A Classic DC-3 For X-Plane 10/11

XPlane DC3 by Vskylabs

VSkyLabs Douglas DC-3 for X-Plane 11

Every aviation enthusiast has an appreciation for the Douglas DC-3.  It may not get your adrenaline pumping as much as a high speed pass by a P-51 Mustang or Spitfire, but the venerable DC-3 has a remarkable history everyone must appreciate.  From revolutionizing airline travel to carrying paratroopers into France to hauling cargo around the frozen north of Canada and Alaska, the DC-3 is an accomplished design.

Now you can fly the DC-3 in X-Plane 10 and 11.  The quality add-on by vSkyLabs focuses less on eye candy and shifts toward realism.  If you are used to the point and fly dynamics of FSX, then this isn’t the aircraft for you. But, if you want to try your hand at operating this workhorse, then grab the model.  Heck, if you want have a bit of aviation nostalgia in your virtual hangar, then grab the model.   But, read the instructions first!

The visual model is a little dated, but still relevant.  It is a model from an older version updated and ported to work with XP10 and XP11.  While a little rough around the edges, you can appreciate the classic DC-3 nose, square side windows and the unique tail section.  To me, the protruding landing gear behind the oil coolers is really what makes this a DC-3!

The cockpit of the VSKYLABS DC-3 SeattleOn the inside, using Shift-9, you can fly the aircraft from the Virtual Cockpit view.  Holding a right click on the mouse allows you to pan around the 3D model of the cockpit and cabin.  Plenty of switches, nobs and levers to keep your inner pilot giddy for hours.

This model truly shines from when you start the takeoff roll, or even before if you start the sim cold and dark.  This model behaves like a real DC-3.  Locking the tail wheel is a must!  Proper trim, power setting, and finesse of the controls is the name of the game.  Abuse this plane and it will result in virtual personal injury.  You truly have to be aware of what the aircraft is doing and don’t over correct or over control the aircraft.  The DC-3 is a gem to fly, if you work with her, not against her.

For $19.95, this is a great deal.  While the visual model might not be the best thing out there, it does not matter since the flying dynamics and realism are what counts in this purchase.  I highly recommend this purchase for all serious simmers.

Purchase From X-Plane.org

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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.

A Boeing 717

Historic Jetliner’s Group continues to expand its collection of historic jet-powered commercial aircraft.  Its latest addition to the already large collection is the Boeing 717.

Retired fairly recently from production, the 717 has its roots all the way back to the DC-9 airframe.  After the Boeing purchase of McDonnell-Douglas, the 717 was the longest running carry over airframe from the MD family, which is testament to its importance as a regional airliner in the spoke and wheel route structure. The last two 717 rolled off the Long Beach assembly line in 2006, making this modern jetliner historic.

HJG's new Boeing 717 in TWA colors

Wonderfully modeled for Flight simulator 2004, I took HJG’s 717 for a spin from St. Louis to New Orleans in TWA colors.  While I couldn’t stop thinking that the cockpit looks like the Space Shuttle, the B717 eye candy kept me interested.  Both ground handling and flight dynamics were impressive.

Head on over to HJG’s website and grab the B717 in your favorite livery.

The Little Guy That Started The Regional Market

What were you doing in 1965?  If you are like me, you weren’t even a thought in your mother’s mind let alone alive yet.

What were you doing in 1982?  I was annoying my parents and teachers in grade school and too young to really recall any significant events in the world other than nap time and potty time.

Why are these dates significant?   They mark the time when Douglas Aircraft first flew the DC-9 on February 25, 1965 and when the last DC-9 delivery occurred in October 1982.  While the airframe continued to be produced under the McDonnell Douglas (MD-80/-90) and eventually Boeing (717) nameplates until 2006, the DC-9 is the jet that created stiff competition as the jet-age was maturing in the short to medium range category.  The Boeing 737 didn’t fly until 1967.

HJG DC-9 TWA Livery

DC9-10 turning to course for KBOI

For those of us whom missed the inaugural flight, there is still a chance to experience this aircraft.  Thanks to Historic Jetliners Group (HJG), the DC-9 is alive and well in the virtual world from Microsoft.  While not a newly released model, I decided to give it a fresh new spot in my virtual hangar after seeing it added at HJG’s recent spring update.  Available are all five DC-9 series: -10, -20, -30, -40, -50.

So, I loaded up FS2004 (it will work in FSX, more or less) and plotted a flight plan from Denver, CO (KDEN) to Boise, ID (KBOI).  With lots and lots of liveries available, I am partial to TWA for reasons I can’t explain.  For some reason the red an white livery is classic, clean and nicely retro by today’s standards.

Taxiing from the gate to the runway at Denver always take awhile.  Colorado has a lot of open spaces and it takes time to go the distance.  They apparently decided to carry this experience to its airport… I guess gas was cheap back then too.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to test the ground handling.  Overall, it is good in the turns, but you have to watch the speed.  However, it takes time to spool up the engines and get this guy moving.  The trick is to apply quite a bit of thrust and when you start rolling throttle back before you start rocketing down the taxiway.   While this doesn’t surprise me, it does take some getting used to, especially since I am used to smaller piston aircraft.

Cruising over the Rockies toward Boise

Cruising over the Rockies toward Boise

Taking off from Denver is always fun.  You get to see the open space surrounding the airport.  Depending on orientation, you might get a glimpse of downtown Denver and even the Rocky Mountains. With that, the 563 nautical mile trip to Boise begins!

Cruising west means flying into the wind. Flying into the wind means slower actual speed.  Slower actual speed means longer flying time.  What more could you ask for to give this exterior model a quick once over?  While not an FSX model, no shortcuts were introduced on this model.  The detail wings, animated landing gear, air stairs, and t-design tail have more than enough detail to keep us entertained on our trip across the mountains.

HJG Cantu DC-9 TWA FS2004

S-Curves on approach to Boise.

Beginning descent in Boise gave me an opportunity to see the littlest DC-9-10 handles.  For some reason, Microsoft ATC decided to have us approach the airport in a series of S-curves about 65 nautical miles out.  I can understand this if I was too fast or too high, but we weren’t.  Anyhow, I can tell you that the DC-9 handles well, responsive, forgiving and doesn’t lose altitude too quickly when banking hard.   Keep in mind that an F-16 it is not!   So plan ahead and operate this aircraft with controlled, planned efforts and it will treat you like a Playboy bunny would.  😉

HJG Cantu DC-9 FS2004

Touching down a little hard at Boise.

Final approach was really a great time.  With the responsive handling, great weather and high visibility, landing at Boise was a breeze.  But, do you remember that sluggish throttle response I mentioned during taxiing?  Well, it can be a problem on final approach.  In fact, I nearly stalled the aircraft twice as I reduced throttle a little too much to reduce speed, but added some to compensate but it didn’t spool up in time, so I had to really gun it.  I think that with time and a few touch n goes that I will get the feel of the throttles.

HJG DC-9 FS2004 Cantu Boise

Parked at the gate at Boise

Touching down a little hard, I was quite sad to see this flight conclude.  My time in this classic short-range jetliner that set the first standard for regional jets came to a close.  What more could a flight simulator enthusiast ask for? A great exterior model, great fde even with sluggish spooling engines, and more liveries than just about any other model I’ve seen developed for flight simulator (don’t quote me on this).    So what are you waiting for, head over to HJG’s site and grab your favorite livery and take this little guy for a spin!

I am pretty sure you will remember 2010 as the year you flew the DC-9 in flight simulator!

Hosted by: Historic Jetliners Group
Model File: DC-9-10 (hjg_mcdonnell_douglas_dc-9-10_v1.12.zip)
Livery: TWA 1977 N1054T by Nicholas Botamer (dc-9-10_trans_world_1977_14_n1054t_v1.zip)

Update 4may10 – I mistakenly noted Erick Cantu/Vistaliners as the model author, but this is incorrect.  Credit belongs with Historic Jetliners Group and Nick Botamer (forum thread).