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Review: Bristol 170 Freighter

Review: Bristol 170 Freighter

By Mike Hart

Hard to know where to begin on thissim model from FS Addon. Long in the wait it has taken nearly three ormore years to finish and is probably the last complete model from thatteam. This is no finish and dump. This model reflects care andattention to detail in just about every aspect. Technical aspectslater on but let's say it is for all current mainline sims FSX andP3D. This review was based on the FSX version.

This is simply a first class effort. I give it 10/10. The attentionto detail is extraordinary. Functionality is effectively 100% and ifit has not been modelled then it was probably superfluous. Thetextures are a work of art and show great attention to detail. Theaircraft systems and gauges are accurately modelled and the Sperry A3Autopilot functions as they did. The model handles well and thenumbers across the range are what one should expect of a large twinengine radial powered freighter from the mid nineteen forties.


So for those who actually would like a challenge in the sim this isit! The Bristol 170 Freighter. This model is not about complicatedsystems, they have those but properly integrated systems of the agefor this model reflects to a significantly accurate degree theaircraft of that era and this aeroplane. For that alone it is a mustfor the serious simmer, those hooked on classic pistons or simply theobscure or weird perhaps. Anyway for those unfamiliar with thisaeroplane, this is what the Bristol Freighter was about, cargo anddrive in and drive off loads.

The history of this remarkable aeroplane is well covered in themanual that came with the aeroplane. This aeroplane earned a number ofnicknames, "20,000 rivets in formation", the "Frightener" or just the"Shite Box". The aeroplane seemed to endear a perverse affection butas one New Zealand Air Force pilot who flew it said, after 4500 hoursin the Bristol, "I never felt I really got a handle on or masteredthis aeroplane". While it is functionally complete, stylish it wasnot.

This package includes five variants or marks:

  • MK 1 Military
  • MK 1 Civilian
  • MK21
  • MK31
  • MK31 Super Freighter (Long Nose)

A flying truck, the Bristol was a remarkably successful WW2 designthat kept going after the end of the second world war and was usedextensively by several air forces (New Zealand, Pakistan, Argentina,Australia) and found a ready market in post war aviation companiesengaged in freight and cargo work. Curiously while a British aeroplaneit was never used by the RAF in any major way. But for near on 50years the Bristol gave reliable service in some difficult operatingconditions, cold and hot.

The aeroplane itself is a curious design with big Bristol Herculesradial engines. It is the engine sizes that distinguish the differentmarks and the Mark 31 or Super Freighter has an extended nosesection. Nothing flash, fixed undercarriage, clam shell cargo doorsand loading ramp with rear passenger seating at the back of thecabin. The crew were perched up on a flight deck above the main wingline and above the voluminous box fuselage. Entry was via a laddernear the nose. All are modelled properly, Including the cockpit hatchand retractable sun blind. Windows open and shut as needed. Allcontrolled by mouse click or key commands. Night lighting includingthe VC is superb and the runway and taxiway lights are nicely balancedand give good illumination.

Quite a few Bristols also found their way to Canada and providedgreat service to mining and other exploration companies in theArctic. The Bristol was the workhorse of the RNZAF's supply andresupply operations between Malaysia and Vietnam during the VietnamWar. It had a long career as pure freighter In Australia on the EastCoast and Tasmania routes not to mention a stint for several years inthe Kimberly's carting chilled beef, they were called the Beef Buses.

So that gives you an idea of the sort of flying you can do withthis aeroplane in the sim. Short inter city freight or bush work andrough strips, all are its forte. It may not be a STOL aeroplane butabout 2500 feet of runway is all that it required. It took off at 100knots, cruised between 130 and 160 and landed at 80, stalls at 60.

Technical Stuff: This is for FSX installation; P3Dcompatible also. Payware, cost about 19 euros. Run on a standard HPDesktop with Win7 64 bit. 4 GHz card with 8.0 GB RAM, 2.0 GB HP videocard. Orbx, Global/Vector, REX 5. In short plain vanilla standardolder desktop. Download via the internet and standard zip unpack andinstaller. All as expected and ran first start up. This model is not aframe hog and loads and view switches effortlessly.

This is a new model from FSAddon and is payware selling for 19Euros approximately. It has high level of animations in terms ofloading and unloading, cargo loaded and ground power to name but a fewitems because if there was a hatch or door it has been included andworks.

This is not an aeroplane for those who want electronic goodies andmodern technology. It is what it is, a 1950s era piston freighter. Thesystems are basic and properly modelled and that includes the avionicsfaithfully reproduced, with one radio, one VOR, two ADFs and one RMI with aneedle pointer, no ILS and no DME. That's the way the original was andthis is faithfully replicated by FSAddon as well. For thosechallenged by old fashioned navigation techniques, CLOCK-MAP-GROUND,there is no GPS for you to keep track of where you are and what you aredoing. This increases the challenge.

Here's the cockpit by day:


And here is a view of the VC at night:


The flight manual provides good notes on what does what but all weneed to say is apart from the fire extinguisher system which is adummy (FSX limitation) all other switches and controls are clickableand work well.

It is a reasonably spacious cockpit and perched up high above thewing the view is actually superb. The view from the "bridge":


The Bristol had three man crews. In the air force they were pilot,navigator and radio operator. The civilian versions had two pilots,captain and copilot. It is all modelled but the radio operatorposition is not functional in any sense but it makes no difference tohow you fly this model or its enjoyment.


Moving about the VC with view shifts gives good depth and correctseating positions. Set your radios via the overhead and navaids viathe pedestal control units via clickable rotating dials. Allinstruments are clear and easy to read and the textures give an ideaof that slightly worn workhorse appearance. Electrical and othersystems switches and gauges are all on the left hand side cockpitwall.


The test run was from Essendon at Melbourne to Hobart in Tasmaniavia Flanders Island and Launceston. The same route that Ansett used tofly regularly with the Bristol. Now this model has some limitations,first there is no ILS or VOR gauge; all they ever had was a VOR and anADF with a big round two pointer RMI. So this is an aeroplane of itsera and you can appreciate the challenge of accurate IFR navigationwith only the basics.


As you can see model definition and accuracy are first class andthe realism excellent changing camera views reinforces this impression- this is nice design and paintwork. The textures deserve specialmention, the overall textures are painstakingly realistic and cleverlycrafted. This level of care and quality is obvious inside and out.

Once one has taken the time to look at this, how does it behave?Well just like the original aircraft did. Taxiing is not difficult withtail wheel steering linkage to rudder. There is no savage swing ontake off and the tail will come up about 60 knots, you lift off atabout 100 knots, clean up - getting the flaps up and climb at 120knots. Climb is at full power with a respectable 1500 fpm rate ofclimb. Engine failure is not a drama but the lack of climb performancelike that could be. The Bristol cruises between 135 and 170 knots, itdepends on how economical you want to be balancing speed against fuelconsumption. It trims and flys hand off nicely and once the autopilotis engaged holds the heading and altitude properly.

Out front leaving the Victorian Coastline:


The simple but effective dual needle RMI and radio selectorsbelow; Again superb texturing throughout:


The view of the spacious cabin-freight compartment and of the gear fromthe main fuselage in flight:.


Getting down and back on the ground is not hard. Descent is asteady 500 foot per minute drop and the speed may build a little butbringing back the power will slow her down. Approach is at about 120knots and over the fence to final at 100 coming back to about 80knots for touchdown. Here the model reveals its true nature; just likethe original the Bristol wants to land demanding a three pointer not onthe main wheels only and yes it is draggy so will bleed off speedquite quickly with full flap settings. It is not stiff or hard tomanoeuvre but is demanding of a little of precision for attitudes andspeeds airborne and on the ground. With this aeroplane there is plentyof time to get things set up and get ready. Pitch changes can besurprising with a little lag now and then to remind you this is a bigslab sided box with a big wing and in a way it is part of theaircraft's character. Funnily enough you cannot push and pull thisaeroplane about - it just decently does what it needs to.

It does not require hard landing surfaces and is as comfortable onthe dirt as any major airport. So you can squeeze into a short bushstrip or just a normal big runway, either way it does not need muchroom or space to take off or land. Any freight job you can think offthis is the beast as long as it is not intercontinental orinternational. If that's what you want to do be prepared to do lots ofrefuelling stops as it has a very short range of less than 1000 nm.

Loading and unloading is a breeze via a popup menu which alsoincludes an auto start system for those who want to bypass the primeand fire regime of these old pistons. And it is fascinating to watchthe bus and cars drive out of the aircraft and down the ramp and awaywhen you do, a very nice modelling touch indeed.

So a solid, dependable and honest aeroplane. No speedster but amodel that captures both the aeroplane and that flying erawonderfully. I found it fun and interesting; you will too.


On the apron at Hobart - job done!

Mike Hart (OldCrusty)

Purchase FSAddon - Bristol 170 Freighter

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