Flight Sim Commander Review
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FlightSim Commander Version 9
For 2004, FSX & P3D. Published by Aerosoft
Reviewed by Nigel Porter
February 2014

Introduction

Flight planning software for flight simulation come in every form imaginable, from the very basic, as seen supplied in some weather programs, to the very latest and most complex, as has recently been released in Aerosoft's Professional Flight Planner X. It is a difficult task to find the kind of planner which suits how you want it to integrate with your simulator. Some people want to go the 'whole hog' and have something which reproduces the capability and functionality of professional airline planners as closely as possible, whilst others want something which gives them a simple route and heading from one turning point to the next with perhaps some added heading information to account for the winds aloft. In fact, the choice is nearly endless, but getting back to the crux of the matter, before going out and spending your hard earned cash, you need to sit down and evaluate what you want your planner to do. The main decision factors are whether you use the planner for airliners or small aircraft and / or what percentage of time you want to spend on making a flight plan and how realistic you want it to be. As you can see, this all very much depends on the individual simmers requirements.

Planning an IFR flight with some planners can take up to 30 minutes or more and then you have to get this information into your aircraft's flight computer which can take another 20 minutes in some aircraft. Then, and only then, can you start pre-flight checks and 'getting the show on the road'. So, from the start of the planning activity to take off can be well over an hour. This is all very well if you like this sort of thing or have the time to spare, but it has to be taken into consideration if you only have a set time frame to fly in. Personally, although I have one of the more complex planners, I find, more often than not, I tend to prefer FlightSim Commander Version 9 for its simplicity and speed of use.

Features

The features of FlightSim Commander Version 9 include:
     ● create flight plans automatically, manually, or both for any section of your route;
     ● create flight plans along low altitude and high altitude airways;
     ● create a database of your own custom waypoints;
     ● insert Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) and Standard Arrival Routes (STARs), and transitions;
     ● create and reload route segments for departure, arrival, and en route;
     ● display, update and choose for flight planning North Atlantic Tracks (NATracks) as well as Pacific Organized Tracks (PACOTs);
     ● look at airport layouts, including runways, taxiways, and aprons;
     ● show a Jeppesen style vertical and horizontal approach chart for runways of your destination airport;
     ● display available missed approaches at your destination airport;
     ● calculate fuel consumption and alternate airport;
     ● look at a map displaying VORs, NDBs, ILSs, airports, runways, MSA (minimum sector altitude), 12 types of airspaces, as well as coastlines
        and national boundaries;
     ● use a GPS display for easy navigation;
     ● automatically transmit ILS frequencies to Flight Simulator;
     ● set an autopilot for following the filed route or to go directly to a chosen geographic location;
     ● choose fly-by or fly-over for passing waypoints;
     ● track your flight on a real time moving map display;
     ● record flight data and inspect them afterwards;
     ● display a recorded flight in Google Earth;
     ● display flight plan in Google Earth;
     ● show current aircraft position in Google Earth;
     ● loading flight plans from RouteFinder or VATroute;
     ● define and fly holding patterns;
     ● display both airborne and ground AI traffic;
     ● get TCAS warnings for approaching AI aircraft;
     ● keep a logbook in which major flight data on aircraft, fuel, and route are automatically saved;
     ● make a world-wide search to easily find any NAVAID, waypoint, airport, or airway;
     ● check violations of control zones during VFR flights;
     ● display a flight analysis, including altitude and control zone violation;
     ● display active controllers and control areas for VATSIM and IVAO online pilots; and
     ● display weather from thousands of world-wide weather stations, including sunrise and sunset times.

Availability and Installation

FlightSim Commander Version 9 is currently available from Aerosoft for €39.95 in download format and €39.99 in boxed format. A 30 minute demo version Is available to download so you can 'try before you buy' - a very nice touch and I think all software should be sold this way.

My copy of FlightSim Commander Version 9 was supplied on a CD / DVD with a fairly comprehensive manual. The installation was easy and trouble free. Installing it using 'Administrator' access rights, you simply choose where you want it to go, such as C:\aerosoft\fsc9, and the installation process is over quickly. Upgrades to Version 9.5 are now available as a free download for those using an earlier version.

Once installed, you will need to run the database manager which will create the necessary airport databases. However, this only needs to be done when you install or upgrade the product.

The Main Program

The one outstanding thing I like about FlightSim Commander Version 9 is the simplicity of use. It has a logical interface which is easy to understand and use. From the opening of the introductory page, you are presented with an 'Airport Selection' screen. This is your point of departure - in the case of the example in the screen shot, it is Nice (LFMN).


Click on the 'Select' button and you are presented with a map centred on Nice. Go to the icon bar at the top and click on 'Flight Plan'. Here you enter your departure and destination airports and click 'OK'. You now have a straight line drawn between the two points.


Go to the icon bar again and choose 'High' or 'Low Level Plan' and it immediately changes the straight line to an accurate routing. Clicking on 'SIDs' and 'STARs', and you can easily choose the ones which align with your plan - it is not guess work, as in some planners.


The second choice of route supplier is 'Route Finder'. It is less impressive, as many of the routes do not follow real life routes. One gets the impression many of the routes have been created by enthusiasts, as there are many occasions when the route given heads the wrong way on a one way airway or on an airway at an altitude where the airway does not exist.

So, as you can see, with a few clicks you have a route prepared and there is no going back and forth from one page to another, and entering and re-entering the same information on several occasions. You can then choose to save the flight in a format understood by PMDG, Aerosoft Airbus X, or other FSX aircraft - again, very simple.

The main page showing your route can be enhanced with information by the use of the many icons on a side bar. These control the amount of information displayed, so it is easy to de-clutter it to a level that suits by reducing the types of airways displayed, the NAVAIDs displayed, etc. You can simply move the mouse over any intersection, NAVAID, etc., and a bubble appears with all the relevant information that pertains to the item.

Changing a flight plan is simplicity itself. On the planning page, you simply delete the waypoint you wish to remove and enter a new one and the path on the map immediately changes. It took me several months to figure out how to do this in my other planner as it was not so obvious. Once your flight is planned, you can then have a close-up look at the airfields to see parking places, runways, etc., and then zoom back out again.


The colours of the screens can be changed from the garish ones I use to a whole host of others. If you don't like the other set schemes, you can even change everything to a colour of your choice.

FlightSim Commander Version 9 also portrays NATracks and PACOTs, those routes across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which are prone to daily change due to the wind. It will download the current ones in use at the click of a button. Another nice feature is it can link into FSX and show your position in real time, as well as the AI aircraft in your vicinity. It can also link into Google Earth so you can see your position there in real time.

You can also easily create your own waypoints so if you are flying a VFR flight plan and you know you have to make contact at point November, you can put it on the map and in the plan. A waypoint can also be an airport. Like other planners, it can also overlay the weather at all the airports and by clicking on the weather symbol you can get all the pertinent information.


There is also the potential to connect online to either IVAO or VATSIM and there is also an automatic logbook which keeps all your flights on record. You can also run FlightSim Commander Version 9 on a separate networked PC using WideFS (available for purchase separately).


Another handy little gem is the ability to customise your aircraft details so if you are planning a long flight, it will inform you that you do not have enough range or fuel reserves. However, this feature is not as comprehensive as other planners and I dare say it will only be a problem for those who spend hours planning their journey down to the last litre of fuel.


So, as you can see, FlightSim Commander just about covers all the bases, but without some of the flashier features of other flight planners. Whilst some of these flashier features are nice to have, they are superfluous for most people in everyday use. It is like buying a car equipped with a microwave oven - an interesting talking point, but rarely used once the novelty has worn off.

Conclusion

Reviewing a flight planning program is a difficult job. It is very easy to get stuck into the very bowels of the program and end up with a review which is virtually the size of the flight planner's manual, and with the danger of the review being as equally unintelligible and boring. So to avoid that trap, I have endeavoured to focus on the salient points I feel will be pertinent to the majority of users. Having been an aircraft owner, and a professional and private pilot, flight planning has always been part of my life for more years than I care to admit to. It has always been a necessity, rarely a pleasure.

For that reason, when it comes to FSX, I want something which does a good job in as quick and simple a manner as possible without having to have a degree in computer jargon or babble. This is where FlightSim Commander Version 9 wins in my view. It is a very good flight planner, GPS, moving map, and navigation tool and the interface is easily understood and you can get stuck in without having to read reams of pages of a manual. Complexity is there if you need it, it is just a level or two deeper. Initially though, you can get quickly acclimatised to the interface and get airborne. Later, after you are comfortable with what you are doing, you can go on to the more complex features if you need to.

FlightSim Commander Version 9 is nowhere near as comprehensive as the more complex flight planners available but it can hold its own and it is more than adequate for those who fly general aviation aircraft.

Technical Requirements

     ● Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 / Microsoft Flight Simulator X / Lockheed Martin Prepar3D;
     ● Windows XP(SP3) / Windows Vista / Windows 7;
     ● Pentium 2.0GHz CPU;
     ● 2GB RAM;
     ● Graphics card with 256MB RAM; and
     ● 250MB HDD space.




Verdict and Rating

Ease of Use: 9.5 / 10 - It is so much easier to use than the competition.
Features: 8.5 / 10 - Rich and full without being overly complex.
Documentation: 9.0 / 10 - A very comprehensive, easy to read manual.
Performance: 9.0 / 10 - It accomplishes what it was created to do and it is always being improved for the better with little or no effect on         FSX when running concurrently.
Value for Money: 8.5 / 10 - It is reasonably priced for the functionality provided.

FlightSim Commander Version 9 is awarded a Mutley’s Hangar score of 8.9/10, with a "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.