For X-Plane 10 Developed by JARDesign Group
Reviewed by Jessica Bannister-Pearce
The Airbus A320 still feels like a 'Johnny come lately' when it
comes to small passenger jets. Boeing's 737 arrived in the 1960s
whilst the A320 was a child of the 1980s. Though the Boeing baby is
the most popular single aisle aircraft ever sold, you would be hard
pressed to find many 737 operators in Europe these days. The Airbus
A320 has fought from nothing to be the 'go to' short range passenger
jet in many parts of the world. The 737 may have the age, but the
A320 has the brains.
Interestingly though, the A320 is underserved when it comes to
flight sims. There is just one really good A320 available for FSX,
with a PMDG level version still under development. Much of this has
to do with the lack of help from Airbus themselves. Unlike Boeing,
Airbus is not that keen to spill the beans on how the complex
computer systems that make the A320 all work. Instead, developers
have to rely on airlines and pilots to work out what makes the A320
tick. For X-Plane, things are a bit different. There are at least
three A320s available, all offering various versions. JARDesign
though, are the only ones to offer the next generation of A320, the
A320neo (or New Engine Option), even though the prototype has just
left the factory. Is it any good though?
What You Get
The JARDesign Airbus A320neo is available direct from JARDesign as a
'download only' product. The current price for the download is
US$59.00 (not including taxes, as applicable) or the equivalent on
currency cross rates. The A320neo comes as a single zip file and is
placed in your 'Aircraft' folder in the X-Plane directory. That's
it. I really love how easy it is installing anything into X-Plane.
On first start up, you will be prompted to enter your serial number,
which you will receive in the purchase confirmation email, and you
are done. The aircraft comes with just one livery but there are
plenty of free liveries available from the JARDesign web site and
more available at x-plane.org
Loading into the cockpit, my first thought was, "mmm, nice". There
is not a lot of detail, but that is because the Airbus cockpit is
rather clean and sterile in real life. The greys and blues are very
calming. Standing out immediately is the inclusion of the Controller
Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) panel on the centre MIP, just
above the FMGS (or FMC for Boeing drivers). This little panel is
available in real life as a substitute for radio communications,
allowing pilots to ask for and receive clearances from ATC without
ever talking to each other. At the minute neither VATSIM or IVAO
offer CPDLC transmission, but it could be coming in the future.
Instead, once your route is loaded in, you can use the panel to see
the weather at your departure and arrival airports. It is a great
touch and it sets the bar somewhat high for the rest of the
Cockpit textures are exceptional
The centre console is rather nice to look at as well
The view of the overhead
The CPDLC and terrain displays look stunning and add yet more depth
Default cockpit view is a little off
It can be set to the right position very easily though
Leaving the cockpit for the moment, I turn to the cabin. Behind the
cockpit door there is a great passenger cabin to view. To be honest,
I do not really care about such features normally, but this is a
nice rendition and allows me to set a few cameras for over the wing
shots. So, it is not all bad.
Even the seats feature safety cards and seat row numbering
The cabin view from First Class
Outside, the external model is pretty nice, and the new engines
really look large compared to the old CFM56 models. Textures are
good and the modelling is really rather impressive. Even the cargo
holds are modelled. Anyone who thinks X-Plane means lower quality
should think again.
The external model is excellent
Pre-flight settings are very nice
Texture wise, this aircraft is way up there
The winglets can be switched off in the sim
The Airbus is not unfamiliar to me, so getting to grips with the
A320neo is not difficult. However, the A320neo is more than just an
aircraft add-on. To your left you will notice a small green circle
with an FPS reading above it. If the figure drops below 30, the
circle turns red. Clicking on the circle though, brings up a rather
cryptic looking set of options. These are the start of something a
bit special. The options include opening and closing the various
doors and cargo holds and calling for a push back tug. You can call
the tug, steer it and tell it to 'sod off' when you are done. It is
a nice feature and one that X-Plane needs.
Next is another great feature, Checklist. Clicking the before start
checklist brings the virtual First Officer to life, I call him Mike.
He is a bit fussy and not at all laid back like most Americans.
Instead, if you have not done something on that checklist, he will
tell you in no uncertain terms that "It is not ok, Sir!". He will
also tell you what it is you have forgotten, so Mike is good like
that. Once you have completed a checklist, the blue box surrounding
the selection box turns green and you can use the arrow icons to
move to the next checklist. Like Aerosoft's checklist option, it is
a great added feature and it is free.
Another option brings up various ground options. You can call stairs
and the catering truck. It is very much like AES or GSX for FSX, but
free. You also set the aircraft load and fuel here. It is a fairly
neat solution where you choose the load option to add passengers and
cargo via a nice popup menu. The fuel works the same way with the
option to add or remove fuel depending on the current load.
The ground vehicles are a cracking addition to the A320neo
Finally, written in red below all the options, is the word 'Park'.
Click this to remove the wheel chocks. It will turn green when your
Once you have got the checklists done, route filled in, and the IRS
aligned (all that happens in real time), it is time to pushback and
get the engines running. Like many of the Airbus systems, this is
heavily automated. Simply turn the engine mode switch to ignition
and open the Engine 2 fuel cock. All the bleed valves adjust
automatically and the engine fires up with no fuss. Do the same for
Engine 1 and within two minutes, you are ready. The thing I noticed
most with the JARDesign A320neo is the sound. X-Plane's sound system
is not great, but JARDesign seem to have bypassed it via a plugin
and all I can say is, "Wow". These are some of the best A320 sounds
available. For best results, listen to it on 5.1 channel speakers
for full effect.
I set the flaps, auto brake, arm the spoilers, and switch the
passenger signs on so I can perform the usual Airbus 'Take-off
Config' check. All is good, so I release the brakes. The larger
engines certainly make a difference, for with a light load and the
throttles at idle, the A320neo begins to roll. Power is everything.
As I begin to taxi, I run the 'Before Take-off' checklist, and Mike,
my chatty First Officer barks the now familiar "It is not OK!" at me
as I forget the odd thing here and there. I find the tiller setting
to be a little fierce, with just the slightest touch needed to turn
the aircraft. I may dial in a little null zone to stop me turning
the wheels 90° without turning my joystick to fill deflection. As a
nice touch, there is the inclusion of a 'Follow Me' vehicle. You
need to tell it your taxi route (set it via the FM icon on the
ground menu) and he will happily take you out to the runway, or to
your assigned gate.
The follow me car is a great touch and adds depth to an already detailed
With the checks complete, I enter the runway and get set for
take-off. Advancing the throttles, two things happen, the A320neo
accelerates quickly and, for some reason, the 'V Speeds' I set,
disappear from my speed tape. It is annoying as Mike read the speeds
back to me prior to take-off. So, remembering roughly what they
were, I rotate and hope the 'neo' lifts off. She does. The climb out
is a bit frightening as the nose seems to want to dip down instead
of a steady climb. Engaging the autopilot does not help and the
aircraft seems more determined to plant itself into the ground. I
check the autopilot and double check the altitude setting. Despite
displaying the 'managed mode' dot, the altitude function is not set,
so I settle for the 'Selected Climb' mode, just to start getting the
nose up. It works and the aircraft settles into the routine flight.
Away from the perils of airline flying, I take a separate flight to
test out the much vaulted Airbus safety systems. First up, I throw
her into some tight turns. As expected, she stops at the limit,
preventing me from going hard over. Next, I pull the nose up and the
throttles back. Again, the safety features kick in and the engines
hit full thrust whilst the nose holds position. Hand flying the
A320neo is a nice experience and the aircraft feels heavy.
With our descent started and Mike whinging in his seat, I get set up
for the approach. Here the CPDLC comes in handy, pulling the weather
METAR from my destination. I elect to fly a manual approach, and
boy, is it something. At slow speeds, the 'bus' is sweet and
lumbering, without ever feeling too unresponsive. Over the
threshold, and I flair just nicely to settle her onto the runway.
There are several nice touches to this aircraft that really aid the
immersion factor. Besides Mike, the cabin crew add a great number of
announcements to your day, all triggered by 'in sim' actions. Switch
on the seat belt signs and the cabin crew will let the passengers
know. Then there is the cabin heating. Turn the dials up and you
will get told it is too hot, turn them down, you will get told it is
too cold. Even the cockpit can be adjusted, just to annoy Mike.
Away from Mike and the cabin crew, there are other great touches,
like raindrops on the VC windows. Sadly, the wipers do not clear
them away, but it is really great to see the rain bead and trickle
down the glass.
My favourite feature though, is a rather hidden one. If you are
familiar with EZDok for FSX, you will know how easy it makes getting
around the cockpit, once your views are all set up that is. X-Plane
however, has a camera system already built in that works more or
less the same and is a doddle to set up. JARDesign have set the
camera positions for you, so all you need to do is use your
keyboard's numeric keypad to easily move around the cockpit. It is
quick and simple. Add to this the ground vehicles and checklists,
and there is a lot of added value to this aircraft.
As good as this aircraft is to look at and fly, there are a few
annoying bugs that really let the side down. The biggest one for me
happens at night. I flew into Salzburg in the evening, and as the
sun set, my main displays slowly began to darken. By the time night
fell, I had no displays at all, despite turning them up and checking
the lighting in the cockpit. It is a real shame, as flying at night
is something X-Plane excels at. The other big problem for me is the
FMGS or autopilot. Flying in 'managed mode' should be fairly simple,
and it is, as long as you do not touch anything. If you adjust the
speed or heading controls, even just clicking on them to set
'managed mode' prior to take-off, it will not work. Instead, the
aircraft will just ignore the route and sulk. I will admit, coming
from a detailed Airbus add-on in FSX, I found this to be a huge
surprise. All you can do is set your altitude and leave it at that.
Setting a SID first in your flight plan also caused problems,
wherein the aircraft would not navigate at all, due to the first
selected waypoint being the runway. Instead, you have to set your
route first, then add the SID for it to function properly.
There are other bugs too. The MCDU is a bit hit and miss in places.
Try as I might, on one flight I could not get it to add a 'direct
to' waypoint to a flight plan. Instead, I had to type the name of
the waypoint in and enter it on the main flight plan page, rather
than using the correct 'next waypoint' entry point.
'Click spots' are also a bit difficult to get to, requiring precise
positioning to achieve what you want. It is not helped by the mouse
making a clicking sound, no matter where you are. I really do not
like the way the FMGS is set either. To activate 'Managed Mode', you
need to see a flat palm cursor to push the button, whilst 'Selected
Mode' is activated using a pointing finger cursor to pull the knob
towards you. I constantly got these confused. An arrow pointing
towards the console and one pointing away would be a better choice.
My favourite bug though, had to be at Salzburg. I was taxing out to
the runway, the aircraft went over a bump, slowly I might add, and
thought it had landed and promptly deleted all the route and
take-off data, all to the sound of applause from the cabin -
normally a nice touch, but not on that flight!
Instrument lighting problem
The JARDesign A320neo is for X-Plane 10.30 and later. Other
specified technical requirements are as follows:
● Windows or OS X (32 or 64 bit); and
● Pentium V, 3GHz equivalent or higher, 8GB RAM, 1GB graphics card.
Creating an A320 for any sim is no easy thing. Given the amount of
backwards engineering required to workout systems, I can only
imagine most A320 developers are bald from pulling their hair out.
This particular A320 must have left JARDesign really 'follicly
challenged'. The bugs are numerous, and for certain aspects of the
flight, they really ruin things.
Bugs aside though, you realise there is a real quality behind this
aircraft. The cockpit textures are some of the best I have ever seen
in any sim, and the nice touches, such as Mike, and the cabin crew,
add a real immersive feel to the whole thing. The mountains of free
liveries are a huge bonus and the ground vehicles which service your
aircraft are really something.
All in all, this has been one of the most challenging aircraft I
have ever flown. It is far too easy to make mistakes and stuff your
flight up. Some of that is down to Airbus, but some of that is down
to poor planning. For example, taking a screenshot ('Shift + Space')
will drop the Ram Air Turbine without you realising it. Once it is
down, it cuts the engine generators and the aircraft slowly
depressurizes. There is no manual which really explains this, just a
few tutorials on the web site which are short on detail and depth.
You can download the four part FCOM, but at a few thousand pages,
you would be hard pressed to make a dent on all the information it
It would be easy to get caught up in the bugs, but JARDesign are
constantly working on improving the aircraft. When it was first
released, it was much worse than it is now. JARDesign have chipped
away at it to produce a rough diamond of an aircraft. Pretty in
places, uncut in others, but somehow, it's on the verge of being a
Liveries are free and plentiful
A great rendition of an A320neo, let down by a silly bugs. However,
it is a fantastic aircraft to fly and something JARDesign Group and
X-Plane can be proud of.
Quality crafted exterior and interior.
Realistic flight modelling.
Anomalies and bugs, as identified.
● External Model:
● Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers):
● Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like):
● Value for Money:
The JARDesign Airbus A320neo is awarded an overall Mutley’s Hangar score of 8.6/10,
with a "Highly Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Silver Award.