Pro Pilot '99: Review

By: Ed Reddy
Date: 1999-01-11

Reviewer's Specs:

  • Windows 98
  • Asus P5A Super7 ATX motherboard
  • AMD K6/2 350MHz
  • 64 Megs SDRAM (Micron @ 6ns)
  • Diamond Monster
  • STB 4400 PCI TNT
  • Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 7200RPM 7.0GIG HD
  • Viewsonic V773 17"
  • Soundblaster PCI 128
  • Toshiba 24X CDROM

San Fran

When a new flight simulator product is released, as a reviewer we need to identify who the target audience is for the software.

ProPilot99 was released two months ago to attract the realism/hardcore sim lovers. I can't comment on the sales over the holiday period, but this is a definite improvement over the previous ProPilot. Brendon and I (he's the real pilot, I'm the computer geek) found PP99 a refreshing entrance into the civilian aviation over Microsoft Flightsim98. I'll let Brendon continue on, but I'll throw in my comments from the hardcore simmer view.

Brendon: Recently I was given the arduous task of reviewing the flight characteristics and aircraft modeling for Sierra's new ProPilot 99. I have decided to leave out my comments on interface problems, lagging disk access etc for the computer geeks that are far more knowledgeable in these matters than myself.

I have seen several reviews of ProPilot 99 and was quite unimpressed with the lack of real world experience that many of the authors had when it came to flying. One such reviewer was upset that "when I attempted a loop it would go to a very high nose high attitude and then the nose would just drop down".

Anyone with any flight time in a corporate jet could explain this as the stick pusher being activated as the angel of attack reached excessive amounts. If you are looking for an arcade game that has very little basis in real life this is NOT the game for you. If you are a pilot or an aspiring pilot this is certainly one to consider.


Ed: Hey, who you calling a computer geek? Flyboys!

Getting back to PP99, the biggest computer related gripe I have is a big one. Don't try running ProPilot99 with software driven graphics. On my AMD K6-2 350MHz with 64 Megs (Micron SDRAM) I was getting 2 fps with software graphics in certain situations. (2 FPS with 3 cloud layers and mountain terrain in the Kingair).

This is unacceptable for those who will use PP99 without a 3Dfx graphics acceleration. This is ProPilot99 biggest weakness - maximum resolution is 640x480 and the only supported graphics acceleration is 3Dfx. Considering today's graphic technology with Direct 3D and Glide, I am absolutely flabbergasted as to why ProPilot99 has no other graphic type support other than 3Dfx.


Brendon: I was immediately impressed with the cockpit layout and functionality. ProPilot '99 has the best panels in the business bar none. The actions of the switches are all true to life. I wish that they had gone all of the way as opposed to the half job that they did in making this a realistic sim.

For example, it would be nice to have a realistic start sequence in the Citation. In a real Citation, all you need to do is press one button and the engine is running. A more realistic setup would allow a separate starter and fuel/igniter switches allowing an accurate start sequence and the possibility of a hot start.

Flight Planner

Ed: I too was impressed with the cockpit functionality. Buttons that click - just like in Janes F-15. But for the amateur pilot, it's a welcome surprise. It looks like a real cockpit, and it functions like a real cockpit. Thank goodness someone opened up the can of fresh air into this simulator. Good job Dynamix.

King Baron

Brendon: Likewise in the Kingair it is very easy to over torque the engines in real life yet the simulator does not support that. There is no form of damage model and short of crashing it is impossible to damage the aircraft. One interesting test is to repeatedly stall the aircraft 20 to 50 feet of the ground and as long as the main gear hits first there is no problem. Gear and flaps may be extended at any speed without risk of damage.

Ed: I agree…considering the damage modeling in all recent combat simulators (WWII Fighters, Combat Flight Simulator, EAW) there is absolutely no damage modeling in ProPilot. I could let my flaps out in the Cessna at 130 knots, which in real life would have caused damage. I could literally slam the aircraft on the ground while landing which would normally have caused the landing gear to collapse. This is unacceptable in modern simulators. However, on a different note, I can set a reliability factor so that an engine can fail at random.

Brendon: Stall characteristics were quite accurate with sloppy controls. It would be nice to add the occasional wing drop or spin but that has been left out. I have yet to find a sim that demonstrates flight below Vmca (Minimum flight speed at which an airplane is controllable when one engine suddenly becomes inoperative and the remaining engine is operating at takeoff power in an asymmetrical thrust environment.)

Pro Pilot

Ed: Brendon & I took off from Meigs to Chicago International in a Beechcraft Baron twin. I set a right engine failure to occur by giving it 50% reliability. When the right engine died, Vmca should be in effect. But we could still fly around and actually climb meaning the power characteristics are not modeled exact.

Brendon: Regardless of all of these drawbacks it is still far better than FS98 as a flight trainer. I used ProPilot 99 to practice the day before my IFR flight test and I feel that it was very valuable, as I had not been unable to fly for the previous week. I used Jepp charts and flew the published approaches complete with identing stations ATC control and even one vectored NDB approach. The cloud texture was nothing short of astounding.

I had set the visibility of RVR 1200 and 200 OVC (the approach ban minima in Canada) Unlike FS98 it is possible to maintain an altitude with precision and trim the aircraft for flight. After a touch and go I did a second approach as a CAT II ILS with the weather down to 500 RVR and 50ft OVC. It was an autopilot coupled approach and was very close to the real thing. On nice addition to the fame would be a flight director used on most light twins but never found in a flight simulator.


Ed: Jepp who?

On a final note, we would like to comment on the Air Traffic Control communications. While it's not exactly the most accurate for lining you up on finals, it does a fine job of following flight procedures for takeoff, navigation and landing.

Coupled with the best clouds we've ever seen in a simulator, the ability to have a co-pilot on board to handle navigation and radio channels, a flight plan wizard, this game comes packed with a lot of features that would cost hundreds in FlightSim98. Also included are 30 excellent flight training videos - an excellent teaching aid to the novice simulator pilot.

We like ProPilot99, actually - we like it a lot. If it had graphic support for resolutions higher than 640x480 and other video modes like Direct3D, we would give it Combatsim's recommendation as a top pick. Close…so close Dynamix!

Game Features:

  • 6 Aircraft to fly
  • Over 3500 airports with navigation aids accurately modeled.
  • Realistic Air Traffic Control communications
  • Detailed Flight Planner with Weather generation
  • Over 30 Training videos on CD

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