Anyone who owns the PMDG J41 will probably agree 2 things: 1) The add-on is fantastic; possibly one of the best available for FSX, and 2), It has a very high workload in the cockpit
Most of us will have gone through our whole pre-flight procedure only to try and start the engines and end up reducing them to molten metal. There is a small utility that you can download and run after you have loaded up the J41 to give you a true cold and dark set-up, but the workload still remains intensive.
COLD AND DARK
What Is FS2Crew?
FS2Crew is an advanced airline crew simulation with each version being built from scratch and customer fitted to the add-on aircraft in question. The add-ons use real world standard operating procedures to give a much more realistic experience to the desktop pilot
About The J41 Voice Commander
This particular add on claims to make the whole J41 experience easier, more immersive and more realistic. There are other products in the FS2Crew stable that use keyboard/joystick commands to communicate with the aircraft, but this one uses your voice! What it does is add a First Officer to the flight deck who helps with your workload by taking care of some of the checklists and a lot of other tasks that you ask him to do. You can even ask the flight attendant to bring you tea or coffee. I tried asking my wife to bring me a cuppa during the flight and almost ended up wearing it!
At first I was a little sceptical that this would work because of the many different accents and dialects that people will have. Then there is FSX, it can be very temperamental at times and I wasn’t 100% convinced that it would react well to voice commands. The manual does ask you to try and speak with an American accent to get around any language barrier problems. This was a non-starter for my; I’m from Yorkshire and won’t change my accent for anyone. Thankfully though I never had any problems with being understood.
The download is available from the FS2Crew website for the very reasonable price of £17.64 and ships with a manual/tutorial (more on that later) and also a copy of the FS2Crew Video Marshaller. This is another tool that makes the flight experience more immersive by requesting for pushback, GPU connect/disconnect, chocks, wave off etc… When you select the option you need, a small pop-up window is shown with the marshaller in there. The background of the marshall also adjusts depending on if you are flying during the day or night. It’s worth noting that you need to run FSX in windowed mode for this to work correctly; I already did so it wasn’t a problem. All of the panels that are loaded from within the cockpit can be moved and re-sized into a location that suits you.
Installation takes place without a problem and the process is
fully automated. Something that confused me at first was that I
thought that I needed to have speech recognition turned on in
Windows for the program to work, this is not the case. The
FS2Crew speech recognition software is activated from within
FSX. I had some very strange events taking place when running
FSX and the Windows speech recognition program at the same time.
There are a few steps that need to be taken to set up FSX correctly to be able to utilise all the features of this add-on, these are all clearly explained in the manual and it’s just a case of adding some joystick assignments for the commands. From my point of view this is where the manual stopped being helpful. It is 47 pages long and has a very in depth tutorial, but it is not very clear what you need to do to get things moving. I had a very frustrating time getting to the point of being able to make my first take off, the FO would go about his pre-flight procedures and I couldn’t get him to move onto the next checklist.
I emailed the developer asking for some help, and they were very
helpful in guiding me through what needed to be done, but still
no joy. A search around the FS2Crew forums produced a download
on AVSIM which had a step by step guide of what you needed to
say/do during the flight (fs2crew_j41_checklist_v2.zip). I would
strongly recommend downloading this as it is a lot easier to
understand that the manual; either that or I was being stupid!
Either way, it’s great to see that someone in the FS community
was able to help.
Finally Under Way
The add-on really began to come to life once I had got my head around what I needed to do! The whole pre-flight, if done real time, takes 30 minutes. Thankfully you are able to fast forward to the next checklist once you have performed your own, but wait until the FO lets you know he has finished his current flow before trying to initiate the next one. I didn’t on a couple of occasions and had to start over again.
I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that this ISN’T a
quick-start ctrl+e solution to getting into the air quickly with
the J41. The captain still needs to carry out his own pre-flight
checklists and program the FMC and load sheet. The FO takes care
of a lot of the button pushing tasks to get the aircraft ready,
but you are note let off the hook totally. He does take care of
selecting the V-Speeds for you, so you are saved the trouble of
searching through the manual for the correct speeds. Over
several flights he never once got the wrong speeds (I cross
checked them just to make sure).
Once you are up in the air there isn’t a great deal of interaction from the FO, he will point out icing conditions and warn you if the EGT increases too much, but other than that it is a little quiet. I prefer it the way it is rather than having the FO make some random comments at an inappropriate moment i.e. when landing.
One thing that I had to adjust to were the descent and landing
checklists; I needed to start them a lot sooner than I would do
without the FS2Crew add-on because the FO does a very thorough
job. The up-side is that you are prepared for descent and
landing well in advance and won’t need to rush the approach.
Once at the gate initiate the ‘After landing check’ and the FO
will shut down the aircraft for you all ready for the next
And there’s more!
It doesn’t end there though, there is so much more the FO can do. If you are reading through the approach charts and ATC ask you to change heading and/or altitude, just as the FO to do it for you. If you want the speed bug changing during the ascent or descent the FO can do that too. Tune the radios? Turn on the lights? Need some de-icing? The FO can do that too, all you need to do is ask.
After reading through the guide I downloaded and then going back to the FS2Crew manual, It was a little easier to understand the manual, so perhaps it was just my interpretation of it that was causing the problem, but I don’t think that I will be the only one who has had this program.
Despite the initial teething problems which are more than likely user created, I’ve found this add-on to be fantastic. It does exactly what it says it will by making the J41 experience easier, more realistic and much more immersive. You still have to be very hands on and get involved with the checklists, as you would in the real world, but it does cut down on your workload immensely. It is absolutely essential that you read the manual to know how to use the add-on correctly; you cannot jump in and go with this.
I’ve made a lot of flights over the last couple of months and each one has been so much more enjoyable after installing this add-on. You must own the PMDG J41 in order for the FS2Crew add-on to work, which will push the total price of the J41 up to the £55 mark, which is a lot. However, if you already own the J41, you simply have to buy the FS2Crew PMDG J41 Voice Commander. The only area where it loses marks is the manual
Mutley's Hangar score of 9/10
Review machine Spec: Intel Core2 Quad 2.40ghz | 4gb DDR2 RAM |Nvidia GForce 880GTX |Windows 7 64bit Home Premium