Hello Flight Sim Fans! This is my first review for the fine folks at AVSIM, for which I want to thank them! I was lucky enough to have one of the blasts from the past to review, a classic line by the Stinson Aircraft Company; the Stinson Model “S” Junior, the SM-2 Model, and the SM-8 Model. The folks over at Golden Age Simulations have developed this product for those that enjoy real “hands on flying”, and the excitement of flying models that represent the early, adventurous days of flying.
Eddie Stinson had a passion for flying that started when he was a teenager. At 16 years of age, he left school, and travelled to St. Louis, Missouri, where he had heard that two men were about to test fly an aircraft that they had constructed. They were all strangers to each other, but he was able to convince them that he should be the one to test fly the aircraft, as neither of the men had any flight experience at all. Neither did Eddie, who hadn’t even seen a plane before, but the builders of the aircraft did not know this. The flight took place in a pasture. It was a very short flight, and ended in a crash. The two “wanna-be” aircraft makers gave Stinson the remains of the wrecked aircraft as payment for his “services”, and so began the love affair with flight for Eddie Stinson.
Stinson realized he was not going to get far with no practical experience at flying aircraft, so taking his life’s savings of $500.00 he enrolled in and graduated from the Wright Brothers Flight School in Dayton, Ohio. He made quite a name for himself after this as a barnstormer, stunt pilot, and as a record setting aviator. It so happens that Stinson’s two sisters were both qualified pilots as well, female pioneers in the world of aviation.
After selling the family’s piano, Katherine Stinson took that money to pay for her flying lessons, and in 1912, became the fourth woman in the United States to become a licensed pilot. Widely known as the “Flying Schoolgirl”, she was twenty-one and weighed a mere 101 pounds, Katherine performed air exhibitions throughout the United States and overseas. She was also the first woman pilot authorized to fly air mail. Marjorie, the younger sister, went to the Wright Flying School and became the ninth and youngest female pilot to be licensed in the U.S. She flew air mail for the government as well. This was certainly a family of trend setting aviators!
The Stinson’s started their own flying school in 1915. After the U.S. entered World War I, they trained future U.S. Army and Canadian pilots at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. Eddie Stinson was commissioned as a lieutenant, and his sister went from her former nickname to that of the “Flying School Marm”.
The Stinson Aircraft Company was formed back in 1920. Stinson started the company in Dayton Ohio, and then moved his operations to Detroit, Michigan in 1925. With the support of a local group of businessmen, the Detroit Board of Commerce's Aviation Committee, Stinson was provided with $25,000 to begin work on a new monoplane. The SM-1 Detroiter was a success, with its first flight on January 25, 1926. While the “burners were still hot”, Stinson acquired $150,000 in public funds for further work and to incorporate the company. Not only was Stinson actively involved in the aircraft manufacturing business, he earned a great deal of income at his “second job”, that of a Stunt Pilot. Money well earned if you ask me! Those were some pretty dangerous days to be a stunt pilot!
A total of ten SM-1 Detroiter’s were sold in 1926, which led to the development of the Model S “Junior”, the SM-2, and the SM-8. Around 1929, a man by the name of E.L. Cord, who was in the automobile business, bought up 60 percent of the Stinson stock. This provided additional capital so that Stinson could still sell his aircraft at a competitive price, and continue creating new designs. Six aircraft models were offered at a time when the Great Depression was at its peak, from the “Junior” to the Stinson 6000 Trimotor airliner. Unfortunately, Stinson died in an air crash while on a sales trip in Chicago, on January 26, 1932. He was only 38 years old, but had acquired over 16,000 hours of flight time.
Installation and Documentation
Download of the product was easy and relatively quick. This of course depends on your own internet connection. The FSX version had a download time of around twelve minutes and the FS9 version, a little over a minute. It took just about a minute to install each of the packages, respectively, which was after the usual clicks to confirm the path to flight sim and a click to agree to the copyright of the product…fast, fast, fast!
Along with the installation of the aircraft models, there is a rendition of Antique Airfield, in Iowa, home to the Stinson that was used as a reference in creating this model. Grass strip and scenery, it adds to the “atmosphere” and is located in a nice area worth some exploring.
There are no inch thick manuals with this product, but there is a three page PDF document that is intended to familiarize you with the cockpit. Easily understood, even for the novice simmer, and helpful in pointing out where everything is located in each of the aircraft. A checklist and other reference material are available through the kneeboard in the sim. It’s always recommended to read the manuals before flying, as there is always something that you may overlook (voice of experience!).
Let’s take a look at what Golden Age Simulations has put together. In general, my comments will include both the FSX and the FS9 versions, unless otherwise stated.
There are two versions of this product, one for FS9 and one for FSX, each is sold separately. Three models of Stinson aircraft are bundled up in this package, the Stinson Model “S” Junior, the SM-2, and the SM-8, along with a nice supply of liveries depicting some of the early roles the Stinson took part in. Although the models are similar, there are differences. These are mainly in engine type and interior layout.
A very fine job was done in reproducing this aircraft for flight sim. Attention to detail can be seen in everything from the engines (very impressive!) to the simple but effective landing gear. Control surfaces (there are no flaps on this model aircraft FYI) all operate smoothly and move in a realistic manner. The various paint jobs are simple, but smart looking. Some aircraft look as if they had come right off the factory line, and others show a bit of wear from their duties. Textures are reflective and pick up the light quite nicely, making for some really nice set-ups for screen shots. I noticed that even the latches on the engine covers are finely detailed, not just a pixel blob.
As a fan of “low and slow”, I find this to be a very appealing aircraft, something I wouldn’t mind having in a “real” hanger! If only I could hit the Lotto! So, having been impressed with the detail and looks of the exterior, let’s hop inside and see if this plane is “livable”!
There’s a definite feeling of nostalgia when you “enter” the cabin of the Stinson Models. Wicker seats, wood paneling, and in the “Junior” Model, steering wheels for yokes. The SM-2 and -8 are stick controlled. Interiors differ from cargo to passenger services, as this was both a utility aircraft as well as a passenger ride. Please note the “valuable” cargo in the above screen shot, and I ain’t talkin’ about the U.S. Mail either!
As you can see in the screenshots, even though the cockpits and cabins were simple in nature, they still had a particular “beauty” to them…the woodwork especially. It’s easy to imagine yourself actually flying this old bird. I was impressed with the decent frame rates while in the Virtual Cockpit mode.
There were a couple of minor bugs that I noticed while exploring the do-dad’s of the cabin. When clicking on the window crank, pilot side in the “Junior” model, there was an alignment problem with the window coming down and protruding through the door. No big deal really, just a cosmetic one. It has no effect on any flight parameters.
The other find was that while “grabbing” the trim stick in the FS9 “Junior” Model and “pulling” it toward you, you are actually “pushing” the stick away from you, and vice versa. The SM-2 and the -8 Models have a trim crank located on the overhead. This was a bit confusing at first, but as I use a trim wheel on my CH Yoke, it was not really an issue for me. These glitches were not present in the FSX models.
I am still a fan of the 2D cockpit, and to be honest, I miss the inclusion of these panels in some of the aircraft packages these days, however, with the detail and smoother frame rates that one gets with a good model, flying in the Virtual Cockpit Model is becoming more acceptable to some of us “old timers”! That is the case with these particular Stinson models. More on the panels in a bit…
One thing that really came in handy with this model, as well as other models where there is no 2D cockpit, is the freeware utility called “F1 View”, from the folks at Flight 1. You can find it here at AVSIM under the file name of f1view.zip. This utility is for FS9. For FSX there is also a similar utility, wheelcam24.zip. Many items can be viewed easier with the use of these utilities.
Nice modeling and great textures all make for interiors that are very appealing and easy to fly from. Good frame rates and a “nostalgic” look make for a smooth, old fashioned ride. The only thing that I did not care for was the amount of “tinting” used for the windscreen and windows. A little too shaded for my taste but this I believe comes down to personal opinion as well as individual monitor settings.
The panels are accurate for the time frame, and are very simple when it comes to the avionics that are provided. You will find only the basics when it comes to instrumentation. Everything you see should be familiar to you, and if not, it’s easy enough to figure out! The only thing missing was a climb rate gauge. But you do have a “bag” of “goodies” on the seat next to you.
Clicking on the button on the top of the bag opens it (click and drag in FSX), and gives you access to GPS, Radio, ATC, Map, Time piece, and Kneeboard. There are no capabilities for Nav Radio, or ADF for that matter in these early birds, so either navigate by VFR, or, if you get hopelessly lost, get the GPS out of the bag.
All gauges and switches operated in a smooth and normal fashion. The only problem I had with the panel was that of missing simicons, in the “bag”. This was a problem on my system and not the model. The folks at Golden Age were quick to respond to my inquiry.
Here’s a little something I found while flying a cross country trip. There are no apparent autopilot controls in these models, but the SM-2 model can be flown on autopilot from programmed joystick buttons or through the keyboard. Autopilot was not available in these aircraft at the time, but with the wonders of computer technology, the aircraft.cfg file was altered to allow for the use of AP in the SM-2. This is not an option with the “Junior” or the SM-8, where keyboard programming for AP function is not enabled.
My opinion of the panel is a good one, giving you a real challenge in flying the “old-fashioned way”! I am impressed as well with the wood textures throughout the cabin and cockpit!
The sound file is a very fine one. Excellent start up sounds, with a very realistic run up sound as the rev’s increase. No detectable “looping” of sounds was apparent, which makes for a less “hypnotic” flight! As you push the throttles up to max, there is a very smooth transition through the increasing power building up and peaking. Ambient sounds (instrument clicks, wind, etc.) were all there too make the flight even more realistic.
Sounds are a very important part of the “imagination factor” in this hobby, and they have done a great job with this file!
Flying these early birds was truly a fun and pleasurable experience. Putting the Realism settings to the Max is a great way to fly this model. Even maxed out, they are not too difficult for the novice, and still a bit of a challenge for the experienced simmer. The torque and “P” factor on take off is not too bad, and can be compensated by the minor use of rudder adjustments. Cross wind take off’s are fun and challenging as well.
This is definitely a “hands-on” aircraft to operate. There is no rudder trim on the panels, but you can use a joystick hat or switch programmed for this. Otherwise, do it the old fashioned way and keep your feet on the pedals for those corrections. The models trim out to a reasonable state, but you still have to keep the hands on the yoke or stick for minor altitude corrections.
Flying in high winds is possible, but a real challenge. The aircraft does hold its own though. I would not recommend flying this model in bad weather, as the lack of modern instruments might make this a hair-raising experience for you. The aircraft is equipped with lights, but again, I don’t recommend any night flying for novices in this aircraft, at least right away!
Take off in these models is relatively easy, even with them being “tail-draggers”. The nose comes down around 40 MPH and before you know it, at around 55 MPH, you are off the ground. Very short take off’s and landings are possible with this aircraft. Landing is also a fairly easy task, as the aircraft virtually floats down its glide slope with minor adjustments along the way on the throttle.
Taxiing a tail dragger is never an easy task, namely because of the limited view over the panel, but I found that just by keeping my eye on the edge along the sides of the runway or taxiway, it was not too difficult as there is not a huge amount of torque when throttle is applied. You can always go to the “no panel” view for these tasks, however.
Each of the models, although similar, handled slightly different in various conditions, due of course mainly to the engines that were used and power available. This is a much appreciated effort on the part of the developers to not make an “across the board” flight file for the various models. Great job done on the airfile for these aircraft!
Summary / Closing Remarks
I think this package can be added to the virtual hanger of anyone that enjoys the classics in the world of aviation. There are some great looking freeware aircraft out there that represent this era, but what you get with these “payware” products is the extra effort that goes into HOW the aircraft fly’s and handles.
You get both great looks and realistic flight dynamics with this Golden Age Package of the Early Stinson models. Look for yourself, as the screenshots can tell part of the story, but always look under “the hood” to find out that you are flying something that represents the actual feel for the real aircraft. Golden Age developers had the luxury to have an actual Stinson to reference. This Stinson calls Antique Airfield home, hence the added scenery depicting this small, grass strip airfield.
In summary, I really enjoyed this model, and will continue to enjoy flying it. I’m looking forward to various repaints for this aircraft. There are always little things that go unnoticed, even by the Beta Testers, but for what it’s worth, the very minor discrepancies that I had come across were exactly that, minor.
I highly suggest this model for newcomers to the hobby of flight sim, as it is simple to operate, yet because of its “simplicity”, there is also a bit of a challenge for those of you who have been using VOR’s and GPS’s too much! This is a fine model to get your feet back into the basics of old time flying!
The model is available directly from the Golden Age Simulations site and both versions each are $24.95.
What I Like About The Stinson Model "S" Junior, SM-2 and SM-8
What I Don't Like About The Stinson Model "S" Junior, SM-2 and SM-8
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