It’s considered one of the most successful designs ever to grace the skies in the short history of aviation, and for those who might disagree, the military and civilian organizations of some 60 countries might argue the point.
This four engine turboprop might have found it’s humble beginnings in the role of tactical airlifter, but in the five decades that it’s been flying, it has become much, much more. Its designers might have fainted had it been suggested back in the 50’s that their brainchild might be purposely flown right into the heart of a hurricane, or rain down death and destruction on enemy positions far below with its own suite of weaponry.
We’re talking about the C-130 Hercules, quite literally the jack of all trades that does it all. Well, not quite all, but close enough. Few other aircraft, fixed wing or otherwise, can lay claim to the sheer versatility of what crews affectionately dubbed ‘Herky’ or just plain ‘Herc’. Medevac, air refueling tanker, aerial firefighting, and cold weather scientific support are but a few of the other roles this bird is capable of taking on. In its primarily envisioned role, she can lift some 64 fully laden paratroops or better than 40,000 lbs of cargo and either land at an unprepared strip, or chuck them/it right off the rear ramp in a paradrop. Rugged and highly reliable, this plane has been in production longer than any other airplane in history, perhaps the clearest indicator of its success.
Many of you are familiar with Captain Sim’s Legendary C-130; well, Just Flight has opted to remarket this recreation of the venerable aircraft, calling it simply C-130 Hercules. Is it something all in it’s own, or just a re-release in slightly fancier packaging? Let’s find out.
Installation and Documentation
C-130 Hercules comes in a DVD jewel case containing a single DVD. Installation is a no brainer; the installer seeks out FS2004 easy enough, and it’s just a matter of following the prompts before you are rewarded with adding this legendary piece of machinery to your suite of aircraft. And just in case your latest acquisition isn’t enough to whet your appetite, Just Flight has imbedded a host of previews of their other available MSFS titles.
Lately, I have had the joy of reviewing products that came in the CD/DVD format, and I’ve come to the conclusion that C-130 is one of the reasons why ordering these products from traditional snail-mail this is still a popular way to go. Contained within the case, including the blank ‘notes’ pages, is a thick 240 page manual, covering everything that one might want or need to know about their new purchase. General overview, basic system coverage, checklists, and amplified procedures as they pertain to the Hercules are included, and should cover just about anything and everything that a simmer may need to know.
Not Quite The Same
Before we delve any deeper into the review, I feel it important to reiterate that the meat and potatoes of C-130 Hercules is basically the same as previously released by Captain Sim as Legendary C-130 (for review of that product, please check out Trevor Clark’s 2-part review), with a few added features. Much of the details of the add-on remain the same, including some rather excellent modeling of the interior/exterior, sounds, aircraft systems, ACE Configurator, and other related niceties that are, in regards to this specific plane, second to none. There’s really no need to do a repeat review of those items here; instead, let’s go into what sets this package apart from the original.
The revised C-130 Hercules brings a total of 52 skins to the hangar, covering each of the three major variants. It’s a staggering amount of choices, covering a broad spectrum of the countries that utilize the aircraft, and includes both military and civilian (L-100) models. With so many schemes, one wonders if it’s possible to get tired of flying this aircraft around. Certainly it is a joy to behold for any “Herc’ fan.
Generally speaking, good detail is paid attention to each skin. I say generally because is each country and/or agency has their own ‘Herc’ modeled to a specific configuration. Antennas, optional equipment, and so forth vary from one to another. The external differences are mostly in scheme; under all the paint, the actual details are based on one of the three basic variants. An excellent example of this would be the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana skin, who’s real world counterparts (at least according to photo evidence) mount their external fuel tanks outboard the #1 and #4 nacelles rather than inboard as in standard in C-130. Another is Fat Albert, who’s classification as an ‘E’ model is totally off (it is officially known as a ‘T’ model, although I thought it was nice to have her in the collection). There are no differences whatsoever in the interior modeling throughout the 52 planes, outside the standard choice of analog or EFIS flightdecks.
Oh, and before we move on, the expansion modules Captain Sim offers for their Legendary C-130 line is fully compatible with this C-130 Hercules… just in case the three variants and their 52 skins aren’t enough for your hangar, or if you want to bring Fat Albert to ‘T’ standard.
RAF Lyneham Air Base Scenery
A second bonus feature is the inclusion of the optional Lyneham Air Base scenery. This UK facility, located in the county of Wiltshire, is the staging base for all RAF Hercules squadrons. It is perfectly at home in C-130.
From what material I’ve found, the modeling of the Lyneham scenery is fairly well executed. The appearance of the major structures seem about right, and quality wise, it’s on par with any other add on scenery I’ve seen out there. It’s the ambience it brings to a ‘Herc’ driver that is it’s major strength; with so many static C-130’s parked around the field, it definitely gives the simmer the general sense that he or she is sitting in the middle of a UK Hercules Central. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely.
In-flight Refueling Capability
This is the one feature that I fairly drooled over once I read the manual. Just Flight's C-130 Hercules features the capability to refuel the ‘Herc’ in-flight, something I have not seen anywhere in the MSFS world (outside of via the options menu, that is). This real world practice is used to extend the ‘Herc’s’ range beyond its designed limits, and many a simmer should find it quite the test of his or her flying skills.
Clicking on the refueling option in the menu fires up the process. No matter where you are in the world an AI RAF VC-10 tanker will magically appear out of the blue, some 10 mi away, patiently waiting for you to get your gas. Per the included manual (oh bless the included manual), the aerial refueling process is based on actual procedures used by the RAF, so all that is really needed to get that precious fuel is to fly the necessary profile as outlined in the book. This is crucial, as being off profile will preclude a successful hookup. There is no way to interact with the tanker other than to do what is said in the manual, which is to follow the procedure down to the letter.
Once close enough to the tanker, it will command you to proceed to precontact position. CTRL+SHIFT+H really came in handy here, providing an info strip with it’s position relative to your ‘Herc’, as well as heading and speed info. From there, it’s just a matter of closing the distance and making contact with that trailing drogue. Oh, if it were only that easy…
If C-130 Hercules is any accurate indication, aerial refueling is truly a humbling experience. The degree of precision required to maintain close formation with a tanker in order to score a successful snag of the drogue is indeed high. Autopilot really came in handy here; I can’t imagine for the life of me getting any gas hand flying the ‘Herc’ to that drogue. To be completely honest, I never got the hang of getting into a completely stable position for the refueling without the autopilot, but instead, found myself getting the fuel in short spurts (lacking an autothrottle, the ‘Herc’s’ speed must still be manually controlled) as my transport drifted all over the place. The only reason I got any gas was because the add-on allows for the configuration of the two critical zones, the first being where the tanker will give permission to connect (the Nearbox), and the other being where the tanker will commence fuel flow (the Fuelbox). It’s as forgiving, or unforgiving, as the user desires it to be.
At first, the refueling process seemed to be allowed with almost any plane. When flying the HC-130 variant, I was able to get my tanks topped off, no problem (as far as I know, USCG’s old birds aren’t equipped for this sort of thing). However, this is about as far as I was able to get outside the envelope of realism. You might be able to fly the procedure with anther aircraft (and it’s just as much a hoot with a 747), but the tanker’s crew appear to have strict instructions not to flow fuel into anything other than a ‘Herc’.
• Baseline Tests Parameters: resolution - 1024x768x32 locked @ 30.0, detail / autogen levels – MAX, no traffic, no weather.
The original may have had a shaky start, but rest assured that the performance bugs of Legendary C-130 were well ironed out prior to this current release by Just Flight. It ran beautifully on my system, remaining completely stable throughout the test period and easy on the hardware.
Indeed, the FPS meter hardly registered a hiccup, remaining in the 28+ range throughout all sessions. It was only by bumping up the settings to more complex levels (Resolution – 1280X1024X32, detailed weather, third party sceneries/traffic and software, etc.) that C-130 started to show a bit of strain (ie – longer loading times of textures, VC, and so on), but the FPS still remained relatively high (noted low – 20-22 FPS). Given the average system out there, few users should encounter any problems.
What’s not to like? Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot. C-130 Hercules is one of those products that should appeal to a wide spectrum of flight sim enthusiasts, be it due to a love for the aircraft in question, for attention to detail, variety, a new challenge, or for any of the above.
At least in my humble opinion, it soundly beats down any prior MSFS incarnation of the ‘Herc’ I’ve ever seen, and might even create a few new fans out of those who might venture to take this minor legend for a spin around the block.
|What I Like About C-130 Hercules|
|What I Don't Like About C-130 Hercules|
Tell A Friend About this Review!
© 2006 - AVSIM
All Rights Reserved