A few months ago I took a flight in FS9 that left a big impression on me. While performing a routine cargo run from Miami to Los Angeles for my virtual airline, I formed up with two of my fellow simmers along the way; one flying the PMDG 747, and the other in the Level-D 767. As for me, I was in the CS707, a good aircraft, but without the update it so desperately needs.
Along the way these two desktop pilots kept arguing back and forth about who had the better aircraft. One mentioned the advanced systems programming, another bragged about the authenticity of the flight dynamics, I even heard one of them mention how they get stellar performance while the other went on and on about the fluidity of the gauges. As it happens, they're both right, I have both of these aircraft and fully agree with everything said…so what was I doing in an incomplete 707?
I mention this story because it has a lot to do with my opinion of the product under review today, the Abacus “Fly the Airbus A380” version 2. You see, like so many simmers who have returned to FS9 after finding FSX to be more than there system can handle, or are otherwise not impressed with the new simulator, I too have come back to FS9, this time demanding more than ever before. No longer will a sub-par aircraft be permitted to remain in my virtual hangar, nor will any add-on that does not live up to the promises of the vendor. And if a company tells me that an update will be released, or that another block will be out soon, well, I’ll believe it when I see it.
So what about this A380? Can it meet my increasing demands, or will it follow so many others into my recycle bin? That is what I am going to determine today as I put this behemoth to the test. This package includes four models of the Airbus A380, a host of liveries, and an enhanced version of the Toulouse Blagnac International Airport, compatible with FS9 and FSX. At just $19.00, or perhaps less if you qualify for the reduced price or free upgrade, this package may seem enticing. After all, the A380, when modeled correctly with an authentic airfile, sound set, and fully integrated systems would be a steal at this price…let’s go see if it really is.
Installation and Documentation
Download the 145 MB zip file, extract it, run the auto-installer, enter your key code, and voila, you’re ready to fly. Or if you purchase the CD version, just follow the onscreen prompts and you will be airborne in a matter of two minutes.
During the installation process there will be five folders added to your FS9 main directory, four of which include each of the aircraft, and one with documentation. Other files will be added as well, but they are of no concern right now since they contain flight and NAV data for the FMC that I have no interest in fooling around with. In addition to this, files for the scenery enhancement of the Toulouse Blagnac International Airport will also be added, which you may or may not need to install manually in the FS9 “Settings” menu, though you probably won't if all went well during installation.
Before you hop into the flight deck for the first time, you may want to consult the documentation. Although there is really not much to learn aside from the information in the fairly detailed FMC users guide. Also included is a “read-me” file that discusses installation of the aircraft and scenery, a checklist and reference HTML document in the aircraft folders, and an advertisement for Transload Virtual Airlines in the “Fly the Airbus A380 V2” folder added to your FS9 main directory.
Of all these documents, the only one I found to be of any use was the FMC users guide, which I would highly recommend reading if you are unfamiliar with using an FMC, or even if you need a refresher…the author did a pretty good job on this instructional guide.
Exterior Models (A380-700/-800/-800F/-900)
The designer modeled this version of the A380 in four different models, the 700, 800, 800F (8F) and 900, three of which share the same liveries. The 700, 800, and 900 models each have a livery for Air France, the old and new Airbus house colors, British Airways, China Southern, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Qantas, Scandanavian (SAS), Singapore Air, Thai Airways, Transload VA, and Virgin Atlantic. The 800F (freighter) comes with an Airbus house color, Dragon Air Cargo, Korean Air Cargo, and Transload Cargo VA livery. Those of you who are unfamiliar with Transload Virtual Airlines, you may want to take a flight over to their website.
The exterior modeling is marginally satisfactory by my standards, but lacks the in-depth detail that I was hoping for. Also, I have encountered a few problems, which are hopefully isolated to my experience with this aircraft. For example, the nose gear does not turn. If you look at the screenshot below, you will see that I have full left rudder applied and am traveling at a speed of 10 KIAS, but the wheels remain straight. A detail that should not have been overlooked, assuming that this affliction does not apply only to me. Another distraction I encountered is with the elevators, the inside of which appear to rub against the fuselage, and maybe I need glasses, but I could swear that one of the elevators, the port side in the picture below, is lower than the other when down…you tell me.
Another complaint I have is with the passenger windows, which are textured on. I am not convinced by this texturing and would have much rather seen a few Boolean operations used to cut out some windows instead. I have seen textured passenger windows that look good on other aircraft, but this one just doesn’t cut it for me, maybe you will disagree. Aside from the aforementioned items, I don’t have much to gripe about, but I don’t consider these items to be minor, at least for payware.
The texturing, with the exception of the windows, looks decent to me, although a few of the liveries could have shown more indication of normal wear. Maybe some exhaust stains, a little dirt here and there, or perhaps some weathering. I know that this aircraft is new, but it doesn’t have to look like it, at least not on all of the liveries. To be fair, there are some good details on a few of the paint schemes, just not the aged look that I would have liked to have seen on at least one of them, after all, eventually the A380 will not be new anymore. I am pleased to report that after researching the liveries, the real-world liveries that will someday be on the A380 are as authentic as can be, given the information available at the current time.
If you’re into eye candy, then you may be pleased to know that the exterior model includes a variety of ground equipment that can be seen when activated via the “stairs” button on a sub panel or by use of the wing fold key command. A fuel truck, stairs, baggage cart, APU, and more can be displayed for your viewing pleasure, though having taken the time to model these items, I wish they were a touch more detailed like some of the pushback trucks I have seen. Also, I encountered a problem with the textures loading from time to time; in fact, I had that same problem with the aircraft textures, more to come on that later.
I happen to like the ground equipment, for if nothing else it makes for a nice screenshot. The only problem I have is that this aircraft is not programmed to remove the equipment automatically when a certain condition is met, such as when the parking brake is released. If you forget to push the switch to get rid of the ground equipment, you will take off with it all still attached.
In short, the exterior modeling has some problems, but nothing that can’t be fixed with an update from Abacus. I am not overly enthused when I compare this aircraft to the FS9 legends, like the PMDG 747, or despite the e-mails I will receive for saying this, the Captain Sim exterior modeling of most of their aircraft. My experience with Abacus is that their aircraft are designed to provide a good cost-value to the consumer, that is to say, that while you will not get the stunning modeling of the premium payware aircraft, you won’t be paying a premium price either. You will just have to decide how much authenticity you are willing to trade off.
Flight Deck and Panel
The panel included in this package is rather noncomplex with not a whole lot in the way of user interaction. It consists primarily of a PFD, MFD, ND, EICAS, and an autopilot panel. The virtual cockpit mirrors the panel with the exception that the pilot's default view point is higher, and of course, the panel is reversed on the co-pilot’s side. Most of the primary instrumentation uses default gauges, which seemed to lack smooth and fluid movement to me, and also lacks any originality. Also, by using these default instruments there is no indication of authenticity, such as lens glare, depth, or detailed texturing.
All of the instrumentation, including the autopilot panel, is mostly clear and legible even if zoomed out a bit, and every switch, toggle, etc. is spaced from one another with plenty of room to negotiate the panel. Unfortunately, I did not find the detail to be extraordinary, something that could be improved with more attention to the texturing, especially the shadowing. In my opinion, the panel is not designed to be embraced by the more advanced simmer, but it is suitable for those of you looking for an aircraft that you can hop right in and fly right away without spending much time dealing with in-depth systems.
The rest of the flight deck is wide open with little in the way of animation or excessive detailing. There is an overhead panel that is partially functional, but too many switches are just for looks and includes a console that houses the radio stack and throttle quadrant. Using Track IR, or a well configured HOTAS with hat switches, these areas are easily accessible, but otherwise you would be best off using the supplied sub panels as you will have to do so anyway if flying from the “cockpit” view.
My biggest complaint about the virtual cockpit is that the detail is not on par with the current cycle of payware add-ons. A little extra effort put towards modeling certain things, such as the autobrake knob, would have also gone a long way towards improving the VC visually. But as I said before, this panel and VC could be received well by those who are not interested in having to deal with the more advanced features provided in similar payware aircraft.
There are four sub panels included in this package, one of which is the default Garmin 500 GPS, as well as an electrical/overhead panel, a throttle quadrant/radio stack, and an FMC, which is also available on the panel (display window only) and on both sides of the virtual cockpit. The electrical/overhead panel is functional, though intrusive to use on the fly. It contains access to the generators, AC, DC, battery, and master avionics switches, electrical vacuum, engine autostart, nav, strobe, beacon, taxi, logo, and landing lights, the APU generator and air switches, all four anti-ice switches, and the pitot heat and auto spoiler control. Also included are switches for the fuel and hydraulics, engine fire switches, exits, stairs (ground support equipment), and the seat belts and no smoking signs. Basically, this sub panel contains everything from the overhead panel in the VC that is functional.
Like the former panel, the throttle quadrant sub panel is an easily accessible, yet also intrusive, panel that contains all of the functional controls on the throttle quadrant and radio stack in the virtual cockpit. The lower half of the panel consists of a com1, com2, nav1, and nav2 radio, an ADF, transponder, and a small audio panel. All of the equipment on the radio stack should look familiar to you…they are the same gauges used in the default 737. The top half of the panel includes the throttle controls, flaps, parking brake, spoilers, elevator trim wheels, and fuel control switches.
The FMC can be found in the sub panel, on the main panel (display window only), or on either side of the virtual cockpit. It offers a user-friendly interface with a fairly in-depth range of options. It has the capability of following a saved flight plan from within the simulator, or you can create one within the FMC. It can control the aircraft via the autopilot from just after takeoff to right before landing with little interaction, or can be modified enroute as needed. It is not very complex, and in my opinion, is great for those who are new to using a flight management computer but perhaps a bit less inclusive than the advanced simmer would prefer.
If you get bored in the flight deck, the Abacus A380 offers multiple cabin views for you to visit inflight. Unfortunately, the cabin is not quite as detailed as I would have hoped, that is to say, that while it does have seats, tables, stairs, and all kinds of goodies to look at, the texturing is nothing to write home about. For example, while the cabin windows are cut out, they are bland without any shades or texturing. Plus, possibly due to limitations within FS, you cannot position yourself high enough to look down on the upper deck, far back enough to look forward through the entire lower deck, or far enough to either side to get a good look out the windows, at least I couldn't even with the F1 view module.
The only reason I ever stroll through a cabin is to position myself in a seat for a passenger's view out of the aircraft while on autopilot. Since I could not accomplish that with this aircraft, at least not to my liking, I would have much preferred that there not be a virtual cabin. This could quite possibly add some FPS and make for a more enjoyable VC experience, which I will talk about later when I discuss performance. I did not find the detail in the cabin to be stellar, or even significant enough to make it worth having.
Sounds of the A380
Well it is loud, and it does represent a large four engine jet just fine, but it seems to be focused more on the grumbles and rumbles and less on the common hiss during spool up and other sounds that tend to accompany these type of engines. Noise abatement technology is in full effect inside the flight deck, but you can still make out the deep groan, especially when the reverse thrusters are in full force. Of course, the usual clicks are present as are the sounds of the flaps and retracting landing gear.
What is missing, is the sounds heard when rolling down the runway, which I consider a must in any heavy. I also didn’t pick up on anything special during touchdown, no ambient sounds, and nothing else that makes this sound set special. A few clanking sounds to indicate that I am moving a massive aircraft down the runway would have been a nice touch. However, I have to admit that I am otherwise satisfied, at least until I go searching through the Avsim library.
It’s big, and it acts like it…most of the time. This rendition of the A380 is just about as sluggish as I would expect such a massive aircraft to be, however, I was surprised to find that it does not require the runway length or the ground speed to get airborne that I was expecting. Depending on the fuel and payload, you may need upwards of 7,000 - 8,000 feet to rollout, or you might make it in less than 5,000. In some cases I could reach VR at 140 KIAS, but a heavier payload required 170 KIAS. The fact that I could take off, even with an empty aircraft, at 130 KIAS in less than 5,000 feet did not seem quite right to me, but I guess you really do learn something everyday…or perhaps a little tweaking is in order.
Landing this aircraft left me as confused as takeoff sometimes, especially when I touched down on the 1,900 ft long asphalt runway at CAV3 with room to spare. I was not expecting to have the opportunity to even consider stopping at airports with less than at least 9,000 feet of runway, especially since possible airport modifications have been discussed to accommodate this aircraft. Of course that is not always the case, in fact I have had trouble stopping in time at many larger facilities, but in those cases a full fuel and payload were onboard.
While inflight, I got exactly what I expected out of this aircraft. It is indeed a sluggish, slow to respond behemoth, which reflects its size and control surface area well. At speeds upwards of 360 KIAS, the A380 requires plenty of room to make that turn towards your next waypoint, and you don’t want to overshoot your turn onto final or you may be trying again. The novice simmer, or those who struggle to land the heavies, may be pleased to know that it practically lands itself when trimmed properly, and it doesn’t sink a like rock if you come in a little low and slow.
Perhaps it is isolated to my experience with this aircraft, or perhaps not, but for some reason I did not get satisfactory performance in the virtual cockpit. The panel view was fine, the spot view was acceptable despite having some texture loading problems, but the VC did not meet my standards for acceptable performance. The textures often took several seconds to load, and the frame rates were in the high teens and low 20’s, which I cannot explain given the fact that I get mid 30 FPS in the most complex aircraft. This is a problem for me because I like to use Track IR 4, and in general I have become hooked on flying from the VC for that extra touch of realism. I have my suspicions that removing the virtual cabin would help a lot.
And you know those texture loading problems I talked about earlier? Well they can certainly be aggravating, especially when trying to switch between views quickly. In addition to the virtual cockpit taking too long to load at times, the exterior texturing also had this same affliction, often taking several seconds to load the textures. The same goes for the ground equipment, which sometimes did not load up at all. Maybe there is a problem with my video card, or maybe it’s something else, but if so, then I have to question why this is the only aircraft in my fleet of nearly 100 planes that suffers from this problem…yes, I have checked them all. I encourage others with this aircraft to share your experience in the Avsim forums.
Include in this package is a modified rendition of the Toulouse Blagnac International Airport (LFBO) located in southern France between Blagnac to the north and Toulouse to the south. LFBO hosts a number of airlines with international service and flights throughout Europe, and is the home of the Airbus final assembly plant and the site of the first A380 test flight. This airport, which served nearly 6 million passengers in 2006, is offered in the default FS9 and FSX scenery but lacks the authenticity of the Airbus buildings and jetways, among other things. Abacus has taken care of that by adding these objects and spicing up the airport a little.
LFBO, found at N43’ 38.10, E1’ 22.07, consists of an 11,480’ concrete runway (15R/33L) running parallel to a 9,920’ macadam runway (15L/33R), both of which are capable of handling Abacus’ rendition of the A380 fully loaded. At 499’ MSL, Blagnac’s southern France local is perfect for an afternoon flight over the Pyrenees, a tour of the Mediterranean, a trip through the Strait of Gibraltar south of Spain, or a weekend trip to Marselle, Bordeaux, or just about any European destination.
have been added, including those used by Airbus at the airport. The
has been redone, which now includes jetways, although they
are not animated. There are no static or dynamic vehicles, and in fact,
there is not much here that would justify this scenery to be a standalone
But since it is just a bonus so to speak, it does add a nice touch
to this package. Just keep in mind that it is not intended to compete
with Fly Tampa
but you won’t be disappointed.
While there are aspects about this package that I like, all in all, it is not my cup of tea and I doubt that the discriminating simmers will feel any different. A few years ago, this aircraft might have fit into my collection very well, but having spent so much time in more complex aircraft, this rendition of the A380 is just not up to par with others in my hangar. Of course, that is comparing it to the advanced systems programming and visual quality of the finest aircraft on the market, which is hard to compete with but I still feel that this A380 could use a little work to bring it up to par. More detail and depth in the panel, a more legible virtual cockpit with increased detail, fixing the exterior modeling and animation errors, and more demanding systems integration are all in order, at least to fit into my hangar.
The exterior model, minus the discrepancies I mentioned earlier, is actually fairly decent in my view, but the panel and virtual cockpit don’t seem to raise the bar set by the FS9 default aircraft. I believe that the detail doesn’t break any new ground. Many of the instruments are taken from the default gauges pool and there is not enough complexity to give pause to a novice simmer. This truly is an aircraft that you can hop right in and fly with little experience, at least given what I remember from my early days in FS. Add this to the fact that the airfile is so-so, but in need of a little tweaking, and the sound set, which is nothing that I would call award worthy, and I am going to have to recommend that you consider the alternatives before making this purchase.
As for the LFBO scenery portion of this package, well, I like it, but it just doesn’t offer enough to make it worth my disk space. I don’t care enough about this airfield to spend any time trying to find an alternative add-on, but if I did, I would be looking for something like the Fly Tampa scenery or the Dreamscenery Indy scenery that I reviewed last year. Maybe some animated jetways would adjust my opinion a bit, or some static, perhaps even dynamic ground vehicles or photo-real textures would help, but after all, it is just a bonus and not really what this package is all about. By itself, it would not be worthy of any portion of my monthly sim allowance, but as part of this package it’s worth a try.
So in closing, I cannot place my endorsement on this package, though I have a feeling that my inbox will fill up quickly with those who disagree with my take on things. One thing I am almost certain of is that those of you addicted to the premium quality aircraft will understand very quickly why I lack any enthusiasm for this package. Of course, I am well aware that this particular package is directed more to those who are looking for a good cost-value, but considering the aircraft I have purchased in the past few months that were less than this one, I would advise you to shop around before diving into this offering.
What I Like About Abacus’ Fly the Airbus A380 V2
What I Don't Like About Abacus’ Fly the Airbus A380 V2
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