AVSIM Commercial FSX Aircraft Review

P-51D Mustang

Product Information

Publishers:  Flight 1

Description: North American P-51D Mustang.

Download Size:
136 MB

Format:
Download & CD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Philip Wilson AVSIM Staff Reviewer - April 3, 2010

Introduction

If there were ever an aircraft that didn’t need an introduction, it’s the legendary Mustang. Type in P-51 Mustang into any internet search engine and you will be presented with millions of results in more languages than I could count. The silhouette of a P-51 is iconic from any angle and its Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin 1,695 HP engine is soul stirring.

The current standard source for information on anything is Wikipedia, and a visit to their P-51 page provided me with more information than I could ever need. I highly suggest visiting this page because even the most educated person on Mustangs will certainly find something they don’t know here.

Because the history and performance figures are readily available, I will briefly summarize them here, but before we get to the history lesson, I would like to introduce Maurice Hammond. Maurice is well respected throughout the warbird community and has restored not one, but two Mustangs. He has also brought back to life a number of other vintage aircraft, but for this review, his P-51’s are the focal point.

As a Mustang pilot and experienced restoration expert, he was the obvious choice for the Aeroplane Heaven and Flight1 team to partner with. Maurice and his daughter Leah, who happens to be the youngest female warbird pilot in the UK, fly the P-51’s at airshows all around the English countryside and are favorites everywhere they go. Maurice graciously allowed Aeroplane Heaven and Flight1 unlimited access to his aircraft, and his daughter kindly answered many questions on the Mustangs. I believe she also provided sandwiches to the developers during one meeting and I thought that was pretty cool!

For this review I will attempt to touch on everything this product offers, but with so many features, I may miss something. If I do, my most sincere apologies to Flight1 and Aeroplane Heaven.

Date with a real Mustang

In preparation for this review I scheduled some time with a real P-51D. A few unfortunate and unavoidable last minute scheduling conflicts didn’t allow me to play with the “D” model but I had an opportunity to get up close and personal with a very rare “B” model. The wonderful folks at Flying Heritage Collection allowed me access to a special ‘B” with a wartime field modification to the dorsal fin and a Malcolm hood. It was both exhilarating and exhausting to be around such a rare aircraft. The multi-million dollar restoration was flawless down to the last rivet and climbing around the cockpit was a very careful operation.

FHC P-51B Note the Malcolm Hood
Real Mustang Panel Note the original trim knobs

P-51 Summary

The Mustang was among the best and most well-known fighters used by the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Possessing excellent range and maneuverability, the P-51 operated primarily as a long-range escort fighter and also as a ground attack fighter-bomber. The Mustang served in nearly every combat zone during WWII, and later fought in the Korean War.

Origins
In 1940 the British approached North American Aviation to license-build Curtiss P-40 fighters for the Royal Air Force. North American offered to design a better fighter, which flew as the NA-73X in October 1940. Production of the aircraft -- named Mustang I by the British -- began the following year.

Mustangs for the USAAF
In the summer of 1941, the USAAF received two Mustang I's under the designation XP-51. Although flight tests of the new fighter showed promise, the USAAF did not immediately order the Mustang. After the personal intervention of Gen. Hap Arnold, however, the USAAF retained 55 Mustangs from a British order. Most of these became F-6A photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which equipped the first USAAF Mustang units, the 154th and 111th Observation Squadrons in North Africa in the spring of 1943.

In March 1942 the USAAF accepted the first production P-51A fighters. Although excellent at lower levels, the P-51A's Allison engines severely limited performance at high altitude. The USAAF employed P-51As in the China-Burma-India theater, where most combat took place at low altitude.

In April 1942 the USAAF ordered an attack version equipped with dive brakes and bomb racks, the A-36 Apache. A-36s entered combat in June 1943 and served in North Africa, Italy and India.

A Winning Combination
In the fall of 1942, Mustangs in the United States and Great Britain were experimentally fitted with British Merlin engines. One in the United States flew a remarkable 441 mph at 29,800 feet -- about 100 mph faster than the P-51A at that altitude. Mass production of the Merlin-powered P-51B and P-51C soon followed (nearly identical, North American produced the "B" in Inglewood, Calif., and the "C" in Dallas, Texas).

In December 1943 the first P-51B/C Mustangs entered combat in Europe with the 354th Fighter Group "Pioneers." By the time of the first U.S. heavy bomber strike against Berlin in March 1944, the USAAF fielded about 175 P-51B/C Mustangs. Along with P-38 Lightnings, these P-51s provided sorely needed long-range, high-altitude escort for the U.S. bombing campaign against Germany.

"Bubble-top" Mustang
The P-51D incorporated several improvements, and it became the most numerous variant with nearly 8,000 being built. The most obvious change was a new "bubble-top" canopy that greatly improved the pilot's vision. The P-51D also received the new K-14 gunsight, an increase from four to six .50-cal machine guns, and a simplified ammunition feed system that considerably reduced gun jams.

The P-51D arrived in quantity in Europe in the spring of 1944, becoming the USAAF's primary long range escort fighter. The versatile Mustang also served as a fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Few Luftwaffe aircraft could match the P-51D -- by the end of the war, Mustangs had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft in the air, more than any other USAAF fighter in Europe.

P-51Ds arrived in the Pacific and CBI theaters by the end of 1944. In the spring of 1945, Iwo Jima-based P-51Ds started flying long-range B-29 escort and low-level fighter-bomber missions against ground targets in Japan.

Continuing Development
North American eventually developed a considerably lightened Mustang, which became the P-51H. With a remarkable top speed of 487 mph, it was 50 mph faster than the P-51D. Although it was in production before the war ended, the P-51H did not reach frontline units in time to see combat.

With the last of 555 P-51Hs completed in 1946, the production run of the Mustang ended with over 15,000 of all types built.

Korean War
Although Mustangs continued in service with the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and many other nations after the war, more advanced jet fighters relegated them to secondary status. Many of the USAF's Mustangs (re-designated the F-51) were surplus or transferred to the Reserve and the Air National Guard (ANG).

At the start of the Korean War, however, the Mustang once again proved its usefulness. After the initial invasion, USAF units were forced to fly from bases in Japan, and F-51Ds could hit targets in Korea that short-ranged F-80 jet fighters could not. Mustangs continued flying with USAF, South Korean Air Force (ROKAF), South African Air Force (SAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter-bomber units on close support and interdiction missions in Korea until they were largely replaced by F-86F jet fighter-bombers in 1953.

Epilogue
F-51s flew in the Reserve and ANG until they were finally phased out in 1957. Obtained from the West Virginia ANG in 1957, the aircraft on display at the museum was the last Mustang assigned to a USAF tactical unit. It is painted as the P-51D flown by Col. C.L. Sluder, commander of the 325th Fighter Group in Italy in 1944. The name of this aircraft, Shimmy IV, is derived from the names of his daughter, Sharon, and his wife, Zimmy.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns and 10 5-in. rockets or 2,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: Packard-built Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650 of 1,695 hp
Maximum speed: 437 mph
Cruising speed: 275 mph
Range: 1,000 miles
Ceiling: 41,900 ft.
Span: 37 ft.
Length: 32 ft. 3 in.
Height: 13 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 12,100 lbs. maximum

(Courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force)

Installation and Documentation

The most difficult part of reviewing a boxed product is waiting for the package to arrive. When it finally did get here I had to place it in my review queue as I now had several reviews ahead of it. The box sat on the shelf above my desk, where I saw it every day, until the time came to install it.

From the Flight1 website you are given the following product description:

EXTERIOR
• Fully selectable weapons and tank load-outs, controlled in-sim via special load-out panel in cockpit.
• Functional emergency canopy release in the Virtual Cockpit, which jettisons the canopy in both interior and exterior views.
• Hydraulic 'bleed-down' for undercarriage doors, controlled from cockpit pressure lever.
• Removable engine cover reveals detailed authentic Packard Merlin engine with glycol tanks and other details.
• Removable wing hatches reveal accurately detailed 50 cal machine guns, ammunition belts and loading chutes.
• Fully animated pilot with choice of military or civilian 'owner-pilot' (Maurice Hammond) model. (Pilot leaves aircraft when hatches are open to enable inspection of detailed cockpit).
• Correctly animated landing gear and oleo suspension, landing light flaps, trim flaps and more.

INTERIOR
• Practically switch, button and knob animates in the VC with all functioning as the real thing (within the limitations of FSX).
• Selectable wingspan and range controls on gun sight. Switchable reticule light and animated drop down bulb holder.
• Removable control stick and throttle quadrant to aid instrument reading and switch functionality.
• Functioning emergency canopy release lever.
• Cold, dark cockpit start is possible with all instrument readings to the correct numbers.
• Accurate starting procedure including correct priming, oiler and boost sequence.
• War Emergency Power setting on throttle with correct 'wire-gate'.
• Fully animated gauges including accurate engine management and 'tankage'.
• All trimming levers and knobs animated and functional.
• Specially designed camera views give a pilot's eye view 'over the nose', just as you would if sitting in the real aircraft!

SOUNDS, FX & SPECIAL FEATURES
• Full hi-fidelity sound-set even includes the characteristic gun-port 'whistle' on fly past.
• Effects package includes startup exhaust, recognition lights, custom animations from the pilots and more.
• Fantastic documentation with original performance charts
• Exclusive 16 full colour page feature on 'Marinell' with history and the incredible story of her restoration by Maurice Hammond.

LATEST VERSION 1.2 OF THE P51-D MUSTANG NOW AVAILABLE

Following feedback and requests from customers, we're pleased to offer v1.2 of the P51-D Mustang which incorporates the following improvements:
• Greatly improved textures across all models with significantly improved blending and reflective properties.
• Inclusion of additional NEW paint scheme, with LOUIV now with 'RAF Green' paint to reflect war time paint scheme. The classic blue as on current restored aircraft of LOUIV is still available.
• Magneto now fixed so not possible to fly with mags switched to off, no matter whether manual or automatic start.
• The default FSX radio panel can be switched on/off using the VHF Radio unit on/off switch in the aircraft.

When you first open the box, you’re presented with not only the CD, but a highly professional manual and an exclusive reprint of a FlyPast article about Maurice Hammond in booklet form. Both products are first class and extremely well done. I should note these same articles are installed into your Mustang folder and accessible from the start menu.

FlyPast Article about Maurice Hammond’s P-51’s P-51 Manual

Installation is easy and straightforward. Just answer a few standard questions during install and everything goes where it should. When the application has finished you will find a new P-51D Mustang folder within your Flight One Software folder in the Start Menu. The new P-51 folder contains links to the following:

P-51D Performance Charts 1954 (206k PDF)
FlyPast Feature Marinell (16MB PDF)
Mixture Read Me (2kb doc file)
Flight Operations Charts 1945 (22MB PDF)
P-51D Mustang Manual (461k PDF)
P-51D Paint Kit (34MB zip file)
Uninstall link

FlyPast Booklet Cover Mustang Manual Cover
Airspeed and Climb Carts
Engine and Performance Charts
Flight Operating Instructions

The performance charts from both 1945 and 1954 are exhaustive and complete. There isn’t a single performance related question that can’t be answered by referring to these documents. Even the most hard core simmer will be impressed with the level of information available here.

The FlyPast reprint is beautifully done and tells the story of not only Maurice Hammond, but a little history on the 2 P-51’s he restored.

The mixture read me is a simple document outlining FSX’s inability to model both auto mixture and manual mixture at the same time. It gives the user a few simple cfg changes to model either one. The real Mustang is flown with the mixture set to auto so that’s the Flight1 default setting.

The P-51D manual is a comprehensive operation manual for the Flight1 version of the Mustang. As with any manual, you really should read it to get the most out of the product.

Models and Textures

I must confess to owning the “other” commercial P-51 aircraft for FSX. It’s actually a ported over FS9 model, but nonetheless it is an excellent product. There would be no way for me to write this review without personally comparing the two; suffice to say, each product has elements which are superior to the other, but they’re both great choices for the Mustang enthusiast.

Flight1 has been kind enough to provide you with not only 12 textures, but 7 payload variations to choose from and a paint kit. The best part of the weapons modeling is the ability to change them on the fly. While in the cockpit, there is a control box near your right leg that controls what weapons are displayed on your Mustang. Obviously this isn’t available in the real aircraft, but I would gladly sacrifice that small amount of realism for the ability to quickly and easily change what the aircraft is loaded with.

For your flying pleasure you can select from the following aircraft:

• NZAF #429
• RAF #667
• Big Beautiful Doll
• Cripes A’ Mighty
• Fercious Frankie
• Janie
• Jersey Jerk
• LouIV (Blue)
• LouIV (Green)
• MaryMac
• Old Crow
• Ridge Runner

The loadout choices are:

• Clean
• Bombs
• Bombs & launchers
• Bombs & rockets
• Fuel tanks
• Fuel tanks & rockets
• Fuel tanks & launchers

Bombs and launchers Bombs and Rockets
Drop Tanks Tanks and Launchers

Flight1 has also included a few pieces of eye candy as well. When the engine is being checked, the engine cover comes off and leans against the fuselage. The wing covers open so you can inspect the ammunition and you can also eject the canopy if you feel the need to get out quick.

If you leave the primer switch on too long, you will see a nice flame effect simulating too much fuel in the engine. For those times when nearly 1,700hp isn’t enough, you have Emergency War Power which boosts your manifold pressure to a whooping 67”.

Checking the Ammo Nice Clean Engine

The textures on all models are excellent. They are crisp and clean with the factory fresh look and feel. When people start debating historical accuracy, things can get ugly in a hurry. For example, the P-51D LouIV has been argued to have either a green or blue paint scheme. Flight1 and Aeroplane Heaven decided to make everyone happy and include both.

Slim Prop Wider Prop with Cuffs

There are also two variations of propellers available on the Mustang and both types are modeled here as well. I have always known the P-51 to have the wider Hamilton Standard prop, and while researching this project, reviewed a lot of videos, images and even crawled all over a real Mustang. When I notices several of the Flight1’s Mustangs had a slimmer propeller, I asked Mungo, Managing Director, Flight1 Europe, about it and here is his reply:

The POH says the P51 can be fitted with either a Hamilton Standard with diameter of 11ft 2in and blade angle range of 42 degrees OR a Aeroproducts propeller with a diameter of 11ft and pitch range of 32 degrees. It says that although radically different in construction they are identical in operation and performance. The POH says the P51K aircraft had one type and the P51D aircraft had the other – though it does not say which had what!

The POH refers to both D and K designations and the performance charts are for both.

Often both were used in the same squadrons – the original fitment depended on which factory the aircraft was built. I have seen WWII era photographs of aircraft lined up at Duxford with both prop types.

I would hazard a guess that which was fitted depended on supply and undoubtedly the same airframe may have seen both types fitted at some point from damage or replacements. I just had a long chat with a UK expert on such matters (Jarrod Cotter who wrote the Marinell feature included with the product) and he confirmed this also.

It is always a sensitive area as to what is ‘right’ on old aircraft and many people I guess assume that what they see as the restored version must be ‘right’. Many arguments have gone on long into the night about what paint colours and paint schemes were correct or original! The reality when you talk to veteran pilots is that generally things were rough and ready and they used whatever came to hand – hence why we included both ‘original’ RAF green and the modern blue paint you see on LouIV”.

Shortly after receiving that email Barry Bromley from Aeroplane Heaven followed up with even more valuable information on the Mustang.

… cuffs were removed from many aircraft during the war. Some for servicing and supply reasons, others for other reasons. Later in the war, it did indeed come down to supply and availability so sometimes later props were also fitted in the field.

When we researched the various schemes for this release, it was found that some had cuffs fitted, others did not. What we have tried to do here is show a good mix of represented schemes as accurate as possible with the prop in the state shown on our references. As far as we can ascertain, it was just the cuffs that were removed.

Maurice's examples, of course, would run later types of props for the sake of practicality and availability of servicing stores”.

Life is about learning and today I’m more knowledgeable than I was yesterday.

I didn’t experience any performance issues at all with this product so I think it’s safe to say it will run fine on most computers.
It's gallery time and I took some time to include some night shots.

Beautiful canopy textures Circling to Land
Climbing Out Doll at Rest
High Altitude High Altitude Pass
Opened Up Great Vent Textures
WooHoo!
Acrobatics Forever! Climbing into the loop
On the Down Side OK, Time to Land for Gas
Time for a Night Flight Climbing Out at Dusk
Nice view of the Mustang
Time to Come Home Check out the Panel

RAF Marham

Recently John Young released an excellent freeware version of RAF Marham (available in the Avsim file library) and it was only fitting to test it out using the Flight1 Mustang in the RAF livery.

Warming up the Engine Tower Fly-By
Buzzing the HQ Building Buzzing the Maintenance Shops

Cockpit & Panel

The front office is all about business. No cushy leather captain’s chairs here; only total control over 1,695hp and trust in the training that put you there. Before we get to the screenshots it is important to bring you an excerpt from page 13 of the Mustang manual. The following information concerns the radio and navigation equipment on the Mustang. I add this here because, even though it’s not possible to simulate in FSX, Flight1 explains how the real units function.

The standard default FSX radios are in a 2D pop-up window as the type of radio and navigation units fitted in the P51 cannot be simulated in FSX.

For information and your interest, the following equipment and procedures are used in the real P-51.

A VHF transmitter and receiver set, a Detrola (low frequency receiver), an IFF set (identification device for use in a combat zone) and a rear warning radar. The only radio navigation aid in use is a homing facility on bands B and D of the VHF set. The pilot should contact a station on VHF, then ask for a homing frequency to be transmitted on either the VHF or the Detrola frequencies. (Not simulated.)

The IFF set has a detonator built in to destroy the components internally to prevent the unit falling into enemy hands. This can be activated manually using the two push buttons simultaneously, and is also equipped with an impact switch should you need to bail out in an emergency. (Neither of these is simulated.) The detonation will not harm you or your aircraft.

The AN/APS-13 rear warning radar unit warns you with an indicator light and a bell when other aircraft approach you from the rear. (Not simulated.) The Detrola unit has only two controls – a station selector knob and a combination ON-OFF switch and volume control. The Detrola is a receiver only and cannot transmit.

The VHF unit is operated using five push buttons.
OFF – (Toggles default FSX Avionics ON/OFF)
Channel A for communication with CAA range
Channel B American Common frequency for USA VHF facilities
Channel C inter-aircraft communication
Channel D local homing for practice homing
As explained, these systems cannot be simulated in FSX, so the controls are animated for visual use only. The default FSX radio pop-up should be used for interaction with ATC should you need it.

The aircraft was designed to be flown from the VC. Although there is a minimal 2D instrument cluster, the virtual cockpit is nearly flawless and can easily be used for nearly every mission. Having TrackIr will go a long way toward realism here.

Very clean Virtual Cockpit
Left Side of Cockpit Right Side of Cockpit Arm Rest
Left Wing Right Wing Weapon Selection Panel

The VC is beautiful from every angle, and the gauges are clear and legible. Even while inverted, pulling several G’s, a “very” brief glance at the panel showed everything clearly registering. Virtual cockpits have come a long way from the crude designs of a few years ago.

A few fun additions are the ability to open the gunsight bulb maintenance door, change the arm rest position and hide the controls via a hidden click spot.

Sounds

As with any product of this caliber, the sound package is wonderful. Recorded from the actual aircraft, it is the unmistakable sound of the Merlin V12 engine. Throughout the complete range of engine parameters I didn’t notice any significant anomalies with the sound file although there is a small sound irregularity as evidence of looping the sound set. The only other comments on the sounds are the addition of the “gun whistle” in fly-by view which is nice and the noticeable change in volume level from the initial startup and the engine idle sounds.

Test System

Dell XPS720 DuoCore2.66MHz
4Gb RAM 667MHz
nVidia 9800GTX+512M
SB X-Fi Extreme Music
CH Fighterstick, Yoke, Throttles and Rudder
TrackIr 5
FEX, UTX, GEX

Flying Time:
35 hours

Airfile

The Flight1 Mustang airfile is an area where only real Mustang pilots can comment on its accuracy.

The best flight simulator developers create their models and air files under the close guidance of pilots who fly the aircraft being developed. In the case of Aeroplane Heaven and Flight1, the Mustang air file has been closely critiqued, modified where applicable, and blessed the real pilots who fly the P-51. Keep in mind it’s as accurate as possible within the confines of FSX.

It has come time to discuss the engine damage modeling.

My background is engineering, and early in my career I was assigned to a team responsible for testing products to the point of destruction. The idea was to record every possible data point numerous times throughout the various stress tests until the unit first failed, then until the product was fully destroyed.

The company’s philosophy was engineers should first learn what destroys a product in order to fully understand how to make it better. It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

I took an analytical approach to forcing an engine failure, and to my dismay, it ran perfectly regardless of what I did to destroy it. Real engine manufacturers only dream of this kind of reliability and I emailed Mungo at Flight1 about the bulletproof engine. As always, his response was honest, comprehensive and acceptable. He writes:

We did not include any specific engine damage modelling in the add-on. Though as you know we included a few specific extras such as the WEP, canopy release, morse tapper with the recognition lights, etc.

This is the fourth warbird we have published, including the notable Flight Replicas Bf109 and the RealAir Spitfire and we’ve had mixed feedback about including engine failure effects (the RealAir Spit includes a simple engine seize effect, the others do not).

Funnily enough, we originally included an engine seize if you flew inverted for too long in the P51 (as you know, caused by lack of oil to the scavenge pump) – but variable timings (dependent on PCs, as that’s how FSX works) caused variable results and most people didn’t like it in general testing and complained we had got it too long or too short (usually dependent upon the quality of their aerobatics I would point out).

We could have spent time to get this right, but then it’s a question of quite what we are trying to develop and for whom. For example, we could have modelled prop governor failure, hydraulics and then one starts into creating something that would suit a small number of people at a very high price... and where does one stop? Of course some people do like this type of thing and are prepared to pay the extra for that (such as AccuSim), but that is not what we attempted to do in this case”.

(Reviewers note: For the record, Mungo flies an Extra 300L, which puts him in the close knit group of pilots who see the world from a much different point of view. I knew there was a reason I liked him.)

I completely agree with him and for those die hard simmers I encourage you to try your hand with the A2A Thunderbolt or Boeing 377 Stratocruiser with AccuSim. I’ve spent time with those titles and although amazing products, there are many times I’d rather jump in, firewall the throttle and head for the sky with minimal fuss.

Support

Flight1 and Aeroplane Heaven both have a well deserved reputation for excellent products and exceptional customer service. That’s not to say everything is rosy in the support forums, but given the sheer number of products they support and customers various system issues, I feel both companies have done a commendable job supporting their customer base.

Since I didn’t have a single technical problem there were no issues to troubleshoot, but the entire team worked at bringing me clear and easy to understand answers to my questions.

Summary / Closing Remarks

The Flight1/Aeroplane Heaven P-51D Mustang is a truly fun to fly aircraft that will leave a huge smile on your face. From the first class documentation to the multiple high quality textures, weapon payload choices and realistic flight model, it is without a doubt a must have product worth every penny.

 

What I Like About The P-51D Mustang

  • Price
  • Fun to fly
  • Extremely detailed models
  • 12 Sets of beautiful textures
  • 7 Weapons loadouts selectable on the fly from the cockpit
  • Excellent sound package
  • Nice eye candy and animations
  • Great Technical Support

 

What I Don't Like About The P-51D Mustang

  • Minor sound looping anomaly

 

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