AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

T-6 Texan/Harvard Trainer

Product Information
Publisher: Alphasim
Description:  Single-engine trainer.

Download Size:
49 MB each version

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FS9 and FS-X
Reviewed by: Chris Kiehl AVSIM Contributing Reviewer - April 3, 2007

Introduction

The North American T-6 Texan, another very common and popular Pre-WWII era war bird. You can see them at nearly any good air show or fly-in, and many either love them or hate them. I remember being at the 1995 50th anniversary WWII air show in Arizona, and though many of the big war birds didn’t make it in, Texan after Texan could be seen. For a long time, I wasn’t exactly a Texan fan; seeing piles of them at that air show, or seeing them portray Japanese Type 0’s in old war movies didn’t do it for me. However, over time, I’ve grown to appreciate this bird and what makes it special. I jumped at the opportunity to review another Alphasim creation, much less a nicely done Texan. Something many FS Pilots have really been missing.

In the mid 1930’s, North American submitted a design entry to the US Armed Forces for a new type known as the Basic Combat aircraft. This competition was held in 1937, though the plane first flew in an earlier form known as the NA-16 in 1935. Through the late 30’s, interest in this new aircraft would grow both in American and British Air Forces, and it would become to be known most popularly as “The Pilot Maker”.

This advanced trainer gave many new pilots an accurate taste of what they would be dealing with when flying a much more advanced type such as the P-40, P-51, or even the Hellcat in later times. I say this because both the USAAF and United States Navy had, by 1940, adopted the North American Texan as a primary advanced trainer. Many of the greatest pilots of America during the war learned to do advanced flying in a Texan. In addition, many British pilots would learn the same flying skills in what would become the Harvard.

Alphasim has come out with what I call, an excellent rendition of quite a historically important aircraft.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Pentium 4 2.8 Ghz
1.5 GB RAM
512Mb FX 7600
160 GB HD
FS 9.1

Flying Time:
12.5 hours

Simple, which is trademark of Alphasim, and a characteristic I like.

You will receive an email with a Username/Password combination to login to Alphasim’s download page from the email, and another Username/Password for the actual download link once you‘ve logged into the download page.

You will also receive a number indicating which aircraft to download once inside the correct Nationality page for your plane. In the case of this T-6 Texan, the USAF section. Enter the second Username/Password combination once you’ve found the correct area for your plane, and then select either FS9 or FSX versions from this page.

The installation is simply un-zipping from the downloaded folder creating three sub-folders, Aircraft, Effects, Gauges. Placing the contents of each folder in these respective folders should get you on your way to the tarmac.

Documentation seemed, at first, to be very limited. There is a tiny, and I mean small, Readme file in each of the two main aircraft folders in the Aircraft folder mentioned above. This simply has some information about copyright and design, and tells you the command for removing the pilot figures: Shift+W.

I enjoyed these real world Texan manual pictures and charts, adds a nice sense of realism to studying the manual.

The included Checklist within FS, which can be activated by hitting F10, includes a wealth of information; no reference tab was included or needed. Nearly everything you could ask for, from detailed checklists tailored to this craft, to some neat pictures both historical and from the sim, are included to help explain. It’s not twenty pages long, but it’s not too succinct, either. The information got the job done very effectively for me, and got me airborne quickly. Simplicity, which as I mentioned earlier, is something I like.

Aircraft

The external model is extremely crisp, and still has me noticing new and fun details. I should conduct this portion of the review by pointing out, in sections, certain parts of the exterior.

The aircraft portions, fuselage, empennage, and wings all look remarkably accurate. I have seen tens of these aircraft up close, including two I recently saw at an Antique Aircraft Association Fly-in, not to mention seeing rows of Texans at that air show in 1995. Alphasim’s lines and modeling do this plane justice, in my mind, and simply doesn’t fall short in the fine detail department.

If you have seen Texans up close or in flight or both, you can tell that Alphasim caught the lines quite accurately.

The R-1340 Wasp Radial engine is, as usual, my favorite part on any aircraft equipped with a radial. It’s modeling needs to be done well to make a complex yet simple engine believable. This radial engine modeling is beautifully done with enough detail to satisfy most, while still maintaining a simplicity of modeling to avoid harming frame rates. The visible engine portion on many radial engine aircraft in FS is either not modeled well enough or over modeled and takes from the frame rates as I mentioned. You can easily distinguish the valves and heatsink fins; the small intake at the bottom; and looking from behind the wing, you can see inside the cowl venting to the engine. It's modeled very faithfully from this angle as well.

I simply enjoy looking at Alphasim's nicely modeled R-1340 Pratt & Whitney engine.

The landing gear, another part of any model I pay particular attention to, is also very expertly done. The polygon count isn’t shockingly high from what I can see, but at any range they look nice in my book. This gear set had to be big and strong to accommodate the sometimes tougher landings that could be expected from students, afterall it was an advanced trainer. The Texan has some pretty big wheels and tires on it, and you don’t miss that realistic effect here. The gear retracting and extending is a neat feature, with one gear retracting a bit more slowly simulating the hydraulic systems of the day.

You get the sense that this landing gear set it very tough like on the real aircraft-and retracts realistically, one gear ahead of the other.

The wing of a Texan almost resembles a DC-3’s wing, at least from appearance. They extend out with a constant chord to the gear and structural reinforcement line, and outboard from there the chord begins to get smaller while the leading edge of the wing itself tapers back slightly. Also, the flaps extend under the fuselage for the entire length of the flaps system, just as with the DC-3.

The wing clearly, from many angles, resembles that of DC-3 wing. I didn't say they were the same, but they do have definite similarities, both in aerodynamic qualities and appearance.

The Fuselage also captures very effectively, both from profile and other angles, that trademark appearance of the Texan. From a large, though still well proportioned forward area and engine cowling; through to the canopy section which seems to sit very high up from the wing; to the tail section which is very sleek and terminates at that Triangle Tail that you can’t miss. I simply love how Alphasim has nailed the appearance of the plane in every way.

I like how well captured the lines of the fuselage are, which is a critical aspect to the Texan's odd but appreciated beauty.

For the animations, effects, and model nuances, I liked each one included. All normal animations such as flight surfaces, gear, canopy, and others are included. I liked the special items such as the modeled prop, especially when spinning. From the side, the spinning prop has depth, it does not appear as a flat disk. It does not show pitch adjustment when static, but most aircraft I’ve flown in the sim do not.

Both front and rear canopies can be opened independently, which is a cool feature I think. The pilot's heads only move left and right with aileron movement, but it’s nice to see them animated in some way. There is also a very well positioned and articulated exhaust effect upon startup. I’ve included a few shots of this in sequence below, also showcasing the open canopies. Either can be opened independently, or front and rear by using Shift+E and Shift+E+2 respectively.

Also, as mentioned before, the pilots can be removed by using the Shift+W command. Both pilots are either removed, or both are in the plane, not a combination. One additional item I’d like to mention, is an exhaust effect in flight at near full power. Very subtle, it trails behind the craft maybe 40-50 feet, and adds another nice effect. These old radial engines were not really gauged on fuel consumption as much as oil consumption.

These shots show the exhaust effect on startup in a kind of sequence, and show both canopies open with pilots in the plane.
The last shot here, shows the exhaust effect trailing the aircraft in a full power fly-by.

The ailerons are animated very realistically, moving hardly at all. In real life once an aircraft is up to speed in the air, the ailerons need to move hardly at all. This is the first plane to my recollection that has accurately animated aileron deflection. They don’t seem to move as much as they would with no air moving over them, but in the air it’s hard to even tell the ailerons are moving at all.

Six detailed texture sets come stretched over four different models. A variation of a few American, a few British Harvard, and a Foreign Harvard keeps this package well rounded.

Here are the six textures across four different models. The differences were not vast, but can easily be noticed with a sharp eye.

2D Panel

This is not typically where I fly from, however, Alphasim does not let down here at all. All crucial gauges for VFR flying are present and very easily read, including a few switches. Several sub-panels, which match their VC counterparts, are also included. They included only a few additional sub-panels as the aircraft does not have so complex a cockpit requiring eight or nine extra sub-panels. A default GPS, a nice radio and electrical panel, and the main 2D are all you’ll need.

Here is the 2D Panel at Alphasim's default set zoom level of 0.59, which works well. The additional sub-panels, though few, match almost exactly to their virtual counterparts.

Alphasim did not include a 2D panel for the rear seat, though you will not need it considering the excellent quality of the actual rear Virtual Cockpit seat.

Virtual Cockpit

As usual, the Virtual Cockpit is my favorite part of any FS aircraft, and to me, is subject to the highest scrutiny of the package. In my opinion, this VC does not disappoint. It had a relatively smooth update with excellent frame rates on my system, though it is not the ‘smooth-gauge’ XML technology that I can notice. I can easily read every gauge back at 0.60 zoom where I fly it from, and everything was still reasonably legible aside of some of the radio frequencies from back at 0.50 zoom.

My favorite part of this plane, and has a neat panorama back from 0.31 zoom, and looks good at all zoom levels up to 0.75, in my opinion. I fly the Texan in the front and rear seat at 0.60 zoom.

The glass windows do not seem to change the color of the sky with tint or anything, but you can tell they’re there which is something else I appreciate.

Here is a look outside the side windows onto the wing, what I would assume to be quite a realistic view.

For Clickability, as I like to call it, the plane will not disappoint here either. You can easily ‘grab’ all engine management controls, ‘flip’ any of the several switches, and even open the front canopy via a clickspot on the handle. You won’t even need to switch to a sub-panel, because everything needed is clickable. I enjoy adjusting my Comm, Nav, and ADF radios with a click of Alphasim’s easy and intuitive radio setup. There are three ‘dials’ below each radio frequency window; the far left dial does nothing, though the middle dial will adjust whole number frequency, and the far right dial will control your decimal extension on the frequency. The only oddity I noticed was that the primer switch on the actual electrical panel does not seem to move when clicking it.

The altimeter calibrates realistically, which is rare, believe me. However, its click area is to the lower left when the 2D bitmap in the VC shows it to the lower right of the altimeter.

If you’re into Trainers, which I most certainly am, you’ll appreciate the realism of dual cockpits. Yes, Alphasim has decided to include a fully functional rear cockpit, and I mean everything back there is functional. I started out, as any good student, in the front seat and didn’t start flying rear/instructor seat until I had some time and skill in the craft. The view from the rear is realistically slightly obscured , but you’ll be landing it back there with practice in no time.

Another of my favorite parts of this aircraft package. Once you think you have what it takes and have learned enough as the student up front, fly rear seat as the instructor. However, solo flight was conducted from the front seat, always.

Sounds

The sound package of the Alphasim Texan truly replicates what I’ve heard in real life, and what others have described.

The startup and shutdown sounds are some of the most important, and have all the little bits you could hope for. When starting the aircraft, a realistic starter and magneto ‘whine’ engages, followed by the 600 HP Pratt & Whitney radial bursting to life.

Once running and warming up, you get a bass filled sound that is not going to bust out windows.

When running up through checklists and applying full power, you notice many different nuances, or sound ‘levels’. I appreciate the level of quality in this sound package, and I’ve found in that reviews, describing this can be difficult. Once full power is applied, you will hear what I was really hoping and waiting to hear upon first flight. The trademark Texan cracking or whipping sound can be heard. Depending on the propeller equipped, this occurs from the prop tips are going extremely fast. This engine and propeller combination is already geared to slow the prop down, but it still spins remarkably fast. You can hear it in real life at a show, and in the sim.

Shutting the engine down is quite neat, as I haven’t heard too many sound packages that does shutdown sounds until the prop nearly stops. Many sound packages end the sound and the prop spins for several more seconds. With Alphasim’s Texan, you will hear all kinds of realistic sounds of the cylinders still plugging around up there, but not firing anymore and coming to a stop. It’s kind of a mechanical metal to metal sound, you can almost hear the compression telling the cylinders to stop.

The sound is a great part of this package, and for me, was done very well.

Flight

I will begin the Flight Dynamics portion where any flight begins, with the taxi. Taxiing is uniquely simulated as the Alphasim Texan does not have a free 180 degree castoring wheel, but it is set to 15 degrees. This actually simulates turning a heavy tail dragger remarkably well. I have taxied a light tail dragger and it seemed to turn very slowly without using toe brakes. I can only imagine taxiing a heavier tail dragger in real life.

Lining up on the runway, and then applying full power will produce a small left turning tendency. This is, of course, very realistic though not overdone. It is more than possible to keep it down the centerline. You will get good at it quickly. The tail lifts off at around 60 KIAS with a gentle forward push on the stick, and she happily peels off the ground at around 75 KIAS, no flaps needed. Retract your gear and either climb out at around 30” MP, or keep the throttle full forward and start taking advantage of the Texan’s maneuverability.

This is where you will have a lot of fun; again, the Texan was an Advanced Fighter Trainer. It doesn’t go the 400 MPH that a P-51 or Corsair can do, but this is what got a pilot ready for that. She can easily streak across the skies at almost 200 MPH, and up to 250 MPH in a dive. Having a tough and heavy airframe, the Texan is also capable of pulling G’s.

Landing this plane is easily accomplished with little practice, once you have a feel for setting the approach up. She can easily handle direct crosswinds up to around 15 knots, but this will obviously make things more difficult. Keeping the aircraft down the centerline after flaring will require a bit of throttle power even though you’ve chopped power to set down. You must reestablish the slipstream over the rudder of the aircraft, just as in real life tail draggers, and don't be afraid to tap your differential brakes.

Landing will work out nicely in just about any case, just do your practice runs and you'll look like a pro soon.

The Alphasim Texan does have a left snap stall tendancy, but I can’t get it to snap into a full blown fall stall as with many simulated planes. She stalls in a clean configuration at around 70-75 KIAS; dirty configuration at around 60-65 KIAS which is remarkably close to Alphasim’s specification in their included manual for stalls. It didn’t spin too well, just fell in a steep left turn, almost inverting. This is what their manual specifies should occur. They included photocopied pages from what appears to be an original Texan manual, which actually describes this deep falling turn rather than a spin.

A flight model nuance I’d like to mention, is rudder control. Many FS aircraft have far over exaggerated rudder power; I’ve tried deflecting the pedals fully in each direction while flying in real life, and I notice this problem with many sim planes. Alphasim’s Texan seems to capture a more realistic rudder control. In low power and slow speed flight, you need to kick more rudder to remain coordinated. When you apply more power, more air starts slipping around the rudder and it seems to become much more effective. Something I thought was worth mentioning.

Who said not maneuverable enough?

This plane will be a bit of a challenge, though very rewarding once you get the touch. The flare, once mastered, is nicely accomplished at around 70 KIAS; 80 KIAS over the threshold, and approach is flown nicely at 90-95 MPH. I was shocked and happy to see how close these in-flight figures were to the manual’s specifications. It appears Alphasim really did their homework on this flight model.

Performance

The performance on my system did not seem to fall hardly beyond a default plane; it didn’t seem to change. For the amount of detail, the performance is excellent, seeming to be as smooth as most of the default historical planes. I did not notice a loss of frames per second of more than 1-2; it just seems silky smooth.

Every once in a while, I’ll get a texture reload on the gear struts and wheels when switching to external view. However, this doesn’t seem to happen very often, much less each time I switched views. VC reloads are the same way, very infrequent, and it doesn’t seem to occur once the plane is loaded into the memory.

Whoever did the actual modeling knows their stuff, because it just didn’t seem to lose anything in the performance department.

Summary

I have thoroughly enjoyed flying Alphasim’s top-notch rendition of the Texan. I believe this package is very well rounded, incorporating good things on every level. A very sharp model and virtual cockpit that have no noticeable effect on frame rates; and a very well done flight model that is challenging though very rewarding as well as a sound package that you will enjoy from startup to shutdown.

I would easily recommend this package to anyone who enjoys World War II era tail draggers. You can now fly the aircraft that made many if not all of the Allied pilots, into legends.

I can't imagine one regretting getting this aircraft. It is simply a pleasure to fly in Flight Simulator.

 

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