Just Flight Robinson R44 For FS2004/FSX
By Nigel C. Martin (23 February 2008)
ell, well here we are again, reviewing another commercially available download, this time from Just Flight. This one just happens to be close to my heart: a helicopter, a four seat Robinson R44. One may say, because of its rather small proportions, it would look at home as a radio controlled helicopter on the local flying field!
I have been up in the R22, the two seat version, and I felt a 'tad' uncomfortable in it. Actually the aircraft type has a very impressive safety record. OK, there have been a number of fatalities in this type, but typically, as with most aviation GA crashes, due to pilot error.
The Robinson 'family' because of the fairly 'low' cost, have allowed many people (the rich ones!) to fly a helicopter, and all the advantages that mode of transport offers.
The closest I will get to a real helicopter is flying my radio controlled helo, slightly cheaper to get in the sky, and God forbid, repair, oh yes, and less risky (for those who fly with me on that lovely field on those balmy summer days and evenings, would probably disagree with that statement!)
I understand that this latest offering is one of their most technically advanced, with improvements and level of detail not seen on previous products. As mentioned, if you look at the screen shots in this review you will understand my keenness to get cracking, or downloading actually.
I have to admit to a bit of a love affair for the Robinson R44. To me it is the highbred of the smaller brother the R22, and some how, looks more substantial. I guess because it is slightly longer and because of the enclosed engine.
If you are a helicopter person, the addition of this R44 will catch your eye.
I am looking forward to taking my first 'check' ride.
It is downloaded from the Just Flight web site. Just follow the instructions to purchase and download, which are frankly extremely easy to follow. You chose the program from the web site, make the purchase, you are provided with a 'key' series of numbers; enter these where prompted, and it will then download in a quick and efficient manor.
Again I found the entire process effortless, this being the fourth commercial aircraft package downloaded. I am getting quite a 'taste' for this process. Just pay and get instant access. Remember to back-up your new zip file though; I know from experience how wonderfully stable our computers are! The file is a healthy 98 MB so in my simple logic, the size of the file indicates the potential of great things to come.
Once the installation process has been completed, which in my case was effortless, you will find the aircraft within the Aircraft Options. Select one of the many options available, in either skid or float configuration, press 'fly', wait for the computer to update, hey presto, there it is. And I must say, you will not be disappointed!
Once installed, let's take a look at the exterior of this helicopter. Go for a 'walk' around. After selecting one of three options, I selected a version with floats (but does it float?).
Take time to have a good look around. The detail is absolutely fabulous, with some lovely reflections. I have noticed that in FSX we are treated to some markedly better and fine tuned dynamic reflections and superb water effects/reflections than can be found in FS2004. (I still love FS2004 though and have both installed--on separate HD's.)
The dynamic shine effects across the entire fuselage, and canopy, really helps towards the feeling of authenticity.
Let's start from the best place, ground up. All points of the exterior are displayed to the same exemplary standards. It is obvious that some considerable amount of work has gone into the modelling.
The skid/float rotor hub detail and the tail rotor are represented in excellent order.
Moving elements, the canopy, or door (select Shift + E) you will note a highly accurate pilot figure opening the door. He is animated, so he actually leans out as he opens it (and closes it). Beautifully done, one of the best pilot figures I have seen to date.
Switch on the nav and strobe light, stay outside, and you will witness some lovely lighting effects.
Oh yes, if you look hard you will see some of the engine detail, underside, towards the rear of the cabin.
Now this is the part I love, does the detail extend into the 'office'? Well it does. OK, the R44 cannot be described as the most complex of cockpits, but I guess there is the advantage, because it is 'sparse' the detail bestowed on it is excellent.
Within FSX you are flying the aircraft in a virtual cockpit mode, reading the instruments can be a little tricky. When sitting back at a realistic distance from the instrument panel, I found I had to do a quick 'zoom-in' which gave the critical readouts. I did not plough into the ground as a consequence, so it must have worked.
I have to mention the GPS, nav/comms and compass. These are available as 'hot keys' and all are great and very clear. I found the comms very easy to use, and clear. Maybe the primary instruments should also been made available in this fashion, to make reading them easier.
Have a good 'tour' around and take in the consistent high level of detail. I know I have mentioned it, but again the pilots are perhaps the best I have seen thus far, quite superb.
Looking forward, you will also see some subtle, but very effective reflections in the perspex in front of both pilots just above the panel.
Great attention to detail throughout the interior, right down to the control stick (which you have the option to disappear for a clearer view of the panel if you wish). Really, a fantastic job.
Now this is the part the program is all about. Start hot and running, great sound of the engine and rotors combined, steady on the ground, wind up the engine. Until you kiss good bye to 'terra-firma' gentle inputs are required. I love trying to 'hover-taxi' if the dynamics ain't right, kiss goodbye to that feature, but I tried it, never the less.
So, try and get her in the hover approximately 4 meters above the ground Be very gentle or you go up like an express lift. At this point I noticed a nose down tendency, which gave you can traverse into forward flight very easily. It does not take much to gather quite a pace. I could not trim out this tendency.
So, corrective back pressure on the stick, rpm steady, I decided to 'taxi'. If it was real I would have a very irate ground controller asking my intentions! Best said that taxi did not go well the first time.
I landed with a red face, and tried again, better, but you really have to very gentle on all inputs. I guess much like a real helicopter.
I found the control inputs a little too sensitive. Once above the ground, the flight pattern is very predictable, with all cyclic, collective and rudder inputs having a real effect on flight dynamics.
Landing, gentle reduction of the throttle, losing height, keep the nose up to bleed off the speed, nearing the ground, nose forward to get into a more horizontal attitude, with practice you will be able to land without having to call out the emergency services!
This general aviation entry level helicopter, despite fairly slow speeds, will challenge your flying skills.
OBSERVATIONS & CONCLUSION
If you are into helicopters you will have to add this to your collection. The R44 has been a long awaited release. The detail really is excellent, but there was a couple little things I noticed on my machine, namely in flight, the collective lever (between the front seats) oscillated up and down.
It has some very sensitive primary control outputs, making the R44 a little difficult to control near the ground.
OK, there are some areas that could be improved, but on balance the offering priced at ¬£14.99 / $29.99 / #euro;22.95 represents great value if you are rotor head and I know you will enjoy it as much I am!
System Used For Review
AMD 64X 2 Duel Core Processor 3800+
2 Gig Ram
Nvidia G-Force 3900 GT
Onwards and upwards.