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Review: Just Flight - Avro Vulcan B Mk.2

Avro Vulcan B Mk. 2, K.2 & MRR

Publisher: Just Flight

Review Author:
Andrew Parish

Suggested Price:


I remember clearly where I was whennews of the first Vulcan raid on Stanley airfield in the FalklandIslands - Operation Black Buck 1 - broke on 1st May 1982. I was at aZX Microfair in Central Hall Westminster, and whilst I don't rememberexactly what I was doing I'd like to think it was flying one of thoseearly 8-bit simulators!

As details of the raid emerged, so my fascination with the Vulcanwas born. At air shows after that, and right up until the last flightof the Vulcan as a civil aircraft in 2015, I watched and listened inawe as the massive airframe sliced effortlessly and, more often thannot, noisily through the sky in front of the gathered crowds many ofwhom, like me, were standing agape at the majesty of the massive yetevidently manoeuvrable aircraft.

Since then I've been fortunate enough to be able to visit one ofthe aircraft at Wellesbourne Airfield in Warwickshire where members ofthe XM655 Maintenance and Preservation society, some of whom worked onor flew the aircraft when it was operational, spoke passionately aboutthe Vulcan, its history and their personal experiences with it.


The real XM655 at Wellesbourne airfield

Most recently though, at another computer exhibition, the FlightSim Show at Cosford in 2019, I stumbled across a group of developerson the Just Flight stand, looking at models and discussing details oftheir Vulcan project. Even then and from the limited information thatwas available, I knew that this was a software release that I waslooking forward to and when the opportunity to take on a review ofJust Flight and Thranda Design's imminent Avro Vulcan release forX-Plane was mooted a few weeks ago, I think I was just about able toconceal my excitement...


Just Flight has, as with all their aircraft products I haveencountered, adopted a 'keep it simple' approach to the download andinstallation of the Vulcan. The 2.2 GB download, once complete, is aZIP file that contains a single folder, 'JF_Avro_Vulcan' which needsto be extracted to somewhere in your X-Plane 'Aircraft'folder. Getting the aircraft into X-Plane really is as simple asthat.

When you fire up X-Plane, the aircraft is classified as a Militaryaircraft in your aircraft list with an icon depicting the defaultversion of the distinctive delta-winged aircraft. On first load, youwill be asked to enter your Activation Key, and then to reload theaircraft. Once you have done that, you are ready to go.

First Flight

On first start, the aircraft was sitting cold-and-dark on thetarmac at my airport of choice. Where better than the home of XM655 -Wellesbourne Aerodrome? I repositioned the aircraft manually in thespace on the airfield where it is physically located in the realworld...


On the ground at Wellesbourne

One thing that immediately struck me, looking around the cockpittrying to work out where to start, was that this is clearly a complexaircraft from a bygone age, and that to fully appreciate theengineering effort that has been invested in the simulation was goingto take some time.

That's not great though when you've a new toy to play with andyou're itching to take it for a ride! Like all Just Flight aircraftthat I've ever flown though, there's a pop-out menu available on theleft hand side of the screen, and a with a quick click on the firstbutton on that menu, the aircraft reloaded with engines running andconfigured for flight.

The key controls of the aircraft - brakes, throttles and flightcontrols respect the default bindings that are set up in yoursimulator, so a short taxi later I was lined up ready for take-off.

The Vulcan's distinctive appearance is complemented by a ratherdistinctive howl from the four engines as they spool up to deliver the20,000 lb of static thrust each, and as I opened the throttles thatcharacteristic sound could be clearly heard. In no time, the end ofthe runway was hurtling towards me, and with a light pull on the stickthe aircraft lifted almost effortlessly from the ground.



I'm no Vulcan pilot but the anecdotes I've heard are that the realaircraft was responsive and a delight to fly, and if this is the case,the developers have captured this to a tee. If you're used to flyingGA, I suspect you'll be at home in this aircraft. It takes a littlegetting used to the huge amount of thrust that is available from theengines, but once mastered I challenge you not to enjoy flying undervisual flight rules at low altitudes.

Time now to delve into the manual to find out more about thesimulation of the aircraft and its systems.

The Manual

The demise of software distributed on CDs and in boxes wasaccompanied by the death of the printed manual and as is the currentnorm, a 'Documentation' folder is provided in the installationfolder. This folder contains a 90 odd page PDF manual for the aircraft(in addition to a file describing the version history and a copy ofthe licence for the software).

The manual is thorough, containing a description of the systems ofthe aircraft together with labelled images of all of the panels, a setof checklists and - importantly in my view - a fully annotatedtutorial flight.

As manuals go it's a good one, although I did stumble acrossactions in the checklists that I really couldn't, from any of thedescriptions provided elsewhere, reconcile to actions that wereavailable to me in the cockpit although that's more than likelyattributable to my lack of familiarity with the aircraft and itssystems.


The Operations Manual Cover

If you're undecided after reading this review as to whether theaircraft is for you then a browse of the manual might just make yourmind up, and Just Flight kindly makes itavailable for downloadprior to purchase.

Model Livery Variants

The 'default' variant of the aircraft is understandably that of theXM655 B Mk.2 aircraft that was used as the basis for the model. Thepackage includes 16 different variants of the aircraft comprised ofdiffering tail numbers, liveries, squadron markings, and pre-definedrole fit outs.


Tanking over the Bristol Channel

Interestingly though, the more adventurous pilot or enthusiast isprovided with the facility to configure their own aircraft throughediting a livery configuration file where one of the provided modelscan be equipped with various items of optional equipment. This rangesfrom engine type, through nose and tail cones, refuelling or maritimereconnaissance equipment all the way through to antennas.

The modelling of the exterior of the aircraft is remarkable. Itsdelta shape is of course instantly recognisable, the curves of thefuselage and wings are smooth and the texturing incrediblydetailed. Moving parts integrate seamlessly into the polished model,responding to controls - whether initiated from cockpit controls ormenu options.

The Cockpit

One of the snippets of information shared on my visit toWellesbourne is that seasoned Vulcan pilots were able to tell whichaircraft they were in through the idiosyncrasies of the cockpit and sothis aspect of the simulation was of specific interest.

It is difficult not to be impressed by the attention to detail thatthe development team has gone into in replicating the cockpit ofXM655. The high-resolution textures reflect the well-worn look of theactual aircraft cockpit giving it that authentic feel - even down tothe inclusion of hand-written labels on some panels. The myriad ofinstruments, indicators, dials, knobs and switches on all sidesreflects the complexity of the aircraft and most, but not all, performsome function in the simulation.

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Side-by-side views of the aircraft and the simulator

The instruments are of course true to those found in the Vulcanwhich, if you're used to flying modern aircraft, will sometimesrequire a change of mindset to read and understand. A standout exampleof this for me was the Beam Compass, which takes the place of the morefamiliar Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI), where neither north noryour heading is necessarily at the top of the instrument. Theautopilot takes some getting used to as well. The sense of achievementwhen you fathom out how they work and use them effectively ispalpable!

The cockpit is VR compatible, and the experience when viewing in VRis stunning and truly reminiscent of what I remember of the cockpit ofthe real aircraft - and being honest, not the sort of place I'd wantto be spending hours flying a real mission!

With an aircraft that normally flies with a crew of five, not one,some compromises have been made.

The simulation of the interior of the aircraft is understandablylimited to the cockpit. The real aircraft has a space behind and belowthe pilot and co-pilot where the remaining three crew - thenavigator radar,navigator plotterand air electronics officer sit - facing backwards towards a myriad ofinstrumentation and switches. A few of the panels from these stationsthat are required to provide an authentic flying experience arereproduced and can be toggled and used from the in-cockpit sidemenu.

A limitation of X-Plane means that a true TACAN (Tactical AirNavigation System - a military system providing similar functionalityto VOR) simulation is not possible, and provision is made to tune VORfrequencies from the TACAN controller. Similarly, tuning of ADFfrequencies is managed through the radio compass controller in therear crew compartment in the real aircraft; in this simulation this ismanaged through otherwise unused controls on the co-pilot's stationbox. For both, a digital image of the tuned frequency appears abovethe respective controls for a brief period before fading outcompletely.


Tuning the ADF from the co-pilot station box

If navigation through radio aids isn't your thing, it is possibleto map a key or joystick control to toggle display of the defaultX-Plane GNS430 and furthermore to connect it to the Vulcan'sautopilot.

/images/reviews/avrovulc/t/just-flight-avro-vulcan-09.jpg   /images/reviews/avrovulc/t/just-flight-avro-vulcan-14.jpg

Another "side-by-side" comparison - wear and tear clearly visible!

Particularly impressive to me was the attention that has been paidto the cockpit lighting which I discovered by accident as it is notwell covered in the manual. A myriad of dimmers on pilot and co-pilotside allow the adjustment of red lighting inside the cockpit, and eachcrew member has access to both a white flood-light and a movable,dimmable map light. Flying at night with red lighting in the cockpitand the stars visible through the windshield is an experience thatdelivers an additional dimension to the sense of immersion felt whenflying the aircraft.


Vulcan Cockpit Lighting

At this point I need to point out that particular care should betaken when clicking the mouse anywhere near the eject handles on theMartin Baker Mk. 3 ejection seat. An inadvertent (or deliberate) clickon any of them, two on each seat - which I managed to do moments aftertaking this screen shot - results in a rather rapid departure from theaircraft which then disappears into the distance without you!

With an aircraft as complex as this, some bugs inevitably slippedthrough the net prior to release. It is worth noting however that apatch to address the most serious of these (and none of them was ashow-stopper) was released within two weeks of the release of theaircraft. At the time of writing, I understand that a second patch isin the offing. It's pleasing to see that the developers aren't justpitching the aircraft over the fence and moving on.


Airbrakes extended and brake 'chute deployed

Weapons And Stores

The load-out of the aircraft can be edited through a panelavailable on the side menu, and the developers have included theoption to load the types of stores that the aircraft was built tocarry: the Blue Steel nuclear missile with its 1.1 Megaton Red Snowwarhead, two WE-177 nuclear bombs (three different yields of this typeof bomb) or racks of Mk-13 1000 lb high explosive iron bombs.


Carrying Blue Steel

There are also options available that allow the load of MaritimeReconnaissance pods on the wings, or additional fuel tanks in the bombbay of the aircraft if you're looking to complete a particularly longflight.

Release of weapons from the aircraft is possible, and flight of theBlue Steel missile and MK13 bombs post release is modelled; with noaiming simulated, accuracy of delivery is however a bit hit and miss -and a lot more miss than hit for me! A word of caution though from apilot who learned the hard way: don't be too close to the blast zoneof the munitions when they detonate - it won't end well.


Bombs Away


Unless you've flown or worked on the Vulcan before, it's definitelynot the sort or simulation that you're going to jump into and fly fromcold and dark based on your experience in more modern aircraft. Thatsaid, I can wholeheartedly recommend this aircraft to those who enjoya challenge with a real sense of achievement at the end. If you preferto start your flights at the end of the runway with engines running,then that option is available to you. Either way, this is as close asyou're ever going to get to experiencing real flight in a Vulcan.

As I said at the start of this review, I was looking forward to therelease of this aircraft and I wasn't disappointed. From the sleeklines of the aircraft's external model, through the exquisite detailof the cockpit interior, to the absolute joy of flying it, it reallyis the complete package.

Thank you to Just Flight and Thranda Design for injecting a newlease of life into this unique example of British aviationhistory.


Andrew Parish


Purchase Just Flight - Avro Vulcan For X-Plane 11

Also available for FSX/P3D

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