The Douglas DC-3 represents one of aviation history’s greatest success stories and even with the release of FS2004, Century of Flight, Microsoft saw fit to have included the “Gooney Bird” as a default aircraft. It was the DC-3, first released in the 1930s, that provided the foundation for the Douglas Aircraft Company to lead the world in the production of civilian propliners over the subsequent two decades. During the period of World War II, the Douglas DC-3 (the military versions were designated as the C-47 or the R4D) served faithfully as a cargo and troop carrier and it would be formations of C-47s that delivered units of the 86th and 101st airborne paratroopers at Normandy. Other C-47s flew into China, carrying much needed supplies, by flying over the Himalayan Mountains or the “Hump”, as it was called at the time. During the war, the Douglas C-47 or R4D was seen everywhere, from Europe to far out into the Pacific Ocean; the Douglas “Gooney Bird” was essential to the Allied force’s efforts at winning the conflict. At the end of the war, the need for a regional airliner became paramount for civilian transportation and DC-3s were flying as passenger liners on virtually every continent. Ultimately, Douglas replaced the DC-3 with the DC-4, DC-6, and finally the DC-7, but the DC-3 had earned its place in history and surprisingly, a rather large number of DC-3s are still flying today, nearly 70 years after it first took to the air!
Ever since the release of FS2000, there has been a version of the Douglas DC-3 which has been available from a dedicated group of individuals, wishing to provide support of the restoration projects connected with the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum or MAAM, but it wasn’t until the version designed specifically for FS2002 that the idea of “Donation-Ware” became the way this support was offered. For the low price of $25.00US, you can order your copy of the MAAM CD with the museum’s R4D-6/DC-3 (for FS2004 or FS2002) and the CD includes a number of unique added features. The Douglas R4D-6/DC-3 included with your CD purchase was designed by the MAAM-SIM team members, Bill Rambow, Jan Visser, Fred Banting, Rob Young, Bill Womack, and Howard Sodja and these fellows all have donated their time and efforts on this project (as well as the project for the B-25J “Briefing Time” completed previously) and to date, the MAAM-SIM group has provided in excess of $200,000, in donations, to the various restoration projects at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum.
Installation & Documentation
Once you receive your CD, installation of your MAAM-SIM R4D/DC-3 is performed simply by clicking on the auto-install icon, found on your CD, but the included scenery (the Reading, PA airport) will have to be installed manually. The airport scenery is also available as freeware from the AVSIM library (krdg_fs9.zip). Also included on your CD are the manuals for your purchase and I must say, the documentation included with the MAAM-SIM DC-3 is among the best I’ve ever seen for a FS aircraft yet. The primary manual (HTML format) is very very complete, covering every conceivable detail pertaining to the operation of the DC-3 as well as covering flight operations. The manual also has incorporated into it a series of real-life videos covering everything from start-up to approach-landing procedures, then in addition, the MAAM-SIM group have included an authentic C-47 operations manual (PDF format) from the 1940s. The check-list, retrievable from your FS cockpit (F10) is rather unique in that the check-list kneeboard is interactive, by that I mean you can use your mouse to check off each point, only later to clear it allowing you to use it again on your next DC-3 flight.
The real-life videos are a nice touch, but because they used the actual cockpit of the MAAM R4D, the flight operations sections are done from a cold cockpit (they still haven’t raised sufficient monies to replace the engines, but soon I’m told). Despite this restriction, the videos are still very good and very complete as to each procedure, whether that be a cold engine start, approach procedures, landing techniques, or what ever section you wish to view.
The documentation included with your MAAM-SIM R4D/DC-3 is about as good as anyone could possibly hope for and it leaves you wanting for nothing. I found myself having spent a couple of hours reading through the manual, cross referencing it directly to the cockpit of the DC-3 with FS2004 fired up, and the whole thing is a real help in coming up to speed at operating the DC-3 in a fashion very similar to the operations you would expect in the real thing.
The standard package includes 4 different liveries; United Airlines passenger, British European Airways Cargo, and the NATS R4D-6 version in two paint schemes (gray and polished aluminum), plus the MAAM-SIM group has uploaded an amphibious version of the C-47 into the AVSIM library (maamxc47.zip), painted in US Army olive green, which was the colors used for the prototype of this aircraft, and this file is downloadable as freeware. Use of the downloadable amphibious C-47 does require a registered version of the donation-ware base package be installed onto your computer beforehand.
Each version or livery of the DC-3 has external texturing that is second to none for its realistic appearance, which has been a trademark of the MAAM-SIM aircraft, whether that be the previous versions of the R4D or with their B-25J “Briefing Time”. The FS9 DC-3 also features numerous special effects, such as very realistic smoke on start-up, oil dripping onto the tarmac by striking the “i” key, opening side doors with air-stairs, dynamic exhaust flame, and the full gamut of animated components. The default DC-3, included with FS9 Century of Flight, is pretty good considering that it is a default aircraft, but the MAAM-SIM DC-3/R4D-6 raises the realism notch several pegs in comparison. The MAAM-SIM DC-3 is simply better than anything comparable and the fact that they have also made available, as a freeware add-on, an amphibious version, well it just doesn’t get any better than this. This package simply contains one of the most authentic Douglas DC-3s you will ever come across for FS9. The MAAM-SIM group has perfected the art of external texturing to the upper limit of what is possible for Flight Simulator and amazingly, the impact on frame rates is negligible, for when switching between the MAAM-SIM DC-3 and the default DC-3, I noted little or no change in frame rates when viewing the external texturing from the spot view.
As before with previous versions of the MAAM-SIM R4D-6, I’m confident that repaints in your favorite livery should become available shortly in the AVSIM library, but the ones included with the MAAM-SIM package are quite good and do authentically represent real-world aircraft, including the now famous (among flight simmers around the world) R4D-6 NATS livery of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s own R4D-6/DC-3.
I’ve already covered the documentation and the aircraft included with this donation-ware package; the real frosting on the cake is of course the cockpit or panel the MAAM-SIM group has included, and if you may be one of the holdouts that prefer flying from the 2D cockpit (and in many cases I too prefer the 2D panel), after a few short minutes, I believe you’ll agree that this is one FS aircraft where flying from the virtual cockpit will be the absolute preferred method.
The panels from the MAAM-SIM group are their finest achievement and should I say, their trademark marking the level of expertise they have at producing some of the highest quality add-on FS aircraft available anywhere. With their B-25J “Briefing Time”, released earlier this year, they had established their extraordinary talent at virtual cockpit design, but the R4D-6/DC-3 for FS9 takes that even further as they have not only duplicated the appearance of the DC-3’s panel in 3D, they have now also duplicated all of the DC-3’s systems and their operation, at least as well as can be done within the confinements of Flight Simulator.
By way of pop-up panels, each of the DC-3’s systems is presented, whether that be hydraulics, gear-flap operation, throttle-prop-mixture, overhead panel, or the default Garmin GPS. The overhead panel contains many of your electrical items, starting switches, and your radio gear (UHF & VHF com/nav radios plus your transponder) and the throttle-prop-mixture pop-up has your fuel tank selector valves. The manual covers the operation of each of the systems while the check list provides not only an interactive function, but also has your starting procedure included. Operation of the period autopilot, radios, and other cockpit items are very well covered in the documentation, plus you also have the real-life video available in the HTML formatted manual to assist you. This is particularly helpful for the starting procedures.
The additional manual, which is the original or actual 1940’s era manual used for flight operations of the C-47 (PDF format), is not necessarily the manual you would use with this FS aircraft, though having included it does make for some quite interesting reading, almost humorous to a fashion.
One more point I would like to mention and despite my obvious preference for their outstanding virtual cockpit, the MAAM-SIM group has taken the 2D panel to its limits by offering you the choice of either the captain’s panel, the first officer’s panel, or a full screen IFR panel for each (captain or first officer). Overall, this is about as complete a panel as you could possibly hope for and the MAAM-SIM group has hit a homerun, in my opinion, at reaching the upper limits of realism and authenticity for one of the most historically significant aircraft of the last 100 hundred years.
The majority of the payware FS add-on aircraft have pushed the realism of their included panels to the current limits of the technology and I can’t suggest anyway of improving upon them. The panels (2D, IFR, and the DVC) for the MAAM-SIM R4D-6/DC-3 are certainly as good as the technology currently allows, meaning there are no suggestions available on how they could improve on what you get and I found it interesting how the MAAM-SIM group managed to work around the Flight Simulator limitations to maintain authenticity (allowing for a delay on the fuel primer switch and ignition exciter while you engage the starter for example). Allowing for your mouse to either control the prop or mixture, for each engine independently or in unison, is not new, but they have made sure you can do this in all modes and the MAAM-SIM group has even thought to include a visual (in the HTML manual) of each panel’s hotspot location for controlling that feature using your mouse. For all this authenticity, some negative impact on frame-rates is to be expected, so the MAAM-SIM group has also included a version of the MAAM-SIM R4D-6/DC-3 with a minimum version of the virtual cockpit, from which I noted a 30% improvement in frame-rates when used. This is a nice additional feature to improve on the performance of the aircraft on those systems that are lesser in their capability.
Compared to the modern airliner, whether that be an Airbus or Boeing aircraft, the Douglas R4D-6/DC-3’s systems seem rather simplistic, and the MAAM-SIM group could have left it at that, but the MAAM-SIM group has strived to include all of the complexity of the original aircraft, such as it is, and I’m of the opinion their efforts are well worth the price.
As for the airfile included, it should be noted that it was Rob Young who was responsible for its design, which alone should be "enough said" as related to the assumed thoroughness and accuracy of its design. For those who have been a part of the flight simming community for the last 2 or 3 years, the name Rob Young should be very familiar, but if you just happened to have recently joined this exciting hobby, then let me bring you up to date on Rob. Rob’s first work at designing airfiles was with the virtual aircraft for the software simulation program, FLY!, and Rob developed a very positive, and well deserved, reputation for his work. After the likelihood that the simulation program FLY! II would not progress any further (it is extremely unlikely there will be a FLY! III), Rob began working at improving airfiles for Flight Simulator virtual aircraft and his reputation for his airfiles continued to expand. Designing an airfile is more than just plugging in the numbers, as I believe many assume is how it is done, but in reality it requires a fair knowledge of how real-world aerodynamics and thrust apply within the limitation of the available parameters of the airfile. In the real world, the effects of lift, thrust, parasitic & dynamic drag, thermal energy, aspect ratio, airfoil camber, center of gravity, center of pressure, center for the coefficient of lift, not to mention the effects of an almost unlimited number of other influences, maybe even the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Beijing, China, all combine to provide for an infinite number of ways any given aircraft will react under seemingly similar circumstances. To design an FS aircraft’s airfile, where you have a finite or limited number of parameters with which to work from, it seems almost impossible anyone could ever design one that was even remotely similar to the real world, yet Rob Young manages to bring us ever closer to that point of perfection, the so called “sweet spot” if you will. Its not that Rob manages to just create an airfile where the aircraft flies to the numbers, but that his airfiles also provide a very realistic “feel” to them, and considering that his airfiles work on a zillion different computer system / game controller combinations is testimony to the level he has perfected his art. I personally have never flown a real Douglas DC-3, but I have flown dozens of different aircraft types, including aircraft larger (and heavier) than a DC-3, and based on my experience I would have to judge Rob’s airfile for the MAAM-SIM R4D-6/DC-3 to be about as good as anything that Rob has ever done.
When programming the airfile for an FS aircraft, it is a study into the art of compromise, limited by the fixed number of parameters you have to work with. There are those, including some reviewers, that would simply test the aircraft for its ability to reach the numbers printed in the flight operations manual, such as; rate of climb, cruise speed at 75% power, roll rate, etc., but most often this doesn’t guarantee that a FS aircraft will have a correct or a realistic “feel”, when that aircraft is flown in the virtual world of Flight Simulator on a PC computer. As an example, I noted that the MAAM-SIM DC-3 flies right to the numbers, as far as cruise speeds or rate of climb are concerned, but when measured with a stop watch, the roll rate appears to be about 1/3 slower than what I would have expected. Now I know that some testers might criticize Rob for this, but I also know that his reason for doing this was to better translate reality into virtual as to create a more realistic feel, while flying this particular FS aircraft.
If Rob had, for example, set the roll parameters for the MAAM-SIM DC-3 so that the roll-rate was exactly as it is in reality, then flying their virtual version of the DC-3 would have given you the sense that the aircraft weighted 1/3 to ½ less than it really does. It is Rob’s ability to compromise the numbers, to further enhance the virtual feel of whatever FS aircraft he is designing the airfile for, which is why his airfiles are so often superior to what others have designed.
In addition, Rob has also designed the MAAM-SIM DC-3 so that it taxies very realistic as well, which is not an easy task to accomplish I might add. Most are not aware that years ago, with the earliest versions of Flight Simulator, Microsoft had included two airfiles, one for while the aircraft was in flight and another for when the aircraft was on the ground, but the second airfile was deleted with the introduction of FS98 I believe. Compromising the airfile for when in flight, to improve an FS aircraft’s taxiing characteristics is something that simply isn’t done, but there are some tricks the masters of airfile programming can do to improve the quality or feel of an aircraft while in the taxi mode, without having a noticeable affect on the aircraft’s flight characteristics. The MAAM-SIM DC-3 exhibits very realistic taxi characteristics, yet the aircraft flies exactly as I expected, and considering my past experience with Rob Young designed airfiles, I wasn’t surprised.In the real-world, taxiing the DC-3 is a matter of differential braking or differential engine power to complete a turn, as the tail-wheel is castored to swing 360º, and the MAAM-SIM DC-3 needs to be controlled in the same manner as its real-world counterpart, a task I found easy to execute with my twist grip flight yoke. Those of you using floor mounted rudder pedals and dual throttle levers will have the advantage of being able to use either differential braking or engine power or a combination of the two to complete a turn, while I am limited to differential braking, but regardless I found that the MAAM-SIM DC-3 taxies very easily and realistically with my Saitek 3D Cyborg Gold joystick.
Sounds and Special Features
The MAAM-SIM group could have just aliased the sounds to the default DC-3, but regardless, the MAAM-SIM R4D-6/DC-3 includes custom sounds, sounds I personally found to be really terrific, and the disc contains special added value by their having included the freeware scenery package for the Reading Regional-Spaatz airport. The airport scenery is very accurate and very realistic as each of the buildings depicted have photo-realistic texturing and the area around the museum is exactly as I remember. Even the marquee in front of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum reflects that it was the location for the 2003 AVSIM convention, which is the reason for my reference of how I remember it. By setting your com/nav radio to a specific frequency, the main doors of the MAAM hanger will either open or close and the scenery package includes AFCAD2 files as well as landclass file for the surrounding area of Reading, PA. The quality of the included scenery package is very good, even considering it was originally intended as a freeware add-on and is freely available from the AVSIM library.
I would imagine that to most flight simmers, the default DC-3 included with FS2004 is satisfactory, but I also believe that the vast majority of the thousands of individuals that frequent our website here at AVSIM are interested in improving their experience with their flight simming time. The MAAM-SIM group’s R4D-6/DC-3 for FS2004 is unique in several ways, from every aspect of their product, whether it be the documentation, the included aircraft liveries, the truly outstanding virtual cockpits, the flight modeling, or the numerous other features Then you combine this with the idea of donation-ware, where the money you spend for this package goes towards a worthy project, well, I don’t know what more I can say. This is simply a must-have package that maybe doesn’t offer a modern jetliner or general aviation aircraft with all the modern convenience of a pre-programmable FMC or glass cockpit equipped with the latest in avionics, but it does offer a truly outstanding look into one of aviation history’s most significant aircraft. One of the advantages of Flight Simulator is that you have an almost infinite number of choices available to you and flying an aircraft where you need to learn the basics of navigation combined with an FS aircraft that has duplicated its real-world counterpart, at almost every conceivable level, not to mention an aircraft you can fly into just about anywhere you desire, can open up an entire new level of experience for you to enjoy. Instead of flying an aircraft by programming its autopilot from your keyboard, you just may want to try flying where the pilot actually piloted the aircraft and it was by the process of “dead-reckoning” and sparse radio signals that the DC-3 crew managed to fly from point to point in all kinds of weather conditions. Don’t worry, there is no place in the world of Flight Simulator you can fly to, that hasn’t been visited by a DC-3 in the real world. From the top of the Himalayas to the bottom of the Red Sea, the jungles of Africa or South America, the Sahara Desert, or even the North or South Poles, every where on earth has heard the drone of the Douglas DC-3 engines during the last 70 years. So in the end, if you want to experience being the pilot in command of an aircraft, as it was some 50 plus years ago, well here you are with the MAAM-SIM group’s Douglas R4D-6/DC-3 aircraft.
|What I Like About the MAAM-SIM DC-3|
|What I Don't Like About the MAAM-SIM DC-3|
Absolutely nothing comes to mind as to any suggestions for improving the MAAM-SIM DC-3/R4D-6, nor can I imagine anyone else finding fault with any aspect of this FS aircraft package.
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