Just Flight L-1011 Professional
A review by Roger Curtiss
It is said you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Well, how about an old bird? Just Flight has taken its previous L-1011 TriStar release, given it more than a few tweaks, and re-released it as the L-1011 Professional. This aircraft was first issued in 2011and Just Flight states it enjoyed great success, but they also received requests for additional features. Thus, this Professional edition with these features:
· Advanced FMS unit based on the Honeywell HT9100 style FMS/CDU, with LNAV, advisory VNAV and SIDs/STARs
· Fully functioning Flight Engineer's panel with custom-coded hydraulic, electrical, engine bleed control, fuel and pressurization systems
· New 3D primary instruments for increased readability and smoothness
· Eight new 2D panels, all easily accessible from a new 2D panel selector
· Copilot call-outs and cabin announcements for added immersion
· Numerous improvements to the flight dynamics, including a more realistic DLC (Direct Lift Control) system
· 2D pushback panel for controlling your pushback (distance and angle)
· Many other improvements to functionality, including HF and SELCAL radios, FCES/PFCS overhead panels and oxygen regulators
· Flight Analysis tool - monitor and log your flight using the Flight Analysis tool, including airspeed, altitude and fuel flow parameters. The tool includes the ‘Live Map’ feature for monitoring your current position, speed and flight plan.
· New 160-page color PDF manual
· P3D v1/v2 compatibility
Before taking a detailed look at this L-1011, a brief synopsis of the aircraft's history might be in order:
Lockheed first flew the L-1011 in 1970 in response to airline requests for a wide-body transport with intercontinental range, but one that was slightly smaller and more economical than a 747. It was equipped with new design Rolls Royce RB211 engines that faced teething problems and delayed the aircraft's service entry. As a result, the competing McDonnell Douglas DC-10 entered service sooner and garnered many more orders, only 249 TriStars entered service. Twenty years later most of these had been retired and an L-1011 is a very rare sight at an airport these days.
This aircraft served as Lockheed's return to civil aviation after a long hiatus but the paucity of orders also made it a financial failure, resulting in Lockheed subsequently removing itself from the civil market for good.
So while the L-1011 never dominated the skies, it was quite well received by those who flew it and regarded as a well-behaved and comfortable aircraft with some advanced features and this noble aircraft was deemed worthy of re-creation as a Just Flight airliner.
The model chosen here is the L-1011-500, a shortened version with larger fuel capacity giving it added range (up to 5345nm with maximum payload).
Entering the flight deck it is not as if there are a pair of bell-bottoms and a Nehru jacket hanging up, but one can immediately tell this is definitely an airliner with its roots in the 1960s or 1970s. There is an abundance of round dials and banks of switches...not to mention the rather prominent flight engineer's station on the right side of the cockpit. It is also a well-used machine. The thrust levers and other handles are missing paint from their surfaces.
Adding to the nostalgic touch is the fact that upon selecting a flight model, (there are 20 civilian liveries and 5 military configurations from which to choose) one has a choice of navigation systems. The historically accurate airplane will have an Inertial Navigation System (INS).
While those pilots who would prefer not to work quite so hard to get to where they want to go, may opt for a modern Flight Management System (FMS) with which they will no doubt be more comfortable if they are accustomed to piloting newer aircraft
The FMS is an emulated Honeywell system that is, for the most part, quite capable, although it has limited VNAV capability. The manual describes the operation of the unit and makes reference to the ARAC database reference, however, it does not indicate how to update the AIRAC cycle. Not a problem. A visit to the Just Flight Support Forum resulted in submitting a support ticket. The response was received a day later-the FMS utilizes the same database format as the Just Flight DC-8 Jetliner, and that is supported by Navigraph. Sure enough, adding the DC-8 Jetliner to my Navigraph aircraft list resulted in a current AIRAC cycle being loaded for use into the FMS.
The aircraft offers a large number of instrument panels in both 2D and 3D cockpit views all of which are accessible via two different icon selection sources.
In the default 3D mode there is an arrow in the upper left corner of the screen that activates an interface panel to select various screens. I was rather confused at one point as the manual explains the operation of all the switches and dials but fails to indicate their location on the flight deck (a detail that should be added for clarity given the number of panels available for viewing).
For example: I saw the reference to the Brake Temperature panel but could not find it in the aircraft. None of the 2D or 3D panel options had that indicator or selector switches included. I finally located it while in 3D mode in the upper right corner of the flight engineer's panel. However, the entire upper tier of the FE station is not accessible as one of the 5 FE panels capable of being viewed in 3D mode. So the brake temp indicators can just barely be read but are not very conveniently located. Granted, perhaps all systems controls cannot be prominently located, however, this one is specifically mentioned in the manual and two possible options would have been to either include one more FE panel selection for the upper tier or eliminate the brake temp system switches and just have it for show to fill the panel space.
Access to the 2D panel choices is via a drop-down block of sim icons. The only limitation to those being that the FE panel is limited to one section only in order to start the APU and monitor the fuel used by the engines.
The flight dynamics seem to be well rendered. This is a big, heavy aircraft and thus not very agile. Proper operation requires the pilot to be way ahead of the aircraft to anticipate control inputs and operate smoothly. One feature implemented on the L-1011 to improve its low speed handling, performance and stability qualities was the Direct Lift Control system (DLC).
The concept was to add spoiler panels to the wings that would function much like ailerons to provide additional control without having to resort to heavy deflections of the yoke to achieve small control movements in order to maintain runway alignment. The DLC resulted in much smoother rides in the final phase just prior to landing-no doubt pleasing passengers who just thought they were fortunate enough to be riding with Mr. Smooth. I would venture to guess that any TriStar captain who was lauded with praise by disembarking passengers (remember when THAT was the way most flights ended?) did not offer to share the kudos with the DLC system.
Frankly, I found this aircraft to be rather difficult to operate. Several times while on final the elevator control would simply give up and I was unable to lift the nose to flare. Checking the systems on the ground I could see the stabilizer moving, but the instrument panel indicator failed to show that control surface movement while working fine for the other flight controls.
Anyone accustomed to operating more modern aircraft may find the proliferation of switches and dials on this aircraft to be a bit intimidating and the workload to properly fly it is a magnitude more complex. Using the INS navigation system requires much more effort and relying on the FMS, but without a graphic navigation display instrument, takes a bit of getting used to.
Having a working flight engineer panel is a good idea and serves as a reminder of just how much of the cockpit duties have been automated in more modern aircraft to allow for elimination of that crew position. The way it is implemented here, however, can also be a bit cumbersome, in that, as mentioned earlier, the 2D FE panel does not grant access to all of the necessary controls. So, some switching between 2D and 3D panel views may be necessary.
Just Flight touts the fact that this version adds an oxygen regulator panel, crew interphone panel and a wastewater control panel. Personally, I am not impressed with these as they add little in the way of functionality.
Of the 52 individual aircraft selections (each livery is available as INS or FMS equipped), 8 of them are Royal Air Force variants that sport a main fuselage cargo door and three are equipped as tankers complete with refueling hoses.
The refueling equipment is modeled; to include the off-loading of fuel, however, a receiver aircraft is not part of the simulation. Nonetheless, it should be possible for two pilots to arrange an online flight where they can rendezvous and fly in refueling formation. (Cautionary note-refueling flights are permitted on VATSIM only by members of approved Special Operations organizations. Non-S OA pilots who engage in this activity may be suspended from the network).
Will this be one of the favorite airplanes in my hangar? Realistically probably not, although its not because of the complexity. The main reason is that the L-1011 was designed to fly very long flights and I prefer my flight sim events to be of shorter duration. My overall impression was that Just Flight has dusted off an older product, dressed it up with some limited modernization and added a few extra features to enhance its value. It is a good airplane, but perhaps not a great one.
This will be a welcome addition to serious L-1011 fans, but if the prevalence of aircraft type use in the online flight simulation community is any indication of the larger fan base, then this rendering, much as the L-1011 that Lockheed introduced in the 1970s that saw limited use in airline fleets, may equally be eschewed by virtual airline fleets as well.
The L-1011 was an excellent concept as an airliner, but in the case here of art imitating life, its debut was too late and users will opt for more modern equipment.