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elite-33Introduction

ELITE stands for “Electronic IFR Training Environment”, a flight simulation software designed as a procedure trainer initially meant to be used by airline pilots with the MD-80 series as a base for the aircraft simulation. It all started around 1987, but ELITE soon realized the importance of expanding their initial offer into a wide coverage of GA (General Aviation) aircraft types and turning their platform into an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) training tool.

Since version 6, ELITE has included external visual scenery databases covering most of the World by selected areas. This was an improvement over the previous versions and come in two flavours, GenView and RealView. While they can’t compare to the standards of modern civil flight simulators, ELITE visual databases make available the main features that are required for an IFR training tool, including for example: precise runway lighting, main geographic elements, main vector roads and water courses.

In this review we concentrate on the Pilot – Premium version, but ELITE produces full-size cockpit enclosures for different types of FNPT (Flight and Navigation Procedures Trainers) solutions, including helicopters. All these with default Genview/Realview or high detail customized scenery areas, or even making use of Lockheed Martin Prepar3d scenery.

ELITE Premium v8.6, the version reviewed here, was released more than one year ago and its main difference from previous versions is the inclusion of a GNS 430 GPS unit controlled through an external hardware module.

Weather depiction is another area where, not being up to the standards we are accustomed  to see in other flight simulators, the main aim is to represent the effects of visibility, cloud layers, winds, turbulence, icing and pressure according to those settings that are important for IFR training, including categories of precision and non-precision approaches.

Installation

ELITE v8.6 Premium is distributed in an USB pen drive including the installer for both the base package and the purchased scenery areas (Genview or RealView). Contrarily to previous versions of the simulator (even those already on the 8 series ) it is no longer possible to use the default basic scenery, made up of only the runways and a flat world with rectangles to give a 3d perspective. ELITE v8.6 requires at least one Genview or Realview area to run.

Installation is straightforward, and during the process the USB copy protection key software/drivers are installed. This USB device must be connected to one of your USB ports in order for the simulator to run, and there is no demo mode when the USB dongle is not connected, like in previous versions.

Once installed, ELITE Premium with, in our case, the EUR1 Genview databases, covering most of West, North, Central and Southern Europe as well as parts of Africa, occupies around 1 GB in the disk.

PDF format manuals for the application, specific ELITE hardware installation, the various avionics (including copies of the original avionics like the Apollo GX 50, 55, 60. 65, Trimble 2000, E40), all are placed on the ELITE folder.

You can use your own hardware, including rudder pedals, and a controller set. If you plug additional controllers they will be detected, but unless they are ELITE hardware controllers, you will not be able to use more than one, apart from the rudder.

Speaking of dedicated hardware, ELITE has a whole line of hardware modules that can be separately acquired and together will enhance the realism of the simulation. In the particular case of the Beechcraft B200 King Air, it will not be possible to use any throttle/prop/condition lever controllers other than those sold by ELITE. You will still be able, like with other aircraft models, to use the keyboard for controlling the engines, but only symmetrically, and with considerable limitations: the Insert/Delete control throttle, Home/End Prop and PgUp/PgDown mixture or condition.

ELITE hardware modules have drivers that make them usable in MSFS, X-plane 9, and the X-Plane 10 64 bit version.

Using the Simulator

Flying the various GA aircraft models in the Premium version provides the user with a set of representative aircraft for this class, ranging from the Piper Archer III to the King Air B200. Each aircraft model has a 2D panel, sometimes with additional sub-panels that can be activated by key combination or click-spots. There are no night vision/illumination modes for the panel. At night the scenery is essentially made up of the runways and taxiways lighting systems, with no other visible features other than the Moon with precise phases according to date. Moon and Sun rise/set times are precisely calculated according to date and time in ELITE.

While some simmers may find the behaviour of the ELITE aircraft models rather “on rails” the truth is that their flight characteristics as well as those of the modelled systems, are an accurate reproduction of their real counterparts. This allowing for pilots with real-life experience on the models to be able to operate them in the simulator and expect very precise response to their inputs. All care has been taken to filter many effects that are not possible to model accurately unless a LevelD 6DOF (6 degrees of freedom) moving platform is used.

So, while sometimes you are tempted to think that the flight models are “basic”, these is far from being true, and indeed, ELITE models better than many of the civil flight simulators used today. Most of the flight characteristics are included, like those that are typical of prop aircraft and are usually referred to as “prop effects”, including p-factor, gyroscopic effects, torque and slipstream effects. The use of precise force feedback hardware, like those sold with their high-end solutions, also makes quite a difference from using an ordinary controller. Unfortunately those hardware expansions are expensive, and not compatible with many other simulators, so, an investment in it will be justified only if you’re professionally using ELITE.

Also the modelling of aircraft systems is precise and for instance the B200 in ELITE’s fleet is probably the only PC-based King Air model that correctly represents the relationship between prop RPM and fuel flow!

In terms of flight dynamics, inside the normal flight envelopes it is very well done, with stall characteristics reproduced (low or high speed) as you approach higher angles of attack, but flight beyond stall is not accurately reproduced. Ground handling/physics are also limited, with the prop effects modelled, but cross-wind effects only coming into play once you get airborne.

To give you an idea of some details that are even unique to this civil flight simulator is the precise modelling of some prop effects, namely the spiralling slipstream/torque effects. You can see how much the “ball” on the Turn Coordinator is displaced to the right during a climb, requiring right rudder, and depending on the aircraft model, with negligible bank. It is also evident that ELITE models what is well known to many prop aircraft pilots when they perform their coordinated turns, depending on if they turn left or right. On turns to the right, rudder into the turn is required, and in some cases even cross-control inputs have to be used to keep the coordination, while left turns can sometimes ask for out of the turn rudder input. ELITE precisely depicts these and other effects. Some aircraft are equipped with rudder trim, just like their real counterparts. Users of other flight simulators like MSFS or X-Plane who happen to be pilots will welcome this dominant yaw instead of bank that is so poorly represented on those other simulators.

ELITE can be used with multiple monitors and even an external display reserved for the outside views, but even on a two monitor setup it will be good to be able to have the Map screen in one monitor and the visuals, including the instrument panel on the main monitor. Unfortunately the instrument panels cannot be displayed in a resolution other than 1024×768, but starting on v8.6, the external view will stretch to adapt to your wide monitor resolutions.

Different menus are available, including the Map for aircraft placement and flight analysis, with replay capabilities. In the Weather screens you can set the various weather settings for the flight, including dynamically varying winds, visibilities, cloud coverage, pressure and turbulence. METAR data can also be downloaded and analysed on another menu. Flights using real world weather are based only on METARs, with the aloft winds and visibility extrapolated.

A Menu for different failures programming, with random settings is also available. You will find in ELITE the most complete options for failures of your static and/or dynamic ports, with the corresponding consequences on the various affected instruments.

The ELITE Premium Hangar is made up of the following models:

-Piper Archer III

-Piper Arrow IV

-Piper Seneca V

-Beechcraft A36

-Beechcraft Baron 58

-Beechcraft King Air 200

-Cessna 172

-Cessna 182 (including the retractable gear version)

-Trinidad Tobago 10 and 20

-Mooney 20J

There is also a separate module for an MD-81 type airliner, meant to be primarily used as a procedural trainer with no FMS (Flight Management System) and not all flights and thrust modes simulated, but still rather complete and detailed.

For each model various panel configurations are possible, with Bendix King and Radios, default GPS units such as the Trimble Approach 2000, the Apollo GX 50, 55, 60 and 65 models, as well as options to equip your aircraft with an E40 HSI module.

Work on the next version of ELITE – v9 – has already started, and that new version will most certainly bring very good surprises. Until then users who are real world pilot’s working on their instrument’s rating or want to maintain proficiency, will benefit from this excellent IFR training simulator. Even casual simmers will certainly like ELITE, although those will probably complain about the limited scenery, no 3D panels or external views or no AI.

Conclusion

The strongest aspect of ELITE is the professionalism and level of detail and accuracy put into what is simulated according to the needs of someone looking for a PC-based IFR training tool. If the user can invest on ELITE hardware the solution can become more professional and even certified for real world training!

You can learn more about this product, very popular among flight schools all around the World, at any of the ELITE sites accessible through the portal at www.flyelite.com.

Intel i5 2500 k @ 3,2 GHz, 16 GB DDR3 RAM, GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB GDDR5

Saitek X52 Pro and Saitek Rudder Pedals

Windows 7 Home Premium x64