Lightman Posted September 29, 2022 Report Share Posted September 29, 2022 Aircraft Review: A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended Beta by Flight Factor Special thanks to A320 First Officer Jaydon Shatek for his help and input on systems overviews. Note: All photos showing IAE engines or Sharklets have been modified from the Matavia mod and are not part of the actual aircraft purchased. They can be added on by the user but are not officially supported by Flight Factor. Introduction & History Known to be one of the most complex A320 aircraft simulations ever produced for any simulator, the Flight Factor A320 has held its own for quite a few years in the X-Plane market, and I myself have had many memorable flights with it in X-Plane 11. With X-Plane 12 now out, the Flight Factor A320 is their only product which requires an additional purchase to fly in the new sim, unlike their Extraordinary 757 and 767, my two favorite aircraft for X-Plane and my go-to choice for a casual flight. Well for any previous buyer, the upgrade price is set at $20.00 USD, and for any newcomer to the wonderful world of X-Plane, it is $89.99 USD to get yourself an A320 into your sim. So, with that in mind, before we dive into the addon, I would like to share a few facts about the A320 and its history. The Airbus A320 program was launched in 1984, with the first flight being completed in 1987, and fittingly the first revenue flight was flown by Air France in the spring of 1988. To date, over 4,763 A320 CEOs and 3,900 NEOs have been ordered, with 6,299 airframes having already been delivered. The entire A320 Family, (A318, 319, 320, 321 etc.) have a combined order total of 16,622 with over 10,474 total fleet-wide deliveries. The A320-100, the original variant, had no winglets, with the iconic “wingtip fence” being added to the A320-200 in the late 1980s. Today, the A320 has state-of-the-art Sharklets, and the A320 NEO improves on the A320 lineup and is today one of the most popular options for narrow-body aircraft. With so many options of engine variants, wingtip options, and more, Flight Factor has a lot it can bring to the table to provide a great experience within X-Plane. Documentation & First Impressions Documentation of the A320 included by Flight Factor consists of a 27-page PowerPoint on how to get up and running with the installation of the A320, however, there is no included tutorial flight, so it is up to the end user to find a good set of tutorials or manuals to learn the complex systems of the A320. There is an included link in the PowerPoint to the forums with links to various websites where you can find all the required info to fly the airplane, including a full FCOM if you’re into reading bedtime material, though having a good flip through it is almost a requirement with no previous experience. Once we get the airplane installed and running into the simulator it is a very familiar sight to the version from X-Plane 11, albeit a bit shinier thanks to the spectacular new lighting engine Laminar provides in v12. Getting up and running was quite simple, only requiring you to activate the airplane through the MCDU in a separate menu which pops up automatically upon first loading the airplane. Just remember to connect the GPU in the EFB menu or the MCDU will not power on. First Impressions were quite positive with a few issues that I noticed upon the first flight but will mention later on in the review. Electronic Flight Bag Starting off with what is becoming a must-have feature in any modern Airliner addon is an electronic flight bag from which all the aircraft doors, loading, maintenance, and performance calculations can be handled, with chart support and extra features being a plus. Where does Flight Factor rank in their EFB for the A320? Well, let’s find out. Included in the EFB are 11 different pages, helping you with various tasks on the A320. I’ll touch lightly on each one and add some input on possible improvements that would be a great help to the pilot. Page 1 is the Service page. This allows you quick and easy access to chocks, GPU, and ground air start units. It also includes 3 additional pages to handle fuel loading, passengers, and cargo. Page 2 is the PERF page. Essentially a Form-F, it gives the pilot easy access to CG data, weights, and trim position required to fill out the TO data page in the MCDU. Page 3 is the Checklist page. While quite self-explanatory, it would be nice to have an addition of click spots to keep your place when going through the checklist, as it can be quite easy to lose it. That is a QOL improvement, but overall, it is quite comprehensive and well done. Page 4 is the Browser, though I have yet to get a successful search with it, so it may still have a few bugs left in it that need to be ironed out. Page 5 allows the pilot control of possible failure scenarios which is good for training use if going through the A320 schoolhouse for an airline. Page 6 is the Settings tab, and there’s not a whole lot there in terms of options. I’ll go into a lot of improvements I’d like to see in this page later, mainly exterior and cockpit options. One basic QOL improvement I would love to see is an option to convert the weight units from Kilos to Pounds, as many Yanks like myself on the US side of the pond would love to use the imperial system to fly to all our favorite US destinations. Page 7 allows the pilot to auto-save panel states for the airplane for ease of use. Page 8 is the Map feature which uses a google API key to display your aircraft position in google maps on the EFB. Page 9 is the FAP page, which allows the pilot access to the flight attendant controlled parts of the airplane. Page 10 is the PA with options for auto or manual mode. I left it in manual mode for every flight I took and never heard a peep from it, so there may possibly be a bug there as well. Page 11 is the fun page, where all the magic happens, and where you can go to make things happen that you don’t want to have in a real flight, but it is a great way to practice emergency procedures and a must-have for any high-fidelity aircraft. Overall, is the EFB a little dated? Possibly. I would like to see AviTab implementation out of the box, though for some it’s not a huge deal. I myself use the tablet that I use for my real-world flying but that is not an option for everyone, so having access to charts inside the cockpit is a great feature that I would love to see in the A320. The settings menu is the second area I would like to see some work on. The A320 overall lacks many of the options that have become standard on all airliner addons, including the Flight Factor 757 and 767 fleets, which have plenty of options. These for me include options for cockpit features, window tint/reflections, and exterior visual features. These are small complaints, but the addition would give this airplane some bonus points in my book! Exterior Model & Texturing When I first showed the exterior model to Jaydon, he was quite happy to see many of the features the real A320 has, which should speak for how good the aircraft model has held up in its few years on the market. Starting off with general appearances, Flight Factor has gotten the A320 shaping down to a tee, and it speaks volumes about how the airplane looks. The nose of the A320 is quite distinct, and Jaydon was quite impressed with the details that were captured by the Flight Factor team. One area he really liked was the landing gear, which from his inspection are quite well-modelled replicas and deserving of praise. The main gear connection points, struts, hoses, wires, and shape are really quite spot on, and he did point out the addition of the brake fans included on the model, something which his airline’s A320s do not have. He had no major complaints whatsoever about the exterior model and was quite impressed overall with the quality put out by the flight factor team. However, there were a couple of discrepancies that were found. The CFM engines have a single metal tube in front of the main fans, and though for the life of me I cannot remember what it’s called, it is not in the model of the included CFM engine. The other little issue which we aren’t sure about is the parking brake light on the nose gear strut. When amber, the brake is set, and when green it’s released. Well, the light on the nose gear is always amber, so it may be a texture, or it may be a bug, but that is a tiny detail to even have to mention, so with just those two things, it’s safe to say Flight Factor did an outstanding job with the exterior model. Textures for the A320 are the same as they were in X-Plane 11, and there is a little bit of pixelation up close to the airframe, but a couple of feet back and they look perfectly sharp. A texture resolution boost would always be appreciated, but that is up to Flight Factor and then the repaint community to redo every single livery if that were to happen. All in all, I have no issues with the textures, and they look great overall! One last thing I will mention is the reflections of the fuselage onto the wing. Compared to all other aircraft that I’ve seen in X-Plane 12, the FF A320 has the least amount of reflection onto the wing, almost to the point of not seeing anything at all, so a boost in wing reflections would be an appreciated improvement, especially when looking out towards the wing fence from the passenger cabin. Now for the options. This is the one area where Flight Factor has always lacked with the A320, and sadly it is still the case. The A320 ships with one airplane, and no options to customize it. Flight Factor has not made IAE V2500 engines, Sharklets, or Satcom antenna. While the Matavia mod rectified this issue in X-Plane 11, it is not compatible with the v12 version. I managed to get the sharklets and Satcom working, but please keep in mind it is not officially supported by Flight Factor. As for the engines, I had good success with the Carda CFM-56A/B and IAE V2500 engine models which rectifies the visual aspect of the engines, but the internal avionics remain for the CFM. I would absolutely love it if Flight Factor would add these options to the airplane and allow us to choose the engine model, fences or sharklets, Satcom or no Satcom directly from the options menu in the EFB, much like the 757 or 767. This would add a lot of competitive value to the airplane and make it a more appealing option for potential buyers. Interior Model & Texturing The Interior cockpit of the A320 has been completely revamped for X-Plane 12, with more accurate dimensions and textures compared to the previous generation released for X-Plane 11. Upon first looking through the cockpit, I was satisfied with the model, with the cockpit dimensions feeling a lot more like its real-world counterpart in terms of size. Where I felt the interior was lacking however was the textures. The X-Plane 11 version had some of the best textures shipped with a payware A320, with extra freeware addons such as the Matavia mod making it even better. The new textures supplied by X-Plane 12 are sadly a bit flat, and the expected color variation is not quite there. The color variation normally seen on the autopilot panel is not seen in the updated version, with the same grey color being used uniformly across the entire cockpit. The overhead panel is also the same grey but is extremely dark to the point of being a gunmetal grey color. Flight Factor has acknowledged this issue, so hopefully, within the next few updates, we’ll see some improved cockpit textures. The textures for cockpit text were good, as I couldn’t find many at all, and the only one that I really noticed was on the weather radar, where the lines on the WX Tilt, WX Radar mode selector and WX Tilt were not lining up correctly with the selector. The other small glitch was in the magnetic compass, where some bleed-through of the texture was found causing some glitching. Another is the fact that the window heat vents on the glareshield have been omitted in this version, so hopefully, that can be rectified as well. These are just bugs however and are normal for a beta release. The second issue that Flight Factor has acknowledged is the lighting model not interacting properly with the cockpit, causing some extremely weird colors inside the airplane, almost like the sun is shining directly through the walls and lighting up the entire cockpit regardless of whether it’s coming through the windows or not. Also, when facing the sun, the cockpit becomes extremely dark. This has again been acknowledged by the team and I hope to see some improvements on that front. Both myself and FO Shatek both agreed that the X-Plane 11 version’s cockpit had a more correct color, and no other Flight Factor airliners have any cockpit lighting issue, so it appears to be X-Plane 12’s lighting model not playing nicely with the A320 for some reason. The windows of the A320 have also had a bit of an issue with X-Plane 12, as they seem to be a bit foggy, almost like there is a haze on them. Jaydon mentioned this when he was looking through the airplane, noting that the windows should be practically clear. I assume this is controlled by a texture file, though I was unable to find and edit the correct one to lessen the haze. Perhaps this can be fixed, or an option added to dynamically control this through the EFB, much like the 75/76 fleet. One other item I would like to note is the backlighting and flood light color. The real A320s have a warmer tone to their panel flood lighting, and this was correctly seen in X-Plane 11. In v12 it has taken on a more yellow tone, with the backlighting sharing the same fate. A small correction to this would vastly improve the cockpit as well. I am completely confident that the cockpit will see improvements, as their other aircraft like the 757 and 767 series look absolutely stunning in v12, with the rich brown color really making them stand out. Avionics Options & Systems The Avionics and systems depth is where the A320 really starts to shine. With more than 10,000 simulated sensors, units, buses, relays and more each with their own logic, it is truly a breathing airplane. Each of the systems, including Fuel, Pneumatic, Hydraulic, and Electric have been modeled in their entirety giving you a completely accurate simulation on all fronts. So, what does this all mean? Well, it meant that Jaydon spent a couple of hours on video calls running through every system trying to find anything incorrect or misrepresented with the airplane, and the list of errors that resulted is quite small, and I’ll run through them here. Starting off with the MCDU, we ran through every page and only found three things that were worth a mention. Firstly, the MCDU AIRAC is from February of 2017, so a navigraph subscription will be a requirement to get it up to date. I would love to see Flight Factor ship it with a new AIRAC for the new sim. Second, the TO PERF page gives the option for FLEX temp as it should, however, there is no included program in the airplane to calculate a FLEX temperature, so I would love to see a page in the EFB added for Takeoff and Landing performance to include a FLEX temp calculator. Thirdly, the last issue I saw with the MCDU was the scratchpad at the bottom had all the text being slightly cut off by the 3D model, so hopefully, that can be adjusted. Running through all the aircraft tests, full preflight and moving into a short flight, Jaydon only unearthed a couple of minor issues, quite possibly bugs that will be sorted out. The first one we noticed were the touch points being slightly off, though I’ve reported this, and the issue is being resolved. In terms of systems, the APU avail light would not illuminate for us even when in use, though on my next flight it worked fine, and the following flight it didn’t again, so there is some interference somewhere. Side stick priority has not been modeled so the “Priority Left or right” commands have not been implemented. The last thing we found was the Autobrake Decel light did not come on after touchdown, but for the rest of the flight, everything was exactly as it is in real life. Flight Characteristics The Flight Factor A320 flight dynamics have been perfected over the years, and the latest version for X-Plane 12 now includes Alternate Law logic which allows more in-depth failure scenarios in the case of degradation from Normal Law. While I won’t dive fully into the Normal and Alternate Law, I’ll give a brief run-through to explain what exactly Alternate Law brings to the Flight Factor A320. Normal Law includes three modes, these being Ground Mode, Flight Mode, and Flare Mode. Ground mode turns off autotrim and the Horizontal stab is set to 4 degrees up automatically, though this can be overridden by the CG setting. Ground Mode transitions to Flight Mode as soon as the wheels leave the ground. Flight Mode includes 5 types of protections, these being pitch attitude, load factor limits, high speed, high AOA, and bank angle. Low-speed protection is also available in certain phases of flight and when reaching a stall, Alpha floor engages which automatically engages TOGA to capture the descent and protect the airplane. Flight Factor modeled this correctly and it worked like a charm every time. Flight Mode stays engaged from takeoff till the airplane is 100ft above the ground. Flare Mode automatically engages when the RA detects 100ft above the ground and provides a direct sidestick to elevator relationship for landing. At 50ft the aircraft trims the nose slightly nose down requiring you to progressively pull on the sidestick rearward to add conventional input for landing. This also means that in the Flight Factor, if you let go of the sidestick or move too close to center again for too long, the nose will drop causing a less than smooth landing for your passengers. Alternate Law engages and indicates on the ECAM when degradation of normal law has been exceeded. This is correctly simulated by the Flight Factor A320. There are two slightly different categories of Alternate Law, with ALT1 combining Normal Law lateral mode with Alternate Law pitch modes, meaning the Alpha-floor slow speed auto stall recovery is no longer available requiring the pilot to manually recover the airplane. ALT2 is where Normal Law Lat Mode is replaced by Roll Direct Law and Yaw Alternate Law. Pitch mode also switches to Alternate Law. In ALT2, all protections lost in ALT1 are carried over, with additional protections being lost as well, including bank angle protection, and in some cases, high AOA and high-speed protections. ALT2 engages when both engines flame out, with faults in two inertial or air data reference units, with faults to all spoilers, certain aileron faults or with pedal transducers faults. Direct Law is all degradation as previously found in ALT2, however automatic pitch trim is lost, and all protections are lost. In this mode, the control surfaces directly correspond to sidestick movement. DIR is entered if all three IRUs or primary flight computers fail. The Flight Factor A320 has modeled all this, and from what tests I ran, it worked great, with proper degradation of control passing correctly through failures or issues, a great testament to the work put into the avionics and systems depth. In normal modes of flight, the Flight Factor feels quite solid and robust. Landings are a breeze and it’s a real joy to hand fly the airplane. It does have the slight lag found in the sidestick like its real-world counterpart, but all in all, it works exceptionally well, and it flies wonderfully. Sound The sounds that ship with the A320 are by no means bad, and in pretty much every regard, are perfectly acceptable. I found no issues with them, and they represent the A320 sound quite well. For customers of the BSS soundpacks, they work mostly fine without issues. There were a couple of error messages that popped up, but I flew a few flights with the soundpacks installed and everything worked as advertised. Conclusion I see the Flight Factor A320 as a work in progress, after all, it is a beta. In its current state, it has all the components needed to be a great X-Plane 12 model, and over the beta period, I'm sure it will only improve. Yes, it needs some IAE engines and sharklets included in the base product to remain competitive, but that will be on Flight Factor to do. For the $20.00 upgrade, I think it’s a good price, especially when you factor in all the new features you are getting, and for $89.99 for initial buyers, you get the already fantastic model that I enjoyed so much in X-Plane 11. The Flight Factor A320 is still the best A320 simulation on the market for X-Plane, though it needs a bit of updating on the visual side of things. I would definitely keep an eye on this airplane over the next few months, as I am sure it will only get better. _______________________________ The A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta Price at time of writing US$89.95 Requirements X-Plane 12 (or X-Plane 11) OS: Windows (64 bit) or Mac 10.14 (or higher) Processor (x86-64 Intel or AMD): 4-cores Intel Core I5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 2500X, Apple M1 not supported Video Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 580 with 4 GB VRAM (8 GB recommended) RAM: 8 GB (16 GB highly recommended) Disk Space: 2 GB Last version: 1.5.0beta (6.09.2022) Review System Specifications Windows 11 Ryzen 5800x RTX3070ti, 32GB RAM __________________________________ Aircraft Review by Joshua Moore 29th September 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews (Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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