• Review: Concorde X From Flight Sim Labs

    Review: Concorde X From Flight Sim Labs

    By Peter Carlson
    December 6, 2011

    On October 14, 1947, United States Air Force Captain Charles 'Chuck' Yeager piloted the Bell X-1 rocket plane, named Glamorous Glennis, over the skies of Edwards Air Force Base; that day Captain Yeager became the first man in history to travel faster than the speed of sound. Soon thereafter, the age of supersonic flight began. Then, on August 21, 1961, the Douglas Aircraft Company piloted a Douglas DC-8-43 into a shallow, controlled dive, making it the first civilian aircraft (of civilian-purpose design rather than civilian operated military test plane) to break the sound barrier; this aircraft was later delivered to Canadian Pacific Air Lines and lived its entire life without problem. These events ushered in the supersonic age.

    During the middle of the Second World War, German and American engineers and scientists alike had figured out that aircraft are indeed capable of traveling faster than the speed of sound; naturally German and American pilots alike began claiming they had flown their planes into a dive breaking the sound barrier. However, no WWII aircraft was capable of withstanding supersonic flight, not even the Me-262 jet fighter. However, the Bell X-1 was the first to fly supersonic in controlled, level flight. It was soon that fighters began to break the sound barrier, by design, ushering in the planes such as the F-104 Starfighter, B-58 Hustler, and other early supersonic planes followed. In addition, the North American F-86 Sabre was capable of supersonic flight, while in a controlled dive. Soon, the civilian market began researching a supersonic transport, or SST. The Sud Aviation company of France looked into a Super-Caravelle, a supersonic airliner; the company later became Aerospatiale. Then, Aerospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation teamed together to make a supersonic airliner; this partnership garnered the name Concorde, which means "agreement, friendly relations" as a symbol of the two companies' alliance.

           

    In the Soviet Union, the government commissioned from the Tupolev Design Bureau a supersonic airliner, for use by the government owned airline monopoly Aeroflot. This design became known as the Tupolev Tu-144. The Tu-144 was said to have been a case of industrial espionage, however we'll get to that later. Then, United States President John F. Kennedy announced that there would be a government-subsidized SST project, and the company with the best design would be given the project subsidies (much like the Tupolev and Aerospatiale-BAC projects). Lockheed and Boeing had their design, the L-2000, and 2707, respectively. Each was designed to be bigger, faster, and fly farther than the Concorde (which was considered the only competition at the time). The Boeing 2707 won this competition, and its design, featuring a swing-wing design for lower approach speeds, and the ability to fly at speeds of Mach 2.7.

    The advent of supersonic transport affected the airline industry; the Boeing 747 was designed (and as specified by Pan Am's Juan Trippe), to have a top-level cockpit, so that a nose loader could be used later in life, as it was seen that the SST would takeover, and the 747 would be doomed to freight service. Interesting enough, the 747 became the most successful large airliner of all time, and that design directly affected by the Concorde, and 2707. However, the government cancelled the Boeing 2707 project, and the SST never saw wide use.

           

    The Concorde design was in itself groundbreaking; it had the ability to travel across the Atlantic in three hours, it could cruise twice the speed of sound, and it had the ability to fly at 60,000 with a cabin altitude from 6,000-7,500 feet (but led to very tiny windows!). It had a droop-nose, with a retracting visor, as demanded by the FAA (it originally had a solid nose piece like the Tu-144, with small windows facing forward), and it had highly advanced surfaces, such as a conical-camber delta wing, elevons (aileron elevators). It also had FADEC (full-authority digital engine controls), and the ability to fly with supercruise, meaning supersonic flight (in cruise) without afterburner. Many structural advances were also used, such as 'sculpture milling' for many airframe parts, which allowed for fewer pieces, since parts were one, rather than say five pieces.

    The Model

    The physical 3D model of this product is very good, exterior-wise, it looks very real (I have never seen a Concorde in person, well, the 2000 foot distance while on a van at Paris Charles de Gaulle while it's on a pole doesn't count). Sharp modeling, exact to specification dimensions (it looks almost perfect!) and good texture mapping all amount to a well modeled product. Inside, the model itself is good, but the interior textures leave things to be wished for; they are somewhat grainy, and aren't the best for definition quality, but are still fine. It too would be nice if the gauges were 3D modeled, or had depth, but they don't; but it isn't that big of a deal.

           

    First Impressions

    I had high expectations for this product, when I received the review copy, it was highly regarded, it had many praises, and people seemed to love this product (those who had it). I began to use this product, by starting a flight from Paris-Orly Airport and figuring out the systems. I used the performance calculator for everything I needed, and took it for a round trip around the airport, to get a handle on the way it feels to taxi. Although the nose wheel is situated quite far back in relation to the fuselage, taxiing is no problem, it's like any airplane, you get a hang of it after some practice.

    I proceeded to the runway, and engaged the afterburner arm switches (behind and below the throttles) and I advanced to full throttle, with brakes on, until I heard the afterburners (only because it was my first flight). I released brakes, and accelerated down the runway, going faster than I ever had while still being in gravity's grip (in such a large plane, the other fastest is the 757-300 for relation); rotation was quite something, I quickly realized why the Concorde rotates with such a high angle-of-attack, because at a low angle, it doesn't like to take its wheels off the ground. I did takeoff with not as much angle-of-attack as I'd like (you should too), as to get a feeling of its performance, so you don't strike the tail.

    The climb was fast, and I never switched to outside view, the first flight was a handful. I experienced a great feel of how well the sounds have been made on this product - as I retracted the droop nose and closed the visor; I heard lots of sound (wind) then suddenly, no sound! It was very impressive. I decided early on not to take the Concorde supersonic on my first flight, I needed a feel of the plane before I did; it is a good idea for you guys to do too (unless you're Mike Bannister and flew the real Concorde, but...). The flying dynamics felt comfortable, I'd have no idea what a real Concorde should feel like, and I don't know anybody who could confirm nor deny my thoughts.

           

    Sounds

    The sound set is by no means your traditional sound set; it is very realistic and dynamic. As I mentioned earlier, the wind sounds on the visor are remarkable, when retracted, the air noise goes down dramatically. The engines sound realistic, perhaps not as loud as the real ones, but still good. I enjoy all the cockpit dings and pings, and of course, I'm brushing up on that French, since that's who the bitchin' betty is in this plane (although it's a guy), and you need to pay more attention than usual (for you non-French speakers), because if you're used to an English FO, this isn't. Overall a job well-done, one of the better airliner sound sets (default).

    Good Features

    This product comes with several helpful features: first being the performance calculator, it allows you to select an airport (one the Concorde flew to in real-life [scheduled]), runway, and CG percentage, and it gives you a print-out that shows you your V-speeds, and it's very handy. The Concorde, much like A2A Simulations' Captain of the Ship, has a virtual flight engineer, who handles the systems as they are required; no, he doesn't talk to you, and doesn't have the difficult job of maintaining a propliner, but it's handier than doing three jobs at once.

           

    Bottom Line

    This product is a phenomenal one, it is fast (like it should be), performs as it should, and really adds a level of realism yet to be met by any FSX supersonic. It is created with seeming skill, research, and it has accumulated a great blend of sound, 3D modeling, performance, and realism that is coveted in this industry, but these elements have been paralleled perfectly, with all systems working together, in unison. As flight simulator progresses, we have learned a lot about what it can do, and have done it; I believe that the Concorde X is an example of how well things can be done - it is an older add-on, made closer to the beginning of FSX development, and as Flight Sim Labs achieved such quality before others did, I can't wait to get my hands on their next product. I can say that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Concorde X is the finest simulation of a vintage commercial airliner that I have ever had the privilege of using.

    Pros:

    Nice exterior textures, nice animations, neat and useful features for performance, accurate simulation of afterburners, adequate virtual flight engineer, accurate performance at supersonic speed, awesome sound set.

    Neutrals:

    Older cockpit modeling, blurry texture (only one or two, underwing and engine textures fine).

    Cons:

    Real Concorde doesn't fly anymore.

    Peter Carlson
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here


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