• Wilco Airbus A380

    Wilco Airbus A380

    By Kevin Glover (11 January 2009)

    The A380 is the sign of the times - bigger, faster, cleaner. Whether it's better is something that I'll leave up to you to decide, but nonetheless such an impressive aircraft deserves an equally impressive counterpart for the simulator. Did Wilco's effort fill this niche? Let's see...

           

    First Impressions

    The 92MB download and installation went quite smoothly and without any hiccups. After installation, a quick check of the start menu and FSX folder reveals eleven liveries and several different PDF files; these include the main manual, some background information, a description of the included mission, as well as an FAQ. The manual itself is quite informative on the whole, but I found that some things weren't (to my knowledge) available in this or any of the PDF's. This missing element is the checklist and for any Airbus-phobic like myself, this is really a key thing which must be included. However, I made do with the step-by-step guide of the included mission, which details most of what you'll need.

    Interior

    Upon my first flight, I was very interested in the cabin and I was not disappointed. The virtual cabin is incredibly large and covers the lower deck in impressive detail. There are basically four sections to the cabin: first class, sleeping cabins, economy, and an even more crowded section in the rear. The detailing on the seats is most noticeable, but there are some other nice details such as a bar, bookshelves, and what I deem to be a small store in the rear of the craft selling luggage and the like. Keep in mind, however, that these are just added bonuses, as the only area you need to fly the aircraft with is the cockpit. Therefore, don't expect utmost detail and crystal clear textures; as a matter of fact, when you're about one-quarter of the way through the cabin (coming from the cockpit), if you raise your viewpoint up rather high you can see through a gap in the cabin to the outside. Things like this didn't really bother me, though.

           

    Despite the ostentatious nature of the cabin, Wilco's rendition of the cockpit itself is rather disappointing. Aside from such things as blurry seats and textures in the rear, the instruments themselves are somewhat akin to your least favorite FS2004 VC. The absolute worst thing, in my opinion, is that portions of the main panel, for whatever reason, have been given a somewhat shiny appearance. Remember seeing the 'reflections' of a scene of trees and mountains on a shiny section of another aircraft? Well, it's rather less impressive in the cockpit of an airliner. It's not terribly noticeable, but it's there and is more evident in some lighting conditions than others. There are some other things which detract from the cockpit, such as unusually large, squarish looking pedals, mismatched texturing on the pedestal, and a fair amount of blocky switches and controls. The textures on the pedestal are comprised of different colored panels, and unlike the real aircraft, these are not of a uniform bluish color, but rather lighter and darker shades. Feel free to look at this A380 cockpit panorama, courtesy of Mathew Stibbe, to compare the real and the simulated.

           

    I cannot say that I am pleased with the cockpit of the A380. There are many more things in the real cockpit which are not modeled, but I'd be much happier if they simply did a good job on what they chose to model. However, it may come as some comfort that there is a suite of 2D panels for those not interested in the VC.

    Exterior

    My overwhelming impression of the aircraft is that it's very, very shiny. This seems to be a recurring word in this review, but the Wilco model is true to life in the highly-polished exterior of the A380. At first it seems somewhat unrealistic, but after some research I'm convinced that this is accurate. However, there are still some inaccuracies which I will get out of the way first. Primarily, the landing gear trucks tilt the wrong way; that is, the aft is tilted down when in reality the front should be slightly tilted. Additionally, I noticed that there is a small square texture patch which didn't receive night textures on the Singapore Airlines livery. The 3D engine fans allow you to see through the engine which it's not running, and lastly it seems that the starboard landing light is located to the left rear of the aircraft, completely on its own.

           

    Even though I've never been a great fan of tubeliners, even I have to admit that the A380 is very impressive. Other than the issues above, Wilco has done a fair job of modeling the exterior. There are subtle panel lines, detailed undercarriage, and the high-quality textures include many of the sensors.

    Systems

    The A380 is really the peak of our (as in us humans) efforts to make a plane no longer need its pilot. Wilco has done a good job with most of the common systems and there are all sorts of details such as the IRS, which will take up to ten minutes to align, complete autothrottle programming which really takes the workload off of the pilot, a fair FMC, and the autoflight system which incorporates the autothrottle and the autopilot. These last two work together in perfect harmony, and there are plenty of nice, realistic touches such as the authothrottle being armed after takeoff thrust is applied. A very useful feature of the FMC is that it can import a flight plan directly from the simulator. For us FMC-phobics this is a pretty nice touch. On the whole, I didn't find any major issues in the systems programming so I'm quite happy with how the plane flies. This is definitely a long haul plane, so Wilco has made some nice features for those of us who don't sit at the controls for the whole flight, such as how the aircraft will 'autopause' 20 nautical miles before the top of descent.

           

    Flight

    Perhaps this isn't really worth an entire section since the A380 will practically fly itself. However, this performs like a classic heavy - a bit slow to turn, absolutely sluggish on taxiing, and heavy as a stone on approach when you're not managing your thrust properly. The autoflight system does most of the work for you and can simulate managed climb, cruise, landing, etc. There is only one major issue which I encountered whilst flying this aircraft, and that is that it has an unusual tendency to 'bounce' when switching views. This cues the landing audio and resets the aircraft for your next flight (proper application of this feature is discussed below). This clears the FMC, so you have to go through the tedious process of configuring the FMC and systems again. I've found this bouncing in other aircraft, but this package seems to be particularly prone to it.

    Features

    The Wilco A380 V2 has some pretty impressive features, such as the configuration manager. This allows you to calculate how much fuel you will need, check some of the information required to properly program the FMC, as well as some other necessary data. Probably the most unique and useful feature is the ability to shift through three different modes of systems complexity: these are simply beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The manual details just what each mode has, but basically the beginning mode doesn't require any knowledge really, and allows the pilot to use some of the FSX shortcuts. Advanced is, of course, advanced, and is the version of choice for the 'heavy duty' simmer; this mode requires complete knowledge of all of the systems. I usually flew in intermediate mode, not being a big jet person.

           

    The aircraft comes with a nice set of cockpit audios as well. These automatically sound at door close, engine start, cruise altitude, touch-down, etc. These are of fair quality and are portrayed in a clear French accent. Additionally, the aircraft will reset its systems in preparation for the next flight upon touch down. This clears the FMC and systems - just don't switch views (since you'll probably bounce) until you're in the air and you'll be fine.

    Final Word

    The Wilco A380 shows some very obvious flaws, but since the underlying systems work well, I think that, for any Airbus fan, the appeal of flying this magnificent airliner may just overcome the product's other issues. I think that I've given a detailed enough account of the pros and cons of this aircraft, so, on the whole, it's largely up to the reader to decide the final verdict on this aircraft.

    Tested On

    Intel Q6600 at 2.4 GHz
    Windows Vista Home Edition 64 bit
    MSI P35 Neo II
    ATI 4850 512MB
    2GB Corsair Dominator
    Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Acceleration

    Kevin Glover
    [email protected]

    Learn More Here


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