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Overview Review : Airbus A320-214 Ultimate by FlightFactor Aero

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Overview Review : Airbus A320-214 Ultimate by FlightFactor Aero

 

This Airbus aircraft from FlightFactor Aero is pretty unique. It's whole purpose is too deliver a completely new and extremely high quality simulation to flying Airbus aircraft in a simulator. It is unusual in another area as well, in the fact it is designed and built to be not part of any actual simulator platform. It is released in X-Plane and flies in X-Plane but it's basic underlying systems can also allow it to fly in any computer based system and no doubt in the future it's main purpose is for it to be a standalone simulator for Airbus A320 certified aircraft training.

 

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To acquire such a certification for real world based training then this aircraft would have to replicate almost every system and instrument that is found in a real A320 aircraft or simulator, and that is a more complex thing to do than you think it is. So it goes without saying that this aircraft in X-Plane is complex... not only in it's systems but also the aircraft's very complicated flying characteristics as this aircraft's nickname is the original "Electric Jet".

 

When you really think about that aspect you can see how big a challenge it really is to bring such complex modeling and aircraft behaviour to a deskbound style simulator. 

 

Your first instincts are to understand that this aircraft is not really an X-Plane aircraft and in using the X-Plane based theory and dynamics, in fact the only area that this aircraft interacts with X-Plane is with the default XP ground physics and in time that will phased out as well. So this does create a very different environment in that any of the usual X-Plane interaction tools will not work with this aircraft, including manipulators and even X-Planes unique aerodynamic modeling in "blade element theory" of element forces at work on the aircraft. The FF A320U uses its own aerodynamic modeling that is quite close to Laminar's structures and theories, but is more much more controllable and flexible and has more options and parameters, and is engineered for a broader aerodynamic model and to make system logic consistent and more integral.

 

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The A320 series aircraft was very unique in its definition of control laws, protections, reconfigurations, and functions. Aircraft with fly-by-wire flight controls require computer-controlled flight control modes that are capable of determining the operational mode (computational law) of the aircraft.

 

The fly by wire aircraft is controlled by three primary control computers (captain's, first officer's, and standby) and two secondary control computers (captain's and first officer's). In addition there are two flight control data computers (FCDC) that read information from the sensors, such as air data (airspeed, altitude). This is fed along with GPS data, into three redundant processing units known as air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs) that act both as an air data reference and inertial reference. ADIRUs are part of the air data inertial reference system, which, on the Airbus is linked to eight air data modules: three are linked to pitot tubes and five are linked to static sources. Information from the ADIRU is fed into one of several flight control computers (primary and secondary flight control). The computers also receive information from the control surfaces of the aircraft and from the pilots aircraft control devices and autopilot. Information from these computers is sent both to the pilot's primary flight display and also to the control surfaces.

 

These modes are called Normal law (the aircraft will fly with normal human input), Alternate law, Direct law and Mechanical law. I could write a manual on how all these modes work, but it brought into aviation a whole new perspective and to a point a very automated flying environment, the so called "seat of the pants" and "stick and rudder" styles of flying was replaced by a more office or procedure based input style of aviation that the smart machine did most of the work and even protected you from putting the aircraft into a situation beyond the aircraft's built in capabilities and flying envelopes.

 

Aircraft systems were also very highly more automated in four base systems which are implemented as an independent physical simulations: electrical, hydraulics, fuel, and pneumatic + conditioning. All the systems are built up from hundreds of elementary objects, like wires, relays, circuit brakes, pipes, valves, pumps, etc, and then whole systems states are resolved each frame using physical laws. For the electrical system, for example, this is the full Ohm's law. For other systems, these are its equivalents. Systems interact with each other, generating signals from sensors and switches, control signals, and reacting to them. Computers continuously acquire, monitor and generate these control signals as well.

 

If you are following all this you can see how very complex the A320 as an aircraft is, and to replicate that into a simulation is a very big task. And your position is to understand all this as well and operate (or fly) the aircraft to it's full potential. So this A320 Ultimate is not for the one with a newly acquired simulation pilot's licence. This is a pro aircraft or the "Ultimate" in simulation flying to replicate the real world style of modern jet aircraft flying.

 

In X-Plane it is JARDesign's A320neo that is the current standard for the Airbus aircraft. The A320neo is very good, certainly with it's added in extensive sound pack form. But it does have a not so perfect flight model (mostly in the takeoff and performance areas) but you can't really compare that A320 with this one from FlighFactor, to a point if you want a good A320 the JAR's A320 is the better purchase, as this A320 from FF is a much more comprehensive aircraft and in that factor a lot more is required in real time study and practise to understand all the flying profiles and systems.

 

There is not doubt that any pilot that has used the JAR A320 extensively (and there is a lot of you out there) then the transition to this Ultimate version is far easier to do, but don't expect the same experience or to transition easily, but the basics will come in handy if you know your way around the JAR A320 cockpit and setting up the MCDU.

 

This review is noted as an "Overview". The FlightFactor A320 Ultimate is just too complex and far to detailed in systems and procedures to cover every aspect of the aircraft, so here in the overview it gives you a perspective of what is included with this aircraft and what it is basically about.

 

 Airbus A320-214 Ultimate by FlightFactor Aero

The design aspect is in reality a secondary area to the aircraft's systems and and procedures. 

 

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But the overall design is part of the package and the excellent detail is what you look for as well. Richard Culver and Artem Gality are the main modellers of the A320. Mr FlightFactor himself in Roman Berezin is still a major contributor to the production and we know by the earlier FlightFactor aircraft designs in the B757/767 aircraft that the work is of the highest standard.

 

And so it is here as well. The 3d work and modelling is excellent, but an very extensive detailed design is not like a smaller general aviation aircraft but a far more bigger canvas to fill and larger sizes can bring with them issues of too heavy an aircraft in framerate size to make it efficient in your simulator.

 

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Close inspection does reveal a very high attention to detail, the modeling is perfect. Close detail is that not what you can just outwardly see but the hidden details as well as you get with the forward wing leading edge slats, look behind and the inner construction is just as good as the outer curves. The rear main flaps are also beyond good, with highly detailed flap jacks and links all installed and animated. End of flap track runners are also highly detailed and look like they have just come off the factory floor.

 

Undercarriage is always the first place you look for aircraft detailing. The A320U does not disappoint in this area of design and the gear sections are as detailed and good as you could get, bit clean though with not a lot of wear and tear...

 

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...   but every nut and component is visible as is the hydraulics and this is a long, long way from those days of stick undercarriages with wheels attached.

 

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...    and note the cast wheel hubs and great rubber feel on the tyres, the huge detail on the front landing gear is excellent.

 

Engines are perfectly modeled as well with the CFM International CFM56-5B4 installed and maybe the coming later option of the IAE V2500 in the future.

 

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Internal cowling detail is factory fresh and those beautiful rotating large fan blades are excellent, the CFM sounds nice as well.

 

Internal Detailing

Every year we get another level of detail in the internal areas of aircraft, here the cockpit is astounding in it's sheer detail that is simply eye popping.

 

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Everywhere you want to focus on you are totally breathless in what is now available in the quality of the aircraft.

 

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Yes you are paying for this extensive detail at this level, but you are certainly getting your return's worth as well...

 

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So how to do absorb it all, to understand the finite detail in the cockpit...  as usual you focus on the small things. The pilot's chair in it's base is perfect, I mean totally perfect and the armrests move with fluid animation. Note the detailed fire extinguisher set into the wall.

 

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The pedestal is supremely crafted with every switch you require (strange though the door switch doesn't work?) but you get the idea. A highlight is the side forward windows open!

 

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Pull the catch and the heavyweighted full mechanism pulls back, again beautifully crafted and very realistic...  sheer detail in motion.

 

Cabin

You can deliver more than one cabin livery if a third party wants to. I found two in the default Lufthansa, but a there is great a Delta available as well...

 

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More liveries are expected to come and detailed interiors only deliver more to the all round cause. The windows are small (A320 windows are) but they not as nicely detailed as JAR's lovely two glass reflective filled perfect ones...

 

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...   Roman Berezin has this thing of heavy boundries, so you can't move around much inside the aircraft, the cockpit feels cramped and smaller areas like galleys are hard to get into...  ditto moving outside the aircraft with the internal view, as an invisible force field stops you going through any door.

 

Menus

The menus are built in and are displayed on the iPad on both sides for both the pilot and first officer. Lower right button turns it on.

 

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There are six page menu selections in : Service - Perf Data - Checklists - Browser - Settings - Map.

 

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The screen layout works very well and looks professional. Like a lot of areas on the A320U, when you use the iPad it disconnects from the aircraft for keyboard inputs, so you can't move the screen or anything aircraft related until you press the background to reconnect with the X-Plane environment.

 

Service

The service menu covers setting up the aircraft and static elements. There are four tabs (pages) to chose from : Supply - Fuel - PAX - Cargo

 

Supply: is the ground element and power with main selections of a GPU (Ground Power Unit), An AirStarter (Ground starting) and Wheel Chocks.

 

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Fuel: This menu will allow you to fuel the aircraft and all tanks are available unlike the X-Plane default version and they include inner and outer tanks and the centre tank. The Fuel truck has to be attached before you can do the refueling and a big ugly thing it is as well? You can attach the JAR Ground Services fuel truck but it won't work in actually refueling the aircraft. 

 

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PAX : The passenger load factors are under the PAX tab. Here you can easily adjust the aircraft loads and by classes in Business, Economy B (Premium Economy), Economy C (tight seats in the rear) and the number of passengers you want on the aircraft. There is the quick loading options of empty - 1/3 - 2/3 - Full and I usually use 2/3.

 

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You have to have the doors open to load or unload the aircraft, and there is (thankfully) a choice on each door on of "Gate" or "Stairs". Gate just opens the doors and Stairs will put a set of stairs at that door for you.

 

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Cargo : loading in cargo is very similar to passengers, but you don't get the quick loading options. Again you have cargo loaders to load on the freight from zones cargo 1 to 5. Note in that Cargo loader forward only loads cargo into the front hold, and the rear cargo loader the rest of the holds in the rear and the required loader has to be activated to load the cargo.

 

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Many users will say they would miss the JAR ground services including myself with this A320. Well fear not as it does work quite well with the FlightFactor A320U version...

 

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Ben/Air has done one here: Flight Factor A320 Ground Handling Deluxe Set and it works very well. As noted the fuel truck doesn't work (in connecting to the menu), and the cargo doors won't open without the provided cargo loaders, but everything else works fine including those lovely catering trucks.

 

PERF Data (Performance Data)

Once you have loaded the aircraft with passengers and cargo, this tab allows you to see the current set up of the aircraft including all weights and CoG (Centre of Gravity) balance. And you will need this information to feed into the aircraft's FMS (Flight Management System).

 

Checklists

Checklists is very and you move left or right through the lists via the blue triangles on each side.

 

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Helpful is the "Orange" titles show you what area you need to do the action, the white in what the check is. The checklist won't however do the action for you or start up the aircraft to taxi roll, in this case it is a little basic from other FF aircraft, but it is very good and very clear to use.

 

Browser

This one is interesting and very handy...   If your computer is connected to the internet you can access the internet via this browser!

 

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However it will load pdf's but it is basic and I found some pdf''s worked fine but others struggled in loading or zoom.

 

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Settings

You can set items like the Panel Quality, Reflections on/off, and Rain Effects, IRS Alignment speed from 1x 2x 5x and 10x, And you can also save the aircraft and its systems to reload a situation in the future, again it is like the X-Plane situations feature.

 

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But one item is really interesting... and it is under your server settings. You can apply for a Google API key and insert it here, this is now ready for the next tab...

 

Map

If the API key is activated you then get the "Google Map" tool directly into the iPad, excellent it is, but you can't declutter the screen so it is a one layout for all.

 

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But for checking out high terrain and the aircraft's position it is invaluable.

 

Flying the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate

You can't just drop into the pilot's seat of a real A320 and fly it straight to another destination, it quite doesn't work like that and you have to keep with in the same strategy when flying this FF A320U, certainly as expected from a cold start, but also from a hot engine running start as well.

 

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The standard native X-Plane manipulators don't work here, so you have mostly hands and pointers, but the main interaction is via a - & + and arrow up and an arrow down arrangement, and the arrows also represent the Airbus push in (up) and pull up (down) actions. Turning the knobs via the - + actions is one click at a time, so with speed and heading changes the movements are very slooow. If you do have a scroll wheel then that is a great big advantage in moving the knobs far more quickly and it is highly recommended. The manipulators otherwise can be a bit clunky, but you get used to it.

 

Powering up from cold is a procedure process, but you know immediately that this is a very different machine than other Airbuses in X-Plane. Switch the batteries on and you don't get actions but tests...

 

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...      then faults...  lots of them.

 

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And you are already feeling the depth of the systems here and the professional way you have to interact with the aircraft. This is just not the case of the ECAM (Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor ) in E/WD upper screen and SD lower screen on screen data and they are not their just for the visual show. So this is a more deeper system than that in the systems you are usually interacting with as they are simulated as real and so acts as real in this very alive aircraft.

 

FMS (Flight Management System)

The heart of the A320 is the FMS or Flight Management system. This is accessed through the MCDU (Flight Management & Guidance System) and I am not going to sugar coat it in that as this is based on a real system to the very letter, it is complicated and requires a bit of homework to understand the full procedures and inputs required, in other words you will have to put your pilot's hat on and do the deal.

 

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The reward is that this is about the most perfect FMS system in X-Plane, it would take a very long review to cover all the aspects and the best way to sum it up, is that if the system is in the Airbus POH then it is replicated here in full.

 

The FMS pops out for ease of use and like the side iPad it works in two levels in that it allows direct keyboard input when you see the blue band around the FMS or press the background to get back your normal view and aircraft control.

 

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The system uses the Thales FM rev1 and not the rev2 which is the most popular and the current system on the A320 series. But there is plans to update to the rev2 version later.

 

Some buttons on the MCDU are quite faded and hard to see as you can't zoom up larger the popup to make it easier to read, so there is a lot of squinting and even guessing the keys and each side MCDU for either pilot is a separate unit for inputs like on the FlightFactor's Boeing 767.

 

Input however in the (blue band) active position is simply excellent, I have never been a big fan of disconnecting popup panels but this one works extremely well and all inputs are clean and sharp, and with no input lag which can bug a lot of FMS planning. Better still is that you can get yourself sorted out if you make a mistake, the system is very forgiving and allows changes which again in that many FMS's usually just freeze or get lost in their own coding and only a total restart will then fix the issue.

 

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There is a lot of data required. Were as the JAR helped you with some of the calculations, here you are on your own. There is a lot of information to help you, but the tricky one is the Fuel Predictions and the Centre of Gravity trim. There are a few pointers on the as mentioned iPad performance data but you will need to do some numbers once the fuel is in and the aircraft is loaded. Funny enough these numbers come from the ground dispatcher for the pilots to input, but we as users don't have that luxury then you are going to have to calculate the loading yourself. No doubt there will be a lot of discussion and help on the forums.

 

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Once the data is all in and correct the rest then just falls into place and then the aircraft takes over its own mission from the data.

 

The ECAM (Electronic Centralised Aircraft Monitor) in the E/WD upper screen and SD lower screen details are standard airbus and every page required is covered, but there is that "wait and here it comes" when changing from one page to the other, and any electrical changes on the aircraft will slightly show on the displays as well for realism, as noted they are not only for just show but for real interpretation of your aircraft's systems. Again you will need to study the manual to understand how the systems interact and work...  this A320 is not only the ultimate in aircraft, but in study and homework as well.

 

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The Airbus A320-214 feel factor

It is a strange and slightly different feeling when operating this A320 than with your usual feedback from the X-Plane experience. It is far smoother, in actions and movement... you don't feel disconnected but the best way to describe it is in the the way the A320 feels more professional.

 

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Sounds are extremely good and maybe the same sets from Blue Sky Star Simulations as they used with the Boeing 767, but they don't have that sheer minute directions and spot sounds like you hear on the JAR, so this package maybe a slight watered down version, but overall they are still excellent. Time on the aircraft may give us more aural input here.

 

taxiing and turning is very much like with QPAC's A320 if you flew that A320 version. The nosewheel is very smooth but turns in a smooth slower arc as well...  you get use to it quickly, but again that smoothness come through the controls.

 

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Flying this A320-214 is the same. You feel the weight better, and inputs are heavier and it doesn't take long before you are getting the feedback that this aircraft is quite different in its actions...  no sudden changes, no sudden movements, it is all molasses and not light liquids and that is a great thing in that there is a lot of the real world feel to the aircraft than a simulation experience...  you make up you mind very quickly that this aircraft is going to be a very big part of your flying career over many years, once you master it's complexity....  because it is as real as it gets.

 

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All your earlier work pays off as the aircraft flies itself on the data, it is not called the "Electric Jet" for nothing. The routing is excellent and diversions with the "DIR" direct function is fast and efficient, again that smoothness of changes to the FMS is again a real world feeling.

 

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Note the great "Terrain" coverage on the Navigation and map display, in the airbus block way of course...

 

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....  so checklists and notes will become a part of your flying, just like the real A320 office. I have watched a lot of real cockpit aviation video's and you are getting more of that view than a simulated view, and the difference here is that it is you that is interacting with the aircraft and not a pilot on a video.

 

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I have found lower speeds and the approach feel in X-Plane sometimes quite average, in that speed to flap setting always feels a little out or wrong in that the aircraft pitches up too high when the speed and flaps are correct, here you don't have that. I found the aircraft is excellent in that zone in reducing speed and being a more stable platform with more control when lining up your approach. Certainly there is a lot more approaches and even a huge amount of flying yet to flown in this A320 Ultimate to be in the situation of mastering the performance and procedures that is the requirement of the professional aviator.

 

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Summary

You are not going to get even close to the huge expanse of detail in this aircraft, so this small overview is hopefully a great introduction on what the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate is about and to note a few of its features.

 

The potential of this aircraft is staggering, it is certainly a huge jump in almost every area of simulation, but currently that huge step comes with a bit of a dilemma in that there is a lot of fine tuning and bug testing to get this heavily complex simulation as perfect as it is going to be in the future. Currently the beta testing is on going, and even on its release you are having to be expected to find that fine tuning still ongoing as FlightFactor constantly hone their creation into some perfection....  even real world aircraft are extensively tested before being delivered to airlines and that same process applies here as well. There is nothing wrong with this A320, but it is complex in its creation.

 

This aircraft is only for the experienced, and even then they will have to learn the machines intricate details. But the rewards are staggering in that what you will receive is an almost real world simulation of this excellent aircraft. The Airbus A320 turns 30 years old this year, hard to believe that the "Electric Bus" has been around us that long. I have had many, many flights on A320's as so have most of you, so in a way this A320-214 from FlightFactor is a celebration of that aircraft and what it represents for aviation, it with the Boeing 737 is one of the most  successful aircraft ever built and still the order books are full and the production is stretched far into the future. For us we can now explore and enjoy this very significant aircraft for ourselves with this Ultimate version of the A320

 

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Yes! the Airbus A320-214 Ultimate by FlightFactor Aero is currently in BETA, but will be available soon from the X-Plane.Org Store here :


Airbus A320-214 Ultimate

 

Price is US$$89.95

 

Features

Custom Flight model
  • Flight developed by professional to mimic the real aircraft
  • Precise aerodynamic model with unique features like transonic effects, hi speed stall etc
  • Specific engine model with realistic performance and dynamics
  • More than 10,000 simulated objects like computers, sensors, units, data buses, busbars, relays, etc. with its own logic and behavior
  • Simulation of data exchange in ARINC data protocol between aircraft computers with precision loss and delays
High-Definition Model
  • Hi-quality and realistic interior and exterior visual model
  • Hi-quality and realistic sound pack with hundreds of sounds from the real aircraft
  • Hi-quality display graphics (4K panel)
  • Unique rain effects
  • Fast access popup panel system
  • Precise aerodynamical model with unique features like transonic effects, hi speed stall etc
  • Specific engine model with realistic performance and dynamics
  • Realistic simulation of transition effects, self-tests and other real aircraft undocumented features
  • Physically based implementation of electric, hydraulic, fuel and pneumatic systems with realistic responses and state transitions
  • Precise flight management system with full profile predictions and modes of operation
  • Autopilot, indistinguishable from real aircraft, with all modes, transition effects and undocumented features

 

Requirements

X-Plane 11

Windows only at this time - Mac and Linux version will come later
4GB VRAM Minimum
770Mb Download size
 
That 4gb VRAM is required and nothing under, you may have even reduce some render settings even with the 4gb loading. Anything less in VRAM will not run in any normal speed.
 
Installation
Download of the Airbus A320 Ultimate is a huge 743.50mb and it is installed in your Heavy Aircraft Folder as a 1.47gb folder. A X-Updater is provided for direct future aircraft updates.
 
Authorisation key is required and a complete desktop restart is highly recommended.
Internent connection is required for some features as is a Google API key for the built in Google map feature.
 
Documents
Documentation is currently one manual.
 
You are required to use Airbus certified manuals with this aircraft, but this one is very good and recommended by FlightFactor:

A320/321 Flight Crew Training Manual - 737NG.co.uk

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Review by Stephen Dutton
1st  November 2017
Copyright©2017: X-PlaneReviews
 
(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 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.05

Addons: Saitek x56 Rhino Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro v1.07 US$69.90 : WorldTraffic 3.0 Plugin - US$29.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- KRSW - Southwest Florida International Airport by Aerosoft  (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$24.95

 

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This is a particular version of the A320-214 and the performance is referenced to that model. The winglet and latest Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines will come later as the performance is very different. Another point is that the -214 version is the most common and there is years of data of performance as the newer neo versions have only a few years of data, and that data is very important here in this study sim. The current main aim is to get the base line, then work on the different performance models later. SD

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