• Grumman F6F Hellcat From Vertigo Studios

    Grumman F6F Hellcat For FSX From Vertigo Studios

    By Bill Stack (18 February 2010)


    Screen shots by Vertigo Studios



    The Grumman F6F Hellcat was a carrier-based fighter aircraft used by the United States Navy during World War II. The following description is taken from Wikipedia: "The Hellcat was the first US Navy fighter for which the design took into account lessons from combat with the Japanese Zero. The Hellcat proved to be the most successful aircraft in naval history, destroying 5,271 aircraft while in service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps (5,163 in the Pacific and eight more during the invasion of Southern France, plus 52 with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm during World War II). Postwar, the Hellcat aircraft was systematically phased out of front line service, but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night-fighter in composite squadrons."

    Vertigo Studios is a new aircraft-development endeavor organized by Dean Greasley. He explains his startup and goals as follows: "Basically I've always had a passion for WW2 warbirds. With the understanding and backing from my wife I decided to assemble a team that would help me get my dreams into reality and an excellent team of professionals we have to. Initially I wanted to reproduce aircraft that FSX was missing, however from a business stand point I had to alter my approach which was to release aircraft that most people are faimiliar with, after all - if the aircraft don't sell then I'm simply out of business. So after a while treading water for a while I decided to build a list of more conventional aircraft that everyone knows and loves. This resulted in building US based aircraft mainly from the Pacific."

    The Grumman F6F Hellcat was chosen because of its historic value, Dean Greasley explained. "Designed as an improvement to replace the Wildcat," he said, "it was faster, more maneuverable and carried more firepower than its predecessor. This fit especially well in the Pacific Theatre as a 'Jap killer'".


    FAA
    US Navy
    Uruguay

    Three Examples of the 14 Paint Schemes

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    PURCHASE FEATURES

    Instant download from the Pilot Shop

    YES

    Installation program

    YES

    License key required

    YES

    Copyright Acknowledgment Required

    YES

    Uninstall program included

    NO

    Manual included

    YES

    Instructions included

    YES




    Major Features

    Vertigo Studios lists 20 features of its F6F Hellcat in its product description, such as three-dimensional gauges, authentic engine sounds, 14 paint schemes, operational wing-folding, and light bloom on glass and shiny surfaces.



    Canopy and Cowl Flaps Open

    Rockets, Guns, Bombs, and Detachable Tank

    Surface Textures and Reflections

    Detailed Pilot

    Wings Folded

    Bombs Dropping

    Some of Many Highlighted Features

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Visual Features

    Verifying the visual accuracy of this aircraft is easy because it is so famous and there are so many pictures of it all over the Internet. Shapes, contours, proportions, and details of this model seem accurate compared with real-world photos. Propeller blades, landing gear, flaps, and cowl flaps all seem realistic compared with photos I found. Many of the 14 paint schemes are verifiable because this is such an historic aircraft. Some privately owned aircraft have been painted according to their owners' whims. The developer says all 14 of its paint schemes are based on actual real-world aircraft.



    Cockpit and Panels

    Screen shots by Bill Stack



    Flight Modeling

    Having never flown a real-world F6F Hellcat, I don't know how this simulation model should behave. It is every bit as powerful as a fighter aircraft would be expected. It accelerates in seconds, takes off at about 120 MPH, and climbs very steeply.

    For flight simmers who like to simulate flight properly, the manuals and checklists are not clear on some details. Aircraft performance data and checklists in the Simulation Manual provide some information, but not enough for a novice combat flight simmer to know how to fly this aircraft as it should be flown. The Pilot Manual appears to be taken from the real-world aircraft manual. Although it is useful, it is naturally more technical and contains more information than home flight simmers need.

    My flight tests showed the following: I used Marshfield Municipal Airport (3B2) in Marshfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., to be at sea level, and I set weather for clear air and standard atmosphere. As recommended, I set the propeller to highest pitch, and I advanced the throttle until the needle on the engine manifold pressure gauge reached 54.5 inches. Airspeed increased very quickly &#8212 literally 0 to 100 in a few seconds. The tail lifted around 110 to 120 (I couldn't tell exactly when this happened because the needle was moving so fast). The aircraft lifted off the runway at about 120 to 130. The airspeed indicator moved quickly to over 200. The RPM gauge read 2,700. I did this several times, reacting a little quicker each time, but this aircraft darted from stationary to high speed like a rocket every time.

    Immediately after lifting off, I reduced power so the manifold pressure read 44 and raising pitch until the airspeed was 125, both as recommended in the checklist. The aircraft climbed at more than 3,000 feet per minute. It's rated to climb at 3,500 FPM so performance was realistic.

    The default aircraft weighs 13,898 pounds (6,304 kilograms), and the maximum is 15,300 lbs (6,940 kg) according to the Fuel/Payload menu, so this aircraft is not speeding off the runway because it's light. I suspected that maximum power is needed for taking off from an aircraft carrier and less power could be used for taking off from a 3,000 foot (915 m) runway such as Marshfield's. So I took off with the 44 inches of manifold pressure recommended for continuous climb, and the aircraft lifted off at 120 airspeed and climbed at 2,000 feet per minute at 125 airspeed. Apparently, pilots taking off from a carrier would certainly use maximum power and power down soon thereafter, while pilots taking off from airstrips could choose to use less power and climb out in a more casual manner.

    It climbs to upper altitudes quickly at recommended power settings, and it climbs nicely at lower power, and it cruises effortlessly. A very nimble aircraft, it banks and pitches easily.

    The airspeed indicator shows airspeed in miles per hour instead of knots, which was common for aircraft of that period. The Simulation Manual provides conversions from KTS to MPH. Simulation pilots will be wise to pay attention to the MPH guidelines and ignore KTS in this aircraft.

    The oil pressure gauge was stuck. It should read 75 to 100 PSI for take-off according to the table on Page 5, but it read over 200 PSI while the engine was idling on the runway, and it never changed during takeoff, cruising, or landing. The developer acknowledge this glitch and promised to fix it.

    Stall recovery is not easy. Nothing I did got me out &#8212 high power, nose down, nothing. The developer said: "On these older craft, you don't do anything during the onset of a stall/spin except throttle back and center all your controls. the plane should tumble into a spin at which point you can apply opposite pressure on the controls and pull back on the stick to regain control." Unfortunately, I stalled during landing approach because the checklists don't provide V-speeds and I was misreading the airspeed indicator. With insufficient space between my Hellcat and the ground for a stall recovery, I floated to the ground.

    The Full Real Engine Management feature enables simmers to read engine gauges and manage their engine's performance as real-world pilots would do. It is engaged by default. Disengaging it relieves simmers of the difficulty of engine management but risks engine failure, according to the developer. To me, engine management is as important to realistic flight simming as flight modeling and visuals are, so I don't understand why anyone seeking realistic simulations in any aircraft would want to forego that experience. But the option is available for simmers who might want to use it. The Simulation Manual explains how to engage and disengage it.

    Because these manuals and checklists seem to presume prior knowledge of military aircraft, and because of the unusual airspeed indicator by today's standards, novice combat simmers will need to practice flying this aircraft and learn from their experiences.

    Technical Features

    The installation program installs all needed files into the Microsoft Flight Simulator X folder. Users can change the folder, and I selected "SimObjects\Airplanes." The installation program takes a couple of minutes to install the numerous folders and files.

    The "authentic engine sounds" sound more like a WWII fighter than other simulated piston-prop aircraft (I've seen and heard real Hellcats at air shows). The developer says these sounds were taken from real-life recordings that were then edited for the Hellcat.

    Aircraft performance data and checklists are included in a manual but not in the simulator's kneeboard. I find kneeboards easier to use, but simmers can print the checklist pages and keep them nearby for quick reference.

    The top-line pull-down menus include an option for GPS, but no GPS window appears. The developer said the aircraft has no GPS because there was no GPS in the Hellcat's day.



    Exterior

    Cockpit

    Night Effects

    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    The Manuals

    Two manuals in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format are deposited by the installation program into the Hellcat folder in FSX.

    • A seven-page "simulation" manual provides installation instructions, aircraft performance data, checklists, and cockpit screen shots with descriptions.

    • A 25-page "pilot" manual provides comprehensive data about the aircraft and resembles a real-world manual, replete with annotated monochrome photos and drawings. No source is identified in this manual.

    • As stated earlier, these manuals and checklists seem to presume some knowledge of military aircraft and jargon by using unique terminology and overlooking useful instructions. For example, I found the uncommon use of "inter cooler" in the checklist instructions confusing.




    Pilot Manual Cover

    Simulation Manual Cover

    Simulation Manual Page 6

    Manual Covers
    Screen shots by Bill Stack




    Nice Features

    Animations on this aircraft are nice. The movable canopy, cowl flaps, landing gear, flaps, and control surfaces, as well as the firing guns and rockets and the dropping bombs and auxiliary fuel tank make watching this aircraft from outside more interesting.

    The realistic cockpit with its functioning controls for the canopy, guns, rockets, and so forth make using this aircraft challenging and fun.

    The auxiliary fuel tank detaches and falls, the rockets fire, and the bombs drop only after they have been armed and fused with toggle switches inside the cockpit. The Simulation Manual explains it all.

    A paint kit is included for those simmers who wish to customize their aircraft.

    More Information

    Information about the F6F Hellcat can be found at these websites, among others:

    Summary

    Vertigo Studio's F6F Hellcat is visually realistic, accurate, and enjoyable to watch. The accurate appearance inside and outside, and all the details and animated features make it a good add-on military aircraft to have. It's ideal for flight simmers who like to view aircraft and watch them perform.

    This high performance warbird is naturally very demanding, so it requires close pilot attention. Flight simmers who want to simulate flight realistically need more detailed flight guidance than provided in the manuals and checklists, however. In lieu of such information, simmers will need to experiment and note significant performance characteristics and measurements. A patch to remove the GPS from the instrument-panel menu and to fix the oil-pressure gauge are needed, and more detailed checklists would be useful.


    Bill Stack


    Learn More About Vertigo Studio's F6F Hellcat


    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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