AVSIM Commercial X-Plane Review

Peters (Hager) Aircraft
Airbus A380 Series

Product Information

Publishers:  Peters Aircraft

Description: X-Plane replica of the Airbus A380 model.

Download Size:
80.2 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
X-Plane 9.45
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - July 1, 2010

Introduction

Something totally different this time. Yes, it's an airplane and not even a small one and yes, it's an European model. Indeed, it's Airbus’ latest model, the X-Plane Airbus A380. Even I after so many years working in the commercial aviation sector, an airplane is an airplane but this is different. At the same time, I could ask myself if there's a difference between flying this plane in FSX, FS2004 or X-Plane? Naturally, most of the flight simulator commands are different and more important are the flight dynamics of this X-Plane aircraft.

Anyway, a huge challenge and for many reasons because I'll try Peter Hager's brand new A380 Series, created for X-Plane 9.45+. Let's see what his website tells us and what to expect. That will be followed by some important information from Peter himself. Important information that helps you understanding Peter's idea of X-Plane airplanes and in particular, his A380 models.

Before we've reach his A380 dedicated section; the user is warned with the following information; The A380-800 comes in several variants, each of which represents one distinct aircraft with the technical specifications and paint scheme as operated by it's owner, which in general is an airline. The panel has the authentic instrument configuration and registration plate (if installed). These versions do NOT just different liveries, but also ACF file, graphics in the cockpit folder and the 3D model files may differ.
• If you want to have one distinct version only, you can purchase it at the basic price of 45.00 Euro.
• The A388-Package includes all A380-800 versions and liveries which are released or will be available in the future, plus 2 Airbus House Color versions, MSN 001 with HUD and G-Meter, MSN 007 without those additional instruments. These House Color versions are only available as part of the package. Price of the A388-Package: 59.90 Euro.
• If you already have one A388, you may upgrade to the A388-Package any time by paying the difference, which is 14.90 EUR.

And furthermore, his Introduction starts with "This model of the A380 comes with a highly detailed and animated exterior 3-D model. The panel has almost 1.700 objects, and roughly 1.600 working hours went into it, although some systems from the A340 could be used. Therefore the hardware requirements are pretty high. You should have at least a Duo-Core processor, 2 GB RAM and 256 MB V-RAM, and this will possibly not prevent that the Rendering Options need to be turned down. But hardware gets better by the time...

The panel has Airbus like thrust levers, which trigger the thrust modes and their indicators by detents. So they do not move while A/THR is active. It is indispensable that you have a hardware throttle to make this system work. Certainly you can fly the plane without, but several systems and indications will be dead then.

Peter Hager's A380
2D cockpit overview
Peter Hager's A380
2D overhead panel
Peter Hager's A380
2D cockpit during night

This first release represenst the A380-861 with Engine Alliance GP7200 engines, as operated by Air France, and the Qantas A380-842 with RR Trent 900 engines, as well as the A380-841 Airbus House Color test plane. The 861 Emirates version and the 841, as operated by Singapore Airlines as well as the Lufthansa A380. In other words, all A380 variants are released."

Before I forget it, here's some background information of the download files. The individual models except for the Singapore version, are roughly 67,8Mb. The dedicated Singapore A380 is 80,2Mb. Completely different from with FSX airplanes and liveries, each A380 from Peter is more or less unique. This means all dedicated.

The European giant!

This section offers some background information of the Airbus A380. I could take the information from Airbus Industries directly, however this is not very useful for this review. Therefore I took some sections from Wikipedia and checked the contents of it. What you see is just an extraction of the overall information from the dedicated A380 Wikipedia, but also all other data that can be found on the Internet. There's really so much data available that it's difficult not to add too much of that into my review. Remember, the review should be all about Peter Hager's X-Plane Airbus A380.

General

The Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine airliner manufactured by the European corporation Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS. The largest passenger airliner in the world made its maiden flight on 27 April 2005 from Toulouse/Blagnac, France. It's first commercial flight was on 25 October 2007 from Singapore to Sydney with Singapore Airlines. The aircraft was originally known as the Airbus A3XX during much of its development phase, but the nickname Superjumbo has since become associated with it.

The A380's upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage, and its width is equivalent to that of a widebody aircraft. This allows for a cabin with 50% more floor space than the next-largest airliner, the Boeing 747-400, and provides seating for 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in all-economy class configurations. The postponed (while writing this) freighter version, the A380-800F, is offered as one of the largest freight aircraft, with a payload capacity exceeded only by the Antonov An-225. The A380-800 has a design range of 15,200 km (8,200NM), sufficient to fly from New York to Hong Kong for example, and with a cruising speed of Mach 0.85.

Background/history

In the summer of 1988, a group of Airbus engineers led by Jean Roeder began working in secret on the development of a ultra-high-capacity airliner (UHCA), both to complete its own range of products and to break the dominance that Boeing had enjoyed in this market segment since the early 1970s with its 747. McDonnell Douglas unsuccessfully offered its smaller, double-deck MD-12 concept for sale. Roeder was given approval for further evaluations of the UHCA after a formal presentation to the President and CEO in June 1990. The megaproject was announced at the 1990 Farnborough Air Show, with the stated goal of 15% lower operating costs than the 747-400. Airbus organized four teams of designers, one from each of its EADS partners (Aérospatiale, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, British Aerospace, EADS CASA) to propose new technologies for its future aircraft designs. The designs would be presented in 1992 and the most competitive designs would be used.

In January 1993, Boeing and several companies in the Airbus consortium started a joint feasibility study of an aircraft known as the Very Large Commercial Transport (VLCT), aiming to form a partnership to share the limited market. This study was abandoned two years later, Boeing's interest having decreased.
In June 1994, Airbus began developing its own very large airliner, named the A3XX. Airbus considered several designs, including an odd side-by-side combination of two fuselages from the A340, which was Airbus’s largest jet at the time. The A3XX was pitted against the VLCT study and Boeing’s own New Large Aircraft successor to the 747. From 1997 to 2000, as the East Asian financial crisis darkened the market outlook, Airbus refined its design, targeting a 15 to 20 percent reduction in operating costs over the existing Boeing 747-400. The A3XX design converged on a double-decker layout that provided more passenger volume than a traditional single-deck design.

Production

Major structural sections of the A380 are built in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Because of her size, they are brought to the assembly hall (the Jean-Luc Lagardère Plant) in Toulouse in France by surface transportation, though some parts are moved by the A300-600ST Beluga aircraft used in the construction of other Airbus models. Components of the A380 are provided by suppliers from around the world; the five largest contributors, by value, are Rolls-Royce, Safran, United Technologies, General Electric and Goodrich.

The front and rear sections of the fuselage are loaded on a Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) ship leased to Airbus, Ville de Bordeaux, in Hamburg in northern Germany, from where they are shipped to the United Kingdom. The wings, which are manufactured at Filton Bristol and Broughton in North Wales, are transported by barge to Mostyn docks, where the ship adds them to its cargo. In Saint-Nazaire in western France, the ship trades the fuselage sections from Hamburg for larger, assembled sections, some of which include the nose. The ship unloads in Bordeaux. Afterwards, the ship picks up the belly and tail sections by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA in Cádiz in southern Spain, and delivers them to Bordeaux.

From there, the A380 parts are transported by barge to Langon, and by oversize road convoys to the assembly hall in Toulouse. Roads and canals were widened and replaced; and new barges were developed to deliver the A380 parts. After assembly, the aircraft are flown to Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport (XFW) to be furnished and painted. It takes 3,600 liters (950 US gallons) of paint to cover the 3,100 m2 (33,000 sq.ft.) exterior of an A380. Airbus sized the production facilities and supply chain for a production rate of four A380s per month.

Design

The new Airbus is initially offered in two models. The A380-800 original configuration carried 555 passengers in a three-class configuration or 853 passengers (538 on the main deck and 315 on the upper deck) in a single-class economy configuration.

In May 2007 Airbus began marketing a configuration with 30 fewer passengers, now 525 passengers in three classes, traded for 370 km (200NM) more range, to better reflect trends in premium class accommodation. The design range for the -800 model is 15,200 km (8,200NM). The second model, the A380-800F freighter, would carry 150 tons of cargo 10,400 km (5,600NM). The -800F development was put on hold as Airbus prioritized the passenger version and all cargo orders were canceled. Future variants may include an A380-900 stretch seating about 656 passengers (or up to 960 passengers in an all economy configuration) and an extended range version with the same passenger capacity as the A380-800.

The A380's wing is sized for a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) over 650 tons to accommodate these future versions, albeit with some strengthening required. The stronger wing (and structure) will be used on the A380-800F freighter. This common design approach sacrifices some fuel efficiency on the A380-800 passenger model, but Airbus estimates that the size of the aircraft, coupled with the advances in technology described below, will provide lower operating costs per passenger than all current variants of Boeing 747. The A380 also features wingtip fences similar to those found on the A310 and A320 to alleviate the effects of induced drag, increasing fuel efficiency and performance.

Airbus used similar cockpit layout, procedures and handling characteristics to those of other Airbus aircraft, to reduce crew training costs. Accordingly, the A380 features an improved glass cockpit, and fly-by-wire flight controls linked to side-sticks. The improved cockpit displays feature eight 15x20 cm (5.9x7.9 inch) liquid crystal displays, which are physically identical and interchangeable; comprising two Primary Flight Displays, two Navigation Displays, one engine parameter display, one system display and two Multi-Function Displays. These MFDs are new with the A380, and provide an easy-to-use interface to the flight management system—replacing three multifunction control and display units. They include QWERTY keyboards and trackballs, interfacing with a graphical "point-and-click" display navigation system.

The A380 can be fitted with two types of engines: A380-841, A380-842 and A380-843F with Rolls-Royce Trent 900, and the A380-861 and A380-863F with Engine Alliance GP7000 turbofans. The Trent 900 is a derivative of the Trent 800, and the GP7000 has roots from the GE90 and PW4000. The Trent 900 core is a scaled version of the Trent 500, but incorporates the swept fan technology of the stillborn Trent 8104. The GP7200 has a GE90-derived core and PW4090-derived fan and low-pressure turbo-machinery. Only two of the four engines are fitted with thrust reversers.

Philosophy, documentation and installation

Philosophy

The moment I started mailing Peter Hager, owner of Peters Aircraft, it became clear to me that he has a total different idea than others about X-Plane airplanes. An extraction of these words and some other items are put together. Let's first start with a short explanation about Peter’s Airbus series. Keep in mind that this involves not only the brand new A380 Series, but also the A330 models and all A340 variants. There are 3 levels regarding complexity and quality:

LOW
Geometry = XP default, simplified cockpit systems, no or simple plugins
All my A330 and A340 models are within this level. The A320 family will follow soon. As it stands now, there will be no A380 on this level.

MEDIUM
Geometry = high definition animated 3D model, plugins simulating basic systems.
The A380 models are in this category. A plugin for full Fly-by-Wire is under development, which is by the way, almost ready. The A320, A330 and A340 families will be available on this level in the future.

picture I picture II picture III
Just to give you some background information about the A380 XP model.
picture I:
A mix between Peter's MEDIUM external model as mentioned above, and the 3D object wireframe. I can't count the amount of polygons, but believe me, it's in there. You want to see more; just click the thumbnail. Once you've done this you can clearly see the huge amount of polygons used at the fuselage nose section, the aircraft belly and the engine inlets.
picture II:
A nice mix between the high definition 3D model including the wireframe (white) and the default X-Plane geometric, represented by the black wireframe. As you can see, the default landing gear is visible, but far from real and therefore the final A380 has newly created gear.
picture III:
This is the default X-Plane geometric A380 in wireframe format. Although not every spot is clearly visible, have a look at the engine inlets and fuselage nose section and compare this with picture I. Not bad!

HIGH
Panel graphics 1:1 scale. To be used on a network with plugins simulating flight relevant systems. We will start with the A380 and focus on the A320 models later, since this is the most important model for pilots who are new to Airbus.

It's not fair and not my intention to compare for example the FSX A380 from Wilco Publishing with Peter Hager A380, but before you know, you're doing it and that’s not right. On the other hand, more and more X-Plane models look gorgeous and this means highly detailed external models with all panels available, shiny, or weathered or dirty look and all tiny components created. Even Virtual Cockpits reach the same or even higher quality levels than possible within FSX.

Looking at Peter Hager’s A380, I got the idea that the external fuselage is not shiny and there's no VC available, but there is a reason. Let Peter tell us what his idea is for these Airbus models. "It is ME who is not interested in making VCs, since my focus is a different. The objective is to provide procedure simulation rather than toys and eye candy (Angelique's note; fair, straight and to the point!).

I am aware that this does not comply with the mainstream, but there is a rapidly growing group of users who want it this way. It's important to know that I have all complete FCOMs, plus countless data and other documents of the Airbus types I offer. In case of the A380. there's no physical FCOM available, it's all within a database, but I managed to get the info I need. The panel instruments and flight models are as realistic as they can be, within the limits of X-Plane. The A380 panel consists of 1,700 objects. This explains why development of the A380 MEDIUM LEVEL cost much money and why it runs only on relatively well equipped hardware. By building VCs, I would compete with "everybody" and neglect the aspect of procedure simulation."

What's the point adding this section in my review? It helps me to review this product that doesn't have a VC and a shiny or weathered livery. At the same time it gives Peter the chance to tell why he made it like this and why certain "eye candy" items are not included in this Airbus model. So readers, that's the point. Now it's time to move on to the next section, installation.

Documentation

The two available Acrobat files tell me something what to expect, but more over, why this X-Plane is so special. Let's start with the Manual-A380 file. On page 4 there's a table of contents while the manual is split into configuration, specification, limitation, aircraft systems, planning, procedure and finally chart & table section. That seems like many pages - 80 in total - and cost indeed many hours to read. I'll spare you all the tiny details of each page but the necessary X-Plane settings makes is more than complete, especially for those who are new or do not have too much experience with this. Probably it's somewhere in the text, but worth mentioning that Peter's A380 Series doesn't come with a Virtual Cockpit. For me as an FSX user this is a little odd and probably also for other X-Plane lovers.

Let's first finish briefing these manuals before going back to Peter Hager’s philosophy and idea of building X-Plane models.

The manual doesn't come with a tutorial although page 49 starts with Flight Planning, followed by Normal Procedures. These chapters are not really a tutorial, but for any user it can be very helpful because this is not an ordinary normal size aircraft. It's a beast of incredible size! Anyway, I'll add some screenshots here from this manual to give you at least a little idea what it's all about.

Some final words about this book; everything you need is there. It's of course not a replica of the original A380 FCOM, but what you need is supplied. Even though you can use the Flight Planning and Normal Procedures as a tutorial, it wasn't a bad idea when Peter offered a flight tutorial, which shows all the steps to make a successful flight. Here you are ... some screenshots.

page 9
Screen resolutions
page 16
Center Pedestal sections
page 20
Description and Operation of the Electrical System
page 25
TLA detent positions and fuel capacity and storage
page 29
FLAP/SLAT ECAM positions and landing gear with steering
page 42
Description of the RMS (Radio Management System)
I'm aware that these six screenshots of the main manual are not enough. On the other hand, it should give you a good idea of what you can expect. There's much information and it's a necessity to print it out. I can't judge about you if you're able to read from the screen, but I can't and before I know, I've missed something. Anyway, learning all the ins and outs of this A380, but more important, understanding the Airbus philosophy and the A380 systems.

The second manual "Throttle Configuration" is not a thick manual, but important enough. It deals with throttle adjustment if you have a hardware throttle device. In the manual is clearly stated that any brand apart from Saitek, CH or even Logitech is ok, as long as it's having a lever or slider with a potentiometer that allows you to control the throttle axis. What's the reason for this throttle adjustment option? Modern Airbus thrust levers no longer move, but have fixed detents. Anyway, this and more is available in this tiny but informative manual.

Incoming note from Peter Hager on April 4th 2010, regarding the throttle adjustment; "The throttle plugin is finally included. This prevents the necessary adjustments as described above in the Throttle Configuration manual. It supports either a single thrust lever or a 4-lever quadrant. In the latter only the first lever's commands are used to trigger the systems. In case of differential thrust application the blue circles at the THR indicators all show the lever 1 position."

Installation

No auto installer, but as far as I understood, within X-Plane this is not unusual. Since the manual is separately supplied, the necessary data of how and where to install it, is known and should not lead to any problems. Because I'm a newbie X-Plane user, it's good to have a description available. That said, no auto installer, just copy & paste the downloaded material into the indicated folders found in the main manual. That's all a part of the necessary adjustments in the "Joystick & Equipment" menu and the screen resolution and panel adjustment in the "Rendering Options". Which screen setting and panel adjustment is needed, that depends on your monitor. Don't worry, all is included in the manual with several examples.

As mentioned before in my introduction; the A380 model comes in different variations. This means you buy "an" A380 model with belonging airline livery, so there's no livery package available or separate downloads. If you want more than one A380 variation, then it's better to choose the A388 package. As stated above; one individual model cost 45,00 Euro's while the whole package of all A380 Series equals 59,90 Euro. When you buy only one model than there's no need to worry when you want to upgrade to all, since the upgrade price is just the difference between those packages. That means, the upgrade package from one model to all is no more than 14,90 Euro.

Knowing this, automatically there's the question "out of which models can you chose?". The individual A380 packages are:
- A380-841 - Lufthansa "Frankfurt am Main" with RR (Rolls Royce) Trent 900,
- A380-841 - Singapore Airlines (RR Trent 900),
- A380-842 Qantas (RR Trent 900),
- A380-861 - Air France (Engine Alliance GP 7200),
- A380-861 - Emirates (GP 7200)
- A380-841 - Airbus House Colors test airplane MSN 007 and MSN 001 (only available with the A388 package, thus not as separate package)

Knowing the philosophy and the limitations, I would personally choose the A388 package, which includes all the "individual" models. Each model is tailor made. Not only do the models slightly differ, but also the performance differs because of the fitted RR Trent 900 or the GP 7200 engines. In other words, many things to figure out and even more things to buy. Inside X-Plane enthusiastic people sometimes say that X-Plane models are much cheaper then FSX counterparts. If this is true for every X-Plane model, that's something I'm not 100% sure of.

This A380 package from Peter Hager isn't cheap, but on the other hand, when the model flys as far as possible and "as real as it gets" than I'm happy. When the flight dynamics are close to the real A380 within the X-Plane borders, it's a special aircraft, but is this not applicable for all X-Plane models?

For all X-Plane models I'm not sure, but for the latest dedicated X-Plane 9.45+, it could be that more payware models fly as real as possible. Further than this I'm not going to guess. This is always the same problem even with FS2004 or FSX add-on models. Is it possible with these highly complicated aircraft to give them the flight dynamics they have in real life? I don't know, but what I do know is that X-Plane is known for highly realistic flight dynamics.

I'm sorry FSX lovers, I still love Microsoft FSX, but sometimes you need to crack some hard nuts. Honestly, everybody quickly compares Microsoft FSX products with X-Plane. No, no, I'm not doing this .. that's what I leave up to you!

This brings me to the end of this sub-chapter. With all this information it's time to see what type of aircraft you get, how the 2D cockpit looks and how it flies. The latter is as usual even difficult for me since being a holder of a PPL doesn't mean I know how an Airbus A380 should fly.

External model

As you've probably read in the previous paragraph, you now know that expectations of a nice external model are not to be expected. Does it mean that the external model looks bad? No, not at all! Remembering that each A380 is offered via a different package doesn't mean I'll need to check every A380, but I'll make two sets for you; one with the GP7200- and one with the RR Trent 900 engine.

Enough, it's time to have a walk-around check of the Airbus MSN007 (Trent 900) model and the one of Air France (GP 7200). Just one small note; MSN007 was initially equipped with RR Trent 900 engines, and as such was classified as A380-841. It was operated by Airbus Industries as a test aircraft and registered as F-WWJB from 2006 to 2009. After this test period, it was converted into an A380-861 with Engine Alliance GP7200 engines, re-registered as A6-EDF, and sold to Emirates Airlines for a probably "special" price!

Airbus A380-841 F-WWJB MSN 007
Not many words are needed for this A380 version. Look for yourself and see the detailed parts. I'm aware that Peter Hager didn't want to put more effort into the external model, but it was worth it when he did so. For many reasons I will not compare this with the Wilco Publishing MSFS model, but this model is full of tiny details and worth looking at. To make it clear; this Airbus House livery is only available when you buy the A388 package.

Comparing as far as possible with "good quality" real pictures, tells me that the overall look is well balanced. This means that the shape and the sizes of the individual airplane parts like the fuselage, tail, wing, landing gear are of the correct size. Flaps/slat extension/retraction goes unbelievable smooth, which is the same for the GEAR extension/retraction. Because of the size, the cockpit or I should say the aircraft, is fitted with external camera's, helping the pilots while taxiing on the airport. This is not new or unusual, since it was already introduced with the A340-500/600. Anyway, following this camera guidance system works very well. It's not directly an external model feature, but slightly related to it.

Time for our next walk-around check, the Lufthansa A380-841 "Frankfurt am Main" with RR (Rolls Royce) Trent 900 engines.

Looking closely at certain zoomed Lufthansa sectional parts, I must admit that some are not bad at all! Not surprisingly, but at the wingtip fence, the correct amount of static discharges are mounted. It sounds logical, but believe me, it isn't. These are those tiny things that programmers easily forget.

Looking closely to the nose gear I must be honest with you that it looks very good with many tiny items. Ok, I haven't seen the NLG in real life and we know already that there's no dirt or grease on the strut, which is very unusual, but it’s worth telling you the extreme detail on the pressure/strut extension placard. It's a little too small to read the graph, but an excellent job nontheless. This is the same for the light units.

Although the DOWNLOCK springs are black, and most of the parts of the NLG are dark grey, it seems to me - based on my general Airbus experience - that it's highly realistic. The NLG wheels including rim and hub, are a mix between real digitalized material and the tire itself seems to be full with polygons. Why, simple, it's a more or less real "round" tire. Standing in front of the nose, looking slightly up with a left view to the wing, gives a good overall view of the model. Everybody who knows me knows that I'm an Airbus lover, but I still can't say I like the A380 nose. It's so massive, so huge!

In-between short conclusion of the external model and sex-appeal: The model looks great and as far as I can see, all the dimensions are in relation and consistent with the real A380.

2D Flight Deck and X-Plane limitations

X-Plane limitations toward the simulated A380
Already mentioned before during my "philosophy" section; Peter told me that the panel instruments and flight models are as realistic as they can be, within the limits of X-Plane. So let's first find out with the help of his manual, what those limitations within X-Plane are, in relation to his A380. It's very important to emphasis that it’s not to make it even worse than it is; limitations mean that a particular simulated aircraft system offers in real "X" possibilities, while X-Plane is not able to offer "Y" possibilities.

In other words, this has nothing to do with the work or skills of the modeler, but X-Plane itself. There's no need to be surprised, since for example, Microsoft's FSX does have limitations as well, unless you start programming outside default FSX codes. I hope I said this correct!

Ok, here we go with X-Plane limitations, compared to the real Airbus A380-800 Series. The following list is just a selection of some important items, enough to give you an idea that X-Plane 9.45 is not always able to fit into reality. Ok, back to what I wanted to point out; X-Plane limitations for this A380 model or things not yet implemented.

Wing flex (page 2 from Peter's A380 manual),
Is not yet installed. I'll give it a try a bit later. Let’s see what the frame rate says! However, the real A380 has much less wing bending than other big planes. On the ground the wing tips lower only 78 cm when the tanks are completely filled. Only on touchdown, do the wings oscillate visibly for a moment.

Engine Hydraulic Pumps (page 19),
The real A380 has two hydraulic pumps per engine, while X-Plane provides only one. So a click on any of the eight black hydraulic pump buttons effects all.

GPU (Ground Power Unit - page 20),
The A380 has a GPU connection at each engine, while X-Plane supports only one. So all 4 GPU connect buttons on the overhead panel react simultaneously.

Fuel tanks (page 25),
The A380 has 11 fuel tanks while X-Plane supports only 9. So I decided to define only one FEED tank per wing, because they are always more or less at the same quantity level. Nevertheless the fuel page displays the fuel quantities for all 11 tanks. I installed 2 indicators per feed tank, each showing the partial quantity in the right proportion.

Pitch Trim (page 31),
In the real A380 pitch is trimmed manually only once per flight, right before take-off, by selecting the appropriate TO-Trim. During the flight all pitch trim corrections are made automatically. Manual pitch trim adjustment is frequently needed while flying manually because this XP model does not have this feature.

Flight Envelope Protection (page 33),
The Flight Envelope Protection has not been implemented. It will be controlled by a plugin in the future.

Overspeed Protection (page 34),
In the real Airbus the overspeed protection system also provides a stall protection by lowering the nose and increasing the thrust on a stall warning. This feature could not be implemented in X-Plane.

ECAM SD (System Display - page 36),
In a real Airbus the main system pages are automatically displayed, depending on the flight phase. We will get there soon with our A380 product. Only the ENGINE page and the FUEL page (+ FUEL JETTISON sub-page) are available, as well as the Taxi Air Camera display.

ND PLAN mode (Navigation Display - page 40),
PLAN shows the aircraft’s position centered, UP is north. In the real Airbus the next waypoint is in the center (not the aircraft), and only the route with its relevant way points is displayed. This is not supported by X-Plane.

Remember what I said before; it's a "selected list" and most of this is simple because of X-Plane limitations. Therefore it's something that can't be simulated unless the developer moves into plugins. I don't want to go in-depth with this, since I'm also not 100% sure about it, but Peter Hager can offer A380 customers special plugins like this for the A380 model. Plugins that will become available in the near and far future, are for example first a mini plugin that automates the throttle configuration. A more complex plugin is under development. We (Peters Aircraft) already have the codes for a custom A/THR, AP and full Fly-by-Wire plugin.

2D Flight Deck
Knowing this, it's now time to jump into the 2D flight deck and see if we can find our way through it. By the way; I found a wonderful Internet link that offers the A380 flight deck in 360° view. Find here the link since it's even helpful for me. Furthermore, it's also worth mentioning that SmartCockpit offers two free manuals; Flight Deck & Systems Briefing for Pilots Part I and Part II. Helpful for everybody, even for me since the A340 is also a complete new airplane for me.

The overhead panels look very similar to the A340, but the logical, system build up and changed design are sometimes surprisingly different. Anyway, enjoy surfing around on the A380 flight deck as well as reading the two SmartCockpit documents.

My first experience with the A380 begins with the sun screen in front of the windshield panels. According to the manual they show up every time you load the aircraft or you select another location. Its initial purpose is to ensure that you click TWICE into the area marked in yellow on the picture below to stow it away. This should be done at least before taxi, and instantly if you load the aircraft in a flight situation, in any case BEFORE touching a FD or AP button. It simultaneously sets all systems and data-references to the correct startup configuration.

After the initiation of those systems the sun screen can be used as a sun screen at any time without doing a technical function. It just darkens the light a bit, as it is supposed to do.

After this intermezzo, and depending on your selected screen resolution, you could have the same height-width of what you see on the screenshots. If you have selected a lower resolution, you need to scroll more up/down and left/right, to get everything in view. Let's first start with some screenshots including the pop-up sub-panels.

Main panel view based on a screen resolution of 1920x1200 Access to the overhead panel via the UP arrow on the keyboard
Access to the pedestal via the DOWN arrow on the keyboard Pop up of the RMP-KCCU and THS Pitch Trim indicator

As said before; the final 2D view depends on your monitor and X-Plane resolution. In my case that's 1920x1200, and that's also the maximum. At the same time, there's no need for me to use the left/right arrow key to move in either direction. I still no need to use the up/down arrow key for getting the overhead panel in view or the pedestal control. And finally, with the center pedestal in view, I'm able to enlarge a combination of a RMP (Radio Management Panel), KCCU (Keyboard and Cursor Control Unit) and the pitch trim & CG coordinator.

No more pop-up sub-panels and there's a reason for writing this down. Because in my opinion, on many panels and DUs (Display Units) not every text, switch or instrument is clearly readable. I'm not even talking about the PFD, ND, ECAM DU's. My problem is that most of it is so small, that it's not always clear to me what's written on a panel and thus you've got no idea what you're doing. At this moment, the manual is essential to understanding what you see and do.

That you can't zoom in on a 2D panel makes sense to me, since this is also not available in FSX, except of course for the 3D or Virtual Cockpit. Probably it was a better idea when you were able to click on an overhead panel or even a section that brings up a enlarged image. I know, as a dreamer I can write down everything, not knowing how much work that will be. Anyway, that's not the case and together with his manual, we need to find our way, but the fact that many things are so small worries me, to be honest. Or is it just me, coming from FSX, where many configurations are created, with sometimes great results. During my X-Plane adventure, I studied many 2D cockpits, although from smaller aircrafts, but panel text and instruments were readable.

Additional note/test for a lower screen and X-Plane resolution: What happens when you change your monitor resolution versus X-Plane resolution and thus the A380 cockpit?

Already mentioned before, with a screen resolution of 1920x1200 it’s all very small and since you can’t zoom on the panels (not strange for a 2D panel), you can however, change your basic screen resolution, in the next example, to 1280x800. Together with that, you change it within X-Plane and the result of that can be seen below. The advantage is that the text and DU’s (Display Units) can be better read, but the disadvantage is that you need to scroll more from left to right and up and down to get access to all the panels.

As you can see for yourself, it’s all a little bigger and more readable. Probably that’s my biggest concern ... it’s all with a standard TFT resolution of 1920x1200 too small. Not that I can’t read it, but it looks unnecesarily blurry and there’s no need for that. Either a 3D or Virtual Cockpit comes out or more sub or pop-up panels are introduced. At least, that’s my opinion.

While playing around on the flight deck, pressing several buttons, I can't check if this is according to the real A380 for the simple reason I have no official manuals and thus it's guessing if the indications - if applicable - are correct. Because I don't have that background data, I need to accept what I see unless it's strange to me, compared to the A340 Series. Honestly, I can't make more of it. As said before; I like the pop-up combination of the RMP-KCCU-Pitch Trim.
As I continued playing in the cockpit, I noticed that certain systems don't operate as expected. A few of them are already explained because of the X-Plane limitation, but others - annunciators, FD (flight Director bars), appearance and/or disappearance of ECAM messages - are not known to me.

Time to contact Peter Hager from Peters Aircraft. Don't forget that I'm also a newbie in X-Plane (but it's not impossible that even experienced X-Plane lovers don't know all the ins and outs ... arrogant ... no, that's never my intention but a reality, yes!) and it could be that many things are actuallly normal within X-Plane , but odd for me.

His reply makes sense and above all, clears many things. "This all and several other systems, as the FD bars, messages, annunciators and warning. refers to the same point, which needs a detailed explanation.

You already noticed the difference between the XP default geometry and the virtually unlimited options and quality of applying external 3D objects (Chapter Philosophy, documentation and installation). With panel instruments, their logic and functionality it is very similar:

• There are DEFAULT instruments, with pre-defined functions. Only scaling and modifications of the graphic files assigned is possible. During all the years of XP's history there has been no alternative to that, apart from free programming everything as a plugin, which few people are capable of, and possibilities still where limited.
• About 3 years ago, I inspired Laminar Research by the idea of making Generic Instruments, which could be widely defined by the user. This technique was introduced in 2007, when my A340 and A330 models already where published, though much simpler than they are now. And it was only in late 2008, when this complex system was so far progressed, that it could be used. A totally new designed panel Editor was introduced, which made it possible to organized items in hierarchical groups and adding visibility conditions. This process of development is not yet finished. There are still bugs to be removed, and I am lucky version 9.50 RC1 was released yesterday (April 4th 2010), which makes my life as a developer even easier.
• Plugins can now work in combination with Generic Instruments as well as with free programmed items. They can make use of the almost 3.000 XP datarefs and commands as well as work with custom datarefs. I don't see any limitation in this system, not even in computational power, since a plugin may act as an interface powered by a stand-alone application running on another computer, as demonstrated by vasFMC.
• Because of the short time, this technology is available, my planes, even the new A380, still have some default instruments which follow a logic coming from piston powered GA aircraft or from a Boeing airliner. I hope within 1-2 years its al replaced by authentic, custom made instruments."

I'm aware it's "again" much additional information, but very helpful for most of us. It clears the skies and whenever you're dealing with a highly sophisticated airplane, then you probably know that many plugins are used.

The real kitchen!
It's a good/bad idea to have a look into a real A380 and see how far this simulated model reflects that 2D reality. To make this possible, I bought a flight ticket to LFBO (Toulouse/Blagnac), introduce myself at the headquarters of Airbus Industrie, and tell them I'm from AVSIM. Reason; I want to make some nice A380 cockpit shots and before you know, I'm inside the cockpit.

You believe that? I don't, since security rules doesn't even allow me to come within 10 miles of the Airbus plant. Therefore the link from www.gillesvidal.com offers you a 360° view of the A380.

3D LEFT FWD 3D FWD 3D RIGHT FWD
Close-up pedestal with EFIS, ECAM and MFD Units Overview overhead panel Close-up AFT pedestal
Close-up FWD pedestal Close-up EFIS CTL panels and AFS panel, all together FCU Close-up Overhead Panel
AFT section
Copyright Gilles Vidal (www.gillesvidal.com)

Always worth showing is the real A380 flight deck. Even on Airliners.Net you won't find many detailed A380 flight deck photos and therefore these from Giles Vidal, are probably of the same quality or perhaps a little lower, but it allows me to zoom in on the different panels. No, I don't want to make a slide show of the real A380, but I only wanted to show how it really looks.

As said before and partly tested several aircraft systems, it makes sense that not everything is working as I had hoped for. Disappointed? Honestly, yes. That the A380 is not coming with a Virtual Cockpit doesn't surprise me. It's a ratter complicated system, and takes much time to program. Is that our problem? I know that within FSX more and more highly realistic VCs are popping up with incredible high FPS. Incredible means between 40-60 FPS on my machine, with all slider maximum, except AI traffic or ground equipment.

In-between conclusion.
Although Peter's explanation helps, the fact stays that some instruments and/or panel text is hard to read. The combined pop-up RMP-KCCU-Pitch Trim indicator panel looks great, it's handy and works well. However, it would be a good idea when more of these pop-up panels would become available. Personally I prefer more panel sections. Let’s say a separate captain’s and co-pilot’s panel or pedestal. Not having this makes it all small and not readable and since we’re dealing with a 2D cockpit, zooming is no option. Keeping the MSFS (Microsoft Flight Simulator) detailed panels in mind; I must admit that this is something I miss in X-Plane.

There’s not really a need to express the missing of a Virtual Cockpit. I’m aware of the tremendous time it costs to create a good looking VC, but compared to the excellent MSFS VC’s that are becoming more and more available, I had hoped to also see this in this A380. Keep in mind that there’s a group of MSFS pilots moving from MSFS to X-Plane, who expect the same or even higher VC quality within X-Plane. For me it’s just a note telling you about the missing VC and then finally it’s up to you if you like it or not.

Test System

Intel Core Extreme i7-965 3.2Ghz
6GB Tri-Channel DDR3 1600Mhz
EVGA GTX-285 For the Winner
Triple WD VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Single WD 1TB HDD
Windows 7 Ultimate X64
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Flight Simulator FS9.1
X-Plane 9.50rc3
Saitek Pro Flight System
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flying Time:
88 hours

Test flight

Being a proud owner of an American PPL, which is by the way frozen, doesn't mean I know how to fly an A380. Probably it's not that hard to do. An even harder question to answer is; "how easy does it fly or to handle the aircraft on the ground and in flight?" Even for real licensed 737NG, MD80, A310, A300-600 pilots; flying a FBW (Fly-By-Wire) airplane is a new experience. Don't ask me how that experience or feeling is, but pilots who left old modeled airplanes, and start all over again on an Airbus A320 Series or the A330/A340 say the same; it flies so easy! That's the same I've heard for those who are sitting in the A380 flight deck, although it's a huge aircraft.

Let’s start with taxi to the runway. The first thing that surprises me on the outside is the unknown engine sounds. The sound that I hear doesn’t give me the feeling I’m dealing with RR Trent or GP7200 engines. I could be wrong, but for the external sounds I’m not really impressed. Anyway, taxiing seems very easy although in real you need the built in camera during taxi, otherwise you don’t see anything, and that’s the same for this X-Plane baby. We as virtual pilots have one huge advantage; we can jump outside and see what we’re doing wrong. So, taxiing seems not really a problem and if this feels right or wrong; I have no idea!

Before I forget it; my flight plan. You can decide to create your own flight plan within this A380 as you are used to doing with the default X-Plane FMS planes or you can decide to go for the shareware Goodway or XMovMap (http://www.scumari.nl/www/xplane/). I have to add directly to this that it’s only available for Windows X-Plane, but the advantage is that it’s free. Ok, it doesn’t look as fancy as Goodway but it works and can import RouteFinder flight plans directly. When you’re a Windows X-Plane user, find here the link to the manual (http://www.scumari.nl/www/xplane/manual/html/Manual.html). For the rest, I leave it up to you.

It’s time we need to be airborne. Aircraft don’t belong on the ground. While doing my last preparations, which aren’t easy because of the small panel text and difficult to read display units, we’re ready. I’ll apply full thrust and surprisingly, before I know the aircraft is airborne. I know that the amount of fuel and payload where almost up to the max. So either the flight dynamics are not as optimum as possible or I made a mistake and entered the wrong data.

Since this is a hot item, I’ll break off everything and try it again. Conclusion; even with a fully loaded aircraft – fuel and payload – it’s still easy to get this A380 airborne. Reality or …..? Honestly, I can’t answer this question, but I could ask the developer.

Peter Hager offered me the following background information:
" In fact, 2 parameters of the FBW laws can be measured:
• Full roll command = 15°/sec (after acceleration to full roll speed)
• Full pitch command = +2,5G / -1,0G (clean) at an airspeed = Design Maneuver Speed
A real A380 captain confirmed that flight characteristics ("feel") are extremely realistic, depending on the control stick used. The real one demands for much higher input forces than those normally available on the simulator market."

I’m ready for my second flight and it seems all goes normal. This time our test flight goes from LFBO (Blagnac/Toulouse) to EHAM (Amsterdam International Airport Amsterdam). Everything is programmed with the help of the manual and although there’s no tutorial, some bits and pieces of the flight planning are enough of how and what to do.

Even though I’m new in X-Plane, handling the FCU AFS panel (Flight Control Unit - Auto Flight System) is not new for me. OK, as far as I know from A380 papers, some buttons and selectors work more or less as the real ones, but on the other hand, not all is the same. That’s also because X-Plane is not an Airbus model and thus not all the logic is build in.

Although these pictures were taken with the AP and A/THR connected, they still reflect the beauty of this X-Plane model. I mentioned before that the fuselage, wing, tail and engine reflection will be added later. The 2D cockpit is for me with a resolution of 1920x1200, too small. Many tiny details on the panels and display units are not readable at all. The fact that the model doesn’t come with a Virtual Cockpit is explained, so no comment about that, but because it’s not there and because not everything is readable, it worries me. A solution could be changing my own TFT settings to a much lower value, which results in an X-Plane lower setting and then it becomes all more readable.

The first part of the flight I’ll do by hand except for the A/THR. Why should I make it difficult for myself? Flying this aircraft seems very easy and although I can’t sit still while there’s a constant need to check the FD (Flight Director bars) on the PFD (Primary Flight Display), it’s still an easy to handle aircraft. That’s something I’ve heard more and more about flying FBW airplanes. I leave it now up to the aircraft, connect the AP and it climbs further with a selected V/S to our cruising altitude of 32,000 feet. During cruise, I disconnect the AP once more to feel it myself. It seems it’s well trimmed because there’s hardly any input needed. After a while I need to control altitude and heading, which makes sense.

While many French cities pass underneath us like Lille – indeed, I’m already making the necessary descent preparations since we’re in northern France – the A380 is descending to FL240. Followed by a slight left hand turn towards the province Zealand. No, not New Zealand in case you thought that! We double our ILS for runway 06 including the frequency and with a further descent we arrive at 6000 feet, far before the ILS.

Since there’s no ATC – I don’t want to make it too complicated for myself – I’m free to descend to my final approach level of 3000 feet for entering the LOC of 06. I can’t complain; the LOC is picked-up, later followed by the G/S and I almost forgot it, I’m able to arm the second Auto Pilot. This means I’ll make a DUAL AUTOLAND. After the touchdown I’m happy to be back on the ground, but flying this A380 was a piece of cake.

Passing northern Paris Overflying the city of Lille North Belgium border with the Netherlands
Zealand while flying in the heading of Rotterdam The LOC (LOCalizer) from runway 06 EHAM is picked-up Smooth flared landing with the of Airbus model MSN 001
Just a selection from my en-route flight as well as the approach and landing at EHAM. Together with my extreme high X-Plane settings, I can’t say anything else than it’s a pleasure to look at. The way the ILS is picked-up, the flare and the landing itself, are well simulated. Far before approaching runway 06, I extended the HUD (Head Up Display) that is fitted in Airbus model MSN 001, but finally didn’t use it at all. I was too exited looking in and around the Airbus A380 model

In-between conclusion test flight:
In the mean time I’m a little used to the absence of the Virtual Cockpit, but because of the 2D and TFT screen resolution, I still can’t read some of the panels or displays. It’s so tiny that guessing is the result. I’ve also the idea that the FMA (Flight Mode Annunciator) on top of the PFD is not completely conforming to reality. I do write and say this with some caution because I don’t have the official A380 manuals. I can only compare this with previous Airbus models.

For the rest it was a good flight keeping in mind the X-Plane limitations. I mentioned this earlier, so no need to bring it up again. If it flies as real as it gets within the X-Plane boundaries, that’s difficult for me to say. Any answer could be wrong or right! It’s well known within FBW airplanes that the computers are doing the work and using a Airbus side stick is not as in a game, but according to Airbus pilots it’s easy to handle and easy to fly. Let’s keep it with that.

Evening impression. For some reason there are no evening screenshots at all in this review, so I made a few.

You need to click on these thumbnails to see the real colors. I modified the color and brightness of these thumbnails otherwise they were too dark. The large screenshots are as real as they get and you may judge for yourself. Outcome … I'm at least happy with these night pictures and so I hope you also.

Summary / Closing Remarks

Since it’s already an in-depth review, I won’t make it too long. My overall impression is that this X-Plane model should be a part of your collection. I’m aware that there will never be a Virtual Cockpit included. Peter has explained why he doesn’t want that or why he’s not spending the time creating one. That’s something you and I have to respect. On the other hand and listening to many X-Plane users as well as Microsoft Flight simmers moving to X-Plane, a model without a VC has no reason for its existence (these are not my words!).

The offered detailed manual is a pleasure to read. All what you want to know about the A380 is there and if you want to know more, just have a look at the SmartCockpit website. My only remark is the missing tutorial. The manual offers something that starts at page 50 “Flight Planning”. In my opinion this is not enough for an aircraft like this, as well as the price.

The price of a distinct A380 model cost you 45,00 Euro (approximately 53,00 USD as of May 2010). All the A380 models together including the Airbus House models 001 (the only model with a HUD) and 007 are in total 59,90 Euro (approximately 71,00 USD per May 2010). For that price you may expect a tutorial. But don’t worry too much; there’s always a movie available on YouTube of Peter’s A380 simulating a Take Off or Landing.

What else to write about this model? I leave it with this summary. Whenever you want additional information about the contents of this review and/or my experiences not available in this review, feel free to contact me by email. Although it wasn’t an easy way to start with X-Plane, it was fun testing Peters Hager Airbus A380.

Incoming note from Peter Hager:

Regarding the A380 sound files; I have a collection of the original sound files used in the real Airbus but not all are supported by XP e.g. the radio alt call outs, which start at 2.500 ft. in the real Airbus, but only at 1.000 ft. in XP). Furthermore, not all sound files can be assigned to the plane because they are XP specific.

Then there’s another topic worth mentioning; The aircraft nose rises early during the take-off run and does not like to go down at landing. The upcoming plug-in will fix this by providing full FBW with all protections, ground mode, rotation mode and de-rotation mode.

Could it be that I’ve forgotten something? Everything is possible and before you know, a small detail is lost in the dark. I tried to check what was possible, verified certain aircraft behavior with the developer and waited for updates. When updates took too long to wait for, I added a note about what’s coming up soon.

 

What I Like About The A380

  • Beautiful external model. Not only during daylight conditions, but also during the evening and night conditions.
  • No problem to fly this Airbus model with high frame rates, even with my PC specifications.
  • Unfortunately there’s only one pop-up panel (KCCU), which looks great. More of those would be great … hint?
  • The detailed manual comes with much additional A380 information.
  • When you eager to learn more about the A380, have a look on the dedicated A380 SmartCockpit website.

 

What I Don't Like About The A380

  • The missing tutorial. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced X-Plane flight simmer or not, this aircraft is not a Boeing or GA aircraft and many things should be done before, during and after the flight. A helpful manual is worth the investment!
  • Although mentioned by the developer including his reason not creating it, the missing Virtual Cockpit. If you miss a VC yes or not, is something personal, but because the 2D cockpit with my default TFT resolutions (1920x1200) makes it all very small, parts of panels and display units are readable.

 

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Peters (Hagar) Airbus A380

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