• Flight Lite

    First Look -- At Flight Light

    by Jim Ross

    In the version of its Computer Flight Newsbriefs which comes with Flight Light, SubLOGIC notes that the program is a "new foundation," the first in a "new generation of SubLOGIC flight simulations," departing from the code which had been produced for Microsoft Flight Simulator version 3, and allowed limited use in Flight Assignment: ATP (Air Transport Pilot). There is a promise that they will build on this foundation various "graphics, sound, air traffic control, and online flight instruction technologies. . . ."

    And several of these are already present in Flight Light. Basically it appears to be sort of a combination of Flight Simulator 4 and ATP, with many of the best features of both. And lots of improvements: more colors, better textures for scenery, several new keystrokes/mouse clicks, all at a speed equal to or exceeding FS 4 (I'm not a good judge of this, since I'm running it on a Pentium).

    Flight Light is thus sort of the introductory package. It has only one plane (a Cessna Citation), and four areas of default scenery: Chicago/Champaign, New York/Boston, Los Angeles/San Diego, and Dallas/Austin. The next stage will be Flight Light Plus, which will introduce four new planes (Cessna 172, Piper Cherokee Archer, Mooney 201, and Beech Bonanza), and two more instruments, a second NAV radio and an ADF (that's right; basic Flight Light has only one NAV and no ADF). The upgrade will be $20.

    But, although some are included in ATP, there are a good many special features of Flight Light which take it beyond FS4 and even FS5. Here are a few of them:

    1. Windows-type contextual help is available at a variety of points in the program.

    2. Multiple wind and cloud layers can be set, as well as atmospheric pressure.

    3. Aircraft loading, including amount of fuel, can be specified.

    4. In the case of ILS frequencies which are the same at both ends of a runway, the proper one can be chosen.

    5. You can fly one of over 200 preset Flight Assignments, and receive a grade on your performance.

    6. It is possible to convert USA EAST, USA WEST, or Great Britain scenery for use with Flight Light, if you have previously installed it for ATP (see note below if you don't have ATP). And the USA scenery comes with a program which allows you to create your own Flight Assignment.

    7. In the lower right hand corner of the panel, there is a "Flight Information Display." This can be toggled to present either checklists for various segments of one's trip, or visual "cues" for several attitudes such as straight and level, climb, descent, climbing turns, etc.

    8. As in the USA scenery, various keystrokes can be used to bring up "cones" showing the position of navaids, as well as guidelines to a predetermined destination, and the destination airport traffic pattern.

    9. When in map view, a set of keystrokes will toggle on the runway plan of one's destination airport (which can be set from a menu command).

    10. As in ATP, a great many functions are performed with keystrokes and mouse clicks, as over against making choices from menus, which has a tendency to detract from realism. This includes an old feature of early versions of FS: mouse clicks to change view direction (incidentally, the "hat" switch on the CH PRO joystick is also operative for this). Keystrokes or mouse clicks also control autopilot NAV1/BUG hold and/or altitude hold.

    11. Time acceleration can be up to 16x.

    12. Scenery complexity can be set to "automatic", which will attempt to match the speed of your machine, or it can be set manually (both for speed adjustments, and to avoid distractions).

    13. The charts for the default scenery are excellent, being excerpts from the USA charts.

    I have no idea what the panel of a Cessna Citation looks like, so I can't comment on the realism of Flight Light. But I do note with pleasure the provision of a nice working HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator), a feature available on some earlier versions of FS but missing recently. Nor can I comment on the handling characteristics of the Citation, other than to remark that it's a lot easier to land than the FS5 Learjet.

    In the introduction to the User Manual, SubLOGIC emphasizes that Flight Light is "user-friendly and system-friendly." This presumably means that it is easy to fly, and with this I agree, after one has memorized all those key/mouse strokes! And it is easy on your machine: it does not require quite as many resources as the competition (part of this is because the resolution is VGA at the max). The introduction also emphasizes that the program is dedicated to a general public with little or no previous flying experience. This is borne out in the detailed explanations and hints in the documentation, as well as in the on-board Flight Information Display and its "cues."

    The documentation also drops a few hints as to the future. In addition to the additions which come with Flight Light Plus, there will be a new version of the USA Scenery, for Flight Light and its derivatives only, with better colors and textures, and more details in city areas. Although there is a COM radio in Flight Light, it is only active when using one of the preset Flight Assignments; we have, however, a reference to "future add-on products that incorporate air traffic control (ATC) functions."

    As a "new beginning" Flight Light is excellent, and as a promise for the future, it is tantalizing. SubLOGIC is to be congratulated.

    Send feedback to: Jim Ross [email protected]

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