I've often heard the term "..don't judge a book by it's cover" and that couldn't be more correct than with Flightsoft's recent release "Fly To Hawaii" FS2000 add-on package.
I assumed, when I first received the disc for installation, that it was basically a program that gave you an aircraft (DC-10 in 13 different liveries or configurations and based on some screenshots that I've seen; there were some freeware DC-10s that appeared to be far better designed), a panel, and some flight plans to follow—but after I installed this program and began to read through the mountains and mountains of documentation, I quickly began to realize just how wrong I was!
Yes, this program does give you a DC-10, but it was the dozen or more "Adventures," the 65+ "Preprogrammed Flights," and the 150 or so flight plans (most IFR) that are the heart of this really quite unique package!
I told my editor, after he inquired as to how my review was coming, that the more I used it, the more interesting and the more I was beginning to really enjoy it! It's our understanding that the Flightsoft design team dedicated over a year and a half at getting this entire package put together and the quality of the adventures seems to bare that out. So, let's take a closer look here and see what really is up with the Flightsoft "Fly To Hawaii" aircraft/adventure package.
Flightsoft has designed a FS98/FS2000 (FS2002 with upgrade) compatible Douglas Aircraft Company DC-10 in 13 different liveries, though it's the Hawaiian Air configurations that are the predominate livery featured. There are also DC-10s in the Omni and Western Airlines liveries as well as with one model being the USAF KC-10 Extender. The external visuals of Flightsoft's DC-10 are pretty good, though they are not up to the standards of some freeware packages that are currently available (specifically the freeware DC-10s available from FFG), but the purpose of this package is to experience the flights from the flight deck and not from some arbitrary position from outside the aircraft.
The panel on the other hand is a notch higher on the authentic appearing ladder than the DC-10's exterior visuals and though I personally prefer photorealistic panels, I did find the Flightsoft DC-10 panel to be about average for panels of this type (average in appearance) and there were some minor flaws (the panel appears a bit fuzzy at the outer corners). The panel includes a working INS (Inertial Navigation System) and a limited function overhead panel; plus the default GPS (FS2000/FS2002) pop-up is there, but for authentic period flights in the DC-10 one should stick to the INS. I found myself using the GPS almost like a moving map to monitor my position in a given area and not for navigation itself.
So, though I may have found that the aircraft and panel to be just about average, I did find that the flight dynamics and the sounds to be well beyond that. Personally I have no flight time (real time) in either a DC-10 or with a full-motion flight simulator for the DC-10, but I do have a couple of friends (one now retired) that are experienced "10" pilots at United and American Airlines. Their comments concerning the flight characteristics of the 10 seemed to have been duplicated fairly well by the Flightsoft design team. On approach and at speeds under 200 knots, if you chop the power, the 10 exhibits a sink rate somewhere equal to a streamlined brick. I also found that the roll-rate and pitch feel to be about what you would expect from a 300 ton aircraft, but the pitch trim is a bit on the sensitive side (though that's more characteristic of FS2000 than of the flight dynamics modeling from Flightsoft and thank heaven Microsoft appears to have corrected that with FS2002).
The sound package though is truly a step above the average and I did find myself enjoying that part of the aircraft/panel package as much as anything. The included sound package from Flightsoft was obviously developed from a real-world DC-10 and the Fly To Hawaii sounds will really put a smile on your face.
Flightsoft also now offers an expansion pack that includes numerous additional airline liveries for their DC-10s.
Flightsoft has gone to some lengths at providing a very complete and very through set of manuals for all aspects and/or functions of the panel and its operable systems, plus there are a complete listing of documentation (including actual DC-10 checklists) which are written in easy to understand format, including hundreds of illustrations. One of the nice extras that Flightsoft has also included is that all documentation is duplicated in both WordPad and PDF formats, making it convenient for all to print out whatever doc you wish.
In both the WordPad and PDF formats, Flightsoft has included over 150 different flight plans from just about every major airport to every other major airport in the world. Every flight plan is complete right down to including the waypoint longitude/latitude for entry into the DC-10s INS! I would take you a month of Sundays to complete all of these flight plans/routes and over time I do intend on completing a few of them, but it will take another year or more to get through them all.
There are somewhere between 65 and 75 selectable flights, most involving the packaged DC-10s, but there are a few that include the default King Air and/or default Cessna 182s. These selectable flights do include landings at various airports (exotic locations and otherwise) around the world, many including airports that are considered quite difficult. I only tried 3 or 4 of these (time was generally my main consideration) and they were all well thought out, giving you a wide variety of weather conditions, time of day, and locales around the world. You could latterly spend hours and hours just trying these various flights and practicing your piloting skills with each.
This is the real heart of Flightsoft's "Fly To Hawaii" package, because what the design team (Flightsoft's) has done is to have—using actual voices from both Los Angeles & Hawaiian approach/tower recordings—developed very complete ATC controlled adventures. The adventures are available at 3 levels, Beginner, Advanced, and Expert but you should enjoy them all, for a number of reasons.
Each of these adventures includes a working 1st officer that works as much as a flight instructor as a second in command. The 1st officer's voice is a real-world recording and not a synthesized voice, and he not only makes heading and altitude changes for you (plus handle all the radio work), he explains every step and provides audio assistance or advice all during your approach and landing. This is particularly useful for the beginner level adventures and for those of us that are less experienced at flying a "heavy" in high traffic areas and in the beautiful islands of Hawaii!
In the advanced and expert levels, you have the choice of flying the full routes (from pushback at LAX to parking at your assigned gate in Honolulu) or you can run shortened flights that include just the departure from Las Vegas and/or LAX or you can run just your final approaches and landings in Hawaii. Some of the adventures include landings under harsh weather conditions (rain, crosswinds, and low visibility) or they include night landings. Now, these adventures are not interactive, but they are quite authentic and they do carry with them a real sense of reality! When flying in the area of the islands, you can detect a hint of a Hawaiian accent with some of the controllers, adding even more to the realism effect.
The more I experimented with the adventures, the more I started really liking and enjoying Flightsoft's "Fly To Hawaii" and even at the price of $34.95 US, I do like it and I do feel the package has value. Now, in the beginning I was a bit skeptical, but in the end, I do recommend this package for all of you that have an interest in flying the DC-10 and flying in a more real-world like environment, and this package will provide you with many, many hours of flight simming enjoyment.
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