B-17 Memphis Belle
By Gene Davis (5 November 2003)
he B-17 Flying Fortress is probably one of the most distinctive aircraft of World War 2. It has survived generations and will never be forgotten. This majestic plane once rumbled through the skies of war torn Europe, releasing its fury onto Nazi occupied territories, helping to dramatically crush the Nazi powers and bring the war to an end. This of course would not have been possible if it hadn't been for the crews of these planes. Their diligence, fortitude and selflessness made it possible to do the job and make sacrifices for a greater good, peace.
B-17 "Memphis Belle"The program comes in a nicely decorated DVD style case, with a well done 48 page manual tucked into the lid. The CD itself is also nicely decorated with the lady of the Belle. The program installs on Flight Simulator 2002, 2004 (COF) and Combat Flight Simulator 3. I have not tried this add-on on FS2002, therefore I can offer no input. After a quick install into FS2004 and CFS3 I was up and flying.
B-17 "Memphis Belle" for Combat Flight Simulator 3The CFS3 version of this add-on is a rather interesting one. It comes packed with the 25 wartime missions that the Belle actually flew and the Bassingbourne airfield scenery where the Belle and her crew were stationed. As you explore the airfield you will be treated with nicely rendered World War 2 era style buildings and other parked B-17s.
The aircraft itself is modeled well. The only thing I don't like is the poor view options in CFS3. It makes viewing the cockpit a bit of a bear when you're in a tight situation. Each gunner station is well drawn and I especially like the reflections in the plexiglass. To my surprise, though, it uses the default sound for the gunfire. I also found there was nothing done to dress up the bomb site screen. I would have liked to have seen a simple graphic rendition of the Norden bomb site; nothing fancy just a bitmap of the actual thing.
The mission I chose for this review was Mission 25. This was the Belle's return to the Kiel Shipyards on 19th May 1943. The Belle had been there on 14th May 1943, but a second mission was needed to destroy the shipyards. Parked on the runway the first thing I noticed were my wingmen; there were 17's to the rear of my plane. Now, this may have been okay had my engines been running, but they weren't. There was no taxiing from station to the takeoff runway, you simply just start on the runway. With CFS3, the only start up option you have is to hit the good old "E" key and that kind of takes the fun right out of it. This of course is not the Belle add-on's fault, but that of CFS3. In the FS2004 portion of this add-on you can start the plane manually.
Once airborne, the rest of the formation follows you like lost little puppy dogs. I also noticed that the cruising altitude for each leg of the mission, if you use the skip to next section, is about 900 to 1200 feet. This really irritated me as I had spent the first two legs climbing to the actual cruising altitudes. But, on a good note once you get to your target leg, you jump right up to bombing altitude.
Fighter intercepts were actually pretty funny. As I neared the enemy coastline I was intercepted by a squadron of German fighters. Manning my top turret station I couldn't wait to get into the thick of it. To my surprise though, from what I could tell none of the other bombers returned fire. Taking on the fighters myself, they seemed to center their attention on me. Needless to say I managed to take a couple of them down before they wiped out most of my flight.
Nearing the target the flak gets rather intense, which is very realistic to see. But, it is deadly accurate. As I lined the plane up for the bomb run, I thought I had hit Shift B for the bomb bay, but I didn't. As, I got over the target I went to drop the bombs and nothing happened. A sound would be really nice here! After taking what was left of my flight back out and around I made a second run at the target and obliterated it. The good news here is the other planes actually drop their bombs when you drop yours, they don't fly off, or drop their bombs prematurely. One of my biggest gripes with CFS3 was the lack of intelligent formation flying with bombers. Early on B-25's flew off in odd ball directions and each plane was left alone and subject to fighter attack without the cover of the remaining formation. With B-17, you will find that your flight actually remains with you, even when they shouldn't.
The mission was a success, however on my way out of enemy
territory I suffered some damage to my fuselage and my number three
engine. Breaking formation, I managed to keep the plane flying.
However, when I hit the time skip the plane lost too much airspeed
and crashed. As did the rest of my flight, they followed me right
B-17 "Memphis Belle" For Flight Simulator 2004: Century Of Flight
Personally I really prefer flying the Memphis Belle on FS2004. It handles right and I really enjoy the virtual cockpit. The add-on installs the war bonds tour that the Belle did after her 25 wartime missions and the Bassingbourne Airfield, complete with the nicely rendered World War 2 style buildings to your scenery library, as well as static B-17's!
Let's start with the virtual cockpit, I haven't seen a B17 this good since the release of B17 2 from Microprose. I have seen some B17 models in the past for FS2002 and was never really that impressed because most lacked the proper flight models to really model the 17. They never seemed to take you there, pull you in, but with the Belle it takes you right too 1943 and sits you in the cockpit of that magnificent bird.
Looking out from the virtual cockpit gives you a real sense of what it's like to fly in one of these planes. I tend to avoid the 2D panel, and fly from the virtual panel as much as possible, because the 2D just doesn't add to the realism as the virtual cockpit does. Unfortunately you cannot access the gunner stations in the FS2004 version, nor are there any other views except those of the cockpit views.
Along with the 2D panel, there is a separate engine panel, Bendix King avionics and an easy to understand engine starter panel. The FS2004 GPS works very well with the B-17 as does the autopilot.
The external rendition of the Belle is fabulous, right down to the rivets in the fuselage. Each crew position is manned and also well detailed, I love the bomber jackets (both kinds!). I also noticed that when starting the engines, the props shift position for startup. I thought this was a nice addition to the overall look of the aircraft. You will find that with the exceptional 3D model, the Belle is also accented with superb sound. I enjoyed firing her up for the first time, as well as shutting it down. The sound of the engines is magnificent, the roar and faint rumble is fantastic.
Flying the Belle is the true experience. Lumbering down the airstrip and ascending into the sky isn't easy with this bird. It flies like a heavy and is very unforgiving on takeoff. One of the biggest errors I make is that I like to watch it lift off, and I tend not to pay much attention here and usually end up stalling out or not gaining enough altitude and take out a tree or two. Trim and flap schedules are very important here. Taking the plane into a turn, in my opinion, really shows off the complexity of the flight model. If you don't keep your rudder correct in the turn, the plane really reacts negatively.
As good as this plane is I would like to see Just Flight make some minor modifications and enhancements to the plane. One being brake sound. If you have ever been around a real B-17 you know they make an incredible amount of noise when applying the brakes. I would also like to see an out of the nose view, like that of RCS B-25. And a simple graphic rendition of the Norden bomb site, along with the addition of bomb bay door sound.