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Stephen

Freeware Releases Roundup Sept 2013 : Skyhawk A4 - Falcon7X - Airbus A380

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Freeware Releases Roundup September 2013 : Skyhawk A4 - Falcon7X - Airbus A380

 

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In late August and September 2013 we had a really huge choice of quality “freeware” aircraft released. You could say be spoilt for choice in the range and high quality workmanship that became available on the .Org.

Of the releases I have picked three of the best to have a fly around and comment on in the Skyhawk A4, Falcon 7X and Riviere’s Airbus A380.

Douglas A-4 Skyhawk 1.7

This version was designed by Ben Harber, aka Mid7night and was for sale on the X-Plane .OrgShop site. But now the aircraft has been decommissioned by Nicolas Taureau and put up for freeware on the .Org downloads.

 

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The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The delta winged, single-engined Skyhawk was designed and produced by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later by McDonnell Douglas. It was originally designated the A4D under the U.S. Navy’s pre-1962 designation system.

The Skyhawk is a light-weight aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 24,500 pounds (11,100 kg) and has a top speed of more than 600 miles per hour (970 km/h). The aircraft’s five hard-points support a variety of missiles, bombs and other munitions and was capable of delivering nuclear weapons using a low altitude bombing system and a “loft” delivery technique. The A-4 was originally powered by the Wright J65 turbojet engine; from the A-4E onwards, the Pratt & Whitney J52 was used.

The Navy issued a contract for the type on 12 June 1952, and the first prototype first flew from Edwards Air Force Base, California on 22 June 1954. Deliveries to Navy and Marine Corps squadrons (to VA-72 and VMA-224 respectively) commenced in late 1956.

The Skyhawk remained in production until 1979, with 2,960 aircraft built, including 555 two-seat trainers. The last production A-4, an A-4M of Marine squadron (VMA-223) had the flags of all nations that operated the A-4 painted on its fuselage sides.

A-4 Skyhawks played key roles in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War (Argentina).    

There are four versions of the A-4 available in the 107.60mb download package.

 

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Blue Angels - flight demonstration squadron. It was formed in 1946. And the A - 4F Skyhawk was the demonstrator aircraft between December 1974 – November 1986.

The aircraft design is very good and well done but it is now showing its design age in the modeling and liveries department. The cockpit (on all versions) is 3d and very well created with an opening canopy and dropping tail hook.

On the Blue Angels aircraft you can pick your own number on the tail by changing the liveries.

 

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A-4F Jester - The aircraft of “TOP GUN” fame. Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) training brought on with the establishment of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in 1969, the availability of A-4 Skyhawks in both the Instrument RAGs and Composite Squadrons at the master jet bases presented a ready resource of the nimble Skyhawks that had become the TOPGUN preferred surrogate for the MiG-17.
 
Here the air-brakes are activated with split wing and fuselage opening air-brakes.

 

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Lady Jessie - Recreation of historical aircraft. This is the Naval version of the Skyhawk, with the humpback blister  and wing fuel tanks. The tanks were designed for a wheels up landing, and most Skyhawks carried them.

Note - the excellent forward leading edge spoiler, and the air-brake/flap arrangement that drops down under the wing.

 

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BAE - Recreation of experimental model. You can feel how agile this aircraft was to fly, you are just a finger and thumb on the stick and it will just maneuver by just your light touch and feel. No wonder pilots could feel part as one with the aircraft and the reason for its longevity and success.
If you like killing things you can arm the cannons and fire away, but your supplies don’t last very long.

Overall a great aircraft and one savor and now available for a free download:  Douglas A-4 Skyhawk 1.7

 

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Dassault Falcon7X

The Falcon7X by after, Won the "Best Aircraft of September" on the .Org monthly Poll. This is a great version of the Personal Jet that is almost payware quality. It is not a completely new file but an updated version for X-Plane10 from v9.510.

 

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The Dassault Falcon 7X is a large-cabin, long range business jet manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It is the first fully fly-by-wire business jet. It is also equipped with the same avionics suite, the Honeywell Primus EPIC “Enhanced Avionics System” (EASy), that was used on the Falcon 900EX and later on the Falcon 2000EX.

The Falcon 7X is notable for its extensive use of computer-aided design, the manufacturer claiming it to be the “first aircraft to be designed entirely on a virtual platform” using Dassault Systemes’ CATIA and PLM products.
It is also unusual in having an S-duct central engine, and is one of only two trijets currently in production, the other being the Dassault Falcon 900. It was also the first production Falcon jet to offer winglets.
First Flight was on the 5 May 2005, The first 7X, MSN05, entered service on June 15, 2007.

Maximum speed: 953 km/h (515 knots, 593 mph), Cruise speed: 900 km/h (486 knots, 559 mph), Range: 11,000 km (5,940 nm)8 passengers, Service ceiling: 14935 m (51,000 ft)

At first glance the Falcon 7X feels like a very good payware project. It was updated from the v9 aircraft and quite considerably so for X-Plane10. Outwardly the design work is excellent and the modeling is first-rate. The cockpit (3d) is excellent and very functional, the centre console is as good as anything else and well detailed.

 

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Most of the upgrade work has centred on the displays and systems, and the central display is fully functional.

 

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Quite comprehensive in their detail are the center screens, the lower upper tabbed screen shows you your Nav, Trim, Engine, Electrical, Bleed, ECS and Failure options. The lower screens main layout is your FMS settings and Navigation Inputs. And then Fuel status and consumption. The next two tabs are the same as the upper screen in Engine and Trim and finally there are three MAP/GPS positions in MAP, FR (France) and USA (Local).  The systems are quite deep in operation and the aircraft is excellent just for these systems alone.

 

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The Cabin is well fitted out as well with club seating and tables (a, la, Challenger 300) and the front door opens back on Terra Firma.

It flies very well as well. Nice to the controls, fast with an enormous range of which you can cross any ocean or continent and in all counts it is an excellent aircraft.

But the Falcon7X doesn’t reach payware quality yet, as it just falls short...  But however this is a project still in progress and still bound for payware and to reach that goal then some issues will have to be reviewed. Like the main cockpit panels are a mixture of sharp and fuzzy labeling that annoys after awhile. You would put up with this in XP8 or XP9 for payware, but you want to feel it needs to be better than it is, even now with such a lot of considerable detailing and screen functionality already completed. The outer aircraft design are parts beautifully done (like the leading edge and rear flaps systems), but let down by the poor tires that make the aircraft wobble as it taxi’s around the taxiways and the lighting shows through the panel work. The Falcon7X displays the differences of quality that is needed to become payware, the gap is “oh so small” but it is still a gap to be crossed and as a lot of the work already completed by “after” does show the quality is in there to bridge that gap - It just needs that final polish and realism touches to be a really worthy contender.

You can download the : Falcon 7X V9.510 for X-Plane V10.22 Here.

 

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Airbus A380

If you have been around X-Plane for a few or so years the name Christian Riviere will be well known to you. In fact Christian’s work is significant and varied throughout many versions of the X-Plane simulator. So when he releases any aircraft it will certainly catch your attention as his skills are very well regarded.
The surprise is that it is the Airbus A380, Yes Christian Riviere has done airliners before but they tended to be iconic aircraft and old propeller dogs from the 1950’s. But lately he has gone all modern Airbussy in the A350XWB and now the big daddy in the A380.

 

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The outside modeling on the A380 is superb, with a high 3d quality that is very well crafted and detailed. From this aspect it is payware quality and very well done. Detailing in the engines (Wide chord fans are excellent) and well created and detailed landing gear. Flap arrangement is also very well done and so are the leading edge spoilers. and comes with a great selection of liveries : Emirates, Air France, British airways, China southern, Korean air, Lufthansa, Malaysia airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Thai.

The doors open and inside there is a first class section with chairs and fittings. And then we will get to the cockpit.

 

I will admit I have had many hours on A380’s in X-Plane. The best at the start was the EOLE-CREATION & VALERIAN BAYLE version which was not half bad and quite well done. But you soon realised it was not configured correctly in the fact it would not fly over 33,000ft and a stopover for fuel was required (LON-SIN) in Chennai to fly the last leg to Changi did not look good on the copybook.

Peter’s (Aircraft) A380-800 is the deal to have, but it is costly (cheaper now than when I purchased it), but you soon understood why you have to pay for quality. If you follow Peter’s (extensive) guidelines, you soon become quite proficient because the basics are correct. And that is an important point to note, because if you hit the correct targets (height/weight/speeds) and the aircraft does what it is supposed to do, then you fly and learn much better. In other words “good data in” will produce “good data out” by your flying skills. If the aircraft tuning is not correct then you have “bad data in” and so “bad data out” in the fact the aircraft won’t do what it should do in the real world. Here Peter’s A380 excels because if you look at the real world data, the aircraft will hit those numbers perfectly (The low and approach speeds are simply outstanding) and flying these big A380’s is more an art form than a sum of total procedures, so if the numbers are right then you can fly them closer to the mark.

The art in motion part is that this aircraft is very heavy, and flying long distances means getting the weight and climb performance right, 33,000ft is the go to number before losing weight to go higher.

Running the Riviere A380 version the same procedures as Peter’s A380 version out of London (to Frankfurt) and at first it feels the same, but then it does not. No doubt that flying Peter’s Aircraft demands very precise points in the changes in speeds (you can set it to auto/FBW, but that is missing the fun) and V/S, so you are very busy in there compared to the Riviere version. For a start Riviere’s version is really only the default X-Plane cockpit setup, no FBW (Fly-By-Wire) or Airbus Logic Law. and the cockpit layout is very different from the real aircraft.

 

 

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Riviere's A380 Cockpit version

 

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Peter's Aircraft A380 Cockpit version

 

If fact Riviere's cockpit feels really odd, the shape and the front windows is more Concorde with the visor down than an Airbus, The panel is crammed together and not very wide either? The basic controls are all there, but most of the detail is missing and the overhead panel is a standard Riviere item of a photo background with a few switches on it.

Jumping over to Peter’s version and it feels like home again. All the switch gear is correctly placed and works. The wide windows feels far more realistic, but the much needed wipers are still missing (they are on the 2d cockpit, but are very poor). The only really frustrating annoyance is the (mostly the Autopilot) manipulators are impossible to find, I have missed many an approach in just trying to adjust my speed?...  drives me simply nuts.

But there is a difference in style. The Riviere version is not bad in many aspects, from climb to the FL330 ceiling but it is in the subtle differences you notice the more tighter programming that makes the difference if you are doing a serious simulation profile. Leaving London (EGGL) I ran both versions at MTW over the same route. At VOR “CLN” moving into the serious point of the climb (I call it the “lift”) the Riviere version is struggling to keep it’s speed and the V/S (Vertical/Speed) is down to 1200fpm.

 

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Peter’s version however is at the correct speed (285knts) and lifting at V/S 1600fpm with ease and with plenty of power in reserve (N1 is at 61%). Past 25,000ft I usually pull the A380 into a climb of 500fpm and reducing it down again to 300fpm as the climb goes past FL300. With a full load you have to adjust for wind strength with the V/S and watch for the limits before the nose starts to stall.

Landing at EDDF (Frankfurt) I found Riviere’s A380 hard to perform at slow speeds and worse it wouldn’t turn past the 5º turn angle to align for runway (top). (odd because it would turn correctly at other points). and I missed the approach by a (country) mile and then had to do a complete (slow) 180º turn to realign with the runway. The speed dropped away badly as well and the A380 came close to a stall.

 

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Flying into EDDF (from the opposite direction) Peter’s version (lower) was rock solid on 185knts, and the degree turn was directly in line to the correct approach alignment. And the aircraft was so much more precise on how it performed.

 

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The question is “Is it fair to compare a Freeware aircraft with an expensive Payware Aircraft”? Well really “no” is the answer. But the point is this is simulation and the aim is recreate the aircraft’s systems and its flying abilities. There is no doubt that Christian Riviere has done a really great piece of work with his A380, but the constraints of just using the default X-Plane tools to build the aircraft shows in the performance, and you really miss those FBW systems. And that is the interesting part because Airbus Aircraft are built around these complex logic systems and that at the end of the day is what you pay for when buying a payware version of an aircraft.

 

You can download Rivere's A380 : Airbus A380-800 for XP9.70 Here. (43.31MB download)

 

You can buy Peter's Aircraft A380 : Airbus A380 X-Plane .OrgShop. Here - Price is US$59.95

 

Stephen Dutton

 

4th October 2013

MadMckMax likes this

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Hey Stephen, I agree that the 7x is a very good plane, but the XP10 update did not enhance the v9 version feature-wise. It just made sure that it now behaves correctly under v10. All the features you are mentioning ("Most of the upgrade work has centred on the displays and systems, and the central display is fully functional.") work also in the v9 version.

 

But After is working on a real new version of the 7x, and I'm looking forward to it very much :)

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Thanks for an excellent comparison. I'm fairly new to X-Plane, but have already purchased several aircrafts. My limited experience so far has been that payware has outperformed the freeware aircrafts, besides the fact they usually look much better as well. All of the airplanes I find myself flying regularly are payware. Having said that, I don't want to discourage others from developing freeware aircrafts. They are still a joy to fly and perform very respectably, especially when not comparing them head to head with payware. And, payware models are limited, so freeware still provides me with the ability to try out aircrafts not yet produced as payware. I don't have an Airbus model of any type yet. I'm inclined to try the freeware first because at $59.95 for the payware, it's not the kind of plane I want to buy and not use. 

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