Yak 40: The Only One In The World
The amazing Yakovlev Yak-40 type celebrated her 40th anniversary last year. The first regional jet of the world – 30 years prior to the popular Embraer jets and others – has a unique feature: she is the only tri-jet with middle engine thrust reverse to be able to land even on extremely short runways. Well, runway sometimes means only an icy, dirty field.
The small, but very robust YAK-40 can be operated almost everywhere, since she also has retractable stairs and an auxiliary power unit (APU). Flying Russian steel is a real challenge for a pilot and there is no difference in the MSFS world. The cockpit looks rather like a factory than an office.
As it is very well described in the preface of the flight manual, the YAK-40 gives us the chance to feel what being a pilot really means. Guys who have already got hundreds of hours commanding a Boeing or an Airbus in Flight Simulator will feel like a zero-hour beginner in the left seat of the Yakovlev.
Suprunov Design writes in the documentation preface: “This aircraft is not easy to manage due to its simplicity. It counts on pilot’s skills, knowledge, brave heart, and a fast thinking capable brain. Don't become frustrated, though, we're sure you'll get the hang of it in no time. Just remember, the AVLUGA (Yak-40 Flight School in former USSR – the author) had to spend years teaching its cadets the same information that our simulation tries to teach in hours (and days).”
I definitely agree.
As an Eastern European reviewer (in love with ex-Soviet aviation like Antonov, Tupolev, Ilyushin, Yakovlev types) I would like to show you that Russian aviation is not worse than the modern Western world, but some of its features are ahead of their age. Please do not forget, as mentioned above, Yak-40 is a 41 year old construction and all of her functions shall be examined regarding the technical level of 1966. Do not compare it to later developments, navigational and autopilot systems, etc.
Special thanks to Mr. Igor Suprunov, the very kind leader of the development team, who provided me the informational background I needed to write this review. He was not busy enough to contact me, giving help and useful tips in operating the Yak-40.
Installation and Documentation
Suprunov Design offers the Yak-40 as a download version, the boxed one is being prepared for release as of this review. We only need to download the 123MB compressed zip file at the Suprunov website. Simply run the setup file, then we can find a Suprunov Design folder in the Start -> All programs section. Suprunov Design will send the required activation key upon purchase. Do not try to start Yak-40 without activation, unless you want to immediately shut down Flight Simulator.
Now, let’s see what we get. With the setup file you only get the Yak-40 aircraft. We have to download the 85MB manual separately. The documentation is a very complex and a great one. It is very informative and nice looking, and is being continuously revised. The structure of the manual is divided into two columns – an English on the left and a Russian on the right hand side. The many labeled screenshots are very useful in finding the place of the right switch and getting familiar in the flight deck. As an experienced simmer, I strongly recommend reading the manual step by step very carefully due to the complexity of Yak-40. Printing it is a good idea – running a pdf document reader (with a 161 MB document) and MSFS at the same time can easily kill your simulation.
There is only one livery supplied within the original download package (Bryansk Avia), but lots of downloads and useful hints are accessible in the product support forum, so I suggest everybody browse it often. Here you can find several repaints, custom crew voices and flight plans, etc.
First Sight - 2D Panels
As the 2D cockpit is being loaded, we can see a very nice cockpit with classic ‘steam’ gauges. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful 2D cockpits ever made. Well detailed and requires real pilot skills to be familiar and control all the gauges.
There are six full screen bitmaps: views from Captain seat, F/O seat, pedestal, overhead, and left and right side panels. Users can easily navigate between the different 2D views. I offer using the Deck Navigator subpanel (accessible with ‘Shift+5’). Another way of 2D panel navigation, is to find the brown arrows at the panel edges and click on them to switch views. Tooltips are very useful to read the indications and know what the purpose of a switch is.
All warning lights of the real aircraft are modeled by Suprunov Design. In real life, warning lights are used in bright light mode in daytime, and in dim light mode at night. Of course, this choice is also modeled.
Gauges, switches, texts and warning lights have sharp edges and are clearly visible. There is the usual problem that a steam gauge cannot be easily read, despite it displays important flight data, which is to be continuously checked in busy stages of the flight by the cockpit crew. You just need to know which indication to check in the jungle of gauges.
If you want, main indicators (attitude, airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, HSI, etc.) can be opened in a larger size with a simple mouse click to make an approach or just to make the reading easier. This feature permits flying (and autoflight) in external view, too. A simple right click closes the enlarged gauge.
Discovering The Virtual Cockpit
The VC looks very impressive at first sight, however, I personally prefer the 2D panel mode. The VC is a nice point of view, if somebody likes flying in this view, you will find all the needed functions to operate the Yak-40. A moving camera utility is also very useful to discover all advantages of the VC.
The Deck Navigator subpanel can be used to jump to different crew stations. This subpanel offers easy access to all panels with a simple mouse click and choosing between Russian or International indications. So, don't worry about Russian characters. It is an awesome feature that the entire cockpit is made in these two variants to help both English and Russian speaking pilots.
In International mode we get the speed indicated in knots and the altitude in feet. In Russian mode, these are changing to km/h and meters. All text labels are changed as well. Now, focus on the panel in VC view and change the indications. Like a magic, you can see the tabs and gauges changing.
I found a minor bug: the black background strip of the backup attitude indicator can be visible outside the panel under the gaugeas the VC panel surfaces are not flat, however, the instruments remain clearly readable in VC view. Gauge needles are not bitmaps but are 3D modeled, it is a very rare, but supreme feature in the FS market. Therefore, gauge indications are very smooth. At night, switch on the panel lighting and witness a beautiful red flood light. The VC is not quite similar to the 2D panel in each part, i.e. landing light switches, airstair power switch. A few switches are missing, hopefully these will be updated soon.
The external model is the exact replica of the Yak-40 classic passenger version with 4400kgs fuel tanks. It is as well designed as any other part of the product with lots of moving parts. Here's an awesome feature: turn on the anti-collision light on the panel, and then switch to external view. Zoom to one of the anti-collision lights and wonder at the rotating red beacon. I have never seen this rotating light design before. Another spectacular feature is the 3D design of passenger windows.
Landing lights open at the front-bottom part of the fuselage, flaps and all control surfaces are moving as well. The emergency exit and the aft entry door can also be opened. Engine blades rotate and the unique middle-engine reverser can be observed. The massive landing gear (useful at landing on ‘ad-hoc’ runways) is simple, they look like they do in real life and the flexing wings look great.
I miss pilots in the flight deck, the aircraft seems to be a ghost flight. Suprunov Design will add this feature in an upcoming release. I also miss a few other details like windshield wipers, but it does not have any effect on the quality of the simulation. The Suprunov Team is planning some nice-looking external effects like a maintenance mode with engine inlet and pitot covers, etc. We will see these updates, but I don't pay too much attention to these extras. I do prefer excellent system implementations (like in this add-on) instead of it looking like a X-mas tree with a lack of reality.
I cannot mention anything new and special on sound quality. Like the product generally, engine sounds are very accurate and have a high quality. I do like the switch clicks as well. I am not sure that the retractable stair operation is as loud as it is heard in the 2D panel view, since airstair is at the tail and the pilot is sitting in the nose. But who knows… I have never flown a Yak-40 in real life. So, I trust SD Team.
The manual contains detailed information on crew voices, like the file places and names for editing and transcripts. This sound environment is fully customizable. With these crew communications, the flightdeck really lives, you will not have the ‘home alone’ feel anymore. What is more, it adds more reality.
User made crew voice packages can be downloaded from Suprunov Design website. Using these increases the hardware load, but it is worth it (if your computer is powerful enough). A great item called ‘Sound Suite’ is under development and will be released in the next version to manage the sound issues, including more reality like informal crew chats, etc… I am really looking forward to seeing it.
Flight Dynamics, Operating The Yak-40
No doubt, Suprunov Design team has the know how to simulate this aircraft to touch the reality. Flying their product is as easy as in real life. It is a challenge and you might sweat at first, but you will enjoy all the success you get, step by step. The primary pitch control device is the stabilizer in all airborne phases of the flight. In real life, the stabilizer is controlled via an electrical switch on the flight yoke (same as other types). SD and I recommend you define two switches on your flight stick/yoke to access it easily. It is necessary to determine the appropriate stabilizer setting for takeoff on the ground (see manual Chapter 05).
Definition of stabilizer setting is to be performed with the help of the smart load manager. When I used it the first time, I was wondering what could be wrong since none of the buttons were accessible. Then I browsed the SD Support Forum and found the solution: back stairs shall be extended prior to using the load manager tool. Well, thinking about it… it is understandable that loading the aircraft requires an opened door. But I have never met this method in several payware add-ons using their load managers. It could be useful to mention it in the manual. The load manager can connect the GPU (Ground Power Unit) and external air source as well.
When you are airborne, you should pay attention to keeping all flight data within the acceptable limits. You can exceed the recommended speed and any other important factors, but do not be surprised when the aircraft begins shaking and you need to use your muscles to keep the aircraft under control.
You will not have the feeling that you are commanding the most powerful airplane in the world. It is a small and old jet, after studying the speed and climb rate tables you will realize it.
The AP-40 autopilot system provides pitch and bank control. It shows its 40 year old technology, so please do not compare it with modern CAT II/III systems giving full lateral and vertical guidance and offering several pitch and roll modes.
Regarding the flaps system, it is a hydraulic one so it needs hydraulic pressure. It can be operated either with the primary or the emergency hydraulic system. There are no fixed flaps positions, flaps are moving freely between the full in and out position. You may select the required setting with an electrical switch, but yYou need to push and hold it until the flaps reach the appropriate position.
I have already mentioned the ability to use very short runways with the Yak-40. A special technical method is the key for that: opening thrust reverse when the aircraft is still in the air. The landing roll is around 1600 feet (550 meters). Engage thrust reverse as you cross the threshold instead of idle power, as described in the documentation.
I have read several comments on this Yak-40’s heavy hardware need. I was a little bit surprised looking at the numbers. With general average display settings, I set the fps limit to 25 and what did I see? Frame rates hanging around 23-24 using default scenery. Airborne fps were around 14-15 with scattered cloud coverage. So, I could imagine a smoother flight. When I placed my aircraft at a custom scenery airport, my OS ran out of virtual memory. SD Yak-40 requires as much memory as can be provided.
For those, who have weaker hardware systems and/or are using FS with a high hardware need (i.e. real weather, custom sceneries, online flying on VATSIM) Suprunov Design offers a lite package downloadable at the SD Support Forum. Its size is about 54 megs.
It has the same quality and functionality, but without red cockpit lighting and mixed flood light mode. This might be missed for an enjoyable flight! It is interesting that I can fly with my little bit of RAM, but computers run out of 2GB of memory in a few seconds. Well, computers and operating systems are different, so everybody has to try to find his/her appropriate settings.
I am not a developer just an aviation enthusiast, but I could have imagined a ‘worse’ design’ that looks fascinating and is high-quality, to provide some ‘extra’ frames. I'm sure, looking their work, they will be able to optimize the details a bit more in coming updates. Well, I would not have this problem at all if I had a faster CPU, more RAM and faster hard disk, so the problem may be in my hardware.
Projects For Present and Future
Suprunov Design is working continuously on product updates. Many minor bugs are being fixed and improved. A very important feature has been fixed in the past few days: the documentation has been finished. Now it is complete and contains all the information you need (standard procedures, traffic pattern and data tables). Updates are free and if you have any question regarding them, just put it in the forum and you will get answered very soon. These guys are very friendly.
SD is planning to release an FSX version as well, with the opportunity for several new features. Implementation of the KLN-90 GPS system is on the top of their list.
SD offers not only high quality aircraft, but beautiful posters for the wall of your room. These can be ordered at the SD Website, too. There are more versions than are illustrated. There are 3D Max Yak-40 models in different paint schemes with either a calendar for 2007 or flight performance tables. They are supplied on high quality paper in 20"x14” (515x360 mm). Very nice.
The Yak-40 is the result of an intensive two-year development. Five real Yak-40 type rated pilots (operating Yak-40s for SIAT, Kras Air and Tuva Avia) assisted to achieve this very high level of simulation.
This bird gives you the chance to try to be a Yak-40 pilot, program the Flight Management Computer, choose between different AP guidance modes, and just FLY. Hold the yoke and try to stabilize the Yak-40 in all its phases of the flight and learn something new every day. If somebody trys out this add-on as being experienced in present Western technologies, this simulation will change his thoughts about aviation and the pilot job. Being a pilot is fun, with a lot of experience.
Buying this product, you will join a great community, the SD crew. The SD Team offers you a real two-way relationship. For me, the friendly customer support contributed immensely to my subjective evaluation. I do not like products which appear great, but then leave me feeling like "the customer who gave money his money to the developers"’ and nothing else. I require a good developer-user relationship and the SD Team is a good example of that.
would like to hone your skills, try this plane out. It is
quite easy to sum up this add-on: a wonderful combination of functionality
|What I Like About The Yak 40|
|What I Don't Like About The Yak 40|
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