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Challenges over the USA - East Coast Edition
For FSX Published by Just Flight
Reviewed by David (“ddavid”) Williams
September 2010

This Mission Pack is the second offering from the Skyline Digital Media Group, and follows on from their highly successful "Challenges over The Rockies", released earlier this year by Just Flight. Like its predecessor, "Challenges over the USA: East Coast Edition" brings you an assortment of 10 Missions - including military objectives, search and rescue, airline and G.A. flights - so there's something for everyone. All but one of the missions are based in the Washington D.C. area - hence the title - and, more importantly, they are all real challenges, requiring both skill and an alert mind - just the job for those fast approaching winter nights!

Download and Installation
The Mission Pack is available for download directly from the Just Flight website (see details below), and you will need a reasonably good internet connection, as its size is approximately 100 Mb. You will also need Flight Simulator X Gold edition or FSX with Acceleration installed. Onceyou have entered your purchase details, the installer will automatically save the various Mission and Reward files straight into your FSX system. The installation takes less than a couple of minutes at most, and you're ready to go. Full marks must go to Just Flight for the installer, as this was one of the most straightforward installations I have experienced with Missions.

Now, you should always check to see how your FSX system has been updated by an installer, so I opened up my ...\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\Missions folder and found a new entry, a folder called "Skyline Digital Media Group Missions". Inside this was another new folder called "DC Missions", which contained the 10 new Mission files. No problems there, so let's find out what they're like.....

The Mission Pack in FSX
After firing up FSX and selecting 'Missions', the newly installed missions were to be found in a new category called "Challenges over the USA - East Coast Edition". Here's the list you'll see from the drop down menu:

1. Scramble The Jets
You're in the cockpit of an F/A-18 getting ready to launch from a carrier - an Intermediate Level Mission.

2. Can You Land Marine One?
You have to manoeuvre a helicopter onto a very small landing pad on the White House lawn - an Intermediate Level Mission.

3. Search and Rescue
A boat has gone missing on Lake Erie and you are asked to help locate and report its position - an Intermediate Level Mission.

4. KDCA River Visual Approach for Runway 19
You are inbound for Reagan National Airport on one of the most scenic and fun approaches in the U.S.A. - along the Potomac River, right next to the restricted airspace over the Washington D.C. area. You are the P.I.C. of a CRJ-700 - an Intermediate Level Mission.

5. Similar to Mission 4, but with the Airbus A321 - an Intermediate Level Mission.

6. Similar to Mission 4, but with the Boeing 737-800 -an Intermediate Level Mission.

7. Touring Above The Nation's Capital
Enjoy the views over Washington D.C. as you pilot a Cessna 172 with a custom repaint for Skyline Tours - an Intermediate Level Mission.

8. Washington D.C. Race - Extra 300
Race against the clock through Washington DC! Hit all 12 gates before time runs out! An Intermediate Level Mission.

9. Washington D.C. Race - Competition
Race P51's against an opponent through DC! This is an Advanced Level Mission.

10.Washington D.C. Race - F/A-18
Race against the clock through Washington DC with a F/A-18! Hit all 12 gates before time runs out! This is an Expert Level Mission.

First Impressions
As you can see from the above list, the 10 new Missions are a great mix, and provide a set of challenges that even the most experienced simmer will appreciate. In addition, the variety of Missions will introduce you to activities you rarely embark on - for example, I'm not really a "tube-liner" man, but the KDCA Missions were an opportunity for me to get to grips with this genre - and the Potomac River approach is definitely not for newbie's! The Washington D.C. Race Missions put me at the back of the class, I'm afraid! Whilst I like flying low, I'm no great shakes at threading my way through all those hoops. However, the other Missions were more 'up my street' and I found them both entertaining and fulfilling. I even managed to land back on the carrier - but only after several attempts, mind! I'll try to give you more details of how I found some of the Missions, without giving too much away - I don't want to spoil your fun.....

Search and Rescue
This Mission takes you to the southern shores of Lake Erie, where a straightforward contract flight turns into a search for a missing fishing boat. The scenery is very good - lots of islands, as you'd expect - and some very tight airfields to land on as you track down the target. You'll enjoy the excellent dialogue and will no doubt be as relieved as me if, and when, you spot the unlucky fishermen

Can You Land Marine One?
"Feelin' Lucky, Punk?" - well, not quite Clint Eastwood, maybe, but a hilarious Mission flying the Augusta Westland EH101 from Edwards AFB to the helipad on the lawn in front of the White House. Not the easiest of tasks, for me, anyway, but plenty of Washington D.C. scenery to spot on the way.

KDCA River Visual Approach
I chose the B738 option and did eventually manage to land at Reagan National. Maybe you'll find it easier, but I found this approach a real challenge. Perhaps I should have tried it with the smaller jet, whatever, this Mission was very enjoyable, even if I ended up in the Potomac a couple of times!

Pluses and Minuses
Now, I was asked if I'd review this Mission Pack because I had designed one or two Missions myself, so I could possibly put some of this experience into the Review. Well, for what it's worth, here are some comments from that perspective - both positive and negative:

I found the dialogue - the speech that you hear during the Missions - to be quite excellent. It's often a great failing in some missions, when you just don't have enough instructions to get you going. A lot of trouble has been taken to get these dialogues as realistic as possible - with the exception, perhaps, of the laconic Texan ATC at Reagan! However, sometimes the displayed text doesn't quite synchronize with what you hear - so, be on your toes, as you won't be told twice!

Mission Pointers
The Mission Pointers - you know, the Big Green Arrows? - are in abundance in these Missions. This is a great help - makes navigation a lot easier and helps to organise the different sections of each Mission. Only a minor niggle, for me, was the way in which the Mission Pointers diminish in size as you approach them - particularly when their base, at zero AGL, meant that they disappear from view below the panel!

PAUSE at Start of Mission?
Now, we've all SAVED flights 'in the air', haven't we? And, unless we're cruising at 35,000' over the ocean, we've probably PAUSED before SAVING, just to be on the safe side! So, whilst the KDCA approach Missions are fine to be started 'in flight' as the autopilot is active, the Washington D.C. Race with the Extra 300 could possibly benefit from being PAUSED, otherwise you'll crash (as I did!) before you've put down your cuppa and grabbed the stick.

Mission Completion Triggers
There's nothing worse than having landed at the destination, taxied up to the Mission Pointer, expecting the "SUCCESS" message and, well, er, nothing happens! Try taxiing around a little - or stop the engine - or even take off and land again...... This can be most frustrating when it happens - so be vigilant! Did the dialog say "Land on Runway 19"? And, did you?!? To avoid this, the Mission designer must make the instructions explicit if the Mission Completion Trigger expects a certain action, or series of actions. Generally, these instructions come as dialogues, so it's most important that the displayed text matches what is heard, so that it can be viewed again via the Knee-Board. Like I said, just a detail, but, potentially, an important one.

I've got to say that, at the price of £4.99, this Mission Pack is astonishingly good value - no, I really mean that. Each Mission costs less than 50 New Pence (Showing your age again! - Ed) Let's face it, you can find SINGLE Missions for sale these days at upwards of 20 times that price! I found the mix of Missions another bonus - and the general quality of design, dialogue, rewards etc was laudably high. O.K., I had a couple of minor criticisms, but these were issues of detail and not major concerns.

So, what's the score then? Got to give Just Flight's "Challenges over the USA: East Coast Edition" a resounding 9.5 out of 10!

No B.S. - this Mission Pack is the Badger's Nadgers. At £4.99, you just can't go wrong - go for it.....

David Williams

      System Requirements
  • Flight Simulator X (Acceleration or FSX SP2 required)
  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows7 with the latest Service Packs
  • Pentium 2.5 GHz (Duo2Core Intel or equivalent advised)
  • 1 Gb RAM (2 Gb recommended)
  • 512Mb graphic card
  • 130Mb Download size
  • 130Mb hard drive space