The Lockheed Constellation (Connie from here on in) is a four engine propeller driver aircraft which was built by Lockheed at their Burbank production plant from 1943-1958.
In total 856 aircraft were produced, all easily identifiable by the triple tail design and dolphin shaped fuselage. Connie has served as a civilian, military and presidential aircraft during her time in the skies and is one of the most beautiful aircraft to ever take flight. The wing design was closely related to that of the P-38 lightning (also available from Just Flight and reviewed here) and the triple tail design was deliberately kept to a minimum height to enable it to fit into existing hangars.
Connie has a top speed of over 340mph and a service ceiling of 24,000ft, which may not seem high by today’s standards, but was quite an achievement ‘back in those days’. The legendary Howard Hughes played a vital role in the development of Connie, indeed it was he who encouraged TWA to request a 40 passenger transcontinental airliner with a 3,500 mile range.
Throughout her lifetime Connie set a number of endurance records; TWA’s inaugural London-San Francisco flight stayed in the air for 23 hours and 19 minutes, which is still a record for a non-stop passenger flight. As the jet age took hold in the world of aviation, Connie began to lose out on the long range routes, but still proved popular with domestic flights and flew all the way up until the last scheduled passenger flight in 1967.
About The Add-on
This model from Just Flight, developed with Aeroplane Heaven, has been in development for what seems like years. This was one add-on that I just had to get my hands on as soon as it was released. I have flown the FS skies in freeware Connie's that are of exceptional quality considering that they are free, so this pay ware add-on will have to be spectacular to justify parting with some money.
The Just Flight package comes with 11 aircraft supplied in three model types: C-69 Military Transport, C-69/L-049A and L049A First production type. The first production type comes with 8 liveries (4 with and 4 without Speed Pack), it would have been nice to have seen some fictional liveries included with today’s airlines just to see how Connie would look. I would anticipate lots of new liveries popping up around the internet soon as there is a paint kit included in the download.
Once installed this add-on takes up a massive 1Gb of hard disk space, there is a lot of detail packed into that download. The virtual cockpit is fully functional and fully animated with all the controls of the real aircraft. This aircraft, as with most FSX aircraft, is intended to be flown from the virtual cockpit, however a set of pop-up gauges are available in 2D mode. It would be nice to see a 2D cockpit included for simmers who are not overly keen on using the VC yet. Considering the length of time Connie has been in development I would have expected to see a 2D cockpit.
As mentioned earlier, Connie has been developed solely for FSX and makes use of the FSX graphics features such as bump mapping to create a realistic airframe skin.
|The liveries are made up of
high definition DDS textures which are extremely frame
There are numerous custom animations included, some of which are:
• Correct operation Fowler type flaps
• Working fuel dump
• Windshield wipers
• Cowl flaps
• Passenger stairs truck
• Stewardess to greet you at the boarding door
Art Deco at it's "best"!
Once you have downloaded the installer, installation is quick and easy. I like the way that Just Flight have developed their installation method for download add-ons, I have never experienced a problem with their system.
Now you have everything installed, navigate to your new aircraft via the aircraft menu and load up at your airport of choice. The first thing you will see (depending on your default flight set-up) is the virtual cockpit, which is of brilliant quality. All the gauges are easily readable and will pose no problems during flight.
Just Flight have implemented Liqui-Smooth Gauges that will update quickly and smoothly, which is essential when flying from the VC. Some of the handles in the cockpit do appear to be a little on the bulky side, a minor complaint but still a complaint. Whilst the VC itself is very easy to fly from, I did experience a little trouble reading the text on the flight engineers station.
Once I had familiarised myself with what each button did, courtesy of the excellent manual, this didn’t pose much of a problem but it was still a little frustrating.
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Now onto the exterior. Wow! It’s absolutely stunning and the developers deserve a pat on the back for such a fantastic exterior model. No matter which angle you look at her, Connie looks fantastic. The detailing is fantastic and looks as though they have just dropped a real Connie straight into FSX. It’s hard to explain, but after seeing the exterior model you feel as though you are flying an aircraft from a by-gone era. Once you fire up those engines, any doubts about flying an old aircraft will be blown away and lost in the smoke and flames of the engines. The soundset is brilliant and a welcome relief from the constant humming of the jet engines I have become used to flying recently.
The easiest way to get up and running is to flick to the back of the manual and print out the tutorial flight by PC Pilot’s Jane Whittaker. This is a basic flight from London to Zurich taking you from a cold and dark cockpit at London to touchdown in Zurich. I liked the way that the tutorial flight placed more focus on the operation of the aircraft rather than the navigation of it.
After learning how to navigate to the first VOR, there is no need to explain how to navigate to others. Speaking of VOR navigation, that is how you get around the crowded skies in Connie. There is no GPS system (or a pop up GPS panel) to guide you around the skies, so make sure you brush up on your VOR navigation skills before you take to the skies or you may end up getting lost. Whilst the omission of the GPS panel is entirely realistic for and aircraft of this age, I feel that omitting it may cause some of the more casual simmers to over-look this add-on. It can get annoying having to refer to the map view to make sure you are where you think you are, a GPS unit would have been of help here. Personally this would not cause me to shun this add-on as I like keeping my flights realistic no matter which aircraft I’m flying.
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If your normal flight consists of taking off and turning on the auto-pilot at 2,000 feet and leaving it turned on until on a 3 mile final, you may need to think carefully if this is the add-on for you. There is an autopilot included, but it is a very basic auto-pilot that only has pitch and heading hold. Even with the auto-pilot engaged there is still a lot of work for the pilot to do to keep Connie on course. I did find it a bit annoying having to constantly alter the pitch to maintain altitude, maybe this could be addressed in a future update?
The flight handling when flying by hand is superb. One thing that did cause me problems when it first took to the skies was that I over-rotated on take-off and almost stalled. I am in no doubt that this is because I have become used to flying jetliners which have much more power available and are able to climb at a much greater rate of ascent. Climbing at 500fpm in Connie is more than adequate as she will slowly climb to cruise altitude.
I found that Connie is a fantastic touring aircraft if you want to explore a large area in a short space of time; I’ve used her quite a lot flying around Australia recently. Once you have got used to the lack of power compared to modern jet airliners, Connie is a fantastic aircraft to fly by hand. Flying final approach is very easy; once you have set the power, trim and deployed the flaps, she will more or less fly herself to the runway, all you need to do is reduce the power and flare.
In summary, this is a brilliant add-on and more that lives up to the hype and expectations I expected.
Just Flight and Aeroplane Heaven have done a brilliant job of recreating an iconic aircraft from a bygone era of aviation, one which we shall sadly never return to. Not only have they created the aircraft, the developers have somehow managed to create the feeling of flying in an old aircraft.
If you like your flight simulation to be realistic, I would have no hesitation in recommending this add-on to you. It is easily the best prop-liner available for FSX. It is a shame that aircraft like Connie have been surpassed and replaced by the aircraft which fly in our skies today. A truly classic aircraft which has been produced in exacting detail.
• Excellent exterior model and virtual cockpit
• Fantastic flight handling
• Immersive experience
• Bargain price of £19.66
• Lack of 2D Cockpit
• Very sensitive to pitch changes during cruise
• Lack of GPS unit may deter the more casual simmer from purchasing
My Score, 8/10