It has been a while since we last had a product from Airline2Sim. In fact, I have been eagerly awaiting the 777 Cadet Plus Training Program, but those types of courses take an unbelievably long time to produce and create. In the stop-gap, Airline2Sim decided to instead release a new line of products: Airport2Sim. The idea behind it was to apply the same level of detail and production quality on giving people an opportunity to learn about specific airports. The first airport in a long-line to come in the future is one of Europe’s busiest hubs: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (EHAM).
With over 70 million passengers passing through the interconnected terminals each year, there’s always going to be a huge amount of traffic moving around the airport. Furthermore, the large number of runways, taxiways and noise abatement procedures mean that there’s always something to be mindful of. The number of procedures and scale of the airport often puts many people off from enjoying and understanding that a lot of the airport design is purely intended to make things as easy as possible. It’s also worth noting that Schiphol was designed as a “flower”, with the hub in the centre and then runways going in every different wind direction. Eventually, it was realised that this didn’t make for a cost effective and future proof design, so they decided to expand. As a result, multiple cities were removed just to be able to build the airport up.
The beauty of the Airport2Sim video collection is to try and give simmers, and to another extent pilots, a reason to try out Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and actually not feel so overwhelmed by the crazy taxi times, numerous routings and more.
The package is split into two parts: a 6-part video series and also a file package which contains GSX airport profile configurations settings and also a handy chart of which airlines park at which gate and with which aircraft. I’ll come onto the files shortly, but first I want to focus on the main attraction: the training videos.
The six episodes are split into chronological parts:
- Episode 1: Introduction to the Series & your Fellow Trainers
- Episode 2: Layout and Utilisation
- Episode 3: Gate Layout and Taxi-Out
- Episode 4: Departure Techniques and Tips
- Episode 5: Arrival Techniques and Tips
- Episode 6: Taxi-In & Closing Tips
As you can see, each episode focuses on something specific regarding movement in or around the airport. It’s broken down into nice manageable chunks so that you can pause it any time and come back to it when you’re ready. Also, if you’re flying and think “how do I do that again”, you can easily locate the area you need and re-watch what you need.
As per usual with Airline2Sim, you are accompanied on your journey with Ben and someone who is qualified to talk about the subject at hand. For Airport2Sim Amsterdam, we are joined by European airline First Officer James McDonald. Based at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, he’s been on the line for 2 years and is an avid flight simulator fan. As mentioned in the introduction video, he uses flight simulators to learn, practice and experience before putting them into practice in the real-deal. He said that the simulator does a good job at replicating many things he sees day-to-day and scenery recreations such as FlyTampa’s Amsterdam do a great job at representing their real-world counterparts.
A key theme throughout the video was how there was a clear rapport between Ben and James. None of the conversations ever felt forced and there was a good balance between Ben asking questions and being the simmer voice and James acting as the teacher. Both of their voices were very warm, welcoming and very clear and easy to understand.
When it comes to what each episode is like, I’ll attempt to give you an abridged version below to give you an overview on what to expect.
Episode 1 – 15 Minutes
Purely for introducing us to the product, James and of course, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. There are some nice historical facts in the introduction video and also some key operational stats. It helps paint a clear picture of why the airport, despite looking complex, is actually very simple. I also enjoyed learning a little more about the design decisions and also the air traffic movements and the logic behind them.
Episode 2 – 15 Minutes
The second episode is a lot meatier, with more information about airport layouts and movement. A lot of the time here is focused primarily on the two primary operations that serve Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Northern and southern operations are the norm at the airport, so a lot of time is spent on discussing departure and arrival runways, aircraft stands and also the infamous 25-minute taxi from 18R.
Episode 3 – 20 Minutes
Now we know about the airport and its layout, episode 3 focuses on gate preparation and also taxi-out. James spends a lot of time talking about pre-departure operations, time scales and what happens to give simmers an insight into what a typical day is like. I did note that a lot of what James discusses focuses more on his airline’s operation so keep that in mind when watching (understandable considering it’s his first and only airline piloting role so far). There is also information regarding push back operations and also TSAT – Target Start Approval Time.
Episode 4 – 60 Minutes
After taxing to the runway, it’s important to know how you leave the airspace. Ben and James talk over various departures including the LOPIK and VALKO SIDs and what happens in the real world compared to the published standard instrument departures. Short cuts and immediate climb-outs are the norm here, but James talks about what happens when they aren’t the day-to-day. Ben then takes you onboard a Q400 and a heavy 747-400 to show the difference in departure styles you could expect.
Episode 5 – 50 Minutes
After having the knowledge of learning how to depart Amsterdam, it’s time to learn how to land at the airport. Interestingly, there are two types of arrivals with Amsterdam. Night arrivals (anything arriving after 22:30, but before 07:00 local) and normal hours ops. Night arrivals appear to be easier due to the fact it guides you all the way in, but normal hours ops offer a more unique arrival as it’s all vectored by air traffic control. During this video, Ben will take you into the cockpit of the 777 freighter and also the Airbus A320.
Episode 6 – 15 Minutes
The final episode is a brief look at after landing and heading to the stand. There are a few extra tips and tricks tucked into this episode such as hotspots and other “nice-to-knows” about the airport.
As you can see, from my brief outline, it’s a robust look at all touchpoints of the airport from a pilot’s perspective.
Regardless of which episode you’re on, each video is well presented with a good amount of knowledge, insight and professionalism from both sides. As I mentioned earlier, both Ben and James compliment one another with no one fighting over mic-time.
The information in all the videos is what is really key here. I am by no means an expert on Amsterdam airport operations, so this is certainly a welcome product in my library. Some of my favourite parts from the videos came from the tidbits that only a pilot, such as James, who is based there, could tell you. From the little anecdotes about poor piloting he’s seen in the past or even some of the mistakes he’s learned from along the way, it makes it feel much more real and engaging. It was also great learning about how different runways operate in parallel during the various KLM departure/arrival waves and how the airport has been designed very much around noise abatement.
During the videos, Airline2Sim uses a variety of ways to demonstrate what it was they were talking about. For example, charts would often be laid over the simulator footage and then lines would be drawn on top to give you a better look at what was being spoken about. Sometimes I got a little lost so it may have been helpful had specific parts of the chart been faded out a little to pull my attention to the focal point. Other things such as real-world footage and ATC clips were embedded in certain episodes to give your mind a fresh start and refocus your attention.
Whilst the chart overlays certainly helped, I would have liked to have seen the Navigraph SimConnect used a lot more. That piece of software syncs up to your simulator and gives you a visual representation of your aircraft based on the chart. Especially for the episodes where you are either taxing or following a published procedure, having that in the top corner would’ve been a great visual cue to assist for those that learn in that style. I certainly think it would’ve made following some of the arrival procedures just a bit easier to grasp.
What I think is excellent is how you can walk into the product knowing something or everything, yet still enjoy it. It’s just nice to have things explained in such a visual way.
James is certainly highly knowledgeable of the airport and demonstrates this very clearly throughout. During some of the later videos, James is unfortunately absent from the videos. Episodes 4 & 5 focus very much on the departure and arrival procedures; whilst James introduces multiples SIDs and STARs, he’s not on the flightdeck with Ben during those sections. It’s a shame, because I felt as though he could add some more insight or tips about his experiences with those particular traffic patterns. This is especially true for the A320 landing (as James flies A319/A320 aircraft), so his presence was certainly missed. On the other hand, Ben couldn’t help but give some awesome little tips about the plane he was flying almost as like a mini Airline2Sim tutorial snuck inside of this. I picked up a few new tips on the bigger Boeing planes.
As I have mentioned, the overall production quality is incredibly high. From the framing of the shots, the clarity in the voice-over work and also the overlays – everything is seamless and creates a great experience. If I were to really nitpick, there were a couple of instances where things slipped through the net. For example in Episode 5, I noticed that there was a change in voice-over quality and some of the voice clips were cut short. Other nitpicky things include some of the graphics were cut short (episode 3) and some odd edits between interior and exterior. This really is me being super critical of a product where I can’t find much to complain about. These little things by no means interfere with the content nor distract from the overall quality of the production. If I had to also critique something else, then it would be the fact there’s no subtitle option for the hearing impaired. This is not something that I think has been considered for other flight simulator products, but maybe it’s time we started to do so.
I’ve spoken a lot about the video content, but there’s also the inclusion of the GSX files and the aircraft parking information.
What’s very cool with the product is that Airline2Sim has included a GSX configuration file for both users of Level 1 and Level 2 of GSX. Level 2 GSX brings advantages in that it enables you to have Safedocks and SODE jetways accurately placed throughout the airport. No more marshallers in gates with it and these docks will know exactly what aircraft you are and where to stop. Installation is simple through the GSX Level 2 tools. If you only own Level 1, then there’s also some other treats too. The GSX Level 1 file will move all ground vehicles into their correct place at each individual gate at the airport. No more will your baggage loaders spawn halfway into the terminal building.
The airline parking information document is very simple in that it tells you where each airline can park and what gate is optimised for which aircraft. The detail is great. Whilst a JPG file is easy for all to use, I would like to see more options such as the original XML file so I can filter and sort. Also, even a PDF version would’ve helped so I can easily print it on a sheet of paper if needs be.
When it comes to value for money, it’s almost unbeatable. The production value is as exceptional as you have come to expect from Airline2Sim. The inclusion of a full GSX file which fixes many of the issues at the scenery is worth the entry price alone. You have just shy of 3 hours of high-quality video content – all of which professionally edited, superb sound quality and great visuals. For the price of a couple of cups of coffee ($9.99), you’re going to get some great entertainment from the package. Plus, you can always refer back to each section time and time again to brush up on your skills.
Suffice to say, I enjoyed my time with Airport2Sim Amsterdam. I picked up many great tips and best of all, it made me feel part of the experience. I binged watched the entire series in an afternoon and feel confident I can taxi around Amsterdam Airport Schiphol airport feeling pretty knowledgeable and also with a much better understanding without ever feeling overwhelmed.
- Fantastically produced, clear content and lots of different ways to visually present information to you
- Great rapport between Ben and James and makes you feel like you’re part of the experience
- Lots of neat information and demonstrations of those learnings in practice
- Great value for money. The GSX file alone would be worth $9.99 due to just how big of an improvement it really is.
- Would like to have seen James be more involved in the ‘flying’ segments of the videos
- Some changes to how the overlays present during the departure and approach sections