It’s not often one gets the opportunity to review a legend. It’s also not enough that transportation takes a step backwards but air travel did just that with the demise of the BAC/Aerospatiale Concorde. Our ability to travel in a commercial airliner beyond the speed of sound is now gone. Your only opportunity to do so now is by being a Military pilot or the very, very lucky passenger of one!
Second World War fighter pilots came very close to Mach 1 in dives, some reporting control difficulties due to the incredible forces acting against the control surfaces. In 1943, a Photo Reconnaissance Spitfire dove from 40,000ft and by 27,000ft had reached a recorded speed of M0.9. Man first officially travelled beyond the sound barrier in October 1947 when Captain Charles “Chuck” Yaeger of the USAF took the experimental X-1 up to Mach 1.1. It took another 6 years for Mach 2.0 to be achieved, but by now developers were beginning to appreciate the difficulties associated with flight at this speed.
Nonetheless the 1960’s saw the British Aerospace Corporation (BAC) and the French firm Aerospatiale come together to build an aircraft capable of carrying passengers faster than any of the current jet aircraft. It was, even by today’s standards, a terribly ambitious project. On 11 December 1967 though, the French rolled out F-WTSS or Concorde 001 to over 1100 guests in Toulouse. By September the following year, BAC unveiled Concorde 002 (G-BSST) at Filton near Bristol, England. The aircraft began a long path of testing and route proving until finally, in December 1975, the French and British Concorde’s each received their Certificate’s of Airworthiness (CoA).
The aircraft operated commercial flights until 24 October 2003 when the last BA flights landed at Heathrow and Concorde was officially retired. In almost 40 years of commercial service, Concorde had only 1 accident. On 25 July 2000 an Air France Concorde departing Charles De Gaulle, Paris with 109 people on board suffered a catastrophic fire causing it crash with loss of all lives and 4 people on the ground. The previous day, BA had withdrawn G-BOAE from service following the discovery of non-critical cracks in the wings. Within a few short weeks, the Certificate of Airworthiness was revoked and Concorde was grounded. The accident led to questions being raised about the aircraft’s suitability to continue flying given its age.
Modifications were made to tyres, wiring and particularly the fuel tanks to ensure an accident on the scale of that seen in Paris could not happen again, but the damage was done. CoA’s were re-issued by the British CAA and French DGAC on 5 September 2001 but the events of the following week dented any chance the airlines had of reinstating public faith in air travel, let alone air travel in Concorde. Both Air France and BA were unable to operate Concorde profitably and the only economically viable solution post 9/11 was to retire the fleet.
And that as they say, is history. The development team for this offering have themselves quite a history when it comes to Concorde development for Flight Sim. Two of the team members, Andrew Wilson and Hervé Dongmo helped develop the freeware Project Mach 2 Concorde for FS2002. Following this, they were then invited to join a commercial project supported by Koch Media and, with painter Ben Hewitt and flight model designer Paul Varn, they released the Altitude Concorde for FS 2002 and FS9. After release, they continued to work on the project and a number of contributors joined the development team, namely – John Ramberg, Lúcio Robalinho and Jan Schreiber. With the interest generated by the previous title they found many helpful resources and a much more detailed creation began. This product is a vastly updated version of the boxed Altitude add-on and an upgrade is available at a discounted price rather than buying and installing the full separate product. If you already own the Altitude Concorde, this may be of interest to you.
Installation and Documentation
At 283Mb this is a BIG download. Like all Flight 1 wrappers, you can download then purchase. If, however, you are still on dial-up then you can request a CD with the Flight 1 wrapper on it, a good bit of customer service if ever there was one. The installation process is straightforward enough and at the end you are asked if you would like to install the CIVA INS. This should be a YES every time, though unfortunately, I was guided to a defunct website and unable to download the required file.
I contacted the developers who informed me that the guys who developed the CIVA INS were having a problem with the hosts of their file. However, the CIVA INS is available here at AVSIM.com given its freeware status, so you ought not to be without it. The install over and done with, you’ll now find a few utilities and documents on the SST SIM option installed in your Program Files menu.
One is for the load and takeoff calculator, one for the fleet manager, one for the fuel calculator and one for the repaint manager. The fuel calculator is little more than a rough guess-timate which ensures you’ll have enough fuel to make your destination and I’m sure there is scope for improvement on this. The fleet manager enables you to set which airframes within the British Airways (BA) and Air France (AF) fleet using 32 bit textures and which use the lower quality DXT3 textures. When installing Repaints, another utility allows you set whether it’ll use a combination of 2d Cockpit only, 2D, VC and virtual cabin and/or 2D and a Hi-res VC. The Load and takeoff manager is a very good piece of software though and allows you to adjust the load of the aircraft to suit.
Once the load and fuel is set, the takeoff calculator then works out the relevant V speeds and more. Various throttle and fuel bug settings are determined along with the noise abatement time. This was the point on takeoff that the reheats be turned off to limit noise. They need to be on long enough for Concorde to reach speed, but not too long that they upset the locals! The necessary V speeds with one reheat failed are also calculated and all are stored for your flight. Essentially, this means that upon loading the Concorde, you’ll find all the bugs set as they were calculated, including the timer on the stop clock which will run down to zero once you commence take off roll.
As you approach zero, you’ll hear the co-pilot on the BA flights call out “3-2-1-Noise” at which point you switch off the reheats. Brilliant! The documentation also includes a whole host of BA and AF Flight Plans and an Air Operating Manual which gives an interesting insight into the aircraft, although it isn’t 100% required reading for mastering this add-on. The minimum system requirements are Windows XP, a 1.8GHz P4 (or equivalent), 512Mb RAM and a 32Mb Graphics card. The recommended system though is a 3.0GHz P4, with 1Gb of RAM and as with most modern add-ons, the best graphics card you can afford. My system spec is the same as the recommended and I can report having had no problems in terms of performance or frame rates.
Concorde is a child of the 60’s and is therefore not blessed with LCD units like the latest Boeing or Airbus offerings. The only LCD screen is the TCAS which was retro-fitted to ensure compliance with aviation law in the US. Updating the cockpit was considered but the cost involved would never have been recovered during the lifespan of the aircraft. Nevertheless, all the information you need is there, just don’t expect to have the same situational awareness you may be used to flying a Boeing or an Airbus.
There is no MAP or PLAN display so no Magenta line to follow, no FMC to step through your waypoints and ensure they join a coherent line between you and your destination. Check, check and check again is the order of the day here when inputting your flight plan into the INS. If you’ve got it right, then the HSI will point you in the correct direction. Alternatively, you can use the RAD/INS switch to take your Automatic Flight Direction from the NAV radios and follow VORs. The process may be different but the principles are just what you’re used to. The panel has a number of hidden clickspots to access the various sub panels used in preparation and during flight. Learning where everything is can be a complex and frustrating time and I personally felt that this process was more easily achieved the PSS way. That’s not to denigrate the SST SIM Panel, which is complex in line with the real world panel, yet still works beautifully well.
The differences between the British and French panels are modelled such as the different clock used and the fact that the AF noise procedure called for pilots to call out “Moins 5” and “Reduction.” Each panel also contains a placard with the registration of the particular airframe and also it’s unique SELCAL code on. The 2D panel gave me perfectly acceptable frame rates at Gary Summons Heathrow Pro however, you will get noticeable slowdown if you crank up the AI traffic at detailed airports.
Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast. A very detailed panel, with lots of gauges constantly in need of updating will drain even powerful systems if you ask too much from them. As with any modern flight sim offering, faster CPUs, more memory and better video cards never hurt, but at least on my moderate system, SST SIM Concorde does not cause total carnage with the frame rates.
The only negative I can give the panel is for its overall look. It’s not that it’s in any way bad, just that I prefer the PSS Panel, but that may not be the opinion of the masses, only my personal preference.. There is no doubt though, that the SST SIM Panel has more features and functionality than its PSS contemporary. The overall functionality is something which sets this product apart from other commercial add-ons. Over 200 buttons, switches, gauges and dials are modelled and every one of them seems to do something. Of the few areas that aren’t modelled, my guess is that the development team will not be happy letting the grass grow under their feet. If they can find a way to model it, they will.
The blurb on the SSTSIM website says that the panel has: “Advanced functionality, programmed using engineering schematics with input from a whole range of Technical Advisors” and “Concorde SSTSIM requires continuous attention throughout the flight!” I’ve copied this direct from their website because in all honesty, I could not have put it better myself.
Ask yourself how many of us have set up a flight, departed, taken off, and then got up and left the PC whilst “George” flies your A340, 744 or 767 across the Atlantic? Some modern add-ons even have a “pause at Top of Descent” option. Why? Do they have that in real aircraft? No, but shameless hour builders in VA’s love flying long-haul whilst they are actually asleep, selecting this option so that in the morning they can awake to find that 14 hr flight to Sydney is all but done, with only the descent, approach and landing requiring their attention.
OK, so maybe that’s not the exact reason, but it’s certainly what some people use it for. Don’t expect any of that here as this is an aircraft modelled ultra-closely to its real world counterpart and like that aircraft, requires constant attention. The panel allows you to do the job of three people quite easily and the virtual fuel engineer lightens the load considerably. Of course, should you wish to add to the challenge, then turning the VFE Off will mean you have to transfer the fuel yourself, enhancing considerably the difficulty associated with flying Concorde. Mastery of this cockpit will bring enormous satisfaction and is not by any means impossible.
Concorde doesn’t have an FMC with thousands of stored waypoints, as they didn’t exist in the 1960s. Instead an Inertial Navigation System using co-ordinates of latitude and longitude to determine its position in the world is used. It needs aligning in much the same way as the IRS units on a Boeing but other than that, all you need to do is feed in up to 9 waypoints that the aircraft can follow in sequence. If you have not completed your flight by the time you reach waypoint 9 you simply go back to waypoint 1 and use it. Forget to do this and you’ll find the aircraft turning at waypoint 9 and heading back to the first fix on your flight.
Just as the IRS updates itself from VOR fixes, you can do the same with DME updating on an INS, a feature which is modelled on the CIVA INS. It should be noted that the Carousel Inertial Navigation System is not actually developed by the same team as the rest of the package. To that extent, it’s perhaps not fair of me to review it. However, it is such an integral part of the Concorde SST SIM experience that it cannot go without a mention. It is also an awesome piece of work which deserves credit.
It is a freeware gauge which can be implemented into any aircraft such as the RFP 742 or the Captain Sim 707 and 727. It is well worth a look, as getting to grips with this is key to gaining full enjoyment and mastery of the Concorde. My only concern in this respect is that a fundamental part of the package is not ‘owned’ (for want of a better word) by the Concorde SST SIM team. Their explanation of this is 100% sound in reasoning – why develop something when it already exists as freeware?
The 3D model is of a quality you’d expect from any of today’s big developers and waaaay better than the PSS model. It’s been created using GMax and the beauty of it is not to be understated, it is quite simple stunning. All three Concorde variants (Prototype, Pre-production and Production models) have been done along with a host of textures for them, both in high-detail 32 Bit and the lighter DXT3.
Practically every rivet on the body is modelled, the nose and visor is done in an accurate way as is the landing gear. The variable nozzles, including thrust reversers operate very well and the dirty smoke which comes out of the four Olympus 593s in reheat is very authentic. The Prototype model was particularly bad for this and this extra dirty smoke effect is modelled.
Indeed the reheats themselves are modelled very accurately, taking 5 seconds to reach full effect with the lag in the number 4 engine quite clearly visible when you advance the throttles on take off. The Ramp doors, which slow the supersonic air into the engines and the spill doors, which dump excess air out of the nacelle are all detailed and operate as they should. In the event of power failure, Concorde had, just like modern jets, A Ram Air Turbine (RAT). This is also detailed and can be deployed from a cockpit switch.
The elevons droop prior to starting the engines, and the split rudder will move with the wind due to a lack of hydraulic pressure just as they did in real life, a nice touch of detail. The passenger doors and rear cargo doors open and are quite detailed, window wipers operate in 2D, VC and external views and condensation effects on the big, delta wings only occurs when the atmospheric conditions are correct. When departing from a wet runway, you’ll also see a cloud of spray behind the aircraft as it hurtles down the runway. Put simply, this exterior model is without question the best rendition of a Concorde yet seen for Flight Simulation, let alone the three separate types of Concorde you get!
The Interior model comes in two options, either a Hi-Res VC and forward galley or a low-res option with a passenger cabin. The passenger cabin is modelled in line with the carrier and also in line with the particular livery. For example, a BA Concorde pre-2001 had a grey leather interior. Post 2001 you can see the seats are blue and even a different style! The famous Concorde display on the bulkheads welcomes you aboard before departure. During flight it gives the Temperature, Ground Speed, Altitude, Distance remaining and the all important Mach number. On arrival it thanks you for flying Concorde!
The prototype and pre-production models have a cabin full of test equipment and the view from the flight deck is different due to the different nose and visor configuration. All of this shows an exceptional level of detail but what really is beyond the expected is the forward galley. As an example, the BA Concorde has the Speedmarque logo on the galley units, a pot of coffee brewing and a toilet complete with toiletries! This is arguably the most detailed virtual cabin I have seen yet, particularly with respect to the passenger displays which actually show real-time information, namely speed, altitude, OAT and distance to go. On seeing this, one wonders when a developer will have working TV screens for showing movies etc on the back of seats.
The VC is fully clickable and surprisingly, quite flyable. In fact, I found that this is the only aircraft where I prefer to land manually using the VC rather than the 2D panel. Frame rates on my machine were in the low teens but that is quite astonishing considering the complexity of the cockpit. Using the Hi-Resolution VC for me did not necessarily increase the quality of the panel and gauges but did reduce the fps. This may well be a system specific thing, but for me, Hi-Res VC whilst flying online was a killer and as I said, did not bring a particularly noticeable improvement in gauge quality anyway.
Fantastic. Awesome. Amazing. Tremendous. Glorious. Excellent. I am literally running out of superlatives to use in describing the soundest.
The callout of the co-pilots (English accent for a British Airways Concorde, French for Air France), to the difference in noise levels between reheats on and off, to the differing noise levels between the visor being up or down, they are all remarkable (OK so I’m not running out of superlatives, it’s that good I really could go on all day!). Developed from scratch using recordings from both internal and external sources, this sound set is an excellent rendition of what I’d imagine Concorde sounded like. Even the chimes associated with the trim wheel movement are included.
Many of the development team have travelled on Concorde at least once, including Andrew Wilson and he believes it to be the most authentic representation of Concorde sounds ever heard in FS. He and a few others had airside access to a Concorde on the last flight into Filton, where they were able to record some sounds direct from source – the Olympus 593 engines! Internal cockpit sounds were sourced from the BA Simulator. I’ve not travelled on Concorde, but nor I’m I going to disagree with him.
This package is almost worth the sounds alone. I am conscious of the fact I have written less about the Sounds than any other package. All I need to say is that they are beyond question the best sounds I have heard in FS to date. The only thing they lack is the Captain’s PA address to the passengers and crew and in turn the cabin crew address which we know and love so much in the LDS 767. But that’s a VERY minor observation let’s be honest.
Many packages proclaim to have been tested by real-world pilots, but in this case, there have been more people stand on the summit of Mt Everest than have piloted Concorde. Therefore to claim to have this model tested by a real world Concorde pilot, is quite something else. In fact, no less than FIVE Concorde pilots (British Airways Concorde Pilots, including Captain Mike Banister, Captain David Rowland, Captain Adrian Thompson, Captain Tim Orchard and First Office Chris Orlebar ) have flown this particular add-on and have provided positive feedback on its relative performance.
Concorde Flight Performance Manager Ian Gardiner and US Flight Operations Manager Campbell Pritchett have also flown it and added their thought to the development process. The Concorde Training captain at BA Virtual, Paul Haworth is also on the team and an excellent source of Concorde related information in his own right, that's very helpful on the support forum, believe you me.
Now, I am but a flight simmer like many of the rest of you, with 1 solitary hour in a Piper Warrior and a handful of hours in Gliders, so if BA’s Chief Concorde Pilot Mike Bannister says the airfile/flight model is realistic, then who am I to argue! Enough said?
After reading this far, I’m guessing that you’re wondering if you should go out and buy this add-on? If you’re a serious Concorde fan then the answer is a definite “YES!” If you currently use the PSS Concorde, you will get more out of this package but to be honest, if you use your PSS Concorde only now and then, you probably won’t be getting that much extra value from upgrading to the SST SIM. With the SST SIM, the 3D model is far superior as is the sound set, documentation and utilities but at the end of the day, they are both complex renditions of the same aircraft, the SST SIM just having a few more ‘bells and whistles.’ It is through those extra bells and whistles though, that makes the difference.
This Concorde handles very well and is a joy to taxi and fly. Anyone who is familiar with the PSS Concorde, the Captain Sim 707 or 727, or the Ready For Pushback 747-200 will be at relative ease in the cockpit. Those of you who are users of modern Airbus or Boeings may well find the set-up overwhelming. If, however, you consider yourself a ‘serious’ flightsimmer, then this challenge ought to inspire. Any idiot can get in a military jet and break the sound barrier, but it is a whole new ball game to do so in a commercial jet full of passengers sipping Champagne.
Meeting the challenge of crossing the Atlantic at Mach 2.02 and FL600 for the first time was, for me, the pinnacle of my virtual flying career. It cannot be understated that anyone who gets to grips with this Concorde will gain enormous enjoyment and satisfaction from it. It is so complex that you will have to fly by the checklist or else you will simply miss something. That one thing could be the difference between a successful flight and an unsuccessful one.
If you are wary at all of purchasing add-ons for FS9 in the knowledge that FSX is not far away, then you needn’t be worried about this product. It is the developer’s aspiration to release a boxed version making use of whatever new features they can for FSX. They intend to make some sort of upgrade patch available to those who already own a copy of this add-on for FS9.
When all is said and done, in my opinion, the developers of SST SIM deserve much recognition and praise for their work. Andrew Wilson and his team have created a product which matches great titles such as the LDS 767 and PMDG 744 in every respect. The model is as good as anything I’ve seen and the soundest better. Had the panel been a bit more easily navigable, this would have been as near to perfect as it could get, but certainly don’t let that put you off. There is no question in my mind that the Concorde SST SIM team should be held in the same high regard as the ‘blue-chip’ developers like PSS, PMDG, Captain Sim and Level-D. This Concorde add-on is as good as anything the ‘big 4’ have rolled out recently.
warned though - If you like to just jump in and fly, then this
aircraft is not for you. It does take time to master and things
can go easily wrong if you try to take short cuts or don't pay
detail. The support forum is worth its weight in gold and will
have you at Mach 2.02 in no time at all. I need to say this though
those who read this review and think “I want that add-on” will
feel that I’ve sold them a dummy when they realise the
full weight of what their cash has just bought. If you have the
(and inclination) to learn about an important aspect of aviation
or you consider yourself to be a serious flightsimmer wanting
to take your simming to another level – go out and buy
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