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  • Air Hauler 2 for Microsoft Flight Simulator

       (Overall rating from this review)
    ...An amazing add on which has stood the test of time and with the enhancements that come with Air Hauler 2, makes it the "go to" virtual aviation career add on...

    Introduction

    Air Hauler and Air Hauler 2 were designed specifically to give structure to your flight simulator sessions by giving you something meaningful to do by creating a company, and to get the you flying to new interesting airports, rather than shuttling between the same old scenery add-ons. 

    Air Hauler 2 expands on things to do in the AirHauler world by adding passenger flights, commodities, crafting, and aircraft construction. Air Hauler 2 allows you to create, or fly in a Virtual Airline to co-operate with other Air Hauler 2 players. Or, if you just want to barnstorm without bases, you can opt for a nomadic lifestyle, hunting for and flying cargo jobs as they appear.

    Air Hauler 2 runs from outside the sim, it controls events and interacts via screen messages in the sim as your flight progresses. Unlike Airhauler, Air Hauler 2 cannot automatically start MSFS so you set the flight sim up with the route and aircraft before connecting Air Hauler 2. This is the same as working in network mode, although Air Hauler 2 is running on the same PC as your as MSFS. 

    The Air Hauler 2 interface has improved tremendously over the original, on opening, you are presented with a MSFS menu style "My Office" within the main screen, this makes Air hauler 2 more inclusive and enhances the MSFS experience. From here you can click through to the main maintenance and operations screens. 

    Starting a new career

    In cargo and passenger modes, everything in AirHauler 2 revolves around your company - you need a company to take jobs, fly scheduled passenger routes etc.  Your company can own bases, factories and construction facilities, and you can upgrade your bases to help you grow your fleet and expand your empire.

    Success is all about finance and reputation, as you complete cargo jobs, missions, and fly passengers around, you'll be rewarded financially, and your reputation will increase. There are 3 types of reputation, for cargo, passenger and missions respectively.  These are also averaged into an "Overall Reputation". Reputation affects many aspects of your AirHauler 2 company.  

    In addition, you can start your adventures in “Nomad” mode. In Nomad mode you cannot own bases or hire pilots.  It's just you, and your plane.  It's designed as a mode where you constantly roam around the world in nomadic fashion picking up jobs and missions as you find them.

    Budding Branson’s set their business up using the set up wizard which sets the company name, owner, pilot handle, and a level of difficulty which can be set to match the player’s experience and aspirations. You can select between Easy, Medium, Hard or Career mode from the standard difficulty levels.

    Career and Hard mode are the most difficult levels.  You're provided with a light aircraft, and limited funds. You also have a low reputation value, which you'll need to increase before you can hire pilots or take out loans.

    Medium and Easy offer a simpler starting option, with a larger aircraft or a light jet, and much more money. You also end up with much more reputation so you can start building out your fleet and pilot roster immediately.

    The Easy Pax option is offered for those players who want to get straight into flying passengers in heavy metal, without building their company up through light aircraft and expansion.

    You can also set cargo job creation options for your new AirHauler 2 company.  You can adjust the volume of jobs, the sizes or airports the jobs will be scheduled to and from, the size of the jobs, and their distance. 

    Once the setup wizard has all the information required it’s time to gird your loins for a great adventure.

    Running Your Company

    Bases - Your FBO, your company home base, remote bases can be set up later once you have enough money to build them. In order to attract business from your clients you'll need to open a base, which will give you access to many more cargo jobs than those you come across while visiting airports. 

    Fleet - To expand your company, you'll want to expand your fleet of aircraft to allow you to carry more cargo or passengers, and for AI pilots to fly on your behalf to complete jobs and flights. The aircraft tab in the program, details the  range, cargo capacity, and other details about your aircraft.  You can also see the configuration of the aircraft - either Cargo or Passenger, and the seating configuration if it's a passenger aircraft.

    Type ratings - In order to operate aircraft, you need a type rating for that specific aircraft.  This includes both yourself, and any AI pilots you may hire. When you purchase a new aircraft, if you do not already hold a type rating for that aircraft, AH2 will ask if you would like to undertake the type rating test for that aircraft immediately.  You can accept, and then go to the flight planning screen, or you can decline and add the type rating later.

    Gameplay

    Once you have decided what type of adventure you want for your next flight, in the "Available Cargo Jobs" screen you can see what types of job are on offer and the rewards. The quantity of available work is governed by your initial settings and current reputation.

    The four main money making areas are as follows:

    Cargo Jobs - This tab shows all available Cargo Jobs which are to, or from your airport.  You can "accept" cargo jobs from this tab and assign them to AI pilots or transfer them to your Virtual Airline, or fly the job yourself.

    Pax Routes - The Pax Routes tab shows any scheduled passenger routes which you have created which depart from or arrive at your airport. 

    Commodity Stocks - The commodity stocks tab shows goods available for purchase, or which can be sold. Only larger airports have commodity markets, and at smaller airports this tab may be empty as there is no market present.

    Missions - As you travel to other airports, you will meet individuals who may offer you missions to/from that airport.  There are several types of missions, all with different completion criteria. 

    Mission types include Courier Missions, Air Taxi, Charter Operations, Commodity Supply Missions, Photo/observation Missions, Smuggling Missions, and Ferry Flights.

    Once you have set up your scenario, you must start MSFS manually and configure the flight (as if you were in network mode) then click fly now, AH2 then communicates with MSFS via SimConnect. This also allows you to run AH2 on a separate machine.

    Virtual Airlines

    The Virtual Airline operates separately from your own AirHauler Company, so you can fly your own jobs alongside VA jobs (even using VA aircraft), or you can fly purely for the Virtual Airline.  You can also (if you have permission to do so), transfer your own company's cargo jobs to the Virtual Airline, or accept jobs from the World Wide Job board.

    Flying Air Hauler 2

    So once you hit the "fly now" button you make the flight. The next (however) many hours of flight is pure MSFS, you can add to the mix air traffic control and real world weather. En route Air Hauler 2 will offer tips via screen messages which can be annoying as you cannot always dismiss or move them. 

    Most aspects of your flight are monitored such as initial climb, handling (bank and pitch), landing, speed and stall etc. all of which affect your reputation if you exceed the flight limits. After unloading your cargo or passengers you are offered flight performance related data detailing the flight and landing.

    It can take a long time to establish a really wealthy company from scratch but you can take advantage of leasing aircraft and hiring AI pilots to increase your bank balance quicker. If you are looking for a real cash bonus then dabbling in commodities and production will provide a valuable earner.

    Conclusion

    What I like about Air Hauler 2 is that it gives you more freedom to run your aviation adventure as you want to. The 181 page user manual is very thorough and you must read it first so you know what you are getting into! You can convert from the nomadic style to the full company game, but you cannot go back!

    The program is in constant improvement, Duncan Murray, the developer, is a keen user himself so he really is hands on with the support. I have experienced a couple of unhandled program exceptions myself but the program allowed me to carry on with no loss or corruption to data. Air Hauler 2 is much faster and better at handling data than the original Air Hauler as (if I remember correctly) the original Air Hauler used Access databases whereas Air Hauler 2 utilises SQLite. 

    Air Hauler 2 is a seminal program which over the years has inspired and influenced the flight sim community, and long may it continue.

     

    PROs:
    • Great interface
    • Very immersive
    • "Hands on" developer
    CONs:
    • A few program exceptions experienced
    • Some persistent on screen messages can be annoying especially in type rating mode
    • Overall Rating


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