Saturday, November 9, 2013

Virtavia B-29 Superfortress. Our own screenshots!

FSX. Ever since I got seriously interested with aviation and flight sim, I found a particular interest in older planes, where back in the day technology wasn't as vast. For me, something about these old planes just 'works'. These days, most historic planes are out of service and are there to look at in museums. Hence, so we are unlikely to board a flying B-29 or a Stratocruiser. The B-29 is this most iconic aircraft, best known for throwing the atom bombs over Japan and bringing the war to an end. However, there are other interesting aspects in the B-29. Join ADX reader: Adi Sahar as he takes us on an exiting adventure of his first ADX review!

The B-29 and later the Stratocruiser essentially marked aviation's way into large-scale aircraft. The B-29 development was initiated with the US military request for a long-range bomber and so it came to live as the 'B-29 Superfortress', capable of carrying a heavy load of bombs and ranging up to 9000km (on minimum load) and 5000km in a combat range. It was a major technical advancement for it's time and around 4000 units were made by Boeing and various other manufacturers, put together in a unified effort to supply the war needs. 8 of these are presented in this package, including of course, the famous 'Enola Gay' variant.

So, when I heard Virtavia is doing a B-29, I did get a tingle down my spine. FSX never had a quality B-29 payware add-on so this is a debut. Although, there was a legacy B-29, part of Shockwave's aka A2A 'Wings of Power' package. A bunch of aircraft converted from FS2004. Being converted and using old tech, it is not nearly as good as Virtavia's. FSX is now the ONLY sim (that I know of) that offers a B-29 experience.

Some tech facts: Exterior model was made in-house by Virtavia, textured by Creative Pixl. Interior was modeled & textured in-house by Virtavia. Dimensions: length: 100ft (30m); wingspan: 140ft (43m); height: 27ft 9 inch (8m). The B-29 has 4 engines, each delivering 2200 HP, capable of lifting 33,500 lb (60,560 kg) at full load. Max speed: 357mph (310knots, 574km/s. Cruise speed: 220 mph (190 knots, 350 km/h), Stall speed: 105 mph (91 knots, 170 km/h).

The B-29 has this most unique shape and cockpit design that just draws you in and I couldn't wait to experience that! While the B-29 is a derivation of the B-17, the cockpit is an entirely different design. Let's jump right in and give you my first look upon inspecting the cockpit!

As you can see, it's covered with this awesome, old school military green paint, slightly wear & tear here and there. Very impressive, especially the far forward details like the bombardier position. The cockpit has 4 main positions, the pilot's, co-pilot's, the bombardier who sits in front of them, and another seat behind the co-pilot, that's where the engineer sits to make sure the engines operate adequately. It's also worth mentioning to finally get Trackir if you haven't already. It truly boosts the cockpit immersion in an extremely roomy cockpit such as this!
A little more wearing would have been nice, but this will suffice for now.
A look behind the pilot and co-pilot seats. The cockpit immediately captures you with how enormous it is. Feels much bigger than a modern's day passenger jet!

A look from the co-pilot's seat:
Taking a peek outside the window. We have a nice view of the right wing engines:
Taking a look over the main panel that's between the pilot and co-pilot seats:
This is where lights, prop pitch and other important switches are positioned.

And a far back look at the cockpit environment from the pilot's seat:
We can see the communication compartment back there as well. It took a bunch of 11 men to operate the aircraft in a full combat mode: Pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, flight Engineer, navigator, radio operator, radar observer, right Gunner, left Gunner, central fire control and the tail gunner. Hence 'Superfortress'.

We take a closer look up front, where the bombardier sits. The aircraft was equipped with cameras to assist with aiming and releasing the bombs in the right moment:
Taking a look from the engineer's window, also serving as an emergency exit. The entrance to the aircraft was through the front wheel well so in case of crashing and a possible destruction of the undercarriage, this was the proper way out. This window also assists the engineer inspecting the engines upon start-up, flight-level and landing procedures.
To the right of the engineer's position we find more equipment, including oxygen canisters. These aircraft flew high and had to be constantly ready for enemy attacks.
A small ladder for the tail gunner to crawl into his position just under the rudder.
Moving along to the exterior (covered with the 'Celestial Princess' variant). This is probably one of the best aspects of the package!
Would you look at that!

Great curvature of the front end. One of the key shapes of the B-29 and Virtavia did a good job capturing it.
Another look:

KHQM served as a great airfield for checking out the Superfortress.

A quick look over the right wing, the aircraft is covered with a shiny finish.
Closer look on the engines:
The cowling is animated of course.

Tail section. The bump mapped textures look incredible!
Adding another view, also pictured are the flaps, fully extended (came in after departure and landing from KHQM):
Closer look beneath the left wing. Nice depiction of the engines exhausts.

KHQM bay in the background.

This shot really shows how big the aircraft is:
My session actually started earlier, departing @ dawn from Runway 06:
Departing from Runway 06, beautiful sun rising and clear skies!
Another look over the flight engineer area:

Everyone ready back there? ;)

After takeoff:
Taking off wasn't easy actually, you need to make sure to properly configure flaps, cowls, prop pitch, mixtures etc' and rotate at the right moment! I'll admit it took me a few good attempts to make a successful takeoff.

Relating to the shot above, there's something a little odd with how the cowlings open up. Also, if you look at those rotors, they seem a bit square when spinning. Two things that I'd certainly like to see fixed with an update.

She's definitely a looker!

After cruising around a bit and trying to get a feel for the aircraft, I started to make my way back to KHQM in an attempt for a landing.

Landing gear down!
Flaps fully extended!
Came in too high, went for a go around:
Final to Runway 24 looking good!
 Touch down and heading for taxi to parking after a successful landing:

Some findings/suggestions I gathered while making this review…

·         There's a 'dent' near the far inner, top cockpit window.
·         A 'tick' in the engines rpm loop. May not be noticeable with speakers, but it's definitely heard with headphones.
·         Autopilot holds heading, but heading indicator says something else. Also reported by few other users.
·         Low res textures for the cockpit lining & landing gear, would like to see properly HD texture.
·         Fixed cowling animation, currently the little flaps have a slight too big gap between them.
·         Separate toggle for crew figures other than the pilot & co-pilot.
·         Squarish spinning props needs fixing.
·         No sounds for switches, levers etc'.
·         Glitches when messing up the startup sequence.
·         Add variants without the tail gunner position.
·         Have turrets move randomly for added realism.
·         Add cowl setup in the checklists.
·         Fix camera entries for easier Ezdok setup, I noticed a problem where the cockpit camera axes were inverted. Had to disable the stock camera entries to make Ezdok cockpit camera work properly.
·         Adding some more wear & tear (rather low priority).
·         Cowl switches are a pain to maneuver using left and right click. Would want to see them mouse-wheeled like the prop pitch switches. Mouse-wheel on levers is inverted, slight annoyance as well (these little nuisances can be overcome using hot keys instead).
·         2d props are disappointing.
·         Would love to see optional 4096 variants.
·         Aircraft is way too shiny when enabling bloom. This is could be because bloom is considered an fps hit and therefore wasn't taken into consideration. Perhaps I'm wrong, but as is, it's unrealistically shiny.
There was a dispute in the forums regarding the gun configuration on some of the variants. Well, while some may consider it for greater accuracy, it really is quite nitpicking. With an aircraft that had so many variants and so many changes throughout history, it really is quite a challenge to get everything 100% correct. In my humble opinion, it does not, in any way, take away from the experience or the fun this add-on can deliver.

Although that seems like a long list, the overall aircraft feels great and you do get a nice sense of the big bird. It's definitely no accu-sim, but manages to convey the experience. The cockpit surroundings look great, the outside textures look great as well. Beautiful selection of variants. The sounds quality is nice, haven't noticed something especially glory about it. No switch sounds in the cockpit is a slight miss, would love to see that being added in a future update. Meanwhile, it was posted on the forums how to attach a generic switch sound, so if you're bothered with it, it's worth a check.

FPS wise, this is a great FPS model. There are no navigation displays or other fps hogging features. However, I think the team may have overdone it a bit. I think it should have had 3d spinning props. The 2d ones aren't convincing anymore after looking at the latest offerings from developers like SibWings & Carenado. There is this one thing I didn't like, which is a massive FPS hit once hitting CTRL+E. Not sure why, but the smoke effects coming out of the engines is causing a major fps hit for 10 seconds or so, then it settles back at ~ 60 fps.

FDE wise, the manual portrays all the checklists you need to get up and running. However, I noticed a serious glitch when clicking things in the wrong order. The aircraft would jump up in the air and force you to reset your flight and start over. This is something you'd see in the default Cessna and I must say it's a bit of a letdown to have the same bug on such a magnificent bird. The heaviness of the aircraft is definitely felt, when taxing, taking off and maneuvering in the air. Taking off, like I previously mentioned is a bit of a challenge. You need a long runway for starters, it's most definitely NOT a STOL aircraft and you can easily stall the takeoff if not done right, so it definitely requires some practice before absolutely mastering it. Same goes for landing, it really is easy to stall so the challenge is there. Gauges wise, most things work, some stuff don't. So, yes, it's definitely not an accu-sim kind of add-on, but it's still fun.

Installation is very easy and straightforward, nothing much to comment about. Manual is quite clear & well written. Virtavia support is good as far as my experience goes.
Price. Considering it's a niche product in a niche market, you'd say the price is fair. There aren't other B-29 to consider either.
That's it folks. I hope the review turns out helpful and eases your decision whether to get this add-on or not. If you are a fan of historic war birds, I'd say, wait no more and BUY IT. Nitpicks are there to consider, but they are nitpicks after all and as such, do not take away from the aircraft as a whole. I do hope to see Virtavia finally depart to the higher tier of quality level payware and deliver us with more interesting aircraft such as this!

This review is sponsored by PC Aviatior Australia.
Click the image for the product page!
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Review compiled and written by: Adi Sahar

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1 comment:

DAndre Newman said...

Note to Josh Fredr, commenting under this name on ADX is permanently revoked. It's people like you that really make places like ADX unwelcome. Please go away and do not come back here. You are no longer welcome.

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