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 Grand Old Lady Makes It To FSX

One of the most elegant airplanes, in my opinion, is the Douglas DC-8.  The sleek nose, rounded fuselage and swept wings represent the elegance and grace of the early jet age. The DC-8 was Douglas’s first jet aircraft and followed the Boeing 707 to market one year late, costing Douglas dearly. However, time shows the DC-8 as a worthy companion in the air, especially the later Super series, most of which have surpassed 100,000 flight hours (ref).  Something that can’t be said about most Boeing jets.   Most DC-8’s today are found in the charter market or have been converted to freighters.

With Historic Jetliner’s Group recent May web update, I decided to test their DC-8 in FSX. But, which variant? I wanted something a little more current and realistic for 2008, so I turned my attention toward the freighter variants.   While there are plenty of freight companies with attractive liveries on their aircraft, there is one that popped out of the crowd.  The Airborne Express/DHL DC-8-63F(M) (N814AX) in the current livery  not only stood out with its bright yellow and red scheme, but the lines accentuated the sexy fuselage.  Douglas delivered this aircraft to SAS airlines on February 28, 1969 and served as a valiant member of their fleet until 1991, when it was sold to its current operator, Airborne Express.  (pic, pic)

Now that I had my choice of aircraft, I simply downloaded the base pack and livery pack and loaded them into FSX.  The instructions were simple to follow and I found myself quickly at KMEM considering where my destination would be.  I recently flew to San Antonio (KSAT) and decided that would make a short, sufficient flight to check the grand old lady out. 

The power is sluggish compared to today’s modern jets, but she flew with grace and never belched at any of my control inputs.  Flying this bird really made me appreciate the old school engineering and design of this elegant aircraft. 

DHL/ABX DC-8 cruising toward SAT
Flying toward San Antonio in the evening sun.

descending over Texas
Desceding over Texas for landing at San Antonio.

While my FSX cancelled the flight while I was on final approach, this was a remarkable flight that made me appreciate the grace, elegance, and sexiness of the Douglas DC-8.  I would highly recommend this model to everyone as it deserves a space in everyone’s FSX hangar. 

Cheers! 

Note: This model is also available for FS9.