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Aircraft Update Review - DC-3/C47 Skytrain v4.0r4 by VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project


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VSL DC-3_v4.0r4_Header .jpg

 

Aircraft Update Review - DC-3/C47 Skytrain v4.0r4 by VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project

 

vSkyLabs are back with another focus on the DC-3/C47 heritage aircraft. It is a year since the last v3.0 update that renovated the cabin and included a cargo version...  note the word "Project" as in any aircraft by VSkyLabs creates is an ongoing project and there is more to come as the aircraft is developed out more and more. This is part of the deal with the developer, and at least he keeps his side of the bargain.

 

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Noting the versions...  Authentic DC-3 "Douglas Commercial" above and the C-47 Skytrain below...

 

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...   you can add on some really big Ice skis, or...

 

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...  a huge set of XC-47C floats. The Douglas aircraft is also highly developed for VR (Virtual Reality) use and operation.

 

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DC-3/C47 Skytrain v4.0r4

There was a huge amount of changes in the last v3 update, and there is again this time around. But v4 is more focused on the cockpit than the cabin or any of the external modifications than what was presented last year. The main changes are on bringing in the PBR (Physically Based Rendering) properties to the cockpit, a "fresh over" if you like.

 

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The changes in v3, were mostly all to the very good, but there was also a few items that I thought were also a big retrograde step backwards...  The main instrument panel was changed from a basic black to a more detailed green panel...  the green looks very good and is certainly nicely worn, but it was also missing the nice screws that originally held the panel in place...   again the screws have not yet been replaced, and you still really miss them as it makes the panel a bit "missing something"?

 

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Second was the change of the glass, from the original dirty rusty brown, to a smoky black...  the new finer tint just does not have the ageing impact of the earlier grubbier version, again the lighter black tint remains. Note the nice opening windows.

 

The panel actually though has had a lot of changes...  in fact all the gauges have been remodeled and re-engineered to include plastic covering for lighting, better refined needles and engine markings (L/R) on the relevant instruments, and all the gauges animations were re-calibrated with higher precision indications. The differences are far more highly noticeable at night...

 

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...  the Airspeed indicator can now also be switched (hotspot) to either MPH or KNOTS, and the speed bugs then move to match each of the different speed settings. 

 

I bet you didn't notice, but there was no Artificial Horizon instrument gauge (arrowed below) on the right Co-Pilot instrument panel, that instrument has now been installed... the AH replaces an Ampere meter that has been removed. The original Sperry Type A-3A autopilot facia has also been redone...  including the compass scales, rotary knobs, bezels. The Sperry autopilot cutout was also added, to host the Sperry unit inside...  in fact the whole complete instrument panel and instruments have been remodeled and retextured to PBR texturing quality and dials come with reflective covering glass.

 

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Ditto the overhead switch panels, again PBR texturing and new switchgear. There is remodeled dirty roof speakers and an added master Ignition switch that works...  (below) the drop down (press the Whiskey Compass) twin Garmin GNS 530 GPS units have had their outer casings units totally remodeled, and they now have a far more visual 3d look and feel.

 

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The yokes have also been redone, gone this time around is the loss of the lovely raffia weaving, after the loss of the Douglas logo the first time around, so the yokes are all now just a pure metal frame with a nice PBR gloss and still no return of that magnificent Douglas logo?

 

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The AviTab (plugin required) has also now been added. There are two tablets positioned on each yoke, and the tablet is selected via the pocket (hotspots) on each side of the pedestal. 

 

The pilot seats have been redone (recovered?) as well... Green before they are now a more authentic worn brown leather with a nice PBR wear look and feel.

 

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The pedestal has also been remodeled, and again the look and feel is to the more modern, or a straight out of the shop brand new feel...  beautifully done however with some very nice metal work, but not in the original feel of tired, aged or worn in any area?

 

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On the rear of the pedestal now (arrowed above right)  is a real-time conversion board for airspeed (mph/knots/kmh), temperatures and altimeter settings.

 

On the floor between the pilots, there has been added both an undercarriage lock handle (arrowed) and more about this when flying, and a "Emergency" panel for the fuel shutoffs and Fire Extinguisher, again all really well done.

 

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The classic DC Hydraulic panel, situated behind the Co-Pilot has been totally overhauled..  there is now a Engine-Pump-Selector, Autopilot Emergency valve (which works), a Star valve (non-functional), and both the Flaps and  Landing Gear handles now operated in a three positions of UP, NEUTRAL and DOWN (Again more about about these movements when flying.

 

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The hydraulics metal panel placards are beautifully done (detail, detail) and add a lot to the aircraft, as all of the advisory and warning placards around the instrument panel and cockpit which are also new and more authentic.


Up on the roof, the escape hatch has been redone and has gained a window, which lets in a lot more light into the cockpit...  very nicely done with great window surround detail.

 

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Gone also is the 60's IBM 360 mini-computer (Avionics rack) situated right rear of the cockpit... it has been replaced just by simple brushed aluminum facade that is quite nice, but I would have rather have had a realistic avionics rack (but not the 60's rack, but a far older model).

 

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There is a notable pattern here, a far, far higher quality, but also a more sleek and modernistic look...  you are certainly leaving the grubby, wear and tear feel now well behind...  for me it is a debatable context, if you want old classic, wartime built and battered, then that aspect has been (but slowly) refined totally out.

 

Flying the v4 DC-3/C-47

Instantly when starting the twin Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp 1,200 hp (890 kW) engines... is they sound now very different? This is a very all new FMOD sound package, and it comes with new multi-layered engine sounds for the interiors and exteriors... and you significantly notice that aural difference straight away, and it is very good.

 

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With the weight of the aircraft you steer with the engines as much with the locked tailwheel, yes I am cheating, but as noted I don't have toe-brakes to get a realistic wheel on wheel braking effort. Taxiing mean small movements for corrections, if you don't go too fast the DC-3 will hold a nice straight line.

 

The Gear lock has to be flat on the floor to "Lock". So you check it, then set the trim to neutral.

 

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Half throttle to get the bird moving, then feed in the full power...  control is via the throttles as much with the rudder to keep the DC-3 straight, as you need more power on the right to counteract the forces of the pull to the left, it is natural to me now, but this is on how you fly the DC.

 

The tail will soon lift around 70 knts, and you use the rudder for more control, but be careful, as if the DC-3 starts to weave you can easily lose it.

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 9.jpg

 

Around 90 knts the DC-3 will naturally lift, so your job is to just keep the aircraft tight and straight, once off the ground and flying and all you need is to do is a slight pull back on the yoke that will give you a nice clean 1,000 fpm climb...

 

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...  now come the tricky bit, you have to pull up the "Gear Lock" handle...  then move the gear lever upwards to stow the gear, simple... No not really. It is because you are flying totally blind while moving around the cockpit to focus twice on two different actions. 

 

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This is the second change. Originally vSkyLabs used a setting on the Slider# to create a 3 way selection, UP, NEUTRAL and DOWN...

 

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 15.jpg

 

.... but that caused me personally havoc after setting the Slider#14. I got a conflict with my Saitek X56 throttle system, it made the right engine run weak... disconnect the Saitek throttle add-on and it worked all fine again, plug it back in and it doesn't? Why an addon unit messed with a throttle power selection is totally beyond me, but it did?

Other users struggled with the 3-way system as well, so it has been since simplified back to using the default (Gear) UP and DOWN commands, but you still have to pull up and push down to lock the "Gear Lock" lever...  two other notes, one is to make sure you update to the latest version via the "STMA" built in updater to get the later (r4) gear update. And when the gear is retracted, do a little pull on the regular brakes to stop the wheels rotating in the wheel bays.

 

There is an "ESSENTALS" pdf with all the Slider# commands to set as the developer recommended), including sliders# to cover the "Gear (safety) latch", "Gear Handle", "Flaps Handle", and all to save you moving visually around the cockpit, but after the incident or conflict with the Slider# command I am personally wary of other hidden actions of using the sliders#... it is an area to investigate further.

 

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I totally recommend using the XPRealistic Pro v2 by rk Apps and their realism effects... it makes the DC-3 "shake, rattle and roll" with aplomb, and they are extremely highly realistic. Add in those new FMOD sounds and you are having a great time up here. Notable is if you open the side window, on how the sounds change nicely (tone wise) in the cockpit of the unique thrum of the Wasps, it is far quieter with the window closed again.

 

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Trimmed out, you need to again to adjust the throttle position to stop the slow yawing to either the left or right...  The DC-3 always had a tendency to drift or bank one way or the other. The throttle trimming will do a good job here, but the exact balance window is very hard to find. Changing the throttles or power can have a big impact on trim or the change of altitude... you can steer and fly by the power settings alone.

Notable in v4.0r4 is that long-waited fix for the dual DME radios, which were replaced with a fully functional, independent dual DME radio that allows to fix your position with the use of separate NAV1/2 radios, while still on-navigation with NAV1/2.

 

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 19.jpgVSL C-47:DC3_Flying 22.jpg

 

The Sperry Type A-3A autopilot is about as basic as you can expect it to be, it also now has the "Autopilot Master" switch on a slider# setting and the noted "Autopilot Shutoff Valve" that actually works. Three dials in RUD (Rudder), AIL (Aileron) and ELE (Elevation) will adjust your flying surfaces, in reality it is just another trim function but one that you can control easier. Turn the ELE knob and you will see your yoke go towards you to climb, same movement in forward to descend. AIL will bank the aircraft to a new heading and so on. It all works quite nicely but you have to watch your instruments in that you are going in the right direction and not slightly banking towards another one... as with the A-3A system the DC-3 tends to drift (badly) over distance, so you had to consistently make heading adjustments. I actually love this sort of flying as you felt you were back in a period of basic automation and you still required your navigation skills to find your way around the planet.

 

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 24.jpg

 

Switch on the provided S-TEC Autopilot, and the more modern system eliminates this aspect, but the wide swings around the new heading are not at all realistic? In v4 vSkyLabs have adjusted these wild swings, but they don't seem much better to me? To change the heading for the S-Tec you use the RUD (Rudder) knob on the  A-3A (arrowed orange) and I love the alignment of the compass to heading rotors (arrowed yellow) on the A-3A.

 

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 23.jpg

 

Notable is the vSkyLabs use of the "Experimental Flight Model" that needs to be selected ON in the Menu/General settings. And vSkyLabs recommends to set up your X-Plane configuration for MAXIMUM REALISM, and all "Stability Augmentation" to zero "0" values.

 

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In v2.7b vSkyLabs introduced Ice and rain to the aircraft...  but to note how far that interior quality has also changed over the versions, but I still really miss those great earlier twirling fans!

 

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The Ice and Rain effects are some of X-Plane's best use of the feature, it not only feels cold, but it can be quite lethal as well.

 

Lakeland (KLAL) field in sight, it was time to get ready for landing...  like the Undercarriage the Flaps are now also on the new (Slider#) system, and it is used in a realistic hydraulic pressure fashion, in the real DC-3/C47 there is a hydraulic hand pump located at the bottom of the hydraulic control panel, this is a handle that extends out between the pilot's and co-pilot's seats, and is set there for manual use if the engines cannot supply the required hydraulic pressure (but not yet implemented in this aircraft, but coming).

 

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Gear lock lever up to release and then click down the gear lever to lower the undercarriage, then the gear lock lever down again to lock the gear in place...  Flap position is noted to the far left, upside down... with the UP position low, and the DOWN position high in front of your eyes, but it can still be tricky to see while on approach.

 

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Approach speed is around 70 knts, but I think it is too fast, it feels fast...  not slow and lumbering? but it is still close to the 58 knots stall speed. A slight nose up will drop you down to 63 knts, then slowly you fall to the runway.

 

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The DC-3 is very tricky to land... very susceptible to crosswinds, and you have to get those wheels perfectly right, unless you will bounce or hop like a drunk bunny all the way down the runway quite badly...

 

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...  now if you do bugger it all up (and it IS quite easy to do), in v4 a bad landing or crash will now do untold damage to the aircraft, like blown tyres and broken props... or the aircraft will simply come apart in the air...  (note: no DC-3s were harmed in displaying the damage shown here!).

 

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Over throttle and the engines will simply blow up on you... "Oh dear!"

 

VSL C-47:DC3_Flying 39.jpg

 

Summary

This is another huge update to the vSkyLabs DC-3/C47 classic aircraft. The aircraft was released back in July 2017, but has had continuous and quite significant updates since, this is v4.0r4, up from v3.0 last year, which in renovated the cabin and included a cargo version...  note the word "Project" as in any aircraft by VSkyLabs creates is an ongoing project.

 

Look at the original release version; DC-3/C47 by VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project and see the large amount of changes to the aircraft over the years, yes it is hugely and even significantly a far, far better aircraft, but a few of the great original ideas have also been lost along the way...  notable the cockpit fans, rusty brown window tints and the screws around the instrument panel, this has also taken away a little of the old wartime classic feel that was so originally attractive.

 

There has been also a more of a modernisation of the aircraft from back then as well, more modern tools like modern autopilots and in this v4 version AviTabs on the yokes. Other significant changes here also include another complete overhaul of the cockpit, mostly to the instrument panel to include instrument covers and the full look and quality of PBR textures and effects. Hydraulic panel has been overhauled and the gear lock handle included. Hotspot to either MPH or KNOTS, and dirty roof speakers and an added master Ignition switch. GNS holder are also all new...  removed is that 60's avionics rack and replaced by some just nicely brushed aluminum panels.

 

Slider# options are also now included as well as the usual default commands, but be careful the settings don't conflict with the default settings as they did with X-PlaneReviews. New damage effects are also clever and the feature list like with the realistic icing and rain is huge and getting longer by each version release.

 

The DC-3/C47 is one if the the greatest aircraft ever produced, and 30 of the old timers are still actually flying... the result here is one of the great simulations, with a highly realistic feel and handling of this amazing aircraft for the X-Plane Simulator...  it is a challenging aircraft to fly, a "sort of grab it by the neck and fly the thing" sort of machine, but a classic never the less, and what you get in the features and detail delivered here is excellent value and all for the under US$30.00 price....  value, huge feature list and barnstorming fun, what more could you ask for!

______________________________________________

 

X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

The DC-3/C47 v4.0r4 by VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :


VSKYLABS C-47 Skytrain / DC-3 Flying Lab Project

 

Your Price: US$29.95

If you have already purchased the DC3/C47 from Vskylabs then just login to your X-Plane.OrgStore and go to your account and download the current v4.0 update (note - that you download the r4 update via the STMA Auto-Updater plugin, built into the simulation)

 

Project's Highlights:
  • Project is 'VR Ready' for use with X-Plane: VR functionality is a part of the project aspects which are constantly under evaluation and development for reaching a higher level of immersion as the VR features and possibilities are growing.
  • Highly Realistic Handling and Flight Performance DC-3/C-47 Simulation: Highly accurate performance and handling simulation of the DC-3/C-47, along with a full set of traditional/old school navigation and autopilot systems. Aircraft performance and handling qualities were designed and tested in a "Research level" approach and went through a validation process of hundreds of flight testing and evaluation, tested and refined by a real-world C-47 pilot.
  • Workhorse for DC-3/C-47 pilot skills: Experience authentic flight performance and handling practices (takeoff, landing, single engine operations, flight planning, long range flights and old school navigation). It is a perfect platform to recreate and fly historic routes using authentic performance.
  • Unique look and feel: There is nothing to hide - the VSKYLABS DC-3/C-47 is a mixture of a simplified yet very engaging design.
  • Two C-47 variants included: The C-47 and the XC-47C floats-equipped variants.
  • Systems: All the relevant systems are being simulated. Here are **some** of the more unique systems:
    • Two speed Supercharger blowers - based on the PW-1830-90C engines model, equipped with lo/hi blowers. The high blower configuration allows high altitude cruise.
    • Oxygen system - including crew dilution/regulator, pressure indicator and functional flow-indicator ("Blinker"). Do not forget to enable hypoxia in X-Plane's general settings menu.
    • Fire Extinguisher system - including fire indication system. The fire extinguisher control panel is located behind the hinged cover on the cockpit floor, between the pilot/co-pilot seats.
    • Damage simulation - engines are sensitive to rapid spool-up. Engine mishandling will result in severe damage to the engine/engine fire. Stressing the airframe will result also in severe damage, following a visual representation of the damages. Blown tires are also being visualized and simulated.
    • Engines/propeller systems - designed with fully featured, functioning and authentic propeller feathering systems, for highly realistic single engine simulation.
    • Landing gears and flaps simulation - are being simulated with a high level of authenticity.
    • Sperry Autopilot - Old school autopilot is configured.
    • Optional modern avionics - dual GNS 530, S-TEC autopilot, AviTab compatibility.
    • Anti-Icing/De-Ice systems - including icing and rain visualization.
    • Skis - Animated, incorporated in the flight dynamics model.
    • Passengers/cargo configurations.
  • Comprehensive FMOD sounds.
  • STMA Auto-updater plugin included.
  • AviTab plugin compatibility included (AviTab plugin not included).
  • Highly responsive VSKYLABS support system (including C-47/DC-3 operational knowledge and support/assistance).

 

Requirements
X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Current and Review version:  Version v4.0r4 (October 1st 2021) 
 
The AviTab Plugin is NOW required for this aircraft.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Update Review by Stephen Dutton

12th October 2021

Copyright©2021 : 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)

 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo 1Tb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.55r2

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle - Sound : Yamaha Speakers YST-M200SP

Plugins:  : Plugins: Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99 (Highly Recommended) : Traffic GlobalJustFlight-Traffic (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$52.99

Scenery or Aircraft

- KRSW - Southwest Florida International Airport by Aerosoft (X-Plane.OrgStore) US$24.99

- KLAL - Lakeland Linder by Freddy de Pues (Not Available)

 

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