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Abacus FLight Deck 5 – The Review by Nigel C Martin
I love flight simulation, planning a route generating a flight plan, joining Squarkbox and flying the route, so carefully planned, or perhaps a lovely VFR sojourn, great, BUT, I also love, LOVE, the idea of immersing myself in rescue missions, and any thing to do with Fleet Air Arm based operations.
I had the pleasure in reviewing Abacus’s Flight Deck 4 which was great, ( albeit one could say it was a little crude and rough around the edges, and had a few points that in my view let it down, now, onto the centre, stage under the spotlight comes ABACAS Flight Deck 5, for use within FSX, also, compatible with FS9.
If the promo picture are any thing to go by Abacus have taken full advantage of the revised and superior graphics potential, and I hope flight dynamics that are available in FSX. Remarkably the first version came out and hit the streets some 10 years ago for FSFW95 FS98, so, some pedigree.
As a small child I went on board a aircraft carrier, and watched listened felt and smelt and witnessed the ‘brutal’ process of landing-on, ( Sea Gannett’s, Blackburn Buccaneers Sea Vixens’) as one pilot put it,- ‘’the landing? Well, flight deck just gets in the way’’ Oh yes, then the arrester hook stops you in a mind blowing, eye popping rate.
Boy, I had and have tremendous respect to all Navy aviators landing and taking off any flight deck, it requires a certain type of person to be a Navy Aviator. Flying at a few hundred feet over the water, and looking down, and it looks at first glance, to be a piece of drift wood in the water….Oops, no, that is what we have land an angry, fast jet on, in a controlled way, attach one of the three wires, and stop in a nanno second, preventing hitting some parked aircraft, my word I am breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it!
In the main, we have a ‘hope in hells’ chance of experiencing such flying, but now my brethren, we can capture a flavor of the skill and nerves required to be a Navy Aviator.:- Flight Deck 5.
So looking forward to those gremlins found in the previous version, to have been ironed out, let’s install it. Fire up FSX, go to options, find the missions list, and hew presto, seemingly hundreds of ABACUS flights to choose from, OK a slight exaggeration, but loads to play with, 50 in fact, with 7 aircraft, with on-deck recovery and launch systems.
All the flights are off the USS Gerald R FORD Aircraft carrier, in areas of the World including Bay of Biscay, The English Channel, The South Pacific, Coastal San Diego and the Persian Gulf.
Some important tech stuff…….
Aircraft available to you:-
F/A-18E Super HornetTM
What’s new in Flight Deck 5?
- FSX – moving carrier – you’ll takeoff and land from a moving surface
- FSX – super-accurate launch and recovery using 3WireX technology
- FSX – five great missions and 60+ mini training missions
- FSX – maverick missile
- Aircraft Carrier – fly from the new USS Gerald R Ford
This is a breeze, follow the simple instructions, and the auto-install form the download. When you start the programe, you will notice a window that boots up white scrolling text, this is to do with the launch and recovery programe, you have to minimize this screen before you can get into Navy Ops.
I am willing this programme to every thing I want it to be, so without further a do lets get cracking…
This is what it is all about, so select the mission you wish to fly, as I ,mentioned, there a quite a number in the list, within the Intermediate Experienced and Expert labels.
I noticed a Avalanche Rescue mission, I selected that one, you are in a Agusta Westland EH110 situated on the ground in front of a hotel type structure on snow covered terrain, a car pulls up and a skier joins you in the helo, you then have to hover over two designated points, half way up the mountain, where charges are dropped to create a controlled avalanche, all well so far, and all presented in great graphic detail.
You are then diverted to a rescue mission to pick-up an injured skier/climber, located near the peak of the mountain, finding the waving climbers you are requested to hover above so a pick up can take place, boy, is it hard to maintain a constant hover, I was informed I was in position then I was informed I had to ‘’re-establish’’.
Not one to give up, I spent ages trying to succeed, but I had to give up. It was actually very frustrating, NOT impossible but will require more effort.( If you have tried to fly the same type in the FX mission section, under training pick-up, ie hovering over boxes to pick up, will know my frustration, it behaved in exactly the same way) There was another great little mission to pick up a secret load at the far side of a commercial airport, meeting some military ground vehicles, and fly off to a unknown destination, great up to the point of actually picking up the load…
Again the detail was excellent, but that old frustration kicked-in, so I opted for carrier based ops for the next flight.
I Fib, actually it was an air to ground bombing mission, all tied up in a Hornet fully weapon-up, ready for the off, given a quick overview, we were off, keeping low, and fast flying towards the indicated target, these were ground insurgents with very anti social heat seeking missiles…
Great ground effects, both sea and land. Cross the ground at an alarming speed, fingers over the release buttons, ready to drop the bombs, targets sighted, GO, and dropped a string of the 50 bombs allowed. Tight left up and over hard back to see the devastation, ooops some missiles outbound, drop to the floor get ground interference, it worked for me… To continue the fight..
I guess we have to fly onto and out of the deck, after all that is what this addition is all about… So I opted for a few approaches already established on long 5 mile finals, (You can also use the HUD display to guide you onto the deck.)
keeping your nerve, gear down, flaps selected arrester hook deployed, keep the decent, you are ‘called’ several times by the LSO, (great effect) giving you glide slope instructions and guidance, nearing the deck you are given ‘call the ball’ now this is serious, we are almost down, a few hurried adjustments, hit the deck full throttle, just incase, you need to go around.
If you hit the wire, and I repeat IF!! Your aircraft will stop in one serious hurry, throttle back, you will get a congratulations message and invited to line up for launch and do it all again.
The deck is busy, crew and hardware alike, taxi to one of the steam catapults, at the bow of the ship.
Taxi into position over the catapult. The launch team connects you. The steam is flowing and the catapult armed.
Set your brake. From his crouching position, the yellow jacketed shooter gives you thumbs up.
Wait for the instruction and select full power, release the brakes, and the catapult slings you forward… UP up and away!
Abacus have again offered with improvements, something very different form a VFR or IFR flight, this is real adrenalin pumping stuff, you will I can assure you be shifting in your seat, as you are approaching the deck at a ridiculous speed.
I have to say, I found the KEYBOARD ASSIGNMENTS window option especially useful, (accessible form the HELP option in the top bar) as this can be minimized, allowing you to refer to it on a continual basis, I found it invaluable, providing you valuable information on which buttons to press when you need to know!
The graphics on the aircraft are a vast improvement, and a lot of time has clearly been spent here. You get interactive crew around the launch area, and of course static crew scattered around the deck, giving a real sense of action.
Other aircraft launch off, adding to the feel of Navy life. Once or twice I was taxing towards the launch area, and a Hornet taxied right through me…
The aircraft in the main are very nicely presented, with good and effective responses, nice flap, gear and control surface movement. Ok, they are not perfect, especially if you refer to the myriad of superb offering now available.
I was flying a Turbo Prop aircraft and I could hear a piston engine..?? I flew this option several times with the same result. And throttle selection did not alter the engine note, from time to time.
As I have mentioned the flight dynamics are not to the standard found in FS, but accurate enough to have to have some fun.
One observation re the graphics, the props, there was no visual movement they looked a bit basic, some of the cockpits suffered with a little basic feel, but I have to say, you have all the instruments you need to do the job.
Oh yes, I was on finals after given the ‘ball’ only to see a Hornet on the deck right in front of me. Throttles forward and fly around, boy would I like to meet the pilot in the ward room!!!!
I have not yet flown all the missions, I intend to do precisely that, because I am having a lot of fun with this program, lets not get too ‘fussy’ with it, I love it for what it is.
I did notice that the missions take a long time to load, but Hew Ho, all good things are worth the wait!
It has many levels, and options that you can ‘try your luck’ a bit of combat, pure carrier borne activity, rescue and special helo ops. Yup I recon it is a must, especially if you are seeking a program that offers a little different set of challenges.
To name but a few:-
- Basic Carrier Training
- Maverick Missile Practice
- Sonobuoy Mission
- Day of the Waterspouts
- Crisis in the East
- 60+ mini-training missions
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