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Go to AirHauler
The Thinking Man's Freight Flying Simulation
To be published by Just Flight - End March 2009
Previewed by John Allard
November 2008

Updated - 14th March 2009.  Late breaking EXTRA FEATURES! click here for an update on In-Flight Saves, Landing Surface Monitoring/Damage, Map Option for ICAO/City/Airport Name, Enhanced AI Options, Career Mode, Custom Gates, Save Exact Position, Time of Day Options, Company Logo Imports, Stats Upload to Web Page.

Updated – 12th Feb 2009 as the program is in late beta. The application will retain the working title of “
AirHauler” into publication. A public announcement is scheduled by the publisher, Just Flight, on 13th Feb 2009 and a release date will follow soon thereafter. Visit their site
HERE.

The big news since the original version of this preview was written is the selection of a publisher for
AirHauler. It will be published and distributed by Just Flight. I’m not aware of anyone involved who is not thrilled with that. Duncan Murray, the developer is pleased, all the testing team members are happy, and so far as we can discern, the folks at JF are also quite satisfied with the situation. It is to be hoped that the future user community will feel the same way. Just Flight is a solid and reputable outfit and is certainly one of the big names in the FS add-on industry. This is looking very much like an “everyone wins” situation.

JF brings much to the table with their experience and expertise in all kinds of related areas. One of the most important changes from earlier plans will be the production of a boxed CD or DVD edition of
AirHauler in addition to the originally intended download option.

This update addresses a few changes that have been made to
AirHauler since the publication of the original preview article in an attempt to keep it as complete and accurate as possible. - JDA

For the past several months it has been my privilege and great pleasure to serve as a volunteer in the alpha testing of an exciting new add-on product for FS9 and FSX. The working title has been “AirHauler”, or simply AH and that seems to have stuck as the official title of the package.

Briefly, this package simulates a freight flying business that begins with a single aircraft and a sum of cash. From that simple beginning the user establishes an office and accepts and flies various cargoes hither and yon, attempting to make ends meet and to turn a profit. Time and effort can grow the company into a freight hauling empire that spans the FS world. Cargo hauling jobs are, of course, flown in MS Flight Simulator. There’s more – much more. This basic description only scratches the surface.

The developer is Duncan Murray of Scotland, a one-man development powerhouse and part-time real world pilot who has done some amazing work in conceiving and creating this powerful and flexible application.

He’s asked me to prepare a pre-release preview article. I was in the original contingent of alpha testers brought aboard by Duncan and have been with it since it was a pup. AH has grown from a humble concept into something very special.

Duncan Murray, creator of AH

AirHauler is in late beta testing. The testing team have been working with an RC (Release Candidate) version now for about a week and it appears another is imminent. That RC version will probably be the last. None of the issues are show-stoppers and one of the main drivers for the second RC version is to switch over to encrypted databases. AH continues to be stable and reliable. Playability and performance all across the spectrum of start up and use options is quite good. That’s not to say we don’t still find issues and “undocumented features” from time to time – we do, but Duncan is quick to sort them out. I do not have pricing information at this writing but it will probably be referenced in the JF press release.

I’d like to add a word here about the allure of this kind of application for the simulator pilot – at least for this one. A couple of years ago I had reached the point where I was a bit bored with the flight simulator and wasn’t using it all that much. I hadn’t lost interest exactly, but something was lacking. In hindsight that something was purpose. An earlier product in this genre, Just Flight’s Cargo Pilot, caught my attention and I bought it. I was quickly re-energized and interested again. What CP provided was a structure of randomly generated places to fly from and to, with loads to carry and requirements, rewards and consequences. It kept me hungry, too for that next base, that next larger, faster, longer range aircraft. It was an important event in my sim flying career, if I may use that word. I would be remiss not to give JF full credit for conceiving something so positive and powerful.

AirHauler provides those general kinds of things, that general kind of structure. It takes it, however, very much further, bringing the sim flier closer than ever to simulating the real world of the aviation freight dog, the trash-hauler who plies the airways of the world in aircraft with no beverage carts, no screaming babies, no boozing and brawling passengers, perhaps even with no cabin windows. It’s not a bad way to fly.

Now let’s get back to a description of AirHauler. The bulk of this article will simply read like a descriptive feature list. I can do no better for it than by laying out some of the many features of the surprisingly rich simulated world that AH creates. I should point out that many of the features of the product are entirely optional. If the user doesn’t wish to make use of certain things that are modeled, for the most part he may elect not to.

AirHauler communicates with Flight Simulator via FSUIPC (freeware), which is required. Microsoft Net.Framework is also needed and is also free.

Main Menu

Considerable attention was paid to how to allow the prospective user to move into larger aircraft in a reasonable length of time while maintaining a believable business simulation model. Due consideration was given to the fact that most will not want to plod the virtual skies in a heavily laden Cessna Skyhawk for weeks on end. With that in mind, a number of fairly complex but easy to use features have been built in to prevent just that – unless, of course, that is what you prefer. These features will be described in greater detail below, but for now it is sufficient to say that they include,

Startup Options (AC type and cash)
Loans
Leased AC
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Pilots
Stock Market Trading

Choose company
 

AirHauler permits the user to have multiple companies but each operates as a separate entity – nothing is shared between them. Only one may be loaded at a time.

The AirHauler user interface makes extensive use of interactive maps, primarily for the evaluation and selection of jobs, but also for base selection and flight planning.


The job selection map also provides pop-up airport information and real world weather, if you’ve figured out how to decipher that cryptic METAR format.

Route map

Airport info Airport weather


In addition there are graphs to supplement the tabular information on certain of the financial pages and for some other things. Many of the tables can be exported to Excel for off-line record keeping or for more complex job selection analysis.

AirHauler companies operate from bases at airports. Each AH company must have at least a single base, though any number is possible. Bases may be established at any FS airport by payment of a start-up cost and an ongoing monthly lease charge. Bases offer advantages - reduced costs for aircraft maintenance performed there and also by giving the user a healthy discount on fuel purchased at the base airport.

A scenery import utility reads your FS installation and makes any add-on airports it detects available as candidates for job origination or destination points or potentially as bases. Parking spots at modified airports (many of the traffic programs make extensive changes to parking spot designations) are picked up and become available as starting locations for AH flight operations. A related feature places your AC exactly where you left it when you return, even if you’ve shut down FS and AH in the interim. Optionally, you can designate your current parking spot as a permanent one and AH will add it, making it available for any future flights using that airport.

Fuel prices differ from airport to airport and over time. Jet A and 100LL are priced separately and AH knows which type is required by which aircraft. Fuel prices vary with the real-world price of crude oil. Yes, I said the real-world price. AH periodically samples world oil prices through your internet connection and fuel prices will reflect what’s happening in the real-world oil markets.

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