MSK Saab MFI-17
P3Dv2.3. MSK Productions. This is likely a developer many of you have either never heard of, or have had little interest in. This could likely be due to the fact that MSK Productions projects have been airport scenery products in Pakistan. Much of which are little known to the Western world. Airports like Benazir Bhutto so aptly named after the exciled president whom I belive even to this day could have changed the face and future of a country so richly embedded in amazing culture. And projects like the city of Gilgit situated in the high mountains of Northern Pakistan. Perhaps not the most popular regions for third party flight simulation scenery developments but they have been quality developments nonetheless. Besides this, MSK has been working hard at improving the level of quality of his scenery addons and has made great strides in doing so. What I did not expect from this developer, was his recent branch into aircraft development. When the first development previews first arrived of his Saab MFI-17 on FSDeveloper, I was left with the thought that this was merely a fun side project. I didn't really expect much from it. Nor did I really take it seriously.
I have seen scenery developers attempt to branch into aircraft development in the past with far less than desirable results. Perhaps these developers thought developing models were simply put: developing models regardless if it's a fuselage or control tower. Perhaps the thought process was that there would not be much difference in the needed skills and requirements only to wind up releasing the projects as freeware or abandoning their projects altogether. And as far as aircraft development previews go on FSDeveloper, they almost never reach fruition. There are a great many aircraft developments taking place over there right now, that no matter how promising they may appear or how much I may want them, I have long since excepted the very likely possibility that they will never get released. Like a single grain of salt on a Thanksgiving turkey. Some of these developments have been in continuous development for several years and at most, I only hope these developers do not give up. So getting back on point, when that first render of the MFI-17 appeared, there was no way I would. No way I could. No way I allowed myself to take it seriously. To fall into another pit of despair of chasing the dangling carro i'll never get to eat. That is... until more previews rolled in.
[Note: For format purposes, some images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
And as the previews arrived, the more I became attracted to the project. I remember thinking to myself: "wow, that's an attractive looking ugly airplane" Truth be told, I had never heard of much less ever seen a Saab MFI-17. And I was greatly intrigued. You see, I have become a sucker for aircraft like this. The low & slow has become really a thing for me in recent years. And let me be clear, nobody. Nobody was more of a fan of tube-liners than me. FS2002 was my first personal flight simulator after years of playing around on my dad's old Mac back in the 90's. I remember loving the old A-10 Attack simulator and thought it was the very best gift from the gaming gods of the time. How the hell did I ever think those graphics looked good?
But they did look good as did all the games available for Mac back during the mid 90's. At some point, my dad had abandoned Apple Computers after nearly 2 decades of owning them and bought his first PC: a Windows 98 Monorail PC. And shortly thereafter came Microsoft Flight Simulator 98. Holy shit. What an incredible platform! This simulator really went after my heart in a big way. Those C9's, C-17's and commercial pixelated aircraft represented as AI in the old Mac based simulators really left me wanting to abandon military aircraft for something bigger like a 747 and MSFS 98 had delivered. I could now fly the airplanes of my dreams. But it wasn't till after graduating, getting my own place, and getting a job did I finally get to own my very first personal computer and the first thing I had installed was the recently released FS2002. Oh dear had my life changed forever. Then came the release of FS9 and all I wanted to do was fly the heavy tubes. PMDG, LevelD, and CaptainSim had arrived on the scene changing my life even further and the thought of flying something like a C172 was an absolute joke. That is, until Lockheed had delivered Prepar3D. Being such a vehemently staunch FS9 user, I had been one of those who had outright rejected FSX. But with P3D, a whole new world had finally opened for me and I now find myself flying low & slow much more often than high and fast and loving every bit of it. So yeah, little airplanes like the Saab here really do appeal to my interest like never before. So what is this funny looking Saab all about anyway? And why had MSK chosen to develop it?
As just stated, MSK is known for his Pakistani airport projects. So in assuming the lead developer behind MSK is likely Pakistani himself, it doesn't really surprise me that he choose to develop an aircraft that is actually built in Pakistan. Now I personally have a few friends from Pakistan living both here in the US and UK and I really cherish my relationships with them greatly. Perhaps what I appreciate most from them besides sharing common interests, immersing me in their culture, and introducing me to the game of squash, is the food! I r member the very first time I was invited to sit down to a meal of Pakistani cuisine. It has immediately found itself in my top seven favorite foods of all time along with Soul, Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese cuisines respectively. To this day, when I get a craving for Pakistani, I fill it and I fill it good! And of all the things I know about Pakistan, I never knew they manufactured their own line of aircraft. The more I studied up on the MFI-17 the more I loved it. So let's get into a bit of this little birdie's history as unlike most aircraft, I was completely clueless on this one.
This is merely a brief overview of the Saab MFI-17's development. Obviously, there is much more plentiful and detailed information available online but to save you some trouble we will start here. Saab flew the first prototype of the aircraft back in 1969 with several potential purposes among which comprised a three-seat civil aircraft, a military trainer, and a general aviation utility aircraft. Among these types were the variations coined the ARV Super2, the Bölkow Bo-208 Junior, and the Malmö MFI-9 Junior. The Saab-MFI-15 being the first generation of the aircraft developed at Malmö Flygindustri in Sweeden. It was later modified to a T-tail configuration to minimize damage when operating from rough airfields. This is the version still in production today and official designated as the Saab Safari. It's design was composed of a braced shoulder-wing monoplane with fixed tricycle landing gear which was also available optionally with tail-wheel landing gear during it's Swedish production run. It provides side-by-side enclosed accommodation for two and including dual controls as standard. It's oddly forward-swept wings were designed to maintain the correct center of gravity. This was a component that caught my attention first.
The military version designated the Saab MFI-17 (the aircraft we are about to embark on today) was first flown in 1972 and differed from the Safari by being specifically equipped for use as a military training aircraft and is a kit built assembly production in Pakistan as the Mushshak for the Pakistani air force.
A total of 250 fully assembled MFI-15's were aircraft built by Saab in Sweden with the majority having been bought by private civilian owners. Another version of the aircraft was was developed into an airborne counter-insurgency aircraft coined the MFI-9B Minicom during the Biafran Civil war carrying an assortment of under wing armaments including rockets and gun pods. Sweet... Here are some real world representations of the family line below.
MFI 9B Minicom
Bölkow Bo 208
Obviously the different variations of the aircraft are strikingly similar yet very different. Personally, I would not mind having all variations but similar as they may appear, they are far too different to be a simple tweak here, change there for flight simulator developments. I think the ARV Super2 is my favorite of all the variations although, it would look even better with a small cargo pod beneath the fuselage. I also like the canopy much better. As you can see, the glass stretches down past shoulder length giving a much clearer view of the vista outside the cockpit. As a first time cadet, I wounder how the MFI-17 compares to the Cessna 172. The Cessna I have flown. I have never even seen one a MFI-17 in real life so I guess there is no real way to know. I could research the differences till the cows come home but without experiencing them both in real world conditions, research is simply not enough. Now if we are talking about the differences simwise, I have pinned it up to the A2A Accusim C172 and obviously, there is just no comparison. Then again, if I were to put the two up in a dog fight, my money would be on the Mushshak.
Aircraft Information & Included Liveries
The MSK Saab MFI-17 PAC Mushshak comes with four liveries. In order of appearance they are:
- PAF Academy
- PAC Army
- Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
- PAC Airforce
The liveries are standard for the aircraft built in Pakistan and I should also note, the aircraft development line is only currently active in Pakistan and is not built anywhere else in the world with the Swedish factory lines been long closed down long ago. That said, I would have still liked to have seen some non Pakistani liveries provided including some civilian registrations and colors as well. According to the product page, the model will be updated in the future with more liveries and multiple variations of the virtual cockpit to be included. This review will be updated accordingly as these updates arrive.
Personally, I would love to see the underwing armaments modeled into one of these future updates. So far, a few previews have surfaced. The preview on the right shows 2 more liveries in development and visual updates to the pilot currently underway. I can see he is dawning a sun visor now.
Now of all models and variants available, the one developed by MSK is specifically the variant that fulfills 2 primary roles consisting of several ancillary purposes. They are as shown below:
- Basic flight training
- Instrument flying
- Aerobatics, stalls and deliberate spins
- Night flying
- Navigation flying
- Formation flying
Army Co-operation Missions:
- Forward air control
- Forward area support with droppable supply containers
- Artillery fire observation
- Camouflage inspection
- Border patrol
- Target flying and target towing for training of ground units
Our particular aircraft is powered by a four cylinder 200 horsepower Textron Lycoming IO-360 A1B6 delivering power to a Hartzell USA two-blade constant speed metal propeller. Never exceed speed limitation is 365 km/h (197 knots, 227 mph) with a maximum speed of 238 km/h (128 knots, 148 mph). Cruise speed is 210 km/h (113 knots, 130 mph) and stall speed @ 100 km/h (54 knots, 63 mph) with full flaps down, power off.
Endurance is 5 hr 10 min, maximum service ceiling: 4,800 m (15,750 ft) and rate of climb: 5.2 m/s (1,024 ft/min). Let's hop in and see what what her simulated counterpart is made of. I might also note, this is not the first debut of this Saab product line in FS. There is a very old freeware floating out there somewhere.
Now when it comes to commercial aircraft, there are two types of people. Those who want perfect visuals and systems, and those who don't mind sub-par visuals so long as the systems are perfect. But when it comes small aircraft such as the little MFI-17 and more to the point: little payware aircraft (keyword there being payware) it had better look damn good and fly correctly (keyword there being flight dynamics). But we will get to that.
So when it comes to external modeling and texturing, how good is MSK's Saab really? Well... First, and mind you I conducted quite a bit of research into this little birdie, and can honestly say, the modeling is spot on. As for the textures, they are very good but not super great. I am crediting that to the notion that this could quite likely be the first time this developer has ever created an aircraft repaint or paint kit for that matter. No doubt, there are some repainters out there that can really make this beauty look much better. Again, the texturing is not bad, but could be better. I noticed some of the details lack sharpness and get a bit blurry as I zoom in up close. But overall, the aircraft has more of a matte appearance instead of a shiny look to it. This is a good thing as that says to me this is a workhorse and lot a luxury ride. There is some shine to the aircraft but it's just enough and does not pronounce itself too much. Still, I would have liked to see a nice clean civilian repaint.
The pilot as seen from the external view was also nicely modeled and obviously carries an appropriate representation of an Pakistani airforce pilot. Haircut styling and all. Note the checklist and map on his legs. Good ole fashioned VOR to VOR navigation this guy is planning. Besides, he has to, the GPS is inoperative in this model. But is it me or does his left hand look a bit odd here? And shouldn't the left hand be on the stick and right on the throttle? Hmm...
Now for the purpose of this review today, I elected for what I felt was the best looking of the four liveries: the Pakistani Airforce livery. It looks more like an acrobatic showpane rather that an airforce trainer. The colors really stand out to me. Again, the external texturing looks really good and it's quality fitting for the aircraft's role. I really liked the appearance of the rivets as well. The glass canopy has nice reflections and a slight tint which reminds you glass is there without being overbearing. Some scuffs and scratches are visibly subtle as well. From the exterior, the gauges are represented nicely but there was one issue I noted.
From the external view, the seat fabric has a greenish sort of appearance but once inside via the VC view, the seat fabric is black. Some correction needed there. The canopy opens and closes with a nice even animation with the reflections dancing with the movement. The canopy is the only animation available besides the control surfaces. Nice animation sounds as well.
The real MFI-17 has opening cargo doors which open upwards. However, the FS model did not come complete with these animations and that is a disappointment. When any aircraft developer especially for a small aircraft such as this intends to sell the product as payware, it's my contention that every surface that can be implemented and animated be done so. That said, this ideology does not pertain to the engine compartment and animated engine coverings. I realize this is quite complex. But I did not like that the cargo doors were not animated. A parking and tiedown mode would be a nice future update as well.
The virtual cockpit although rather simplistic it's appearance comes complete with the following operational / nonoperational features. I look forward to seeing how this changes / enhances with the future updates.
Pilot / Student Panel (Left panel)
1. ASI gauge
2. Attitude Indicator
3. Altitude Indicator
4. VSI gauge
5. Heading Indicator
6. Engine RPM gauge
7. ADF gauge
8. Turn Coordinator Gauge
9. Manifold Pressure Indicator
10. Flaps Lever
11. Clock with reference pointer
12. Light panel with starter switch, battery and Aux fuel pump switches
26. Fuel Selector Knob
27. Throttle / Mixture / Prop levers
28. Elevator Trim wheel
29. Rudder Trim Knob
Co-pilot / Instructor Panel (Right panel)
13. ASI gauge
14. Attitude Indicator
15. Oil pressure/Temp (Triple gauge)
16. Engine fuel flow gauge
17. Fuel Quantity gauge
18. Amp Indicator
19. Circuit Breakers (In operable)
Radio Panel (Center Panel)
20. Audio Panel
21. GPS (Non Ops)
22. Comm and Nav radio Panel
24. ADF panel
25. Canopy Lock handle
I have to say, the internal texturing came off far better than I had initially expected. I know the developer had struggled a bit in this area based on my observations on FSDeveloper. Thankfully to the advice from FSDeveloper forum members, MSK pulled off the VC extremely well. The gauges are sharp, clear and easy to read as the panel labeling with the exception of the flaps indicator which is quite blurry.
As stated earlier, the GPS is inoperative with a sticky note attached. I imagine this will be corrected in the near future. Again, note the difference with the seat fabric from the external view. The panel carries a photo realistic appearance complete with scratches and all. The back of the seats are meticallic and is represented nicely. There is space in the cargo area for a third observational seat. I would like to see this added either as an option or with one of the particular liveries in the future. Additionally, as this Mushshak is a trainer, having 2 pilots visual from the external view would also be nice.
The carpeting looks like... well... carpet. On the rear overhead between the seats you will find the dome light switch which activates the shoulder lights in the center. On the panel clicking the yellow canopy handle animates the canopy.
The radios are fully operational. From the inside, the glass has a very nice look and feel to it. Hard to believe this is the first attempt at an aircraft for this developer. I remember him setting off to develop Shelter Cove airport in Northern California (which would have been his first non Pakistani airport) only to abandon it a couple months later when he ran into development issues and constraints. I am glad he stuck to the task when it came to his aircraft development. His efforts really seem to have paid off very well. But we will have to see just how well. It's time to start this baby up.
Engine Start, Taxi & Flight
Now there is an included manual albeit not with a checklist. So I improvised this procedure and in moments, I had her ready for engine start. Once the Lycoming IO-360 roared to life, I found I was very impressed with the start up audio. In fact, I revved the engine a bit just to get more of an idea of the sounds. Very nice indeed.
I supplied some audio for you to experience for yourself both from the external and virtual cockpit. Now as good as the sounds are, there was one major issue that pretty much killed the audio representation altogether and that's the constant throbbing loop in the audio file full throttle. This was so annoying, that after a while during flight, I began to get a headache resulting in my turning off the sounds till I was ready to land. Well listen for yourself:
Sorry, there was a distant thunder storm on the horizon moving out of the area to the southeast. Now with the engine up and running, I disengage the parking break and to begin to very lightly push the throttle forward. It doesn't take much movement at all to get her moving which is nice. If it's one thing I absolutely hate, is when i have to give an aircraft nearly 80% power to get moving only for it to then lurch forward when it does. Another thing I hate is aircraft with bad turning radius's. The MFI here had no problems turning tight corners on a dime and I found the aircraft's reactions from my rudder inputs very smooth and responsive. Well done on the dynamics here. I continue to the runway hold position and decide last minute to do a full power runup procedure. Bad idea. As it turned out, the Mushshak's brakes are not nearly strong enough the handle the full power of the 200 horsepower Textron Lycoming and they gave way. Either this aircraft is overpowered or the code that controls the braking functionality needs to be adjusted as doing the runup was pointless. She nearly got away from me.
Now moving anyway, I turned her onto the active, and let her rip.
Mere seconds later the ground was falling away and quite rapidly too. I decided to pitch up 25 degrees and she handled every bit of it maintaining 85 knots as I did so. Yep, perhaps a bit overpowered indeed. No complaints here. I continue my climb up to 10,000 and began to fool with the flight dynamics a bit.
The aircraft is very responsive and handles pretty much in the way you would expect a trainer would. She is also very forgiving with my very erratic and nearly violent stick work.
Today's departure is out of Orbx freeware CEN4 High River. The plan is to do some acrobatic maneuvers and tail stalls out between Aldersyde and De Winton then make my way up to the outskirts of Calgary where i'll land at Airdire Aerodrome. This is Canada for the late person.
After fooling around, I take her up to the max ceiling at nearly 16,000 feet and trim her down a bit and just enjoy the flight. Light thermals and a crosswind out of the northwest saw me having to make continuous and constant minor corrections. Besides that, it was a very nice aircraft to fly. I enjoyed the views afforded by the large glass canopy. I should also state the aft glass canopy offers perfect views behind me. If I am being chased, i'll know quickly.
Okay, here is where we separate the men from the boys. It's time to see how she spins. How she falls. Let's pull a few G's shall we? I began pulling back on the power while simultaneously pulling back on the stick. As I did so, that long butt of hers started to fall back 5 degrees, 10 degrees, power idle, 15 degrees, 65 knots, 20 degrees, 60 knots, stall, altitude drop. But what happened next was confusing. The tail then swing upwards violently dropping the nose downward putting me into a brief nosedive which I thought was odd given the design of the aircraft. I expected the tail would give way to a spin. Instead, the the tail came up, the nose down and after a nearly 2000 foot elevation change, the nose recovered automatically having gained the airspeed it needed to regain level flight. Way too forgiving here.
I was a bit disappointed. This is one of the few aircraft that was intended for intentional spins and I felt robbed similar to the way I felt with the Alabeo Tomahawk (the anti traumashock). So just like the Tomahawk, the only way to get a spin out of this trombone was to induce it manually myself. By rapidly reducing power, pulling the stick back to 50 degrees quickly, applying full left rudder while applying full right aileron. Then and only then did she go full ballerina on my ass. And I as they say: "dropped it like it's hot".
I am not really sure if it's a limitation in the way flight simulator handles stalls or if it's the way aircraft flight dynamics are coded in FSX and P3D but one thing is for sure, the dynamics for stalls and spins really suck. This is all I have to say about that.
Approach & Landing
After fooling around for a couple hours and that thunderstorm now well out of the area, the sun came out. With the brighter lighting not only did the Mushshak look even more lovely, but seemingly perfectly fitting within the P3Dv2.3 environment. Yes, the tests and screenshots were compiled before the 2.4 update was released.
By this time, I was pretty much done with my tests. But the simulation environment looked too beautiful to leave, and as I spend so much work keeping ADX alive, I decided to settle back and enjoy myself up here just a little while longer and enjoy everything I love about flight simulation. With the powerful engine, I quickly climbed above the cloud layers, then nose dived through them careful not to over stress the fuselage. Once beneath the clouds I admired the 4098x4098 sharp and pristine ground representation of Orbx FTX NRM. Everything comes together so beautifully and it's easy to get lost up here too. Enjoy the next set of screenshots of my little relaxed adventure whilst I drain the tanks for Airdrie.
Okay it's time to put her down. It was a very smooth glide down into Airdire. Sadly, this experience was hampered a bit as my FPS counter dropped a bit. It seems, this airport is still very heavy on performance which sucks because it's so beautifully crafted. Nonetheless, I still had a bit of a minor battle with the crosswind and tapped her down on the deck just a little off center. Again, the flight dynamics truly are impressive for a first timer aircraft developer.
I taxi her over to the transient grass parking next to a lineup of various species of static aircraft. Without a doubt, any airport you fly the Mushshak into, she will turn heads, with all the conventional aircraft our developers continue to deliver time after time, it's really nice to get something that truly looks and feels different. Again, all we need is some nice civilian liveries.
Let's look at the night lighting.
Night Light, Night Flight & Final Thoughts
The night lighting is represented fairly simple. No fancy light baking you might find in MilViz's latest offerings or Carenado for that matter. But then again, I don't really expect anything too fancy from this bird and for what it's worth, I thought it looked perfect. A far cry from the recently released Wilco Tecnam P2006T which was a typical Wilco disappointment. With the Mushshak here, the only real disappointment is that looping engine sound which really adversely affected my otherwise enjoyable experience.
Besides this, there are the two visual blemishes I pointed out earlier with the cargo doors and inconsistent seat coloration's. For a first time aircraft development, MSK has gotten off on very good footing and I am really looking forward to what other exotic flying machines this developer might deliver. Currently, the Aérospatiale Alouette III has begun development. Now we know his aircraft modeling abilities are good and so far, the FDE work good as well. But when it comes to helicopters, this is a whole nuther animal especially when it comes to flight dynamics. That said, I am very confident MSK will deliver a very enjoyable helicopter.
There are other ideas I have that would make this aircraft better on a visual scale. As mentioned already, a civilian liveries would be nice so it does not look too out of place flying between my North American airfield sorties. But the MFI-9B Minicom with it's equipped machine guns, rockets, and lazer guidance systems would be totally be kick ass. Additional pilots on board from the external view would be nice, as well as the functional cargo door. Besides this, a functional GPS and / or Flight1 GTN integration option would be nice as well.
MSK has done a very impressive job with this first attempt at aircraft development and I highly recommend all fans of lite sport aircraft to give it a try, I think you just might find yourself having more fun with it than you might think. We really need to get behind the little developers making big strides like this and support & encourage them because they can only get better and clearly, a lot of hard work and passion went into the craft here. I say, give the little Shak a chance. As for me, I think I will stick around here just a little while longer and watch the sun set...
Damn. That looping engine sound is killing the moment.
For the archived live test of this product [CLICK HERE]
For more information and to purchase the MSK Saab MFI-17 Mushshak [CLICK HERE]
Other products featured in this review:
I hope you get it and if you do, I am confident you will enjoy it.