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  1. NEWS! - Aircraft Released : Grumman F7F Tigercat by Virtavia The F7F Tigercat, which was derived from Grumman's first twin-engine fighter, the XF5F-1 Skyrocket, appeared as the result of a Navy request in June 1941 for development of a larger, twin-engine fighter for use on board the planned large aircraft carriers (Midway-class). The airplane was the first twin-engine fighter ordered in large quantities and the first carrier aircraft to incorporate tricycle landing gear. Built in single and two-seat variants, the heavily armed fighter served in ground support, night fighter and photo reconnaissance roles after World War II and in Korea. Currently focusing on WW2 vintage Bombers and Fighters, this is the latest release from Virtavia (Design), in the F7F Tigercat. Notable is that Virtavia Aircraft are modeled only (There are no internal textures), but still extremely well modeled to a very high quality standard. There are four variants included... Clean variant - No external stores. Note: the 'White 5' fictional variant depicts a basic 'racer' and so lacks guns and cannons. It also has squared-off propeller tips. Ferry variant - Carries three drop tanks for extended range. Fighter variant - Carries one belly drop tank. The typical day fighter loadout. Rockets variant - Carries one belly drop tank and eight underwing unguided rockets. The typical ground attack loadout. Note: due to an XP limitation, the rocket-equipped version lacks the ability to fold the wings. Features : Support for both X-Plane 12 and X-Plane 11 Folding wings Guns/cannons can be fired Rockets' variant has 8 shootable unguided rockets PBR materials/textures used throughout VR config file included, cockpit manipulators optimized for easy VR use FMOD sounds package with multi-stage engines, pilot's slide canopy muting, switch clicks and other unique cockpit sounds Very detailed cockpit with numerous animations and mousable controls Retractable crew steps Togglable pilot figure Canopy glass rain and ice effects (XP12) Animated cowl flaps Animated tail hook Animated oil cooler exit doors on wings Authentic flight model with checklist 4 unique flight models (.acf files) 25-page illustrated User Operating Manual Source texture files available for livery artists VC (Virtual Cockpit) Version Images and video courtesy of Virtavia Design ________________________________________ The Grumman F7F Tigercat by Virtavia Design is now available from the X-Plane.OrgStore!... Here: Grumman F7F Tigercat Price is US$29.95 Requirements X-Plane 12 or X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Current version : 1.0 (December 23rd 2022) ________________ NEWS! by Stephen Dutton 4th January 2023 Copyright©2023: 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) All Right Reserved.
  2. Classic Aircraft Review : Short Stirling Mk1-4 by Virtavia The Short Stirling is a World War 2 era four-engined bomber that entered RAF service on the eve of WW2. It was originally the RAF's primary bomber, but with a few short falls in the design it then relegated the aircraft into a secondary role behind the Avro Lancaster and the Handley Page Halifax. Short Brothers or "Shorts" are a Northern Ireland based company known famously for their "Empire" Flying boats in the 1930's, that were also a good basis for a tactical bomber. The S.29 design was a derivative design of the Sunderland Flying boat, the wings and controls were the same, the construction was also identical and it even retained the slight upward bend at the rear of the fuselage, which had originally been intended to keep the Sunderland's tail clear of sea spray. So as originally designed, the S.29 was considered to be capable of favourable high-altitude performance. But in the RAF's short sighted guidelines in that the wings must be shorter than 100ft (to fit in the current hangar size of 112 ft (34 m)) it restricted the Stirling's range and even worse ruined it's altitude capabilities. In it's relegated roles it was converted into a troop/parachute carrier of which it was highly successful, and in it's glider towing capability the Stirling also had a significant role in the D-Day Landings, sadly no Short Stirlings have survived to the current day. Virtavia are known in X-Plane with the association with Dawson Designs. Most Virtavia aircraft are a cross platform conversion from their FlightSim counterparts, but since Dawson Designs has now departed the developer scene from many a few years back, a lot of the original Virtavia aircraft like the B29 Bomber, S-61 Seaking and the GlobeMaster C-17A are now mostly seriously dated or compromised in their access in the X-Plane Simulator. Oddly here is the Short Stirling by Virtavia, and it is not currently known if it is FlightSim conversion by Virtavia directly or again a third-party conversion of the aircraft (the email address is for Virtavia), more interesting was why either party don't fix up the older aircraft to at least a usable current usability in X-Plane, in that is a strange orthodox, and would be in either party interests in if they are in continuing supporting the X-Plane Simulator if they are still in wanting releasing newer product? Short Stirling Mk1-4 by Virtavia There are three versions supplied of the Virtavia Sterling, which are the Mk.1 (W7451), The Mk.3 (EF411) and the Mk.4 (LK117) and all are based on real aircraft. This is the Mk.1. It was powered by a Bristol Hercules 14-cylinder, two-row, supercharged, air-cooled radial engine, at 1,356 hp (1,012 kW) at 2,750 rpm at 4,000 ft (1,220 m). The Mk.1 had the XI version and the Mks.3/4 had the XVI version. Mk.1 (W7451). Main features : FN.5 front turret, FN.7 mid-upper turret, FN.4 tail turret. The engines have smaller type intakes, no lower oil cooler intakes. No cowlexhaust ring covers, shorter-type exhausts on outer engines. High number of fuselage portholes. This was due to the original design brief requirement for use as a troop transport, which was not realised in the production variants until the later post-war Mk.5. Mk.3 (EF411) Main features : FN.5 front turret, FN.50 mid-upper turret, FN.20 tail turret. Engines have larger type intakes above, with circular oil cooler intakes underneath the cowl. Cowl exhaust ring covers commonly fitted, longer- type exhausts on all engines. The Mk.3 also had a reduced number of fuselage portholes. The Mk.3 was the main variant of the Stirling, many earlier Mk.1 airframes were later converted to Mk.3 and Mk.4 variants. The rear windows of the main canopy and the fuselage portholes were partially painted over to reduce interior light visibilty to enemy aircraft. The porthole vertical stripe is often misinterpreted as a physical divider, whereas it was actually a stripe of black paint. The Mk.3 also had more powerful Bristol Hercules XI 14-cyl. radial engines, these being the 1,650 hp improved version over the original Hercules II units which produced 1,375 hp. Most Mk.1 Stirlings were eventually upgraded with the XI engine and this simulation assumes this engine in all variants. Mk.4 (LK117) Main features : Plexiglass fairing in place of front turret, no mid-upper turret, FN.20 tail turret. Engines/cowls/intakes are the same as Mk.3. Front set of fuselage windows faired over, 'bubble' type window employed each side. 'Rebecca' aerials mounted on front fuselage. Number of fuselage portholes depended on whether the airframe was a conversion from a Mk.1 or Mk.3, or a new-build Mk.4. Fitted with glider towing bridle and hinged stop guard frame aft of the ventral supply drop hatch, used to prevent the attached parachute lanyards of dropped canisters from whipping and damaging the aircraft. Stirling Detail The first commercial-quality simulation of the Stirling bomber was created by AlphaSim (Virtavia's old name) back in 2002. Since then the aircraft has been remodeled in FSX, P3D and now in X-Plane, so although an upgraded aircraft it has a long history. First impressions are actually very good, but you immediately notice the absence of NML normal mapping, or the Dot3 bump mapping, a requisite feature today, as it can instantly make the aircraft feel dated, as it does here noticeably. But the highly detailed textures are very good and well detailed, and it sorta helps, but the reality is that 3d bump mapping is required to highlight the minute details, and certainly in a pre-war WW2 bomber. Cockpit canopy and all three (MK.1) gun turrets are excellent, high detail and comes with nice glasswork, and they feel nicely authentic. The glass feels slightly frosted, which gives it that era feel as the glass/perspex quality was not as high as it is today, so it looks good. The highlight is the forward landing gear, the complex array of struts and supports are really well done modeling wise and the gear wrap-doors are excellent (and great to watch in action). Again it signifies the era's undercarriage technology and worth studying. Internal wheel bay is also well detailed and authentic. Tailwheel(s) are very unusual in being a pair, in a twin gear taildragger style which is something I have never seen before, and again the inner gear bay in detail is well done. The Bristol Hercules engines have been faithfully recreated with great internal detail. The different exhaust and air inlets between the types are sometimes very subtle but are different, and all well done here. Wing shape is good and bulbous, and they come with working aileron control rods, and nice realistic oil wear over the top of the wings is very authentic. Interior The Stirling's cockpit is quite spacious and airy compared to most WW2 military cockpits (does that mean vulnerable as well?), but remember this the Short Flying boat cockpit redesigned for a bomber... but it is excellent. The aircraft does feel new or restored, and not very war-torn, but well done it all is. All the construction of the canopy is excellent with the different frames all connected together with bolts and screws, the moment you sit in here you go "wow". It is pure modelling of course with not a lot of textures, but in a strange way it all works out very well... You really like it here. The navigator sits behind and on the lower deck, with access to the forward gun turret or bomb observer. The instrument panel is quite small, and for the pilot only in flying instruments, the right seat is for a monitor or backup pilot only. The super nice metal yokes can be hidden by pressing the "Y" key. Basically you have your flying instruments on the left and your engine readouts/gauges centre and the dials only show "boost' and "RPM" for each engine. The green colours are the gear position (down, and red up), which actually look LED modern, not the view of an aircraft that was flying 80 years ago, but it again in here it works very well. Bomb door switches are lower right, and a lot on the left side is fake, but well done. But note the huge compass and the "AUTO CONTROLS" which is a very basic autopilot. On the right it is just the hull frames of the cockpit, but again it feels all very realistic. In your face central is the "Flaps" Panel with position and selection switch... Above are the huge "Trim Handles" for both pitch and rudder trim... magnificent! Lower is the very lever filled pedestal. Throttle levers (x4), Mixture levers (x2), RPM levers (x4), Parking Brake left, Landing Light right. Notable is the settings for the levers. I only have a x56 Rhino throttle, which is only two levers. I use the left one for the Throttles (all), and the right lever for the Mixture (all) which is very much like I fly a GA aircraft, the lower RPM levers are a bit of a problem, in that there is no setting to use? or can you not (easily?) move then manually, although they do have hotspot actions... .... the detail is really well done, and feel just like the bomber controls should look like. The Rudder Pedals are also very nicely recreated as well, and are animated very realistically when you use them. The side windows can also be opened via "hotspots". The front side is opened via touching the base screw, and the pilot's side window via the handle, the rear Navigator window can also be opened. But the hotspots can be tricky to use unless you get your position correctly in the aircraft... ... the pilot's chair armrests can also be moved upwards (animated), In the menu there are notes to hide the excellent bomber crew (shift-F1), but it doesn't work, neither does the rear crew door with ladder (shift-F2). There are no menus or other features. The Stirling carries in Guns; 8 x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns: 2 in powered nose turret, 4 in tail turret, 2 in dorsal turret, and a payload of up to 14,000 lb (6,350 kg) of bombs, it was however restricted to carry only 500 lb bombs. The Bomb compartment doors are controlled via the panel right side centre with two panels covering "Bomb Doors" and "Bomb Doors Wings". Left panel opens the main fuselage doors with racks of 500 lb bombs, the right panel opens the inner wing bomb doors which is really well done here. Full load is 15-500 lb bombs. Selecting any Bomb door switch will produce again in your face a "Bombers" panel. Here you can "Arm" the bombs and "Release" them. You can release them in four options, "Salvo, Ripple, Pair or Single". ________________ Flying the Short Stirling Time to taxi out to EGCN - Doncaster Sheffield's Rwy 20 or RAF Finningley that earlier hosted Vulcan Nuclear Bombers. The Strirling is nice to taxi, heavy, very heavy, but you are loaded with bombs. One quirk is that the Virtavia Striling has a tendency to change liveries for no reason, very odd... The droning sounds of the Bristol Hercules engines that have been nicely recreated here and it all comes with doppler fly-by sound effects, and they are deep and throaty and feel very WW2. They were recorded from the real Bristol Hercules engine sounds, and that is highlighted here. As a class, the large and heavy four-engined tail-wheeled bombers such as this Stirling, Handley Page Halifax, Avro Lancaster and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress could be a real handful on takeoff and landing, more so for the relatively young and inexperienced new pilots who formed the vast majority of the expanding Commonwealth and American air forces. Later heavy bomber designs such as the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and Boeing B-29 Superfortress used a nose-wheel (tricycle) configuration which was far more easier to control. The same is applicable here, put the power up and the Stirling will earlier track very nicely, but then start to pull progressively right, the small rudder does not have much effect either, so you have to work at the controls to stay straight, it can be done, but is quite hard to do. Notable was that in the real Stirling they learnt adjust the engine power (right throttles) to compensate for this effect, but unless you have a four-throttle system to find that power imbalance, then it is impossible to do with a twin-throttle setup... At around 95 Knots the Stirling will lift (Flaps 15º), and you then get more physical control... Climbout is around 1,000 ft/min, and recommended is the rate of climb of 800 ft/min but I found that around a 1,000 fpm is basically the best lifting speed without any loss of speed and still have some power in reserve. Watching the gear animations is well worth the time to clean up the aircraft, and to gain far more climbing speed. Odd though is the "Auto Controls" or sort of Autopilot. It only works in the vertical or pitch mode. You turn it on when in a level flight, then switch the "Spin" in, then engage the "Clutch". The pitch is determined by the handle in degrees of minus or positive... ... but the turning selection handle is mostly impossible to use? There needs to be an increment or mouse wheel setting to make it more accurate. The point is "Why", because the the pitch trim can and does the same job far easier? In the air the Stirling does look very good, but without the NML normal mapping and in the bright light, the shiny slab sides show easily the age of the modeling design, even feeling a decade old in simulation terms. But once trimmed out the Stirling is very nice to fly, as was the real aircraft. You could drone on like this or at night for hours, of which they did in the Second World War. The Maximum speed of the Stirling was 282 mph (454 km/h, 245 kn) at 12,500 ft (3,800 m), with cruise speed of 200 mph (320 km/h, 170 kn). Range was actually very good at 2,330 mi (3,750 km, 2,020 nmi), but the service ceiling was restricted to 16,500 ft (5,000 m). The Stirling's maximum bomb load could however be carried for only around 590 miles (950 km). On typical missions deep into Germany or Italy, a smaller 3,500-pound (1,600 kg) load was carried, consisting of seven 500-pound (230 kg) GP bombs; this payload was in the range of that which was already being carried by the RAF's medium bombers, such as the Vickers Wellington and by 1944, the de Havilland Mosquito. Perhaps the biggest weakness present in the design was that, although the bomb bay was large at 40 ft long (12 m), it had a pair of structural dividers that ran down the middle, limiting the bay to nothing larger than the 2,000-pound (910 kg) bomb. As the RAF started using the 4,000-pound (1,800 kg) "cookies" and even larger "specials", the Stirling became less useful. Lighting As this is a WW2 aircraft, and a night bomber, there is basically no real internal lighting to speak of. Panel illumination is via two overhead red spot lights, that can be turned on/off, but not the red glow from the lights... the only other lighting in the cockpit is a light over the compass which again you can switch on or off. The only other single switchable light is above the navigator's table, set down below you. Externally it is pretty basic as well, with two left wing landing lights and navigation lights, and that is it. You tend to curve the Stirling more than bank it tight, as you just feel your way around the turn, it handles very well though. Powering low over the ground at 2,000ft is exciting with the droning engines, a bombing run, not this time, but you can feel what it must have been like in those past dark days. Flap 15º reduces your speed to 105 knts, and there is a balloon as you drop them, 30º flap and your at 90 knts, but then dropping the gear creates even more drag, and your at 88 knts. But go below this or 45º "Down" and the Stirling tends to yaw, weave or swing, even at 30º flap you get this, but nothing as bad as the flap full down position... ... there isn't a lot of rudder authority to counteract the yawing, and it makes the approach a very, very skillful exercise... ... the Sterling is just not very happy at low approach speeds. But this is where the challenge kicks in, and getting that landing right becomes addictive. You need 80 knts to get it right, but I couldn't go under 85 knts-88 knts ish, if not you simply drop out of the air, which is another real life Sterling foible that has ruined many a flying career, known as a "dropped" landing, and it could cause serious structural damage. During its service life, it was not unknown for "dropped" landings to render Stirlings or other large four-engined bombers write-offs and suitable only for parts. But here is the other side of the problem, get the speed too fast and you then turn yourself into a "Dambusters" bomb, and then bounce your way right down the runway, or mostly off it? It is a horrible feeling with no control of the aircraft until it stops or winds itself out. Then once the tail drops the right yaw then kicks in again, so you have to quick to catch that as well. If you get all right then the Stirling will slow down quite easily, but I do recommend foot brakes to control the direction, and by slightly touching them in the way to stop the aircraft moving left or right off the centreline. Grass landing are very much easier, because they take out a lot of the initial landing bounce and create more drag to keep you in a straight line... landing on grass is actually pretty easy compared to hard surfaces... but you really have to feel for those novice pilots. As I mentioned the Stirling is highly addictive, get it wrong and it is very quickly; "Let's do that again, and try this, this time"... ______________ Summary The Short Stirling is a World War 2 era four-engined bomber that entered RAF service on the eve of WW2. It was originally the RAF's primary bomber but a few short falls in the design of restricting it's wingspan to 100ft relegated the aircraft into a secondary role behind the Avro Lancaster and the Handley Page Halifax. This aircraft comes from Virtavia, with a quite sporadic record in X-Plane. Originally cross-platformed from FlightSim by Dawson Designs, they have lately released revised their older aircraft back again into the X-Plane Simulator, with this Short Stirling and the Handley-Page Hampden as releases. There is a lot to like here though. The modeling is very, very good, and World War two feel comes though very strongly. Sounds are not totally top notch, but still recorded from a real Bristol Hercules engines and in that have been nicely recreated here and come with doppler fly-by sound effects. It is challenging in a realistic way to fly as the real aircraft was apparently a difficult beast until tamed by the pilot's skills. All bomb doors open and the bombs are active, but mostly the aircraft was used as a troop carrier or glider pulling aircraft. Three versions in the Mk.1, Mk. 3 and Mk.4 are all included, including the different details between the versions. No NML normal mapping (raised rivets and external detail) shows the age of the original design in the simulator, there is not a lot of textures either, but the detailed modeling does sort of covers a lot of these aspects. There are a few animations in, armrests, windows opening, bomb doors, but mostly there is very little in specialist features like no menus or static ground elements to add into the simulation, this all mostly just a focus on the flying. I was surprised the Short's Sterling was or is as good as it is, considering its dated simulation and FlightSim history, it is old and you can't ignore that fact. But I like the feel and challenge the aircraft represents, and I like to be surprised. In fact with just a bit more development, it could turn a simple basic simulation into a much more very, and more modern one, not just being an older aircraft updated, but already there has been four updates since the release, so it is certainly proceeding in the right direction. So do I like the Virtavia Short Sterling, well yes and actually more than I would really like to admit! _____________________ Yes! the Short Stirling Mk1-4 by Virtavia is NOW available from the X-Plane.Org Store here : Short Stirling Mk1-4 Price is US$25.95 Features Aircraft variants included : Stirling Mk.1 : W7451. 7 Squadron, RAF Oakington, Cambridgeshire, England, early 1941. Manufactured by Austin Motors, Longbridge, Birmingham. Stirling Mk.3 : EF411. 149 Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, late 1942. Manufactured by Short Bros., Rochester, Kent. Stirling Mk.4 : LK117 570 Squadron, RAF Harwell, Oxfordshire, England, 17 September 1944 Manufactured by Short & Harland, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Features : PBR materials/textures used throughout VR config file included, 3 cabin teleport hotspots FMOD sounds package with multi-stage engines, pilot's slide window muting, switch clicks and other unique cockpit sounds very detailed cockpit with numerous animations and mousable controls working Automatic Controls (VS hold only, limited to 235kts) working Lorentz Indicator (uses DME/NAV1 LOC) working Beam Approach Indicator (uses NAV1 LOC) crew ladder togglable crew figures 6 separate animated cockpit windows with unique sounds, animated bomb bay doors in both wings and fuselage togglable bombs animated cowl flaps authentic flight model with checklist 22-page illustrated User Operating Manual Requirements X-Plane 11 Windows, Mac or Linux 4 GB VRAM Minimum - 8 GB+ VRAM Recommended Download Size: 80 MB Current version: 3.0 (May 10th 2022) Installation Download of the Virtavia Short Stirling is 76.1Mb and it is installed in your Aircraft Folder as a 116 Mb folder. There is no Auto-updater by Skunkcrafts for updates, so currently you have to redownload any updates via the X-Plane.OrgStore. Documents Provided are two documents Included with the package. A 24 page Manual that covers the aircraft's layouts and systems, and a "Checklist" with Normal Procedures. A version changelog is also provided. Virtavia Stirling Checklist.txt Virtavia Stirling Pilot Operating Manual.pdf _____________________ Aircraft Review by Stephen Dutton 14th May 2022 Copyright©2022: X-Plane Reviews Review System Specifications:  Computer System: Windows -S1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU / 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8Gb - Samsung Evo M2 2TB SSD - Sound : Yamaha Speakers YST-M200SP Software: - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.55 Plugins: Global SFD plugin US$30.00 : Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : RK Apps XPRealistic v2 - US$34.99 Scenery or Aircraft - EGCN - Doncaster Sheffield by Fly X (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$17.99 (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) All Rights Reserved
  3. Aircraft Review : Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (S-61) by Virtavia and Dawson Design Route : RAF Valley (EGOV) to Caernarfon Airport (EGCK) to Liverpool John Lennon Airport (EGGP) to RAF Valley Introduction In the 1960's or 70's the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King was everywhere. You couldn't miss it. If it wasn't fighting in Vietnam it was pulling someone off the side of a mountain or out of the sea. Or more famously it plucked the returning moon astronauts out of the South Pacific or the aircraft flew the current American President around the country as "Marine One". In tactical roles it flew from ships to search out Cold War foes and was unbeatable in Anti-Submarine warfare (ASW). It was a major asset in the Falklands War, The first Gulf War and the Balkan war - and one Sea King had also the option of being outfitted to deploy the B57 nuclear bomb! It's main roles were more mundane however, ship to ship supply, SAR (Search and Rescue) and Coast Guard duties. But one thing was sure, It was a significant contribution to aviation. Ask anyone to name a helicopter, any helicopter and the answer will usually be either... "The Huey" or "The Sea King" The Sea King was a considerable advancement over previous helicopters because of its twin-turboshaft powerplant layout, which gave the gave the SH-3 a heavier payload capacity and a high level of reliability far in excess of previous anti-submarine helicopters. The S-61 is a Cold War creation as the Soviet Navy had elected to construct a large fleet of over 200 submarines, the US Navy then chose to counter this threat by investing in newer and increasingly capable ASW technologies and platforms. Sea Kings operating in the anti-submarine capacity typically had a four man crew; a pilot and copilot in the cockpit and two aircrew in the cabin area to operate and monitor the aircraft's detection equipment and to interpret the sensor data; the two rear aircrew were retained in other mission roles such as cargo transfer and rescue operations. The cabin can accommodate up to 22 survivors or nine stretchers in addition to two medical officers in a SAR capacity; up to 28 soldiers can be accommodated when operated as a troop transport. The The first prototype took flight for the first time in March 1959, and carrier suitability trials were conducted on board the USS Lake Champlain; the trials were completed successfully in mid-1961. Production deliveries of the HSS-2 (later designated SH-3A) to the US Navy began in September 1961, these initial production aircraft were each powered by a pair of General Electric T58 turboshaft engines. In late 1961 and early 1962, a modified U.S. Navy HSS-2 Sea King was used to break the FAI 3 km, 100 km, 500 km and 1000 km helicopter speed records. This series of flights culminated on 5 February 1962 with the HSS-2 setting an absolute helicopter speed record of 210.6 mph. This record was broken by a modified Sud Super Frelon helicopter on 23 July 1963 with a speed of 217.7 mph. Sikorsky also developed a variant of the Sea King for the civil market, designated Sikorsky S-61L. The first operator of the S-61L was Los Angeles Airways, who then introduced them to service on 11 March 1962. Another variant with a conventional hull, the Sikorsky S-61R, was also concurrently developed for transport and search and rescue (SAR) duties, and it was this type was that was extensively operated by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard. Considering the success of the S-61 program, Sikorsky stopped production of the aircraft in the 70's to focus on the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. But the Sea King story didn't slip away into history there. The British who saw a good aircraft when there was one, then licensed the design and redesigned the S-61 into the - Westland WS-61 Sea King. Westland by integrating a significant proportion of components from British suppliers, and with key changes include the use of a pair of Rolls-Royce Gnome turboshaft engines and the implementation of an automatic flight control system made it a formidable aircraft. And the Westland's Sea King despite outward appearances is a very different aircraft from the original Sikorsky design. The first Westland-built helicopter, Sea King HAS1 first flew on 7 May 1969 at Yeovil. This aircraft was produced 1969–1995 and 344 aircraft were built. WS-61 Sea King still remains in operation in Britain, as well as multiple export customers (some under license) to: Germany, Norway, Egypt and India. The aircraft has been highly successful in the Westland guises, it has performed in many different roles and with all branches of the British Services, notably with the Royal Navy and SAR. The Royal Navy also created a extensively modified variant called the "Westland Commando". The Commando (Sea King HC4) had capacity for up to 28 fully equipped troops and had originally been developed to meet an Egyptian Air Force requirement. It first flew on 26 September 1979, and has an operational range of up to 600 nautical miles without refuelling. Highly successful In British service, the Sea King HC4 was deployed on operations in the Falklands, the Balkans, both Gulf Wars, Sierra Leone, Lebanon and Afghanistan and 330 Sea Kings were built. Exports to the Indian Naval Air Arm, the German Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Royal Norwegian Air Force were also highly successful. (Specifications are for the Westland HAS 5) Maximum speed: 129 mph (112 knots, 208 km/h) (max cruise at sea level) : Range: 764 mi (664 nmi, 1,230 km) : Rate of climb: 2,020 ft/min (10.3 m/s) : Powerplant : 2 × Rolls-Royce Gnome H1400-2 turboshafts, 1,660 shp (1,238 kW) each. Dawson Design and Virtavia and Installation Virtavia produced the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (S-61) for the FSX/P3D market. But after the successful redesign of the Globemaster C-17 from Dawson Designs, the Sea King was chosen as the next conversion. There are many improvements for X-Plane over the FSX/P3D version that includes autopilot, hover control, working winch with winchman figure and rebuilt main and tail rotor heads, Higher graded textures, X-Plane 10 HDR lighting and the DreamEngine 3d Sound and many other new features. Installation is to unzip to your upload file (326.80mb) to your Aircraft/Helicopter folder (full size file 620.70mb). To note there are two different Aircraft versions in the Standard SH-3 and the Commando version. You can also map your joystick buttons for use in the "Hover" mode AFCC and activation (recommended). Included is a manual (24 Pages) and full checklist (3 Pages). First Impressions The Sea King is an iconic design, There are nine variations included in this series, the default version is the Royal Airforce HAR Mk3 in "Rescue Yellow". It is a five bladed design (Tail rotor is also five bladed) that was later upgraded to the "Carson" composite blades. First to note is the External Power (GPU) unit that is typical of what the RAF use. A switch on the OHP (Over Head Panel) or the menu selection will deploy the unit connected to the aircraft. Externally the Virtavia design work is excellent. With excellent textures (updated by DD) and excellent features of the winch (and belly hook) radar domes and other major external fittings. One highlight is the bubble windows that protrude from the rear aircraft fuselage that are excellent in their design and glass reflection, notable also is all the excellent cockpit glass with the green overhead panels. Many of the variants also have different equipment attached from Flir cameras to flares and low flying-aids. The main fuselage door opens via the menu (or key shift-F2) to reveal the winchman. Split left side is the crew hatch (door) that is also key switchable (shift-F1). Fuselage detail is enhanced by the excellent panel work (rivets) and detailing and aerials (including wire aerials). The Sea Kings wheel pontoons are expertly created with the (retractable) undercarriage, support legs and arms are perfect as are the wheels and tyres. In the variants (via the liveries) you can choose to have the huge FOD or Engine Advanced Protection System (EAPS) boxes in front of the engine intakes or not. Foreign Object Damage is icing, snow, dust, salt spray, sand, debris and hot gas ingestion (HGI) that can cause problems when flying at extreme low altitudes or in the hover mode. The main rotors and the tail rotors and their linkages are the heart of any helicopter design. These have been totally reworked for the (finicky) X-Plane users. Get this part wrong and you can say to your credentials goodbye. Dawson Design's is however one of the best in the business. and the rotor head construction is first class craftmanship... so fully detailed, and you can move your controls to see the perfect movement of all the links and pieces. Up the built in ladder and into the cabin and the S-61has and does give you a military machine feeling. I have been in a real S-61 many times and to a point the cabin shows its 1960's heritage. They are more basic in design than you come to expect today (The UH-60 is very basic as well with exposed wiring and pop-riveted panels. No composite in sight). The panel and OHP layout is exceptional and very functional (but again quite basic). All the detailing is first rate. The seats are metal piping with canvas packs and the pedestal is built up of metal paneling. Rearwards it is mixture of SAR and ASW in the fit-out. SAR in liferafts, canvas seating and a stretcher, brightly coloured oxygen and fire bottles and the ASW in a operators post (cubicle) and (boxy) equipment racks. You notice the lower texture quality in the rear and if your render setting are set low, then ASW post and equipment racks and the rear cabin matted walls are a little more fuzzy than the rest of the aircraft. Set in "too Much" in the render settings then it is not to bad. but the art and detail is quite basic but still authentic. There are no problems however where it really counts, which is the main aircraft panel, OHP and the pedestal. All instruments and gauges are crystal clear and highly detailed. Knobs and switch gear is perfect and only a very few are not operational. The main panel consists of the engine dials (centre), warning lights (caution panel), Nav-aids (very few), fire/DC test and the pilots instruments (Radar Altitude, Altitude, Speed, Artifical horizon, compass rose/course, RPM, climb in feet, clock and engine torque) the last dial (hover gauge) I'll come back to later. The pedestal is dominated by a huge green radar screen that has been converted to the standard Xplane map function. It is very realistic and the screen controls are set out below. Radios are very basic in VOR 1, ADF and COMMS1. Having the VOR 1 is a bit of a non-event in a non-ILS equipped aircraft. At least with VOR 2 you can use it for navigation, and to a point you still can as you can set the higher frequencies into the radio set and you do at least get a distance to the VOR. But you would think an SAR aircraft would be better equipped. and the ADF will give a direction to a nav-aid. The other notable panel on the pedestal is the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) that can hover the aircraft at a set height and give you a flight pattern into and out of the "Hover mode", We will demonstrate this feature later. Centre of the main panel is the Fuel gauges that are easily set with a pop-out fuel panel. Just use the slider to quickly set the correct fuel load.... nothing can be easier. Twin sets of gauges show the engines RPM (percent), Exh (Exhaust) temp, Oil pressure (psi), Oil Temp, Transmission (gearbox) pressure/temp and Hydaulic pressure. So the aircraft is not complex to use and to operate, of which would be a surprise in that you would really expect the opposite in such a large machine... Take starting the engines for example. All the main engine and lighting controls are set out on the OHP (Over Head Panel). The manual is good at noting the switch gear and dials, but there is no start up instructions. Print out the checklist a that is all you really need. most of the checklist is testing lights and functions of the aircraft. To start you first need the EXT power (red ring centre) or the APU running (Pedestal). You can use either system. Then switch on the "Master" and then the "Battery". Nothing really works until the "Battery" switch is thrown, then you can set the panel lighting via four knobs (excellent). Set the two Ignition switches to on (purple circle) and the two "Firewall fuel Valve" switches (on main centre panel) to on. Start the beacon, anti-collision lights and the POS (nav) lights, pull off the Rotor brake (side/green arrow) and if you and the crew are all ready then start Eng 1 by pulling the main throttle/cutoff lever to GND idle (first position). With that last action the turbine above you stirs and the whine and start-up procedure gets into action mode. The dials come to life and then start Eng 2 by just pulling down the second lever to the GND idle position. Soon the gauges will show you your torque, temps....... Click the switch to hide the GPU and switch on the generators (1&2) and your ready for flight. At this point you will need some paracetamol, The noise is deafing inside (but far quieter outside?) and we are still sitting at idle. This is a good point to use the "Menu" system. The "menu" is situated on the main panel by the pilots instruments. It is a similar circular concept of what is in the AS350. You can select Liveries, views (inside and outside), Stability (It is set at 50%), (Sound) volume, FOV (zoom) and extras that can open the main/cockpit doors and switch on/off the outside GPU. (The action to swivel the large ASAC Radome should be here as well, but it isn't?) Flying The Sea King S-61 Pull both throttle levers right down to the bottom and 100% of power and wait while the engines scream louder and settle. Like starting the Sea King. Flying it is just as easy! The side thrust from the rear rotor is not very strong at all and with a pull of the collective and a slight rudder correction and you are very easily airborne. Pulling away with more collective grip the Sea King will easily move to a direct flight angle. low and fast is the best way to fly helicopters and the Sea King certainly does not disappoint. For the purists they wouldn't like the Sea King. They like nervy, edgy machines and that is nothing like the S-61. It may be its weight factor and you can in the menu adjust the feeling to a more harder flying machine. But overall it is almost too easy to fly at the 50% setting. Don't get me wrong in that for the rest of us the Sea King is an open door to helicopter flying in all its forms. Anyone can really fly this helicopter and get so much in return in flying it around the area. I still recommend a good joystick and more importantly a throttle system set in reverse on the "Collective" setting to control the machine well. My route from RAF Valley was to collect a injured person from EGCK (Caernarfon) which is only a very short ride over Anglesea. North Wales. Then fly him to Liverpool Airport (EGGP) just up the coast. 2000ft is enough to enjoy the scenery without running into it. The Sea King is very quickly up to a cruise speed of 130knts and the scenery is flashing quickly under me, reducing speed and landing is an art form, the hardest is the transition from forward flight to the hover mode or vice versa (called translational lift), the hardest of all is just stopping the aircraft from going forward... rule No.1 - The brakes don't work 50ft up off the ground!.... It is an art to get the process right. But the Sea King is very kind to you in all these areas. It will easily run off speed with a lift of the nose, and an easy balance between the collective and the cyclic (the stick between your legs) will easily help you put the aircraft down right (in my case in the centre of the runway) of were you want to land. The rules of flying helicopters still applies, so if you are totally inept then you will still crash. But the Sea King is far kinder than most I have flown. As a learning tool it is exceptionally very good. But most of all it is good just to fly without all the sweat and tears that can accommodate most flying in this genre. It is just good genuine fun of an aircraft to fly. Leaving EGCK I head north to EGGP, 2000ft is again my choice, It is very noisy and after a while even tiring over a distance. There are no pilot-aids, Your only aid is to find a comfortable grip on the cyclic/joystick and try to keep the aircraft as smooth as possible, and that is far harder than it looks. For ten minutes or so you are fine and then you are then slowly drifting up or down as your arm or wrist tires. You become obsessed with the rate of "Climb/Descend" (arrowed) instrument to keep the aircraft level. it is easy to do, but you keep tiring yourself out over a period of time. There are Pitch/Roll/Yaw Stability switches on the pilots side panel that helps. Landing was a breeze of coming into the hover and a slight move to the right to land on a blocked off taxiway. Departure back to RAF Valley was just before dawn the next morning, You have a main cabin light on the rear bulkhead to bathe the cabin with a bright light, that is perfect solution for setting the aircraft up in the early light. In the dark the instruments show the great lighting and detail of the pedestal and the switches by the pilots right armrest have the cargo switch, audio switches and stability switches. The bulkhead light can be switched to red as well. This bathes the cockpit in a red glow for night flying, both lighting modes look excellent. There is a main cabin light. but I couldn't find any lighting for the rear cabin? Above the main panel are two spot lights that can switched on to illuminate the centre of the panel (one light really) The external lighting is very flexible. Standard Nav (pos) lights,Beacon and Anti-collision on the tail and under the hull. On the collective are two switches for three lighting functions 1) "Master-On /Retract-Off" will give you two main landing beams. 2) "Hover LT" will give you a single large light aimed downwards, "Flood LT" gives you a barrage of downward lights (one under the aircraft, one on each pontoon (2) with a third in the rear of the right pontoon. The Pos and Beacon lights are average with just really the colour of the light. In the daylight they can't really be seen at all. Departure was in the first light and you were soon cruising along at 140knts and again at 2000ft. first again I followed the coast south and then cut straight across Anglesea. It was a long way back - but you were guided by the line of the beacons of EGOQ (Mona) and behind RAF Valley. I was not going to be on the ground very long. There was another job on the board and it was to deliver a cargo pallet to Caernarfon Airport (EGCK). Cargo Hook You can attach a cargo pallet to the hook under the aircraft (switch is on the Pilots side panel). First go to the "Weight, Balance & Fuel" menu (aircraft) and you will see a new menu section. Here you can load a "cargo.obj" that is located in the main Sea King folder files under "Cargo Crate"... load the object and set the weight you want with the slider. "Slung load size is the length of the cable? but I am not sure about that. Putting a large weight (max 8000lbs) under the helicopter will mean you skills in flying is about to get a whole lot harder, You have to lift it cleanly straight up or you will drag the load across the ground, or worse when it breaks free of the drag it will swing you violently from side to side or even pull you back down into the tarmac. Which is very expensive for the UK MOD. Even when flying nicely in straight line you have to be careful in that you don't allow the load to swing or gain momentum under you. If you do your ship will rock badly as well in the same direction. The more weight you select for the load means more care with the extra pull of gravity. But it is a whole lot of fun, coming in to place the load is getting the approach right and touching it softly on the surface. You can cut the cable via assigning a joystick button or key in "flightcontrols/jettison_payload". (only sad thing is the pallet disappears from view because Laminar Research has a bug in that the pallet or any load won't stay on the sim surface... annoying) With the slung load gone we can see how the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) works. The idea is to help you hover the aircraft in an automatic mode. It also allows the winchman in the rear to take control of the aircraft to position it in various directions to use the hoist. AFCS The system is located on the rear of the pedestal. You can set the hover height (50ft) and the "Exit" speed (60knts). The "STAB" button activates the system. TRANS Down will take control of the aircraft and transition you down to the 50ft setting were it will hover there for you. It take a little getting use to and the aircraft shakes out of your control as it does the transition. You can help the system by positioning the aircraft where you want it and then pressing the button. If you want to go lower or higher then just change the height setting and you will go down or up very slowly (great fun). In the rear by the door (use the views in the menu to get there quickly) is a control joystick which is activated by the "Aux Hover Trim", and you can move it in four directions to position the aircraft. You can also switch the system back to the cockpit (Aux Hover Trim Off) so the pilot can regain control. Pressing TRANS Up will make the machine transition up to the "Exit" set speed 60knts) out of the hover mode. to get control back for the pilot then just press the "STAB" button again. But a bit of a warning on repressing the "STAB" button again. It comes out of the system with a thunk, and it takes a bit of practise to get a smooth line of control back with the collective and the cyclic. Hover Gauge Another tool you can use to control the hover is the "Hover" Gauge. This is a cross-hair tool to create and keep a standing hover. and it has 3 modes (A,C and D) A mode monitors the ASE coupler and displays the milliampere input to the pitch, roll, yaw and altitude (but doesn't work here), C mode is off. D mode connects the hover indicator to the Doppler and you can use the horizontal and vertical bars to align your hover speed to zero. It is best used with the Radar Altimeter (left). But be careful as you align your hover as at that point you also lose lift. More collective for lift will then move the aircraft off your perfect cross-hair... practise makes perfect and you soon learn how to hover easily. The hover gauge is then a great tool to learn how to do this, and those skills can then be translated to other types of machines. Liveries... The amount of liveries 17 and 9 different variants is mind boggling... The Default is the HAR_Mk3 with the FOD box You have so many (to note) different attachments which include different radar domes and retracted refueling probes. The famous "Marine One" livery is missing from the package (In fact sadly there is no passenger civil version S-61L/N or Coast Guard either) but there is a (rough) Marine One version by PetJedi on the .org. Westland Commando The second aircraft in the package is the converted Royal Navy assault and utility Westland Sea King - Westland Commando. The pontoons are gone and have been replaced by outriggers to support the landing gear and various lighting and infrared devices. Inside it is a troop transport layout for 28 troops. As noted this version was a highly effective machine. There are three liveries. "Default" Royal Navy, Royal Navy IFOR and AREAF (Eygpt) Conclusions To sum up the Virtavia and Dawson Design Sea King in one word is easy, as it is "Accessible". The accessibility to easily get through the startup from cold to flight is not going to keep you in bed for hours reading manuals, a quick run through the checklist and your ready for flight. That is not to say the Sea King is not authentic because it is, and very good it is too. But the aircraft itself is not very deep. Secondly from the moment you first take off you realise that this aircraft is going to give you a lot excellent flying without all the worry of mastering a delicate helicopters (nervy) control needs. All helicopters are still basically unbalanced, but here you can at least enjoy the machines with out to much of the heartbreak that goes with them. In fact the Sea King is down right enjoyable to manoeuvre and fly (except for over very long distances with tiring wrist wearyness with no pilot aids). The combination of Virtavia's FSX/P3D design and quality and the extensive reworking and added features for Xplane is a total win-win situation for us, and the aircraft is very good and that huge selection of liveries are excellent in design and quality. (on small thing to note is if you have an Xplane shutdown issue it is the Dreamworks sound engine, so update to the new version 0220 to rectify that (don't forget to install the plugin in both aircraft versions). Sounds are excellent with blade slapping, torque noise and 3D positioning but I did find the external doppler effect good and then to drop away a little too quiet as you move around the aircraft, inside it is just plainly noisy and hair tingling good. There is the feature of the Ge-Force plugin simulates the characteristics of human head behaviour as your brain instinctively usually stabilises your head (eye) movements. here the plugin flattens that feeling out and gives you a natural feeling of flying the aircraft. Channel your inner English Royal family and join in their careers moments with the Sea King, Prince Andrew flew Sea Kings in the Falklands War and the current third in line Prince William flew Sea Kings out of RAF Valley on SAR missions (both were very good too). No real faults except with the slightly average textures in the rear, but a few wishes. Rain effects would be great feature on the Sea King as you try to find that ship or oil rig in a storm, A passenger version would be also great for island hopping, and a Coast Guard version for those who love to guard coasts. In real life the Sea King was a formidable aircraft, and its final service life was very long. For us we can with this V/DD aircraft find out why and enjoy this aircraft for its shear versatility and features. Every simmer dreams about flying certain aircraft. And to fly the Sea King was a childhood dream come to life. The most important thing is the Virtavia and Dawson Design Sea King didn't ruin a great aircraft but enhanced it beyond measure, Could that slip in a little bias in a review?. not in this case as it is so very good and a great investment in pleasure and flying... It is also excellent place to start to learn to fly rotary aircraft because of its stability and hover tools. Overall the Sea King SH3 an excellent aircraft. Yes! the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (S-61) by Virtavia and Dawson Design is now Available from the X-Plane.OrgShop : Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King Price is US$35.00 Developers Sites : Virtavia - Dawson Design Support forum: Sea King Support Review By Stephen Dutton 7th December 2013 ©copyright 2013 : Stephen Dutton Technical Requirements: Windows XP , Vista, 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bits) or MAC OS 10.3.9 (or higher) or Linux X-Plane 10.20+. 32 or 64 bit. (X-Plane 9 is not supported) 4GB RAM- 512Mb + VRAM Recommended. (no framerate issues) Current version: 1.0 (last updated November 13th 2013) Updated store# Review System Specifications: Computer System: - 2.66 Ghz Intel Core i5 iMac 27” - 6 Gb 1067 Mhz DDR3 - ATI Radeon HD 4850 512mb Software: - Mac OS Mavericks 10.9 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.22 (final) Addons - Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle Scenery - EGOV - Valley : rcmarple .org - EGCK - Caernarfon Airport v1.1 : supersport .org - EGGP - Liverpool (John Lennon) : xplaneuser .org (there are a few Liverpool city sceneries also well worth downloading on the .org)
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