A2A Simulations North American T-6 Texan
Being a great fan of both A2A Simulations’ General Aviation line and their warbirds, I was especially excited about the release of their North American T-6 Texan ever since the development of the plane was announced on their forums. Let’s see if the T-6 can fulfill my high expectations.
The history of the T-6 dates back to the year 1935, when North American Aviation developed the low wing, closed cockpit NA-16 trainer aircraft for the US Army Air Corps (USAAC). The NA-16 was developed into the NA-26 and entered into the 1937 competition for a USAAC “Basic combat” aircraft. This successful design entered service with the USAAC as the BC-1 (later re-designated the AT-6), with the US Navy as the SNJ and with the Royal Air Force as the Harvard.
Subsequent upgrades turned this airplane into one of the most successful trainer aircraft worldwide, with more than 17,000 samples built. A testimony to the excellence of the design is the fact, that the T-6 was used operationally as a trainer aircraft by the South African Air Force till as late as 1995 – 60 years after the first flight of the original design.
Thanks to the vast number of aircraft built, around 350 samples are still airworthy today and can be seen at air shows worldwide.
Purchase and installation
The A2A Simulations North American T-6 is available in five versions:
- FSX entertainment
- P3D Academic
- P3D Professional
- P3D Academic / FSX bundle
- P3D Professional / FSX bundle
Download size for the FSX version is 290 MB and for the P3D version 330 MB, this includes the plane as such and the respective Accusim pack. The product can be purchased directly through the A2A Simulations webshop or at any major flight simming shop like Simmarket.
In addition to the installer file download, A2A offers a manual in PDF format as a separate download for either FSX or P3D. Though calling it a manual is a vast understatement, as we are speaking of a 128 page strong book. This is the best documentation I ever held in hand for my flight sim.
Furthermore A2A offers a free paintkit in layered PSD format and a complimentary paintkit for the virtual cockpit, also in layered PSD format. Both paintkits come without any documentation, but are easy to use for experienced repainters.
Before we load the aircraft into the sim, let us have a look at the official features list:
- Aircraft DNA technology re-creates actual engine and airframe vibrations
- A true propeller simulation
- Pratt & Whitney R-1340 supercharged radial engine captured and physically reproduced
- Both the front and rear cockpits and the entire aircraft gorgeously constructed with authentic metals, plastics, and rubber
- Physics-driven sound environment
- Complete maintenance hangar internal systems and detailed engine tests including compression checks
- Extensively flight tested the actual aircraft first hand by A2A Simulations pilots against the simulation
- Accu-Sim fluid flight modellng allows for aerobatics including accelerated stalls, snap rolls, and hammerheads
- Hyper realistic engine vibrations and harmonics pass through the airframe including the shock mounted cockpit panels
- True to life ground handling, makes landings forever challenging, just like the real T-6. You can hear and feel the large tires bite into the pavement
- Hand propping
- Three different canopies can be selected in real time
- Propeller hub can be removed, revealing a working propeller governor inside
- Digitrak autopilot with altitude hold reproduced by the book
- Optional direct cranking or direct inertial starter included
- Dynamic ground physics including both hard pavement and soft grass modeling
- Primer-only starts are now possible. Accu-Sim monitors the amount of fuel injected and it’s effectiveness to start and run the engine
- Persistent airplane where systems, corrosion, and temperatures are simulated even when the computer is off
- Immersive in-cockpit, physics-driven sound environment from A2A engineered recordings
- Complete maintenance hangar internal systems and detailed engine tests including compression checks
- Piston combustion engine modeling. Air comes in, it mixes with fuel and ignites, parts move, heat up, and all work in harmony to produce the wonderful sound of a Lycoming 540 engine. Now the gauges look beneath the skin of your aircraft and show you what Accu-Sim is all about
- Authentic avionics with built-in, automatic support for many popular 3rd party avionics
- As with every A2A aircraft, it is gorgeously constructed, inside and out, down to the last rivet
- Designed and built to be flown “By The Book”
- Visual Real-Time Load Manager, with the ability to load fuel, pilots, and baggage in real-time
- Naturally animated pilot and co pilot with optional sunglasses, standard headphones or helmets
- 3D Lights ‘M’ (built directly into the model)
- Pure3D Instrumentation now with natural 3D appearance with exceptional performance
- A total audible cockpit and sound engineered by A2A sound professionals
- In cockpit pilot’s map for handy in-flight navigation
- Authentic fuel delivery includes priming and proper mixture behaviour. Mixture can be tuned by ear. It’s your choice.
- Airflow, density and its temperature not only affect the way your aircraft flies, but how the internal systems operate
- Real-world conditions affect system conditions, including engine temperatures
- Spark plugs can clog and eventually foul if the engine is allowed to idle too low for too long. Throttling up an engine with oil-soaked spark plugs can help clear them out
- Overheating can cause scoring of cylinder head walls which could ultimately lead to failure if warnings are ignored and overly abused
- Engine, airframe, cockpit panel and individual gauges tremble from the combustion engine
- Authentic drag from the airframe and flaps
- Authentic battery. The battery capacity is based on temperature. The major draw comes from engine starting
- Oil pressure system is affected by oil viscosity (oil thickness). Oil viscosity is affected by oil temperature. Now when you start the engine, you need to be careful to give the engine time to warm
The exterior model
After the installation you will find five liveries for the T-6 in your simulator. A2A offer a nice variety of paints including wartime trainer aircraft, Brazilian aerobatic aircraft and civilian owned, present time restored aircraft with polished metal finish. There should be something for every taste. If not, head over to the A2A forum or any of the major file libraries and grab one of the already countless high quality repaints.
When loading the T-6 into the sim for the first time, you might not be as impressed like with other warbirds from A2A. The Texan doesn’t have the racy lines of a Spitfire, nor does it look as mean and powerful like the P-47. At first glance the T-6 might appear a little plain, but look closer. Grab a reference book about the Texan/Harvard and look for any detail you want – be sure, you will find it on this excellent model. The level of detail is just great, both on the outside and in the cockpits.
But the details don’t stop here – set your plane to the cold and dark mode and you will be offered additional details like wheel chocks, an oil cleaner, a ground power unit or even jacks.
A good 3D model is half the rent, the textures are the other half. As known from A2A the texturing is simply amongst the best the sim has to offer. Subtle weathering, tiny stencils, shiny polished metal parts, it is all there. Add to this the excellent bump and spec maps and you receive an overall splendid look.
In the work shop window (SHIFT+7) you can alter several features of your Texan, like remove the prop hub, select between three different canopy styles or three different antenna variants. Personally an optional tail hook would have made me happy, to replicate a Navy SNJ variant.
The interior model
The good impression continues when entering the cockpit. You can choose between front cockpit or the instructor seat in the rear. Beautifully modelled 3D gauges populate the dash boards in both cockpits. The cockpit layout resembles a more modern, private layout, including a modern radio communications panel. Furthermore the configurator offers the possibility for no GPS, handheld GNS400 or GPSMAP 295. Alternatively you can also include 3rd party GPS systems from Mindstar, Flight1 or RealityXP. In addition to the GPS, you can also choose to install the optional basic autopilot. I for one opted for the no GPS variant and relied totally on the classic nav instrumentation, to have more of a feeling of how the Harvard flew in the 1950s or 1960s.
As known from other A2A products, you can populate the cockpits with animated 3D pilot figures (male front, female in the rear).Make sure to cycle the head gear options, as these not only include the well known base cap, but also a modern jet helmet as used by many air show pilots.
The Texan is a design from the 1930s, so do not expect fancy weather radars or flight management systems. But are these really the important systems? The keyword here is Accusim, the simulation within the simulation. A2A yet again did an extraordinary job, simulating the physical processes within the T-6’s Pratt & Whitney radial engine. So don’t forget to prime your engine, manage your fuel mixture to keep the spark plugs clean and warm up your engine, or you will not be going anywhere. In the air, keep an eye on the torque and rpm or a blue trail of smoke will advise you to better land as soon as possible. Unlike for instance the Spitfire, the T-6 is giving a lot of “physical” feedback. While often ended up in the Spitfire with a broken engine and asked myself what might have been wrong this time, the Texan talks to it’s pilot. The vibrations in the cockpit will let you know if everything is ok or if the aircraft is becoming unhappy with any of your settings.
As a special treat for virtual air show pilots, the T-6 features a smoke generator. Here again one can see the love for detail. While most developers just use a standard white smoke effect, A2A simulates the injection of the smoke fluid (Diesel fuel) into the exhaust, resulting in a slight blueish smoke trail at first. A very nice effect.
The T-6 was designed as trainer aircraft and as such it has very nice handling characteristics. Beginners should be able to fly their first patterns within a short period of time, as the plane is more forgiving than for instance the P-51 or Spitfire – especially on take-off and landing.
When it comes to aerobatics, things do look a little different though. Just fly straight and try a snap role or looping and you are bound to stall. Due to the rather weak engine, it is all about energy management here. Monitor your instruments and manage that energy and the plane will reward you with all the basic aerobatic maneuvers.
An important part of military flight training is formation flying, so I checked the handling in this area as well. Though it has been a while, since I did formation flying in FSX, I immediately felt comfortable in my Harvard and could maintain a close formation to the leader (me in a flight recorded with FS Recorder).
Sounds and animation
I was blessed to have witnessed various Harvards at air shows and even my local air field. The sound suite of the A2A T-6 is spot on in my opinion. The Pratt & Whitney radial engine has a wonderful rough sound that always makes me turn up my speakers a bit more than usual. The front cockpit has three canopy stages: closed, slightly open and fully open and of course the engine sound varies accordingly. Adding to the immersion is the wind generated sounds when flying, especially when flying with an open cockpit during a pattern. Each switch or button has it’s sound and while I cannot compare them to a real T-6, I can say they do sound realistic.
What I do not like is the exterior sound. When watching the T-6 from tower view or any other external camera position, the sound is nowhere near the roar of radial engine. It rather somewhere between a sewing machine and a Cessna. One could argue that a pilot does not hear his plane from anywhere else than the cockpit. Yet I do miss that sound and therefore subtracted a point in the sound rating.
The animations are all very smooth and the travel times for flaps or gear do look very realistic.
What I do miss, is the walk around feature of A2A Simulation’s line of GA planes. While looking like a warbird, the T-6 is more used like a GA plane (in fact it is a GA plane nowadays) and therefore I would have wished to have a proper go around, just like for the Cessnas and Pipers. Please A2A, should you ever read this – maybe consider this feature in a future update.
I have heard people saying they would pass on the T-6. GA flyers say “naah, it is a warbird”, warbird flyers say “nay, it is a GA plane”. You guys are missing something here, as A2A really managed the balancing act between both worlds. You can fly the T-6 both as racy GA plane, with fancy 3rd party GPS systems AND you can fly it as a pure warbird – it is everything you want it to be.
The looks, the details, the (interior) sound and of course the Accusim pack are simply outstanding and the T-6 just missed the perfect 10 score by a margin, due to the exterior sounds and the lack of a walk around.
I fell in love with this add on from the first time I fired up the engine. I can only recommend it to everyone who loves hand flying.