MP Design Studio – Aérospatiale SA-342 Gazelle

MP Design Studio Aérospatiale SA-342 Gazelle

We are living in good times for Gazelle fans, with the third quality Gazelle released in a short period of time, after the magnificent Polychop Gazelle for DCS and the SOKO Mostar Gazela for FSX/P3D by MP Design Studio. Today I would like to introduce you to the newest Gazelle for heli simmers – the MP Design Studio Aerospatiale SA-342 Gazelle for FSX and P3D.

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MP Design Studio is a young development team from Serbia, run by an active duty helicopter pilot with experience on the Gazelle. Their aim is to reproduce the Gazela (the licence built version) and the Gazelle in the best and most detailed way possible. Looking at the pricetag I was reluctant to give the Gazela or Gazella a try – rated at € 17.85 it costs just half of an average Nemeth Design or one third of a Milviz helicopter add on, so how good can it be? Let’s find out.

Purchase and download

The MP Design Studio SA-342 Gazelle is available at Simmarket for currently €17.85 and the download is some 400 MB in size.  Along with the download comes a 15 page strong Quick Start Guide, which can be found in the folder of the military variant. Military variant? Yes, there are more than just one variant included, three to be precise:

* civil SA-342 with cargo hook (Swiss registration)
* civil SA-342 without hook (British registration)
* military SA-342 (French ALAT markings)

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Thanks to the included paint kit in layered PSD format I am sure we will see many more attractive skins on the known file libraries soon.

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The model

As a great fan of the PolyChop Gazelle for DCS I was very skeptical of a rather cheap add on for FSX/P3D could keep up with it (to be honest I was in doubt, if it could get anywhere near it at all). So I had little expectations when loading the Gazelle into the sim for the first time for a test flight. This skepticism was blown away as soon as the Gazelle’s virtual cockpit appeared on my screen. I felt immediately at home in the cockpit and the first impression was more than just good. I started moving around in the cockpit using ChasePlane and my jaw dropped. When Milos from MP Design Studio said he wanted to recreate the Gazelle in the highest detail possible, he did not exaggerate. Roaming around you will find every cable, screw or connector not just as a nice texture, but modelled in 3D  even on the backsides of the panels. They did not forget to bring the cockpit to life either. You will find maps, flight manuals or spare headsets for the passengers and of course each of the three models differs. The Swiss cargo hook version comes with additional switches for the hook operation, while the military version features the NADIR navigation computer system (which of course is functional).
Another strong point are the reflections. The large reflection on the bottom of the front window may be debateable, but even the wipers are reflected in the front screen – I really recommend to fly in some adverse weather to enjoy this effect.

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Looking at the outside, the high level of detail continues. I admit I was stuck looking at the rotor head and watching how the cyclic and collective move the swash plate for minutes.  Here as well all models differ slightly. Both civil variants have different air filters in front of the engine and of course the cargo version comes with a detailed hook and gear for the mirror.

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The military version features the huge sand filter of desert operations, cable cutters and the oberservation bulb above the co-pilot’s head. It does not include any armament or weapons systems though.

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The handling and the systems

While there are many payware helicopters available for FSX and P3D, only a handful actually feels realistic. I am not a helicopter pilot, so I can base my judgement only on videos, talks with experienced real world helicopter instructors and on my RC helicopters.
Let’s have a look at the official features list of the MP Design Studio Gazelle:

Virtual cockpit:
-Fully clickable
-Precise geometry
-Vibration effect
-Full HD
-Gauges glass reflection
-Fully animated
-All labels and marks

-Autopilot/SAS:
– two operating modes (altitude hold, velocity hold)
– can maintain hover flight
– trimming effect
– realistic autopilot channel testing
-VHF/NAV:
-VOR/ILS System
-DME
-DOPPLER NAVIGATION SYSTEM:
– NADIR (fly your route created with Flight Planer, using doppler nav system)

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Aerodynamics:
 -GROUND RESONANCE (occurs when a helicopter lands on the slopes which are over limitations)
-Translating tendency effect
-Transverse flow effect
-Lift effect
-VORTEX RING STATE
-Lost of tail rotor effectiveness
-Hydraulic system failure/on/off effect

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First thing I did, was shut the helicopter completely down, to try a start from cold and dark. I did not touch the quick start guide, I just repeated the steps I was familiar with from the PolyChop Gazelle in DCS. What can I say, it was an immediate success. Engine spool up shook the whole airframe, spool up times were realistic, as were the gyro power up times. The startup sequence is more complex than for instance in the Milviz Bell 407 or MD530F, but still there is no need for using CTRL + E here either.
Thanks to the three-channel autopilot/SAS it is an easy to enter a stable hover after take off and if you wish so, it will also keep you stable when hover taxiing. But all this also works by pure hand flying.

Starting the Gazelle

This brings us to the physics. The simulation of vortex ring state was well known to me from the Dodosim Bell 206 and just like in the little Jet Ranger you have to keep an eye (ear) on VRS in the Gazelle as well. There is no throwing the helicopter around like in a Nemeth Design helicopter, here you have to be gentle and careful or you will plummet powerless to the ground.
Something really new to me was the ground resonance effect. I can’t recall any of my other helicopters in FSX/P3D where I could not hover relaxed overhead sloping terrain. Not so in the Gazelle. I was flying in the Alps and when approaching the tricky helipads from LLH Simulations LLH-Heli add on, this effect was very noticeable and increases the workload tremendously. Same is valid, when trying to pick up sling load cargo next to a slope or from sloping terrain.

Landing the Gazelle at Courchevel (by LLH Simulation)
Performing an auto rotation

Generally speaking the Gazelle can be maneuvered  with great precision, but it is far more demanding to do so compared to other add ons. To me, it feels very realistic.

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While sling loading is quite a frequent task in DCS, I rarely see anyone do it in FSX/P3D. I gave it a try in the Gazelle and it was quite rewarding to succeed in it. Hooking up to the cargo is relatively easy, especially when using the AP/SAS to assist in the hover over the cargo. But flying the sling load from A to B is another thing. You will clearly feel the pendulum effect of the cargo, if you are too erratic on the flight controls.  You will also feel the additional weight and VRS is always just around the corner waiting for you. So if you are looking for a little challenge, try flying some sling loads in the mountains.
Till now we have to rely on self edited or self created missions, but MP Design Studio told me they are planning to release an own mission pack for the Gazelle.

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Finally a word on the sounds. The Gazelle (just like the Alouette) can be distinguished just by hearing them, from the whine of their Turbomeca turbine. MP Design Studio gives you exactly this sound. Overall the sounds are very realistic and create an immersive environment when flying the Gazelle.
Same is valid for the effects. Be it the shaking and rattling when the engine spools up (or powers down) or the extensive smoke and rotor wash effects, it all adds to an overall excellent immersion.
The rotor wash effect can be hard on less powerful graphic cards, so you might choose to enable it, otherwise it might turn into a slide show when viewing the heli from the outside. On my GTX970 it did not cause any problems though.

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Conclusion

For me the MP Design Studio SA-342 Gazelle ranks as one of the top three helicopters in FSX/P3D. While it does not have as many options as the Milviz MD530F or Bell 407, it is at least en par in regards of level of detail and ahead in terms of flight physics – and all this for one third of the price tag. The 3D modelling is excellent, the textures are fine and the flight physics are second to none.
If I wanted to find a point of criticism, it would be the lack of more available liveries.
For heli simmers this add on in my opinion simply is a must have, especially at this ridiculously low pricing – a reason why I will go beyond the 10 points in the value for money rating.
Long story short – go buy it and enjoy flying the elegant Gazelle 😉

Trying some aerobatic maneuvers with the Gazelle (all have been performed real life as well)

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MP Design Studio Aérospatiale SA-342 Gazelle

17.85
MP Design Studio Aérospatiale SA-342 Gazelle
9.4444444444444

Modeling

10/10

    Textures

    10/10

      Sound

      9/10

        Animations

        9/10

          Performance

          10/10

            Flight model

            10/10

              Details

              10/10

                Manual

                7/10

                  Value for money

                  10/10

                    Pros

                    • 3D modelling
                    • model variants
                    • flight physics
                    • Pricing

                    Cons

                    15 thoughts on “MP Design Studio – Aérospatiale SA-342 Gazelle

                    • December 10, 2016 at 6:48 pm
                      Permalink

                      Hi guys – thanks for the review. I purchased the MP Design Soko Mostar Gazelle when it was on sale at SimMarket. I’m guessing this model has the same flight dynamics as the Gazelle you tested – if it hasn’t then ignore the following! I notice you have not listed any issues – could I submit a couple?
                      1. Autorotation with the Soko Mostar model is not possible. The model loses altitude too quickly and any collective pull at the end of the ‘glide’ results in a complete halt to the rotor thus preventing any flare.
                      2. Vortex Ring – there’s a sudden clockwise yaw when VR is entered. I can’t explain this and it certainly doesn’t occur with the DodoSim 206. Pulling the collective and a lot of left pedal recovers the aircraft as opposed to the recommended forward push to the cyclic.
                      3. Ground effect hovering is quite a challenge, which reminds me of the original flight dynamics in Take on Helicopters!
                      The above makes me question your comment that the MPD Gazelle: “… is at least en par in regards of level of detail and ahead in terms of flight physics …” when comparing it with the Milviz MD530F or Bell 407. Finally, you state that: “For me the MP Design Studio SA-342 Gazelle ranks as one of the top three helicopters in FSX/P3D”. The autorotation problem makes this statement quite inappropriate.
                      I’m sorry to sound so negative – the MPD Gazelle looks great inside and out, but I’m afraid that the claims the developers make about the flight dynamics are not supported by the model itself. Of course, MPD may very well resolve these issues and I look forward to such an update.

                      Reply
                      • December 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm
                        Permalink

                        Hi looks good but all of these are 341 not 342

                        Reply
                    • December 10, 2016 at 8:24 pm
                      Permalink

                      Hi David,
                      thanks for your comments, they are highly appreciated. Let me point out that I am no helicopter pilot, just a simmer with some experience on RC helicopters.
                      About your points:
                      1) yes autorotation is not possible, as it is not possible to decouple the rotor from the engine. Please correct me if I am wrong, but none of FSX/P3D is capable of doing so.
                      2) Vortex – as I said I am no real life pilot, thus I cannot judge what should be done in the respective helicopter model. What I can say is, that this is the only helicopter except for the Dodosim Bell where VRS is simulated like this. Wether it is realistic has to be judged by real pilots.
                      3) The ground effect is something I really like and here it is the only helicopter in my inventory that really simulates it. Again I cannot judge wether it is realistic, all I can say is, it reminds me strongly of my T-Rex RC helicopter.
                      Nonetheless, I stand by my comment, that the Gazelle is amongst the Top 3 helicopters for this sim.
                      I know this comment will probably not be satisfactory, so I will ask the developer of the Gazelle to comment as well, as he, being a helicopter pilot, is clearly more qualified than me 🙂
                      Cheers Carsten

                      Reply
                    • December 10, 2016 at 9:36 pm
                      Permalink

                      Hello everyone.
                      1. Autorotation:
                      At old Soko Mostar gazelle version performing autorotation was very hard (like in reality) so we decide to reduce that challenge and make it a little more comfortable. Anyway it’s possible to do it in Soko Mostar version and here is a link for video:
                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92Glvs8buoM
                      At current, Aerospatiale version it is much easier to perform and you can also reduce glide path / descent rate with collective lever with no concern of rotor drop as long as you are in limits. If you have a good technique you can do a flare very well without exceeding +15 degree pitch, just maintain proper airspeed between 120 – 140 km/h.
                      2. Vortex Ring State:
                      On Aerospatiale version is much improved, there is no sudden yaw, just more blade flaping and cockpit vibrations and also there is possibility of easy recovering just by a pulling collective lever… No way, you have to gain airspeed.
                      3. Ground effect:
                      It’s still here, but also, here is a SAS system which improves stability a lot and help you all the time during hover flight.

                      Everything what they claims it’s present, you just have to look carefully.

                      Also, there is a totally new feature: “Ground Resonance”! It’s not seen before in FSX/P3D but this helicopter has it !

                      Reply
                    • December 14, 2016 at 5:12 pm
                      Permalink

                      Hi guys – thanks for your replies and the video links, which I watched with interest. I guess the flight dynamics (aircraft.cfg and xxx.flt files) for the Soko Mostar model must be different to the Aerospatiale model as featured in both videos. I’m afraid I just couldn’t replicate the autorotations shown in the videos. I went back to the default B206 and tried a couple of autorotations with some success. I then tried the MilViz 407, which is a bit more testy, and still managed a fair landing. Finally, I fired up the old DodoSim 206, set “difficulty” to 5 and that also went reasonably well for a couple of auto’s.
                      So, I guess I’ve still got something to learn! Practice makes perfect, as they say, I’ll carry on with the Soko Mostar until I get the same results as you’ve shown me with the Aerospatiale.
                      Unless some kind person can send me the Aerospatiale cfg and flt files?!? That might nail it…
                      Cheers – Dai.

                      Reply
                    • December 14, 2016 at 6:34 pm
                      Permalink

                      How can you have 12/10 ?

                      I think there is a bias towards this product from the reviewer!!!!!

                      Cheers Chris

                      Reply
                      • December 14, 2016 at 8:11 pm
                        Permalink

                        Hi Chris,
                        I stated it in my review, why I gave 12 out of 10 points. In my opinion the MP Design Studio Gazelle more than excells in the category value for money. Have a look at other add ons – even a rather simple product like the Just Flight R44 costs more than 20€. The average Nemeth Design or Cera Sim heli costs twice the price of the Gazelle. The Milviz helis even three times the price. Compared to all these (fine) products, the Gazelle should easily be priced at around 30€. That is the reason why it got “just” 12 points in this category.
                        Cheers Carsten

                        Reply
                        • December 15, 2016 at 4:30 pm
                          Permalink

                          Chris – to most people 10/10 (ten out of ten) means ‘full marks’ for that section. If you weight one section more than another, as you have done, then you enter a non-linear world where comparisons are not possible. Consider, perhaps, the ‘value for money’ contribution when reviewing a freeware model – you would end up with an infinite value for the contribution. Not easy to accommodate, eh?!?
                          When reviewing, I always follow the K.I.S.S. principle.
                          Cheers – Dai.

                          Reply
                          • December 15, 2016 at 5:20 pm
                            Permalink

                            David, I agree in general. But still in my opinion value for money can be excelled, if a product offers far more value than it actually costs. Freeware would not be an issue, as there simply would be no score in this category, exactly for the reasons you gave. Lowering the VfM score to 10 would lower the total score by just 0.1, so it is not really a falsifying factor. But it is a means to emphazise the pricetag. As this was the case on only two add ons so far and in both cases the reasons were given in the text, I guess the general comparability is still given.
                            Cheers Carsten

                            Reply
                    • December 16, 2016 at 7:36 am
                      Permalink

                      Then you should lower the value for money to 10/10. If that has an effect on the overall score then so be it. I really looks like a biased view, regardless of your explanation. If you wish to remain objective, then you must remove all signs of bias. You can explain why you give the add on 10/10 for value for money the same way as you gave 12/10. It puts an odd tinge to what is otherwise a fair and reasonable review of the add on.

                      Reply
                      • December 16, 2016 at 8:51 am
                        Permalink

                        Ok, ok I changed it. However looking at the comments on some certain forum, this will not change the attitude of people like for instance Chris anyway. I get the impression this is a typical case of “the Gazelle cannot be good (must not be good?!?), so a positive review of course must be biased”.

                        Reply
                        • December 17, 2016 at 9:30 pm
                          Permalink

                          Kudos for resolving the VfM marking, Carsten – appreciated, Mate!
                          And don’t get put off by adverse comments – getting people to accept your conclusions is never easy, particularly simmers, even more so ‘rotor-heads’! If you never stick your head above the parapet, you’ll not get shot at – so, onwards and upwards, nicht wahr?!?
                          Cheers – Dai.

                          Reply
                    • January 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm
                      Permalink

                      Now the review appears to have far less bias. Great one and hats off to you for reviewing your review 🙂

                      Reply
                    • February 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm
                      Permalink

                      Hi guys.

                      I just bought the gazelle and I can’t get it startet. Done everything as in the video, but nothing happens when I hit the starter. I am using P3D. Have any of you had the same problem? So frustrating. I had the gazelle in DCS and had no problem starting it there. The “remove before flight” outside the helicopter, how do you remove them?

                      Reply

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