• Review: Sky Simulations - McDonnell Douglas MD-11

    Systems Simulation

    Whilst the visuals of this aircraft are simply stunning, the systems unfortunately aren't too much of a departure from freeware options.

    Despite Sky Simulations' claims that the hydraulic system is "fully simulated", I had no trouble moving the spoilers with the engines switched off and the auxiliary fuel pump turned off. However, the flaps did not respond to inputs, which is accurate, though this seems to be achieved through locking the controls rather than a true "simulation" as the flap lever was stuck in its last position when the hydraulic pumps were turned off. Interestingly enough, turning the electric auxiliary hydraulic pump on when the engine driven pumps are off does not return control of the flaps nor spoilers.

    Similarly, I had no trouble starting the engines without first starting the APU and turning on the bleed air from that. However, I did seem to have trouble getting the engines to ignite despite placing the fuel cutoff switch to the RUN position and not having messed with the fuel system.

    The FMC aboard this MD-11 is also basic at best. There doesn't appear to be any flight plan functionality beyond using the default flight planner, nor are there any abilities to calculate takeoff performance parameters, much less any VNAV functionality. In all fairness though, these FMC functions were not advertised as part of the package, so this is to be expected. Nonetheless, I do find the systems simulations in this add-on somewhat lacking.

    The lack of any configurator or loader is also disappointing for an aircraft of this size. Most notably, whilst using the default payload manager, the fields for "First Class" and "Tourist Class" are still present even while flying the freighter version of the aircraft, a somewhat demeaning classification if you ask me.

    That being said though, there are some redeeming features in this package. For one, the addition of crew voices is very much welcome, especially on approach where the MD-11's aerodynamic shortfalls really come into play. Having someone announce the flap setting or the position of the gear alleviates much of the view panning and allows you to focus on landing the aircraft.

    The fuel system also functions as advertised, with somewhat accurate modelling of how fuel is fed from the tanks into the engines. For example, if the center tank is empty but the wing tanks are filled, the engine on the tail will refuse to start since it is fueled from the center tank that is fed into the second engine. However, whilst the fuel to engine feeding logic is in place, it seems impossible to transfer fuel between tanks as the "fill" switch is not simulated. Additionally, the cross-feeds and transfer switches light up, but there seems to be little control on the pilot's end how the fuel flows between tanks. As an example, with the aux tank filled as well as the wing tanks, the aircraft draws from the auxiliary tank despite turning off all the fuel pumps from that tank.

    Thankfully, whilst V-speeds are not simulated in the FMC, the PFD does show the V-speeds of the aircraft and the co-pilot does announce when these speeds are reached. These speeds do change based on the weight of the aircraft.

    Flight Dynamics

    The flight dynamics of this aircraft are certainly very interesting. As the MD-11 is a stretched version of the DC-10, most would agree that the gracefulness the original DC-10 had is replaced by more challenging characteristics in the MD-11.

    Today, I'm making a quick hop from Memphis to St. Louis, a flight lasting roughly an hour or so. Loading up at the cargo terminal in Memphis, I first used a default aircraft, turned it off and then loaded in the MD-11 to get a cold and dark aircraft as there is no panel state selector.

    Sky Simulations MD-11     Sky Simulations MD-11

    The procedures of this aircraft are very simple, with the experience not too unlike flying a freeware aircraft.

    Taxiing in the MD-11 is not too different from other widebody aircraft, with the three engines providing plenty of power to the aircraft. That being said, the MD-11 is still very much a heavy aircraft so stopping the aircraft on a dime is next to impossible. Hence, it is important to manage your taxi speed and not let the powerful engines build up too much speed on the taxiway.

    Soon, we arrive at the runway for takeoff. Much like the iFly 747 I previously reviewed, this MD-11 accelerates rather realistically as well. Whilst initially acceleration can be slow, once in the air, the aircraft managed to achieve a very impressive climb rate, similar to their real-life counterparts which I've witnessed rocketing out of airports.

    Sky Simulations MD-11

    Sky Simulations MD-11     Sky Simulations MD-11

    There really isn't much to report about flying this aircraft up to the approach phase. The aircraft had plenty of power to climb to its cruising altitude, and the systems were simple enough to manage that I was able to step away and make myself some lunch whilst the aircraft cruised along.


    1 Comment
    1. sharpie69's Avatar
      sharpie69 -
      I have this Md11 and love it. Beautifully modelled inside and out. A lack of systems does not bother me as that is what I want. I'm not a real world pilot and I don't pretend to be one and I don't have time to spend hours reading manuals so for me this MD11 is perfect. I hope a lack of systems does not kill sales of this MD11 because I want developers like Sky Simulations to stay in our hobby and keep developing mid level aircraft like this.
      In my sim world the mighty MD11 will fly forever!
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