IcarusGold have released a vintage USA WWII Fighter i.e. the 'GRUMMAN DUCK, specifically for FSX/SP1/SP2/Acceleration. The "Duck" is a single engine amphibious bi-plane or flying boat that could also land on land-based airfields due to its having main retractable gear and being fitted with a tail wheel.
In this package there are 7 Models/variants, based around the Grumman JF2-4-5-6 series, plus there are 18 historically accurate re-paints. The variants/models differ by the type of engine, float size, weapons installed, etc. This is a large collection of this vintage WWII war plane, and goodness knows how many are left in the real world that can still fly. Included in the package are, 7 flights/missions/sceneries, 4 x WWII airfields which we are told include >50 new FSX specific objects. Eye candy extraordinaire!
Background: (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
The Duck quacked into life as a Loening amphibian plane, primarily the Loening OL. A two-seat amphibious biplane built circa the 1920's and saw service with the US Navy/Coastguard in the 20's and 30's. This is taken from the IcarusGold website and it describes the amphibian features of the Duck succinctly, "The Duck's main pontoon was blended into the fuselage, making it almost a flying boat despite its similarity to a conventional landplane which has been float-equipped. This configuration was shared with the earlier Loening OL, Grumman having acquired the rights to Loening's hull, float and undercarriage designs."
So basically, Leroy Grumman 're-designed' Loening OL variant as the Grumman J2F circa 1932 to become a replacement for the Loening USN OL's. The Grumman was designed as a single-engine amphibious biplane i.e. it is an equal-span single-bay biplane with a large monocoque central float with retractable landing gear. The Duck sported two strut-mounted stabilizer floats beneath the left and right wings (modeled by IG) and carried a crew of two or three (in tandem cockpits), forward - pilot and rear - observer/gunner) plus space for a radio operator. It also had a cabin deep in the bowels of the fuselage for two more passengers or a stretcher/trolley/gurney. It was usually powered by "Wright" engines plus a Hartzell 3-bladed constant speed propeller.
The Grumman during WWII saw action as a bomber, target puller, load carrier, 'air ambulance', aerial mapping resource, did rescue work, and was an aerial photography/reconnaissance plane with the US Armed Forces. It was reasonably fast with a top speed of ≈165 KIAS (≈305 Km/Hr). The main versions (e.g. in service in the US Armed Forces 1933) were the so called JF series, with a revised J2F-1 (1936 to 1937. The J2F-2 followed (≈1937 - 38), then the J2F-3 (1939), the J2F-4 and J2F5 (1940-41) and finally the J2F-6 (1941-42) (ex-The Columbia Aircraft Corp).
Basically, the variants are (courtesy Wikipedia):
Over 600 aircraft were built for service pre- and during WWII, with production ceasing in 1945. They were flown by allied air forces all world-wide, with some still airworthy in the 1960's (A famous Duck was featured in the Hollywood movie "Murphy's War" (1971).
Armaments and Ordnance:
The armament varied but included among others, a forward facing .30 caliber Browning mounted externally to the cylinders of the Wright radial engine, plus in some builds 2 x .30 caliber Browning machine guns in the rear gunner's position plus an extra pair of bomb racks (J2F-2A). The plane could also carry up to 650 lb (295 kg) of bombs and/or depth charges.
Installation and Documentation
Installation is simple; just double click the self extracting “exe” file and this installs the "duck" software in the correct FSX locations. However, you do need to run the "exe" file as "Administrator" and disable UAC in Windows Vista and Win7, and you also need to enter an activation code to access the software.
From the supplied installation notes: "The SETUP file will install the GRUMMAN DUCK (aircraft) automatically into the simobjects\Aircraft folder and the sceneries inside the FSX \ Add-on Scenery." In the simobjects\Airplanes folder, you get 3 entries for the IGGD, 1) Grumman_J2F, 2) Grumman_J2F_Gunner and 3) Grumman_J2F_tailhook. There is also an entry in the Start Menu\All programs folder for the Duck allowing you to uninstall it from FSX if necessary. The autogen density setting should be set to at least at "NORMAL" or higher for the best visual experience for the four scenarios/missions and the new airfield.
Installation Notes: Most important are the 'Installation Notes' which guide you through the activation process so that you can use the software post installation, plus full instructions on how to install the software manually (see below), and also how to access the planes in the FSX\simobjects folder. The notes also give details on the scenarios/missions that are available, plus the various settings needed to make the scenery work.
Note on 64-bit OS systems, you may have FSX etc installed in the Program Files or the Program Files (X86) folder and you may have to manually change the path to the correct one. Many simmers will have FSX installed in its own folder and again you may need a manual change during the install process.
ReadMe: Included in the installation package is a Readme_Icarus.txt file, giving details of the 7 models included, plus key strokes to open/close the canopy, guns and bomb dropping. In essence, being a mini version of the installation notes.
Manual: The "Pilot's Notes for Grumman Duck, prepared by IcarusGold" is a manual of some 32 pages that includes:
The manual is nicely laid out and is concise enough to read easily and quickly giving you all the essential details about the Duck models, plus how to install the plane and access the sceneries. The pictures are clear and nicely annotated and show all aspects of the package from pictures of the planes to the sceneries included.
The instrument and gauge section is clear any you can visually see what each instrument is called, plus the various knobs and switches are also clearly labeled. You even get a tutorial on how to use the tail hook for carrier landings plus how to fire the guns and drop the bombs FSX style.
My mission (and I chose to take it) in this review was to concentrate on the general flying capabilities of the "Duck" rather than on its warrior like characteristics. To me the manual was adequate, unfortunately it was not able to achieve a balance between conciseness and being able to impart the most salient information having left too much vital information out.
One hilarious statement on the website states that (sic): Complete Manual with addictional information, I didn't find anything addictive in there.
FSX settings/FSX Selection
In the Select aircraft menu in FSX under “Publisher” was a tab for “ICARUSGOLD" and this allows the choice of all 7 models and the 18/19/20 historically accurate repaints (remember to tick "show all variations" in the FSX Select Aircraft Menu). The details appended to the thumbnails of the repaints are minimal and all seem to have the specification information.
If installed correctly there will be a choice of 7 sceneries/flights/missions in the Free Flight section of FSX. I started the SIM using these flights/missions without any issues. Further in 'free flight' you can start with any one of 7 scenarios/missions from Carrier Landings to Murphy's War I and II.
I modified my settings from my usual (now known to be unrealistic) full realism to a reasonable middle of the road one in order to be able to fly the "Duck" as an amphibian aircraft, without one of the wings dipping into the water when taking-off or landing at a SPB. Reducing the "General" setting in the "Realism" section of FSX significantly to the left sorted this out. (See controls below).
This is my standard statement: In general, these are the default FSX controls and I assigned them to my Saitek X-52, TQ and rudder pedals, (assigning and calibrating in FSUIPC4) and they worked without issue, except for the models when used in water, I had to set the "General" tab in the realism settings significantly to the left. The various buttons and switches are also very easy to apply on your controller, and using FSUIPC4's plane specific options I was able to apply all assignments just to the IG Ducks. Once calibrated, the plane responded to the controls as one would expect within the limitations of the flight model!
Starting FSX with the IG Grumman Duck(s) and Flights as the default plane/flight
I had no issues selecting the plane variants or flights or opening any one of them in FSX from the starting screen,
No adverse effects that I could discern.
The Ducks appear to be fitted with 2 fuel tanks and any of the tanks can be selected individually or as "both" via a rotary fuel selector. In real life, the main fuel tank contained 150 gallons and the auxiliary tank, 65 gallons. In the IGGD the fuel is shown as 170 gallons in left and right tanks, i.e. 340 gallons total so we seem to have a discrepancy there. There is a fuel gauge (/oil pressure) for each tank. There is also a fuel pump which may not be operational due to the limitations of FSX. A fuel primer is also included as a switch.
Maintenance and Payload:
There are no engine/airframe maintenance, repair or failure options in this IG model. Payload is via the default FSX payload and fuel, but there are no options to change the payload just a blank screen. However, you can change the fuel loading and that could be important for carrier landing. When you open the payload tab in FSX, the plane is displayed as being 619lbs overweight, and to reduce this it needs a modification to the ".air" file. This apparent "overweight" did not seem to adversely affect the take-off. Flying, landing performance of the GeeDee. To me this is an area where IG need to upgrade these models
Specifications of the Duck (Courtesy Wikipedia)
• Crew: 2/3 (pilot and observer/rear gunner + radio operator)
• Capacity: 2 rescued airmen or 1 stretcher
• Length: 34 ft 0 in (10.37 m)
• Wingspan: 39 ft 0 in (11.9 m)
• Height: 13 ft 11 in (4.25 m)
• Wing area: 409 ft² (38 m²)
• Empty weight: 5,480 lb (2,485 kg)
• Loaded weight: 7,700 lb (3,496 kg)
• Engine: 1× Wright R-1820-54 nine-cylinder radial engine, 900 hp (670 kW)
• Maximum speed: 190 mph (304 km/h)
• Cruise speed: 155 mph (248 km/h)
• Stall speed: 70 mph (112 km/h)
• Range: 780 mi (1,255 km) at approx 35 gph.
• Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)
• Rate of climb: ft/min (m/s)
• 1 × Browning .30 cal machine gun (7.62 mm) on flexible mount in rear cockpit
• 650 lb (295 kg) of bombs or depth charges
The External View
This is a strange looking plane, no wonder it was called, "The Ugly Duckling", it is extremely deep and it hardly seems to be aerodynamic, but it flew pretty well. The IG models look good, similar to the real deal and now with a supplied patch, the metallic look of the skins is positively enhanced. I say this next sentence a lot in my reviews, but again for me they all look too new - it would have been more realistic to see some "well-worn" models with dirt smudges and oil and rust streaks!
Even close up, the detail looks crisp with the rivets standing out from the fuselage. The landing gear hydraulics looks good and seems realistic, the tires lack tread detail but that could be due to the type of tire, but they sit nicely on the tarmac. The front and aft wing struts are as expected, the tensioning wires are clean and smooth and the sliding canopy looks and works fine (the clunk as it opens and closes is particularly nice).
The wings have good definition and shape and compare to the real world variants. The engine including the cylinders looks sound engineering and aesthetic wise as does the 3 bladed prop (usually a constant speed Hamilton/Hartzell) plus the mounting struts, cowling, exhaust tubes and fuel feed lines, again all being nicely detailed.
I could not find any switches in the cockpit for the lights and so I used the default FSX "L" key options to operate the various lights/beacons. As far as I could tell there were no landing or taxi lights, but probably the "Duck" was a day-time plane. At night, the navigation lights and strobe all work fine and look to be in the correct positions on the wings and tail.
There are noticeable variations in the exterior models and these are modeled by IcarusGold according to the variant depicted, e.g. with regards to engine cowling, landing gear, radio/nav/radar/DF modeled as pod/loop/aerials/antennae, markings, prop finishes, but as far as I could tell they all had the same number of rivets in the body and wings. One caveat on the markings, is that some of the models had the type of Duck that it was represented plus ID markings and/or where it was stationed whereas others had no ID or markings possibly reflecting their war-time duties.
In the documentation there is a command for dropping bombs (bumbs) as there is a bombing mission but there is no way to load the bombs or are there bomb bays or racks in these models i.e. they are preloaded to a particular model. In the VC there is a flap gauge and when you press the default keys for the flaps in FSX there is a sound of flaps being engaged but no actual movement on the wings so I'm not sure why this has not been modeled.
In a real Duck there was a 'hatch' in the bottom of the hull that can be opened in flight from which to take reconnaissance pictures, but this was not modeled by IcarusGold. The Icarus models show windows in the lower compartment on both sides of the fuselage and these have even been glazed, without glass it would be a very drafty ride.
The usual suspects of gear knobs, rudder, prop pitch, etc are all well modeled. Another nice touch is the puff of oily smoke that you get when you start the engine (see sounds below).
Both the pilot (described as an "antique" on the website) and the rear crew member (rear gunner) are also animated in a "puppet-like" fashion in that the RG moves from side to side only, and the pilot seem to be looking for something he never finds. Also modeled are gunfire, engine smoke (as on fire - but no subsequent engine stopping or crash) and bomb dropping, and these are reasonably done. (see pictures below)
The repaints or historical skins
The repaints are said to be historically accurate and together with the excellent markings of the various air forces they look realistic and appropriate. However it gets very confusing as to the actual number of different repaints that are included in the package. The blurb on the website states that there are 18 liveries from 7 models all based on real-life historical Ducks; in the manual it shows 19 'historical skins' in the FSX selection, but on my machine there are actually 20 repaints.
It also gets a little complicated with variant naming, sometimes IcarusGold name the variant in the small preview window in FSX and other times they don't and some plane repaints are exactly the same but just have a different thumbnail choice. They look very similar so it's very hard to identify some of them with absolute accuracy and inexplicably the USS Heron version has USS Ranger 6 emblazoned across it.
Further, in the manual IG state that the 7 different models are F2F 2-4-5-6, but it looked like to me that there were 2 x J2F-1's also included.
I couldn't find out how the pilot/co-pilot entered the plane, was it via the lower internal area (there are no tread strips on the wings, nor is there a ladder to climb up) but there is also a sliding glazed canopy, which opens and closes with the default FSX “Shift + E” toggle setting.
The cockpit is a tandem affair and when loaded, the pilot and rear gunner face the correct way and have some limited puppet like animation. In real life, in some variants, there was also space for a third crew member e.g. radio operator but IG do not seemed to have modeled this feature. The lower internal area which could hold a stretcher + occupant or 2 passengers doesn't seem to be accessible and I couldn't find a way into this area nor could I alter the payload for it.
There is no 2D panel, just a front view with no instruments, but pressing the "W" key brings up a mini-panel unique to the IG Duck i.e. not default FSX. On the whole, the interior is realistically modeled displaying the various and varied handles, buttons, gauges, levers, lights, etc in their correct positions. Even at normal resolution, some of the gauge pointers showed signs of jaggedness, but even when zoomed in the gauges looked smooth.
The instruments look old and are better than any default FSX gauge, and one lovely touch is that the Pilot's handbook depicts one of the gauges as a 'stear engine', whatever that may mean, but on closer inspection it revealed itself as the fuel/oil temperature gauge. There is some wear on the pedals, so how do we get a pristine exterior coupled with a worn interior? That's got me stumped! However, I did like the wear/dirt patches on the pedals and various surfaces, etc.
Obviously there are no modern instruments in the panel but plenty of nicely modeled vintage ones, including compass, airspeed indicator, voltmeter, altimeter, turn indicator, bank angle, fuel, and oil pressure, etc. The instruments that you see displayed are those that date from pre- and during WWII. The majority of the gauges, knobs, switches, levers, etc is operational and can be activated from the VC using your mouse, keyboard or your favorite joystick.
It is a great shame that in these lovely old vintage models we get the default FSX GPS 295 and radio stack pop-ups and these look out of place and are certainly not historically accurate.
As I note above in the exterior model, there is no light switch on the VC panel so you have to resort using the default FSX “L” key to illuminate the panel and external navigation lights, red for port side and green for starboard side. In hindsight, I would guess that this was a plane that flew primarily during the day and may not have carried out too many night missions. The night illumination of the VC panel was nicely done being subdued but still readable. I'm not sure if this is realistic as in many planes from this era the pilot had to carry a (red filter) torch to read the instruments at night.
The Pop-Ups and Switch selections
The Shift + Numeral Keys show the various pop-ups for the planes and these do not differ according to the model.
The basic key strokes are:
On the Ground – Taxiing
The Duck has a sort of tri-cyclic landing gear, with a main retractable gear in the floats and a tail-wheel at the rear. I also found that forward vision was not particularly brilliant during taxiing, take-off and landing (especially on the carrier), so my Track IR came into its own. I cheated when landing on the carrier using the "2D" panel with the mini instruments as I found using the full VC and just instruments alone I flew into the carrier more times than I landed on its deck!
Again my standard observation, 'steering the plane using the Saitek rudder pedals and sensitive use of the differential brakes was achievable'. The tail-wheel apparently doubled as a 'water rudder', but I couldn't see a way of retracting it for take-off from the water.
Starting the Engine
Unfortunately the simplest method of starting the Duck is to use the default Ctrl + E, FSX's cheat auto-start. I'm sure, (in fact I know) that the engines can be started manually, but unfortunately there is no description on how to do this in the manual and as the 'master battery/alternator' switch (Shift + m) is missing it would be pretty difficult.
This means in my opinion, is that starting the IG Duck is not a very realistic experience and could be described as a fowl! In real life after starting you needed to keep the engine spinning above 800 rpm otherwise the plugs fouled and the engine died almost never to be started again, and this is included in the manual. In the blurb from the website it states (sic): "Mini panel and virtual cockpit with pop-ups for GPS, starter procedure”, but this was not apparent to me.
This is not a difficult plane to fly especially at my modified settings, there is little or no prop torque effect and it is quite easy to lift off. (Note: put the settings over to the right and this becomes a different matter as the prop torque effect is pronounced and it becomes quite a handful to fly). The controls are very light and initially it was easy to over compensate flying (climbing) a rollercoaster course until I got used to the controls.
As I state above there are no flaps, and I could not find any information about the Duck's take-off roll, or lift off speed which occurred for me at around 75 mph and it seemed to climb best at around 85 - 95 mph at around 1000' - 1200' fpm, taking around 11 minutes to get to 10,000'. I controlled the rate of climb by using the elevator trim and once set, the climb was effortless with the speed of the plane increasing as we got more into the flight.
In level flight, I adjusted the controls (prop pitch to coarse, elevator trim, throttle, mixture, etc) to achieve a cruise speed of around 140 - 150 mph (125 - 130 KIAS) slower than the specifications give but at this speed it was a pleasant experience to fly the plane. Once I had achieved level cruise flight a slight tweak on the elevator trim kept us on the straight and narrow.
During the review of the flight characteristics e.g. climbs, cruise flight i.e. straight and level flight (and slow) flight, turns, descents, recovery (e.g. from stalls spins, etc) and general handling and the IG Duck performed these basic maneuvers quite well. The hardest or most difficult to achieve flight characteristic is the carrier landing, which on numerous occasions I came in too fast and couldn't stop in time.
Handling the IG Duck at low speeds is quite difficult as the plane sinks as opposed to stalling when you lower the speed and without flaps the tolerances are far less forging, and trying to climb from a low level sink nearly always ended in disaster. In the end I lowered the fuel to around 50 gallons used simpler realism controls and with the 2D minipanel I achieved a little more success.
There are two AI carriers and they are nicely modeled, if only I could land on them with a little more aplomb. In spite of its shape and bulk, the Duck is quite capable of some aerobatics including loops and rolls, it can certainly be thrown around the sky but you wouldn't have wanted to be on a stretcher in the 'basement' when the plane performed these maneuvers!
Descending & Landing
Descending from altitude was smooth; reducing speed was the biggest problem as I wanted to land at around 60 mph and reducing without flaps from 150 mph needs a fair distance. My settings for landing were rich mixture, fine prop pitch, reduced throttle to reduce speed around 90 - 95 mph at 1,500'. Approaching final, I reduced speed progressively to around 85 – 90 mph at around 1,000’, reducing to around 75 mph just above the ground and flaring to land.
I used a similar technique to land on both land and water. Inevitably I came in too fast and this resulted in a resounding crash and lots of sparks and smoke billowing everywhere. On carrier landings, I felt that I was coming in too fast even at 70 mph which is just about the stall speed, at this speed there was the inevitable sparks and smoke or splash.
This was not easy to achieve as I found that the sink rate could get up to 2000' pm with the gear down, canopy open and no power, by reducing this to a more manageable 1,000' pm, gliding was possible at a speed around 110 mph (remember no flaps) and reducing speed judicially in order to land on the airfield and not in the paddock in front of it.
Actually Sitka was perfect because if you were dropping short you could land in the sea. However on many of my power-off attempts it was like flying a brick tied to an anvil and speed soon bleeds off as you try to preserve height, any glide rate below 1,000 fpm resulted in severe speed reduction and a fast descent to the ocean.
Stalls and Spins
On a normal flight after reaching around 10,000' I cut the throttle to zero and pulled the stick back to attempt to maintain level flight and it took quite a time for the speed to reduced to the theoretical stall speed at around 65 - 70 mph, a stall became difficult to achieve because as the speed dropped the nose dropped correspondingly and maintained the aircraft above the stall speed of around 65 - 70 mph.
I attempted this several times all with the same result, until my speed dropped well below the stall speed at which time the plane sank rapidly rather the typical stall and recovery was the same as you would from a typical stall. I did not hear a stall (horn) warning, so perhaps there was not one in real life or it hasn't been modeled or both.
Side slipping is a technique that allows you to lose height without gaining speed and the Duck handled appropriately (using opposite rudder and aileron. I used this technique when approaching the carrier.
There are 7 sceneries (mini-missions) included and according to the blurb these introduce 4 WWII airfields and >50 new FSX objects. The sceneries aren't bad, they’re probably much better than the default but I did find a lot of "angular" coastlines and roads where I felt that they would have been more rounded and smooth as you see in other add-on scenery.
I had some small issues with some of the sceneries as some only opened in smaller ¼ size windows. However, changing the view allowed the scenery to display in the usual full screen. Unfortunately the documentation does not name the "new 4 x WWII airfields" so I can't give you any idea of where they are situated or if the are seaplane bases (SPBs) or land-based airfields. The missions are novel and there's quite a bit to do in each of them, but I use FSX to fly airplanes rather than carrying out a private war against a long ago enemy (now an ally).
However, if you are that way inclined, the scenarios are great fun and blowing the submarine out of the water, "Murphy" like is eminently satisfying. In the planes that have a rear gunner it is quite disconcerting to see the bullets going in the opposite way to where the gun is pointing. Trick shooting at its best!
The sounds are original to the Duck (being engineered by IG) and they are very good inside and out, and I liked the start-up whine, the puff of oily smoke and finally the low growl of the big radial engine which was quite realistic when compared to real life variants viewed on You Tube. The one difference that I noticed is that the real Duck is much more 'clattery' in a metallic way than the IG Duck which is a slightly more pleasant sound, i.e. not so strident.
However, one slightly annoying sound effect occurred when I reduced the throttle e.g. to prepare for a landing there was an annoying repetitive reverberation until the sound settled down again, and I didn't hear this in the real life variants. This effect was also heard transiently on take-off and was probably due to the engine developing full power.
There are also realistic sound effects for the onboard gun(s) firing their seemingly unlimited rounds and the bombs (or 'bumbs' in the documentation - well it is an American plane) exploding on the ground below with a satisfying, 'crump', 'crump'.
Searching the AVSIM library I did not find any at the time of writing the review, but with the 18, 19, 20 included perhaps you don't need them. There did not seem to be a repaint kit included.
By support ticket with fast responses.
Summary / Closing Remarks
This is a pleasant WWII vintage warplane package published by ICARUSGOLD, with lots of quality and quantity. The Duck is quite easy to fly with light controls and it is quite speedy covering the ground at a rate of knots and in the air it is extremely forgiving with very few vices.
For my tastes, the models look too new, but they do have well proportioned and detailed textures, both in the VC and the exterior models coupled with some basic animations ground-based and airborne. The manual is adequate, but I would have liked a more detailed section on how to operate and fly the plane.
The sceneries/missions/scenarios complete this war-time package but I did see one or two texture problems which were relatively minor.
In conclusion, a fairly well represented vintage WWII biplane and scenery areas that it might have flown in. In other words, 'a bit of fun'!
What I Like About The Grumman Duck
What I Don't Like About The Grumman Duck
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