French Speedy Gonzales
This time a totally different aircraft, a review about the Aerospatiale Concorde. In many aspects the Concorde was and has been a different aircraft. Not only because of its shape, but also of her cruising speed. Fortunately, after the Paris accident, Air France in conjunction with local authorities, decided to stop flying this commercial aircraft. You could ask yourself if today’s aviation was ready for this kind of advanced and supersonic aircraft. Whatever the real reason was and is, Flight Sim Labs decided to go for the Concorde-X.
This aircraft is in many aspects very similar to certain PMDG or Leonardo SH products. We at AVSIM are curious if this statement is correct, knowing already that this won't be an easy job to determine. The Concorde-X is not a regular airplane and although being a member of the commercial aviation world, it needs to be controlled and monitored in her own way. No, there are not yet any conclusions, but I can tell you in advance that it was worth reviewing this Flight Sim Labs Concorde-X. When you want an extraordinary model in your hanger, then buying this model is worth every penny.
Some Concorde history
The Concorde was a supersonic passenger airplane. Air France and British Airways where the only airlines who bought the Concorde. Not surprising since the French and British governments subsidized the creation of this supersonic delta wing airplane.
Her French maiden flight was in 1969 with her last flight in October 24, 2003, a result of the terrible accident at Paris. The Concorde was unique since it could fly at a cruising altitude of 18 km – approximately 59.000 feet - with a speed of Mach 2.04. This is twice the speed of sound. With these performances the Concorde could fly from London to New York in less than three hours. For many reasons the Concorde was a luxury project from the French and British governments. At a certain moment it had nothing to do anymore with commercial capacities.
Back in the mid-50s, there were plans to develop a supersonic commercial plane. The development wasn't as easy as everybody had hoped for. Because of the French and British governments, who took part in this project, decisions where slowed down. Another problem was having two production lines, one in France and one in Britain, which was and still is very unusual. Despite all kinds of internal problems and political influences, this Corporation between two countries was the predecessor of Airbus Industries, which later became EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company).
Both countries had, due to the government influences, lots of delays but finally the very first Concorde made her maiden flight on March 2, 1969. Around a month later on April 9, from the British airport Filton, the first British model took off. The first trans-Atlantic flight was around September 1971, however regular flights had to wait until 1976.
In fact, the Concorde was no longer economical to fly. This was because of the high fuel costs. The Concorde offered European or American business people to fly to their destination, do business, and fly back to their own country in the same day. Businesswise this was great, but for ordinary passengers it was too expensive. Too expensive because of the high fuel costs, which resulted in ticket prices of approximately €11.000 each.
When the recession occurred and fuel costs increased even more, both airlines decided to stop the trans-Atlantic flights. In fact, this was the end of the Concorde! Not only were fuel costs the major problem, it was also beaten by the slower and much cheaper American Boeing 747, Lockheed L-1011, and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 Series wide-bodies.
Installation, reading, reading and then flying
The Flight Sim Labs Concorde-X is not an add-on airplane you can easily power-up, start the engines, and do some checks all within a few minutes. First of all the user needs to read the manuals. They are well written, informative, and useful. Not only useful, but I should say “a must to read”.
As far as possible within FSX, many systems are simulated and because of this, you need to learn all the ins-and-outs of this aircraft. You and I will learn that your virtual flight engineer will do a lot of things for you as he did it in real aircraft. Furthermore, your co-pilot is also doing a lot of things for you, but here it’s the same; you still need to do a lot of things as the pilot flying.
The software installation including the Service Packs shouldn’t give you any problems. In other words, it's a straightforward process. Since the release of the initial software, Flight Sim Labs has published additional Service Packs. The service packs are not only there to offer improvements and to solve known bugs or problems, a tutorial was added with service pack 1.
Just a shortcut, follow the tutorial! It's worth it. A lot of effort was put into the making of this tutorial and it will help you for sure, it helped me to understand, fly and master this beautiful aircraft. And please don't think that the tutorial is enough. You absolutely need to read the basic manual and after that, you can read and play with the aircraft simultaneously.
Let’s go back to the installation; after you installed the basic package and the Service Packs, a third installation is needed and that’s the Delco Carousel IV-A Inertial navigation system. When you’re ready with all the software installations, you’ll find under the Windows Start button a folder named Flight Sim Labs, Ltd – ConcordeX - documentation.
The documentation folder offers the flying manual and tutorial. The flying manual, no more than 288 pages, offers you all the information needed to master this beautiful aircraft and when I say ALL, I mean ALL! The best way to go through this book is first to print it out and then you start reading it in combination with the FSX Concorde-X. This gives you the ability to learn and practice your skills on the Concorde flight deck. By the way; the tutorial is not just a tutorial. It’s a little bit like a user guide and it helps you via a step-by-step procedure through a simulated flight from London (EGLL) to New York (KJFK).
What else is available? The installer added some Concorde Routes. Some of you probably have no idea which and what destinations this airplane was flying to. In other words, Flight Sim Labs offers you all the original routes the Concorde were flying. These are not only British Airways routes, but as expected also Air France’s.
Acrobat files offer you all the necessary information like latitude and longitude, which are later needed for the INS CDU (Inertial Navigation System). Just a small note; in the footer of these papers you will find copyrights SSTSIM 2005, which means that one of the developers was involved with the FS9 Concorde project.
The Flight Sim Labs Concorde comes with five liveries. One of them is the Flight Sim Labs house colours. Then there's one from Air France and 3 of British Airways. Unfortunately there is no Aerospatiale house color of the first Concorde included. Instead of this, Flight Sim Labs offers their own livery.
I preferred to see the other way around. You are right, there are no other airline liveries available and this is as real as it gets. Since there were no other airlines around flying the Concorde, there’s no need to add other liveries. Furthermore, depending on the livery you choose, you can either choose the captains or copilot seat. No I'm sorry, there's no option to go for the flight engineer’s seat! Last but not least, in the same folder you will also find an uninstaller, but I don't think additional information is needed to explain this.
Not available via the Windows Start button, but only available via the FSX menu you have a Panel States and Load Flight option. It's not my intention to go in-depth discussing this since the manual offers full information about these options and sub-options. Worth to mention at this moment is the presence of a fuel and Aircraft Load program.
These programs are fully integrated in FSX and therefore directly active. Regarding the Load Flight option; we are dealing here with a Concorde-X Preliminary flight. Once loaded, it seems you’re parked at a gate at London Heathrow with, of course, British airways livery. What I just wrote is based on default London Heathrow scenery. When you own Mega airport London Heathrow from Aerosoft, you will be parked at gate 420, however not exactly on the parking strip.
It seems a small mistake, but this has nothing to do with the Flight Sim Labs Concorde-X. This is a known problem with many more airport sceneries where there is always a mismatch between the default FSX scenery and add-on scenery. The FSX add-on menu offers ground services which look very similar to PMDG menus. You will also find Panel State options and a few others like cold and dark, Concorde-X preliminary, ready for takeoff etc.
Flying or first the cockpit?
I don't think it is a good idea to fly straight out of the box for the simple reason that we first need to read the manuals and second, to explore the cockpit. Even for me as a reviewer and ex-professional ground engineer, I can't just power up the aircraft while sitting down in my cockpit seat and just go flying.
The 2D cockpit and the Virtual Cockpit offer a realistic look of how this supersonic aircraft was and I can tell you, it's beautiful and it looks very impressive with all those old-fashioned instruments, big switches and flight engineers panel. The Concorde was and still is a super slim airplane and because of this and her delta wing, there's not so much to see during a walk-around check. Although the engines are hanging underneath the wing/fuselage section, they are more or less mounted straight into the fuselage without a pylon as with all other modern airplanes. Then of course there’s the landing gear and that's it more or less. Oops, I forgot something; the strange drooping nose.
Why this strange drooping nose is added, that’s something we will see later in one of the sections, but suppose I forgot it, there’s always the manual that will help you out as to why this nose has different positions for takeoff, flight, approach and landing.
Making my walk-around check starting at the nose and heading aft via the left hand side, I can only come to one conclusion; I'm impressed about the available details and tiny things. Since there's not so much to see about the Delta wing, I'm focusing on the engine cowlings and undercarriage … oops, landing gear! FSX makes walk around checks together with special software as real as it gets and therefore I can have a very close look of the main gear. And then I don't mean only the struts but also the tires, hydraulic lines, electrical wires etc. This and a few other things gives me the feeling that we dealing with a highly realistic Concorde.
In that respect does the Concorde have something mysterious, something from outer space! No, that's rubbish. Delta wing aircraft are common in military models so why not in commercial aviation? Let's first have a look to a few screenshots I made during my walk around check.
Is there a need to write something more about these screenshots? Normally I don't see any reason for that, but let's give you one small example; the tires of the main- and nose wheels versus polygons. The wheels or tires look very realistic and that means they are more or less round. Looking closely to the main wheels, I even got the idea that the outside of the tire is made of photo realistic material. I could be wrong, but I can read the word Michelin printed on it. By the way, this is not only applicable for the tires, but also for the rim. Since we're here, let's have a look at the engine cowling.
I’ll continue with my walk-around check and via the tail I’ll heading to the right hand wing and back to the nose gear. This concludes the end of my virtual trip. Up one of the stairs I’ll pass via the virtual FWD cabin to the cockpit.
Not the entire virtual cabin is simulated but only the front part or to be precise, business- and/or first class. Via this area and the FWD pantry we enter the stretched cockpit. I'm aware that this is only visible when you enter the Virtual Cockpit, but when you go for the 2D cockpit, you won’t see all this.
Mentioned before; the cockpit is full with switches, switches and even more switches. You find switches on the overhead panel, on the glare shield panel, on the center instrument panel, on the side panels and the flight engineer panel and whatever else I’ve forgotten. When you're grown up with modern aircraft like Boeing or Airbus, you’ll probably find it a mess and an unorganized area, however this is how it was. Let's keep it simple and let's first start with 2D cockpit.
Via the FSX menu you'll find out that the 2D cockpit comes with lots of subpanels. It's up to you which ones you want to use, but you have enough choices to get a detailed view of certain sub-panels. As with other add-on models, the Virtual Cockpit will overwhelm you, but before we continue let's first have a look to some 2D cockpits screenshots.
For some reason this virtual cockpit of the Concorde isn't as normal as I’ve seen with others. Why is that? It seems a lot of heavy duty material is used to create the overall cockpit and with that I mean the side panels, overhead panels, center panel, instrument panels, flight engineers panels etc. Ok, the virtual model is of course different, but together with digital material, a realistic virtual cockpit is something you like or you don't like.
Very important when using digital material is the quality of the source files. When the 3D designer has to make all those panels himself, he or she can make it in his or her own way. In his or her own way also means that's it's not always as real as you would like and it could be that the overall look becomes cartoonish. On the other hand, good digital material and thus high quality photo material is essential to create an “as real as it gets” virtual cockpit.
The Concorde virtual cockpit looks very realistic in my personal opinion, but I have to be honest, there are a few parts where the digital material could be better. I would like to see an FSX virtual cockpit that looks as real as it gets, but know that this is more or less impossible. Anyway, I'm satisfied! By the way, creating an old virtual cockpit like this Concorde is not as easy as you think. When these airplanes are still flying then there is always a possibility to make some updated real images. Unfortunately, the aircraft doesn't fly any more and although a few of them are still statically available, making real photos is not as easy since the developer could live at the other side world and doesn't have access to them.
Entering the Virtual Cockpit via the cabin is different than with today’s modern aircraft. One of the reasons for this is the long corridor along all kinds of computer racks before access is given to the actual cockpit. Once we have reached the cockpit, on our right hand side is the flight engineer’s workstation. It can be clearly seen and almost felt as to how small this area is. Nonetheless, all the panels, seats, upholstery, floor carpet and whatever else, gives a realistic impression.
The Concorde may be revolutionary for its time but the cockpit is full of old-fashioned instruments and big switches. Looking closely to all those instruments and switches, the developers tried to create a 3D effect which worked out pretty well. I can write what I want, either you believe me or you don't believe me, but the best is always to find real cockpit images on for example Airliners.Net to compare them with. When you have seen those and compare them with this Concorde-X, there's only one conclusion; very realistic!
Every screenshot tells you something, something that's unique, something about hidden features and more of those tiny details. I think when I take my time staring for hours at all the individual switches, instruments lights, knobs, selectors and handles, I will find something you haven't seen before or what’s not correct or what could be better. Enough of this cockpit; I’ll make a full turn back to the cockpit entrance, to get access to the virtual cabin.
I have to be honest; the virtual cabin is rather limited. Limited means in this case it's just the first and/or business class that is simulated. That it is limited doesn’t matter to me since what counts for me is the virtual cockpit and the external model.
The cabin is nice and that's it. There is only one exception and that is the small cabin windows and the altitude/Mach indicator. That indicator is something we will see during our test flight from London to New York.
My in-between conclusion covering the walk-around check, the cockpit impression and virtual cabin tells me that a lot of effort has been put into the creation of this historical model. When I want, I can find something but let's be honest, it looks great. I think it's time to move on to the next section and that's our test flight.
To make it a little bit easier, I combined the test flight together with the tutorial. I mentioned this before, the INS was for those days already a highly sophisticated piece of navigation means and together with the control display unit, pilots were able to enter a maximum of nine waypoints. Curious? Let’s move on to the next section.
Test flight EGLL to KJFK or is it a tutorial flight?
As said before, it's not really a test flight, but a regular flight with British Airways from London to New York. Testing the flight dynamics or flight characteristics is not easy at all. I may have a frozen PPL, I don't have an ATPL nor have I been a Concorde pilot. On the other hand, it isn’t difficult to find out if this Concorde flies like a default airplane or if it is hard to fly.
Then there's the question, what's my definition of hard to fly? For me “hard to fly” means that this aircraft is probably not doing what I want. I won't say that the Concorde will do what the sim pilot wants, but for sure I need to put some effort into it to get it there when I want. Of course, I could connect the autopilot as quickly as possible after lift-off as well as the auto throttle, but then I don't learn anything about how it flies.
I studied more or less the whole manual before starting with the tutorial. I mentioned it before, you could start straightaway with the tutorial without reading the manual, but believe me that's not a good option. Although this tutorial will help you a lot, many times it refers to the manual. In other words, they expect you to read the manual before starting with the tutorial.
Since the tutorial is well written, you'll find your way through it while busy with the New York preparations. I think it's a good moment to print out the tutorial. This gives you the possibility to read it, when needed, while staring at the respective panel. Let's give you some more advice; don't do it from memory or just by following the checklist! See the tutorial not as a piece of paper, but as an extended checklist. While the tutorial follows the checklist, there’s a lot of background information added or important references that are given and links to the manual. Enough about this, time to follow the virtual flight crew and see how they are doing. Oops, you’re the virtual flight crew!
Since I'm part of the virtual flight crew and following the tutorial step-by-step, I don't see any surprises. This means the tutorial is really written for every kind of flight simmer, from beginner to the highly experienced. Although not realistic but very handy, is the possibility to start the engines with Ctrl+E. On the other hand, when you see it as a challenge you can still start the engines as they did it.
In that case, you need to follow the tutorial together with the checklist. After the pushback - unfortunately there’s no pushback truck simulated - it's time to taxi to the runway. I can tell you that this is damned difficult. That it is so difficult doesn't surprise me since you have more or less the same problem as with any other big airplane like the 747 or Douglas DC-10/MD11. Okay, what's the problem then?
The cockpit is situated far in front of the nose gear and making turns along the taxiways means you have to remember that your nose gear is approximately 10 meters behind you and that it could be that your nose is hanging above the grass while the actual nose wheels are still on the middle line of the taxiway. In real, pilots couldn't jump out to see where the nose gear was located, but we can. We can change to external view and continue with taxiing while turning the nose wheel and see when and how much we need to turn.
Before making the takeoff it's time to take a deep breath, set the parking brake, double check the checklist and if needed, the tutorial. Remember one thing, the Concorde is not a fighter but once you commence takeoff, there's no way back. Your speeds increase rapidly and before you know you're airborne and then it goes faster, faster and faster. Okay, you could use the pause button but that's not realistic so don't even think about doing this!
After you've stopped in front of the runway, lots of things should be done in a short time frame and although the virtual flight engineer is doing something for you, he is not doing all the work since you are the pilot in command. So let's put it like this, practice on dry ground and write down the most important items for your initial climb to 10,000 feet. After that's it doesn't mean you can relax, but instead you can take half a cup of coffee or tea.
After takeoff you could either continue with manual flight or decide to connect the autopilot and flight director. A little bit later you connect the auto throttle. Feel free to do what you want, but remember you need to do a lot of things and you need to watch out for many other things. In that respect it's better to follow the tutorial even during the climb. If you feel confident, you can always disconnect and see how it really feels flying this Concorde-X.
Now it's time to try it. I'm in my climb and most of the things are done, so it's fine to get the real Concorde feeling. I really have no idea how it should fly, but I think I can compare this aircraft with other sophisticated add-on models like the PMDG 747, MD-11 and the Leonardo SH MD80 Maddog. One thing is for sure, and that's the same with the previous models as well, it’s not an airplane where you quickly do the refueling, add some payload and start the engines etc.
According to the tutorial and the settings I made, we're heading for an initial altitude of FL260. During this climb and the necessary settings I made, I can tell you that switching knobs, switches and whatever else, offers a realistic sound. Let's give you an example; when you set at the AFCP (Auto flight Control Panel) to a new altitude and you close your eyes while selecting the knob, it gives you the feeling you're in the real Concorde. You can hear the gears inside the panel turning. This is only one sound example, but there are many more.
During our climb and speed changes it's a good moment to study the tutorial in advance where possible. Flying supersonic is not something each flight simmer will do on a daily base, therefore I'm happy with the tutorial since it gives a very thorough description of supersonic steps to follow. Not directly related to it, it seems that the tutorial is a reflection of the checklist sections and therefore each section is short, informative, easy to understand and makes the aircraft easy to handle. There's also an option that we know from PMDG models and that's saving flight situations. Anyway, let’s continue with our supersonic approach.
Approaching supersonic conditions is something unique even though it's FSX. It’s really awesome and requires close monitoring of the instruments since before you know it, you have passed Mach 1.0. Yes I'm aware that this aircraft can fly a little faster than Mach 1.0, but even passing this mark is extraordinary. A little later during the flight we've reached Mach 2.01 at an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet.
What makes this speed and altitudes so special? Speed is something you can see on your instruments as well as in the virtual cabin, but what about the altitude. This is more or less the same, but looking outside, that makes the difference; the sky is deep blue, no, it's almost black. This is something you won't see when flying subsonic or at a maximum altitude of 42,000 feet. If you’re curious, have a look to the following screenshots.
Although the rest of the cruise is just as impressive as the climb and the initial acceleration, it's time to make the necessary preparations for our descent, approach and landing at John F. Kennedy airport. You could wait for this, but the tutorial will wake you up and warn you about all the work that has to be done. Make yourself comfortable and keep the autopilot and auto throttle connected. Don't think you can do it all since it's too much, especially for your very first flight.
Remember, you are flying at higher speeds than normal and your cockpit view is totally different than you are used to compared to an ordinary Boeing or Airbus model. As long as you follow the tutorial (and please do that) you will enjoy the rest of your flight. Together with some real weather and real scenery, entering the New York area from the Atlantic is a nice experience. Together with some cloud formations and some external shots, it's as real as it gets.
At the moment we are reaching final approach and without any doubt, it goes according to the checklist and before I know, the wheels have touched American ground.
Where needed, I’ve discussed some sound issues although I don’t really know if the engine sound is the same as the real engines so that’s something we need to believe. Frame rates are not bad. Ok, that doesn’t sound enthusiastic, but don’t expect to find extremely high FPS. The offered FPS on my PC ranges from +20 to +60. By the way; that +20 was at Aerosoft’s London Heathrow, which is already a complicated airport by itself. Overall FPS is good for a complicated aircraft with lots of cockpit systems simulated.
Some detailed information about the SP’s would be welcome. Find here a limited extraction or as they say it at Flight Sim Labs “this list is indicative only - several other small issues fixed too”.
And here some detailed information about SP2:
For those who are willing to paint other liveries or in particular my wish, the original Aerospatiale house livery, they can download the free paint kit. The paint is available via this forum link.
Summary / Closing Remarks
What else can I add to this review? I can write what I want, I can tell you things you’ll probably never see or I can tell you how it looks and how it flies, but there is never anything better than showing you movies. Since this model has already been a while on the market, you will find a lot of movies at sites like YouTube. I'll give you a small collection of what I've seen, but probably there's much more available.
The Concorde is and stays in many ways, an extraordinary model. An extraordinary model because it looks and is totally different than what we’re used to. An extraordinary model because it flies supersonic and an extraordinary model because it's fair to say that this is a well simulated replica of the original Concorde. While saying this, I mean the external model, virtual cockpit in particular, the virtual business or first class cabin and not to forget the manuals including the tutorial.
You don't get the official Aerospatiale manuals, but what Flight Sim Labs offers is a nice collection of useful didactical Concorde manuals and a well-written tutorial. Although I'm very happy with the tutorial there are a few parts in it which are not always understandable in what you need to do. Suppose that this is also applicable to you, just leave a note at the forum and they will help you. I think it's also fair to warn you that your first flight won't be an initial success since this aircraft is not a default FSX one but a complicated add-on model.
When I write “complicated” it doesn't mean you cannot master it. It will just take a little more time than normal. Also the use of the INS CDU is not something you expect and it could be that you have no experience with it at all except with FMS. Knowing FMS doesn't mean you understand how to handle INS. Dealing with INS is something you need to learn but don't worry; there is the manual again helping you out. You can use the INS as the pilots did or you can use the “quick and go” option. Again the tutorial will help you with this.
This is probably a model you might want to have and to park in your hangar, but I can assure you that the overall price and in-depth simulated systems are worth having the model and flying it. Additional information can be found at the Flight Sim Labs website where you can buy it for the price of €49.95.
Should you have any questions and or remarks, please feel free to contact me directly by e-mail or leave a message at the AVSIM forum.
What I Like About Concorde-X
What I Don't Like About Concorde-X
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved