A Douglas DC-8 by Kingfisher Addons

The Douglas DC-8 family of commercial jets were perfectly good airliners produced from 1958 to 1972. Production came to a close as newer, larger, and more efficient airliners such as the DC-10 and Boeing’s 747 changed the game for airliner design.   During its 14 years of production, the DC-8 competed quite successfully against the Boeing 707 and even collected a world record for the first commercial airliner to break the sound barrier during testing in 1961.

To me, the DC-8 represents a gorgeous design.  The unique shaped nose, to its squarish windows, the design was the epitome of modern jet design.   Lucky for us, Kingfisher Addons (Kfa), reproduced the model for us in FSX.  Before I go too much further, I want to point out Kingfisher’s  tagline:  simple virtual  aircraft.  For those of you who have been around the flight simulator hobby for a few years, might remember Mike Stone who had the goal of building unique aircraft for FS, but kept it simple.  Eye candy took a back seat to simplicity and low polygon count.

Kingfisher DC-8-73 FSX

The DC-8 taxis to the active at KVCV for a ferry flight Denver.

When I saw version 1.20 available at FlightSim, I jumped at the chance to put this aircraft through the aRoMO paces.  While I am pleased with the visual model (could be better, but it  fully represents the aircraft to my eye), the FDE leaves me wanting a little more refinement.

My test flight was from Victorville, CA (KVCV) to Denver International (KDEN) as a virtual ferry flight for a customer that had taken the DC-8-73 out of storage.   This modernized bird has the CFM-56 engines as opposed to the original JT3C it debuted with.

Kingfisher's DC-8-73 turning to course for Denver  International

Kingfisher’s DC-8-73 turning to course for Denver International.

The weather was clear, a bit breezy, but otherwise perfect flying weather.  With some passing showers in Denver, landing was sure to be a bit more exciting.   I was  hopeful as I pushed back and began to taxi.  The visual model is clearly not as detailed or refined as the SkySpirit models, but it does represent a DC-8 competently and it is light on the frame rates.  The animated nose gear  and flaps are there, as  is the opening passenger door.  The basics are all there.

DC-8 v1.3 panel with era appropriate gauges

Also, basic means no virtual cockpit.  While a bit of a bummer, the 2D panel is okay.

As I lined up to takeoff, added power and trim, I was surprised to see my view appear to flop back on my butt.  It seems a click of trim up from my joystick sends this bird into rocket straight up and trim down sends her into a sharp dive down. However, I after a few resets (thank goodness we have a reset button in FSX), I was  able to finesse the bird into being airborne without the use of trim at all.  Perhaps when Kingfisher means simple, they also mean simple when it comes to FDE and flight controls.   Personally, this aircraft is best flown with the autopilot on!  (note there is a known trim issue with v1.2.  A fix will be released with v1.3 when it is ready.)

Cruising over southern Utah

Cruising over southern Utah with the sun behind us.

As we continued toward Denver on autopilot, I couldn’t help but wonder about the tail number of this bird, N872TV.  So, I searched for N872TV and discovered links to photo archives from the 1980’s or so of  a TransAmerica DC-8-73.   While the single white livery included in the download simply bears the name of the model and engine type, I am happy to see a legitimate tail number adorn the aircraft.  Now, if only someone could provide some additional repaints… perhaps a rainbow United livery?

Descending over Colorado in the dark

Descending over Colorado in the dark

We started our descent in the dark with the vast Denver area of lights before us.  The mountain peaks hidden in the darkness made us glad we were descending from FL330.  Using the autopilot, I setup the approach to runway 7 at Denver.  Once on short final, I cut the autopilot and found the maneuverability of the DC-8 quite sluggish.  Granted this was an early jetliner, but the FDE seemed much more difficult to control than the HJG DC-8 I’ve flown before.

Kingfisher DC-8 landing at Denver

Landing at Denver, a little off center.

With some luck and slightly off center, the DC-8 touched down and quickly decelerated. Exiting the runway, I found that steering required a very low forward velocity.  As speed picked up, the nose gear seemed to become non-responsive.  I would expect  this as turning the nose wheel too much with too much speed can lead to skidding and excessive tire wear.  After a  few turns I got the hang of it and we parked at the gate.

With my first flight in the Kingfisher Addon DC-8 in the history books, I must say that I am impressed with their work.  The model delivers simplicity, but the FDE and trim needs work. It also needs a few good repaints. But beauty can come in many forms and in this package, beauty is simplicity and that is significant.

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SkySpirit2012 CRJ-1000 Released

We knew it was in the works, but didn’t know when we could get our hands on its virtual yoke.  The release has come!  Available from SkySpirit2012 is the CRJ-1000 with tons of liveries.

SkySpirit 2012 CRJ-1000 leaving Bozeman for Denver

 For more info:

Check out the SkySpirit 2012 Facebook page, including links to packages

Check out Avsim, search for “SkySpirit2012 CRJ”

Service Pack 1 has been released, download it here

You all know what I will be doing tomorrow… flying the next generation Bombardier in FS2004!

Update: First Impressions

I had the pleasure of flying the CRJ-1000 from Bozeman, MT to Denver, CO and have to say that it flies like a CRJ.  In fact, I kept thinking I was flying the CRJ-900 whenever I went to outside view.   Of course, this meant the model offers the same great eye candy the former Project Opensky group was known for.  The push back tug, the air-stair, and the reverse thrust animation were all there.

Taxi to the active at Bozeman, MT in FSX for a test flight to Denver.

Regardless, the model had issues right out of the download file in FSX.  When I first loaded the aircraft, the nose wheel was turned completely perpendicular to the fuselage and no amount of joystick play was going to right it.  That was when I found the update on the group’s Facebook “file page” (clickie here) which updated the aircraft.cfg, model files, panel files,  and *.air  file.   With the update installed, life was so much better with a properly functioning nose wheel.  So, if you are having issues, run over and make sure you install the update before posting the issue on the Facebook page.

Nice shine on the wings and fuselage as we descend to final at KDEN, runway 34L

However, even with the update installed, I noticed the cockpit windows appeared greyed out in FSX (see screenshots).  At times they appeared more transparent, but most of the time they seemed dull,which detracted from the realism experience.  Hopefully a fix will  follow, although the model was designed for FS2004, not FSX.

Short final, runway 34L, notice the greyed out cockpit windows

Again, flight in FSX  went as expected from my flight time in the smaller CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 (did I just say smaller and refer to the CRJ-900?) in that the flight model rewards patience and calculated inputs.  An aerobatic biplane this is not, and your passengers will thank you for not flying it as such.  My one pet peeve, and this is probably because I am running FSX is that banking seems sluggish, even for a regional jet.  Both the Project Opensky CRJ-700 and the Roll-On CRJ-200 for X-Plane have a slightly more reactive feel compared to the SkySpirit model.  Aligning with the runway on short final was a little more challenging than expected. On the other hand, it could be that I have been  general aviation aircraft for the past few months and this is my first flight in a jet in a few weeks.

At the gate at Denver waiting for the jet-way to extend

Does the SkySpirit 2012 CRJ-1000 set a new standard?  Well, I think it compliments the existing FS CRJ family quite well.  The high  count of liveries already available is also a huge plus (livery list here).  Despite a few early bugs, this model will make a great addition to any virtual airline fleet.  But, I can’t wait for a private livery or two.  I am sure the 1% will add this to their fleet of toys as well.

SSG Boeing 747-8i Beta 1.1 Released (Now Version 2)

For the X-Plane pilots out there, check out the latest version of the Boeing 747-8i by Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG).

Now on version 2 of  development, the latest release improves flight dynamics with the help of real world pilots, improved 2D panel, external HD lighting support, X-Pland 10 support, and various other tweaks that improve the feel and autopilot. Version 2 is a stand alone download, no need to have previous versions installed.

Note: Version 2 is only compatible with X-Plane 10!  A version for 9.70+ is coming.

I also added SSG to the X-Plane Directory hosted here at ARoMO.

Sweetness!

<download 747-8i beta 1.0 at x-plane.org>

<download 747-8 version 2 at x-plane.org (X-Plane 10 Only)>

<Visit the SSG Forum for Support & Questions>

Update 07jun13 – SSG releases the 747-8i version 2 with Passenger & Freighter Configurations
Update 18mar12 – SSG releases the 747-8 Freighter beta 1.0 at the .org!

<download 747-8 Freighter beta 1.1 update at x-plane.org>

Project Airbus Keeps Them Coming: A320 v2.1

We really ooohhh’d and aaawww’d when Project Airbus released the A320 v2 for FS2004.  Then we ooohhh’d and aaawww’d a bunch more when they released the A321 with new features not found on their legendary A320.  At this point, the A320 was antiquated and there really wasn’t much reason to continue ooohhh’ing and aaawww’ing about it.

Ooohhh, aawwww: The A320 v2.1

Well, we can now ooohhh and aaawww again when we fly the Project Airbus A320 v2.1.  The latest update combines the legendary A320 with the awesome new features of the A321, including:

  1. Wing flex
  2. Improved A321 engine nacelles
  3. Modeled wiper blades
  4. Additional antenna
  5. Reshaped APU
  6. Revised cargo door animation

The official release and documentation is in this Project Airbus forum post.  Downloads are available at the PA download section or via Avsim. Note, you must download the base pack AND a livery pack for it to work.

Check out those detailed engines!

Once downloaded, prepare yourself for some serious ooohhhh’ing and aaawwww’ing.  I am in the process of putting this update through its paces, so more will come later.

A note on FSX compatibility.  This model was built for FS2004 and no FSX model exists.  While you can load it into FSX yourself, your experience may vary and there will be limited support.

Cheers! Happy Airbus’ing!

Update 01dec12 – updated links to the new Project Airbus site at http://www.pafs.wf

A Boeing Never Built for MSFS

Hiroshi Igama, a modeler for the SkySpirit2010 group, is a seriously talented modeler.  In his spare time, he cuts the 767-200 fuselage 66 inches and releases a plane that Boeing never built.  A plane being referred to as the 767-100 is now available for download.

The Boeing 767-100 by SkySpirit2010

BUT, since this was a side project, the 767-100 is represented in visual model only.  In fact, the package available for download uses the -200 FDE, so the contact points and fuel burn are not of the -100 model.

Even still, I must say that this “little guy” will grow on you.  Quite possibly the handsome brother to the Airbus A310, the Boeing 767-100 will likely make a magnificent BBJ-variant for those “haves” in the world.

Turning southwest in the late evening sun

So, if you are up for a sense of adventure in FS9/FS2004, take this Boeing baby out for a flight and enjoy a model that Boeing never built.

First Impressions of A340 for X-Plane

There is a new Airbus A340-600 model out for X-Plane, brought to us by the team at The X-Plane Paintshop.  This model is based off of the FSX A340 model from Thomas Ruth, with a host of others contributing to its greatness.

XPP A340-600 over Santa Barbara

XPP A340-600 over Santa Barbara

I am still in the process of putting “the long one” through its paces, so I will limit this post first impressions.  The exterior model, like the FSX counterpart, is nicely detailed and highly accurate.  The 2D panel is the full width (as opposed to the pilot of first officer view) and provides easy access to the autopilot and contains the “glass” gauges typical of an Airbus.

The only drawback are the twitchy flight dynamics.  I have not flown a real A340 and have only spent about 20 minutes flying this model, but I found that is noses up and down easily.  This may have been due to weather, but I found it very difficult to trim the aircraft for straight and level flight.  More testing here to come!

You may download the aircraft and livery pack from the X-Plane Paintshop download page.  Registration is required, but its super simple and free (so don’t complain!).

Cheers!

A BBJ 747-8i for Hawaii

It is without a doubt, the SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i is a brilliant aircraft.  Not only did Boeing do a great job extending the life of their largest airliner, but the SkySpirit2011 group brought it to life for us in FS9 and FSX.

The SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i over Anchorage, AK

Since its release, repaints available have been somewhat limited and limited to commercial airlines.  With only a small percentage of the population with the means to have a private jet the size of a 747, it is no wonder that private liveries weren’t more abundant. Until now that is.

Recently released by Alexi Antoniou is the “BBJ” livery for the SkySpirit2011 model (link at the end of the post).  While the repaint is not without fault (there seem to blending issues on the left wing [fixed in a recent update]), it is still a pretty cool repaint and it is the only one available as of the time of this post.

Since I have been obsessing about a trip to Hawaii, I decided to take the BBJ 747-8i on a “long” trip from Denver, Co (KDEN) to Kailua-Kona, Hi (PHKO).  With a distance of about 2,800 nm, the newest 747 is the perfect, roomy personal shuttle to get there in style.

Pre-flight preparation on the ramp at KDEN in FS9

So, we arrived at Denver airport and was promptly escorted to the ramp where our flying hotel awaited us.  There was lots of activity loading cargo, stocking the galley and other last minute preparations for our flight to Hawaii.   Despite the light rain and thunderstorms in the distance, we anticipated a relaxing flight.

As each engine started, the cabin doors closed and the flight crew escorts us to our leather wrapped personal modules, we took in the beauty of the lavish interior. With lots of fine wood, chrome and gold accents, and enough leather to kill a cattle ranch, we started to feel like kings.

Cleared for takeoff, we begin our flight

Despite the luxurious accommodations and careful pilot, we could feel the motion of the aircraft as we taxied to RWY 17R for departure. The occasional flash of lightning and roll of thunder in the distance made me wonder if we shouldn’t wait.  However, the pilot knew more than we did and we trusted his judgement.

Pressed back in our seats as the thrust propelled us forward, we eagerly anticipated that sinking feeling when lift off is achieved.  However, we didn’t really notice that we left terra firma until we looked out the window and saw the ground falling away.  The pilot made such a smooth transition to flight, we almost missed the moment.

leaving Denver behind, we take to the air

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as smooth.  Not even one minute after leaving the ground, we experienced some heavy turbulence.  Despite the leather and padding, the stomach felt every dramatic drop, lift and bank produced by the unstable air.  Ironically, I noticed a lack of puke bags, which made me wonder if the VIPs ever got sick.

Turning west for Hawaii

As we banked toward the west and steadily climbed out over Denver and the Rockies, the cabin crew came by and checked on us.  Free drinks and appetizers were being prepped.  I asked for a beer and chose the chicken kabobs, as the ahi tuna rolls seemed a little too much for my weary stomach.

After we reached cruise altitude and settled in the for the long flight, we got up and explored the exquisite surroundings.  From the polished, wood carved mahogany staircase that led to the executive suite and lounge upstairs to the gold plated fixtures in the master bath, the builder left no luxury behind.  We took a seat at the lounge and kicked back with our personal bartender.

Sunset over the Pacific ocean

With a few too many drinks and a fabulous steak dinner with garlic mash potatoes, I retired to the lounge and fell asleep on the couch.  I dreamed of being an entrepreneur with many successful companies under my belt, flying around the globe to give speeches to inspire my employees and relax on brilliant white beaches while the money rolled in.  Ah, the life.

But the dream was cut short when the cabin crew woke me up and asked to return to leather wrapped throne. We were getting ready to land at Kona.  I looked out the window and found nothing but blackness.  It was just after midnight in Hawaii and the sun had long set and the moon was but a sliver.

Descending near Hawaii

With an announcement from the pilot, we were ready for landing.  I commented to the crew that falling asleep on such a beautiful airplane was like a mortal sin, to which they snickered and walked away.

The flaps extended and the engines quieted.  As I began to make out the detail of ocean below us, it quickly changed to land.  Then a marker light passed below us, and I prepared for a quick deceleration so typical of commercial jets.   Then there a slight jolt, but the deceleration was nothing more than hitting the brakes in the car.  This pilot was good.

Touching down at PHKO

We taxied to the ramp and I watched as the staircase was moved into the place and the cabin crew opened the door.  You could feel the warm, tropical air rush into the cabin, displacing the leather and varnish smell.  I was happy to be here, but sad to leave such an accommodating and large aircraft.

On the ramp with smoke pouring from the rear galley

But, our departure was not without fanfare.  One of the cabin crew had left a microwave oven going with a meal in it.  As we took a step toward the door, the cabin began filling with smoke.  At the top of the stairs, we looked toward the tail and saw nothing but black smoke.  The fire crew were on there way and we were ushered quickly down the steps and into the waiting limousine with our baggage. Then our Hawaiian vacation began.

Cheers!

Model: SkySpirit2011 Boeing 747-8i (<download>)
Livery: “BBJ” by Alexi Antoniou (<download>)
Scenery: Default FS9 (boring!)

For an awesome Boeing 777 (POSKY model) BBJ livery, check out BBJ Design Group.