V-22 Osprey Platinum by Abacus
By Bill Stack (3 April 2009)
No military aircraft are included
among the default FSX aircraft selection, which leaves flight
simmers seeking such simulations holding an empty flight bag.
Abacus has released a V-22 Osprey for those flight simmers who want to fly military aircraft.
"The V-22 Osprey is designed to perform missions similar to a conventional helicopter but with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft." (Abacus operations manual)
"The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is the first aircraft designed from the ground up to meet the needs of the Defense Department's four U.S. armed services. The tiltrotor aircraft takes off and lands like a helicopter. Once airborne, its engine nacelles can be rotated to convert the aircraft to a turboprop airplane capable of high-speed, high-altitude flight." (Boeing web site)
"The V-22 Osprey can carry transport 24 combat troops, 20,000 pounds of internal or up to 15,000 pounds of external cargo using its medium lift and vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. It can be stored aboard an aircraft carrier or assault ship because the rotors can fold and the wing rotate. It has air-to-air refueling capability, the cornerstone of the ability to self-deploy." (Boeing web site)
Abacus heralds its V-22 Osprey as part of its Platinum
Collection, which it describes as follows: "The Platinum Collection
is a series of high quality add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator
2004 and FSX that are delivered directly to you over the Internet.
Although you can find hundreds of add-ons in virtually every
category of flight simulation, you may have already discovered that
the quality of these add-ons varies greatly. We have, however,
carefully selected only top of the line aircraft to include in the
Abacus Platinum Collection. By working with the best designers in
flight simulation, whose names that you know and trust, we are able
to deliver some of the finest products in their category."
This aircraft remarkably flies like an airplane when its rotors are pointed forward and like helicopter when its rotors are pointed upward, like its real-world counterpart. Any flight simmer who has simulated flight in both aircraft types knows the major differences in performance and operations. Granted that's what the Osprey is supposed to do, but it's a technical marvel that took years of design and testing in the real world. Creating the simulation version must have taken a lot of creativity, testing, and trial and error.
Three models are included: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Marines Desert.
The installation program gives users the option of installing in FSX or FS2004.
A read-me file provides background about the V-22 Osprey, aircraft specifications, instructions for using the tilt rotors, and credits for the developers.
The aircraft closely resemble its real-world counterparts by comparison with photos of real-world Ospreys I found on the Internet.
The tilt rotors are operated with the flaps controls, which
themselves operate normally. When flaps are fully retracted, the
rotors point straight up. When flaps are deflected one notch, the
rotors move to approximately 67 degrees up. When flaps are
deflected two notches, the rotors point approximately 45 degrees
up. When flaps are deflected three or more notches, the rotors
point forward. "Notches" is the term used by Abacus.
The aircraft are very easy to install. All files are deposited into the correct folders, and all three versions appear in the aircraft selection menu.
Self-shadowing is evident (i.e. it casts shadows on itself).
The sound set seems appropriate for a twin-rotor helicopter. This is good because some add-on aircraft borrow sounds from other aircraft even when their sounds are not similar.
Instruments shown in the popup windows are much higher quality and more readable than those on the 2D and 3D main panels. Although they use the same instrument files, their appearance is far superior in the popup panels.
The main door on the right side and the cargo door at the back open and close.
The paint scheme on the Marines Desert version is intriguing.
A 24-page manual in Adobe Acrobat format provides background,
performance specifications, checklists and annotated screen shots
of the cockpit. The checklists in this manual are in tabular format
like those in the default FSX aircraft. Numerous exterior screen
shots are included.
V-22 Osprey 3D Cockpit
V-22 Osprey 2D Cockpit
V-22 Osprey Center Console
Abacus' V-22 Osprey Cockpits
I found several issues with Abacus' V-22 Osprey:
It is not available for instant downloading from the Flight Sim Pilot Shop. Physically shipping the CD is the only option. That's inconvenient when so many flight-sim add-ons are available for instant downloading. Abacus tech support said it referred my question to its vice president, and I hope they decide to make instant downloading available.
The aircraft rolled down the runway as soon as the simulation started, even though the throttles were at zero. It resumed moving after I stopped it with the wheel brakes. The only way to get it to sit still was to apply the parking brake. The left and right engine gauges were showing zero throttle, 311 RPMs, and 944 pounds of fuel burn per hour.
When I changed aircraft from one version to another for my screen shots, the new aircraft rolled down the runway and even lifted off a few feet. The only way to stop it was to disengage then re-engage the parking brake, after which the aircraft plopped on the runway in an enveloping cloud of dust and smoke. Upon landing after my trial flights, the aircraft refused to stop on the runway, instead rolling away until I applied the parking brake.
When I advanced the throttle to intentionally lift off, the aircraft's tail lifted until the nose crashed into the pavement, then the aircraft lifted off. This occurred whether the throttle was at half, full, or in between. I didn't know what I had done or if the modeling was faulty because no guidance on flying the aircraft is provided other than the checklists. Eventually I found a way to take off normally after considerable trial and error.
I read all the documentation that came with this aircraft including the manual and the checklists, but I was unable to find any answers to these vexing problems.
Abacus answered my questions about these issues as follows: "All I can say is that the V-22 has a lot of power set into it in order to get it to lift off at such low speeds. This power to move forward has to be countered with the brake or parking brake until you are ready for lift off."
Once my Osprey was airborne, it performed somewhat like a helicopter while its rotors were pointed upward, but not quite. Specifically, it flew forward regardless of the aircraft's pitch. A helicopter basically flies forward when the aircraft pitches down, upward when it pitches level, and backward when it pitches up. The Osprey did fly like an airplane when its rotors were pointed forward.
Transitioning from helicopter to airplane and back is a demanding maneuver, and more so without sufficient guidance from Abacus. The aircraft pitched up and down erratically until I eventually regained control. Again after trial and error, I found a controllable way of executing this crucial transition.
The checklists are formatted in the old text style instead of the current "web page" style used by FSX and FS2004. Abacus explained their decision to use the old formats as follows: "Granted, the amount of time needed to create a HTML checklist is not that much greater than a text-based checklist. We've just stuck with a simple layout that is clear and uniform. There's no 'reason' for text over HTML."
Tabular checklists in the 24-page manual must be printed or read while both MSFS and Adobe Acrobat are running. Frame rates and other simulator performances are diminished whenever other programs are running.
There is no reference sheet with information about liftoff speeds, landing speeds, and so forth.
The 24-page manual provides no guidance on how to fly this unusual aircraft, which leaves us users to learn by trial and error. Like helicopters, this aircraft is difficult to fly, and having to guess about it is frustrating.
Abacus explained its guidance as follows: "I'll admit that some more information could be included in documentation form. The checklist though does cover how to and approximately when to adjust the rotors (flaps) to switch between vertical and horizontal movement and back again."
The 2D and 3D instrument panels resemble those that were common in much earlier versions of MSFS. Abacus answered my question about these panels as follows: "That is hard to comment on... I feel this is subject to opinion. If we along with our designers and developers felt it was older-FS style, we would not have released it as-is. Granted, it's not a PMDG or Level-D aircraft but we're not selling it at the same price point either."
Instruments are difficult to read in the 2D and 3D main panels (they're much easier to read in the popup panels). Abacus explained this condition as follows: "That has to do with the real estate available. The wider and taller the 2D background image is, the more gauges you can fit on it, but the smaller each gauge has to be. Making a smaller image narrows the focus of the panel, but does not present the entire panel. The reason the pop-ups are there are to preserve the look of the panel as seen by a pilot and provide clarity of the gauges (by pop-up) when needed."
Popup menus do not follow MSFS keyboard conventions. In almost
all MSFS aircraft, the radio stack is displayed with SHIFT-2 and
the GPS is displayed with SHIFT-3. But those are SHIFT-4 and
SHIFT-8, respectively, in these aircraft. Those differences are
frustrating for someone like me who is accustomed to using keyboard
commands. Abacus explained these keyboard commands as follows: "All
I can really say on this is that our testers apparently don't use
the keyboard for panel operations much and tend to stick with the
icons on the panel. It's no big deal to re-order the windows so
we'll try to keep that in mind for future aircraft."
SummaryI'm very impressed by the appearance and functioning of Abacus V-22 Osprey's, particularly its conversion from airplane to helicopter during flight. All three aircraft look correct, the tilt rotors really do change, and the performance changes from airplane to helicopter, although not entirely.
But I'm very troubled by the aircraft's rolling down the runway
with zero throttle, its refusal to remain still after being stopped
with the wheel brakes, and its resumption of movement when the
parking brake was released. I also feel that more guidance for
flying such an unusual aircraft should be included. Buyers should
consider Abacus' courteous and straightforward explanations about
Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com