For those of us using FSX the add-ons are really starting to multiply. With SP1 released a few months back, a wider number of simmers are able to use FSX and developers are taking more interest in the latest simulation from Microsoft. For some developers, modifying existing FS9 favorites for use in FSX is a priority. One such FS9 aircraft is the McDonnell Douglas MD-81.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series aircraft started out as an improved and stretched version of the popular DC-9 series. With more efficient engines, more capacity due to the longer fuselage, and redesigned wings, the MD-80 series became a popular member in many airline fleets. Its first flew in October 1979, but sales didn’t take off until the more powerful MD-82 came to market with American AIrlines placing an initial order for 67 aircraft in 1984. Production ended in 1999 with 1,191 units built. Many are still flying today. <SAS MD-81 landing at ESSA>
While there are a few freeware and payware versions of the MD-80 series aircraft for FS2004, there is only one freeware version that includes a virtual cockpit. Designed by Mitsushi Yutaka and Warren C. Daniel, this MD-81 and MD-82 model was a complete aircraft with sounds and an awesome panel that weighed in as a hefty 65mb download. This FS2002 and FS2004 model, unfortunately, never rose to the popularity of the SGA model, possibly because of its advanced virtual cockpit and download size.
Ported to FSX by Claus Vendelboe Holmberg, this plane really takes on a new life. The virtual cockpit comes alive and the detail of the model is still quite good. Flaps are fully animated, and there is even an animated air-stair for use at those regional airports. This freeware model is certainly as good, if not better than some payware models. Only two liveries are available, an old school SAS and an SAS new colors.
Despite the eye candy, how does it fly? I decided to take it for a short flight across the creek, from Amsterdam to London. Leaving the gate, the engines took a little longer than usual to spool up and get the aircraft moving. This is when I noticed how awesome the included sound package is with very accurate internal and external sounds adding to the enjoyment of this sim. I had plenty of time to test the ground handling as I had to taxi all the way to the other end of Amsterdam (EHAM). My one nitpick is that it doesn’t turn as sharply at low speed as other models I’ve taxied, which made turns a little interesting.
After setting flap, adjusting the trim and getting take off clearance, I pushed the throttles forward and we started to roll. The rotation was smooth and it easily took flight. However, I noticed two things. First, I quickly found that the FDE was different than I expected. I found the aircraft rolled very easily, more easily than a GA aircraft. This meant that I had to be extremely precise with the joystick input. I think this is an issue with porting an FS2004 model to FSX as I experienced this same issue with Project Airbus’s A320. Second, the airspeed indicator was pegged at 280 knots. What is a GA gauge doing in a jetliner?
Once I got used to the “feel” of the handling, I headed straight toward London (EGLL), climbing to 25,000 feet. Setting the autopilot, I had a chance to do a walk around of the model. The night flight pointed out an issue with lighting. First, there is some type of “bleed” into the nose of from the cockpit. I was able to make it go away by turning off the cockpit lights, but then I couldn’t see anything. The second thing that I noticed was that the cabin lights only come on when the landing lights are on, so during the flight when the landing lights are off, the cabin seems to be dark, which is not realistic. I consider these to be minor issues.
After a miles, I decided to warp time and have the sun come up as we approached the coast of England. This way I could appreciate the model’s day time qualities and make the approach to EGLL in daylight. Having the early morning sun reflect off the fuselage made me appreciate why I love FSX. Frame rates were around 25fps, which is better than I expected. Typically flying a GA aircraft, I get 30+.
The late descent into EGLL was quite interesting as I had to circle to lose some altitude. As I stated my approach, I was reminded that conditions called for a 20 knot crosswind. This was fine as I flew with the autopilot until short final. Stick flying the last mile or so gave me one last chance to get used to the rolling of the FDE. Needless to say, I was relieved when the wheels touched the runway and the reverse thrusters engaged.
Arriving at the gate, I turned off the engines and reflected on the flight, the airplane and the sim. My impression, the flight was short, the plane was great and complimented by a remarkable sim. I think that Claus Holmberg did us all a great favor when he adapted it for use in FSX. I just wish that Warren would release a patch for the FDE to work properly in FSX. Although there are a few bugs in the lighting, I think I will just fly it during the day. I will also keep my fingers crossed that some painters will produce a few liveries to compliment the model.
So, what the hell are you waiting for? go get it! This is a must have for FSX.
- Its freeware
- Outstanding visual model
- Great Virtual Cockpit
- Sound and panel package are topnotch
- FDE is a little tricky
- Some lighting bugs
- GA gauge is pegged
- Huge download size
Texture Add-on pack: md81_add_on.zip (simviation) by Fred Miller