AVSIM Freeware Review

Project Tupolev TU-154-B2

 

Review By Daniel Almeida

 

Rating Guide
Publisher: Project Tupolev
Description: Freeware TU-154-B2
   
Download Size:
All Files Total 23mb
Format:
Download .exe
Simulator:
Fs2004
Reviewed by:  Daniel Almeida (Guest Reviewer)

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with 5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here


Introduction

Some time ago I had a business trip to Teheran and flew from there to Mumbai with Iran Air. My flight was delayed (because some stupid person thought I was an Israeli spy, but that's another story) and was looking out of the window of the Iran Air A310 watching the landings and some aircraft taxiing to the departure runway. All at once I saw an aircraft taxiing slowly and aligning to the runway; it looked a bit like a Boeing 727 but was much more beautiful in my opinion, I looked again and recognized my favourite aircraft, the Tupolev TU-154 accelerating to take-off speed and screaming like a bird from hell as it finally left the ground and disappeared slowly in the morning sky.

That was a nice sight and something we don't happen to see a lot here in Europe. Back at home in Switzerland I asked myself whether some FS designer had eventually developed the TU-154 for MSFS and "googled" for it. I got some results and one of them was the site from Project Tupolev at avsim.ru and what a surprise it was to find out that the TU-154 existed for FS2004, not only as one more freeware mainstream add-on, but as the BEST airliner add-on for MSFS ever, whether freeware or payware, nothing beats it.

Real Aircraft History

The TU-154 is still the workhorse in the CIS states and to some extent also in other former East Block countries. Designed to replace the TU-104, the AN-10 and the IL-18, the new aircraft had to be able to operate from gravel airfields and to fly at very high altitudes. The result was a three engines (Kuznetsov NK-8 turbofans for the B-2 model) aircraft with a massive gear that retracted into slots on the wings. The aircraft has a medium range of about 2000 miles and can cruise at Mach 0.85; max. altitude is around 39000 feet. The maiden flight happened in 1968 and the commercial service began in 1972.

Installation

All files can be found at here, unfortunately the site is mostly in Russian language but it's not difficult to find your way to the files. The direct links however are these:

The installation works without any problem, just follow the instructions of the installation program. Please note that the English tutorial is essential if you don't speak Russian (a big thank you to Michael Ackermann for writing it). 

Aircraft Model

The model is not really an eye-catcher and if you're more interested in how your plane looks like and you don't care much about system's simulation etc. then, this add-on might not be really for you. There is no VC either, but if you like to have a complex system simulation, this is not really a problem as setting hundreds of switches etc. from VC is really no option if you don't have a state of the art PC.  There are also some merges available to add the Project Tupolev panel to another model with VC, but I didn't try them out and don't know how well they perform.

Sound Set

Not much to say here, apart that it sounds great and comes really close to the real sound. You can hear the engines screaming while reaching high RPM's, and during take-off you can almost feel the power of the engines behind you. The set is excellent, both in interior and exterior views. A very nice feature of the sound set is that several call-outs of the crew are included (in Russian of course). It adds a lot to the immersion factor when you hear your crew talking to you in all phases of flight.

Panel

Now we come to the real gem of this package. The panel is really complex and completely in Russian, but now since version 9.32 you get tooltips in English, a feature that makes life a lot easier for people who don't speak Russian. 

The panel is so complex that you'll need the tutorial to get you started, otherwise you might not even be able to start your engines (But don't give up, I read the manual several times and it was worth every second of it, it's really rewarding to fly this plane with all the complexity it offers). The panel should be always started in a cold and dark situation, the easiest way to shut everything down, is to load the default Cessna, set all switches to off and reload the TU-154, you'll find the panel cold and dark and if you want, you can save this situation for future flights, so that you don't have to load the Cessna every time you want to fly the Tupolev. Version 9.3.2 is also compatible with  the newest freeware FSUIPC version. 

Available are the main panel (Captain and Co-pilot side), Overhead panel, Flight engineer panel plus Navigation and Automatic Pilot panels, see tutorial for details. The Tu-154 uses a HBY (NVU) navigation system to fly orthodromic courses, it means, it flies the shortest distance between two points on the earth surface, passing the meridians at different angles (but for details, see the tutorial where this system is explained very well). You can use this system manually or if you prefer to concentrate on the flight, you can use the virtual navigator to set up the HBY (NVU) for you. The virtual navigator never worked for me for some reason but I wasn't bothered and didn't try to hard to find the problem as I wanted to do that part of the navigation manually anyway.



One great achievement of the Project Tupolev team is the system for the joysticks that works independently of MSFS and allows this way the use of routines that wouldn't be possible because of FS2004's limitations. You get e.g. realistic nose wheel steering modes, a realistic stabilizer and trim and realistic "delayed" inputs from the joystick or yoke as you feel them in real life when flying a big airliner with hydraulic controls. You can set up different joysticks, assign various buttons to predefined actions etc. The set-up is very simple and also explained very well in the tutorial (I know I'm repeating myself, but the tutorial is essential for this aircraft).

The amount of detail in the panel is amazing and you'll feel overwhelmed the first time you try to start it. It's by no means an aircraft for the casual simmer, who just likes to fly around a bit. If you like to start the simulator, accelerate the plane to fly from A to B and land the aircraft, you might be disappointed, this airplane is really complex and you feel it from beginning, as you'll need to actually prepare you flight very exactly before you even start FS2004. 

First of all you'll need to decide your route, including waypoints and get the magnetic variations from them (I use FS Navigator for this). You can then make an FS Flight Plan and import it then to the NVU Calculator. Put the magnetic variations in the corresponding waypoints and let the calculator give you the orthodromic course for your flight plan. (You can also export it to the Virtual Navigator here, read the tutorial!). Then, you'll have to start the Load Manager and set the configuration you wish (weight, passenger etc.), here you can also calculate your fuel for the trip. You can then print the weight configuration and COG values; you'll need them later to set up your stabilizer handle.

Now you can finally start the simulator and load the Tupolev, following the tutorial and check-lists, you'll be able to start this wonderful aircraft and fly! And talking about it, how does this plane actually fly? 

Test System


AMD Athlon XP 1700+
512mb Ram
Geforce4 Ti4600
Audigy2
Windows XP Home
Wingman Extreme Joystick
CH Yoke
Pedals

Flying Time:
60+Hours
 


Flight Dynamics

It flies great and the "feel" (as far as you can feel a desktop simulation) is fantastic. The delayed inputs make you feel the heaviness of the aircraft. The aircraft also comes really close to the published numbers and the general impression is outstanding.

 The TU-154 is an aircraft that is far away from being high-tech and i.e. that you'll have to do a lot of hand-flying and I can assure you that it's fantastic with that excellent FDE. There is this feeling of flying something that is simply a level higher than the "normal aircraft" in MSFS. And when I say normal, I'm not speaking about default aircrafts, but I'm comparing it to other quality add-ons out there. 

 The special Joystick routines also allow a realistic stabilizer and trim behaviour, the FDE is so realistic, that if you try to land or start with a wrong stabilizer configuration, youíll find that your elevator range is limited making a landing or take-off impossible. 

 

Systems

 The amount of systems simulated is incredible. You could write a book about the HBY navigation alone but the other systems are simulated in depth as well and I'm still far away from knowing all the details included in this package. The autopilot works like the real life counterpart and is therefore quite primitive. There is also the possibility to use RSBN navigation-aids in Russia (for navigation and HBY correction). Actually, there is so much simulated that it's easier to ask what is not . 2 or 3 buttons on the overhead are dummies, like e.g. the power switch for the passenger cabin (not really an essential system for a flight simulator anyway). The only systems that a real life TU-154 should have and are not simulated, that spring to my mind are a TCAS and weather radar, but both are not really high priority, especially the weather radar is still not a common feature in flight simulator add-ons nowadays. All other systems, like hydraulic, electric, navigation etc. are simulated  and are explained in the tutorial, I donít want to go into details here.

Conclusion

 The TU-154 is a complete package, that comes with a Load Manager, Fuel Calculator, Orthodromic Course Calculator, a mind blowing realistic panel/ systems simulation, a very nice sound set and a good GMAX model, even though the visual is surely not at the highest level anymore when compared to other add-on aircraft, but if you like realistic systems, it's not a priority anyway. 

The TU-154 brought in my opinion something to MSFS that is really lacking normally with other aircraft; it's the immersion factor, the "need" of planning a flight from beginning to end seriously, the excellent flight model with the revolutionary joystick routines and the fantastic systems simulation that puts it above anything I've flown before in MSFS. Let's also not forget one thing, we're talking here about a product that stands above any payware add-on I own (and I own the entire PMDG 737 series for example) and is at the same time a freeware aircraft. It's almost unbelievable and puts a big BUT in the theories of those who say that quality Freeware aircraft design is dead. 

Thank you very much to the Project Tupolev team for such a nice aircraft!

Editors Note:

A special thanks to Daniel for taking the time to write a review on this aircraft. As you can tell from his review, this is a superb aircraft, and equals many payware aircraft currently on the market. To that end, this aircraft has been awarded the Avsim Freeware Silver award. Congratulations to the Project Tupolev team.

 

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