Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mini Review of the A2A Civilian Mustang

Reader beware!  What follows is really a post about my admiration for the wonderful A2A Civilian Mustang.   This is in contrast to some of the more thorough and well written reviews that can be found elsewhere.

A Quick Flight
With shaking gauges and bouncing needles, the Mustang slowly pulled out onto the taxiway. The sounds of the low idling Merlin grumbling away.  Taxing was no delight as this tail dragger moved along.  While graceful in flight, the Mustang was awkward on the ground.  

I throttled her up a tad to enter and line up on the runway.  Some black smoke puffed out.   A quick mag check confirmed that she was ready to go.   With a slow push forward on the throttle the Merlin came to life.  So did the speedometer, the oil and temperature gauges, and my sense of mortality. Holding on for dear life and fighting the torque, I did my best to follow a straight line.   In quick order we reached V1 and were off! 

With true grace she started to ascend, the landing gear now stowed.   Her small body began to peak between the clouds.   With a pull on the throttle, I held her straight.  A slight upward pitch was established and the autopilot clicked on. 

Now for time to scrutinize the various engine related gauges.   The sounds of the oil flap opening and closing, the radiator coolant flap opening.   At 10,000 feet, the oxygen was switched on.  Somewhere the Mustang switched on the high blower mode, providing ample power for the continued climb.

Before long the Mustang was at 34,000 feet, cruising around the 350 mph and providing me with an amazing view in all directions.  Like a good horse, I could feel her longing for bombers to protect.   Cruising at jet like speeds, we raced through the sky.  Sadly the trip was soon over as the Mustang was put into a slow descent. 

Landing the Mustang was quite a feat.  Most of it came to balance.   As flaps and gear were deployed, the pony slowed calling for an increase in throttle.   The maneuverability of the Mustang helped.  Bringing her in around 120 mph allowed for a somewhat smooth touch down.  Landing the Mustang was not overly difficult.  The hard part came after landing.

As the Mustang planted her feet on the ground, the large unsightly nose rose high.  With limited vision forward we barreled down the runway.  Hitting the brakes to hard, to early, could cause her to flip over.  Finally she came to a stop and my heart rate lowered.  Now for the awkward taxing.

A real Mustang at the 2014 WWII Weekend at KRDG

Buying the A2A Civilian Mustang

After going to airshows and seeing the P51 cruise overhead, it was a no brainer that the A2A P51D would be a Summer purchase.  A2A has to be commended for their creation of a civilized Mustang.   This pony includes a working autopilot with modern avionics.  In short, they have created the typical cockpit and setup of a modern IFR P51D.   

 Very fast, ample power above above 30,000 feet, and with large bubble canopy, the Mustang is a GA pilot's dream.  Simple but capable autopilot for IFR.  The added bonus to this pony is A2A’s Accusim technology.   Accusim brings so much to the table, it is almost hard to imagine flying without it.   After kicking the tires, I was off to buy buy buy the A2A Civilian Mustang with Accusim!

Gauges everywhere!

The real P51 Mustang was the epiphany of piston powered WWII fighter aviation!   As expected, A2A has replicated in great detail the perks of this pony.    The Merlin engine is a living breathing animal that must be treated correctly.  It will reward you with great power if you treat it right.  This means carefully monitoring the engine related gauges.   Specifically a close eye has to be kept on the oil pressure, oil temperature, radiator coolant temp.   The pilot needs to know what readings to expect at different stages of flight and keep and eye out for unusual readings.   

The Mustang's Office.

When we refer to the Mustang as the “epithany” of WWII piston powered aviation, we are not just referring to its speed, maneuverability, or firepower.  Many of the systems on the Mustang are automated.   Notable is the oil and radiator cooler flaps.  They will open and close to ensure proper temperature.   The two speed supercharger is also automated.  


There was a lot to learn about the flying this old war horse in sheep’s clothing.   A good checklist, watching gauges, checking under the hood.    Considering the Accusim technology, the pilot needs to understand how the Mustang will respond to different conditions.  For example on cold days the oil in the Mustang will be thick.  Hence the pilot should dilute the oil after start up to bring the oil pressure to acceptable limits.  The pilot needs to safe guard against failures, and be prepared for them if they do occur.  Yes, Accusim is that amazing!

Cruise Range

The Mustang can give some surprises.   You can easily fly a 1000 mile range in the Mustang, cruising at around 30000 feet or above.   On top of this, you can fly a nice speed in the 300-400 mph range.  This is with all tanks full before take off.  Unfortunately extending that 1000 mile range can call for some exceptions.   The high blower setting gives the Mustang its power above 18,000 feet.  This utilizes more fuel/hr.   To effectively extend the range of the Mustang, the pilot must fly at 18,000 feet with the blower in the low setting and at a much slower speed.    This is a contrast to the concept of the fighter that followed the bombers all the way to Germany and back.   

Back then, drop tanks were used to extended the Mustang's range.  Unfortunately the FAA does not allow the use drop tanks.  A2A has obviously followed suite.  No drop tanks for the civilized Mustang.  You can’t be civilized when you are dropping large empty metal fuel tanks on the heads of citizens below.   Filling the center tank does help extend the range.   

Speaking of the center tank.  There is a noticeable change, and not for the better, when this tank is full.  The Mustang becomes very unstable when this tank is full.  The sooner it is drained the better.   

Autopilot and GPS.

The autopilot takes some getting used to.  This is a very simple system.  It reminds me of the B377 autopilot.  You can’t simply dial in the altitude and go there.  More or less, you need to use the pitch control to change altitude, then click on the “ALT” button to hold an altitude.    The exception is that the Mustang's autopilot can grab radials, an ILS approach, or simply follow a set heading.

The A2A Mustang uses the typical FSX GNS430.  Users can easily swap out the FSX version for the Reality XP GNS430.   Unfortunately I only have the Reality XP 530.   I have seen users install the Mindstar 430 GNS though.
VOXATC and IFR Flying

I flew a flight from KECP to KTPA using VOXATC 6 for atc.  Between working the radios, the limited autopilot, the ATC instructions, my hands were full!   I can only imagine how hard it must be for a real world pilot!   This hardest part was descending to different altitudes per atc instruction.  Changing radio channels created a lot of confusion too.   When landing at KTPA, the autopilot did an excellent job of grabbing the ILS and  following the ILS down to the runway.  This allowed me just enough time to dial in the KTPA tower.   The COM radio in the Mustang will allow the user to store different channels.  I will take advantage of that next time!

The Mustang's night lighting.

Speaking of night flying, the A2A Mustang comes with some very cool night lighting!  There is the typical bright cockpit light with the switch on the right.   There is the cool fluorescent cockpit lighting.  This is dimmer and allows you to keep your night vision.  The last bit is the UV gauge lighting.   

In usual A2A fashion, the manual for the P-51 is well written and interesting.   There is the P51 manual and the Accusim Manual for the P51.  Both include everything from historical accounts, stories, pilot tips, to checklist.  A2A never gives just a POH or small write up.  Their manuals get you excited about the plane you are going to fly.  They describe the perks of your new ride, what to watch out for, what to do. 
Mustang Tips!

Below is a link to tips found on the A2A forum from real Mustang pilot Dudley Henriques.   His insight is very helpful.


In short, I think you are crazy for not purchasing this aircraft!
Flying the A2A Mustang is some of the most fun you will ever have in FSX!

To me, A2A has proven that their simulations are a step above the rest.   The have excellent forums, excellent support, and excellent products! 

They create a simulation inside of a simulation and the Mustang is no exception.   I have only scratched the surface regarding the fun and realism that can be experienced with this bird.   

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Orbx Freeware Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN) for FTX Global Users

The FSX/P3d scenery developer Orbx, promised a lot when they released FTX Global.   While considered by many to be an expensive addon, FTX Global promised to recreate the virtual landscape.   This addon would create detailed scenery for entire FSX and P3d world.    FTX Global would also work in harmony with various other software packages and Orbx regions.   If this was not enough, Orbx promised to release numerous free airports for FTX Global users. 

Approaching runway 6.  Notice the Delaware River below.

Orbx has delivered on each of their promises and then some.  They have certainly upheld their promise to supply free airports for FTX Global users.  With 14 airport packs to date, we now have free airports throughout the US, Canada, and Europe.   In my home state of New Jersey, Orbx has released two regional airports (KMIV and KTTN).     The entire East Coast of the US has been sprinkled with free FTX airports.   For Connecticut alone, there is 4 free FTX airports!

Landing on Runway 34.

Today’s post focuses on the FTX Global freeware Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN) from Orbx.   This is just one of the freeware airports found in FTX Global North American Airport pack 10.   This airport in particular was developed by Orbx developer Neil Hill.  You can find a link to the freeware packs at the bottom of this post.

Trenton Mercer is located in  New Jersey.  KTTN is north of Trenton along the Delaware River.  While it is hard to believe, if you fly north from KTTN, you will see why NJ is called the Garden State.   The airport has become a favorite of mine for local GA flying.   KTTN is located in a nice country setting and sports two runways.   One runway is  4,800 feet long while the other is 6,000 feet. 


 I stopped by the real KTTN for the first time a few months ago.  Upon driving into the airport, I noticed a Frontier Aviation Airbus A319 preparing for takeoff.    The airport has become well known as a good spot to catch a cheap ride to locations such as Florida and Atlanta.  Flyers can bypass the congestion, traffic, and general headache of the larger airports by going to KTTN.

Passengers board a Frontier A319 bound for Atlanta.
(Thanks for the photo T!)

Trenton Mercer is quite impressive for a regional with about 200 flights a day.   The Civil Air Patrol and the 1-150th General Support Aviation Battalion of the New Jersey Army National Guard both use KTTN.   There is a plethora of general aviation aircraft that utilize KTTN.   The GA area is a easy to find, just down the road from the airport terminal.   Speaking of terminals,  at this point in time, KTTN also host flight from Frontier Aviation and Lynx Aviation.   You will also spot a host of corporate jets.  Some from far and way and some flying in from as close as KTEB.  

 Parking area and terminal.

 For the sim pilot, KTTN is perfectly situated between the busy KEWR to the north, and KPHL to the south.    You cannot imagine my excitement upon reading that KTTN had been released with airport pack 10.
GA and corporate area.

Exciting of course because Orbx produces some of the most dynamic airport’s to see a computer screen.  The airports not only have aircraft flow, but people flow. Yes, you can watch people moving about.   This creates an additional layer of realism.

General Aviation area with people walking around.
Having been to KTTN, I can only say that it is very impressive how much time and effort Orbx developers have spent on what is essential a freeware product.  I could immediately recognize the general aviation area of KTTN along with the other facilities.   The Orbx KTTN also corrects a problem with the ILS of the old FSX version.   Unfortunately KTTN does not have the nice grass simulated in some of their other products.   But for all intensive purposes, this airport is extremely well done!
The bug with the old FSX ils for KTTN is now fixed!
As a general aviation lover, KTTN has become a perfect location.   Numerous flights can be conducted in a 1 hour time to other Orbx freeware airports.  There is KRDG to the west in PA, KMIV to the south in NJ, a ton of Orbx airports in MD, along with numerous airports north of NYC. 

 The A2A C172 passes a corporate jet during taxi out.

The initial cost of Orbx’s FTX Global is steep.  But when you consider all of the freeware airports that are now included, FTX Global is a real bargain.  Again, these new airports are extremely well done, and very dynamic.  Check out to see if your local  airport has been released!   As for me,  "Thank you Orbx!"   


ORBX Free Aiports pack 10 for FTX Global

Skyvector data for KTTN

Orbx Free Airport Packs for FTX Global

Passenger video of take off from KTTN in Frontier A319.