The term Legend is often overused in today’s society. In the world of aviation, few aircraft have done more to earn this title than the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.
Now, more than 50 years after its first flight, it is still the product of choice for almost all the world’s air forces and is constantly being upgraded, adapted and improved. From a serious weapon of war like the “AC-130 Gunship” to a real “Angel of Mercy” whenever disasters strike, this aircraft has done it all.
Be it military or civil, there is a C-130 for almost every occasion, no wonder that the Flight Sim community have been eagerly awaiting a really top quality version, for years.
Never before have I come across an add-on product that has caused such strong feelings on the Avsim forums as the Captain Sim “Legendary C-130”. With this in mind, I have decided to review this product in two stages. First, I will look at this aircraft and its features as it is available from the developer’s site. This will give today’s prospective purchasers an idea of what they are getting for their money.
Criticisms of Captain Sim in the past have been their alleged attitude to customer’s problems and also, (for this project in particular), the high retail price. I have heard several forum users state that “nobody can justify an add-on that is priced higher than the platform program it uses”, in this case MSFS 2004. Add to this mix a development period of three years and many delays, you can see why this normally “benign” FS community of ours has gotten a little “hot under the collar” with the “Captain Sim Legendary C-130”.
To address all of these issues and to enable a much deeper review of this very complex project, a second instalment of this review will cover panels and sub systems, add-on liveries and the way Captain Sim responds to any problems and technical queries that may arise. At the end of this period, which I estimate being several weeks, we will award the Avsim Star Rating, for this product as a whole.
This review is based on the “Pro” version currently available for download, priced at $51.30 (US) directly from the developers.
Purchasing and Installation
If you have got this far, you must have an interest in this product, so what is it like, straight out of the box (or download in this case)? On obtaining an order code via e-mail, I was given a link to the product download site. After entering my order code, I was able to download straight away.
A fairly slow 76 MB download later, it was time to install. Keep your order code handy now, because the installer will require it and please remember to stay “on-line” during this process as the install program needs this to verify the order.
On my first attempt, I was instantly greeted with an “attempts to install exceeds limit” message. Not a good start!
FS forums to the rescue; I have heard of this problem and the cure in my case was simple (but may not be good for the faint hearted amongst you). Turn off your firewall. A successful install process followed (it takes about a minute) and the Legendary C-130 automatically installs directly into your MSFS 2004 main directory.
There is the usual “Browse” option for those of you who keep their MSFS in a non-default directory. Remember to re-activate your firewall at this stage, if you needed to disable it!
So far, so good (ish); a new icon (the C130 ACE device) will have been placed on your desktop, but let us ignore that for the moment and fire up FS2004…..after all this time and all those (endless) previews…… LET ME AT IT!
Once a flight is selected (I always start MSFS with a default aircraft, first), I selected from the newly added Captain Sim sub-menu, the RAF C-130K Hercules with the 1980’s colour scheme, one of the three models and 10 international colour schemes included in this release package. My selection is based on the fact that I have had first hand real world experience of this model, so am able to comment with a little more authority, than some of the other international versions included.
Starting with the 2D panel view, I was presented with a perfectly respectable, but not exactly “jaw dropping” display. However, everything seemed to be where it should be. An area of small FS type buttons fill the bottom left hand corner of the screen. These give a clue to what is available here: sub panels, sub panels and more sub panels. A grand total of (and I needed my calculator here) 394 switches, knobs and indicators (collectively called operative elements by the developers) are available to the virtual pilot.
At this stage I made a serious mental note to find myself the manual and quickly changed to the Dynamic Virtual Cockpit mode. Now, when I said “quickly”, this may have been an overstatement on my part. My PC system is what you may call “average” and as a result of this, the DVC appeared in a number of textured instalments over a period of 2-3 seconds! But, oh boy, was it worth the wait!
This virtual cockpit is one of the very best I have ever seen; virtually every switch and knob (sorry, operative element) in the 2D panels is represented here and almost all are fully functional. You have an incredible sense of being on a C-130 flight deck. The visibility is far better than most modern airliners, with its extensive glazing. The instrument lighting effects are superb and even the gloomier rear sections of the flight deck are superbly portrayed. If you are a DVC fan, you will love this aircraft.
Let’s turn our attention to the external model. No delay in buffering the textures here, just the most breathtaking example of the Flight Sim developer’s art imaginable. The only thing missing is the smell of Avtur!
Nothing can prepare you for a close up look at this model. From the darker streaks on the paint, where condensation runs down from the windows, to those odd reflections often seen on laminated windscreens as they catch the light, it is all absolutely perfect.
I could find nothing out of place; a walk around outside brought my memories flooding back. If I could sum this external model up in one word, it would be “atmospheric”, it evokes the spirit of this aircraft like nothing else.
Even the internal lighting effects looked perfect. The hold details may have been mainly two dimensional, but the overall effect was as realistic as I have ever seen. If you thought those preview shots looked good, then the real thing is even better.
Well, we now have discovered that we have a virtual “work of art” on our hands but (and I think can hear you already)….. What does it fly like?
In The Air
Much has been made of the fact that this model included veteran C-130 pilots and crew on the Beta test panel. In fact, the upcoming boxed version may even have the official RAF stamp of approval. This is good news; the bad news is that this is a non-motion simulation add-on for MSFS, which is (in the eyes of some professional aviators, but not us) only a GAME.
This aircraft can be flown by anyone who has an hour or so of experience on MSFS. The controls are conventional and all the standard key short cuts apply. If you want all engines running, just use Cntl +E and you have them. Gear up is G and full flap F8 - simple. You can be up and away in no time. But to do so on this product is almost a crime!
What you are paying for here is the best re-creation of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules available. Now, what about that mental note on the manual? Let’s find them now. Them? (yes, there are three manuals) and they are found in the Captain Sim folder of MSFS and are best removed to your desktop for easier access.
If, like me, you prefer to print these rather than read them on screen, I suggest you check your paper and ink supplies! An A4 binder will come in handy too! We are talking about 200+ pages of manual, performance tables and instructions, all in Adobe PDF format. I think a week of ground school is also advisable if you have the time.
Luckily for the purpose of this review, I completed this in record time and took the captain’s seat for my first C-130 flight in over 20 years. At this point I might add that my total real world flying time at the controls of a C-130, are better measured in minutes, rather than hours. Also, my three attempts at landing a full motion C-130 simulator resulted in what some could call “5 touchdowns and a crash”. I admit I am no C-130 veteran!
With flaps and brakes set, harnesses secure, I slowly increased the power lever on my yoke. The noise inside the cockpit (never quiet in the real thing and very well represented here) increased dramatically. With “Active camera” installed, I almost got the sensation of my eyeballs vibrating as I watched the VC engine gauge needles climb to the required levels. When all was set, I released the brakes and commenced my take-off roll. At 70 kts, the “Active Camera” really enhanced the sensation of movement and the cockpit felt almost as if anything loose would start flying around the cabin. At VR, I gently eased the yoke back and the nose lifted in a majestic fashion. Positive rate of climb and gear up was reached a couple of seconds later and the cockpit din dropped to an almost bearable level. Well that bit was pretty realistic, what about flight handling?
I only intend to hand fly a circuit today; the auto pilot, systems management and any emergency procedures can wait (hopefully) for the next instalment of this review. The controls seem very well harmonized with no erratic changes in of pitch, when adjusting the elevator trim, a common MSFS problem.
The manuals include performance figures from the real thing and these seemed to match the performance of this model very well. This aircraft is no dogfighter, but flies in a nice positive and progressive manner. It feels very much a “pilot’s aircraft” to the touch and will go to wherever you point without too much drama or fuss.
the circuit and lining up was a breeze (and this is with the “reality
sliders” set to maximum), the small element of crosswind was easily held
with a touch of rudder. The flare was very satisfying and a gentle squawk from
the balloon style tyres announced my arrival on terra firma. A press of F2
brought the characteristic reverse thrust noise and deceleration was very impressive.
I gave in to temptation and allowed the reverse thrust to continue well below
the normal 60 kts in an attempt to re-create the famous C-130 party trick,
backing up along the runway. This it did, without any trouble at all.
It has been said that the turboprop flight model is difficult or near impossible to re-create in MSFS. I do not know if this is true or not; what I have found is that this product portrays the perceived feel of a turboprop better than anything else I tried. My ability to produce a perfect landing on the PC simulator (but fail miserably on the real simulator) may have something to do with my many hundreds (or even thousands) of hours spent staring at this screen in MSFS. This fact did not diminish my sense of total satisfaction on this occasion. An un-flyable (but totally realistic) aircraft would be a waste of time and money; this aircraft is an absolute joy to fly.
To sum up this aircraft, it looks amazing, it flies superbly and sounds great. Is it the best add-on of kind so far? Come back in a few weeks when part two of this review is completed and find out!
Coming in Part 2
Other models, special features, possible bugs, add-on liveries and a look at that huge set of manuals.
|What I Like About the CS Legendary C-130|
|What I Don't Like About the CS Legendary C-130|
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