The world of Flight Simulator has, for a long while, been missing an excellent historical representative of an aircraft that helped the United States win World War II. The F6F Hellcat, hasn’t been faithfully brought to Flight Simulator, until now, and the Classic Warbird Design Team has done just that.
The aircraft that was designed to bring Japanese Type Zeros down, is something we can all test our mettle in. To see if we can fly an excellent representation of the plane that thousands of men mastered in the Pacific Theatre of Operations. The Hellcat was crucial in gaining air superiority over the Pacific against the Japanese, its sturdiness, reliability, and ability to take severe damage all made it legendary. It was also highly maneuverable, and though it couldn’t necessarily keep up with the agile Type Zero, it did hold its own.
Through superior team tactics, adopted by United States Navy Pilots, the Hellcat became the Empire of Japan’s worst nightmare. Now you can fly the plane that changed history.
Installation and Documentation
This really couldn't be easier. You download the installation file from the place of purchase, and double-click the exe file. It will find the correct installation path to FS9, and install seamlessly. You're now ready to go flying.
After installation, you can find three different Hellcat folders in your FS9 Aircraft folder, all beginning with CWDT. The first CWDT Hellcat entry is the main folder, which contains the Hellcat Manual in Adobe Acrobat form. The manual includes all important information for animations, and a guide for both the Virtual Cockpit, and 2D panels. More importantly, a section in the manual covers loading specifications in close detail, for each different model included.
The 2D Panel
I do not usually use the 2D panel when flying in any plane, but for those who do use it frequently, you won't be disappointed. Very detailed and smooth running gauges, and it really imposes the feeling of being in a fighter cockpit. It is very sharp, while remaining uncluttered, every important gauge is easy to find. Sub-panels for GPS, Radio, and other important instruments are there, if you decide you’d like to use them. I know I use the GPS all the time.
The Virtual Cockpit
The Virtual Cockpit is my favorite part of any Flight Simulator aircraft, and CWDT has hit the nail on the head here. Everything needed for in-flight related operations can be clicked and manipulated with the mouse, removing the need to switch to other panels in flight. They also added other neat features, like the rear view mirror mounted at the top of the canopy, and a lever that can be clicked to open the canopy. The lines and controls in the virtual cockpit are exceptionally smooth and believable. As with the 2D panel, you get a great feeling of being inside an actual Hellcat cockpit. The gauges have a normal update speed, and are fairly easy to read, even back at .50 zoom.
The external model is very nicely done, including all the animations a Navy Plane fan could want. A very detailed set of wing fold and tailhook animations are included, and fun to watch. Of course, the usual animations are included as well.
All flight surfaces are nicely animated, along with a sliding canopy and great looking cowl flaps. There are nice, faint exhaust effects on the engine exhaust ports, which look very realistic, and these effects are something to see when flying at night. Also animated, is probably the most detailed set of Six .50 calibre machine guns, and gun bays I've seen.
Shut the engine down, fold the wings on the ground, open the gun bays, and you'd expect to see a munitions man come up and reload the giant fighter. The gun bays are mapped to the Extend and Retract Concorde Nose Assignmets, not set by default in Flight Simulator 2004, so be sure to set these so you don't miss out on the gun bays. The gear animations are dead-on for the Hellcat, rotating the wheels sideways, and retracting up backwards into the wing.
The external textures are top-notch, and they included several detailed paints. Also, they added a nice stripe of gray exhaust residue flowing over the wing, just as the real Hellcats had after a long operational period. Combined with the 3D lighting effects, the textures have a depth to them that can trick your eyes into believing it's a real plane.
The default model of the Hellcat included is the earlier F6F-3 Hellcat. Also included are later models of the Hellcat, the F6F-5, and the F6F-5N Night Fighter variant, with the radar bubble modeled very faithfully on the starboard wing. Along with several different models of the plane, they also included different load outs. You can choose to have rockets, bombs, or drop tanks on different models of the Hellcat.
Taxiing is exceptionally responsive, and easy. Keeping the plane down the centerline on takeoff is not difficult, as the Hellcat has excellent rudder authority. The tail comes up off the ground around 40-50 kts, just as it should on a tail dragger of this era and performance. Climb out at first is a bit slow, but once the gear is up and the plane is in a climb, it really starts moving fast.
The handling of the plane in the air is superb. The Hellcat was renowned for having 'finger-light' handling, and CWDT has captured that very well. Add a bit of right rudder when banking to the right, and you'll be pulling fighter pilot maneuvers in no time.
The sound package for this plane is very well done. CWDT included many small sound intricacies, making it a very life-like sounding aircraft.
The startup sounds featured are very neat, and even feature a single loud 'Cracking' sound effect. This could be heard when starting a real Hellcat, and could also be heard from quite a distance. It was known by ground crew and pilots as a "Shotgun" start, and the name meant exactly what it was.
The R-2800 Radial Engine on the Hellcat used a cartridge starter, actually a blank 12-gauge shotgun shell that would fire, and assist the engine in starting. This was known to have been loud enough to wake people up. You can also hear a bit of a whine, as the magnetos push the prop to a quick start.
Once in the air and cruising, the sounds are what we would expect from a World War II period aircraft, using a big radial like the Pratt & Whitney R-2800. The authenticity of the sounds makes it a Five-Star sound package.
The external model, although heavily detailed and very sharp, is quite frame rate friendly on my system. The 2D Panel performs extremely well, even at .50 zoom, where I prefer to fly if using the 2D panel. The Virtual Cockpit is also extremely detailed, and CWDT modeled a full virtual model here. Using Active Camera, or Track IR, you can pan outside the cockpit in Virtual Cockpit view, and there is a full Hellcat model to view. Walk arounds, pre-flights, or just hanging your head out the side of the canopy on approach for fun, the whole plane is seamlessly represented here, and not too bad a hit on framerates.
The Classic Warbird Design Team Hellcat has filled an important gap in Flight Simulator, allowing us all to enjoy an important piece of history. I would definitely suggest getting this plane if you enjoy World War II Warbirds, or just want a great plane to fly.
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