Introduction - Reference: Wikipedia
The Heinkel He 219 Uhu aka "Eagle-Owl" was a night fighter of the Luftwaffe, seeing action in late World War II. It is an extremely narrow plane seating the pilot facing forward and his 'mate' (aka radar operator/co-pilot) looking backwards, sort of one crew member seeing where you were going and the other seeing where you had been.
The cockpit was situated well forward of the wings, rather like a blunt beak, and this helped to prevent the crew's eyesight being affected by the muzzle flashes of the cannons. Further, it was quite sophisticated for its day (or in this case 'night') because it was fitted with a variety of innovations, including a type of advanced intercept radar.
It was so advanced that it was the first warplane to have ejection seats (twin at that) fitted as a factory option. You have to wonder if the designers knew something the pilots didn't! It was also unique in that it was NOT a tail dragger but was the first Luftwaffe WW II fighter sporting tricycle landing gear. Less than 300 of all models were built by the end of the war in 1945 and only a few of these were engaged in the theatre of war.
(Fairly interesting aside - maybe: There is a glue called "UHU" and this is named after the Eagle Owl of the feathered kind rather than the HE219 the warbird. The glue is so strong that, a Ford pickup truck weighing about 4 tonnes has been suspended from a crane using UHU glue. UHU the glue not the plane is still made today.)
The HE219 had a difficult birth in that due to political infighting and apathy amongst the main protagonists and the top brass of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) it took several years to actually design and build the plane. The initial design (circa 1939/40) was by an ex-pat Messerschmidt engineer, Robert Lussler, who produced 2 designs with the first being rejected out of hand as 'too complex' and the second although less complex was also rejected by the RLM. Herr Heinkel fired poor Bob on the spot.
Ernst Heinkel himself then took over the re-design/build/modification of the plane only to see it rejected yet again by the RLM in 1942. Development continued but was plagued by supply issues including the late arrival of the engine and propeller. The HE219 also had stability issues which took some time to fix and it was finally ready for combat testing in 1943. It first saw service with the Luftwaffe in June 1943.
There were several variants of the HE219 with the He219 A-2/R1 probably being the most representative of them, this was armed with 2 x 30 mm MK 108 cannons in a ventral tray, 2 x 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in the wing roots, plus two Schräge Musik MK 108s just behind the cockpit, pointing up wards at 65⁰. The last production version was the He219 A-7 which was a much improved version being powered by 2 x 1,800 PS DB 603E engines, but it was towards the end of 1944 before this variant was even ordered.
The plane was an all-metal (stressed skin) constructed night fighter with a tricycle landing gear with the nose wheel rotating through 90º during retraction to fit flat within the forward fuselage (in the AF model the nose wheel retracts without this rotation). It was usually powered by 2 x DB 603E liquid cooled under slung inverted V12 "coupled" engines producing (1324 kW/1800PS) each, delivering excellent performance with a top speed of approximately 620 km/h (385 mph) and a 1540 km (960 mile) range. The engines powered 2 x VDM three blade constant speed propellers. Armaments were model dependent but were some variation of: up to 4 × 20 mm MG 151 cannons (under the fuselage), 300 rpg, 2 × 20 mm MG 151s in wing roots, 300 rpg and 2 × 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons, Schräge Musik (slanted music - cannonslanted 65° upwards), 100 rpg.
It was also fitted with the ugly drag inducing, and massive Hirschgeweih (stag's antlers) dipole aerial array for the radar system, usually the FuG220 Lichtenstein SN-2 radar, that possessed an astonishing range for the time of 4 km (3 miles). GPS hadn't been invented yet.
This was one mean fighting machine which took on and may or may not have (depending on who you believe) mastered the famous de Havilland Mosquito fighter-bombers. Many experts thought that the He219 was "underpowered" and together with its short-winged design (18.5 m) it was not as capable as it should have been. I couldn't find any data on the numbers still flying today - not many, if any, would be my guess.
The He 219's had a bulletproof windscreen plus wipers and hot-air demisting, and the cockpit was pressurized and heated.
In the fuselage the fuel tanks were protected from enemy fire and if that wasn't enough they were also self sealing. Nothing but a direct hit was going to bring this bird down.
Heinkel the Maker: (courtesy Wikipedia)
Heinkel was established as an aircraft manufacturer by Ernst Heinkel at Warnemünde in 1922, (he died well after the end of WWII in 1959). The company is famous for its aircraft built for the Luftwaffe in WWII and for innovations in the early jet planes.
The company was a pioneer in the fields of jet engine and rocket development. Heinkel was the first German plane maker to develop a jet fighter i.e. the Heinkel He 280 and this was subsequently developed as the Heinkel He 162, a jet fighter of great potential. However Germany surrendered before it was commissioned.
Post WWII, Heinkel manufactured bicycles, motor scooters and the Heinkel microcar, returning to aircraft manufacture circa 1955-6, its primarily license was building the US F-104 Starfighters for the West German Air Force.
Heinkel is no more, (Boo Hoo), being absorbed by Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm in 1980.
Aircraft Factory is the 'boojay' (budget) division of A2A simulations and they have produced an excellent replica of this vintage WWII night fighter. It doesn't have Accusim, but then it is a 'budget' model and its flying characteristics are still very good.
The 5 variants (6 liveries) are well modelled giving good interior and exterior detail, up to the usual standard of this marque. It is a great pity that in FSX we cannot choose a historic period to fly, as flying this aircraft today means that you don't get the same lighting effect as you would in the 1940's, i.e. the ground lighting would have been non-existent then. Ah Well - that's nostalgia for you!
This model was built specifically for FSX and it shows, and I did not experience any display or other issues with this plane in FSX SP2. The other model in this stable is the FU Corsair. The only jarring note is that in the pop-ups within the VC the default radio stack and GPS appear, in my opinion these would have been better left out of the final model.
Installation and Documentation
Built for FSX, installation is relatively straightforward, just extract the compressed "ZIP" file to produce the "EXE" executable installation file. The installation process automatically finds the location of FSX and installs 5 new AE_HE219xx folders in the \simobjects\airplanes folder.
Also installed in a separate folder called "Aircraft Factory\Heinkel 219 UHU" is the manual in pdf format and containing 71 pages. The whole process takes only a few moments, and remember that if you use "Vista" or "Windows 7", right click on the "exe" file and choose "Run as Administrator". The installation process does NOT install a configuration panel for this aircraft, so all changes to the characteristics of the plane will be made inside FSX.
This is definitely a FSX model, however, there is an earlier model for FS9 the ' Wings of Power Heinkel He 219 "Owl" and much of the documentation for the FSX model has its derivation in WOP FS9 manual. The manual is 71 packed pages long and you will need a pdf reader to view it, it can also be accessed (Vista/Win7) via the "START" menus and scrolling down to Aircraft Factory entry.
It is an excellent document up to the A2A/WOP standards and it covers the usual topics including:
You really need to read the manual to get the best out of the plane.
FSX Choice of Aircraft
On my system in the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher”, I was presented with the tab for “Aircraft Factory” and this allows the choice of all 5 variants/6 liveries. Clicking on "details" one of the 6 aircraft reveals some interesting information on each variant, with the ATC information being specific to the model.
Aircraft Factory have included 5 HE 219 variants (6 liveries) representing its progression as it was developed further, these are:
They are all historically correct.
Specifications: (courtesy Wikipedia and Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II)
FSX Realism Settings
My flight control settings, as designated in the manual, were set to "HARD" – almost as realistic as you can get. However, I soon found out that there is a learning curve to get this bird off the ground, and initially I used "semi-hard" settings until I became more proficient.
Starting with the He219 as the default plane
I had no issues selecting the plane or opening it in FSX from the starting screen.
My frame rates in FSX, and more importantly smoothness, were unaffected by this plane.
The Exterior Model
These are all very well modeled as you would expect from A2A. Aircraft Factory state with regard to the modeling that it encompasses, "Native specular and bump mapped high-resolution lighting" and it shows in the beautifully clean lines and superb reflections. AF state that the plane is accurate down to the last rivet, and I believe them!
It looks so realistic sitting on the tarmac and the models are historically correct. I have to say that it's an odd looking plane, very narrow with a short wing span, the latter being almost a "gull wing" shape but is actually termed a " shoulder-wing cantilever monoplane". The detail is excellent and stands well up to close-up screen shots which show all parts of the plane in vivid detail.
I liked the detail that has gone into the tricycle landing gear and it retracts so realistically after take-off, imitating the real life method of "gear up", but unfortunately the nose wheel does not rotate thru' 90⁰ (as in real life) when the gear is retracted. The wheels on the gear are realistically round with a 'flat' where they meet the tarmac, and once the aircraft moves they rotate in a thoroughly realistic manner.
The dihedral tail-plane which has twin rudders and fins is also depicted extremely well. The two VDM three blade constant speed airscrews are also shown in nice detail.
The models depicted show some signs of "wear ' tear" with paint missing on the leading edges, plus corrosion and oil and rust streaks (no bullet holes)! One extra plus, is that these AF models all sport camouflage paint schemes which would have made them nearly invisible in flight and certainly at night.
One item to note is that the armaments on board are for show only - they don't work, and some of the exterior models can display the Swastika.
Night Lighting is good and looks realistic. The landing light on the port wing is very bright and the cockpit lighting is suitably subdued, with the port and starboard navigation lights being correctly positioned on the wing extremities. A strobe light is included, and all the lights can be switched on and off from the VC or by using the usual FSX keystrokes.
I could not find any details or images of the He219 at night so I can't say with any certainty if the lighting is historically accurate, but I guess that it would be. As I state above, flying at night this plane is almost invisible from the ground due to its effective camouflage paint.
The He219 UHU has an opening hinged canopy, which is opened and closed using the default FSX “Shift + E” toggle setting. As the cockpit is well forward of the wings the pilot and radar officer used the extendable ladder to get into the plane. This is nicely modeled by AF. The pilot and radar officer are animated with reasonably accurate movements and they face the correct ways, i.e. one forward and one facing backward!
This does not appear to be modeled, i.e. with the engines off and the parking brake applied, no chocks, tie downs and propeller tags appear.
The Interior Model and Instrumentation.
In a refreshing change the AF He219 has both a VC and a 2D model, and in the pressing the "W" key sequentially brings up a mini-panel with default FSX instruments, or an unrestricted forward view. Shift +1 brings up the main 2D panel, Shift + 2 default modern radios, Shift + 3 default GNS 500 (unfortunately not historically accurate).
The VC cockpit is just fantastic, displaying beautiful instruments of the period, great detail in all of the knobs, switches, gauges, levers and dials. All of these are labeled in German and if they are meant to be functional then they are, including opening and shutting the canopy. However, I could not find a switch or lever for the windshield wipers or the demister.
The rear facing seat is also there and you get a view of the radar system (albeit low resolution) that the radar operator would have seen. The radar is non-functional in the AF He219 (apparently it would need Accusim in order to become functional).
The instrumentation is representative of instruments that would have been fitted during that period. All the instruments are detailed and clear and you can zoom in without too much distortion until you are really close. The main instruments include the usual suspects, i.e. airspeed indicator, auto-pilot (not explained in the documentation), climb indicator (VSI), 2 x Engine RPM and airscrew, ILS (not explained), altitude indicator, radio altitude, compass and turn/bank and turn/slip indicators. Some but not all of the gauges are 3D versions. None of the instruments increase in size when you click them, so a TrackIR would be a bonus in reading the instruments during tricky manoeuvres such as landing.
Although there are 5 historical variants modeled, I found that the interior cockpit and instruments had little variation between them, so I did not attempt to list the changes between them but to include individual features that were pertinent to this review.
The Patin repeater compass is quite interesting and sophisticated for its time, it is also called a steering (gyroscopic) compass and they were virtually unaffected by the earth's magnetic field, the modern equivalent would be called the heading indicator.
The radio altimeter is also innovative for the era in that it measures altitude above the ground directly below the plane, whereas a barometric altimeter usually measures altitude above sea level, ideal for low level sorties.
The VC particularly represents for me a cockpit that looks and feels realistic and aged enough (with paint chipped and/or peeling, and corrosion showing on the interior surfaces) to have been used in several sorties. The transparent cockpit, with sun shade, gives unrivalled views to the sky above, useful for spotting the enemy.
Payload and Fuel - Weight and Loading
Although it does not have a configuration panel as such, the Aircraft Factory He 219 is set up with a high level of realism, which extends to aircraft loading and fuel supply. With charts in the manual, you can set your approximate center of gravity based on payload and fuel onboard. In FSX via the Payload and Fuel setting (not the default settings) you can change the various payload and fuel settings. I have to admit that the plane did not feel significantly different when it was at maximum payload and fuel as to when it was lightly loaded with minimum fuel.
Take-off position of Trim
For best performance during take-off, the 'Trim' setting is set at the "0" (off-centre) position for pitch trim i.e. the takeoff position, which is apparently standardized for a 28.5% CG position.
The He219 is fitted with 3 fuel tanks sited in the fuselage tanks, and each engine can be fed from any of the three tanks via separate fuel selectors. There are also separate fuel gauges for each engine, and each tank has its own gauge. Apparently due to the limitations of FSX the fuel pumps don't actually do anything.
Starting the Engines:
Following the usual pre-flight checks you can start the engines manually (one after another) and this is fully described in the manual, I used the lazy method of Ctrl + E. In both cases you need to idle at 1200 rpm until the oil temperature is correct when you can reduce the rpm to around 800 - 1000 rpm for each engine in sequence.
The manual start method is very easy to do following the instructions in the manual. The manual states that during starting the mixture is set full rich but as I understand it, this plane had automatic mixture control and I couldn't spot a mixture control on the plane. Both props rotate in a clockwise manner and according to some gurus this may be correct i.e. they did not counter rotate.
Taxiing to and from the runway was painless. There is good smooth progressive throttle control in the HE 219 and with the help of the differential brakes and rudder I had full control during the taxi roll. The brakes are excellent without any grab to either side and you pull up in a nice straight line. Forward vision is good and my TrackIR made it even easier to see where I was going.
In the air
Again, I followed the procedure in the manual, so for a "Normal Take-off", I applied the brakes and ran the engines to 2000 RPM, once the power was steady I released the brakes and advanced the throttles to the max. Lift-off occurred at about 200 km/hr (110 KIAS) using about 8 degreesof pitch. I used one notch of flaps (30⁰) or no flaps at all during the take-off procedure with little difference in handling between the two.
Once I established a positive rate of climb I retracted the gear (<150 KIAS) and then the flaps. I climbed with the engines at 2500 RPM i.e. ≈ 150-160 KIAS (manifold pressure 1.3 - 1.4 ata German metric atmospheric pressure units ≈20 -22 psi) to cruise altitude which I limited to 18 - 20,000' for this review. I seemed to climb at around 1,000 ft/min so it took around 25 minutes to reach cruising altitude.
On other occasions the He219 happily climbed at 1500 ft/min and reaching the cruising altitude was much faster. I used the cowl flaps i.e. open for takeoff and gradually closing them as we climbed. I did not notice any excessive 'engine prop torque effect' on take-off, there was no option to 'sync' the engines but in the real world they were 'coupled' so perhaps that is what is modeled in the AF He219. The engines have an auto mixture function so there was no need to adjust the mixture with altitude.
Once at altitude it was quite easy to trim the aircraft for level flight by reducing the throttle and adjusting the elevator trim. I could not detect any handling difference between the 5 variants.
This is a very nice plane to fly; it is fast and responsive and quite agile despite its size. I noted in the manual that acrobatic flying was 'verboten' but I couldn't resist a few 'gentle' manoeuvres including flying upside down and again the He219 responded beautifully. I am not qualified to say if the handling is like it would be in real life, but even with the settings set at "hard" it was a nice plane to fly. During flight I carried out the following procedures designed to test the flight characteristics.
The Ejection Factor: (a one-off)
OK here's the scenario, you've been in yet another dogfight and have come off decidedly worse for wear, both engines gone, smoke billowing out everywhere, you only have one option left - Ejection!! I tried to set the key commands as detailed in the manual and to a couple of buttons on my joystick; one to first remove the canopy and a second to eject the two crew members but I couldn't get them to work.
I could only get ejection to work by using the mouse inside the VC, so while I have pictures of the plane flying without a canopy or no crew onboard (shades of the Mary Celeste) I can't show you one with the two airmen flying though the air. I experienced some issues with the sim after ejecting the pilots, I could not seem to get back into the VC to take control of the plane and it eventually crashed. I also experienced issues when using the 'instant replay' function within FSX covering the ejection procedure.
I induced a power-off stall at 10,000' in level flight, neutral trim which occurred at around 185 km/hr (100 KIAS), it is not an easy plane to stall being very stable, but eventually the controls became slightly heavier and it was difficult to keep the nose up. The eventual stall was very gentle and easy to correct using the appropriate techniques, i.e. pushing the stick forward and gradually increasing power until full control was re-established.
I did notice different engine noises during the stall as I was increasing engine power, but I have no idea of what the sounds were indicating, and smoke did come out of one of the engines on a couple of occasions.
Single Engine Performance
The He219 flies relatively well with only a single engine running with some obvious "pull" to the side with the engine running. Landing using one engine was fairly easy but taking off with one engine was not as easy until I set the controls to 'Easy'; on 'Hard" I just went around in a circle.
On reflection two engines are definitely better than one. To turn off one engine in flight I followed the procedure described in the manual, i.e. first stop the engine by turning off the fuel supply, turn off the magneto, and finally turning the switch for that engine to the FEATHER position.
Side slipping i.e. using opposite rudder and aileron settings to decrease altitude without increasing significantly speed was easy with this plane, it was built for side slipping and seemed to turn on a sixpence when coming in to land on a tight turn on final. Exhilarating is a word that springs to mind.
As I had just had a dogfight with an allied Hurricane, both my engines were shot to pieces so I attempted a power-off landing (both engines out) gliding to around 1,000’ speed around 210 - 240 km/hr (115 - 130 KIAS) no flaps, (possibly the best glide speed) dropping to around 185 - 200 km/hr (100 - 110 KIAS) over the threshold and lowering the gear at the last possible moment to reduce any additional drag, and maybe the controls felt heavier but they were still very responsive and I landed intact.
Again I followed the manual details for landing; throttling back to ≈2500 RPM, slowing down to ≈280 km/hr (150 KIAS) and lowering the flaps to the 1st position, adjusting the descent to around 700 fpm. At around 260 km/hr (140 KIAS) I lowered the landing gear, takes ≈10 seconds), and reduced speed to ≈240 km/hr 130KIAS. I then lowered the flaps to the 2nd position reduced speed again on the final approach to ≈210 km/hr (115 KIAS) and crossed the threshold at ≈185 - 195 km/hr (100 - 105 KIAS).
Using this technique I achieved some nice floating landings with little bump or bounce when I finally kissed the macadam. In some of my figures I have roughly converted my km/hr figures to KIAS, although in this plane it would be easier to use the metric system.
This is also depicted and it works quite well, lots of smoke and sparks before finally shuddering to a halt and amazingly the props kept turning.
Repairs & Maintenance:
There is no facility for repairs or maintenance for the AF He219 other than the usual FSX default parameters. Although I experienced issues when I tried to use the FSX command for engine failure, with the engine coughing out black smoke but failing to stop or lose power. That's German engineering for you!
In a word, Scott Gentile's sounds are excellent and realistic. For example, when panning around in the VC the engine sounds change depending on your position in the aircraft, as they do when panning around the outside of the plane. All the sounds are there: engines, canopy opening, gear and flaps retracting, all well balanced within the sim.
I did experience some sound issues when cycling between the "spot" view and the VC, with the sounds changing to "full power" even when the engines were in cruise mode. This was also reported on the forum.
A2A made this statement about the sounds and I confirm that these sounds are there: "Professionally recorded and mastered engine sounds including realistic prop effects; Directional 3D-engineered sounds from A2A recorded sound from all viewing angles; Stall buffet, canopy, ground roll, flaps, gyro, and authentic cockpit wind and Special canopy pressurizing and release sounds". Just great!
Support is available via the forum. There is also a paint kit available for download so that you can customize your very own He219, and there are some nice examples published by forum members. There are also a couple of repaints published in the AVSIM library.
There are a few minor issues on the forum but on the whole the plane looks to be fairly trouble free.
Summary / Closing Remarks
This is an excellent FSX rendering of a vintage WWII plane, and the 5 variants are historically correct and are facsimiles of real world planes. The plane is great to fly and during this review I got to know it well, but in such a short time there may be features, functions and/or issues that I might have missed.
Aircraft Factory is the budget arm of A2A simulations so this plane may not have all of the features that you might see in their top range planes, with or without Accusim.
It's worthwhile searching the web for info on the He219, it has a fascinating history that is essential reading. It made shivers go up and down my spine to think that this plane might have changed the course of WWII had it flown earlier in its original form. The Allies would have been relieved to hear that its entry into the theatre of air war was delayed by political infighting.
This is a nicely detailed FSC novel that is reasonably priced and will give hours of pleasure.
What I Like About The He219
What I Don't Like About The He219
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