Hey everyone, I thought I would put together a review of the FS Academy Airliner add-on, that I luckily received as a prize at the recent FlightSim Expo TTM Watch Party!
FS Academy Jetliner: Can even teach that eejit Gibbo ™
The FS Academy Jetliner add-on is available from all the usual sources including SimMarket, Orbx etc, costing $36AUD (or roughly €22/$26USD) here
So bit of background, (*cough not excuses cough*), I’m a 99.99% GA all the way kinda guy, and have mucked around (technical term) with airliners, via various landing challenges and even getting as far as getting the big bus up in the air and landed a few times. But it was probably more dumb luck in pressing buttons to see what they did, rather than with any firm knowledge behind me as far as cockpit procedures or knowing what to do & when.
Also I have tried the VFR Academy which I enjoyed and while it did complement my GA flying and provide an occasional challenge, I found it pretty easy. So I was excited to try the Jetliner variant, to see if it really could get someone like me with a lot to learn, up and running.
The FS Academy Jetliner add-on follows the exact same approach as the VFR and IFR editions before it. Install after purchasing, and it shows up in your community folder, then appearing in-sim under Bush activities.
Jetliner Academy Activities/Lessons
12 lessons in total which should keep me going
In skipping down through what’s there, there are a total of 12 separate activities to complete which are:
· Jetliner 1 - Taxi-Out
· Jetliner 2 - Take-off
· Jetliner 3 - Climb
· Jetliner 4 - Cruise
· Jetliner 5 - Descent
· Jetliner 6 - Approach
· Jetliner 7 - Taxi-In
· Jetliner 8 - Engine Failure
· Jetliner 9 - Emergency Descent
· Jetliner 10 - RTO
· Jetliner 11 - Manual Handling
· Jetliner 12 – Challenge
I’ll try not to go into massive detail about each section/lesson, but nevertheless want to give you a flavour of what each covers, and my take-aways. If you want to skip that, and just to final thoughts, just jump to the Summary section at the end.
*** Just to state for the record – views here are my own, not shaped/influenced/sponsored by anyone which I think you might appreciate ***
Part1 Taxi-out - Starts off not quite fully cold & dark in needing to get everything going, but transitions you from getting the APU on, to engines running, to holding short at the runway ready for take-off in Part 2. It’s a nice introduction to the Academy, as its not tediously going through each and every button, just the key ones you need to know to get the big tube moving, and takes about 10 minutes to complete. Biggest challenge was navigating the taxi-ways at Gatwick – where’s my taxi ribbon!???
Part 2 – Take-Off – Does what it says on the tin and gets you up straight and level up in the air on a flight to Barcelona. This section focuses mostly on the throttle & various detents (hello Flex position and goodbye TOGA!), rotation/V1 speeds, even when to turn off the seat-belt signs! Fun and easy session – took another 10 minutes or so….this flying Jets malarky (technical term) is a breeze!
Part 3 – Climb – Picking up where we left off on the previous step, we’re at 5,000ft and level, and I’m brought through directions how use the FCU including the speed knob (selected vs managed), covering Green Dot speed – all about that efficiency, and Auto Thrust is a marvel!! Heading/nav mode, transition levels/QNH, optimal climb rates for the A320 all covered here - watch out for icing through those clouds!
Each step is listed as an objective, with one following after the other, so far so good!
Smashing those objectives like a boss
Spotted 2 small problems though:
1 - None of my progress is being captured on any of the lessons, despite making sure I fully completed it as well as exited correctly out of them. Still says 0%. Perhaps a bug brought by SU5?
2 – You can’t just go continue into the next lesson, you have to go back to the menu, then select it to move on. Ah well, won’t let that stop us, onto the next one!
Eh, I completed it, honest! Why still 0%?
Part 4 – Cruise - Surely this is where you sit back, enjoy the Autopilot, annoy the flight stewards and drink coffee right? This session covers differences between IAS and TAS and why that is, Mach numbers (so tempted to try get past Mach 1!), ATC spacing, ATC gives us a direct routing which means using the big scary calculator that I’ve successfully managed to ignore – the FMGC. How each lesson breaks down each scary part is excellent, otherwise I could see how it could be perhaps overwhelming. But not here, still in the air and heading to sunny Barcelona, loving this so far! Didn’t get any coffee in the end!
Part 5 – Descent – Yep, this is where it starts to get butt clenching….can I get it down is the question! This lesson tells you how it’s all about energy management to get you down from FL350 to the ground. Here you get taught about descent management and using thin air to descend efficiently. Two great “rules of thumb” are given here for how to judge starting your descent and that you’re at the right FL for a given distance. And they apply to all aircraft not just to airliners – handy! Ok, I can see the ground now beneath the clouds, we can do this!
Some great “rules of thumb” given which help you gauge your ideal FL based on distance
Part 6 – Approach – Cabin crew, seats for landing please! Always wanted to say that. Well closest I get here is to turn seat belt lights on – but still :-) Concentration levels up are here with lots going on to configure for landing and decelerate all the way through the approach - juggling between speed and altitude. We’re back at the FMGC again and choose an ILS approach, abiding by speed restrictions when under 10,000ft, barometer changes, as well as changes in routing from ATC to go direct & confirming we are on the right ILS. We join the glide-slope and monitor all the way down until taking over for one of the best landings I’ve ever done in an airliner! While there’s lots going on causing an elevated heart-rate for sure, but to be fair, it again takes you through what you’re doing, why, and nicely step by step. We made it!
Part 7 – Taxi-In – Here you start off just having vacated the runway, and asked to hold at taxiway Tango. Then, eh, nothing! I waited and waited and waited. And nothing! I re-tried this session over and over, probably 20 times trying all sorts of different things such as moving slightly further down the taxi and less, taxi-ing to the holding point fast or slow….and same thing – just gets stuck! On to the next one….
Part 8 – Engine Failure – By far this is the most difficult session of the lot, and it’s taken me about 10 attempts to get it completed! You suffer a No 1 engine loss after take-off, and have to while using right rudder counter the yaw while continuing to climb, at the right pitch, on the runway heading, to reach EO ACCEL altitude. After levelling off and a mayday call, you then need to get your speed exactly right, while continuing to climb to 4,000ft. Easier said than done! It’s an exercise in co-ordination and prioritisation with lots to monitor and lots to do in a short space of time.
That’s one way to stay fuel efficient…
Part 9 – Emergency Descent – Nosediving is how this sounds to me! Let’s give it a go. Yep, window blown-in the cabin resulting in a need for a rapid descent from 35,000ft to 10,000ft. Is it wrong that an emergency was so much fun?!
It’s totally fine. I’m just late for dinner…
Part 10 – RTO – Rejected Take-off to you and I. Here you learn the procedures for emergency braking followed by an evacuation. So hard not to just slam on the manual brakes which is your gut reaction! Pretty quick and easy lesson here, 5 minutes and done for this one.
Part 11 – Manual Handling – Disengage the auto-pilot and fly the plane manually performing climbs, banks and descents. A breeze for any GA pilot!
Part 12 – Challenge – And is this is what it all builds up to! I feel like I'm back at school doing an exam. Putting everything just learned into practice, we start-up, taxi-out, back track and line-up at Gibraltar followed by manually flying around The Rock. An awesome end to the training with a nice sense of achievement to round all the hard work off!
Final Stop – A rewarding tour of Gibraltar to finish
Summary & Final Thoughts
After completing the Academy in full, I found it a great way to start learning to fly an airliner for sure. It covers what you need to know to get you up and running and adequately covers the basics. Adding in further lessons on topics such as rejected take-off, manual flying and emergencies was a nice touch, and I felt the lesson timing for each was just right at about 10-20 minutes on average each. In total, in taking my time and redoing some lessons for this review, it took me about 4 hours in full.
But as mentioned above, it is not bug free and could benefit from some user experience improvements. I noticed that sometimes the system can lose where you are or what you are doing, and on more than one occasion, I flew endlessly on my Tobler (own) despite having completed all the previous steps, with no indication as to either what was wrong or that it had somehow lost me. There was no option but to restart the session right from the start and go through it all over again to successfully complete it. Also if you don’t complete an activity to the exact letter of its law, you guessed it - you need to restart right from the start. I seem to recall from other academies (but can’t verify as it was pre-SU5) is where it would highlight the step or button you’ve to do, or even do other ancillary steps for you to assist you. That is not here, so it can take you an extra few seconds (not minutes ehem) to find things when searching for them by yourself for the first time. I’m thinking again this may be down to SU5, where I am on Legacy mode and it might need tooltips perhaps.
However on balance, if you treat this as an introduction to airliners, it will satisfy your expectations best and with that as mine, I did enjoy it and it has given me the confidence to take an airliner out again and left me wanting to learn more.