FS2Crew is widely known for their virtual co-pilots. Many see no other way to fly than with their copilots. Over the last few years, FS2Crew has been developing a new program that is a Virtual Ground Crew for your airplanes. This addon has been very welcomed into the community since its release a few months ago. Ultimate Ground Crew X has set out to give the simming community a better pushback system, as well as some other features they think you will enjoy.
Installing UGCX is fairly straight forward. The installer is very easy to follow. The only two options are to select your simulator, and to confirm the installation location. A DirectX installer then pops up, prompts you to accept the terms, and then the installation continues. So far so good.
Once installed, a UGCX Configuration Manager icon appears on your desktop, opening this will prompt for your name, email, and order number to activate the product. After that, UGCX is activated and ready for use in your simulator.
The UGCX Configuration Manager includes manuals, videos, a link to the forums, a logo manager, and a way to check for updates.
UGCX uses the default Prepar3D menus to interact with the product. To summon the menu, simply click on the addons tab on the P3D toolbar at the top, and select Ultimate Ground Crew X. Not having a key command to summon the window is fairly annoying, especially since its direct competitor has a key command to summon the same type of menu.
The options have a good amount of customization to them, and are also easy to navigate. Some of the options include ways to change languages and switching between voice and menu controls. There are also a lot of aircraft specific features such as changing where UGCX sees the aircraft’s wheel position, to include a bypass pin, enable or disable the rampers, how far back the marshaller is, and a lot more.
The voice controls are a nice addition to UGCX, which allows you to have more immersion when communicating with the ground crew. However, one of the biggest issues I have run into is that UGCX needs to have a specific, word for word command said to it for it to register what I have said and to move onto the next step. For example, when the initial parts of the pushback are underway, UGCX asks for a communications check and to confirm the brakes are set. You need to say “Communications are ok and the brakes are set” exactly like that, or it will not register and continue with the pushback. Having a system that listens for key words like “brakes set” or “communications good/ok/5 by 5” would work much better as many pilots fly differently from others.
UGCX offers six different services, including a pushback sequence, tow to parking, request a follow me car, and more.
Starting at the top, let’s look at the pushback sequence. The pushback offers the ability to use a computer generated pushback, or the ability to make your own custom pushback. The computer generated pushbacks work fairly well when the pushback is a simple left or right, but has some jerkiness to it with some planes, such as the new NGXu. The pushback also seems to always push the plane further than the line, having to correct and making the pushback further than it needs to be, happening even on shallow turns. The pushback feature also includes a way to custom build pushbacks. When selected, a window will pop up showing the airports AFCAD. From there, you can build routes and set the pushback location. I am not the biggest fan of this method as it’s impossible to see where stuff like buildings, blast fences, or airport roadways are. Making it hard to accurately make pushbacks if the gate is in the corner of a terminal for example. The custom pushback also pushes you back a lot further than the point you select for the pushback point, this can cause issues if your pushback point is close to other objects or the edge of the taxiway. UGCX also advertises a way to save the pushback should you have to reload it in the future. Sadly, I have been unable to get this working on my end, as the menu will not give me the option to load the route again. It is also worth noting that one of the most popular products for P3D, the Majestic Q400, is incompatible with UGCX, and cannot be moved by it. I believe this to be because the Q400 uses an external engine, but I am not 100% sure.
Moving onto the engine start sequence, this is used when a pushback is not required for the parking location you are at. This can be done by both hand signals and through the intercom system. Both are easy to understand and straightforward to use. The intercom is very similar to what is said with the pushback, just without the aircraft moving. There are 5 hand signals to choose from, which is fine for most aircraft. Where this falls short is that for engine starts, the menu will always list engine 1 and engine 2 start, even for 1 and 4 engine aircraft. Seeing as most of their patch notes, and even menu options mention the PMDG 747 by name, it is disappointing they did not include a way for the program to detect this aircraft, and offer 4 engine start hand signals.
Tow to Parking is a new feature for any Prepar3D addon to include, and offers a way to move your aircraft to a new parking position without starting engines. UGCX will automatically plot the shortest route to the new parking position, while avoiding any runways is possible. This seems to not work however. Starting at KSFO over at the super bay, and requesting a tow to the G terminal plots a route across both active runways instead of taking the longer route around the end of both runways. There is also no way to edit the route that UGCX makes for the tow. Some nice features included with the tow are the ability to change speeds, and hold position.
Follow me cars are available in the UGCX menu, offering an easy way to find the gate you are wanting the park at. A window with the airports AFCAD appears, and you simply need to click on the parking space you want to park at, and a car will either drive up to your aircraft, or spawn right in front of you. This service will also position a marshaller at the gate you choose.
If say you have an emergency in flight and need fire trucks to be rolled to your location on the runway, UGCX has you covered. When requested, an ARFF truck will come up to your location, sirens blazing, and douse your aircraft in foam (if that option is selected) for about 20 seconds. The foam doesn’t actually have an effect to your aircraft, it is simply a visual. The effect looks fairly good in the daytime, however, at night, the foam is still as bright as it was in the day, not affected by the change in time unfortunately.
The last service offered is marshalling. As it sounds, a ramper will spawn at the gate of your choice and direct the aircraft into the parking space. However, the animations are fairly lacking in this department. Excusing the jerky animations of the arms, the marshaller does not have a turn right or left animation, only a straight ahead animation. This makes parking fairly difficult without using the external views. I can get the aircraft at any angle on the line, leading up to the stop point, and it will not tell me to turn right or left.
Overall a decent range or services are available with UGCX. While say GSX is focused mainly on turning the aircraft at the gate with all its services, UGCX focuses on the movements of the aircraft, to and from the gates, and moving in between gates.
FS2Crew has said that UGCX can be used side by side with GSX, and this is true. As mentioned above, GSX has its focus mainly on turning the aircraft while at the gate, loading and unloading passengers, cargo, and catering. UGCX can step in when it is time to push seamlessly by simply bringing up its menu.
Overall the modeling with UGCX is acceptable, while the animations on the other hand leave me fairly disappointed.
The rampers look fine in my opinion. The models are detailed enough to do the job, but has some questionable textures here and there. The animations leave some to be desired as well. When the rampers switch between animations, there is a very noticeable snap that occurs. Even when walking, there is a snap that is noticeable when the animation goes to repeat itself. Other issues are that the animations don’t look very natural. The ground crew will often look like they are gliding across the ground as they walk. Arm movements as well feel very linear and lacking the human element. The other thing I have noticed is when the ground crew walks on dirt or grass, they will kick up a lot of dust on either side of them, just like if you taxied your aircraft into the grass.
For the ground vehicles, the modeling and animations are good. The have a detailed realistic look to them, and good animations come with it. The only vehicles that could use some work is the follow my truck as it looks lower quality than the rest of the vehicles. The tow bar on tows and pushback visually as well drifts off from the nose gear and the tug when the aircraft is being turned. It is not much, but noticeable, even when the tow bar position is lined up perfectly with the attach point in the UGCX settings. Often the tow bar will not even be connected to the tug correctly as well visually. I have also experienced the tug swerving back and forth before when using the tow service, this only happens at higher speeds though.
- Good range of services to choose from
- Fairly easy to set up and understand
- Good range of options to customize the experience
- Lots of visual bugs
- Voice control needs specific sentence
- Building pushback using AFCAD view
- Hand signals only accommodate 2 engine aircraft
- Marshalling does not give left/right hand signals