A few years ago I came across a computer game called Euro Truck Simulator. The idea behind the game is to start out as a truck driver, driving for a transport company. Once you’ve gained enough experience, you are able to setup your own trucking company, loan from the banks, purchase trucks, employ drivers, choose jobs, assign the drivers or drive the jobs yourself. The goal being to make money, upgrade trucks etc. etc.
I really enjoyed the challenge of the game, but was thinking to myself one day, ‘if only there was a game that used the same concept, that applied to aviation’. After a little searching on the web, I came across such a piece of software…
Air Hauler, developed by V1 Software, gives you the funcionality to ‘ create and run a virtual air freight company. You can open bases around the world, build up your fleet of aircraft, and fly cargo for customers in Microsoft Flight Sim – AirHauler monitors your flight and records fuel purchases, landing fees, repairs to aircraft and that all important income from shipping cargo around the world! AirHauler works with both Microsoft Flight Sim 2004 and Flight Sim X’.
What I find great about using Air Hauler, is that it gives more purpose to Flight Simulator. Rather than firing up Flight Sim, deciding where to fly, loading the aircraft, entering the flight plan, loading full fuel, then wheels up… you’ve got to do a bit more thinking in relation to flight planning as now you have cargo to take into consideration. Keeping the aircraft weight under MTOW, will more than likely effect the amount of fuel you can load. Then plug in real world weather and now you might need to factor fuel for holding, or for an alternate, or both!
After installing Air Hauler (which is a non event) and loading it for the first time, you are faced with a few options relating to difficulty. Personally I selected the most realistic option (I use flightsim with the same ethos). You then have the opportunity to purchase an aircraft, choose an airport from around the world to establish your base – this will determine where the software routes the jobs on offer. As you successfully complete jobs, your company rating will increase, which is the limiting factor to allowing you to hire pilots to fly your aircraft for you. There is also the option of financing aircraft to assist in growing the fleet quicker, also the option to insure your aircraft and there is the requirement to maintain them over time.
The one thing I wish it catered for is charter missions, rather than just cargo missions. The good news is that it appears to be coming in Air Hauler 2! As for me, I cracked open the database & edited the missions to force them to be charter flights. As far as game play goes, it doesn’t actually make any difference. It was more of a personal preference due to the airframes I like to fly… ie: it felt a bit strange to be flying cargo in the Phenom 100, Hawker 850 and King Air B350i!
I have real world PIC time in the Cessna Caravan, so naturally I love to fly Carenado’s Cargomaster when completing cargo missions. Other flightsim airframes I own, which make effective air haulers are the PMDG 737, Iris Simulations’ Battlefield Airlifter (aka: C27 Spartan), Captain Sim C130 Hercules and the Virtavia C17 Globemaster.
A few other things worth mentioning are:
– the Pilot Portal: should you choose to push your Air Hauler data to the cloud, the Pilot Portal tracks and displays the progress of your company.
– stock trading: if it’s your thing, Air Hauler will also feed your stock market trading bug (simulated of course!)
Everything considered, and as previously mentioned, the main reason I use Air Hauler is that it gives more purpose to my time spent in flightsim. I can definitely recommend Air Hauler to any flightsimmer looking to find something more structured within the virtual world of flight, but perhaps not wanting to join a virtual airline. Knowing what I know, I would most certainly fork out my hard earned money to purchase Air Hauler. Speaking of which, the software can be bought from such online stores as PC Aviatior.