• Review: MH-47G Chinook By Area 51 Sim

    Review: MH-47G Chinook By Area 51 Sim

    By Bill Stack
    March 28, 2012

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    Screen shots by Area 51 Sim

    The MH-47G Chinook is a twin-engine, tandem-rotor, cargo/troop helicopter made by Boeing Aircraft Company. The MH-47G is a variant of the original CH-47 developed by Boeing in the 1950s. The Chinook can operate in the high altitudes of Afghanistan.

    Upgraded from the CH series for special-operations forces, the MH-47 series has in-flight refueling capabilities and other special-operations features such as a fast-rope repelling system. The MH-47G version has sophisticated avionics, weather radar, and a glass cockpit. Boeing Delivered the first MH-47G Special Operations Chinook at its plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. on 7 May, 2004, according to a press release on the Boeing website.

    Specifications differ among various Chinook models. The following specifications found at Army Technology might be typical of many models:

    • Gross weight: 24,494 kilograms (54,000 pounds)
    • Useful load: 13,916 kilograms (30,680 pounds)
    • Crew: 3
    • Troops: 44
    • Maximum speed: 269 kilometers per hour (145 knots)
    • Service ceiling: 2,575 meters (8,446 feet)
    • Range: 1,207 kilometers (652 nautical miles)

    Area 51 Sim heralds these features of its MH-47G Chinook:

    • Very high detail exterior and enterior
    • Photoreal textures (including bump maps) & 32 bit textures
    • 2D panel
    • Olive drab & black versions
    • Paint kit file

    This product is for FS2004 and FSX. I reviewed the FSX version. The product description says different MDL files are installed for each version, but I did not review the FS2004 version, so I don't know how the different MDL files affect the aircraft.

    AVAILABLE COLORS

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    Black
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    Olive Drab

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Visual Features

    Area 51 Sim's rendition of the MH-47G Chinook is basically realistic compared with the photos I found on the Internet, of which there are many. But there are so many versions of this helicopter that I did not find photos exactly like Area 51's rendition.

    Exterior: Exteriors of the two models are very true to real-world photos I found on the Internet. Dimensions, shapes, surface textures, wheels, engines, bubble-glass windows, and so forth are all very true to the photos. The rear cargo door opens and closes.

    Interior: Although I found a few photos of the instrument panel and console, I was unable to find photos of the cockpit overall or of the cargo/passenger bay.

    Instrument Panel: Area 51's instrument panel is similar to the real-world photographs I found of the MH-47G glass panels. (Some of the real photos identified online as MH-47Gs show old-style mechanical instruments, which is not correct because the real MH-47G has a glass panel.) Six popup windows are: Radios; global positioning system; flight-management computer; and multifunction displays left, right, and center. Digital data are not clearly readable on my LCD monitor, however.

    The weather radar, which is heralded by Boeing as a significant navigation feature, is a small round screen in the center of the main panel on the real and Area 51 panels. In Area 51's rendition, a needle sweeps clockwise around the screen, but the radar image never changes, so this instrument appears to be cosmetic.

    With so many versions of this helicopter and no photos exactly like Area 51's rendition, I asked them what their exterior and interior modeling are based on, but I received no answer.

    CHINOOK EXTERIORS
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    Screen shot by Bill Stack


    CHINOOK INTERIORS

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    Screen shot by Bill Stack


    CHINOOK INSTRUMENT PANELS
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    2D Panel
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    Popup Panels
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    Overhead Panel
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    Center Panel
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    Right Panel
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    Center Console

    Screen shot by Bill Stack

    Performance

    Specifications differ among the Chinook's many models. Area 51 Sim's MG-47G has the following characteristics according to its description in the Aircraft Selection menu:

    • Cruise Speed: 130 KTS, 220 KPH
    • Range: 400 NM, 741 KM
    • Ceiling: 18,500 FT, 5,640 M
    • Maximum Weight: 50,000 LBS, 22,680 KG
    • Empty Weight: 23,400 LBS, 10,185 KG
    • Useful Load: 28,000 LBS, 12,700 KG
    • Fuel Capacity: 91 USG, 344 L

    For a sense of realism, I used Fort Campbell, Kentucky, U.S.A. (KHOP) for my flight tests because that is the home base of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment that uses Chinooks. Its elevation is 580 feet (177 meters). I used default weights with one exception: I added 400 pounds for two pilots and their gear because the default Payload menu shows no weight for anything other than fuel. Because no checklists, reference data, or manuals are provided by Area 51 Sim, I was left to simulate flight in this helicopter by experimentation, using my experience with other helicopters.

    This helicopter took off quickly and climbed from the field easily. Like other helicopters, it is much like balancing a spinning plate on a fingertip because every change affects other performance characteristics. Generally speaking, they go faster downrange when tilted forward, which deprives them of vertical speed, and they climb faster when closer to a level attitude, which slows their forward movement.

    It reached its specified cruising speed of 130 knots quickly and sustained it at constant altitude. It maxed at 135 knots at constant altitude.

    The ceiling specified by Area 51 is 18,500 feet (5,640 meters) and by Army Technology is 2,575 meters (8,446 feet). Area 51's MH-47G climbed at vertical speeds ranging from a few hundred to 4,000 feet per minute until it reached 18,500 feet. Then it went haywire, pitching up and down and yawing left and right. Everything seemed realistic except the 4,000 foot-per-minute climb rate. I wonder about the G forces on occupants at such a speed, and whether this speed is correct. According to Army Technology (the only website with comprehensive specifications), the climb rate is 464 meters per minute (1,522 feet per minute).

    The primary flight display (PFD) works much like those found in other aircraft. It includes a horizontal situation indicator (HSI) and a digital radar altimeter. The multifunction display (MFD) has four pages: "ENG" provides information about the engines in digital and bar format; "FUEL" shows total fuel, fuel flow, and fuel remaining; "SYS" shows information about the electrical systems; and "ADI" is a horizontal situation indicator. There are two of each of these instruments &#8212 one for each pilot. A third MFD appears in the middle of the panel, and it is identical in all respects to the other two. In fact, any changes made on this unit affect the other two. The GPS is a standard Garmin 500, and it appears only in a popup window.

    The popup panel named "MfdR" seems mislabeled because it resembles a primary flight display (PFD) instead of an MFD.

    Only five of more than 60 buttons on the flight management computer (FMC) work: "PWR" turns the unit on or off. "F-PLN" shows key data of the filed flight plan such as distance, track, and bearing. "TO/APPR" shows Zulu time, local time, time to waypoint, and time to destination of the filed flight plan. "SEC F-PLN" shows basic navigation data such as true airspeed, ground speed, and true heading. "DIR" shows weather data such as temperature, barometric pressure, and wind direction and speed. The labels on these buttons don't seem to match the data they provide.

    Most of the switches on the overhead panel work. The only workable switches, knobs, and dials on the center console operate the audio panel.

    Overall, I found this helicopter much easier to maneuver than other simulated helicopters such as the Bell Jet Ranger, the Robinson R22, and the Agusta Westland. It lacks the persistent yawing common in single-rotor aircraft because its tandem rotors turn counter to each other thus nulifying the other's torque, although it does yaw slightly toward the left. Landing was very easy. I don't know how a real Chinook MH-47G should handle.

    There are several inconsistencies in Area 51 Sim's performance data. While the description in the Aircraft Selection menu says maximum gross weight is 50,000 lbs and empty weight is 23,400 lbs, the Fuel/Payload menu says max gross weight is 3,200 lbs and empty is 1,460 lbs. The description also says fuel capacity is 91 gallons, while the Fuel/Payload menu says maximum allowable fuel is 215 gallons. This means the written specifications shown in the aircraft selection menu are inconsistent with the fuel/weight performance data in the aircraft.cfg file. The higher weight figures are consistent with specifications I found at Army Technology. Given Area 51 Sim's Fuel/Payload menu, this helicopter cannot carry full loads of fuel and troops, or even full loads of troops with zero fuel.

    I received no answer from Area 51 regarding the conflicting performance specifications, the climb rate, or the labels on the instrument controls.

    NIGHT EFFECTS
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    Screen shot by Bill Stack


    SPECIAL FEATURES

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    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.

    Purchase and installation from the Pilot Shop are very easy. Downloading and installation are quick. License code and acknowledgment of copyright are required.

    The installation program installs the aircraft files into folders named "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Microsoft Flight Simulator X\SimObjects\Rotorcraft\Area51Sim MH-47" and "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Flight Simulator 9\Aircraft\Area51Sim MH-47," depending on the simulation version.

    In the Aircraft Selection menu, it is listed in the manufacturer category under "Area 51" instead of "Boeing."

    Frame rates are very good, ranging between 20 and 40 frames per second although occasionally going into the high teens.

    Sounds are unique to this aircraft with ten distinct sound files installed into the sound folder.

    Removing the product (if desired) can be done using an uninstall program included with the package.

    I did not find the paint kit that is advertised in the product description.

    The Pilot Shop's page describing this product contains an email address for technical support, but I received no response to two emails I sent twice in one week with more than a dozen questions about this product.

    Readers with technical questions not answered in this review should ask the developer, who is in the best position to answer such questions. 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

    Checklists included

    No

    Manual included

    No

    Uninstall program included

    Yes

    More Information

    Information about the Boeing MH-47G Chinook is available from several sources, including the following:
    REAL-WORLD IMAGES
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    Real MH-47G Photo (Airliners.Net)
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    Real MH-47G Instrument Panel (Defense Industry Daily)

    Area 51 Sim develops aircraft models for flight simulation. Other products include the Bell AH-1S Cobra, the Lockheed C-5M Galaxy, and the Lockheed U2 Dragon Lady.

    Summary

    Area 51 Sim's MH-47G Chinook is basically a good rendition inside and out. It handles very easily, although I don't know whether that is or isn't accurate. The 4,000 FPM climb rate doesn't seem realistic. Without checklists for flight procedures or manuals for operating the aircraft and its instruments, users must experiment and take their own notes. Installation is easy. Conflicts in the performance specifications need reconciliation. The lack of response to my questions about this product is a disappointment. ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **

    Bill Stack
    [email protected]

    Learn More About Area 51 Sim's MH-47G Chinook 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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