigued both regular travelers and aviation enthusiasts around the world for decades. Affectionately called the “Queen of the Skies” and “Jumbo Jet,” the 747 holds a very special place in aviation history and it comes as no surprise that this popular aircraft would also hold a special place among flight simulator enthusiast. PMDG has always had soft spot for the 747 and this is quite evident in the fact that their latest version of the 747 is the 3rd in their product development history! PMDG’s previous version of the 747 Queen of the Skies was quite a popular add-on for a number of years which boasted many innovative features at the time. When a new version of the 747 was announced, it was difficult to conceive how an already great product could have been made better apart from a visual upgrade. However, if PMDG’s 777 was any indication, it seemed obvious that the 747 QOTS II was going to be a major upgrade to this iconic aircraft. In an effort to find out more about PMDG’s newest 747, here is a brief interview with Robert Randazzo that you might find insightful. INTERVIEW 1. It's quite evident that PMDG has always had keen interest in the 747. What prompted PMDG to create a 3rd version of the 747 rather than a new aircraft such as the 757, 767 etc? Also, can you give us a bit of PMDG's history with the 747? Well, what can possibly be written about the 747 that hasn’t already been written? She is at once iconic, powerful, beautiful to look at, romantic and uniquely emblematic of mankind’s limitless imagination and dreams of a brighter future when she was introduced nearly 50 years ago. I think all airplane geeks of a certain age have held a romantic notion of what it would be like to fly the airplane. I am one of a fortunate few to have the rating on my certificate and that has played a role in our selection. What we really wanted to produce was a full package to include the 747-400 and the newer 747-8, to show users how these two related airplanes can be remarkably different and interesting to operate. When we release the 747-8, I think it will be interesting to see how users react to having the greater technological capabilities of the newer airplane and apply them to routes they currently operate with the 747-400. 2. In creating the 747 V3, were there any challenges you faced that differed from the development of V2? Or was it all smooth sailing given your prior experience in developing this aircraft? That I am aware of, I don’t think a single line of code transferred from the original 2005 product to this new one. Our development agenda on this project was actually a bit convoluted as we were pivoting out of the 777, who’s design informed much of the system and operating design of the 747-8. The natural inclination was to work through the 747-8 airplane first, then pivot backward to the older technology 747-400, but we found that this was a good working theory that simply wasn’t going to hold up to the actual application development process. There are significant technological differences between the two airplanes and in order to model those technology changes, we needed the base airplane to be present. So we did a combined development effort where the systems and behavioral logic for the 747-400 was written, with the 747-8 logic being created simultaneously. Once the 747-400 was completed, we then were free to begin working on the technical marvels that Boeing added to the latest generation of the airplane. 3. Given the fact that PMDG has developed the 747 V3 for both FSX and P3D, are there any differences between both products or are they essentially the same? The simulation of the airplane is the same, but we treat the platforms slightly differently in order to capitalize on their strengths. This is less true when talking about Preapr3D v3, but is really becoming obvious in Prepar3D v4.1. The crossover to x64 architecture is an obvious point, but beyond just changing some things around, this new platform gives us far greater freedom to use the resources of the machine to enhance memory management, improve object oriented development and capitalize on features Lockheed Martin has added to the simulator, such as dynamic lighting and the like. 4. After following the development of the 747 V3, it's quite clear that the list of features that were implemented are extensive. Can you tell us a bit about some of the features that the PMDG development team is the most proud of? In-house we routinely joke that we are creating features into our products that only a dozen or so people will ever fully appreciate, and all of them work for PMDG. This makes us laugh, but the truth is that most users really don’t appreciate just how deep the simulation level is with a product line such as our 747. The predictive methods and behaviors being used by the FMS to manage the airplane in 3D space are incredibly complex, factoring in simulated air data feeds derived from similar techniques used by the airplane’s onboard systems. The mathematical methods used to align the IRUs, and to calculate drift during flight are accurate to the airplane’s behaviors and accuracy as well. These types of details tend to fade into the background since you can see, touch and interact with them- which is unfortunate- but they greatly enhance the overall feel and completeness of the simulation in a way the even casual simmers notice, even if they don’t understand WHY it feels good. From a systems standpoint, we have long been renowned for our effort in bringing not just the correct lights and messages to the screen, but also in our ability to simulate the systems holistically to a degree that is reasonable for the purpose and complete. One example of this is the display of hydraulic pressures on the airplane when it is completely depressurized on the ground. There are certain impedance behaviors unique to the pressure sensors in the hydraulic systems that cause bogus pressure values to be sent to the flight deck when the systems are depressurized. The processing unit that is responsible for displaying these figures on the flight deck has a specific update rate, and this causes a peculiar dance of digits to appear on the display. All of this is modeled in detail. And on the subject of hydraulics, have you noticed that as you pressurize and depressurize the system, the yoke settles in/out of it’s service position? How about the flight control bleed-down of pressure in the flight control actuators slowly responding to atmospheric pressure from wind against the rudder or the elevators? I could go on this way for hours in every single system of the airplane. We pack as much into the simulation as we can unearth, and it is these details that bring forth that feeling of realism for users. The most satisfying part of the process for us is hearing from experienced crewmembers who write in to thank us for including these nuances that are familiar to practiced eyes. 5. Can we expect to see more features added in the future? Or is the development of this aircraft considered to be closed? On the 400 itself, we are continuing to refine the baseline product and we do have some features already contained within the airplane that we have not yet turned on. These are awaiting other aspects of the development process in order to be activated, and we think a few of them will completely change the way simmers interact with our products. Beyond that I don’t want to say too much more until we are ready to drop those items for users to enjoy. 6. More and more flight simulator enthusiasts are enjoying products that offer in-depth systems simulation. How is PMDG able to ensure that the systems and flight characteristics of each aircraft variant is accurate? This answer will sound more cagey than it is intended to sound, but: We feel that our methods are a bit of a trade secret. We have been at this for more than 20 years now and we have a very well developed professional advisor network that helps us in nearly all aspects of the development of our products. That much is well known, but how we go through the process is something that is unique to PMDG and we treat it as a closely held secret. We certainly would like to thank Robert Randazzo for enlightening us on the development of this product. From all indications, it seems like the QOTS II may very well be one of the most advanced flight simulator add-on aircraft to date. As we progress through this review, we will dive deeper into the systems to showcase some of the hidden gems contained in this product. As a preview however, here is a list of features listed by the developer. FEATURES Complete From the Start - All variants of the 747-400 are included. These include the 747-400 passenger model, the 747-400M "combi" model, the 747-400BCF (Boeing Converted Freighter), the 747-400D domestic model used for a time on high-density short-haul routes in Japan, the 747-400F freighter, and the extended-range 747-400ER passenger model and 747-400ERF freighter. Each model has its own valid engine types that include the Rolls Royce RB211-524G, Pratt & Whitney PW4056 and PW4062, and General Electric CF6-80C2B1F and CF6-80C2B5F with their own accurately modelled performance data. Exterior Models - Exterior models are richly detailed with complex Leading Edge Devices and triple slotted flap mechanisms, realistic articulating main gear trucks, wing flex that reflects the ground bumps while taxiing, as well as realistic in-flight flex modeling. Texturing work is beautiful, with just the right amount of shine. Virtual Cockpit - The Virtual Cockpit includes dozens of physical layout options: ADF, ISFD vs analog standby gauges, RMIs, window frame styles, cockpit lavatory option, paravisual display (PVD), push to talk and taxi light options, and many more that are specific to aircraft model type as well as airline/operator specific options. The VC's geometric modeling work is amazingly complete, accurate down to fractions of an inch as measured in the real cockpit. PMDG Service Vehicles - Have your 747-400 serviced by an entire fleet of PMDG Service vehicles. Each vehicle for a specific ground task is included. These are: Aircraft hydrant fuel pumper, catering and cabin service trucks that lift to the cabin doors, air-stair trucks, a bulk cargo loader, standard size hi-lift loaders for the lower deck cargo holds as well as the large hi-lift loader for the SCD and nose doors of the freighter models. Need the water tanks filled? A water truck will roll up to the aircraft along with a lavatory servicing vehicle to empty waste. You also get tail stands for the freighters, single and dual-plug GPU carts, terminal power units, as well as air start and air conditioning carts. Everything needed to service your airplane on the ground is included in the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II! PMDG Operations Center - Includes the PMDG Operation Center, a stand-alone application which manages livery downloads and installations, documentation, support and more. The OC also supports the PMDG Jetstream 4100, PMDG 737NGX and PMDG 777. We update this application frequently to add new features and functionality. New for the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II is micro-update capability directly through the OC. We intend to update the aircraft frequently through this feature rather than using new installers or service packs.could see. FMC - The flight management computer (FMC) contains all of the real life 747-400 FMC features including LNAV, extremely accurate VNAV speed and altitude predictions and the full complement of scratchpad warning messages that a real crew could see. RTE 2 is modelled and fully usable, as are advanced features like step-climbs, constant speed cruise and required time of arrival (RTA). Flight Model - Engine and flight modeling is within 5% of the actual Boeing aircraft performance charts, including data and parameters specific to the Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce engine types. Autopilot - ultra smooth autopilot flight director system (AFDS) created for the 747 that replicates the precise yet smooth feeling you get from the real thing. Created with hours of video taken in the real airplane and actual 747-400 full flight simulator flying experience. Weather Radar - the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II features a working simulation of the Collins WXR-2100 weather radar. In conjunction with the Active Sky Next weather engine addon, the radar depicts actual precipitation returns (not clouds!) and gives you full control over tilt, gain and radar mode including turbulence and windshear detection. Integration with additional radar products such as REX WX Advantage coming soon! Sounds - A meticulously created soundset consisting of over 1200 individual files captures the raw power of the Pratt & Whitney, General Electric and Rolls Royce engines and cockpit environment. Every aspect of the engines is represented here, exactly pitch matched to real life recordings made at every 10% over the engine’s power range. Many cockpit sounds have multiple files behind them that are randomly selected to make each click sound subtly different, just like they do in the real world. Multiple soundsets exist including detailed modelling behind and in-front of the wing views. A new fully custom playback system allows for manipulation of the engine sounds as altitude and airspeed rise, allowing the slipstream to take over just as it does in real life. Two separate sets of ground crew calls are included and it will be possible in the future to create new sets yourself! Note: stereo soundset included, 5.1 soundset will be made available post-release. Cockpit Shake Modeling - A fully customized and realistic simulation of cockpit camera shake is included. This feature reacts realistically to the environment on the ground during taxi, takeoff and landing, as well as in-flight due to turbulence, stall buffet, speedbrake application and engine failure or stall. RAAS - Fully functional Runway Awareness and Advisory System which calls out runway names and other information for improved flight safety. User Interface - We’ve spared no effort in making the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II easy to use in terms of its user interface. The aircraft’s fuel, payload and the large number of airframe and cockpit options are adjustable on the fly from the FMC CDU without ever touching the FSX menus or pausing the sim. Exterior Lighting - 3D volumetric exterior lighting that lights up the FS scenery. You can even see the flash from the strobe lights when looking out the cockpit side windows. Improved over what was implemented in the PMDG 777. Liveries - Free downloadable liveries for numerous world airlines, easily installed using the Livery Downloader within the PMDG Operations Center application. At the time of release, well over 60 liveries were available in the OC with more being added every day. Documentation - Includes everything you will need to operate the PMDG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II. We’ve also included a 168 page introduction manual specific to the simulation and a 113 page tutorial flight to learn from as you fly. As impressive as the list of features seems to be, after using this product for the past few months, I can honestly say that this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dive in to see what this product has to offer. DOCUMENTATION When a pilot is learning to fly a new aircraft, the learning process not only involves simulator training, but it also requires lots of reading. If you are an avid reader, PMDG has supplied a Flight Crew Operations Manual that is some 1606 pages long. In addition to the FCOM, you also have a Quick Reference Handbook, Product Introduction document and a Flight Tutorial which all add up to just over 830 pages. With a seemingly endless supply of reading material at your finger-tips, flying this aircraft competently can be achieved by simply setting aside the time to read the manuals. If you already have a basic understanding of the systems of the 747, getting the QOTS II up and running might be easy, but with so many nuances packed into the product you might be doing yourself an injustice by not using the 747 to its full potential. Overall, the documents are well written and the information is laid out in a professional and almost “official” format. For a product of this nature, having such an extensive array of reading material is an essential tool for those who desire the ultimate flying experience. If you are slightly intimidated by the volume of material, I would highly recommend you begin by reading the tutorial document. With the documentation covered, let’s load up the sim and take a look at this amazing aircraft. INTERIOR MODEL When the simulator is loaded you typically start off in the virtual cockpit of aircraft. This being the case it’s only fitting that we examine the interior modelling of the aircraft to see whether or not it meets the high expectations typically demanded by “hardcore simmers.” At first glance, the virtual cockpit of the 747 QOTS II gives you an overwhelming feeling of being in an actual aircraft with the aid of stunning visuals and an array of immersive sounds that are a near perfect match to the real cockpit environment. To give some perspective on the level of detail captured in the virtual cockpit, we will examine the overall model by looking at the textures, design and options. The textures seen throughout the virtual cockpit are all of the highest quality and this gives an accurate representation of the various materials in the cockpit. Whether it’s plastic, fabric or any other materials, the textures offer an almost 3D experience which isn’t always common in other aircraft add-ons. Another fascinating aspect of the textures used throughout the cockpit is that it gives a somewhat “used” appearance which is only fitting for a heavily used aircraft of this nature. As you view some of the screenshots below you will see examples of how switches and other areas of the cockpit that are heavily used differ in appearance to other seldom used areas. Moving on to the design of the virtual cockpit, you might recall that in the previous QOTS products that virtual cockpit also included the upper deck of the 747. With the QOTS II, focus is mainly centered on the cockpit itself and in my opinion this was a great move which would allow for many other more important features. The overall layout of the cockpit is extremely realistic and proportionate to what you would expect from the real 747 cockpit environment. As you pan your view around the cockpit, you will see that nearly all of the switches and dials within the cockpit were modeled and in some cases, high quality textures act as a “filler” for areas that really don’t require excessive detail. By way of cockpit animation, there are a host of realistic animations mostly related to the way in which switches, buttons and levers are operated. This type of detail may seem insignificant to those who may prefer moving seats and the like, but this shows just how detail oriented the folks at PMDG can be in that the simple act of flipping a switch as to be done the right way. While not necessarily an “animation”, another impressive feature is the cockpit shaking effects that adds another level of immersion to the cockpit environment. These effects are independent of any 3rd part products such as Chase Plane or EZCA v2 and are active on the ground during taxi, during takeoff and landing, turbulence, stall buffet, speedbrake application and engine failure or stall. After experiencing these effects in action, it’s hard to imagine using any product that doesn’t offer this level of immersion. The final and perhaps most impressive aspect of the interior model is closely related to some of the special features contained in this product. As listed previously, the QOTS II offers dozens of physical layout options such as ADF, ISFD vs analog standby gauges, RMIs, window frame styles, cockpit lavatory option, paravisual display (PVD), push to talk, taxi light options, and many more that are specific to aircraft model types and airline/operator specific options. Which such a wide array of options, it means that you can fully customize the layout of your cockpit without having to constantly use external programs to change and reload your configuration of choice. All of these changes take place instantly and it offers users the ability to enjoy not just an array of exterior models, but also an array of cockpit layouts that are extremely accurate. Here are a few screenshots that nicely showcases the interior of the 747. EXTERIOR MODEL After examining the impressive level of detail found in the interior model, it’s only reasonable to conclude that the exterior won’t be a disappointment. My first impression of the exterior model was that it is clearly one of the most outstanding 747 models I have ever seen. The 747 has a very distinctive appearance with graceful lines that can never be forgotten and PMDG did an outstanding job in capturing every aspect of this aircraft. Given the fact that the QOTS II includes nearly all of the 747-400 variants, the exterior models include high quality renditions of the 400, 400D, 400M, 400F, the extended range 400ER and 400ERF models. Each model also includes the correct engine variants from RR, GE and PW Going a bit further beyond the actual look of the aircraft are the numerous animations that are including. For example, based on the fuel quantity required for your flight, you will see a significant cambering of the wings as the aircraft sits on the ramp due to the weight of the fuel. As you taxi, you will also notice subtle wing flexing and shaking as the aircraft maneuvers over the ground. For takeoff and landing you will also notice stunning detail that has gone into the landing gear operation and the flap mechanisms. PMDG has always had a policy of including even the minutest detail in their products and the QOTS II is no exception. In fact, I would say that this product takes their passion for detail to another level. A final note on the exterior model is the outstanding texturing work that adds further detail to the various aircraft models. The textures are all very high quality and it contains a realistic shine for added realism. We can go on and on about the exterior model but I honestly think that the following screenshots says it all. TEST FLIGHT GROUNDSCHOOL For users who may have owned the previous PMDG QOTS product, it might be all too easy to assume that using the QOTS II will be no different. However, before you jump into the cockpit for a quick flight, it is especially important that you note one very important fact and it’s that this aircraft is far more advanced than the previous product. If your goal is to competently fly the 747 in a manner that reflects real life operations, it is important that you understand the basic operation of various aircraft systems. For example, understanding the hydraulic systems is critical if you to utilize any service based failures. Given the size of the 747, it goes without saying that the hydraulic system is quite complex with 4 systems that power various parts of the aircraft. From my research thus far, System 1 and 4 powers the trailing edge flaps, landing gear, normal brakes, alternate brakes and steering. System 2 and 3 shares the task of powering the primary flight controls, stabilizer trim and elevator feel. Systems 1, 2 and 3 power the center, left and right autopilot servos while systems 2, 3 and 4 power the spoilers. If at this point you’re a bit lost, it’s perfectly understandable due to the fact that the 747 is a marvel of engineering and is packed with many redundancies. Is taking the time to understand all of this really necessary? Well the answer to that question depends on goal as a virtual pilot. If realism is your main objective, then understanding the hydraulic systems is important in order to know what systems will work when any of the 4 hydraulic systems are not operational. Also, with system 4 having an auxiliary hydraulic pump for ground operations, knowing how and when to use the hydraulic system correctly will have a definite impact on how the aircraft works. In addition to programming the correct role of each system, PMDG (in its typical fashion), has gone even further to simulate the pump flow rates based on type and power source, pressure/temperature relationship and the fluid flow dynamics through the system which allows for potential leaks and overheat! With so many variables, you will never take your hydraulic system indications for granted again. Another important system of this aircraft is the electrical system. With an aircraft this large, one can imagine that a significant amount of electrical power would be necessary to operate the aircraft. As a small taste of the complexity of this system, the 747 generates both AC and DC power with the AC power being the most complex. The AC electrical system consist of an AC power source (4 IDGs, 2 APU generators and 2 external power courses), AC Power Distribution, AC Standby Power and Electrical load management and load shedding. The DC Electrical system consist of 4 transformer rectifier units (converts AC power to DC power) which is connected to the main DC busses. Knowing which components of the aircraft are controlled by AC and DC power is also very important for the correct operation of the aircraft. For example, the DC system powers Cabin Pressure, Fuel Jettison, Pack Temp Controllers, Wing Anti-Ice and more! In a similar manner to the hydraulic system, the electrical system has been fully modelled to carry out function with a high degree of accuracy. Yet despite the hard work that has already gone into the programming of this system, PMDG has gone even further by accurately simulating the no break power and break power logic of the power transfers and the modelling of each piece of equipment from pumps to valve controllers. What is even more remarkable is that each component is connected to their respective AC or DC power source to ensure a truly realistic electrical environment. Again, while all of this may seem over the top, I can assure you that taking the time to understand the systems of this aircraft will be an educational and a rewarding experience. If you thought that the electrical and hydraulic systems were impressive, just wait until you examine the pneumatic, fuel and autopilot systems! The more you peer into the systems of this aircraft, the more impressed you’ll be as you see many of the hidden intricacies that were programmed into this aircraft. As a small taste of what’s beneath the surface, sometime ago PMDG provided a very short list (the list is obviously much longer) of features that showcases the extensive nature of the systems and physics modeling of this product. Here are some of the items listed. Accurate thermal energy transfer model for autobrake and manual brake use, including thermal soaking of brake/tire/landing gear elements. accurate thermal energy transfer model for cooling Wing flex model based upon accurate rigidity, stiffness and oscillation model of the 747-400 wing structure. Accurate thrust and energy model simulation for all engine types. Accurate mixing and blending of air temperatures and pressures from engine bleed tap to cabin outflow valve, including thermal changes and pressurization. Accurate control effectiveness based upon airspeed, angle of attack, control operation and deflection. Parking brake, chocking position and increased rolling after tire loss based upon physics. Engine pylon shaking based upon turbulence induced acceleration moment, wing motion and rotational inertia of engine components. Transfer of heat between fluids (fuel mixing, hydraulic fluid returning to reservoirs, etc.) Transfer of heat through heat exchangers in the bleed system, fuel and hydraulic systems. Accurate modelling of fuel temperature based upon the thermal exchange of heat through the wing surface, radiant heating by the sun, etc. Accurate modelling of cabin temperatures based upon a complete airflow model. Cabin temperature modelling based upon electrical equipment operation, internal lighting operation, supplementary heating sources (foot/shoulder/windshield air use) the number of passengers onboard and their relative distribution throughout the cabin, solar heating of areas such as windows and exposure to direct or indirect sunlight, the state of cabin doors. As you can see, while having prior knowledge of the 747 through the previous QOTS product may be helpful, the QOTS II is a whole new animal that requires a much more calculated approach. With so many details packed into the systems of this aircraft, it results in a dynamic experience that is guaranteed to leave you awestruck on every flight as you see the aircraft react not only to your use of the systems, but also the environment around you. With this in mind, let’s get into the flight planning stage of our test flight. PLANNING/SETUP Let’s be honest, it would be quite difficult to summarize the experience of using this product in a single flight. Due to this fact, this test flight review will cover my overall findings after months of using this product in a variety of settings. let’s begin by first of all setting up our flight plan details. If you’re interested in flying the PMDG 747 QOTS II, it’s only fair to assume that you plan on experiencing the rewarding adventure of long haul flights. But before you jump into the cockpit, a good pilot will take the time to complete a thorough flight dispatch document containing all of the essential information pertaining to your flight. For the most realistic flight planning experience, I’ve found PFPX and Simbrief to be two of the best resources in planning long haul flights. With PFPX offering performance profiles for numerous 747 flight models, PFPX may be the best choice for generating flight plans, given the wide array of models offered by PMDG. Whether you choose to fly passenger operations or cargo operations, PFPX will generate a realistic flight dispatch document while also exporting the flight plan to your FMS. After receiving your dispatch document, it’s now time for us to head over to the aircraft. As typically offered by PMDG, users have the choice of meeting their aircraft in a variety of cockpit panel states ranging from cold and dark to long or short setup configurations. Starting off with a cold and dark cockpit may seem a bit intimidating if this is your first introduction to a detailed 747 simulation. However, the manuals provided by PMDG are sufficiently detailed to get you on your way to confidently powering up the aircraft. If time is of the essence, choosing the short setup configuration might be an appealing option but either way, I would highly recommend trying the cold and dark option to become more familiar with the systems of the aircraft and the cockpit flow procedures. Once you’ve powered up the aircraft, one of the things that will immediately catch your attention is the outstanding sound immersion of the virtual cockpit. Sounds ranging from electrical hum, avionics and fans can all be distinctly heard and the overall experience is the best I’ve had thus far. The next series of steps to be completed prior to departure include a wide range of options. For example, if flying a passenger version of the 747, are your passengers and cargo loaded? Have you already fueled the aircraft for departure? What about catering? All of these questions may be irrelevant to the causal flight sim enthusiast, but to those seeking the most realistic experience, these are steps that are also given consideration before the wheel chocks are removed. If you consider yourself to be an avid enthusiast, programs such as GSX may be very useful in offering a wide range of ground services for your aircraft (even in cargo operations). If you do not have GSX, PMDG has also included its own ground services simulation that works quite well and it can accessed through the FMS. While not offering a wide range of ground handling companies, the ground service simulation provided by PMDG is fully automated and can be customized to the length of your turnaround time. Other options available through the FMS include the ability to set passenger, cargo and fuel loads. While the steps involved with loading passengers and cargo are mostly the same as with previous PMDG products, when it comes to loading your fuel you will notice a new feature called fuel density. Without getting into a complication discussion that would be best had in a physics class, fuel density plays a significant role in the overall performance of an aircraft in the real world. In a nutshell, the temperature and quality of the crude used to produce fuel and the refining process itself plays a role in the density of the fuel that goes into your aircraft. In turn, this will have an impact on the range of your aircraft if the incorrect amount of fuel is loaded into your aircraft. PMDG has pulled out all of the stops by including this subtle but important feature that offers accurate fuel density/temperature effects during real time refueling that vary based on actual global/regional variations in fuel density. In the past, we may have taken the “simple” task of loading fuel for granted, but PMDG has now ensured that our fuel planning is as real as it gets! Moving on with our aircraft setup, while the passengers or cargo is being loaded this is perhaps the best time to complete all of the pre-departure checklist items. To achieve this, PMDG has included a very detailed normal operations checklist that you will find indispensable as you acquaint yourself with the operation of this aircraft. Loading the FMS wasn’t a difficult task, but you if you are a user of the previous QOTS product, you will quickly notice that the pages of the FMS are much more detailed. Some of the changes you may notice are the ability to perform a route request, RTE 2 functionality, constant speed cruise and required time of arrival (RTA). While some of the features mentioned are impressive, they only scratch the surface of what has been implemented and we will be examining more features during the cruise phase of our test flight. After completing all of the necessary cockpit checks and loading our passengers or cargo, it’s now time for us to get the show on the road to really experience the thrills of the QOTS II. STARTUP/TAXI/TAKEOFF You might consider the engine start process to be a relatively simple task that requires little planning. However, keeping in mind that this is a complex simulation, one has to consider many factors before starting the engines of the 747. For example, Will you be starting up with the APU? Is your APU bleed switch turned on? Have you turned off the packs? Will you be starting two engines at a time? The answer to these questions depending purely on your knowledge of the aircraft and how its systems interact. When disconnecting from the GPU and switching to APU for power, failure to carry out this procedure correctly before engine startup can cause your center IRS to fail due to the lack of AC power. The consequences of this can be a No Land 3 EICAS message and an added 10 or so minute for realignment to your departure time which will not look good on your on-time performance. If all of these factors have already been considered, the process of starting up the engines should but fairly easy and especially so if you’ve flown the tutorial flight. During the pushback and engine start process, I couldn’t help but to be quite impressed by the sound of the engines as they slowly spool to life. Whether you are flying a PW, RR or GE equipped 747, you will surely notice the differences not only in sound, but also in the startup process itself. Once the engines have come to life and the engine bleeds are turned on, the sound of the air conditioning system was so remarkably realistic that for a moment, you might expect to feel the cool air from the air vents. This is the level of realism we have come to know and love from PMDG and they have surpassed our expectations as far as the sound quality is concerned. Now that we are about to taxi, I’d like to briefly discuss a common issue that many have had over the years. With the vast majority of add-on aircraft, a common issue we’ve all had is the unrealistic taxi simulation that is hindered by an excessive ground friction. This has often made it necessary to constantly apply thrust to get the aircraft moving. In the real world, an aircraft such as the 747 is perfectly capable of moving with minimal thrust while continuing that movement with the aid of the idling engines and initial momentum. With the QOTS II, you will be amazed to see and feel a remarkable difference in how this aircraft handles on the ground verses any other aircraft you’ve used before. With the issue of ground friction eliminated, taxiing this aircraft was an enjoyable experience that will leave you impressed each time (once you’ve master the art of steering this mammoth around airports of course.) As you line up the 747 for takeoff, the thrill of flight slowly intensifies as you apply takeoff power and watch as this majestic aircraft gradually thunders down the runway before gracefully lifting off into the skies above. With outstanding sound quality and cockpit shaking effects, you can’t help but for a brief moment to feel that you’re a real 747 captain. Although a large aircraft of this nature will typically fly on autopilot after the landing gear is retracted, the QOTS II is an aircraft that encourages the user to fly by hand due to its smooth and outstanding flying characteristics. Even with the autopilot turned on; this aircraft gracefully handles adverse weather and is always smooth when responding to any autopilot input by the pilot. Unlike the previous version of this product, the autoflight system of the QOTS II is far more advanced and as we approach the cruise phase of our flight, we will take a closer look at the autopilot and a few other systems of this aircraft. The autopilot of the 747 offers many advanced features and PMDG has taken the time to implement both the analog and digital versions of the MCP with every mode perfectly programmed to give you a stable and authentic experience each time. Is it all that important to have such an advanced autopilot? Well the answer to that question depends on your overall goals as a virtual pilot. If you would like to truly experience the rewards of operating such an iconic aircraft, learning and appreciating the ins and outs of the autopilot system is essential. For example, in the past we may have been use to the “set it and forget it” type mentality when it comes to the autopilot of an aircraft. However, with the PMDG QOTS II, there are features that allow the user to have an enhanced autopilot operation by enabling strict (but realistic) parameters for engaging the autopilot. What many may not be aware off is the fact that certain modes of the autopilot will only work correctly under specific conditions. Being unaware of this fact, you may be tempted to run over to the PMDG forum to report a “bug”, but in reality the fault may be your own. With so many subtle features packed into these systems, going over them all will be an endless endeavor. Overall, with a good working knowledge of the FMS and autopilot modes, your experience when using the 747 autopilot will be one that leaves you with a smile from ear to ear when you’ve realized that it is now possible to fly the aircraft like a pro. If you are not a fan of reading and you are not a type rated 747 pilot, you may be doing yourself an injustice by not learning how much care and attention was given to this product. DESCENT/LANDING As we draw close to the end of our test flight experience, there were many highlights that I discovered during the descent, approach and landing. With add-ons that claim to offer true to life VNAV/LNAV capabilities I’ve often found that while they tend to be “acceptable,” they often lack the fine tuning that one may expect. What does this mean? As an example, I recently used another add-on that offers a realistic autopilot with VNAV and LNAV capabilities that “should’ve” match the real aircraft. While the autopilot was mostly stable during takeoff and cruise, the descent management wasn’t picture perfect. This aspect of the autopilot tends to be a problematic area for some developers given the complex manner of controlling a descent profile while taking into consideration the weather and performance of the aircraft. Even if an argument can be made that managing the descent of an aircraft in the real world isn’t always picture perfect and may require pilot intervention, such an intervention should also be one that doesn’t significantly affect the aircraft in a negative manner. With the QOTS II, PMDG did an outstanding job in programming the VNAV capabilities of each aircraft model and engine variant to be as precise as possible. In cases where manual intervention is needed, the aircraft responses well and doesn’t leave you wondering “what is the aircraft doing now??” Such a stable autopilot is especially essential when flying complicated approach procedures that require a very specific descent profile and procedure turns. The stability of the aircraft is also nicely seen when executing a full autoland or landing the aircraft manually. After landing the aircraft, you will also notice that the reverse thrust allows you to access the full range of power settings from idle reverse to full reverse thrust. While this in itself is quite an impressive feature, you will also notice the corresponding effect on the deceleration of the aircraft and an increase in the engine sound which is expected when adding more reverse thrust. As you taxi to the gate, your experience will be much the same as your initial taxi for takeoff when little need to no need for constantly adding thrust to keep the aircraft rolling. On a side note however, if your landing wasn’t very good and it require excessive braking, you may want to keep an eye and your brake temperature which is also a subtle aspect of this aircraft that was simulated. When parking at the gate, you’ll have a choice of using GSX or the Ground Service feature of this product to simulate the ground operations of this aircraft. Personally, I’ve found both to be very useful with each having an advantage and disadvantage based on your needs. Even when it comes to the ground operations, knowing your aircraft systems continues to play a significant role in operating the 747 and especially so the 747-400F model. When the iconic nose cargo door being a significant feature of this aircraft, when experimenting with this cargo door, some users may be puzzled as to why the door won’t open when selected. To solve this puzzle, you may want to glance at the overhead panel to ensure that only 1 APU generator is selected. If both are in the ON position, the electrical load on the aircraft won’t be sufficient to open the nose cargo door. This may seem like an insignificant feature to implement, but it shows that the QOTS II isn’t your typical add-on aircraft and PMDG has gone the extra mile to ensure that even the most subtle of features that may go unnoticed are all programmed into this outstanding product. While this ends our test flight overview, there is so much more than can be said about this product that time will not permit. However, if you are still on the fence about buying this product, I will encourage you to not to miss out on the unique opportunity to fly one of best 747 add-ons available. If you would like to purchase this product but you’re concerned about your PC’s performance, please consider these notes from PMDG. On the performance side: We are dogmatic about preserving computations, processor cycles and draw calls within the simulator. You can see by looking at the depth of simulation in our products that we leave very little out of the simulation. Every system is modeled down to a degree of fidelity that is unmatched. Behind all of this, we make some very smart decisions about what to simulate in order to accurately reflect what the airplane does, however. If we take a few thousand lines of code to simulate something that the user will never see or interact with, then we are simply wasting processor time and reducing performance. Sure, a tiny side trip here and there to prove the prowess of an individual programmer might not be noticeable on today’s modern processors- but if you start to simulate miles upon miles of stuff that the flight crew isn’t going to see or interact with, then you are simply wasting the processor’s time and the customer’s performance. In our opinion, there is a social contract between the developer and the user that states clearly that the developer shouldn’t do anything to waste time on the processor because that time belongs to the user in the form of performance. Sure, I might be thoroughly entertained as a developer to compute the surface tension on each wire in the aileron crossover mechanism, but that is something that serves absolutely no value to the simulation except to transmit a control input. If I model all of those wires and their associated tensions and activities, I am wasting processor time and killing performance. Our customers pay us to be smart enough to pick and choose wisely. These comments might easily be viewed as cleaver marketing, but with my own PC being average at best, I can say will all honesty that the PMDG QOTS II performs better than many other add-ons that are far less complex. In fact, when flying the 747 along with products such as Ultimate Terrain, AS16 and Skyforce 3D enabled, the performance remains both smooth and consistent. In the closing comments of this review, we’ll examine a few more reasons why this is a product not to be overlooked. CONCLUSION To conclude this review, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that PMDG has consistently proven themselves to be among just a handful of developers, who deliver products that offer tremendous value to both real world and virtual pilots. When it comes to the Boeing 747, PMDG has taken the crown for offering a product that not only covers each model and engine variant, but a product that also offers numerous airline specific options in addition to an in-depth simulation of various aircraft systems. With the 747 slowly being retired from passenger service, going to the airport with the hope of flying onboard this iconic aircraft is sadly becoming a rear event. For the aviation enthusiast who has always dreamed of flying a 747, the QOTS II is perhaps the last opportunity that many of us will ever have to “experience” the thrill of flying this aircraft. With the price tag of $89.99 US for the FSX version and $134.99 for the P3D version, some may say that the price is a bit high. However, taking into consider the fact that the development team would have spent years of their time and energy in order perfect this product and offer continued development, in my opinion the outstanding work done by PMDG can easily be seen as invaluable. With systems that closely match the real aircraft, the value of this product is seen even by real world pilots who can utilize this product as a supplement to their real world training. For the avid flight simulator enthusiast, the value of having such a detailed product means that you can be a virtual pilot who flies by the books. While some may not see this as important, to a small (but significant) group of enthusiast, being able to operate an aircraft like a real world pilot is the ultimate goal. If you would really like to take things over the top, then I would HIGHLY recommend using the PMDG 747 QOTS II with the FS2Crew. What is FS2Crew? Well it’s basically a program that allows you to have an authentic flight deck experience which includes interacting with a virtual first officer who will carry out all PNF responsibilities. What makes this program even more impressive is that you can make use it both by button and voice commands. As an added bonus, the operations implemented cover both passenger and cargo operations and after using this program for just 2 flights, it has instantly become a must have program for flying an aircraft such as the 747 which truly requires two pilots. With the ability to have such an immersive experience on so many levels, I wholeheartedly believe that the PMDG QOTS II is deserving of an AVSIM GOLD STAR award for overall excellence. With the 747-8i/8F quickly on the way, I’m eagerly looking forward to the years of 747 flying ahead. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Robert Randazzo for taking the time from his busy schedule to answer some of my questions (I honestly don’t know how he does it…) The details provided were significant in understanding just how complex and special the QOTS II truly is. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 747, I would highly recommend reading the Mike Ray 747 Training Handbook. For more information on this manual, click HERE for the printed version or HERE for the download version. PRODUCTS SEEN IN THIS REVIEW Seattle Airports X LatinVFR KMIA LatinVFR SCEL SkyForce REX 3D FSDreamteam GSX FS2Crew QOTS II
AEROSOFT CRJ-700/900 Reviewed by: Marlon Carter INTRODUCTION Over the past few years, the primary focus of the FS community seemed to be centered on mid to long range airliners such as the 737, A320 and 777. While this focus was most welcome due to the real world popularity of these aircraft, it also created a void for the short to mid-range regional aircraft that are also quite popular at any given airport. When it comes to regional airliners, one of the most popular models in use around the world is the CRJ series produced by Bombardier. The CRJ series has served as the backbone of the regional airline market in many countries and they are often the very first aircraft flown by a newly employed airline pilot. Throughout the past 26 years, the CRJ series has seen a significant evolution in an effort to better serve airlines and growing markets. Starting with the CRJ-200 which has a capacity of 50 seats, we are now seeing the CRJ series being utilized for carrying as many as 60 – 100 seats with the 700, 900 and now the 1000 series. In an effort to generate interest in the popular CRJ series, Aerosoft decided to recreate this amazing and versatile aircraft for the benefit of flight simulator enthusiast. With the CRJ-200 series slowly being phased out by some airlines in favor of the CRJ-700/ 900 series, Aerosoft decided to focus their attention on the CRJ 700/900 series. If you’ve been around the FS community for the past 10+ years, this product release should come as no surprise since this product has been in development for a number of years. With so many questions about the development and delays surrounding this highly anticipated product, I thought it would be a good idea to chat with Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft in an effort to understand not only why this product had such a lengthy development, but also to find out some of its key features and “target audience.” INTERVIEW Can you tell us why Aerosoft decided to produce the CRJ series? Personally I always liked short haul aircraft as they are so much more fun, but basically it was perhaps the last aircraft still used in some numbers that did not have a good sim version. So honestly a lot of the consideration was commercial. Is there any particular reason why the CRJ-200 was excluded? Yes. There are some significant differences between the 200 and the larger versions, it would really have expanded the project too much to be feasible. Were there any significant challenges during the development of this product? I think most people know this project was many many years late. The main reason was a lack of resources in Digital Aviation. Basically it is just Hans Hartmann so when the project gets delayed it is hard to catch up. And as 'state of the art' advances all the time you are soon trying to reach a moving target. For almost two years we were not completing the project but redoing parts that looked outdated. It was very painful to be honest. With regard to the aircraft performance, how was Aerosoft able to ensure that the aircraft had the correct handling and performance? No problems there, we had a lot of friends who either fly CRJ's or have done so in the past. Almost half the testers were actual pilots or people working in maintenance. If anything we had too much information! Are there any features in the CRJ series that can be considered "new" in comparison to other releases by Aerosoft? Not really. It's designed as a very 'solid' product. Not extremely 'wide' in features as the Airbuses and really aimed at flying the aircraft. As with the Busses we really do not care about systems that are never used (or used once in tens of thousands of hours). Will the FS community see more regional aircraft from Aerosoft in the future? As I said, we like them, so who knows. Nothing we are willing to share at this moment though. Who would you say is the target audience for the CRJ? Is this a product tailored to hardcore FS enthusiast? Or is this a product that will be relatively easy for beginners to enjoy from day 1? It's most certainly not an easy product to get into (if only because CRJ's are really very different from Boeings or Airbuses) and we do expect customers to have flown other less complex aircraft before. But basically, as it is the most advanced CRJ for the FS platform, everybody who likes them is a potential customer. Is there anything else you would like the FS community to know about this product or Aerosoft in general? I think most people know about Aerosoft these days. I do like to say something about the CRJ though. We released it because we felt it was ready to be used. It's not finished though, we are still working full blast on it. Partly fixing issues and partly adding features customers demanded. Only when we deliver the files for boxed distribution do we consider it 'ready'. That will be a few weeks from now. Some customers might prefer to wait for that one, others like to get into the action early and have some influence on how the product evolves. This is 2017 and we should see the customers are partners to some degree. Not just people who pay. I also like to say something about the CTD's we are facing in P3d V4. It's something all the development teams of more complex aircraft face at this moment. They are incredibly hard to track down and almost seem random. Though some issues are fixed and some are less likely to appear, we do need some help from Lockheed. And the team at Lockheed what it is, we do get that help. It's a very new sim and just like the CRJ it needs to mature a bit. We do love it however!! We certainly want to thank Mathijs for provided these insights. As with any highly anticipated product, an area of keen interest is the list of features offered. Here is a list of the features that you can expect to enjoy should you decide to purchase this product. FEATURES Exquisite modelling with many animations with up-to-date standards VAS and FPS friendly because we love complex airports as much as you do Extended Flight Management System delivered with August 2017 nav data (compatible with NavDataPro and Navigraph) Complete MCDU with full keyboard control option All displays available as high resolution 2D windows Highly accurate flight model Panel State saving/loading Standard Sound set done by Turbine Sounds Systems, additional Virtual Cockpit sounds provide by Aerosoft Heads-up Guidance system Includes Frank, our avatar to walk around the aircraft and airports (Prepar3D only) Fully functional (though linked to this aircraft) RAAS provided by FS2Crew Complete management tool to load fuel, passengers, and baggage. This tool also allows you to tweak the simulation to your hardware Livery manager with drag and drop functionality Fully prepared for AES, Chaseplane, PFPX Many new options to tweak the product to your likings and your hardware, for example to link a hardware control to the nose wheel steering Our Virtual Cockpit tool (DAVE) has checklists, fuel and passenger loading, change settings, etc. Five manuals, including detailed step-by-step documentation Fully Prepar3D V4 compatible with dynamic lights and several other adaptations to use the newest technology CRJ 700 models: Lufthansa Regional D-ACSB American Eagle N508AE HOP! Air France F-GRZH Lufthansa Regional Star Alliance D-ACPT United Express N770SK Alaska Airlines N215AG American Eagle N508AE OC Brit Air F-GRZG Conviasa YV2088 Delta Airways N367CA Horizon Air N613QX SA Express ZS-NLT Styrian Spirit OE-LSF CRJ 900 models: Lufthansa Regional D-ACNN Lufthansa Regional D-ACKI US Airways Express N247LR Air Nostrum EC-JYA Delta Airways N806SK Adria Airways S5-AAK Air Canada Express C-GOJZ Air Nostrum EC-JZS Air One EI-DOT Atlas Global TC-ETC Binter Canarias EC-MEN PLUNA CX-CRA SAS Scandinavian Airlines OY-KFI As you can see, the list of features is quite extensive and in addition to having a host of in-depth features, this product comes with a number of popular liveries to suit your needs. If you would like to see the CRJ in action, please have a look at the preview video below. Thereafter, we will dive right into the review by first of all examining the documentation. PREVIEW VIDEO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ogGqiaUDY DOCUMENTATION The documentation that comes with any add-on aircraft can easily be an indication of the quality and depth of the product itself. When a develop offers a poorly compiled or lack of sufficient information on the product, it easily signals to the buyer that this product really doesn’t offer much. While some are not fond of reading, in the world of aviation, being an avid reader is something you cannot escape. With the Aerosoft CRJ, the documentation that comes with this product includes details on throttle configuration, operating manuals, checklist, v-speeds and much more. What was equally impressive is that these documents didn’t cover 5-10 pages of information, but it offers in some cases as many as over 100 pages of information in one document alone. With such an array of information to digest, I was also impressed with the relaxed writing style which was detailed but entertaining. My overall impression from the documentation provided is that this product is definitely a cut above the average aircraft add-on. While not on the same level as the Majestic Q400, the CRJ series certainly isn’t far off. INTERIOR MODEL After loading the CRJ series into FSX/P3D, your very first introduction to the aircraft is a stunning virtual cockpit that perfectly captures the look and dimensions of the real CRJ cockpit. The modelling work that has gone into this project is outstanding to say the least and you will be very impressed with the level of detail seen throughout the cockpit. Both the appearance and animation of switches, buttons and levers are all recreated with a remarkable level of detail which is expected of any add-on released in 2017. Looking at the displays, the CRJ series comes with CRT displays which are a bit older than the more modern LCD displays seen in newer airlines. Nonetheless, CRT displays have a very distinctive appearance with a beveled edge in all 4 corners of the display. While the CRJ displays could have been a bit more “CRT Like” in appearance, they were very clear and easy to read. As an added option, users can also utilize a 2D pop-up of these displays which can be resized for your needs. As far as the textures are concerned, Aerosoft has once again outdone themselves with an array of high quality textures seen throughout the cockpit. One aspect of cockpit textures often brushed over are the cockpit placards which are often very low resolution and sometimes unreadable. With the CRJ series, Aerosoft has ensured that the virtual cockpit of the CRJ series lives up to the demands of simmers and real pilots from a visual perspective. While keeping performance in mind, the textures used in the virtual cockpit may not be 4K, but they certainly look outstanding both during the day and night time. Here are a few screenshots that nicely showcase the cockpit of the CRJ-700/900. EXTERIOR MODEL Looking at the exterior of the aircraft, you can’t help but to be awe-struck by the level of detail that was meticulously recreated during the development of this product. The CRJ series is a unique aircraft with an unmistakable appearance. Aerosoft has done an outstanding job at modeling both the 700 and 900 series with all of their major and subtle differences. As you look carefully at both models, you will quickly see an array of details that go above and beyond the expectations of most eye candy fanatics. For example, the landing gears, flaps, wing, cargo doors and compartments are all modeled and animated to a high degree of accuracy. One of my favorite but subtle features is the main door animation that also caters to the option using a Jetways by lowering the side rails. This is just one of many examples of the level of detail seen throughout the exterior model of the CRJ-700/900 series. As far as the textures are concerned, the exterior model comes with a vast array of liveries that are all very detailed. The textures may not be 4K, but they are certainly high quality. This is also seen in areas typically overlooked by other developers such as the gear bay and other less noticeable areas. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are few screenshots of the exterior model of the 700/900 series for your pleasure. EST FLIGHT During our test flight, we will be examining the flight model and the systems of the aircraft to see whether they stay true to the general characteristics of the CRJ-700/900. While I am not a CRJ pilot, the testing team consisted of many individuals who are current CRJ pilots. As mentioned in our interview with Mathijs, there was sufficient feedback to indicate that the characteristics of the aircraft are as true to life as you can expect within the confines of FSX/P3D. Ultimately, by the end of this test flight we will see whether or not these claims are plausible. For our series of test flights, I’ve had the opportunity to fly the CRJ-700/900 on numerous routes under a variety of conditions. Some of these flights featured destinations such as KMSP, KLGA, KDCA, EDDF and EDDM. If you are wondering why these destinations were specifically select, these are all airports that not only see constant CRJ traffic, but airports such as KLGA and KDCA offer challenging approaches that will test the aircraft’s performance and handling. Let’s begin by first of all discussing how the aircraft was setup for each flight and then we will examine some of the highlights of my flights to the airports listed above. COCKPIT SETUP/GROUND SERVICES Prior to beginning any flight, a good virtual pilot will always want to ensure that the conditions for flying are within acceptable standards. In addition to this, for a realistic experience, being able to accurately plan the route and fuel requirements for your flight is an essential part of good airmanship. To accomplish all of the above, I’ve found that PFPX has been an indispensable tool and while PFPX is superb in generating an accurate flightplan, at this time it is unable to export the flightplan directly to the CRJ. This means that your options for loading a flightplan is limited to manual entry or making use of Simbrief which now supports the Aerosoft CRJ. Additionally, if you do not have PFPX, you can also make use of the CRJ Manager which allows you to generate passenger, cargo and fuel loads for your flight. Either way, this is the first step to setting up the aircraft for any flight. For those of you interesting in going the extra mile, you might find Navdata Charts a very useful program in obtaining all of the necessary airport or enroute charts you need for your flight. To keep your FMS up to date, you may also want to try Navdata Pro which is similar to the Navigraph database commonly used today. While both versions work well with the CRJ, Navdata Pro offers a convenient method of updating multiple add-ons at once and it is very easy to use. After setting up the fuel and weight specifics of your flight, the CRJ Manager also allows you to setup a few more advanced setting such as Tiller mapping, default systems configurations, sound preferences and more. Among all of these features, you might be wondering what the Tiller mapping is all about. As you may already know, an aircraft such as the CRJ uses a hand tiller for nose wheel steering. This function is separate to the aileron controls but they can be mapped to your pedals or any other axis you wish to have a realistic experience while taxiing the aircraft. If you decide not to meddle with these setting, you can rest assured that the aircraft will taxi as normal using your yoke aileron controls but you will not see the nose wheel turn. Now that we’ve done the initial setup, let’s head over to the sim. After loading the CRJ at the airport of your choosing, the next step to be completed is the cockpit setup. If you are using the CRJ Manager, this would be the ideal time to load your fuel and weight settings to your aircraft. However, you also have the option of using “DAVE” which is a Tablet/EFB style unit that allows you to control numerous aspects of the aircraft, including your payload details. By using this tool, you can also configure initial state of the aircraft to be cold and dark, ready for engine start or turn around mode. For the sake of this review, I decided to choose the cold and dark setup to test the initialization of the systems. What was very impressive about this process is that the systems closely matched the setup of the real aircraft with the displays showing more or less the same indications of the real aircraft during the power-up phase. Another impressive feature is the immersive sound of the cockpit environment as the avionics comes alive. When programming the MCDU, you will notice that it is slightly different to what you may be used to if you typically fly a Boeing or Airbus aircraft. Nonetheless, the initialization process is very straightforward and I found that despite the differences, it was just as easy to load a flightplan and performance data in comparison to a Boeing aircraft. For those of you who are especially keen on having a realistic experience, you may be well aware that while the pilots complete the cockpit setup, typically this would also be the time that passengers and baggage are loaded onboard the aircraft. I was quite pleased to see that “DAVE” also offered options to control the ground services available to the CRJ. These services include ground power and ground air services in addition to being able to control main and cargo doors. If you are a GSX user, you will be happy to know that configuration files are also included with this product and they work flawlessly. With passengers loaded, let’s see how this aircraft handles on the ground before we depart. TAXI/TAKEOFF/CLIMB The engine start process for the CRJ is a fairly automated process and it is actually much easier than starting up a 737 or 747. During the engine start up I was very impressed with the immersive sound of the engines and the overall process seemed to be as authentic as you can get in a desktop simulator. While taxiing to the runway, you will immediately notice two things. First of all, the annoying ground friction issue that has plagued many aircraft add-ons has been resolved with the AS CRJ. Aerosoft has introduced this feature in an effort to improve the overall realism of the aircrafts movement on the ground and they’ve done a fine job in fixing this issue. Secondly, if you ever have the opportunity to assign an axis to your tiller, you will see that taxiing the aircraft becomes an almost effortless task. If you do not have the means to do so, rest assured that your regular yoke or joystick inputs will turn the aircraft but you won’t see the nose gear turning. While this isn’t realistic, it’s an acceptable compromise. As you line up to the runway after completing your checklist which is accessible through “DAVE,” the real fun begins as you power up the throttles to the TOGA detent and the aircraft steadily accelerates to rotation speed. During the acceleration, the thumps and other noses commonly heard adds a tremendous level of realism that many other add-ons often miss. Once airborne, the aircraft accelerates to just about 180 – 200kts before the flaps are retracted. Thereafter, the hand flying characteristics of the aircraft really shines as it cut through the air with a smoothness that encourages you to fly the aircraft rather than relying too much on the autopilot for stability. When engaging the autopilot, the transition from manual flight to auto flight is consistently smooth with no erratic maneuvers that may be discomforting to your virtual passengers. An aspect of this aircraft that is especially unique is that it doesn’t have the typical VNAV function of your 737 or A320. During the climb phase of your flight, the climb is managed by using the climb detent of the throttle and the speed mode of the autopilot. With other add-ons that utilize this type of autopilot functionality, I’ve found that these modes can often be a bit unstable. In this case however, while it isn’t perfect, Aerosoft managed to implement a somewhat stable autopilot which has seen some improvement after a few updates since the release of this product. As we settle into the cruise portion of the test flight, we will have a closer look at a few more of the systems that were modeled in this aircraft. CRUISE/SYSTEMS During the cruise phase of any flight, pilots normally have an opportunity to be a bit more relaxed since the workload is reduced to monitoring frequencies and the aircraft systems. With the CRJ, this fact proves to be true with just one exception. With a 747 or even a 737, the autothrottle system makes power management a simple task. Since the CRJ doesn’t have an AT, it means that you as the virtual pilot will be responsible for manually manipulating the throttles to maintain the appropriate cruise power/speed. If you are not very experienced with managing the engines of a jet aircraft manually, the CRJ manuals provide a basic guideline in aiming for a power setting of about 80%. Of course, depending on your winds, this setting may need to be increased or decreased to avoid an overspeed warning or maintain an appropriate speed. For those who have already mastered the art of engine and power management, the cruise phase of your flight might allow you the opportunity to explore some of the systems of the aircraft in greater detail. Beginning with the most obvious, the CRJ series comes with 6 large displays that feature a Rockwell Collins Proline 4 avionics suite. In addition to the advanced avionics, the CRJ also includes a Heads-up Guidance System (HGS) which is useful for your CAT III approaches. If we were to first of all examine the 6 screen displays, you’ll notice that they fully simulate many of the sub-pages that monitor numerous aircraft systems such as pressurization, fuel, hydraulics, electrical and more. The overall fidelity of these systems are quite remarkable and while there aren’t any advanced failures for most of these system, they provide a balanced level of detail that will impress even the most avid of flight simulator enthusiast. Moving over the HGS, the display is very high quality and the information being displayed closely (if not perfectly) matches what you will see in the real aircraft. While I enjoy having this feature, personally I find myself sticking to the cockpit displays while flying. Nonetheless, if you wish to make life a bit easier and keep your view outside of the aircraft, this is the perfect tool to do so. As you glance at the overhead panel of the CRJ, you will see a simple but essential array of switches that control Electrical power, Fire detection, fuel, APU, Bleed Air, Air Conditioning, Anti-ice systems and Exterior lighting. What I appreciate the most about the design of the CRJ is the simplistic layout of the overhead panel which seems to operate on the same “dark cockpit” concept of airbus aircraft. This means that while in the air, if the overhead panel switches are all black, it means everything is setup correctly. The work that has gone into simulating the systems of this aircraft becomes quite evident as you select various overhead switches and you see a corresponding action either in aircraft performance or through various alerts and indications on your displays. If you choose to put the systems of the CRJ to the test, I would suggest doing so on the ground since doing so in the air will quickly ruin your day. The center pedestal of the CRJ offers numerous capabilities. For example, on the center pedestal you have radios, interior lighting, anti-skid, auto reverse, weather radar and a host of controls that are essential to the operation of the aircraft. One of the center pedestal items that you will likely use quite often is the MCDU. Unlike many other add-ons that only provide a fraction of the functionality of an FMS/MCDU, Aerosoft has offered a thorough and complete rendition of the MCDU in the CRJ-700 and 900 series. With the ability to perform many advanced navigational functions and accurately manage aircraft performance, this unit allows you to fly some of the most difficult ILS and RNAV approach procedures such as the River Visual 19 to KDCA. With regard to performance data, the MCDU has the ability to accurately calculate performance data based on many variables such as winds, weight and vertical path. One of the features of the MCDU which might seem a bit misleading is the VNAV page. As mentioned before, the CRJ doesn’t have a traditional VNAV system similar to what you may be used to in an A320 or B737. The VNAV page is mostly used as a reference and once you know how to utilize it, it can prove to be very useful. As you look to the left or right (depending on which seat you are in), you will see yet another useful tool that is perhaps one of the best additions to this aircraft. In the initial setup of the aircraft we used the EFB/Tablet called “DAVE.” This virtual cockpit tool closely resembles the EFB style tablets commonly seen in airliner cockpits today. With this tool, Aerosoft has made it possible for users to control nearly every aspect of this aircraft when it comes to fuel, passenger loading and allowing you the option of controlling numerous airline options. As an example, if you fly with airlines outside of the U.S, it is likely that the numeric units for weights may be in KG. DAVE offers you the option of selecting with KG or LBS in addition to default BARO settings which also vary between HPA and IN based on your region. Other options also take into consideration specific airline options for the MCDU and it also allows you set and customize your payload, v-speeds and a few maintenance items. Ultimately, this tool will be an indispensable assistance in flying the CRJ and Aerosoft honestly made the right move by including this feature. DESCENT/LANDING Now that we’ve taken a look around the virtual cockpit and examined some of the features of the aircraft, it’s now time for us to begin planning our descent. Typically with a 737, the descent planning is fairly due to the advanced level of automation and VNAV capabilities. With the CRJ however, flying this aircraft has a way of separating the boys from the men so to speak. Managing the descent phase of your flight with the CRJ is a delicate balance of math and power management. For the sake of simplicity, we won’t go into much of the math involved in meeting an altitude restriction, but it is extremely important that you as the pilot be fully in control of the aircraft and that you fully understand the basic concepts of power management. If you can master this aspect of flying, you might hardly miss the luxuries of having a VNAV system to manage your descent. If you would like to learn more about the descent management of the CRJ, I would highly recommend the Air Nostrum CRJ-900/1000 video from Just Planes. When it comes to flying an approach, I found that the autopilot was quite stable most of the time. What do I mean by “most of the time?” Well, there were a few times when I found that localizer capture wasn’t as smooth as it should be and there were one or two occasions when the capture was a bit late but not excessively enough to compromise off the entire approach. If you are hand flying an approach, I found that using the HGS offered a significant advantage in keeping track of your course, speed and altitude thus allowing you to fully enjoy the flying characteristics of the aircraft. After landing, you’ll find that the CRJ performance quite well when decelerating without having to fight the controls to stay on the centerline. Taxiing to the gate is no different to what we described earlier, but when parked at a gate there are a few things we need to take into consideration. For example, if you’ll be using a Jetway, having the stairs configured correctly with the railings down is an option that is available through “DAVE.” Additionally, with two GSX configuration files available, you’ll also need to know which cargo doors need to be operated for the ground crew. After going through your shutdown checklist, you can’t help but admire the work that has gone into this product to recreate the remarkably realistic experience of being the PIC of a CRJ. This product not only offers you hours of entertainment, but it also offers you an educational experience both in the systems of the CRJ and the hard work that goes into flying these regional airliners. Throughout all of my test flights, I can honestly say that it was always an amazing and challenging experience and I think that everyone will enjoy using this product. PERFORMANCE To wrap up our test flight, I thought it would be reasonable to discuss PC performance. This is a topic that can be a bit touchy and especially so for the Aerosoft CRJ. In all fairness, the performance is good if you have a high-end PC, but some have reported that since the last update the performance saw a slight decrease. Despite this notable decrease in performance, some have also noted that it wasn’t a decrease that made it impossible to use the aircraft. In addition to performance issues, there were also reports of navigational issues but these are all currently being addressed by Aerosoft and I am confident that they will be resolved. As mentioned before, this is a touchy topic and not everyone will have the same experiences. Ultimately, if you have an average to high-end system this product will function quite well both within FSX and in P3D. CONCLUSION In conclusion, as a long-time fan of regional aircraft, I am convinced that the CRJ series is one of the best regional jet products to be released in a very long time. This simulation is a remarkable rendition of the CRJ that even many real world CRJ pilots are impressed with. Though Aerosoft took quite some time to release this product, it was certainly worth the wait. The depth of the systems is very well balanced to reflect the day to day use and expectations of a real world CRJ pilot. While having working circuit breakers isn’t the goal of this product, it is sufficiently well simulated to keep even hardcore simmers on the edge of their seats. In addition to being an overall fun and intriguing aircraft to fly, the practical benefit of this product can be seen in two ways. First of all, due to the lack of an auto throttle and the traditional VNAV functions we’ve grown used to, the CRJ truly helps you to become a better virtual pilot. Being able to effectively manage your speed and descent may require some practice, but you will find it extremely rewarding as your abilities as a virtual pilot is refined. Secondly, if you are an aspiring pilot, it is likely that your very first job might be at an airline that uses the CRJ. While this product is not intended for training purposes, it can be very useful for familiarizing yourself with the basic operation of this aircraft. With this product featuring two models and so many features, one might expect that the price would rival that of other high end add-ons in the over $60.00 range. However, for the price of $49.99 USD for either the boxed or download versions that are compatible with both P3D and FSX, you will see that the price point of this product is more than generous. For providing a highly detailed product at a remarkable value, the Aerosoft CRJ series has certainly earned itself a 9/10 score for offering everyone the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying this amazing regional aircraft. Why not give it a try? ADDITIONAL INFORMATION For those interested, here is a list of all the products used or seen throughout this review. These airports typically see a large volume of CRJ flights. AEROSOFT Mega Airport Frankfurt V2.0 DRZEWIECKI DESIGN New York Airports V2 DRZEWIECKI DESIGN Washington X FLIGHTBEAM KMSP FSDREAMTEAM KCLT Finally, if you would like to learn more about flying the CRJ, I would highly recommend these Just Planes video titles. Air Nostrum CRJ-900/CRJ-1000 – One of the best CRJ videos you will find! Preview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Diz7-R5Mc4I Styrian CRJ-700 Preview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smvFUr6j_vw Pluna CRJ-900 Preview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy18-_l5SVk