• AFS-Design Panavia Tornado

    AFS-Design Panavia Tornado

    By Nigel Martin (5 April 2009)

    I have often started a review by saying "I love a particular aircraft", do you know, that is exactly how I will start this review.

    I have had the pleasure in sitting in the 'office' of one these beauties. How come? A friend of mine flys them, or at least used to, he has now 'crossed' to civil aviation. A lot less fun!

    I was both amazed at the physical size of the Tornado, and when sitting in the driver's seat, how 'cozy' is was. A little wooly explanation I guess, but that was how it was. The HUD was positioned perfectly, in fact, the ergonomics where well, perfect. I wish I could have found the keys! I would have had a spin; after all I have put in hours flying mine on FS2004. I am sure I would have been, 'tickerty-boo'!

           
    FSX Version

    My play time over, back in the crew room, I had a chat with several other crew members who made me really jealous as they were relaying the various stories... Official Secret Act not breached, as I am also bound by it (that's another story) no more fab stories, if I told you, I would have to kill you!

    Packaging - Installation

    My download, was simple and a trouble free task. Download to a convenient location, hit the auto install file, follow the simple instructions and there you are. As in the title, this offering is available for both FSX and FS2004.

    If you wish to fly this in both FSX and FS2004 there is no cross compatibility, you will have to purchase BOTH versions, i.e., for FSX and FS2004.

    But it has to said, I still love a hard copy, in a case. You can obtain a CD version at a small additional cost.

           
    FSX Version

    What Is Included?

    Within this downloadable package you get seven aircraft to choose from, and various type options:

    • German air force Bundeswehr Luftwaffe ECR (including Tigermeet)
    • German air force Bundeswehr Luftwaffe IDS (including special paint of the WTD)
    • German air force Bundeswehr Marine IDS (including Tigermeet)
    • British RAF GR.4 (including "Operation Desert Storm" liveries)
    • British RAF F.3 (with with longer radome)
    • Italian and Saudi Arab Air Force (in both cases with the IDS version)

    You also get a repaint option, so a great cross section of choice.

    There is a PDF file Pilots Notes; the detail is excellent, and well worth draining your ink cartridges for. In fact, I would say a must, so, off to the office then to print it off...Just don't let the Directors see you!

    Post install, go to the Aircraft Option, and there they are. They look very exciting indeed, so without further ado, I selected the GR4 RAF, and the scenery of RAF Connisby (home of a Tornado Squadron). First impressions were good, so let's go to the next stage in the review.

    Walk Around

    I always like to take my time having a good look around and admire my recent purchase and addition to the fleet. As I selected the + sign to get closer my concerns started. I noted that the tail was not as sharp or defined as I first thought.

    The panel lines are especially noticeable. While the lines are correctly placed, the effect of weathering has not worked, and the lines look, well, not finished. The exhaust staining on the Tornado's tail fin is legendary--the effect again on show while self-evident, resembles that of black being airbrushed in a non realistic manor, and defined 'thickish' lines are evident which would not occur. In reality, the exhaust staining would be very subtle and 'blown' over the fin surface.

           
    FS2004 Version

    On this model there are some wing fuel tanks. While accurate the weathering/staining is way off, too over done in my opinion. The other ordnance is very well presented and looks realistic.

    I have to say the olio legs and wheels are really very nice indeed, and the way they function, in movement and braking, continues the quality. The landing lights connected to the olio legs are not so positive. While located correctly, once switched on have ridiculous circles of light in 'cones', which I must say did not throw any light onto the tarmac...

    Moving to the tail, the jet pipes look great. Again some lovely detail here, showing the awesome jet engines, or at least the rear of them.

    The moving surfaces look as they should, and proportionate in movement. As the wings are in the swept back position I decide to deploy full flaps, the wings started the travel forward, a little fast, perhaps, but then the flaps started to travel. I noticed the leading edge flaps deploying simultaneously along with the rear wing flaps. Oh dear, the flaps on the wings do not deploy anywhere near the correct drop; that is a shame.

    Moving towards the cockpit, stand back and have a look. This entire 'office' looks very nice (in FSX you can see lovely reflection on the canopy; of course FSX is renowned for this effect, as well as water effect improvements) where we can see two crew members sitting dutifully ready for the off. Open the canopy, shift-E the canopy opens to display some lovely interior detail. The pilots' heads moves with joystick input. Well actually they don't move, it is more of a jolt, up and down left to right. Very unrealistic. The oxygen pipe from each of the pilots' masks probably has the scale thickness of a thick pen. Maybe a little harsh, but the tubes should be thicker.

    So there we have it, a quick walk around and some observations, Oh OK, one more thing, on one of the RAF aircraft, the C.F.3 Air to Air model, i noticed on the right fin all the squadron number indent letters were all back to front...now that should not happen.

    Let's get down to flying...But before we get all strapped in and hit the throttles, let's go and have a 'gander' inside the 'office'.

           
    FS2004 Version

    Interior

    Often the disappointment of many a package, but I am glad to report the interior is actually very nice indeed. In fact, excellent, some lovely use of accurate coloring of various items and seat belts. The instruments look very clean and easy to disseminate. The HUD panel caught my eye, it appears to be out of focus; thought it was just me, but no, everything around it on the main instrument panel is pin sharp, but the HUD panel is out of focus. Now that really is a shame, all other areas are presented in an excellent manner so I wonder why this panel did not receive the obvious touch of quality bestowed on all other areas of the cockpit instrumentation?

    Looking forward you will notice that there are three mirrors, all showing a reflection. Now this effect is excellent and the image changes as the scenery alters. I would say, at dusk, the rearward images remains in day light intensity.

    Sitting in the cockpit, scanning around, you will see the same level of detail at the rear of the pilot's seat, again lovely detail of the rear of the nav panel. Quite often the detail behind the pilot is either not there or presented in less detail but not here, the quality is 360 degrees.

    I understand you can position yourself in the rear seat with the panels relevant to that position. I did not fathom out how to do that, but I am sure in time I will succeed. So, no comment on this option.

    In low light levels the cockpit lighting is evident and works fairly well.

    The instrumentation is presented very well and to a high standard. I tried to alter the coms, in the panel lower right, but as expected, I found it difficult to gain an accurate change, so I was able to call up the coms panel and un-dock it which made frequency selection a breeze. But, I could not get the standby frequency to change to active. I will continue my quest, I admit this may be down to me not persisting with it.

       
    FSX Version

    Take To The Skies

    OK, this is what I have waiting for. I have not yet put my headphones on to hear the sound, although I am aware as I select the aircraft, it is presented 'hot' and running.

    So on with the 'cans', the sound is actually rather good. Listening from from an external view, engine idle sounds as it should, from an interior perspective as well.

    Taxiing was effective, no surprises here. Braking was proportionate, and effects of braking can be seen on the aircraft.

    On the center line, full power selected some color changes to the jet pipes, signifying re-heat; some really very nice re-heat cones are to be seen. (In FSX there are no re-heat cones emanating from the engines; odd when they are to be seen on the FS2004 version.)

    As the aircraft gathered speed, a 'horrible' noise kicked in. It was supposed to be wheel rumble bu it sounded more like a science fiction sound effect cut and left on the editor's floor. It is hideous. OK, wheels off, this annoying noise disappears.

    The engine sound, at idle, is expectable, but when selecting full power, looking on from an external view, the sound actually starts to disappear! Now call me picky, but two kick-butt two Turbo-Union RB199-34R Mk-103 engines at full military power will shake your filling out of your mouth and deafen you for a week...

    Now this is a real shame, the awesome sound is such a major part of this aircraft, and sadly not evident. Also, at re-heat you get black smoke, tons of it at re-heat, again not here, not one puff of the stuff.

    Looking forward, you will notice the images reflected onto the HUD unit. I have to say these are an excellent offering. Easy to see and read, good information being updated at an excellent rate.

    OK, airborne, select gear up, a sound is heard of the gear travelling, looking from outside, the sounds stops before the gear is fully in the fuselage...odd that? Flaps up, airborne.

       
    FS2004 Version

    The handling is good, but not perfect. No great surprises all the inputs seem to function and have an effect on the flying dynamics. I pulled some tight turns and the customary vapor trails appeared from the wingtips. Actually, when the wings were folded back into the swept position, the trails appeared to emanate from the wing tips, as if fully extended for landing...One small issue, on level flight, the aircraft started to turn port (OK left, getting carried away!). It appears the rudder was showing a fixed off center location. This effect was not constant, so I came to the conclusion this must be down to my computer set-up.

    I pressed pause, and immediately selected another commercially available Tornado, NOT touching the X52 throttle or joystick, and the newly selected model was level flight--make of that what you will.

    One other thing worth mentioning, on the RAF options, I noticed a 'smoked' look to the Plexiglass canopy. I am pretty certain this is incorrect, the canopy has no discernable tinting, certainly not to the levels shown in this model. (Viewed in day light option.)

    Also, on the spine of the aircraft, there is a strobe effect, which functions, but it has an odd red and green glow, as well as the correct white flash.

    Well, let's go for a landing. Gear down flaps deployed, speed back. As I am approaching the runway a 'sharpish' rate, I deployed the airbrakes, which seemed to have an effect. Speed up a little, over the threshold, speed brakes deployed, as I touch the ground I selected reverse thrust, by hitting the F2 key. The 'buckets' deployed--nice, Oh, but hang on, the speed brakes remained fully open, when you have two engines at full power in reverse thrust, it is not a good idea having the speed brake deployed, directly in the way of the jet flow. So, I am afraid a black mark here, the moment reverse thrust is selected the speed brakes automatically close for obvious reasons.

    That noise kicks in again of wheel rumble, enough said about that. Brakes applied, now I may have been over keen on the old brakes, but for some reason, the aircraft slewed off the runway and rocked, and ended up sitting on the tail...Now I could lose some serious pocket money repairing that damage. Odd characteristic, though, I do feel that irrespective of the severalty of the braking, this sitting on the tail, should have happened.


    FSX Version

    Conclusion

    I love the Tornado and have another commercially available offering that I use constantly, so, I was incurably keen to 'fly' this model as the pictures presented, I believed, a new and more visually sophisticated model.

    I would have to say some of the elements found on this aircraft are really very nice, some great detail, but I would have to say, the negative tips the balance, it is really a great shame because there are some inspiringly good attention to detail sandwiched in between, at best mediocre effects/detail, and very disappointingly the poor sound effects.

    I don't know the developer, but I would say, in the words of my old form teacher, "good, but could do better" (not said to me you under stand!)

    The problem I have, is that there are some amazing freeware offerings, and when any developer asks for hard earned cash, the model, indeed the entire package, has to stand above the quality seen in these freeware packages, some of these are truly excellent.

    I hope the developer will provide fixes, and improvements that will go some way in rectifying some of the issues identified.

           
    FSX Version

    In my experience a decent beta testing regime will identify many annoying elements that in the main, are easy to sort before being offered for sale. I do not know if this package received such attention, but I do truly believe if I had beta tested it, the points raised above may have been addressed, as any of us I am sure would have identified.

    I think the model is a fairly accurate one, and if you do not have a Tornado in the fleet worth considering, perhaps a tad on the expensive side, I would have liked to see the price reduced a little.

    Well there we go, I would say it is great that there are developers out there willing to have a go, and to that end AFS-Design is to congratulated, but I hope new offerings to the market, will show the excellent attention to detail the developer is obviously capable of.

    Tested for approximately 3 hours (FSX / FS2004 combined).

    System used:

    • AMD Phenom 9950 Quad Core Processor
    • 2.60 GHz
    • 2GB Ram
    • Windows XP Professional
    • Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX & FS2009
    • G-Force 9500GT
    • X 52 Professional control system

    Onwards and Upwards,

    Nigel C. Martin
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here:
    FS2004 version
    FSX version


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