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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002 Add-Ons

This month I am examining FS-Meteo, CaptainSim publications L-39 and Mig-21 packages and FScene from the Netherlands.

INTRODUCTION

This month I am examining FS-Meteo, CaptainSim publications L-39 and Mig-21 packages and FScene from the Netherlands. The first thing I want to say is that communications with the authors has been excellent. I do not think this is just because they know I am reviewing, my feeling is that it is genuine and so if you are lucky enough to obtain any of these programs I think you will be very happy with problem solving (if any) later. Plus I am always willing to be contacted by email. In general I only review programs which I think will appeal to myself and other licensed pilots as my primary interest with Flightsimming is to assist in any way to push the envelope further forward.

FS_Meteo 5.1

FS_Meteo has been one of my favorite add-ons since I first used an earlier version and Marc Philibert, the program designer, was kind enough to send me the new version for review. FS-Meteo has become one of my list of absolutes for FS2002 He has really worked on it and now you have some amazing options to enhance your flying. Not only can you set FS-Meteo running in the background but also you can set departure station weather and destination weather and it will update as you fly automatically. Even more than that, with the new 'Weather Display' you can import a GPS type overlay onto the panel of selected aircraft and have the weather displayed as you fly along. It takes a little set up to have that in many aircraft and I must say I am too lazy but every time I fly now, I just set the plane at whatever airport I wish to start at and whether or not I am on a flight plan, I let FS-Meteo do its thing.

In addition FS_Meteo does all this but gives you also;

  • Worldwide Winds aloft.
  • Updated arrival weather and options as to what distance out to apply it for approaches.
  • Ability to import FS flight plans and set weather accordingly.
  • Options such as wind transition, cloud transition.
  • It will do up to 12 wind layers and temperature layers.
  • It can auto-disconnect and work offline if you wish.
  • It will set rain, snow, visibility etc. for you.
  • Marc has added some 'fuzzy logic' interpretations of CAVOK to mimic real weather and skies.

He has added various microclimates for the aircraft carriers in FS2002; this will ensure that you are landing into wind on an aircraft carrier (a really good idea!)

» Viewing a Raw METAR

» Decoding the METAR

A simple download and install are a leading indication of a really good program and certainly FS_Meteo scores here. You actually do not need the manual, but there is a user-friendly manual of about 11 pages, you do have to install Peter Dowson's FSUIPC program, which was mentioned in the last review, for FS-Meteo to talk to FS2002. By the way it works as well with FS2000. In the flight plan mode FS-Meteo will seek for the nearest reporting station enroute and update your weather to the real world situation. So you can run your whole flight at home before heading into the real world, or better still when you decided not to go because of lousy weather, you can go home and try it whilst sipping coffee and staying safe. Seriously this program adds yet another level of virtual reality and has tremendous training utility. It will decode the weather from the code into plain language, both at starting point and destination. There are too many preferences to cover them all. Overall FS-Meteo remains a 5-Star in my book. Well worth the money. Keep up the good work Marc.

» Enroute Weather Example

Summary:

Installation: 5/5
Registration 5/5
Ease of Use 5/5
Value 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Check out online at http://www.fsmeteo.com or at http://www.fssharecenter.com/fsmeteo Author: Marc Philibert Now up to version 5.1 and this works on both FS2002 and FS2000. Cost $24.99

Fscene

Author Ruud Faber from the Netherlands, decided that all the N American textures installed by Microsoft were not fitting for his country, indeed for Europe in general. So he set about redesigning the textures for that part of the world for FS2002. The Bitmap textures for the U.S. tend to have less green and also certain types of trees so various people are trying to alter textures to give us more variation around the world. Ruud Faber has taken several hundred Bitmaps and painstakingly improved the textures. So you simply back up the textures file and replace it with his download. This improves Europe in general and the enclosed pictures (especially if seen in colour) will show the detail. This makes VFR flying at say 5000' a wonderful scenery experience and it does not slow frame rates much at all. If you are planning to sight see in Europe with a small plane in FS2002 then give serious consideration to this visual add-on for your enjoyment. It does not interfere with any airports or cities and makes for very relaxing touring. Seen on my 21' Dell Monitor (picked up on ebay) it is quite breathtaking. This program is a difficult one to write an analytical review of because it simply improves a whole area of scenery and just needs installing and then you just go fly around Europe VFR. Major improvement on textures. Maybe a little overpriced.

» Somewhere in California

The first (California) picture illustrates a fairly arid part of N America and the next three show the new scenery over Holland. Note the richness and variation, even though there are more coniferous areas in U.S.A. and Canada.

» Elsewhere in Holland

» Another Shot from Holland

» Final Holland Example

Summary:

Installation: 5/5
Registration 4/5
Ease of Use 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Purchase at http://home.quicknet.nl/qn/prive/rfaber or email the program designer. The program cost is about $34

CaptainSim

From this very advanced group I want to introduce a couple of packages in our quest for superb add-ons. CaptainSim represents a group of three Russian ex-fighter pilots who have made major efforts to represent to us westerners what the real planes were like in the Russian military. Two recent packages illustrate this.

The Aero L-39:
L-39 trainer Package, includes L-39 models for Fs2000, FS2002 and Combat and also the Konotop AFB in the Ukraine and the TLK-39C Pilot Training Device. This whole package sells for $29 and can be downloaded direct.

I had the luck to go and fly an L-39 in Russia in 1993, so when the chance to review CaptainSim's L-39 arose I was quite happy to do it. The L-39 is more of a trainer 2-seat jet with a top speed of about 450 m.p.h. so it is not a screamer, but it handles delightfully and is a good introduction to jet piloting. What is most impressive is the whole package and the interactive manual.

» Interactive Manual Screen

On the installation, the program self-installs but the first time I did it I had planes with no panels. On a Sunday I emailed the Ukrains and had an answer within 10 minutes. A simple reinstall and the plane was installed. Until you register you get an ugly Red sign blocking most of the horizon (it had to be RED didn't it guys!) and the registration process could be made more user friendly without losing piracy protection. They could have a mini-demo download or a 5 minute engine running download and then a full download on pay-up. It might be easier. I like the way Lago does it.

The TLK-39C user manual is an online interactive Flash driven full description of the panel and start-up etc etc. All area charts and navaids are included here, which of course apply to the Konotop AFB. These are original Russian AF issue and are interesting historically. Of course an online database like this needs a high speed connection and will be a pain for 56K users, but you could download the pages once you have access. This comes with the TLK and L-39 package. You move your space age pointer over each item on the panel online and then click for further details on each item. Very professionally set up and may be the beginning of a new trend. This is an improvement on Microsoft's cheap way out of no longer providing a decent manual with their program.

The only problem is juggling the online instrument panel with trying to fly, so you need to study it ahead, Engine noises and panel switch noises are about the best I have heard. The canopy is hinged and all details such as rotating wheels, double slotted flaps etc are accurate and unlike many panels, almost everything you point the mouse at will do something. For an owner, everything is accurate, including start up details and the difficult ground steering at low speeds. There are no brake foot pedals on the L-39.

Take off at about 150 Km/h and fly around at about 600 Km/h and for approach 300-280 Km/h (I remember looking at the numbers in the real plane and thinking 'whoa approach 280' but its that metric thing!) wheels down, full flaps and don't go below 230 Km/h and the landings are easy. There is also a CD available, which I did not get a look at, but which sets the background and history in more details for aficionados.

» Inside the Cockpit

» Russian Aeronautical Chart

» Aircraft In Flight

Konotop Scenery: This small add-on sets you at a real AFB in the Ukraine and has many details on the ground and is certainly worth it with the package, providing static and dynamic scenery to set the mood. On loading it I found the instructions rather vague and had to email the Ukraine again, 5 minutes later came a reply. The scenery installs itself into ….scenedb/cities and that is where you look to add it once you have flightsim running. That is not well explained in the instructions and I am used to scenery going in its own folder or in the Add-on folder. The problem was quickly solved.

Summary:
Installation: 4/5
Registration 3/5
Ease of Use 5/5
Value 5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

Mikoyan Mig-21:
The Mig-21 package.

Well after the L-39 this package takes your breath away. I defy anyone to jump in this sim and do an afterburner take-off and go blasting up to 40,000' and not feel like they just won at Jeopardy. The panel is superb with a full virtual panel. This is specifically designed for FS2002. In this plane you rotate at around 120 Kts (225 Kms) and with afterburners on head off the ground at close to 180 Kts, climbing like a homesick angel, to close to Mach 1. The sound package is a full test for speakers and subwoofers especially with afterburners on. The details in the cockpit will occupy you for hours as you find out what everything does. Captain Simulations took their L-39 package and went even further with this one. The realism in the retracting wheel wells sets a high standard for other commercial developers to follow. You will have a landing chute and full night lighting, even a little periscope for the instructor to see the front cockpit. The virtual cockpit views and the details available in the outside views (see photos) are amongst the best I have ever seen. The technical details for handling make this plane a real challenge to real pilots and non-pilot flightsimmers alike.

» Ready To Taxi

» Outside, On the Runway

The accompanying manual warns you 'See less than 162 KIAS (300 Km/h on approach? You are dead' and indicates that spool up takes 12 secs and that you need to keep 70% power on approach. A Cessna 182 this is definitely not. The landing is a careful approach from 12 Kms out and 243 Kts to a final approach of 172 Kts.

» Heading to Lower Altitude

» Aircraft In Flight

This is a great intro to the Mig-21 and the training package and web access you gain after the download are great. This package should appeal to advanced Flightsimmers and all pilots, especially those that really like a challenge to gain some inside information to one of the greatest planes of all times.

Summary:
Installation: 5/5
Registration 3/5
Ease of Use 5/5
Value 5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5

The legendary Mig-21 package sells for $19.95 and runs on FS2002 only. For details and direct online purchase contact: http://www.web-captain.com/ or http://www.fssharecenter.com/.

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About This Author:
John Dale has been a member of COPA for thirty years, since he began to fly. He has accumulated 2500 hours on 65 types of aeroplanes and added Flight Simming to his addiction about two years ago. He is an Aviation Medical Examiner in Nelson BC, where he belongs to the Nelson Pilot’s Association. He also runs Flynorth.com, which offers aerial tours to the north, as well as a database of BC and northern flying tips. Details of this can be found at www.FlyNorth.com.
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