Hawker Hunter F.6/FGA.9
Publisher: Just Flight
The following is a direct quote from Wikipedia.
"The Hawker Hunter is a transonic British jet-powered fighteraircraft that was developed by Hawker Aircraft for the Royal Air Force(RAF) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was designed to takeadvantage of the newly developed Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine andthe swept wing, and was the first jet-powered aircraft produced byHawker to be procured by the RAF. On 7 September 1953, the modifiedfirst prototype broke the world air speed record for aircraft,achieving a speed of 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h; 632.29 kn).
The single-seat Hunter was introduced to service in 1954 as amanoeuvrable day interceptor aircraft, quickly succeedingfirst-generation jet fighters in RAF service such as the GlosterMeteor and the de Havilland Venom. The all-weather/night fighter rolewas filled by the Gloster Javelin. Successively improved variants ofthe type were produced, adopting increasingly more capable enginemodels and expanding its fuel capacity amongst other modificationsbeing implemented. Hunters were also used by two RAF display teams:the "Black Arrows", who on one occasion looped a record-breaking 22Hunters in formation, and later the "Blue Diamonds", who flew 16aircraft. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with a total of21 overseas air forces. In total 1972 aircraft were built and remainedin operational service until as late as 2014."
- Powerplant: 1 Rolls-Royce Avon 207 turbojet, 10,145 lbf (45.13 kN)
- Span: 33 ft 8 in (10.26 m)
- Maximum Weight: Loaded - 17,750 lb (8,050 kg) / Take-off - 24,600 lb (11,158 kg)
- Capacity: One pilot
- Maximum Speed: Mach 0.94, 620 kn (715 mph, 1,150 km/h) at sea level
- Maximum Range: Combat - 385 nmi (445 mi, 715 km) / Ferry -1,650 nmi (1,900 mi, 3,060 km) with external fuel tanks
Cost And Installation
At the time of writing this review, the Just Flight Hawker HunterF.6/FGA.9 was priced at $39.99 (or £32.63). The size of thedownload was relatively small compared to other aircraft products outthere coming in at only 291 MB. The download from the FlightSim.ComStore was quick and easy with only a few clicks of the mouse.
Installation was also trouble free. The installer will give you anoption of what simulator you would like to install the aircraft to,being either FSX or Prepar3D. Once a selection of these is made,further choices of which version of the simulator are available. Aproduct activation code is required in order to install the Hunter;this will be issued once successful payment has been taken.
The Hunter comes with a 32 page manual which details variousaspects of the aircraft; these include:
- Installation and support
- Walk-around the aircraft showing off various features of the external model
- Panel guide
- System guide
- Flying the Hawker Hunter F.6 and FGA.9
- Procedural checklist
A walk through start up procedure is included within the manual toget you off the chocks quickly and within the sim there is a checklistwhich can be accessed through the kneeboard in the drop down menu.
The first thing that you notice once you enter the cockpit is justhow cramped it is, which I am led to believe is the case in the realworld. The modelling and texturing of the cockpit is exceptional,something that we have become used to from Just Flight. There aresigns that this aircraft has been "used" for many years based on theweathering of the panels. The instruments are clear and easy to read,along with smooth animations. However, there is no vibration shakeshown on them which would have been a nice little effect consideringshe's such an old aircraft. One nice feature is the retractablegunsight, it can be stowed away so that you gain a slightly betterforward view.
Due to the F.6 and FGA.9 aircraft being modelled, the cockpits arealso modelled accordingly. The only difference I could spot betweenthe two was the brake chute handle in the FGA.9.
Included in the aircraft is an option to set the aircraft in a"cold and dark" state (be advised this is what the step-by-step guidein the manual assumes when talking about the start up procedure). Thecold and dark feature is very nice and allows you to operate in a morerealistic way should you choose to. From what I can tell not all theswitches in the cockpit are clickable, however these aren't reallyessential, such as test switches.
The aircraft systems are simulated to a certain extent (I am not areal world Hunter pilot so I can't confirm how in-depth they actuallyare) and with the Hunter not being such a complex beast they aren'tdifficult to operate which is nice, giving you the chance to have amore "heads out" approach to flying. You do however need to make surethat the flying controls are powered or you will struggle to tameher. Fuel control is also straightforward, and does not require theoperator to manually change between tanks, provided that the switch isin the "AUTO" position.
The aircraft comes with two pop-up panels, one is for the"cold/dark" selector along with the payload options, which appear on asmall fictional selection panel. The other pop-up is the defaultbuilt-in sim GPS.
The payload selection is easy to operate (a right click of themouse will turn the dial clockwise and a left click will turn the dialanti-clockwise) and only displays what each Mk of aircraft cancarry. For example the F.6 will not allow you to load either bombs orrockets since this option was not available in real life.
The night lighting is nice and subtle, the instruments give off anice glow so that you aren't blinded against the dark night sky, thereis an option to turn on an additional UV night light, however I foundthat some of the instrument textures appear to change size ever soslightly and also the altimeter changes from being visible to beingcompletely black apart from its needles. There does not seem to beany flood lights either so viewing switches on the consoles isdifficult but this is true to real life.
Overall the cockpit is beautiful, you get a real sense of realismwhen you are in the seat. The only thing that seems to be missingis the smell one would get in real life.
The aircraft ships with thirteen highly detailed liveries coveringthe F.6, FGA.9, F.56 and F.60. Having looked through the textures, thedetail included is simply sublime with all the decals you would expectto see painted on a real life flying example. Bump mapping appears tobe present which adds another level of realism, sadly however theaircraft does not come with PBR textures as publishing was pre-PBR. Idid find a few issues with the textures in terms of mispositionedmarkings on a few of the liveries, but they aren't anything tooserious and unless you are specifically looking for them you probablywouldn't notice. Below is a picture of all the liveries included andtheir designation according to the aircraft config file.
The Hunter is one of those aircraft that looks right from whicheverangle you view it from. As you walk around the aircraft the smoothlyrounded curves reveal little intake scoops and grills which shows offthe high level of modelling the developer has achieved. Thedifferences between the F.6 and FGA.9 are also modelled, with therebeing a brake chute housing unit particularly prominent on thetailpipe of the FGA.9. The external lighting is limited just like inreal life with only navigation lights available. Surprisingly theHunter didn't have a landing light in its operational days, makingnight ops tricky.
Payload options are available with the aircraft and can be selectedvia a pop-up menu. Each Mk of Hunter has its own specific variation ofwhat payload can be selected, from clean, to external tanks, to bombsand rockets. You are not however afforded the option of choosing whichstation can carry what. External stores options are pre-determinedfor you and can not be changed. An example of this can be seen in theFGA.9 version, if you wish to have bombs attached, they will be loadedto the inboard station with the external fuel tanks being loaded tothe outboard station; you can't have them the other way around. Beingable to change the configuration of the stores is nice but it could bebetter when compared to other military aircraft outthere. Unfortunately the weapons cannot be fired/released either,which is a real shame as you lose some aspect of realism with this.
In the product description by Just Flight they claim to havecaptured the Hunter's classic landing gear cycle and they certainlyhave. When watching the animation from an external view it is clear tosee the distinct sharp drop of the nose leg and the slow and smoothlylowered main legs. Canopy, flap and airbrake animations are alsoincluded as you would expect. One animation that is a nice touch isthe head movement of the pilot. Many developers don't appear toanimate their pilots, but with the Hunter on the other hand theyhave. The pilot continuously scans the sky looking for other aircraftor visual reporting points. This is a nice touch giving a sense ofrealism.
An additional feature to the external model is the groundequipment. These can be toggled from inside the cockpit. When thesefeatures are activated, chocks, GPU, boarding ladder together withblanks are fitted. These can also be viewed from inside the cockpit. Abrake chute is modelled on the FGA.9 model which can be deployed fromthe cockpit. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a key command forthe chute, this in turn doesn't make it very ergonomic for the userwhen flying as you have to let go of the controls to use the mouse anddeploy it. Due to this issue you lose a sense of "being in the moment"as you land.
Inside the cockpit they have captured sounds for the switches. Agentle humming in the background when the fuel pumps are turned onadds to the experience along with a nice sound of the engine. Thelittle murmuring sound the engine makes as it begins to spool up islovely. I use a headset when I fly and the immersion you can gain fromthe sound alone is incredible, it forces you to almost feel the enginethrobbing. As you slowly increase the throttle, watching an increasingRPM, the sound becomes a gentle roar.
From the external views the sound this aircraft generates becomeseven more intense. As you start the engine you can hear the ignitersfiring followed by a distinctive howling sound that increases untilthe engine stabilizes. As you move around the aircraft from front toback, you can hear the sharp howl from the air being sucked into thedistinctive shape of the intakes, to the soft rumble of an idlingRolls-Royce Avon 207 turbojet coming from the exhaust. If you perchyourself above the exhaust and increase the power you can almost feelyour body trembling from the thrust generated.
One little let down from the sounds is that nothing seems to comefrom the GPU when it's being used, not a big deal but it would haveadded that little bit extra to make it a more of a complete sound set.
I tried to compare the sound set included to that from videos onYouTube and I have to say they do sound spot on overall, veryimpressive to say the least. Depending on the sound system you usewill depend on what experience you have, I use a headset and theimmersion is fantastic.
The first thing that you notice when you release the brakes is thatyou do not require a lot of power to get her off the chocks, she willpull forward with only a few percent of power added. Taxiing is smoothand provided that you can get to grips with differential braking as aprimary source of steering, you shouldn't have an issue. During thetake-off cycle the manual states to hold the aircraft on its brakesand gently increase the throttle to full power. I noticed that duringthis the aircraft will start to move forward, even with brakes appliedat about 85% power. Once the brakes are released she doesn't waste anytime in picking up speed. It is worth noting that depending on whatexternal stores you have fitted to the aircraft will depend on howlong the take-off run will be. Within the manual it states a V-Rotatespeed of 125 and V-Lift off speed of 145, true to its word theaircraft smoothly leaves the earth behind you at 145 kts.
In the low level environment she handles like a dream where youhave a large envelope to operate this beauty in. At both high and lowspeeds the aircraft handled well. I had no issues and could achieve Gforce in excess of 6x the force of gravity.
Caution should be taken however when carrying out low speedhandling as stalls can be induced. This is easily observed when abuffeting sound can be heard from inside the cockpit. During mytesting I found that a minimum of 4000 feet was needed to recoversafely from a stall. In a high level environment (in excess of30,000 feet) she is still a dream to fly, a little sluggish but this isto be expected in the thinner air. The Hunter is easy to spin as Ifound out. When carrying out stalls at around 20,000 feet I enteredone. I plummeted towards the earth watching the same landmarks whippast as I spun. Recovery wasn't too tricky and I managed to get herback to level flight around 10,000 feet.
Now on to what this aircraft has been doing well for decades -aerobatics. Within the manual are recommended entry speeds for certainmaneuvers such as loops and rolls. The Hunter was effortlesslygraceful in carrying out these maneuvers as I tried to recreate myfavorite Hunter(G-PSST - Miss Demeanour)display routine. She handled everything that I could throw at herwhether I was trying to be smooth and graceful or hard and aggressive,the only thing I had to be careful of was the airspeed as it can "droplike a rock" if high G is sustained.
A nice feature with the aerodynamics comes from the externalstores. Depending on what configuration you have chosen to fly withwill depend on how well the aircraft responds to control inputs andhow much you will be "weighed down". Different size external fueltanks will automatically change the fuel quantity that you have, thiswill of course also alter the aircraft performance.
Overall, she handles like a dream.
Virtual Reality is quite astonishing, it can give you a real senseof sitting in an aircraft, and the Hunter is no exception. Having theability to look around and see your wings as they puncture the cloudlayer is something that will never get old. Before you try this out inVR there is already a sense of being sat in a tight cockpit, but whenyou strap on a VR headset, it feels as though your shoulders are aboutto explode out of this cockpit. When I closed the canopy I felt like Ineeded to lower my head slightly so that it could slide past. Thisgoes to show how accurately the aircraft has been modelled.
I use the Oculus Rift and found that the instruments are perfectlyfine to read but not HD. This isn't an issue with the aircraft as moreof a limitation of the Rift. I didn't notice any significantperformance drop whilst using VR which was nice. The only issue I hadwas a little vertigo when carrying out a few maneuvers but this ismore my issue.
Utilities And Tools
Outside of the sim there is an option selector so the user canchoose whether they want to have either a "castering nose wheel" or"steering nose wheel". This is a nice touch and allows for flexibilityto suit the users preference. A highly detailed paint kit is alsoavailable as a separate download from the Just Flight web site.
To summarize my experience with the aircraft as hugely positivewould be an understatement. The level of immersion is fantasticparticularly with VR, I felt like I have achieved a childhood dream offlying a Hunter. The price of $39.99 seems reasonable considering thelevel of detail included and the sheer sense of pleasure one can gainfrom strapping this machine to their back. I don't believe thisaircraft to be "study-level" and Just Flight doesn't market it assuch, but there is still a level of complexity that the user needs tounderstand before taking flight. During my testing I didn't notice anydrop in frame rates with settings set in the mid to high regionachieving a smooth experience throughout.
Overall I would rate this product as a solid 9.5/10. I have droppeda few points for a few small issues/disappointments with thetexturing, configuration selection and the lack of key assignments. Istrongly believe if these discrepancies were rectified this would be a10/10 product and provide an even greater flying experience.
If this isn't in your hangar, it should be - you won't bedisappointed.
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