Introduction - Fly Into The Sky
At the outset, I should mention that I cannot read or write a word of Japanese, so it is with a certain sense of caution that I took on this review. Although World Airlines was created for a Japanese flight simulation audience, all of the included aircraft have English-language cockpits and liveries, and the manual has instructions in English as well. If you don’t understand any Japanese words, you can still use all of the features World Airlines has to offer.
World Airlines is an ambitious project to include no fewer than twenty contemporary passenger jetliners into one single add-on package for Flight Simulator 2000 and 2004. It comes on two PC CD-ROM disks, the first labelled “Airbus”, and the second bearing the mark of “Boeing”. I have to admit that flying twenty different airframes from two of the world’s largest rival manufacturers in one MSFS add-on was an exciting prospect! In particular, World Airlines features the brand-new and very large A380 airliner, which for some sim pilots may be incentive enough to give this add-on a closer look.
Here is a list of all of the jets modelled in World Airlines:
Disk 1 (Airbus): A300-600R, A319, A320, A321, A330-200/-300, A340-200/-300/-500/-600
Disk 2 (Boeing): B737-700/-800/-900, B747-400, B767-300ER, B777-200/-200ER/-300/-300ER, MD-11
If you are reading closely, you will see that in World Airlines, Airbus has ten jetliners, while Boeing has nine. The twentieth airplane is a “bonus” jet from Simmer’s Sky: the rare McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 tri-jet (McDonnell-Douglas is currently a subsidiary of Boeing, so the inclusion of the MD-11 on the Boeing disk is a nice bonus! ). The Boeing 737, 747 and 777 aircraft already appear in MSFS 2004, so the versions of these planes in World Airlines can be considered as updates to the originals.
Installation and Documentation - Two Languages, One Result
Both the English and Japanese documentation that comes with World Airlines is contained within an illustrated .PDF file of around twenty pages. All of the Japanese instructions for the installation and operation of World Airlines are translated into clear, easy-to-read English. Most of the documentation that comes with World Airlines shows you how to install and uninstall the product and how to set up key commands to operate some of the animated aircraft parts. As well, there is an entry on how to contact Customer Support, and some charts that indicate how the airline liveries go with each airplane.
As long as you follow the very simple and direct instructions, then installing World Airlines is very easy. The installer for the whole add-on is on the Airbus disk. From there, you are given the choice to install Airbus planes or Boeing planes. You can choose to install all of the aircraft at once, or you can choose not to install any particular aircraft by deselecting it in the installation menu. When it comes time to install the Boeing planes (including the MD-11), the program will prompt you to switch disks when appropriate. World Airlines automatically seeks out your MSFS 2004 installation and puts the new planes in their proper respective folders. If you are not running MSFS 2004 on Windows XP, the documentation provides clear instructions on how to install the airplanes onto other operating systems.
The new airplanes are all kept in a manufacturer’s folder in MSFS named “Simmer’s Sky”. You should find the “Simmer’s Sky” folder inside the “Select Aircraft” dialogue, and then you may choose among all of the World Airlines aircraft you have installed. Most jets have multiple liveries from airlines all over the world, as well as variants that include a virtual cockpit. If you are experiencing troubles maintaining good frame rates, choosing an aircraft without a virtual cockpit may help.
Finally, should you wish to uninstall World Airlines, you may do so by using the Control Panel in Windows to remove your planes. The uninstall process is quick and efficient. Again, if you are not using Windows XP, the documentation provides instructions for uninstalling World Airlines using other operating systems.
Flight Dynamics - The Simmers Sky
I spent around 40 hours flight-testing World Airlines, which boils down to about two hours for each airframe. The first impression that I had when I started to test all of these planes is that twenty is a very large number to go through! Most aircraft add-on packages will either give you one airplane with a very high level of detail in terms of avionics and flight dynamics, or they will give you an assortment of planes with a lesser amount of detail. World Airlines fits into the latter category.
In terms of sophistication, these jets are roughly equal to what you would find among the default MSFS airliners. If you are comfortable flying the default jets, then the World Airlines aircraft are more of the same. If you are looking for sophisticated details in these airliners, then there are a few improvements over the basic jets, but operationally speaking, there are not a lot of complicated in-flight functions. For rookie pilots with little or no MSFS jetliner experience, you may find some of the cockpit controls to be a bit confusing, so it’s best to learn your checklists and flight procedures on the default MSFS planes before moving on to the World Airlines jets.
The twenty jets in World Airlines can be grouped into functional basic patterns, such as that all of the A340-series planes handle similarly, save for effective range and payload issues. On an even more basic level, I would suggest that all of the planes in World Airlines correspond to two flight models: jets with two engines, and jets with four. All of the jets with two engines fly very similarly to the default Boeing 737-400 in MSFS, while all the jets with four engines handle a lot like the default Boeing 747-400.
There are two exceptions, those being the MD-11 and the A380. The MD-11 has the distinction of carrying three engines. Within World Airlines, though, it handles much like a 737 with the total engine thrust split three ways instead of two. Knock out one engine, and the airplane will still fly at reduced capacity. Lose two engines, though, and this MD-11 will have a very difficult time staying above stall speed.
As for the A380, I found that it performs in the air much like the MSFS default 747, except with even more mass. The engines take a little extra time to spool up or down when working the throttles, so when flying this gigantic airliner, you should use gentle motions with the controls. The World Airlines A380 does suffer from some taxi and autopilot issues, however, which I will discuss later.
Overall, one characteristic defines the entire stable of World Airlines jetliners, and that has to do with getting a lot of lift out of the flaps. Every one of the aircraft more or less leaps off the runway at rotation speed with take-off flaps. Coast over the landing threshold with full flaps, and your “heavy” will behave more like it’s carrying a load of helium balloons rather than a cabin packed with passengers. The engines on all of the planes felt too powerful to me, although when I tested some of the planes against published performance limits in the manufacturers’ websites, the flight models appeared to conform to specifications on a basic level. I guess it would be better to have too much performance rather than too little, so if the airplanes are over-performing regarding lift and thrust, then this could be forgivable in the MSFS universe.
Flight controls and cockpit devices for all of the World Airlines jets closely resemble those for the default MSFS airliners. There are no working Flight Management Computers, other than the Flight Planner that comes built into Flight simulator. You use the default Garmin GPS screen for in-flight navigation. As well, what cockpit warning devices that come installed with MSFS default planes are those that are to be used by the World Airlines jetliners. The famous “fly by wire” flight management system native to Airbus is not modelled. If, for example, you wanted to fly your World Airlines A380 upside-down with the landing gear extended at cruising speed underneath a highway bridge, the only limitation to this ridiculous flight plan is finding a bridge tall enough to accommodate the A380.
If you are keeping your airplane safely on the ground, you will find that taxiing your World Airlines jet across the tarmac is generally easy. The rudders on all of the jets are also used to control ground steering and are just strong enough to make ground steering work well, but not too strong so as to overpower airborne manoeuvres.
Differential toe brakes are available on all World Airlines jets for ground steering as well. The largest jetliners require the most tarmac space for turning, with the monumental A380 taking up a lot of real estate on taxi. I found the implementation of differential brakes to be uneven across the different airframes. Some jets had brakes that worked well, while others had brakes that seemed moderately unwilling to respond. Two jets, the A380 and the 747-400, had a problem where the toe brakes would not differentiate into right and left brakes. I e-mailed Overland, and they are working on a patch to fix this issue.
COCKPITS: Flight Decks of Fancy
Every World Airlines jet has a basic 2D cockpit and a 3D cockpit. If frame rates become an issue, the 3D cockpit can be disabled to boost visual performance. Overall, I found the presentation of the flight decks to be quite good. On my test system, I did see a modest reduction in frame rates when using the 3D cockpits, but nothing that would stall an average PC. World Airlines tries to be as frame-rate friendly as possible while maintaining a reasonable level of simulation realism.
The 2D cockpits are similar in quality to those found on the default MSFS airplanes. The texturing is very good, and the instruments are laid out logically with good visibility. The balance between instrument visibility versus being able to see out of the windscreen is better in World Airlines than in MSFS. This gives the add-on cockpits the feel of being more contemporary than those of the default planes. As far as is possible for a basic rendering, the World Airlines 2D cockpits resemble the cockpits of the real-life jets. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, in my opinion.
Not all of the controls that are rendered in the cockpit are clickable. The ones that are functional are usually based on the types of controls that you would see in the default MSFS jets. So, the FMC, the EFIS, and other complex devices are inoperable, despite how nice they look in the cockpit. World Airlines jets generally feature a more realistic cockpit layout than you would see in MSFS planes, even though you end up looking at instrumentation that you cannot operate.
Some cockpits are re-used from airframe to airframe in a series, such as the 777’s or the A340’s. Even so, there are a number of different cockpits to be had. Unfortunately, there is no guide to explain what the active devices in each cockpit are. While most cockpits do share analogous instruments, the problem exists of getting lost in the cockpit controls. Until you are familiar with the airplane of your choice, you will want to spend some time mousing over every control to see if it is useable, and then you will want to click on each control to see what it does.
Since there are no truly complicated controls in any of the World Airlines cockpits, you may feel free to experiment with what each switch does without the worry of ruining your airplane, at least as long as you stay parked. In particular, I found the autopilot controls on the Airbus planes to be difficult to use at first, until I discovered that some of the knobs can be pushed and pulled as well as turned, which adds to their functions. As well, on other autopilots I had to click on the actual number, such as airspeed, heading, and altitude, to change the autopilot setting. I prefer being able to use the knob for these controls whenever possible.
The largest omission in the cockpits, in my opinion, is that of battery and generator switches. Sometimes in add-on airplanes these switches are omitted, and this is the case with World Airlines. Without battery power, the engines cannot be started, and without active generators, you will be running your cockpit electricals off of battery power which fades out after a few minutes and leaves you in the dark. Experienced sim pilots ought to be aware of battery and generator settings, but for a rookie pilot, it’s frustrating to lose electrical power without apparent reason. I do not like to have operational systems modelled where there are no active displays or clickable switches with which to control them.
I e-mailed Overland regarding this issue, and they advise simply to use the Engine Autostart feature, which does indeed solve the problem. In fact, some World Airlines cockpits come with an Autostart button, which is a nice touch. Nonetheless, I made sure I had set up keyboard assignments for Autostart, as well as Battery On and Generator On switches, and that helped as well.
The 3D cockpits in World Airlines are very nicely done. Almost every clickable switch in every 2D cockpit is also clickable in the 3D cockpit as well. For those sim pilots looking to find Airbus jets with clickable 3D cockpits, you should be happy with the selection in World Airlines. The 3D cockpit for the A380 is my favourite in the entire package: the view out of the windscreen is excellent, and a small movement looking down will bring all of the important gauges into view at a glance. Even the GPS has a permanent gauge in the 3D view, which makes for easier navigation.
In general, the 3D cockpits do a very good job of balancing instrument visibility against having a good view out of the windscreen. The viewpoint is high, so you get a good view of the ground below. However, rotating the view around shows that the viewpoint is just inside of the pilot headrest on the Airbus planes, which means that you will see a bit of clipping with the seat back if you rotate your view that far. This is a bit ugly, but given the otherwise good layout of the 3D view, it is not a big deal for me.
The night lighting for the 3D cockpits is both functional and attractive, especially for the 777 series with their cobalt blue displays (as rendered by World Airlines, at least). Not every 2D cockpit, however, has proper night lighting, although you can certainly still see the lit gauges.
EXTERIOR VIEWS & ANIMATIONS: Models of Perfection
The number and variety of passenger jets in World Airlines is impressive, but the real star of the show has to be the exterior models of the airplanes. In a word, they are beautiful! Much attention and talent has been lavished upon making each GMAX-rendered airplane model look fantastic. Not only are the models accurate representations of the real thing, but the textures are photo-realistic, and every plane comes complete with a wide array of animating parts. Of course, the massive A380 simply dwarfs any airplane or gateway that it sits next to. The 747 is still the graceful queen of the skies. My favourites are the A319, A320, A321, and A330 series: the rounded proportions of the fuselage flow perfectly into the gloriously swept arc of the wings. These planes look so good and so real, you want to pack your flight bag and climb right in. These models are also easy on the frame rates, which makes them all the better.
One feature that was not included with the World Airlines package are passenger cabins that you can view from the inside. Again, omitting this detail should help frame rates. Although there are sim pilots who would want to see the passenger cabins in detail, given the scope of the World Airlines project, I don’t really miss having them.
Every World Airlines jet comes loaded with animations. There are the expected touches, such as turbines that spin properly, flashing beacons, rotating tires, and such. Flaps, slats, speed brakes, and landing gear extend and retract with authority, and wing and tail control surfaces including spoilers, ailerons, rudder and elevators all respond perfectly to pilot controls. The wings demonstrate flex while in flight. Then there are cabin and cargo doors that are fully operational, and as a pleasant feature, many airplanes have control switches to operate them from the cockpit.
The attention to detail in the World Airlines models is very high. At one point, I thought I had discovered a bug with the thrust reversers on the A380, in that when I applied them, only two of the four engines opened their nacelles. A visit to the Internet proved to me that indeed only the inboard engines on the A380 are equipped with thrust reversers. I congratulate the modeller who worked that feature into World Airlines!
Aircraft in series, such as the Boeing 737’s, present the sim pilot with choices of external features. For example, you may choose a 737 with winglets or none, or a jet with or without Boeing’s distinctive “eyebrow” cockpit windows (referred to as “Type A” and “Type B” windows in World Airlines). Obviously, the developers at Simmer’s Sky have done their homework with respect to airplane models.
The level of detail in the model textures is almost equally high. The World Airlines planes look like they are made from real-world metal rather than pixels. The unpainted aircraft parts shine brightly, while the painted textures have just the right degree of specularity and glossiness. The various airline livery brands are depicted with great virtual detail. The night textures are gorgeous; when bright lights such as those from the passenger cabin windows or from the taxi lamps shine upon the metal surfaces, they leave subtle glowing reflections on the wings, engines, and fuselage.
I did find some small defects with the textures on two airframes. The A340-400 had a small smudge at the base of the vertical stabilizer that was visible on more than one livery. As well, the FinnAir MD-11 has a black smudge on its tail. These texture faults are very small, and should not affect your overall sim experience with World Airlines, however, if you like taking pictures of your airplanes, you may want to restrict your camera angles with these particular aircraft.
With respect to the liveries of the various airlines that are depicted in this add-on, you will find a good assortment of air carriers from around the world. The majority of airlines are from Asian brands, with a few major carriers from Europe, Russia, and Canada. Airlines based from the United States are notably absent. World Airlines does provide some blank paint kits so that you may create your own custom liveries.
SOUND SET: Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before
The sounds that come with an airplane package are an important ingredient to its success. For what it’s worth, the World Airlines sound set seems to be taken entirely from the default MSFS Boeing 737 sound library. This means that the sounds are not bad, but they also aren’t new or completely accurate.
Given the extremely high quality of the exterior models, it seems a bit disappointing to be listening to the familiar, functional audio from the older MSFS jets. On the other hand, the sounds all work pretty much as they should, so at least there’s no jarringly bad audio, either.
OUTSTANDING ISSUES: The Bug List
World Airlines was, for me, a lot of fun to check out for this review. However, there were issues that cropped up that did cause frustrations for me. I’ve mentioned some of them already, such as the problems I had with differential brakes, the battery and generator controls, the confusion I had with some of the autopilot switches, and the minor texture faults. None of these faults in among themselves are critical, however, when you add them up, they can take away some of the enjoyment to be had with this product.
I will take this opportunity to list the other bugs I found. For instance, the cargo door light would flicker on the A319 on takeoff, although I checked to make sure the door was closed (if you want, you can fly your jet with all of the doors open, but I doubt that your virtual passengers would love you for it). As well, on the A319, I had a problem with the 2D cockpit graphics when they became somewhat corrupted (Overland gave me a simple fix for this issue by e-mail). The A340-200 showed a tendency to shimmy a bit upon pushback from the gate. There are misspellings within the cockpits of the Boeing 737 series, the 767-300ER, and the 777 series, all of the type you would see when translating Japanese into English. Again, these are not major problems, but rather just a cluster of small issues that detract from World Airlines.
The biggest problems I had with World Airlines unfortunately also come with the biggest airplane, the Airbus A380. As much as I wanted to love this jet, it did show me its blemishes. The first occurred on starting the engines. When the engines spool up to power, they tend to push the nose of the aircraft around. So starting engines 1 and 2 causes the nose to push a few degrees to the right, while starting engines 3 and 4 pushes the nose exactly the same amount to the left. As well, it’s critically important to have the engines running when activating a pushback from the gate. When I attempted a pushback with no engines running, the A380 flipped straight up onto its tail!
Another, larger problem I had was with the A380 autopilot. Apart from my attempts to figure out the autopilot controls, I found that the A380 would tend to want to “chase the needle” when arriving at altitude. The jet would slowly start to develop an oscillating flight path that would eventually grow to a change in pitch of about ten degrees, and a variance of about a hundred feet above and below the target altitude. I found that the A380 would adopt this behaviour while on time compression, or when making a transition to lower approach speeds. It’s not difficult to correct the problem with manual control, but if you plan on using the autopilot for long stretches, this flight dynamic is likely to frustrate you and your airsick passengers.
Conclusion - The Sum of Many Parts
Fly Into The Sky! World Airlines is an ambitious add-on for Flight Simulator 2000/2004 that comes to us from the Japanese publisher Overland. Featuring 20 different airframes and many liveries from all over the planet, World Airlines deserves its name. The presentation of this add-on is divided into Boeing and Airbus aircraft, featuring some airliners that are rare in other payware packages.
The quality and complexity of the World Airlines jets is approximately equal to that of the default MSFS airliners. There are a few innovative touches, but in general, the World Airlines operate and handle like the passenger jets in the default MSFS hangar. I would consider the World Airlines planes to be updates to the MSFS airliners, rather than as new operational versions. Sim pilots who are used to more complex cockpit environments will find the World Airlines to be somewhat simple to fly.
The best feature of World Airlines are the stunning aircraft models. Beautiful and realistic, these airplanes are marvellous to look at in both day and night conditions. The cockpits of each aircraft are visually sophisticated, with a very good balance maintained between the visibility of the flight instruments and the view out of the front windscreen.
World Airlines is a product that doesn't so much innovate within the Flight Simulator universe, as much as it refines it. If you are looking to expand your fleet of passenger jets but don’t want to be bothered with long manuals or flight procedures, then World Airlines should fit your bill. There are some bugs and issues that come with such a diverse product such as this, but the support technicians at Overland are informative and eager to help with your technical issues.
Since World Airlines originates from Japan, the documentation is in Japanese. I don’t read any Japanese, so Overland has provided clear and concise translations. The manual is not long, but it does cover in good detail the instructions on how to install and uninstall the product, as well as some basic information on the airplanes.
My impression of World Airlines is that it is a good add-on. There is a lot of material to explore in this product. Some of it frustrated me, and some of it was a lot of fun. There are things about it I would like to see improved, especially with regards to the Airbus A380, but I liked the presentation overall. I think World Airlines is best suited for the casual sim passenger jet pilot who wants a large variety of modern planes from the world’s exotic airlines.
For the last word, I will let the friendly people at Overland have their say. I wanted to know if they had any messages for the English-speaking readers of Avsim, and this is their reply:
“Please enjoy framerate-friendly and comfortable air travel!”
And you know, that about says it all!
|What I Like About Fly Into the Sky! World Airlines|
|What I Don't Like About Fly Into the Sky! World Airlines|
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