The National Acrobatic Team Frecce Tricolori of the Italian Air Force 313th Aerobatic Training Squadron, was established at the Rivolto airbase on the 1st of March 1961. From 1964 till 1981 they used the Aeritalia Fiat G-91 PAN, which is a single seat tactical strike / reconnaissance fighter.
In 1982 the team got TEN Aermacchi MB-339-A / PAN (Pattuglia Acrobatica Nationale) airplanes, a two seat jet trainer employed for acrobatic flying and operational close air support missions against tanks and helicopters. A Team of nine aircraft and one solo form the most numerous aerobatics team in the world. Also regarded as the most prestigious one.
Every year one or two new pilots are assigned to the Frecce Tricolori Team. They are chosen from among the most experienced fighter jet pilots of the Italian Air Force. After the last show of the season, the training pilots begin flying with all the other pilots who may have also changed their role in the team, starting a new training season under the supervision of more experienced pilots.
During the winter months, all the pilots do aerobatic training and achieve and maintain their combat readiness in operations of air support to ground contacts. Under the Commanders guidance, the team is ready to perform in a new aerobatic show season by the beginning of May. The Frecce Tricolori have flown in more than 2,000 airshows throughout Europe, most of North Africa, Middle East, Canada and the United States of America.
Of the loyal and dedicated numerous Frecce Tricolori fan sites, for this aviation enthusiast, the closest thing to aerobatic flying has been from a strategically placed lawn chair and binoculars in hand watching the spectacular displays of the performers at summer airshows. Always left in awe and always left wondering just what it might be like to fly with such a demonstration team. Cloud 9 presents for MSFS Frecce Tricolori and an exquisite opportunity to experience just what it may be like.
Installation and Documentation
After downloading the Cloud 9 file, an install wizard can be started to open a familiar installer with a simple step-by-step procedure. It is worthy to mention Cloud 9 offers a Trial Option or a “Fly before you Buy” option. After the installation of the download, the Cloud 9 products are fully working and offer a limited time trial within MSFS to try the product before you decide to purchase. Although the trial is short, it does give you an opportunity to look over the features. After the trial, the product may be purchased directly from inside the MSFS addon managers pull down menu. The procedure is clearly outlined in the 35 page Activation and Reactivation manual provided with the download. Both Rivolto AFB and Frecce Tricolori were a simple and smooth installation requiring no further setting adjustments.
Included with the Rivolto AFB scenery is a simple 15 page document illustrating features and included maps and charts. Frecce Tricolori documents include 92 pages of easy to read and not "over technical" overviews of system features and functions. A brief history of the Team as well as a chapter from Dudley Henriques (International Fighter Pilots Founder and President), plus a tutorial on real world airshow display flying in the Aermacchi MB 339 PAN.
The Rivolto AFB Scenery
Rivolto AFB, home of the Frecce Tricolori, is located in the North-East of Italy. Offered as a separate purchase, Cloud 9 offers a 40% discount to purchasers of the Frecce Tricolori. To truly experience the Team and where it all begins, I highly recommend this combination.
Included in the Airforce Base are over 20 hangars and buildings with hangar doors that automatically open when approaching the entrance. Taxiways, aprons and the runways are highly detailed with textures and markings. Featured are customized airport buildings, towers, ammunition stores, and military residential buildings. Airport fences, service trucks are detailed right down to the colored smoke stains on the grassy areas behind the parking ramps. Realistic airport night lighting is also featured in this all season AFB.
During my flights around Rivolto AFB, and my attempts at some of the aerobatic maneuvers, I found it easily to become disorientated. However, I found several points of reference in the surrounding area to quickly realign my passes along the runway. Nearby communities, roads and lakes in the distance were keys to keeping my situational awareness at those high speeds and maneuvers.
Another nice touch of the Rivolto AFB scenery is the cable across the runway, which adds a little bump when driving over it, as well as the animated runaway net I later discovered as I landed long. That was intentional of course.
Frecce Tricolori Updates
From the time I downloaded the Frecce Tricolori ver 1.0, during my review and numerous flights, I kept checking into the Cloud 9 web site (fscloud9.com) and its forum for the latest news or issues others may have experienced. Now currently offered is the Advanced version 1.0. For my review, I tested the original version then later, the installed ADV 1.00 download. Following the instructions, uninstalling the previous version 1.0 using the windows uninstaller, then simply executing the ADV version self installer was a simple upgrade. No further steps were required.
Several changes from the original version to ADV version included small improvements and fixes as well as an updated 103 page user manual. Most noticeable are the ADV variants in the Cloud 9 aircraft choices in MSFS. The Advanced version of the Frecce Tricolori includes the aircraft in both normal and advanced variant. An added aircraft failures management system and fuel management system are included. Also, improved canopy and ejection effects are updated, as well as new audio effects. Further features included with the ADV version, are detailed wheel chocks, air intake covers and remove before flight flags. A circuit breaker panel window has been added as well as fixes to formation lighting and other external general improvements.
Also available to download is a Service Pack 2 which includes all the current updates and a Livery Pack 1. It should be noted to install the Service Pack prior to the Livery pack download to ensure a proper installation. Included in the Livery pack are another seven liveries.
Cloud 9 offers for download a GPS Tutorial as well as a Repaint Kit. Also a boxed version can be purchased from the Cloud 9 online shop.
2D and VC Panel
As with any new install, a quick brief over the manual, I tried to load up my flight and just take a moment in the cockpit before a quick flight. Impressed with the detailing, I began clicking switches and working my way around the tight cockpit trying out the features of the Aermacchi MB-339 cockpit. After just a minute, I discovered the safety pin for the ejection seat followed by my next selection, which immediately ejected me from the aircraft, followed by a polite message, my flight had ended then my flight reloaded. Well I do know better than this and thankfully this is flight simulator and I’m still here after my curious error. Well, back to the manual for a more thorough read on systems and failures.
For an advanced trainer, the MB339 cockpit is clean and organized with a basic layout. Simple to read and highly detailed analogue instruments are well situated and is comparable to the real life photos. No complicated EFIS, HUD or Electronic Warfare instruments in a weathered cockpit here. For the 2D view, an icon panel is provided for quick access views of 16 panels in the ADV version. An addition to the original version, a circuit breaker panel is included with 8 active circuit breakers that can be isolated during random failures in the ADV version.
The GPS installed in the MB339, unlike the default MSFS version which provided map and terrain views, is a realistic and simple feature. Although there are 8 pages in the manual dedicated to its operation as well as a downloadable tutorial, a simple Remote Display Unit displaying Steerpoint, Bearing To, Time to Go and Groundspeed is located on the upper right main panel for navigation. Flight planning is not available in this version but programmable Lat and Long and the ability for storing these points is available to set the coordinates to the center of the runway or wherever you chose with a little bit of experimenting. Along with the abilities to navigate, the database of airports and beacons, VOR’s and NDB’s; the Mark function, which displays current position, can store up to 10 Mark positions that can be used as Steer points. With a bit of practice this was a useful function, storing Waypoints around Rivolto AFB during my performance during various passes.
A word about autopilot, simply there is no autopilot. This aircraft requires a hands on approach all through the flight and the Flight Director is only a reference aid to the altitude, path or glideslope for the pilot to follow. Really with all the fun that I was having in my flights, I doubt an autopilot would have been a useful option.
For this reviewer, I have been primarily a VC flyer, however, the more I became accustomed to the cockpit with the advanced type of maneuvers I was attempting, I tended to find myself back in the 2D cockpit through parts of my flight. Though both views are highly detailed and equally functioning, with the ADV version and the failures I encountered, I personally found it simpler in the 2D view to resolve my failures within the cockpit. I still maintain the VC view when flying and looking out the canopy.
Instrument lighting, though slightly more pronounced in the 2D view, is realistic and sufficient. Also detailed are functioning warning indications and an annunciator panel. Colored and white smoke indicators on the eyebrow are easily distinguished for smoke on and off. A working oxygen system is included as well as detailed and responsive instrumentation throughout the cockpit. Another feature only available in the 2D view, is the fully functioning aft cockpit main panel.
The Model and Variants
With the addition of the Livery Pack 1 and the ADV version of the Frecce Tricolori, a total of 29 variants are included in the package. The MB339A details 11 configurations while the Frecce MB339 PAN is modeled in 18 configurations. Although this number is abundant, it is really a method to configure the MB339A and MB339PAN with no external stores, or combinations of external stores including smoke tanks, pylon tanks, armor, and tip tanks for both the original and advanced versions. For the Frecce Tricolori MB339PAN, the ten aircraft positions are equipped with a double smoke system either white and green or white and red smoke for the position in the team.
The MB339PAN is skillfully and accurately detailed in the Frecce Tricolori Team colors. Modeled are detailed engine and avionics components visible through opened panel doors when selected through the icon panel. An opening cockpit canopy is smooth and realistic and moves with the pilot removing his O2 mask in the spot plane view. Fully detailed throughout the entire model are accurate paint lines, vents, antennas, and panel lines. Fully working landing gear and flight controls, as well as air brakes, are modeled. External lighting includes taxi, landing, beacon, and nav lighting as well as formation lighting.
External stores can be jettisoned. But if you wish to have a look, be quick because they wont stay in view for long. The smoke system for both the colored and white smoke is lasting and very realistic. If you select the smoke on when parked you’ll find yourself in zero visibility. During high speed passes the smoke will appear further from the aircraft. I found it awkward reaching for the colored smoke switch and later assigned a keyboard stroke for the selection. White smoke is still normally operated by the "I" key. Cockpit indicators for the type of smoke selection are illuminated on the eyebrow when smoke is on.
As compared to real life photos, the Cloud 9 Frecce Tricolori is as real as it gets.
Yes, But How Does It Fly?
Well, it doesn’t get much more fun than this. Painting the sky in colors or white and low passes at the runway can really be fun in free flight. However, trying to keep composed and perform a realistic performance does require skill and focus. The aircraft is very responsive and indications in the cockpit are also sharp and clear. For a proper performance, speeds are critical and keeping a situational awareness is imperative. Even with my joystick sensitivities and null tweaked to my own preference, the MB339 is quick to respond and over controlling the aircraft takes a few flights to sort out.
With the ADV version, failures require quick attention and are usually caused by the pilot. Tires blow at excessive T/O speeds, hydraulic failures are caused by wrong flap speed selections, flame outs due to being inverted too long, as well as engine fires and canopy opening in flight failures require a good understanding of the limits and emergency procedures.
Really, flying the absolutely realistic flight dynamics was simply a blast. My aerobatic skills, though moderate, was enough to really get a sensation of what a real performance may be like and why the real life Frecce Tricolori Team requires only the Best of the Best to be a part of the Team.
I did have a brief opportunity to experiment with Multiflying, however not fully preparing my system for this type of flying for myself as well as my colleague, it was a bit awkward. My personal multiflying experiences have been limited, but with simmers more accustomed to multiflying this would be a grand experience. Cloud 9 provides a brief explanation of a multiplayer system in the manual and I look forward to any screenshots or videos of a team in flight. For my multiflying experience, well, it was a somewhat unrestricted and out of control flight but for a short time our acquired skills began to improve.
Putting It All Together
There are thousands of sites on the internet dedicated to the Frecce Tricolori and they’re home at the Rivolto AFB. Of all of them, a favorite I would specifically recommend is www.malignani.ud.it/WebEnis/aer/aerobatics.html. There is an abundant gallery and history of the Team as well as a display of the Frecce Tricolori acrobatic manoeuvres.
The MB339 is wonderfully modeled in both interior and exterior. In fact, I was equally impressed with the performance on my system even experimenting with flights in other addon sceneries. Cloud 9’s production in co-operation with real team pilots, engineers and manuals, of Rivolto AFB and the Frecce Tricolori’s result in an absolutely realistic and stunning simulator experience.
A special thanks (and credit) to the following for they’re contributions of real life photos and several screenshots I included for comparisons and just to better illustrate the Cloud 9 Frecce Tricolori and Rivolto AFB:
Nick Churchill http://www.screenshotartist.co.uk/
Antoine Roels IAPA - International Aviation Photography Agency http://www.iapa.be/
Braccini Riccardo Aviopress Editor www.aviopress.com
E.J.van Koningsveld (C) www.sky-flash.com
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