FSFLIGHTMAX

Reviewed by Eoin Sutton

The increasing realism of our favourite civy flight simulator over the years has brought us some fascinating and ground-breaking add-ons. FSTraffic, FSAssist, 767 Pilot In Command just to name a few. Although one area which has been seldom attempted is Avionics. Complex avionics gauges are the creme de la creme of FS development.

The complex algorithms and calculations exhibited by the real devices have bewildered all but the few, who were willing to spend time and a lot of effort re-creating the functions for FS. One noteworthy company is RealityXP, who have created very realistic avionics gauges for the GA market. Yet, one more company has appeared on the horizon, who have demonstrated their skills with the release of FSFlightmax and they really mean business.

FSFlightmax (FSFM from now on) is a re-creation of the Avidyne Flightmax 850 avionics device. This add-on is a sophisticated instrument containing moving map, weather radar, TCAS traffic, terrain information, lightning tracker and much more. Upon installation, you will notice that this isn’t a conventional gauge you would apply to a panel, but it’s a module, accessed through the use of the modules menu item in FS2002.

It can be used for navigation purposes as is with its (limited) moving map, but there are many add-on maps you can buy from simsystems which integrate with FSFM giving greater detail over the area you are flying. I doubt this is the main selling point for the program however, as FSFM brings several features to Microsoft Flight Simulator that have never been seen before.

The most interesting facet of the program has to be the Weather Radar. We’ve all been in situations where we wished we had a wx radar to see what that menacing cumulonimbus ahead has in store for us. The FSFM wx radar, detects activity in all clouds around you and displays this on screen in areas of colour, with colours from the very light activity (green, blue) to the very heavy (yellow, red).

The “activity” refers to the amount of moisture a cloud carries, the more it has the heavier the radar return. Complex features seen on the real device have been implemented, such as the radar gain, range, stabiliser and Echo warnings. A very novel piece of software, and one which itself justifies the purchase of FSFM.

Another neat weather feature is the lightning tracker. This display will actually show all lightning strikes in your vicinity, happening from current thunderstorm conditions. A yellow lightning strike will appear on screen for a few seconds, and you can tell where it was in relation to your aircraft. A very handy piece of kit.

There are two other main elements to FSFM. A TCAS display and a terrain information display. TCAS stands for Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, and basically it will display AI aircraft around you from within FS2002. The terrain information display sends a beam directly downwards towards the ground from your aircraft which beams back up and exhibits what type of terrain you are flying over, high/low, mountainous etc.

FSFlightmax really is a superb program. It should go down in the history books as the first add-on with real working weather displays for Flight Simulator. The critics said it couldn’t be done but Simsystems have done it. The moving map, weather radar, lightning tracker, terrain information and TCAS display together make a very handy and interesting program, and combined with FSFMs ability now to be resized, used on a separate networked pc and used with FSMeteo, it really is worth the asking price.

Even if you never use anything else with it, FSFlightMax’s weather radar is fantastic and qualifies the program as a must-have. Frame rate impact is little if not non-existent, with the only troublesome time being the wx display using a high range. Outstanding.