Many of the add-on aircraft I get to see are somewhat predictable: A nice outside model, a nice panel with some custom gauges, and a flight model that allows me to hop in and take it once around the block, just to get a feel for it’s handling characteristics. But every once in a while, I get to explore an aircraft add-on that has it’s very own personality – an aircraft that makes me realize that I better have a good look at the documentation and go through the checklists before I go and make a fool of myself by damaging this aircraft that I am supposed to be testing in a “non-destructive” fashion.
The Dornier Do-27 is somewhat of a collector’s airplane and has a cult-like following by its owners. It was first built in 1956 to be operated from short and unprepared airstrips. 627 aircraft had been built in total when production came to an end in 1976. The Do-27 provides seating for up to 6 occupants and is powered by a six cylinder, 270 HP Lycoming GO-480-B1A6 engine. It was used by various air forces, German, Swiss, and Spanish among others, for tasks such as liaison, aerial photography, air ambulance, or as a light cargo aircraft. Of the approximately 100 machines still flying today, some are still flown as military aircraft. It is, however also popular as a civilian plane, for example for dropping parachutists. A website is dedicated to the currently flying machines: www.do27.com.
The authors have gone well beyond the expected effort in re-creating this aircraft, and offer it up in two selectable flying configurations: “simple” and “professional”. In the professional configuration, you get your flying time logged and graded and get to follow a prescribed maintenance schedule or suffer the consequences. In simple mode, you can overstress the engine without dire effects - kind of the way most of us “virtual pilots” fly much of the time, I would imagine. The authors have included the following comment in the documentation which gives you more than a glimpse into the design philosophy of this (superb) add-on.
" ... However, we would like to encourage you to face the challenge, and take control of an aircraft that won't forgive every mistake. Maybe you will pilot other virtual airplanes in the future with a different attitude, handle the engine smoothly and with care, and a bit of mistrust in gauges and indicators..."
Installation and Documentation
The package comes as a 135 Meg download, complete with an auto-installer, which worked flawlessly on my system. You will end up with two distinct models: an A1 model and a B1 model, each with multiple paint jobs.
The documentation is uncommonly comprehensive and very professionally put together. It includes specifications, checklists, and engineering drawings and will keep you busy for a while. Luckily, the checklists are also included on a kneeboard in the actual aircraft where they come in very handy when starting up and flying the plane.
Interior and Exterior Views
Although the configuration panel has an option to include a 2D panel, this aircraft was designed to be flown from the virtual cockpit (VC) and that is where I did all my testing. When you first start the engine, you feel as if you have left FS9 and entered another world. The whole aircraft rattles and shakes and the ground handling of this tail dragger is awful. This aircraft comes with a lot of personality and not all of it friendly. It reminded me of a camel I was once invited to ride, who first refused to get up from the ground and when it finally did, tried to bite me as I climbed a little platform to get “on board”.
The VC is in one word: stunning – it really re-creates this vintage aircraft with custom gauges, levers, and lots of interior detail. You even get to chose if you would like a co-pilot on board, and if you choose this option, you’ll find that she is not just a wooden figure, but fully animated, including moving her head and blinking her eyes in a very natural manner. Is this really FS9? Other nice details are the hand-held GPS that actually has a hand holding it, and the kneeboard that can be brought up, complete with executable checklist commands.
The exterior model is nicely detailed, with different features for the A and B model, and textures that show the wear and tear of a vintage airplane. You can have a lot of fun just figuring out how to open the doors (hint: release the security catch first) not to mention the maintenance mode which comes with all kinds of “toys” as shown in the picture below.
Flying the Do-27
OK, now you have figured out that differential braking is the way to go in taxiing to the runway and that you want treat the throttle with some respect. The next thing you notice, is that this plane does not need a lot of runway to get airborne, while you are still deciding if it needs some forward pressure to get the tail wheel off the ground, it lifts off and you are airborne.
Up in the air, you notice that the mechanics forgot to clean the windshield and make a note to yourself that maybe more than a little cleaning might be in order. The illusion of worn Plexiglas, complete with scratches and dead bugs is really well done. Luckily, the aircraft handles a lot better in the air than it did on the ground, and as you figure out the quirks in the gauges, like an HSI with O for Ost, instead of E for East. You get more confident that it will all work out for the better.
The plane is flown by hand, no autopilot here, but responds nicely to control inputs and trims out fine after reducing the engine revolutions to a more comfortable level. At this point, the cowling does not shake as much either, and you can start to enjoy the view, which is expansive especially out the sides where the big windows come into play. The plane has a VOR receiver, which helps in navigating back to the airport and lining up for the descent.
Landing is quite a treat, for the flaps really slow down the plane and you can come in nice and controlled and just put her down on the main gear and wait for the tail to drop. Just do not get impatient and slam on the brakes, or you’ll be on your nose before you can say “Sh.....” (in German).
Sounds and Effects
The sounds are quite convincing, and the orchestra of engine noise, combined with rattles, creaks and groans at full throttle really adds to the overall feeling of being there. The list of special effects is long, and is one of the attractions of this package. Some of the effects are selectable via a supplied effects panel.
A partial list of effects, from the documentation, follows:
* Control surfaces are affected by wind if pilot left aircraft
and controls have not fixed.
Virtual Cockpit and systems:
* Panels and instruments may be damaged by hard landings.
This is quite an amazing package. The more time you spend with it, the more you discover. For vintage aircraft enthusiasts, this is a “must have” add-on. This plane will also work nicely for bush pilots, as it was designed to take off and land at small, remote airstrips.
If what you are looking for is a sleek, fast personal aircraft, this is not the plane for you, but if you are into rugged, workhorse aircraft with distinct personalities, this package has a lot to offer. The detailed virtual cockpit takes a bit of a toll on frame rates, but there are options to turn down some of the details, which I did not use, since on my system that was never a problem.
Overall, this is a welcome addition to FS9, which I would recommend highly to any aspiring GA pilot.
|What I Like About the Dornier Do-27 Package|
|What I Don't Like About the Dornier Do-27 Package|
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