by Will Reynolds
Born as a follow-on design to the A300 and incorporating technology pioneered in the A320 family, the next generation widebodies by Airbus entered design phase in mid 1970s.
The team worked on both a twin engine and quad engine variant widebodied jets with composites and a full FBW suite.
The A330 model offered at least 25% better economy than the DC-10 at the same distances.
The first A330 flight took place on the 2nd of November 1992. The aircraft had the same fuselage cross section as the A340, could upload standard LD3 containers (used in the 747, DC10 and most widebodies except for the 767) as well as standard pallets.
To compete with the extended 767-300ER, Airbus shortened the fuselage and increased range to 6500nm and released the A330-200 which first flew in August 1997. The original version of the A330 thus became the A330-300
JAR Design, led by Eugeny Romanov, decided on the RR Trent variant of the A330-200 as the next project to follow their A320-NEO for X-Plane, and it is the aircraft we will review today.
Purchase and Installation:
NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON A330 VERSION 1.2R2 AND X-PLANE 10.40
Purchase is very straight forward, the aircraft is available directly via the JAR Design website or via most resellers of X-Plane add-ons.
Upon payment, you receive a serial number. Keep it in a safe place.
You are then directed to the JAR Design website to download the latest stable version or if you wish, a progressive Beta version.
Download the version you wish, unzip the file and move the whole file into your Aircraft/Heavy Metal folder. That's it!
The ZIP file will also contain a folder called "Ground Handling"....this is a locked version of JAR Design's Ground Handling plug-in, it will only work with your A330. If you wish to get the unlocked version of Ground Handling, purchase is available from the JAR Design website. If you are familiar with FSX's GSX program, this is its equivalent.
Installation of Ground Handling is by simply copy and paste of the Ground Handling folder to your X-plane/Resources/Plug-ins folder.
When you next start X-Plane and select the Airbus A330, you will be prompted for your serial number, enter it and reload the aircraft. You are ready!
You get one model, the A330-200 version powered by RR Trent 700 engines and only one repaint, the default Airbus colours.
I have decided to make good use of some of the very talented repainters out there and show the aircraft in some variety.
The exterior model is very good, it is functional with lots of animations.
Check out the see through cabin. I could spot the "Green" of the Alitalia Airbus parked on the other side.
While we are looking at the exterior, we can test the Ground Handling plug-in that comes with this aircraft...all doors open automatically to allow access, and obviously close when you remove the services. Control is via the Control Panel, and you can see animated LD3 baggage containers, being loaded, as well as individual suitcases.
Another good touch is seeing the passenger stairs with a top cover when the weather is rainy!
Refuelling is done by calling the Fuel Truck, and here again we see a good range of animation, starting by the truck driving to position, and then you will see the hose and fitting moving up to connect with the under wing refuelling panel. Once the hose is in place, you will see the Refuelling Control interface. Here you advise how much fuel you wish to have, and this panel is fully dynamic, as in, if you have the APU running and it is consuming fuel, it will show you the decrease in fuel.
Besides the expected animation of spoilers, ailerons, flap and rudder, we can see the APU vent is properly animated...as you begin the APU start procedure, you will see the vent slide open, just like it does in the real world.
Last exterior animation I wish to show is the gear retraction and extension animation. The main gear trucks of the A330 tilt considerably, and obviously they cannot be stowed in this condition. The gear has a shortening mechanism to retract the shock absorber during retraction, and also a hydraulically operated pitch trimmer to move the gear to normal "flat" position to enable retraction.
The animation available on the JAR A330 shows the pitch trimmer in action, as the bogies begin to retract, they move in a fluid motion to the flat position for retraction.
The reverse is shown on gear extension, as the bogies tilt once totally clear of the doors. Very nice touch.
Enough for the exterior...let's look at "the office".
Let's look at the overhead panel first...this is the view I use, I can see the whole panel in one screen. I know people who prefer to split the views and see more detail, it is personal preference. The panel quality is very good, I hit the colours are spot on. Most of the switches are fully functional, as we will see later, but some are not, and quite frankly, can't see why you would go thought the trouble of coding oxygen for the pilot, cooling fans for the avionics bay, evacuation switches, cargo smoke. Oddly enough, the APU fire switch is operational, but not the engine fire ones.
Shades just in case it is too bright out there.
Now let's see the different options of night lighting of the overhead panel:
Dome and Centre Light turned on as well as backlight of the switches
No Dome Light or Center Light, just backlight
Dome Light off but Centre Light on
The panel overview, with all lights turned on
Dome lights turned off
Just the bare minimum....looks great!
If we take of closer look at the MCP, we can see the implementation of the rotary mouse wheel control in this version of the A330. As you hover the mouse in the centre of the switch, you will see the writing appear, confirming you are in the area of rotary control.
We can also see other little detail, such as scratches on the enamel, worn marks and the well modelled 3D switches.
Looking at part of the Centre pedestal, all switches functional, including weather radar.
Another neat feature is the Checklist panel on the left hand window. It is progressive, you can refer to it as you go along, and it will "tick" items completed when you actually do them. Very very handy.
Another great feature, available via the "Plug-ins" menu, is the Load Sheet for the aircraft. Set the amount of passengers and cargo via this interface, and take note of weights.
And finally, before we start things up, the cabin. Not a lot of detail, but then again, why would you want heavy, FPS consuming detail here? Am happy with what is there. These screenshots show minimum Anti-Aliasing and Filtering in place. If you have a medium or top grade machine, the cabin looks much much better.
I did several flights on this aircraft, and they were very enjoyable. I would like to show different aspects of the day-to-day operation of the systems so you, the reader, can form an opinion on what is available.
After powering on the row of batteries, we proceed to turning on the APU...the ECAM shows the start process quite well.
While we are looking at the ECAM, let's look at some of the pages available (not showing all of them, but they are all functional)
Let's put a few to the test...turn Engine 1 Bleed Air to OFF..you can see how engine 2 is having to supply the Bleed Air to the entire system.
Turn off the main fuel pumps on the left side and we can see the Standby Pump is having its work cut out.
Next, we turn off the BLUE Hydraulic pumps, we can see the Hydraulic pressure falling at a steady rate until it hits ZERO, then we turn on the Hydraulic Electric Pump.
Ok let's stop driving the people in Maintenance crazy...let's have a look at the MCDU. The JAR Design has its own custom-made MCDU, coded by the developer, so it does not rely on the X-Plane default. The end result is, you have a very functional device but it is not yet complete.
Yes you can enter your route, it will calculate performance speeds, Top of Descent, Top of Climb, it has full NAVIGRAPH as well as NAVDATAPRO support, flies SIDs and STARs, but it is work in progress. Note, in its current state, it will NOT stop you from performing a full flight in any way, shape or form.
The INITIALISATION page (or INIT for short) is very familiar. At the moment, if you wish to upload a route directly into it, it must be saved as a ".txt" file which is currently not supported by PFPX but I believe you can make it work via EFASS.
Here we do it manually, and set the IRS to align. There is no time compression for IRS alignment, so expect to take around 10 minutes. Once Departure point and Destination are accepted, we can use the small DCDU screen (Datalink Control and Display Unit) to display the weather at Departure and Destination. It is the only function of the DCDU in this software package, whilst of course, in real life, the DCDU is an active link of Comms with ATC and other entities.
Enter the SID
You can also enter speed and altitude restriction for any waypoint
You must remember to set trim for takeoff or you will be sorry! But if you do remember, the handling is quite good as you would expect, so good bit of realism here
Next we can call the PushBack tug. Keep in mind that we have a lot of things at our disposal here already shown, such as ECAM actions, checklists provided and displayed, etc.
The PushBack tug moves into position and the ground crew will call you via Intercom. You have to answer by pressing the intercom button and reply/interact via a drop down menu. Once ready for the push, the ground crew will ask you to release the brakes and YOU control the push via a mouse-driven control unit. Simply press the bottom area to push backwards, the left if you wish the tail of the aircraft to be pushed left, etc. and press the centre circle to stop the last action. Very easy.
Here we can see the Intercom buttons you will need to interact with your Cabin Crew as well as Ground Crew.
Taxy is smooth enough although I noticed a fair amount of nosewheel sliding if you take a curve just over 13 knots. The aircraft has another neat feature, a direct X-Plane feed that shows the position of your aircraft on the ND and assists with situational awareness greatly. The taxi lights are more than adequate for night operations
Once airborne, I was pleasantly surprised to see the drawing of the path on the ND showed nice curved turns to match the comfortable angle of bank of the aircraft, and as you can see, the aircraft followed nicely.
Be warned though, I have come across other times where after entering a STAR and/or modifying the waypoints the path on the ND stays as sharp lines, showing impossible turns. However, the aircraft performed normally when it reached those points.
Another well known gripe with the MCDU is that the flight plan will not delete the waypoints you have already flown over/left behind. So if you have a long flight, you may find yourself having to scroll furiously. The developer is aware of this.
To set up for arrival, once again use the handy DCDU for the latest weather, and enter the necessary information in the MCDU. Top of Descent is calculated as well as any restrictions called for. I have noticed that it has no issue meeting Altitude restrictions when it calls for an exact altitude, but asking for "Above" or "Below" will need monitoring, sometimes it gets it, sometimes it doesn't but it does not miss by much.
Top of Descent is clearly marked, and I have found that starting descent by pushing the managed altitude knob about 10nm from top of descent gives the best results as the big twin has to spool down slightly before it can nose over.
After landing you can also see the brake temperatures and status of your wheels.
Thoughts and Conclusions:
First, a disclaimer: The screenshots you see in this review are NOT taken with maximum rendering options. In fact, they were taken with 2x AA Filtering and 2X HDR Anti-Aliasing. See this shot taken with 4X for both those values, and you will see how good this cockpit is.
Why? Because not everyone has a top of the range card or PC. So keep in mind that what you see is base level, if you have a good modern machine, you will see a much better visual result.
As we have seen above, the package packs quite a bit, but it also falls down in one: NO documentation. In the conversations I had with Eugeny, he mentioned he is modelling EVERYTHING he can in this aircraft as per the real life Airbus FCOM....if it is not in the book, you won't find it here. Therefore, if you wish to know about systems or how things work, he directs you to sites with the real life data.
He also published a few videos on YouTube showing flights from Cold and Dark:
This might be ok for those somewhat familiar with the Airbus philosophy or intricacies, but for a casual simmer who purchases this, it will be a long road to takeoff.
Having said that, what JAR Design has achieved is quite impressive. This aircraft has just about every system modelled: Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Bleed, Fuel, Brakes, etc. etc. and you can adjust settings for realism and simulation via the MCDU.
The addition of the Ground Handling plug-in plus the interaction with Ground Crew/Cabin crew add very good touches and definitely increase the immersion factor. But...this is an Airbus right? so does it fly like an Airbus?
I took the aircraft for a test flight...heavily loaded, departure to 3000ft, turn off FD, Autothrust and A/P...then move the thrust levers to idle and pulled the yoke into a tight turn to the left, all the way to the 67degree limit for angle of bank. Yup, the chime and ECAM indications for Alpha Floor indeed came on, thrust went to TOGA, aircraft stabilised and good old Airbus saved our bacon. I think the most unnerving part was realising I forgot to "unload" the passengers and you could hear the screams of terror as I put the aircraft through its paces!
Manual flying of this aircraft is good without being exceptional. It just feels a little too light and too responsive for such a large aeroplane.
The version I tested was the latest available, version 1.2r2 and it was tested with X-Plane version 10.40RC3. The developer did advise that Beta versions of X-Plane are not directly supported as it makes it impossible to fine-tune his product against one that is constantly changing and it is a fair call, but I only found one odd problem, which the developer has been advised of: If you select the "Direct-To" function in the MCDU and you select a waypoint that is 3 or 4 ahead (ie you are doing track shortening), it is no problem. If you are doing track shortening of a few hundred miles, you will find issues with the MCDU and your Flight Plan. Again, this was not found in release version 10.36 of X-Plane so finding the culprit right now is a bit hard until 10.40 is fully released and the developer can continue with the updates.
There are a few cosmetic things to improve on, nothing deal-breaking, the only one I would like to see is individual throttle lever motion. That is, if you move only one Throttle lever, you will see both levers move in the cockpit, but only one registers in the instrumentation. Again, it is just a cosmetic thing, and the developer did say he will look at it when the more important updates are out of the way.
So would I recommend this add on? Absolutely YES! This is the best Airbus A330 available for any of the mainstream Flight Simulators (FSX, FSXSE, P3D and X-Plane), it is the most stable and also the most complex, has the most features and is fully supported by a very active forum where the developer is keen to hear your thoughts and offer assistance directly.
Yes it does have its down points (documentation and it is a product still in progressive Beta), but as it stands right now, and for the potential of what it could bring in the future, this product will definitely satisfy your A330 urges.