• Flight Replicas Me-262

    Flight Replicas Me 262A-1 And 262B For FSX

    By Andrew Herd (6 September 2008)

    The Messerschmitt 262 was one of the great technological achievements of the Second World War - perhaps the outstanding technological achievement. It was made possible by a combination of factors: the development of practical jet engines, the first German examples being flown in 1939; an initiative by Professor Messerschmitt to begin development of a high speed turbojet fighter in 1938; and the discovery (or more properly, the rediscovery, since papers had been published on the subject well before the war) that incorporating a certain amount of wing sweepback delayed the onset of compressibility to a significant extent. Had it not been for the fact that none of the companies selected to develop engines for the project managed to deliver their products on time, the 262 might have entered service earlier - and if it had, it might have altered the course of the war. As it did, even the small numbers that were deployed caused problems for the Allies.

    Various factoids about the 262 always surface when the plane is being discussed - for example, it is often accepted that Hitler's decision that the aircraft be developed as a fighter-bomber was a crucial factor in its failure to become operational earlier than it did, but that is only part of the truth. By that stage in the war, Me 262 production was hard hit by selective bombing of key resources and sabotage in factories that often employed enforced or slave labor meant that few of the engines were anything approaching reliable. What isn't generally known is that the 262 was originally built as a tail-dragger and that the first prototype very nearly didn't leave the ground because of this choice; or that, by the end of the war, fuel was in such short supply that 262s were routinely moved from dispersal to their runways by horses or even oxen. This was despite the fact that jet engines basically run on diesel, which was far more plentiful than the high-octane fuel needed by piston engines - but once again, the bombing campaign and the failure of Barbarossa denied Germany adequate quantities of this essential resource. Another factor in the perpetual delays that dogged 262 development was that Willi Messerschmitt was not an easy man and managed to fall out with virtually everybody at one time or another, largely by championing other company projects, for example, the Me 210 and the 209/309, which were lost causes. Against this background, it is surprising that the 262 got as far as it did and when it did appear, it inspired awe into all who flew it, or saw it fly, because it was fast and deadly and virtually the ideal weapon for dealing with daylight bombing. Had the plane appeared a year earlier than it did, in sufficient numbers, with reliable engines and an adequate supply of fuel, having been developed as a fighter throughout, things might have been different, but in the final analysis, superb though it was, the odds were too much stacked up against the 262 for it to succeed.

    If you look at Messerschmitt's wonder weapon, it is surprising how modern it appears, even sixty years later - trike gear, bubble canopy, swept wing - captured examples set the style of jet fighter development for many years afterwards. The British had a much more reliable jet engine, but the Allies completely missed the necessity for a swept wing in order to avoid running into compressibility too early, and their own jets were handicapped as a result, limited to speeds not that much faster than late build fighters like the Sea Fury. Despite frantic competition to find and export flyable Me 262s at the end of the war, few airframes still survive, but the 262 still has such appeal that Stormbirds have gone out and built new ones, albeit powered by General Electric J-85s, rather than replicas of the temperamental Jumo 004Bs that originally powered the plane - which only ran for ten hours between overhauls. So you too, could have a new 262, assuming that you are the kind of person who doesn't need to ask the price - or maybe you would settle for a highly accurate simulation, Sir?

    Flight Replicas have very rapidly become one of my favorite developers. So far, I have reviewed their downloadable Bf 109F and the 109 F, G and K pack marketed by Flight 1 - top flight simulations by anyone's standards, so I was understandably keen to see what they could do with the 262, which is an inherently interesting aircraft even when its wheels are on the ground. The addon includes the single-seat Me 262A-1 and the two-seat 262B trainer, which are depicted in six different liveries and can be got as a 78 Mb download from the Pilot Shop. Installation isn't a problem, the only complication being the need to enter a key code and once that is done, you can fire up FSX and get to grips with this impressive warbird.

    I did the review on a 2.66 Core2Duo with 4 Gb of RAM and a 768 Mb GeForce 8800GTX, running Vista SP1 and FSX with Acceleration installed and the 262 ran as fast as any of the default planes as far as frame rates were concerned. When the files had all been installed, I did my usual check of the Start Menu, turning up a Flight Replicas menu group that held no more than an uninstall icon, but, encouraged by a reference on the Pilot Shop blurb, I decided that there had to be a manual hidden in there somewhere and a thorough search turned it up in ...Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Airplanes\Messerschmitt Me-262A-1a FSX\Manual. Which is obvious if you know the FSX menu structure like the back of your hand, but not so obvious that the average simmer is going to find it first off - I nearly missed it and I have been using Flight Simulator since it ran on a TRS-80. Pretty please, with sugar on top, Flight Replicas, in the next refresh can we have the manual linked in the Program Group? It would make a seriously good sim great, by letting inexperienced users figure out how best to fly it. Anyway, once you have found where it is hidden, the documentation includes a 20 page pdf/MS Word manual and a checklist for each variant. The manual is very well presented, with detailed cockpit keys so you can locate all the controls, histories of all the planes presented in the addon and duplicates the checklists, which are also available in html. One important hint is that FSX must be running in full metric mode with the plane loaded, or you are liable to get some funnies.

    Firing up FSX, the planes are found under the Messerschmitt banner and include an A1-b, two A1as and a couple of A2as, as well as the B. Three of the aircraft are preserved in museums, one in Munich, one in Canberra and one in Pennsylvania - overall, the schemes are typical of what you would have expected to see on production 262s, including one in 'unfinished' metal and filler, which is how many of them ended up having to be flown, given that by the time the 262 was operational, the Third Reich was collapsing into ruins. The visual model is very good and the textures are great, giving an excellent impression of what this shark-like plane was like; animations are limited to an opening canopy, movable control surfaces, gear that deploys in the unusual sequence employed by the 262, moving exhaust cones and leading edge slats and a pilot who dons his mask when you turn the oxygen system. There is plenty of panel detailing, especially on the 'bare metal' livery and although I did see some texture bleed through on the leading edges in certain lights, this is the sort of thing that could easily be fixed with a patch. The single and the twin seat models make a nice contrast, although there don't appear to be any significant handling differences.

    The panels, on the other hand, vary from one plane to the next in terms of instrument fit - by the time the 262 made its debut, instruments had to be got from wherever they could be got. There are three different sorts of artificial horizon, two different VSIs, a couple of type of electric compass, and two different oxygen gauges, all of which are based on instruments fitted to real 262s. In many cases the differences are fairly subtle, but it all adds to the interest of this fascinating simulation. One interesting tweak is that when you load the 262B, you will find yourself flying from the rear seat, as shown in the screenshot above right. Needless to say, just about everything you can see in the cockpit works, although it would have been nice to see some additional views set up on the A key. The only real let down is the radio set, which comes courtesy of Bendix-King, but since wartime radios communicated on completely different frequencies to the ones we use now, some kind of compromise always has to be made in a sim like this one.

    Eric Brown, who test flew more or less every significant plane the Luftwaffe had to offer after the war, described the 262 as 'exciting, but underpowered' in his superb 'Wings of the Luftwaffe' (ISBN 1 85310 313 2). One measure of this is that the single engine safety speed on takeoff was 290 km/h, which made the plane especially challenging to fly at night, or when it was loaded with bombs. The takeoff run is longer than you would expect and the controls feel sloppy until you reach the magic 300 km/h and the 262 turns into a plane, rather than an accident waiting to happen. The sim demonstrates really well what it feels like to fly a jet with only 4000 lbs (1800 kg) of static thrust. 262s flew a very fast approach compared to piston warbirds, flying final at around 250 km/h and only reducing speed to 200 km/h on crossing the boundary. On the whole, the flight model conforms to Brown's report, except where for the single engine speed - cutting one throttle produces very little effect after 250 km/h, whereas Brown describes the result of a cut as catastrophic - it would be good to see this attended to, but it is hardly a show-stopper. Approaches are fun, with the controls getting sloppier as the speed decays, followed by an excitingly long landing run, thanks to the appalling brakes.

    The best thing about the 262, apart from the great look of the plane, is that it isn't that easy to fly - it is plenty fast enough, but you have to concentrate on takeoff and final and you can't rely on the huge reserves of power a modern fighter has to get you out of trouble. It would be even better if the asymmetric handling could be made to match Captain Brown's comments, because it would turn a seriously good sim into a great one, but I appreciate that Flight Simulator has never been particularly good at allowing asymmetic flight modelling in planes where the centers of thrust of the engines are relatively close together. Another enhancement would be to introduce an 'engine unreliability' mode into the sim, as RealAir have done with their Spitfire, but that would be the icing on an already stacked cake. There is a convincing custom sound set, but it can't be recorded from a Jumo, because there aren't any running examples left, as far as I am aware. However, it sounds fine.

    Verdict? A neat sim of a classic aircraft. I know I have drawn attention to a few bugs, but this one is going to stay on my hard disk when 99% of the stuff I review goes the journey, which says something about the overall impression it has made on me. The Flight Replicas 262 oozes quality and it makes an extremely welcome addition to the small, but increasing hangar of high quality FSX warbirds. All we need is a really good FW190 and we are set. C'mon, Flight Replicas, I know you can do it!

    Andrew Herd
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here


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