Lately, we’ve seen an influx of aircraft that are not detailed but are designed for the novice or non-serious virtual pilot. AFS has produced the A330 and A340 for us in one package. Let’s take a look at the FSX versions and see how they handle the challenge in a market already full of these types of “no frills” aircraft.
The package is very easy to install. Probably the easiest add-on I’ve had to install to date. Just start the downloaded file and click only a few times to get it installed. No key to type in and it finds your FSX location automatically. There is a manual included but it is very basic. You will not learn how to fly the aircraft using this manual, but you will learn about the features and how to use the functionally limited FMS.
What you can expect
These type of add-ons are scaled down and are designed for the virtual pilot who doesn’t want to be concerned about programming FMC’s and clicking everywhere in the cockpit to get going. These aircraft are designed for pilots who want to get from point A to point B with a nice looking aircraft that gives a feel of the real aircraft, at a low cost.
What you get
I like that they have included all variants of both of these aircraft. The A330-200 and -300, plus the A340-200, -300, -500, and -600, all come in a variety of paint schemes and, of course, repaints are available at your favourite download site. They’ve included a good variety of liveries to span the entire world with the package you purchase.
There are not many items in the cockpit that you need to concentrate on which will take away from the fun of flying. Don’t expect to step into a real world A330/A340 cockpit and be able to find your way around it. Having said that here’s what you can expect.
The FMC is actually more functional than I expected it to be. There are 15 menus that contain various data. The FMC is not programmable but rather it uses the flight plan that you have loaded in FSX as the displayed plan. Even though it isn’t a full fledged FMC I do like the features they’ve included such as the NAVAID lookup and Approaches database. Also, it will provide suggested altitudes for each waypoint by using a VNAV button on the FMC. For new pilots this is a great help in getting down in time for a good approach.
The Overhead Panel
I was very surprised to find that most of the important functions on the overhead panel work. I expected light switches to be functional and the passenger signs, too. However, the Avionics, Battery, Anti-ice, and Heat buttons work, too. The APU switch just turns the battery on and off. On the VC panel a few more buttons are active and are duplicated in some instances for convenience.
Main Instrument Panel
The AP system works on the main panel and works more like the default panels. Since there is no detailed FMC you will have to adjust the climb and descent rate manually. To be honest, when I fly I always use the FMC coupled to the AP for the climb, but rarely use it for the descent. I prefer to set the descent rate manually as I haven’t found an FMC that I’m satisfied with to handle that function.
The panel texture is flat with a hint of a realistic look to it. Better than the default but not as good as the more expensive models. This about where you expect it to be for a low cost aircraft. There are two knobs under the ECAM section which switch the upper display between engine data and the GPS and the lower display between Doors and Fuel displays. Auto Brakes are included with this model. I’m happy to say the pilots side map display can be adjusted for multiple ranges and it can display navigation aids of all types. Overall the main panel offers more than I expected and certainly enough to carry out a flight.
The Pedestal and Remaining Cockpit
The Pedestal contains a few functioning parts which include the engine start switches, throttles, spoilers, COM, Transponder, and Trims. The rest of the cockpit is non-functional but looks ok. You get a nice looking co-pilot but she seems to be missing upper lips. She’s not here to ogle at boys, she’s here to help with a safe flight. The rudder pedals move as does the stick and throttle in the VC.
There is no load editor but the developer has made just a few load positions so loading a realistic passenger and cargo weight won’t be hard to do through the FSX interface.
An important thing to note is that I had trouble shutting down the aircraft and then starting from a cold and dark situation. In fact I had to jump into another aircraft, start it, and then jump back into the AFS. This is a basic model so you are expected to start FSX with the engines on because the proper start-up is not modeled.
So, other than the panel we are concerned about the flight dynamics of the AFS A330/A340. On take-off I find the A330 and A340 to be overpowered. Now, I have to admit that I am not an Airbus pilot in real life. Compared to the other versions I own, which are the PSS and Wilco/Feelthere versions, the engines are too powerful. With a full load of passengers, 4000 gallons of fuel, and N1 settings of 93% I was climbing at over 6,000ft per minute and I had to throttle back to keep it below 250knots below 10,000ft. The dynamics during approach and landing were much better.
Take a look at the pics below. In the first one you see the Lufthansa A340-600 provided by AFS. Notice what looks to be like the skin of the aircraft peeling off and leaving the clouds below it invisible. This wasn’t limited to the Lufthansa version. The next pic shows the A330 with the nose door panels protruding. When you don’t provide a detailed FMC and complete system functions you better provide a good visual appearance to make up for it. The visual does look good but then I see these little annoyances and it takes away from the value of the package. On the next picture you see the flaps are not completely closed even though it’s flaps zero and there’s a chunk out of the front wing. This is there because the leading edge flaps are not flush with the wing. Sloppy. This appears on the right wing of both the A330 and A340 models.
If you are on a budget or are new to the world of Flight Simulator then I think you will be satisfied with this aircraft. It’s a good beginning for new simmers to start to learn about flying widebody aircraft. Intermediate users may like it if their computers are slow and are concerned about framerates. This aircraft has a very minimal framerate impact. Advanced users will not like this aircraft, period. They won’t get the accurate performance and quality modeling of the sophisticated offerings from other developers.
Here’s a few more shots.
Price: 19.98 Euros or about $27 Canada/USA.
Developer: AFS Design
Simmarket link: AFS-Design A330/A340
Tested for FSX with the following computer specs:
Intel 3.0ghz Core 2 Duo overclocked to 3.6ghz, 6 gb RAM, nVidia based 9800GTX video card with 512mb ram.