The P-51 happens to be one of my and many other aviation fans, favourite aircraft in history. Not just because of its sleek lines, high performance, or the fact that it helped win a World War, but because it's just appealing to many for some reason. Just about any person halfway familiar with aviation will know this aircraft, and you can't really miss it at any good air show. Although there are several P-51 addons for Flight Simulator, almost all of which I purchased, I have never reviewed one. Nor have I flown one as nice as this one. This P-51 has surpassed all of my past P-51's to become my absolute favourite; I won't stop flying this one anytime soon. Coming up, you'll see what I'm talking about.
For those who may not have as lengthy a history with the P-51, we'll go into some detail of its history. The P-51 was a very effective, economic, tough, and very quickly developed single seat fighter, seeing service in World War II. In 1938, and after the war began in 1939, the British quickly realized a need for additional aircraft of this type, and wanted the United States to manufacture an aircraft for the Royal Air Force. However, all US fighter technology throughout the 1930's had fallen drastically behind European performance standards, and a new aircraft would need to be developed for the RAF. The Curtiss P-40 was the only option close to those European standards, but the factories producing the P-40 were simply unable to produce more for an extra contract.
North American Aviation, which had already been supplying the RAF with the venerable Harvard Trainer, had been requested by the RAF to obtain rights to build the P-40 under license. North American Aviation told the RAF that they were able to design a new, faster, and more economical alternative, more quickly than converting factories to produce P-40s. However, North American, due to its lack of design experience with high performance fighters, was required by the RAF to acquire all data from Curtiss on the P-40 for this new design. Once this was set in motion, North American kept their promise to try to get the new fighter designed in the time it would take to re-tool their own factories to produce P-40s.
True to their word, within four months, a prototype of what would become the Mustang was rolled out. Within six months, this prototype was flying, and it's breakthroughs and high performance were evident. Incorporating the low drag Laminar flow wing, the Mustang's performance was quite hot. During initial flight trials, the prototype actually crashed due to fuel starvation, or pilot error. Regardless, the new aircraft was said to be very forgiving and easy to fly, and even had a speed advantage on the P-40 at certain altitudes. The US Army Air Corp then wanted a pair of the prototypes to evaluate on its own, and they moved to designate it as the 'Apache'. However, the British Purchasing Commission recommended 'Mustang' for the plane's name, based off a song that had become popular in the US and Europe in the 30's. This name would stick due to its American appeal, representing the small, fast, and wild horse of North America. The name would also become historically unforgettable.
The P-51 went on to serve with great success, primarily in Europe and in isolated parts of the Pacific. It's main roles of success were those of Air Escort for the Allied European bomber groups, and once the Luftwaffe's capabilities had been severely exhausted, ground attack. Initially, the P-51 models used an Allison V-12 engine, which didn't quite cut it, due to performance issues at altitude. A change to the Packard-built Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 was suggested, and the P-51's performance only got better. Once this change was implemented completely, the Mustang may not have been invulnerable, but it was definitely a tough and fast fighter.
By war's end in 1945, over 15,000 P-51s, in one form or another, had been produced. Due to its unbelievable beauty, high performance, and that fact that, in my opinion I believe it helped win World War II for the Allies, it has been one of my favourite aircraft since I can remember.
I'll now get onto what you're really reading this for, the review and pictures.
Installation and Documentation:
Installation is very easy, and quick. Once you've purchased the package, you'll get a download to a nice auto installer that does all the work. After installation, you can find the manuals in a WarbirdSim folder in your Main FS9 directory, with the checklist files and the excellent and detailed manual.
Now, the manual is one of my favourites of any aircraft package I've yet seen. With a lot of detail, both in pictures and lists, you'll know what you need to know after reading it. The manual itself is quite in-depth, and at first seems a bit big, but it's actually just right when it comes to size and amount of information. It also has a very nicely done 'retro' touch to it, making you think it's a real 1940's operating manual for your P-51 fleet. Some pictures below will give you the idea.
This visual model, all I can say: It can't disappoint. There are too many things that are just right, in my view. Yes, there have been many P-51 models, but in my opinion, they all missed one small line or part somewhere. The line of the top of the cowling leading to the windscreen, or the top of the rudder looking odd, or the fuselage being too wide; this P-51 model does not have any of these issues. For instance, the wheels and the tail wheel appear to be the right size, and we even have a fully castoring tail wheel when set up for it. I just love the fully castoring tail wheel animation; so cool. I plan to let quite a few shots help me do the talking, here.
The textures included are very nicely done, with every little rivet and panel I think you or I could ask for. Many of the textures, including my flagship 'Factory Fresh P-51B', appear photo real, with all those little lines and rivets I mentioned. The shine on all textures is a little polished at first, but even though I prefer slightly more flat than shiny, I simply have grown to like it. Historical detail is there, too, with Bud Anderson's 'Old Crow' looking just the way it should... white wall tires and everything. It has the mirror on top of the actual Malcolm Hood (yes, several models have a Malcolm hood), and matches quite nicely to the 2 foot fold-out display of 'Old Crow' in my thick World War II aviation book.
All normal animations are accounted for, and included nicely; those would be things like control surfaces, opening exit, lights, and even trim tabs. However, all the extra little details that are included simply make the ship all the more realistic, even though it's on a screen. Even the suspension when the plane is moderately to heavily loaded accurately reflects how she'd look, just sitting on the ramp and waiting. There are opening side windows in the canopy, which slide back and forth. Formation and Nav lights are very nicely modelled, including a faithfully bright landing light. The pilot figure is highly detailed, and scaled properly to give the plane the correct size appearance in relation to its pilot (once again, in my opinion). Also, when you have everything shut down and cold, the pilot figure disappears to allow for some neat screenshots on the ramp.
I wanted to take a quick section to mention something I really look for, and simply don't find too often. The spinner on this plane actually spins at what looks like high RPM, and really gives you the feeling that the 11 foot propeller is moving some heavy air. I don't know why, but this is a little detail I just love, and I imagine it will allow for repaints with wild and actually spinning spinners. Another nicely accomplished feature that falls into this category is the wheel fairing doors. Once everything is shut down after a flight, you can pull the fairing door release from the VC, and the little gear doors will fall to their relaxed position. We also have realistically dropping and falling drop tanks. Simply release them in flight, and you'll see them tumble away from your plane. More immersion is simply awesome.
I won't try to put too much more into words, other than this: You're going to love how this ship looks when it's where it belongs.
This is the easiest part of the review, because there is no 2D panel included. Personally, this is what I want. I prefer more detail and time put into the VC, as with this package, than a bunch of 2D sub-panels. You do get a few nice, and needed 2D sub-panels, like the radio pack, center fuel tank indicator, and GPS.
I have only included a single shot showing the sub-panels opened up, because I'm going to quickly move on to the spectacular VC that will make you forget the need for a 2D panel.
If you've read some of my reviews in the past, you know this is the favourite area, and subject to the highest scrutiny. However, I'm going to say the same thing here that I've been saying in this review. Absolutely stunning. All that could be asked for, is here. This VC, in my humble opinion, has surpassed Wings of Power/A2A quality. There is more detail, and more fun to be had here than even in the WOP P-51. That said, you must be asking, how? You'll see, reading through these descriptions, and the screenshots will help me here.
Aside of very crisp lines, a lot of functionality, and clear and smooth gauges, there's even a bit more here. No, the gauges are not super fast updating, but no gauge from this era was. However, they are quite smooth updating in my opinion. The gauges are also quite easily read back at 0.60 zoom, where I fly this P-51 at, and many gauges are visible back at 0.50. Keep in mind, I'm using 1650x1080, but they'll still be quite nice at lower resolution. Many items have clickable function to them, and they're all quite easy to grab and drag and/or manipulate. So far, everything I've needed during flight was easily found and used in the VC, which is good, because there is no 2D panel (I don't mind that). I would've liked to have seen a VC radio, but I just use the sub-panel which is the default Bendix set.
Now, for the more fun parts of the VC. I love little features like sliding canopy windows, the gear door fairing release, the drop tank release system, and the main exit also has a clickpoint to open the canopy up. Also, the electric gun site actually has a switch, and can be turned on and off. There is the old fixed gun site off to the right slightly, and you can also click it to get rid of it if you don't like it. Another really neat detail that finally caught my eye, was safetywire. Yes, safetywire. The modeller behind this aircraft really knows his stuff, and it shows right there. I've done a little bit of aircraft work myself, including safetywiring components, and that's just such a cool thing to see. The bottom of the electrical gun site has a little bit of safety wire 'holding' the bottom two screws tight. Another part of the modelling workmanship in the VC, is just the nuts on the canopy. They look very realistic, almost so much to make me forget I'm looking at a screen. I just like mentioning these little details, no matter how small.
I like that the windows have a nice bit of reflection to them, but it is subtle enough to only remind you that you're inside a canopy, not looking at a pasted texture that shows a pilot's profile. I feel like I'm looking through actual Perspex, not a translucent pane of nothing, or that pasted texture.
Something special about the magneto switch in this VC; this is something I look for and haven't seen too often. You really need to be able to easily adjust your magnetos when you're doing your pre-flight run up, especially when there's no 2D sub-panel for the throttle quadrant and mags. This is the easiest mag switch to grab and drag, without dragging too far and shutting the engine down. This is tough to explain, but it's a huge special feature to me. I always simulate a real run up before takeoff, with mag check, and it is very easy with this switch to go from BOTH, to #2, to #1, and back to both, watching for the drop in RPM.
Another shining part of this package, is the way the ships fly. I really do find flying these P-51ís to be a very rewarding challenge, but not so difficult that you get burned out trying for that great three-pointer. Iíd like to hear what Dudley Henriques thinks of this new P-51 package, flight-wise; Iíve read his P-51 FS articles, and enjoy what he says about how they fly. Disclaimer: No, Iíve not flown a P-51, which I'm sure you knew anyway. Anyway, letís get down to detail.
Generally, this tail dragger does conform nicely to some basic Ďrulesí of tail draggers that Iíve flown in real life. However, I must say early, Iíve adjusted the aircraft.cfg to 180 degrees on the tail wheel, which means itís a realistic and fully castoring tail wheel.
Taxiing the P-51 a bit of a challenge, until you get used to it. What I mean here, is that you must remember to hold your joystick forward whenever you wish to pivot the rear tail wheel around. Keep in mind, I have adjusted the aircraft.cfg to have a fully castoring, 180 degree tail wheel. Using differential braking, you should have no difficulty spinning this plane exactly how you want. If you arenít so experienced with tail draggers, this will be a great learning experience for you.
Keeping this plane down the centerline on takeoff isnít too hard, but up at around 40Ē of manifold pressure, you will notice a sudden jerk to the left. The takeoff torque is present, but not so horrible that itíll send you off the runway to the left. The tail will come off the ground like it should, at around 70-80 MPH. Once in the air, using relatively high Manifold Pressure, watch out of the left turning tendency that the big 11 foot propeller and all that torque will throw at you.
Once up in the air, you have at your disposal a load of power. Itís quite fun to just blast around the skies, however, I always begin with pattern work. Keeping this plane flying nice and level at pattern speed (my pattern speed was 150 MPH), wasnít hard, and turn coordination through those turns required a nice amount of peddle work. This is nice, because you do have to really kick those peddles in the few real life tail draggers Iíve flown. Once you decide to jump out of the pattern, enjoy those knife-edge turns that she's more than capable of making.
High altitude flight seems as it should be, and the ship performs quite nicely up high. Performance up high was right on the numbers, ground speed-wise. I was able to easily make 400 MPH, using only 45"-50" MP. With a nice high altitude wind pushing along, I was able to make 440 MPH on some of my long distance flights. The engine's temperatures were happily in the safe ranges, so I made excellent time. If you like touring in FS, and want to do it quickly, the Mustang is your ship.
Rudder authority is very nice and realistic, meaning that when you kick full left or right rudder, she wonít yaw 30 degrees in either direction. Iíve seen too many FS aircraft where rudder authority is way overdone. Here, itís as responsive as I think it should be. Same thing for aileron response, fast. It wonít roll like a T-38, but itís manoeuvrable enough. For technical manoeuvres like stalls, this plane behaves similarly to most FS addons; not very realistically. The stall isn't anything special, it just kinda falls on its belly without a violent nose drop or wing over. However, it does have a reasonable sensitive area in knife edge turns. What I mean here, is that if you pull up too much in a knife-edge turn, it will make a buffeting noise and want to stall out. Always a nice touch, if you ask me.
Coming back in for landing is really much nicer than I initially expected, with having flown more difficult P-51 airfiles. This one is easier for me to gently get the noise up to three point attitude, even at 90 MPH. After many three pointers, I found it a little difficult to get back to wheel landings. Just bring it in a little faster, and very gently set down on the mains and it won't bounce up at all.
Simply put: You're going to enjoy flying this ship.
Once again, to the toughest part of a review: Describing sound with words. However, it won't be too difficult here, as the package's sounds are as good as everything else I've mentioned. From the deep and mechanical sounds of the engine in all regimes, to the whirring effect of the air whipping by when in flight, the sound pack seems to cover everything nicely.
I'll start with one of my favourite facets of the sound package, which is that whirring noise I mentioned when in flight. I've flown in several real planes over the years, and at least from the aircraft I've flown in, you always hear that 'whirring' noise when flying. It's difficult to describe, but only seems to occur when you're above and near stall speed. You can really hear it when you chop some power on final; you're still up there and flying fast, but the engine's finally quieted down. I've heard this sound effect in only a handful of other 3rd party aircraft, and simply love hearing this in the pack.
Moving on to the excellent startup sounds. The sounds on startup do really have a depth and reality to them, and you can immediately tell they must have been recorded from the real deal. If they weren't, I'd like to know how they emulated these sounds so well. On startup from the outside, you can really hear the starter engage, and then you hear when is like a dull popping sound of several of the cylinders happily exploding to life. Once it stabilizes out of startup, you'll hear a very hefty V-12 Packard Merlin purring away, awaiting your command. Once again, has to be from the real thing.
Up at higher power, if you've heard Mustangs fly in video or real life, you'll hear that characteristic 'screaming' that this V-12 is known for. Listening to this ship during a fly-by is just spectacular, as it makes me feel like I'm at an air show.
Once you're ready to shut down, you'll hear the great finale of this orchestra of mechanical engine parts. You can actually hear what sounds like the jugs grinding to a stop, almost saddened by not getting to fly high anymore. I love hearing that metal-to-metal sound that the crank case makes when it finally roars and cranks to a stop.
You simply have to hear the sound.
I have nothing negative to say here; performance never fell below a 15%-20% drop from my average of around 30 FPS. I don't believe you'll see any kind of significant performance hit, either, as it seems these ships have been heavily optimized. Another feature I look for in any package with as much detail as we have here, is the quality of the optimization. Making sure there's nothing extra or hidden that just slugs everything down a bit, and I don't think there is. You're going to like how she performs in the skies, and on your machine, too.
Once again, for the amount of detail you get, everything stayed nice and fluid enough for me.
I never was really a fan of the P-51B and C models, and even though I have purchased three P-51 sets in the past, I'm glad I reviewed this package. It's simply changed my opinion here; it's quite beautiful in its own way, and it possesses the same wicked performance of the D model. The Factory Fresh P-51B is the only P-51 I'll ever fly again, even though I always loved the P-51D with the Bubble canopy. Notice that past tense there... loved. Now, the P-51B is my new favourite.
If you're a P-51 fan, but are thinking "there's so many P-51's out, and I already own two or three of them", don't let that stop you. That would be making a silly mistake, as this package really is a stunner. It has everything I could've thought to add if I had been designing it myself, and as a tail dragger nut, it simply conforms to what I know about them.
In closing, I'll
simply say this is one of the best, if not the best FS Aircraft I've
ever had the privilege of reviewing.
What I Like About WarbirdSim P-51
What I Don't Like About WarbirdSim P-51
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