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A2A Simulations – Wings of Power 3 P-40 + Accu-Sim review

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (aka Tomahawk in the UK and Russia) is an aircraft that stayed in production for the entire duration of the Second World War. And yet, it’s post-war reputation wasn’t very good. A2A Simulations, on the other hand, has an outspoken reputation for excellence. We’ll be taking a look at what they did with this American fighter.

The P-40 Warhawk was a design based on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk. The Warhawk is an all-metal, single-engine fighter and ground attack aircraft. It’s less than perfect reputation came for the most part from its limited high-altitude performance, caused by the lack of a double-stage supercharger. Because of this, the P-40 saw only limited service in the European theater of operations. However, in North Africa, China and Southeast Asia, the P-40 was a key player on the allied side. In these theatres, where high altitude performance was less important, the P-40 served with distinction as an air-superiority fighter, a bomber escort and as a ground attack aircraft. The P-40 was economical to build, and over 14.000 were build before the end of hostilities in 1945.
The P-40 particularly got famous because of its well-publicized use by the 1st American Volunteer Group, better known as the ‘Flying Tigers’ in China.

Order and Delivery:

Both the Wings of Power 3 – P-40 base pack and the Accusim expansion pack are available through a number of shops. I got mine via SimMarket, as usual. Currently, the P-40 retails at €23.49 (€27,95 with VAT in the EU) and the corresponding Accu-Sim pack at €19,49 (€23,19 with VAT) on SimMarket. You do get a couple of Euros off when you buy them together.
After purchase, it’s the usual download link to get the installers on your hard drive. The P-40 download comes in at 173MB, the Accu-Sim one at 88MB. There’s no serial, so you just have to run the installer, or installers if you also bought Accusim.
After installing the P-40 itself, the installer will launch a DirectX redistributable package to check whether you have the required version of DirectX installed. If you already have, the installer will detect it, so you don’t install duplicates.
Installing Accu-Sim is equally simple and fast, but it requires the P-40 to be installed first. You first install Accusim for the P-40 itself, followed by the Accusim v1.2 core update, which is included in the download. With the release of the P-51, an Accusim v1.3 core update can be downloaded via the A2A website.
Whether you want the P-40 alone, or Accu-Sim with it, installation is very easy and trouble free.
After installation you end up with 5 models: P-40 AVG, P-40B, P-40C, Tomahawk MkIIb RAF and Tomahawk MkIIb Russia. These come in 6 liveries: one per model, except for the P-40C which comes in 2 liveries.
One small detail here that I personally don’t like: the P-40 appears on your FSX aircraft selection menu under manufacturer A2A Simulations, and not Curtiss.

Training:

Obviously, you can just install the P-40, fire up FSX and try to get up and running. However, you might run into some problems if you try that. For example, starting a P-40 isn’t anything like starting a simple Cessna. Also, if you do get it running, raising the gear or flaps isn’t done just by selecting the desired position for those. So, if you want your first flight to at least resemble a success, you’ll have to dive into the manuals. There’s one manual for each product in this review. The actual A2A P-40 comes with a 38-page manual in PDF-format. While it’s not very long, it’s a very good manual. The layout is easy to follow and looks good, and the manual is written in a way that’s easy to follow and pleasant to read. The manual has some obvious (read: mandatory) sections: a title page, a piracy warning, some ergonomic advice, a table of contents, an introduction and an overview of the main features of the P-40. No manual without  those, now is there? However, once you’re through those first few pages, it quickly gets interesting. The remainder of the manual goes over required realism settings, quick flying tips and an overview of the models and liveries included in the P-40. This latter part is quite interesting. The manual then goes on with a detailed description of the hydraulic system and how it works with the flaps and landing gear, followed by an explanation on the propeller system. And it’s not finished yet, the manual goes on describing all controls in the virtual cockpit, followed by an overview of the 2D panels and the external ‘Input Configurator’ utility.  The final chapter in the manual goes over checks and procedures.
I really like this manual. As I said before, it’s easy and entertaining to read, owing to the layout used, the style of writing and the topics covered. It’s very complete, yet not too heavy.

If you’re also interested in Accu-Sim , that comes with a slightly heavier manual at 66 pages, also a PDF-file. The Accu-Sim manual covers a broad range of subjects, starting with the basics of a reciprocating engine and how the throttle system, as well as the supercharger works. In the end, the Accu-Sim manual starts by explaining the basics of all systems and the physical effects behind them. This is then followed by a very detailed description of how these systems work on the P-40. The 3 areas of emphasis here are the engine, the hydraulic system and the propeller. As it turns out, these are the 3 things you’ll be keeping an eye on in the FSX P-40. As with the P-40 manual, the Accu-Sim for P-40 manual comes with a clear layout and is easy to read. If you have some technical knowledge (or read another Accu-Sim manual before) there’s a lot of stuff in there that you already know, but I still love the fact that A2A included the basics in this manual. The manual assumes no previous knowledge, so whatever your age or whatever your background, you’ll be able to read this manual, and come to grasp with the covered subjects. A very good manual indeed.

Acceptance and walk around:

In the real world, you’ll probably see the outside of a new aircraft before you see the inside. In FSX it’s just the other way around, unless you count in that small preview window you see before clicking ‘Fly Now!’.
My first impression upon entering the Virtual cockpit of the A2A P-40 was: ‘Wow!’. Everything is modeled in 3D, even stuff that doesn’t have a function in FSX. And it’s not only modeled, it’s modeled very well. Smooth curves, no jagged edges. Even the gauge needles are 3D, and not just 2D bitmaps. 3D (analog) gauges are about standard nowadays in decent FS add-ons, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve mentioning anymore.
On top of the modeling are textures. Very, very good textures. Besides having sharp, detailed textures, there isn’t a single a single surface in the VC to be found that has just one simple, boring color. The textures show some wear and tear, primarily chipped paint. But it’s not overdone. But even on parts where the paint is not chipped off, the textures show, well, texture and mild color differences. Amazing work, A2A!

(note about the screenshot: you can see a feature here I didn’t mention in the review: without ventilation, the canopy will fog over, limiting your outside visibility)

Now, let’s take a look outside, and walk around this airplane. The general shape of the airplane is striking. The heavy nose with the mouth-like air intake (not surprising they painted shark-mouths on these planes); the huge spinner on the prop, the huge main wheels, the strong body with at the end a small vertical stabilizer, with a huge rudder. A2A captured the feel of the Curtis P-40 Warhawk very well. If we take a more detailed look (this is a walk around after all) we see that they haven’t left out the details here either. The holes where the propeller blades come through the spinner, the guiding vanes in the air intake, detailed cowl flaps, very detailed landing gears and landing gear door assemblies… The list goes on, and at no point does the model disappoint. Taking a look at the textures then. Good as the interior textures are, I think the exterior ones are even better. High definition (not becoming blurry unless you zoom in a lot), very detailed, and showing a very nice amount of wear and tear. The airplane is covered in rivets, but they’re realistic rivets: small and individually not very noticeable. It’s the sheer amount of them that makes them stand out. They’re not fist sized blobs like you sometimes see on other add-ons. Along those ‘structural details’, there is wear, tear and dirt. Not too much, but very convincing. Paint chipping off on the spinner , the wing leading edge and on the wing roots, soot behind the exhausts and near the guns… In contrast to the well balanced amount of dirt on the aircraft, the wheels are very dirty. A little too dirty, in my opinion. It looks like the last place this aircraft landed, was on a runway not made of dirt, but of mud. And about half that runway is still clinging to the wheels. Not really my taste, but good texture work nonetheless.
What also stands out is very good specular textures. Specular textures basically control how much light bounces back from a textured surface. The fact that the P-40 comes with good specular textures, means that the aircraft does a very nice job of reflecting light in FSX: not so much on the painted parts, even less on the dirty parts, but a lot on shiny parts like the places where paint is chipped off.

First flight:

So far, all we’ve done is look at the aircraft, not use it. So, let’s change that. We first want to know what works, and how it works. Systems! I’m going to start by saying that, just like the A2A Spitfire, the P-40 doesn’t have 2D panels. At least, not in the strict sense of the word. There are 2D pop-ups though, but they don’t represent actual aircraft panels. People who already own A2A products probably know what to expect. But if you don’t, I’ll tell you.
Panels:
The Wings of Power 3 P-40 has 6 actual panels. The ‘Pilot’s notes’ panel gives you stuff like outside air temperature, range and endurance estimates in current flight conditions, recommended power settings, and last but certainly not least: workflows for everything from entering the aircraft to landing. The ‘Controls’ panel gives you quick access to a lot of aircraft functions. Some are basic operating functions, like magnetos, battery, pitot heat etc. Others have no place in the cockpit, and are only accessible in the 2D popup: setting wheel chocks, using a simplified, automatic hydraulic pump, putting the aircraft on jacks (a very neat feature) etc. A very useful panel that also has buttons for putting the aircraft in ‘cold and dark’, or auto-starting the engine. The third panel is the ‘Fuel and payload manager’, which lets you change fuel and payload in real time, without needing to reload. On the P-40, besides fuel, it deals with the pilots weight, the weight of ammunition for the guns, hydraulic fluid, coolant and oil for the engine, and oxygen for the pilot. You can even set which types of fuel and oil you want to use, which will affect performance. There’s also a moving map, which is stylized to give the feeling from a paper map, although it indeed is a useable moving map. And the fifth panel is a small radio panel that lets you select frequencies in an easier and faster way than the actual radio unit in the P-40’s VC. The final 2D panel is the maintenance hangar. You get it either way, but it’s only really functional if you install Accu-Sim for the P-40. More on that later.

Systems:
So, lacking 2D panels, flying will have to be done from the 3D virtual cockpit. That said, everything in that VC is 3D, and everything is click-able. Even stuff that has no function in FSX, can be clicked, and it likely has a corresponding animation. Good (and prominent) examples here are the gun charging handles. They don’t do anything in FSX, but you can click them and they move like they do work.
But of course, what’s more important is the stuff that does work. No short list here, as just about everything works. I’m not going to even try list everything. Instead, I’ll pick those things I consider highlights.
The first thing to notice is the inertia starter. With such large engines, you would need a huge starter motor to crank it. Instead, inertia starters use a smaller electrical motor to spin a flywheel, which is engaged to the engine when it’s on speed, cranking the engine. This system is fully simulated on the P-40. What I like even better is what you see when the engine is running. Everything shakes. Depending on engine rpm (lower means more shaking) everything in the VC shakes along with the engine. It’s not too much, so you don’t lose any usability because of it, so it’s a very nice feature that makes a repeat appearance from earlier A2A aircraft. Once the aircraft is running, you run into something that reminds of the A2A WOP3 spitfire: the need to keep the engine cool! Like the Spitfire, the P-40 doesn’t like to sit still on the tarmac with the engine running. So you need to get air flowing through that cooler. This makes prolonged taxi runs, or indeed just idling on the ground, a hazardous undertaking. However, I have the feeling it is easier to keep the P-40 from overheating than the Spit. I like this, because it keeps you on your toes, but gives you a little breathing room as well. It’s nicely down the middle.

The other 2 main features are the propeller and the hydraulic system. The propeller is special because it can act both as a constant speed prop, and as a fixed pitch prop. The system is electrical, and is controlled by a 4-position switch. The normal position, auto, gives the governor control over the prop, making it act like a constant speed propeller, controlled with the propeller lever. In the manual setting, the propeller acts like a fixed pitch one, although the pilot can decrease or increase the pitch of the blades with the final 2 (spring loaded) positions on the switch. This system is fully functional in the A2A P-40. I’m not sure how useful it is, as the only time I’ve taken it out of ‘auto’ so far was to check how it works. Nevertheless, nice work from A2A.
The hydraulic system also deserves some attention, and maybe it’s even the most detailed and impressive feature in this product. The P-40 (both real and virtual) doesn’t have an active hydraulic pump. And by active I mean one that’s running all the time. Instead, the pilot has to manually activate the pump when hydraulic pressure is needed. Fortunately, hydraulic pressure is only needed for flaps and gear. The pilot (again, both real and virtual) usually uses an electric hydraulic pump activated by a button on the yoke. But he also has a manually pumped hydraulic pump, and a secondary, also manually pumped, emergency hydraulic system. The amount of detail A2A poured into this system is nothing short of staggering. For example, residual pressure in the system (from holding the pump when no pressure was needed) will move the flaps or gear a small part through their range as soon as the relevant lever in the cockpit is moved. Also, the more pressure is in the lines, the harder it is to move the lever from the manual pump (simulated in FSX by reduced travel distance). It’s hard to describe exactly how realistic it acts.
I’ve described several system more-or-less in detail above, but there are numerous others that are equally detailed, and/or equally impressive.

Flight Model:
When the P-40’s nose is pointing down the runway, and you apply takeoff power, you immediately notice that this aircraft requires some careful handling. This aircraft requires a lot of pilot input, certainly on takeoff. It’s a very hands-on flying machine. I personally like this a lot, as it can offer a challenge in the flying itself (as opposed to only in navigation, system setup, engine management etc), something that few FSX aircraft do.
Obviously, I’ve never flown a P-40 in real life, so it’s hard to compare. But the flight model feels good. It has the ‘feel’ of a light aircraft with big engine in the front. Also, the flight characteristics closely resemble the available documentation. I’m not one to go check exact stall speeds and maximum speeds, as those don’t mean much anyway: they change with aircraft weight, altitude, temperature etc… And even then they’re not set in stone. However, there are other characteristics to look at. As with the real one, the A2A P-40 is agile and nimble at low and medium altitudes, but is a brick higher up. It’s doesn’t like to climb, but is very stable in a dive. Stalls and spins are predictable, and easy to recover from with a healthy aircraft. A very convincing flight model in all.

Effects:
Let’s talk a bit about effects while we’re landing. As usual, A2A added their signature ‘Shockwave’ 3D lights to the P-40. Especially the landing light is very impressive. But the P-40 is not a night fighter, so don’t expect any fancy lighting, either inside or outside. The one criticism I have here is about the touchdown effects. The P-40 touches down in a lot of smoke, like the default airliners in FSX. I’m no fan of that, certainly not on a small plane like the P-40. And because the tail wheel does this as well, and FSX seems to think that bounces a lot while taxiing, you sometimes are creating a lot of smoke, even when just driving slowly along a taxiway. It’s not a deal breaker for me, but it does kill immersion when enjoying the gorgeous exterior of the P-40.
Sounds:
Finally, let’s talk  about sounds. Both the interior and exterior of the P-40 come with a lot of sounds. All of them are realistic, balanced and clear. The best of all, as usual in an aircraft of this vintage, is the awesome roar of that mighty engine in the front. A2A captured this very well.

Continued use (Accu-Sim!):

If you also install Accu-Sim for the P-40 Warhawk, a lot of things change. The aircraft stays the same: the visuals don’t change, and neither do the flight dynamics. But systems and sounds are affected, and some pretty nice effects are added.
Systems and maintenance:
By far the biggest change is in the systems of the aircraft. With Accu-Sim installed, everything can (and will) break. It’s not a random event-based system either. It’s a fully dynamic, consequence based system. For example, hard landings can damage the gear, tires and brakes. Overspeeding can damage the flaps if they’re down, over-boosting the engine will reduce performance and eventually break it… The list goes on. And it’s not just limited to singe events. The failure of some systems will affect other systems, or cause other problems. For example, oil leaks cause oil levels to drop, which in turn can cause damage to the engine when running with too little oil. In addition to that, oil spilling on hot components can cause engine fires. You see, everything you do has consequences. Treat the aircraft well, and it will reward you by running like clockwork. Abuse it, and it will turn around and bite you where you don’t like it.
Keeping track of worn or broken parts, repairing them, is done through a 2D panel: the maintenance hangar. Here, labels superimposed over a P-40 visual represent parts that require attention. Yellow means worn (but still functional, albeit a little less effective perhaps) while red means completely broken. Clicking a label will replace the corresponding part with a new one. To give you an idea of how detailed the simulation is: individual cylinders can fail.

In addition to the failure simulations, Accu-Sim also deepens the simulation of engine and fuel systems. Take a look at the fuel feeding the engine for example. In default FSX fuel modeling, if a tank runs dry, the engine stops immediately. If the same thing happens with Accu-Sim, the engine will keep running a little while on fuel that’s in the lines. The easiest way to test this in the P-40 is to draw fuel from the external drop tank, and drop the tank without selecting another fuel tank. The engine will keep running normally for an instant, then it will start running rougher and rougher for a couple of seconds, before finally stopping when there’s no fuel left at all in the lines. Because of this, if you switch the fuel selector to an empty tank, the engine will not stop running immediately, like with other FSX aircraft.
The level of detail built into the engine is even better. With Accu-Sim, that Allison V-1710 truly comes to life. And you truly want to take care of that engine. For example, running it full power with cold oil will not go unpunished. Certainly if you do it more than once. You’ll notice that everything has an effect on the engine: weather, the health of other components, fuel and oil, and most importantly, your handling. And you’ll notice not just because you look at your instruments. You’ll see and hear it as well. The engine sounds reflect its current condition, and the exhaust pipes will start spitting out different colors of smoke depending on circumstances, the color and intensity of the smoke depending on the current conditions. Very, very nice feature! This is truly ‘As real as it gets’.
Sounds:

In the sound department, the change is apparent because there suddenly are a lot more sounds then compared to the stock A2A P-40. Suddenly everything, and I’m not exaggerating here, everything has its own sound. And not just buttons and systems, but events as well. The different sounds go from switches in the VC, over the airframe reacting to stress, to the engine sounding differently if something’s not as it should be. The A2A P-40 with Accu-Sim is one of those aircraft that make me want to turn up the volume on my PC, and just listen and enjoy.

Debriefing:

When comparing the Wings of Power 3 Spitfire and the P-40, it’s clear they’re from the same virtual stable, built on the same technology. But that said, the Wings of Power 3 P-40, with or without Accu-Sim, is a very good product in its own right. If early WWII aircraft are something for you, this product is a must have. The P-40 in itself is a very enjoyable product, that comes at a very reasonable price. The P-40 looks good, feels good, and is an awful lot of fun to fly! If you also buy Accu-Sim, the price of the total is almost doubled, putting it in another price category altogether. But you do get something in return: not only does the P-40 sound even better with Accu-Sim, it suddenly becomes a challenge to operate as well. If you’re into that kind of flying, I can promise you, it’s a hell of a lot of fun!

P-40 Like:

  • Top-of-the-line visual on all accords
  • Challenging flight model, which makes flying a very satisfying experience if you get it right.

P-40 Don’t like:

  • Euhm, well, I don’t like the touchdown effects. Oh, and that the P-40 shows up in FSX under ‘A2A Simulations’, not ‘Curtis’. That’s about it.

Accu-Sim for P-40 like:

  • Even better sounds
  • Taking care of the aircraft (just by not breaking it) becomes a part of the experience, and sometimes a challenge: fantastic!
  • Very detailed damage and failure model

Accu-Sim don’t like:

  • You suddenly want every aircraft out there to have Accu-Sim. At least, I do. Not funny, A2A!

Useful links:

P-40 on SimMarket

Accu-Sim for P-40 on SimMarket

A2A Simulations home page

 

About Lars

Virtual pilot and Simflight.com reviewer. Hobby photographer and occasional aircraft spotter. Student of aviation technology, and all-round aviation lover with some limited (just under 20 hours of which 4 solo) experience in real life gliders.

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