Just Flight -SibWings SAAB 91 Safir
For FSX (Reviewed) and FS2004
by Joe "Mutley" Lawford
SAAB 91 Safir? Interesting. Not exactly a well known aircraft. We have all heard of SAAB. For me the very mention of SAAB conjures up thoughts of military aircraft like the Viggen & Gripen or possibly a regional airliner.
So why recreate a simulation of this old monoplane? It must be rather special. Well to its followers it is and the developer Sibwings seem very enthusiastic about it too.
I looked into the history of the Safir (or Sapphire in English) and actually found the best information available is in the supplied manual! The reason for this is this product is tried and tested by Safir pilots and enthusiasts. There is not that much alternative information available on the web about the Safir but there is an enthusiast site http://www.fcfk.com/safir/index.htm where you can make the experience complete.
The designers at SAAB realised in 1944 that the end of the war was in sight and began to develop for the civilian market. One aircraft that came off the drawing board was the Safir 91A and in 1945 the prototype took to the air.
The first version was powered by a Gipsy Major X engine with around 147bhp. It went through several modifications including the ability to belly-land with retracted gear and take off again, if the speed had not been reduced too much! This feature was lost when they started fitting a larger propeller for the 91B. (Sounds wise to me!)
The Safir went on to be mostly known as a trainer aircraft for the military, the B model had a far better engine with the six-cylinder Lycoming O-435-A boosting the bhp to 190. They also gave the aircraft an aerobatic capability.
To follow was the 91-C which freed up the 4th seat (previously the fuel tank!) by moving the tanks to the wings.
Finally, the 91D which began service in 1961 as an entry-test aircraft for flight instructor course, stayed in service until 1990. This version had a down rated lighter engine so lost its aerobatic capability.
The history of this aircraft is far more illustrious than I have noted above and it’s all there in the manual to digest.
This product is available as a download only from the Just Flight download shop. As with all products supplied this way you will get your “Just Rewards” to apply to future purchases. This is quite a good selling point now with the credit crunch really kicking in.
At 154mb it is not a huge download and as usual the download servers offered up the product in a timely manner. Installation is straight forward but make sure you close all other programs as the installer seems to prefer it that way. The activation is by way of a web service which is now becoming the norm, but I would like to see a CD backup option available as well.
As mentioned above the pdf manual really answers the question about the Safir’s parentage. This is a real nice touch and fascinating to any old bird enthusiasts like myself. (Sorry Mrs Mutley!)
The manual then goes on to highlight the most important performance specifications such as airspeed limits, weight and fuel capacity and layouts of the cockpits.
There were a couple of omissions in the manual but in my view only on relatively unimportant things like the canopy jettison and cabin lamp operations, I found this whilst playing with the hotspots in the VC. It seemed like more fun that way.
There are 4 versions available B,C and two D modifications. With each one we are assured the model faithfully reproduces the particular real life version. There is only one livery per model and no paint kit available as yet. This probably suits the purists as the inclusion of say, a Mutley's Hangar Flying Club trainer, would not be in keeping. I don’t see this as a problem as realism is the watch-word here. Given time I am sure re-paints will be available from the usual places. (If they are not already?)
My favourite has to be the classic Swedish Yellow & Blue B model as shown in the banner above. The FSX version Safir is a true FSX SP2 model and as such benefits from bump and specular mapping, self shadowing and advanced animations.
The textures stand up well to close scrutiny, the bump mapping looks well done and clearly evident from the VC view.
Externally the four models look similar; you also get military and civilian versions which have the same amount of detail and all benefit from the additional camera views.
Well this is where it gets good, really good. The look and feel is important and it is very evident there has been an expert modelling this.
Depending on which model you are flying will determine the layout of the cockpit. In the earlier versions you could well believe you were flying an aircraft from the war period with minimal avionics; with the 91D you actually get an ADF and a VOR indicator with the controls being in front of the co-pilots seat. This felt like luxury after flying around in the previous versions!
For the wimps, there is a GPS available by clicking on the glove compartment as well as a knee pad and FS map function by clicking on the maps in the door pockets. This helps to keep it real. I know most pilots will use these features and it’s nice not to see the simicons in the cockpit.
Most of the buttons are clickable, again, for me very important. Only a few were not modelled and these are highlighted in the manual.
Above you in the cockpit are some ominous red handles, pull at your peril as parts of the canopy will disappear into the ether. It does give you a nice clear view outside though!
Exterior lighting is much as expected; with the 91B model you can only have the left or right wing landing light on at any one time. The other external beacons looked just about right.
Inside, the lighting gets rather special; The internal lighting is definitely a notable feature of this product. There are varying levels of brightness that give you a feel of an old aircraft. Also modelled is a fold down lamp between the pilots seats which is a nice feature.
Another feature that stands out is the animations. From the exterior view all three sections of the canopy open independently. The fourth “exit” is allocated to the engine housing which has quite a complicated opening procedure, fully animated. If the engine is running then you can see it dancing on its mountings with the housing open. When it is closed you can see the exhaust manifold bouncing around.
The gear and flaps both move smoothly to their positions with the wheels and
struts having some good detail. When you have the parking brake on then all
three wheels are chocked too.
Internally, there is plenty to play with, as with the exterior, every one of the animations was smooth as were the actions of the gauges. There are opening quarter lights, canopy jettison and a fold down internal light. This reminded my of a Heath Robinson contraption but it serves the purpose well
Other small things are animated too like the switches, engine control, door handles and knobs
The sounds are recorded from the real aircraft. With all the beta testers being RW Safir pilots they help gather a realistic sound set so you can expect a pretty authentic sound. You won’t be disappointed here, the engine growls as you would expect from an old war era aircraft. The cockpit sound effects are not overlooked either with some satisfying “clumps” and bangs as the canopy and quarter lights open and close.
Performance & flight dynamics.
I am no RW Safir pilot but the beta testers are; I found the controls very light and responsive similar to what you would expect from an aircraft much lighter and sportier looking. This is in no way a complaint, she was fun to fly and authentic feeling, the sound had a lot to do with that.
She is very nimble in the climb and I did spin, roll, loop and flip as the performance description hinted I could and she recovered gracefully without fuss or bother.
You get a good feeling of being in control at all times and she really puts up with a lot.
The manual suggests setting the realism options to max. I flew with these settings and managed not to bend the prop so I consider that a success on my first outing! The way it performed is going to keep it at the front of my hangar for some time.
Without a doubt this is a superior product. You feel that every aspect has come under close scrutiny and has been modelled as close to perfect as is possible.
In this aircraft you effectively get 4 aircraft each with its own characteristics and personality!
If I had to score it out of 10 it would definitely be a 9.5!