A bit of
The de Havilland DH106 Comet first saw the light of day back in 1949 and when BOAC started a scheduled service to Johannesburg in 1951 the Comet also marked the start of the era of commercial jet powered flight.
The Comet was also the first jet plane to carry a member of the British Royal family when Queen Elisabeth, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret boarded a special flight organized by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland in 1953.
And now, almost 60 years later, Aeroplane Heaven and Just Flight have decided to give us arm-chair pilots the chance to fly this iconic and eye-catching bird in FSX with the release of their Comet Jetliner modelled on the Comet 4C variant. (Actually there’s also a FS2004 version released, but this review will only look into the FSX version)
According to the product page over at Just Flight they promise us, among other things, the following on this product.
· Extremely accurate rendition of the DH 106 Comet 4C
· Extraordinarily detailed virtual cockpit
· Highly accurate flight dynamics
· Detailed cabin area
In all honesty, these are rather standard claims from any FS add-on so let’s see if there’s more to it than marketing jargon.
Download and installation
The installer weighs in at 87 mb, so it should be a rather quick download unless you are stuck on an old modem. Installation is straight forward as usual with the Just Flight installer as long as you have your account credentials at the ready. After that just do what it tells you on the screen and you will be done in no time.
After installation you will find your new planes within FSX. The easiest way is to filter you aircraft selection by either setting manufacturer to “De Havilland” or Publisher to “Just flight LTD”.
The Comet ships with a 72 page manual in PDF-format. All in all it gives me as a user most of what I expect from a manual, with a few exceptions.
What it does include is a background on the airplane, installation instructions, an exterior and interior walk around of the plane, specifications for the airplane, nine different panel guides, a 16 page tutorial flight and some tips and pointers on the navigation equipment and night flights.
There are a few minor errors in there, and one of them had me scratching my head a bit. According to the tutorial a good target for your cruise speed is 385 KIAS, but no matter how much power I applied to the engines I was no way near that speed, and as it turns out it should have been 385 knots TAS.
With all of this crammed into the manual one could think that all things where covered, but alas there are still some things missing in there in my opinion. For example, the auto-pilot in the Cockpit isn’t mentioned at all anywhere in the manual, other than it being very limited by today’s standards and thus a “more familiar modern autopilot in pop-up form” is included for easier use. But what if the user wants to fly using the very limited auto-pilot? Just a few pointers on how to use it would have been enough in my mind.
The handling of the fairly complex fuel system is covered in two pages, and could have been a bit more in-depth in my opinion. But according to Just flight support they have provided the best info they have available.
Never having seen a Comet in real life does make it hard to accurately judge on the accuracy of the model, but comparing what I see in FSX with photos of the real thing it looks like a fairly good match. Those signature engines look as intriguing as the real ones and the fully extended flaps looks just as much as a pair of barn doors as their real life counter-parts. The model has plenty of details and good animations where you would expect to see them, including head movement on the two pilots in the cockpit.
RAF Air Support command Livery
Royal Saudi Livery
The installation includes 9 liveries (8 civilian and 1 military) with a good mix from around the world. The details and quality of the liveries are up to the standard you can expect from a payware addon today. Apparently there were a few flaws in two of the liveries included in the initial release, but they sure weren’t obvious enough for me to spot them. However, those flaws have been corrected in a service pack released shortly after the initial release.
The first thing that struck me when I took my seat was the cramped up, almost claustrophobic, feeling of the cockpit. This small cockpit was the office for a total of four people during flight, and all of these stations are modelled in the VC.
The quality of the cockpit modeling is very good, with almost every part modelled in 3D. The few parts that are painted on 2D textures are the non-functioning circuit breakers on the rear wall.
But despite the superb modeling I was a bit disappointed with some of the textures throughout the cockpit, and my complaint is one that I tend to repeat in my reviews. A lack of colour variation in the textures that result in a surface that looks very flat and non-lifelike. This is, and I know this is going to sound a bit silly, mainly a problem with the larger flat surfaces. If you want an example take a look at the part going up from the floor along the side of the throttle quadrant.
There are however examples of good textures within the cockpit too, and coupled with the superb modeling the Virtual Cockpit are really rather good, even if I would have preferred a bit of wear and tear around parts that are used frequently over the brand spanking new feel of the offered model.
There are four 2D panels included too, the four consists of the default GPS, controls for the radar (yes, you read that correctly, there’s a radar in there with traffic and much more showing) and a more modern and familiar Boeing-style interface for the radio and autopilot, but the main panels are only available in the Virtual Cockpit. Usually I have no issues with a 3D-only plane, but in this instance I really feel that it could have been prudent to include at least the fuel section of the engineer’s panel as a 2D-pop up since you need to switch back and forth between the pilot seat and engineers seat to manage the fuel selection system.
Moving further rearward in the airplane we find a virtual cabin, and this is a really strange one. The Cabin depicts the First Class section, or rather parts of the First Class section. When you switch over to the Cabin view you find yourself looking straight into a grey non existing window. The reason for this, according to the forum over at Just Flight, is that the developers hit the roof for the number of polygons that FSX could handle, so only half the cabin could be modelled in full detail. Considering the amount of detail and switches in the cockpit I can see why this issue came about, but what I can’t understand is why they chose to do a cabin in the first place if it couldn’t be done properly, or why they didn’t take away one or two rows of seats to free up some polygons for the left side windows.. It’s really a shame, because the rest of the cabin is modelled beautifully with as much attention to detail as the Cockpit.
Enough already, how does it fly?
Well, let me tell you. Once you open up those throttles, and the engines have spooled up and started to propel your Comet down the runway this plane just wants to fly. It leaps, perhaps somewhat ungracefully but still, in to the sky and just wants to stay up there for as long as it can.
As long as you keep a watchful eye on the airspeed and avoid any aerobatics it really is rather easy and joyful to fly her, even if she feels a bit sluggish in the turns. One word of warning should be raised too. Once you’re on final and lower those barn-doors for flaps to the fully down position you will lose your airspeed very rapidly, and the engines take their sweet time to spool up again, so it’s very easy to turn your airplane into a flying brick on final if you’re not careful. Since this will almost certainly lead to a go-around if you get her out if the stall perhaps it’s just your planes way of protesting against you wanting to land her???
It’s just too bad that you also need to manage the fuel-system
with its nine tanks and fairly low level of automation while
you’re busy flying. There’s one tank selector for each engine, and
each selector can be set to six different settings (well, one is
off, so in flight there’s really only 5 positions to worry about
as long as all engines are running). Most of these settings will
access one, and only one tank. The exception is the “Main centre
wing” selection that will access that tank, and those further out
in the wing. After trying to juggle all of these things on my own
I can fully understand why they had to have an engineer onboard
back in the day. I should perhaps also point out that there is a
way around all of this. If you chose to start the engines using
the FSX CTRL-E shortcut all engines will draw their fuel from all
tanks, as long as you keep your fingers away from the fuel tank
And while on the subject of the fuel system it’s also worth noting that the original release had a bug that made managing the fuel even harder since all engines would draw fuel from the tank set for engine number 1, regardless of what tank you had selected for the other three engines. A fix for this was made available in august 2011, and can be downloaded from the support section on the Just flight website.
And here comes the hardest part of any review, the passing of the final judgement.
I have really enjoyed the flights in the Comet. It’s a fun airplane to fly, and after a few flights in a modern era Jet with fancy FMC's and other automation it’s almost refreshing to go a bit “old school” and try to navigate to your destination using only VOR's and other radio-based navigation equipment (with mixed success I must confess!).
While the Virtual Cabin isn’t of great importance to me (I’m flying the plane, why should I spend time in the cabin?) the far from nice solution on one side is a big let-down. There’s also a few flaws in the documentation and the textures in the cockpit, but the modeling is simply stunning.
Would I recommend it to someone else? Well, it all comes down to preferences. But if the one asking is after a classic era jet simulation with decent but not hyper-detailed systems I would say yes without doubt.
I award the Just Flight Comet Jetliner a Mutley's Hangar score of 8/10
Review machine Spec:Intel Core i7 860 @ 2.8GGhz | 16 gb DDR III Ram @ 1600 mhz | GTX 560 TI OC 1GB Graphics |Windows 7 64bit Pro