FSFlyingSchool is a product that makes a big claim. It says that it can take any airplane in your fleet and evaluate how you fly. Considering the variety of add-ons for the Microsoft and X-Plane markets, this would be an amazing feat. Through my experience and using it for the past few weeks, I have come to the conclusion that FSFlyingSchool is simply your run of the mill ACARS program with a flight instructor. That’s a fine thing for an add on, but it certainly doesn’t live up to it’s claim.
As I said, FSFlyingSchool is a wonderful ACARS program. It tracks a variety of things that other ACARS programs don’t. It determines what runway you are approaching and tracks the ILS in addition to giving you all the usual information like sink rate, landing pitch and flight time. The fact that it tracks how stabilized your approach is and goes beyond your sink rate sets it apart from other ACARS programs. A welcome feature given the discussion had in the FSElite Podcast Ep 20.
It also features a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) of sorts. He tries to guide you through your flight giving you tips that are relevant to the mode of flight that you are in. For example, during taxi, he will tell you to manipulate the controls to cope with the wind. It also monitors taxi speed and the rate of your turns In the take off mode, he will call your rotate speed and berate you if you are slow to raise the nose. From my experience, this is a pretty realistic mode, as it gives you some much needed insight into improving your ability to fly the aircraft you’re in.
Once in the air, your CFI puts his feet up and is relaxed about your cruising altitude. But whatever you do,don’t try any stalls or spins, or you’ll have a grumpy CFI to provide an explanation of the dangers of the maneuvers. During the descent and landing, he is very smart when it comes to approach tracking an ILS. He knows if you are on the glide slope and localizer. If you aren’t he will yell at you and provide some guidance on how to return to the respective approach path. If there isn’t an ILS, he’ll guide you through the visual approach.. Given how much the guy yelled at me he must be doing something right… whilst I was doing something wrong!The product does a really good job of providing feedback on how to fly. It legitimately provides flying tips that go beyond the typical approach that simply involves providing feedback on your mistakes. This a very good product if you know what you are doing and want tips on improving your performance. But, don’t expect it to properly teach you how to fly. It simply tells you how to fly more professionally.
There are some noticeable limitations and quirks to FSFlyingSchool. The biggest issue comes with that grandiose claim that the software can handle any plane you throw at it. While it’s true that you can connect FSFlyingSchool with any aircraft in your hanger, FSFflyingSchool’s ability to handle that aircraft varies considerably. It does really well with a certain number of preconfigured airplanes, but there are relatively few preconfigured aircraft available. As a result, it is a rather short list of preconfigured aircraft and will certainly leave advanced simmers wanting more.
That said, it handles GA fairly well. I did most of my testing in The Carenado 172. It knew the flap speeds and rotate speed and it was able to accurately point out my many faults when handling the aircraft. Considering I don’t fly GA in the sim very often, this wasn’t as appealing for myself. However, those who use Flight Sim to practice their flying skills for any upcoming qualifications in light aircraft, will find that FSFlyingSchool helps you considerably.
As for me the true test for this product was the way it dealt with PMDG’s 777-200LR.
Everything was going fine until I started my way into San Francisco. On short final, I found I needed a 6 degree nose up attitude to see the runway while maintaining the ILS. Given that takeoff was normal, I could only conclude that FSFlyingSchool had somehow messed with my center of gravity. After doing some research in the manual it turns out there is a random center of gravity variable that FSFlyingSchool applies. So, somewhere over Utah when I connected FSFlyingSchool it decided that the center of gravity and loading information I had carefully put into The PMDG CDU didn’t matter anymore. Somehow, I disagree!
To be fair, when I completed the arrival into SFO it graded my approach and landing as if nothing was wrong. Once I changed my pants, I proceeded to dig around the mannual to try and find a way to turn the random CG element off. I feel fairly certain there is a way to turn that feature off. But, the manual was so clunky that I never bothered to figure out how to disable. Subsequently, I relegated the rest of my use of the product to GA flying. With this being said, it appears that FSFlyingSchool simply can’t cope with the complexities of an add on like The PMDG 777.
The Final Approach
After spending some time with the product, I really think the asterisked phrase “some assembly required” should come with the packaging. It doesn’t help that the documentation is poorly organized. It is is even more unnerving to navigate the website, which looks like it was design when the internet was first born.
Will the product do what you want it to do? Probably. Is it worth the money for what it is? Kind of. Can it be modified to suit your needs? Yes. Can you figure out how to modify it using the documentation? Good luck!
What are your thoughts about FSFlyingSchool? Are there other products like this that we should know about? What features should they add to FSFlyingSchool to make it better?