Hey there my fellow FlightSim hobbyists, I want to take a minute to introduce myself as I have been apart of the virtual community for 10 years this August! I have a love for simming and I’m glad to be apart of such an awesome group of individuals. I have made some amazing relationships because of it and am forever grateful. Along with my passion for virtual aviation, I have been fortunate to pursue a career in air traffic control in Columbia, SC where a significant amount of Regional Jet traffic from several air carrier subsidiaries depart and land. Within the last year I finally have built the gaming machine of my choice; An i7-6700K with a GTX 1070 FTW GPU. As you could only imagine, with the anticipated wait of the Aerosoft/Digital Aviation CRJ 7/900, it is only appropriate that I purchase this aircraft on day one!
Let’s dive in…The long awaited Aerosoft CRJ 700/900 is finally here! Flight sim enthusiasts have been ranting and raving over this bird for the last seven years, and it’s fair to say that Aerosoft team has put out a quality product that the community has an eye for. How do you describe this aircraft in a few words? Fresh, unique, and robust! The first shots of this aircraft were released by Aerosoft’s Mathijs Kok in April of 2010! Future consumers were so amazed with the photos that FS2004 users were willing to make the jump to FSX, as Kok released the following statement. “Guys it is very simple, there is no money in an FS2004 version and a combined version is very hard as the FS2004 will dumb it down a lot in graphics. If you get me 5000 customers for an FS2004 version we’ll do one gladly”. An initial release of late August 2010 was given but was obviously delayed. Seven years later, it is quite evident that FS2004 is non existent. If you’ve been around since the early days of FS9 & X, the Canadair Regional Jet was and is still known as one of the “default” aircraft of the sim. It was a plane that some may or may not have looked over until Wilco announced the release of their short lived CRJ in May 2012. Wilco’s CRJ was not only one of the most unstable payware aircraft to ever be released, it was also one of the most undeveloped products on the market. From low quality interior/exterior textures to unreliable flight dynamics, most enthusiasts focused their attention on PMDG products as the 737 was the talk of the town.
When I initially purchased this aircraft through SimMarket, the installation was simple and to the point like any other Aerosoft product. In looking at the product manuals such as the tutorials, quick reference handbook, operating checklist, and FMS manuals, it’s fair to say that Aerosoft has prepared the user for an in depth experience. Having owned products like the NGX, it is evident that Aerosoft was not going to allow the “books” to fall by the wayside. With modernization and technology constantly being push in today’s aviation world, the addition of the iPad in the cockpit is a cool thumbs up!
The day prior to the release of the aircraft, the talk among AVSIM and Aerosoft users skyrocketed! After beta testers in the Aerosoft forums provided previews of the aircraft and a statement of it’s release, it was only a matter of time before the Aerosoft and third party distributors would become flooded with buyers. There were several highlights that initially stood out, a few being, the cockpit HUD, realistic MCDU, functioning EICAS display, accurate aircraft presentation and stable flight dynamics.
As you take an initial glance at the interior of this aircraft, it reflects an up to date and accurate model of the real world cockpit but does require a decent amount of learning to become fully acclimated. The navigation database is compatible with Navigraph AIRAC cycles and initially starts you out with a NavDataPro cycle from May of 2017. Aerosoft was brilliant in giving users the chance to transfer payload, passengers and fuel data from the iPad to MCDU for “Perf Init” data. While sitting in the left seat, I noticed how small the text on the PFD, MFD and EICAS is. There is some difficulty in reading the selection of altitude, and heading in magenta. Additionally, reading the VSI is quite a challenge. Alternatively, users can physically click the displays via mouse which produces a 2D popup screen, displaying sharpened and readable text. As you look to the left of the PFD, you’ll find several important knobs and controls ranging from light controls, range selector, nav source and more. As your familiarity improves it will become easier to decipher and remember which knobs do what. Most of the panel is initially blocked by the yoke but Aerosoft has created a function to remove the yoke by clicking the black flap speeds limitation card, which is located above the PFD. Nearly all cockpit functions are operational with the exception of a few buttons on the audio control panel.
Since we’re on the topic of controls, one of the biggest changes users will need to get used to the use of the throttle…let me say that again..you will have to get used to the manual throttle! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, there is no autothrottle in this aircraft. I want to point out that this is not a failure of Aerosoft, as the real world CRJ 700 & 900 does not have autothrottle. The aircraft’s speed on climbout and descent is managed by selecting a specific target speed once the “speed” button is selected on the autopilot panel and the throttle is set to “CLB” detent (climb) or “DES” (descent) mode. This creates additional workload for the pilot especially during critical phases of flight but nothing that cannot be managed overtime. I urge users to be very familiar with their departure and/or arrival procedures charts as many do have altitude/speed restrictions. As for the cruise phase of flight, continuous monitoring of speed is required. Unfortunately since there is only one pilot in command, the concept of crew resource management is out the window; Try adding ATC in the mix, and this bird gives you a run for your money! To add, some users have already stated they have had quote, unquote “throttle issues”. Being able to decipher whether the user knows how to correctly work the throttle or is having an actual glitch are two separate issues. Luckily enough, Aerosoft has addressed its consumers concerns by suggesting throttle calibration within FSUIPC.
Although many products initially experience various glitches, my initial gripe was the input of FMS data for the appropriate departure procedure which in turn, did not show the correct fix/waypoint necessary for a specific transition. This also occurred during STAR selection at the arrival airport so some finagling in the legs page was required. It appears that in Aerosoft’s latest update, 22.214.171.124 this has been fixed.
The overhead panel has a grainy resolution but does not take away from managing the aircraft or distract the user from feeling that their money was not well spent. In fact, one of the larger barks from most, is the inability to dim both flood and circuit lighting on the overhead, upper and lower pedestals as well as the glareshield panel. Hopefully this is something Aerosoft will invest in later on down the line.
With lighting and textures, come the topic of, is it “resource” friendly? Yes, luckily enough the demand on your computer system is not high at all, and the views within the cockpit allow a smooth transition from the window, to pedestal, to the overhead. As someone who owns several Active Sky & Rex Products, the CRJ even with execsuite dynamic lighting and functioning WX radar, this seems to be the number one aircraft in my hangar that is frame rate/VAS friendly. Of course at airports such as Kennedy, or LaGuardia with Drzewiecki’s New York skyline, you can expect a reduction in performance as the demand on the CPU/GPU is very high. For the most part whether you’re flying into a thunderstorm or experiencing the typical Canadian cold front, the simulator is in the upwards of 80+ FPS.
So let’s make our way outside! On the first day it was well known that the CRJ definitely had some issues with nav and beacon lighting for some. Fortunately I never run into this issue but it’s obvious that both red and green nav lights are a little bit more predominant on the wingtips than they should be. During the course of sitting on the ramp at Toronto & San Fran, I noticed detail in both the tail section, landing gear and a smooth looking fuselage. Overall, great job by Aerosoft’s Stefan Hoffman.
The flight dynamics of the RJ thoroughly impressed me on my initial departure out of LaGuardia for Portland, Maine. Note again, there is no AUTO THROTTLE. With a Vr speed of 134, the initial climbout was powerful! Although the operating manual states the take off sequence requires autopilot to be engaged at 600ft, there was no way I was not going to take advantage of some good old fashion hand flying. The controls were very responsive, yet smooth. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the aircraft manuals which have a plethora of information.
What’s important to understand about this release is that this is a different kind of flying! This is a Canadair Regional Jet. Keyword…”regional”’; It is your quality puddle jumper. If you like the occasional LaGuardia to Boston, or Detroit to Chicago, this is the aircraft for you. It demands your attention and the workload initially will definitely be increased. As a flight sim user you have to give yourself an honest assessment and ask yourself “Where am I in my skillset of flying and knowledge of aircraft systems?” This evaluation could be the difference between users giving the CRJ 8 stars or saying the aircraft doesn’t perform well. The aircraft will only perform as best as you know how to take care of it. This is a great buy for the price and the fact that Aerosoft within 24 hours released their first update/hotfix shows the dedication the team is willing to put forth. Since this aircraft is compatible with FSX and P3D v3 & 4, the team has had to fix many initial bugs. It’s understandable that when the anticipation for an aircraft nearly reaches a decade, some may be let down, but I believe I can speak for the majority and say that this aircraft meets the general payware standard.
Two days into having this product, I was able to sit down with my buddy who is a real world CRJ driver for PSA and he was thoroughly impressed. Of course a quality sim exemplifies the product because you get to see it’s full potential, and when the CRJ loaded up, it spoke for itself. The systems require knowledge and proper flow/decision making, thus it is necessary to understand what and when the aircraft demands pilot input.
It is fair to say that Aerosoft kept their promise after so many years of dedication to a sole project. The rapid response to fixing bugs among different simulation platforms and versions shows initiative and reliability. After reading Mathijs’ forum post in late July, it made me realize that enthusiasts have the ability to take the experience of this product to the next level.
“The first 8 weeks after a complex release are needed to fine tune the product. That’s done with the customers, no other way around it. It doesn’t matter how many focus groups you have or how many videotaped test sessions you do. Customers will always come up with ideas you have not thought of. Personally, because I don’t have a lot of time for simming as a hobby, I don’t partake in that for other companies and always wait a few weeks. You get a more mature product with less annoyances.”
What matters is not so much what is released but how things look after 4 weeks. And that depends on the people behind the product.” – Mathijs Kok
As always, some may never be completely satisfied, but when you look at flight simulation on a larger scale, this is the only aircraft of it’s kind!. With the capability of a max .82 speed and range of nearly 1300 miles, the Canadair Regional Jet, gives both the beginner and advanced flight sim enthusiast the opportunity to fly short and medium distance routes within ample time. Kinks will be worked out and critics will always compare it to the NGX, or Aerosoft Airbus, but this aircraft is in a class of it’s own. Overall, I give this aircraft a 7/10. Read the aircraft operating manual as Aerosoft/Digital Aviation have provided a well written tutorial. For continuous updates/hotfixes of this aircraft users can check out the forums at….
Sceneries used in this review:
Celiosim Jacksonville, FlightBeam KSFO, & FlyTampa Toronto
Happy Flying, and thank you,