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AIRBUS A318/A319 – Flying by wire

Aerosoft has spent a great deal of time and investment in recreating the A320 family of aircraft for FSX. It has now released its third iteration of Airbus, with a high fidelity rendition of the Airbus A318 and A319 for FSX and Prepar3D. There is so much new detail that these latest aircraft should be considered as whole new simulations in their own right.

It is immediately apparent that Aerosoft has pulled out all the stops with the feature set, immediately propelling the package into the highend, high quality arena. Firstly and crucially the A318 and A319 have been modelled to an extremely high standard of systems fidelity.

If you find yourself too close to other traffic, the TCAS system bursts in to life
If you find yourself too close to other traffic, the TCAS system bursts in to life
A fully featured Flight Management System is the real heart of the Airbus
A fully featured Flight Management System is the real heart of the Airbus

The normal operation of the aircraft has been replicated in precise detail, including a full fly-by-wire simulation. The entire operating procedures of the aircraft are all present and correct, including a fully functional overhead panel and FMGS (Flight Management and Guidance System computer). What have not been modelled are complex failures, allowing the developers to concentrate all of their efforts on normal operations and additional features. This is no loss as most Airbus pilots have never seen a real major failure, such is thereliability of the aircraft!

The overhead panel is fully functional for all day-to-day operations, complete with complex ADIRS (inertial reference) simulation
The overhead panel is fully functional for all day-to-day operations, complete with
complex ADIRS (inertial reference) simulation

A320 AND A321 NOW AVAILABLE
AT THE TIME of going to press, Aerosoft had just released the companion Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 package. The A320 and A321 have an extended fuselage and larger take-off weight, but share essentially the same cockpit and features. The A320 and A321 can be bought separately or in a bundle of four aircraft with the A318 and A319.

A318 steep approach
The Airbus A318 is the smallest member of the Airbus A320 family. It is short, stubby and designed for commuter operations in and out of airfields too small for larger airliners. Its claim to fame is that it is certified to fly in to London City Airport, despite both the steep approach and very small runway. To fly steep approaches into small city airfields, Airbus implemented a ‘steep approach mode’, which includes computer-controlled spoilers throughout the descent on the glideslope. The Aerosoft model features this specialist mode in its entirety and it is certainly fun to fly the Airbus A318 into London City on the ILS with speedbrakes deployed all the way to touchdown!

The Airbus A318 is the smallest of the Airbus A320 family and is often used on commuter flights
The Airbus A318 is the smallest of the Airbus A320 family and is often used on commuter flights
The steep approach mode will command a 30 degree spoiler deployment throughout the descent!
The steep approach mode will command a 30 degree spoiler deployment throughout
the descent!

The A319 is a larger aircraft than the A318, but is still smaller than the parent A320 and is used around the world. The external models of both of these aircraft are simply superb, really capturing the essence of the Airbus, down to individual rivets and dirt on the fuselage. There are 17 aircraft in the base pack, including the famed British Airways A318 that operates from London City, along with other key operators such as Lufthansa, American Airlines, EasyJet and Air France. Incredibly, there are also over 150 free liveries to download from the Aerosoft forums, which are installed by simply dragging and dropping the zip file over the included livery manager!

The electronic display screens completely recreate all of the data presented in the real aircraft
The electronic display screens completely recreate all of the data presented in the real
aircraft

Climbing aboard the aircraft, one can see the cockpit has been beautifully reproduced. The Airbus, with its metallic cockpit is notoriously hard to create convincingly in FSX, but the developers have worked miracles and the interior comes complete with scuff marks and dust on the electronic display screens. This has been supplemented by scores of animations including sun visors,  retractable jump seat, tables and a functioning tiller for ground taxi. All of the aircraft systems are available, including both a fully functional weather radar and terrain display along with the
aforementioned FMGS.

The A318 flying a very steep glideslope into London City; hair-raising but tremendous fun in a jet!
The A318 flying a very steep glideslope into London City; hair-raising but tremendous fun in a jet!

In a stroke of genius, the MCDU (console display unit of the flight management system) can be mirrored to an iPad or other tablet computer to be fully touchcompatible to set up your flight plans
and performance data! The FMGS is fully compatible with monthly navigational data updates from the Navigraph service and includes a full database complete with SID and STAR, departure and approaches.

IT’S THE LAW!
THE AIRBUS A320 Family uses a system called ‘control laws’. There are three states: normal law, alternate law and direct law. As the name suggests normal law is the usual operating state of the aircraft. The other two laws come in to play when serious systems failures occur. The Aerosoft Airbus models normal law in detail using a highly complex fly-by-wire simulation – offering full flight envelope protection and Airbus flight model. Most noticeable to us as pilots is the fact that the aircraft automatically trims itself during all phases of flight, pitch adjustment, configuration and change of speed conditions. It is simply point and go and the aircraft will maintain the pitch indefinitely! Perhaps, more importantly the
aircraft is impossible to stall. The onboard computers will simply not allow a dangerous pitch or airspeed. Reduce the thrust levers to idle, even pulling hard on the aircraft nose and the system will command a safe speed and maximum safe pitch! Regardless of aircraft speed, roll rate is fixed and limited to 33 degrees of bank for normal operations, maintaining the chosen bank angle even if the pilot releases the controls. To exceed 33 degrees of bank, to a maximum of 67 degrees the pilot must maintain a constant pressure on the stick. Releasing the pressure will cause the aircraft to revert to the normal maximum 33 degrees of bank. In short, pitch, roll, yaw and speed are completely moderated by onboard computers that will not allow the pilot to stall the aircraft or operate outside normal safety margins. Every pilot control input on the stick and thrust levers are managed and verified by computer systems, with no direct pilot feedback from the control surfaces! It  means the Airbus flies like no other airliner, both in the real world and FSX!

An interactive first officer
Were that not enough, interactive checklists are available, complete with a fully voiced First Officer who will work through the checklists with you. ‘He’ can also be optionally configured to operate various switches and controls in the aircraft in response to those checklists. Ambient audio for ATC transmissions and even cabin crew are also included, along with every sound and click of the real aircraft. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the CFM engine sounds and their distinctive whine. The FS2Crew RAAS (Runway Awareness) package has also been included as an integral feature, alerting the crew with audible warnings of entering the runway environment, including a callout of available runway length on touchdown.

There are currently over 150 liveries available for free download
There are currently over 150 liveries available for free download

There are also fully configurable ground services, aircraft and co-pilot setup and a raft of options available from the right hand MCDU, which acts as a configuration manager. That said, I am  disappointed that normal functionality of the right MCDU is disabled and that in tandem with that, both side navigation displays are mirrored rather than independent. I like to have the co-pilot displays available for additional approach data, which is not possible when they are mirrored.

The A318 is a perfect city-hopper, flying into city airports unsuitable for most other airliners, offering a door-to-door service, rather than the traditional hub-and-spoke airline model
The A318 is a perfect city-hopper, flying into city airports unsuitable for most other
airliners, offering a door-to-door service, rather than the traditional hub-and-spoke airline model

A near perfect replica
That minor niggle aside, this is still the most exhaustively detailed and realistic Airbus ever created for FSX. This includes the notoriously complex autoflight systems, which come with both ‘open’ and ‘managed’ modes of the autopilot and the fly-by-wire protections. It has to be remembered that the complexity of the real Airbus is staggering (there are over 170 computers aboard), so to recreate the day-to-day operations of this aircraft in FSX on a desktop computer is an equally staggering feat. It is all there, in a near perfect recreation.

This depth of detail brings with it the requirement of study for pilots unfamiliar with such a complex aircraft. The team at Aerosoft has done its utmost to lessen the pain with eight separate manuals, including a well written step-bystep tutorial on a flight from Innsbruck. In another welcome touch, the manuals are available in e-book and Kindle format for keeping next to your flying
computer!

The reproduction of the virtual cockpit is phenomenal, complete with dust, scuffs and scratches on the fascia and electronic displays
The reproduction of the virtual cockpit is phenomenal,
complete with dust, scuffs and scratches on the fascia and electronic displays

Virtual airline support
If you fly for a virtual airline you will be familiar with the concept of checkrides, where your flights are graded by training staff at your VA. To facilitate that, a flight data recorder has been included with the package that tracks all of your flight data and aircraft performance. This can be exported and sent to your virtual airline for flight evaluation and can also be read in the FS Flight Keeper package from Aerosoft. It works rather like the black box /ACARS log in real aircraft and monitors the aircraft throughout the flight, including flaps and gear deployment, speed and heading changes, engine power etc. It is sure to delight the many virtual airlines who fly the ever popular Airbus.

The co-pilot side MCDU is used as a configuration manager, offering a wide array of features including ground services.
The co-pilot side MCDU is used as a configuration
manager, offering a wide array of features including ground services.
The Airbus has no flight yoke! The aircraft is controlled by a small joystick, referred to by Airbus as a sidestick, which sends commands to the fly by wire computers
The Airbus has no flight yoke! The aircraft is controlled
by a small joystick, referred to by Airbus as a sidestick,
which sends commands to the fly by wire computers

Conclusion
Aerosoft’s Airbus A318 and A319 package is simply incredible. This is the high fidelity Airbus simulation that we have been waiting for, in a near perfect replica of the real aircraft (and Aerosoft tells me it will continue to tweak and update!). Couple this with the wealth of additional content, including weather and terrain radars, RAAS, iPad support, flight data recorder, fuel planner and other features it is hard not to be hugely impressed with such an outstanding achievement.

By Jane Whittaker

Details
PLATINUM2Score: Platinum
Publisher: Aerosoft
Price: €39.95 (£32 approx) – €19.95 (£16 approx) for previous purchasers of Airbus X Extended. Also available in a bundle with the Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 for €54.99 (£44 approx) – €29.95
(£24 approx) for previous purchasers of Airbus X Extended.
Website: www.aerosoft.com
Developer: Aerosoft

At a glance: An incredibly detailed recreation of the baby Airbus, complete with a host of supporting features that come together to make an outstanding package. Finally, a high quality Airbus
in FSX!
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS:
FSX (SP2 and/or Acceleration or Gold edition or Prepar3D); PC 3.0GHz; 2GB RAM; 512MB graphics card; Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8; 2.5GB hard drive space.
RECOMMENDED:
FSX (SP2 and/or Acceleration or Gold edition or Prepar3D); PC 3.0GHz multi-core; 4GB RAM; 2GB graphics card; Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8; 2.5GB hard drive space; joystick with throttle and rudder.

Mega Airport London Heathrow Xtended

If you do any inter-continental travelling, you’re sure to have routed through Heathrow (EGLL) at some point. Although London has five airports in and around the city, Heathrow handles more traffic than all the others put together. With more than 72 million passengers last year, it’s also the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passengers. Yet in terms of aircraft movements it’s only tenth, with O’Hare International in Chicago holding the crown, handling a staggering 585,517 aircraft in 2013, as against Heathrow’s 376,800.

Heathrow_21 copy

Like the majority of international airports, Heathrow has been modelled before for FSX, the best of these (in my opinion) being Gary Summons Heathrow Extreme V3, released earlier this year and the original Sim-wings version released back in 2007 (was it really that long ago?). Well obviously Sim-wings also thought it was about time it updated its product because here we have Mega Airport London Heathrow Xtended. But we’re not looking at an update here. Heathrow has changed so much in the past seven years that Sim-wings has produced a brand new product covering 42 sq km.

Installation
As usual the product is available as a boxed or download version. The boxed version was not available at the time of writing but should be by the time our magazine goes to press. With a file size for the FSX version of over 4.2GB, it’s the first time I would suggest getting the boxed version. The reason is that the package includes all three versions (FSX, FS2004 and Prepar3D), which together come to a little over 9GB. That’s a fairly hefty download whatever broadband package you might have, although to be fair you don’t necessarily have to download all three; you could just download the one appropriate for the simulator you’re currently using.

Each product comes with a setup program, so installation is quite straightforward. You merely have to enter the unique code supplied by Aerosoft when you purchased the product.

Compatibility
A fairly important question these days is one of compatibility – whether a product will happily integrate with those we might already have on our systems without causing the annoying crossover of objects or textures that sometimes flash on and off. The main issue of course is going to be with global and photographic scenery products from companies such as Orbx and Just Flight. I already have Orbx Global and its FTX England and Wales products installed, so I was interested to see if there would be any issues with these. As it happens Orbx is one of the few companies that provides a scenery switcher; so if there is a conflict, you can at least set your system back to the FSX default texture files.

The front of Terminal 5 showing the complex road system
The front of Terminal 5 showing the complex road system

Fortunately, prospective buyers can relax as I didn’t encounter any compatibility issues at all. After reading the Sim-Wings Heathrow manual, it seems that the developers are mindful of these potential problems and have designed the scenery to blend with just about any existing scenery you might have. Clearly it’s impractical for me to test this contention as I don’t have access to all the different products that could potentially cause a conflict. But as far as the Orbx products are concerned, I’m happy to say that they meld together quite nicely.

Sim-Wings Heathrow
I imagine the task of designing an airport like Heathrow must be a daunting prospect when you consider the sheer scale of it and the enormous number of different buildings to contend with, not to mention the ancillary objects and vehicles you’ll see strewn around the aprons of every major airport. All these have to be photographed, drawn, planned and modelled, then the textures have to be created and applied to the 3D structures, bringing the whole thing to life.

Heathrow_19

Heathrow_18

Heathrow_17

Heathrow_16

All five terminals are reproduced in detail
All five terminals are reproduced in detail

Well, it seems that Sim-Wings is more than equal to the task, because its depiction of Heathrow is commendable. While the modelling is of a high standard, the designers have obviously shown a degree of restraint by not making the 3D structures too detailed. This, in my opinion, is a sensible approach as we’ve all seen a level of detailing that will bring FSX to its knees, which to be honest is pointless. The hardware has to be able to cope with the demands of the software or you could end up with something more resembling a slideshow. This is not the case with Sim-Wings Heathrow by the way.

As I mentioned earlier the product covers more than 42 sq km, not just the airport itself. So it is well worth taking a few sightseeing trips, particularly if you’ve been to Heathrow before, if only to see how this version compares with your own experiences. For example, as you approach the airport through the main entrance, there used to be a 40% scale model of a BA Concorde. It’s now been replaced with a similar scaled model of an Emirates Airbus A380. However, I’m pleased to see that BA has still retained one of these iconic aircraft, which is now sited outside its engineering building at Heathrow. You can see both of these in the Sim-Wings version: Concorde is on the right, as you make your approach to runway 27L, while the A380 is mounted in front of the underpass leading into the airport itself.

You can still see Concorde as you approach Runway 27L
You can still see Concorde as you approach Runway 27L

Bath Road runs along the northern perimeter of the airport, parallel to the two runways. It’s where most of the hotels and businesses that service the airport are situated. So if you fly along this route you’ll see the more prominent ones depicted, for example there’s the Holiday Inn, Renaissance Hotel, a couple of car rental agencies and more. There’s also a Hilton Hotel just behind Terminal 4.

You can see the Hilton Hotel behind Terminal 4
You can see the Hilton Hotel behind Terminal 4

Heathrow has five passenger terminals, the latest and largest of which is Terminal 5, situated at the westerly end of the airport, midway between the two runways. It was opened in 2008 and was initially used solely by British Airways as its global hub. It has two satellite buildings, one of these (Concourse C) has larger stands dedicated to the Airbus A380. These, like all the stands in this Sim-wings version of Heathrow, have fully operational Safegate docking systems.

The Emirates A380 now has pride of place at the front entrance
The Emirates A380 now has pride of place at the front entrance

Terminal 5 is an imposing four-storey structure with its own elevated roadways and multi-storey car park at the front and four spiral road ramps leading to each floor. The Sim-Wings designers have recreated it beautifully, yet with a skilful use of textures depicting more detail than is actually modelled. As I mentioned earlier this is not really a criticism, because I’d rather have an airport that is a fair representation of the original, but doesn’t stop me flying the more complex aircraft I’ve invested in.

Terminal 5 from a pilot’s viewpoint
Terminal 5 from a pilot’s viewpoint

The M25 motorway runs past the back of Terminal 5, and again this and the complex roadway systems running into the airport are accurately modelled. Unlike Terminal 5, each of the other terminals seems to have evolved rather than been designed. I guess the increasing demand for more flights has determined how and when they were built or extended. However, this maze of complex walkways, roads and tunnels has been recreated in almost ridiculous detail by the Sim-Wing designers giving you a real impression of the complexity and vastness of this site.
This is just as evident at night, because in some FSX airports the approach and apron lighting can look unrealistic, generally due to the colour palette used by the designers. Yet in this version of Heathrow, Sim-Wings have nailed it. Approaching the airport at night is just brilliant as the runway lights have the correct intensity, so they look correct from the cockpit. Then, as you taxi in you’ll notice that the huge floodlight masts have proper illuminated bulbs set just below the top, as they are in reality. There’s also a realistic variety of lighting within and spilling on to the buildings, some are even floodlit in different colours.

The apron lighting with realistic globes underneath the floodlight masts
The apron lighting with realistic globes underneath the floodlight masts
Some of the buildings are illuminated with coloured lighting
Some of the buildings are illuminated with coloured lighting

Performance
Obviously, how a product might affect your system’s performance will be high on most users’ list of questions to ask. No matter how pretty it might be, or how well it depicts the real airport, firstly it has to be useable and to be fair Heathrow certainly is. It’s true that unless you’re running a very high spec machine you’re going to lose some performance, yet even after a few long trips into Heathrow I didn’t experience any accumulative degradation. I didn’t get any ‘out of memory’ errors either, but equally I didn’t run FSX with the scenery settings maxed out. The advice that Aerosoft provides in the manual covers these issues at length, so it’s worth reading and taking the time to adjust your settings in order to reach that performance sweet spot.

Heathrow has its own central bus and underground station
Heathrow has its own central bus and underground station

Conclusion
It’s a shame that developers always have to consider these performance issues when designing airports and scenery because given free rein I’m sure we would see even more spectacular scenery. Once again I reiterate that’s not any criticism of Heathrow as it’s an accurate depiction of the airport and the immediate area surrounding it. In fact the wider footprint used by the developers, means that approaching the airport from any direction is very realistic indeed, consequently I have no hesitation in recommending it to all our readers.

By Joe Lavery

DETAILS
Score: 90%
Distributor: Aerosoft and Just Flight
Price: €27.95 by direct download or €29.99 as a boxed set plus shipping
Website: http://www.aerosoft.com
Developer: Sim-wings
At a glance: A mega version of Heathrow airport from Sim-Wings, designed with performance in mind, yet still with a high level of detail and accuracy.
System requirements for FSX / Prepar3D: Microsoft Flight Simulator X (incl. Service Pack 2 or Acceleration Pack) or Lockheed Martin Prepar3D V2; Windows XP (SP2) / Vista / 7 / 8; Dual Core Processor with 2.66GHz or faster; Minimum 4GB RAM; 3D graphics card with at least 512MB; Download-Size: 4.5GB; Installation size: 4.7GB.
System requirements for FS2004: Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (Version 9.1); Windows XP (SP2) / Vista / 7 / 8. Dual Core Processor with 2.66Ghz or faster; 2GB RAM; 3D graphics card with 256MB; Download-Size: 890MB, Installations size: 2GB
Recommended: 3.4GHz processor (Quad Core processor or higher system); 8GB RAM; 3D Graphics Card with minimum of 2GB RAM; SSD or a fast hard drive.

14084


PC SYSTEM USED

Intel i7 4770 3.40GHz Processor
16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
AMD Radeon 7950, 3GB GDDR5 Video card
1 Terabyte Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive.

JARDesign A330

A neglected airliner.

The Airbus A330 is something of a dark horse in commercial aviation – incredibly popular but somewhat overlooked in the world of the Boeing 777 and the 787. It’s so unassuming and yet over 1000 have been delivered since its introduction in 1992 and the aircraft is popular with passengers and pilots alike. The A330 is everywhere it seems, except in the flight sim world. The A330 is suspicious by its absence. There are a few products available that are light on depth and horribly dated. So, thank goodness for X-Plane developer, JARDesign, which has recently released a brand new A330-200 for X-Plane 10, but is it any good?

First look
Having enjoyed the JARDesign A320 previously, I had an idea of what to expect with the A330 – I was not to be disappointed. On loading and activating the aircraft, I was greeted by the Airbus company livery. The A330 only comes with one livery but you can download others for free. The Airbus livery looks good and the external model is finished to a very high quality. This is the same with the A320. Moving inside to the cockpit, everything looks familiar. The common flight deck layout shared with the A320 and A340 is rendered in fantastic quality. The cockpit features high definition-style textures, somewhere around the 4096 x 4096 mark. Put simply, it’s gorgeous. In wet weather, the rain drops on the windscreen are pretty nice, just to add to the great cockpit textures.

Ground control to Major Tom
Before diving in for a flight, I have to talk about a few extras the A330 provides. Introduced with the latest release version of the A330 (V1.2r1 at the time of writing) is a set of ground vehicles that deal with everything concerned with preflight. Call the fuel truck to refuel the aircraft and it arrives, hooks itself up to the aircraft tanks and allows you to set the fuel load via a user display. Call for the steps and the aircraft doors open when the steps arrive. The animations are smooth as silk. There are plenty of vehicles that can approach the aircraft, from the usual cleaning and catering trucks, baggage carts and loaders, even to limo’s delivering those VIP passengers straight to the aircraft.

Animated bags load into the hold and the catering trucks add catering
Animated bags load into the hold and the catering trucks add catering
The ground services are a fantastic addition to this A330 package
The ground services are a fantastic addition to this A330 package

Getting stuck in
It’s a good thing I’m familiar with the Airbus as there’s no tutorial provided with the A330. In fact, there’s not much in the way of documentation full stop. There are downloads available from JARDesign itself but this is the actual flight manual for the real aircraft, which is a scary place to start for the newbie. Anyway, jumping in, it’s interesting to see the subtle differences between the A320 and the A330. The overhead panel contains an extra battery for the APU for example. It’s all very familiar though and getting prepped for flight is fairly simple. If you’ve not flown the A330 or the A320 before, there’s a built-in co-pilot who will guide you through the checklist to help you out. The checklist is found on the captain’s window clipboard. It’s interactive, so once you are done with the pre-flight checklist, it will progress on to the next step.

The overhead panel is very familiar, differing very slightly from the Airbus A320
The overhead panel is very familiar, differing very slightly from the Airbus A320

It’s now time to program the MCDU. This is where many an Airbus flight sim falls down. While Boeing is more than happy to help out developers to create the FMC, Airbus is much more secretive. So the MCDU is difficult to work out. On the previous JARDesign A320, the MCDU had several bugs that really let the side down, so I was hoping the A330 was an improvement. Initial signs were not promising. Just looking at the MCDU, you can see that two buttons are blank. The secondary flight plan, ATC Comm buttons and functions are not modelled. The lack of the ATC Comm button is okay, but the ‘SEC F-Plan’ function is part of the preflight checklist and very useful if you are setting up a long flight and are unsure what the expected arrival runway will be. You can set up two approaches, switching if you need to as you get closer to landing.

The MCDU unit is missing two functions as shown by their blank buttons
The MCDU unit is missing two functions as shown by their blank buttons

However, missing buttons aside and getting on with the flight planning reveals improvement over the A320 and further errors. The A330 now has the ‘Airways’ entry option working, which is better that the non-functional version on the A320. However, the implementation is half finished. Normally, you would use the Airways function to quickly enter the route. It works by entering your first airway on the left, say Q295. Then in the next space below, you enter the next airway. Once you’ve done that, the MCDU will fill in the entry waypoint on the right. This speeds up your route entry substantially. On the A330 though, you can only enter one airway at a time. So you have to enter the airway and the exit waypoint, insert that in the plan and then return to the Airways function to enter the next airway. For long routes this gets tiring. So while it’s an improvement on the previous A320, it still needs fixing.

Altitude constraints displayed on the MCDU, though not on the ND
Altitude constraints displayed on the MCDU, though not on the ND
"There’s no doubt that JAR Design has gone to town with the A330’s cockpit. It is simply stunning"
“There’s no doubt that JAR Design has gone to town with the A330’s cockpit. It is simply stunning”

With the flight planning in hand, JARDesign has provided a load manager of sorts. It’s selectable from the plugin menu and you get a loadout of the A330-200 along with the weight table. What is missing is a good performance calculator. The A330 needs a few things to see its V speeds. You can get the flap settings and trim from the load manager but without the Flex temperature you can’t set the V speeds.

The MCDU also contains a few configuration options, including settings for using high precision joysticks as well as options for adjusting the various aircraft sounds. Sounds are always an issue with X-Plane, the sound engine of which needs a major overhaul. JARDesign gets around this with the use of 3D sound plugins.

Ready for pushback
Ready for pushback

With the route programmed and the aircraft ready, I then called for pushback from the menu. A handy little control panel pops up on the left and allows you to control the pushback with ease. With the engines running, I then taxied out for take-off. The aircraft feels heavy, which is welcome and it takes a little bit more thrust to get moving than I’m used to. In the cabin I can hear a safety announcement playing, which is another nice touch. Time to get into the air though. I set the throttles and we’re off. Hand flying is a joy and the A330 flies well and feels stable under my control. Passing 6000ft, I switched the autopilot on and put my feet up. During the flight, my interactive flight attendant popped on to the intercom to keep me informed on the state of the cabin. Her English is a little off, including such phrases as: “I would like to report about the situation on the board. Passengers calm, it is alright now.” It’s both worrying as well as perplexing. Performing a manual landing is a joy and the A330 is an aircraft that you will just want to hand fly.

Ready to taxi
Ready to taxi
Climbing out
Climbing out

Summing up
The A330 is a cracking aircraft to fly and a flight sim version with depth was long overdue, however, the JARDesign A330 isn’t quite there yet as it has a few bugs. For starters, there’s the strange behaviour seen on take-off. On several take-offs, the autopilot wants to prioritise speed over altitude. It really should be a mix where both the speed and altitude climb gradually. It needs refinement if nothing else. Flying the departure manually is also made more difficult by the lack of constraints on the PFD. With the constraints display option chosen, there should be a text display along the route. There isn’t one. The constraints are indicated by the purple circles around the waypoints, but no text. Then there are the issues with the MCDU. The airways function needs work and the sec f-plan button should be there. Also the A330 doesn’t read X-Plane flight plans either, so you can’t load a standard flight plan in to the MCDU to save time.

No constraint information is displayed on the ND. The purple rings should be accompanied by altitude or speed information
No constraint information is displayed on the ND. The purple rings should be accompanied by altitude or speed information

Turning to the rest of the package, the sounds, even with the 3D plugins aren’t that great, with the engine sounds suffering the most. The ground vehicles are not without faults either. While they’re a great addition, they have a tendency to drive through each other and the aircraft when arriving or departing. It’s a bit messy. The fuel loader also has bugs. On one long-haul flight, I calculated my fuel load to be around 35 tonnes. However, after loading up the aircraft as described on the fuel loader (sorting your flight plan, cruise level and cost index first), it told me I would run out of fuel before reaching my destination. Brimming the tanks with near double the amount of fuel didn’t help change the message. In the end, I discovered you need to add the fuel before you sort out the flight plan, despite what the instructions on screen tell you.

Finally, a word about those textures. While the textures in the cockpit look fantastic, they can quickly overload your graphics card. Over three screens, my texture load at one point was over 5GB – a full Gigabyte more than my 4GB 680 graphics card could handle. The result is a dramatic drop in performance.

The night lighting is very atmospheric
The night lighting is very atmospheric
The view from the flight deck is excellent
The view from the flight deck is excellent

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There’s no disputing that if your system can handle it, the A330 is beautiful to look at. The night lighting is stunning and the extras like the co-pilot and cabin crew help make this a great aircraft to enjoy. It just needs some work to bring it up to scratch. JARDesign will do that and service packs and updates are available through the website. With the errors fixed, the A330 would be a must-have; as it stands, it’s still a great aircraft.

By Jessica Bannister-Pearce

A thing of beauty, let down by a few silly bugs
A thing of beauty, let down by a few silly bugs

DETAILS
Score 80%
Publisher: JARDesign
Website:www.jardesign.org
price: $60.95 (£38 approx)
At a Glance: A good aircraft let down by a few little bugs and poor sound replication.
Specifications: X-Plane 10.36+ 64-Bit with HDR On.
Processor: 2,4GHz Multi-core.
Memory: 8GB RAM.
Video Card: 2GB VRAM.
64-Bit OS (Windows 7 / Windows 8, Mac OS X), high-precision joystick, rudder pedals, throttle controller.

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