Flight Simulator 2004: A full time pilot's perspective

Flight Simulator 2004: A full time pilot's perspective

Written by Charles Husemann on 9/3/2003 for

The following is the second part of our three part look at Flight Simulator 2004:A Century in Flight. You can find the first part, a part time pilot's perspective here. This segment is from Steve, a full time pilot with a national air carrier.

“When I was first asked to give my thoughts on Flight Simulator 2004:A Century in FlightI had the review from one point of view. The Bush Pilot’s, Being a Pilot in Alaska for 5 years and now flying corporate jets, I don’t often fly flightsim in the “lower 48” Flying up in Alaska is about the prettiest place I know. So I loaded up my trusty Caravan and headed up to Alaska to play in the mountains. I started to Valdez (PAVD) and flew VFR to Anchorage (PANC). The addition of Terrain mesh scenery is a welcomed change as it saves the time of downloading some 3rd party, and it looked real nice. But MAN did it chew up my computer. This is for a serious program requiring a serious computer. My 1.1g Athlon could not handle the load. With frame rates averaging 5fps I soon found it very hard to enjoy. But hey I’m a bush pilot right? We get the job done no matter what. The GPS was great. It really helped me find my way and being able to follow my progress on a moving map was more than most RW pilots get to enjoy. But try to enter a new flight plan and it’s another story, more on that later. I flew past naked island and headed up Prince William Sound. The airplane (Cessna 208) has always been one of my one of my favorites and as I guided her down the sound it was still pretty easy to get lost in the scenery. So far the biggest improvements I’ve noticed is the GPS and the scenery. The weather started getting rough and my tiny plane was tossed, it was time to get a clearance. I called up ATC and they vectored in to Anchorage for the ILS 14 and once again I was able to finish a day having a cup of coffee instead of being bear meat on the side of a mountain some where. I will admit one of the reasons this review is so late was I couldn’t get the desire to go back and fly with the low frame rates!! So I didn’t. You really do need a fast computer for this one.

I then went over to Chucks to evaluate Fs20004 on a computer that could HANDLE IT. Chuck has a Pentium 4 2.6 GHZ with 1 GB of RAM and a GeForce4 TI4400. We loaded up Flight Simulator 2004:A Century in Flight, set it up on 2 monitors and went all the way on the graphics. Man was I disappointed to see the frames rates low again. I later decided to forget the whole 2 monitor thing as IT WAS more hassle than it was worth. The cockpit was elongated (like watching the news on your widescreen tv). I adjusted the different windows so I had the cockpit in one monitor and all the other stuff in the other (throttle quadrant, radio stack, GPS and others). While it was pretty nice at first I soon found out you can’t switch to full screen mode (hitting the “W” once) because it went back to using both monitors with your focal point right in between the two monitors. The other frustrating part was that we couldn’t get the game to save the settings so every time we switched flights we had to re-setup all of the windows. Switching back to one monitor seemed much more to my liking.

With all the VA’s (Virtual Airlines) out there I figured I’d take a look at Flight Simulator 2004:A Century in Flight from a professional Pilots point of view. I went ahead and made an IFR flight plan using the flight planner in fs2004. I really like this flight planner (to be honest I’ve used it in RW a couple of times). Got in the King Air and called ATC for clearance. I don’t know how they did the ATC but its pretty slick (not much change from Flight Simulator 2002). Got all messed up on trying to Slew the airplane to runway 14 (it was the active). I could not for the life of me figure out where the heck was airplane was, while slewing. Yes I know it’s cheating to slew to the active but I was trying to same time.. At any rate I soon found my self AIRBORN!!!!!! Without a clearance!!!!!!! Man was the controller PISSED!!!! He stated barking at me telling me I wasn’t cleared for flight and I just ignored him It was pretty cool to do be able to do that knowing I wouldn’t get violated . He finally gave up on me and cancelled my IFR.

Well I wanted to do a real flight so I just went back and landed (without a clearance again ;-) ) and taxied clear of the runway. I parked in a hanger area near 14 so as not to run into that slewing problem again and tried to call for another clearance. Well the part of the airport I was on was for Lake Hood, the adjacent water strip. It has it’s own tower, ground and clearance delivery frequency separate from PANC. There was no way, short of moving the plane, to get an Anchorage frequency on the ATC window. So I moved the plane. Got my taxi instructions and soon was on my way. I decided to cancel IFR and fly up turnigan arm VFR to, once again, do some sight seeing. Well the weather got real bad again (I always use real world weather) and it soon became too hard to fly VFR. I decided to change my destination to Port Hieden on the Alaska Peninsula. We will now talk about the GPS onboard.

As I flew the king air, and later the Boeing 737, the GPS became less exciting. Those of you who’ve used 3rd party FMS’s should hang on to them. To put it plainly, the GPS was “SO General Aviation!!!!!” This is NOT the equipment found in modern airliners. A few simple functions separate this GPS from being a real slick FMS. It would be nice to set a flight plan into the GPS/FMS while actually fling to keep things “as real as it gets”. It my case my diversion had to be completely re filled using the FS2004 flight planner. I was taken completely out of the airplane. Not to mention having to file from a specific airport then intercept at some point later down the raod. I’ll admit my experience with flight sim’s GPS was fairly limited but it did NOT seem possible (or at least easy) to fly “present position” direct to a waypoint on your flight plan then continue as filled. Although it wasn’t hard to use the moving map going direct to a fix would decrease the pilots workload. There were some flaws in the ATC programming at this point for reasons I’m not sure, but even though I re-filled and switched to an IFR flight plan the altitudes I was assigned were not really Legal IFR altitudes. I would also like to see a means of getting weather reports to airport using methods other than ATIS. Once again, most FMS’s in all the modern jets (airlines and Business) have links to get text weather. I wouldn’t think that would be too hard to accomplish be able to get weather via the FMS.

In short, for those of you who fly for those VA’s about all you’re gonna get with Flight Simulator 2004:A Century in Flight is some cool Eye candy and a few old planes. For the General Aviation Pilots there are a lot of improvements. The weather scenarios are great, the GPS is much improved. There ARE a lot of extra flying scenarios with the extra planes. I loved taking the Ford Tri-Motor out to Kelly’s Island in Lake Erie!”

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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