When the Flight1/Aeroplane Heaven Mustang P51D came up for review I snapped it up! Last year, at the inaugural Flight1 open day at Shoreham, she was on show as pre-release software. Unfortunately I never got to fly her so I am really looking forward to trying her out today.
The story began in 1939 when the RAF realising war in Europe was imminent, were looking for a quick way to increase its fighter numbers so the RAF approached North American Aviation with the intent of them building P-40's for the RAF. The NAA, realising the P-40 was getting long in the tooth, offered to build an entirely new advanced fighter using the same Allison engine, used on the P-40.
The original North American P-51 supplied to the RAF was a fighter that failed, early models performed poorly in combat so were used for a ground support role. The Allison V-1710-39 engine was a good engine, but one which didn't operate well at high altitudes.
In April, 1942, a British test pilot, Ronald Harker, flew the Mustang and was very impressed by it. He suggested that the new plane would be a natural fit with the Rolls Royce Merlin 60-series engine that was well-suited to high altitudes. The Americans began working along the same lines (using the Packard license-built version of the Merlin), and the first Merlin-equipped Mustang, the P-51B, flew in November, 1942.
Test pilot Bob Chilton first flew the XP51-D in November, 1943 now powered by a Packard Merlin V-1650-7 Engine. The 85 gallon fuselage tank was included on the P51-D from the start. The directional stability problems that it caused for the B/C models worsened in the first D models. To correct this, the distinctive a dorsal fin was added.
Learning from the British installation of a "bubble" or "tear-drop" canopy in the Spitfire a further improvement to the Mustang was introduced when a graceful
plexiglass teardrop canopy was installed to eliminate the dangerous blind area created by the faired cockpit, they became standard on the P-51D and all later models.
In all, 8,100 -D variants were built, 1,000 of which were the identical -K model built in Dallas rather than the main Inglewood plant in California. Post war, the Mustang went on to serve in the Korean conflict in the early Fifties, the F-51 variant flying over 60,000 missions
About 280 Mustangs survive today, half of them flyable and featured at many airshows. Unquestionably the best American Fighter of World War 2 the Mustang P-51's place in history is assured.
The Flight1 Package
However, she looks great in the medium distance but I think the
liveries supplied are a little too clean looking and need some aging, wear, and
possibly a little battle damage too.
There are a few special effects/animations like a sliding canopy, removable panel exposing one side of the engine cowling and a removable starboard wing cover to expose the guns and ammunition. These animations are controlled by your door command plus a keyboard number, you can see their effect above. Using the cowl open close command, the radiator shutter opened and closed further down the fuselage in four stages. These are cute features the canopy slide also removes the pilot.
Finally, the rear warning radar antennae on the tail fin were nice to see as were the twin rear view mirrors and radio aerials.
Your cockpit awaits you
Much in the same vane as the exterior, there wasn't much depth to the textures or the bulkheads and controls. The gauges were an exception however and looked really good. Straight in front of you is the bulb access to the K-14 gun sight and if you click on it the cover swings down to expose the bulbs, I am now starting to believe there is more depth to this beast then I first thought.
Flying old Musty
Getting her ready for flight is well covered in the manual, prior to the normal procedures section there are notes on flight characteristics and various systems such as fuel, oil and oxygen. These are well worth reading as in flight these will affect performance and limit the extent of some manoeuvres such as inverted flight.
Take time to trim her properly, the drift off left due to the engine torque and P-Factor is very difficult to correct and will have you zig-zagging down the runway without some help from rudder trim, 5 degrees is recommended and certainly the drift effect is lessened or nullified by setting this correctly.
Check out and set your load out settings on the configuration panel to the right of the pilots seat and set to remove all if you don't want extra fuel tanks.
You will have to adjust this manually in the FSX fuel settings window as this will not be adjusted for you. The same applies to the payload, 200 pounds is the default and doesn't change if you have rockets or bombs attached.
Another point worth noting is if you want to drop your tanks then you use the loadout manager to change the visual appearance and the fuel setting window to adjust the load.
Once you have your load set then fuel to suit. and range and finally set the fuel amount accordingly.
Set the mixture to auto-run (There are only two settings, auto-run and idle cut off) There is a tweak supplied if you prefer manual mixture control. The manual warns of over priming the engine, if you do so a fire storm will emanate for the manifold! Another nice animation just for the effect mind you and the look on on-lookers faces as they watch you start up.
Who leant on the primer switch?!
After priming for 4 seconds, moving the mixture to run and
holding the starter the engine wound itself up and roared into
life accompanied by a plume of thick black smoke. This
quickly dissipates and we are left with a satisfying
rumble of the Packard built Merlin engine, life is good!
Soon after start up and once the hydraulic pressure has built
up, the ailerons and gear doors will rise into their parked
position, I liked that feature a lot.
Like all tail draggers and particularly those with a V-12 piston engine ahead, forward visibility on the ground is limited, even when jacking your view point up a bit you will find yourself looking out the sides for reference. Thoughtfully there is a high view preset. Taxiing has to be carried out in S movements so you can see the way ahead, steering was a little awkward without rudder pedals as you rely heavily on the toe brakes for tight turns.
On the take-off roll you need to keep the stick well back. In the real-world this locks the tail wheel but it is not modelled here. The trim we set earlier keeps her pretty straight, keep on all three wheels until at least 60mph then ease the stick forward, the tail should raise up and we're off. Not raising the tail too soon is quite important as effective rudder control doesn't really come effective until then and you'll be cursing!
Gear animation was nice and smooth as she tidied up well. I found she still has a tendency to turn right and drop the wing, I experimented a little and found that with around -16 degrees aileron trim she would fly straight and level. General manoeuvrability was positive and nowhere as twitchy as I thought she would be. I took her up high, throttled back and lifted the nose. The speed quickly bled off and she broke to the left as the manual said she would. Recovery was as the book advised and not all that challenging.
Ferocious Frankie, the real deal is featured in the banner on the Mutley's Hangar Home page
I have never used war emergency power before but it is modelled
here, push the throttle to full which gives you 61" MP switching
on the WEP immediately raises it to 67" along with an increase
of engine note. The engine will only take a few minutes of
this before it detonates!
One thing I wanted to try was the in-flight engine torque test where you let her cruise only a few knots above the minimum, about 106 at this height (12,000 with clean load-out) and apply full throttle. In the real world this would flip the aircraft onto her back (If you let her) as much as I tried she wasn't playing game with this one! I put that down to my lack of skill but it could be down to the model as well. I will keep trying this as I would like to experience it one day.
Landing the Mustang again went to book. Wait to 170mph to lower the gear, once the speed drops to about 160 full flap can be deployed. Approach should be at about 115-120 with 25" MP, 2700RPM and at a steady rate of descent of around 500fpm. The aim is to round her out just over the threshold and attempt to hold the plane off on a 3 point attitude. Hopefully she will settle nicely and touch down.
Ahem! that's what's supposed to happen and I am still working on it! Luckily I didn't have an audience. There is definitely an art to landing tail-draggers and it is certainly fun trying to get it right. I think Once down we are back into taxi mode until we reach our parking spot and follow the shutdown procedures.
Once the engine had stopped I could still feel my pulse racing somewhat and started planning my next flight.
This really wasn't an issue, to me she had the same high frame rate performance as the default models, I cap my FPS using the excellent FSX Limiter program and I think I got hotter than my machine!
Looking back over my review I see I have used the phase "Not modelled" a lot. Don't let that put you off, most of this is due to the limitations of the sim and Aeroplane Heaven have taken the time to at least animate some of ineffective buttons and features.
I found the lack of some features, like dropping the tanks had no appreciable affect on performance a little unbelievable.
Aeroplane Heaven have made a fine job of this aircraft and is in my opinion it is their best ever model. It sadly doesn't match some of the realism of some of it's competitors (A2A and Warsim) but it is really fun, albeit a little too easy to fly in comparison.
The exterior fuselage textures were lacking but was more than made up for by other detailing.
Overall, a recommended product attracting a Mutley's Hangar rating of 8 /10