Saturday, September 13, 2008
Developer: IKARUS and IPACS
Distributor: Hobby-Lobby, International
MSRP: $229.00 USD
• CD discs
• instruction booklet
• USB “Transmitter” controller
• Add-On Vol. 1 & 2
Minimum system requirements
Recommended system requirements
A flight simulator is a wonderful tool that can either help a beginner learn to fly, or a seasoned pilot learn a few new tricks. I started flying RC with a Picco Z knockoff and then a Blade CX2. I really didn’t need a sim for this, but eventually wanted to fly something a bit more realistic. I did a lot of reading and discovered that a flight sim was available to help an aspiring pilot by saving him some time repairing and some cash from replacing. I went out and picked one up and it did help me greatly. While I never mastered flight with a helicopter, I could do some basic sport flying and hovering. Then I moved to fixed wing, and after a couple of weeks on the flight sim, I was ready for the real thing and did exceptionally well my first time out.
Jason of Hobby-Lobby was gracious enough to join us for an episode of ATTF earlier this year and while we were interviewing him he mentioned Aerofly Professional Deluxe Flight Simulator (AFPD for short). I have tried most of the well known sims, but never had a chance to fly AFPD. Jason mentioned Hodges Hobbies Field and that the USA edition Add-On included Hodges field as one of the scenery options. I was fairly excited about the ability to fly virtually at Hodges without enduring the 10 hour drive from Raleigh. A few weeks following our interview with Jason, a package from Hobby-Lobby showed up on my door step with Aerofly Professional Deluxe and the USA Edition Add-On5.
Installation and Packaging
Aerofly Pro Deluxe can be purchased with or without a controller. The version I received included a USB controller. At first I was not thrilled at the included controller and considered picking up the USB adapter cable that would allow me to use my own transmitter. After the first few flights, I was for the most part convinced that I would in fact purchase the adapter so I wouldn’t have to use the provided stiff and featureless controller, I really didn’t like it. Well, a few weeks later I gave it another try and found that after getting used to it, I prefer it. I don’t have to find my TX or keep it near my PC. I also don’t run the risk of leaving my TX on and running down the battery. While trying some 3D moves, I found that I do better with the high tension sticks since I don’t tend to drift my thumbs. You must make very deliberate moves with this controller and it prevents your thumbs from drifting left or right when you are moving the sticks up and down. I am a thumber, not a pincher and I think I am going to add even more tension to the sticks of my DX7 after using this controller.
The install goes quick and smooth. I had no issues at all. I didn’t even open the manual. Simply drop in the CD and follow the prompts. I tried running the program before updating it. I found that without the patches it runs well. However, I did update it by going to the AFPD website and downloading the latest update. It included all previous updates which makes it easy. Just download the latest version. Once the download is completed simply double click the file and follow the prompts. It is very easy to install and update AFPD. Even a technophobe could do it.
As for the instruction manual, it seems to be very thorough. I didn’t spend a great deal of time with it, but it does seem to answer any question you would have about the install or the controller. And it does a very good job of showing you where items are in the menu system of the sim itself.
Features, Flying and Graphics
The AFPD site provides a great list of features, and here is a slightly edited rehash.
• 84 aircraft models: aerobatic airplanes, 3D-funflyer, 3m-TOC models, 15 helicopters, Jets, VTOL-Harrier, Gliders,
Biplanes, Slope-soarer, Shockflyer, Pylon-racer, Slowflyer, multi-blade helicopters, and much more...
• 28 beautifully designed sceneries (including 14 photo-realistic sceneries)
• USB interface to connect your own transmitter (adapter for many common radios is included).
• Full collision detection with all objects in the scenery, including trees.
• Realistic simulation of the airplane sound in 3D, like the doppler effect
• Simulation of retractable gears and moving wings
• 2 player split-screen mode allows you to fly AeroFly with your friends on the same computer.
• Recording/Playback and Saving of flights.
• Torque-Roll training with many different models, like the Cap232, Giles202, Extra 330, Shockflyer.
• Autorotation practice with the helicopter.
• Hundreds of free user made models available.
• Many free user made sceneries available.
• Simple file format for creating your own sceneries and aircrafts.
• Different contests like balloon popping, drag racing, pylon racing or spot landing a 2nd view window.
I have flown many RC simulators. Real Flight, Phoenix and Reflex are all installed on my PC. I have found likes and dislikes with each of them. I wouldn’t classify myself as easy to please when it comes to a RC flight simulator. AFPD had some big shoes to fill in order to make the cut and stay installed on my PC. After starting the program, I was in the main menu system. I took a few minutes to setup the options to suit my system and my taste. I also went through the controller setup and did the calibration. Took just a few minutes to complete and then I started to look through the available aircraft. My first impression was not that great. Most of these are gas or glow engines and not electric. The electric planes tend to be tiny. I was also a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find anything that I have actually flown except the little profile shockflyer. There is a nice selection of planes and helicopters to fly, but not what I was hoping for. I would like to see more electric planes with the base install.
On startup, the graphics are very impressive. I love photo realistic fields. It doesn’t look like a cartoon and is more like being at a real field. I was testing this on a PC equipped with an 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo. 2GB of RAM and dual nVidia 88OOGTs in SLI mode @ 1920x1200 on a 24 inch Dell LCD. It looks great and will hold its own with any of the competitors products.
Jamie has been building a GeeBee and I noticed one very similar to the one he is building in the list. I thought I would give that a try and just see what I thought of the GeeBee. Wow, this thing is a handful to say the least. Landing planes in other sims can be extremely simple. I really hate it when you can cut the throttle on a simulator and just glide a plane in to an ultra smooth landing surface with ease. Well, AFPD quickly showed me it is not like that. I simply could NOT land the GeeBee. I noticed I even had to be careful while taxing the plane down the runway. This is not what I was expecting, and I was very happy to see ground interaction when landing and taxing for take offs. I also love how you have to really work at landing the plane. Now a GeeBee from what I understand is not simple to fly nor land. The model in AFPD is also very hard to fly and land. I bet it took 8 approaches and attempts before I successfully landed the GeeBee!
From there I thought I would try a little 3D. I found a big 79” GS Yak-54 Profile plane and loaded it up. It is a glow plane, but I wanted to try a hover and see how close it matched my hover at the field. I did a nice quick take off with this powerhouse. Did a few laps to get the feel of it and then popped the nose up. Yep, pretty close to the real deal. The ailerons seem to have a bit more authority than they should, but just like in real life, my hover sucks! I did some snap rolls and knife edges and AFPD doesn’t make you falsely feel like Andrew Jesky. My 3D moves in AFPD look as bad on my PC as they do on the field. AFPD is very true to actually flying an RC plane.
AFPD allows you to set basic environmental variables like wind speed, turbulence, thermic, wind direction and surface roughness. All of these settings are metric and it would be nice to have an English Standard option as well. I would like to see them add an option for random wind direction so you would have to deal with wind shifts like you do in real life, but the wind settings are enough to help you with learning to fly in windy conditions. I was able to do a few vertical landings with the right wind speed. This seemed very accurate based on the few vertical landings I have done at the field.
After this I decided to install the USA Add-On 5. Of course the first thing I did was load up Hodges Hobbies Field where SEFF is held each year. I was amazed and slightly sad at the same time. The photos are a bit dated and the first thing you see is the old Cub sitting there at the end of the pits. Sadly the Cub was involved in a crash and is no more, but it was cool to see it, but still a little saddening. It is great seeing that someone is sitting in one of the many rocking chairs on the porch and the pitts are in use. I would buy the USA Add-On 5 just for this reason!
AFPD does what it was intended to do and does that very well. I started this review with a simulator that was my clear favorite. Did AFPD change that? Yes, but it doesn’t take the top spot all alone. I now have 2 Sims that I enjoy a great deal. I really didn’t expect AFPD to even come close, but it shocked me. The initial things I didn’t like about it were caused by my own lack of knowledge of this product. I thought you could only use the supplied controller, but found out later it was available with a USB adapter that will connect to your transmitter. I also thought that AFPD didn’t have any free models or scenery available. Well, a bit more research shows me it does have and there are even fan sites out there with some very good models.
- I have to say the physics are pretty close. AFPD compares very closely to what I experience when actually flying
- The graphics are very good and it doesn't have that animated game feel
- Ground interaction actually exists! Many other sims don't include this feature
- Installation is simple and upgrades Add-Ons and users models are simple to add
- Hodges Hobbies field included on USA Add-On 5
- Free planes and sceneries are limited due to small audience
- USB cable on the controller is too short
- Could provide more electric planes