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Aircraft Update : Flightfactor A320-214 Ultimate v1.5.6 gets a serious update! As developers progress, you can get ton's of updates, some even silly, in them mostly just being a tweak or only a change here and there. Problem is with so many coming out that are not really absolutely essential, you can easily miss the big important ones... dream for the days of quarterly or six monthly updates. That is not to say frequent updates are not good, any update is a nice to have, but packaging them together better saves you a lot of work on your behalf. It is noted that the XP11 model here has been updated more than 200 times... overkill. Which brings us to the Flightfactor A320 Ultimate. It is an aircraft that divides users. Personally I'm very much on the "very like" side of the argument, mainly because I like the Airbus Philosophy, and the Flightfactor A320U has the prominence of being the only CEO or "Current Engine Option" aircraft available to X-Plane 12 users, a NEO or "New Engine Option A320 is coming soon from ToLiSS, but not the older engine versions. Over the years the progress on changes (despite) the constant upgrades, never really fixed the things users wanted from the aircraft, then an almost lost or ignored update comes along and it is full of the things we have asked for, for years... just don't shout about it. In the Flightfactor philosophy of making things complex, this is the "FF A320 XP12 Extended Upgrade beta". Or a US$20 addon (Upgrade?) to use the X-Plane 11 Airbus A320 Ultimate in X-Plane 12, note the "Beta" moniker, as this v1.5.6 update is only available in the "Beta" settings. Since X-Plane 12's release there has also been some significant changes to the aircraft starting with v1.5.0 or Extended Upgrade, including... * A package with two acfs one for xp11 and one for xp12, so you can run it both in XP11 and in XP12 * full support and updates at least for the duration of xp12 run * new cockpit and reworked exterior * abnormals (list will follow) to the standard of pilot training. For v1.5.0 you got a new 3D-cockpit model, Alternate Law implementation, updated Normal Law elevator controls, added inoperative systems according to FCOM when failure occurs, added drag effects from opened gear doors, autopilot yaw damper for single engine failure and an added tab for instant failure activation. So here is now the new beta v1.5.6 X-Plane 12 can do wonderous things to aircraft. But some are affected better than others in the transition. The FF A320U is one of the really better ones, certainly in it's Silver coated JQ (Jetstar) livery. A hard one to get right, as most painters do it in a flat light grey, not the shiny metal look. But here the aircraft stands out, highly real, even stunning in the late light. However there is a slight problem with the default livery on the FF A320U. Since v1.5.0 (X-Plane 12) Flightfactor have used their own new house livery, very nice and spirally it all is... but it is also set as the default livery, that problem comes to light in if any livery uses the default engines as a base, like the JQ Airbus does? No, I don't think that matches very well, it is even quite ugly... so you have to change the default livery (eng320t.png) to a more benign generic engine design in the "objects" folder to fix it. Sharklets First gripe that Flightfactor have finally fixed is a sore one with users... the hint is in the images above? Winglets or Sharklets in Airbus terminology, so they don't get sued again by Aviation Partners (it is a long drawn out story). The FF A320U has to date only the smaller arrow style winglets... ... but now you have the towering sharklets. Detail and design here are both excellent, the sharklet curve and shape is beautiful to behold. Sharklet selection is via the EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) in the "Settings" tab. Annoyingly the same default livery problem strikes again? I had to paint the JQ sharklets myself to make them realistic (or match). So if you want a generic design, again you have to swap a paint file (Sharklets.png or .dds) to the "objects" folder. It is well worth the effort. In both instances (engines and sharklets) the American livery is a good source. Cabin Upgrade Second major gripe was the cabin. The original cabin felt it was never really finished, a sort of half-hearted affair, and FlightFactor have promised for years to fix it, also it was not really a reflection of an aircraft of this price category. But now you have a new cabin fitout... there are two classes in, Business (four across), and Economy (six across) in a blue cloth material. It is not overly adventurous in design, but light years better than the original layout. Business gets seatback monitors, and Economy get those magazine pockets we are all very familiar with. It will be interesting to see some airline brand interiors in here. Side cabin panels and window surrounds are also remodeled, again far better than the originals, but still not as good as the JARDesign cabin with double windows and those air-holes, ditto the roof panels, basic, but far better... and that pretty well sums it up. The cabin lighting is changed as well. Control of the lighting is via the EFB, on the FAP tab (note the FAP only works if the power is on). Oddly FlightFactor haven't installed the same panel on the forward left entrance bulkhead, where it is also installed on the real aircraft? The lighting is based on the latest liTeMood® system, it looks the part, but not exactly the way it is done in the new cabins, but using here only spot colour... You also have three brightness settings; BRT, DIM 1 & DIM 2... Problem is? you can't actually use it... switching the lighting on, just completely absolutely destroys your framerate, or a 50fr drop to a border line 18fr, 18fr, seriously? Simbrief Intergration Last year ToLiSS introduced a great time saving feature. This was to load directly into the Multi-function Control Display Unit (MCDU) a generated "Simbrief" route profile. Here now in the A320U FlightFactor MCDU, you can do the same... First you have to tell the EFB your Simbrief account. This is done on the SimBrief Account Settings/Simbrief Data page. Your looking for your Pilot ID... Second row down. Then type in your Pilot ID number into the EFB/SETTINGS "INIT REQUEST" Section, then press "Apply". Annoyingly it will throw up a "Warning!", "Without an installed user and password, external connections will not be available", it looks like it is related to the Simbrief account, but it isn't, but the "Server Settings" above for external user use. Skip Procedures setting is really a non-setting, as is the AUTOCOMPLETE ROUTE settings. Unlike the ToLiSS input from Simbrief, here it only imports certain data, route, weights and fuel... Procedures (Departure and Arrival Data), and a few more areas are not implemented, so you have to still set those still manually via the EFB (as noted below). Create your route (Flight), and generate the (SimBrief) Flightplan. Then you import it by pressing the RK2 Button "INIT REQUEST"... ... and there there the Simbrief data is now in the MCDU. As noted the "Procedures" are not filled in, neither correctly is the Flight Number? You also still have to "SET" or activate, FUEL, PAX (Passengers) and CARGO on the EFB... also the PERF DATA! Doing these settings will then fill in the fuel, weight and payloads onto the aircraft. All the Simbrief data here ARE imported for you, basically you are just Okaying or Setting the imported parameters. When the EFB settings are completed, the INIT FUEL PREDICTION will now be filled in... ... but you still have to fill in the TAKE OFF Performance page with the important Flaps/Trim settings from the PERF DATA tab on the EFB. Fill in your Departure and Arrival Procedures... and your done. So the Simbrief import is not an import and forget tool, there is a lot more still to cover and work through (Procedures, Performance, Payloads etc) as well, but the numbers are done, and so overall it is a Semi-loading rather than a full import setting, that said it saves you a lot of time in setting up the aircraft for flight, and you should be able to cover the setting up in minutes rather than the usual twenty, and you do get the same data that has been generated by SimBrief. Obviously you need a SimBrief account, and if possible it is worth investing in with the full Navigraph account to keep the aircraft's nav data up to date.. FlightFactor note that with the above new feature, there has been a "significant improvement of Flightplan calculation performance". Other notes for v1.5.6 include; Icing effects and working Anti-ice system, basically all the X-Plane 12 effects are now on the aircraft. Dual input and sidestick priority logic are also implemented. Fixed also in the v1.5.6 update is mostly again MCDU input issues, like incorrect prebuilt holdings patterns, Go-Around procedure issues, Overspeed protection, incorrect prebuilt hold entries, go-around procedure activation and duplicate markers on the flight path when close to the MAP. In other words a fine tuning of MCDU settings and routines. YBCG (Gold Coast) to YMML (Melbourne) In most cases, you have to put the instrument lighting UP, but in here, you have to tune the instrument lighting DOWN. An odd affair, because if you don't the wording or the text is all very blobby and hard to read? Overall the internal cockpit is quite dark and needs another X-Plane 12 revision. Here is the instrument lighting before adjustment... .... and after. Departure to Melbourne is via RWY 32 (SID APAGI5) STIMP, MICKS... Although I have flown this route (what feels like a million times) in simulation and in the real cabin. This is still a first time flight with X-Plane 12... on the climb, the JQ A320U looks very impressive... X-Plane 12 Impressive! The new sharklets look quite brilliant as well, from the cabin or externally. The office, very Airbus and the FlightFactor A320U has a lot of depth in systems and... toys. Again like ToLiSS there is a very good "Save" system , or "States". It will save a perfect representation of the aircraft, and recover that representation exactly like the save. Not easy to do, as there is usually something not put back as it was before. But I have tested a few Saves and they do all work (or worked) perfectly, a restore also works fine as well if you have a crash or freeze. Melbourne (YMML), and final approach RWY 16 (STAR ARBEY 6A/APP ILS Y 16)... ... note you do get Duel Flight Directors (CAT 3) AP1&AP2, nice to have, even for an Airbus. Autoland makes life easy. Cabin views are excellent, with great internal wing detail... On landing and activating the thrust reversers throws up a lot of runway dirt, maybe they should clean the runways more often, but highly realistic externally or from the cockpit. A gripe complained about on-line is the current Manipulator active zones are not where they should be, you have to hunt around to activate knobs or buttons, the Chrono (select) or Master Main and Warnings zone are miles away (arrowed above) from the buttons, switching some switches will activate others? A fix is coming. Turnaround and I am already loading my Simbrief route back to OOL (Glod Coast), quick and easy! _______________ Summary Joshua Moore did an overview review of the FlightFactor A320-214 Ultimate when it was released as an "Extended Beta in September 2022, including it's upgrade (US$20) to X-Plane 12. This is a followup review because in this update there are a load of new features (That in reality should have been part of the earlier upgrade)... but they are important ones. They are important because they are features users have wanted (or complained about) for years, and very good they are. First are Sharklets (Boeing Winglets), here tall and tapered. Second is a completely newly designed cabin and third is SImBrief MCDU intergration. X-Plane 12 Icing effects and a working Anti-ice system, and Dual input and sidestick priority logic is also now implemented. Quality of the Sharkets are excellent, the cabin is very good as well, but not absolutely top notch required in this price range, but a major step up from the half-completed original. Cabin lighting uses the liTeMood® system, but currently has a very heavy framerate drain on using it, makes it still a dark cabin. SimBrief intergration is very good and easy to use, but does not cover every data aspect required for flight, as data inputs from the EFB and Departure and Arrival Procedures are still required, and the Take Off data also needs to be filled in. Yes there a few quirks outstanding in the FlightFactor A320U, but it is also a very comprehensive simulation of the most popular Airbus in the world. If you like to use the Airbus philosophy (Law logic), then this aircraft is for you. The FlightFactor A320-214 Ulitmate comes very highly recommended, and both X-Plane 11 and X-Plane 12 versions are included in the package. _______________ The A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta is now available from the X-Plane.Org Store here: A320 Ultimate XP12 Extended beta Price at time of writing US$89.95 Requirements X-Plane 11 or X-Plane 12 OS: Windows (64 bit) or Mac 10.14 (or higher) Processor (x86-64 Intel or AMD): 4-cores Intel Core I5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 2500X, Apple M1 and M2 not supported Video Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 580 with 4 GB VRAM (8 GB recomended) RAM: 8 GB (16 GB highly recommended) Disk Space: 2 GB Last version: 1.5.6beta (18.05.2022) Download via X-Updater only. Review System Specifications Windows - 12th Gen IS1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU - 64bit -32 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - PNY GeForce RTX 3080 10GB XLR8 - Samsung 970 EVO+ 2TB SSD __________________________________ Update Review by Stephen Dutton 25th 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.