Vertigo’s Studios F8F Bearcat. Never heard of it? Neither did I until I did a Google search, and luckily for me and you there’s a lot of real world data available for this World War II fighter.
The aircraft was built back in the 40’s by the American company Grumman. The available data on the Internet helped me to understand this Vertigo beauty. Other data, not supplied with the F8F, gives an even more in-depth source of information. But let’s first see what Vertigo Studios tells us about their F8F.
It all starts with …….
Every object configured via the editor will affect the weight and performance of the F8F in real-time.
A developer or publisher will naturally think their product is the best of the best. I can tell you right now at the beginning of this review, that most of it is true. It is indeed a gorgeous fighter, the external model, the textures and the cockpit are full of tiny details and it seems nothing has been forgotten and above all, it flies like hell!
Hold-on; this is not a summary section. It’s only my introduction, so it’s time to move on to some real Grumman data, followed by my own experiences.
Grumman F8F Bear(cat)
As I said in the previous section, a lot of F8F Bearcat data can be found on the World Wide Web. Not all that data is freely available for publishing on AVSIM. Therefore I decided, after I double checked it, to use some Wikipedia data. This should give you a good idea about what kind of fighter this F8F was in real life.
After flying the Fw 190, Grumman test pilot Bob Hall wrote a report directed to company president Leroy Grumman, who then personally laid out the specifications for Design 58, the successor to the Grumman Hellcat. Design 58 closely emulated the design philosophy of the German fighter, although no part of the Fw 190 was copied.
Work on the Grumman G-58 Bearcat began in 1943 with the intention to provide the U.S. Navy with a high performance derivative of the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The specifications called for an aircraft able to operate from the smallest carrier, primarily in the interceptor role. The F6F's Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine was retained, but compared to the Hellcat, the Bearcat was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb and was 50mph (80 km/h) faster. To achieve this, the range was necessarily sacrificed.
In comparison with the Vought F4U Corsair, the initial Bearcat (F8F-1) was marginally slower but was more maneuverable and climbed more quickly. Its huge 12 ft 4 in Aero Products four-bladed propeller required a long landing gear (made even longer by the mid-fuselage position of the wing), giving the Bearcat an easily-recognized, "nose-up" profile.
The hydraulically operated undercarriage used an articulated trunnion which extended the length of the oleo legs to lengthen, when down, much as the earlier Republic P-47 had done several years earlier; as the undercarriage retracted the legs were shortened, enabling them to fit into a wheel well which was entirely in the wing. An additional benefit of the inward retracting units was a wide track, which helped counter propeller torque on takeoff and gave the F8F good ground and carrier deck handling. For the first time in a production Navy fighter, a bubble canopy offered 360° visibility.
Structurally, the fuselage used flush riveting as well as spot welding, with a heavy gauge 302W aluminum alloy skin. As a weight-saving concept the designers came up with detachable wingtips; if the g-force exceeded 7.5 g then the tips would be allowed to snap off, leaving a perfectly flyable aircraft still capable of carrier landing. While this worked very well under carefully controlled conditions in flight and on the ground, in the field, where aircraft were repetitively stressed by landing on carriers and since the wings were slightly less carefully made in the factories, there was a possibility that only one wingtip would break away with the possibility of the aircraft crashing. This was replaced with an explosives system to blow the wings off together, which also worked well, however this ended when a ground technician died due to accidental triggering. In the end, the wings were reinforced and the aircraft was limited to 7.5 g.
The F8F prototypes were ordered in November 1943 and first flew on 21 August 1944, a mere nine months later. The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945 and the first squadron, VF-19, was operational by 21 May, but World War II was over before the aircraft saw combat service.
Postwar, the F8F became a major U.S. Navy fighter, equipping 24 fighter squadrons. Often mentioned as one of the best-handling piston-engine fighters ever built, its performance was sufficient to outperform many early jets. Its capability for aerobatic performance is illustrated by its selection for the Navy's elite Blue Angels in 1946.
Bearcats have long been popular in air racing. A stock Bearcat flown by Mira Slovak and sponsored by Bill Stead won the first Reno Air Race in 1964.
To conclude this section, here’s some information about the Vertigo models, the F8F-1 and F8F-2. The F8F-1 is a single-seat fighter aircraft, equipped with folding wings and a retractable tail wheel. Furthermore it has self-sealing fuel tanks with a very small dorsal fin. The F8F-1 is powered by a 2,100 HP (1.566 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W Double Wasp radial piston engine, armed with four 0.50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns. In total 658 aircraft were built.
The F8F-2 is an improved version, equipped with a redesigned engine cowling, taller fin and rudder and armed with four 20 mm (0.79 inch) cannons, powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-30W radial piston engine. There were 293 of these built.
One could get the impression that there was nothing in-between models F8F-1 and F8F-2. The reality is different. You had, for example, the F8F-1B, 1D, 1(D)B, 1E, 1N, 1P and before the actual F8F-2 was developed, the XF8F-2. Each time the model was updated or modified, a new sub-number was added. All these together created the remodeled F8F-2.
Installation and documentation
There’s not much to tell about the Vertigo Studios F8F installer. Once you’ve started the installer, the process is done within minutes. After this, the Start menu offers, under All Programs, a “Vertigo Studios / F8F Bearcat” folder. This folder holds a link to the comprehensive F8F Acrobat manual and an uninstaller. Furthermore, the installer comes with six “real” liveries. Should you want more, visit either our AVSIM Library or follow this Vertigo link .
The F8F Bearcat manual, as I said before, is comprehensive and therefore worth printing it out. Be aware that the overall manual is 82 pages!
Each section is important, but honestly, your main interest should first be the familiarization and configuration parts as well as aircraft systems description and operation. That doesn’t mean the other parts are not interesting, but for system understanding and how to operate and fly the F8F, these are first priority. After that and flying around a bit, it’s time to spend some hours on the remaining Acrobat sections.
During my early morning virtual walk-around check on the F8F, I found some light units, but no strange things like oil- or fuel leaks. But what and how did the F8F look? As usual, I started with the nose and nose landing gear.
The morning sun gives the nose section of the fuselage a great look. This means all possible FSX features can be found and rivets are visible. The different aluminum panels on the fuselage give the whole front fuselage section a realistic look. Oh sorry, a highly realistic look! That realistic look depends a little on the livery you’ve chosen, but even with a dark painted F8F, it’s still visible. If applicable, you’ll see some scratches or small dents.
Starting at the front of the aircraft, the engine and four bladed propeller are awesome. I’m aware that using the word “awesome” needs some caution, but this is really gorgeous. The blade markings and placards are partly readable, but my attention goes to the center part; the propeller blade adjusting device. It looks really weathered, and gives it an almost real life look, not only for the propeller blades, but also for the engine cowling inlet. I’m not sure if digitalized photo-real material is used, and to be honest it doesn’t make any difference in my judgment. It just looks great and worth being a high standard nose fuselage section.
While looking at the nose section, you can’t miss the main landing gear with fixed doors and several lines and air tubes. Also the aft part of the skin near the canopy has a weathered skin, rivets and/or screws and are as real as it gets and let’s not forget the skin itself. While sticking my head in the main gear wheel well, I’m wondering if this is digitalized material. As said before, whatever it is, it seems no detail is forgotten! I can see hydraulic lines, electrical wiring, the door hinges, air hoses and more in this tiny area.
All the gear doors are nicely painted green on the inside and no texture is left untouched. I can look for hours to these tiny details, but it’s time to have a look to the leading edge and wing tip.
While doing this walk-around check its worth telling you that by using keyboard command “Ctrl+4”, you’re able to call up the main configuration editor windows. With these pop-up windows you can control the presence of a canopy cover, wheel chocks, folding wings, adding payloads like special external fuel tanks, rockets, bombs etc. It all works fine and when you’ve closed the pop-up windows, it’s directly implemented. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use the Cltr+4 command. Instead, I used FSX menu Views - Instrument Panel - Blueprint – General, Blueprint – Payloads and Blueprint – Tug Control.
While still close to the LH main gear wheel, it seems the FRW wheel chock isn’t correctly adjusted. It seems that the chock is half in the wheel. A little too enthusiastic! Almost forgotten are the wheels and tires. Both look great and especially the brake and strut. For the strut, brake and wheel assembly I’m sure this is not digitalized material and the outcome is very nice and worth not using digitalized photo-real material.
Since I connected the tug with the split tow bar, I’m facing some odd things. The ends of the tow bar is not connected to the main gear itself. It looks weird having a nice Vertigo Studios tug with tow bar available, but not connected to the aircraft struts at all. I know Vertigo Studios is busy with an update package, so hopefully this is one of the things that will be solved.
With the Blueprint – Payload Editor in view, you’re able to control, if a wing is configured, the bomb and/or rockets connections. When connections are in place, you can connect either a bomb or rocket(s) to these wing attachments. In this way you’re flexible as to what kind of F8F configuration you want to fly. It’s also worth mentioning that adding a 150 gallon center tank underneath the fuselage is only possible when you first add a connection to the fuselage that holds the tank unit. Without this virtual connection there is nothing to connect the tank unit to. Logical … at least to me it is.
An interesting side-note is when the center tank is empty or full, which is controlled via the Payload Editor, you actually see – on the fly – the aircraft changing its height, as it suggests that the struts are more or less compressed, however, actual strut compression isn’t simulated. With all possible bombs and rockets connected, it’s becoming an impressive aircraft. I can tell you that the developer took a lot of effort in creating these external components. The connections from either the bombs or rockets look realistic and are virtually fitted to something and not somewhere in space. The external wing fuel tank on my F8F, is painted in the same blue color, but the rockets have their own color.
From this position I’m walking towards the folded wing. You normally won’t see it, but I’ve got enough time to check every tiny detail of the F8F Bearcat. The skin of the leading edge and upper and lower wing are good as well as the folded part. When folded, you’ve got a nice view of the wing folding mechanism and again, it seems nothing is forgotten. Let’s give you another example of quality stuff like this F8F. When you stare at a folded wing and give the command for unfolding, it unfolds nice and slowly, there’s clearly a reflection visible. That the rod and actuator (I think it’s an actuator) are not working doesn’t matter at all. Just the way it works, with the wing unfolding and folding, is so smooth. Very nice.
The wing tip is just an ordinary tip and it seems all the light units of the navigation system and landing light – leading edge outer part of the wing – are working. At the same time I’ve got a good view on the outer side of the fixed main landing gear door. From this distance it seems it’s full with scratches, dents and I can even see the rivets.
Probably it’s the early morning sun that shines on the main gear door outer skin, whatever the reason is, every tiny item is taken care of. While focusing on the LH landing light unit, switching it ON/OFF results in a speedy extension/retraction. That seems to me too quick, but the landing light bulb looks realistic and, I think, for the front side, photo-real material is used.
From the wingtip I’ll pass to the trailing edge with extended flaps. Flap movement seems normal and when extended, a white marked indication on the top of the flap is visible and tells you the flap actual position, which is very handy for the pilot to check the actual flap position. While walking towards the tail, I can’t say anything else but superb. The fuselage mid-section looks very good and again no details are forgotten. It’s all there, even the tiny items. What was applicable for the FWD and MID section of the fuselage and/or wing is basically the same for the tail section with tail wheel.
Some words about that tail wheel. I’m not sure if real photo material is used, but this tail wheel assembly, which comprises the tire, rim and tail structure looks impressive. Although it’s only a small part of the whole aircraft, so much effort is put into it to make it realistic. For me, this tail wheel assembly gets a realism factor of 99.9% No, not 100%, since it’s still a virtual airplane.
For some reason the red tail light doesn’t work. Probably a known issue that will be solved with the next Service Update. Even though the tail light doesn’t work, the rear components on the end of the fuselage look great. Now that I’ve finished my right hand walk-around check you can expect the left hand side of the aircraft to be much the same. A quick look at the top side of the fuselage and wings gives a weathered look on this livery. Rivets are visible as well as all the aluminum parts. A part of the weathered painting, there’s still a nice glossy realistic look.
The F8F Bearcat doesn’t come with a 2D cockpit. It will offer some 2D sub-panels like a GPS – not realistic in my opinion – and an auto pilot control. Furthermore, you’ll have access to a 2D Radio Panel and the previously mentioned Blueprint panels. For those who like to fly a 2D cockpit because of the frame rates, don’t worry, just go for the Virtual Cockpit. Since the VC isn’t a highly sophisticated cockpit design fitted with FMS CDUs, EFIS, ECAM or EICAS equipment, it gives you great frame rates. The VC is, with the equipment, handles, instruments, switches, knobs and what else I’ve forgotten are of an extremely high quality.
Using keyboard commands Ctrl+E, I’m able to open/close both sides of the canopy. The inside of the dark green cockpit primer looks weathered and this gives it a real feeling. If you like the weathered look or not, that’s personal, but for an airplane like this, it should be weathered in my opinion.
All the side panels, instrument panels, floor, canopy structure, all represent a used cockpit. It’s filled with scratches, dents, nice rivets or screws. It seems to me that it’s a finished, well developed VC. There’s so much to see. Hydraulic lines, wiring, handles, etc. In every corner, up and down below, there’s something hidden that becomes visible either when zoomed in or when you change the environmental lighting conditions. While I’m with my head almost down under the forward part of the cockpit, the rudder/brake pedals do have the name engraved on it. Awesome!
Does it end here? Not really! The instruments are great from a distance, but even from close-up and when I say “close-up”, I mean zoomed in! The screenshots I made speak for themselves. Not that I’m going to fly with zoomed-in instruments or other components, but it tells me something of the 3D developer. To me, he or she is an artist, knowing what’s possible when trying to reach the limits within FSX.
It doesn’t matter where you look in the VC. Up, down, left or right. Every text plate is available, and it doesn’t make any difference if the plate has a dark or light colored background, you can read it. I’m almost certain that the whole VC is a masterpiece with no photo-real digitalized material. In other words, this F8F from Vertigo Studios shows that there’s no need to use digitalized material to give it a realistic look.
This F8F is almost “as real as it gets”. Unfortunately, some switches can only be operated with the left hand mouse button, while others need both left- and right hand mouse buttons. Not really a problem, but a little confusing. Using both mouse buttons is also applicable for the fuel selector and the tiny knob on the left hand lower side of the ADI. The right hand knob can only be operated by the left hand mouse button. Again, none of this is a problem for me, but be aware that it’s programmed differently.
Looking at the main instrument panel, you’ll see there’s only one main panel. All the instruments are round and seem pretty realistic even when zoomed in. That’s not only applicable for the back plate, but is the same for the different types of needles and plate encryption. All the instruments are virtually mounted from the back side of the panel. But it still gives a 3D look. That, of course, depends a little on which instrument it is.
For example, the ADI “horizon with airplane symbol” shows me a 3D look. The slip indicator is another example of a 3D masterpiece. Look at the screenshots and you’ll see what I mean. Some switches on the RH side console are covered by red guards. Lifting these guards is, more or less obvious, and done with the left hand mouse button. Closing them is done with the same mouse button. It seems not every red switch guard is working 100%. This is the case with the red guard in front of the “DIRECT CRANKING”. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but it’s the guard that deals with the aircraft’s generator field. When you want to lift the guard, it doesn’t lift, but instead, it moves down in a strange way. At least the switch is free to operate and hopefully this will be resolved with the next Service Update.
On the right hand side panel, MASTER (COMM) section, it seems the red guarded switch isn’t working as it should be. The idea of this – and in general for all guards – is that when the guard is UP, the switch moved, but once you close the red guard the switch underneath it is forced to move back to the resting position. With this guarded switch that won’t happen and thus it is different from reality.
Regarding those slight mistakes; does it mean this is a bad virtual cockpit? Absolutely not, but it’s always worth noting so at least you’re aware that some items are not 100%. I was – and still am - impressed by the external model with all its tiny details. I feel the same for this Virtual Cockpit. Whether you’re operating daylight, evening or night flights, it a pleasure to fly using this cockpit.
But how does it fly?
I can tell you, it flies like a rocket, feels like a Ferrari and handles like a ?? Looking all over the Internet, there’s a lot of information to be found. Not only specifications, but also a lot of real data from pilots and their flight experiences. That’s great news, but I’m still no F8F certified pilot and flying an add-on aircraft on my PC is still totally different than the real world. Anyway, let’s give it a shot and see how this baby flies.
With a locked or unlocked tail wheel – you can set this yourself on the left hand side panel – taxiing isn’t easy. That’s partly because it’s a tail dragger and therefore the nose section points into the sky. On the other hand, with the immense large canopy opened, you’ve got some vision outside that helps determine where you’re taxiing. When doing so, don’t make things too complicated and try to avoid many different taxiways. Beware! This is all based on my virtual F8F seat vision position.
Not that there’s much to check before I commence my takeoff, I double check the things that need to be done and away I go. I’m aware it’s a radial engine, but my goodness, it feels like a rocket. Real acceleration? No, that’s not a part of FSX but the way my VC moves and the speed increases I can visually see on my speed indicator that it’s fast.
During this take off roll, the engine sound is a pleasure to hear. I’m quite sure this is real recorded sound and engine RPM differences are directly noticed. Altogether this gives you the real sensation. While climbing out it’s time to retract the gear and not surprisingly, this is well simulated.
Not that it means you’ve lost control over of F8F. On the contrary. It’s very easy, with some virtual flight experience, to get it back into a normal flight profile. That said, flying is fun, but playing with it is even better.
No, it’s not a modern fighter and when this F8F is equipped with bombs, rockets and/or the additional center fuel tank, it isn’t as flexible as it was before. As long as you keep your stunts within normal parameters, you can do what you want. Spins, steep turns, full rolls, and vertical up and even down. All is possible without breaking any flight control or fuselage parts.
While flying around, it’s best to use daylight operations to see the FPS behavior. I am aware this is always a complicated issue. First, find my PC specifications, assuming I did all the best for Windows 7 and FSX that is needed like scanning my Windows OS, defrag my FSX drive and installed the latest nVidia driver. Furthermore, all my FSX sliders are set to the right including those of the AI traffic etc.
Since my test flight is somewhere near Vancouver Island, on the west coast of Canada, I’m flying above Orbx’s North Pacific scenery and added REX weather. This gives me different cloud formations between 20-25FPS at a cruising altitude of roughly 3000-4000 feet. That doesn’t seem high, but as I noted all my sliders are at maximum. When you move some sliders to a more normal position, the FPS jumps without any problems to 30-35. And remember, many more environmental conditions can and will influence the actual frame rates. What’s important for me is that you can fly this F8F with reasonable frames.
The F8F cockpit is uncomplicated, but it’s still important to print the manual and to read it. Especially when it comes to foggy windows. If you haven’t read it, after a certain amount of time, you’ll face foggy windows. Since the F8F doesn’t have, like modern aircraft, electrical window heating and defogging, it comes with an air-defogger mounted just in front of you. Don’t forget to set the selector OPEN or else you’re stuck with fogged front windows.
While flying and testing this Vertigo Studios F8F, I must conclude that it doesn’t fly like a default FSX fighter. That’s a good point. If it flies like the real F8F I can’t judge for the simple reason I’ve never flown an F8F in real life and honestly I’ve never seen a real one. On the other hand, after having flown, tested and reviewed so many different aircraft types, I can honestly say that this F8F flies absolutely unlike a default FSX airplane, and looking at its behavior, it could be that it flies close to real. How close? That can only be confirmed by real Bearcat pilots.
For the moment, I can come to one conclusion and that is, it flies sensationally! This aircraft does offer many nice features for any battle or just for fun. Knowing this and having flown it myself and seen its flight dynamics, for me it’s a must have fighter. An uncomplicated fighter that comes in different liveries with many additional features. Definitely worth having in your hangar!
Summary / Closing Remarks
Do you like a fighter that’s an old-fashioned model, that flies like a rocket, that can carry bombs and rockets and if needed, an additional fuel tank and you are the pilot? Then this Vertigo Studios F8F is a must! This is the conclusion after many hours of testing, walking several times around the aircraft, zoomed-in and out in the cockpit as well on the exterior.
It may be a small fighter, but it’s full of tiny details and I’m wondering if I’ve seen all of them. Ok, I’m aware that the truck tow bars don’t connect to the main landing gear and I haven’t forgotten about the wheel chocks, which are half way in the tires. As long as Vertigo Studios is able to polish these minor things with the next Service Update, I’m happy.
On the other hand, the aircraft itself with all the “accessories” is gorgeous to look at. The best thing is that it will cost you only US$31.00 or approximately €23.50 at Vertigo Studios. I can tell you, and I hope you’ve got a good idea after reading this review, that it’s worth every penny or was it cent!
After all, I must admit Vertigo Studios told us what kind of masterpiece it is and it feels like every sentence is true. It’s really a marvelous virtual replica of the F8F. The external model looks great and it comes with a few high quality real world liveries. There may be no 2D cockpit, but what you get instead is a great looking Virtual Cockpit.
Sound is awesome and frame rates are good although “your” actual frame rates will depend on so many other computer related items. It flies and feels almost like a rocket, keeping in mind the engine performance versus aircraft model/weight. You’ll also like the acrobatics. Go ahead! The F8F Bearcat will help you out.
Some interesting official Vertigo Studios links:
Still under development but worth mentioning, is the upcoming Service Update patch 1.2. As far as seen I can see on their website, this patch will, at least, solve the following problems and perhaps other items not mentioned here:
Could it be that I’ve forgotten anything? I think most of it is covered but there’s always the possibility that I’ve missed some tiny things. On the other hand, the overall Vertigo F8F model gave me a very good idea of how it’s made, how the Virtual Cockpit looks and how it works and not unimportantly, how it flies. It’s really worth having it in your hangar. Well done Vertigo Studios!
What I Like About Vertigo Studios' F8F Bearcat
What I Don't Like About Vertigo Studios' F8F Bearcat
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