Review: COMM1 VFR Communications Training

I apologize for the lack of images below. I am working on recovering them and will be uploading as soon as possible.

A few weeks ago I won Jason Schappert’s newsletter contest, the prize being a copy of COMM1’s Communications VFR Training (CVT).

COMM 1 VFR Training box According to the manufacturer’s website it is “proven tool for getting you up to date on communicating professionally with ATC, Flight Service, Flight Watch, and other ground personnel.” I picked up the parcel on Thursday and I finally had a chance to install it and play around with it today. Read on to get a feel for it!

What’s in the box?

CVT comes in an “old school” large software box though there is not enough in the box to warrant it.

VFR Communications Training box contents: CD, pamphlet from AOPA, manual and registration cardThere is a small manual detailing the install and setup alongside a safety pamphlet from AOPA, the CD and a registration card.

System requirements and install

CVT is compatible with PC and Mac’s and has minimal system requirements, at least for today’s standards:

PC Mac
Operating System: Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Vista
RAM: 384MB
Screen Display: 800X600, 16 bit color
CD-ROM drive
Available space: 6MB
Audio: Speakers, microphone or Comm 1 Headset
Operating System: MAC OSX 10.4.9
RAM: 512MB
Screen Display: 800X600, thousands of colors
CD-ROM drive
Available space: 6MB 
Audio: Speakers and microphone

A note about the microphone requirement, it is only mandatory if you would like to hear yourself at the end of each lesson. The software records your “transmissions” so that you can compare it to a professional one. I use a USB microphone and it worked great.

The installation procedure is straightforward and quick with not many issues. It comes with QuickTime 2 which you have to install. Even if you have a newer version of QuickTime, you will have to install this so just make note of that.

Also, if you don’t install it on the C drive you will have a problem which is covered by this COMM1 FAQ.

First start

This is what you see when you start the program:

COMM1 Radio Simulator start page The box in the top left corner holds the index of all the lessons. There are eight major topics covered in this simulator:

  • Aviation Speak
  • Locating Frequencies
  • Using the Radio
  • Non-towered Airports
  • Radar Flight-Following
  • Airspace Issues
  • Flight Service Stations
  • Miscellaneous

To start a lesson, you simply click the name, sit back and listen to the announcer read the text in the Instructions box.

Typical lesson

I’ll show you a typical lesson so you can get a sense for what it’s like to use it. All the instructions are read to you, though you can pause it and read them yourself. Each lesson is made up of a Briefing, Practice session and a Debriefing (kind of like a regular flight lesson).

For the purposes of this review I went through the first lesson in the Non-Towered Airports section, Radio Checks/Airport Advisories.

Radio checks and airport advisories

After the briefing tells you what you need to know and what you will be doing, it’s time to practice. The first part of the practice session is the scenario which sets up the situation.

Practice, scenario Then you get to practice locating the frequency you need in the documents available to you.

Locate frequenciesOnce you’ve found it, you get to tune your radio by clicking the green arrows.

Tuning the radio is easy, just click the green arrowsAfter that, click on Communicate to practice the radio calls. If you’re not tuned to the right frequency, the announcer will tell you.

The communication page To communicate, select one of the options on screen, click and hold it and speak into your microphone. When you release the mouse the controller will reply to your radio call. You can then continue to the debrief.

Debriefing allows you to listen to your radio call In the debrief screen you can listen to your radio call and to one made by an expert. When you’re done, you can move on to the next lesson.

Conclusion

The Good

The simulator seems to be fairly accurate with its radio calls. The material covered is comprehensive and I’m sure it goes over pretty much any situation you can find yourself in, including emergencies. It makes use of easy to understand language and starts from the beginning so even those who have never heard “airplane talk” can use it. It is a great tool for beginner pilots to use to get used to hearing what they will hear while flying up there.

The Bad

Aesthetically, COMM1’s VFR Communications Trainer is not much to look at. The window size is set to 800×600 so if you have a bigger screen you will see black all around it. The Table of Contents and Instructions boxes cannot be resized so it’s a bit of a pain when you have long passages of text there. It looks “cheap” but really, you don’t need a flashy interface for what it does.

Not a bad thing per se but the software is aimed at Americans and the US system so be mindful of that if you’re trying to extrapolate to Canada.

Overall

The Communications Trainer gets the job done. You get first hand experience with FAA and US communications and charts which will come in handy when you fly down there. I would like to see updates being available since the “lingo” changes every so often. This way you’re not learning outdated phrases.

I would recommend this software for beginning your radio training and even keeping up to date with it later on in your training.


If you have an aviation related product you would like to see featured in my reviews section, drop me a line at reviews@dannyvacar.ca

Update: Another look at this software from Flight schools and beyond.