Following the T6 Texan, A2A released another big 4-motor aircraft: the Constellation.
This was very exciting, as A2A improves their products with every new release. Makes you wonder what “Connie” has as improvements compared to the earlier released Boeing 337 Stratocruiser.
FSX has limits, A2A however always delivered very well operating aircrafts. Question is how much better a product can they deliver?
As a teaser, the manual was publicized online before the release (http://a2asimulations.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=133&t=57110) and already made or mouths water. The manual gives us an extensive history of the aircraft’s development and aeronautical technique, already answering many questions that might arise for the less experienced pilots.
After this basic part, the functions of the pop-up menu’s are explained, as well as the layout of the cockpit. It might be overwhelming at first, but after you’ve spent some time in the cockpit you’ll soon get used to it.
You’ll not find checklists, but there are some lists of procedures explaining the tasks of the crew.
They also explain some emergency procedures. However, a couple of checklists or a tutorial flight might have simplified things. Fortunately, the A2A crew is always there to help.
Especially the live engineer can help you in the controls pop up menu (Shift-3) by taking a lot of complex tasks off your hands.
The familiar A2A experience is also found with the C.O.T.S. (Captain Of The Ship) add-on, which is already added with the aircraft delivery.
Installation of the software
After payment, you get access to a download of the EXE-file, which easily and quickly installs and puts the Constellation and COTS in your FSX without internet verification and/or codes.
You can then find the Constellation, with three aircrafts (BOAC, TWA and a prototype), in your list under “A2A Lockheed Constellation”.
Three paints is not much, but I expect the repaint community will be able to make us happy with many other paints! You can already find a reasonable collection of paints on these pages:
If you face any problems with installing the repaints and you can´t find the right folder, you´ll find it under “Wos_L049”. You won’t find it under “A2A”.
One thing A2A never disappoints us with, is the appearance and sound of the aircrafts.
You can clearly see and hear that they put a lot of work in it with the Constellation. They put in a lot of details like the deformation of the fuselage at the ribs, stringers and rivets, as well as the detailing of the propellors, lights, antenna, etc. And still with a very good frame rate!
The sound completes the experience, it sounds amazing both inside and outside of the aircraft.
That is also created because they didn’t forget the many effects of the numerous switches in the cockpit, or the change of sound when you open a cockpit window. The conversations and instructions of the crew, Betty and the passengers are very realistic and lifelike.
A2A is very good at this.
With these menus, you can get the most from your aircraft simulation.
Shift-2: Crew. Reports status of your flight phase, flight time, crew remarks etc.
Shift-3: Controls. Division of the tasks in the cockpit, selection for Autopilot, GPS, meals, auto start (very handy at the beginning), etc.
Shift-4: Fuel and payload manager. Select the number of passengers and amount of fuel.
Shift-5: Map. A lot of info about heading, course speed, fuel, wind, airports, VOR and NDB beacons, and freq.
Shift-6: Quick-switch panel for radios, for easy switching of frequency.
Shift-7: Hangar. Condition of plane and engines.
Shift-8: Motor selection. Selection of how many engines and which engines to control.
Shift-9: Career. Follow your progress as Captain.
The adventure begins here!
You start on the left seat, but the A-key gets you on the right seat, the seat of the flight engineer, and the one of the navigator.
The cockpit looks great with some slight user’s damage, all gauges are clear and legible.
The steering columns don’t have a click-spot, so it might be necessary to change position by use of the FSX keys from time to time.
It’s certainly recommended to know the summary of the cockpit layout or have some info at hand when you want to start up everything by yourself. For instance: it took me quite a while to find the mainswitch for the avionics behind the seat of the navigator!
The master battery switch is in the upper panel at the flight engineer (this must be turned on, even if you’re using the GPU).
The switch for the NAV lights can be found left of the Captain’s seat, and is called “wing light”.
Furthermore, the switch for the windshield heater is important when you don’t want to go from VFR to IFR in the case your windows are fogging up. You can open up a cockpit window when you’re on the ground, but you can’t do that mid-air.
When you want to make a flight at night and you find yourself in a dark cockpit at the start of your flight, you can use the Controls menu Shift-3 for cockpit flood lights. That will put a light on things!
The cockpit lights have three variations: Flood (lights the whole cockpit), Instrument Light Fluorescent (like the light of a full moon), and UV (the stripes and numbers on the primary clocks are glowing, while the rest of the cockpit remains dark. Good luck finding a switch or handle!).
You can also switch the cabin lights on or off.
You can use the autostart or take a seat at the flight engineer panel. From this seat you can clearly see and control all switches and handles (also the magneto switches on the overhead panel).
The autostart is a good way to get to know your aircraft, or when you want to be on your way quickly.
If you like, you can take passengers on board, although it might be better for your career to postpone that until after your first flights.
For taxiing the aircraft, keep the centre line of the taxiway in the middle of your cockpit window, so your nosewheel follows that centre line perfectly.
When you need to take sharp turns, it’s advisable to give more power to the engines at the outer bend (the right engines when you turn left). This is easily done with the A2A input configurator or the engine selector (Shift-8). It takes some work to set the configurator, but after that it works faster and easier.
The view from the cockpit is very good, for taxiing and for VFR flying.
You don’t fly Connie alone and A2A lets you know it! As soon as you start, everybody reports themselves and when you close up people wish you goodbye.
The flight engineer constantly keeps you up to speed on the important issues about the aircraft.
The copilot assists with flying by giving clear call outs and checking the motor settings.
He doesn’t intervene (YOU are the captain), but he will always warn you when boundaries will be or are being crossed and he’ll suggest a suitable solution for it.
The call outs at the start are related to the weight of the aircraft, ROTATE call is much sooner with light load than with a heavy load.
The copilot also informs the passengers about the flight phases that are currently valid (the stories differ with the weather).
During flights without passsengers, you won’t receive cabin calls.
After landing at the gate, you only need to shut down the engines with the magneto switch, and the cockpit crew will immediately start with the shut down procedures.
Stewardess Betty won’t forget to bring drinks tot the cockpit, and will let the passengers know when you switch on the seat belt and/or non-smoking sign.
You can hear the passengers while they board or emerge the aircraft, but when you hear them during the flight it mostly isn’t too good for your career!
Except in case of a smooth landing, when you might hear them applauding.
Two situations you want to avoid as much as possible are turbulence (a lot of rattling and sounds of slight panick) and fast descent or ascent (crying kids of which the ears are more sensitive to pressure changes).
Loading the Constellation
Shift-4 lets you load the aircraft.
You can use clicking the mouse on the chairs, tanks, loading area, etc to adjust the amounts. Or you use one of the preselected amounts.
During the boarding (or emerging after selecting UNLOAD), the menu shows you the changes in occupied seats and used loading space.
It also shows you the changes in weights.
This is the best way to keep yourself busy during those long flights!
Fortunately, the Constellation has ample possibilities!
The easiest is the usage of the modern GPS by means of a simple clicking in the controls menu (Shift-3) to insert it in the cockpit.
This is a Garmin GNS400, very similar to the standard gps of FSX.
The Constellation is also prepared for the add-on GPS types “Reality XP GNS430”, “Flight 1 GTN650”, “Mindstar GNS430” or the “KLN 90 B freeware gps”.
But I think the most fun is to do it ‘old school’ with charts and beacons.
At your disposal are two VOR and two ADF systems, a ILS/VOR system with DME and the map (Shift-5) provides you with a lot of info.
The map is a bit more elaborate compared to the map of the Stratocruiser, as it also provides you with wind direction, magnetic heading, ground track, course, etc.
My biggest friend is found right in front of you: a dual RMI (Radio Magnetic Indicator).
This gauge has two pointers that can both point out a VOR or NDB beacon. One pointer has a single body and one pointer had a double body.
It’s for you to find out which pointer is controlled by nav1 or nav2.
The big advantage of a RMI is that it points out a VOR beacon without the need for you to search for it with your obs first.
When you switch the VOR selector to VOR1 or 2 for indication of nav1 or 2, you’ll see that the distance indication shows the distance to the beacon and also switches the set bearing.
If “enable giro drift” is activated in your FSX settings, it is advisable to regularly check heading control of your autopilot with your compass or GPS heading.
Otherwise you’ll get big differences in heading degrees of the systems which will quickly cause confusing situations for your navigation.
I can be very brief about this. As I don’t have any experience flying a real one, I assume A2A had it tested by experienced pilots.
The aircraft flies very stabile and calm, but that’s the tricky part! You can’t expect any sudden movement, and it can also ever so slowly slide from your control when you don’t pay enough attention.
The autopilot works fine, if you know how to set it correctly.
You won’t find an altitude hold, that’s done with your pitch trim at the centre console and power on your engines.
The heading is set on the heading control near the throttles, with the upper scale and the button upper right. First set the heading you want to fly and check the bottom scale to the correct heading by use of the button bottom center).
The A.P. is switched on with the three handles on the centre console.
The aircraft gradually builds up its speed and it can speed up considerably during descent. Plan ahead! Built-up speed is not corrected quickly during horizontal flight.
The speed is more easily controlled with extended gear and flaps.
Without passengers (most passengers don’t appreciate a rough test flight), but with three fully loaded cargo bays for a good weight, I tested how the Constellation behaves towards and in a stall.
First to a safe altitude, throttle back and nose up.
Near stalling speed, the aircraft starts to shake heavily, but remains perfectly controllable. When you try to worsen the stall by pulling up further, you’ll notice that you won’t succeed.
So I speeded up the aircraft in a slight dive, pulled up considerably steep, and held that angle (45 degrees).
Again, a lot of moaning of the cockpit crew, and heavy vibrations of the aircraft.
But again, the aircraft remains stabile and the wings remain levelled.
As a last attempt I even tried a hammerhead, but it did nothing more than that: the aircraft built up speed again, the vibration quickly stopped, and the controls immediately returned.
Simulated engine failure
After switching off engine no. 2 and putting the propeller in fethered position, “Connie” can still fly well and doesn’t pull too much to the left.
You hardly feel that you fly with only three engines.
The mid-air start went well too. You only have to shift the master governor propellor switch back and forth to synchronize all four of them.
Switching off an engine without putting it in fethered position, the effect can be clearly noticed and heard.
“Connie” is still perfectly flyable on two engines. You just have to beware at the approach, the landing position of the flaps can decrease the speed with two engines dangerously quick.
Is the Constellation better than the Stratocruiser?
Improvements and developments are visible and identifiable. But don’t think that it’s a mega-leap at first sight.
Compared to the Stratocruiser, the improvements are found more hidden and are only visible while using the software.
It even looks like A2A was forced to hold back on things to make other things possible.
One of those things is the unvisibility of the engine cylinders.
Also the maintenance on the engines and aircraft cannot be executed in real detail, as we are used to by A2A products.
The sound is amazing, inside and outside the aircraft.
Weight and temperature influence the performance a lot.
The aircraft flies stabile and smoothly.
The outside animations run smoothly and predictably, especially when you fly full throttle and only then release the brakes.
The simulation runs very well and smooth, without putting too much pressure on your PC.
All panels and pop-up menus work well.
Whenever you consider all this to become a bit boring, just turn on the failures!
This release might not be as innovative as you might expect (when you already fly the Stratocruiser), but it still is yet another great A2A product you won’t be sorry for obtaining.
And when you use all this package has to offer, the many extras will surprise you for quite a while.