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Aircraft Review : Douglas DC-8 by Wilson's Aircraft


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Aircraft Review : Douglas DC-8 by Wilson's Aircraft


The global air transport system we take for granted today was created by basically two very similar designs in the very late fifties. History will always record that the De Havilland Comet was the first real fast turbine powered global aircraft, but the aircraft didn't create the infrastructure of the mass transport of passengers on a global scale, those aircraft were the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. The DC-8 was always in the shadow of the pioneering 707, but in time the DC-8 lasted longer, flew faster (a test Douglas DC-8 aircraft broke the sound barrier at Mach 1.012 (660 mph/1,062 km/h) while in a controlled dive through 41,000 feet (12,497 m) the first commercial aircraft to so), and was longer in range 3,750 nmi (6,940 km) (DC8) - 2,300 nmi (4,300 km) (707) with the final DC-8-50 version would deliver 5,855 nmi (10,843 km) in range at max weight and 6,550 nmi (12,130 km) in a ferry range which is very good even by today's standards. 556 DC-8's variants were produced between 1959 and 1972 and twenty five are still flying regularly in a cargo configuration and that is 44 years after they rolled off the production line.


The DC-8 is not new to X-Plane, as Mike Wilson created a version 10 years ago which was an early X-Plane9® version. For its time it was a leading design and of high quality, but that would not even bear witness today. But lately Mike Wilson has not done as most developer's do in dropping away their old products, but is completely redesigning them for the current X-Plane simulation version or in Hollywood speak...  reimagine them into something better and more useful. We accept that no high-class or payware developer is going to develop these types of aircraft as the sales would not warrant the time of development, but the FlyJSim's excellent Boeing 727 Study Series does show there is a big market for these classic machines.


I loved his reinterpretation of the Boeing 707 Update Review : Boeing-707-320-by-Mike-Wilson with a 3d cockpit, the version was not perfect by any means but it did show the way that these iconic aircraft can be brought forward from an older X-Plane version and become useful and be highly enjoyable again. In a side note is that the B707 is getting the same upgrade as the DC-8 with new engines and wings, details are here: Big 707 update in the works.


This DC-8 has had a more longer gestation period compared to the other Mike Wilson aircraft that have had the redesign overhaul. With that approach it is a more complete change unlike that like with the Boeing 707, which had still the original (planemaker) wings. With this extended development period you get more than just an inserted 3d virtual cockpit by Julien Brezel who does all the excellent 3d work on these aircraft, it looks better and flies better as well, but a few original foibles do still come through as we shall see, but overall this DC-8 is very welcome to our screens.


Douglas DC-8 Variants


In the package you get three distinctive variants of the aircraft: 


DC-8-61 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3 turbofan

DC-8-63 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3B turbofan

DC-8 71F Freighter CFM International CFM56-2 high-bypass turbofan


All aircraft are of the "Super" Series known first as the "Super Sixties" for the first two and then with the "Super 70" being only changed with the different engine variant and not with any actual "60's" airframe differences.

Outwardly all the variants don't look that different except for the different engine configurations, and the way they each have very different thrust reversing mechanisms, which are all really well done here.


DC-8-61 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3 turbofan (18,000 lbf (80 kN)


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DC-8-63 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3B turbofan (18,000 lbf (80.07 kN) )


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DC-8 71F Freighter CFM International CFM56-2 high-bypass turbofan (22,000 lbf (98 kN)


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For the review I am describing and relating to the 71F Freighter CFM International CFM56-2 variant, as it is the most current of all the aircraft.




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From your first glance of the DC-8 you realise this is a far more complete aircraft externally than any of the earlier Mike Wilson classic releases. Detail is very good and even in parts as good as high class payware aircraft.


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But you really notice that forward progression of detailing coming out now from Mike's and Julien's work with great panel and rivet details around the fuselage. The exquisite detail around the cockpit windows is excellent and highly realistic. Those distinctive DC-8 nose air-intakes are a little camouflaged with this livery, but they are very well done.


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Lovely tail section and the newer more cleaner wings on the -63 and 71F are the best of the three versions, the earlier 61 Series have too much depression on the forward edge and that fake chrome texture which looks out of date now. 


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Gear detail is excellent, gone now are the days of a stick and wheels attached for landing gear. Again good design and quality textures shows again the forward progression of quality in this area.


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The CFM56-2 engines look great on this airframe. In a quirk of history the original application of these engines where for the Boeing 707, but they decided to concentrate on the B747, B767/B757 series only, but that is why the DC-8 had a much more later and far longer distinguished career than the other rival. A small note that in HDR is that Engine no3 still has the engine running flow showing even though the engine is switched off.


All engine variants are very well done and all highlighted by those great reverser features as noted above, and the power differences are very noticeable between the ages of the aircraft.


The unique trailing edge "Barn Doors" style flaps are really well done in animation and operation, textures are however a little off sharpness, but they look great in operation and you will need to be aware of their huge drag on approach, you rarely use them in the "Max" position as it is noted for emergencies only so 35º was mostly always the lowest sufficient position.


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There are no menus, but you do have a few external items of ground equipment.


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GPU (Ground Power Unit) and stairs for front and rear doors are accessed by the engineers panel. But the GPU is on the same switch as the front stairs and so you can't use the GPU if at an airbridge? Both stairs stand back until you open the doors, and then move forward to the doorway which is a nice effect. The cargo version does not have an opening forward hatch which is a real missed opportunity, but the doors work well on the passenger version.




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The virtual cockpit in the DC-8 is light years away from the original and even a hefty upward move in quality from the Boeing 707 VC. Very much in the same feel as FlyJSim's excellent Boeing 727/732 series, but don't be fooled as there is a big difference in detail and price between the two designs, but overall you are starting to get a far better working environment surrounding you to get the more realistic feel of the aircraft around you. Anyone who flies the MD-88 will see a lot of the same Douglas similarities, certainly on the pedestal, but with four engines and not two.


Unlike today's cockpits the DC-8 is bright and with a lot of windows, reflections are very good, but your captain's stripes can be diverting.


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Main panel is very good and that long bent protrusive undercarriage lever is looking so realistic and just wanting to be used. The 3d work on the panel is very good to excellent, but the actual dial faces are quite flat and ruining the gauge depth effect, a small thing but makes it all slightly artificially noticeable.


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You get the same sort of thing on the overhead panel, which is again beautifully recreated and highly switchable, but has odd long digital numbers on the VOR 1/2 and Transponder settings from something out of X-Plane 8, so why not do the same as all the perfectly recreated numbering on the rest of the panel.


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The Flight Engineer's panel is a far better installation than the just imaged based Boeing 707's version, here it is a recreated a 3d version and it looks very good and realistic. But it is not that operational unlike the FJS Boeing 727 engineers panel, and again all the dials are quite flat. It is a good model of a real DC-8 panel. But I found it frustrating to use, and even if it should be and not placed all there just for show.


Many of the buttons do work, as does a lot of the switchgear, but in what operation I never worked out. You do get a good checklist, and a manual showing you where everything is on the boards. But how it works didn't make much sense to me. For one I can't find the on board APU (Auxiliary Power unit) start and stop switches?  Maybe the DC-8 doesn't have one which is fair enough, but then why is there a APU bleed selection to start the engines? You can set the GPU to on but it doesn't provide power and the main pilot's panel instruments go dead? as the main item not noted here is the voltage selection switch? maybe there not one of them either, then how do you set the right combination of switches to do the same job, as your guess is as good as mine. The lower fuel panel and levers is very good, but the levers are just (sadly) for show, and only the pump buttons actually work. To the left is a nice module of levers for cabin temperatures, hydraulic selections and generator selections but they are not workable either. If this panel is still a work in progress then you will accept that, if not then some information on how it works would be nice.


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The main panel is actually quite basic. both pilot and first officer panel are almost identical with only the standard six instruments (Airspeed Indicator, Attitude Indicator or Artificial Horizon, Altimeter, Turn Coordinator, Heading Dial and Vertical Speed Indicator) and a clock, which is X-Plane time. There is a backup Artificial Horizon and radar height indicator but otherwise it is quite standard, a small note is there is is no Mach numbers or dial and only IAS speeds are noted unless you use the AP (autopilot). FMC is standard X-Plane fms and on the 71F the center MAP shows you the route and waypoints with zoom and selections the other variants are just a blank green weather screen. A note on the map screen is that unless you declutter the screen (hide the waypoints or airports) they will overwhelm the controls at the bottom and making them hard to use.


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Centre pedestal unit is excellent and beautifully recreated. The trim levers are like on the MD-88 and work. And the lovely 4xthrottle and reverse selection levers are perfect, as is the four fuel valve levers. left is the flap selection with "Retract-10Deg-15Deg-25Deg-35Deg-Full Down (50º)" selections. Air-spoilers have three up selections and arm (down), but I read the DC-8 didn't have wing spoliers? The "arm" function goes back into the metal casing, which doesn't look good?


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Unlike the FJS B727 the autopilot selection panel doesn't work, which is a shame as everything is done on the AP selection panels on the glareshield. Lower is the COMM one and two and radio selections panel with again those long blurry numbers. Aileron and rudder trim knobs are at the rear of the unit and look, work really well.


The glareshield autopilot is very much a period piece. When the DC-8 first flew inertia guidance systems were very much a very basic system. The CIVA (Delco Carousel IV-A Inertial Navigation System) was the mostly widespread early system and it can be used in the DC-8 (xCIVA Nav System US$10), it is not directly installed on the panel but it is usable (see notes below on how to install xCIVA).


You use the xCIVA by the plugin menu and click to show/hide the interface, it only can be used with nine active waypoints, but it is very authentic and a worthwhile add on if you want a real period feel.


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The autopilot is obviously basic, but functional. The two major knobs are for "Flight Director "off/on" and Source "NAV 1- NAV 2 and FMS. There are two pods of buttons on the top of the panel which cover (left) ATHR (Autothrust), HDG (Heading), VS (Vertical Speed) and ALT (Altitude). (right) covers LOC (ILS/VOR), G/S (Glideslope) and BC (BackCourse). Other knobs cover AT (speed), Heading, Vertical Speed and altitude.


It looks great but the AP is slightly hard to use...  numbers are blurry, vertical speed does not show which direction in which to roll the knob, and the active areas on the large pod buttons are hopelessly small for ease of use. You get used to it, but it brings out a few bad words in heavy workload periods.


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Rear of the cockpit is mostly images, but work in context with the rest of the area.


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You can choose the crew you want with male or female and different clothing (suit or short sleeve shirt) by changing over the object files provided. Their heads move side to side with a change of yoke position and if they talk too much you can make them disappear via the switch on the panel.




In the passenger version you have a full virtual cabin, it is basic but far better than nothing at all.


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Window view is excellent with a great look at takeoff or landing of the complex flap system. Night cabin lighting is dreamy.


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The 71F Cargo version doesn't have hard cold rollers for the freight to rest on but lovely lush royal blue carpet! 1st class all the way...  the FedEx way.


Flying the DC-8 71F


The route is a just a simple cross-country cargo run from KATL (Atlanta) to KDFW (Dallas-Fort Worth).


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There is a basic startup from cold checklist, but it will take a few times to get the procedure right because the systems for startup are not your usual procedures. For pushback I used the JARDesign iTow plugin, which didn't work the way it was supposed to. Pushing rearwards was fine, but when you wanted to turn the aircraft it started to turn but then just drifted the aircraft sideways and still rearwards, my only option was to push the DC-8 right back into the opposite bay and taxi out and turn forwards. Flaps set to 15º and takeoff trim is done.


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You push the thottles forward for movement and it doesn't come but then it does... Yes I am close to full gross weight, fair enough. So that is correct, but you can easily override the thrust and go too fast, and so you have to set the throttles and wait for the aircraft to catch up to you and start moving, which is quite correct. So you have to be ahead of the aircraft to be in the right thrust point for the right time in taxiing, it is slightly tricky, but you soon get a feel of the aircraft and anticipate the turns and correct taxi speed. The edge of the wipers (arrowed) centre pilot's window is excellent for being directly on the taxi line.


Sounds are good, not brilliant by any means, but more than than adequate. Cockpit is a long way forward of the engines, and so it is quite quiet up here, a sound adjustment panel would be nice though.


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Even at full gross weight with the powerful CFM56's you can rotate around 170+10 v2 (180knts), certainly the older less powerful variants can be quite different in the roll, but you need to hold the nose down until rotate speed (no speeds bugs) and watch that long tail behind you when you pull the yoke back. 8º degrees is recommended until you get some daylight under the aircraft then 15º degrees to climb.


The DC-8 climbs and very nicely thank you and setting up to collect the flightplan, I found the aircraft nice (no sudden movements) to position and fly in controlled flight. Once I climbed to 5000ft (Atlanta is 1,000AMSL) I retracted the flaps and controlled the speed to 235knts.


The interaction with the AP can be a little clunky, worse are those very small active areas on those large buttons? that can waste time trying to activate. It feels old, but you get used to it.


Then the DC-8 hit the turn in the flightplan to go west...


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If you want a "whoa!" moment then this is it....  the bank is high, maybe even 30º and you are looking across the cockpit and in an almost straight down view at the ground.


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I don't have a problem with high banking at slow speeds, but when you get up to Mach m82 and you are doing the same banking angles then you wondering if the aircraft is going to start disintegrating up around you? Not very realistic...


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Climbing and cruising in a heavy means you have to use your head in climb rates and speed, get it right and the aircraft rewards you with a smile and the DC-8 does that in spades.


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You have a ceiling of 35,000 ft (11,000 m) but usually you don't use all of that, but it is a very nice place to be in up here and the aircraft is nice in cruise mode, so long routes are welcome.


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As noted the Mach is set via a button by the side of the speed counter, but no Mach numbers or a dial is there to guide you. Getting ready for landing I set the radar/decision height but it wouldn't show the 200 ft marks, annoying...  but it works well when set correctly.


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Usually you don't use the spoilers in flight, but can still arm them, but it cuts into the pedestal. Another feature of the DC-8 is that it is one of the few aircraft approved to use the thrust-reversers in flight. Only engines 2 and 3 can be actually be used inflight to full reverse thrust, and engines 1 and 4 can only be used when the gear is down.


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Approach to Dallas-Fort Worth is from the north to RWY18L.


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There are no leading edge slats on a DC-8, so you use the main flap arrangement with care. DC-8's are well known for their exciting crab (sideways) landings in crosswinds, those CFM56's are extremely low to the ground on landing so you have to get it just right.


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Approach speeds can be quite low with the right flap position, and can be as low as 160knts even quite high in the approach phase.


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The aircraft is stable on approach but you have to be ready if using the ILS guides in that it drops out with a force, no "auto-land" function here, this is the good olde days, throttle response is good, but stay in front of the aircraft.


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I found a good "smile on the face" landing every time, you work hard in the last phases for getting it that right, but the smile says it all.


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Thrust-reversers are effective, but this is an old machine by age, so allow a fair roll out before cutting off to the taxiiway. You have to again adjust the right thrust to keep the momentum going on the side taxiiways and not lose that forward motion, it is trickier than it sounds. The tail-planes stick up old X-Plane style after landing,




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Cockpit is a lovely retro place to be at night. Both the pilot and first officer have panel lighting that can be turned down, but the strange system is on the overhead or flood lighting.


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Turn down the overhead lighting and it also fades out the main instrument lighting as well and just leaves the artificial horizon burning brightly, same deal on the engineers panel...  instrument lighting should be separate and be adjustable and not connected to the overhead? no flood lighting either.


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Externally you have a few oddities as well. there is a inner-wing landing light and a rear under-wing landing light, but the under-wing light doesn't reflect, so it is useless on landing? and looks odd. The logo light is very nice, but it is connected to the taxi light and turn one off and you turn both off? so if you want your logo on in flight, the taxi light has to on as well...  odd.




Liveries are mostly retro, but all are very good. Only notable visual item is that on the passenger 61 and 63 variants the side passenger windows are obviously too large? This was the post Comet era and side windows went small to avert the Comet reoccurrence of crack fatigue around the Comet's large side windows... here they are almost Vickers Viscount size, and don't look right. They are however the correct size on the B707.




There is one blank and six brand retro liveries with the DC-8-61 variant. Brand liveries include: United (default), Eastern, Garuda, KLM, Trans Continental (cargo) and French UTA.




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The 63 Series has seven liveries: United, KLM, ATI (cargo), Japan Airlines, Quebecair and Transamerica.




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DC-8-71F (Freighter)


The 71F Series has six liveries: ATI, Emery Worlwide, DHL, UPS new and retro and Air Canada. Missing is a FedEx livery, many will note that the DC-8 didn't fly with FedEx, but six aircraft did fly under the FedEx banner in the early nineties but were later sold on to UPS Parcel.



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DC-8-61 in flight...


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First things to understand about this DC-8 series from Mike's Aviation is that one, the aircraft is a major update from an original old design and two, it is not a plugin (SASL) based aircraft and that is why a few of the items noted in the review are restricted, like with the lighting and so on.... so it is part old and the new designed together.


Mike's Aviation Boeing-707-320-by-Mike-Wilson was in a way just a virtual cockpit and a few enhancements to make the aircraft more current to use in X-Plane a decade on from its original release. But it did show the way of what could be done with these classic aircraft if you wanted to spend some time and a create great development in making them more available to current flying.


This DC-8 Series has had a far more longer amount of development than the Boeing 707 and certainly that time and development does really show here, in fact certainly in areas it is really good and in many cases it is mostly excellent 3d work, that easily matches some of the better more expensive payware aircraft available...  so no doubt the DC-8 really does look good and you feel the quality cabin is a great place to spend a lot of time.


So it is the major point of dissecting the point of what a plugin brings to an aircraft. In systems, lighting, animations, menus, sound control and how restricting in cases is what can be fixed or refined in the current version of this DC-8. Make no doubt that if a plugin was considered then certainly the 3d work can stand up and together with complete systems and with good features these series of aircraft could be very good indeed.


But we have to review on what we received and fly. Overall I totally love the aircraft as it is a very manual machine to fly, but the underlying systems are quite basic and even a little muddled. If a few of the above foibles and quirks can be addressed and updated then it would be an excellent machine in its context, one area I would like to see is if the 3d instruments can be given a of depth to make the gauges more realistic as mainly that is because they are what you are working with and seeing most of the time, they are not bad mind you, but a small thing like this would go a long way in completing out the panel and engineer's station. ditto most of the numbers and radio frequencies are more less blurry, pixelated or simply the right shape. Same with the AP buttons with a active zone, and that heart racing 30º turn at m82...  all small stuff but it all goes together in making it work far better, you do adapt of course, but it should be better in the first place.


But for overall value you certainly get a lot for your dollar. Three different era DC-8 engine variants, all excellent, an add on pack (259mb download) with different crew options, paintkit, textures (why you need lightweight textures is beyond me with a basic high-framerate airframe like this?), checklists and manuals, 20 liveries and as all the images show the DC-8 is a really good looking aircraft and a quality one.


In reimageining these classic aircraft into something usable and enjoyably flyable you have to admire Wilson's Aircraft in taking on such projects, as it is not easy process in doing so. X-Plane is very demanding now, and very critical and you want value for your money. But like everything you invest in, it is also an ongoing process and the progress from the earlier Wilson aircraft like the B707-320 and Tristar to this release of the DC-8 series does show how much development has been done with the DC-8 and still deliver a great price and value. I will say unashamedly that I love these aircraft as they are challenging and simply great aircraft to fly really well. Deep down, there also still has to be that fun factor as well...  this DC-8 Series has that in spades.



X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

The DC-8 Series from Wilson's Aircraft is Available from the  X-Plane.Org Store.
Price is currently US$ 25.00


Get the - DC-8 Series - Here



  • Flight testing by retired DC-8-63 and L-1011 pilot Andre Poirier, and DC-8-71 Captain Carlos Roldos, and DC-8-63 captain Gerhard Opel
  • 42 functions on the flight engineers panel however plane can be flown with out using the flight engineers panel
  •  Total of 15 high resolution liveries with a paint kit for user to make their own liveries
  • Transcontinental, United, Quebec air, UPS worldwide, UPS classic, United, Eastern, KLM, ATI, Garuda Indonesian, Transamerica, Japan Airlines, DHL, , Eastern, UTA
  • 3D cockpit by Julien Brezel
  • One of the view (number 5) is made to be just in front of the FMC so it is easier to use it (see page 7 of the manual)
  • Animation of the doors includes the animation of the corresponding stair car.
  • Two choices of textures for the cockpit are provided, low definition & high definition, depending on your graphic card abilities.
  • Visible hot air jet exhaust
  • Animated thrust reversers and spinning fans
  • Choice of 3 pilot figures, male and female. Custom slider keys can be defined in your "joystick and Equipment" menu in xplane to show/hide First officer and Flight engineer, also show/hide ground services  GPU/stairs), also front door opening, and aft door opening.
  • Uses 3D lighting for both interior and exterior night textures. For the best experience, ensure that the HDR is activated in your rendering options. The rudder illuminates when taxi light is ON.
  • Comprehensive user manual and full checklist including cold and dark starting based on scans that Andre sent me of his flight manual
  • Airfoils were custom made by airfoil expert Peter Meinenger from x-planefreeware.net 
  • Free user manual download is here: http://forjets.netfirms.com/Douglas_DC-8_manual.pdf
  • Detailed pneumatic hoses underneath spoilers and flaps
  • For a better use of the cockpit, 9 view presets have been added. You can slide from one to another using the number pad, or assign new keyboard keys in the “Joystick and Equipment” menu.




X-Plane 10+ in 64bit mode
Windows, Mac, Linux in 64bit mode - 32bit not supported
512Mb VRAM Video Card

The DC-8 is not a heavy frame rate aircraft, so it should easily run on most computers, but I would recommend a minimum 1gb Graphic Card.


Installation and documents:

Download for the DC-8 Series package is downloaded via three zip files:

DC-8-61_v1 4216 393.00mb - 447mb Installed

DC-8-63_v1 6837 403.00mb - 458mb Installed

DC-8-71F_v1 2149 449.00mb - 543mb Installed


...   and the unzipped files are deposited in the "Heavy Metal" X-Plane folder.

Note the download is slow, so allow time (30min) for each download.


There is a secondary download package consisting of:

Manuals and ADDONS - Download 291mb

CoPilots (objects to change crew)

Manuals: Checklist - Cold and Dark, Checklist - Running, DC-8 Flight Profile, DC-8 Landing Speed Chart and DC-8 Manual (20 pages)


Textures (high and low resolution)



If you own or purchase xCIVA Nav System US$10


It can be installed in the DC-8 in one or all three variants. The plugin is installed in a folder called "plugins" in the aircraft file (not the X-Plane plugin folder). There is NO such folder with the aircraft...  so you will need to create a "plugins" folder in each aircraft and then insert the xCIVA plugin into that folder to make it work, an operating manual is provided.



Review by Stephen Dutton
9th August 2016
Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.45

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: xCIVA Navigation System : JARDesign Ground Handling Deluxe plugin


Scenery or Aircraft

- KATL - KATL - Atlanta International by Nimbus (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$23.95

- KDFW - Dallas Fort Worth - American Country by Tom Curtis (KDFW-Dallas/Ft. Worth X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$24.95


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