From The Skies Of War Torn Europe To The Virtual Skies Of Our Desktops
The Lancaster Bomber needs no real introduction and is well known all over the world as one of the most quintessential bombers of World War 2. Derived from the original twin engine Manchester bomber, the 4 engine Lancaster has a reputation all of its own and is loved by pilots of that time period as well as a few of us that just can’t get enough of vintage aircraft from that era.
Justflight, along with Aeroplane Heaven, have created yet another masterpiece that depicts an era long gone. An era where complex MFD’s and GPS systems were merely a pipe dream and the dream of flight became a realization and was then thrown into the flames of war. So, hop into the Lancaster Bomber and take her for a spin into the darkness of night and see if you have what it takes to be a Lancaster Pilot!
Out Of The Box
The Lancaster package can be yours either by download or DVD, I received mine on DVD. Installation is a breeze as with all Justflight products, simply insert the disc and go. The only thing that I didn’t like about the installation process is that once it is installed you cannot install it to another installation of MSFS on the same computer.
I wanted to use this with Golden Wings and not MSFS 2004 and I had already installed it to 2004. Luckily, I was all geared up for FSX with my new machine, so I transferred my installation of Golden Wings to the new machine and installed the Lancaster onto that one. This would also give me the opportunity to test it on both machines.
The package comes with a printed manual that covers a brief history of the aircraft as well as detailed instructions for navigating each model and illustrates what model comes with what. There are also checklists and performance charts as well as an interview with an actual Lancaster crewman. In my opinion, you really do need that manual as there is a great deal of information that you need to know before you jump into it and go.
The add-on comes with not only the Lancaster bomber, but the DeHavilland Mosquito and a nice rendition of the World War II era airbase RAF Scampton. The manual for the Mosquito is included on the disk and the scenery for RAF Scampton installs itself into MSFS automatically during the installation process.
The Lancaster From Justflight
Once the product is installed, you will find 8 different Lancasters in your hanger, each with different models to choose from. This was most confusing for me as I went in and didn’t read the manual, and then I found that each aircraft is broken down into an A, B, C or D designation and these signify which aircraft comes with what stations and depicts a different level of realism for each.
The add-on models included are the Lancaster B Mk.1, Mk. 1 Squadron 617 (Dam busters), Mk. 1 with the Grand Slam bomb, Mk. 2 with Hercules engines, Mk. 3 with the H2S radar installation, Mk. 3 Aeronavale, Battle Of Britain Memorial Lancaster and finally the Lancaster Prototype. Each aircraft model comes with several different liveries and each offer a multitude of eye candy and special effects as well as a lot of added 3D animations.
The exterior of each bomber is relatively the same with some minor adjustments to distinguish them from one another, such as squadron markings, bomb loads and crew positions. As you walk around the Lancaster you can’t help but feel the history these aircraft encompass and think about the courageous crews that manned them. Every conceivable part on the aircraft is animated and the detail on the exterior is really good. I especially like the animated bomb on the Grand Slam edition of the Lancaster, brought back a lot of memories of the old dam busting games that were so popular in the late eighties and early nineties.
Lighting is probably one of the most important aspects of the Lancaster bomber, as the aircraft was used mostly for night time bombing missions during the war. So it is important that lighting on the Lancaster for MSFS 2004 be relatively accurate, especially when it comes to dealing with the spotlights mounted on the bottom of the plane. These spotlights played an important role in judging the altitude and position of the bomber when conducting the famous bomb runs on German occupied dams.
I tried flying the Lancaster at night over Crater Lake in Oregon at about 50 feet above the water. Externally, this was really cool as the spotlights really do illuminate the water, but trying to navigate from the bombardier station was near impossible to maintain level flight. I ended up hitting the water surface and loosing the aircraft. As for the crew stations, they are all nicely done as is the cockpit and this is one of the first add-ons that doesn’t overwhelm the pilot with lights from the exterior model of the aircraft when sitting in the cockpit, no blinking strobe lights!
There is no shortage of 3D animations from both inside and outside the aircraft with this add-on. Most impressive is the bomb drop function, and depending on what bomb load you are using each bomb has its own aerodynamics. Take the Dam Buster model for instance; its bomb will actually roll across the water if you are at the correct altitude and speed. As for the other bomb loads, they don’t just drop they fall like the real ones did giving off a sense of realism when watching them drop. The biggest problem I had was being able to see the bomb drop, as you have to do it from either the pilot's station or bombardier’s station. The pilot opens the bomb bay and the bombardier drops them. There is supposed to be a key strike command to drop the bomb load, but I could not find it in the manual or find a key strike that would work.
The sounds for the Lancaster bomber is nicely done both inside and out of the aircraft, though I was a little surprised there were no hidden Easter eggs in the sound department. So much work was put into the radio compartment I would have thought the designers would’ve added some pre-recorded sound files for the user to enjoy. I guess that is the Bill Lyons fan in me, I tend to like little things like that in my older aircraft although the engine sound is incredible and really does capture what a heavy bomber sounds like needs to be heard to be appreciated.
In The Cockpit
Internally is where this product shines. Depending on which model you choose, you will have the choice of a functioning radio and navigation station, or a functioning bombardier station with an animated front turret that actually moves from your input on the click spots provided in the aircraft model. Included with all of the models is a beautifully rendered cockpit that seems to really put you there, almost everything is functional and almost all of the aircraft systems are available. The manual will come in real handy when it comes to trying to locate switches as there are a lot of them.
The layout of each compartment is highly detailed and it is very clear that the developers put a lot of effort into a realistic representation of this aircraft.
I found the gauges in this add-on to be pretty impressive, as they seem to have a very realistic flair to them, the movement is good and the update is decent. This is very important if you are going to fly a night time mission as you really have to depend on those instruments. The trip across the channel had me going stir crazy!
This product was meant to be flown from the virtual cockpit, as the 2D panel just doesn’t provide you with the "you are there" feeling, although it does make it easy to reach systems that aren’t easily accessible in the virtual cockpit mode.
The one thing you have to remember is this is a multi-crew aircraft and I have to tell you, I think this add-on would be better served by a real multi-crew as it gets really difficult moving from one station to another. Though it is not possible to conduct actual bombing missions in MSFS, it would be nice to have the extra help, or a way to change your position on the fly rather than moving yourself to each station.
I would like to see the view system that was implemented in Lionheart's Viking; it utilizes a combination of keys from the keypad allowing the pilot to jump from one part of the plane to another without moving the view perspective.
Flying The Lancaster On 17 AUG 1943
As I sat and read the manual for this add-on, I couldn’t help but remember a book that I had picked up some years ago. So before I went on my initial flight, I decided to go search for this book as I thought it would help me understand the role of the Lancaster bomber and its aircrew. I ultimately found the book buried deep in my garage in a box with a bunch of other books, I found a receipt in the small paperback publication dated 1992, wow! Funny I should remember this book now.
The book depicts the air raid on Peenemunde on August 17, 1942 and is titled The Great Raids and is written by Air Commodore J Searby. It goes into detail about the crews and their bombers that were used on that day. It includes photos of the bombers and their crews as well as pre-mission photos, after mission photos, their objectives and mission briefings, and the after mission report. The air raid on Peenemunde was a strike against a guided missile base located on the coast and a portion of the base was designed to look like a French town, to throw off enemy planes. In total there were more than 40 squadrons allocated for this mission, aircraft including Lancaster’s, Mosquito’s, Halifax’s and Stirlings to pave the way for a successful raid.
Preparing for this flight would be key, so researching the briefings and getting the necessary ADF’s for each leg of my flight was my next step, once that was done I was ready to head off to my waiting bomber. I decided to use the Mk. II Lancaster with the Hercules engines as I had already spent some time with the Mk. 1’s.
So I set out to try and recreate this flight on my personal computer with the Lancaster add-on. The bombing mission started from RAF Wyton airbase. Starting my flight late in the afternoon (The actual mission started at 2040 hours on 17 AUG 1943 with aircraft in the air and ended with the surviving bombers on the ground at around 0300 hours on 18 AUG 1943; I wanted a little daylight!) I started the aircraft from a cold and dark environment and taxied the plane to the end of the runway and waited. Going over my takeoff checklists and checking my instruments, it was time. The startup sequence was enjoyable, but at times rather difficult to find the necessary switches and systems in the VC. So for the systems that I could not locate, a quick trip to the 2D panel provided me with an easy way to get around this. After startup I was a little surprised at the lack of “extra sound” like the energizers and such when starting the engines, but overall the startup sequence was impressive!
As the Lancaster lumbered down the runway and lifted away. I was on my way. While still over the protective soil of England, I took some time to learn my way around the aircraft. While over the UK I found the flight model for the Lancaster to be pretty solid and relatively believable for an aircraft of this type. I have to add that each model comes with different engine types, so it was important to see what real difference there would be. If anything, I noticed that the models with the newer engines and higher RPM’s handled the aircraft weight better on takeoff, but that could have just been me.
After a bit of time, I could make out the coastline and open water. I was soon over the channel and the sun was starting to set. I was flying in the protective darkness of the night. My route would take me across the North Sea to Denmark, onto the Island of Sylt and into the narrow waters of the Little Belt. Eventually I would fly to Kiel Bay and into the Baltic, then over the Island Of Rugen and make my approach to Peenemunde.
Okay, I have to tell you that I ended up cheating and used the time advance as the time it was taking to get anywhere was starting to get really tedious. But, I did stay true to each leg of the flight, as well as conducting altitude changes and maneuvers to avoid German detection that were illustrated in my book. The book goes into detail about the hotspots, whether it was German fighters or flak, these crews had quite the time. Nearing the final leg of the flight was the approach to Rugen Island. I crossed over it and flew over the three aiming points over Peenemunde and then ultimately landed at Peenemunde to end my memorial flight.
Overall, I found the Lancaster be a relatively easy aircraft to fly manually. If this depicts the real aircraft, than it is very well done. If not, then it is too forgiving. If one was to draw comparisons to other bombers, such as the B-24 or the B-17 for that matter, I would have to say that I prefer the layout of the cockpit of the B-17 over the Lancaster simply because it is easier to find my way around and I am more familiar with that aircraft.
The de Havilland Mosquito FB Mk.4 Pathfinder and RAF Scampton
Included with this add-on is an additional aircraft, the Mosquito Pathfinder. This is a much welcome addition to the entire package as a whole, as it really adds to the quality of this add-on. Visually the Mosquito is beautiful, lots of animations and an incredible virtual cockpit!
I found that flying the Mosquito was a bit of a challenge, as I chose this aircraft to do my photo recon on Peenemunde. It seemed to be all over the sky and had the tendency to want to climb or dive all the time. You can be flying along straight and level and all of a sudden the Mosquito nose dives towards the ground. Initially, I thought this was a weather problem so I cleared the weather and it still continued.
This is also a pain when you are trying to takeoff and it does it! Maintaining level flight with the autopilot was easy, but trying to maintain level flight without it was almost impossible at times. I read that this Mosquito is part of another add-on that Justflight will be releasing and it is possible that this is an early flight model and not all of the kinks have been worked out of it.
The sound for the Mosquito is very good! It’s like the developers have caught the essence of the Mosquito with the sound effects. Reeling from the release of WW2 Fighters and how good the sound was with their fighters, I didn’t really expect much. But I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and complexity of the sound overall with both aircraft.
Flying the Mosquito and the Lancaster would not be complete without an airfield to fly out of; this is where RAF Scampton comes in. This airbase has been built to simulate the layout of the real world Scampton circa 1940’s. I was a little surprised to see that there were no AI aircraft parked at this airbase, it is really kind of lonely there! There are just buildings, no static objects or anything that resembles life at Scampton. I have seen some other airfields created for MSFS and Golden Wings that literally blow the mind when it comes to detail, and sadly Scampton comes up short and leaves you wanting more.
This was the big one for me, would this aircraft perform like the famed Bombers from Shockwave Products. Initially, I found that on my P4 3.0 machine, no! Draw time was slow and the overall frame rate performance was terrible. Now, when I dumped it over to my Duo E6600, I found that I could enjoy this aircraft at its best with little or no performance issues.
In The End
Do I like this product? Yes! This is a wonderful addition to MSFS and Golden Wings as it makes touring the English Countryside circa 1940 a little more enjoyable.
Though you cannot conduct missions per se, you can attempt to recreate flights that were conducted during those turbulent times and if you are good enough you can meet the simulations requirements to watch the bombs drop on their intended simulated target.
With FSX out on the shelves and at writing I do not have a copy, I can’t help but think how this aircraft will look in the new Flight Simulator and whether or not these type of missions will be brought to life in the FS X world. But for now, I am very happy with it on my copy of Golden Wings, as that is where I have been spending most of my simulator time waiting for the new FS X.
|What I Like About the Lancaster|
|What I Don't Like About the Lancaster|
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