FDC Live Cockpit! Review
Platform: Flight Simulator 2004
Review By Chris W. Balmer -
December 13 2004
'This exciting, feature packed Add-on enhances the virtual world for every aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator. FDC Live Cockpit! brings the PC Pilots flight deck to life with full crew audio enhancements and a complete airport ambience including boarding sounds etc.' These words are taken from the publishers product page. Chris W. Balmer has made a check flight for you, to find out how much improvements you will really get for your money....
It has been a while since I wrote a review of an MSFS add-on, but what better way to get back into the saddle than a utility that adds some company to the flightdeck for you! This review will cover the FDC Live cockpit add-on brought to us by Aerosoft. This version is not to be confused with the earlier versions of Flightdeck Companion made by Dave March of OnCourse Software.
Aerosoft Has More:
“The complete interactive sound environment for every aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator. (Flight Deck Companion). This exciting, feature packed Add-on enhances the virtual world for every aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator. FDC Live Cockpit! brings the PC Pilots flight deck to life with full crew audio enhancements and a complete airport ambience including boarding sounds etc. He can choose from 15 different flight deck voice sets and can even add his own voice variations. In addition he can choose cabin crew announcements in many different languages and dialects.
A virtual co-pilot catapults the reality feeling to new heights in flight simulation. Audio checklists with many interactive items underline the professional approach in flying an aircraft. Numerous flight deck calls are based on the aircraft type, weight and speed. The user can hear the captain making flap and gear calls at the correct time to which the virtual co-pilot will respond to and will operate gear and flaps. Custom aircraft files for all Microsoft default and numerous add-on aircraft are included and a checklist and performance editor will let the user add any aircraft he likes. Numerous presets are ready for a quick and professional flight. Still the program is fully configurable to fit the needs of each and every aircraft and pilot. Also included: a Flight Log, Blackbox Log and many, many more items, which will make the Flightsimmer a happy pilot.
Up, up and away!
So, what do we think of it then? Find out by reading the review!
To begin with after you have purchased this add-on from the Simmer Market, you must download it – the download is 250Mb so I would recommend some sort of download manager if at all possible to ensure that you successfully download the file in one hit! The one zip files should then be unpacked, and all you have to do is run the setup.exe file. The installation procedure is extremely straightforward – you will be prompted to enter your name and registration key before the install completes though, so ensure that you are connected to the Internet at this point. Should you not be connected, the security system will not work properly, and installation will halt – you can contact Aerosoft directly to get a work around for this if necessary. The package will expand to about a total of 450Mb on your hard drive, so ensure that you have at least that amount free before installation!
Once the installation is complete, your Windows Start folders will have a nice shiny new entry allowing you to run the program, and look at the manual in either a windows help file or in PDF format. Obviously the manual will be your first port of call! ;-) In this case, I would strongly advise that you do read the manual first……..the reason being that this add-on is not just of the “load and go” variety – you will need to understand how it works to really make it work for you! I am not going to go into the manual in detail for you, but suffice to say we will cover the fundamentals that you will NEED to go through!
Getting stuck in!
Fire up FDC and you will see a screen that is the front-end of the application – the key to using this is to concentrate on the buttons on the right hand side(please note that you will need a copy of FSUIPC for FDC to talk to MSFS). The options button will present you with the ability to make LOTS of changes – these include the aircraft you are going to fly, flightdeck calls, cabin info, GPWS, voice sets, hotkeys setup, volumes, the blackbox, and flightlog amongst many others. One advisable tip is to run the update function - this will connect you up to the web and let you download several updates for the program – these include foreign language voice sets, program updates, and even some images of aircraft to be seen whilst you are selecting them for your flight.
Let’s take the program through its paces and select one of the built in flights, of which there are 6 – these introductory flights will help you to learn how to use this add-on to full effect as well as taking in some good scenery and audio. The first flight is made in the default Cessna 182RG around London Luton (EGGW). Before you load up the flight it is key to setup FDC properly so you must select the correct aircraft from the options and then request automatic checklists – the manual will guide you through altering settings for altitude callouts, takeoff and approach checklists etc. Once you are happy with the settings, click on the big connect button! MSFS will then be restored and you can load the demo flight as per usual within MSFS. Once MSFS is back in focus, all you have to do is connect it to FDC by using the menu options – and then you are off!
Check, check, and check again!
The manual covers the various keystrokes that you will need to get the checklists started, but in this case we will hit Ctrl-Shift-A to start the welcome aboard audio (overkill perhaps for such a small aircraft but hey!!) Once this has completed, press Ctrl-Space to start the Pre Start checklist – all of the required checks will be read out and your co-pilot will make any necessary changes for you in order to comply with the checklist – now you will really begin to feel like the Pilot Flying!! Should something in the checklist be amiss, then you must correct it and then continue! Super stuff!
You will then run through the start-up, after start, taxi, and before takeoff checklists – this is where FDC really adds to your flying sessions, as you can easily become immersed in the work required to get your aircraft to the threshold, let alone in the air! Once you do become airborne, the checklists continue with after takeoff, and then cruise checks. When you get to the stage of descent and approach, more checklists are carried out (phew – getting busy here in even in a 182RG – how do the guys in a B744 do this!!). As you descend on finals, there is plenty of audio to keep you busy, the GPWS makes altitude callouts, and you are still flying whilst keeping an eye on everything….flap movements are made for you, leaving you to concentrate on the centreline! Taxiing checklists will be carried out as you slow down enough and head towards the gate….and then the parking checks follow once you have put the brakes on. I would suggest that you try the first flight a few times to get acquainted with this extra company on your own, then mix in a bit of ATC, or perhaps even some online ATC courtesy of a VATSIM like function – when you have all of this mixed up, you will feel like you are really up there.
On the subject of audio, ATC Chatter functionality is provided, allowing you to install your own ATC Chatter files which FDC will play at predetermined times during your flight. These files can be grouped geographically and also into controller sections (ground, tower, departure, approach, enroute, etc.). These controller folders can also be subdivided into specific COM frequency folders if you wish. FDC detects any COM frequency change and checks for folders within the correct controller section of the same name, making this a very flexible and powerful feature indeed. (please note: This feature does not detect your geographical position and this has to be set for each flight. i.e. You select the geographical area of departure and arrival plus various areas you will pass through en route.) Airport ambience sounds are also provided (recorded specifically). These are configurable dependent on the size of the departure and destination airports (e.g. Small, medium or large). So if you prefer to fly to/from the smaller type airports you may not wish to hear the sounds of large jet airlines taking off, landing and taxiing. Using these options allow you to configure FDC to your exact liking.
Let’s play with this and that…
Now the real beauty of the FDC software is just how much you can customise it! You can tinker and play with virtually all of the settings including the flightdeck crew accents, the languages used, the items to include and exclude on the checklists, the complexity of a large variety of aircraft ranging from the small Cessnas to an Airbus A340, the configuration of the aircraft being flown with emphasis on tailoring of V speeds, flap speeds etc., and checklists can be edited directly. There is even more available to customise, but we would be here all day going through it all – this is what I call control!!! To enhance the software further there is also a configurable Joystick/Yoke controller key assignments expander utility (ControllerX). Unlike the default MSFS controller assignments options, this feature allows you to program the buttons on your controller for different phases of the flight (e.g. parked, taxi, takeoff, cruise, approach, landing, etc.), and these are switched automatically. So, if you're limited on the number of buttons available on your controller, this utility can expand your hardware’s capability by a long way. You may want your controller buttons assigned to one set of keystrokes whilst taxing and something quite different when ready for takeoff. ControllerX allows you to do just that! – Superb!
The logging functions of FDC include the Flight Log - this captures your total flying time for each flight. You choose at which point of the flight you wish to start and end the clock and FDC takes care of the rest - very useful for the VA pilots amongst you or just to check how many hours you do actually spend in your virtual world (perhaps it would not be wise to show this to your partner!) To work alongside the flight log, there is also a Blackbox Log – this provides a wealth of flight information for those that want to know exactly how fast their last landing was… did they have the correct pitch on touchdown… what was their rate of descent during finals… when did the Captain call for 'gear up' during takeoff and when did the copilot actually carry out the captain's instruction, etc, etc. This was originally designed for bug-tracking purposes during development as the Blackbox Log records almost everything you do during each flight and is easily displayed from within the program.
I cannot comment on how different this version from Aerosoft is from the v1.6 and previous versions provided by OnCourse software, but I suspect that a natural evolution has taken place with the odd tweak here and there having been applied. The developers of this product have done a superb job, and I cannot see many people using this and then not using it – it simply brings your simming sessions to life in a big, big way providing you with so much more audio, help, and automation (again – the levels of automation can be configured to your personal tastes!!) I did not encounter any problems whatsoever whilst using this software, which is quite unique in my opinion! If you want to move up a level, then get this piece of software now!
ADDON GAMEPLAY: 4.8/5
ADDON FEATURES: 4.6/5
ADDON INTERFACE: 4.9/5
AIRCRAFT ENVIRONMENT: 5/5
ADDON SOUNDS: 5/5
FINAL MARK: 5/5
Review & Screenshots by Chris W. Balmer
- PIV 3.2 GhZ
- 2GB RAM BUS - 800mhz
Nvidia 5900 Ultra 256Mb GFX
with last drivrers
- Audigy 4
- HARD DISK WD 350GB Serial ATA
- Windows XP PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PACK 2
- Flight Simulator 2004
Fly time: ~10 hours
Comments by Harrier Panels, Inc.:
FDC Live Cockpit! brings your cockpit to life and gives each virtual pilot the true joy and sensation in the very realistic environment. Highly recommended!