The soon-to-be-released A320 Jetliner is the latest addition to Just Flight's F-Lite range. For people who are unfamiliar with the F-Lite range, they are simulations of complex aircraft which are extremely high in detail, but are designed to be less demanding to fly than some of the more procedural simulations e.g. PMDG, Level-D. They are the perfect choice for someone who wants a lot more than the default aircraft, but a bit less than the high end simulations previously mentioned.
The A320 is Europe's answer to the 737. It works the short to medium length routes and is a big favourite with low cost and major airlines alike. There are over 4,500 aircraft in service or on order since the A320 entered service in 1988. The A320 accommodates 150 passengers in a typical two-class cabin layout, and has a range of 3,000nm; this opens up routes such as New York-Los Angeles and New York-Dublin.
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The A320 Jetliner has been developed in-house by Just Flight's expert design team. It features a highly detailed external model, detailed 2D and 3D cockpit, a custom programmed MCDU and a fantastic sound set for the CFM56 and IAE V2500 engines. The external model is probably the best for the A320 I've seen to date in FSX.
For an aircraft which isn't complex, Just Flight cannot be accused of providing insufficient information to help you get to grips with the A320. This add-on comes with a very comprehensive manual which is over 70 pages long, and includes an in depth flight tutorial from Heathrow to Zurich. The manual has everything you need to know to help get up into the sky, and includes lots of images to help speed up the learning process. I must admit that I wasn't expecting the manual to be as comprehensive as it is.
The release version ships with 4 liveries – British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and United Airlines. For those of you who love all the extra liveries, these will be available as expansion packs later, or you could have a go at creating your own liveries with the paint-kit (there's a tutorial for that too). The download version I am using (as far as I know it is the final release version) weighs in at just over 200mb and won't take too long to download. Installation is nice and simple and takes around 5 minutes max.
Before jumping in and setting off on your holiday charter, I would recommend reading the manual so that you are familiar with the MCDU (Multi-purpose Control Display Unit). All the information you would need during your flight can be acquired from the MCDU, and is fairly simple to do so.
Maybe the ideal first flight would be the tutorial. I like the fact that you are able to import your default FSX flight plan into the MCDU to save you the task of programming in the waypoints one by one. This really helps cut down on your time on the ground. If you are buying this add-on I would suspect that you are not the sort of person who wants to spend more time planning the flight than actually flying it. It's quite possible to start from a cold and dark cockpit and be ready for taxi in around 5 minutes. If you want the really easy option, you can select what portion of flight you are in e.g taxi, take-off etc.. and the MCDU will turn on/off the appropriate aircraft lights for you.
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The A320 flies very nicely by hand, but the majority of the time you will be using the auto-pilot. I found that climb outs and cruising were handled without any real problems. When first testing, a little problem/annoyance I did find was that the engines seemed to take a long time to spool up to full power; quite often I would be lifting off and the engines would only be at 85% N1.
The auto-throttle did struggle to reach the target airspeed during cruise, and also on final approach. Maybe the responsiveness of the auto-throttle needs altering slightly? It felt as though it was always a bit behind what the aircraft was doing, and sometimes during turns to finals it was too slow to adjust the throttle and resulted in a loss of height, and then gain in height when it caught up. After a while I was able to anticipate this was going to happen and be ready to make adjustments where needed to keep a smooth flight. This is the only problem I have come across whilst flying the A320 over the last couple of weeks.
To Just Flight's credit, I fed this information back to their Techies and they turned out a new .air file and new config files for the two different engine types to resolve the problem and these will be available on the day of release as an update.
Whilst making test flights I used my default FSX settings which I feel give me a good all round compromise between eye candy and performance. I am pleased to report that whilst on the ground at a busy airport I was able to maintain FPS of around 30, which rose to 80+ in cruise. Whilst the A320 does have an MCDU, it is nowhere near as complex as add-ons by PMDG, Level-D etc... so requires much less computer resources. Once I cranked up my settings to my VFR setting the FPS on the ground dropped to around 15, with 30-40 during cruise. Still more than acceptable.
Whilst not the method of flight most people will use, flying the A320 by hand is very easy. The aircraft is very stable and responsive to control inputs, it is very easy to fly by hand all the way up to cruise altitude. Similarly, flying the approaches by hand is just as easy and more often than not you should be able to get a nice smooth touchdown. I was a little surprised to find that there weren't any altitude call outs during approach – just an annoying 'Don't Sink' call-out. I think this must be triggered when you are close to the ground. Even when flying the approach with the auto-pilot coupled to the ILS you will still hear 'Don't Sink'
This is a very good addition to the F-Lite range for Just Flight. It is in direct competition with their Airbus Series Volume 1 add-on, but what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in usability and looks. If you do not like programming flight plans and working out v-speeds etc... and just want to fly in a fantastic looking aircraft, this will be perfect for you.
I'm pleased to award this add-on a Mutley's Hangar score of 9/10
Review machine Spec: Intel Core2 Quad 2.40ghz | 4gb DDR2 RAM |Nvidia GForce 880GTX |Windows 7 64bit Home Premium