FS Academy – On Instruments
Today I will review something a little different, not an aircraft, not a helicopter, no airport and no basic scenery. Today I will have a look at a mission package. A very special one, as it is a basic IFR training course – FS Academy – On Instruments.
Browsing through the add ons at Simmarket, this one caught my attention and I was very curious. Though I am familiar with most IFR techniques, I wanted to see how this software will teach the subject and if I will learn something new, of if it is just another tutorial without any real substance, like most stuff that can be found all over the internet.
FS Academy – On Instruments is available on Simmarket at a cost of € 24.40, the download is some 638 MB in size, after installation it will take up around 680 MB of your diskspace. The add on was created by an active airline pilot and promises to teach the user the basics of IFR flying in 18 steps.
The heart of FS Academy – On Instruments is the 16 page strong manual in PDF format. I mentioned the 18 steps above, these are a mixture of 10 theory chapters, each including a video and 8 practical missions, that need to be flown in the sim.
Let’s have a look at the structure of the 18 steps:
Step 1: Why fly IFR (theory)
Step 2: Human factors (theory)
Step 3: Rules of thumb (theory)
Step 4 :Mission 1 – Basic IMC
Step 5: Navaids (theory)
Step 6: Radio navigation (theory)
Step 7: Mission 2 – Radio navigation
Step 8: Departure (theory)
Step 9: Mission 3 – Departure
Step 10: Holding (theory)
Step 11: Mission 4 – holding
Step 12: DME ARC (theory)
Step 13: Mission 5 – DME Arcs
Step 14: Non-precision approach (theory)
Step 15: Mission 6 – NDB approach
Step 16: ILS (theory)
Step 17: Mission 7 – ILS
Step 18: Mission 8: A to B
Each theory part has a short written introduction, followed by a video. The videos are between 6 and almost 20 minutes long, depending on the complexity of the subject they cover. These videos are what impressed me most with FS Academy. We do have theory material on these subjects at work, but the way the author describes complex procedures in his videos is simply outstanding and no question will remain unanswered. All relevant instruments are displayed and described, as well as a variety of different situations, like the three holding pattern entries, to pick just one. The narration is very pleasant and it is a joy to watch these videos. One understands quickly that this is somebody with an in depth background knowledge and not just another simmer who puts up a youtube tutorial.
Each theory chapter is followed by an interactive mission in the simulator. The missions were designed for FSX and are not compatible to Prepar3D by default. I will cover how to convert them later in this review.
The missions use the standard Cessna 172 Paint 1 from FSX and the locations for the training flights are Manchester, Bournemouth, Leeds and Southhampton. You do not need any add on sceneries, but you can use them of course. I used a mixture of Orbx and UK2000 airports and all that happened on my system was, that I started some flights slightly off the taxiway. Else everything worked fine.
You can replace the default plane of the mission, just hit pause once the mission has loaded and select the plane you want to fly with. I recommend sticking to a slower GA plane, as the missions and timings were designed for them. Your mount ought to be equipped with ADF, NAV1 and NAV2 and DME. I used the A2A Cessna 182 and A2A Piper Cherokee for my training flights.
FS Academy – On Instruments provides a full set of all needed charts, you can also find them on the kneeboard, together with the detailed mission description.
Mission 1 – Basic IMC
We take off from Bournemouth, runway 26. Climb straight to 2000ft at runway heading, perform a level turn, then climb to 3000ft on heading, followed by a couple speed changes and a subsequent descending turn. (approx.. 10 minutes)
Mission 2 – Radio Navigation
Take off from Manchester, track an NDB and leave it on a specified radial, then track a VOR and again leave on a specified radial. (approx. 15 minutes)
Mission 3 – Departure
Take off from Leeds runway 14 and perform the POL1X departure. (approx. 15 minutes)
Mission 4 – Holding
Performing Direct entry, Teardrop entry and parallel entry, each with a full holding pattern. (approx. 40 minutes)
Mission 5 – DME Arcs
Fly a full clockwise 4 NM DME Arc overhead Leeds. (approx. 15 minutes)
Mission 6 – NDB approach
Enter the holding pattern at Southhampton, fly a full lap in the holding and then perform a NDB DME approach into Southhampton. (approx.. 20 minutes)
Mission 7 – ILS
Depart Southhampton runway 02, climb out and intercept the procedural approach. Fly the ILS approach into runway 20. (approx. 10 minutes)
Mission 8 – A to B
A full IFR flight from Bournemouth to Southhamptopn, including one lap in the holding and flying the NDB DME approach for runway 20. (approx. 30 minutes)
While these missions sound easy at first glance, they do provide some challenges given you are flying manually in mostly IFR conditions. I had all hands full and most missions lasted longer than expected, some up to two hours, because I had to refly my holding patterns or DME Arcs, when they were too sloppy in the first (or second) attempt.
A word on the weather – make sure you do not run Active Sky Next, when flying the FS Academy – On Instruments missions, as all missions come with a preset weather that matches the exercise.
I was really looking forward to the DME Arc and NDB approach missions, as especially the DME Arcs were something I just had very basic knowledge of, and struggled flying them in the sim.
After flying four instead of one, which equals roughly 100 NM flying distance, I think I got how it works. Old dogs can learn new tricks.
All missions are structured nicely, only mission 5 has some hickups in the beginning where a female voice tells you you failed the exercise – you can simply ignore this as the mission will continue normally. Mission 2 has a little trap in the beginning, when the author tells you to make a shallow right turn to intercept the heading, while it should be a left turn. But these were the only two minor flaws I noticed while using the training course.
How to get FS Acdemy into P3D
Prepar3D does not support FSX missions by default, but P3D users can still run them with some additional simple steps.
- Change the setup path to c:\users\YOURNAME\documents\Prepar3D v3 files (v2.x users change the path accordingly)
- Run P3D and open SimDirector from the menu
- Select Open, browse to c:\users\YOURNAME\documents\Prepar3D v3 files\FS Academy – On Instruments\ and open the folder of the mission you want to convert. Select “legacy flight files” to show the FSX *.flt files and open it.
- Select a new default plane for the mission (or copy the Cessna 172 from FSX, should you have it)
- Save the mission.
Sounds more complicated than it actually is and it only takes a couple of minutes to convert the eight missions.
I thought I knew all these procedures, but after one week of flying FS Academy – On Instruments it was amazing to see how superficial my practical knowledge actually was. I flew all of the procedures using autopilot and/or FMC before, but except for the ILS I never did them manually. Handflying them in real IFR conditions, with mostly no visual reference was a whole new challebge and tought me a lot.
Bottomline I had one week of fun flying the exercises and learned a lot more than I expected. I can only strongly recommend this training course to every simmer who takes his flying seriously.