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Review: Feelthere ERJ-145v2

Staff  reviewer Benjamin van Soldt digged into Feelthere’s ERJ-145 this time…. and we believe he liked it! This review contains a Question/Answer session that helps with the most common problems encountered. It also contains an interview with Feelthere.

We all know Boeing and Airbus. We all know Tupolev and Ilyushin. We all know British Aerospace and… yes, Embraer. Embraer is a Brazilian designer and manufacturer of airplanes, that for quite some time didn’t seem to make their business as big as they had wanted it to be, but this changed with the ERJ-145. This regional jetliner became a hit around the world, and many airlines have adopted it in their fleet. We see it in America and Europe, but not only there. Models are also flying around in China, for example. We can truly say the ERJ-145 family (which includes the ERJ-135 and ERJ-140) is an internationally known and used plane.

We all know PMDG and Level-D. We all know Carenado and Captain Sim. We all know Aerosoft and… yes, Feelthere too. Feelthere is a developer we know from, for example, the rather famous Wilco 737 PIC. They also did an ERJ-145, apparently it was their first aircraft to publish. It’s to be seen on the model, too: according to current standards, that plane has a very ugly virtual cockpit, although it did come with a rather nice cabin and very nice exterior model. The systems also were of good quality. However, feelthere has gone back to the drawing board to deliver us a new plane: the ERJ-145v2, a package that includes the ERJ-135, ERJ-145 and ERJ-145XR. They have teamed up with mcPhat to deliver some high quality repaints, too. I will be taking a look at this package now, and I will see if it lives up to its predecessor and maybe surpasses it even.

Installation

Installation is typical, meaning it’s easy and straightforward. It should be a procedure everybody is familiar with. You get various installers: for the ERJ package you get two: one for FS9 and one for FSX. If you bought the mcPhat livery packages, you will find that you get an installer per bought livery package.

You simply start the installer and do what you are told. You set the directory where FS9 or FSX is installed if it doesn’t already display the correct path. You also have to enter your name and the license key, but after that you are ready and will simply have to wait for the installer to finish. The mcPhat liveries are installed in much the same way, except that you choose in the installer what version you want to install (FS9 or FSX).

All in all, it couldn’t have been easier. Once installed, you will find a new directory in your START menu, which includes documentation and the configuration manager.

Documentation

One of the first things you’ll read in the documentation, is that not everything is in there. I’m not sure what to think of that, but it seems a bit disturbing that you bring out an aircraft with supposedly complicated systems, and don’t write everything there is to know in the manual. I’d even categorize it as “sloppy”, if not disappointing. That said, what is told, is told in a good way, with here and there a touch of humor (“load your plane with 35 volunteers that have agreed to be passengers”). There are also two introductory flights, one about general aircraft handling (learning how to use the autopilot, get the plane up and running and all that), and one about a full FMS flight. Both of the tutorials have been written well and most of the time it’s easy to understand what the authors are talking about, and therefore what the next step is. I do think you should do both introductory flights more than once, unless you feel really comfortable with the plane.

Doing the introductory flights, I understood this was a special plane. What’s more, it reminded me of another aircraft that was recently released, and it is not “just another aircraft”. No, I’m hinting at the PMDG Jetstream 41, which I had the opportunity to review for Avsim. In that review, I wrote about how I felt myself to be an actual pilot, because the plane wasn’t wholly automated. And lo and behold, the ERJ-145 isn’t that different! Knowing that, I was happy, because it means it will be a very enjoyable airplane to fly.

Exterior

Feelthere has kept improving in a number of ways over the years. One of these is the exterior model. That’s not to say other releases were bad — not at all! The original ERJ (to be referred to as ERJv1), had a very nice exterior model, but ERJv2 beats it outright. This exterior model simply nails it in all departments.


Overview of the plane: back-left

Overview of the plane: front-right

As you can see, the aircraft looks very pretty. I had the feeling the engines were oversized, but they are not. They seem to be just right, have an accurate shape, and basically are just what you’d expect. What I do sort of find a pity, is that the passenger windows aren’t transparent, but then again, it really isn’t necessary to enjoy this plane.

Front of the plane

Starting from the front we will work our way to the back. I’ll try to show you all the important details in the process.

NosewheelNosewheel

First up: the nosewheel. The modeling of this intricate bit of engineering has been faithfully reproduced. It seems all necessary details are included. What’s more, I personally think the texturing is outright perfect. It’s just right. Small details are visible, without it being hard on the FPS. A very good job here!

Cockpit

Passenger door opened.

Now we move our view up, and give the modeling of the cockpit, stairs and galley a look. Looking at the cockpit, what strikes me most is the reflection on the windows. Although not a new thing, I think it has been done very well on this model. Looking inside, which is made a bit hard by the reflections, we can easily recognize all instruments we will soon be seeing from inside the cockpit. All looks well. It is not exceptional, and it doesn’t have to be. You won’t really look at it most of the time anyway, although I would like to mention that I think the pilots have been modeled very well!

Next is the passenger door and stairs, which seem perfect to me. Look at that texturing: it’s crisp and sharp, as you’d want. The detailing is again amazing, and it’s a great thing to look at. Pity you won’t see it most of the time…

Great sharpness of the textures!

Now lets give the fuselage a look. There really isn’t too much to say here, but I wanted to show you the exceptional painting. The texture detail is simply amazing. This close to the fuselage, and the textures are hardly blurry — I don’t recall seeing that amount of detail that often. The reason for this is simple, and it is one I’ll be looking at in the following paragraph.

Wingview

Show of the hind landing gear

Next thing is the wing and the hind landing gear. The wing itself looks very good. The detail here, too, is simply amazing, and it gives a very authentic feeling. I absolutely love what the texture artists have done!

The hind landing gear is of the same quality as the nosewheel. Detail is great and textures are stunning. Just look at the tiny details just at the back, at the front of the wheel (that’s left in our view). And the texturing: it’s like the gear is a bit dirty, but not too much. Finally, have a close look and you’ll see there is a little sticker there that probably tells ground engineers about weights and the like. Not that it’s legible, but looking at it, it’s clear what the layout of the sticker is, at the very least. Simply an awesome job! The wheels also are rounded very nicely — not perfectly, but it’s not as disturbingly blocky as with many other addons I have looked at.

Engine, front

Engine, back.

Vertical stabilizer

We have arrived at the back of the plane, and all we have to look at still, is the tail and the engines. The engines are first in line.

Basically, the detail of the texturing and the detail of the modeling is the same we’ve seen in other parts of the plane, which is a good thing. A problem I found in the model of the ERJv1, was the fact that the engine’s cone (you know, that cone shaped thing in the middle of the engine, that holds the fan blades?) simply seemed too big. That problem seems to be addressed here: the engine cone is reduced in size, and in turn gives a much more faithful reproduction of the real thing (which is what we want, don’t we?). The texturing of the fan blades didn’t really convince me though. You had to look at specific angles to notice that the fan blades are 3D, and I don’t quite like that. I’m also not sure how this can be improved, since I simply assumed that that’s how the real thing probably looks too. In the end, though, front and back of the engines is nicely textured and with the amount of detail we have come to expect by now from this plane.

The tail is equally good, and represents the real thing fine. I’ll say it once again: the texturing is simply great. I will go as far as saying that, under the right lighting conditions, you will have trouble recognizing this plane as a simulated model — you’d think it’s real.

Is it real? No it’s not. You’d have to take a shot by night from a distance that is a bit greater than this. But yes, I deem it possible to confuse it with a real photograph!

This concludes the exterior model paragraph. And now on to praising the texture artists!

Exterior — McPhat liveries

The fact that the textures are so bloody awesome, should be no surprise at all: the texture artists are with McPhat: by now renowned for their awesome paintjobs which look realistic and faithful to the real thing. This isn’t the first time they have done textures for feelthere, either. Their EMB-170/190 product also sports liveries by McPhat, which look equally good.

So what about this deal with McPhat, then? Basically, you get several paintjobs with your ERJv2 basepack. These are made by McPhat, but you can  buy more for a low price. At the moment there are three: two with a mixed set of liveries, and one with all British Airways liveries. I’ll admit I’m no fan of such “one airline” packages, but I’m sure British simmers will love it. The three packages cost 16 dollars individually.

For FSX, both addon packs give you specular and bump maps, which FS9 of course does not support. But by god, it must be the highest amount of detail seen in FS9! Maybe not in FSX (the package is labeled “normal definition”, there are high definition liveries for FSX already), but there, too, it looks very good indeed.

Interior

Tne thing that had gravely disappointed me when I got myself the ERJv1 a few months ago, was the badly outdated VC. It looked terrible, honestly, and was in no way up to the standards set by even mediocre addon planes. Luckily, this situation has been more than remedied with ERJv2, as you’ll soon see.

First, here is a real cockpit, which we will use as a comparison to feelthere’s ERJ-145 rendition:

A real ERJ-145 cockpit.

And now, let’s continue with the simulated ERJ-145.

Main panel, systems off.

Main panel, systems on.

Main panel, ready for flight.

The above three screenshots show the main panel with systems off, on and finally ready for flight. Generally, the panel looks good, with neat texturing, and the gauges appear crisp and easily readable. If you find you have difficulty reading a digital gauge, you can click it and the gauge’s screen appears zoomed up in a 2D view, so you can easily read it.

Overall, I’m fond of the way the main panel looks, but here is something I don’t like at all. It’s the FGC: I don’t understand he decision to have all the buttons 3D, but not the knobs. You see it in the entire VC. I find it disappointing and I wish the knobs would be 3D too. Perhaps it’s because of the polygon limit of FS9? If that’s the case, I say reduce the detail in some other areas (the passenger cabin, for instance), and give us 3D knobs.

For the rest, the main panel looks good. I won’t say it’s the best I’ve seen, because it isn’t. There are things here and there which I think lack subtlety. The way the FGC and the like seem placed on the main panel doesn’t look very convincing to me, for example. Also, for some reason, many of the gauges’ heightened sides, have a different color. Look at the RMI, for example: the top is a light, metallic grey, while the bottom is a totally different grey. This I find completely unrealistic. It should all be the same color grey. Same thing can be seen at the small EADI, just above the RMI: the sides are entirely metallic grey, whereas it’s obvious it should all have that dull, dark grey the PFD and MFD have (these are the two big screens left of the RMI and EADI). Basically, they are made to look as if the sun shines on it, which gives a false impression. Why? Well, because in reality it doesn’t even seem to be metal, rather plastic. Plastic doesn’t shine that way.

Look at the real world pic, and you’ll see what I mean, the entire panel all has the same color and there are no instances where the various parts have different colors. Why feelthere doesn’t have that nailed down, I have no idea, but it’s very weird. The 2D panel, which I’ll discuss later, does have it nailed down, so why the VC not? I have no idea.

Still, all that said, the modeling in general is very good, and apart from the texturing issues I highlighted, the rest of the texturing is convincing and the gauges are very clear and easy to read. On to the next areas of the VC.

Left side of the VC.

Right side of the VC.

Looking left, we see a nice rendition of the real thing. The texturing here is good (I especially like the texturing on that brownish part of the window, just above the map. Looks good!), and the modeling has also been done well. The handle to open the window does seem a bit off, being a bit smallish and to “straight up”. Looking at the real world pic, it should be slightly bent inside, towards the main panel. That said, it really looks okay and I will not be too hard on it (this is me being nitpicky again…).

The right side of the cockpit is quite impressive, I must say. I like the modeling of the chairs, and their texturing is very good too. The windows frames are just the same as on the left side, meaning they are good, too. The back wall of the cockpit seems good too, with nice texturing, good modeling of stuff like the fire extinguisher and first aid box.

Overhead panel.

More detailed shot of the overhead.

Now we turn our view to the VC roof, where we see the overhead panel. Modeling is good and very precise. The texturing here is top notch, and is far beyond what I expected. Maybe it’s because of other addons, but I have become accustomed to overhead panels that are barely legible, but the feelthere ERJv2 does a very good job of giving a very easy to read overhead. The letters are very crisp, as you can see in the more detailed shot of the overhead, and reading is no problem at all. What does this mean? Indeed! We finally have an addon in FS9 where operating the overhead from the VC is absolutely no problem! Moreover, if you have ActiveCamera and set one of your views to look directly at the overhead panel (something the FSX version of the ERJv2 already does by default), you can very easily use the VC overhead.

Pedestal

Finally, the last bit in the VC is concerned with the pedestal. Overall, this looks very well, and the modeling here is very good. The texturing isn’t always quite right, though, as you can see when looking at the real world pic. The Go Around text on the throttle handles seems too big in the ERJv2, and some other minor things are a bit off. The text is also less legible here than on the overhead. That said, the overhead has a sharpness that I have rarely seen, and maybe shouldn’t be taken as a rule of thumb when reviewing products… You rarely see this crispness and sharpness with addon airplanes.

Overall, this VC is a great improvement over the original. I’m not happy with all aspects, which leads me to believe there are better VCs out there, even in FS9. Still, it’s not at all bad either, and has aspects that I have yet to see often in addons, like the sharp textures of the overhead. Overall, this is a very pleasant VC to sit in. I’ll repeat that: although it’s not the most beautiful VC out there, it certainly is one of the most functional and easy to use VCs I have come across.

Are we done then? No! Not yet. In feelthere style, we have an entire cabin modeled too. I won’t devote much time to that, so here are a few more pics of that. Generally, it looks fantastic, and the fact we have wings in there is a very nice addition. With ActiveCamera, you can make your own wing view that way. A very nice addition!

In the VC, looking through the cockpit door into the cabin.

In the cabin, looking through the cockpit door into the VC.

The cabin. Texturing is very good, and modeling is very professional. A good job done!

Looking at the wing from inside the cabin. I love the look of this!

Your generic wingview.

And another one, but from the other side. I love the reflection on the wing.It’s very convincing! What we see here truly is a great dynamic shine, in a way I have never seen yet in FS9.

Animations

There are plenty of animations possible, but not as many as you’d (maybe) hope, or know from other developers. In broad terms, it’s rather comparable to the LDS767 in the animation department. Windows don’t open, but for the rest, in the VC everything seems to work. Of course, the cockpit door opens and the passenger and cargo doors can also be opened. Gear extends and retracts, flaps do too… The basic stuff, mostly.

However, the spoilers are weird. I was extending and retracting them manually on the tarmac the other day, and noticed no animation. They go up, yes, but there is no animation where you see them doing it. It’s as if the gear of the plane would be extended or retracted, but you would not see is actually retract. I hope I’m making sense, because it’s a bit hard to clearly say it. Spoilers genuinely “pop out” of the wing, and “pop back” when retracted.

For the rest, this concludes this paragraph. All other animations are there and they look good. Not a lot to say, I’m afraid…

2D Panel and systems

First of all, I will not go into much detail about the systems. You’ll get to see them in the “Taking it for a flight” chapter, so here I will refrain from judging the systems in much detail. I’ll stick to showing the 2D panel, tell what works and what doesn’t, and if it generally behaves the way it should.

Main 2D panel — all off.

Main 2D panel — all on

Main 2D panel — ready for flight

First of all, the main panel. As you can see, it’s clear what you are looking at: gauges are easy to read and the bitmaps used for buttons and the like are easy to recognize because of sharp texturing. The layout of this 2D panel includes all necessary screens (PFD, MFD, ISIS and RMU (also called RMI sometimes) and EICAS), and the DCP (Display Control Pan el, which offers controls for the MFD and PFD) and FGP (Flight Guidance Panel, which offers autopilot related controls). All are easy to use, and the manual clearly explains where to click what, in order to manipulate the buttons, switches and knobs.

2D panels: Overhead and CDU.

2D panels: Pedestal and Call! pop-up panel

The other panels look equally good. They offer a good, functional top-down view on all buttons you need to perform your flight safely. Text is very well readable and generally the panels are very easy to use. I will go into more detail later about the Call! utility, since it requires a chapter of its own.

Basically, most of what you see here works. It’s really own the fire discharge handles and cockpit voice recorder stuff on the overhead, which isn’t functional. I dare say 90% of buttons in this cockpit work!

As an aside: after talking with the feelthere about this product, they told me you can save the panel state. I didn’t think this would be true, but frankly, I didn’t test it either. The ERJ-145 is a regional jetliner and so I don’t think you’ll ever really need to save your flight to continue it later, but now you know you can. Panel saving is not as elaborate as with the PMDG 747, for example, where you can choose to a make a specific panel state for later use. However, FS will save the plane’s panel state (including the FMC) so when you reload the flight later, you can simply continue where you left off.

Sounds

Engine sounds are a very important part of an aircraft addon. While I agree that there always is a replacement to be found (except, of course, when searching for lesser known engines, such as Russian jet engines), you shouldn’t want to replace them. If this is the case, the sound technician on the project did a lousy job.

Luckily, I didn’t feel the need to replace feelthere’s ERJ sounds in this addon. They sound perfectly fine to me. What’s more, the callouts in the cockpit of the GPWS, and the aural warnings during system tests, has been very well done.

Call! utility

The Call! pop-up panel.

An added bonus in this package is the utility called “Call!”. This utility presents itself in a small 2D pop-up panel, with various buttons. Click a button, and a checklist will be played, in a clear, loud voice. It will name the next item on the checklist, and if it’s alright, it will continue with the next item, after calling the desired (and correct) setting. This is a very nice addition, and helps you set up the plane the right way before going on with the next phase of your flight. One note of criticism may be that, if an item is not correctly set, the Call! does not tell you what it should be. Instead, you have to guess and fumble with the switch until you hear the checklist go on.

There isn’t just aural confirmation, though. It’s also visual: while the checklist plays, the corresponding button on the Call! pop-up panel will be orange. When everything appears to be okay, it will turn green, and it will stay green for the remainder of the flight.

If you halfway find yourself searching desperately for a button and can’t find it, thus not being able to continue with your checklist, you can simply click the corresponding button on the Call! pop-up panel again, and the checklist will be quit. You can start it over again at a later time if you wish, when you do find the relevant button.

Additionally, there also is a button that enables the safety briefing the crew gives the passengers before departure. A very nice addition! Besides this, the crew will also (automatically) give a small talk after landing, telling the passengers not to get up until the airplane comes to a complete standstill at the gate.

This is a nifty, and very nice addon. It is available for more feelthere products, but you get it for free with the ERJv2. I find that it is an immersive and fun way of going through otherwise boring checklists.

Taking it for a flight

Here I’ll give a short description of a flight I did with this plane. I’ll basically tell you about the systems and while flying, I’ll give a peek in their operation. The flight will be a night flight from Amsterdam to Groningen, utilizing the ERJ-145 in KLM Excel livery.

Or at least I thought that’s what I would be doing.

Turns out there are problems, at least for me and several other people, where the sim seems to crash at night. I haven’t investigated this problem ad nauseam, but I have heard that in windowed mode the problem vanishes. So, in short: full screen, night, ERJv2, doesn’t seem to work correctly.

With that out of the way, I went on to fly my flight at daytime. Now, unfortunately, Fraps decided it didn’t want to save my screenshots. So, because of that, I don’t have screenshots of the entire flight. I do have some screenshots from the nighttime flight before the crash occurred. Since the start of the flight is basically the same as the daytime flight, but at a different hour, I can show you some screenshots of that. For the rest, you’ll just have to believe me (it also gives me the nice opportunity to show you the very nice VC lighting!).

Our flight starts at gate C5, at EHAM Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At approximately 0:00 (yes, 0:00, for the screenshots, add 16 hours, please, to get the flight I actually did fly to the end), I walked to the plane, entered, and proceeded into the cockpit. It appears the FO had already arrived. I come in and he greets me (yes, the plane actually greets you when the flight starts. Makes you feel quite welcome), after which I sit down, take out the necessary maps and checklists, and get started.

Our plane, parked at gate C5.

First things first: power up the plane.  Switch the batteries on, fuel tank number 2, and you can start the APU simply by turning the APU Start knob to “start”. Then view the EICAS, so you can see when the APU has reached full power, as can be seen in the following screenshot:

Switching on the APU. The number to look at is the tiny “100%” in the very lower right corner of the EICAS.

Now that we have power, we switch on the avionics, and proceed with the before start checklist.

With all avionics on, you can see how most system are not ready for use yet.

Before going further, lets create some light. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

Above screenshot shows you the VC’s night lighting. It looks very good, I must say, but it’s a pity that the VC night lighting seems tied to the red beacon, and the dome light switch is INOP. It’s a pity, but it’s probably bound to the dreaded “8 lighting effects only” FS9 restriction. The FSX version probably doesn’t suffer from this.

Something else that seems out of place, is the FGP. It’s very bright compared to the rest of the cockpit. Looking at photographs, this is not the way it should be at all. I hope feelThere will do something about it.

Anyway, carrying on with the flight, it was time to program the FMS. This really is not something big. Those familiar with Boeing Aircraft will have little difficulty understanding this FMS, and those that know the J41’s FMS, will likely also not find any real problems (I can’t say anything about Airbus MCDUs, as I’m not familiar with those). Generally, the two FMCs seemed to be somewhat alike. It may be just me, but this whole airplane to me feels similar to the J41…

Programming the FMS is nothing more than entering your position, performance initialization and entering your flight plan. Then you’re done. You can easily manage it in under five minutes.

Next step is starting your engines (Strictly speaking this happens only during pushback, but I guess I was lazy). You simply follow the checklists, and use Call! to determine if you really did everything necessary. It’s a great utility and it really helps not to forget stuff!

Starting engines finished and the after start checklists was completed without problems.

Now that the engines are started, I can also do the cold and dark checklist, and the flight attendant does the safety procedures talk.

After engine start, you can configure the takeoff settings. Doing this will enable you to complete the cold and dark checklist. So, after doing that, the cold and dark checklist was run and completed, after which the flight attendant does her talk about safety. It was time to taxi out into the active.

Pushback

Taxiing. Dull, dull, dull and boring, oh so boring and dull and […] (From Monthy Python’s flying circus)

Pushback and taxi was, as always, rather dull. Following a 747, and being followed by a 777, progress was slow. When I arrived at the runway, I asked permission, and was told to taxi into position and hold. Time to start the “before takeoff checklist”. This checklist was also completed successfully, and with permission from ATC, nothing was between me and the blue sky.

Thrust to N1, engines stable; Thrust to max, and time to take this plane into the sky. The callouts of the FO are clear and soon he announced “rotate”, enabling me to start rotating. In the air, he confirmed a positive rate of climb, and I raised the gear. Flaps in, A/P switched on together with ALT, SPD and HDG, and soon after ATC told me to do whatever I wanted to do (I didn’t file my flightplan with ATC, since I use the default ATC. As many of you know, it doesn’t handle short distances very well…).

Climbing to 8000, I turned on the A/P’s NAV mode, which is the same as a Boeing’s LNAV mode. This enables the A/P to follow the entered flightplan. Interestingly, the ERJ-145 family does not have autothrottle, nor does it have VNAV, making its operation somewhat enjoyable. Why do you ask? Well, I always find a plane that much more enjoyable when the automation is just right. Of course this is different per person, but I have always found great pleasure in those planes that require you to know what to do and when to do it, without having to learn a zillion buttons inside out. This basically means you have a half automated plane: it handles pretty much all systems for you meaning you can forget about what the hydraulics, pneumatics and fuel systems are doing, but you do have to keep a close eye on your speed, just like with the J41. I think this is perfect: you can power up your plane and fly it in under twenty minutes because of the great system automation, and during your flight you can’t get bored either because you have to check that the plane does what it’s supposed to do. It’s just great: you never have to wait and you don’t get bored. Exactly what I value in a plane!

That’s not to say the PMDG 747, for instance, is dull. It is not, most of the time, and for me it represents the benefit of full automation. This full automation can also be extremely enjoyable, as I recall from my own experience. It’s just that these smaller planes require you to be much more active and much more alert on what the plane is doing and what it’s condition is. With the 747 this really isn’t as necessary in cruise.

After takeoff, the flight proceeded without problems. It’s sad I don’t have any more screenshots to show you: the NL2000 scenery is amazing and gives a very nice (and realistic) underground. Our flight brought us over Amsterdam, Lelystad, the vicinity of Hoogeveen and finally Groningen. The A/P did exactly what it had to do and performed the way advertised. It was time to descend.

After completing the before descent checklist, I selected first 5000 feet on the FGP, and enabled ALT and VS mode, after which the plane started its descent. Managing the throttles, I made sure the aircraft did not speed up. Instead, I got it to slow to 200 when we arrived at our new altitude. At that point, I cranked up the throttle a bit more, so the plane would not slow down while leveling off.

This routine was repeated several times, until we flew at 2000 and right in front of runway 5. By this time, I enabled APRroach mode, but to my surprise, no ILS beacon was captured or even detected. This was weird, since there had to be one at runway 5 according to the charts I had downloaded. A quick look in the FS moving map, taught me that there in fact was no ILS at Grongingen Eelde Airport, and I had to land manually. Slightly annoyed, I extended the gear, dropped flaps to their max and did my very best to see the runway. There had appeared quite a bit of fog when we arrived at Groningen, and so it took a bit before we had the runway in sight. When we did, landing was not difficult. This aircraft is a real joy to handfly! The flight dynamics are great and the aircraft performs very well.

After a safe touch down, I kicked the engines into full reverse thrust, and the spoilers automatically deployed. Sadly, not with the animation we are used to from other aircraft, as I stated earlier. I hope feelThere will correct this… it doesn’t look too well when the spoilers “pop out” of the wings like that…

When speed was reduced to a safe taxiing speed, the flight attendant asked the passengers to remain seated until the plane had come to a full stop, after which she thanked everybody for flying with us. We taxied to our parking, and commenced the last few checklists. At the end of the “cold and dark checklist”, the FO bid me farewell (yes, he actually does that. Another one of such nice additions!) and left the plane.

So there you have it. A complete flight from EHAM to EHGG, and I ended it with a very satisfied feeling. This is a very enjoyable plane to fly short distances with, and I know I will use it more often together with the British Airways and Luxair liveries by McPhat, which add just that amount of detail to the exterior model that it makes your jaw drop. This is truly an excellent plane, even though there are some little details that I’d like to see cleared.

A note about some issues

During the course of testing, I of course ran into a number of issues. I discussed them with feelthere, who gave good answers. I’d like to take a look at these here.

Problem: Biggest problem seems to be a problem where the sim crashes when flying at night. There is a topic about it on the feelThere forums and it is the process of being solved (I hope). In that thread I wrote everything I currently know about it. A small rundown: Problem happens in FS2004 (that’s where I tested the plane), at dusk/night, after 20 minutes or so, the sim simply crashes. the screen becomes black and audio loops, and I have to end the sim via taskmanager. Subsequent starts of the flight end with the crash happeneing earlier (at the first test, it happened after 30 minutes, the second test at 20 minutes, third at 15 minutes).

Feelthere’s answer: We are still investigating this problem. So far what we understood that if users convert our textures to a lower quality DXT texture (we are supplying the full 32 bits) the problem goes away most of the times. What we believe is that on certain computers the night BMPS combined with the heavier FS workload are too much for the system. What we recommend is shutting down all unnecessary software such as virus scanners and if it still doesn’t solve the problem converting the BMPs into smaller DXT textures (we may supply these in the future or allow users to post their modifications).

So, if you have this problem, do what feelthere suggests. We can only hope a fix is under way, but it appears to be a very difficult thing to track down. Remain patient, is all I can say…

Problem: At night, when the VC lighting is turned on, everything looks very good, except the FGP. It looks as if it doesn’t have any night textures (see flight_allON_weirdFGC.jpg for a screenshot). Sort of the same issue can be seen  around some of the screens. I compared it to a real world photograph, and it all should be rather dark…).

Feelthere’s answer: This is the first time we hear about it so we will certainly investigate it. Does it happen on fs9 or fsX or both?

As a matter of fact, I tested this plane thoroughly in FS9 only, and so I couldn’t comment on FSX. It should be expected, I think, but that’s just an educated guess. Alas, there’s not fix for it yet, but it might come out in SP2.

Problem: The texturing around the RMI and the gauge above it, at daytime, is significantly different from what a ral world photograph suggests that it should be. The photograph tell me it should be exactly the same texture as the texturing (the color, mainly) around the other screens (such as the PFD and MFD). Yet, in the ERJv2, it almost is metallic, with a “silver gradient” that according to the photos is not realistic (see real_fs.jpg for an example comparing real and FS).

Feelthere’s answer: Catching the ERJ’s main panel’s right color is difficult. We took several reference pictures from the real airplane and used them for the textures.

I guess what I mentioned won’t ever be really changed, then. Oh well, it is but a small thing…

Problem: The Call! utility is a great asset, but I noticed some checklists have two voices, rather than one. Now and then, a checklist item will be read ina  very different voice. I was wondering if this is some sort of issue, or is it to reflect who reads what on the checklist (F/O or captain)?

Feelthere’s answer: we tried to make it a bit different so you would feel there are two persons in the cockpit.

So, it was meant that way all along. I’m quite glad they think of such little details!

Problem: The spoilers don’t seem to “extend” in the way the word implies; it’s more like they “pop out” of the wing, meaning they don’t have an animation. Was this done on purpose, or is this a bug?

Feelthere’s answer: known bug. It will be fixed by the upcoming SP2 (we are shooting for this week with it’s release).

So, as you can see, there is an upcoming SP2, although it might be released by the time this review is published!

An interview with the developers

As you all now by know, this product was developed by feelthere. I contacted them regarding some issues and general questions, and they were happy to answer them. So, here is their answers to my questions.

Question: The ERJv2 is a project in which you revisited an older project, namely the ERJv1. You have greatly expanded upon that first project with new abilities and new looks. Why did you decide to revisit the old project?

Answer: Feelthere was formed around the “jungle jet” and we have many romantic feelings about this airplane. It still brings us many happy memories and proudness. We quickly built a community , we won many awards so we always thought about a possibility to release a second version when technology and our knowledge will grow enough to make it sense. It was our baby and now good to see it grew and got smarter and better :)

Question: And here’s a question many of us are probably very curious about: do you plan on revisiting other products by you, and release them with updated visuals and abilities, like with the ERJv2?

Answer: Yes, we are thinking about this possibility but I can’t comment it much further. Currently we are working/testing a new version of “map!” with local network support without the need of any 3rd party software.

Question: Those that own both versions, will appreciate all that has been done to get the v1 up to current standards. Was is significantly more difficult to do this new version, or were you helped in ways by v1? If so, how did v1 help you build v2?

Answer: It was easier due to the fact between the two releases we’ve worked on many other airplanes with deep system simulations especially on the FMS so we were able to add even more complexity.

Question: Were any of you guys familiar with the ERJ-145 family, and if so, how did you get familiar with it?

Answer: We are not real world jet pilots while some of us holds PPL and some of us are ex Air Traffic Controller so we are closely linked to real world aviation. However we have a good connections with many pilots including ERJ captains, first officers and we’ve got so many help from them by taking pictures, noting exact numbers during the flights and teaching us about these birds. We needed to ask dozens of questions many needed to be researched by the pilots.

Question: The ERJ-145 is a real commuter plane. No autothrottle and such stuff that you will find on all heavy jetliners. do you think this makes the plane more enjoyable?

Answer: It’s more of a personal reference. For us it’s more enjoyable because you are always at control. There are systems that helps the pilot’s job by setting target N1s, etc. In turbulance you need to make sure you are not overspeeding the aircraft. We flew the plane on VATSIM several times with Alex who’s our lead programmer and the brain behind the Embraer Regional Jets product (I’m pretty sure he’s one of the smartest guy outthere) and according to him he caught several bugs during these sessions.

Question: Still, even though there is no autothrottle, a lot of the plane’s systems seem to be highly automated. How true is this vision?

Answer: The ERJ begun it’s life by the time modern avionics were standard so it’s got all the bells and whistles such as displays, FMS’, FADEC, etc. Our model indeed closely simulates these systems which was a challenge.

Question: Did this make the plane more difficult to code than, say, the Classic 737 series? What system was most difficult to code?

Answer: In some way yes. The 737 has many buttons and knobs which requires more action from the pilot while the ERJ has the “push it then forget” philosophy which requires less work from the pilot but much more work on the code. All these things that are controlled by switches on the classic airplanes are simulated by the logic on our Embraer Regional Jets product. While the FADEC, 2 generators per engine, custom autopilot (all of them are non standard FS systems) brought us some chellenge the champion is the FMS. More than half of the code is connected directly or indirectly to the FMS. Out of the FMS the biggest chellenge was to make the VNAV work as it works now.

During the 737′s development Alex tried to use the ERJ v1′s code and later he realised it was better to start it almost from scratch. Part of this new 737 code found it’s way into the ERJ v2.

Question: I’m wondering: have you ever thought of implementing a way to save the panel state? If not, why? Because, even though flights will be short, it still would be very handy if you could just save the flight with a saved panel state and continue flying later, just in case you run out of time, especially with such a complex plane like this one.

Answer: Most of planes has this function built in; you just need to save the flight in FS the usual way and when you load it back it will load back the previous panel stage including the FMS. It was added not only as a feature but to make our lives easier as well. When a user reports a bug we can simply ask for a saved flight and we can see pretty much that the user saw when the problem happened.

I’d like to thank you for providing these nice answers!

Final thoughts

Feelthere is already well known for some good products, but with this ERJ release, I’m confident they will always be remembered. This package is a star. The functionality of the package is immense, offering simplicity for those that need it (because face it, half of the systems are fully automatic!), and full checklists for those that want it (because no matter how automated the plane is, you still need to set those switches right!). Seriously, you can have the plane started and ready to go in ten minutes. Taxi to the runway and takeoff, and you’re in the air within twenty minutes. The fact that there is no autothrottle, means you have to keep a close eye on your speed, so you never get the chance to be bored. You are kept busy all the time, and Call! will make sure you won’t forget any checklist item. Together with great voices and sounds all these aspects, will always make you feel like you’re really flying this plane.

And what I said earlier still stands: the plane is in the league of the PMDG Jetstream 41. It offers the same kind of experience, and while it is no turboprop with weird engine controls, it does offer an authentic regional liner experience that enables you to hop into the plane, takeoff and land, all within two hours. For those with not much time on their hands, this is a jewel.

Yes, I recommend this plane to those interested. It is a great plane, inside and out. That’s why I’m very happy to award this product Simflight’s “Top recommendation” award.

Important details

Reviewed by Benjamin van Soldt

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