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Review: Bus Driver - The iniBuilds Airbus A300


This being the story of how he abandoned Boeing for atime, and
took up with a plump French Tart! And, by the by, areview of an
outstanding new product for X-Plane11.

In the beginning there was Henry Ford;who, as Ernie Gann wrote, seemed to have enticed all of the AuntMabels of the country to turn in their washboards to be fashioned intoairliners. Then came Donald Douglas, who at the behest of first TWAand later American, created the most timeless airliner of all time!Then came Lockheed, and Convair, and Martin and soon the world wasoverrun with airliners. But finally came Boeing, and conquered all,for a time, during which the others faded away, some quickly, someslowly. And Boeing did rule the roost.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the European ranch, an airlinerspecification was quietly making its way around the several old worldairliner manufacturers. It was, oddly, an American specification -meaning American Airlines, and it was the brainchild of one FrankKolk, who was Vice President of Engineering at AA.

When the US airlines decided, early on, that the 747 was simply toolarge for domestic use (even though many bought them, largely becausethe passengers loved them) they proceeded to underwrite the nextgeneration of wide bodies - the DC-10 and L-1011. Frank Kolk drew upthe American Airlines specification for this class of airplane and itfeatured two engines, of roughly the size and power of the engines onthe 747's. Not for the first time (remember the 727 story?), most ofthe airlines wanted more engines, thus the three engine layouts ofDouglas and Lockheed's nearly identical pair. The Americanspecification continued to float around for awhile, eventually findingits way to Europe.

Eastern was the first US customer for the original A-300

Dassault, Sud-Est, and a few other entities had by now formed a newconglomerate called Airbus Industrie, and they were very interested inthe AA specification, to the point of talking with Kolk about it, butby that time American was invested in the DC-10. Nonetheless, thewidebody twin was designed and built as the Airbus A-300. A number ofairlines around the world, including Eastern Airlines in the US,bought them and put them into service in the 1970's. This originalA-300 was fairly conventional, with a three man crew and a flightengineer station in the cockpit. It was not initially a big seller,but it was successful enough that further developments wereforthcoming, including a "shortie" version dubbed the A-310. This wassignificant because it was the first variant to feature a somewhatautomated, two pilot flight deck. As time went by, Airbus decided tograft the automation and the two crew cockpit onto the larger A-300B4fuselage, thus begetting the A-300-600.

Wardair Canada A-310, the short version that introduced the two man cockpit.

By this time Boeing had also gotten into the widebody twin market,with the 767. There was, initially, a controversy in the USA over thethree versus two pilot crew issue; and not until a Presidentialcommission had cleared the way for two pilot operations did the 767take off, so to speak.


The competition between the A-300 and the new 767 was interestingto behold. The initial 767-200 was somewhat smaller than the A-300,and had a fuselage of slightly smaller diameter. This made itnecessary to design new smaller under deck cargo containers for it.Airbus had built the A-300 with a larger, perfectly circular fuselagethat could accommodate two of the regular wide body containers side byside, and of course they tried to make some marketing hay about it,but the industry turned out to be quite sanguine about buildingsmaller containers, and the 767 did not lose sales on this account. Afew years after the introduction of the 767-200, Boeing did what theyand Douglas had always done best - they stretched the design and madethe 767-300. With this airplane they had a closer match for thepassenger capacity of the A-300-600.

A-300-605R in AA colors at Toulouse in a publicity shot. I still bears French registration. (AA photo)

All the while, Airbus was trying hard to sell the latest models ofthe A-300 to US airlines, a factor that did not go unnoticed at AAheadquarters. Bob Crandall drove hard bargains, as all of theemployees at AA were to eventually find out (but of course, thesebargains also had the effect of strengthening the company, thusensuring durable careers for many, including yours truly!). But notonly employees -- suppliers of all sorts found this out as well: ifyou wanted to do big business with AA, you had to offer a great deal.So Airbus and Crandall hammered out a great deal - an initial total of25 A-300-605R's on what was essentially a Hertz-like rental agreement(in contrast to the long term capital leases that typically financedairplane purchases for airlines). It was an agreement that could evenbe cancelled early on if AA was not satisfied. Such a deal!

Another publicity shot over France (AA photo)

Interestingly, Boeing also offered a nearly identical "bargain" onnew 767-300 ER's, and Crandall, loath to leave anything on the table,took them up on it to the tune of 25 of them, causing a good deal ofheartburn at Airbus. But both deals were done; and, as it turned out,the two types would constitute the entirety of my flying for the last18 years of my career. In the end, we would get 10 more Airbuses andbecome the largest A-300 operator in the world, considering onlypassenger versions (FedEx and UPS now have many more, and are stilloperating them. In fact, Airbus was still building them as freightersuntil 2007). But, in the end, it was the 767 which became the king ofour fleet for a long time, and we eventually ended up with over 100 ofthem, mostly the -300ER variant.

The initial cadre of our pilots for the Airbus was treated to whatmust surely be the greatest boondoggle in the history of aviation.They all trained in Toulouse France, at the Airbus headquarters, wherea school had been established. While the AA schoolhouse in Texas wasbeing set up with an A-300 division, a few hundred AA pilots (someaccompanied by their wives and even families) were wined, dined, andsubjected to one month of training crammed into three months! Sadly,this was all history by the time that I got there, and I trained atour own digs hard by the DFW airport. But the stories I heard fromthe pilots who had gone the Toulouse route were the stuff of dreams,including junkets all over Europe, and I always regretted havingmissed out on that.

AA photo

I got trained on the A-300 considerably out of seniority, as adirect result of having gone back into "the office" as Chief Pilot atJFK. JFK, at the time, was more or less the nexus of our A-300operation, since we primarily used the airplane on the Caribbean runsto take advantage of its high passenger capacity (in the two classconfiguration we used, it had a capacity of over 250 passengers, whichwas more than the 777-200 could take in a three class layout, to saynothing of the huge belly cargo volume). Since most of our operationat JFK involved the A-300, one of the chiefs at New York, usually theone at JFK, was always qualified on it. And so it was that I foundmyself in 1990 headed not to Toulouse, sadly, but to Arlington Texasfor my first new airplane school since C-5 school in 1984.

In the study hall, learning the A-300. The joystick, form a military surplus store, reflects an inadequate understanding
of which Airbus I am dealing with!

Things had changed considerably in the intervening years. Whereasthe C-5 school had consisted of classroom work with large mechanicalsystems trainers like the ones I had always seen since I startedflying, the Airbus school had been computerized, and consistedentirely of what we now call computer based training (CBT), with whatwould today be considered PowerPoint presentations with embeddednarration. All of the systems and procedures were taught this way.The fleet classrooms had been replaced by a large open area withdozens of CBT carrels, capable of running any of the programs on anyof the fleets.

After watching these programs in the morning, we ate lunch and thengathered with an instructor in a small room (there were only a handfulof us in any given "class") for review of what we had supposedlylearned that morning. To facilitate this review, the room wasequipped with what we called a "wooden Indian" - that is, a papertrainer, although these were done up with full size instrument panelphotos, not the previous line drawings. There I was to discoversomething I had not anticipated; that is, that CBT gained knowledge isextremely volatile. Many's the time my response to a question fromthe instructor was "we haven't studied that yet", only to be rebukedwith the reminder that yes indeed, we had encountered it earlier thatsame day in the computer course! And had already forgotten it. Thiswas shocking, and my only comfort came from the fact that my partnerwas having identical difficulties.

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Left: Later on at the hotel, going quietly nuts over the complicated systems!

The Airbus was and is a very complex airplane, in terms of systemsand cockpit layout. The systems are sophisticated, and replete withnit-noy collections of relays, solenoids, subsystems and all manner ofcomplexities. In this the Airbus resembles the C-141 and C-5, bothLockheed products and both the result of the same sort of thinking onthe part of the design engineers. The cockpit of the A-300 isfestooned with buttons, switches, knobs, dials, and other assortedminutiae, in stark contrast to the relative simplicity of the 757/767flight deck. In the 767 the FE was carefully and thoughtfullyeliminated, pretty much vanished in an engineering disappearing act.In the Airbus, they more or less moved the FE panel up overhead andkicked out the FO, promoting the FE to a window seat. Had it not beenfor my long experience with complex airplanes in the military I mighthave had a worse time of it. As it was, I wound up spending most ofmy weekends at the schoolhouse instead of going home, to stay up withthe academics.

/images/reviews/busdrivr/t/009.jpg   /images/reviews/busdrivr/t/008.jpg
Left: The A-300-600 simulator at the Flight Academy in Texas. Note the complex flight deck.
Right: The somewhat simpler layout of the 757 flight deck.

The simulator training was equally intense. By this time, theairline had changed its training philosophy from "the pilot is ajunior mechanic and needs to be able to build the airplane, or atleast fix it" to "since no one can fix much while the airplane isflying, the pilot does not need to know much beyond which button topush when". In other words, operationally oriented rather thantheoretically oriented training. At Toulouse, when pilots tried todelve into the inner workings of systems, they were often met with aGallic shrug and an exclamation "It ees Automatique!" And we got agood bit of the same attitude in Texas, except for the accent (waaal,shucks - its aw-tow-matic!).

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Left: My notes on the overhead panel picture. There was much to learn on this beast...
Right: The FMS, which was the source of a great deal of confusion during training.

The A-310 was a transitional airplane, and not as much a cleansheet design like the 767. Much of the stuff of the three crew A-300made its way onto the 310 flight deck, and stayed there when thecockpit was grafted onto the longer A-300 fuselage. Thus, in additionto all of the new ECAM and PFD/Nav Display gimcrackery, an entire setof analog engine instruments occupied much of the center panel, and 4of the original 6-pack of flight instruments clustered around theglass in front of each pilot.


There was, however, a big difference between this and any otherairplane I had ever flown - the FMC; or rather, as they called it inthe Airbus, the FMS. These gadgets were a brand new concept; and,especially for the older guys, a very difficult concept to grasp -totally integrated navigation and automatic flight. All of the mostlysenior pilots who gravitated to these well paying widebodies alreadyknew jet aircraft systems cold from 20 plus years of experience. Butthey did not know much if anything about integrated flight managementsystems, and it was to this deficiency that the bulk of the simulatortraining was addressed. Whereas in the past sim training had consistedlargely of takeoffs, approaches, stalls, steep turns and engine outapproaches, combined with sessions that introduced most of the systemsabnormalities that could crop up, the majority of the time in theA-300 sim was spent learning how to program the FMS, and watching itmake Otto jump through hoops. Abnormals, in any event, were mostly amatter of running a checklist that appeared like magic on the leftECAM screen whenever the need arose. But the real comic relief waswatching both pilots (me included!) trying to herd all of the digitalcats into the CDU.

Once we had achieved some level of competence in the workings ofthe FMS/CDU and had learned to fly the beast with but a single enginerunning, the rating ride was taken and passed; and we then proceededto the line to encounter the real airplane for the first time -- andwith a load of passengers to boot, none of whom was given to know thattheir Captain was, in fact, a neophyte! As always in suchcircumstances, there was a check airman in the right seat to keep theblue side up.

I finally make it to the line, perched in the left seat. The Airbuses have something of the appearance of a bird's beak up front.

I had been flying the C-5 for 5 years at this point, and mere sizein an airplane no longer intimidated me - in fact, the cockpit of theA-300 was a good 10 feet lower than that of the C-5, so the bird feltsmaller than it actually was. But what did impress the hell out of mewas the ability of two engines to convert fuel into acceleration.This was the first twin engine airplane I had flown since the T-37 andT-38 in pilot training, and the effect, on my first takeoff, was notunlike that of the T-38 in full afterburner! It felt an E ticket rideat Six Flags. We weren't all that heavy for the JFK-SJU flight, androtation speed seemed to flash by in mere seconds. This was notsomething that the simulator fully duplicated - oh, it made theairspeed needle move impressively, but even with a 6-degree-of-freedommotion system they don't replicate acceleration completely. Ieventually came to appreciate that this is more or less true of alltwin engine transport category aircraft, since they are all, bydecree, nearly 100% overpowered for takeoff when both engines areoperating. After all, they have to keep flying when one engine quitsat V1! Eventually I got used to it, more's the pity, and gettingpressed into the seatback became a typical experience. But, likelove...oh, that first time!

Ensconced in the left seat somewhere between the old world and the new.

I flew the Airbus for nine years, most of it on the line after I"retired" from the office. After eight years of flying it in theCaribbean I decided that I might as well reacquaint myself with thedelights of Europe, and I started flying the Atlantic division tripsto London. By this time, around 1997 or so, ETOPS was old hat in theindustry, and so for the first time since 1993 I was flying the NATS.While not a truly long range airplane, the Bus could make it from NewYork or Boston to London without difficulty. After a year or so,London led to Paris, which in turn led to the 767, the steed that boreme through to retirement.


The A-300-600R was a good airplane, stable and easy to handle withits old school hydraulic control systems and artificial feel. Itwasn't the sweetest handling airplane I ever flew, something that Idiscovered immediately, having come right off the 727 (which was thesweetest handling transport ever), but it was docile enough when Iflew it and it proved not difficult to land decently. It did hide aflaw, one which caused an accident in late 2001, but which had notbeen previously identified - the way the rudder limiter system wasdesigned, it turned out to be possible to put excessive loads on thevertical tail if the rudder pedals were moved rapidly, even over thespan of an inch or so, in a clean configuration.

My last flight on the Bus, in late May of 1999.

It had excellent field performance with those two big GE engines,and it could climb quickly, but only to medium altitudes. The enginescould take it to the moon, but the relatively small stiff wing did notlike high altitudes, and with transatlantic loads we usually startedout at FL310. Empty, though, it was a rocket. Once, on a ferry flightfrom Puerto Plata to JFK, I made a max power, max climb departure. Itwas like riding a spooked bronco, and we were at FL 410 in less than10 minutes. But it was only when it was empty that any altitude above370 was attainable. This could be problematic; like the night we werecoming back up from the Spanish Main and coasting in over Norfolk,only to find a solid line of huge thunderstorms from Virginia Beachall the way to California, or so it seemed! We had managed tostruggle up to FL350 by this time, but it was obvious that 350 was farshort of what might be needed to top the line.

Struggling out of 32,600 feet, probably for no higher than FL330.

A 757 was going over it at 410, and I envied that Captain thepossibilities that a decent high altitude wing conferred upon him. I,vertically challenged, had to request a deviation out over theAtlantic to the east, but this was refused. The Navy, bless theirsalty hearts, was dogfighting in the warning areas off the coast. Iasked for a deviation around the west side of the line, but when Iinformed the controller that it was unlikely that we would be able toflank it until we were past Pittsburgh he refused that request aswell. Finally, I simply asked for clearance to a VOR well south ofthe line, to hold or divert because I wasn't going through thatgauntlet of lightning and red radar returns. No sooner had I madethis request than every flight behind us coming up the airway toNorfolk requested the same thing. Like elephants in a circus parade,it often happens that way - one guy decides that discretion is thebetter part, and the rest suddenly think it's a good idea too! In anyevent, clearance to deviate west was eventually forthcoming, andindeed we were near Pittsburgh before we flanked the line and headedback east to JFK. But for the want of a wing, FL410 could have beenours.

The yellow thing is a sunshade, provided for each side window.

Even with its altitude limitations, the Airbus was an excellent fitat American because of its huge blimp-like fuselage. As I said, itcould carry over 250 passengers - more than our 777-200's - and thecargo hold was cavernous. One Christmas season, shortly after aflight attendant strike during which Bob Crandall had kept the airlineoperating with mostly empty airplanes (and we discovered that we couldsometimes break even just with belly cargo), we flew dozens of tripsfrom New York to the Caribbean carrying only the excess baggage of theislanders. We were totally empty on top, not even flight attendants,but those flights were profitable nonetheless. That was a lesson theindustry is now relearning, thanks to COVID.

Tied up at the gate at Boston after my final Airbus flight in 1999.

AA kept the A-300's until shortly after I retired in 2008. By thattime they were back to plying an east coast to Caribbean trade, bumpedoff the North Atlantic by the burgeoning 767 fleet. I myselfabandoned my French flirtation and returned to Boeing in 1999,eventually flying the 767 all over Europe and South America. I endedup with nearly 4000 hours in the Bus, lower than you might expect overnine years time because of my 4 years in the office.

Our A-300's, and likely many of the other passenger variants, oftenwound up being converted to freighters, which is pretty much the onlyversion flying today. But it is indeed still flying today, and ingood numbers. Both FedEx and UPS each have fleets nearly double thenumber we had, and cargo carriers worldwide are still making good useof all the volume that fat fuselage provides. In fact, as I saidearlier, Airbus was still building it in 2007. It may not be theprettiest airplane in the world, but it can still pay the bills!

Review: Inibuilds A-300-600F

Inibuilds A-300-600F

In the world of PC flight simulation Airbus has, until now, beenmainly represented in the form of the later and smaller A-320. Avariant of it was standard equipment in FSX and Aerofly FS2, and ithas become available in nearly every platform as a "study level"add-on. There have even been add-ons of the somewhat larger A-330,yet until now there has been no payware A-300-600R. But the wait, forthe faithful, is now over, and the result is very impressive indeed!


Inibuilds is a company that I was heretofore unacquainted with;but, if their new offering is any indication, they will bear closewatching in the future. Their A-300-600F (the freighter version) isan excellent piece of work - with a high degree of realism, not onlyin terms of the visual look, but also the flight model and mostimpressively the systems. As I mentioned, Airbuses are complex underthe skin, and the ECAM displays which provide a glimpse into the innerworkings of all of the mostly automated systems are replete withscreen after interactive screen, just about all of which arefaithfully recreated for this product. For all practical purposes,all of the systems needed for normal operation are modeled, andgranted that my last flight as a Captain on one of these was 21 yearsago, it all seems complete and correct to me. Typical of today youwill find, over on the forums at the Inibuild web site, numerouscomplaints that this or that nit-noy was not included or improperlymodeled, and indeed some of those posters should have been on thealpha and beta teams! But operationally, in terms of real worldflying (not a simulator session from recurrent training) this is acomplete package, and it is just about the most realistic add-on Ihave ever encountered (full disclosure - I have never owned or triedanything from PMDG, nor any of the A-320 variants on any platform, sothere may be something out there that is as good as this, that I havenot been exposed to. Just sayin').


In the past, new product reviews have been replete withillustrations inside and out, and descriptions of how the thing works,together with technical specs on such important minutiae as framerates and the like. Today, though, there is little need for writtenreviews thanks, largely, to YouTube. We now have full blown videoreviews from some very fine gents such as Froogle and Jeff Favingiano,to name but two, and these give far more insight into the product thanany written report ever could. So, aside from an opportunity to sharewith you my French flirtation, the reason that I write this is toconvey that which only a pilot of the type can provide - to give youan idea of how this A-300 "flies", compared to the real thing!

Now obviously, the first difference in how it flies is tens ofmillions of dollars worth of real airplane, or an only slightly lesserdollar amount of high tech certified simulator hardware and software.So the issue boils down to this: does this thing offer the hobbyist areasonably accurate simulacrum of the actual experience of pilotingthis airplane? In short, yes it does, within the limits of what isachievable on a PC with a $100 yoke and $500 pedals.


All transport category airplanes fly pretty much alike. That is tosay, if you put in a certain amount of roll input on the yoke you willget a certain amount of roll in the airplane itself. Likewise forpitch inputs. The response of a real airplane of this class can becategorized as stable and just slightly ponderous, and pretty muchlacking in "twitchiness" and instability. This was achievedaerodynamically and with artificial feel back in the A-300's day, andthrough flight control computers in the fly-by-wire era of today. Theresponsiveness of a transport category jet is not unlike theresponsiveness of a Honda Accord - pleasant and relatively stable. Onthe other end of the performance spectrum, a modern fighter jet issomewhat unstable for instant maneuverability. Think Maserati orLamborghini, rather than Honda or Ford. Going back a few decades,the 707's and all of the propliners flew more or less like a MackTruck without power steering.


Another aspect of realism in a project like this is the poweroutput of the engines and the indications thereof, as well as theresponse of the simulated airplane to the engines. Twinjets withengines under the wings have a pronounced tendency to pitch nose upwith the addition of power, especially large inputs of thrust, and topitch nose down when thrust is reduced, especially when it is reducedquickly and a lot. The best way to stop on a dime the otherwiseexcellent climb rates in these airplanes is to pull all throttles toidle. The climb stops NOW! That was the drill if we ever overshot anassigned altitude. This pitch-tendency-tied-to-thrust is sopredictable that you can fly the airplane with it; and indeed, that ismore or less what Captain Al Haines and his crew did in the Sioux Cityevent.


On a more mundane level, the taxi performance and response tothrust on the ground are also elements of realism that we willexplore. Different engines have different ground idle thrust levels,and some will make the airplane scoot right along on the ground whileothers have to be occasionally "encouraged", not unlike a jockeybrandishing a whip on a racehorse. And, lest we forget, the tendencyof the airplane to stop quickly or not is an element of realismtoo.

In our PC flying we have, of course, no "feel" other than whatcentering springs provide. Although this might actually be realisticfor something like the A-320 series, it leaves us with no possibilityof analyzing "feel". Instead, realism in a product like this dependslargely upon a) the accuracy of the systems modeling and b) accuracyof the flight model - that is, how accurately does the sim react tocontrol inputs and is the performance at given speeds and powersettings what would exist in the real airplane? So off we go to findout!

The screen from the old AA FMS trainer for the Airbus. Not until I had seen this again did I really remember that our airplanes
indeed had the Sperry FMS as depicted faithfully in the Inibuilds offering.

Hopping into this A-300 is like stepping back 20 plus years intime. I have pretty much kept my hand in, so to speak, with the 757and 767 - at least in terms of what they were equipped with 12 yearsago, thanks to Level D and Flight Factor. The Airbus is a differentstory - 21 years is a long time; so long, in fact, that I did not evenrecognize the Sperry Flight Management System that is very wellmodeled here. It was not until I dragged out the old disks from my AAA-300 training that I realized that yes indeed it was the Sperry. TheSperry is not at all like the system on the 757/767. That one,probably by Honeywell, was way more intuitive, with specific keys formany of the functions such as DEP/ARR, CLB, CRZ, DESC, and the like.All of that, in the Sperry, is hidden in various other pages, andtakes some knowledge to pull up right away.

A quick trip to one of many study videos on YouTube, some producedfor Inibuilds itself, was enough to refresh my ailing memory on someof the ins and outs of the FMS, enough to input a flight plan ofsorts, the better to launch myself on a mission of rediscovery.Contrary to my usual practice of jumping in with both engines running,I decided to go "cold and dark", to experience the start up sequenceand judge its accuracy. For this, too, I had to resort to the "howto" video, but except for actually turning off the packs (apparentlythis was "Automatique" when the start switch was placed to either ofthe two ground start positions) I was able to get them both startedwithout damage! The actual start up is very well depicted, and thesounds are excellent, albeit fairly low level in the cockpit, which isprobably realistic given the size of the airplane and the distance tothe engines. In any event, if you want yours to sound like an opencockpit you can adjust the levels in settings. It is plenty loudenough in outside views.


Starting big high bypass turbines is a relatively slow process, andthis is accurately modeled. Also, the EGT gages on the Airbus wereslow reacting (also accurately depicted) in contrast to the fastresponse thermocouples on the 767, which were unnerving to us in thesimulator the first time we started up. Many pilots did the hot startdrill when they saw the EGT wind up like a figure skater in a spin.The Airbus, in contrast, was a thermodynamic study in slow motion.


Once both engines are started, which IRL we did one at a timebeginning with number 1, we are ready to taxi. The Inibuilds A-300interfaces with Better Pushback right in its own tablet system, socalling for and setting up pushback is easy. That tablet system wasnot a feature of the airplane when I flew it - we barely had laptopsback in 1990 and we certainly did not have them in the cockpit! Witharound half fuel and half a cargo load, breakaway thrust is accurateat around 40% N1. I flew these with GE's, so that is how I willevaluate it here. Initially, I had to keep adding a bit of power fromtime to time to keep it moving, but once you get it up to around 15knots or above it keeps going by itself, just like in real life.Turns are well depicted, and if you start with a little input and addmore when the turn is established you will look like a pro. You needto oversteer an airplane like this just a bit, since the nosewheel isbehind your seat - a good bit behind. That is to say, don't start theturn until your viewpoint is a bit past where you think you need tostart. The 757 was like this too, but the 767 nosewheel was almostbeneath the pilot seats and you only needed a little bit of oversteerto account for the distance back to the main gear, which you want tokeep straddling the yellow line!


Once lined up for takeoff, you stand the throttles up (increasethem manually to around halfway) and, when satisfied that both enginesare accelerating more or less together, you would (in the airplane)hit the TOGA button on the throttle. But in this simulation, for somereason, that does not work, nor does the Autothrottle button on theautopilot panel up front. Instead, Inibuilds has created a phantomTOGA switch, located on the little screw just to the left of the A/THRbutton. When you move the mouse there, the little hand appears. Justclick, and off you go! Both engines accelerate to whatever takeoffpower you have commanded, and the airplane starts to roll.

In the simulation, this acceleration is realistic: rapid if you arelight, and somewhat stately if you are heavy, just like the realthing. The computed V1 and V2 speeds, courtesy of the tablet at yourleft elbow, are somewhat higher than I dimly remember them to havebeen. Just now, as I am starting a trip from Puerto Plata to SanJuan, they are on the order of 164, 166, and 171, at a weight of281,000 pounds. I will have to look among the dusty cobwebs of myaeronautical archive to see if I still have any performance manualsfrom the Airbus. As I said, my memory is more likely to be faultythan Inibuilds data, but I just don't remember the speeds to be thathigh.

When you get to rotate speed, whatever it may be, the actualrotation is quite realistic, in terms of how much pitch input yieldshow much rotation. The nose comes up nicely and the airplane liftsoff at just about the right pitch attitude - 7 to 10 degrees. Thisairplane did not have the close ground clearance, tailwise, that theBoeings had - the fuselage slopes up sharply near the tail, and itwould take a considerable over rotation to actually hit any structure.Thus there is no tailskid on the A-300.


Once airborne, this bird "flies" superbly, with only a little bitof excess response in both pitch and roll that is generallycharacteristic of all XP airplanes. This can be tamped down byaltering the right hand edge of the pitch and roll response curves.There is a YouTube video showing how to do this, but the short versionis -- reduce the right hand edge of the curve from full to around 80%.This yields a more realistic and slightly less eager response to yokeinputs. The real airplane flies in a stately manner, with smoothresponse in all axes. The Inibuilds model displays good climbperformance, in terms of climb rate versus pitch attitude andairspeed. The pitch trim is a bit overenthusiastic, and it would notbe difficult to over-control this if you are in the habit of flyingwith trim, as many tend to be, including real world pilots. But ifyou are judicious in your use of the pitch trim all will be well.This is fortunate since there is no simple way to rein in the pitchtrim (i.e., how much the trim wheel turns for a given length of buttonpush).


The autopilot appears to be very well modeled, with only anoccasional electronic tantrum on display, probably caused by me usingprofile mode while having only the dimmest memory of how it works!Many of you will use Otto for just about everything, which is fineconsidering that many of today's airline pilots do the same. VNAV iscalled Profile in the Airbus, but pretty much does the same things;and if you never master it, Flight Level Change and Vertical Speed arejust a click away. The old "3 times the altitude loss" rule (distancefrom target to begin descent is three times the altitude loss inthousands of feet; i.e., to lose 10,000 feet start down 30 nm [10x3] awayfrom the point where you need to be level again) works pretty well,and you can fine tune it as you get used to the performance. Don'tforget to add about 10 miles to the distance for slowing to 250 knots,if that will be a factor, and also maybe add or subtract a bit ofKentucky windage for headwinds or tailwinds.


The autopilot can, of course, land the airplane as well as fly it,and it does this with great realism. I flew an autoland at arelatively light weight (220k lbs) and it was flawless - smoothlyflown, with the autothrottles tracking the commanded airspeed closely,followed by a perfect flare and touchdown. The airplane wiggled a bitleft and right at touchdown, as the yaw dampers compensated for theslight crosswind (all autoland systems have a de-crab feature toeliminate landing sideways in a crosswind). Autobrakes on medium willbring the ship to a complete stop without fuss or screeching of tires.


Having satisfied myself that Otto was possessed of all of hisfaculties, I decided to try it myself. In my book, the landing is thegold standard of all flight simulation, be it PC based or Level Dcertified. As you descend and approach the field, the airplane slowsdown just like the real one, and you will want to anticipate the needto add power as you approach your target speed. Pitch attitudes forthe various configurations (clean at 250, 15/15 at 180 and so on) arespot on if memory serves. The "airplane" handles with just the righttouch - stately but adequately responsive - and the deck angle comesdown as flaps are extended, just like it should. On final, fullyconfigured, it is one of the best "flying" simulated airplanes I haveencountered; right up there with the Level D 767 for MSFS and thevarious Flight Factor and FlyJSim offerings over here. That is highpraise, in my book. It is about as much like the real thing as itwould be possible to get on a PC. Landings are really excellent,provided that you have been on glidepath and on speed (the so-calledstabilized approach). As you get below around 30 feet, a small flareof around a couple of degrees of pitch is enough to stop most of thesink, and let it settle on. After turning a hundred knots or so ofspeed into heat (which you can see on the brake temps page of theECAM, and should trigger you to turn on the brake fans), you are backto taxiing once again. Happy Landings indeed!


This thing has some excellent features, in addition to the veryrealistic performance and operation. Like many products today, itfeatures an in-cockpit tablet mounted on the side window. Real pilotshave been using these for a decade or more, and the resultingelimination of close to 40 pounds of kitbag has perhaps been one ofthe reasons that the retirement age could be raised to 65! Thistablet is the most useful and versatile I have yet seen in a PCsimulation. You can access all of your loading options from withinit, and it has a page to calculate your takeoff data. On top of that,it will send all of that to the FMS for you. Of course, you accessall ground services from there as well. Best of all, it all worksquickly - no annoying Walter-Mitty-realism leading to annoying realworld fuel and load times.

Real and Memorex! An outstanding simulacrum indeed.

Settings, too, are handled here and there are many of them, givingyou a great deal of control over many aspects of the simulation. Andwonder of wonders - there is a startup states page, which lets youinstantly select and progress to any of several start states - thecold and dark that is so beloved of flight simmers (and so unusual inthe real world), an at the gate state with the APU running, a ready totaxi and a ready to takeoff, the latter of which has done everythingfor you except for the initialization and flight plan setup in theFMS. The only way to fly!

The product currently consists of only the freighter version, whichmay be appropriate since that is the only version currently flying.They have really good looking liveries for just about every airlinethat flies it, and some fictional ones that do not. Inibuilds alsohas the passenger version coming along soon as a free addition to thepackage, and they have even assured me that both the grey and the baremetal versions of AA's airplanes will be available.

There is available a document that is more or less a quick-startintroduction, but I have yet to come across a real Pilot Operatingmanual for it, other than to go down to my archives and drag out thereal manuals (that would likely work, given the level of realismhere). Fortunately, there are a number of high quality videotutorials on YouTube (also referenced on the Inibuilds web site) andthese are must-see items for anyone who is not a current or nearlycurrent A-300 pilot. This airplane (real and simulated) is verycomplex, and does not always lend itself to a kick-the-tires approachto flying it. So study hard and study well, and approach it loadedfor bear, and you will be rewarded with an ultra realisticexperience!

Nothing worthwhile these days is cheap, and certainly not theInibuilds A-300-600R. The price is approaching thetake-your-breath-away level - in my case around $95 at the exchangerate of the day I bought it. That's a lot of dough indeed - probablytoo much for many people, especially with MSFS 2020 having hit thestreets with a price tag even higher (for the high end versions). Infact, my purchase of the A-300 will definitely delay my eventualpurchase of 2020, although it is not the only factor that will make mea latecomer on the Microsoft side of things - I will need a completelynew computer for 2020, whereas I am getting good performance (20-40 fpsdepending upon scenery) from the A-300 in XP 11.41.


If you are planning to stick with X-Plane, and wait until the dustsettles a bit on 2020, you could not do better than the InibuildsA-300 to keep you happy and challenged. It is a superb simulation ofone of the most interesting airplanes I have ever flown. Granted, atthis point it is more or less a normal-operations-only simulation, andsomeone who contemplates simulating all sorts of abnormal andemergency situations will be frustrated. But for "line flying" it iscomplete. Even at the stratospheric price, I am delighted with it.Well done, Inibuilds, and keep 'em coming!

Happy Landings!

Tony Vallillo

Purchase iniBuilds A300-600R(F) On The Line for X-Plane 11

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