Acclaim P-51B Mustang For FS2004
By Richard Buettner (29 July 2009)
It is 5:30 am; a cold mist is in the air as you walk to the briefing room with your companions. This is the beginning of another long day of flying at 25,000 feet with your hands and feet freezing from the cold at this altitude. But you are in one of the most advanced aircraft of the day. You are the first squadron to be flying the P-51B Mustang that can now reach all the way into the heart of the German war machine.
Your target today is the ball bearing plants in the heart of the industrial valley Germany. You know the fighter cover will be heavy, and they will be all over the bombers. But today is different; there is a surprise for the Luftwaffe this time. The bombers have little friends at 25,000 feet ready to pounce on them as soon as they show up. The call comes crackling over the radio; bandits, 9:00 o'clock low. You drop your wing tanks and your heart races. Tally Ho, boys here we go, and your flight streaks down toward the enemy fighters below.
Now that I have your interest, let's hit the tarmac and check out this new add-on for FS2004, the P-51B Fighter Pairs by Acclaim. I received my copy as a download from the Pilot Shop. The file size was 66.2 MB and it takes about 11 minutes on cable high speed. The download went smoothly; no problems here. You can get the download version for $33.95 USD or a hard copy for $39.95 USD.
Here the program begins to shine. This is a beautiful looking reproduction of all the instrumentation in 3D; there is no 2D cockpit. When you first get in the cockpit the one thing you notice is the attention to detail. All the bells and whistles are here that are in the actual aircraft. The detail of all the gauges is superb, and they have the look of the real thing. As you look around you have the feel you are in a real cockpit of a WWII airplane. Check out these screen shots of the cockpit layout.
This is the view from the pilot's seat (above, left), and as you can see everything is very crisp and sharp. You can read all the instruments clearly and their movement is very precise. In the right screen shot are all the trim controls. You can move each one and set them correctly by moving them with your mouse. All the numbers are clear and can be read easily.
On the right hand side you can see some of the electrical switches with all the labeling very readable. These also can be controlled by the use of your mouse. The textures are great, right down to the wear marks on the rudder pedals.
Acclaim has included a copy of the operations manual that is made to look like a copy from WWII, nice touch. This is in an Adobe format of 20 pages. This gives you a key for each of the gauges and buttons and switches in the cockpit. I would suggest reading this over before starting your first flight; I know if you are like me, however, you will just jump in and head out for some blue sky.
As you can see by the screen shots, the cockpit layout is beautiful and very functional. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the scenery going by. By using the operational manual and the check list provided you can set the trim, flaps and the engines properly so you will be off for a historic and enjoyable flight.
When you first move to the outside view of these aircraft you will notice the great attention to detail. You can see all the rivet detail with the plate lines of the aircraft skin and wear in the paint. See how this creates the illusion of an aircraft that has been in service for a while? Looking over the pilot's shoulder you can read all of the gauges and see the switches and controls with great clarity.
As you look over and around the aircraft, all this attention to detail makes itself evident. The nose art is faithfully recreated in every detail. Everywhere you look you can see the care that was taken to ensure that every little part was faithfully reproduced to make this a correct and accurate reproduction of a great airplane.
Acclaim has created the P-51B in great detail. As you can see in the screen shots below, the landing gear bay has been done with all the correct details. Hydraulic lines, texture, and the landing gear structure down to the tread design on the tires and the rims stand out beautifully. When the gear cycles up and down all the doors move freely and perform as they do on the actual aircraft.
As you see by some of these screen shots, Acclaim has created an overall beautifully detailed aircraft that reproduces the P-51B in all of its great design. When you are outside of the aircraft you get the feeling you are in the skies over Germany escorting your bombers on a mission deep into enemy territory.
Aircraft Power and Performance
Climbing into a P-51 is like getting into a high performance race car. Looking it over as you do your walk around the plane looks as if it will jump into the air and race off. The whole aircraft just says speed and is ready for a fight.
When you fire up the engine you can feel the power ready to push you back into your seat and tear into the sky. That 12 cylinder Packard built Rolls Royce Marlin V-1650 at 1695 HP will be able to take you from the runway to a ceiling of 41,900 feet. Your cruising speed is at 275 MPH and you have a range of 1000 miles with drop tanks.
I was able to take off and set the air speed at 170 mph to maintain a climb rate of around 4,000 fpm to 24,000 feet. I used a clean aircraft, no drop tanks, so that will take you from take off to 24,000 feet in about 7 to 8 minutes. Landings are smooth at around 110 mph with 20 degrees of flaps, but just remember to be easy on the control input as over-control will put you into the ground very quickly. By following the check list for takeoff and landing you will be able to have some very enjoyable flights.
The overall handling of the aircraft is very precise and it has a very firm feel and responds quickly to your inputs. This is a fun aircraft to fly and you will have to get some flight time under your belt because this is a high-performance aircraft. If you don't take care it will get away from you and you will find yourself in the ground wondering what happened.
When lowering the landing gear be prepared for the nose to drop. On page 15 of the manual in the second column it states that when the landing gear is lowered the plane becomes nose heavy. The reverse happens when the gear is raised - the airplane becomes tail heavy. The flaps also have this same affect on the airplane. As you lower the gear make sure you have a firm grip on the stick. As the gear is going down, gently pull back on the stick and begin applying trim to stabilize the aircraft as you begin your setup for landing.
The sound quality in this package is very good, and you can differentiate between the inside and outside sounds of the engine. The sound of this aircraft is reproduced to sound very much like the real thing from what I remember at the air shows. I believe this production has the closest sound recording to the real aircraft that I have heard so far. In the cockpit, the only sounds I were able to detect was of course the engine and when cycling the flaps up and down. None of the switches or other controls had any sound to them.
The sign of quality simulation is to make you feel as if you are in the actual aircraft. You feel this as you use the controls in the cockpit and the feel of the aircraft as you fly. I did a comparison between this package and the free download from FlightSim.Com of the P-51D. At its release this was a high quality model of this aircraft and looked very good inside and out. However, the Acclaim version has raised the bar a few notches to a really good looking and high quality reproduction of a famous WWII aircraft. Having never flown in one these beautiful aircraft, I cannot compare the sim with the actual aircraft. If it handles anything like the simulated one, it would be great. By the end of the war in Europe in 1945, the Mustangs destroyed a total of 4950 aircraft. Total production by the end of 1946 was over 15,000 aircraft of all models.
This is a very fine quality package overall, with fine detail in all aspects of the aircraft. It is a joy to just explore all the different views of these aircraft. The paint effect is of the highest quality with all the weathering affects and fine details are all very clear and precise. This will be a great addition to anyone's hangar.
When running the install program it installed the files in a second aircraft file which then had to be manually moved to the correct location in order for the aircraft to work. Once in the cockpit area and switching to the chase view or other outside views and then coming back to the 3D view, the instruments disappeared. I had to bring the menu up manually to reinsert the instruments. These are the only two problems I ran into using an otherwise great addition to my hangar.
I did not make an award for this product even though the appearance of the interior an exterior of the aircraft were superb. There where no extras, as a couple of combat missions to try out the superiority of this plane in combat mode. Adding some extra sounds, an some missions could make a good plane into a great one.
For a list of what is required of a VFR Award please visit VFR Reviews web site.
Here is a list of web sites I used for research that may interest you in exploring the heritage of this famous WWII fighter.