The Airbus A300B4-200 was the first successful aircraft manufactured by European based company Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS. First delivered to Hapag-Lloyd in 1980, many airlines saw the aircraft as a unique business opportunity, with a range of 3,600 NM (fully loaded), a cruising speed of around Mach 0.78, and a 266 cabin seating capacity.
Cargo variants of the A300B4 were also produced, and were popular at the time. Sadly, the A300B4 ceased production in July 2007. The classic cargo A300B4 is now being replaced with a more efficient A330-200 variant, however this does not mean the legacy of the A300B4 is dead just yet.
The A300B4-200 is different from a modern day Airbus. In the A300B4, side-sticks are replaced by yokes, advanced FBW systems have made way for steam gauges and that all important MCDU doesn’t even exist, instead you are given an old-fashioned INS.
The Idea and The History
SimCheck started developing their A300B4-200 package 4 years ago; a lot of time and effort has gone into this package. Along the way, they coupled up with NLS (Next Level Simulations), who were developing an A380 package. Now with a strong team at the lead, SimCheck pressed on to produce their A300B4-200 add-on for FSX.
SimCheck wanted to produce a fully system intensive A300B4 add-on for FSX. This means that they developed their A300 to replicate practically all systems that you would find in the real Aircraft.
On 9th February 2010, the SimCheck A300 was released. SimCheck have their A300B4 package published through Aerosoft, thus allowing for a targetted market.
What do you get?
SimCheck provide in their package several livery variants of the A300B4-200 and several cargo variants of the A300B4. You get an array of detailed manuals (explained later) and a plethora of programs for the A300B4 such as a livery installer, a flight-plan converter (again, explained later) and more.
Where to purchase
The SimCheck A300B4 can be purchased from Aerosoft's website, either in a boxed or download version. The product is rather expensive compared to other add-ons, weighing in at 39.99 Euros + Shipping (boxed), however it is much cheaper than some other complex simulations, so I think that is a fair price for the simulation are getting.
If you choose to buy the download product, which is slightly cheaper, you'll be sent a download link and serial code. Download the product, enter your email address and serial code during installation.
Before installation, you MUST have a very recent version of unregistered FSUIPC installed. You can find a link to the latest version on the Aerosoft forums or on Pete Downson’s website.
After you've ensured you have the latest FSUIPC, run the installer (either via the CD or download link). This is pretty much pain-free. When prompted, enter your serial code and email address and away you go.
Now installed, you're ready to fly the SimCheck A300B4-200 package!
SimCheck A300B4-200 – Let's get started!
Starting up for the first time, you'll see a wide selection of liveries available for you to choose from. Pick your model (cargo or passenger), pick your livery, place, weather and time, and then hit Fly Now!
Once loaded, you'll be sitting on the tarmac, in the cockpit of SimCheck's A300B4. Immediately, you'll see a high-resolution VC and a nice external model.
You can choose, if you wish, to follow the tutorial flight SimCheck have provided. I did this and found it helped a great deal. Things will almost certainly go wrong on your first try, but with practice you will improve. A manual is provided alongside this tutorial flight to help you get going.
Now we've got a lovely aircraft sitting on the tarmac. Let’s dive into this product and take a look at its features!
Instruments and Systems
SimCheck have modelled the A300B4's steam gauges in true old-school fashion. Hardly any instruments are digitalised; most of them are glass-fronted steam gauges with a physical needle.
The altimeter, VSI, airspeed indicator, all engine gauges, heading indicator... You name it, SimCheck have put the appropriate steam gauge in.
|I found these gauges were a extremely high quality
rendition of real-world instruments.
One thing I always look for in add-on packages is the fluidity of each instrument, and these gauges and silky smooth.
The needles on each instrument move very smoothly, no stutters, and each provides useful information of its own
The MCDU... Sorry, that should be INS
The heart of the A300B4! In the early 1970's when the A300B4 first took to the skies, advanced MCDU systems weren't very common... So instead, you'll be playing with an old-fashioned INS system!
The INS (or for its full name – The Carousel INS) is a system instrument that will follow a flight plan of up to 9 way points at a time, give you accurate distance/time readings to your next way point, show bearings to your next way point, tell you your current position.. And much more. Kind of like a retro cross-breed between a GPS and a MCDU.
To say I am impressed would be an understatement. SimCheck have
rendered the INS in absolutely fantastic detail, with only a few
very minor things missed out (which aren't really necessary for
the operation of the A300B4. They have modelled the INS to
almost real-world specifications, and it performs and handles
exactly like it should.
The Engineers Panel
For example, to input data into the INS you must do it the proper way. Let's say you wanted to enter the way point “APAGI”. You can't just pop this in, you must hand type the exacting longitude and latitude co-ordinates, then insert them into the INS... Tedious but realistic!
For simmers who don’t want to do this, (I'll have to admit I used this function a few times), SimCheck have provided the option to load a direct FSX plan into the INS. To do this, you must design and save a flight plan using FSX's built-in flight-planner, then call the flight-plan (edit the file name) a number between 1 and 99999.
However, if for some reason you can't/don't want to use FSX's built in planner, you can use SimCheck's provided “Flight-plan Converter” software. If you have a FS9/FSC/vasFMC flight-plan, the software will painlessly convert said flight-plan into a compatible FSX .pln format, available for use with the INS. I think this degree of flexibility is great.
Once a flight-plan is loaded, you're ready to use the INS. Of course, this isn't the extent of its features – You've got a choice to set it to MAN or AUTO mode (MAN mode means you manually have to take over navigation to an extent, whilst AUTO mode means that the INS will automatically switch to your next way-point after you pass over the previous one). You can also ask the INS to tell you when you'll reach your next way-point, or give you some information on the wind, all can be selected through the rotary knob on the INS (shown below).
The Engineers Panel definitely deserves its own section, as it is one of the most important parts of the simulator. If you decide to start your flight from a Cold and Dark cockpit (which I most certainly recommend for intense realism), you'll be spending most of your time at the Engineers Panel. hydraulics, pneumatics, the fuel system... The Engineers Panel hosts a lot of important things.
The Engineers Panel
|What I love about SimCheck's Engineers Panel, is that it is
about 95% functional in terms of usability.
Practically all of it works, and not only that, it works VERY well. The switches make a lovely “clunk” sound, the gauges work fantastically and the Engineers Panel is a great example of the phenomenal realism simulated in this add-on.
The Engineers Panel also plays host to some great night lighting, but this will all be explained later on under the lighting section.
My only gripe with the Engineers Panel is that it is represented almost entirely in 2D, not keeping in check with the rest of the cockpit.
However, this is also kinder to FPS and doesn't affect the reality of the simulation.
The Autopilot &
Yet again I am impressed with this next section of the SimCheck A300B4.
Lets start with the Autopilot. SimCheck have modelled the original classic Autopilot which comes with the A300B4, and it hasn't been dampened for FSX usage (it is an accurate representation).
I found that the Autopilot consistently got me from A to B with no problems whatsoever. The Autopilot will smoothly perform what it is told to do (maybe it is ever-so-slightly “urgent” when turning), allowing for great flight. When NAV mode is engaged on the MCP panel, it will follow the flight-plan as per the INS (look above).
If you prefer, HDG mode can be used for lateral navigation instead. ALT AQR mode can be used to climb/descend altitudes, and can also be used for “altitude protection” in conjunction with V/S mode (in which you set the maximum/minimum altitude of which you want to fly to, and when you reach this ALT AQR will kick in and hold this altitude – All explained in the documentation).
When on the ILS the aircraft seemed very confident, there weren't any struggles to do so and the A300B4 followed the glide path and localizer with precise accuracy. I also had a very positive experience using the Auto-land feature, which works a treat when in bad weather.
|The auto-throttle gets a very high mark too.
For take-off, you can use the N1 Limiter computer (a small computer which applies thrust as per what mode you select).
The N1 Limiter computer constantly adjusts its thrusts according to the conditions both inside (weight) and outside (weather) the aircraft. I
If you are more aliased towards manually inputting a speed into the auto-throttle and letting it do the work, then the A300B4 also models this for you to do so.
The aircraft would produce consistently accurate results, always matching the speed at which I told it to do.
The auto-throttle gets a very high mark too. For take-off, you
can use the N1 Limiter computer (a small computer which applies
thrust as per what mode you select). The N1 Limiter computer
constantly adjusts its thrusts according to the conditions both
inside (weight) and outside (weather) the aircraft. If you are
more aliased towards manually inputting a speed into the
auto-throttle and letting it do the work, then the A300B4 also
models this for you to do so. The aircraft would produce
consistently accurate results, always matching the speed at
which I told it to do.
You can adjust the values of the Autopilot/Auto throttle settings by clicking on the values in their appropriate windows. Very easy to adjust and get what you want.
All instruments in the cockpit work independently. This means you will have to set the Captain's and First Officer's ASI, Altimeter, etc individually, again allowing a more in-depth experience with the A300B4.
What I really, really love about this product is that you are “punished” to an extent if you miss something. Say you forget to set up the hydraulics properly. Regardless of anything, the hydraulics will not work unless they have been configured to do so properly. It’s the same when starting the engine. You cannot start the engine if you don't meet the requirements, for example not having sufficient fuel flow, maybe having an incorrect set-up of pneumatics configured – All this effects how the aircraft will run, and you are not let off if you make a mistake.
Before I switched to FSX, I was a very intensive 2D Panel user. Since the switch, I mainly use the VC, however I did (for the purposes of this review) check out SimCheck's 2D Panels that they included with the A300B4. Apparently this product has “extensive 2D panels”, which I wanted to verify this claim in the simulator.
The 2D panels that SimCheck have included are fabulous. Practically everything is click able, the pop-ups are represented in clear, concise formats, and the ease of popping them up is great. You don't have to use fiddly hot-keys – SimCheck have provided some easy click-spots to get the 2D panels you want up and running very quickly. I actually found myself switching to the 2D panels not just for this review, but because of the quality of the 2D panels.
Another great feature is that both Captain and First Officer
viewpoints have been modelled in the 2D panels.
Taking all this into account, SimCheck have clearly provided a product for the 2D panel users among the FS community, a feature which is sadly being neglected (as more and more developers are ignoring 2D panels and focusing on Virtual Cockpits entirely).
Similar to the 2D panel, the quality of the VC is excellent.
Most switches are modelled in high-resolution 3D, the animations are all impressive, and the frame rate loss isn't too noticeable. I achieved reasonably high FPS compared to other add-ons, another bonus.
You have the ability to hide the control columns in the virtual cockpit. Also, window reflections can be set and things such as brake pedal animations can be configured through the “Menu Panel” (explained later).
So yes, another superb aspect of this product, take a look at some screen shots and I'm sure you'll agree that the VC modelling is on par with some of the best add-ons out there. Well done SimCheck!
I have to say I am incredibly impressed with the internal cockpit lighting. I love the way things are realistically lit up. For example, the dome light doesn't just completely engulf everything in light, it features a strong bright light at its source, which fades away with various shading on the overhead panel. This looks (and I have to say this) really quite beautiful at night.
When the overhead panel lighting is turned on, things get even more exciting. Everything is illuminated in a bright yellowy glow, which looks absolutely fantastic.
The internal lighting used in this product is probably one of the best examples of FSX technology I've seen implemented in an add-on so far. I guarantee you will fly more at night with this A300B4 than you will do with any other add-on!
Unfortunately, this aspect of the product isn't quite so impressive.
At night, the aircraft is barely visible due to the poor external lighting. I found this very annoying taking screen shots for this review, as you can see the external lighting is not brilliant.
If SimCheck improve the external lighting of this product I would be happy to adjust the above comments. Sadly, until they do so, the external lighting remains a negative aspect of this product.
The landing lights don't do a very good job of illuminating the ground (or air) in front of you, so if you like taxiing from the “spot” or “tower” view then you're pretty much left with no choice but to venture into the cockpit and work from there.
The sounds in the SimCheck A300B4 are absolutely fantastic. They are the best sounds I have EVER experienced in a product.
When full throttle is applied upon take-off, you get a full, rich sound experience. There is a fabulous roaring engine sound, coupled with a huge underlying bass. With the volume loud, and eyes closed, you would think you are in the real aircraft.
Even when not at full throttle, the engines have great idling sounds and start-up sounds are even more fabulous. You can teach yourself when to flick the fuel-switch lever to ON just by the sounds.
With engines off, you are exposed to the pure sounds of switches clicking, the APU running, the pack valves working... It's all there. These sounds are equally brilliant, as they are set to just the right volume and just the right “sound feel”.
A huge congratulations to the SimCheck team for providing such a beautiful sound set. It truly is a marvel of Flight Simulation audio.
The External Model
Whilst some people have said that the external
model “isn't all too great” - I personally disagree.
I quite enjoyed the external model. There is room for improvement but overall it is nice, the liveries are crisp and all animations are working as they should do. Thrust reversers, spoilers, all control surfaces... They all move correctly.
When you select the “External power/air” option from the “Panel Menu” (again, explained later), you'll see a GPU (Ground Power Unit) appear alongside the nose of your aircraft, supplying power for use when engines/APU aren't started.
One thing that some people may dislike is that the windows are just opaque, grey ones. However this isn't really a negative as it helps with the FSP
The Panel Menu
This feature, which I like to call the panel menu, is a small little computer which SimCheck have added.
Using a hidden click-spot on the overhead panel, the menu can be popped up/down depending on when you wish to use it.
The Panel Menu boasts a variety of features. It is mainly used on the ground to set things such as fire bottles, connecting external power/air, etc. However, it can also be used to set preferences such as window reflections hide/show control columns in the VC, and others (these can also be set using click-spots in the VC).
Whilst some people have said that the external
model “isn't all too great” - I personally disagree.
One brilliant addition is the ability to set panel states
through this menu. You can choose from cold and dark, ready to
taxi, ready for departure and ready for engine start. This is
fantastic because instead of doing the usual starting of the
default Cessna, turning all avionics off, turning engines and
fuel off, then switching back to the aircraft you wanted to
start from a cold and dark from, you can simply select the cold
and dark option from the Panel Menu, and the cockpit will adjust
accordingly, straight away. Perfect if you want to get straight
into a take-off, or maybe wanting to just pick up from engine
If you look at the screen-shots provided, you can see that the Panel Menu also plays host to some other great features, all presented in an easy intuitive little pop-up panel.
The documentation supplied with the A300B4 add-on is very good, but still has a few things I think could be improved.
Whilst the manuals provided are obviously very in-depth, and the tutorial is great – I couldn't (no matter how hard I tried) find a complete check-list to get from cold and dark to engine start. Apparently the “Procedures” manual is meant to cover this, but I found it just stated things like “Set hydraulics”, instead of detailing each part step-by-step. Unfortunately, because the tutorial isn't done from a complete cold and dark cockpit (things like electrics are already configured), I had to resort to going to You Tube and checking out some user-made tutorials of this aircraft.
However, that problem aside, the rest of the documentation is great. The Carousel INS manual (explaining how to use the old-style INS) is quite detailed, which helped a great deal.
The Livery Installer
The Livery Installer is a simply program supplied with the A300B4 to allow for various repaints to be installed.
Unfortunately, since I don't do repaints and couldn't find any new paints to install (the A300B4 comes standard with quite a few nice liveries anyway), I didn't really use this feature.
However, through what I've experienced on the Aerosoft Support Forums, other customers have been okay with the Livery Installer and I haven't seen any reported problems.
The installer is painfully easy to use. Select the folder containing the livery information. Then select the SimCheck A300B4 directory. Then hit install. It's that simple! Just do your repaint, then follow those three steps and you'll be away.
The Flight-Plan Converter
As previously explained, the flight-plan converter is a small tool which allows you to convert FS9/FSC/vasFMC Flight-plans into an FSX .pln style for use with the SimCheck INS.
I don't own any of the above stated programs, so couldn't really test this out. But as it just converts and saves the selected flight-plan, there isn't really much to explain apart from it's very useful for people who wish to use it.
Reviewing the SimCheck A300B4-200 has been an absolute pleasure. It is (as far as I know), the only complex simulation of a classical Airbus for FSX. I really hope SimCheck develop future Airbus products, because I'll definitely be there in line for a copy.
A fantastic, superb, wonderful add-on which speaks volumes. Great high-resolution VC, nice external model, fabulous systems... What more could you ask for. The sounds are absolutely amazing. If you love audio, you'll love this A300B4.
It is just let down by the occasional bug, the external lighting needs to be improved. However, since the good far, far, far outweighs the bad this product is definitely one to watch.
Brilliant simulation of the classic A300B4-200
In-Depth, accurate systems
The best audio I've ever experienced in a FSX Product
Intuitive “Panel Menu” which is very useful
Livery installer and flight-plan converter are useful and work well
Documentation not quite enough for my taste
Brake temperature bug
External lighting isn't so great
Taking all this into account, I am awarding this product a very healthy: 8.5/10