Most aviation enthusiasts and flight simmers have heard of this legendary fighter of WW II. For those of you that have not, here is a very brief history. The P51 Mustang even made an early appearance in the Korean War. Its history is a long and distinguished one.
Throughout the course of the war, North American Aviation (NAA) and the British tweaked this bird with many modifications and improvements to get every ounce of horsepower and performance that was possible for a prop driven plane of that era. There are many facts and stories about the life of the Mustang and its many heroic pilots, too many in fact to discuss here, in this review. These few paragraphs that follow touches on the high points of the development of the Mustang. I encourage you to do a little reading on your own if you are interested in this warbird.
The concept and development of the Mustang had already been discussed at NAA, when a purchasing commission from Great Britain was sent to America to acquire fighter aircraft. Only two aircraft could fill the needs of the British, the P-39 Airacobra and the P-40 Warhawk.
In 1939, NAA was requested from Britain to produce P-40’s to supplement those being made by Curtiss. They were told by the President of NAA, James H. “Dutch” Kindleberger, that they could in fact do this for them, but they themselves could develop a much more advanced fighter, and proceeded to brief them on their plans for the NA-73X, the Mustang that started it all.
One hundred and two days after the British had placed their order, NA-73X rolled out of the hanger. It was an astounding feat of development and engineering in such a short amount of time. It was unpainted and did not have an engine. It was soon fitted with the Allison V-1710-F3R engine, and test pilot Vance Breese took her into the air for the first time on October 26, 1939, out of Mines Field, Los Angeles, California.
It featured a new concept in wing construction, “Laminar Flow Design” referring to how the air flows over the wing in a more efficient manner. The early variations of the Mustang were excellent low-level fighter/bombers, but at high altitudes, a serious lack of power was evident. Even though the Mustang went on to be developed with improved engine and flight characteristics, the early Allison powered Mustangs served in the war until 1945 in low-level attack roles.
NAA supplied the first Mustang to Great Britain at the end of 1941, equipped with the Allison V-1710 engine. This was the same engine that was used in the P-40. A British test pilot by the name of Ronald Harker flew the Mustang in April of 1942 and thought very highly of the aircraft. He was concerned with the limitations of the Allison engine at high altitudes and its climb rate, and suggested that the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 Series engine would be a great improvement to the Mustang over the Allison.
The Americans began work along these lines and used the Packard license built version of the Merlin. Thus was born the P-51B, which first flew in November of 1942. The P-51C was, in essence, the same aircraft as the “B” model, but was produced out of the Dallas, Texas NAA plant. The “B” model was delivered out of the Southern California plant. The P-51C started coming off the line just a few months after the P-51B did, with a few very minor modifications. The B/C model was delivered to the Royal Air Force as the Mustang Mk III. The Royal Australian Air Force used the F-6C model, which was a reconnaissance version of the P-51C, having a camera mounted on the left rear of the aircraft.
The final production run of 550 “B” models incorporated a third fuselage tank. Initially causing some center of gravity problems, the size was decreased and the problem was corrected. These Mustangs enabled bomber missions to be escorted into the heart of Europe.
Where the Spitfire had a range of approximately 400 miles, the Mustang more than doubled that at around 1,000 miles of range. This alone made for a dramatic increase in the survivability of the bombers and their crews over enemy territories. Armament consisted of four wing-mounted .50-inch Browning Machine Guns, upgraded at a later date to six of these machine guns. It could also carry a set of two bombs, rockets, or fuel pods under the wings. The fuel pods were usually made of pressed paper, so that when dropped, the enemy could not collect the material for reuse.
Originally, they were constructed of aluminum, one of the many needed metals used in the war. It was also suggested in the course of production, that the Mustangs be delivered in their natural metal finish, and not the day camouflage liveries used by the British. This was done for two reasons; to cut down on weight and drag, and to be visible to the enemy as we wanted them to come up and do battle at that time. Another design feature attributable to the British is the “Malcolm Hood”, which was an improvement to the initial canopy design of the “B” Model. It was a bubble type modification to the front part of the overall canopy, and slid back for entrance and exit. This is not to be confused with the “Clamshell” type canopy introduced on the “D” Model.
Installation and Documentation
The product is downloaded from the Warbirdsim web site for installation. The ordering process entails a registration at the web site, which is required, along with your email address. Then go back to the site to select and purchase the product. At that point, you are sent an email with a link for the download. It mentions a boxed version being available and costing a bit more, but I could not find any information regarding this option.
Their web site has some interesting information on it, but it lacks a user forum. There are some FAQ’s listed as to the product and possible solutions. There is an email for information about the product and a separate email for support.
Make sure to browse for the path to your installation of FS9, as it does not fill it in with the default location. Install time was about 4-5 minutes, approximately. Please note that download times and installation times may differ from one computer to the next, depending on the system that you are operating. You’ll find this series of P-51 models under North American, with the following models… P-51B, P-51C, the Mk III Mustang, and the F-6C Reconnaissance Variant of the Mustang. A generous assortment of authentic liveries is also included.
Documentation consists of a Pilot’s Manual in PDF format and a checklist in Word format. I found it convenient to view the PDF manual by selecting the “Continuous Facing” page viewing option, located in the Adobe Menu under “View”. This made it easier to reference the panel and cockpit graphics with the page of numbered descriptions. The Manual is, for the most part, a replica of the original Operating Manual given to the pilots.
The manual, as well as the checklist, refers to the actual aircraft and its functions, which is good, especially when the model is closely developed to represent the real deal. It’s written in the manner of most government/military manuals, easy to read and to the point. OK, that may have been a bad analogy there…”Easy to read government manuals”, but in this case, it’s true. You should absorb the information easy enough. Putting it into practice is where you’ll be challenged!
There are loads of tips for flying this bird, and the manual should be read if you want to really get into “flying” the Mustang by the book! I think a little more documentation on the actual simulation model might be helpful for more inexperienced and experienced simmers alike. For example, a few notes on what switches are “dummy switches” (they work, but have no function), and perhaps any other differences between the real aircraft and the model (which are few). There is an “authentic” look to the manual and it brings back memories of “typed” documents (that wasn’t SO long ago, was it?).
I have had the privilege to review a number of P-51 Payware and Freeware Products over the years, spanning just about all types and variations of the Mustang. I have also been lucky enough to have good things to say about all of them as well. Having quite a few different models of Mustang’s has given me a better reference point as to what I would be looking for that made Classic Hanger’s Mustang any different than the rest.
Classic Hanger wanted to create Warbirdsim Flight Leader 2, a package of Mustangs that consists of the P-51B, P-51C, the Mk III Mustang, and the F-6C Reconnaissance Variant of the Mustang, to be as accurate as possible to the characteristics of the actual aircraft. A few years back, they came out with a similar package of various P-51’s. I took a peak at what they did with that product from a past review that was published here on AVSIM. Let’s see what they’ve been up to over the last few years…
According to the web site, these are version 2 of their model. Each one of these models represents a variation of the Mustang that was produced during the early, formative years of the fighter/bomber. The line-up of aircraft that is included in this package is impressive, both in model variations and number of liveries available.
P-51C-10-NT, Princess, 42-103896, of the 530th Fighter Squadron, 311th Fighter Group. Based in China.
P-51C, Lope's Hope 3rd, of the 75th FS, 23rd FG, based at Chiahkiang, China.
P-51C-10-NT, 43-25050, of the 503 FS, 339th FG, based at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, England.
P-51C-5-NT, Lucky Leaky II, 42-103363, of the 352nd FS, 353rd FG, out of Raydon, England.
P-51B-1-NA, Bonnie B II, 43-12375, of the 353rd FS, 354th FG, out of Criqueville, France.
P-51B-15-NA, 42-106750, of the 5th FS, 52nd FG, out of Italy.
Mustang Mk.III, KH616, of Royal Australian Air Force 3 Squadron, out of Aviano, Italy.
Mustang Mk.III, HB876, of Royal Canadian Air Force 441 "Silver Fox" Squadron, out of England.
F-6C, Miss Revenge, of the 118 Tac Recon Squadron, 23rd FG, out of Luliang, China.
P-51B-10-NA, "Impatient Virgin", 42-106638, of the 376th FS, 361st FG, out of Bottisham, England.
The “bare bones” of the model is very well made with smooth construction and blended surfaces. No “blocky” looking curves or surfaces. Both large and small items are crafted with detail in this package, inside and out. The models are created in a “frame rate friendly” fashion, while still looking their best. The control surfaces all function smoothly with no glitches, to include functioning trim tabs. The various styles of canopies function in a realistically smooth fashion. The prop spinner is animated smoothly and accents the propeller nicely. The bombs that are loaded under the wings of all the aircraft can only be removed while in flight by dropping them.
Clicking the bomb release switches and then clicking on the release lever do this operation. The bombs actually fall away from the aircraft, but have no effect in FS9, and disappear quickly. I tried to configure a flight with no bombs loaded by going to the Payload/Fuel Settings, but to no avail. As long as the weapons are being mentioned, note that the machine guns are for looks only and do not fire.
The liveries are all beautifully done and some are quite impressive. The paints represent a host of fighters that had served in various theaters of war. The details really make a difference in your perception of what’s “real looking”, and for the “screen shooters”, this product offers you some excellent material to work with. Excellent lighting on the surfaces of the planes, with excellent shadowing effects as well, really make this model “come alive”. To put it simply, leaving the technical jargon out of it, all these models look great flying in the virtual skies! All liveries have a realistic metallic look to them. That goes for both painted and bare metal versions.
The surface textures of the various aircraft have a great look to them, revealing wear and tear on the aircraft surfaces, the “rivets” and the seams. All are “painted” on in a realistic looking manner, making those flush rivets truly look flush. Looking at some of the screenshots, as usual, will show what I mean here. The propeller textures look great at all RPM’s and are smooth in changing from one phase to another.
The canopy textures add yet another bit of realism, as you pan around and look outside. The “wear” and slight distortions of the canopy gives you a feeling of sitting in the bird. Exterior lights look to be authentically placed, not just wing tips and top of tail fin. The lights do appear to be default lighting, but I was impressed with the accurate placement.
So, to wrap up the “walk-around” of the outside of this model, Classic Hanger did a great job in both creating the base model, and liveries.
Taking a peek inside reveals a very detailed and realistically laid out cockpit for this series of P-51’s. The Virtual Cockpit really is quite detailed and functional. This was also referred to as version 2 Virtual Cockpit. In looking at some of the screenshots of their past Mustang models from a few years ago, it would seem that the panels and interiors are similar, if not the same. The VC was very “Frame Rate Friendly”, even for my rather “old” system. The instruments operate with a combination of click and hold movements of the mouse. Some instruments perform functions, while others move just for “looks”.
You can fly this model by the checklist, but some items on that list are there only for the “realism” factor. Engine controls, such as the mix, prop, and throttle all function smoothly and efficiently, as do the switches that control various cooling functions. You can see on the gauges and feel by the performance of the aircraft, that it does, in fact matter how these controls are utilized during the stages of flight.
Other controls such as the trim knobs, light switches, bomb arm and bomb release controls, pitot heat, etc. function properly. It would be wise to know where your trim knobs are! The Mustang tends to have a bit of torque to it! One comment about the interior of the Mustang was that the pilot had a cockpit that was designed for easy manipulation of controls. Knowing where everything is and not having to take your eyes away from the windscreen, is a major benefit for the pilot.
The models also come with an electric aiming deice that can be switched off and on. The rear view mirror reflects the effect of a horizon, sky, and land, but still looks better than a “pasted picture” of helmet and sky! Although it’s not exactly what’s behind you, it adds a real nice touch to the appearance and feel of the cockpit. The pilot is rendered very realistically. “Virtual Pilot’s” have come a long way in how they look!
I found that the lighting effects, both interior and exterior, were very well done. The exterior lights were accurately placed, and it looks like default light effects were used. It was a nice surprise to see the nav lights, formation lights, etc, placed correctly, and not just on the tips of the wings and tail fin.
The panel is also an updated version of the earlier presentations. The panels provided are the Virtual Cockpit, along with three pop up panels; fuel gauge, radio (a modern Bendix), and a GPS. These avionics are accessible only with the Shift + 1, 2, 3 keys. No icons on the panel itself. There is no 2D panel included with this product. I still like the “old” 2D views though, but the smooth operation and great refresh rates of the gauges, make up for the lack of the 2D panel. I mentioned above, while discussing the interior of the aircraft, how much detail there was to be seen. The work on the panels is a job well done. They are excellently made, reflecting what the real panels were like in just about all aspects.
There are loads of “clickable” switches throughout the cockpit. The important ones for an authentic start up and shut down are there for your use with the checklist. Some are there for looks only, moving, but with no sim function. All gauges were very crisp and readable, even the smaller ones such as oil temperature and such. I had to put on my reading glasses, but that’s just me folks, not the model!
An Oxygen Flow Gauge is installed on the panel as well, in the upper right, and displays when the O2 kicks in, which it does automatically at 10,000 feet. The pop-up fuel gauge is just for the center, fuselage tank, while the other gauges are on the floor, to the left and right of the seat. According to the checklist, after takeoff, you switch to the main tank.
You do have the “no panel view” which displays the basic six instruments, and could be a handy view for taxiing and take offs, as this bird’s nose sticks way up in the air, but I found that with the handy “F1 View” utility that is kindly made available for free from Flight1, you can move your position back with the mouse wheel, without having to fiddle with the zoom. I don’t like zooming out for a better view, it just doesn’t look right to me, and that’s in any aircraft model. With these models coming out with no 2D panels, the “F1 View” utility is invaluable!
Using the trim knobs with the mouse was a bit cumbersome, having to pan back and forth between the knobs, the panel, and the outside. Trying to keep it level while trying to trim for level flight or a steady climb rate is a challenge and panning around doesn’t make it any easier. This is not a flaw of the model, just a restriction of the hand/eye/speed coordination issue and the fact that the Mustang is a “heads-up”, eyes outside and on your gauges kind of aircraft. This was solved by programming the trim tab functions into my joystick. This probably would not have been a problem in the real Mustang cockpit!
The radio can be programmed for both a VOR and an NDB, but no movement from the gauge. The developer did reply that it does function, but not in the usual way, and I am waiting for a response, which has been in a timely manner on other questions I posed. On the Bendix radio, the DME shows stats for the programmed VOR, (distance, etc) and tones would be heard as well for these stations.
There is no autopilot in the P-51, and none are represented on the panels, but, it is possible to use the AP for heading and altitude control by programming in a joystick button or keystroke. You may want to check past models (of any type) that you may own that have no inherent AP functions displayed, but the functions may be “active” in the aircraft configuration files.
The sounds of this model, from the start up to take off, and to the sputter of shut down, are all very top notch. Most notable are the engine sounds, which we are usually most concerned with. At variations in RPM, the sound package for the engine kept right up and portrayed a smooth transition from one phase of engine operation to another. No “Looping” sound track was evident. All other ambient sounds, cockpit noises, etc, were there to add to the realism. Recordings were made in various locations around and in an actual P-51. The sound package is a perfect compliment for this package.
Actual flight data was used to develop the airfile for this package, along with numerous interviews and consults with former and present day P-51 pilots. Warbirdsim states that some of the pilots that took the simulated Mustang for a spin thought it a very accurate rendition of the aircraft.
Taxiing is a juggling act between the use of brakes and the rudder, as you have to taxi in a weaving back and forth type of pattern down the lane in order to see where you are going. That’s a long, high nose out there in front of you! The tail wheel locks in position when you pull back on the stick, and will unlock when you push slightly forward. This is an added aid in taxing the aircraft. Smooth, small bursts of throttle will be enough to keep her moving.
Once you are in position for take off, and you start your roll, you’ll soon see why the Mustang is righteously named after an animal of power and speed. Inexperienced simmers will become discouraged in just trying to get down the runway in a straight line. That is if you have your “Realism Settings” at their highest. That engine and prop are fighting to pull to the left real bad! In the manual, it is instructed that you set the rudder trim to 6 degrees right rudder for takeoff, to help compensate for the torque…a good suggestion to follow.
Right after your wheels leave the ground at around 130-140 mph, you’ll experience a slight roll to the left. You should be prepared to compensate with a little right aileron. This seems to be an accurate rendering of the effect that the power has on the airframe. While watching a special on television concerning the P-51, a former pilot stated that if you really wanted to see what that torque could do, take her up for a cruise, throttle down substantially, keeping the nose in a slight positive attitude, and when she comes close to a stall, hit the throttle forward and observe what the plane does! I did this “exercise” with the Warbirdsim model, and I must say, if I was in a real P-51, I think my jaw would have dropped! To me, this maneuver said a lot about the quality of the air file and the research that went into formulating it.
Leaving the ground, wheels up, flaps up and we are on our way! A quick mention on flap settings here…I’m not sure if it is how the “real” aircraft acts or not, but when setting flaps for take off, they will jump right to 20 degrees, out of 50. There is a 10 degree setting but by using the Flap Lever in the VC or the buttons on my joystick, the same was happening. Not a huge issue, but one worth note.
In the air, climbing out with about 45 inches of Manifold showing, it will take a steady hand and fiddling with trim to keep her climbing at a regular rate of fpm. The Mustang has a pretty fast rate of climb. This certainly is a hand’s on aircraft to fly even while trimmed out. You’ll have to keep your hand on the stick to keep the Mustang steady. The trim is also an accurate representation of the flight dynamics of the real P-51. Setting trim is a very touchy operation as it is very sensitive. A balance between trim and speed will help keep your arm from getting tired! Up around 20,000 feet, she cruises steady and reliably, but these early models of Mustang’s could really dance through the terrain at low-levels as well, and look good doing it!
I was very impressed with the performance of this model. What it could do and what it could not do (aerodynamically) seem to be accurately portrayed so the simmer can get a taste of what it is might be like to fly one of these legendary fighters! It is not an easy aircraft to master, especially with realism settings at maximum, but with practice, you’ll be looking good and straight down that runway, with a crisp, clean roll out for takeoff.
Getting the Mustang on the ground is performed by setting down with a three-point landing, with a slightly nose high attitude. These can be a challenge because of the nose of this aircraft being so long, impeding your view. Again, with enough practice, and following the correct procedures and settings, you should be able to put another feather in your cap, and call it a P-51 Mustang! After mastering this model, you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment!
Summary / Closing Remarks
Once again, it has been a pleasure to review yet another P-51 Mustang package. There are quite a few P-51 models out there, both payware and freeware, and each one has its own unique attributes. This package has quite a few! The base models and VC are updated versions of an earlier (2008) version of this package. From what I read in a review of one of their earlier P-51 products, WarbirdSim P-51 Package, they did a great job the first time out. This version is a job well done also, with excellent flight dynamics, looks, and an obvious desire for detail!
There were some items that were questionable, such as the lack of an authentic navigation tool (as far as I can tell), seemingly no available fuel gauges for the other tanks besides the center fuselage tank (pop-up gauge), and no apparent exterior effects, such as wing tip trails. However, the realism of the model and the details that make up this package of Mustang’s makes £19.95 / approximately $32.00 USD, a fair price for what’s included in this product.
For more information on this product and the FSX version, visit www.warbirdsim.com.
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