As promised, Espen from Coolsky introduces us to his "baby"...the DC9 Classic! A fantastic aircraft that once provided airlines and the travelling public the ability to cover short to medium routes with the speed, comfort and reliability of a pure jet.
So what is included in the package? One word...PLENTY!
Q: Espen, your latest offering, the DC-9 Series 30, does it follow a programme to complete you McDonnell Douglas line? Was it always in the pipeline or did it come about later? What made you decide to do it?
A - The DC-9 was always in the pipeline. Back when I started working on the Super 80, my first commercial addon aircraft project, I planned on making an aircraft that I could further build upon and not only develop into new aircraft products, but also build into progressively more advanced aircraft products.
The primary motivation behind this approach to aircraft development is to reduce the development time and cost, and allow myself to innovate and develop new ideas and features for my product line. As a small development company, this has been the key to survival and success for me. If I were to build all new aircraft from scratch every time, I’m not so sure I would still be in business today.
The DC-9 family, including the MD-80 series, has always been a personal favorite of mine. Making this trilogy of aircraft was the natural choice both personally and professionally.
Q: What kind of simmer does it appeal to?
A - My goal has been to make the DC-9 Classic appeal to all simmers. I wanted to make an aircraft that is easy to have fun in for all types of simmers. The DC-9 Classic is easy to have fun in for the newbie or casual flyer that can just hop into the aircraft, select one of the auto config options and fly away. The DC-9 Classic also makes it simpler for the hardcore simmer to enjoy the full simulation depth of this aircraft by having a wide range of in-cockpit training lessons, the Navigation Simulator and live schematic drawings to make it easier to gain a deeper understanding for how the various systems of the aircraft work.
Q: How long did this project take? What resources did you have available? Beta testers? Advisors?
A - I started this project over 3 years ago. The programming is usually the part that takes the longest time on aircraft where the system simulation is this realistic. McPhat Studios have been working on the project for about 2 years doing the external modeling, the virtual cockpit modeling, all the external and internal textures as well as the various liveries.
We have had a range of various manuals available to us during the development. Personally, I have used two old used paper AOMs I found on eBay and two AOMs in PDF format. I like having the manual on paper and being able to flip through it at my own pace. But I also like to have a PDF version available. Typing a few words into the search box is a lot faster than going through the indexes and flipping back and forth to find the correct page with the info you’re looking for.
We had a large test team who worked on the DC-9 for several months before the release. They helped us iron out most of the wrinkles and remove most of the bugs. They did a great job! Some say we should have removed all the bugs before release. I agree that would have been the superior solution, but that’s just not possible in reality. Two pair of eyes sees more than one, and all the eyes of those who bought the DC-9 Classic see more than those of the beta test team.
We have consulted with a number of real DC-9 pilots, some current and some former. It’s always important to have the input of someone who has flown the real thing. Real pilots know how every system is supposed to work and behave and can provide you with details no manual can give you.
We have also consulted with home cockpit builders who have pieces, instruments and even large sections of the cockpit of the real aircraft on hand to get information about how they look, how they move and how they operate.
Q: Let's talk about the package itself..the installer is very straight forward, authentication is via a key and a code, same as the other aircraft in the Coolsky line, you are then presented with a limited number of aircraft to start flying with...obviously the installer makes sense, however the amount of aircraft to begin with, what is the plan? how did you choose what variants to include?
A - The installation package is installed by Flight1’s standard installation program. This program is very straight forward and easy to use and also a familiar program if you’ve ever bought addons from Flight1 before. This installer is the same program used for most of Flight1’s titles.
The base package includes six liveries; Aeromexico, Alitalia, Eastern Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. We have two from North America and two from Europe, traditionally the largest FS markets. And then we have one from South America and one from the Australia representing the south-east part of the world. It’s a good small mix.
None of these airlines operate the DC-9 today. While there are operators flying the DC-9 today, we felt it was more important to have recognizable names in the mix, so we decided to include six major former operators of the DC-9. In my experience people tend to want to fly with the liveries of the airlines they know or recognize from a special time of their life, or the liveries they see in their daily life like the airlines currently operating at their local airport.
Q: Upon starting the flight, you are presented with the Flight Centre...the first time I saw this with the Super 80 I thought all Christmases had come at once! In the DC-9 variant you also have Introduction Guides, which can show you the features of the Flight Centre, Navigate through the cockpit and its features, cockpit walkthrough which shows switches, knobs, etc and Tutorial flight, with a step by step guide to completing a flight...where did you get the idea for this? how difficutl is it to code something like this?
A - The Integrated Cockpit Training System (ICTS) was born from my own desire for a better way to learn how to fly a new aircraft. I have read my share of tutorial flights and I always felt they were inadequate in properly teaching me how to operate and fly the new aircraft I had just installed. “Turn on the battery master switch”, the tutorial says and then you open the overhead panel window and there are a million switches there, or so it seems if you are relatively new to simming. Which switch is the battery switch?
I wanted to build something that would take the guess work out of the equation, simplify the learning process, remove the steep learning curve and make it more fun. The ICTS takes you step-by-step through all the checklists and procedures. It gives you a short description of what you need to do and in some cases why. The relevant panel windows will automatically be opened for you. Boxes and arrows highlight the switches, buttons, levers, instruments or systems being discussed. You step through the lessons at your own pace and you can even step back to review previous steps if needed.
Creating and coding the training system was not that difficult. The big job was creating all the content, writing the lessons and the positioning all the arrows and boxes to be displayed by the ICTS. There are individual lessons to show you how to do just about everything in this aircraft. That took some time.
Q: The Flight Centre also gives options for Aircraft Configuration (panel states), Training, Dispatch (load the aircraft), failures, push and start, checklists as well as live schematics! Absolutely anything a person could want but was too afraid to ask....can you walk us through the journey to accomplish this component of the DC-9 package?
A - The Flight Center has been continually evolving; growing and expanding with every new aircraft I have released to include more features and options. The design of the Flight Center follows the same method used to design the rest of the aircraft of building on the previous version to create something new.
The first Flight Center, for the Super 80, only had three sections; training (with auto config), dispatch and options. The colors for the first Flight Center where inspired by the old Douglas company livery with light blue, dark blue and gold colors. In the Super 80 Pro I added a few new sub sections to the training section and cleaned up the layout a bit. For the DC-9 Classic the training section was expanded further and new sections and features such as the live schematics, failure simulation, ground operations and the Navigation Simulator were added.
A lot of developers choose to have external configuration programs outside FSX to setup the aircraft and other options. I have always felt an in-cockpit configuration and setup program fully integrated with the aircraft is the better solution.
Q: Your failures generator has some realistic themes...bird strikes to fires in the E&E bays to "Fly with Bubba"...where did the inspiration come from?
A - The failures scenarios are based on some of the scenarios I was exposed to myself (in the classroom) during my own flight training, TV documentaries and accounts of accidents and incidents in books and online databases. None of the scenarios are directly linked to any specific incident or accident. I feel that would be in poor taste. But there are always lessons to be learnt from studying past accidents, learning about what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future, and be prepared to face difficult situations by training for them.
I remember we reviewed and discussed a number of accidents during my Multi Crew Coordination training with special focus on how the crew interacted. There are plenty of examples of how a crew can effectively work together to make the best out of a really bad situation, like the Sioux City accident, or where crew communication breaks down completely and you have a CFIT accident.
Fly with Bubba is a bit of an inside joke on the support forum. Bubba is a character John Patterson came up with to have some fun. John is the man behind the voice of your First Officer in the DC-9 Classic and he is also one of your always friendly and helpful support forum moderators. According to John, Bubba’s Fast Freight and TV Repair along with its subsidiary Cowboy Air Freight, which operates out of Texas, specializes in hauling high priority items such as live stock and pork rinds. Bubba is very meticulous about maintaining his beloved aircraft and only uses the very best left over parts from his TV repair business to fix them up. If you do a deep search on the support forum, you’ll find stories, liveries, screenshots and videos.
Q: Can you take us through the Training component, and also the ICTS Editor?
A - All training lessons start from the Training section of the Flight Center. In the Training section you can choose lessons on how to go through the checklists, how to fly the aircraft during the various phases of flight, how to handle emergencies and abnormal situation and how to navigate by radio navigation.
Select a sub-section, find the lesson you are interested in and click it to start it. This will open up the Training Guide, a small window with descriptive text and buttons to step forward or backwards through the lesson. As you click through each lesson step, the relevant panel window will automatically be opened for you and boxes and arrows will highlight the switch, button, instrument and system being discussed in the text.
The training system has been designed to be easy, intuitive, informative and fun to use. The information provided is short, to the point, and gives you exactly what you need to know at each step of the checklist or procedure you are performing. The length of each lesson varies considerably. For a long checklist like the “Originating/Receiving” checklist, the lesson on how to perform all the items on this checklist is also going to be long. Over all though, I have tried to make the lessons short to avoid pilot fatigue. If you would like to dig deeper into the details of the systems and procedures, you can go to the 500+ pages AOM which has lots more in-depth reading material for you.
The ICTS Editor is a tool you can use to make your own training lesson which you can also share with your fellow pilots. The ICTS Editor has two parts. There is an in-cockpit module where you can setup which panel windows open, where the arrows point and where the boxes are positioned at each and every step through the lesson. The second part is an external program primarily designed for the text editing part of creating training lessons. You will find external ICTS Editor program in the aircraft folder. Originally, I created these editor tools to make it easy for myself to create all the training lessons. But then I figured why not just include them in the release package in case somebody wants to make training lessons for themselves and others.
Q: The checklist section of Flight Centre, what is it capable of?
A - The checklist is a very important part of safe and efficient cockpit operations. All aircraft, from the small Cessnas to the big Boeings, have a checklist. The DC-9 Classic includes an interactive written checklist you can open up in a pop-up window.
You can obviously read the checklist yourself, or you can have the First Officer read the checklist for you. You don’t even need to have the checklist on-screen. You can click on hotspots in the cockpit or you can use a custom keyboard assignment to have the FO step through the checklist for you. Just like in the real aircraft, you can do the challenge/response routine where the First Officer reads through the checklist for you while you focus on performing all the checks and action items and say “checked”.
Being an important part of the aircraft and its operations, how to go through all the checklists therefore has its own sub section in the Training section. For every checklist there is a training lesson teaching you have to properly go through that checklist. Some checklist items are pretty straight forward with single action items like “Battery switch…..ON”, while other items are more complex and may actually involve multiple switches and require several checks. The checklist training lessons show you everything you need to do.
The checklist is definitely your friend. If you follow it correctly, it will keep you out of potential trouble.
Q: The Navigation Simulator component of the Flight Centre...a little gem for us old timers who grew up with morse code and analoge needles...can you describe the functions, objectives and limitations?
A - The Navigation Simulator is a training tool designed to help you learn, understand and fly by radio navigation. In an old aircraft like the DC-9 Classic, the name of the game is radio navigation. No INS, GNS or FMS in this old bird. Just a radio, a compass, a needle and the old brain. That’s all you need.
The Navigation Simulator essentially gives you on-screen the mental picture you need to have in your mind when navigating by radio navigation. The display shows you your position relative to the navigation aids around you making it easy for you to see and understand which way you need to turn to intercept the desired radial or bearing.
At the center of the Navigation Simulator you have the HSI compass rose when tuned to a VOR station, similar to the HSI in the aircraft. This HSI behaves exactly like the HSI in the aircraft. Tune the radio in the aircraft and the HSI in the Navigation Simulator will display the heading to the tuned station just like the aircraft HSI. If you change the course or the heading bug in the aircraft, they will change in the navigation simulator as well. The same goes for the RMI when tuned to an ADF station. The Navigation Simulator is fully integrated with the aircraft. You can even tune radio stations by simply clicking on them in the Navigation Simulator display. The correct frequency will automatically be transferred to the radio.
The fine art of radio navigation can be challenging to master at first. But once you get into it and start to master it, it really is a satisfying feeling to know that you – not a computer – navigated the aircraft all the way from your departure airport to your destination. Maybe you’ve added some weather to spice it up a bit and then break out of the clouds on the ILS at 500ft after an hour IFR conditions flight and you have the runway right in front of you exactly as you planned. That is a job well done!
Q: The Schematics section, you show 5 areas "live"...is this likely to be expanded? Can it tie-in with the Training component as well?
A - The schematic section features the 5 most important behind-the-scenes systems in the aircraft; AC electrical, DC electrical, fuel, hydraulic and pneumatic. All these system schematics display live exactly what is going on with the aircraft and it’s systems at all time. An electrical line will turn green or red depending on whether it is powered or not. Green fuel lines indicate fuel flowing, red fuel lines indicate no fuel flow, and so on. The switches, knobs and levers associated with the described system are also available on the schematics so you don’t have to switch back and forth between the cockpit and the schematics.
The DC-9 Classic includes training lessons that will guide you step-by-step through the schematics and tell you all you need to know about them. Although the schematics are designed to give you an insight into what goes on with the aircraft systems at all time, they work great as free play modules too. You can play with the switches and see which electrical buses are powered, where fuel is flowing and which systems have pneumatic pressure. This is a great way to learn how the basic aircraft systems work. That is the whole purpose of including these schematics; help the pilot better understand the underlying systems that make the aircraft go.
Q: The Aircraft itself...2 versions of 2D panel (normal and widescreen) as well as a VC...did you base the cockpit in a particular variant of the DC-9? Can you expand on the functionality of the different versions of the cockpit?
A - With all the options and retrofit instrumentation given to the DC-9 aircraft up through their lifespan, you’d be hard pressed to find two DC-9 aircraft today that look exactly the same in the cockpit. So, which one do you choose? I wanted go for the original DC-9, meaning as close as possible to how it came off the production line back when it was a new aircraft. I wanted to create an aircraft without all the modern bells and whistles you find in aircraft today and an aircraft which only had basic radio navigation equipment. I found all this in the DC-9 aircraft described in a USAir manual from the 1980s. That is what the DC-9 Classic is based on.
We went for the DC-9-30. The model 30 was the most popular of all the DC-9 variations and the -30 is also the model used for the C-9 military version of the DC-9.
We now have three versions of the 2D panel; 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10 format. The functionality is exactly the same in all three versions of the 2D panel. We also have a beautifully modeled virtual cockpit done by McPhat Studios. The VC is fully functional, all the way down to the 400+ individual circuit breakers.
Q: Overhead panel is well laid out, although some users complained of blurriness in the graphics (I did not experience this myself), can you take us through it? What was simulated, was not simulated, and any improvements for the future?
A - In the DC-9 family of aircraft, the overhead panel is a bit special in that this part of the aircraft remains almost the same throughout the whole DC-9 family spanning the DC-9, MD-80 series and MD-90. While the main panel and center pedestal instrumentation varies quite a bit from model to model as newer instruments and technology became available, the underlying systems which are controlled from the overhead panel remains largely the same. The only major exceptions are the annunciator lights which were made digital in the later models.
There are a few switches which don’t actually do much, like for example the radio rack fan switch. In the real aircraft this switch turns on a fan down below the cockpit floor in the electrics and electronics bay. In the sim there is no E&E bay with a fan modeled down there.
We have simulated all systems possible on the overhead panel. The electrical system has been simulated in full with every individual instrument and system powered by the correct electrical bus and controlled by the correct individual circuit breakers. We have over 400 circuit breakers simulated and a good portion of them are located on the overhead panel.
Furthermore on the overhead panel we have the overhead annunciator lights, the controls and indicators for the APU, engine starting and ignition controls, fuel boost pump switches, ice protection controls, air conditioning control, cabin pressurization controls, lighting switches and a whole bunch of various other system controls. All in all, the overhead panel has 100+ switches and knobs, 20+ gauges, 120+ individual lights and 40+ circuit breakers. It may look like a hot mess at first, but there is system to the madness once you get to know it.
Q: The centre pedestal, in this aircraft, the "business end"...autopilot, radios, radar, engine and pneumatic controls, etc. How close to reality did you get? Can you expand on the functionality you present in this area? What can the simmer expect?
A - All systems located on the pedestal are simulated. On the forward part you have the weather radar at the center. The WX radar displays precipitation read directly from FSX. I think these old analogue radars are really cool. The DC-9 weather radar is fully simulated with a trailing sweep. You can adjust the brightness, gain, sweep fall off, target retention time and so on.
Another point of interest on the forward part of the pedestal is the altitude alerter. You set the altitude you plan on leveling off at and as you approach your target altitude it will give you a beep and a flashing light to remind you about your target altitude. Sounds simple and obvious enough, what’s the big deal? The DC-9 Classic autopilot does not have an automatic level off feature. You have to manually level off the aircraft, which makes the altitude alerter that more important. If you forget your altitude, the AP will happily shoot right through it, but the air traffic controller might not be so happy.
Moving a step further aft on the pedestal we find the throttle box where all the various system and engine levers are located. If you have flown the Super 80 or Super 80 Pro, you’ll notice this part of the pedestal hasn’t changed much between these aircraft. An item of special interest here is the automatic throttle lever. The DC-9 Classic does have an auto-throttle system, but this system is probably very different from any other auto-throttle system you have ever flown. The DC-9 auto-throttle is designed for use during the approach phase only. You cannot use this auto-throttle system for climbout, cruise or descent – only during the approach to landing. You don’t get to select the speed yourself either with this system. The auto-throttle system automatically calculates the approach speed it will maintain.
Moving further back we come to the autopilot panel. The DC-9 Classic fully simulates the Sperry SP-50 Automatic Flight Control System. This is an old school autopilot and like the auto-throttle system it probably works a bit differently compared to what you are used to. As mentioned earlier, there is no automatic level off at the target altitude, no flight level change feature and there is no help with the throttles aside from the approach phase. However, you will most likely come to appreciate the features and functions the autopilot does provide. In an old aircraft like the DC-9, where the general level of automation is relatively low compared to more modern aircraft, the autopilot becomes even more important when it comes to reducing the work load on the crew and keeping you ahead of the aircraft.
Q: I must admit I only fly with the VC, and this particular VC looks and feels the era of the DC-9, very enjoyable, the circuit brakers work (I discovered that the hard way!), cockpit windows open and the sound level changes, gauges are well laid out, but from the developer himself, what brings you satisfaction when you look at the cockpit of the DC-9? What features are new, revised, deleted, what is the wow factor here?
A - The DC-9 Classic virtual cockpit was built from the ground up by McPhat Studios. The 3D modeling is the work of Jamal Ingram and the texturing is done by Sara Louise Capon and Terrence Klaverweide. Compared to the VC of the Super 80 and Super 80 Pro, this VC is just something else altogether and a major step forward when it comes to included features, animated parts, texture details and overall complexity of the model itself. If you are familiar with McPhat Studios texture and livery work, I can tell you they have put the same level of detail into their 3D modeling work. All the moving parts in all the instruments are individually modeled, animated and textured in great detail. I am very proud of the virtual cockpit of this aircraft.
Aside from the superior 3D modeling and texturing, I think the overall depth of the systems simulation is what sets the DC-9 Classic apart from all the other aircraft I have made. I think the inclusion of a failure simulation system and a full set of working circuit breakers is what took the DC-9 Classic to the next level. When trying to figure out how to properly simulate a system, having these features included forces you as a developer to dig deeper into how a system behaves when it works, how it behaves when it fails and how it interacts with all the other systems. This makes a big difference.
From the outside it may not seem like there is that much complexity to a simple single circuit breaker, but there is. Take for example a slightly anonymous item such as the autopilot air data computer. There are two of these, but let’s look at air data computer number 2 which is on circuit breaker F1. Circuit breaker F1 is powered by the right radio bus, which is powered by the right DC bus, which is powered by the right transformer rectifier, which is powered by the right AC bus, which is powered by right generator relay, which is powered by the right generator, which is driven by the right constant speed drive unit, which is driven by the engine. All of these components of course have their own circuit breaker. And if the autopilot air data computer fails, the autopilot will automatically disconnect, which in turn will disconnect the speed command system and the auto-throttle system. Everything is connected.
Q: The Exterior: Well, what can I say, I have been a passenger in the old "9s" and I loved seeing the rivets, and I do so again, also the black smoke from the old JT8s. Who worked on the exterior modelling? what source of information did you have?
A - The external aircraft model was created by the McPhat Studios team as well. They did a great job creating a highly detailed external model for the DC-9 Classic and of course they put their signature texture work on it too.
There is one feature about the external aircraft model I would like the highlight in particular. Most, if not all modern aircraft, have hydraulically operated control surfaces. The DC-9 has aerodynamically operated primary control surfaces. What does this mean? Let’s look at the aileron as an example. The aileron is controlled by a control tab on the aft part of the surface which is mechanically linked to the control column in the cockpit by cables and push rods. When the pilot flying turns the yoke right to roll right, the right aileron control tab, not the aileron itself, is mechanically moved down and into the airstream. This creates an upward aerodynamic force on the right aileron which is then moved up. When the aileron moves up, this of course moves the whole right wing down and the aircraft rolls right just like any other aircraft would.
The elevators work in much the same way. The only exception being that the elevators are hydraulically assisted if the pilot pushes the yoke forward beyond a certain point. This feature was added to get the aircraft out of a stalled condition where the aerodynamically controlled surfaces lose their effectiveness due to the loss of laminar airflow.
If you have ever seen a DC-9 sitting on the ramp, you may have noticed the control surfaces are rarely flush with the wing or the horizontal stabilizer. The ailerons are either up or down and the elevators are usually up. This is because there is nothing mechanically or hydraulically holding them stationary. They are simply blowing in the wind.
Q: Sounds, what is packaged here?
A - The sound package of any addon aircraft is always extremely important. Aside from some of the aural warnings cockpit, which has a specific task, all the other sounds are added to give you the feeling of being there. In a simulator, the immersion factor is an important part of the product not to be overlooked.
The main exterior and interior sound package was created by Raymond Norum. Ray is a composer, songwriter and performer who also like to fly aircraft. I think Ray did an excellent job capturing the sound and feel of the old JT8D-7 engines. The ambient sounds of the cockpit really give you the feeling of being there. We have received a few comments about missing or too low volume sounds in the cockpit, but the truth is the DC-9 cockpit is an exceptionally quite workplace – relative to other aircraft of course. The pilots who flew the DC-9 can attest to this.
The DC-9 Classic comes with a talking First Officer which further adds to the immersion factor. The FO will give you all the relevant callouts as you fly and read all the checklists for you at your convenience. You don’t even need to have the checklist open. Just hit the assigned key on the keyboard or click the panel hotspot and the First Officer reads through the checklist for you while you focus on flipping switches and checking the gauges.
Q: The package comes with 2 manuals in PDF, I personally felt it was the right amount, considering the amount of help and information available in the Fligth Centre...is there a capability to print some of the information in the Training or any other part of the Flight Centre?
A - The User Manual will give you an introduction to the non-flying parts of the product; the view menu, the Flight Center and all its sub sections. The Flight Center is the central location for all your aircraft setup, options and training so it’s important to know what’s there and how to use it to get yourself up in the air flying the DC-9 Classic.
The primary objective of the large AOM is to provide the user with the reference material they need to fly the DC-9 Classic. The AOM is not meant to teach you how to fly the aircraft. That’s what the Integrated Cockpit Training System is for. However, if you are a serious simmer, you will need to sit down with the AOM and learn about the limitations, speeds, emergency procedures and all the various memory items you need as a pilot in order to fly this aircraft safely.
While the manuals are an important part of the product, I have tried to minimize the required reading by building intuitive interfaces and making sure that most features and procedures are covered by the in-cockpit training system. New and casual simmers can fly this aircraft just fine without consulting the manuals.
There is a print option in the Dispatch section of the Flight Center where you can print out the Departure Plan. The Departure Plan has all your fuel and load information, takeoff trim settings and all the relevant speeds for your planned takeoff weight. You can of course print out the big PDF format AOM. Just make sure you have a lot of paper and ink available first.
Q: The Flight characteristics...I have never flown a DC-9 obviously, but I was pleasantly surprised...what was the source of information for the flight model? are you happy with it?
A - I am very happy with the flight dynamics of this aircraft. The flight dynamics for the DC-9 Classic were created by Martin Purps. Martin is a very talented and experienced flight dynamics designer who has worked on numerous flightsim projects in the past.
Numerous performance tables from multiple AOMs, books, online data, cockpit DVDs and the input from real DC-9 pilots have been used to create the flight dynamics for the DC-9 Classic. Martin has given me a peek into the world of flight dynamics design, but I’ll tell you the wizardry and magic Martin is performing to come up with the flight dynamics is just way beyond me. I think I’ll stick the magic of making all the instruments work.
We’ve had good feedback from real pilots throughout the development process and after release as well telling us the aircraft behaves like a real DC-9. You can’t really ask for more than that.
Q: There are 2 Service packs available for users of the DC-9, what areas are you working on? What improvements can we expect? Any expansions in the future?
A - I normally update my products in two stages. First I do beta patches. Beta patches are frequent and quick updates which aren’t as thoroughly tested as the major releases. The whole point of these updates is to get fixes out to the customers as fast as possible. An aircraft that doesn’t work is not good, so I feel it is important get fixes out to my customers ASAP. The beta patches are of course tested by the development team to the best of our abilities before being sent out to customers.
The second stage is the service packs. These are major releases and are much more thoroughly tested. The service pack sums up all the fixes from the previous beta patches are puts them all into one major update package. The service packs are also always included in the main release package as they become available to make sure new customers always get the latest major release version when purchasing the DC-9 Classic.
The number one priority after release is to provide customer support and to fix user reported bugs. We try to incorporate new features suggested by users if we can and also refine and polish parts of the product where needed based on user feedback.
McPhat Studios has already released several expansion packs for the DC-9 Classic. They have released five livery packs, including one megapack bundling liveries from the other four packs. McPhat Studios has also released a package with cockpit repaints (VC only). You can now fly your DC-9 Classic with a gray or brown cockpit in addition to the blue one.
No further expansions are currently planned at the moment, but if we take a look at some of the possibilities there are a lot of cool and maybe slightly crazy stuff that can be done with a DC-9. There are obviously the military and cargo variations. But there are some interesting models that were proposed but not actually built, like the Hughes Aircraft missile test platform. Imagine flying your DC-9 with pylon mounted air-to-air missiles on your wings! How about the proposed C-9 COD (Carrier On-board Delivery) model? How cool would it be to land your DC-9 on the deck of an aircraft carrier? This was an actual proposal, folding wings and all. Too bad they didn’t make one.
Q: Lastly, your thoughts on the DC-9? anything you would have done differently? what should the users look for in it?
A - The DC-9 Classic project has been in development for a long time, but it has been a fun project to work on. I have been very fortunate to have partners that not only have delivered awesome work, but also have been great fun to work with. It has been very satisfying to see the end product come together and the warm welcome it has received by the flightsim community after release has been fantastic.
I can’t think of anything specific I would like to change on the DC-9 Classic. We spent a lot of time developing and refining the end product you see today, which means we have already done a lot of design changes throughout the development process and we have ended up with a product we are very happy with. This of course does not mean we have a perfect product without room for improvements. Like any other piece of software, we have our share of bugs and we’re working as fast as we can to fix them. I also have a lot of ideas for new features that weren’t included now but will have to wait to be included into future products.
Actually, while thinking about it, maybe selecting the JT8D-9 engine instead of the JT8D-7 we are currently simulating would have been a better choice. The differences between these engines are minor but the -9 is a bit more powerful. The -7 was the first to fly on the DC-9 but the -9 was the more popular choice among the airlines. In retrospect, we also have more and better performance data available to us on the -9. It would require quite a bit of work to change the engine type at this point though.
I hope the flightsim community will find the DC-9 Classic to be a fun, exciting and challenging aircraft to fly. Whether you are new to simming, a casual simmer, a simmer looking to upgrade your skills, or a hardcore simmer, the DC-9 Classic has been designed for you. Between the simplicity of the automatic aircraft configuration system, the complexity of the failure simulation and the training system for everything in between, the DC-9 Classic should provide you with many hours of fun.
And indeed it is hours of fun, takes me back to my old time favourite, ATP back in the 90's and what fun it was using old VORs and NDBs for navigation, having to do planning, etc.
Without a doubt, a whole different level of simulation folks, with top notch support and a classic product.
Would like to thank Espen and Patrick van der Nat for taking time out to share with all our readers what exactly is in their new aircraft and how we can get the most out of it.