Flight Crew A320 for MSFS has been updated to Version 1.3. The PMDG 747 QOTS II version of FS2Crew has been updated to Version 1.9. New Products Under Development. The only official PMDG endorsed flight and cabin crew expansion pack for the PMDG 747 V3 Queen of the Skies II for FSX & P3D! Following in the footsteps of the hugely popular FS2Crew: PMDG 737 NGX Reboot expansion pack for the PMDG 737, comes the next installment in the FS2Crew franchise: FS2Crew: PMDG 747 QOTS II Edition. This bundle includes 2 products: 1. FS2Crew for the PMDG 747 Queen of the Skies II (Voice and Button Control) 2. FS2Crew: RAAS Professional (Unlocked – Works with All Aircraft. J ust for everyone to know this is not a complete review from scratch per say. I had the pleasure of reviewing the button version of this software a while ago in September 2008 (read original PMDG 747 Edition review) and found it to be a great product.Obviously this was before Mr. York at FS2crew started developing the Voice Commander versions of his product and really knocked it out of. FS2Crew Legacy Product Support. FS2CREW: PMDG 737 NGX (FSX Legacy Version) FS2CREW: PMDG 747 (Legacy Voice Control) FS2CREW: IFLY 737NG; FS2CREW: LEVEL-D 767 (FSX Voice Control).
Just for everyone to know this is not a complete review from scratch per say. I had the pleasure of reviewing the button version of this software a while ago in September 2008 (read original PMDG 747 Edition review) and found it to be a great product. Obviously this was before Mr. York at FS2crew started developing the Voice Commander versions of his product and really knocked it out of the park.
Anyway for various reasons I had the queen (PMDG 747-400) locked up in a hangar with no air time whatsoever for a VERY long time. Not very long ago I got a promotion at my VA (www.phoenixva.org) and with it came the ability to bid flights on the 747 so once again I got back to flying the queen.
I was very glad to learn that although this product has been around for a long time, and its FS2Crew version was only a button offering, Bryan York decided to bring the 747 to the new age, and give us a voice version. I was happy to jump up and offer to review it hence here we are. Operationally the voice version is the same as button, so I am bringing back the old review and adding my thoughts on the voice version.
The download version of the software comes in a 115 MB zip file that gets quickly downloaded after the usual credit card swipe. Installation is about as easy as it gets for a payware. There is no online activation, just your straight download get your code through email and install. All in all the installation process should not take more than 15 minutes.
The software comes with your usual start center that you need to set certain basic parameters for the software to work. You will need to assign certain FS2Crew functions to your keyboard or joysticks, and you have the ability to choose the voices that will be used for checklists and interactions between the pilots. The installation, start center, and voices are about the only things that are the same between the 767 FS2Crew and the PMDG 747 X FS2Crew.
lying the virtual skies is fun, but the novelty of being up there on your own only lasts so long, which is one of the reasons why Microsoft gave us diversions like AI traffic and in-game ATC - together, they turn every flight into an adventure.
But what next? Well, some folk turn to on-line flying and the world of VATSIM in search of greater realism, but there is a step beyond, which can be used in single player mode or combined with virtual ATC as you will, to give what must be the nearest approach to captaining a real plane that is possible - and that is to install an FS2Crew product.
FS2Crew has been around for awhile and I gave the FS2004 Flight1 ATR edition an enthusiastic review in spring 2006, although this is just one of an entire family of FS2Crew products for FS2004 and now, FSX. Etabs crack. The product line is the brainchild of Bryan York, developer and publisher, and the best compliment I can pay him is that I have been consistently impressed with his work.
So what does FS2Crew actually do, Andrew?
I guess the idea originally came from the FS2002 era, which was the time when it became increasingly standard for addon planes began to sport virtual co-pilots. These co-pilots weren't up to much and generally limited themselves to V-speed callouts, but they proved to be very popular. What FS2Crew does is to take the virtual co-pilot idea all the way to its logical conclusion and provide you with a second pair of hands - and a voice - in the cockpit throughout any flight. But there is more to it than that, because each 'edition' is specific to a particular type of airplane and using it forces you to fly the way the pros do, because FS2Crew addons are based on real life cockpit procedures and you cannot deviate from them any more than a real crew can. The FS2004 lineup includes editions for the default Cessna 172 and Boeing 737, the PMDG 737NG and 747, and the Level-D 767 in addition to the Flight 1 ATR; hot off the press for FSX we have editions for the default Cessna 172 and the default Boeing 747, which is the edition I am going to take a look at here. You can see the complete collection of FS2Crew editions here.
The package is available as an instant download from the Pilot Shop and weighs in at over a hundred megs, so if you don't have broadband, the CD-ROM version might be more attractive. Installation didn't provide any challenges other than the usual copyright protection key, and when everything was done, I had a new program group with links to the FS2Crew 'start center', an 81 page main ops manual and a 7 page quick start manual. Since the main manual talks you all the way through configuring FSX and a tutorial flight, I suggest you start there, because there is a lot to learn and the quick start manual is probably more suited to experienced FS2004 FS2Crew users.
Before you read any further, running FS2Crew assumes that you will follow the procedures given for flying the default 747 exactly. Any deviation from the 'rules' means that stuff you expect to happen won't happen - at worst it can completely derail the smooth operation of the addon - so for example, if you don't play the approach brief on time, FS2Crew's descent mode won't activate and crucial descent related events will get skipped. Given that the FSX GPS doesn't calculate a top of descent point (TOD), this means that you have to continually keep an eye on the distance to run to your destination and trigger the brief using the 3 to 1 rule (i.e. if you are cruising at FL310, you should begin the descent about 100 nm out). If you are the kind of person who leaves the 747 on autopilot to bore holes in the virtual sky while you are watching TV, missing the TOD is an odds-on certainty and FS2Crew 747 edition is not going to be your bag, because it doesn't tolerate pilots sideslipping in from thirty K overly well - but if you are after almost the last word in realism, then read on, because this addon was developed with and voiced over by, a real 747 pilot.
'Almost' the last word? Yeah, there are some limitations on the product. Unlike the PMDG or Flight 1 planes, which simulate virtually every single switch and system found in the cockpit of the real thing, the FSX 747 default edition of FS2Crew has to work around the Microsoft 747, which is much simplified compared to the real thing. The up side of this is that you don't have so much learning to do and after a few flights with the manual by your side you should be able to fly the FS2Crew-enhanced 747 without prompting; the down side is that it misses out some of the operations involved in managing the real plane - but it will give you a very good idea of what FS2Crew products for top-end sims like the Level-D 747 are like. Beyond that, FS2Crew default 747 edition is fun and, what is more, you not only get to hear the voices of the cabin and ground crew, but on some flights will end up having to deal with situations beyond anything FSX's developers imagined, like sick passengers. For the money, the addon provides entertainment that is hard to beat.
First stop is to ensure that when FSX loads, it loads the 2D panel, rather than the virtual cockpit; given that there are dire warnings in the manual about loading the plane in anything except 2D panel view resulting in crashes to the desktop. On the plus side, you can load the 747 direct, without having to load the default C172 first, as was the case for the FS2004 F1 ATR edition. What you must also do is to configure two buttons, ideally on your yoke or joystick, as FS2Crew's 'main' and 'secondary' buttons - these will be your main method of interacting with the addon. Next, you must visit the start center, which lets you specify the captain's name and the various other information necessary for fill in the flight documentation. In practice, it isn't necessary to do this, but if you skip the data entry stage, your pre-flight paperwork will be inaccurate - although since most of the data is only there for show, it doesn't particularly matter if you enter the wrong callsign or SID at this stage. Finally, you can start FSX and import a flight plan, so that the GPS can generate a route and place the plane on the departure ramp at your chosen airport - you can fly from anywhere to any other place, FS2Crew does not care as long as you follow all the standard inflight procedures. Be clear that FS2Crew is not an adventure that allows you to do a single flight in the 747 - the world is literally your oyster and once you have sorted how to use it, you can use FSX's built-in ATC, or Squawkbox, or any other aid to virtual flying you care to name. What FS2Crew does is to create a realistic cockpit environment within the FSX 747.
As you will already have figured out, you don't actually talk to FS2Crew, it runs in the background and responds either to things that the 747 does, or keypresses from you and as long as you can live with this, the process feels remarkably real. Once you are sat in the left hand seat, your first action is to click on the standby altimeter, which pulls up the FS2Crew main selector panel (MSP). The MSP is a strip of simicons that are used to trigger aircraft modes like engine start, or checklists, or interaction with other crew members. The icons are laid out so that with a few exceptions you work across them from left (preflight) to right (shutdown) and as an aid memoire, a yellow light appears on the active button so that if you have a senior moment you can see at a glance where you are and that the present action or checklist has not completed. Once you are established in cruise, there will be long periods of flight where FS2Crew is virtually inactive and you can hide the strip by clicking on the white pin at its left hand end. I had a couple of small problems with the MSP: if you run FSX in windowed mode, part of the menu overlaps the top of the MSP, making it tough to see the yellow lights; and if you run it in full screen mode, the FSX menu and the MSP fight it out for the focus to some extent.
So let's go through a preflight and takeoff. This isn't intended to be an exhaustive run through, but should be enough to give you a flavor. The extreme left hand button on the strip is labelled FP and clicking it brings up the Flight Planning dialog (FPD), which also activates FS2Crew. Pressing start automatically shuts down the engines, opens the outer doors and connects the jetway if there is one available; you are in charge, captain. At the top of the FPD is a timer, set at 45 minutes, which sounds like an age to preflight a plane in, but as anyone who has used the FS2004 ATR edition will attest, it is little enough when you first use that addon. Bearing this in mind, I was expecting to be rushed, but the FSX default 747 edition of FS2Crew presents the opposite problem, which is that the paucity of switches and systems in Microsoft's 747 leaves you twiddling your fingers for long periods of time - there actually isn't enough to do! For instance, between 38 minutes and 26 minutes before takeoff, your only duties are to enter V2 in the MCP speed window, set the heading and altitude, press the NAV switch, arm the flight director and autothrottle and to do the oxygen tests. At best it takes about two minutes to do all of that, leaving you with ten more to kill - but there is a solution at hand, because each left click on the FPD timer knocks a minute off the wait; although be careful if you resort to this, as it is possible to overshoot critical time points and there is no going back. When the FO gets back from his walk around at 26 minutes, the pace picks up a little and you will be presented with the takeoff performance chart if you click the correct button on the MSP.
I would suggest printing out the manual before you make any flights, and putting it in a ring binder, because flipping between FSX and the manual will drive you nuts otherwise. One of the options on the Flight Planner dialog is to skip all the pre-departure events, which is a neat idea, because it means that you can launch FS2Crew while the 747 is in flight and skip all the tedious stuff at the beginning.. but then we didn't buy this addon to do that, did we? (-: Another refinement is that there is a pause button on the MSP, which can be used to pause FS2Crew - hitting the FSX pause button doesn't have any effect on the addon. You will learn to love that pause button.
One of the problems with running through the checklists that follow is that most of the time you have to imagine what is going on - for example, when the FO gets to the hydraulic system workflow, the obvious problem is that the default 747 doesn't have a hydraulic system, but at least you get to hear him go through the lists as if it did have one. Many items have to be responded to, which you do by pressing the FS2Crew 'main' button you configured earlier on. The developer has done his best to add interest, so when you get to the MCP challenges, a soft keypad pops up, allowing you to ender the V2, heading and alt settings, which the captain's voice then reads back. Pushback is handled in a similar way, with a sub-panel that pops up and allows you to specify how far you want pushed back, which way the tail needs to go and to what angle, so you should be able to get maneuvered out of just about anywhere - then comes the engine start. Once you are into this particular checklist, successive presses of the 'main' button have you tell the FP to start engines 4 and 3; then 1 and 2; then clear the start crew to unhook; then tell the FO to shut down the APU; and then tell him to set takeoff flaps. It takes a bit of practice to get past this stage, as you have to wait for the FO to complete each task before telling him to start on the next, but it is kind of magical to hear voices in the cockpit.
I'll leave the flight there, as the crew prepare to taxi, but you should have a flavor of what this version of FS2Crew is about. There are a couple of inevitable kludges in there, one of which is that although the FO says he will get taxi clearance from ATC, in practice you have to get it, because FS2Crew isn't smart enough to do that kind of stuff (yet), but on the whole this doesn't get in the way of the fun of using an app which adds an extra dimension to flight simulation.
Given the fact that the default 747 is such a stripped down item, is it worth buying this app? I guess a lot depends on your level of experience with Flight Simulator: if you can run an FS2Crew for the FS2004 ATR flight without breaking into a sweat, then the default 747 FSX edition is going to seem kind of dull; on the other hand, if you have never used any of the FS2Crew editions and would like to see what they are about, then this edition is an ideal way in. The reason I say this is that you won't get overwhelmed with tasks requiring an intimate understanding of the panel of a complex addon plane and you can even start off without using ATC to give you space to concentrate on getting the cockpit workflow right. Then you can add in ATC and introduce yourself to the challenge of dealing with the 747 checklists, the FO and ATC all at once, and when you have mastered that, enough time will have passed that there should be some complex airliner addons out and some FS2Crew editions so you can start doing it the hard way.
Fs2crew 747 Seat MapAndrew Herd