ProSimA320 was marketed as a complete aviation training program when it was initially released (version 1.0) back in January 2017. At a price point of €1500, there were expectations the program was full featured and complete as it had been in development for several years. The ProSim team were experienced developers having released the Boeing 737 avionics suite (ProSim737) in the previous years. The ProSimA320 software released with much fanfare, specifically targeting simulation enthusiasts, cockpit builders, and the professional training market.
At the time, the only other real contenders on the market was Project Magenta, AST (I am unable to provide feedback on these two) and Jeehell FMGS. It is hard not to draw direct comparisons with Jeehell FMGS – here was a freely available airbus avionics program, designed and developed by Mr Jean-Luc Nitard , advanced in function and openly supported in the community. Mr Nitard has been praised for releasing his software to be freely used in non-commercial manners. A commercial version of his software also exists with more advance operational modes, including failure training and an integrated Instructor Station. Jeehell FMGS has been commercially implemented in many setups around the world and even rated up to FNPT II MCC level.
Competition can only be a good thing they say, with everyone keen for the new ProSim release. Unfortunately, many concluded that the software was in a Beta-like state after evaluation; there were glaring fundamental issues with the flight modelling and system logic. Full intercom functionality and VHF simulation was not available. The aircraft fly-by-wire system and flight dynamics were inaccurate when manual hand flying. Interior cockpit sounds and electrical bus gate simulation was missing or inadequate. ACARS (simulated with ProSimUtils) is not currently supported.
Not everything is doom and gloom – the software on provides failure simulation and for the most part accurate ECAM modelling. There is a wide range of hardware support which is essential when trying to interface your simulator. Direct variable interfacing by TCP/IP is possible. Hardware setup is intuitive with a graphical user interface. The Instructor Station is fully accessible with a web browser (tablet and iPad friendly) allowing you to configure the aircraft state, configure aircraft position, perform ground operations, change weather environments, and interact with a moving map. The external modelling of the aircraft is aesthetically pleasing with PBR rendering and dynamic lighting. The software continues to be improved on a frequent weekly or even daily basis (users are required to pay a €99 subscription fee update fee every year). Promised future development includes a new Instructor Station and compatibility with the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) 2020.
My impressions haven’t changed since the initial launch of ProSimA320 – I hold the ProSim-AR team lead by Mr Hanne Koole in high regard; they have created a simulation of the Airbus A320 from the ground up. With a large development team, the software has the potential to advance in function. Some may balk at the high price tag of the software, but consumers must understand this is a very niche software not intending to sell in the thousands. The software has been priced competitively based on supply and demand. Cockpit builders spend thousands of dollars on their equipment; functional and accurate software will be required to bring the flight deck alive. ProSimA320 should be able meet these requirements if the team manages to eliminate the pressing bugs and bring to the table features to complete the aircraft simulation.
If you are type rated Airbus pilot or training in an Airbus aircraft environment ProSimA320 can provide training scenarios and familiarisation which can reinforce procedural skills and techniques. These training options are available at the base price of the software with an optional annual update fee. Jeehell FMGS is an alternative option and has also modelled the systems and nuances of the aircraft. It is freely available for non-commercial users. Aircraft failure options are only available for their commercial customers; it is priced at business cost putting it out of reach for most home users, students and enthusiasts. If you are not concerned with these options, then Jeehell FMGS provides tremendous value.
Both avionics programs can be downloaded and evaluated. I continue to evaluate ProSimA320 to determine if they can fulfil their roadmap and fix fundamental bugs. Features like intercom functionality will be required for realistic ATC communication on online networks like Vatsim or IVAO. With the launch of MSFS 2020 in a few months and the anticipated migration of most sim users to the new platform, it still has to be seen if ProSimA320 or Jeehell FMGS can be compatible and continue to deliver a simulation experience.