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ESzczesniak

Airliner/A320 Handling Characteristics

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I'm having a hard time putting my finger on what about the A320 handling is causing me to dislike the bird.  I've tried googling flight dynamics reviews for the A320, but not much comes up.  I was hoping starting a discussion could help me understand what is unappealing, and maybe even fix the aircraft. 

I fly almost exclusively airliners, but have toyed with the GA aircraft some in MSFS.  These haven't struck me as so far off.  I have little RW flight time and my background is mostly P3D PMDG NGXu and FSLabs A3xx.  Obvioulsy P3D has it's limitations, but these birds have been well regarded overall for their flight model.

I think, as best I can surmise, the A320 seems heavy with control inputs, but light with environmental effects.  Even on a calm approach, the aircraft is translating side-to-side with small gusts/turbulence, and the vertical speed in a trimmed stable approach varies widely with the perceived wind gusts.  So fine, this is flying, fly!  But trimming the aircraft seems to take 1-2 second push on the trim to affect any change.  Throttle inputs take 5-10 seconds to see changes in flight dynamics.  It feels very sluggish and is much different than the advanced 3rd party addons in P3D.  

Does anyone have any comments on the A320 flight model?  I know controller sensitivities have been reported as a global issue.  Perhaps I just don't have my controls set up well, although I have tried adjusting the sensitivities and curves.  Doing so improved the overall handling, but still seems to fall short.  I know the general feeling is that MSFS is not ready for airliner flight, but have largely seen this commentary relating to ATC, weather, and AI...not flight dynamics.  


Eric Szczesniak

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23 minutes ago, ESzczesniak said:

Throttle inputs take 5-10 seconds to see changes in flight dynamics. 

The A320 is in reality, quite tricky to fly whilst manually using the throttle; it can be surprisingly slow to respond to throttle changes in real life. For example, when the engines are at idle (29 percent of N1) on the CFM-56 variants (the most common), then you shove the thrust levers forward, it will take the engines four seconds just to spool up to 66 percent N1, and then maybe another three seconds or so to go from there up to approaching full thrust.

Of course the A320 variant in MSFS doesn't use CFM-56 engines, but instead uses the CFM International LEAP-1A or the Pratt and Whitney 1100G, but if anything, these engines can spool up even slower than the CFM-56 (I know, I've supervised starting them loads of times and it takes ages for them to crank up to operating speed). But regardless of how fast engines can spool up, this does not mean that an airliner which can weigh nearly 100,000 lbs at MTOW will instantly react to such thrust changes, because that's a lot of inertia to overcome and there is also a fly-by-wire system which will on occasion inhibit certain maneuvers.

A good example of this is the crash of an A320 at Habsheim during a poorly planned airshow routine. You will have seen this crash on video, it is the one where the aeroplane strikes the trees at the end of the runway. If you watch the accident video, you will see that the aircraft is at an altitude of around 30 feet, travelling at 122 knots with flaps three deployed, it then has TOGA applied and the engines begin spooling up, but because of the amount of time it takes those engines to spool up and the amount of time it would then take the aeroplane to accelerate to a safe climb speed, the alpha floor protection mode of its fly-by-wire system disregards the pilot's attempts to pull the nose up since the aircraft is near its stall speed and already at a high angle of attack with the flaps also creating quite a bit of drag. As a result, it hits the trees and crashes.

 


Alan Bradbury

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I definitely understand to some extent that the engine response is slow. But I this is remarkably less responsive than FSLabs, which I would take as the best flight simulator version to compare for realism. I have no problem in that aircraft anticipating the needed throttle changes or responding to environmental changes (wind gusts). 
 

And maybe that’s not the root of what’s feeling wrong. As I said, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on it. I just know in P3D with advanced add ons I can do a good job being several seconds ahead of the airplane. I’m MSFS, I feel about even. 


Eric Szczesniak

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15 minutes ago, Chock said:

The A320 is in reality, quite tricky to fly whilst manually using the throttle

Depends on who you ask. My former instructor loved the A320 throttles b/c the movement is so smooth due to the lack of servos. 

 

36 minutes ago, Chock said:

For example, when the engines are at idle (29 percent of N1) on the CFM-56 variants (the most common), then you shove the thrust levers forward, it will take the engines four seconds just to spool up to 66 percent N1, and then maybe another three seconds or so to go from there up to approaching full thrust.

Try more like 12 seconds from idle to TOGA, yes that is a long time. This has been simulated extrenely well on the FSL A32X, for example.


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On 9/16/2020 at 7:52 PM, ESzczesniak said:

I'm having a hard time putting my finger on what about the A320 handling is causing me to dislike the bird.  I've tried googling flight dynamics reviews for the A320, but not much comes up.  I was hoping starting a discussion could help me understand what is unappealing, and maybe even fix the aircraft. 

I fly almost exclusively airliners, but have toyed with the GA aircraft some in MSFS.  These haven't struck me as so far off.  I have little RW flight time and my background is mostly P3D PMDG NGXu and FSLabs A3xx.  Obvioulsy P3D has it's limitations, but these birds have been well regarded overall for their flight model.

I think, as best I can surmise, the A320 seems heavy with control inputs, but light with environmental effects.  Even on a calm approach, the aircraft is translating side-to-side with small gusts/turbulence, and the vertical speed in a trimmed stable approach varies widely with the perceived wind gusts.  So fine, this is flying, fly!  But trimming the aircraft seems to take 1-2 second push on the trim to affect any change.  Throttle inputs take 5-10 seconds to see changes in flight dynamics.  It feels very sluggish and is much different than the advanced 3rd party addons in P3D.  

Does anyone have any comments on the A320 flight model?  I know controller sensitivities have been reported as a global issue.  Perhaps I just don't have my controls set up well, although I have tried adjusting the sensitivities and curves.  Doing so improved the overall handling, but still seems to fall short.  I know the general feeling is that MSFS is not ready for airliner flight, but have largely seen this commentary relating to ATC, weather, and AI...not flight dynamics.  

I fully agree with you. The GA airplanes are very good and handle very realistically. I flew the DR400, C152 and C172 in real life so I can tell how good flight dynamics are. I could enjoy VFR flying like I used to do in real life. 

But coming to airliners is a different story... The A320 handles like a stone, in my opinion it is unflyable. I never flew this aircraft in real life but I flew Level-D professional full flight simulators (several times) so I know how the real thing flies. The way it is modeled in MSFS is very bad, making a good manual landing almost impossible. Last time I was approaching on a steep descent and I pulled the stick full aft to correct my trajectory but almost nothing happened, the nose didn't raise and I hit the ground with the front wheel and bounced. On another attempt, I corrected my heading because I was not perfectly aligned with the runway and yaw corrections went into oscillations because the reaction time is way too long, the aircraft is slow and sluggish. I am not expert but I know the real aircraft does not behave this way. If it was like this in real life, you would hear about an A320 crash every day... 

Maybe this is because they went too far in the implementation of the flare law, which reduces the efficiency of the flight controls below 50 ft AGL. Anyway, making trajectory corrections is short final is terrible. 

Some of you may know I developed the Wilco Airbus Series with FeelThere back in the days (released in 2007...) Even if this aircraft was much less advanced than FSLabs or others, the flight dynamics were excellent (designed by Rob Young, the king of FD) and my good old A320 was much more flyable than the one in MSFS. 

Just like you, I am surprised that so few people complain about this. I think the aircraft is unusable but it seems others can handle it. I can't... I hope it will be fixed, but my hope is that add-on vendors like PMDG, Aerosoft or FSLabs will soon release a good airliner.

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1 hour ago, Rocky said:

I. The way it is modeled in MSFS is very bad, making a good manual landing almost impossible. Last time I was approaching on a steep descent and I pulled the stick full aft to correct my trajectory but almost nothing happened, the nose didn't raise and I hit the ground with the front wheel and bounced. On another attempt, I corrected my heading because I was not perfectly aligned with the runway and yaw corrections went into oscillations because the reaction time is way too long, the aircraft is slow and sluggish. I am not expert but I know the real aircraft does not behave this way. If it was like this in real life, you would hear about an A320 crash every day...

I have no idea how airbus fly in real life but I land it manually all the time without any problems. So if you struggle does't means others do to. I have spent a week in level D heavy jet sim. Unfortunately, it neither made me an expert in jets nor earn me a type rating in one. But at least I got the idea how some heavy airplane respond. It's different from smaller GA and it took me some time to adjust to. That why when it comes to airbus I would prefer to hear from Airbus pilot. Because again what could be hard for me, can be easy for others.


flight sim addict, airplane owner, CFI

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Unflyable lol, I fly it daily and land manually. You must be doing something wrong or your set up has some issue...


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On 9/27/2020 at 6:40 PM, Car147 said:

Unflyable lol, I fly it daily and land manually. You must be doing something wrong or your set up has some issue...

With your answer and the previous one from sd_flyer, I start believing something is wrong in my setup... I hope you're right because I would like to fly the A320 correctly. I don't know what is wrong because the light planes all fly like a charm in a very realistic way.

Just a quick question: have you tried the Paro landing challenge? I know it is not a usual approach but it is a good test. I never could land correctly but if you can, it definitely means something is wrong on my system.

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A320 flying fine for my taste. I'm going to post pic again from my yesterday flight. I used same technique I use in GA: first I figure  descent rate fpm vs indicated approach speed. And then pitch attitude for given ILS gradient. Finally, power for airspeed pitch for altitude (opposite  to visual flying power for altitude pitch for airspeed )

 

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flight sim addict, airplane owner, CFI

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Thanks for the info.

I made another test flight and it was better because I used a higher approach speed (approx 160 instead of 140) and I used manuel thrust instead of A/THR, much better, and used the ILS for guidance, it helps. Nevertheless, I keep thinking that a trajectory correction below 30ft is a nightmare. But are we supposed to yaw the aircraft below 30ft? Certainly not 🙂

 

Edited by Rocky

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I have just seen the patch 1.9.3.0 description, I didn't install it yet.

Anyway, one of the bug fix is:

  • Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner/ Airbus A320neo Fixed lack of elevator authority with FBW at low speeds

This means I am not completely crazy, something was wrong with the A320 controls :)
(I don't know about the 787, I don't have it)
I hope the fix will be efficient.

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