|Minimum System Requirement:|
|Microprocessor Class:||100% Pentium III or AMD Athlon/64|
|RAM Memory Needed:||128 MB|
|Hard Drive Space Needed:||1 GB|
|Hardware Needed:||CD-ROM drive|
|Graphics Hardware:||OpenGL compatible graphics card with at least 64 MB|
|Sound Hardware:||100% DirectX compatible sound card|
|Operating System:||Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP w/DirectX v. 9.0b or higher|
|Control & Input Jack:||A free USB port and a trainer output on your transmitter or the included USB Tx/controller. (an optional interface adapter may be required depending on the brand of transmitter used)|
|Note||On a computer with the minimum system requirements, the performance strongly depends on the model and scenery loaded. (i.e. stay away from the photo realistic sceneries and large, highly detailed airships.)|
|Recommended System Requirements:|
|Microprocessor Class||100% Pentium IV or AMD 64 compatible processor with at least 1600 MHz|
|RAM Memory Needed||256 MB|
|Graphics Hardware||OpenGL compatible graphics card with at least 128 MB|
|Note:||For more information, especially on graphics cards, please visit aerofly.com|
|For more information:||AeroFly Homepage|
|Price at the time of this writing:||$200 (with Tx/controller) or $180 (with USB adapter/trainer plug)|
There are many reasons, both for and against, to purchase a simulator. Here, we will consider the ever-reliable Aerofly Professional Deluxe simulator, by Ikarus.
12 New Models
4 New Photo Sceneries
2 New 3D Sceneries
|Computer||HP Pavilion a1310n|
|Processor||AMD Athlon 64 3700+|
|Processor Speed||2.19 GHz|
|Graphics Card||EVGA e-GeForce 6500|
The computer, I had on hand; it replaced my ailing 7 year-old "Franken-puter" last year.
The graphics card, I bought for this review. I found it at Circuit City for $80, less a $20 mail-in rebate. This card is about one tier up from the bottom of the line, yet it is perfect for the job. (It was only $10 more than the bargain basement model) AeroFly Professional Deluxe (AFPD) is not as demanding as the newer video games that are hitting the market for the PC these days, and I was happy to be able to get by with cheaper equipment.
The instructions included with the graphics card did a very good job of explaining how to do this. Anyone who can operate a screwdriver and follow instructions will be all right. Here's a short version of how to do it:
I didn't run into a single hitch during the installation.
Again, if you can follow instructions, you will have no problem with this. Just put the AFPD disc into your CD or DVD ROM drive and follow the on-screen directions. Answer 'I Agree' and 'Next' where applicable. Then, install the included expansion pack in the same manner. Finally, go to AeroFly's Downloads page and download and install the latest patch to ensure you've got the latest & greatest version of the software:
Once AFPD is installed, one can check on how well it is running by pressing the F9 key during simulation. This will bring up a small flight info that shows the number of frames per second (FPS) being displayed. For realistic simulation, this should always be above 33 fps. If AFPD is running slowly on your computer, there is an excellent chapter in the manual called Performance Tips that describes every opportunity to speed it up. Ikarus recommends a video card by either NVIDIA (such as the GeForce series) or ATI, because they have tested those cards specifically. Other cards compatible with OpenGL and with 128 MB of on-board memory will probably work fine though.
The last thing to do is to either plug in the USB transmitter/controller that came with the package, or set up your transmitter with the USB buddy cord as the controller on your computer. I reviewed the version that included the USB transmitter/controller. As of November 2006, it costs $200 while the version with the adapter cords for your transmitter costs $20 less. Price on the new package is the same no matter where you buy from.
It was about midnight when I got everything installed and ready to go. (I had a late start, the whole bit only took a couple hours) Already, I was excited to try out the sim, and I had a little laugh to myself as I looked out the window and saw the trees being whipped every which way by the 35°F 25 mph winds. It was nasty enough outside to take a little bit of the joy out of RC flying. Let's try some virtual flying at a nice, sunny field. Something aerobatic & expensive, if you please. ^_^
The instruction manual is an important part of any software or device that has a lot of features. The instruction manual supplied with the software Cd's is very good. It is a book about half the size of the typical 8½ x 11" piece of paper in the USA. It is in three languages; German, French, and English, and has a quality, glued-binding. (as opposed to the cheapo stapled "bindings")
I suspect that many hundreds of AFPD users out there are only getting about 70% of what AFPD has to offer because they didn't bother to read the manual. It's a shame really, but I can see how it would happen. A computer-literate user installs the software, and wants to get cracking. He or she messes around in the menus until he/she has figured out all the basics, and never looks back. If I model doesn't fly like he/she thinks it should, he/she downloads or buys another model.
Examples of features that many users will not figure out without reading the manual are:
It would be a shame to miss out on all this.
Before we get too far into the flying aspect, let me give you a brief history of how I learned to fly. I bought a T-Hawk, which is a ready-to-fly, pusher plane, and very tough. I read the instruction book, read in the Beginners forum here, and went to the field on a pretty calm day. I had 4 very short flights, and drilled that poor bird into the ground a few times, breaking some parts. Then, I came home and heeded everyone's advice, and downloaded FMS. I then practiced on FMS for several hours each night for about a week with a dual analog controller. Although FMS is sometimes criticized for not being ultra-realistic, it served its purpose. I learned the orientation, and I learned not to over-control.
The next time I went out with the T-Hawk I had several flights that were over 30 seconds, and even had a few intentional landings! At that point, I thought I was done with sims. I worked on flying the T-Hawk until I finally reached the point where I could fly three straight battery packs without crashing. Boy, was that ever a triumph!
If I were smart, I would have tried things on a simulator before I tried them on my models. But I'm not smart, I'm impatient. So I wrecked a couple more planes. My GWS Corsair taught me how to fly inverted, and how close to the ground I could get away with doing loops & rolls. (can you say "Figure 9"?) Unfortunately, it only lasted about a month as a direct result.
Fast forward about 8 months. My fleet has grown to about 10 planes, including a sailplane, a trainer to replace the T-Hawk, a couple of pattern aerobatic planes, an aileron trainer, a couple of pusher jets, a flying wing, etc. I can fly all basic aerobatics and some basic 3D aerobatics. (Basic 3D cost me another two planes; I'm a slow learner sometimes)
Now I'm just learning to fly helis. There is a lot of crashing involved in flying helis, and crashing means lots of parts orders or making frequent trips to the hobby shop. Heli crashes are rarely free, and they are all too frequent when one is learning. I have two learner helis now, a coaxial "Co-Co Lama", and a fixed-pitch Honeybee, both RTF. I have a T-Rex 450 XL CDE still in the box. I don't dare build & fly it just yet. I'd either chop up something valuable, (such as myself) or have some spectacular crashes. That's going to have to wait until I can competently fly a similar model in AeroFly Pro Deluxe.
Within the first week of heli ownership & learning, I had spent about $75 in parts for my $140 heli. Ouch. It was time to consider another learning route. A real model heli with an instructor and a trainer cord is probably the ideal way to go. But ideal situations are sometimes hard to come by. The next-most ideal is a simulator. Enter AFPD.
Enter AeroFly Professional Deluxe. (AFPD) After I got this installed on my computer and had my first crash, I smiled. This is free crashing, and if I want to, I can learn on the most expensive & dangerous 3D helicopter out there. As the manual says, every model in the simulator flies as if it has been properly trimmed & run in by a professional pilot. The weather is as nice or nasty as you program it to be. After the initial investment, I can concentrate on getting my reflexes tuned in without also worrying about my checkbook & my nerves. There are no surprise purchases after it is installed and working. (such as parts, wire harnesses, tools...)
Now, after a week of training on AFPD, I can hover my cheap FP heli tail in with very good precision. I can hover either side in as well, though not quite as precisely. Ditto with nose in; that takes a bit more room. Controlled forward flight is still hard. The hardest part for me is stopping without making all sorts of huge corrections and eating up all kinds of space.
Short Version - Very realistic, except landing is a bit too touchy on some models.
Long Version - I really couldn't find anything to fault except that the models with landing gear tended to bounce a little too much when landing. Also, many of the trainer-type models seemed a little low on power compared to what I expected. For example, the EasyStar model took quite a while to climb, longer even than my real one on stock power & a 7 cell NiMH pack. To be fair, we cannot blame Ikarus or AFPD for this, because it is an "aftermarket" model. I downloaded it from another site. The bright side is that if one practices flying one's model in AFPD, then goes to fly the same model for real, one would find that the real model has a bit more power on tap than one is used to.
The biggest fault of any sim, in my opinion, is that one has to choose between having peripheral vision (i.e. having the view "zoomed back") or seeing the aircraft with acceptable resolution. (i.e. having the view "zoomed-in") If one zooms back far enough to have peripheral vision, the model becomes a speck. If one zooms in on the model to see the detail of the model, peripheral vision is lost. This makes landings more challenging to line up than in reality. The bright side of that is that if one were to practice landings in AFPD, then go out with the real thing, one will have an easier time landing. It is kind of like studying the hardest material for a test so that when you go to take the test, the questions seem easy.
|AeroFly Professional Deluxe, w/Tx||$200|
|Multiplex EasyStar RTF||$190|
|Spare battery packs (2)||$50|
|Multiplex AcroMaster airframe||$100|
|6 ch. computer Tx, w/ Rx & two micro servos||$220|
|Two HS-81 servos||$30|
|ESC & BEC||$100|
|T-Rex 450XL kit||$175|
|Entry level brushless motor||$50|
|6 ch. computer Tx, w/ Rx & four micro servos||$200|
|ESC & BEC||$70|
|Spares for the first month (lets not kid ourselves, eh ;) )||$75|
|AeroFly Professional Deluxe, w/Tx||$200|
|Same price as a heli setup...|
Short Version - Realistic, except landing is not quite touchy enough.
Long Version - All helis provided with the software were very good overall. The 3D helicopters were not quite as powerful & quick-reacting as the 3D helis I've seen in some videos here in RCGroups.
RC Helicopters are naturally harder than planes to keep orientation of when flying. The direction is not as predictable, and they typically don't have as much of a body, nor do they have wings to clue my brain in. Add to this the fact that no matter how good one's computer monitor is, it will not have the resolution of your eyesight once the model gets further than about 50' away.
When I started flying my fixed-pitch Honeybee and Lama V3 helicopters, ("Co-Co Lama) I had a couple of minor crashes, starting out. I went onto this sim, and have been flying it for about a month now. (only a couple hours a week, at that) The major differences I have noticed is that my reflexes are correct about 70% more often. I'll still need to keep practicing to get the smoothness I'd like, and to nail the correct amount of correction every time, but there has been a marked improvement in my flying.
AFPD has addressed this problem in a couple of ways:
1) There is a Second View Window that can be toggled by pressing the F10 key on your keyboard. This sub-window always shows the position of your bird.
2) There is an auto-zoom feature, which is activated by pressing the F6 key. (F5 is the standard, stationary view, that doesn't auto-zoom) F7 is "follow mode", and F8 is cockpit mode, with or without instruments shown. I love keyboard shortcuts!
AFPD has the best photo-realistic backgrounds I've seen. Here are a couple of examples:
I give this aspect of AFPD a 10 out of 10. Everything is very simple to find. If I move the mouse, the menu bar automatically appears at the top of the screen. If I leave the mouse alone for a couple seconds, the menu bar and mouse cursor disappear.
But the thing that really completes this package for me is the keyboard shortcuts. Anyone that uses computers a lot will love this feature. Those who don't use computers a lot will either learn to love it, or just use the mouse and menus.
The most common commands for this software can be accessed by a single keystroke, without the need to use the mouse or go into any menus. For example, if I press the F1 key, this "cheat sheet" menu pops up:
It is hard to convey in words how handy this feature is. Watch the attached videos for some real-time examples. When you see something change without seeing a mouse cursor go to a menu, it was done through a keyboard shortcut.
For those with crummy memories or who simply don't like keyboard shortcuts, all the features can be accessed through the pull-down menus in the typical way.
Without hesitation, I can answer "Yes!" I put this on about the same level as having an instructor. When I fly the real thing, I have to take certain things into consideration, such as wind and less-than-perfect aircraft setups. With AFPD I have so much more flexibility. In my opinion, the purchase of a sim and the reading of the sticky posts in the Beginners forum are the two most important things a beginner can do.
If you already have a computer that meets the recommended system requirements, this is a no-brainer. $200 for AFPD w/Tx and $65 for a proper graphics card seems like a lot of money, but there are no hidden costs. In this hobby, that is a huge statement. Want more planes or helicopters for your fleet? Just spend a few minutes and go download them. It doesn't matter how small your living quarters are, or how packed your storage area is.
Even if your computer isn't up to the task, the capability of running a quality simulator software may be that last little thing that pushes you to get one that is more modern & capable.
Q1) "How is it different/better than AeroFly Deluxe?"
A1) Rather than re-invent the wheel, I'll refer you to this excellent webpage from the AeroFly site. It includes details about which models are new, which sceneries are new,
To make up for all of this, AeroFly Pro Deluxe has free, user-created aircraft and sceneries. RealFlights add-ons are all extra money. AFPD is starting to get into the add-on game as well. The "Pro" add-on was the first. Now the software is being sold with that standard. Next, came the StarFlight add-on.
Here are a couple of sim opinion threads in a heli-specific forum
Here's an RCGroups search results for 'aerofly' - good stuff
Here's a thread with links to free models & sceneries for AFPD
Here's an RCGroups thread in which I asked about AFPD vs. reality in the Mini Helis forum. Feel free to add if you have an opinion on the issue. https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=596375
If you have a link to a particularly good thread regarding AFPD or sims in general, please post it in the reply thread that goes along with this review; it will help everyone!
(Please note that the software I used to capture these videos directly from my computer slowed down the simulation greatly. In some of the videos, you will see that the frame rate is hovering around 20 fps. When I was running it without that software, it was well above the 33 fps bottom end. For reference, one of the videos is at low resolution, to show the actual speed. I captured this with the software running in 'Window Mode', to go easy on the processor.
In my opinion, if you have a computer that meets the recommended system requirements, AeroFly Professional Deluxe is a good investment. It can be used to train you to fly, to master new maneuvers that may otherwise crash a real model aircraf, or just keep your skills up when the weather is not cooperating with you.Last edited by AMCross; Dec 19, 2006 at 11:11 AM..
Jeremy,I've been considering a sim for a while now and been flying RC for over 30 yrs.I would like to get better at 3D and pattern in general.Also,I to would like to learn Heli's,but don't want to spend a fortune in parts and the time wasted in getting them.I have only 1 question-------will the sims work for me since I fly "mode 1"(throttle on the right and elevator on the left)I assume that the Tx that comes with the sims is ("mode 2"),however,if I use my Tx,will it work.I've also thought about using the sim to learn all over again in mode 2,but would rather improve my skills in mode 1.
I've been using AFPD for sometime now and I really enjoy it, I'm mainly a heli junkie and the helicopters are quite accurate in there flight characteristics. The graphics are also very good, it's a definite "must have" to keep your brain and fingers nimble when you can't do the real thing!
It is possible, though expensive to learn basic plane flight with real models by yourself. Learning 3D and helicopter flight would be VERY expensive without either an instructor or a sim.
Comparatively speaking, a sim is a lot easier to line up, as it is always on YOUR schedule. These days, it just isn't practical to learn to fly helis without a sim.
3D planes you could probably do with a lot of altitude, but you'd still hesitate to try new things where you wouldn't on a sim.
I've tried a few different sims, and I like AFPD the best. RealFlight has a lot of bells & whistles, it has better crashing sound effects, but the graphics aren't quite as good, IMO. Having to pay for more models in RF is the real downer, IMO.
Thanks for taking the time to write the article about Aerofly. You might be a little bit out of date with regards RF. There are number (83 as of 20/12/06) of free user created models avaliable for RF from here
(I’ll admit a lot less than are available for AeroFly)
P.S. If you have not got the starflight add-on for aerofly yet I'd ask santa for it. It's very good.
My only problem with AFPD is that somewhere in the
last 2 patches the scenery scrolling has gotten jerky.
You can see it in your video of the TOC_CAP232
The plane's movement is fine but the scenery jerks it's way across the horizon.
I am running on a high end machine with a gig of ram and a ATI X800 video card w/ 512 MB of video ram.
On most scenes and planes I get over 150 FPS but still the jerkyness of the background.
Ikarus what's up......?
Good review, Jeremy but you forgot to mention one entire feature of the sim: sailplane modelling. AFPD is very good at simulating thermal sailplane flying! I've gotten very good at thermalling my real sailplane models after practicing in AFPD.
Set the thermal factor to 3-5 and have a go!
I downloaded a F4U Corsair from a website ( German) for my AFPD and it has folding wings, but after reading the instructions it is still diifficult to understand how to assign a channel or keypad to make them operate properly.
When the sim starts up, and the F4U is selected, the wings fold up, and I can't make them fold back down.
Anyone have an answer?
My guess is that whoever programmed that model had a Multiplex 9 or 12 channel radio as their controller to fold the wings. I wasn't even able to assign a numpad key to work the wings of this bird.
I also had a heck of a time getting the canopies of the BD5 and Crazy Goose to work.
Hi Jeremy, I am using my JR 9303 with the uSB adapter cable from IPACS
I also have a Futaba adapter cord also I can use since I have several Futaba Tx's I can use.
Guess I'll just delete the F4U since it caused the whole setup to go south.
After loading attempting to fly the Corsair, all my other airplanes simply set there and "chattered", wouldn't fly and did strange things.
So I have removed AFPD using "add and remove programs" and will reload it, minus the Corsair.
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