• Airbus A340-500/600 By Just Flight

    Airbus A340-500/600 By Just Flight

    By Bill Stack (July 4, 2011)


    Screen shots by Just Flight



    The Airbus A340 is a four-engine, long-range, commercial airliner made by Europe's Airbus Industries. The original 300 model entered service in 1993 with Air France and Lufthansa. The 500 model entered service in 2002 with Emirates Airline. It can carry up to 375 passengers, and its maximum range is 8,650 nautical miles (16,020 kilometers). It was the longest-range commercial airliner until the Boeing 777-200LR in 2006. The 600 model entered commercial service in 2002 with Virgin Atlantic. It can carry up to 520 passengers, and its maximum range is 7,500 nautical miles (13,900 kilometers). Service ceilings are 41,099 feet (12,527 meters).

    Like all large jetliners, specifications differ widely among their models and within their models depending on airline configurations and current loads. The following specifications found at Wikipedia might be typical of most models:

    • Empty Weight: 385,000 pounds (174,800 kilograms)
    • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 840,000 pounds (380,000 kilograms)
    • Useful Load: 455,000 pounds (205,200 kilograms)
    • Cockpit Crew: 2
    • Maximum Seating: 375 to 520
    • Cruising Speed: Mach 0.82
    • Maximum Speed: Mach 0.86
    • Service Ceiling: 41,099 feet (12,527 meters)
    • Range: 10,000 nautical miles (14,600 kilometers)

    Just Flight's Rendition

    Just Flight has released two Airbus A340s for FS2004 and FSX -- a 500 model and a 600 model. This new release is upgraded from an FS2004 version that had been released previously. Just Flight's product description lists about 40 features of its Airbus A340s, the following of which stand out from similar products:

    • Fifteen real liveries
    • Unique switchable easy or normal flight characteristics
    • Dynamic wing flexing (wings flex during turbulence)
    • Individually adjustable brightness for EICAS, PFD and ND displays
    SAMPLE LIVERIES

    Airbus Air Canada Lufthansa Singapore Virgin Atlantic

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Visual Features

    Just Flight's A340s are visually accurate and realistic compared with real-world photographs I found on the Internet, of which there are many.

    • Exterior: All outside dimensions and features of Just Flight's A340s compare favorably with real-world photos. Users may choose from 72 aircraft among the two versions and 15 airline liveries. The replica liveries appeared accurate compared to real-world photos I found.

    • Interior: About 12 liveries have two versions. The basic version has a virtual cockpit and no cabin. The cabin-and-wing version has a cabin but no virtual cockpit (see screen shot). The virtual cockpits appear realistic compared with the real-world photos I found. I found one real-world photo of an A340 business-class cabin that's similar to Just Flight's cabin, but not an exact match. The developer said their interiors are based on balances between airline models.

    • Instrument Panel: The instrument panel appears realistic compared to real-world photos I found. It's also very clear, and the instruments are easy to read and use. The overhead panel and the console are available in popup windows, as are enlarged versions of the primary flight display, the engine-indicator panel, and the flight management computer. Control knobs for the autopilot turn left with left mouse clicks and right with right mouse clicks. They work only when the cursor is to the right or left of the knob, however, not right on the knob, which I discovered after fumbling around with them.

    • Extras: In addition to the typically animated control surfaces (ailerons, rudders, elevators, flaps, slats, and spoilers), Just Flight's A340 features animated passenger doors, cargo doors, undercarriage doors, engine fans, and thrust reversers. There are also sparks from the rear underbelly if the aircraft is over rotated.
    A340 INTERIORS


    Left Jump Seat View

    Right Jump Seat View

    Cabin and Wings View

    Cabin View

    Screen shot by Bill Stack



    AIRBUS INSTRUMENT PANELS

    2D Panel

    Popup Panels


    FMC Main Page

    FMC Data Page

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Specifications and Performance

    Specifications in Just Flight's configuration files vary among models, and the following are typical:

    Specification 500 600
    Seating 313 380
    Range 9,000 NM 7,500 NM
    Takeoff Weight 804,700 LBS 804,700 LBS
    Cruise Speed 0.84 M 0.84 M
    Ceiling NA NA

    Source: Just Flight's aircraft config files

    According to Just Flight's operating manual (described later), both the 500 and 600 models rely heavily on the flight-management computer and autopilot. Accordingly, power levels and V speeds are calculated rather than specified in a reference table or checklist. When the mouse is clicked on the FMC's TO/APPR button, a page with V-speed data appears. To fly this aircraft realistically, therefore, flight simmers should prepare for their flights with the flight-management computer and program their autopilot in advance.

    But the speed data in the FMC's Take-off page can't be correct. They call for retracting the flaps at 233 KTS, which seems too fast. If we used the flaps speeds (VFE) in Just Flight's reference sheet, we would retract flaps from Position 2 to 1 at 196 KTS and from 1 to 0 at 205 KTS. The FMC also calls for retracting landing gear at 270 KTS. Since we're prohibited by regulations to fly faster than 250 KTS while below 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) MSL, we would have to wait until above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) to retract landing gear, and that's way too late. The checklist simply says "gear up" and "flaps up" in the After Take-off section, but nothing specific. The developer said they had no further data other than their manual. Consequently, flight-sim pilots will need to use their best judgment when retracting gear and flaps.

    Go Arounds: The first two of my four flight tests were simple take-offs and go-arounds at Blagnac Airport in Toulouse France, where Airbus is based. Its field elevation is 152 meters (498 feet), and its two runways are 3,000 and 3,500 meters (9,842 and 11,482 feet). I used the default fuel and payload weights, standard atmosphere, and clear skies. I flew the entire go-around manually to get a good feel for the aircraft's performance and handling, then I repeated the test flight with autopilot and autothrottle.

    For taking off, Just Flight's manual calls for a power level of 92 percent N1. With power advanced as specified, the other engine gauges read as follows: EPR 1.3, EGT 560, and N3 92. No gauge came close to reaching its red line. At this power level, the aircraft gains airspeed steadily and smoothly, although slowly. As the airspeed indicator slid up during acceleration, a numeral 1 for V1 appeared next to 147. I did not see a V2 indication on the airspeed slider. The aircraft rotated at 140 KTS and lifted off at 150 KTS. Although not stated, maximum initial pitch seems about 10 degrees to avoid dragging the tail on the runway surface.

    The recommended 92-percent power level isn't enough for taking off with default weights, however. The aircraft struggles to climb and plods along at barely 1,000 feet (305 meters) altitude. When I increased power to 99 percent, the aircraft began a useful climb. Apparently the 92-percent recommendation applies to the low fuel load used in the Heathrow/Dublin flight (explained later). When I reflew this flight with autopilot and autothrottle, the autothrottle pushed N2 over 105. I found no guidance on this subject in Just Flight's documents. The developer said they had no further data other than their manual. Consequently, we'll have to use our best judgment for power settings under various conditions.

    For climbing out, Just Flight's manual doesn't specify best airspeeds or pitches. To maintain or gain airspeed during climbout, best pitch was between 10 and 15 degrees (with power at 99 percent). It gained too much airspeed when pitched lower than 10 degrees, and it lost airspeed when pitched higher than 15 degrees. It held 250 knots while below 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), as required by regulations, with pitch between 12 and 15 degrees.

    Leveling off at an arbitrary 5,000 feet MSL (1,525 meters) and maintaining 250 KTS required reducing power to about 50-percent N1. Turning from leg to leg and holding straight and level flight in the legs of the go-around circuit was similar to any other large MSFS airliner. Maintaining altitude and airspeed by pitching up or down and adjusting power during these maneuvers kept me busy, but I found the aircraft no more difficult to handle than other heavy jetliners in MSFS.

    Neither the manual, checklist, nor reference sheet say anything about approach and landing speeds. Approaching and landing were also similar to large jetliners. The A340 approached comfortably around 180 KTS and landed smoothly at 130 KTS. Flaps/slats are set incrementally from one position to another during the approach according to Just Flight's manual with final setting at Position 3. Aligning and holding the ILS and glide slope during approach kept me busy, which is also true in the MSFS 747. The aircraft stopped well within Blagnac's runways with autobrakes at Position 4 in accordance with the manual.

    Cross-Country Flight: The third of my flight tests followed the Heathrow-to-Dublin sample flight in the manual, which provides step-by-step guidance for this half-hour flight.

    Per the manual, I set the fuel levels to 15 percent in each tank, which provides 6,879 gallons or 46,037 pounds of jet fuel. I set flaps to Position 2, as specified for take-off. Since the manual says nothing about passenger/cargo load for this flight, I left it at the default 64,036 pounds. This comprises 43,860 pounds of passengers, which computes to 225 people at 195 pounds each, plus 20,176 pounds cargo. These weights plus empty weight of 370,116 pounds results in gross weight of 480,189 pounds, which is a bit more than half its maximum take-off weight. I set the autopilot and autothrottle as follows: altitude 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) as assigned by ATC, heading 322 (active runway), vertical speed 2,000 feet (610 meters) per minute, and airspeed 245 KTS.

    As recommended in Just Flight's manual, I engaged autopilot and autothrottle immediately after liftoff. Thereafter, I used the autopilot and autothrottle to climb, level off, descend, change headings, and change airspeeds. The autothrottle pushed N2 above 105 during initial climbout. Later power levels under autothrottle fell to less than 90 percent N2.

    About half-way to Dublin, when I was at FL260, a terrain warning started flashing in the HSI, even though there is no 26,000-foot terrain in the British Isles. This warning continued flashing for the rest of the flight. Later I noticed a low-fuel warning in the right-seat HSI while the left-seat HSI continued flashing a terrain warning. The fuel gauge showed 14,800 pounds of fuel and 72 nautical miles remaining. I reached Dublin with plenty of fuel to spare. The developer said he was unable to reproduce this condition and asked me to try again to see if it happened again. I did so, but it did not happen again.

    The A340 reached the 0.84 mach cruising speed and the 32,000-foot assigned cruising altitude easily.

    Neither the flight-management computer nor air traffic control in FSX follow prescribed instrument approaches unless the required waypoints are programmed into the flight plan. Otherwise, they guide us to final approaches where we then request clearance to land. To follow a prescribed instrument approach, we must discontinue the IFR flight plan. Consequently, I discontinued the Heathrow/Dublin IFR flight and adjusted autopilot as necessary to follow the prescribed instrument procedure at Dublin, then I used the autopilot approach function to lead me to the runway. The A340 handled itself smoothly, much like the default heavy jetliners in MSFS.

    Maximum Altitude. Because none of Just Flight's documents specify a service or maximum ceiling, I took the aircraft aloft a fourth time with the altimeter set at 50,000 feet. I was able to reach 47,000 feet (14,335 meters) before the A340 began losing airspeed. For comparison, the MSFS 747 cruises at 45,100 feet (13,756 meters) according to its configuration files, and Wikipedia says the A340 cruises at 41,099 feet (12,535 meters). After I descended to and leveled off at 42,000 feet, Just Flight's A340 cruised easily. During this final flight, I noticed a flashing low-fuel warning in the HSI when the fuel gauge read 12,393 LT. The Fuel/Payload menu showed 3,274 gallons and 21,936 pounds at this time. In response to my question, the developer said the low-fuel warning appears when fuel is below 10 percent.

    Not being an A340 pilot, I cannot say how closely the flight modeling resembles the real aircraft. The developer says modeling is realistic. Generally, Just Flight's A340 handles much like MSFS's Boeing 747-400 and the 777 that came with earlier MSFS versions. While it can be flown manually, which I did to examine its handling capabilities, real-world A340 pilots rely on their autopilots, autothrottles, and flight-management computers. I could have flown the entire Heathrow/Dublin route manually, but it would have kept me very busy, especially during take-off and landing.

    For all my test flights, I used Just Flight's normal flight mode, not its easy-flight mode.


    A340 ALOFT

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Documents

    The package includes written guidance for using this aircraft. Checklists available in the kneeboard and the manual provide step-by-step guidance for all flight operations from startup, through actual flight phases, to shutdown.

    Unfortunately, the kneeboard checklist and reference files did not appear in some 500 models. After examining various configuration files, I found that the checklist and reference-sheet files identify the 600 model in their file names while the aircraft-configuration file references the 500 model. After I changed the reference in the aircraft.cfg file from 500 to 600, the checklist appeared normally. In reply to my question, the developer thanked me for reporting this issue.

    After I modified the aircraft.cfg file, the reference sheet appeared, but it showed only a few lines &#8212 as far as "To adjust fuel load, on the Aircraft menu, click Fuel and Load." The developer said the checklists were likely made long ago with an editor program and exported.

    Looking at the underlying codes that make the checklist and reference files, I found them unusually complicated with Java and XTML scripts plus image files. As one example: Every cell of the tables that format the checklist files contains many lines of code for fonts, most of which are unnecessary. Such complication creates problems, invites errors, and hinders use without making the result better than ordinary HTML codes. Very attractive, clearly written, and easily usable checklists and reference sheets can be and are made with ordinary HTML codes. Just Flight's contact told me these files were made with an editor program. Their editor program appears to be one of those that supposedly simplifies the making of HTML pages but actually produces a result that is more complicated than necessary.

    The 17-page manual provides detailed guidance on using the product and flying the aircraft. Overall, it's very clearly written and cleanly presented, reflecting consideration for readers and ample editing and proofreading. The narrative flight instructions made following them rather challenging, however, because we have to scan past nonessential wording to find the instructions. Numbered lists itemizing each step would have been easier to follow, in my opinion.


    EXAMPLES OF DOCUMENTS

    Checklist Reference Sheet
    Manual Contents Manual Page 7

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Technical Features

    This product is for FS2004 and FSX. Buyers select whether they want the FS2004 or FSX version during installation. I reviewed the FSX version.

    Just Flight wisely includes system requirements and restrictions in its product description so that potential buyers can know whether their computers and simulators will handle this product.

    Purchase and installation from the Pilot Shop are very easy. Downloading takes several minutes, as does installation. License code and acknowledgment of copyright are required. Users must choose whether they want English, French, or German.

    The installation program installs the aircraft files into folders named "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Aircraft\Airbus" and "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Flight Simulator 9\Aircraft\Airbus," depending on the simulation version. It installs the 17-page manual into this file folder: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\JustFlight\documents\A340." Product activation is via Internet as part of the installation process.

    In the Aircraft Selection menu, these aircraft are listed in the manufacturer category under the aircraft manufacturer's name (i.e. Airbus), which is how default MSFS aircraft are filed.

    When the aircraft is first loaded, FSX asks users if they want to install several gauge programs by CLS (Commercial Level Simulations).

    Frame rates are good. They ranged in the teens and 20s most of the time. I never experienced any jerkiness or halting.

    Removing the product (if desired) is done by deleting files with Windows Explorer.

    Technical support is available through an email address on the Pilot Shop's page describing this product. Response to my question was quick, which bodes well for users needing information or assistance.

    Readers with technical questions not answered in this review should ask the developer. Using the links below, go to the Pilot Shop page where the product is listed and described, then click on "Manufacturer Tech Support" in the right column.


    PURCHASE FEATURES

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    Yes

    Installation program

    Yes

    License key required

    Yes

    Copyright acknowledgment required

    Yes

    Checklist & reference included

    Yes

    Manual included

    Yes

    Uninstall program included

    No

    Corrective Patch

    As seen in the screen shots below, views out the virtual cockpit windows of Just Flight's default A340 are all gray, and nothing can be seen outside the aircraft. This of course makes the aircraft impossible to fly unless under instrument procedures at all times, including taxiing, taking off, and landing, which isn't realistic. Just Flight offers a patch on its website. All my interior screen shots, except those below, and all my flight tests were conducted after I downloaded and installed this patch.

    Before Patch

    After Patch

    Screen shots by Bill Stack

    My first thought was that Just Flight should fix its basic aircraft instead of selling a flawed product and asking buyers to download a patch to fix it. But the following text describing this patch, quoted from Just Flight's website, indicates that the problem is limited to FSX with SP2/Acceleration/Gold, which I use. "This update will address various issues that users may encounter with the A340-500/600, when using Flight Simulator X SP2/Acceleration/Gold. The update should be installed by users of both the DVD and download version of the product." If this is so, then a blanket fix would not be necessary or feasible. In response to my question, Just Flight said this was correct. "The problem affects many of the older FSX titles (FS2004 titles that were updated for use with FSX) and is fixed by replacing several texture files." Therefore, users experiencing this problem should simply download the corrective patch.

    More Information

    Just Flight develops aircraft models for flight simulation. Three examples of its numerous products are the 747 200/300 Series, the Airbus A320, and the DC-3 Legends of Flight. The A340-500/600 was chosen because "At the time there was no A340-500/600 around, while at the same time many people requested it. Thus we decided we could fill that gap," the developer said.

    Information about the Airbus A340 500/600 is available from several sources, including the following:




    REAL-WORLD IMAGES
    Wikipedia
    Airbus Industries
    Wikipedia

    Wrapup

    Just Flight's Airbus A340 500/600 Series jetliner has many more features than the average add-on jetliners that are available for sale. Exteriors and interiors are realistic overall compared with real-world photos I found on the Internet. The number of liveries, the various versions, i.e. normal and easy flight modes, and the miscellaneous extras are generous. The instrument panels are clear and easy to read and use. The manual is well written and easy to read. Installation is quick and easy. The unnecessarily complicated kneeboard checklists and reference pages hinder their operations. More detailed performance guidance would have helped me enjoy the aircraft more.


    Product Box

    Bill Stack
    [email protected]


    Learn More About Just Flight's Airbus A340-500/600 for FS2004 & FSX.


    Bill Stack is author of several books about flight simulation, a regular author in flight-sim magazines, and a contributor to Flight Sim Com. His website is www.topskills.com


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