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Aircraft Review: Handley Page Hampden by Virtavia


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Aircraft Review: Handley Page Hampden by Virtavia
 

Introduction
The 1930s was a great period for military aircraft development. At Handley Page one of their best examples during this time was the Heyford bomber, which went into service with the Royal Air Force in 1934. The Heyford was a biplane with an open cockpit and gun positions, had a fixed undercarriage and used a mixed construction of metal and fabric. The Heyford was the last biplane heavy bomber operated by the RAF. When you compare the Heyford to the Hampden, the differences between them were huge, especially when you consider there were only four years between them.
    
History has a great way of recounting how good or bad an aircraft performed during its lifetime, with some even being regarded as a bit of a joke or totally abysmal. Unfortunately, the Handley Page Hampden could fall into that category. A certain Charles G Grey, the founder of the magazine “The Aeroplane”, described the Hampden (without considering some of its ground-breaking assets) as a flying suitcase! Sadly, this is the nickname that stuck with the aircraft during its whole service career.  


The Hampden was designed and conceived by Gustav Lacmann, Chief Designer at Handley Page in a response to a request from the British Air Ministry for a new twin-engined medium bomber under the Air Ministry specification B9/32.  The specification set by the ministry was quite demanding, which specified among many other requirements that it should have higher performance than any preceding bomber aircraft. The first HP2 prototype flew for the first time on 21st June 1936, and shortly thereafter the Air Ministry placed an initial order for 180 Mk.1 Hampdens. The first production aircraft took to the sky on 24th May 1938.  


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The Hampden was quite a modern aircraft for its time as it utilised a stressed metal skin. Fitted with the most advanced wing available at the time, the Hampden had a remarkably low landing speed of just 73 mph, quite impressive for an Aircraft of its size. The Hampden was powered by a pair of 980 hp air-cooled Bristol Pegasus 9-cylinder Radial engines. These engines, along with the aircraft’s slim design, resulted in the Hampden achieving a top speed of 265 mph, as well as an impressive climb rate. Armament on the Hampden was abysmal as it only featured a fixed Vickers K machine gun on the nose, plus two in each of the rear dorsal & ventral positions.  The aircraft featured an internal bomb bay capable of carrying 4,000 lbs of bombs, mines, or a single 18-inch torpedo.

 

The crew of four consisted of a pilot, navigator/bomb aimer, radio operator/dorsal gunner, ventral gunner. Due to its design, the crew were crammed into a tight fuselage with almost no room to move and were typically cold and extremely uncomfortable during long missions. Aircrews soon referred to the Hampden by various nicknames, such as the flying Panhandle, and Flying Tadpole. The Hampden entered service with RAF No.49 Squadron between September and November 1938. While based at RAF Scampton, they were allocated the hazardous task of low-level minelaying and attacking ships during the outbreak of World War Two. 

 

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Purchase and installation
For this review, I am running the latest version of X-Plane 11, along with a shadow tweak to make the shadow lines in the game appear much sharper. My chosen graphics API is Vulcan, not OpenGL. The Intel I7 4790K CPU is overclocked to 5Ghz complete with liquid cooling. I have 32GB RAM, with my GPU being an Asus Cerberus 1070ti. The sounds are provided through a Creative Titanium HD audiophile card, all of which is sat on an Asus Motherboard. At the time of writing, the Hampden from Virtavia is available from the Org Store for $21.95, and upon completion of your purchase, 44 reward points will be allocated to your store account. 


The stated system requirements are Windows, Mac or Linux and the model requires a minimum of 4 GB VRAM but recommends 8 GB or greater. The model currently sits at version: 1.0 (December 6th, 2021) and is for use in X Plane 11 only. Virtavia indicates that the model is fully VR-ready, however, I am not able to confirm this as I do not possess a VR headset. Once purchased, you simply download the compressed files to your chosen location on your PC. No automatic installation exe is included with the product, but installation is quite straightforward, as you simply extract the compressed files to your Aircraft folder. Once extracted, the size comes to 64.8MB.

 

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Documentation
The model includes a comprehensive 19-page PDF full-colour manual which is split into several sections. It contains a procedures list and makes extensive use of screen captures which feature annotations to the relevant controls being demonstrated. Another feature that impressed me was the use of instructional videos as a reference relating to various procedures such as a cold and dark start. By double clicking on the AVI symbol, a copy of the instruction video will be downloaded to your pc where you can view them as and when required. 

 

First Impressions 
The original model of this Handley Page Hampden stems from an FSX/P3D variant. Whilst the aircraft systems and handling in this X-Plane version are significantly better than those found in the earlier FSX version, the Hampden is still not a particularly complex aircraft, which suits casual flight simmers such as myself. The package features two variants, these being the Hampden B. Mk1 and the TB. Mk1. 1. The Hampden B. Mk1 ships with four liveries and are as follows: 185 Sqn. at RAF Cottesmore from 1939 and 144 Sqn. stationed at North Luffenham during 1942. Whilst the other two liveries feature aircraft from No. 1404 (Meteorological) Flight RAF at St. Eval during 1942 and the Torpedo Development Unit of 1939


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The Hampden TB. Mk1. ships with three liveries and are as follows: 415 Sqn. Royal Canadian Air Force during 1943, 489 Sqn. of the Royal NZ Air Force of 1944 and finally, the TB. Mk.1. of the Swedish Air Force. 


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Exterior
The exterior detailing faithfully captures the quirky lines synonymous with the Hampden’s airframe. From the narrow deep-seated fuselage to the thin tapering rear leading to the twin tail, Virtavia have faithfully captured these features. With the extensive use of PBR textures throughout both the exterior and the cockpit, the whole model shines (in all the right places) thanks to X-Plane’s superior global lighting. The surface of the model also features nicely rendered panel lines and subtle weathering. The flying controls and surfaces are fully animated and work very smoothly, including the forward wing slats which are automatically operated. 

 

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The cooling grills (cowl flaps) can be opened and closed by clicking the relevant control in the cockpit. The model also features a reasonably detailed undercarriage as well as two different exhaust types that were fitted to the different variants of the aircraft.  


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Overall, the exterior model is almost worth the price by itself. However, despite all the gloss of PBR and the improvements across the model, I did feel there was something still slightly lacking with the exterior model. In short, the Handley Page Hampden was amongst the first mono-winged aircraft to feature a flush-rivetted stressed metal skin, reinforced with a mixture of bent and extruded sections in an all-metal design. Whilst the panel lines are faithfully represented in this model, the detail relating to the flush riveting and stressed skin effects are missing. It doesn’t affect the functionality of the model in the slightest, but if you know your aircraft history, you’ll notice it. A feature I particularly liked was the ability to have the crew visible or not. The crew can be toggled on or off by pressing Shift-F5 as seen below.   

 

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You can select to have the upper rear gunners’ canopy open or closed, and this is achieved by pressing Shift-F2. Both gunners’ positions (dorsal and ventral) included representations of the 303 Vickers K machine gun which are adequately detailed but are not operable. The crew access hatch can be toggled open or closed by pressing Shift-F3. 

 

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Another nice feature of the model is the bomb bay which features operable bay doors which can be toggled open or closed by pressing shift-F4.  Alternatively, there is a switch for this on the right side of the cockpit. The internal detail of the bomb bay is rather weak but acceptable, however, there is no ordinance within the bay and no loadout options are provided with the model. It would have been a nice touch if the developer had included such an option. Perhaps in a later update?

 

Interior
Moving onto the interior and it’s clear to see that this is where Virtavia pulled out all the stops. When sitting in the cockpit, you are presented with a rich and diverse environment. It’s a complete click fest of the highest order, all laced with lush PBR textures and clear annotations to both instruments and dials.  

 

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Aside from the normal functioning controls, there are numerous features available to you in the cockpit, so many in fact that it would take too long to describe in this short article. However, all I can say is that if you do decide to go out and purchase the Hampden, you won’t be disappointed with how the cockpit looks, it’s simply exquisite.

 

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Handling
Like many of you reading this, I am just a desktop pilot and a casual simmer at heart, so I am not particularly well qualified to say if the flight model is accurate or not. The task becomes even harder when you consider there are no airworthy Hampdens left anywhere in the world. However, that said, in X-Plane, the Handley Page Hampden being a tail dragger, has all the usual traits associated with this type of aircraft, and as such can be quite a handful on the ground. In other words, don’t open the throttles too quickly as the aircraft will run away with you, and your flight (what there was of it), will end in tears!  

 

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Once in the air and all trimmed out, the aircraft is quite responsive and is in no way sluggish. The developers appear to have replicated the response rate of the engines quite well, in that there is no instant change in tone when you reduce or increase the throttle, instead it slowly changes tone which is far more realistic.  


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The Handley Page Hampden was one (if not the first) medium bomber to feature forward wing slats. These reduced the aircraft’s landing speed to just 73mph. The forward wing slats are operated automatically, and I found landing the aircraft in my X-Plane world, a considerably more relaxed experience than taking off.  

 

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Sounds
When X-Plane allowed for the introduction of FMOD sound packages for aircraft models, the sound environment changed for the better. The included FMOD sound samples in this package are simply outstanding, and in my opinion, faithfully capture the dynamic sounds of a pair of 980 hp air-cooled Bristol Pegasus 9-cylinder radial engines. 


This starts with the slow, rattling, popping, spitting and stuttering of the engines during a cold and dark start-up. As you slowly increase power, the engine note changes, and you can really feel the deep rumbling gentle growl as the engines come to life. When you open and close the cockpit canopy (again sampled), the sounds of the engine are subtly subdued, but still audible through the canopy. In all, the included soundset of this model is simply music to your ears!  


Conclusion
As you can no doubt tell from this review, flying this aircraft has been a great deal of fun for me, with some of its highlights being: 

  • The massive 3D modelling improvements and increased functionality in the cockpit over its earlier FSX/P3D variant.
  • The cockpit environment is enriched by the extensive application of PBR textures, which really makes it shine, especially when you factor in the price point. 
  • The introduction of an impressive FMOD sound pack. 
  • The inclusion of a comprehensive PDF manual, which employs links to a series of downloadable instructional videos.

Looking at areas for possible improvement, it would have been nice if Virtavia had included the flush riveting and stressed panel details on the exterior model. I would also have liked to have seen various loadout options for the bomb bay, but as I mentioned, maybe these can be added in future updates. I was just a little disappointed that some of the other notable characteristics were not given the same attention to detail as they lavished in the cockpit environment. In summing up, I have to say the Handley Page Hampden by Virtavia is a quirky, yet remarkable aircraft, and in my view will deliver a lot of nostalgic fun for not much money. So, why not be like me, and pack yourself into a flying suitcase and relive a bit of history!   

 

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The Handley-Page Hampden package by Virtavia is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here:

 

Virtavia Handley-Page Hampden

Price at time of writing US$21.95

 

Requirements:

X-Plane 11
Windows, Mac or Linux
4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended
Current version: 1.0 (December 6th 2021)

 

Review System Specifications:

Windows 10 64 Bit
Intel I7 4790K
32GB RAM
NVIDIA GTX 1070Ti

 

Aircraft Review by Nick Garlick
4th August 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) 

 

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