It’s back to the skies with Microsoft Flight Simulator and one of the jets that I was particularly interested in checking out – the Cessna Citation Longitude. My route took me from Toronto to Montreal in a relative shortly hop for the business jet. Here’s how it went!
Business jet chique
There’s a variety of cockpit experiences in Microsoft Flight Simulator from the traditional steam gauges to the ultra modern G1000 general aviation aircraft, many of them looking quite spartan even with the glass cockpit configuration (or maybe because of it). But hop into the Citation Longitude and it’s really interesting what Microsoft and Asobo Studios have captured here because it feels more Audi or BMW when you get into this jet. That more premium feel shouldn’t be a surprise as the unit cost for the Citation Longitude is $27-million. Not exactly pocket change.
As is typical of a modern business jet, the flight deck is dominated by glass and in this case the Garmin G5000 series of avionics. Having spent plenty of time with G1000 equipped aircraft in X-Plane and now in this sim, having this system in there meant that I was already somewhat familiar with how to operate it and this flight was intended to help me get to grips with the rest. It was surprisingly intuitive… if you already understand the G1000.
Toronto to Montreal
The route I picked was Toronto to Montreal which by business jet terms is a short hop of just a few hundred kilometers (the jet can cover over 6,400 kilometers). Starting at Toronto Pearson (CYYZ), I wanted to see what one of Canada’s busiest airports was like in the sim before climbing up and above the cloud deck, over Ottawa and then in to Montreal-Mirabel airport (CYMX).
One of the things I love about Microsoft Flight Simulator is the checklist. They don’t just have a checklist but they have also ensured that it is interactive and useful as a teaching tool. The checklist covers everything you need to know to go from cold and dark to a fully operable aircraft in the sim and as you progress through it you can click the ‘eyeball’ icon to have the camera pan and zoom to the button you need to press. It highlights buttons and elements of the glass cockpit to help you understand what’s happening and identify the gauges you need to be looking at. No hunting for them required.
Once the start-up was underway, my co-pilot AI requested pushback and my second engine came online just in time to start taxiing.
Toronto Pearson looks very average. Although the buildings are all in the right locations, they aren’t at all representative of the airport. The door is wide open to an enterprising developer to do the airport justice and put it on the Marketplace. Meanwhile, the nuts and bolts of the airport seem to be just fine and I made a quick taxi out from one of the courier ramps to the hold short line at runway 23. A 787 Dreamliner landed (awkwardly – multiplayer offers odd and interesting visuals) in front of me before I was cleared to taxi and takeoff.
Although my computer was still struggling a bit at this point I did get some nice visuals as I pulled away up and to the north of the airport flying right between two developing rain storms.
Up and away
Once up at about 31,000 feet I learned that the autopilot controls are very similar if not almost identical in operation to the G1000. There are a few differences but ultimately I was able to set the autopilot, set an altitude hold and the aircraft held that altitude. Press the heading control and I was able to use the dial on the dash to plug in my desired heading and away we went.
I am not yet versed in all manners of flight planning so the route I had Microsoft Flight Simulator create was a VFR point to point route. Not by the book but useful enough for me at this stage of the game.
On the way I took the opportunity to start to get a basic understanding of the drone mode. It’s an interesting and flexible camera that can be oriented and tilted in just about any way that you want. It can stay fixed, as if on a boom, to the aircraft or detached and operated separately. I did have some problems with using it and I’m not sure if there’s a toggle mode that I accidentally deactivated because I couldn’t use it for a while. It came back eventually.
Landing at Montreal-Mirabel
Once I was just south of Ottawa I knew that it was time to start decreasing altitude and slowly but surely I was able to convince the autopilot to start a decent into Montreal.
Montreal-Mirabel is located north of Montreal and, I learned after landing, not a passenger airport although it is a home to a variety of GA aircraft and its a manufacturing base for Bombardier and Airbus so lets pretend I was ferrying some execs for one of these companies.
My first landing in the jet was relatively straight forward. I did learn that the key binding for the spoilers takes them to 100% and I wasn’t able to locate an axis command for it (they are on an axis in the cockpit controls) but aside from a bit low on the glideslope I managed to land the jet successfully, and, using the taxiway guides, park the aircraft on a GA ramp.
Still dealing with performance issues and problems
This was a great flight and plenty of fun but once again not without technical glitches. First, my CPU seemed to be pegged at 100% for the first several minutes. This may be caused by some AI populating the airport and so I’ve made a note to adjust the number of them down for my next flight.
The aforementioned control issues with the drone camera were perplexing. More perplexing was my TrackIR (using OpenTrack here) randomly not working for this flight. Past flights have been fine but this one it refused to operate. It does seem to me that, going by the forums and community groups, that the sim seems to really prefer having 32GB of RAM available. Those of us with 16GB seem to be seeing more crashes and other problems. Some performance glitches are to be expected but crash to desktop is less-so.
The flying in this sim is fun, some of the most fun I’ve had and with an entire world to explore I feel driven to keep on flying and finding new sights to check out. These and other glitches will be worked out and the experience will be more and more enjoyable as they do.
Asobo has announced that a new patch is due next week on August 27th and that it will be aimed at resolving a number of known bugs and issues. With some luck we’ll see these problems work themselves out and the experience get better and better. More as it develops!
All screenshots were taken on Medium settings.