The Boeing B-29 'Superfortress' is, without doubt, an iconic bomber. It would not be farfetched to call it the most influential bomber of all time. By dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, it drastically shortened World War II and set the stage for the next 50 years of the Cold War. Up until recently, the B-29 was not catered for in FSX until prolific developer, Virtavia, took up the challenge and delivered the B-29A 'Superfortress' to our desktop.
Let’s see if Virtavia's B-29 is as iconic as its real world counterpart.
Availability and Installation
The B-29A package is available for download from several web stores, a list of which can be found on the Virtavia web site .
The file size of 202MB is typical and installation presented no issues.
What You Get
According to Virtavia, the package includes two model variants and eight liveries. The models are pretty close but are not perfect. The B-29B was a lightened version which had the gun turrets and most guns removed to improve the speed for low-level bombing raids. It also had tail gun radar. The Virtavia B-29B’s tail gun radar is missing, making it the same model as the 'Enola Gay', which was a B-29 but with its fuselage gun turrets removed. Another thing is the performance of the full gun turret armed B-29 and the lightened B-29B are the same. The increased speed performance of the B-29B is not modelled. So there is only one flight model for the B-29, the 'Enola Gay" and the B-29B.
Whilst the B-29 variants were based on the same basic airframe and engine configuration, there were changes to the wing design on the B-29A and subsequent variants. This might seem like nit-picking, but I would have preferred that Virtavia did not include the B-29B, as the external model is not correct and it does not have a discrete flight model. A look inside the B-29 folder in FSX reveals Virtavia included three models, labelled, B-29A, B-29A_Late and B-29ANT. However, none of the models depicted are B-29A’s and are correctly labelled in the FSX Aircraft Selection menu as the initial production, B-29 variant.
You can also download the paint kit from the Virtavia web site.
The external model is good, but not perfect. The shape of the B-29 is instantly recognisable and Virtavia have captured the essence of this iconic aircraft quite well. However, there are some oversights. Besides the already mentioned shortcomings in the representation of the B-29B variant, another most obvious shortcoming is the prop disks are not perfectly round - they are somewhat squared. This catches the eye immediately and is very obvious, even to non B-29 enthusiasts. There is also a lack of detail, in the engines and the undercarriage.
The included liveries are convincing and crisp at 2048 x 2048 pixels. This means you can zoom to a high zoom level without pixellation and almost all lettering on the aircraft can actually be read.
The usual animations are represented in the product and are nicely done. The flaps and landing gear move slowly, much like I expect from the real world aircraft, but the opening and closing of the bomb bay doors is very fast. The crew figures can also be toggled. As far as effects go, I only noticed the smoke effect on engine start.
The external viewpoints are limited to nose view, tail view, left and right wing views, and bomb bay view.
The inside of the aircraft is a striking green colour which, based on research of images of real world aircraft, is very accurate.
The cockpit is a very convincing and pleasant working environment with the same high resolution as the rest of the plane. So, again, almost everything can easily be read. There is some wear and tear present and the overall impression is that of a very well maintained, somewhat used aircraft. All levers, switches and knobs are convincing 3D renditions, however the cockpit gauges are only 2D.
Overall, the quality of the cockpit area is high, but provides a contrast to the rest of the internal model. The internal model not only includes the two pilot positions, but also the positions of the bomb aimer, flight engineer, and navigator. The engineer’s position is of the same quality of the pilot positions, but the other two positions are significantly less detailed.
Whilst these positions detract from the overall experience of the internal model, it is not as much as the absence of cockpit sounds.
Which brings me to the subject of the included sounds. Based on online video files of 'FIFI', the only remaining flying B-29, the included engine sounds are not convincing. This applies to all engine sounds, start-up, warming up the engines to the engine sounds in flight. The sounds miss the clattering and roughness of the real world engines and are, frankly, just too subdued. Gear and flap sounds are present, but the lack of sounds for switches, fuel pumps, etc. have a negative impact on realism.
All in all, the sounds are left wanting and the lack of sounds really do the model a disservice. Luckily this last issue can easily be solved by adding the freeware cockpit sound V2 gauge to the panel. This gauge can be found on the various regular flight sim download sites.
The developers appear to have taken some liberties in regard to performance. The operational ceiling can be reached with enough patience, however, the aircraft is able to accelerate to over the maximum speed of 300 mph IAS at that altitude. This is not realistic for a piston engined aircraft. I had to bring the power settings back during the climb otherwise it is possible for an over speed situation to occur.
The included user manual does provide useful recommended RPM settings and when these settings are followed, plausible performance is achieved with the described target speeds.
All in all, the flight characteristics are only believable when you fly with the recommended RPM settings, otherwise the aircraft exhibits unrealistic behaviour, especially at high altitudes.
I also had an issue with starting the engines from cold and dark. After a short period of time, the manifold pressure on all engines dropped to zero and there was no way I could start the engines, not even using Ctrl + E.
According to Virtavia, this is the only time they have heard of this issue and the suggestion is that it must be something wrong with my system. Since I tested it on two separate systems, this would mean I own the two systems that have this problem.
The flight dynamics are the strong suite of this package. The aircraft behaves as I would expect for such a big heavy bomber, though it is fairly sensitive to wind conditions. You can virtually feel the weight and size of the B-29 - this is one heavy bomber! Stall and stall recovery are very convincing and the controls lock up with over speed like they should.
Another convincing trait is the large amount of rudder required, especially on take-off or go-arounds. The propellers on the four, immensely, powerful engines all rotate the same way resulting in enormous torque. Stability improves with the build-up of speed.
Finally, the B-29 has an enormously strong airframe. It is possible to over speed the plane in a dive and you can structurally damage it but this will take a deliberate action. As far as I have been able to research, this was true of the real world aircraft.
The download includes a 27 page PDF user manual and the kneeboard checklist file. The checklist contains a normal checklist items including RPM and speed settings. The power is then adjusted to keep the indicated speed with the given RPM. Although this may appear a little meagre for hard core simmers, it delivers a workable solution. In reality, the engines were managed by the engineer, so calling for a certain speed or power setting was all the pilot would normally have to do.
The manual has enough information to be able to fly the aircraft in FSX. A description of the panels is provided and it contains the reference indication which acts as a checklist. No more information is needed to be able to fly the aircraft and so no extra information is available. This is an understandable approach but I would have liked some more background information on the aircraft in general and the included aircraft in particular.
Value for Money
Value for money for me is a question of, 'Do I want to fly the aircraft again?', or even 'Do I want to invest time to solve some issues to make it better?'.
With all that in mind, this aircraft is certainly still worth the money.
The uniqueness of the aircraft in FSX, the good exterior, and believable cockpit combined with the very good flight dynamics save the aircraft regardless of the described issues.
It could be even better if you invest the time and add the freeware cockpit sounds gauge, RealEngine gauges, replacement prop disks, and the A2A Accufeel payware add-on. This would make it really shine and the potential is there.
Verdict and Rating
Good external and internal modelling.
Good frame rates.
Realistic flight dynamics.
Engine sounds are not convincing.
Missing sounds for switches, knobs, etc.
2D instrument gauges.
Flight characteristics not realistic, especially at high altitudes
|• External Model:||7.5/10|
|• Internal Model:||7.5/10|
|• Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers):||6.0/10|
|• Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like):||8.0/10|
|• Value for Money:||7.5/10|
|Rating: Virtavia's B-29A 'Superfortress' is awarded a Mutley’s Hangar score of 7.0/10, with a "Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Bronze Award.|