AVSIM Commercial Aircraft Review

Just Flight
P-38 Lightning

Product Information

Publisher: Just Flight / Aeroplane Heaven

Description: WWII aircraft add-on.

Download Size:
102 MB

Download or DVD
Simulation Type:
Reviewed by: Colin McFadden AVSIM Staff Reviewer - September 1, 2008

The Fork-tailed Devil!

According to the German Luftwaffe during the World War II campaign in 1942, the legendary P-38 Lightning earned the nickname "Der Gabelschwanz Teufel”; German for the Fork-tailed Devil! During that period, the need for an important fighter was in high demand. The P-38 Lightning became an important fighter, providing air support, escort and interception capabilities.

Well, I am pleased to tell you that Aeroplane Heaven and Just Flight also found the need for an important fighter to zoom across the flight simulator skies! And what an amazing job they did; here is a short list of the many features of this beautiful and historic aircraft:

• Highly detailed and fully functional virtual cockpit
• Unique Liqui-Drive ™ smooth gauges set in authentic housings
• Drop tanks can be jettisoned (dropped) from the controls in the VC
• Highly detailed gun and camera bays
• Removable gun-sight for improved vision
• Working guns and cannon
• High-quality sound set. And I mean quality!
• Much, much more…

So as you can see, this thing is packed. Included in the package, you will receive two different models, the P-38F and P-38J, with a total of 17 different liveries and modifications listed here:

P38F Lightning “Glacier Girl”

• 'Bat out of Hell' 94th Squadron Sardinia 1943
• 'Beautiful Lass' 9th Squadron, 49th Fighter Group
• 'Tangerine' Mediterranean theatre

P38F-4 Photo-reconnaissance machine

• 56th Squadron RAAF, ex “44” USAAF

P38J Fighters

• 'Marge' Top scoring ace Richard Bong’s aircraft
• Joseph Myers’ 'Journey’s End'
• 'Curly Six' typical ground strafer of the late war
• 'Gung Ho'
• 'Porky II' of the 80th Fighter Squadron
• 'Lazy Lady' flown by Lt. Glen C. Holder of the 36th FS, 8th FG, Pacific theatre

P38J - 15-LO Late model 'J”'with dive recovery flaps

• Typical machine based at Kingscliffe in 1944
• Robert Anderson’s 'Virginia Marie' 5th AF Biak Island 1944

P38J-F5 Photo-reconnaissance

• 'Sweet Dream'
• Standard Photo-reconnaissance scheme
• Antoine de St. Exupery’s machine in which he disappeared in 1944
• Machine flown by W/Cdr Adrian Warburt

Brief History of the P38 Lightning

Before I get into a brief history of this beautiful aircraft, I’d like to comment that there is a a great website to learn more about the aircraft and its history, as well as the first page of the documentation included with the Just Flight P-38 Lightning documentation.

Before it rolled out of its hangar in December 1938, nobody had seen such an aircraft. Powered by two supercharged Allison V-1710 engines, the P38 set several world records. P-38F’s were built with a standard armament package of four 12.7mm machine guns with 500 rounds per gun, and a Hispano 20mm cannon with 150 rounds per cannon, mounted in the nose. Photo-reconnaissance versions we also made with arms, and designated F-5’s. These two configurations would be in all P38 versions.

One of the most serious problems with the P38 early on was “compressibility”. When aircraft began dives above altitudes of 20,000ft, ‘splashed’ airflow over the leading edge of the wing caused a shockwave effect rendering the controls almost inoperable. However, the P38 was still approved for production and that problem was later fixed with the development of the dive recovery flaps, which allowed the pilot to get out of such a dive.

P38’s made with drop tanks had an extensive range and were ferried to England to support the bomber fleets flying over Germany from English bases. On one of these ferries, one P38 Lightning was forced to land in the Arctic Circle during a bad blizzard. Sixty years later it was discovered buried in almost 100 meters of ice, and was renamed “Glacier Girl” (included in this package)!

The most produced version of the P38 Lightning was the P38-L. It had the most powerful engines and had attachments for under-wing rockets! However, with the introduction of the P-51 Mustang to take over the job of escorting bombers, the P38 Lightning switched roles as an extremely effective ground attack aircraft and bomber. P38’s were undoubtedly the most admired aircraft in World War II, shooting down more of the impressive Zero’s than any other aircraft type.

Installation and Documentation

Install and un-install

Installation for the Just Flight P38 Lightning is quite simple and straightforward. The menu is eye-catching and user friendly, and probably the hardest thing about installation will be placing the shiny CD into your drive tray! As soon as you insert the disc, you will be greeted by an introduction screen with the perplexing option to download the FS2004 version or the FSX version.

From there, it’s the same familiar installer. Choose your path, click "next" a couple times, wait a whopping 10 seconds, and click Finish. Viola, you have successfully installed the beautiful P38 Lightning! All aspects of installation are covered in the documentation, including FAQ’s.

Un-installation is just as easy as installation. To un-install, all you have to do is the normal Start > Control Panel >> Add/Remove Programs, and find the P38 Lightning; then click.

By clicking “Additional Products" on the DVD's main menu screen (as I referred to as the “greeting” screen), you can watch videos and purchase Just Flight’s plethora of other quality products.


This is always the first thing I look for when I open up a fresh box or file; the documentation. Just Flight did a great job designing the cover of the booklet, it’s a very eye-pleasing graphic labeled as “Pilot’s Notes”. This 25 page booklet is a MUST to read. I assure you, if you want to fly this historic aircraft with any deal of accomplishment, you have to read the documentation. And believe me, when you are finally able to start up the P-38 from “Cold and Dark” without the Ctrl-E command, you’ll feel great!

The documentation begins with a brief but inspiring history of the fork-tailed devil, followed by real-world specifications of the aircraft models, as well as an overview of the key features of the product. While there are only two core models in the package, the P-38F and P-38J, there are 17 aircraft included.

Of those, 14 have a brief history, or description. One of my favorites is “Glacier Girl”, who crash landed on a polar ice cap and was recovered 60 years later. Today it sits at the Lost Squadron Museum! More information on this aircraft can be found at www.thelostsqadron.com. After that is the rather extensive installation section, which you will want to take a look at as well.

The most important section of the documentation, to me, comes next. Titled ”Aircraft Walk Around”, you will find a detailed description about everything on the exterior and interior of the plane. You will need to look at this to become more familiar with the cockpit. Included are pictures of the cockpit, and a complete list of all the gauges and switches (well, most switches; You’ll see what I’m talking about in the “cockpit” section).

Following this is a “tutorial flight”, telling you everything you need to do from Cold and Dark to taxi, takeoff, climb and flight, approach, and landing. It’s a bunch to take in, but again, you’ll feel really good once you’re operating this beast!

Interior Model

The only 2D thing on the plane!

2D Panel

Well, there is none! However, there is one feature of this aircraft that is 2D, and that’s the radio stack. By pressing the SHIFT + 2 key combinations, it shows up, as seen in the screenshot.

Virtual Cockpit

Considering this add-on is a virtual cockpit only aircraft, I guess we will skip the 2D panel review! Right off the bat, I recommend you go out and buy a program such as DBS Walk & Follow, or a freeware program such as F1View (which is what I use). Without such a program, your experience in a virtual cockpit will be so much less immersive.

Let’s go ahead and climb into the P38 Lightning waiting for us in our parking spot! To open the overhead window hatch, you press the “/” key, the one you probably use to activate spoilers in commercial flight in FS2004. When you finally hop in, you will see a bunch of switches and steam gauges, and of course, the always recognizable throttle quadrant. The documentation labels almost every gauge and switch inside of the virtual cockpit. You definitely should take a look at that to become more familiar with the aircraft.

Taking a look inside the Cockpit before hopping in! An overview of the panel.
A closer look at the gauges. A closer look at the throttle quadrant.

One of my biggest troubles I had when I first began flying the P-38, was starting it up from cold and dark. In the documentation, it tells you to switch a few switches, pull a couple of knobs, and click the ignition switches to start the engines. Well, the documentation did not label the ignition switch, and when you hover over the actual switch, it is named something totally different. When I would press these starter switches, the engine would begin to turn on, but then right back off. Just remember, to start the engines, you need to CONTINUALLY click the two ignition switches (one at a time), and then the propellers will finally begin to spin.

The starter switches that require continuous clicking to start.

After about two days of troubles with this, I emailed Aeroplane Heaven. A friendly representative nick-named “Baz” responded to me a few days later and helped me through the problem. It’s not hard, but as I said, you must continually click the starter switches to keep them up. You’ll know what I mean after you work your way through the steps in the documentation. This was really the only problem I had while testing.

It is a very well laid out cockpit, and after a couple days of familiarization, you’ll be a pro! The switches used for start up, generator control and lighting are generally grouped together, so you shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding them.

Now, since there are two different models, the P38-J, and the P38-F, you may be wondering what the differences between the two are. Other than the obvious differences in the cockpit, such as the yoke and the more cluttered look of the P38-J, there are gun charging and cocking levers to the left next to the throttle quadrant. You know, the thing that looks like a doorknob!

Also, there are minor performance specifications that separate them; the J model travels faster with a max speed of 414mph, compared to the F model’s 395mph. Also, the J model has a 5,000 foot higher service ceiling then the F model. Both models are lots of fun, and as you can see in the photo at the top of this review, the guns do fire! However, there are no effects if you shoot on the ground or at something.

P38-F P38-J

While flying, I found it very easy to understand the gauges. Everything is pretty much right in front of you, no need to worry about overheads or anything. That’s what I enjoyed the most while flying this aircraft. It is quite straightforword after reading the documentation. Overall, I am extremely impressed with what Aeroplane Heaven was able to do with the virtual cockpit, and have no other comments about the operation of it, besides the starter switches.

In my back and forward emails with “Baz”, he told me that his favorite part about flying this aircraft is the immersion in the cockpit. He then stated that he spent a lot of time creating that effect, and it paid off! And now, for your viewing pleasure, a few more photos of this beautiful virtual cockpit:

A quick look at the radio gear and switches for recognition lights, flap control and other minor controls. Preparing to tear down the runway!
Glancing over at the propeller Looking at the wing to the right.

External Model

Now let’s step outside the P38 Lightning and take a look at its exterior. Aeroplane Heaven created a beautiful model. I found it funny and neat that they included an animated man inside of the cockpit, which you can see from the exterior. The photos below show a few angles of the aircraft up close; everything is so detailed, as you can see.

While I tested all 17 variants, I primarily flew only two of my favorite aircraft in the package: the P38-J “Curly Six” model as well as the P38-F “44” USAAF variant. There is almost no difference between the external looks of these models and other variants, except for the camera bays on the photo-reconnaissance aircraft.

P38-F P38-J

There is a large array of animated features on the P38 Lightning. Animated features include the window hatch (main exit), flaps, landing gear, propeller mixture, operating guns, opening gun and camera bays; this is on top of all the normal animations you would expect in any aircraft. Another animation that I found to be neat was the dive recovery flaps. We will cover those when we get into flight dynamics; a very cool feature.

My favorite animation is of the opening and closing gun bays. It truly adds some extra immersion when preparing for flight, or when parked at the end of your dogfight!

Opening gun bays;
image courtesy of Just Flight
Opening of the main window hatches. Testing out the guns on take off!

I just love staring at this machine! The exterior of this aircraft was done in such great detail, it’s hard not to. After you learn all of the key strokes to use all of the different animations, the fun really begins. I am extremely impressed with this aircraft.


The sounds for the P-38 are custom made by Modular 9. They will, without a doubt, blow you away! I believe the sounds are one of the most important parts of this package. The sound experience is incredible; the roar of the engines at full throttle would make anyone melt! Sounds are also great for flaps, landing gear and even down to the smallest things such as the opening and closing of the window hatch.

Flight Dynamics

Considering I’ve never had the pleasure of flying the P38 Lightning, I am definitely no expert at how the dynamics are supposed to be. However, after flying the flight simulator version of this aircraft, you’ll quickly find out this is no Airbus or Boeing! It takes a lot of getting used to, as many aspects of flight can be very difficult if you don’t read the documentation.

Banking left right after take off

Takeoff was one aspect that surprised me. On my first trial run, I set the flaps to “0” for takeoff, which is obviously not realistic, I just wanted to see the results. It took about half the runway at KSEA to takeoff, and the climb was rather slow.

On my second trial, following the documentation instructions, everything changed. After about a ¼ of the runway, I almost literally lifted off! Surprised, I pulled back on my joystick slightly, and bam, I was around 3,000ft in the air when I passed the end of the runway! That is just an example of how responsive and fast the P38 has the ability to climb. Typical speed to take off is around 100mph, and you should keep your RPM’s (Rotations Per Minute) at 3,000 during take off, and then down to around 2,600 RPM on climb; 160mph is the optimal climb speed.

The rest of your flight will be almost hilariously easy, unless you run into a pack of Zero’s, of course! When set up properly following the documentation, the P38 will basically fly herself. I left my computer for about 30 minutes after establishing I was in cruise, and the aircraft decreased in altitude by about 20 feet! Not bad, not bad at all.

Of course, for the most efficient flight, you need to manage your engine and speed according to your altitude. Once you reach an opposing enemy and you are ready for intense combat, drop the jettison tanks via the tank control box behind the throttle quadrant. After shooting down an enemy on a straight down nose dive, you may find yourself having a little trouble leveling off again; don’t frett! Thanks to the dive recovery flaps activated by using the spoiler key or button on the yoke, you should be able to come out of your dive easier, and go along your merry way! By the way, the stall speed for the P38 with flaps and landing gear down is 69mph, and it should just “mush” forward before recovery.

In the middle of a barrel roll!

The most exciting part of flight for me was going up to about 15,000ft and just free styling’ it with banks, twists, turns, and front/back flips! The P38 is extremely fast and responsive on those barrel rolls, and being able to do whatever you want high up in the sky is a great feeling, even if it is a simulation!

Approach and landing are, by far, the most difficult aspects of controlling this aircraft. After almost 35 hours of flight and numerous take offs and landings, it’s NEVER perfect! I usually touch down far right of the centerline! Once you have the flaps and landing gear down, almost any movement of your joystick will create a significant change in direction.

Landing takes some intense concentration, but it’s so much fun! According to the documentation, you should flare with full flaps, landing gear down at 80mph. Once you touch down, let the nose drop by itself, and then you’re done! Taxi to your parking space and shut ‘er down! Then, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


Test System

Compaq Presario V2000 AMD Turion64 1.8GHz
1024MB RAM
Microsoft SideWinder Joystick
17” Monitor
Plantronic Audio 650 Headset

Flying Time:
34.5 hours

Though my PC is not quite “top of the line”, the Just Flight P38 Lightning performs very well during flight. I was initially worried about this when I saw that the aircraft was a virtual cockpit only aircraft. However, everything functions super smooth. The Liqui-Drive gauges are an amazing feature for those without great computers and keeps the gauges and needles moving smoothly and fluently.

I don’t need to spend too much time explaining this to you; I just want you to know that this could run on most systems without much lag or jerkiness.

Summary / Closing Remarks

So, the verdict? The P38 Lightning by Aeroplane Heaven is a highly detailed, smooth, and frame rate friendly FS2004 aircraft add-on that could hook even the biggest commercial jet pilot. While I believe Aeroplane Heaven priced the P38 Lightning slightly high, there I no doubt that it’s worth the money.

I myself don’t necessarily like to fly combat aircraft in FS, but the P38 Lightning is such a fun and challenging aircraft that I’m flying it everyday, trying to do new things with it. Baz, the representative I talked to over at Aeroplane Heaven, was accurate when he told me they spent a lot of time to create that immerse and real feeling of flying a powerful twin.

So, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second in telling you to get this P38 Lightning. You won’t regret it!


What I Like About The P-38 Lightning

  • Extremely detailed and functional 3D virtual cockpit.
  • High-quality sound set created by Modular 9 is incredible, truly showcasing the power of the aircraft.
  • Highly detailed external model; including the animation of the detaching jettison fuel tanks
  • Very accurate and fun flight dynamics; barrel rolls are addicting!
  • 17 different models and liveries
  • Detailed gun and camera bays
  • Frame-rate friendly
  • Very smooth-moving gauges (thanks to the unique Liqui-Drive technology)
  • Detailed documentation
  • Great customer support; friendly representatives
  • The warm, fuzzy feeling you get spinning and maneuvering; making commercial pilots jealous!


What I Don't Like About The P-38 Lightning

  • While detailed, some parts of the documentation are vague, most notably the “engine start up” section of the tutorial flight.
  • I believe it is an awesome product, but a little too expensive.
  • A bit of a learning curve.



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