Air Hauler: Pie Crates Of The Caribbean

By Tim Stone on July 19th, 2009 at 1:44 pm.

Two weeks ago I didn’t have the faintest idea where Great Inagua was. Now, thanks to Air Hauler, a rather splendid Flight Simulator add-on that transforms FSX into a globe-spanning courier sim, I know every crinkly mile of its dragon’s head-shaped coastline.

 

The first fortnight in the life of Horsa Air Solutions began with nest building. AH lets you pick any of FSX’s thousands of airports as a home-base, and my roving sun-hungry cursor eventually settled on a little island a stone’s throw from Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica. Was salt-stained, flamingo-sentinelled Inagua the perfect hub for a DHL-rivalling air freight business? Probably not, but it was cheap, ringed with unspoilt beaches, and a good excuse to break out the Captain Morgan between flights.

 

Because I’d plumped for medium difficulty and shortish job distances in the start-up options, Horsa’s first aircraft was a complimentary Cessna Caravan and its first slew of randomly-generated job offers all within a 350 mile radius. Within seconds of those offers appearing, I’d accepted one and was on my way to Santiago de Cuba to pick up 895kg of herbal remedies. Mild disappointment #1: ‘herbal remedies’ wasn’t a euphemism. AH doesn’t let you fly contraband cargoes.

 

 

 

Tools to Cap Haitien, household supplies to Barahona, seafood to Port-Au-Prince… over the following days my trusty Caravan of Love worked like a Trojan, and my starting bank balance swelled satisfyingly. Quickly I began to appreciate the importance of combining jobs… If I fly up to Crooked Island with those microwave ovens, I can then pick up that load of flowers and fly straight on to Long Island before returning to Inagua with a plane-ful of live poultry. Long positioning flights – trips where you are running empty – are the ruin of the start-up sky freight company.

 

I also learnt the importance of careful fuel planning, constant concentration, and plane insurance. All my landings had been ‘greasers’ – silky smooth and painless – until job nine, where a heavy-handed dusk touch-down at Cabo Rojo (never attempt to land while peeling a banana) cost me a packet in repair bills and damaged cargo penalties. Worse almost occurred on a run up to Marsh Harbour when I somehow managed to overfly the destination without noticing it. By the time I eventually realised, turned round, and landed, the fuel gauge needles were almost horizontal and three scary warning lights were glaring at me from the dash.

 

 

I think it was round-about job fourteen that, dissatisfied with the barren strip at my home base, I decided to get busy with Whisplacer, a freeware scenery editor. After half-an-hour’s labour, Cara the Caravan had a place to shelter during storms, I had an office in which to lounge, and MYIG had the kind of incidental details that all tin-pot Caribbean airfields should possess. Derelict DC3? Check. Beached dive boat? Check. Generous sprinkling of oil drums and crates? Check.

 

So what does the future hold for Horsa Air Solutions? Well, if I’m serious about building an empire to rival the likes of DHL, I think I’m going to have to start employing staff pretty soon and looking to lease more aircraft. In AH, AI crew in your employ will fly jobs while you’re tucked-up in bed or busy doing other things outside the sim. Having Cara sit idle for most of the day makes no economic sense. I may also try to drum-up some extra funds by having a flutter on the sim’s reality-linked stock market. Oh yes, I also plan to spend some time in Inkscape improving my work-in-progress custom livery. Though AH will utilise all installed aircrafts, it sadly doesn’t feature its own paintshop.

 

Whatever happens, I can’t see myself moving away from Inagua any time soon. Though it’s only been two weeks, I already feel a real affection for the place. Taxiing up to my little hut, and shutting the engine down, I feel like I’m home. Strange, how quickly these bonds can form.

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28 Comments »

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  1. Xercies says:

    This sounds like a fantastic edition to FSX

  2. Feet says:

    Flight-Sim Tycoon eh?

    Not my cuppa tea, but it does sound like a relaxing sort of experience.

  3. nakke says:

    Be sure to check out FsPassengersX, a similar addon but for passenger flights.

  4. DaJobat says:

    a heavy-handed dusk touch-down at Cabo Rojo (never attempt to land while peeling a banana)
    The obvious question here Tim has to be: Have you been using the monkey technique that has gripped the PC Gaming world via Lifehacker? Ask Mr. John Walker for more details, I believe he partakes of the visceral upside down banana pleasure.

  5. Jonas says:

    Last time I played a civilian flight sim was on my dad’s 486 when I was a kid, playing a pirated floppy labelled “FS3 Fly”. I spent most of the time just taking off and then immediately and deliberately crashing straight into a large sky scraper near the landing strip.

    I really want a non-war game with some sort of compelling non-imaginary narrative, but at the same time I realise that adding a plot would probably ruin a game like this for most people.

  6. Warduke says:

    Nice story Tim. Like Feet mentioned it sounds like a relaxing way to spend some time.

  7. Gieron Krillen says:

    4/10

    While playing I forgot about the controls abd went to make dinner instead. When I came back nothing had happened, u-hu.

    It’s pretty much of a grind to make money in this so-called simulation, too. If they had at least made it into an MMO I could have had some masterbation instead.

  8. Katsumoto says:

    This is exactly the sort of thing I want for FSX to keep me engaged (FSEconomy was starting to drag), i’ll be sure to try it out, cheers.

    If you also happen to know where you can get some Rudder Pedals for less than £Ridiculous, let me know!

  9. Morti says:

    Sounds quite fun, actually, specially for a veteran tycooner of sorts like me…

    Now… do you *really* need a joystick to get the most fun out of this or can my ol’ keyboard n’ mouse do the job?

  10. Morberis says:

    Are there any other FSX packs that those who are new to the game should look at?

  11. Redd says:

    Sweet, it’s for FS9 too.

  12. Fat Zombie says:

    Tim: I remember that you once mentioned in one of your reviews for PC Gamer that one of your dream games would be a flight-sim trading game. Is this offering close enough?

    Also, it appears that Kieron Gillen’s Bizarro-World counterpart has appeared out of some wormhole. Good-oh.

  13. Gieron Krillen says:

    What? Does it really matter if it’s a 2/10 or a 4/10?

  14. Tim Stone says:

    @Fat Zombie. It’s close, but I’m hoping Air Hauler 2 comes with rival companies and a dark smuggly side.

  15. lumpi says:

    Games like this are the reason I like PC gaming. Tell me the chances of getting anything close to that experience on your cool XBox 360…

  16. Vinraith says:

    Crap, this actually makes me tempted to finally break down and get FSX. My history with flight sims is pretty lousy, though. They always seem like a good idea but in practice I don’t seem to get much play out of them. Hmm.

  17. CakeAddict says:

    @ Vinraith

    Exactly the same here, I always like flying in games but when I get a sim like this I don’t tend to play it much.
    Just to much fiddling around for me I suppose.

  18. ET says:

    Jonas : The Japanese made a game called Tori no Hoshi : Aerial Planet (the first words are basically ‘Planet of Birds’), where you’re a space explorer who’d crash-landed and must follow flocks of alien birds on your glider. It’s mostly about exploration, finding new birds and new lands, but there’s also a plot to follow. Control isn’t all that intuitive, but it seems to be right up your alley.

    It’s not in English, however. Alas. (…….we can mention obscure console games in the comments. Right? Right?)

  19. Munin says:

    I was actually quite interested in this until I took a look at the official Air Hauler website and realized that this ‘expansion’ is mostly a completely separate Windows application with about the same visual appeal as Excel. WTF, I think that’s taking realism a bit too far. I now have to be the number crunching cubicle dude too?

    Might as well just launch Flight Simulator directly and only pretend I’m doing all this.

  20. dsmart says:

    SOLD!!! I need an excuse to re-install the old gal

  21. TinyPirate says:

    There has to be a market for MMOing such things. I know the ATC crowd and flight sim crowd have a lovely, symbiotic, multiplayer existence.

  22. MacBeth says:

    So what was the time-to-crate, in the end?

  23. user@example.com says:

    Man, DC-3s. They are the coolest planes ever.

    No, really. They’re awesome. If I ever upgrade to FSX and play around with this expansion (I know there are other, older, similar ones for FS9) I’ll be flying one… or a warthog, assuming someone’s modded it to carry cargo pods instead of dakka.

    /Second/-best aircraft, that one is.

  24. Slopey says:

    Excellent review – glad you’re having fun with the ‘van :)

    Smuggly cargo, and Elite style commodity trading will definitely be in AH2 (or maybe even as an AH1 add-on). And I’ve just added the AH Radar in SP3.6 which is the first step in bringing it online – chat-room (possibly in flight) and seeing others aircraft in FSX will follow along shortly.

    Cheers,
    Slopey
    (AirHauler Developer)

  25. Terr says:

    @user@example.com: Agreed! The DC-3 is my favorite too, ever since Transport Tycoon.

    Does anyone know if Airhauler works with the trial for FSX? It sounds awesome, but I’m still not sure if FSX can keep my attention for long. This does reduce the “It doesn’t matter where I fly too, it’s pointless anyway” argument I use against myself.

  26. Terr says:

    Oh, wait, there isn’t a trial of AirHauler. That would cut my trail testing run short :P

  27. Slopey says:

    Trial coming shortly!! AH works with FSX and FS2004, and should be ok with the trial version of FSX, but I haven’t tried it.

    (also, JF do a 30 day no quibbles money back guarentee, so if you’re desperate you could buy it and return it if you don’t like it – but there’ll be a trial version within 30 days anyway).

  28. Terr says:

    Great, I’ll await the trial then :)