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    REVIEW - Canberra PR9


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    Canberra PR9 by Just Flight

    A review by Gene Davis

     

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    Introduction

     

    When it comes to Flight Simulator there is a special place in my heart for military aircraft. The variety of models available in the period spanning WW1 to present means I can recreate either the exhilaration of a carrier take off or a B17 sortie over Europe. The choices are seemingly endless, think of a particular model and you will find that someone, somewhere has created it. So with that in mind, I would like to thank and acknowledge all the developers who have given Flight Simulator their hard work and dedication.

     

    Personally, I like them all and if I had all the money in the world I would own each and every one of them. I find the 50's and 60's era of military jets most interesting because it was a time when the World was making the transition from propeller driven aircraft to jets and it marks the beginning of the evolution for the military jets of today.

     

    British jets from that era offer a peculiar piece of history and I think there are a lot of us in the United States that have had very little exposure to these aircraft. So, when Just Flight released the Canberra PR9 I have to admit - since I had only flown US made aircraft - I only gave it a brief glance and didn't seriously consider adding it to my collection. But, as I watched the videos and looked at the pictures I thought, how different could it actually be? Well, as it turns out it is quite different and pretty darn good as well!

     

    History Of The Electric Canberra

     

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    The English Electric Canberra was a British first generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured during the 1950's. In total there were over 900 built for the UK and 50 for Australia, but the Canberra saw service in 17 different countries including the United States!

     

    The Canberra saw over 35 different variants throughout its operational history and was used as a platform for a multitude of different types of missions. Being a light bomber by design, the aircraft was able to carry a full load of missiles, rockets, bombs and even nuclear weapons which made it a versatile and highly adaptable machine.

     

    The Canberra also holds 5 different flight records:

     

    • 21 January 1951 – first non-stop unrefueled transatlantic crossing by a jet.
    • 26 August 1952 – the prototype B5 made the first double transatlantic crossing by a jet, with a total time of 10 hr 3 min.
    • 4 May 1953 – Canberra B2 WD952, fitted with Rolls-Royce Olympus engines set a world altitude record, flying at 63,668 ft (19,406 m)
    • 29 August 1955 – altitude record, 65,889 ft (20,083 m)
    • 28 August 1957 – altitude record, 70,310 ft (21,430 m): Canberra B2) with a Napier Double Scorpion rocket motor.

    Here is an excerpt I found on Wiki from the brochure that was given out for the Canberra:

     

    The value of the Canberra experience cannot be over-estimated. It is the only modern tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft in service with the RAF and many other Air Forces. More Canberra aircraft are in service with foreign countries than the Viscount, which holds the record for British civil aircraft. This is due to the flexibility of the Canberra in its operational roles and performance ..."

     

    Manufacturer's brochure

     

    The PR9 was a photo reconnaissance variant of the Canberra that was based on the design of the B (I) Mk 8 Canberra known as an interdictor ground attack aircraft. The PR9 housed 2 Rolls Royce Avon 206 engines that generated 10, 030 lbs of thrust, it had a service ceiling of 48,000 feet, a max speed of Mach 0.88 and a combat radius of 810 miles.

     

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    The PR9 had both its fuselage and wingspan increased along with the canopy offset to accommodate an ejection seat for the navigator. A total of 23 PR9's were built by Shorts Brothers & Harland with three airframes transferred to Chile after the Falklands War. The Canberra is constructed mostly of metal, only the forward portion of the tail-fin was made from wood and the overall designs features a semi-monocoque design, meaning that it is designed as a single shell, able to support loads through the planes' external fuselage.

     

    The Canberra saw action in multiple conflicts throughout its operational history, with the RAF retiring the type from service in 2006. There are still some Canberras flying today, such as the NASA-operated Martin B-57 variant performing meteorological flights and electronic communication testing for development in Afghanistan for the US Military.

     

    Download, Installation and Manuals!

     

    Purchase of the Canberra PR9 is simple and is just like all other Just Flight products: purchase, download and install. Once installed there will be a folder created under your start menu aptly named Just Flight and will have the Canberra listed in it, from there you can access the manuals and other utilities provided along with the add-on.

     

    First up, the manual, and it's a whopping 174 pages! The manual will cover just about everything you need to know about this aircraft, its systems and most importantly how to fly it. The manual includes a panel guide that covers not only the virtual cockpit, but also the 2d panels that you will need to access  during your flights. This, along with interactive checklists, flight preparation and handling information makes it a pretty extensive and informative read.

     

    Also included is an Operating Flight Manual. This 35 page document includes information on basic aircraft operations for the Canberra such as climb, cruise, tactical data, descent and landing.

     

    Several utilities are installed along with the airplane, these can be accessed via the start menu in the folder Just Flight>Canberra PR9 and are designed to help you get the most out of the PR9.

     

    First stop is the Configuration Tool; it will allow you to change the steering options, select between a manned or unmanned (in the case of the unmanned it will be ballast-filled) Navigators Station and finally give you the ability to activate or de-activate some of the visual effects that come along with the Canberra.

     

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    The second utility is a Flight Analysis tool that allows you to monitor and record your flight data while the aircraft is being used; it provides all of the current aircraft data, a live map and graph data during your flight and must be connected to FSX to work. This information can be saved for retrieval later if you need it!

     

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    The third utility program is the Nav/Com frequencies utility and it will allow you to enter all of the necessary NAV AND COM frequencies based on the region you are flying. It can take 10 different frequencies under COM 1 and NAV 1 along with 11 under NAV 2 and COM 2.

     

    Canberra PR9 from Just Flight

     

    The Canberra PR9 from Just Flight is probably one of the most advanced and complex military style aircraft I have yet seen from the Just Flight crew! The aircraft excels on so many different levels that it truly has to be experienced to get a full understanding of what went into this add-on and its overall design and complexity to get the most out of it!

     

    The model is highly detailed and features a flight model that was derived from the actual plans that were used to develop the real world Canberra; this along with 4 different liveries that cover 3 different squadrons that were used in the RAF with the Canberra makes it a historical piece as well. Graphics-wise it is packed with eye candy and moving parts. Each of the different liveries feature different labeling throughout the entire fuselage and are picture perfect.

     

    One of the more interesting parts of the design of this aircraft has to be that of the Navigator's station and how the addition of a ejector seat affected the placement of the cockpit's canopy in the PR9, ultimately moving the cockpit from the center of the fuselage to the left of center. The whole forward nose of the plane actually opens allowing the navigator full access to his station, couldn't help but think what a lonely place this must have been even though the pilot was right above you!

     

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    MODEL (Courtesy of Just Flight)

    • Accurately modeled using real-world aircraft plans
    • Numerous animations including canopy, navigator hatch, pilot ladder, ground power units, chocks and retractable landing light
    • Accurately animated control surfaces including ailerons, flaps, tail-plane, elevators and three-position airbrakes
    • 2048x2048 textures are used to produce the highest possible texture clarity
    • Functioning flare bay doors
    • Accurately modeled Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 206 engines including inlet guide vanes (IGVs)
    • Bump and specular mapping use throughout the aircraft to produce a truly 3D feel
    • Signature landing gear configuration with low-position nose-gear is faithfully modeled and animated using real-world extension/retraction times

    The lighting and reflective surfaces are done nicely and are dependent on which livery you are flying, meaning that if you fly one that is designed with a low profile livery many of the reflective surfaces are dulled down to reduce visibility of the aircraft from the ground. The aircraft also features its own set of custom landing lights and can be switched from super bright, to dim and off as well as a full complement of other external lighting systems.

     

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    The ejection seat is what it is, but while you are sitting there make sure to check out the level of detail that went into its design! The detail is mind numbing and you almost feel like you can reach out and touch it and this can be said about the entire plane!

     

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    LIVERIES

     

    Four authentic RAF color schemes, covering 13 Squadron, 39 Squadron and 58 Squadron:

     

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    The sound that comes with the Canberra is excellent and it is also accurate to that of the real world Canberra. Both inside and outside of the aircraft been modeled nicely and is rather impressive when listening to it from the exterior. The sound captures the sheer power of the engines and practically puts you next them as the throttles open up during takeoff, very nice!

     

    Cockpit and Systems

     

    The cockpit of the Canberra is what you would expect from a military plane and given its age I was expecting an older style cockpit, but this Canberra features a more modern set of avionics as well as some from the equipment from the 60's. The cockpit is totally functional and I was unable to find anything that didn't work in it.

     

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    The virtual cockpit is accompanied by several 2d panels that can be brought up on-the-fly for quick and easy access. Just Flight has made it pretty easy to access them and they can be found from an overlay map of the cockpit that is clickable in the upper left corner of the screen. For example, if you want to go to the autopilot panel all you have to do is click on the panel icon for the autopilot and it will take you there in the form of a 2d panel rather than trying to find said panel in the virtual cockpit. One nice thing about this is that it gives you the general location of each panel in the virtual cockpit and it does a pretty good job training you on where everything is and I found myself using strictly the virtual cockpit after a few flights thanks to this feature.

     

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    The navigation and communications equipment is also realistic to that of the Canberra and you also get a touch screen GPS, the GTN 650, that allows you to not only navigate with you can also retrieve fuel information, adjust fuel levels and access the COM 1 and NAV 1 frequencies.

     

    Com and NAV frequencies are handled through an external utility that allows you to pre-program the GPS with a database of most used frequencies based on the area you are flying and it allows you to easily select them rather than input the individual frequencies during your flight.

     

    The autopilot is also accurately replicated and features track, glide, altitude, pitch and bank hold modes. It's a little different from what you might be used to because it is older technology and it was one of the things I had the hardest time getting used to. I do recommend that you do give the manual a good going over before jumping in.

     

    Here is a list of features from the Just Flight website:

     

    COCKPIT (Courtesy of Just Flight)

     

    • A truly 3D virtual cockpit right down to the cables and piping - every instrument is fully constructed in 3D with smooth animations
    • Every switch, knob and gauge is functional
    • Cockpit textures feature wear and tear based on reference photos taken in the real aircraft to produce an authentic environment
    • Highly detailed ejection seat 
    • Comprehensive and fully functioning communications and navigation fit:
      • GMA340 – COM/NAV audio control unit with test mode and functioning marker lights
      • SL30 – COM 2/NAV2 radio unit with functioning menu system and the ability to save/recall commonly used frequencies
      • GTN650 – touch screen GPS unit which can also be used to set aircraft fuel levels and control COM1 / NAV1
      • Modern horizontal situation indicator (HSI)
      • 2x GI-206 VOR gauges
      • Authentic autopilot with track, glide, altitude, pitch and bank hold modes
    • Functioning oxygen regulator panel – watch the oxygen quantities drop with usage!
    • Interactive checklists for every stage of the flight
    • Aircraft configuration system lets you choose between 'cold & dark', or 'ready for take-off'
    • Authentic night-lighting
    • Accurately modeled and animated canopy with locking pins and handles
    • Fully functioning magnetic indicators, warning lights and push-to-test buttons
    • Over twelve 2D pop-up panels are included to provide easy access to cockpit controls and instruments, all accessible from an unobtrusive panel selector
    • When resuming a saved flight, your previous panel state will be reloaded
    • Click spots for enabling useful functions such as automatic fuel management, auto throttle and trim reset
    • No detail is too small – even the option to revert to the back-up gear indicator lights is functional!

    The absolute level of detail that is included with the Canberra also includes accurately modeled systems throughout the entire aircraft. I was amazed to see that the aircraft features a full blown custom-coded fuel system that allows you to actually manipulate the fuel loads with actual working fuel pumps and that you can monitor said fuel state via a 2-d panel in the cockpit or from the GPS system that features this option as well.

     

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    Other systems like hydraulics, electrical, fire and even an accurate and realistic engine start process are simulated in the Canberra. Finding these systems is not a big issue either and you can access them through the extra 2d panels or you can locate them from the pilots seat if you wish because everything in the virtual cockpit is functional.

     

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    Another nice feature is that the aircraft allows you to save the panel state, which is good if you have spent a lot of time getting the plane ready to fly and you need to retain that information for another flight.

    Here is a full list of systems that are modeled in the Canberra:

     

    SYSTEMS

     

    • Custom-coded fuel system – belly tank, rear tank, top tanks and wing tanks are all simulated with functioning fuel pumps and transfer system. 2D pop-up panel provides an overview of the fuel system state.
    • Custom-coded hydraulics system with functioning pumps and accumulators. Functional hand pump for use in the event of hydraulic failure
    • Custom-coded electrical system with engine-driven generators, six inverters and three battery systems simulated (including emergency battery/avionics system)
    • Fire detection and extinguisher system
    • Two different aileron input sensitivity levels for use at high and low altitudes
    • Functioning jet pipe temperature limiters with MAX and CRZ (cruise) settings
    • Realistic engine start simulation with accurate spool-up times. Each engine start will even drain power from the starter batteries!

    Flying the Canberra

     

    The Canberra can be flown in either FSX, P3D 1.4 or P3D 2.0 and I can tell you the aircraft performs and flies well in FSX and P3D 1.4. I do not own P3D 2.0 but I would think it would be just fine there as well.

     

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    Flying the Canberra was a little different at first, the placement of the cockpit was a little hard to get used to as you are sitting left of center of the fuselage and it just looks and feels strange, but you do get used to it. First couple of my approaches I found that I wasn't pointing the aircraft in the correct direction based on the POV and I was actually off on my approach. Now mind you, I have a three monitor setup and found it more noticeable than when flying it on a single monitor.

     

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    But, after you spend some time getting used to the jet and learning the layout of the cockpit it is one of the finer jets to fly in Flight Simulator. Control is fluid, engine control is easy and given the aircraft's larger wingspan it just feels like it wants to fly. I was surprised at the overall speed and maneuverability of the PR9 and how it performed at both high and low altitudes, the jet was made to fly at a ceiling of 48,000 feet but it seemed comfortable at low altitudes as well.

     

    Takeoffs are a thrill, especially when you open up the throttles! The sound package really does bring the engines to life because you can literally feel the power of the engines through its sound. Getting to your cruising altitude is not a problem and once there it's just a matter of flipping on the autopilot to get you where you need to go. I had issues with the autopilot, not technical issues, but issues that were created because I didn't know how to use it and once I read the manual it was all that much clearer.

     

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    Landing for me, well that is another story! Make sure you dump some fuel if you need to because I broke the landing gear several times while on approach, common sense I know but I just forgot. The other thing to remember is to not flare too high because there isn't a lot of clearance underneath the aircraft and I found that it is really easy to scrape the tail when landing which generally results in a crash.

     

    Summary

     

    The Canberra package retails for $44.99 and is available in both a boxed version or digital download. I am not sure what the benefit of having boxed version over the download version would be (printed manuals perhaps?), but both options are available.

     

    The English Electric Canberra PR9 from Just Flight is an excellent aircraft and the developers definitely deserve major kudos for bringing this jet to life in Flight Simulator! I just can't praise it enough. It is by far one of the best military style aircraft I used in Flight Simulator as it offers both a great deal of complexity and detail in one marvelous package!

     

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