FSDT is well known for creating some of the most detailed scenery packages to date. This time around FSDT has created yet another innovative feature for FSX. GSX Ground Service is their latest offering which will surely enhance your simulation experience.
What are the features? Well, Ground Service for FSX simulates several operations on ground, like Marshalling, Catering, Boarding/Deboarding of passengers and Baggage, Stairs, Refueling vehicles, Pushback with realistic behavior, Follow Me cars, Docking System and more, all featuring many native FSX animations and believable human characters.
Many of these feature may sound similar to another add-on program offered by Aerosoft, but the difference with GSX is that it works for free with all FSDT airports and is customizable to work with ALL other airports within FSX, both default and 3rd party. GSX also offers vehicles in many different types and sizes, depending on the airplane used and the geographical location, and every vehicle is available in many different liveries, chosen automatically by your location in the FSX World.
Here is a list of features provided in this product as seen on the developers website;
- Designed for FSX, 100% Pure FSX code
- Different vehicle models, selected depending on the airplane/airport in use
- Many sound effects, supports 3D Surround Sound with OpenAL
- Realistic Human animations using FSX bones/skin mesh
- Full use of FSX advanced materials
- Easy to use user interface, fully integrated in FSX using standard ATC-like menus
- Easy user-customization of vehicles, using the provided Paint Kit
- NEW Live Update feature, keep GSX always updated automatically, with new supported airplanes and airports!
- Direct Airplane Interface™ allows interaction with complex 3rd party airplanes featuring custom door controls, ground equipment like GPU, Wheel chocks, many popular airplane add-ons like the PMDG 737NGX, 747 and MD11, Aerosoft and Wilco Airbus, the CS767, QW757, FS Labs Concorde and many others that will be added through Live Updates, are recognized and supported natively!
- Support for full Airport Customization, already enabled with all FSDT sceneries and some 3rd party, allowing better integration with any airport, also to be distributed and installed automatically by the Live Update feature.
As can be clearly seen, the features of this program are quite extensive. I was able to find out more about GSX in a short interview with Umberto from FSDT. Here is a summary of this interview which consisted of two basic but important questions.
Is GSX a product that will be continually updated with new features as time goes on?
“Absolutely, it's our number 1 product, it has exceeded all our sales expectations, and there's vast potential for upgrades. In fact, if you have a look at the Live Update feature, you can see we designed easy upgradability right into the product, even before we knew about its success. You might have a look at update history, to see how much we did so far:
What would you say sets GSX apart from its competitor AES?
“From an end-user point of view, the obvious advantage is that it’s a one-time purchase, so you know how much you are going to spend in advance.
Just what we give away for free with GSX, the 12 FSDT airports and 2 from Flightbeam (that can be used without any limitations just by downloading GSX), would cost in AES credits more than the entire GSX product so, one might say that, GSX can pay itself simply with what we included for free.
From a technical point of view, GSX is a more modern product. We run GSX almost entirely externally from FSX, since the whole program code is run under the Couatl.exe program, which is a Python interpreter we made specifically for FSX. This means we can grow the GSX code in complexity and features, and it won't use any of the FSX resources, both from a performance point of view (the separate .exe will be scheduled to use free CPU cycles by the OS, and there's a lot of spare CPU power on a modern multi-core machine) and we don't have to worry about taking away memory from FSX, because Couatl.exe has its own separate address space, that doesn't take away anything from the RAM available to FSX. The competitor runs in-process as a .DLL, which means it shares the same address space as FSX.
Also, because we don’t have to support FS9, we could use more modern features such as vertex-skinned animations made with bones, which allows more believable and smooth humans animations possible and, since they run on the graphic card hardware, with faster video cards, the animation quality and the number of animations available can grow in the future. For example to do what's the most requested features: visible passengers.
Since we support every possible airport that has a standard AFCAD, we can concentrate on improving the core program features, and they'll instantly appear for all 20.000+ FSX airports at once, making the program more and more useful for everyone.
Another important advantage we have, is that we give users the ability to customize a scenery themselves, improving of the default automatic behavior. They could share their customization and scenery developers might just distribute a GSX .INI file for scenery in their Scenery directory, together with the other BGLs, and GSX will use it. An additional feature we plan to add is to allow users to place GSX docking systems at every airport.”
As we can see, GSX is a very unique product. During this review we will see whether or not this program is worth its price and also whether it lives up to the claim of being a revolutionary program.
Installation & Setup
The installation of this product is all automatic. After executing the download file for GSX, it will automatically detect your FSX and install the product without any interaction from the user. If you are new to FSDT products you will be prompted to install the Add-on Manager module which is required in order to buy and use this product.
The Add-on manager menu will appear as a submenu in FSX once FSX is started. Another item that will be installed is the Coualt Engine. According to the manual, Coualt is an executable external module that allows a great amount of interaction between the user and FSX. This engine will be a feature of all future products by FSDT.
After the installation is complete, the setup itself is not as difficult as you might imagine. The add-on manager and Coualt Engine made it very easy to setup and customize your GSX options. Personally, I found that the Coualt engine was quite a fascinating and innovative module that made customizing GSX in real time amazingly simple. In order to customize your GSX to be used with your aircraft of choice that is not currently supported, you will find that the manual that comes along with this program provides ample information on how to do so. In order to test just how thorough this process was explained, I tried to customize an aircraft myself and I found that it was VERY easy.
The manual itself is 40 pages long and I encourage you to read it thoroughly in order to have a full grasp on how this program works and can be customized. The customization is not only for aircraft but also extend to airport parking positions as well. This is a feature you might find useful when trying to use GSX at default airports which many not as accurately portray the layout of the real life airport.
Another feature that you would definitely want to acquaint yourself with is the customizable option for the boarding and deboarding process. By default this is set to a minimum time for 15 seconds and is based on the number of passengers loaded to your aircraft. If you want a more realistic experience, you can adjust this time to suit your requirements.
Refueling is also an option that can be customized to suit your time requirements as well. Now that we have discussed the installation and setup, what is the actual experience like?
I decided to give GSX a test run on a flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles using the NGX. Recently FSDT released their Vancouver scenery so I thought it would be a good idea to test the compatibility of FSX with FSDT airports first. When on the ramp, most simmers may start their flight with engine already running. However, in order for GSX to initiate you must have your engines off and parking brakes set. When doing so, you are able to access GSX functions using the F12 key.
From this point you can choose to either load fuel, passengers or immediately go to the pushback request if you have already configured your aircraft to depart. Naturally, I opted to experience the full operation of GSX. When requesting refueling and catering services I was expecting the truck to pop up out of thin air in a close proximity to the aircraft and then drive into position. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these ground vehicles drive from quite a distance (depending on the size of the airport) to the aircraft.
As is the case in the real world, service vehicles may take a minute or two to arrive. Upon arrival, I was also surprised to HEAR the service vehicles. The sound of the service vehicles were absolutely stunning as they simulate not just engine sounds but even the sound of food trays rolling into the aircraft! Every bump and thump is captured and it created an amazingly real experience.
The boarding process intrigued me quite a bit as I was very interested in how this would be simulated. While you are not able to SEE passengers (though I can easily see this being implemented in the future) you have the ability to hear the passengers coming into the aircraft as the flight attendant greets them. The length of this process will vary based on your settings.
You can choose to make this process very lengthy as may be the case in the real world, or you can choose to leave the default settings intact so that the process will only take a minute or so. One of the features of this process I liked the most was the fact that you do not always need to be at an airport that has jetways.
For example, if you fly into a smaller regional airport that does not have jetways, the passengers will be picked up and be dropped off by bus. In addition to this passenger stair trucks will also be available.
Now that it was time for the pushback, I was very interested in how this would be simulated. After selecting this option the pushback truck (which varies in size based on your aircraft) drove up to the nose wheel of the 737 and was successfully connected by ground service personnel. Each movement of the ground service personnel was fluid and distinct making it very realistic. When pushback is imitated you have the option for which direction you wish your nose or tail to be pushed.
The one problem that has plagued many Pushback options for other add-ons are that it pushed you either too short or too far back. The default pushback option that comes with FSX is notorious for pushing back aircraft too far and off the centerline. With GSX, the pushback is spot on and STAYS on the taxi lines. While GSX stops the pushback appropriately, you also have the option to stop it at your request.
After the pushback is completed the service personnel will release the pins that connect you to the truck and after a brief verbal exchange, give you a wave and walk away. At this point I was absolutely blown away by the experience and was eagerly looking forward to the landing at KLAX to experience GSX once more.
After landing at KLAX and exiting the runway, I pulled up the GSX option screen which allows you to select various options such as to request a follow me car or to select your gate in order for ground vehicles and the marshal to be ready for your arrival. Pulling up to the gate was again quite surprised to see ground service vehicles and the marshal ready and waiting. The signals given by the marshal were all accurate and if you are not familiar with what various signals mean, you can consult the manual for a detailed description of each signal.
After all was said and done, it was time to de-board the aircraft and allow the baggage handlers to take all bags off of the aircraft. The process itself was not very long since I opted to use the default minimum of 15 sec. This can be configured to be a bit more realistic but due to limited time I kept it to the bare minimum.
So what’s verdict? Well to cut to the chase, I was floored by the experience from using GSX. I had the opportunity to test out other features on the customization side of things by making GSX compatible with another aircraft which was not currently supported. This process was quite easy and since it is done in real time you can edit your setting and fly right away!
While the test flight was done using FSDT airports, I can also confirm that they work with other 3rd
party airports and default airports as well. When it comes to default airports you may have to do a bit of editing to place your service vehicles correctly, but other than that, the process is all automatic and very precise.
The overall experience of using GSX can be summed up in the words “revolutionary” and “exciting.” This is a product that deserves to be added to the list of must have add-ons for FSX.
Format: Download (57MB)
Reviewed By: Marlon Carter
In summary, I think that GSX is definitely a revolutionary program that allows you to do exactly what you always dreamed of doing, to have the true to life experience of operating a commercial aircraft not just in the air but also on the ground.
To date I have yet to start and complete a flight within FSX without the use of GSX. I consider it to be a must have program that will enhance your simulation experience 100 fold. From a performance view point there is no impact at all on your frame rates when using this program. The movement of aircraft and personnel is very fluid and the true to life animation is simply stunning. At a price of 29.90 Euro (excluding tax) is quite a bargain for what you get.
The only other program that competes with GSX is AES and while I have never used AES, I am quite content with GSX since there is hardly anything that AES offers that GSX doesn’t already have. Perhaps the most significant feature of GSX is that it works with ALL airports so no matter where you go you can enjoy using GSX to its fullest potential. GSX is also customizable in real time which means you can make it compatible with any aircraft without having to restart your flight simulator.
Another pull factor to GSX is that it is constantly being updated and there is quite an active support forum where many users post custom aircraft settings for new add-ons.
In the end, GSX takes FSX to a whole new level and due its revolutionary features I think that it definitely deserves an Avsim Gold Star Award for excellence and for adding a whole new dimension of enjoyment to FSX. This is a product that will definitely change the way we fly.
What I Like About GSX
- Easy to use Interface
- Realistic ground operations
- Innovative implementation of the Coualt engine
- Active support forum
- Periodically updated with new features
- Fluid and Realistic movement of people carrying out their duties on the ground.
What I Dislike About GSX
- There isn’t anything to be unhappy about with this program especially because it is constantly updated