I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the flight simulation community. I believe my interest in aviation was but a tiny speck of my genetic makeup, but it was computer flight simulators that fostered that curiosity and developed my natural desire to fly into a hobby. That hobby branched into a career and now I consider myself among the fortunate few that do what they love for a living. Throughout the years my intertwined interests in computers and aviation have led me down the long path that has been the evolution of modern flight simulators from basic wire-framed, RGB graphics to the current crop of spectacular simulations that are blurring the borders between reality and simulation.
While browsing the forums recently I was made aware that a new product had been released for Flight Simulator 2004, the Aeroworx King Air B200. You can imagine how excited I was to hear of this since I have been flying King Airs for the past seven years and B200s for over five years for my current employer. I contacted Aeroworx and was answered by Henning van Rensburg. We were very excited to make one another’s acquaintance. Henning checked out my bio-page on SimHQ and shot me an e-mail asking if, as my bio stated, I still lived in Charlotte. To our mutual great amazement we learned that we lived barely a mile apart! Within a matter of days we had met and he gave me the grand tour of why, how and what Aeroworx is all about.
Aeroworx has partnered with Flight1 Software to provide a quick and easy distribution method for their B200 using a secure purchase, direct download option which will deliver the product to your hard-drive in minutes. Obviously FS2004 is required as the basis for the installation. In addition to the B200 aircraft you get an incredible 23-page tutorial PDF written by the B200 pilot/consultant, Jack Colwell. The tutorial is an outstanding resource since it takes you from a preflight condition step-by-step (including flight planning) through an entire flight from Calgary, Alberta (CYYC) to Castlegar, British Columbia (CYCG). Using a combination of setup data, checklists, introduction to systems and acquired experience, Jack will lead you through the entire sequence of flight events that a real King Air B200 pilot would experience during a normal flight.
I used the tutorial to fly the Castelgar LOC / DME approach and was suitably impressed at the difficulty and unique layout for this procedure. If you think your instrument skills are pretty good I highly recommend attempting the tutorial flight.
Also included with the package is a comprehensive 109-page Aeroworx designed Pilot’s Operating Handbook which really should be the starting point for the exploration of the entire product. The POH is filled with excellent data on the aircraft, product support information, and volumes of specific operating procedures for the Aeroworx B200. Let me take this opportunity to state that the Aeroworx B200 is what I would consider a high-fidelity, study simulation on a very specific aircraft with extremely detailed systems, avionics, 3D model and flight model. This B200 add-on far and away surpasses any level of detail that I have seen in any civilian flight simulation in terms of striving for accuracy of all modeled systems and flight parameters. As such, an uninformed and poorly trained pilot (both in reality and using the simulation) is not likely to derive the full benefit from the product. Read the manual! It is an excellent (and essential!) resource and unless you are an experienced King Air pilot you will be asking a lot of questions that the POH has been designed to answer!
The Aeroworx B200 features an incredible array of realistic panel options. The 2D panel is simply stunning. The 2D panel features both a “heads-up” mode and a “heads-down” IFR panel useful for more demanding IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) flying. Copilots and First Officers will be happy to see a complete right side analog 2D panel as well featuring the more traditional “steam gauges”. The PIC side features dual-tube Collins EFD-84 EFIS displays and a Honeywell CAS 66A TCAS I display while the rest of the panel is home to myriad of other Collins radios and navigation heads. Beyond the main 2D panels are 12 individual pop-up panels representing the left and right sub-panels, side panels, engine controls, flight director, autopilot, environmental and pressurization controls, overhead electronics panel, and lighting switches and rheostats. Radio stack pop-up panels, GPS, pop-up EFIS tubes, engine gauges and other instruments provide easy and precise control over all of the B200 systems and avionics.
The 3D cockpit is a work of art with smooth tracking using my TrackIR2 with an interactive 3D environment that allows you to access and control all of the 2D panel functions via the knobs and controls in the 3D cockpit. The attention to detail and operational accuracy of the systems and instruments is simply jaw dropping to this real-life King Air pilot. I have shown the Aeroworx B200 to my colleagues at work (18 experienced King Air B200 pilots) and all have shown a similar reaction of astonishment at the realistic depiction and operational accuracy of the B200. In fact, our B200 ground school instructor has made it known that he’d like to use the Aeroworx B200 2D cockpit to teach new-hire first officers the functions of the switches and systems that he is teaching in class!
Aeroworx has also incorporated a nifty “maintenance module” into their product that allows the user to track the wear and tear on their own aircraft. Engine hours are accumulated, oil is burned, cycles (landings) are counted and tire condition is monitored. As engine time accumulates the engines actually start to respond accordingly, running hotter and requiring overhaul. Landing gear and flap damage can be repaired and prop overhaul times can be monitored. The maintenance module is a fun feature that gives the user a sense of “ownership” in their B200.
With the overview of the software package complete, let’s get on to the answering the important question: How does she fly??!
For the comparative goals of this review (and for my own personal amusement) Henning was kind enough to take time out of his extremely busy schedule to repaint the Aeroworx 3D model in my company paint scheme. This was no slapdash procedure either. Henning did an outstanding paint job with incredible attention to detail. It should come as no surprise that the newly painted MedCenter Air King Air came out so well; throughout this software package you will see time and again a painstaking attention to detail that can only be described as fanatical.