Just Flight, a UK based online simulator company, makes, markets and sells a variety of products for flight, rail and other simulators. The Vickers Viscount (VV), based on the 800 series (generic), is indeed a legend that JF have brought to the simulator table.
JF have produced a dedicated FSX design, encompassing a highly detailed exterior model in which you get 12 highly detailed super-resolution repaints, and fantastic animations coupled with Hi-Fi sound for the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines. The repaints or more accurate liveries cover Great Britain, Europe, Canada and Australia.
My one regret is that there were no New Zealand liveries as I have flown as a passenger on these lovely planes in that country. This is a reasonably well made model and everything that should work to fly the plane works as it should.
The VV made its maiden flight over 60 years ago circa 1948 and I flew on one (which was then brand new) in the fifties and it was a lovely plane to fly in as a passenger. The V800 series was a development of the original v.609 (V.630/663) and the subsequent v.700 series being an enlarged, more powerful version capable of carrying 70+ passengers which was quite an increase over previous versions.
The V.800 series were powered by 4 x Rolls Royce Dart RDa6 engines, which provided creditable cruising speeds of around 550+ kph and was combined with good fuel economy. The 800 series developed into the V.806 and V.810 derivatives again with larger bodies and more enhanced Dart engines.
Vickers eventually ceased production in 1964 and by then had built 444 VV’s, these being sold to 50 different world airlines. The last VV was delivered to The Peoples Republic of China’s national carrier, and many of the planes continued to fly into the late 1990’s. As it says in Wikipedia, “As of August 2010[update], one Viscount 800 series (ex-G-APEY) remains airworthy and for sale at Lanseria, Africa. This means the Viscount has flown between 1948 and 2010, giving the aircraft type an amazing lifespan of 62 years.” Quite a record.
Wikipedia even has a site documenting all of the crashes that involved the VV over its 60 year life.
The VV was an excellent long haul carrier with a cruising speed approaching 600 kph (≈350 mph) and a range 2,000 km (1275 miles) at a ceiling of 25,000 feet, and made comfortable by the use of efficient turbo prop engines.
Just Flight has done a credible job with this vintage airliner, so we will now turn our attention to the rest of the review features.
Installation and Documentation
You get a 44 page manual with the JF VV and this describes just about everything that you need to know about the plane including the all-important process of installation. With the download version it is a simple matter of running the exe file, unlocking the registration and then installing in the FSX directory, simple and quick. The DVD installation is also fully described and again that is a simple process.
The documentation loads into a folder in your FSX directory called Just Flight\Viscount and occupies around 7.5 MB. The plane loads into Drive:\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Airplanes\JF_Vickers_Viscount_800 and occupies around 625 MB of disk space. There is even a procedure for uninstalling the software – full marks here.
As I said above, the documentation is very comprehensive and includes installation, aircraft in FSX, VV specs, getting to know the VV, panel guide, internal views, start-up etc, flying the VV and credits etc. We will look at some of these in detail in the review.
In the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” was a tab for “Just Flight" (Aircraft Manufacturer – “Vickers”) and this allows the choice of all 12 liveries (remember to tick "show all variations" in the FSX Select Aircraft Menu). The details appended to the thumbnails of the repaints are basic and all seem to have (not surprisingly) similar information.
The liveries included are:
There are very nice pictures of these variants in the manual and below, but I have to agree with other users comments in that the exterior liveries look too new – bit of grime and age would have been nice.
As per usual I modified my settings from my usual (now thought by many to be unrealistic) full realism to a reasonable middle of the road one and at these settings the Viscount was easy to fly and even with the settings full right it was also controllable.
Controls (really a copy of most of my previous settings)
Again, I reiterate my usual standard statement: I assigned the majority of the FSX controls (axes/buttons/keys) to my CH Elite Yoke, CH TQ, CH rudder pedals, (and assigned some (gear up/down, elevator trim, et) and calibrated all in FSUIPC4, and as per usual they worked OK. The various buttons and switches are also very easy to apply on your controller, and using FSUIPC4's plane specific options I was able to apply all assignments just to the JF VV, as is my want. Once calibrated the plane responded to the controls, as one would expect within the limitations of the flight model! As always, I also mapped the elevator trim wheel to my GoFlight module, setting the sensitivity in FSUIPC4, which made it quite controllable.
Starting FSX with the JF VV as the default plane/flight
I did not see any issues selecting the JF VV plane variants in FSX from the starting screen, and subsequently opening them directly in FSX.
Again, I did not see any significant lowering of the dreaded fps and all textures were sharp during flight, no stuttering or OOM errors. See my various screenies which show the FRAPS figures at the time of the shot.
The JF VV has a sophisticated ‘fuel trimming’ system, which basically optimizes the turbo prop engines with regards to pipe temperature in all types of weather conditions. I did not have too much involvement with this system but it seemed to work well enough as I found it difficult to find any real details on the fuel tanks and or passenger/baggage/freight loading. From the manual, I found that the fuel tanks (4) were situated in the wings and in the FSX fuel and payload section JF seemed to have modeled the fuel tanks in a logical manner and show a fuel loading of 2392 gallons.
Receiving a reply from the developer, that the VV did indeed have 4 wing tanks holding 1,992 Imperial Gallons or 2,392 US Gallons of D.E.R.D. 2487 JET fuel and the tank arrangement was as follows:
Maintenance and Payload:
There are no engine/airframe maintenance, repair or failure options in the Just Flight Viscount models. Payload is via the default FSX payload and fuel pop-up and is discussed above. Again, I really wish that the fuel and passenger, baggage, freight payload options were more realistic in this plane, so that you could balance the plane as in real life before starting a flight. However, in the payload section, 7 loading sectors are displayed, that can be loaded, I guess, with people, their baggage and freight.
There does not appear to be a separate configuration app for the JF VV to set these various parameters. Again using a reply from the developer, “The aircraft CFG is configured for Max loads including Pax and freight” and “The fuel amount set in the FSX menu will affect the aircraft balance as in the same as any FS CFG/Airfile”.
The External View of the Model
JF have produced quite a highly detailed stretch fuselage with nice smooth lines and reflections due to good specular and bump mapping. The passenger and cargo doors are fully animated and we will take a look at these a little later. Pressing the “A” key allows you access comprehensive views of the exterior of the plane. With the model it is quite easy to conduct a preflight inspection and the animations afford easy access to the passenger and cargo doors.
The lighting is excellent and includes a red anti-collision beacon, correct colored wing tip and tail navigation lights and most importantly (for me) landing lights that illuminate the runway, and they really do. In addition, the passenger windows are lit and these can be seen from outside the aircraft.
The landing gear is also well modeled with a realistic depiction of the rugged, shock-absorbing effects, and the animations include the flexing of the hydraulics plus smoke effects as the tires meet the tarmac. It should be noted, that the wheels are round and smooth and they rotate realistically and there is also nose-wheel steering modeled. There is a nose-wheel steering gizmo in the cockpit and steering is via the rudder pedals but I couldn’t find a method of locking the nose-wheel for takeoff but as it is controlled by the rudder, that type of functionality may not be needed.
The animations include gear knobs, rudder, the prop, elevators, flaps ailerons, opening and closing cargo and passenger doors, propellers with pitch control, realistically rotating wheels, animated crew visible through windscreen, and other detailed animations such as windscreen wipers and wheel shock absorbers. Obviously most of the animations are controlled by the yoke, TQ and rudder pedals from the FSX controls and others from the keyboard and a few of these using SHIFT + # keys as below:
Shift + Number Key Options
Pressing the Shift key plus a number gave the following pop-up options
Shift-E+1 Main passenger door (forward) open/close
The Interior and Instruments
Now on an airliner there are really two distinct parts to the interior, the cockpit (aka captain’s cabin) and the passenger cabin and I intend to deal with the separately
There is a single VC layout for the 12 liveries/repaints and there are no 2D panels, which is the norm these days. The VC, in my opinion, depicts fairly realistically the pre-modern "Glass Cockpit" avionics/navigation instruments and shows a very crowded design of analogue instruments. Many of instruments are operational using either the left mouse button or the rotary switch, this includes and multi-position switches, rotary knobs and levers.
As stated by JF the VC is functional and has an accurate VC, shadow textured as appropriate, and all switches, knobs and levers work, (using specialized animations) and the two co-pilot/engineer stations also features functional gauges, knobs, levers and switches.
Apparently, there are a couple of errors pointed out by a private reviewer on AVSIM in that the inclusion of four propeller pitch control levers which should have been the fuel cut off levers, aka conditioner levers. Apparently, it wasn’t the norm for a commercial turbo-prop to have 4 propeller pitch control levers fitted. I’m not a pilot so I can’t comment so I will have to leave that over to debate and/or correction.
It is a very nicely laid out cockpit and there is a learning curve involved if you are to understand what each instrument does and how it fits into the scheme of things. I like analogue instruments in the same way that I prefer an analogue watch to a digital one, just personal preference (Luddite extraordinaire).
The "S" and "A" keys cycle through the views as usual, and again I did not try this with EZDOK so I cannot comment on the different views that EXDOK can create. The gauges are very clear and have accurate displays. VC night lighting is good with all of the lights, VC, Cockpit, navigation, beacon, taxi, landing lights and passenger cabin all controlled by switches in the cockpit either on both of the pilot or co-pilot side of the cockpit and there are fitted rheostat knobs that control the intensity of lighting. My usual, “looking at a real world variant the lights appear all to be in the correct positions” appears to be correct.
Although there is an autopilot (aka gyro pilot) included, the manual unfortunately does not appear to give any instruction on how to use it and what functions that it controls. However, being of a fairly simple design and reasonably intuitive, I was able to figure how to use it when cruising. Again, the developer gave me this (edited) insight into the workings of the AP, “The AP is very basic by today’s AP standards and only serves as a heading, pitch and altitude hold system with trimmers and heading knob to set course.” So you just had to fly this plane!
The instrumentation is extremely comprehensive and you would need to fly this plane for many hours to be fully familiar with what, how and where you use them. But you have instruments in several areas, i.e. Main Panel, Side console pilot/co-pilot, pedestal and the overhead panel so a TrackIR is a brilliant piece of kit to view these in any chosen sequence and being able to return quickly to the view forward is a bonus.
Many of the instruments are duplicated for the pilot/co-pilot and there is a console behind the co-pilot/engineer, which seems to be non-functional and it is possibly the same in real life as it probably contains all of the plane’s electrical circuits, etc. All in all, a well laid out cockpit that is easily managed, once you know what you are doing.
The windscreen wipers work and you can even put the pilot/co-pilot seat armrests up for a better view of the side consoles.
Although there does not appear to be a specific keystroke that has been assigned to view the passenger cabin, you can use the usual view keystrokes (or mouse scroll wheel) in FSX to access this area (confirmed by the developer). There only appears to be one cabin modeled, move beyond that and you get a cheeky notice asking you who is flying the plane!!
Apparently, it was modeled this way to conserve polygons and hence frame rates. This cabin has quite a few seats, which are IMHO widely spaced (no cattle class on board this VV), no passengers and a solitary forlorn looking airhostess (as they were called back then, none of this cabin crew PC nonsense). In the first area behind the cockpit that you access you view the crew seating area for take-off and landing, plus a washroom annex complete with ultra modern (for the time) fluoro lighting. Early airliners had candles as their lighting options before the advent of electricity. All in all an under populated area, if you ask me.
On the Ground – Taxiing
In this plane you are 30 odd feet above the ground so you get excellent side and forward view and although it is a large plane, it is an easy plane to taxi and maneuver on the ground. Again, I liked the fact that I could use the nose steering to make subtle, smooth movements around corners, etc and on my CH Eclipse Yoke I could map this to the tiller function which 'turned off' when the plane reached around 40 - 50 KIAS.
The brakes are excellent and progressive with no hint of grabbing and were extremely positive. It should be noted that the flaps are set to 43° and that you only use 2 engines to taxi a i.e. #2 and #3 and the autopilot (no instructions) should be armed during the taxi procedure. I had no issues in taxiing long distances at large airports, as once you are rolling, turning with the nose-wheel makes maneuvering very simple. There is no need to lock the nose wheel for take-off as it is linked to the rudder.
Starting the Engine
Cold and Dark
This can either be achieved with the FSX cheat, CTRL + E and/or manually, the latter being eminently more satisfying if subsequently time-consuming. The manual starting procedure is described in the documentation, and I found it a breeze to start the engines this way.
There is the lovely sound of the starters engaging one after another, waiting until the engine is working properly, followed by the ubiquitous puffs of smoke as the Rolls Royce Dart engine purrs with nary a splutter into full turbo prop sound majesty. My manual starting procedure followed the detail checklist in the start-up/flight procedures section in the manual and by following this and you cannot go wrong!
Although this is bigger than my usual GA planes, it is not a difficult plane to fly especially at my realism settings, there is very little or no prop torque effect and it is quite easy to lift off. Again as always, I followed the checklist detailed in the manual. With the plane loaded at the default settings, using the elevator trim at +5.50 positive, in the take-off position, 43⁰ flaps I rotated around 105 - 115 KIAS.
After lift-off, I climbed at around 150 - 160 KIAS i.e. about 1,000 – 1500’/min using appropriate propeller and throttle control, braking the wheels (they are spinning at over 100 mph after lift-off) and raising the under carriage, and finally raising the flaps at a safe height. Climbing was smooth and steady reaching 25,000' in around 25 - 30 give or take a few minutes.
I tried a take off with only 2 engines working and took off OK, and the same with 3 engines, but I am not sure if that is what would happen in real life. I could not take off with only one engine! However, again the developer came to my rescue with this great answer, “The Viscount is designed to fly on two engines in emergencies. These can be on the same wing although there’s a tendency for swing especially once landed. When landing with two engines out, flap operations are delayed until the end of the downwind leg and gear lowered at final turn in. Approach angle should be steeper to maintain airspeed under full flap. In flight, fuel trimming should be used to control jet pipe temperatures.”
In level flight, I adjusted the controls (propeller, elevator trim, throttle, mixture, etc) to achieve a cruise speed of around 290 - 300 KIAS this being a nice steady speed to cover the miles. Because this aircraft can fly long distances, you would not normally “fly” the plane the whole time but would use the autopilot (unless manual intervention was indicated) for most of the airborne time. However, any time that I flew the plane manually, the handling felt very good indeed, with no real vices. Level flight could be achieved manually using power, pitch and trim, with the flight characteristics being good enough to enable this to happen.
Descending & Landing
I used my usual technique, i.e. descending from altitude at around 1000’ – 1500’/min i.e. descending smoothly without gaining too much speed, i.e. reducing speed to around 180 - 190 KIAS down to a landing speed of around 120 KIAS (43° Flaps) finally cutting power at 50’ applying full flaps on the threshold for the flare.
I landed on the main wheels and gently lowered the nose wheel to the ground, using smooth braking and the rudder to maintain a straight line. In this JF VV model in FSX you could use F2 reverse thrust i.e. ground pitch on the props to give more effective braking.
This was hard to achieve as I tried various sink rates and the ‘best’ was around ≈1,000 - 1500' pm with 43° flaps. As in my previous reviews, on many occasions I could not achieve a stable descent and usually failed to make it to the chosen airfield, probably because I had allowed the plane to descend too rapidly in the early stages of the procedure.
If I started the descent at higher altitudes, it meant that the plane came in over the threshold at sometimes over 200 KIAS and it took a considerable time to actually come to a halt, and it was quite bumpy and I’m sure in real life I would have destroyed the nose wheel. This certainly was not very easy and I do not think that I really mastered this technique in this plane.
Stalls and Spins
Again my previous settings, i.e. level flight at 300 KIAS altitude 10,000' level flight, set the 4 throttles to zero and using the yoke to maintain level flight with speed falling away to a stall speed of around 80 - 90 KIAS, stick shaker point. Again as previously experienced, I had difficulty in initiating a stall because as the speed dropped the nose dropped correspondingly (even with the yoke pulled back) and maintained the aircraft above the stall speed.
Eventually I did experience a stall – progressive and shuddery (and as the manual predicted the right wing dropped first) and recovery was textbook stuff, just pushing the column forward cancelled out the stall even without increasing power. There is a stall horn installed and this worked exactly as it should. I tried a couple of spins but the recovery seemed too easy, so I am not sure if this represents a recovery from a spin in real life. To me the plane handled realistically during these procedures.
The sounds in my opinion are very realistic giving the typical dog’s ear shattering turbo prop screeching whiney twang. Using YouTube® I found that the engine sounds very similar to a real world Vickers Viscount. To me, the sounds are a good and realistic representative of this marque, or as JF put it, the Viscount has, “A high-fidelity sound set showcasing the distinctive Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engines.” I did not detect any sound looping during the review.
You can download a dedicated paint kit for the JF VV and note its 136MB size.
A service pack has been issued by JF and updates the following: “This service pack improves the Gyropilot pitch hold functionality and adds DME to the aircraft.” Neither of these items really affects the majority of my review.
As I stated earlier, a method for uninstalling the plane is detailed in the manual and it is the usual Windows add or remove programs method. This works effectively.
Summary / Closing Remarks
There has been a lot of discussion on various simming forums about the shortcomings/authenticity, accuracy of the JF Viscount, but this shouldn’t detract from flying this plane because it is something that it does quite well and to me it looks and sounds good too.
I had never flown one of these vintage airliners before this review and I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. This is a nice plane to fly and it is a nice plane to look at. You can travel long distances in a fairly short time and due the JF Flight dynamics, this is an easygoing experience.
So if you are into noisy vintage FSX airplanes where you can almost smell the kerosene then this is the plane for you. At $US 30 it’s a bargain.
What I Like About The Vickers Viscount
What I Don't Like About The Vickers Viscount
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