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Captain Sim 'Legendary C-130'
Monday, 28 November 2005
 

Introduction

With the increasingly quality and accuracy of Flight Simulator add-ons, it's been a very difficult task to develop a product that meet the today's high standards. The same computers used for text processing and blogging are now used to provide a completely realistic flight experience of several different aircraft. Today, most developers are using real-life manuals and having pilots to test their products, just to make sure it not only looks good, but also acts realistically. As a result, the development times have gone way up, and so have the prices. Fortunately, the strict competition between developers guarantee the everyday increasing quality and accuracy of add-ons for desktop flight simulators. Today, we present you a review of the Captain Sim 'Legendary C-130', possibly one of the best add-ons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 to date.

After 3 years of extensive research, development and beta testing - plus lots of experience from previous products -, Captain Sim came up with their best and for sure one the most realistic and detailed products for Microsoft Flight Simulator ever. Following their line of old military aircraft, the 'Legendary C-130' package is the most accurate rendition of the Lockheed C-130 yet. It was tested by real-life C-130 pilots and the overall impression by the flightsim community have been very positive so far. Included in the package are three different models (C-130E 'Hercules' , HC-130 'Hercules' and C-130K 'Hercules') and ten high-resolution textures (plus other sixty for download). Additionally, a high resolution 2D panel and virtual cockpit, accurate systems and soundset, animations/effects and realistic flight dynamics can all be expected from the C-130. I must say that it is not perfect... a few bugs were already found, most of them only noticed by "advanced simmers", but still worth looking into. All of the features will be discussed with more details though the review.

Please keep in mind that this review is based on the version 1.1 of the 'Legendary C-130' (after SP1) - most problems of the version 1.0 will not be discussed, simply because they were fixed.

* The Just Flight / Captain Sim 'Legendary C-130'! *

- 1. Installation and documentation

The Captain Sim purchase&download procedures are very simple, yet very effective. After the confirmation e-mail is received, you're cleared to download your package - their system is available 24/7 and you can re-download anytime you want, at no additional cost. The 'Legendary C-130' comes in a single auto-installer file weighting about 86MB; not a problem for broadband users at all.

Installing the package is simple, as it works exactly like every other software. There is activation system that requires an internet connection to be active, but it takes no longer than 10 seconds to verify your file and continue the installation... it's a simple step that must be taken to protect us from piracy. When the installation is complete, you will notice that some shortcuts were placed in the start menu; they provide easy access to the product's manuals, the Aircraft Configurator Editor (ACE), the uninstaller and the repaint kit download page.

The manual included in the package is impressive: there are over 200 pages of information that go from keyboard shortcuts to real performance charts of the aircraft. For better organization, they are divided into three parts: Systems, Normal Procedures and Perfomance, all of them with a bookmarked index for quick information access. The reading will take a fairly large time, but it is quite interesting, fully illustrated and the information presented there are easy to understand. For some reason, the take-off, climb, approach and landing speeds charts are not present in the manuals... how am I supposed to figure them out? Anyways, for people really interested in the C-130, this manual is a must read!

- 2. Exterior model, effects and animations

The Captain Sim 'Legendary C-130' features, as it was said before, three different models and ten high-resolution liveries; all of them readily available on the Select Aircraft menu. After the choice of model and livery have been made, it's time to move on and check the aircraft's look. My first impression of the exterior model was very positive, and everyone must agree that it looks extremely detailed. From the moment you first look at it, you can clearly see that both models and textures have been carefully designed. Everything is in the right place and the view is amazing: numerous windows reflect the sunlight, the dirt is represented with details and the propellers shine beautifully. It's impossible to find anything wrong with the model and textures design, no matter how hard you try! At night, you can only see the external lights, cockpit lights, lights from the windows and (if opened) the cargo bay lights. There is no lighting on the fuselage, which makes this aircraft very discreet!

What makes this model even more special is the fact that everything is animated. All doors (including the huge cargo ramp/door in the back of the plane) can be opened, the flight controls (rudder, ailerons, elevator) move, the gear retracts and the propeller's feathering and spin are animated. It's hard to find something that doesn't move here! Some additional objects such as wheel chocks, dust excluders/duct plugs, flag, cargo ramp tracks, ground vehicle, moving wipers, emergency escape hatches and emergency doors also add a lot to the high detail level of the package. There is an animated ground vehicle that will enter the cargo bay when the door and ramp are opened... you can even fly it to another airport if you want to! With the Aircraft Configuration Editor (ACE), you can load different types of cargo, such as containers, hammers, tanks, ground troops/parachuters and casuality transport. Unfortunately, you can't see those items in the cargo bay - the only thing that can get in there is the ground vehicle.

  
  

Although all Microsoft Flight Simulator default effects are included in the 'Legendary C-130', what really makes the difference are the custom ones. There are exclusive visual effects for engine start, engine smoke, fuel dump and infra-red launchers. Just as advertised, these custom effects truly enhance the sense of realism of the package. When you start up the engines, you can even see flames and the smoke coming out of them; at higher thrust settings, a black, thick and continuous smoke trail also comes out of them... that's certainly a very beautiful sight! The infra-red launchers are an autodefense device present on the C-130; they can be launched by pressing an icon on the panel - the effect looks fairly realistic, launching the flares in all directions. The fuel dump effect is the only one I found innaccurate: even if you only dump fuel from the right or left tanks, the white "smoke" comes out from both wingtips - not a big deal, as you should always dump fuel from both right and left tanks at the same time. The biggest problem occurs at night: it works great in daytime, but the effect shows up like a white explosion when it is dark... real weird! It's hard to figure how the beta team didn't notice it!

Captain Sim reply on the fuel dump issue: "The dumping effect is tied to light in MSFS, this is MSFS limitation. This just couldn't be modelled other way."

  
  
 

Although the recommended system to run the 'Legendary C-130' is a 3.0GHz CPU with 1GB RAM and a 256MB video card (minimums being a 1.5GHz CPU with 256MB RAM and a 64MB video card), I have not noticed any framerate problems in a 2.1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM and 128MB video card system. I have not experienced any performance problems myself, nor have heard anyone complain about it yet - the C-130 will run smoothly in any way... 2D Panel, Virtual Cockpit, Spot view or Tower view. Choose the view you like the most and fly, don't worry about framerates if you have a decent system!

- 3. Flight dynamics

It's not easy for someone who has never flown in a C-130 before to know exactly how the aircraft is supposed to fly. My remarks on the flight dynamics are based purely on experience with other add-ons, real pilots reports and the good old common sense, as I can't tell you how it works in real life myself.

What I can tell you is that the 'Legendary C-130' feels real good to fly, it's movements are smooth and the aircraft seems to react correctly to the pilot's inputs. Despite the size of the aircraft, taxiing was not a problem, as it turns fairly good and the numerous windows provide a great field of vision. I liked the fact that the parking brake will actually hold the plane still while at full thrust - doing the same on other aircraft usually results in a slow (and unrealistic) forward motion. The take-off occurs flawlessly: at rotation speed, the yoke is pulled back and the nose gear starts a smooth rotation, shortly followed by the main gear - it's easy to maintain a constant airspeed and vertical speed on the initial climb, which made me very happy about my take-off skills.

  

Something that I found very weird about the flight dynamics is that coordinated turns require too much rudder to be completed, compared to other add-ons. It may very well be the way the real aircraft works, but sometimes I needed nearly full rudder to get the turn coordinated in a zero-wind environment!

Just as I would expect, the engine responds to a thrust change with a short delay, and it takes a while for you to get the correct timing. Climbs and descents are performed with a decent vertical speed, and you can certainly get to 33,000 feet (the service ceiling) if you want to. If needed, the descent rate can also be increased by using the air deflectors on the fuselage. Stalls occur at a fairly slow speed (not so easy to reach), and the aircraft will start a (somewhat uncontrollable) spin if recovery is not attempted immediately. If the aircraft enters the stall, it will most likely crash.

Landings are performed at relatively low speeds, and they require almost no training to be done correctly. Once you get lined up and start following the glidepath, only small corrections on the thrust settings and flight controls are needed. Surprisingly enough, the touchdown is very smooth even at greater descent rates - at first, you won't even notice you have landed! That also made me very happy, as I can show my friends and family how good I can land with a relatively small effort. As in real life, you can land with flaps fully retracted, 50% extended or fully extended with no problems - if the speed is correct, the aircraft will land just fine. The thrust reversers help on reducing the speed (and brake wear too) after landings; they have now a much more realistic power than its version 1.0 counterpart. The C-130 is able to taxi backwards and even do parallel parking (!), but for some reason (maybe FS limitation) you can't turn while taxiing backwards. Also, a simple autopilot is modelled - we'll discuss it later on the review.

  

Reports from a former C-130H Flight Engineer states that the 'Legendary C-130' has "almost perfect" dynamics - it performed within 5 knots of the real aircraft's performance on landings and take-offs. He also says that the stall buffets were present and stall recovery procedures proved successful.

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