I could start with a header like “Again an Airbus A330/A340 add-on aircraft” for FS9/FSX. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s true. Not long ago Commercial Level Simulations (CLS) launched their A330/A340 package and some while before that, the A340-500/600. Then there’s also the old PSS A330/A340 family, but that’s old, not available for FSX and not updated anymore. Then there’s also the Overland Airbus package, which includes all the available Airbuses on the market these days including the older A310 Series.
This package is not taken into account since it’s not available for FSX. So, as far as I know these then are the only payware add-on Airbus wide body planes and I can tell you, there are huge differences between them. Due to the variety of the Wilco Publishing Airbus wide-bodies – A330-200, A330-300, A340-300, A340-600 and the A330 MRTT– it’s a little too much to write down all the characteristics of these types, so therefore I guide you to the official Airbus website. There is of course, a lot of information about all those types including range, performance, size, passenger and cargo capacity and much more.
The fact the A340-200 is missing is not really a shame. All those aircraft are like brothers and sisters and that’s exactly the way they were designed. Ok, the A330-200/300 and A340-200/300 were designed and manufactured at almost the same time. Lots of things between the A330 and A340 are the same. The cockpit is 95% the same except for the fact that the A330 has got 2 engines while the A340 owns 4 but that’s the biggest difference.
Of course, due to the performance, the pilots need different training but I believe that takes just 2 extra days. For the A340-600 it’s different. Although the model and name comes from the A340, the length, engine power and some other highly advanced systems are completely new. So basically, the A340-600 has lots of things from the older and much shorter A340-300, but many new systems are installed, and some were already introduced on the A318, the smallest Airbus airplane.
The A330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) or also known as KC-30B is not a passenger aircraft, but you could see that already on the Wilco Publishing website. It’s just what the name says; it can transport military troops as well as functioning as a flying fuel tank for military fighters. It’s based on the A330-200 with some modifications to perform its job as a troop carrier and a fueling aircraft. The first A330 MRTT is supposed to have been ready for delivery to the US Air Force around November/December 2007.
By the way, the A330 MRTT was introduced after Airbus Industries had already created the A310 MRTT, which was modified based on requests from the Luftwaffe – German Air Force – and the Canadian Air Force, so the A330 MRTT is no more then a logical follow up. Ok, back to the Wilco Publishing product.
When needed, I will try to compare the Wilco Airbus Volume 2 product with the CLS (Commercial Level Simulations) package, which contains the A330-200/300 and the A340-200/300. The CLS package doesn’t have the A340-600 included, since they offer this aircraft separately.
Unfortunately, CLS doesn’t offer the A330 MRTT, however after consulting CLS, it came out that they are busy making/designing the A330 MRTT and this will be a free add-on for registered customers.
I left the PPS A330/A340 package out of this review, so I will not compare it since it’s too old a model with hardly any modifications or Service Packs available. Apart of this, the CLS and Wilco models are both recently developed and therefore I assume they are full of all known features, which is not available for the PSS.
Installation, Documentation and Additional Info
Although the installation process of Wilco Publishing products is more or less straightforward, there are a few things I would like to point out. After you start the FS9/FSX installer, you can choose one of the four different languages - English, German, French, Spanish. During the FS9 installation, the installer points to the correct FS9 directory, so there’s no need to modify this. This is because the exact FS9 directory is taken from the Windows Registry.
However, when you use the FSX installer look twice before you click the NEXT button. The standard FSX directory under Windows XP is not found. This means the window just shows you a basic path – C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X - as can be seen on the last screenshot. This could be OK for your PC but remember, it’s not checking with the Windows Registry, so when it’s somewhere else, you end up with no Volume 2 installed in your FSX folder. The rest of the basic installation process is without any problems.
While writing this review, there’s still no sign of a paint kit. Apart of this, Wilco made a deal with the McPhat Studios painters. What I’ve seen so far from this group, I can tell you that the realistic paint factor is awesome. The painted McPhat Studios models do really look like what the aircraft already flying look like, complete with weathering effects.
Although it doesn’t directly belong to this section, I want to show you some screenshots from Wilco Publishing liveries and of the same airliners from McPhat. I personally like the McPhat onesmore, this is due to the realistic painting but that’s my opinion. One last remark about the McPhat packages; there’s no installer, so you need to follow the readme file and finally, these liveries are currently only available for FS9.
Wilco offers four Acrobat files; A330 (A340) Documents, Airbus Specifications and Pilot’s Guide. A more important question is, are all those documents useful and well it help the customer in understanding the aircraft, its history, background, charts, tables, system description and operation. Especially for the latter, this depends on how deep the simulated model goes.
The A330 (A340) documents cover lots of performance charts like CG (Center of Gravity) limitations, flight planning, and integrated cruise, TO data and an original Load and Trim Sheet. It looks very impressive but how to handle this Load and Trim sheet? Some explanation was welcome but unfortunately it isn’t there. Apart of this, the other charts are great and will help the experienced user in flying as real as possible. However, this is just a collection of performance tables since it’s almost impossible to add all the tables.
The Specifications Airbus Series 2 is a small Acrobat file with aircraft dimensions, basic operating data and design weights. It’s no more than a collection of what Airbus Industries offers on their website. So if you decide to look at it, you will find the same data. The last document – Pilot’s Guide - is probably the most important one since it covers an introduction, setup, flight tutorial and system description and operation.
Let’s first start by writing that this document covers what is necessary to fly these Airbuses but nothing more, so there is no detailed system description available only a panel description. I think that this is normally enough for all kinds of users. Personally, as document designer/writer and technical aviation instructor, I do not like the didactical order or if you wish, the chronological order of the chapters. The document begins more or less with the flight tutorial followed by the setup/fly-by-wire system and instrument description/panel information and finally the FMGC.
Conclusion, the offered manuals are all ok, but for the Pilot’s Guide, a more didactical order would be logical and more readable for the customer.
information, discovered during the release of a new product, could
be added into the manuals before release and other
including liveries, can be found on the Wilco Publishing website.
You have the choice with the EXTRA and SUPPORT menu buttons. The EXTRA button offers you the paint kit including the entire homemade Wilco liveries. The only additional liveries are currently made by McPhat Studios. The link for this can be found on the EXTRA page. As noted before, those liveries are made with a totally different idea; these are weathered, the ozone has done its work, and colors are no longer like just from the factory etc. The SUPPORT web page offers some FAQs, and more information can be found on the FeelThere forum.
It’s always difficult what you, the reader, or I, the reviewer, wants to see what kind of 2D cockpit panel lay-out is created. Either we agree with a photorealistic panel image or we prefer to have a painted version, which looks very similar to the real A330/A340 panel. I like both but it depends on the quality of either the photorealistic digitalized or painted panel. My first impression is that a lot of work was done in creating a good looking and realistic painted panel, which looks very similar to other Wilco products like the A320 Family, the 737PIC, Embraer ERJ 450, Legacy and the Cessna CitationX. Let’s put it in other words, you can see that the Wilco’s panel designer has got taste and an eye for detail.
There are minor differences between the A330’s and A340-300s cockpit, just as in the real aircraft except for the cockpit display and a few other items not related to the Flight Simulated model. Of course, the A340-300 has 4 instead of 2 engines, so therefore more controls can be found in the cockpit, but the general lay-out is, let’s say, 95% the same.
For the A340-600 it’s different. Although the design of the A340-600 is based on the A340-300, lots of new technology is implemented in this aircraft. Not only are the engines different – Roll Royce Trent 500 instead CFM56 Series – but there are also many modifications in standard systems. Not all those things are interesting for the flight simmer since you don’t see them except for cockpit related items like the EFIS and ECAM displays, but I mentioned that already. Let’s have a look to some screenshots of the A340-300 and A340-600.
2D Cockpit – FMS MCDU
Before continuing with how real is real, I would like to say some words about the MCDU (Multi Function Display Unit), which is used to communicate with the Flight Management part of the FMCG. Let’s say for the moment it’s the FMS, which can be updated via the 28 day updated AIRAC version. It seems to me that Wilco has simulated a FMS MDCU as far as possible. How far, that’s always the question since the real system is very complicated and programming data from the real life vendor is mostly not available. The real A330/A340 FCOM (Flight Crew Operation Manual) tells the pilots a lot on how the handle this MCDU but at the same time - based on my own experiences – pilots need to play within limits with this MCDU during flights, since due to all its possible pages, it’s too complicated to explain this in a book or via CBT (Computer Based Training) programs.
Ok, back to the Wilco MDCU and the belonging FMGC description and operation. In the Pilot’s Guide, starting at page 70 up to and including page 99, all the possible MCDU pages are well discussed in combination with screenshots and examples. I do agree that this is the base to understand something of the MCDU but unfortunately, the practical part of read how to handle the unit during a typical flight is hardly available. On half of page 99 and partly on page 100, there’s a very short description of the page sequencing, while the tutorial doesn’t add much to this.
What I personally miss is an extensive explanation of a flight tutorial with different MCDU handlings. Ok, you could say or think “but that’s already discussed in the description of the MCDU in the Pilot’s Guide”, but from my experience people want to have an example/tutorial in a practical manner.
Since the way you need to handle the MCDU pages in an Airbus, including the used colors, I want to at least show you what you can expect. Using different MCDU colors with their own meaning, makes it easier for the pilots or flight simmers to understand what the status of the system is. The older Boeing’s like the 737NG, 747-400, are using only the green color for the CDU. The 777 uses more then one color, but if it’s the same as with the Airbus, I don’t know.
Last item regarding the MCDU, and that’s loading and saving flight plans. For those who prefer to make their flight plans with Microsoft’s own FS9/FSX Flight Planner, I have good news. You’re able to create them, following by loading them into the MCDU. A more realistic option is creating your flight plan with the help, for example, of Route Finder. You enter the necessary data in RouteFinder and the program calculates for the conditions, the correct flight plan. Let’s say, you’ve create at RouteFinder a flight from LFPG (Paris/Charles de Gaulle) to LFMN (Nice/Cote d’Azur), which looks like LFPG SID PILUL UM975 PIXIS UY612 PODEP UL612 MILPA UM730 VANAS UM623 VEVAR STAR LFMN. With this data string you enter the information step-by-step – this could be waypoints, airways, VOR or NDB stations - into the MCDU to create your own flight plan. Via the DATA key on the keypad, you can save and afterwards load your flightplan(s).
But how real is real or …. how real are the different Wilco Airbus Volume 2 and CLS cockpits? How far are the systems simulated, I don’t know but not all are simulated is a fact, but how it looks when compared with a real A330/A340 can be seen on the screenshots below.
Virtual Cockpit and Cabin
Normally, a good looking 2D panel doesn’t guarantee an impressive looking VC. But in this case, I have to admit that the VC looks very good but more important, very realistic. You already saw some VC screenshots where I wanted to compare the Wilco cockpit with the real A330/A340 cockpits. The only thing that’s a little cartoonish is the cockpit seat(s). I have to admit - since I’m not a programmer/designer/3D modeler – that I don’t know if this is difficult to model, but I’ve seen better seats which look more realistic.
Ok, apart of the seats the VC looks good, even when zoomed into a panel. Let’s first have a look at the following screenshots. I know, more screenshots, but pictures say a 1000 words.
The overall impression and thus conclusion of the offered Airbus Volume 2 “2D and VC cockpits” is very good. I like the way they have designed the 2D cockpit and the realistic/photographic VC look. Even here, if I want, I will find something and one of those things are the pilot seats. Compared to the cockpit panels including the sharp instruments, those seats could be much better. The question now is, is a flight simmers really happy with that.
Personally, my intention goes first to the VC cockpit panels and instruments and then to the seats and back wall, doors and other side panels, but I think that depends on what you want the most like in the lower 4 screenshots of the cabin. They look not too bad but it doesn’t give me a real cabin view feeling or is it because other add-on vendors can make it better? Then there’s the question, do we really need a completely equipped cabin with seats, galleys, toilets etc.? I don’t know the reason of cabin views but for me personally, the most important part of the interior is the cockpit and that worked out well with this product.
Ok, I wrote already that the glossy paintings are not my favorite but that’s a personal matter. However, here I have the option to compare the Wilco model with the CLS (Commercial Level Simulations) A330-200/300 and A340-300 airplanes. Keeping that in mind, the overall look of both manufactured models are more or less the same. But when looking closely to certain details like rivets on any surface, panels, dirty stripes or spots, gear details, windows and many others, we do see differences in quality in the flavor of both.
I know, that sounds strange but sometimes Wilco offers better details like the tail picture but at the same time, CLS has more eye for the trim scale in front of the horizontal stabilizer. Without any pictures, I think this doesn’t say anything, so let’s have a look at these FS2004 screenshots.
I could take more pictures from Wilco or if you wish from CLS, but my general impression is that the Wilco model and livery looks very good. Some details are missing but after seen so many other add-on models, there’s always something which some have and others do not.
How does it fly …..?
Not that easy!
That’s a short sentence, but what I really mean is that the aircraft seems to behave like a real Airbus. How real, that’s difficult to say since I’m not an Airbus pilot but just a PPL holder, licensed to fly a Cessna 152 and its bigger sister, the C172.
When looking around on the Internet, it seems that the real Airbus family isn’t that difficult to fly. Ok, flying the A330 or A340 on your PC is a completely different experience than flying a real Airbus A330. To find out how the Wilco Airbus flies and handles, I planned a short test flight from LFBO (Toulouse/Blagnac) to LFPO (Paris/Orly) with an A330-200, so please join me on this AVSIM test flight and see, feel and read for yourself how I experienced this baby.
One thing that doesn’t directly deal with flying is the configuration level. You are able to indicate that you’re a beginner, intermediate or expert user, which can be adjusted in the configuration manager. In the Wilco manual you will find the necessary details about these settings starting on page 12. Since we are busy with the Configuration Manager, this is also the place to make the necessary adjustments for passengers and cargo (load manager) and planning the amount of fuel we'll need for our trip.
Ok, let’s go back to the Wilco test flight. As a reference I used the flight tutorial from the manual. I do this for two reasons. First, it gives me a guide while testing the flight model and secondly, to see if the tutorial is logically built up and precisely written. In plain English, that any user can follow the sequence, understand what has to be done in a step-by-step description.
One thing that disappoints me is that there are no pictures linked to the whole tutorial text. As a real life technical Airbus instructor it seems and it’s my personal opinion, that the tutorial is not written through the eyes of the customer/user. I think that visualizing text with the help of pictures or drawings or what ever you want, helps the user in doing something and learning from it.
I will follow the tutorial and give you, when needed, a feedback about its behavior of ground and flight movements. According to Wilco, the aircraft models were tested by real pilots so they know and operate the aircraft much better then I can. The only thing I want to mention is that a MSFS add-on aircraft has no motion like the FFS (Full Flight Simulator) or, of course, the real airplane. No motion means a totally different feeling than when it’s there. Unfortunately for us as flight simmers, motion on/in a PC will be something for the future, so keep that in mind.
After all the cockpit handlings are done, we are cleared to taxi to runway 32L. During the taxi, I’m facing that this is not that easy. This is partly due to the size and length of the aircraft, but it’s a good practice to do my best. Everything is settled and I’m turning onto the runway. All set and there I go.
I don’t see the cockpit – simulated – shaking, like with the Ariane Boeing 737 models, but we have to accept that. At Vr I gentle pull the joystick and the aircraft starts climbing. I don’t connect the AP yet since I want to feel the real flight feeling of this. Due to its size/length, a small pitch movement doesn’t directly result in a movement. No, it takes some time; let’s say some seconds before the aircraft is responding. This is not only applicable for a pitch input, but the same for a roll or yaw.
The feeling flying this aircraft is really different than a non add-on product. It seems to me that the aircraft is indeed flying like a real Airbus. While writing this I would like to emphasis again that since Flight Simulator doesn’t have any option for real motion, it stays difficult to judge the real flight characteristics. It’s time to take a short brake by selecting the AP ON.
You can decide to fly the Airbus either completely manual, or with the assistance of manual selections on the AFS panel (Auto Flight System) or completely in the managed mode. This is indicated on the AFS panel by dashes and dots. Here the FMGC calculates and controls the flight path. If you’re a Boeing user, forget the LNAV and VNAV buttons. Airbus doesn’t have those buttons. Airbus' philosophy is simple for the pilots; select the AP and AT, and bring the AFS panel in the Managed Mode (dashes with dot) and that’s it. Leave the job to the aircraft!
When we reach our cruising altitude and it’s time to do some exercises. No, not a loop, steep turns, stalls or simulating a spin, but just to feel how the aircraft flies when at cruising conditions. To do this, I disconnect the AP and bring the AFS panel managed modes back to manual selections.
While in a stable condition, I play a little with my roll and purposely, I give a large roll input. In the real Airbus, the computer will decide if the large roll input is safe and within the margin. If not, you can steer what you want but nothing happens. I’m positively surprised … a large input will not automatically result in a large output to the flight controls. In other words, this part of the system works like the real Airbus. That’s really great!
After some other tests I’m very pleased with and come to the conclusion that this simulated Airbus model performs/acts, from what I can judge, as a real Airbus keeping in mind the Flight Simulator limitations.
Since Orly (south Paris) is not that far from Toulouse, we need to make a hurried descent otherwise we will have lots of problems. With the tutorial in my hand I’ll try to follow the steps but since the Airbus Series are so simple and developed for pilots comfort, it doesn’t cost me too much effort to descent and prepare myself for the approach.
Before I know it, the ILS is captured and the rest of the landing, with a full AUTOLAND capability including FLARE and AUTOBRAKE functions, make this flight phase very simple. The only thing that is not simple is the fact that I’m trying to do it manually, so no AP connected. I leave the AT ON else I have a second thing to look for. The FD (flight Director bars) helps guide me during my approach, final approach and landing. Half way down the runway, I turn the aircraft to a parking location at the cargo ramp. Once there, I do the necessary preparations and bring the aircraft back to the cold & dark configuration.
As far as my knowledge goes and what I’ve seen during this partly manual flight, I’m very satisfied with this product. In my opinion it reflects a good simulated Airbus A330 or A340.
It’s always difficult to say if the produced engine sound is the real one. In this case, it’s even more difficult since the aircraft comes with different engines – GE CF6-80E, RR Trent 500, CFM56 and RR Trent 700 – thus, different sounds. Each engine produces its own characteristic sound. As far as I can judge, it seems to me a good and realistic sound level but I say this with some caution.
What I can say for sure is about the interior sound, like those from switches, electronic fans for the air stream, selector knobs, and the APU sounds via the simulated speakers. Believe me, an aircraft with this length and all passenger doors closed, APU start and begining sounds, you don’t hear them in the cockpit but it sounds ok. What is also simulated are the additional sounds of an aural warning or caution, AP disconnect and many others.
Airbus Volume 2 - FS9 versus FSX
Since this review covers not only the FS2004 product but also the FSX version, I want to expend some words in relation to the FPS and the differences between the VC’s of the two systems.
As you can see in the “test system” configuration, I don't have a slow PC but it doesn’t have a PCIe slot, but it uses an APG 8x slot. The rest of the configuration is, for the moment, not so important. In FS2004, all my sliders are set to the right and no traffic selected, which gives an average FPS on the ground and building storms selected, of 20 FPS. I write “average” since it jumps between 15 and 25 or sometimes it even goes to 30FPS. After arriving at cruising conditions, the FPS counter stops at 30, since I’ve limited the setting to 30 FPS.
When I compare these FPS with FSX, then those FPS are definitely not the same; they are much lower. Let’s first have a look to my FSX settings, as can be seen on the screenshots below.
With these FSX settings in mind, this results are the following: Aircraft on ground with building storms, gives an average of 12 FPS. The average is a result of external view (13-15) and VC view (9-11FPS), while in the air it increases to roughly 10-14 FPS. The range is because of the external view or the VC. The best result gives the 2D cockpit with 13-16 FPS.
I thought it’s a good idea to offer some comparison screenshots
from the VC/2D cockpit between FSX and FS9. More and more add-on airplanes, sceneries,
airports, environmental enhancements and many others, are made for FSX so here
you are. The upper screenshots are made in FSX, while the lower ones represent
the same positions/conditions in FS9.
I tweaked FSX as far as possible and did the same for FS9 but if this really helps, I have no idea. Since there is hardly any difference between the FS9/FSX versions, I prefer FS9 but again that’s personal preference.
Summary / Closing Remarks
This is probably the most important part when you’re interested in buying this product. Thinking back of what I’ve seen of Wilco Publishing's Airbus Volume 2, I think they made a good product. Although there is a competitor – CLS with its A330/A340 package - on the FS2004/FSX market, there are still some differences, but it also depends on your need. One thing is for sure, you will either choose Wilco or CLS. With both vendors, you pay one price for the FS2004 and FSX version.
To give you any idea what CLS and Wilco Publishing packages offer, I made a comparison list for you with the most important things to look for.
Wilco Publishing Airbus Volume 2 (version 1c):
Commercial Level Simulations A330/A340 Package (SP1 and SP2 included):
Keep one thing in mind: this review covers a thorough description of Wilco Publishing's Airbus Volume 2 and not the CLS A330/A340 package. Theirs was easy to check, I took a quick look at the CLS but extensive tests on the CLS where not done. This results in only comparing the VC and the external model with each other.
I think with the help of the screenshots, you have got a good idea about those differences and therefore I hope with this review the choice is a little easier than before. Remember one thing, I could add many other detailed items to the above list but this content should give you a good impression about the pro’s and con’s of the product.
In the end, I
can come to only one conclusion and that is that the Wilco Publishing Airbus
which will cost you 36.95 Euros (39.95 CD-ROM), is worth your
money. Ok, some systems on the overhead panel are not simulated, but the avionics
systems are suburbly simulated. With that in mind and the free offer of the
McPhat liveries, you have enough choices to select you’re favorite
What I Like About Airbus Volume 2
What I Don't Like About Airbus Volume 2
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