Can you imagine walking everyday the same path between the acres and just when you think you know every stone and hedgerow along the way you discover a new species? That’s how I felt when I stumbled over Microsimulator’s T37 Tweet aircraft add-on. It was mentioned in an FSX blog under “best aircraft for MSFS” and since all the other aircraft were exactly to my taste, I looked at the link.
I came to a web page which showed some pretty impressive pictures of the plane, and after clicking through the screenshots, I stumbled across the free manual download. I am the study sim type, and the manual is nothing short of a monograph of the plane. I printed it out and fell immediately in love.
The Cessna T37 is a basic side-by-side USAF trainer that entered service in 1956 with the T37-A model. It had a twin engine layout of two Continental-Teledyne J-69-T-9 turbojet engines with 4.1 kN (420 kgp / 920 lbf) thrust each and weighed roughly 7000 pounds. Cadet training began in 1957 and the aircraft quickly gathered a reputation of being a pleasure to fly for both students and instructors. Furthermore, the plane was capable of performing all sorts of aerobatics. With regards to this, it was considered as a replacement for the F-100 Sabres of the Thunderbirds demonstration team, a proposal that was later turned down by the USAF who decided to stay with the F-100.
The “Tweet” was also known as the “Dragonfly” performing in the “Combat Dragon” evaluation program where it saw CAS, FAC and night interdiction missions in South East Asia in 1967. Though underpowered and of low endurance (the aircraft was flown routinely on one engine in cruise flight), its combat appearance was regarded as a success. Improvements of the final combat “A” (attack) Version, the A37-B, affected the engines (now General Electric J85-GE-17A with 12.7 kN (1.300 kgp/2850 lbf) thrust each), redundant control lines, ejection seat armour plates and self sealing tanks. The planes were also equipped with a mid-air refueling probe. A General Electric GAU-2B/A 7.62 millimeter Gatling "Minigun" with a rate of fire of 3,000 rounds a minute and 1,500 rounds of ammunition was fitted to the right side of the nose with a corresponding gun sight and camera. The avionics suite was also upgraded for battlefield communications.
microSim’s T37 features the “T” (training) variants 37A and the 37C.
Installation and Documentation
The installer is a 73 MB file with the Flight One purchasing system. As usual with Flight One, everything worked flawless. There are two updates available, but due to piracy, their links have been removed from the homepage and you have to mail the support people personally for their direct links. I received my support mail within 12 hours of contacting microSim. The 1.03 update is 3 MB, the 1.04 update 32 MB. Once installed, you are required to change the key mapping of the speed brake and you are presented with a little configuration utility which enables you to select a soundset. A dual aircraft installation into FS 2004 is possible.
The accompanying HTML-manual is simply awesome. It gives you a good insight on virtually any aspect of the plane. The electric and hydraulic system is explained, every instrument is outlined with regards to the effects of a DC or hydraulic failure. You’ll become introduced to a couple of air force procedures and you’ll receive a lesson in aerobatics. Add to all that checklists, IFR rules of thumb and speed tables, as well as an historical chapter on the evolution of the plane. The manual is a true work of dedication.
I’d recommend everyone who’s unsure about purchasing the aircraft to download the .pdf manual and read a few chapters. I am convinced that after a while you’ll come to the conclusion that people who put so much compassion into a manual cannot fail to create a sound plane.
If the simulation should differ in one aspect or another from the original plane, the reasons for this are explained in the manual and the difference is outlined. Most of the time, this is due to things you cannot perform in FS9 (like a preflight walk around or UHF radio etc.), sometimes it is due to convenience for the pilot (like the mini NAV panel or the autopilot supplied).
The aircraft comes with 11 liveries. The T37A has got the Vance AFB, Reese AFB, Laughlin AFB, Columbus AFB, Sheppard AFB, Randolph AFB, Korean AF, NASA and Cessna factory rollout paint schemes. The T37C (armaments trainer) of the 1.04 update, with its long range wingtip tanks, has a camouflage scheme. All textures are photorealistic with readable decals. Some are highly reflective with impressive effects as outlined in the screenshots.
The 3D model is up to date and features rotating fan blades and moving trim tabs. The gear has hoses and the gear wells are textured inside. The underside of the speed brake is also textured. The overall appearance is pleasant and will almost certainly draw some muttered “wow” comments from the user. In short, the exterior modeling left nothing for me to wish for.
Though the developers emphasize the use of the 2D-Panel, I use Track-IR and spend most of my time in the VC. Every switch is clickable in the 2D cockpit and in the 3D cockpit as well. Working switch caps are modeled. All levers and instruments are 3D. All of the instrument's textures are crisp and highly readable. The update rate is sufficient.
Applying trim adjusts your stick visibly in the VC. The panels and levers are appropriately weathered and add a lot to the immersion of sitting in a heavily used air force trainer. You can almost smell the sweat poured out by generations of students aiming to qualify for a step further in their training.
The canopy opens and closes and the two pilots are neatly detailed with photorealistic textures as well. For those who prefer to fly alone, the instructor in the right seat can be removed by clicking a cockpit switch. In addition, detailed modeling of the ejection seats and cockpit frames had been carried out.
The 2D panel has a sound 3D appearance. As you can guess by the described quality of the VC, it fell short of nothing. All the main flight instruments and navigational aids are arranged in a way of still leaving enough room to have a reasonable field of view out of your canopy. The panel comes with eight sub panels; six of them are unique to the plane.
comm panel, consisting of the VHF radio, VOR receiver, TACAN DME
selector and squawk-box. The real T37 has only a UHF radio; this
is simulated using the FS9 VHF radio.
The real T37 has no autopilot, but for training purposes, the model was equipped with the basic flight simulator autopilot. You can also select the default GPS, this is not too unrealistic, since you could carry it with you.
On my system, there was no noticeable frame rate drop or any other performance issues that I perceived. Apart from the speedbrake problem, which may or may not be related to my system, I had a stable performance.
The model installs with 79 sound files. The T37 had a deafening, annoying high-pitch engine noise which gave her the nickname “Tweety bird”. Without having listened to the real thing, I am convinced the developers did a good job in recreating this. My wife would second that, as she noticed with some sarcasm the constant whistling in the evenings out of my "office" the last couple of weeks. I am also impressed by their “realism over gimmicks” approach and the consecutive restraining from gear, flaps or speedbrake motor sounds. As the authors explain, none of those sounds could be heard in the cockpit of the real thing, and the only aural cue for the pilot is a change in the wind sounds.
The T37 has a virtual copilot/instructor who gives you callouts referring to heights, ILS-decision heights, non precision minimums, fuel state and several overspeed warnings. The warnings are all fully configurable and can be turned on and off separately.
No real extras here. Maybe in this special case, I’d call the manual an extra worth mentioning. The other possible extra would be the configurable virtual co-pilot/instructor with his callouts. Apart from that, you’ll get exactly for what you’ve paid for and nothing more.
The plane feels exactly like an agile little jet trainer with muscle powered flight controls and comparatively weak turbines. Once everything has spooled up, it’s a joy to fly. To do the aerobatics outlined in the manual, you have to develop some skills, since the lack of power does not allow you to trade thrust for technique. While being definitely a VFR-plane, I shot some IFR approaches which showed a remarkable vertical stability on the glide slope while having a tendency to overshoot and oscillate on lateral corrections. I guess that’s why a yaw damper had been introduced in the planes. Flying approaches by the book is very satisfying with this plane, especially at night.
The aerodynamically sleek design calls for a speedbrake on final, and since I never got mine to work right with the joystick, I had a few high speed landings. Nevertheless, safe landings with standard approaches were possible.
The authors explain that they did not intent to model the complex spin character of the original airplane, as FS9 shows its limitations here. With Microsim’s T37, stalling the airplane advances into a slow spin which is easy to recover from by releasing stick pressure. The original spin recovery is described as a complex procedure with six steps to perform.
Here we go, tightly strapped in we prepare for a dusk patrol from Vandenberg AFB (KVBG) to Edwards AFB (KEDW) in FS9 cold front weather. Spooling up the engines: Applying left starter, at 10% rpm my instructor calls out the ignition, after reaching 200 degrees exhaust temperature, ignition is terminated and we wait for the turbine to stabilize at idle. Done that, I close the left generator and its switch cap. Slowly spooling up the left engine to 60%, we are now able to start engine 2. Both engines idle, we close the right generator and confirm the load of the left generator reducing itself to one half.
After getting the clearance and setting flaps to 50% (20 degrees), I smoothly apply full thrust. Spooling up to a shrieking high whistle tone, the plane accelerates slowly. It takes little airmanship to keep the plane on the centreline. At 60 knots, I apply enough back pressure for 5 degrees in the ADI. Reaching 100 knots, the tweet leaps into the cool, dark evening air.
Passing the GME-VOR at 11000 ft, the weather worsens slightly and we get vectored north. As I always find it hard to trim the plane for level flight in FS9, I use the autopilot now. At first, I disliked the decision of Microsim to incorporate this unrealistic feature, but on this uneventful haul it proves wise. East of Edwards, we turn south aiming at 3500 ft. and eventually west to capture the ILS 224 radial on final.
Jet penetration here takes use of the speedbrake. After trimming the plane to 140 knots, I apply 50% flaps. A few minutes later, the outer marker comes alive. Approach speed on final with gear down and 80% rpm and we're now at 100 knots. I am slightly below the GS and the airfield is in sight. Applying a little more thrust for a few seconds brings me back on the slope and we touch down at 100 knots. My instructor nods satisfied: Passed! Piece of cake.
microSim’s T37 appears to be quite a unique blend between shear, glowing enthusiasm and professionalism. Given the price drop of many other FS9 add-on aircraft, $30 is a lot of money for a single jet trainer with a few liveries and an apparent total lack of support. On the other hand, there is the outstanding manual and the very detailed plane with a high immersion factor. And, above all, as you’d expect from the real plane, it is a joy to fly.
So I did not regret spending my money on it, and I am quite sure I will be flying it for some time in the future.
Credits: I used the excellent Southern California Scenery Enhancements pack v2.0 by Brian C. Selb for Vandenberg AFB and the Edwards AFB scenery by Dennis Waggoner and Dave O'Brien for Edwards (both available in the Avsim library)
What I Like About The T37
What I Don't Like About The T37
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved