by Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth
Traditionally, the role of the regional “feeder” has been relegated to the turboprop. The hub and spoke route structure favored aircraft with less than 50 seats and speed was less important than efficiency. As small regional jets were introduced into the route system the negative public opinion of the so called “egg-beaters” grew as more passengers tasted the smoother and generally quieter rides in jet aircraft. Though many turboprops have been retired from airline service they still represent a large percentage of the regional fleet. Beech 1900s, Saab 340s, Dornier 328s, ATRs and others continue to serve with safety and reliability. With fuel prices climbing drastically in the past several years many companies are once again looking toward turboprops as a possible solution to their high operating costs. A turbofan powered aircraft on a 300 nm leg burns nearly 54% more fuel than a turboprop aircraft of similar size. For short stage lengths it is hard to beat a turboprop for operating efficiency.
The ATR family of aircraft is one of the most successful large turboprops on the market and production is an international cooperative effort. Since 1985 over 650 aircraft have been delivered to customers all over the globe and orders continue to roll in. The ATR has not only seen service as a passenger aircraft, there are also maritime patrol derivatives and plans for anti-submarine and corporate VIP versions as well. Able to takeoff and land from airfields as short as 3500 feet with full passenger and baggage loads and with a maximum range of over 1000 nautical miles, the ATR is an aircraft capable of meeting many diverse roles.
Flight1, with the cooperation of ATR, has provided Flight Simulator 2004 users with a spectacular aircraft, modeled in excruciating detail. In addition, Flight1 worked with closely with Bryan York to achieve a seamless integration of FS2Crew, a utility that adds a whole new dimension to your simulated flight experience. FS2Crew is purchased separately and works hand in glove with the Flight1 ATR.
The Flight1 ATR models the 70 passenger ATR72-500, an evolution of the ATR42. The Flight1 ATR and FS2Crew are extremely detailed and realistic. Users are cautioned that to properly operate and derive the most benefit from the software a thorough understanding of the systems and operation is crucial. Both the ATR and FS2Crew come with excellent manuals with detailed tutorials to help you on your way. Learning both the ATR and FS2Crew is a process that requires some commitment; don’t expect to just jump in and fly without investing some time in the manuals! Fortunately, both the ATR and FS2Crew have superior documentation that will help you in your quest for knowledge.
The ATR manual is a whopping 481 page PDF file. Once you experience the attention to detail in the systems modeling of the ATR you’ll understand why such a large manual is necessary. The ATR manual comes with detailed systems information, arranged in a neat, logical sequence, performance charts, checklists, and a tutorial. The charts, graphics, diagrams and text are all professionally formatted and well organized.
The FS2Crew documentation is also professionally done with a 104 page PDF that contains all of the essential information as well as another tutorial that demonstrates the process of flying the ATR with FS2Crew enabled.
Let me pause here a minute to explain what FS2Crew is and why it is such a great addition to the ATR. To put it simply, FS2Crew adds an airline environment to FS2004 by giving you communications and support between you (the Captain) and a virtual First Officer, a lead flight attendant, ground crews, dispatch and maintenance. I was skeptical at first, but after flying a couple of flights with FS2Crew enabled I was sold on the concept. Throughout this review I will be referring to the additional functions that FS2Crew adds to the Flight1 ATR.