Aircraft add-on for Microsoft FS9/FSX

I came in a little too fast and in a valiant attempt not to run out of runway, I cut the engine and was accompanied off the end by a baggage trolley floating in midair.

The period of time between World Wars I and II is often referred to as the "Golden Age" of aviation. It was certainly one of the fastest periods of development, with the movement from fabric and wood constructed aircraft, powered by unreliable, inefficient, engines through to the all-metal aircraft that operated throughout World War 2, capable of intercontinental travel with not insignificant payloads.

In the world of Microsoft Flight Simulator, it's a rarely touched era. There are certainly packages available and have been for many years. FS9 itself includes a number of 1920s and 30s vintage aircraft, for example, but it is still a far from crowded sky that fills the areas of the world converted to the era by "Golden Wings".

The latest package released by William Ortis of Lionheart Creations fills another bit of those empty skies, however, with a package that I suspect very few people will have heard of although, in reality, it ought to be better known than it is.

The Junkers W-33 and W-34 are single engine, all metal, monoplanes that in fact served right up until the mid 1940s in various guises and roles. Apart from a number of engine changes, the designs remained very similar throughout their service life and, in the W-34, at least, the genesis of the next generation can already be seen: mentally add another two engines, one on either wing, and you are looking at a Ju52/53 "Tante Ju".

The Lionheart add-on is native to FS9, but comes with installers for both its native sim and the newer FSX and comes in a variety of liveries and models from around the world.

Installation

The version of the Junkers that I am using for this review came from a Flight1 wrapper, although the add-on is also available via PayPal for those who prefer.

Either way you purchase, the installer itself is a 230Mb executable file of the type that is used by almost everyone these days. After the information page that provides some useful details and key details used by the models, it offers you the choice of sim to install to, using a couple of radio buttons. After that, everything is automated and at the end, you are presented with the HTML manual for the package. There are no additions made by the installer to your start menu, so the manual needs to be accessed directly from your FS9/X folder, but the package can be uninstalled from the Control Panel Add or Remove Programs window.

Documentation

As mentioned in the previous section, the manual provided for the Junkers is a not inconsiderable sized HTML version, presented as a series of pages with brass rivets at one side and all the pictures done with an aged "sepia" effect, as befits the age of the aircraft.

In addition to being well presented, the manual contains a lot of information in its 21 pages. Because of the multiple variants included in the package, there are, for example, two sets of panel clickspots and three sets of take-off/landing advice included. The aircraft isn't that complex, but that doesn't mean to say that a bit of reading would go amiss. Especially when you realise that you're no longer flying in feet and knots indicated, but in metric numbers. So. What is 75KIAS in kmh, class? ;)

The only possible thing missing from the aircraft documentation wise is that nothing is added to the checklists or reference tabs on the FS kneeboard. Even given the simplicity of these early aircraft, you do sometimes forget exactly what key does what but don't really want to go outside the sim to the manual to look it up. Perhaps that's something to look into for the future?

Exterior

There are a considerable number of models provided with the Junkers W-33/W-34 package, along with a number of liveries for them. Each of the two aircraft sets has variants on wheels, floats and skis, plus cargo versions. The liveries cover a variety of operators and nationalities from a Canadian bush operator through to liveries depicting World War II Luftwaffe aircraft in both North African yellow/brown and the more common two-tone green. Either because of the developer's beliefs or because of the legal position in Germany, the Luftwaffe schemes have a black diagonal cross on a yellow background, similar to that of aircraft fighting on the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War rather than the historically accurate insignia. It's a good compromise that doesn't look out of place and represents the era without the problems that using the "correct" logo can cause.

The liveries themselves are hand drawn, not photorealistic, but this isn't an issue regarding either quality or detail level. The corrugated skin that this W-33 and 34 share with the later Ju52/53 series is represented well, although it can appear to shimmer/ merge with itself occasionally which unfortunately is a limitation of computer graphics rather than the skins. The bitmaps themselves vary in size between 256x256 for smaller details through to 1024x1024 for larger areas. A word of warning here for rivet counters - set aside a few days, there are a heck of a lot of them here!

The model itself is very representative of every photo I have seen of the real aircraft. Although unfortunately no museum I have visited has had an example and I haven't been able to find good photos of every model that is included here, I think it's fair to say that any discrepancies will be minor at worst.

There are a number of opening doors and animations provided, for instance in addition to the expected main side door (with a ladder that "unloads itself" while the door opens), the internal cockpit access door and both pilots' side windows are on door commands and the top canopies above the pilots' heads are on the tailhook key combination. The spoked wheels on the "Bremen" look excellent and the exhausts on the W-33s vibrate when it is running. Shutting down the engine places a loaded baggage cart alongside the passenger door and removes the pilots, while one final example I'll give is that pressing the spoiler key loads two passengers to the rear of the appropriate models. These two spend a lot of time totally ignoring each other and looking out their respective windows. A closer look at the male model proves that he does indeed look a little familiar (if a little green! That's a known bug) and even without the usual hat parked on top, this possibly explains the avoidance from his female co-passenger...

All in all, the models are very nice indeed all round, with a lot of little touches and features that can be discovered by the user.

Interior

Inside the aircraft is a very similar experience to outside. Again there are a large number of hand-drawn textures with suitable weathering and shading. Not everything in the virtual cockpit is clickable or animated, but large parts of it are and the aircraft - in FS9 at least - can be flown entirely from here without the need for opening 2d windows except for some specific and slightly less than realistic components that I will come to shortly. A vintage radio and wall mounted clock add to the ambience in the passenger cabin of approproate models and, as mentioned in the previous section, use of the spoiler key will load passengers and baggage to the rear.

Coming back to the business end again, the two different models have significant differences in the panel layout, with the more modern W-34 having a considerable number more gauges than the earlier W-33, including an attitude indicator. In both instances, however, the panels are clearly laid out. Tooltips are provided, which is very useful, although you'll probably still need to refer to the pop-up imperial/US to metric conversion table until you get used to the aircraft. Also, if you find the need to, a clickspot is provided to remove the yokes from the VC. As they collide with the switches of the electrical panel at certain angles, I took to doing this as soon as I loaded the aircraft.

Switching to the 2d panel, navigation is achieving using a small panel displayed at the top left of the screen. Clicking on the appropriate bit of text opens a number of sub-panels ("Met" is that metric conversion table you were looking for...), covering electrics, radios, fuel, etcetera and two less than historically accurate ones that none the less you might find useful - "Au-Pi" opens the "Braun Berlin Automatischer Pilot System" or autopilot and "GPS", as you might guess, the Braun Berlin global positioning system display. In either case, have a German dictionary handy, or be prepared to wait for a tooltip to appear until you are used to what buttons do what!

Unfortunately some of the VC clickspots, for instance the electrical block, didn't work for me in FSX SP2. Why this would be the case I don't know and Bill Ortis hasn't got back to me with an answer on it yet. Given that all the functions there have keyboard shortcuts, though, and the 2d panel version works fine, this isn't a major issue. More to the point, there are none of the issues with texturing that make many FS9-ported models unusable with this one.

Flying

The Junkers W-33 and W-34 are at that sort of inbetween period of development where you have to actually have more than a piece of string as instrumentation to fly, but airmanship is still more important than systems management. You don't have a variable pitch prop or flaps, for instance, but do have brakes.

Given that, the models are, as expected, very easy to just fly around. The view over the nose when starting the takeoff run can be a challenge, as the nose is quite big, but after a very short period of time the stall warning blips at you and a little forward pressure on the stick lifts the tail. Not long afterwards, the huge wings have enough lift to carry the entire airframe skywards. In terms of numbers, there's only really one to remember - 60KIAS or 115kph. That's the speed you'll lift off at roughly and the speed you need to stay above on final. Stall is actually between 45-50KIAS and as sedate as you'd expect from a grand old lady. The nose drops. That's it. Push the controls forwards, apply power and she recovers with no drama whatsoever.

In fact sedate is probably the best way to describe this aircraft. It cruises at a little over 100KIAS (200-250kph), requires a lot of rudder to turn very slowly courtesy of those great barn doors sticking out either side and needs a lot of time to speed up and slow down. This can cause a degree of consternation when getting set up for an approach, especially in mountainous terrain, as the Junkers have no flaps to assist you when slowing or provide extra lift on final. How's this for an approach checklist?

"Altimeter: Set."
"Landing Light: On."
"Approach checklist complete, sir!"

I wouldn't say this is a beginner's aircraft, especially not the ski variant which is very loathed to slow and stop. On one memorable early test flight in FSX, I came in a little too fast and in a valiant attempt not to run out of runway because the tail wouldn't even come down, let alone the airspeed, I cut the engine and was accompanied off the end by a baggage trolley floating in midair. Whoops. I had to restart the engine to taxi back to McMurdo Station proper. I Learned About Flying From That!

Anyway, while it may not be an absolute beginner's aircraft, it is a good one to practice in. Fairly forgiving, but you have to be a bit careful, especially in that final phase of flight

Conclusion

Every new release from Lionheart Creations is greeted with a degree of enthusiasm on a number of forums and this one was no exception. Bill Ortis builds models because he wants to, so the collection of aircraft available under the Lionheart label is eclectic, to say the least. When they are released, however, you know that what you are getting is a model that someone has put time and effort into because they care about it, rather than it being the next one off the production line, and this shows through in the end result.

The Junkers package, particularly, might possibly be a bit of an acquired taste. It won't suit everyone at first glance, but I'd seriously suggest you go and take a look at it anyway. It can be used to give "systems" pilots a reminder of how aviation was before the days of the FMC and GPS. It can give bush pilots a new challenge; how tight a strip can you get that skiplane into without vanishing into the trees? For the rest of the FS community, well, it's definately different from the norm!

Although, again, this is an FS9 model, it does work very well indeed in FSX with the only real issues I found being the electric controls not wanting to play. As I said earlier, that's not a real issue and I have no problem at all recommending that anyone take a good look at this package.

Oh, before I forget... That question I set back near the start? 75KIAS is approximately 140kph, give or take a little. Give yourself a pat on the back if you got that!

Find out more about the Junkers W33 & W44  at the Lionheart web site or simMarket.

If you'd like to comment on this review, please use our forum to do so.


Ian Pearson is a real world CAA PPL-IMC qualified pilot who has been hooked on civilian flight simming since Mail Pilot on the Commodore 64 and Thalion Airbus on the Amiga. He joined the MS Flightsim world with FS4 and almost immediately FS5.1CD, which was when his first attempt at designing aircraft went seriously pear shaped and he gave up. He has Beta tested for a number of well-known organisations and teams from FS98 through to the present day, but still hasn't found a way of making his addiction to Flight Simulation pay for itself, so officially works in the railway industry in the real world.

Nick Churchill has been providing images for marketing purposes of Flight Simulator products for several years and claims that staring at a virtual cockpit for too long can make you go blind.

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